Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Where's the D.C. Press Corps Now?

“The war is lost,” Senate Leader Harry Reid announced last week. As if to ensure the reality matched the rhetoric, this week congressional Democratic leaders followed up Reid’s statement with votes mandating troop withdrawals from Iraq starting as soon as July.

Reid has not been particularly circumspect in describing his motivations, admitting rather unashamedly the Senate vote is baldly political. “We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war,” he predicted.

Is this the right strategy? Hard to say — no prominent Democrat has yet to really be challenged on it.

Which raises the question: Where’s that famously ruthless D.C. press corps?

Both Democrats and the media never tire of informing just how grave the stakes in Iraq . People are dying -- American troops, innocent Iraqis. America’s reputation is being ravaged. Iraq’s imploding into civil war.

And this is the Democrats’ cure-all -- a pork-laden war-funding bill pronouncing America ’s impending surrender?

For a press corps that takes itself as seriously as Washington’s, one might hope at least a few basic questions would be put toward Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and every other politician advocating timetables.

Rather obvious, and natural, questions — like:

  • Is a timetable for withdrawal intended to hasten a U.S. victory — or defeat?
  • If it’s victory, how will a withdrawal help?
  • If it's defeat, how does that help U.S. national interests?
  • How will abandoning Iraq ’s burgeoning government affect America ’s reputation in the region?
  • A Taliban spokesman recently stated Osama bin Laden is coordinating insurgent attacks in Iraq. If true, how is it possible to simultaneously fight the War on Terror but not insurgents in Iraq ?
  • What are some possible worst-case scenarios of withdrawing from Iraq ?
  • Should such a scenario manifest, what are Democrats’ contingency plans?
  • The recently passed war-funding bill mandates the last of the U.S. troops stationed in Iraq leave by September 2008. What’s significant about this date other than being two months prior to the next presidential election?

We don’t get these questions because the answers are obvious: abandoning Iraq will hasten an American defeat; leaving the country halfway broken will leave a permanent scar on America’s regional reputation; it’s impossible to fight the War on Terror but not Iraq’s insurgents; leaving Iraq could beget a full-fledged regional war; Democrats have no plan should such a contingency arise; the final pullout date is arbitrary aside from its intent of removing Iraq from the next election’s political equation.

Reid wouldn’t answer this way, of course. He’d say this is President Bush’s war and that any such negative externalities are in his hands.

Which is precisely the problem. Having expended so much effort using Iraq to bring down Bush, the credibility of Democrats and the major media now hangs in the balance. Diverting even a fraction of energy spent challenging the president over his war plans to do likewise with Democrats threatens not only Democratic leaders, but the D.C. press corps itself.

Herein lies the provenance of a subtle bias, perhaps subconscious, that poses an enormous threat American security.

In keeping their personal interests on high -- thus ignoring possible consequences of Democratic actions -- Democrats and their D.C. press corps brethren invite the very dystopic Iraqi finality they’ve spent so long predicting the Bush administration was inspiring.

And all because reporters are still not doing what they now blame themselves for failing to do in the run-up to the war: asking tough questions.

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