Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2005/ 5 Kislev, 5766

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Out of the bunker and into the fray | Better late than never, but George W. and his men (including Condi) had better be prepared to keep at it, even if dodging brickbats is no fun.

The president emerged from the velvet bunker only last week to tell the nation that his war critics and frightened naysayers — including what the Associated Press delicately calls "media policy analysts" — are all wet about the war in Iraq.

Yesterday in North Carolina, where he visited the assembly line of a John Deere plant, putting on black-rimmed safety glasses to tighten the nuts on a hydraulic excavator, he expanded his tutorial to the expanding economy. He sounded almost Reaganesque.

"Throughout the last century, we often heard pessimists telling us that our best days are behind us and the future belongs to others," he said. "Our grandparents heard the pessimists in the 1930s and 1940s say that the future belongs to the central planners. Some of us remember hearing the pessimists of the 1970s and 1980s when we were told that America was tired and could no longer compete with Japan."

Well, bad news sells newspapers, and if you think television's pretty blonde airheads and empty suits haven't learned that message you don't listen to the hysterical newscasts when the season's first snowflakes fly. The Great Blizzard of '05 descended on the nation's capital last night, for example, wetting the streets and frosting the treetops. Some of us survived, anyway.

But grown-ups can repair a lot of the damage done in the children's hour by confronting the "media policy analysts" and other critics with facts. "Let's look at the record," as Harry Truman, an embarrassment to the San Francisco Democrats but a favorite of everyone else, was fond of saying.

One of the president's stalwart men, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, conducted a little tutorial of his own yesterday in Washington. "We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny. You couldn't tell the full story of Iwo Jima by listing the 26,000 Americans who were casualties in a brief 40 days' time. So, too, it's appropriate to note not only how many Americans have been killed — and may God bless them and their families — but what they died for, or more accurately what they lived for."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Berlin yesterday with tea, sympathy and the bad news that the Europeans will have to grow up, too, and face the fact that desperate times require both grit and backbone. These particular desperate times "challenge traditional norms and precedents of previous conflicts." We won't torture but the Marquis of Queensbury is not the commander in chief.

Mr. Rumsfeld is right about the double standard by which most of the reporters and their editors measure American sacrifice. A dispatch by Reuters, the British news agency that stubbornly refuses to call terrorists "terrorists," grudgingly reported a few paragraphs of what the secretary said and then cited a three-month old speech by a tiresome Senate critic of the war "about the increased detentions and shootings by U.S. forces of reporters in Iraq."

But citing the shortcomings of the media, which are many, and the bad faith of many of the reporters covering the Bush administration, which is well documented, is a fool's errand. Better to confront misinformation with facts and trust the people to recognize the difference.

For months the president and his men studiously declined to do that. "The strategic decision was to be forward-looking," a senior White House aide tells Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard. "The public was more interested in the future and not the past."

This is the kind of cliche the public-relations geniuses learn in "schools of communications" and are wont to parrot when the grown-ups, like Karl Rove, are busy elsewhere trying to stay out of the way of ambitious special prosecutors and their compliant grand juries. Only a president with a degree from the Harvard School of Business would listen. Unfortunately, the public listens, too, and when scabrous partisan attacks go unanswered real damage is done. George W. watched his Gallup approval ratings sink from 52 percent just after his second inaugural, almost exactly his margin of victory, to 37 percent last week.

But now everyone at the White House appears to be awake, and the president and his men have found their fighting clothes. They can't afford to go back to bed.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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