WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the movie "For the Love of the Game," actor Kevin Costner plays a major league pitcher nearing the end of his career. A lady friend who is unfamiliar with the nuances of the sport asks him why a particular, obscure statistic is kept. "This is baseball," Costner's character answers, "we count everything!"
So do journalists. With ceaseless polling, they gauge the public's opinion on everything from the president's job approval ratings to his favorite vegetable. Newspaper editors live and die by the number of column inches they have for a story. From baseball scores to inflation figures, journalists are nearly lost without statistics that help them put their slant on the news.
The masters of the mainstream media have been opposed to the war in Iraq from the beginning and have expressed that opposition in numbers. They've told us how many bombings have occurred in a particular week or month, how many days the war has lasted, how many "leading experts" are also opposed and the number of ways Iraq compares to Vietnam.
This week, with the 2,000th American casualty from Iraq, they were provided the opportunity to quantify their outrage yet again. The story was given ample coverage on the nightly network news programs, while the official results of the Iraqi constitution, which passed overwhelmingly, were barely mentioned. Perhaps that's because the New York Times, from which the networks take their cue, called it a "deeply flawed and divisive document."
The Seattle Post Intelligencer said the deaths in Iraq are being met by the American people with "anger, regret and uncertainty about the future." Writing in the Los Angeles Times, John Mueller, a professor at Ohio State University, claimed that "casualty tolerance in Iraq is clearly much lower than it was in Vietnam." He repeated the media's mantra for the past year -- that support for the war "is eroding," and the people are "[losing] their stomach for war," a conflict which, referring to President George W. Bush, Mueller called "his war."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.