Jewish World Review March 24, 2003 / 20 Adar II, 5763

Bill O'Reilly

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That's the way it isn't, Walter



http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | No surprise, ideologues on both the left and the right are screaming that the media coverage of the Iraq War is slanted away from their beliefs. The sound and fury of partisans is predictable and not very important, because there are so many media outlets that the sheer amount of information Americans can potentially get obliterates any narrow agenda an individual journalist might have.

As far as TV news is concerned, the reportorial flow of information is occasionally tainted by a biased remark, but this is not a serious problem, because, again, there is just so much verbiage. However, there is a philosophical divide among the broadcast anchor people, and this you should know about.

In a speech at Drew University last week, Walter Cronkite harshly criticized the war and the Bush administration saying: "The arrogance of our spokespeople, even the president himself, has been exceptional, and it seems to be me they (other countries) have taken great umbrage at that. We have told them what they must do. It is a pretty dark doctrine."

It seems to me that the 83-year-old former CBS anchor is minimizing the fact that the Bush administration did try to work through the United Nations to disarm Iraq. And while it is true that many in the Bush administration could do with a Dale Carnegie seminar, it is also true that America was royally screwed in the U.N. Security Council by our so-called allies. Ask Colin Powell what he thinks of the way the French have conducted themselves.

But the real problem with Cronkite's analysis is that he looks at the situation from an international point of view, while the president and some other newsmen, including your humble correspondent, look at the Iraq conflict from an American perspective.

Walter Cronkite is an internationalist. That is, he sees other countries in the world as being on an equal footing with America when vital situations arise. A few other national TV anchormen are internationalists as well in varying degrees.

But there are major problems with covering the American war on terror from an internationalist point of view. As a journalist I want to be fair, but I also want President Bush to put the protection of Americans above the economic and political concerns of other countries. Call me a jingoist, but your family's security is more important to me than Gerhard Schroeder's political career. I understand that some countries are angry that Mr. Bush rejected the Kyoto environmental agreement, and, like Bill Clinton, I feel their pain. But not nearly as much as the pain I felt watching 3,000 of my countrymen die on 9-11. So if some egomaniacal leader like Jacques Chirac is going to protect Saddam Hussein because he doesn't like Bush's style, I am going to knock Chirac. Hard.

But Uncle Walter doesn't see it that way. He sees the war on Iraq as "pre-emptive" and unnecessary because it doesn't have worldwide validation. Mr. Cronkite believes that the agendas of other countries should be considered when making decisions about the defense of Americans, even when those agendas are based on greed and petty politics. I strongly disagree.

The truth is that Walter Cronkite stood by and said little while the Vietnam War raged out-of-control in the 1960s. Finally, he confronted the lies and deceit the Johnson administration perpetrated on the American public, but Cronkite's conversion came very late in that deadly game.

When President Clinton bombed Milosevic's Belgrade, circumventing the United Nations and ignoring the objections of France and Russia, Cronkite said nothing publicly. Maybe he didn't notice that the bombing was "pre-emptive" and that many nations disapproved.

So while Mr. Cronkite is an internationalist, he seems to be a selective one. But even if he were consistent in giving equal weight to the policies of other nations vis--vis the security of the USA, he would be wrong.

American journalists commenting about the war on terror are obligated to inform their listeners or readers if they see the world as a level playing field. If Walter Cronkite believes that the French view of the terror threat is just as valid as the American view, than he needs to clearly state that so people like me can challenge him.

Look at it his way. In covering World War II, the young Cronkite would have never given the Spanish view of the war the same weight as the American view. Franco's Spain was sympathetic to Hitler. As a responsible reporter, Cronkite could not have possibly done that.

Yet, in the war on terror, Cronkite and others like him want a "world consensus" on how to deal with villains like Saddam. This is truly misguided and might even be dangerous to the health of Americans. But Francisco Franco would love it.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.

Up


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06/24/02: Spinning a tale and the case for "Stupid White Men"
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate