The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
George's Iraq jaunt - the hidden reason?
A lot of interesting analysis around on the President's Thanksgiving trip (notably Jay Rosen's Press Think).
The White House motives for the trip were no doubt various. But it seems to me quite likely that one of them was to put the Press Corps on the spot.
It's a common complaint that the Corps have long been the victim of regulatory capture - Rick MacArthur of Harper's is quoted as calling them a
full time press agency for the President of the United States
One instance noted here was the infamous briefing on March 6 that Bush referred to as scripted - a comment which I took as a joke, but (March 15) which turned out not to have been - or so it seems.
But, as we know, the President is a striver: no degree of docility amongst the hacks who bear his words to a grateful nation is sufficient. After all, they work through, or form part of, the Filter that distorts his message and traduces his people.
Dealing with the Filter requires a battery of measures: for one, by-passing it with news from Iraq by the use of CPA-TV or Bagh-SPAN (November 13)
But, with the best will in the world, USG knows the Filter is an essential conduit for passing most of its message on to the vast majority of American voters. Like a dog in danger of picking up a bad habit, it needs a smack. On the end of its nose with a rolled-up newspaper - as it were. (Except that - so far as I can see - the Press Corps has been a good doggy all along. It must be a pre-emptive smack, I suppose...)
Hence the Baghdad challenge: the select few offered a ringside seat at Bush's trip of a lifetime, on condition that they check their cellphones and free-will with the Secret Service for the duration.
The challenge was pitched just right: nothing illegal was involved, only a few hours of purdah - and obedience to rules like not talking to the military they met in theatre.
The hacks could have refused - but then, presumably, replacements would be sought. I get the feeling that union organisation, let alone solidarity, amongst the Corps is not exactly Teamster-like. No need for billy-club-waving Pinkerton goons to keep these milquetoasts in line!
Or else the trip could have been cancelled, and the Filter put in the dock for lack of patriotism and care for our boys. I suspect there would have been plenty of GOP legislators happy to sit in a studio for an afternoon doing remotes back to local stations in their home state characterising the Filter in terms even more lurid than Rummy would.
Either way, Bush wins.
(In theory - as MacArthur suggests - the hacks who went could have broken the conditions, and interviewed the troops. Which would have been the worm turning, if not exactly Harlan County Revisited. Moreover, it would have been a proportionate response to the professional indignity of the trip itself. Was it ever going to happen? Hardly.)
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