As the Press Turns
Tomasky, Michael, The Nation
Quick, pinch me--am I still living in the same country? Reading and watching the same media? This "Bob Woodward" fellow who co-wrote a tough piece in the May 18 Washington Post demonstrating that the now-famous August 6 presidential daily briefing, contrary to Administration officials' claims about its contents, actually carried the heading "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S."--is this the same Bob Woodward who co-wrote the Post's infamous "Ten Days in September" series earlier this year, the ur-document of George W. Bush's Churchillization? And this "Michael Isikoff," sharing a byline on the eye-opening May 27 Newsweek cover story that shreds the Administration's "we did everything we could" line of defense--is this the Isikoff who four years ago defined national security in terms of dress stains and cigar probes? One begins to suspect that unbeknownst to all of us, the terrorists have indeed struck--the Washington, DC, water supply.
An overstatement, to be sure. But it does seem to be the case that wherever this potentially incendiary story leads, from fog of unprovables to hot smoking gun, one change has already taken place because of it that is well worth marking. For the first time since September 11--or, arguably, since ever--the press corps appears ready to expend more effort poking holes in the vaunted Bush Administration spin operation than admiringly limning it. More to the point, Is a new skepticism stirring around such heretofore Teflonized officials as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice? Before her May 16 damage-control press conference, Rice was probably the Administration's leading untouchable. After it ("I don't think anybody could have predicted these people would...use an airplane as a missile," a statement left bleeding on the floor after a pile of evidence came forward showing plenty of people were predicting precisely that), her status has taken a major hit. So, as Professor Harold Hill might put it, certain wooorrrrdds are creeping into the media vocabulary--words like "serious credibility gap," in the Newsweek piece.
It's been a long time coming. If anything "un-American" happened after September 11, it was the triumph of the notion--propounded by the Bushies, reinforced by the major media and far too readily accepted by cowardly Democrats--that "patriotism" somehow equals "support the Bush Administration. …