- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

Grim reapers
As sole anchor of "NBC Nightly News" for 20 years, Tom Brokaw has encountered his share of difficult moments. Friday was one of his toughest.
"I always worry about getting too emotional on air," he tells Inside the Beltway. "This one cut deep to the bone."
Flanked by four senior retired members of the U.S. military, Mr. Brokaw was narrator to literally millions of television viewers who, for this inaugural war of the 21st century, have been given unprecedented front-row seats.
It is called "real-time reporting." When hundreds of Western reporters, producers and photographers, "embedded" with the troops as they chip their way toward Baghdad and Saddam Hussein, granted he's still breathing, bring new meaning to the term "reality TV."
From a military standpoint, there was reason for Mr. Brokaw and his hardened generals to be impressed. U.S. missiles rained down on Iraq with pinpoint accuracy never witnessed before. And throughout the bombardment, U.S. combat casualties remained low.
As they marveled at the technological advances of war, Mr. Brokaw was informed that a Nancy Chamberlain wished to address the nation.
What was surprising was that just a short time before, this well-spoken mother from Winslow, Maine, had received horrific news that her son Capt. Jay Thomas Aubin, a helicopter pilot who had dreamed one day of flying the president aboard Marine One perished in the Kuwaiti desert with the 11 other men in his chopper.
So, this devastated mother, in the most trying hour of her life, agreed to appear on television, to speak politely for the thousands of U.S. military families who are "glued" to their TV sets. But not for reasons the rest of us watch.
Mrs. Chamberlain said she "knew for some reason" that her son wouldn't be coming home, long before she was officially notified of his death. It's hard not to know when real-time reporting beats the Pentagon chaplain to one's living room sofa.
Military families, she explained, find themselves watching their TVs constantly, seeking reassurance that their loved ones are safe. These families at home, it turns out, are seeing more of the war than the soldiers in combat.
They experience the terror, she said, feel the stress. Mr. Brokaw was moved to tears. Unable to respond at one point, a general jumped in to address her concerns.
"Here is a mother who was just told that she had lost her son," Mr. Brokaw tells us later. "And she appears on television with this important message about [military] families living 'in terror' in their homes. And we [the news networks] needed to hear that."
"These images are spectacular and violent. And there is going to be death," he says. "And nobody could have [reminded us] as eloquently as this woman. Our switchboard lit up."
When he left the anchor desk, Mr. Brokaw retreated to his office to make an important telephone call, to a grieving Mrs. Chamberlain.
Biased reporters
Sign taped to a refrigerator in the White House press room: "News Bulletin: France announced today that it plans to ban fireworks at Euro Disney outside of Paris following last night's display that caused soldiers at a nearby French army garrison to surrender."
'Shock and awe'
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, has taken to complaining that the Senate has more pressing matters to debate namely, the war in Iraq than to "rush through the 2004 budget.
Yet at the very moment the "shock and awe" campaign began on the streets of Baghdad, Mr. Byrd interrupted a busy day on the Senate floor Friday to give his annual "First Day of Spring" speech.
It made for an interesting transposition. While every network was showing stunning live coverage of military installations in Baghdad being consumed in huge fireballs, Mr. Byrd was speaking of the wonders of the return of flowers to the gardens of the nation's capital, with a few passing references to our troops in danger abroad.
"Nature now hangs her mantle green on every blooming tree and spreads her sheets of daisies white out over the grassy field," Mr. Byrd said as bombs were exploding over Iraq.
"Last year, a dry and mild winter caused spring bulbs to bloom in February. This year, as snowfall after snowfall piled up on lawns and roads, it seemed as if no flower could survive the icy soil," he continued. "Seed catalogues languished unread as we shoveled sidewalks and scraped windshields."
("Boom, boom, boom" goes the audio on the TVs in the Senate Gallery).
"We are emerging from our dens like bears, shaggy, lean and hungry for spring," Mr. Byrd said, quoting poet John Milton. "Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet with charm of earliest birds, pleasant the sun when first on this delightful land, he spreads his orient beans on herb, tree, fruit, and flower."
(A fireball consumes a government installation in Baghdad as typically chatty cable newsies sit jaws agape).
"I look forward to turning away from the incessant news coverage of war, and I look forward to spending a few precious moments outside listening instead to the spring peepers, those little frogs whose singing brings back to me boyhood memories of long ago," Mr. Byrd said.
Later in the evening, Mr. Byrd complained that the business of dealing with a long line of Democratic amendments was going on too long and pleaded for adjournment. His request was refused.
Clever bunch
"Dubya Dubya III"
Name given by anti-war protesters to the U.S.-led war with Iraq.

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