December 9, 2004

A Sober Assessment

I try to use the Google News page to give me a sense of how the mainstream media is reporting things. They will sometimes carry feeds from a right-leaning news source or two, but for the most part it's the standard fare from Reuters, The N.Y. Times, etc. One of the headlines the other day was from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the President's speech to an assembly of U.S. troops in San Diego. It read:

"Bush acknowledges toll war taking on military / President offers Marines sober assessment of conflict's progress"

I probably wouldn't have clicked through to read the whole article if this phrase hadn't jumped out and grabbed me from the "teaser" paragraph:

President Bush offered an unusually sober assessment Tuesday of the war in Iraq, acknowledging that the insurgency is getting worse..." (emphasis mine)

Now that didn't sound like something George Bush would have said to a group of 7000 Marines, especially in the weeks following the taking of Fallujah, with some positive momentum gathering for the elections next month. (Even AS thinks so).

So I read the Chronicle piece, but found no quotes from Bush cited in it that sounded anything like an acknowledgement of a worsening of the insurgency. My suspicions aroused by now, I clicked on the email link to the article's author and dashed off a quick email to the reporter, James Sterngold. I told him I wasn't denying that the President had said the insugency was getting worse, since I hadn't read the whole speech, but that it seemed hard for me to believe that he had done so. I asked as politely as I could if I had somehow missed something.

I was a bit surprised to get a reply from him within a couple of minutes that simply thanked me for my note, and included a link to the full text of the speech for my convenience.

At least he was right about the "sober assessment" part. Of course, that has been Bush's consistent theme from the first day of the Iraq invasion. It will be difficult, we must stay the course, the enemies of democracy will not go quietly, etc.

Bush made several points showing that he remains very realistic and cautious about the situation we face in Iraq, specifically about the problems we have had with some troops from the Iraqi army, who have been and continue to be targeted for murder by the insurgents for cooperating with the Americans. Some of these newly minted Iraqi troops have not performed as well as we had hoped they would, Bush admitted.

But there was absolutely nothing in that speech that any sane and sentient English-speaking person could have taken as an acknowledgement by Bush that the insurgency was getting worse. Read it yourself, and tell me if I'm missing something.

Anyway, my next email to Mr. Sterngold wasn't as cordial as the first. I asked him if his editors routinely directed him to insert this kind of fabrication into his "news" pieces, or if he took that initiative upon himself. I know I shouldn't expect straight journalism from the state organ of the Peoples Republic of San Francisco, but this agenda-driving was so obvious and so shameless that I couldn't let it ride.

For most people, a major newspaper's account of the speech would be all they ever read, or cared to read. Every reader of that article now thinks that Bush said things were getting worse with the insurgency in Iraq. And that is an outright lie.

And that is outrageous.

Posted by dan at December 9, 2004 9:20 PM