SEATTLE – The newspaper that broke the story of Sen. Patty Murray’s commendation of Osama bin Laden’s nation-building tactics published an editorial today asserting that the senator erred by failing to tell “a room of young minds that America is the most benevolent of nations.”
Noting that her office is “doing damage control by flicking mud at ‘right-wing demagogues,'” the Vancouver Columbian said Murray, D-Wash., neglected to give U.S. actions context or credit.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“The senator should be assured that more than the ‘right wing’ is concerned that a U.S. senator does not see the importance of representing America in a correct light to its young people,” the Columbian said.
The newspaper editorial said Murray had every right to say what she said and that “no resignation is necessary.” But the paper insisted that she “also had every obligation as a U.S. senator and high-level representative of this country and this state to present the United States in a far more accurate light.”
“That she didn’t is something voters can consider when she is up for re-election,” the Columbian said.
The Columbian reported last Wednesday on a session Murray had with students at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Wash., in which she asked them to ponder why bin Laden is “so popular around the world.”
Murray said bin Laden has been “out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven’t done that.”
The second-term senator, who is up for re-election in 2004, then asked the students: “How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?”
Two other Washington state newspapers, the Tacoma News Tribune and the Seattle Times, also weighed in on Murray’s remarks today.
The News Tribune headlined its editorial, “A shallow lecture from Sen. Murray,” while the Times commented on, “Those silly attacks on Sen. Patty Murray.”
The News Tribune opened rhetorically with, “Should Washington’s U.S. Sen. Patty Murray resign her seat in disgrace for suggesting the United States could learn something from Osama bin Laden’s charity work?”
The Tacoma paper said, “Of course not, despite all the hyperventilating to that effect from national conservative action groups and right-wing talk radio.”
The News Tribune said, however, that she should have chosen her words more carefully.
Murray “vastly” overstated “the extent of bin Laden’s supposedly humanitarian works, which were largely confined to the Sudan and Afghanistan,” the News Tribune said. “And those in the Muslim world who idolize bin Laden do so mainly because he successfully struck a heavy blow against the United States with attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, not because he was a paragon of philanthropy.”
The Tacoma paper said it thought Murray was trying to say that the U.S. needs to be “better neighbors” and less unilateral in its conduct of foreign affairs.
“That’s a legitimate argument,” the News Tribune said. “But bin Laden is no paragon of philanthropy, and no amount of American generosity would have prevented bin Laden and al-Qaida from putting innocent Americans in the crosshairs.”
‘The silly season’
Calling election time “the silly season,” the Seattle Times editorial board blasted Washington Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance and Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., for their “shenanigans” and “gasbaggery” over Murray’s remarks.
Nethercutt is believed to be a potential challenger to Murray in 2004.
The Times noted Vance’s press release characterizing Murray’s message to the students as an inference that the “United States somehow deserved or brought on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”
“Oh please, what nonsense!” said the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper.
“Fact is,” the Times said, “Murray’s information about bin Laden is right. The Associated Press quoted a bin Laden expert saying the senator’s comments were ‘a generalization, but mostly accurate.'”
The Seattle paper concluded, saying, “Sen. Murray challenged bright students, who might be soldiers in the war on terrorism, to make sense of our nation’s circumstances. How subversive!”