Friday, July 11, 2003

Incredible. The title of the latest CBS story about the nuclear procurement debacle is, and I quote:

Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False

Not "questions continue" or "new allegations" or "democrats charge" anything like that. It was out-and-out. That such a thing is even possible says something about how the political climate has changed in regards to the media.

CBS also has a ton of polling data that implies that the attitudes and opinions of the American people are shifting on Iraq- both on why the war was fought, and the condition of the occupation now. Less than half of respondents believe that Iraq is under control, compared to 71% in April. It's quite a staggering drop, considering the relatively short timespan... only 3-4 months. This creates even more problems for Bush, because the consummate skill that the Republicans push of making things out to be "old news" isn't going to work in regards to Iraq. It won't work for critiques of the occupation, and it won't work for questions about why the occupation had started, because that "old news" is directly related to today's news.

I doubt this will mean that the public will en masse turn against Bush- they're too scared of the terrorist threat to do that, and many still buy into the Bush image of dim but forthright "CEO" credibility. What it will mean and already means, instead, is that the Bush administration will have much less control over the media than they used to enjoy, as the media knows that criticizing Bush will not necessarily turn into criticism of them, as was happening prior to (and during) the invasion of Iraq. They're freer than they've been since 9/11.

More than that, they also know that since the activist wing of the Democrats is reinvigorating itself (thanks in part to the Dean campaign), critiques of Bush won't place them between a raging administration and a cowardly opposition. It's much easier to "speak truth to power" when there's a little covering fire, and the Dems are looking to (finally) be able to supply that covering fire and to do their job of turning journalism into political criticism. They also know that sucking up to the Bush administration will earn them grief from Democrats, and that that might be a bad idea. It's a much better arrangement for all involved, excepting those Republicans that want to intimidate the press. It's a nice change.

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