Our media today seem absolutely allergic to good news, especially when it comes to Iraq.
In the early morning of June 8, the story broke that American forces had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, our most infamous terrorist enemy in Iraq. This was terrific news, a time for rejoicing in America. A man who viciously caused the death of thousands, and killed Americans like Nicholas Berg by personally sawing off their heads, would kill no more.
This should have been a time for national euphoria, and for most, it was. But the media's hearts clearly weren't in it. Within just a few minutes of the "Today" show announcement, a viewer could draw the clear sense that the poor-mouthing had begun. Matt Lauer began by noting the "timing" was certainly right for a Pentagon dragged down by allegations of a Marine massacre at Haditha. NBC invited Sen. Joe Biden to describe how President Bush has been "basically crippled at home and abroad because of the incompetence of the way his administration has operated at home and abroad." We're going to discuss Bush incompetence - minutes after we learn Zarqawi was located and eliminated?
Tim Russert sealed it as NBC ran a "Special Report" allowing Bush a stern-faced we-got-him speech laced with warnings that the war effort continues. The special didn't end until Russert was interviewed to pour some salt on the victory by declaring that "this is very, very good news today but as we have learned over the last three years things can turn dramatically worse in Iraq within a moment's notice."
It's at moments like these when millions of Americans want to throw their TVs out the living-room window. When the news is bad, we get bad news for hours, day, weeks, months on end. When the news is good, within 15 minutes, we have these partisans in the media speculating that things will go bad again "within a moment's notice." Well, good news just happened this moment. Can we have a stinking moment? Can we have 15 minutes to feel good about our troops and their achievements?
NBC expects viewers to endure three obsequious hours of glorious tributes to Katie Couric for successfully handling cooking segments, but we can't get five minutes of praise for American soldiers risking their lives to keep us all safe from terrorism.
How can media stars like Tim Russert not understand how partisan they sound at a moment like this? Eliminating Zarqawi was not just a victory for President Bush, but a victory for America, and for Iraq. But Russert proclaimed the White House would talk of a "turning point," and "that's what people are hopeful for this morning in the administration." But wait: doesn't all of America , not just the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, want a turning point toward victory in Iraq, for stability and democracy and an end to the terrorist insurgency? Who's rooting for chaos and a terrorist victory?
After Mary Mapes and Bush-loathing CBS first broke the Abu Ghraib story, the coverage was endless, with hundreds of stories, for months, focused on American offenders and their offenses. But the brave and talented special forces that tracked down Zarqawi in his "safe house" will never be famous. The same media now can't stand the idea of giving them a piddling fraction of the time they spent on outrageous dog handlers and naked-pyramid-builders, who were the emblematic American soldiers in Iraq, if you believe our partisan national press.
In the last few weeks, we've seen the same ravenous media hunger for the worst news about our troops in the ongoing investigation into a possible Marine killing of civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha. The story of a Pentagon probe broke in March, but NBC began a feeding frenzy on May 17 when anchor Brian Williams breathlessly declared anti-war Congressman John Murtha was "in the news again, and in a big way, accusing U.S. Marines of killing innocent civilians in cold blood." Since that day, MRC's Rich Noyes found, the networks have aired 99 stories or segments on ABC, CBS, and NBC suggesting U.S. military misconduct - three and a half hours of coverage in three weeks.
Now put that in perspective. The same three networks have provided - ready for this? - just 52 minutes to the heroic deeds of the 20 members of the U.S. military who have received the highest recognition for bravery in combat since the war on terror began - over almost five years. In fact, 14 of the country's top 20 medal recipients have gone unmentioned by ABC, CBS, and NBC.
Honk if you rejoice at the elimination of Zarqawi. And blow up your TV.