John Leo

In a burst of anti-war triumphalism, Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post wrote last week that President Bush and the Bushies have run out of “elitists whom they can demonize.” Hmm. That is a problem. Where will we find the punching bags of tomorrow? Wait! I have it. How about the elite news media? Will they do?

Meyerson celebrated Cindy Sheehan “whose down the line dovishness is more than offset by her standing as the mother of,” etc. etc. Actually, Sheehan was more or less a summer-long anti-Bush media construct, kept aloft by withholding the news that she regards “insurgents” in Iraq as “freedom fighters,” hates her country (America “is not worth dying for”) and thinks Lynne Stewart, the lawyer convicted of aiding terrorists, is a real-life Atticus Finch, the heroic attorney of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She’s a loony Michael Moore clone, protected by the media’s “bereaved mom” image.

The major papers pulled all of our string with stories, mostly played big on page one, about the 2000th American soldier killed in Iraq. Every military death is a tragedy, but more than 58,000 died in Vietnam and almost 7,000 in a single World War II battle, Iwo Jima, all without front-page anti-war articles posing as compassionate news stories. The modern front-page editorial is easy to find these days. On November 21, the NY Times felt it had to run FOUR, page one photos of Bush trying to exit a Beijing meeting though a locked door. What a doofus! First he doesn’t listen to us, now he doesn’t even know how to leave a room!

President Bush deserves heavy blame for his current predicament, but it is impossible to watch network news or read the elite newspapers and not conclude that anti-Bush and anti-war reporters are pushing things along. Reporters keep citing the switcheroo argument (that Bush premised the Iraq invasion on WMDs, then switched to other reasons when those weapons weren’t found) without mentioning that Bush and the administration cited other reasons many times. The war resolution that all those Democrats voted on (and apparently forgot) mentioned seven or eight strong reasons.

The media are fond of citing Condoleeza Rice’s “mushroom cloud” statement as an example of unwarranted hype about non-existent WMDs. Her full sentence, however, was a reasonable one: “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly (Saddam) can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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