First of all, I'd like to point out that there are two things that an American President should never do while standing in Saudi Arabia, the holy land of the Islamic faith:
1. Use medieval terms like "crusade"
2. Wave around medieval weapons like "swords"
This little piece is a classic example of a member of the media making their own experiences larger than the story they are covering and humiliating themselves, unknowingly, of course, in the process:
By MARTHA RADDATZ
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 14, 2008
The Bush administration announced Monday that it intended to sell 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions -- or JDAMs those big, precise GPS-controlled bombs -- to Saudi Arabia, a country that won't even let me go to the hotel gym because I am a woman.
The announcement that the JDAMS would be added to a $20 billion weapons package for the region came at almost the precise time I walked into the Marriott hotel gym in Riyadh, to inquire how late it would be open.
A hotel, by the way, that is an American-owned Marriott.
"Sorry, ma'am, but ladies are not allowed in here," the man at the reception desk told me.
Her experience was so important--sooooo important--she put it in the lede! Granted, this is from the ABC "Reporters Notebook" section and is NOT an actual news story per se. It is an item you can find on their website. It is an item about the experiences of Raddatz covering Bush's trip overseas. And you better believe that she is more important than those pesky JDAMs.
As you might imagine, this did not sit well with me.
I'm in Saudi Arabia covering the president's trip across the Middle East. After eight brutal days on the road, hopping from country to country, you need to grab a workout whenever you can.
So I offered what I thought was a reasonable compromise. Let the men work out for a few hours, then let the ladies work out.
"Let me check," the man at reception offered.
I knew it wouldn't happen, but I had to try. After a few minutes, I received the answer I expected. "Sorry, ma'am, but that is not possible."
Now, don't get me wrong.
I respect other cultures and am a seasoned traveler in the Mideast. I know in some places they separate women and men, hence my attempt at offering the compromise.
But this is the first time in decades I was made to feel like a second-class citizen, and it is not a pleasant feeling.
Being denied access to an exclusive gym in an expensive hotel makes YOU feel like a second class citizen? Wow. Here's what makes ME feel like a second class citizen: knowing there is no Habeus Corpus, knowing my government won't protect my city from standing water, knowing this is a war in Iraq without end and we're not being given candidates for the Presidency that the media likes who will end the war, knowing the right to privacy is now gone and the Director of National Intelligence insists on being able to read this blog post as I publish it and send it to Blogger, knowing there is no legitimate right to strike in this country because unions and union organization is a thing of the past, knowing this country can't stop spending money like it's going out of style, knowing there is no competence left in government and knowing my grandchildren are going to be paying for this bullshit for most of their natural lives.
Raddatz has to quantify her delusional ranting about gym access--the horror of it all!--and bring up a topic that she pretends to care about:
Of course, my experience of being turned away at the hotel gym pales in comparison to the suffering of many Saudi women. The country has an abysmal record when it comes to women's rights.
Recently, a woman who was gang raped was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes by the Saudi legal system.
That's a great story, Martha. How many Saudi officials have you spoken to about this topic? Did you ask the man standing next to Bush and holding his hand about it? Did you ask Bush to take the comical sword off his shoulder and speak to the issue? Or were you sidetracked by complaining about not being able to futz about on the elliptical machine?
Here's the kicker:
But I wondered how President Bush, a self-avowed exercise fanatic, would feel if he were turned away from a gym.
That's right--because you're just as important as the President of the United States of America, aren't you? You're still living under the illusion that the working press serves as some sort of "check and balance" on the Executive Branch of government, aren't you? It must have been exciting that first day at Journalism School, knowing that you were going into an honored profession that included the likes of Murrow, Brinkley, Woodward, Bernstein and Cronkite. And you must have harbored that feeling that, one day, you'd uncover and unravel a huge story and make a politician resign and change things for the better. What happened? Did someone forget to send you an invite to a cocktail party somewhere down the line and now you just want to complain about things that don't matter? Oh, I get it. The call of the village was too great. You decided to conform rather than stick out. How could you turn on "your own kind" and report the news that would make people "uncomfortable?" After all, you're just as important as the President of the United States of America, right? Because you and he are the same high class of people, aren't you?
And we wonder why bloggers are so unhinged these days. I know, I know--more pictures of bears fighting!
[Special Bonus Action Underwater Polar Bear Happy Fight!]