Has the MSM been “complicit enablers” of Bush’s agenda?

Former WH press secretary Ari Fleischer takes on another former WH press secretary’s – Scott McClellan – assertion in his new book that the mediots were “complicit enablers” in President Bush’s domestic and foreign agenda:

At the risk of agreeing with one of my toughest protagonists in the briefing room — NBC’s David Gregory — the press was tough, plenty tough. I have the scars — and the transcripts — to prove it.

Less than five hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, as we flew on Air Force One, the traveling White House press corps asked me if the “president should be satisfied with the performance of the intelligence community.” “Has he asked to find out where the gaps were,” reporters demanded. “Is he concerned about the fact that this attack of this severity happened with no warnings?”


Over the next few weeks — during this period when critics charge that the press didn’t do its job and was caught up in the post-Sept. 11 patriotic fervor — I was challenged daily about intelligence mistakes, military plans and whether Bush was “going soft” on Russia’s Vladimir Putin to gain his support. During the war in Afghanistan, I was grilled over the conduct of the war itself. I refused to answer questions about operational military details — questions that no White House press secretary should ever answer. I often returned to my office beaten down from the clashes in the briefing room. But those clashes have always been part of the job.

In addition to being tough, sometimes reporters were just wrong. Fifty days after the 2001 attacks, three weeks into the war in Afghanistan, the New York Times ran a front-page story headlined “A Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam.”

In late 2001 came Enron’s collapse, which the White House press corps tried to tie to the president. “When was the last time you talked to either Mr. Lay or any other Enron official, about the — about anything?” President Bush was asked in the Oval Office. For weeks reporters piled on, assuming that because Ken Lay was a big contributor to Bush’s gubernatorial campaign, Bush was partly responsible for Enron’s collapse. Enron and Bush’s presumed culpability dominated my briefings for weeks. So much for Sept. 11 causing the press to go easy.

As for Iraq, as soon as Bush indicated that he was even considering using force against Saddam Hussein, the press challenged the White House.

“Is the president willing to prepare to sacrifice American and Iraqi innocent lives to take out Saddam Hussein,” Helen Thomas asked in early September 2002, more than six months before the war began.

That month, one reporter (the transcript doesn’t say who) asked at the daily briefing, “Do we have new evidence, even if you’re not going to detail it to us now, that suggests the threat is getting worse?”

When Bush asked Congress that month to hold hearings and to vote on a possible authorization to use force in Iraq, the press pushed back — hard. “Why is it after 10 or 11 years you can’t wait three more months?” one reporter asked. Journalists thought Bush was politicizing the election.

In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, no matter what position the president took, the press took the opposite. Bush supported a so-called “tough resolution,” sponsored by Sens. John Warner and Joe Lieberman, authorizing the use of force. Reporters practically came out of their chairs demanding to know why he failed to support an authorization sponsored by Sens. Joe Biden and Richard Lugar.

As I’ve written before, it’s a pure arrogance on the MSM’s part to believe that had they “pushed harder” and “asked tougher questions” that perhaps we wouldn’t have gone to war with Iraq. As if they weren’t tough enough! I further noted how some in the media had “influenced” people’s thinking on Iraq over the years exactly the way they wanted to, by making them believe the dictator wasn’t the monster he really was by doing, among other things, covering up his atrocities for business purposes, and also talked about how the mediots tried to make up for their mythical lack of relentless questioning of the administration by only focusing on the bad news coming out of Iraq once the war started.

Karl at Protein Wisdom adds another point to all this that is very much worth mentioning:

The establishment media flogs itself over Iraq now only to serve The Narrativeâ„¢. If the establishment media was truly concerned about complictly enabling a political agenda, we would be seeing a lot more navel-gazing over the Rasmussen poll showing that a plurality of the public believes that most reporters will try to help Barack Obama and that more Democrats believe this than believe the press will try to help past media darling John McCain. And a lot more navel-gazing than was prompted by the series of media confessions that the establishment media is fawning over Obama. Instead, you tend to get journos wondering whether the fawning hurts Obama.

Exactly. They don’t care about any enabling when it helps their agenda, but when they think they’ve unintentionally enabled an agenda they’re staunchly against, they’ll whine like hell – and retaliate for it later.

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