" . . . You're not going to like this, but my gut feeling is that all media is against George, a Republican, any Republican." Former First Lady Barbara Bush gave this assessment recently on NBC's "Dateline." For this reason, said Mrs. Bush, she had predicted defeat for her son, George W., in his 2000 presidential run.
And why not? The piling on continues from Democratic presidential contenders like Rep. Dick Gephardt (Missouri) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), both of whom decry, for example, the administration's alleged inability to get other nations to help finance the rebuilding of Iraq. "You remember on your report card you had your English grade, your history grade and then it said, 'plays well together'?" said Gephardt. "(Bush) flunked that part."
Bush dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to attempt to get other nations and international groups to financially chip in. Many pundits predicted disaster, with the U.S. receiving little or no economic assistance. USA Today wrote, "Many officials say the final figure may fall below $6 billion." The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Bathsheba Crocker, who has been studying Iraqi finances at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said she would be surprised if participants were to pledge more than a combined $1 billion . . . "
Well, what happened? The international community pledged $13 billion in grants and loans, exceeding the most dire predictions. So how did the media deal with this relatively good news?
The Los Angeles Times' front-page headline said, "Thirteen Billion for Iraq Exceeds Expectations but Falls Short." While the New York Times headline read, "Over $13 Billion in Aid is Pledged To Rebuild Iraq: Sum Exceeds Predictions," the paper duly noted that the assistance primarily consisted of loans rather than grants: "The total surpassed what many had expected, although roughly two-thirds of the aid appeared to be in the form of loans rather than grants, which might complicate efforts by the Bush administration to beat back a drive in Congress to make more American aid in the form of loans."
The Los Angeles Times threw cold water on the relatively good news. "The aid," said the L.A. Times, "which will be combined with an expected $20 billion in U.S. grants, was more than American officials had predicted at the beginning of the month, but the total is less than the $56 billion needed. U.S. officials said that some of the promises made at a two-day conference might not pan out and some confessed disappointment that Persian Gulf states had not given more, despite U.S. pressure."
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