Sept. 29 headlines: "No Free Ride in Crawford" (New York Times), "Local Paper Snubs Favorite Sun" (Los Angeles Times), "Not Very Neighborly" (Chicago Tribune). The big news: The Lone Star Iconoclast, a weekly newspaper in Crawford, Tex., where President Bush has his ranch, endorsed John Kerry.
Woop-de-do. The four-year-old newspaper with a circulation of 425 (most sources) or 1,000 (says The New York Times) has as its editor and publisher W. Leon Smith, a Democrat who is the mayor of a nearby Texas town, Clifton. So Mr. Smith went to press with the snub heard round the world (Agence France-Presse delighted in it). So what?
Compare the attention given that item with a story that truly is surprising: On Sept. 23 former Oregon governor and senator Mark Hatfield, now 82, announced his strong support for the American effort in Iraq. He said, "Our world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. . . . We have paid dearly with American and Iraqi lives for our commitment, but we cannot afford the alternative."
So what? Is he one more bloviating politician? No, this is Mark Hatfield, the most prominent evangelical in politics during the 1960s, and one who led opposition to the Vietnam War and every American military effort since.
At one point Mr. Hatfield was the only governor in the nation who refused to sign a statement supporting President Johnson's Vietnam War policy. As a senator, he joined George McGovern in anti-war efforts.
Later, Mr. Hatfield was the only senator who voted against both the Democratic and Republican resolutions authorizing the use of force in the 1991 Gulf War. During his 30 years in the Senate he never voted in favor of a military appropriations bill. He opposed President Clinton's decision to send American troops to Bosnia.
Talk about a man-bites-dog story! The pacifist turned militant at a time when many big talkers demand appeasement and call brave Iraqis who defy terrorists "puppets" of the U.S. government! If the Crawford teacup tempest plays big in the press, Mr. Hatfield's statement-"It was crucial to the cause of world peace that [Saddam] be removed from power"-must be huge, right?
Nope. The Oregonian (Portland) and The Washington Times reported it. That's all, according to Lexis-Nexis. What's going through editors' minds? That Mr. Hatfield is a Republican, so his support for President Bush is unsurprising? But Mr. Hatfield was a very liberal GOP senator.
Maybe editors without evangelical contacts don't know how important Mr. Hatfield was for Christians interested in politics. Or maybe they fear his sense that Sept. 11 should make advocates of peace the strongest opponents of terror-backing regimes. What if the evangelical left starts thinking that way?