Friday, June 16, 2006

 

Reveries of 'Nam

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit today links to Michael Barone’s excellent essay about media-enabled left-wing nostalgia.

Reynolds chooses to highlight Barone’s insightful characterization of how those of a certain political persuasion, and their friends in the media, have had a pretty bad couple of weeks. Recent events don’t just represent losses with political implications, but threaten to soundly discredit their Vietnam and Watergate déjà vu reveries.

Barone identifies the Democratic loss in the California 50th District, the killing of Zarqawi and the completion of the Iraqi government, and the non-indictment of Presidential Advisor Karl Rove as the possibly mortal blows against their reactionary self-image.

What resonated most with me (okay, smacked me upside my head) was how Barone managed to so precisely indict the media for creating and sustaining these illusions of the left, while at the same time chastening the press with bygone examples of the journalist as “American Citizen First,” in contrast to today’s “citizen of the world.” All without saying so explicitly:
In all this a key role was played by the press. Cries went up early for the appointment of a special prosecutor: Patrick Fitzgerald would be another Archibald Cox or Leon Jaworski. Eager to bring down another Republican administration, the editorialists of the New York Times evidently failed to realize that the case could not be pursued without asking reporters to reveal the names of sources who had been promised confidentiality. America's newsrooms are populated largely by liberals who regard the Vietnam and Watergate stories as the great achievements of their profession. The peak of their ambition is to achieve the fame and wealth of great reporters like David Halberstam and Bob Woodward. But this time it was not Republican administration officials who went to prison. It was Judith Miller, then of the New York Times itself.

Interestingly, Bob Woodward himself contradicted Mr. Fitzgerald's statement, made the day that he announced the one indictment he has obtained, of former vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby, that Mr. Libby was the first to disclose Ms. Plame's name to a reporter. The press reaction was to turn on Mr. Woodward, who has been covering this administration as a new story rather than as a reprise of Vietnam and Watergate.

Historians may regard it as a curious thing that the left and the press have been so determined to fit current events into templates based on events that occurred 30 to 40 years ago. The people who effectively framed the issues raised by Vietnam and Watergate did something like the opposite; they insisted that Vietnam was not a reprise of World War II or Korea and that Watergate was something different from the operations J. Edgar Hoover conducted for Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy. Journalists in the 1940s, '50s and early '60s tended to believe they had a duty to buttress Americans' faith in their leaders and their government. Journalists since Vietnam and Watergate have tended to believe that they have a duty to undermine such faith, especially when the wrong party is in office.
That, gentle reader, explains the battle Milbloggers inherit when they try to speak truth about the War on Terror, terrorist enemies, or the vital service of our Military in this war. The Military fulfills the most critical function that Government provides its citizens, that of national defense. It is arguably its most visible function as well. (Not counting tax collection I guess!)

Which means, we are an essential part of the Government that the media so mistrusts, and the faith in which they duty-bound to undermine. Especially, as Barone says, “when the wrong party is in office.”



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