The public gets two kinds of news. There is the unpredictable erupting event, from the great (Berlin Wall falls) to the small (a child goes missing). Then there's the more common type of news, the everyday assembly-line product of press conferences and public events. Some call this "manufactured news," since public figures at the center of the news can orchestrate their spin. But there's a subcategory of "manufactured news," in which the media create a story based on a political agenda. Welcome to the so-called Bush speech "controversy."
Last week, the Democrats decided to inflate 10 words out of President Bush's State of the Union address into a toxic mix of Watergate, lying and, just for fun, Daddy's broken tax pledge. "Read His Lips," they chided with a new TV ad, because "America deserves the truth." Like clockwork, the so-called objective media responded with an avalanche of sympathetic coverage that begged this question: Why buy an ad when you've got several networks and news magazines that will carry your message for free?
Bush's isolated words described how British intelligence suggested Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa. When the CIA conceded that the intelligence on that score was iffy, the Democratic Party and the press suddenly found "lying" to be a great issue.
ABC promoted Howard Dean and his demand for resignations, including Dick Cheney's, if necessary. "Untruth & Consequences," screamed the Time headline. "The facts turned out differently," huffed NBC anchor-in-training Brian Williams. "The accusation was wrong." And -- whoa!
The "facts" of the Iraqi nuclear program are not easily knowable. Most are still waiting to be uncovered. Who is "right" and who is "wrong" is still uncertain. So "untruth" and "lying" and "wrong" accusations are words of hyperbole, the language of Bush-hating partisans. No one in this manipulative liberal media elite obviously spent much time asking himself a salient question: Even if one could cast the 16-word uranium sentence in the worst light as a "lie," since when did the press become offended by presidential lying? These same journalists let Bill Clinton lie about everything: sexual, political, financial, military. Instead of laying out red carpets for angry opponents demanding resignations, they praised the president's political gifts and belittled those people who questioned his credibility as partisan haters obviously out to destroy his political career.
In this latest outbreak of "news," defined as whatever the Democrats think will gain them traction in the polls, the networks have portrayed their own biased pounding as a tornado of no particular origin. "The White House tried to lay to rest today the swirl of controversy over whether it knowingly put dubious intelligence into this year's State of the Union Address," reported Sunday anchor John Roberts. "But as Joie Chen reports, the issue refuses to go away," a self-fulfilling prophecy given that the Roberts and Chens of the media won't stop talking about it.
On NBC's "Today," Katie Couric publicized the latest ad from the McGovernites at MoveOn.org. It flashes the word LEADER in white across Bush's face, and then adds in red the prefix MIS. Couric noted helpfully to Tim Russert: "As we look at background video, Tim, of an ad that's being put out by a group called MoveOn. It was started by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs frustrated by the political process. This drumbeat will be heard more and more loudly, don't you think, in the weeks to come?" It will if NBC peddles their Bush-the-Liar ad on the nation's leading morning show as the new trend, brought to you by idealistic, nonpartisan "entrepreneurs."
Lost in what they tout as "the daily drumbeat of media questions" is the State of the Union address in context. Put aside the uranium sentence, and remember some of the other remarks. Bush said the United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax. Saddam never accounted for that material or gave evidence he destroyed it. The U.N. also found that Saddam had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin. These supplies could kill millions, but apparently neither the U.N. nor the liberal media found anything worth doing about it except multilateral can-kicking. If it weren't for leadership from Bush against an array of hostile nations and media organs, Saddam Hussein would be sitting in Baghdad, still threatening scientists until he could stick a dagger of potential mass murder into the backs of his enemies.
This whole charade is brought to you by the true clowns of false intelligence, the ones who went on television and predicted massive casualties, massive resistance by regular Iraqi citizens, chemical weapons attacks on our forces, a military "quagmire" without dislodging Saddam. Who are these people to criticize others for failing to report the whole picture with crystal-clear perfection?