Press in a Catch-22

Bill Press should have seen it coming on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” (CNN).

The former liberal half of MSNBC’s “Buchanan and Press” and now host of his own show on Sirius Satellite Radio, was broadsided by a couple of conservatives

The subject was, well, to be honest, “is the press unfair to George W. Bush and Republicans?” - particularly when it comes to reporting that little skirmish in the Middle East known as Iraq.

To put this post in context, one would have to read the entire segment transcript, and here it is if you’re interested: LINK. I’ll try to recap:

Host Howard Kurtz aired quite a few video clips of TV anchors and reporters, his setup for the “unfair coverage” question.

This quote from Kurtz set the tone of the segment: “Bush clearly under pressure on the war. But, are the media portraying him as being in a somewhat desperate situation?”


Did the press blow all out of proportion the story NBC’s Tim Russert broke about 11 Republican congressmen telling the president of the United States and his top aides “there is no longer any credibility” in what they have to say about Iraq?

Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham (“The Laura Ingraham Show”) opined that the press love it when Republicans eat their own, just can’t get enough of such stories.

Right here is where The Congressional Quarterly’s Craig Crawford would step in waving a copy of his book, “Shoot the Messenger.”

Lordy, lordy, the lady Ingraham declared, from the tone of Russert’s report I thought they had captured bin Laden!

So, telling the president his word on Iraq isn’t worth a Crawford cow chip is NOT newsworthy, Ms. Ingraham?

Bill Press correctly labeled Russert’s report a news story.

Then, Kurtz showed another slew of video clips - journalists commenting on Bush’s sudden acceptance of possible “benchmarks” for Iraq. Kurtz said the media portrayed Bush as, golly gee, “backpedaling.”

As for a possible ethnic cleansing or bloodbath if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, Kurtz wondered, “Do you think it's not been confronted because the press has largely turned against this war?”

“Well, duh!” sums up Ms. Ingraham’s answer.

Now, here comes the part that got this retired journalist’s hackles up:

PRESS: I beg to differ. Look, the media, in large part, gave us this war, because they went along and repeated everything that George Bush said without asking tough questions. And, I'm even talking about The New York Times.

KURTZ: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.

INGRAHAM: Oh, come on. That's ridiculous.

KURTZ: Now, it is certainly true that everybody at every news organization I've talked to said that the media were not aggressive enough during the run-up to war. But, you're saying they “gave us this war?” That we ...

PRESS: Wait. I'll repeat what I said.

KURTZ: We would not have gone to war had it not been for the press?

PRESS: In part, they are responsible for this war, because they didn't do their job. And, yes, I do believe that they - if they had asked the questions and more - and American people knew what the truth was, as opposed to the propaganda we're getting from the White House, I think there would not have been the support for the war.

INGRAHAM: Now, the press is supposed to be an intelligence agency, too?

PRESS: No, just tell the truth.

INGRAHAM: I mean, every intelligence agency in the world thought there were WMD.

(BJ: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I was reading everything I could online, and it’s simply SPIN that all intelligence pointed to WMD. “U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad for the first time in four years on Nov. 27, 2002, and resumed inspections two days later. During four months of inspections, arms experts traveled the length of the country hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction.” LINK On 18 March 2003, 56 UN weapons inspectors along with UN support personnel, totaling 150 persons, flew out of Saddam International Airport at 10:25 a.m. Baghdad time. The U.S. invasion of Iraq began on 19 March 2003 at 9:25 p.m. ET. No WMD were found in the four months UN inspectors were “on the ground” in Iraq - or since.)

PRESS: Tell the truth. Ask questions. Don't just take it and swallow it.

INGRAHAM: Well, their answers would have been: they have WMD.

KURTZ: Why don't we have you both back here to debate this?

INGRAHAM: Oh, no. We love each other. Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.

KURTZ: Thanks so much for joining us.

POSTSCRIPT: Mr. Press is a man of great restraint. To Ms. Ingraham’s cheery greeting, I would have retorted, “Well, all those mothers who aren’t grieving over children lost or still fighting in Iraq.”


Anonymous said...

If circumstances ever allow you to return to your journalistic profession, Frodo volunteers to raise enough capital to see it happen. Good job!

airth10 said...

The press is getting at George Bush because the war hasn't gone as he sold it to the American people.

At the beginning the press did not question the competence of Bush&Co. The press took for granted that Bush&Co knew what it was doing. Now the press realizes that the Co. didn't know what it was doing. That I believe is the main reason for the seemingly unfairness of the press towards Bush. The press is probable also upset at itself for being so gullible in going along and is now making up for lost ground for it.

I guess the "catch-22" part is that your dammed if you do and your dammed if you don't. Nevertheless, the press has strong shoulders and can take it.

airth10 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sir Cumspect said...

Aw, Mr. Frodo, what a nice comment. Too bad newspaper print is not 36-point font like the words on this end of my computer. This little blog keeps me from getting rusty. I'm thinking of you and Sam today.

Airth 10: I sat here stuck on a title which HAD to involve "press" meaning the media and "press" meaning Bill Press. The title I thought perfect was "Journal9ists: damned if we do, damned if we don't," but it was too long. I cheuckled when you brought it up in your comment. Great minds ...

Thanks, faithful visitors. BJ