- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Hollywood
Face it, America. In the eyes of some around the world, we're not who we think we are.
An overwhelmingly favorable impression of Americans has slipped, says the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. In fact, in 19 out of 27 countries where trends can be measured, Americans are no longer seen as passive, kind-hearted, law-abiding people.
Who or what is responsible for this negative perception?
President Bush, some contend, is increasingly giving America a "bully" image, what with his dogged pursuit of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Others say Hollywood is the real reason. Americans are perceived as overbearing, aggressive and domineering if not downright criminal.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in one op-ed column last week in the Los Angeles Times, said "thanks to Tony Soprano, 'Sex and the City' and young pop divas, Hollywood has given us our unflattering image."
Mr. Gingrich labeled "astounding" what Boston University professors Melvin and Margaret DeFleur found when surveying 1,259 teenagers from 12 countries about their attitudes toward Americans.
"Few of those surveyed had any direct contact with Americans only 12 percent had visited the U.S.," he noted. "But they did have access to American television programs, movies and pop music, and based on that exposure, most of these teens considered Americans to be violent, prone to criminal activity and sexually immoral."

and reality
Turn on the television news tonight and chances are you won't see any pictures from Afghanistan. How quickly we ignore.
Rest assured, thousands of U.S. troops remain posted inside Afghanistan, keeping the peace and mopping up after years of Taliban rule. That point was driven home during a special White House briefing on Afghanistan late last week, although as attendee Fred Gedrich of the Freedom Alliance reveals it was somebody else who stood up to sing praise of the American soldier.
Ali Seraj of the Afghanistan-American Foundation.
"Everybody has to give credit to one group of Americans that nobody talks about, who are working very hard in Afghanistan and I want to give them their due," Mr. Seraj began. "This is the young American soldiers boys and girls and nobody knows this. But I do because I work very closely with them.
"The last 12 months they have rebuilt schools for almost one million Afghan children. They have rebuilt hospitals for almost three-quarters of a million Afghan sick people. They have dug wells for hundreds of thousands of people. We only hear about soldiers fighting on the battlefield. We never hear of the good they are doing. And these kids, every time I walk there and go there, I raise my hat to them," Mr. Seraj said.
"In addition to that, the American people are a very giving people. In my years of being on a speaking tour when they ask me what do I think of Americans, I always say if I had to draw a picture, I would draw a picture of a heart."

Group effort
The president's not the only person under pressure during a State of the Union address. Consider his speechwriters, who although not elected to office, help propel the nation's policy debate.
Former wordsmiths of the White House and Capitol Hill speechwriting trade will gather this afternoon at the National Press Club in advance of tonight's (9 p.m.) State of the Union by President Bush.
Among them: Richard Goodwin, former chief speechwriter to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson; Frank Mankiewicz, former speechwriter to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; Joshua Gilder, former speechwriter to President Reagan; and Chriss Winston, former speechwriter to the first President Bush.


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