Recapping at TPM Café (5/27/09) how the U.S. “press bent over backward to paint both Bushes as moderate, sensible, nice guy Republicans,” Editor & Publisher‘s Greg Mitchell writes that “a hard-right [George W.] Bush, whether real or media-created, would have never beaten Gore–not that this one did either.” Reminding us that “the New York Times, for example, had been very tough on [President Bill] Clinton on its editorial page,” Mitchell says that “once in office, a long honeymoon between press and president ensued,” and “just as Bush’s approval ratings tanked and criticism was about to spread, 9/11 came along to torment the country, but save Bush.” Mitchell then brings us into the present with shrewd insight into a hypothetical:
No one in the media criticized Bush for months, let alone suggested that maybe he had let down the country and invited a terrorist attack, or at least failed to prevent it. (Imagine that happening in the future if the country is attacked again under Obama–watch Fox and Friends howl.) Some have suggested that the New York Times, and others long accused of exhibiting liberal bias, went overboard on backing Bush after 9/11, given a rare chance to wave the flag and promote a war (Afghanistan) without shame for once and bolster their flagging image as super-patriots.
Of course, the problem was: They didn’t stop there, and most went along like sheep in the run-up to the Iraq War.
“In fact,” Mitchell notes, the date of his piece “marks the fifth anniversary of the day the Times belatedly admitted its failures on Iraq (while refusing to name or punish reporters and editors). It wasn’t just a failure on WMD, it was a failure to recognize Bush and his crowd for what they were, individually and collectively.”