Critics of the Commander in Chief

Posted: Jan 23, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before the Iowa voters sent him back to the showers in Missouri, the statement people remember most from Dick Gephardt was his repeated and revolting accusation that President George W. Bush is a "miserable failure." This president has toppled a terrorist regime in Afghanistan and an evil dictator in Iraq, and is working to bring peace, hope and democracy to both troubled countries. That alone would be an accomplishment for most presidents. But on top of that, since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has to date prevented another terrorist attack on our homeland, reinvigorated the economy, which was shocked by the terrorist attacks, and renewed the public's optimism in our future, to name just a few of his accomplishments.

It's hardly a record that could be described as a "miserable failure." Iowa voters didn't care much for Gephardt's shrill commentary and gave him what he deserved -- an ignominious end to his career.

Former Vermont governor, and soon-to-be former presidential candidate, Howard Dean has thrown a 12-month tantrum against George W. Bush, declaring a week before the Iowa caucuses, "George Bush is not my neighbor." Dean's Park Avenue petulance earned him a Bronx Cheer from Des Moines Democrats, who correctly assessed that he is more fit for an anger management course than a national security briefing in the Oval Office.

Lesson to Democrats: criticize the troops, their commander in chief and the job they are both doing at your peril. They may or may not listen to this advice. But those who are sure to ignore it are the cynical scribes in our media.

Media bias against conservatives is an old story with a new chapter written every day -- two new chapters every day during campaign season. Consider the media's reaction to last week's State of the Union address.

Here was a solid, well delivered speech outlining the many accomplishments we have made in the war on terror and the nation's resolve never to give in to the terrorist threat.

"America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country," the president declared. "We've not come all this way -- through tragedy, and trial, and war -- only to falter and leave our work unfinished." This well-written rhetoric is backed up by President Bush's resolute leadership. As he noted in the speech, "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America."

But contrast the dignity and seriousness of President Bush's address with the media's deliberate misreporting and condemnation of it.

"Can you believe that President Bush is still pushing the cockamamie claim that we went to war in Iraq with a real coalition rather than a gaggle of poodles and lackeys?" yapped Maureen Dowd in the much-maligned New York Times. The president, she complained, "took his swaggering sheriff routine to new heights."

Across the page from Dowd, a Times editorial joined her jabberwocky saying, "The president's domestic policy comes down to one disastrous fact: His insistence on huge tax cuts for the wealthy has robbed the country of the money it needs to address its problems and has threatened its long-term economic security." The paper accused Bush of being "determined to do the wrong thing," to appease the "wealthy donors (who) underwrite his campaign." Their editorial did nothing but attack the president's tax relief and completely ignored the national security aspects of the speech.

Up in Boston, the Globe's coverage of the address offered this lead sentence: "The President's selective use of information -- and, critics say, some exaggerations -- obscured the troubles plaguing the economy at home and democracy-building efforts overseas." Needless to say, the rest of the editorial was no better.

For some regional flavor, should we laugh or weep over the editorial in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, which began its treatment of the State of the Union by asking, "What can you say about a president who wants to give the wealthy a permanent pass on supporting the society that has enriched them, while proposing a domestic agenda that consists of pandering to the country's worst prejudices and paranoias?" There's nuanced analysis for you. I'm sure the New York Times immediately dispatched head hunters to the Gazette to recruit the rhetorical reprobate who wrote it.

The reviews and so-called analysis from the television talking heads and pundits were about as accurate as they were when they incorrectly predicted a Howard Dean landslide in the Iowa caucuses.

But for all those who responded or otherwise commented on the president's address to the nation, the Admiral Stockdale Award for Political Confusion has to go to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who offered, "America must be a light to the world, not just a missile." Huh? With such brilliant analysis, she is unlikely to become majority leader anytime soon.

As the president reminded us, we are still a nation at war, and he has no greater responsibility than to protect the American people from the many dangers that lurk outside our borders. Those who aspire to his job have offered little but constant and unwarranted criticism. Those who have been the most harsh and outspoken have already been rejected by the voters of Iowa. It's too bad the American people can't vote some of our media mavens and editorial writers out of a job.