The speech last week by President Bush in which he drew some analogies between Iraq and the Vietnam War, clearly touched a very raw nerve with the majority of the left-leaning media. Published reports indicated that all three major networks, the cable networks, most of the major papers in the country and hundreds of local TV stations, attacked, questioned, or referenced the Vietnam analogy.
Why? What about that comparison could so enrage the liberal mainstream media? To put it in some context, let’s look at some of what the president said before the Veterans of Foreign Wars:
“The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So, I’m going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end… In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: ‘What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they’ve never seen and may never heard of?’ ”
A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: “It’s difficult to imagine,” he said, “how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone.” A headline on that story, date-lined Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: “Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life.”
Mr. Bush continued: “The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.”
Among the number of possible reasons for the liberal media to bizarrely blow a gasket over this recounting of history, three seem the most plausible: guilt, remorse and fear.
For the most part, the left-leaning mainstream media is now run by the “Antiwar Vietnam generation.” And out of this generation who have a stranglehold on the media, the vast majority are men. While that in itself may be a contradiction in liberal dogma, that is the reality.
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, many of these men spent their waking hours denouncing the war while either dodging the draft or avoiding it by college deferments or other means. To be honest and fair, Vice President Dick Cheney and a number of pro-Iraq-war conservatives also avoided that war at all costs. Only in their hearts, do they know why they chose not to serve.
For those in the media who managed to avoid service in Vietnam, do the president’s words bring to the surface long-buried guilt with regard to those who went in their place and were killed in action? Do the president’s words with regard to the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed after we left so trouble those of that generation who now run our media companies that they feel the need to irrationally attack the president to deflect responsibility for those deaths?
To bring this subject to present-time politics, do those on the left who run the various networks and newspapers fear that the Bush analogy may very well fit the current conflict in Iraq a bit too well? That is to say, as those who desperately and unprofessionally want to see a Democrat elected president in 2008, are these liberal media executives terrified that Bush’s Vietnam analogy reminds voters of a failed policy as it attaches itself like glue to the Iraq positions of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.
As Democratic and Republican members of Congress return from Iraq with positive reports about the surge, do the left-leaning leaders of our networks and newspapers fear that the Democrats are, once again, about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
With just a few paragraphs about Vietnam, Mr. Bush managed to open the left’s Pandora’s box of hate, guilt, remorse and fear. Why?
Douglas MacKinnon, who served as press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole, is also a former White House and Pentagon official.