Fifty years from now, schoolchildren may learn that 2003 was the year President Bush liberated Iraq, creating a prosperous powerhouse of democratic capitalism in the Middle East. We don't know how it will turn out, of course. But we know one thing: The first draft of history out of our national media came from the angry left, furious at the exercise of American power and solicitous of the dictator now in the dock.
The worst media eruptions of 2003 are now collected in the Media Research Center's annual greatest-misses collection known as the Best of Notable Quotables. Forty-six judges selected the ugliest of the ugly, lest we forget how ridiculous our media elite can be.
Flummoxed filmmaker Michael Moore was handed the "Barbara Streisand Political IQ Award for Celebrity Vapidity" for telling Bob Costas on HBO that the U.S. government knows exactly where Osama bin Laden is hiding but is lying to everyone with their terror alerts in order to milk 9-11 for political purposes. "I think our government knows where he is," Moore proclaimed, "and I don't think we're going to be capturing him or killing him anytime soon."
PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers won his own "Bill Moyers Award" for subsidized sanctimony for comparing those Americans who wear flag pins on their lapels to lapdogs in communist China, "where I saw Mao's Little Red Book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread." He concluded with moral equivalence: "I put it (the flag pin) on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to Baghdad what Osama bin Laden did to us."
Saddam Hussein may now prepare in his prison cell for his propaganda outbursts in court, but it may look bland compared to ABC, which won the "Baghdad Bob Award for Parroting Enemy Propaganda." On the March 7 "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer passed along that "I read this morning that he's (Saddam's) also said the love that the Iraqis have for him is so much greater than Americans feel for their president because he's been loved for 35 years, he says, the whole 35 years."
I suppose the message ABC is trying to convey is the secret to longevity and "love" in office is to construct a reign of terror and rule with a tight, bloody fist. But ABC wasn't done yet. Baghdad correspondent Dan Harris had to multiply the silliness. "He is one to point out frequently that he is part of a historical trend in this country of restoring Iraq to its greatness, its historical greatness. He points out frequently that he was elected with a 100-percent margin recently." If Saddam said the moon was made of green cheese, you suspect Dan Harris would have passed that along as well.
When you see episodes like these, you have to ask: How can anyone suggest George W. Bush was the world leader getting the genuflecting press in 2003? Helen Thomas reminded us of the media "mainstream" in the White House press corps, earning the "Begala & Carville Prize" for this objective glance at Bush: "This is the worst president ever. He is the worst president in all of American history."
By contrast, liberals are hailed for their power and wisdom. MSNBC's David Shuster personified the "Romanticizing the Rabble Award for Glorifying Protesters" by suggesting to Chris Matthews that "there are now perhaps two world superpowers. There's the United States, and then there are those millions of people who took to the streets opposing U.S. policy."
In May, Hillary Clinton's auto-lie-ography gained a 60-minute commercial from ABC's Barbara Walters, who ought to get a cut of the royalties in addition to the "Media Suck-up Award." She reminded everyone of the old Baba-Wawa caricature with fawning "questions" to Hillary like: "I don't think people realize how strong your faith is."
Some awards warn us of the year of media manipulating to come. One overflowing category was the "Invisible Liberal Award," full of ideological camouflage for hard-left Howard Dean. He's not a liberal, they said. In fact, said award winner Ken Bode, the former NBC reporter, "Dukakis was no liberal, and neither was Mondale." That draft of history has already hit the ash pile.
But for intense idiocy, it doesn't get any better than Charles Pierce, who won the Quote of the Year hands down with this achingly perverse Chappaquiddick sentence in the Boston Globe Magazine: "If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age." Please go away, Mr. Pierce. Kennedy couldn't even bring her a life jacket.