EVEN BEFORE THE DOCTORS had completed their evacuation of the wounded to Germany in the aftermath of the attack on the Mosul dining hall, and certainly before all the next of kin of the dead had been notified, New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson had sat down at his word processor to manufacture a story on how the attack would cripple George W. Bush's second term domestic agenda.
It wasn't Tet, of course, and not even the Beirut bombing, and decent people might have allowed the dead to be buried before politicizing the Mosul massacre, but Stevenson wasn't going to let taste or facts get in the way of his story. Under the headline Bush's New Problem: More Carnage in Iraq Could Eclipse His Ambitious Domestic Agenda--the headline was changed after I blogged about it yesterday--Stevenson began his article this way:
"The deadly attack on a United States military base in northern Iraq on Tuesday scrambled the Bush administration's hopes of showing progress toward stability there, while making clear that the war is creating a nasty array of problems for President Bush as he gears up for an ambitious second term. Despite weathering criticism of his Iraq policy during the presidential campaign, Mr. Bush is heading into his next four years in the White House facing a public that appears increasingly worried about the course of events in Iraq and wondering where the exit is."
Reporter Stevenson wasn't exactly plowing new ground with his tasteless exploitation of a mass casualty attack. Six months earlier he'd written pretty much the same story about how Iraq was clouding the president's political future, complete with another Warren Rudman quote.
"The problem the administration has is that the predicates it laid down for the war have not played out," Stevenson quoted Rudman as saying on June 17, 2004. "That could spell political trouble for the president, there's no question."
I am not sure why anyone is interested in the observations of an out-to-pasture senator whose principal legacy is David Souter, but I don't blame Rudman for spouting his "look at me" gloom and doom. The New York Times, on the other hand, has no excuse for exploiting the loss of life in Iraq for its own political agenda even before the families of the victims have been notified. It was a manufactured story, one that Stevenson had peddled six months earlier and which had been repudiated on November 2, dusted off and sold as new "news" using the hook of dead Americans.
But it is increasingly obvious that the reporters of many papers, think the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, for instance, have all but openly declared for the opponents of the president. If agenda journalists want to wage war on the war, that's their right, and an issue for the publishers and subscribers. Readers, though, have a right to have opinion pieces clearly demarcated as such, not dressed up as "news analysis" and run on A-6.