- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

On Media

They grumbled, kicked up some dust, waxed poetic or hemmed and hawed. But after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's U.N. presentation Wednesday, some of the skeptics are tweaking their views.
"Powell proved beyond any doubt that Iraq still possesses and continues to develop illegal weapons of mass destruction … Saddam must and will go," a New York Daily News editorial stated yesterday.
The speech "methodically demonstrated why Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein remains dangerous to his own people, Iraq's neighbors and potentially, the Western world," the Los Angeles Times observed.
The Washington Post's Richard Cohen called the speech "a winning hand for Powell," noting that "only a fool or a Frenchman" would doubt that Iraq retains its weapons.
The Post's Mary McCrory echoed, "He persuaded me, and I was as tough as France to convince. … I'm not ready for war yet. But Colin Powell has convinced me that it might be the only way to stop a fiend, and that if we go, there is reason."
Tom Rosensteil of the Project for Excellence in Journalism is not surprised by shifting opinions.
"The speech offered the largest amount of publicly presented evidence for the case against Iraq," he said yesterday.
"But if we go to war, both the pundit class and the American people will support it. They may be hesitant until the last minute, but when the decision is made, they flip their views. That has been borne out historically."
U.S. News & World Report's David Gergen called the speech "conclusive, compelling evidence," while CNN's Paul Begala noted, "Powell was the right man for the difficult job. He is, by far, the most respected and trusted figure in America, perhaps the whole world."
CNN's Bill Schneider said Mr. Powell "achieved a crucial breakthrough. He shifted the burden of proof" from the United States to Iraq. "The demand for the 'smoking gun' has disappeared," Mr. Schneider said.
ABC's George Stephanopoulos said Democrats had been moved by the "volume and vividness of the evidence" presented by Mr. Powell, whom he called a "reluctant warrior."
Overnight polls revealed that Mr. Powell has won over many viewers.
A CNN/Gallup survey found that 79 percent of the respondents said the speech made a "very" or "fairly" strong case for the United States to invade Iraq. An additional 86 percent said Mr. Powell made a "very" or "fairly" strong case that Iraq was hiding weapons.
An NBC News poll found that 60 percent felt military action should take place in Iraq, while 27 percent were against it. That compares with 56 percent for and 36 percent against in January. A growing number of Americans approve of an Iraq strike without U.N. support: 37 percent, up from 29 percent in January.
Meanwhile, an ABC/Washington Post survey found that 70 percent of those who saw the speech said there was enough evidence to strike Iraq; 48 percent of those who had not seen the speech agreed.
The landscape still has its die-hard dissenters, however.
The Nation's Katrina Vanden Heuvel said Mr. Powell "failed to make a compelling case," while ABC's Peter Jennings said he hoped "to add a note of skepticism" about the speech.
"Jennings and ABC certainly fed the predispositions of the doubters," noted Brent Baker of the Media Research Council.
And in the ever-increasing population of Hollywood actors-turned-analysts, Dustin Hoffman told a London film awards audience Wednesday that he was pained "as an American" because President Bush "has taken the events of 9/11 and manipulated the grief of the country. … I don't think that the reasons we have been given for going to war are the honest reasons."

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