As war against Saddam creeps ever closer, anti-war partisans are feeling powerless and underappreciated. To them, the media seem dominated by a White House war machine that is intimidating sheepish reporters. Helen Thomas, who doesn't ask questions so much as accuse the administration of heinous motives and declare that President Bush is the worst leader in our history, is their kind of "reporter."
Some in the press are hearing these left-wing complaints and rushing to counter-program against the apparently oppressive grip of Bush media dominance. Last week, the anti-war media forum of choice was ABC's "Nightline," including a 90-minute "town meeting" that asked the loaded question: "War in Iraq: Why Now?"
What ABC wanted to say, but couldn't, was "Why Ever?" The panel of six experts was split half and half, but the questions were tilted way off to the left: 11 of 13 inquiries posed to them stressed timeworn anti-war bromides.
Viewers mostly heard exaggerated math ("millions of people in cities all across the United States are protesting war"), aggravated cynicism (our government's "pseudo-pretext for liberation"), and calls for enervated Jimmy Carterism (a foreign policy that makes us "loved and admired, and not just feared and resented").
Koppel set the tone for the meeting by undermining America's moral authority: "There's a sardonic two-liner making the rounds in Washington these days: 'How do we know that Saddam Hussein has biological and chemical weapons? We have the receipts.' Nasty, but there's an element of truth to it." He added, "there wasn't a great deal of outrage from the Reagan-Bush White House" when Saddam gassed his own people in 1988. That's misleading.
President Reagan condemned it, Secretary of State George Shultz condemned it. What we forget is that the media barely covered it at that time, making our lack of memory easy to exploit. They didn't have "a great deal of outrage," either.
Just as he spent years smearing George Bush the Father with wacky leftist conspiracy theories claiming the Reagan-Bush team engineered an "October Surprise" in 1980 to keep the American hostages in Iran until after the election, Koppel now charges Bush the Son is a tool of oil barons and neoconservative intellectuals who want to take over the world. It's Hillary Clinton's wild-eyed vision of a vast right-wing conspiracy gone global.