They call the magazine "Newsweek," but in today's 24-hour news cycle, a weekly magazine that is seen as a recycler of old news is courting a death wish. To avoid this, Newsweek gives us haughty pieces of attitude, not only in the cover stories, but on the cover itself. Remember the cover on Iraq with the words "Bush's $87 Billion Mess"?
This week's edition is the latest in a series of let-'er-rip Bush-bashing covers. It pictures President Bush floating encapsulated in a bubble with the headline "Bush's World. The Isolated President: Can He Change?" The headline on the cover story inside is "Bush In A Bubble." They worry that Bush is possibly "the most isolated president in modern history."
The story by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe begins with a "baffled" John Murtha not understanding why the White House won't call him. Let's see … Murtha's publicly proclaimed the Iraq war can't be won with Bush's current approach, for which the liberal media have carried him around on their shoulders like a decorated matador, and he expects friendly consultation after that? They claim Bush has an "admirable" disdain for pundits, but inattention to Murtha, a "rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world."
First of all, this critique is just as easily turned around on the liberal media. When is the last time Newsweek's top editors called the Media Research Center for advice? (Try never. Maybe we could have talked them out of biting on that dangerously insular piece suggesting American soldiers flush Korans for fun.)
But there's something else going on here, too. It's not just Murtha, but the media themselves who are feeling un-consulted. One of the things know-it-all reporters like to do is advise the powerful. A politician can attract good press by taking his press corps and pretending to make them his corps of advisers, noodling over their grand ideas for governance. Look no further than John McCain. Back in 1999, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter professed love for McCain because he returned calls: "Reporters can be bought cheap with a little cooperation when we need it. For years, McCain has reliably returned press calls with a candid line or two." McCain indulged their pushy adviser impulses, as Slate's Jacob Weisberg praised McCain's willingness to listen to his school-voucher ideas: "When McCain flatters you, it doesn't feel automatic or calculated. He truly likes us journalists." In the end, however, all it got McCain was loving articles. Bush became president.