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Jewish World Review April 16, 2004 / 26 Adar, 5764

Diana West

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Trophy-hunting with the media | Victor Davis Hanson, author of several books about war's affect on civilization, says it best in the current issue of City Journal. I paraphrase: Thanks to George W. Bush, the Taliban are gone. So is Saddam Hussein. Yasser Arafat is isolated, restricted to the wretched confines of his Ramallah compound. American troops no longer stake their lives guarding the terror kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Europeans finally feel a righteous American heat over their cold accountings of anti-Semitism and their largesse to Islamic terror organizations.

Thanks also to Bush, Islamofascist "charities" have been shuttered in this country. Al Qaeda is in splinters around the world, desperately seeking a new state-haven. In one of the great diplomatic coups of our time, Pakistan has been turned, as Hanson put it, from "a de facto foe to a scrutinized neutral." Just this week, India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, publicly credited the U.S.-led war in Iraq with pushing nuclear rivals India and Pakistan to set about resolving their dispute over Kashmir. Bush has further pressured Libya, Iran and Pakistan to come clean on nuclear cheating; and where the Middle East once feared Iraq's military, the president has had reason lately to lament its ineffectualness. Then there's always the fact that he has "so far avoided another September 11 — and promises that he is not nearly done yet."

What next? Since he's on a roll, maybe Bush could pre-empt the White House media. There may be no WMD stockpiled by the Washington press corps, but that doesn't mean they aren't a threat to peace and freedom. Having abandoned the pursuit of fact and meaning to chase down a kind of therapeutic humiliation — therapeutic for them, humiliation for the president — the White House media, with a couple of notable exceptions, revealed in this week's presidential press conference a particularly disturbing taste for presidential blood, and a patent antipathy for his accomplishments. This bloodlust now borders on icky obsession.

"Do you feel a sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?" asked The New York Times' Elizabeth Bumiller. "You never admit a mistake," said NBC's David Gregory. "Is that a fair criticism?" Were there "any errors of judgment that you made" regarding "those topics (Iraq and Sept. 11) I brought up?"

Again and again, the White House media went apology-hunting. "Two weeks ago," said CBS's John Roberts, "a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11." (Never mind that the grandstanding Clarke spent the rest of his testimony attesting to his own grossly underappreciated infallibility.) "Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?" Moving on from Sept. 11, Time's John Dickerson wondered, "After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be?" NPR's Don Gonyea took a different tack: "I guess I'd like to know if you feel in any way that you've failed as a communicator."

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Apologies, mistakes, feelings and failings: Was this sweeps week on Oprah, or the White House at war? While Bush quite effectively and even inspirationally set the mission in Iraq and the security of the United States into the larger context of the war on Islamic terrorism, the media tended to their gotcha questions in hopes that they could lay bare, not illuminating fact or meaning — their sorry performance elicited no new information — but rather the diminishing fault lines of doubt and cheap emotion. Was the president sorry? Would he apologize? Would the media get their trophy — one equally prized by John Kerry and Al Jazeera?

No. Bush described his anger, his sadness and his sickness over 9/11, but reminded the pack that "the person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden." He emphasized the serious call to action he strongly believes we must heed.

Not the media; they want that apology, preferably teary-moist, but anything to weaken his moral and political stature. Which explains their lack of journalistic fervor when it came to extracting an apology from Bill Clinton for anything ever, from the multiple lies (sex with "that" woman) to the multiple smears (Billy Dale, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick), from the 1993 rout in Somalia, in which 18 ill-equipped marines lost their lives in battle with Al Qaeda-trained rebels, to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole — and every infamous act in between. The media elite wanted him to win. Even now this bunch won't train their pop-apology-guns on Clinton, despite the post-9/11 revelations of his administration's security failings, or even the multiple chances Clinton personally passed up to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.

But they'll keep George Bush in their crosshairs. They don't want him to win — and it shows.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Diana West