Iraq is shaping up to be the crucial election issue, so when Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi came to Washington last week to thank America for liberating Iraq, the hardened liberal press corps reacted predictably. Their message to America: Don't let Bush's puppet perk you up.
Gratitude? We don't want America to hear too much of that. Liberation? The very idea that this quagmire reflects a "liberation" sounds like a sick joke. There is no light at the end of this tunnel, the media declareth. Spiro Agnew's old tag "nattering nabobs of negativism" defines this press corps with pinpoint precision.
While TV news stars like Dan Rather can still be remembered gazing deep into Saddam Hussein's eyes and asking if this would be the last time they would meet, the liberal media cannot muster any admiration for Allawi, the man who barely escaped an axe attack by one of Saddam's henchmen. Instead, he was seen through partisan media eyes as a Bush campaign tool.
The pro-Kerry media's cynicism was in the air as last week began. On CNN, political analyst William Schneider was asked if Allawi's visit would have any political impact. He said only scary events in Iraq, not optimistic happy talk in Washington, should be important: "They're going to talk about the advance of democracy, and an outlook that's very rosy for elections in Iraq and democracy, but that could very easily be undercut by very dangerous developments on the ground in Iraq." Only gloom is news.
Minutes after Bush and Allawi held a press conference in the Rose Garden, CNN reporter John King told viewers "we cannot understate" the degree to which Bush is "invested" in Allawi, so that he may convince the American people that "yes, there is hardship; yes, there is sometimes chaos; yes, there is this incredibly violent, horrific insurgency, but that progress is being made." In other words, CNN wants you to know that Bush is Pollyanna, while the media's entrenched negativism is the whole truth on Iraq.
Most press outlets underlined how Allawi "echoed" Bush, never considering that perhaps Bush's policies are informed by Allawi's reports on events on the ground. Several reporters worked hard to sell the American-puppet line on Allawi. USA Today reporter Steven Komarow wrote Allawi was "named interim prime minister in June under a U.S.-backed transition plan, was unyielding in his support of Bush, echoing the president's optimism."
In a "news analysis," USA Today's Judy Keen began with the picture of Bush in the Rose Garden "with the most faithful advocate of his Iraq policies at his side." She underlined how Allawi's words echoed Bush and "seemed mindful" of his role in the American presidential race.
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