- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

Anyone who wants to understand why the media are held in such low regard by the public — in polls of the most respected professions we usually come somewhere between Nigerian e-mail scammers and serial pedophiles — should consider the following headline from an Associated Press story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last week:

“Accused spy is cousin of Bush staffer.”

The accused person is Susan Lindauer, charged with working for Saddam’s intelligence agency. She describes herself merely as an “antiwar activist,” though, as the daily rummage through the Ba’athists’ scrupulous paperwork indicates more clearly every day, being an antiwar activist and on the Saddamite payroll are by no means mutually exclusive.

Before she allegedly became an Iraqi agent, Miss Lindauer spent a decade in Washington working for four members of Congress, Peter DeFazio, Ron Wyden, Carol Moseley Braun and Zoe Lofgren. What do these four legislators have in common?

Answer: They all have a “D” after their names.

But to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s headline writer the salient fact about Miss Lindauer is not her 10 years of work for the Democratic Party but the amazing revelation she is a second cousin of Bush chief of staff Andrew Card.

A second cousin. Hold the front page.

Here’s an easy test for the publisher, editor and news staff of the paper:

(1) Name all your second cousins.

(2) Where do they live?

(3) When did you last see them?

It’s one thing for the press to be antiwar and feel Saddam should be given another decade or two to come into compliance with Security Council resolutions. It’s quite another to be so smitten with the old butcher that your copy editors internally absorb Ba’ath Party tribal politics and assume that mere second cousinship with members of the Bush clan automatically puts you in the inner circle.

To be fair to the Associated Press, they sent the story out on the wires with the headline, “Woman named in spy case worked as journalist, congressional aide.”

What’s that? “Worked as journalist”? Well, there’s an angle the Seattle guys unaccountably missed. Before she went to work for the Democratic Party, Miss Lindauer worked for … the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a fact the paper headlined later. Instead of the cousin thing, the original headline writer might more usefully have written:

“Accused spy used to sit at desk next to mine; I made clumsy pass at her at 1992 office party.”

I would love to see these headline writers working in Hollywood: “Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me”? “Well, to be honest we thought it sounded punchier as “Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Someone Who Used To Go To School With Someone Who Was A Cousin Of Someone Who Was Briefly Married To A Receptionist At Halliburton. When Cheney Worked There.”

Look, these are serious times. Week after week, more details emerge of the extraordinary number of influential Westerners, from French government ministers to the head of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program, who appear to have been in the pay of Saddam. That’s, among other things, what Susan Lindauer is accused of.

But we don’t have a serious press for these serious times. Boring and self-important is not the same as serious. But one reason John Kerry calculates he can get away with damning the Bush administration as “crooks” and “liars” is he figures he can count on the mainstream media doing what the Post-Intelligencer did — instinctively framing every issue in anti-Bush terms, no matter how ludicrously.

I suppose it’s not entirely impossible that one reason the Post-Intelligencer guys went with their spy-Bush linkage is because Miss Lindauer has been accused of betraying her country and Al Gore accused Mr. Bush of “betraying” the country, too. But that’s one more reason Mr. Bush will win in November: The media and the Democrats are sustaining each other in their delusions.

Sen. Kerry thinks the Bush administration is “crooked” and “lying.” The Bush “lie” boils down to this: The president believes there’s a war on. The Dems think September 11, 2001, was like the 1998 ice storm or a Florida hurricane — just one of those things. And they think Mr. Bush is “lying” by insisting on playing it as a war.

As it happens, the only big political “lie” in recent days came from Mr. Kerry, who told a meeting in Florida, “I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ‘You’ve got to win this, you’ve got to beat this guy.’ ” The senator has spent most of the last year in Iowa and New Hampshire, which, for all their charms, are not where one goes to rub shoulders with “foreign leaders.”

Jacques Chirac could have driven over the Granite State border from Quebec’s Eastern Townships, where he was vacationing last summer. But he didn’t. Mr. Kerry does not appear to have “looked at” any foreign leaders since he began his campaign.

And, if he had, he’d find them far less well-disposed to him than he imagines. Last Thursday, March 11, which was 2 years to the day after September 11, nearly 200 people were murdered by terrorists in Spain. Like Britain, Australia and Poland, Spain is a member of what John Kerry calls Mr. Bush’s “fraudulent coalition.”

You can disagree with the administration on this war. I have. A few days after September 11, I called for resignations from the agencies that failed on that day — the Federal Aviation Administration, FBI, CIA and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It didn’t happen. Still hasn’t happened. It should.

A couple of weeks after September 11, 2001, I called for a total upheaval of America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Didn’t happen then. There are a few subtle hints things are changing, but far too slowly.

Anyone who took the war seriously can certainly find fault with the administration. But not if you stand there like a 5-year-old boy and never get beyond pointing your fingers and sticking your tongue out: “Ooh, Bush lied. And Ashcroft’s a big bully. And Cheney’s stealing it all for his oil buddies. And you shouldn’t mention the war in your campaign ads, because it’s not fair. Nyaa-nyaa.”

Two hundred people died in Madrid because of a war Democrats refuse to admit exists. But hey, you never know, maybe the guy who did it will be a third cousin twice removed of Karl Rove.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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