The public gets two kinds of news. There is the unpredictable erupting event, from the great (Berlin Wall falls) to the small (a child goes missing). Then there's the more common type of news, the everyday assembly-line product of press conferences and public events. Some call this "manufactured news," since public figures at the center of the news can orchestrate their spin. But there's a subcategory of "manufactured news," in which the media create a story based on a political agenda. Welcome to the so-called Bush speech "controversy."
Last week, the Democrats decided to inflate 10 words out of President Bush's State of the Union address into a toxic mix of Watergate, lying and, just for fun, Daddy's broken tax pledge. "Read His Lips," they chided with a new TV ad, because "America deserves the truth." Like clockwork, the so-called objective media responded with an avalanche of sympathetic coverage that begged this question: Why buy an ad when you've got several networks and news magazines that will carry your message for free?
Bush's isolated words described how British intelligence suggested Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa. When the CIA conceded that the intelligence on that score was iffy, the Democratic Party and the press suddenly found "lying" to be a great issue.
ABC promoted Howard Dean and his demand for resignations, including Dick Cheney's, if necessary. "Untruth & Consequences," screamed the Time headline. "The facts turned out differently," huffed NBC anchor-in-training Brian Williams. "The accusation was wrong." And -- whoa!
The "facts" of the Iraqi nuclear program are not easily knowable. Most are still waiting to be uncovered. Who is "right" and who is "wrong" is still uncertain. So "untruth" and "lying" and "wrong" accusations are words of hyperbole, the language of Bush-hating partisans. No one in this manipulative liberal media elite obviously spent much time asking himself a salient question: Even if one could cast the 16-word uranium sentence in the worst light as a "lie," since when did the press become offended by presidential lying? These same journalists let Bill Clinton lie about everything: sexual, political, financial, military. Instead of laying out red carpets for angry opponents demanding resignations, they praised the president's political gifts and belittled those people who questioned his credibility as partisan haters obviously out to destroy his political career.