An Obama Fundraiser’s PR Boost to a Brutal Dictator

President Obama Thursday will walk into a ritzy fundraiser in New York City hosted by a woman whose magazine provided a public relations boost to one of the most ruthless dictators of our century.

Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, ran in her magazine a glowing March 2011 tribute to the first lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad. The profile provided a platform for her husband, the dictator Bashar Assad, to try to refurbish his image through a depiction of his wife as glamorous and compassionate.

How bad could he be, after all, if he was married to such a wonderful woman?

Thursday’s fundraiser will be at the home of actress Sarah Jessica Parker in New York, but Wintour is co-hosting.

Here she is promoting the event.

It’s going to be FABULOUS!!

Though the Vogue article appeared just before Assad’s repression of the Syrian rebellion really heated up, his brutal methods were longstanding and well known before then, and his wife should never have been given such a venue.

From the article, which earlier this year was scrubbed from Vogue’s website:

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

Not only does the piece glorify Mrs. Assad, it suggests there’s an upside to the country’s repression:

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case.

And as you can see from this photo that ran with the article, Mr. Assad is just a regular family guy.

What is also damning is Ms. Wintour’s explanation of her decision to run the piece, as the offered in response to a New York Times article published Saturday. She said:

Like many at that time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society. Subsequent to our interview, as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that its priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue. The escalating atrocities in Syria are unconscionable and we deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.

SUBSEQUENT TO OUR INTERVIEW? Ms. Wintour is either disingenuous or has had an Hermès scarf pulled over her eyes.

Even if she had neglected to read the newspapers for the past decade, about five minutes worth or research would have dug up an abundance of damning information about the Assad dictatorship’s atrocious behavior before the revolution commenced last year.

For example, Mr. Assad . . .

  • Helped the Iraqi insurgency that was killing U.S. troops buy allowing its leaders to operate with impunity within Syria.
  • Routinely imprisons, tortures and kills political prisoners
  • Represses the Kurds who live within Syria’s borders
  • Is a state sponsor of terrorism, having lent military support to Hezbollah and allowed Hezbollah to attack Israel from Lebanon while permitting groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command to maintain headquarters in Damascus.
  • Maintains weapons of mass destruction and sought to build a nuclear weapon.

There’s much more.

Speaking to the New York Times, the author of the article suggested an alternative rationale for running a profile of Mrs. Assad that had little to do with hope for “a more progressive society.” Mrs. Assad, she said is “extremely thin and very well-dressed, and therefore qualified to be in Vogue.”

Ms. Wintour, in addition to hosting Thursday’s event, is also one of Obama’s top fundraisers and has been mentioned as a possible Obama ambassador to her native Great Britain.

The White House and the Obama campaign are trying to demonize Mitt Romney’s supporters, from Donald Trump to the Koch Brothers.

As far as I know, these are law abiding American citizens who are being attacked by their own government. Their chief crime seems to be that they made a lot of money and are using it to support Romney. Now, really, is that worse than offering an outlet for a ruthless dictator to make himself seem nice?

In Obamaland, yes.

Keith Koffler

By

Award winning journalist Keith Koffler has 16 years of experience covering Washington. As a reporter for CongressDaily, National Journal magazine, and Roll Call, Keith wrote primarily from the White House, covering three presidents and learning as few have the intricacies of the West Wing and the behavior and motivations of its occupants. While mainly stationed at the White House, he also extensively covered Congress and Washington’s lobbyists. Keith has also written for a variety of other publications, including Politico, The Daily Caller, and The London Observer. He currently writes regular opinion columns for Politico. He blogs at whitehousedossier.com.

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  • James H, London

    Anna Wintour had a bit of a reputation in her own country, anyway. When she was the editor of a major paper years ago, someone once sneakily stuck a sign on her door, saying ‘Now is the Wintour of our discontent.’ Like many people at the top of their profession, she didn’t get there by being nice. The fact that she’s supporting Obama is… interesting.

  • Shirl_bly

    no thanks   there is no way i will ever support this man we call our pres,..

  • Mia

    A successor to the Devil Wears Prada?

  • catholicexchange

    Ha!

  • Mia

    Actually, I should have said: this gives new meaning to the Devil Wears Prada!

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