Hold the presses for an unusual burst of candor from Newsweek assistant managing Editor Evan Thomas. “The incredible alarm everybody has about how Bush should have known – all of that is baloney,” Thomas acknowledged last weekend on the panel discussion program “Inside Washington.”
Continued Thomas, “The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here, that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it.”
Thomas was referring, of course, to the frenzy over the “revelation” last week that the Bush administration had advance warning of possible hijackings by members of al Qaeda. That this was hardly news mattered little to biased and dimwitted media types who immediately sought to inflate the issue into a scandal of Nixonian implications, with some going so far as to speculate that Bush may have known specifically about the Sept. 11 attacks
“What did the president know and when did he know it?” chirped the “Today” show’s Katie Couric at the top of the May 16 telecast. Couric also made the wholly misleading assertion that the whole thing was “raising more questions about whether the attack on America could have been prevented.”
On “Good Morning America,” meanwhile, Charles Gibson was once again proving himself every bit Couric’s equal as a morning show lightweight, at one point echoing Couric’s “What did the president know” question.
But Gibson went even further, insinuating that perhaps Bush was not at all caught unawares when he first learned of the Sept. 11 attacks. The news about the CIA briefings, said Gibson, “calls into question what happened when Andy Card, Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, that morning went and whispered in the president’s ear, as the president was talking to a group of school students in Florida. Was the president really surprised?”
The Monitor has come to expect nothing better from the television side of the media, where the rule seems to be that one’s salary grows in inverse proportion to one’s IQ. But the print media were hardly better last week, with tabloid headlines such as “9/11 Bombshell: Bush Knew” representing a new nadir in the utter and willful misreporting of a news story.
Predictably, Congressional Democrats - particularly those with rumored or verified interests in running for president in 2004 - were off and running with what they hoped was, at long last, an issue with which to bludgeon a popular Republican president.
One of the first political opportunists out of the gate was New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who repeatedly and vigorously voiced her profound appreciation for the beneficial aspects of full disclosure, thorough investigation and presidential candor – an appreciation that had been noticeably lacking for the entirety of her husband’s scandal-ridden presidency.
Another Democrat impossible to avoid as soon as the non-story broke was House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, a politician so devoid of substance that the only memorable thing about his short-lived 1988 presidential campaign was the news that he actually dyed his eyebrows on the advice of consultants who felt they were too pale and wouldn’t show up on television.
And what would a political story of purported serious consequence be without a starring role for Joe Lieberman, he of the suffering servant’s visage and the pol-on-the-make’s burning ambition for higher office? The thing about Lieberman is that he manages not to appear as transparently partisan as a Clinton or a Gephardt, even while peddling the same brand of hooey.
Cheers to Slate editor Michael Kinsley, a liberal’s liberal by the way, who in a dead-on parody of last week’s events managed to capture the essence of Lieberman’s furrowed-brow, long-faced shtick in the following quote he put in the mouth of the Connecticut senator:
“I hesitate to criticize or second-guess the president when we are at war with such a sinister foe,” said Kinsley’s Lieberman. “But I am deeply concerned that without a thorough inquiry into this matter, the American people may lose an opportunity for me to be deeply concerned.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org