For several weeks now, the national media have looked like the servile monkey to Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe's organ grinder. Not only have they pounded the Democratic attack line against the president, chanting "questions linger, questions linger, questions linger" about Bush's honorable National Guard service, they have touted the efficiency and electability of John Kerry, and implored his remaining opponents to quit immediately.
Then, after all the Bush-bashing and the Kerry-boosting, they unveil a new media poll and squeal with excitement that Kerry's opened a lead. Who would have guessed media manipulation had anything to do with those numbers?
On Feb. 12, Republican Party leader Ed Gillespie, one of the few spokesmen allowed to deviate from the Sesame Street sweetness of the Bush team, gave a speech in Reno that revealed what could be called the Republican news agenda, the stories they would like to see the media develop and underline for the voters. Needless to say, the silence is so deafening you can hear the crickets chirping. So let's review some of Gillespie's list of particulars:
1. John Kerry has a long record of voting to slash spending on the military and intelligence agencies, even as Al Qaeda & Co. bombed the World Trade Center, the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole. Network coverage? None. They're too busy replaying footage of Kerry in Vietnam, as if that's a coherent answer to Kerry's ultraliberal voting record.
2. Our forces found a 17-page memo in Iraq, allegedly written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with ties to Al Qaeda. The memo indicates that the resistance is recognizing our resolve to win the War on Terror. Of the United States, it says, "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!" You mean, we're winning? This doesn't sound the nightly network news tone, does it?
On the evening of Feb. 9, the Big Three networks warily acknowledged the memo as potentially authentic, but only CBS quoted this "suffocation" line. Reporter Elizabeth Palmer immediately added: "But the letter, even if it's genuine, doesn't prove that Al Qaeda is responsible for violence in Iraq. On the contrary, it may be an appeal by desperate local operators to Al Qaeda to get involved."
Unsurprisingly, ABC preferred a different line, one that demeaned the United States. Martha Raddatz pointed out that the letter says of Americans: "As you know, these are the biggest cowards that God has created, and the easiest target."