Friday, February 4, 2005

No rejoicing

“Iraq’s dancing-in-the-streets election gave President Bush a surge of momentum, and [Wednesday] night he made clear that he means to make the most of it,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“Iraq’s election shifted the political dynamic in America because of its amazing success, which validated Bush’s belief that freedom can trump terror — thus making it easier for him to tackle other big things like Social Security,” Miss Orin said.

“So Bush could say in [Wednesday] night’s State of the Union speech: ‘We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty — as they showed the world last Sunday.’

“Also telling was what Iraqi courage showed about the Democratic Party in America — it’s so angry and so bankrupt of ideas that its leaders couldn’t even rejoice in the Iraqi vote.

” ‘The Democrats are acting out of frustration — what they stand for and what their strategy is, I can’t say. Why would they vigorously oppose the first black woman to be secretary of state and the first Latino to be attorney general?’ says presidential scholar Stephen Hess.”

Tone-deaf Democrats

“Every so often, an American politician takes an unpopular stand for the sake of what’s right: Think of Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon,” the Wall Street Journal says.

“Frequently, he takes an unprincipled stand for the sake of what’s popular: Take Richard Nixon’s price controls. Sometimes, even, he does what’s right, which also happens to be popular: Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya.

“Only in the rarest of instances, however, do politicians take positions that are both unpopular and unprincipled. That is where the Democratic Party leadership finds itself today on Iraq,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“On Sunday, some eight million Iraqi citizens risked their lives to participate in parliamentary elections — as vivid and moving a demonstration of democratic ideals in action as we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Whereupon Senate Democrats Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry took to the airwaves to explain that it was no big deal and that it was time to start casting about for an ‘exit strategy.’ …

“As a matter of policy, this is a manifesto for irresponsibility. Just as the postponement of elections would have been a gift to the insurgents, a timetable for withdrawal now would amount to a concession of defeat.”

Media panic

“Like the onset of an infectious winter illness, reporters [Wednesday] night were coming down with a disturbing feeling,” Tim Graham writes at National Review Online (

“Despite their best efforts last year to convince Americans to drop President Bush and mark the Iraq war in the history books as a colossal military and political blunder — and despite pre-State of the Union address clucking that Bush is at a ‘historic low’ in approval ratings — they can sense that the president is on a roll, that he’s beginning to look bold, visionary, even ‘Churchillian’ (to quote David Gergen on PBS [Wednesday] night).

“Successful elections in Iraq, which occurred despite months of cynical media speculation that it was foolish not to delay, feel to the media like a rejection of their relentless vision of a hopeless quagmire in the making. (Or as John Podhoretz put it Sunday, the elections were ‘Ted Kennedy’s Vietnam.’) The touching human moment of Wednesday night’s speech, when a fallen Marine’s mother hugged an Iraqi woman who had voted, only cemented the momentum,” said Mr. Graham, who is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center.

“On ABC, usually dismissive Terry Moran gave away too much by calling it a ‘shattering’ moment, one that ‘crystallizes’ what the president has been trying to do. Cokie Roberts said it ‘leaves you with goose bumps.’ On CBS, Dan Rather said it was ‘the most poignant moment of any State of the Union night we can remember.’ Ted Koppel and his ‘Nightline’ panel universally concluded it was a ‘grand slam.’

“On MSNBC, Chris Matthews clumsily tried to conclude that this was a moment about growing the president’s numbers on Social Security reform, which even media liberals like Newsweek’s Jon Meacham dismissed as ‘absurd.’ Trying to suggest the grieving mother hugged the Iraqi voter at some focus group’s urging makes you look like the world’s most oafishly cynical pundit.”

Escaping scrutiny

Two recent media events deserve more scrutiny than they have received, Hugh Hewitt writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (

“The first is the genuinely scandalous assertion by CNN’s Eason Jordan, made at the World Economic Forum, that the United States military has targeted and killed a dozen journalists. The account of Jordan’s remarks — including his backpedaling and the crowd’s reactions — is available at ForumBlog. Thus far no major media outlet has demanded an accounting of Jordan, but the idea that a major figure from American media traffics in such outlandish and outrageous slanders on the American military deserves attention and criticism, not indifference. …

“The second subject for mulling is John Kerry’s extraordinary interview with Tim Russert last Sunday. There’s a lot to absorb here, including Kerry’s assertion that he did indeed run guns and CIA men into Cambodia on secret missions — and to aid the Khmer Rouge no less!” said Mr. Hewitt, a radio talk show host and blogger at

“What is really remarkable is not Kerry’s whoppers — he couldn’t have meant the Khmer Rouge, right? — or his almost certain not-to-be-fulfilled pledge to sign the form 180. It is the set of questions Tim Russert posed. …

“But if the questions posed by Russert on January 30, 2005 — on Kerry’s fantasy life in Cambodia, on the sequestered [military] records, etc. — were legitimate and useful inquiries after the votes have been cast, why then did no one pose them to candidate Kerry when they might have made a difference in the election? The blogosphere and the center-right media were full of such demands from August 1 forward, but not a single reporter from mainstream media bothered to pose even one of the Russert questions prior to the vote.”

Ill-chosen words

A senior Marine Corps general who said it was “fun to shoot some people” should have chosen his words more carefully but will not be disciplined, military officials said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the comments at a conference Tuesday in San Diego, Reuters news agency reports.

“Actually it’s quite fun to fight ‘em, you know,” said Gen. Mathis, who also called it “a hoot.” “It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Gen. Mattis said during a panel discussion. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a … lot of fun to shoot them.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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