"No News" Is Bad News?

Posted: Oct 23, 2007 12:01 AM
"No News" Is Bad News?

Last week, ABC’s Charles Gibson introduced a segment about Iraq on “World News Tonight” with this curious remark: “The news is (pause for effect) that there is no news. The police told us today that, to their knowledge, there were no major acts of violence. Attacks are down in Baghdad and today no bombings or roadside explosions were reported.”

In a war that has consumed more than 4,100 coalition partner lives (more than 3,800 of them Americans) and additional thousands of Iraqi lives and that has as its stated objective a lessening of the shootings, bombings and killings, an average person might rejoice at such news. The big media and their auxiliary in the left wing of the Democratic Party do not regard “no news” as good news, but as the worst possible news, because it threatens to undermine their political objective: the defeat of Republicans in the next election, even at the cost of losing a war.

Not all Democrats feel this way, of course, but their congressional leaders do. They have invested their political capital in defeat. So many Democrats (again, not all) are counting on a U.S. loss in this war — and have made outrageous statements about America’s inability to succeed — that success will give the national security issue completely to the Republicans, even as Republicans have lost sole ownership of the less spending and smaller government issue.

Democrats know that national security and the ability to successfully wage war against America’s enemies trumps everything else. If the war is won, Democrats’ prospects for victory next year are greatly diminished.

The evidence of improvement in Iraq is coming with greater frequency and credibility. A trickle of good news is becoming a stream. It’s too early to predict a tide, but things are at least — and at last — beginning to flow in the right direction. On the heels of improvements in the once-chaotic Anbar province comes Fallujah, a region that once resembled our Wild West with lawlessness and disorder everywhere. While one still wouldn’t want to plan a family vacation in Fallujah just yet, U.S. Marines are now getting cooperation from the previously uncooperative Sunni sheikhs in driving out al-Qaida.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 20), Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, quotes a Marine officer friend as saying he has been told by enlisted Marines, “There’s nobody to shoot (in Fallujah), sir. If it’s just going to be building schools and hospitals, that’s what the Army is for, isn’t it?” Basra, too, where British soldiers are pulling out, was said to be on the verge of exploding since Shiite militias backed by Iran supposedly were poised to impose a fundamentalist regime on the city. It isn’t happening. Violence in Basra has declined significantly in recent weeks.

This is not to excuse the Bush administration from its serious mistakes and bad judgment in the early going in Iraq, but as Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman wrote in the Broadway musical, “Seesaw,” “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.” The last part of that lyric is: “and you’re gonna finish on top.”

If the United States and its coalition forces finish on top by achieving most, if not all, of their objectives in Iraq, what can the Democrats say? “We were secretly in support of the war all the way”? Not even Hillary Clinton could get away with such a whopper. The Republican campaign commercials would pound away with the hundreds (thousands?) of quotes from people they will label as “defeatist Democrats.” As this week’s lead editorial in The Weekly Standard asks, “Are the American people likely to elect the candidate of a party that has tried its best to lose a winnable war?”

The answer is no. And the answer to Charles Gibson’s assertion that no news is not news is that no violence is news and, indeed, is very good news for Iraq and for America. It is very bad news, however, for the leadership of the Democratic Party, because their investment in defeat may be about to prove itself the political equivalent of the dot-com bubble burst earlier this decade.