- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Liberal lens

A leading congressman wrote yesterday to CBS Television President Leslie Moonves, expressing “serious concerns” about “The Reagans,” and holding him responsible for the upcoming two-part miniseries on the lives of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

“I want to be assured that it is not, as the New York Times reported yesterday, a ‘deconstruction of [Reagans] presidency shot through a liberal lens, exaggerating his foibles and giving short shrift to his accomplishments,’” writes Chief Deputy Majority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor.

The Virginia Republican says he is “concerned that past political associations and ideology of CBS executives and actors have seeped into the production, creating a work that portrays Reagan inaccurately.”

Think for yourself

Rep. Lamar Smith doesn’t like what he’s watching or reading these days.

On the heels of President Bush complaining that “a lot of times there’s ‘opinion’ mixed in with news,” the Texas Republican is scolding this country’s news organizations for “liberal bias.”

“The three major television networks all carry more negative stories about President Bush than positive ones,” he says. “Two of the country’s largest dailies, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have not endorsed a Republican for president since the 1950s.”

As for Mr. Bush’s criticism that reporters often editorialize in their copy, Mr. Smith says, “The media should trust the American people with the facts, not tell them what to think.”

His old self

Minutes after the small group of reporters traveling with President Bush from Bali to Australia boarded Air Force One yesterday — still dripping sweat from the scorching tropical sun — Press Secretary Scott McClellan popped into the press pod with an urgent message.

“Get ready,” he said. “There’s going to be a special briefer.”

Normally, during presidential junkets, the White House sends an “expert” to the rear of the plane to brief reporters. Yesterday was different. The press would be going to the “special briefer.”

A White House staff member led the eight scribes to a spacious conference room in the middle of the jumbo 747. Minutes later the president of the United States walked in.

“How y’all doing?” Mr. Bush asked, taking a seat at the head of the table.

“Want something to drink?” he asked one reporter.

“How we feeling?” he turned and asked another.

“I’d like a bottle of water,” he told a flight attendant.

“Want something?” he asked them for a second time.

“It’s going to be very long,” he reminded the journalists.

“Coffee?” he said.

Fetching caffeine and snacks for reporters is nothing new for Mr. Bush. His first job upon graduating Yale in 1967 was accompanying a handful of reporters aboard a propeller-driven press plane during the Senate campaign of Rep. Edward J. Gurney, Florida Republican.

Described as “very cordial with the press,” the 21-year-old Mr. Bush herded reporters on and off airplanes, into their hotel rooms, and back up again at 6 a.m.

Assured yesterday that reporters on Air Force One were sufficiently hydrated, Mr. Bush launched into a rare airborne discussion on everything from Iraq to North Korea. As he spoke, he played a shell game with reporters’ tape recorders, shuffling them about the table.

Long tongue

It was only a matter of time before a book was written by Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief.

The Iraqi lawyer, who sacrificed his home and risked his life to help save American POW Jessica Lynch, writes in “Because Each Life is Precious: Why an Iraqi Man Risked Everything for Private Jessica Lynch” (Harper Collins), that his courageous intervention was a no-brainer.

“Of all the cruelties I had witnessed in Iraq, I had intervened in a few, a handful. Most I had let pass, as there was little to be gained,” he says. “But the POW was different. I had a chance to help, because Saddam’s days on top of us were numbered. I could bring the Americans back to this girl before it was too late.”

On April 2, 2003, U.S. Marines stormed Saddam Hospital and rescued Miss Lynch.

And we now read for the first time that Mr. Odeh al-Rehaief was known as a “long tongue,” or “wiseguy,” growing up in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. When he was in first grade, he balked at clapping at a picture of Saddam, to the threat of a spanking with a wooden ruler across his palms.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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