There are times when you watch the TV news that you wonder if the 2004 election is over yet. All the arguments that the Kerry campaign tried to use against George W. Bush on the war in Iraq and the war on terror are still being pounded. It’s as if the liberal Democrat-media complex still can’t get over the fact that Kerry lost, and can’t accept that perhaps the election returns meant that the public endorsed Bush’s record of defending the country.
The dominant theme of recent news coverage remains the MoveOn bumpersticker echo that Bush lied his way into war in Iraq. Howard Dean goes on “Meet the Press” to chant “corrupt and incompetent, corrupt and incompetent” to describe the Bush White House, which he says lied about Iraq and “has a fundamental problem telling the truth.” Dean should first try to get through 10 minutes on TV without unloading a whopper—like falsely accusing the chairman of the Maryland GOP of smearing him—before he lectures others about truth-telling.
Make no mistake: The media’s permanent campaign continues to undermine Bush’s poll ratings in fighting the war on terrorism. The networks are now finding disapproval starting to rise above approval. CBS’s most recent poll says 47 percent approve of the president’s job on terrorism, to 46 percent disapproval. ABC’s poll found 48 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval. NBC’s latest poll skews way beyond that, with 39 percent approving, and 55 percent disapproving.
But are these surveys telling us the full story? For a completely different take on polling, there’s the Fox-Opinion Dynamics poll. They asked: “Which one of the following do you think is the most likely reason there have been no attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks? Homeland security measures prevented them. No attacks were planned. The military action in Iraq prevented them.” They found a mixed bag: 19 percent thought no attacks were planned, 24 percent thought homeland security measures stopped them, 16 percent credited war in Iraq with preventing them, and 26 percent said there was some combination of factors. Another 16 percent said they were unsure.
Perhaps the results are less important than the question. It recognized a fact that no one in the liberal media wants to acknowledge above a whisper: Doesn’t Bush deserve some measure of credit for how or why the country has not been attacked again on his watch? It’s obviously dangerous for President Bush to toot his own horn on this, just as it was foolish for presidential wanna-be Wesley Clark to promise there would be no terror attacks if he were president.
It’s important to recognize that the liberal media polls often tilt their questions—and their timing of questions—with a political mission in mind. The last time these pollsters asked about the adequacy of our terrorism preparedness was in the wake of their overwrought hurricane Katrina coverage. They argued that since we weren’t prepared for the hurricane, we weren’t prepared for terrorists, either, and then touted their own poll results to remake the point. One week into the New Orleans festival of Bush-bashing, the NBC poll asked if America was prepared for a nuclear, chemical or biological attack, and found 19 percent said yes, 75 percent said no.
Conservatives need to focus the public’s attention on what the liberal media fail to explore. Did the Clinton administration cripple Al Qaeda? No. They bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. They indicted Osama bin Laden in Manhattan. But Clinton’s softness on terror goes unexplored. How well did the Carter administration do in fighting Iranian terrorists? He let American hostages rot in captivity for more than a year, and his military effort was no better than crashing helicopters in the desert. How in the world can the media offer these men platforms to give lectures on military leadership to President Bush?
Does anyone honestly believe that we would be much better off today if President Gore or President Kerry or President Dean was fighting the war on terror? The better question is whether there would have been anything much beyond the lip service and Manhattan indictments that Bill Clinton offered.
The best question remains: Should we approve of the national media’s handling of the war on terror? Are they conducting one? Or are they undermining one? Are they making the country safer? Or are they still stuck on the Carter/Clinton model, that it’s less important to defeat terrorists than it is to impress “world opinion”?