ABC's anti-American anchor

Posted: Sep 10, 2002 12:00 AM
All signs in Washington point to an American attack on Iraq. Before any military action, the fullest democratic urge would encourage a lengthy debate questioning all the reasons for action and the possible outcomes. But it's one thing to debate, another altogether to undermine. Regardless of the congressional outcome, it already appears that once again the United States will go to war without support from many in the American media, those who just don't like to take sides against Middle Eastern despots preparing weapons of mass destruction. Taking a leading role in assembling all the reasons why war in Iraq is certifiably insane is ABC, and the perpetually pompous Peter Jennings. In a recent appearance on the David Letterman show, the Canadian-born anchor said his mother "was pretty anti-American. And so I was, in some respects, raised with anti-Americanism in my blood or in my mother's milk at least." That attitude is not suppressed on the air. Jennings and his "Road to War?" series have provided a platform for war opponents, leaving out any of the policymakers outside the Bush team who favor American action -- including usual media favorites such as Joe Lieberman and John McCain. They find no public purpose in exploring the costs of U.S. inaction or the benefits of ousting Saddam Hussein. On August 20, Jennings wondered, "whether or not the White House is losing control of the debate about war with Iraq." Network anchors like Jennings believe they should have rigid control over any political debate. Their tone suggests that foolish is the president who suggests to the all-powerful boob tube titans that they are not in command of indoctrinating the citizenry in what to believe. ABC would roundly reject that just as they pretend they don't love pulling the levers of public opinion. ABC White House reporter Terry Moran proclaimed, "if Mr. Bush wants to move militarily, he and his team will have to do a better job of shoring up public support." Left unsaid, and what reporters like Moran will never concede is that if Bush wants to shore up public support, he's going to have to do a better job of refuting and resisting the media's totally imbalanced nightly attacks. On the 15th, ABC enjoyed highlighting Republicans critical of the Bush direction, from retiring House leader Dick Armey to Bush I national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. No Bush supporters were allowed on air, nor was ABC going to ruin the scenario by pointing out that Scowcroft could easily be criticized for not finishing the job in Iraq the first time around. On the 20th, Jennings highlighted sages like the flip-flopping former UN inspector Scott Ritter and the defense minister of Canada. (Now there's a powerful man representing an experienced military power.) The next night, it was time to highlight the opposition of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Germany and Russia, since polls show support drops when people are asked if they still support war if the allies are opposed. Pentagon reporter John McWethy highlighted how military action could go very wrong without allied support. On the 22nd, ABC reporter John Cochran told viewers that "even the optimists say if [war] were to go on for months, if Saddam Hussein eludes capture, then the cost to the American economy is likely to be heavy." Do you get the picture? ABC's "Road to War?" series went on and on, night after night, highlighting every political, military and legal criticism of Bush war planners. Every viewer should ask: Does this crippling cascade of naysayers really help us? Would their very thinly disguised preference for U.S. inaction provide the peace for which they yearn? Americans need to turn all these questions around and start firing them back at ABC. Isn't this whole crusade the exact same thing they "reported" a decade ago, right before the last Gulf War? On Dec. 12, 1990, ABC was forecasting American casualties as high as 16,000 in the first 10 days of action, and "few expect the war to last only 10 days." ABC reporter Bill Redeker warned "American forces could be bogged down and lose tens of thousands of lives." (The actual toll was closer to 100, but who's bothering with math?) In times of terror like these, this is no time for Americans watching the TV news to buy the fiction that news anchors are just impartial observers trying to ask tough questions of the powerful. Some anchors are trying to be the powerful, and it's time to question them about their strident opposition to the war on terror.