Here is the most insincere question a liberal TV news star can ask: How can President Bush turn around his poll numbers? Imagine how they would have reacted if Rush Limbaugh had pretended to worry how Bill Clinton was going to turn around his fortunes. The media's crocodile tears are not even laughable, just nauseating. Pushing down the president's approval rating seems to be their daily task.
The newest manufactured brouhaha -- over the National Security Agency (NSA) creating a database of phone records to track terrorist phone patterns -- was just the latest in a long string of stories trumped up to make Bush look not just incorrect, but dictatorial, even evil. USA Today hyped the story, and the media pack lapped it up, but it failed the first test of newsworthiness: Is it new? No. USA Today's scoop was mostly a retelling of what the New York Times reported last Christmas Eve, that the phone companies had given the NSA "access to streams of international and domestic communications."
If this wasn't merely a partisan media ploy to pound Bush's reputation into a finer powder, wouldn't the networks hype a story whenever it felt a White House was intruding on the personal privacy of Americans? Yes, but we do not have an equal-opportunity media when it comes to scandal creation.
For a sense of the Earth-shaking tone the anchors used against Bush, here's how NBC anchor Brian Williams began his broadcast in 2006: "It started on page one of USA Today and exploded all over the morning news." The "super-secret National Security Agency is using phone company records, just about all the phone calls made in this country, to build a massive database of phone calls and e-mails."
Ten years ago, when the Clinton administration was rifling through the FBI files of former Republican officials, it was extremely distasteful to object. Here is Brian Williams in June of 1996, after the White House admitted collecting FBI reports on 338 GOP officials (later revised upward to more than 900), and after Bob Dole compared it to Nixon's enemies list: "The politics of Campaign '96 are getting very ugly, very early. Today Bob Dole accused the White House of using the FBI to wage war against its political enemies, and if that sounds like another political scandal, that's the point."