Which, tonight, ends up just being NBC. First, they're at it again in the way they present casualties. Two Japanese diplomats are "ambushed" and the Spanish suffer their greatest loss yet in an RPG attack. Well that's it, that's all I can tell you about either incident. They can pretend this is covering the news, but this is reading headlines out loud. There's no context, no story, no sense of what happened -- which of course leaves people with a sense that events are out of control, that there is no meaning to these deaths, that we are on the defensive. How else can they interpret events when they are basically given no facts to interpret?
Second, James Hattori has a piece on the "war of words," that is the administration's displeasure with press coverage. The story, taking a series of pot shots along the way, notes that the IGC, "perhaps taking a cue from the Pentagon" is shutting down al Arabiya. (Perhaps taking a cue? Perhaps you could put up some evidence to back up the innuendo.) Al Arabiya of course protests that in playing Saddam's little love notes to the Ba'ath killers, they're just reporting the news. (Of course that's always the Arab satellite channels answer to everything; they're "just" reporting the news. Of course there is no such thing as "just" reporting the news. I don't speak Arabic and I don't watch that channel -- but I know that answer is utterly unsatisfactory right out of the gate.) But, Hattori notes, the Secretary of Defense has claimed in the past that the Arab satellite channels have been cooperating with whoever is attacking Americans -- they get messages to come and film attacks. But, given "no specific details" this leaves some to wonder if this isn't all just shooting the messenger. (What is this drive the American media outlets have to always defend the Arab channels, especially al Jazeera? They seem utterly charmed by them, just incapable of believing they have any slant at all.)
Hattori then produces, I kid you not, a professor from USC, Martin Kaplan who says "the antidote to the messenger we don't like" is of course more messengers, which leads to discussion of the Coalition supported channel. Listen, Professor Kaplan, you're right many in DOD and elsewhere have complained that the Arab channels are relentlessly anti-American, and the antidote to that problem is no doubt more alternatives in the Mid-East market. But the charge here is not that they were producing biased coverage, it's that they were producing coverage that was inciting violence (the IGC's claim) and actually cooperating in the deaths of American troops (the DOD's claim.) More messenger's ain't gonna fix that. I've argued before that in the short term, being first amendment absolutists is probably not the way to go in an environement in which civil society has been crushed for decades. There may be times, as in Germany's anti-Nazification laws, where some restrictions on free speech are warrented for the greater public good and can be undertaken without tyranny resulting.
Then as a large WAR AND POLITICS graphic shows behind the anchor, a piece is introduced with the comment that the "enduring image" of the weekend will be that of the president with the troops for Thanksgiving. Therefore, says David Gregory it's time to stary the debate over the long term political effects. Since he may have done it to overcome the idea he has been too "distant from the sacrifices of US troops" as B-roll of an Arlington funeral is played.
Whatever you think of the argument that the president should be attending funerals, I'll say it again, this is media generated flap, started and pushed by the New York Times. Remember last summer when people were talking about the 3ID being deployed too long -- you couldn't swing a dead cat without coming across a quote from a soldier saying "I've been in Iraq too long." Where are the quotes? Even anonymous quotes? They've got nothing except from that one mother up at Ft. Carson weeks after this ball got rolling and Democratic political operatives. Speaking of which, conveniently enough, up pops Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart to note that the President has been "conspicuously absent" from the grieving families. Is this really the right spokesman to pick up this banner? Because this begs a comparison, and there is no evidence of President Clinton attending the individual funerals of indivdual soldiers, which is what is being asked of this president. Yes, President Clinton attended services for the Cole victims, but as I have repeatedly noted, that is simply not the same -- it is more akin to the services for the victims of the Embassy bombings, or the Memorial for those lost in Oklahoma City.
If military members are asked how they feel about this president, I strongly suspect they will not come back with responses indicating they are gravely disappointed because he is not attending funerals.