Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Media Coverage of Bush's Speech

George Bush had nothing new to say last night, primarily repeating the discredited claims of a connection between 9/11 and Iraq along with the irrational theory that by fighting terrorists in Iraq (where they weren't present before the war) we are somehow reducing the risk of having to fight them here. We really didn't expect much from George Bush, a man who has taken dishonesty and incompetence in national leadership to new levels. What is surprising is that the three networks decided to cover this. Tom Shales believes it was the right wing bloggers who forced this decision:
In a time when some polls show the popularity of the news media to be even lower than the approval rating for Bush's conduct of the war, the managements of the networks may have feared hostile reaction if they didn't air the speech live. Political conservatives keep up a steady drumbeat of hostility against the media, something the Bush administration does nothing to discourage. Refusing to air the speech probably would have led to unpleasantness -- or at the least given the new subculture of bellicose bloggers another alleged media conspiracy to shriek about.
I had some post-speech notes at LUTD on the television coverage as I channel surfed. CBS left immediately, with Shales writing this off to the CBC boss being "no friend to the news division" and contrasts this with the glory days of CBS. I was pleased to hear George Stephanopoulos on ABC discuss the untrue claims made by Bush, such as the connection to 9/11. NBC's anchors took a conservative line, but also had an excellent interview with Nancy Pelosi. I thought Pelosi did an even better job in refuting Bush's arguments while answering the questions during this interview than in her prepared statement.

We are all aware of CNN's interview with John Kerry. The Note reports on another televised interview with Kerry: "John Kerry was Matt Lauer's guest this morning once again called for getting the training of Iraqi forces "on a real war time footing" and getting serious (perhaps with the help of an international force) about making Iraq's borders less porous."

I missed MSNBC, but that might be for the better considering the description provided by Shales: "Matthews led a post-speech discussion that included assembled experts, most of whom leaned to the right or far right, and an audience made up largely of military families."

Among the print media, Ronald Brownstein points out the contradictions in both Bush's changing rational for the war, and in the dangers of making Iraq a terrorist haven:

President Bush on Tuesday retooled his original argument for the Iraq war, justifying the U.S. military presence there as the solution to a problem that critics say the war itself caused.

More than two years ago, Bush argued that Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq could make the nation a haven for terrorists. But in his nationally televised speech, Bush asserted that the tumult that has followed Hussein's removal created the same threat.

In the lead-up to the war, Bush presented the invasion of Iraq primarily as a means of preventing the Iraqi dictator from providing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to terrorists.

After coalition forces failed to find evidence of such weapons, and several investigations did not uncover meaningful links between Hussein and Al Qaeda, the president increasingly stressed the possibility that creating a democracy in Iraq could encourage democratic reform across the Middle East.
The Washington Post also discusses the contradiction between Bush's pre-war claims on terrorism and the reality:
Two and a half months later, when he declared that major combat operations were over, the president said it was a victory in the war against terrorism because Hussein was "a source of terrorism funding" (referring to Iraq's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) and because "no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime."

Bush also described Hussein as "an ally of al Qaeda," a point he suggested again last night, but the Sept. 11 commission concluded there had been no collaboration between Hussein and the terrorist group headed by Osama bin Laden.

Now, many analysts inside and outside the government portray Iraq as a breeding ground for terrorist groups, in part because of mistakes made by the administration after it defeated Hussein and occupied Iraq. Bush emphasized the gains fighting terrorism, but the Pentagon commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, said this month that more foreign fighters are now moving into Iraq than were six months ago.


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