White House memes in the front, Pincus in the rear
September 18, 2003 1:40 PM   Subscribe

The Postwar Post Abi Berman takes a look at stories by Washington Post reporters--chiefly Walter Pincus--who consistently penned stories during the war that are developing increasing currency now that the truth about the post-war situation is getting out. The problem? The Post buried these stories in the back, but Pincus is joining the growing chorus of journalists decrying their employers' suspect war-time editorial policies. via Joe Connason's blog
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (4 comments total)
I remember being so frustrated that the media either ignored, underreported or sarcastically reported the war protests and the questions about the war. If the media had reported these things front page before the war, perhaps we wouldn't be using the word "quagmire" so often now.
posted by VulcanMike at 2:23 PM on September 18, 2003

The heart of this line of reasoning is in the penultimate paragraph:
The what-ifs in Pincus's case are hard not to contemplate: Had his February-March reporting been given its proper due, political and public support for unilateral war might have dropped.
Even this, I think, was highly improbable; it wasn't just the Post that didn't think these revelations were big news. It was a fairly common understanding (I thought), that the administration was overstating its particular angle on the case for war -- but the near consensus was that support for the president was so strong that the public didn't and wouldn't really care if anyone pointed that out. And the Post would have just singled itself out for the standard line of questioning-the-administration's-policies-is-unpatriotic (and there-goes-the-left-wing-media-again) attack.

Was this cowardly? Sure. But the media's fear of being labeled unpatriotic or liberal isn't exactly news, either. And you'll notice that not even politicians confronted the Bush administration on these issues. Think about it -- when Bush submitted his budget for this year, it didn't include money for the war in Iraq or the reconstruction, and the administration refused to say anything about it (beyond mouthing off about how Iraqi oil would make everything easy). At the same time, consensus among economists was that Bush's tax cuts would create substantial deficits, and consensus in the military (particularly those with any experience in this sort of thing) was that Iraq would require a heavy commitment of troops and money for years. Now, if the Democrats had stood up and even just said, "OK, Mr. President, you can have your budget, just give us your absolute assurance that the total bill for our Operation Iraqi Freedom will be no greater than (say) $100 billion" -- a figure that at the time the administration was saying was outlandish -- "or else we'll need to cut some stuff, like, hey, that tax cut over there", just think where they would stand today. But despite some very grave and all-too-credible doubts, most everyone kept mum, and got out of Bush's way.

This lack of opposition was terribly bad for the country, obviously -- Bush's tax cut didn't have broad support, and it's just a matter of time before the costs of our exercises in Iraq whittle away the support for that, too, but there was no one in Washington to stand up for those Americans who would actually prefer that their federal government still be able to function in 10 years. But what's strange -- and scary -- is that that lack of opposition -- that extraordinary level of acquiescence -- was bad for the Democrats, too. True, they wouldn't have been able to block or alter much policy. But they sure could have spelled out what Bush was doing, and set better conditions on their support for it. (Couldn't they? Maybe I'm being overly idealistic here, but can't the opposition party demand certain things (e.g., You promise this will cost us less than $X; and, You confirm that there are in fact WMD and Saddam is a threat to us) in return for their support, without which the president at least doesn't look so good, and without which the Dems look good for objecting?) And had they only done so, Bush wouldn't be able to get away with misleading the country (and badly, too, if you ask me) quite so easily.

So, yes, the Post let down its readers, but that failure was only a symptom of some much larger mass delusion (that, if they were anything short of patently ridiculous, Bush's chosen policies were best left unquestioned and unopposed) that afflicted nearly all of American politics (and others far worse than the Post, which, after all, at least published these stories, even if they were in the back of the book) until this summer.
posted by mattpfeff at 5:41 PM on September 18, 2003

What mattpfeff said.

Damn liberal media! Damn spineless Congressional Democrats!
posted by nofundy at 4:46 AM on September 19, 2003

speaking of burying important stories: Bush 9/11 Admission Gets Little Play: Story Doesn't Make Many Front Pages
So when President George Bush admitted on Wednesday, for the first time, that there was "no evidence that Hussein was involved with the September 11th" attacks, one would assume that would be big news and an opportunity for the press to make up for past failings.

Washington Post ran it on page 18.
posted by amberglow at 2:57 PM on September 19, 2003

« Older Nuking hurricanes   |   Don't let it be... Don't let it beeee... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments