Relying on Bush's 'Lie' - for Headlines

Posted: Jul 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Give credit to the “Bush lied” crowd for this much: they didn’t just toss off the allegation in passing.  They spent a lot of time talking about it.  A lot.

  Bush’s supposed “lie” about Saddam’s attempts to purchase yellow cake uranium—a “lie” which British intelligence maintains is actually not a lie—dominated the news late last week.   The New York Times and Washington Post covered every twist and turn in the unfolding soap opera, while TV news outlets did their part to stoke the flames. 

  Not surprisingly, one of the worst offenders was CBS News, which announced on last Thursday’s evening newscast, “President Bush’s false claim about Iraqi weapons; he made it despite a CIA warning the intelligence was bad.”  Too bad for CBS it is still not known that what Bush said in his State of the Union address was, in fact, a “false claim.”  The truth didn’t stop CBS, though in fairness, it didn’t stop many other news outlets.

  But if the facts aren’t all in—remember, the British say they have evidence independent of the forged documents that show Saddam actually tried to acquire uranium—how is that the headline “Bush lied” cascaded across the media landscape?  It’s not even a headline, really.  It’s a bumpersticker.  Yet the media got sucked into partisan politics.  To be fair, most of it probably is not the result of liberal media bias.  When news is a business—and melodrama sells—“headlines” aim to pack a punch.  Saying the leader of the free world “lied” does just that.

  As for all the other players fanning the flames of untruth, their motives are far less benign.  Obvious partisanship aside—liberals hate Bush in a way they haven’t hated anyone since Reagan—there are ulterior motives at work. 

  The cake-and-eat-it-too crowd is led by Presidential wannabe John Kerry, junior Senator to Ted Kennedy, who is trying to keep up hawkish appearances while placating the liberals who actually believe Bush is a greater threat to national security than Saddam Hussein was.  Since he voted to authorize the war in Iraq—with an eye toward November 2004—Kerry needed a sleight of hand to woo peaceniks.  So the man who founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War beefed up his antiwar reputation by claiming that Bush, in essence, duped him and others into supporting the war. 

  Somewhat less self-interested—though no less pernicious—are the folks who are perpetuating the myth because they want to torpedo any future pre-emptive attacks.  On CNN last week (debating this columnist), Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel was clear about her motives for assailing Bush: “The preemptive doctrine… has now turned out to be an abysmal failure based on the fact that it is predicated on having 100 percent reliable intelligence -- and we’ve seen an administration which clearly manipulated intelligence to take us into war.” 

  If vanden Heuvel and her cohorts can convince enough voters that the war was based on a lie, a President’s ability to defend America with pre-emptive strikes will be seriously diminished.  And that’s exactly what the left wants. 

  Making sure they have every opportunity to achieve that goal is a frighteningly pliant media.  With an amount of coverage that even O.J. Simpson might envy, the media devoted countless hours to deeming President Bush a “liar.”  The real shame, though, is what wasn’t being covered.

  In the past week, North Korea has made further advances toward reprocessing plutonium—a stepping stone in building nukes.  The other remaining “axis of evil” nation, Iran, has brutally cracked down of thousands of its own citizens who want nothing more than freedom.  And like its fellow evildoer, Iran is continuing its quest to develop nuclear weapons.

  The nation that should take Iraq’s old seat at the “evil” table, Saudi Arabia, continues to fuel Islamic extremism the world over, including right here in the United States with radical mosques and madrassas, or religious “schools.” 

  Such stories may not be as sexy—after all, these bad guys are up to the same old stuff—but we can’t afford not to pay attention.  Not a day goes by when terrorists and other thugs aren’t plotting to murder Americans and our way of life.  That’s no lie.