I went out on a limb about a month ago and suggested, on the slimmest evidence, that Katie Couric could became a strong and brave new voice in the American media. And she has. Just not exactly the way I thought she might.
I thought then, when the leggy leightweight went to Iraq to establish her street cred, that she might actually emerge as the anti-Cronkite.
She alone among our nation’s premier news anchors recognized that progress in Iraq was the story of the hour, of the day, of the week, month, year and decade, and she went there. Then, she reported that undeniable progress was being made.
Since then, possibly chastened by her pals in New York and Washington for her heresy, she’s backtracked considerably. In remarks to Marvin Kalb, she said Iraq was confusing. People kept telling her stuff. It was reminiscent of George Romney 1968 brainwashing in Vietnam. “But it’s not my place to say that the war is wrong,” Couric said. Especially when it is so confusing, the facts in dispute, etc. Shortly after that, in the company of like-minded colleagues at the National Press Club, she had evolved somewhat in her thinking.
“Everyone in this room would agree that people in this country were misled in terms of the rationale of this war,” said Couric, adding that it is “pretty much accepted” that the war in Iraq was a mistake.
“I’ve never understood why [invading Iraq] was so high on the administration’s agenda when terrorism was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that [Iraq] had no true connection with al Qaeda.”
We could get into the fact that the Bush administration, like the government and intelligence agencies of every other major power, believed Iraq had active WMD programs and stockpiles. And that Iraq under Saddam Hussein, in the absence of a collapsing sanctions regime, would return to menacing his neighbors. There was the genocide, the well-documented support for Islamic terrorism, to include, we’ve learned since, contacts with al-Qaeda.
But that’s not the issue here. What is remarkable is how Couric, seeking to transcend bimbohood and establish herself as a serious thinker, emerged as an honest voice among our nation’s premier news organizations. Couric is telling truths much of the media, guised in false claims of objectivity and fairness, is reluctant to admit overtly. Maybe it’s because she is a lightweight, a news neophyte promoted over her abilities, that she’s willing to strip the emperor.
In fact, the presumption of America’s leading news media … with its insistence that it represents just the facts, as though reporters are an alien priesthood dropped down among us to sagely observe with a sort of scientific objectivity … may represent the greatest triumph of supernational multiculturalism in the United States. And Couric is its poster child. Because this is what else she said last week at the National Press Club:
The former “Today” show anchor traced her discomfort with the administration’s march to war back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable.”
“Just a little uncomfortable” may be a bit of an understatement. At the time of the invasion of Iraq, there were prominent news professionals loudly objecting to and questioning the ethics of embedding in U.S. military units, though they had no problem with the idea of reporters being posted to Baghdad to attend Iraqi propaganda sessions. Living among U.S. soldiers and advancing with them in combat against an undeniable evil was something that would challenge the objectivity of the press, which apparently has transcended not only national identity but even morality.
The world instead is something that must be observed from an amoral and relativistic perspective.
According to this concept the United States is not good or bad, not any better or worse than, say, Saddam’s Iraq, Ahmadinejad’s Iran or even al-Qaeda, whose murderous terrorist operatives, in the wake of marketplace bombings, are referred to as “militants.” In practice the theoretical equivalence vanishes; the United States is often represented as worse than those entities, with a greater intensity of focus on substantially less serious misdeeds … the humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, or this discomfort at Guantanamo, for example, compared to mass slaughter of civilians by terrorist bombs, torture and beheadings in Iraq.
This distortion may be because, for the world citizens of the American press, their birthright has become an embarrassment they must deny.
So I’d like to praise Couric, and encourage her to continue on this path, shoving her way out of the crowd of serious, sober-minded journalists who wouldn’t dare admit such a thing as discomfort with saying “we.” It is good when leading voices in our nation’s news media admit freely they are uncomfortable with the trappings of citizenship, that their interests perhaps are not those of our nation. That those things make them … just a little uncomfortable.
Read more from Jules Crittenden at Forward Movement.