As the news bubbled up on early Sunday morning that Saddam Hussein had been captured, the White House publicity line was crystal clear. It was "a no-gloat zone," they reported on TV. That's smart politics -- humility in triumph, generosity with your opponents, moderation on a new international obstacle course -- but it's completely unsatisfying to hooting, cheering war supporters.
Many Americans who've had their fill of the media and their perpetually overflowing cup of negativity stumbled to the TV set in their pajamas and erupted with delight at the left's plight: Take that, Peter Jennings! What are you going to put on the cover now, Time magazine -- "Mission STILL Not Accomplished"? When will these thinly disguised DNC publicists make Howard Dean eat his Ben and Jerry's tub of Dovish Crow?
For his part, Howard Dean tried to appear diplomatic, suggesting Bush should have "his day" on Sunday. But some reporters weren't even willing to give him even that much. On the whole, the anchors and reporters made no effort to disrupt such a glorious day, but there were some ridiculous exceptions.
The worst moment on Sunday came from ABC's Peter Jennings, blatantly raining on the Saddam-capture parade. Typically, Peter went looking for Bush-hating stick figures to dance around in his TelePrompter for his nebulous "many people say" declarations. "People have suggested to us today, there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. ... In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power."
Maybe last week, and maybe next week, an objective person could say that life is still hard for the Iraqi people. But to peer into a camera on the day that Saddam Hussein is captured and foolishly mouth the words that there's not much for Iraqis to "be happy about at this moment"? Let's be blunt: Peter Jennings is underlining himself in Hi-Liter Yellow as so hopelessly, knee-jerkingly anti-war -- if not anti-American -- that he can't see the Iraqi crowds joyously waving red flags in the streets. They must be delusional, not him.
The other extreme groaning moment of Sunday night came on CBS, where Lesley Stahl landed an interview with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Unaware she was drawing herself as a cartoon, she worried about the hospitality Saddam would receive: "Let me raise the whole question, for lack of a better term, (of) torture. Let's say he's not forthcoming. Would we deprive him of sleep, would we make it very cold where he is or very hot? Are there any restrictions on the way we treat him to get him to cooperate more than he has been?"