Journalists missing in action?

Peter Bart of Variety and USA Today show how the press is tightly controlled by the White House. Do you have a problem with that? If you do, I have a solution: Me.

Peter Bart, editor of _Variety_, asks an interesting question. “Are journalists missing in action?” By which he means, are the media asking the right questions of the president and the situation in Iraq.

While I read accounts during the election campaign describing George W. Bush as a calm, middle-of-the-road conservative and consensus builder, I somehow missed those stories suggesting that he would be the most radical right-wing president in American history.
The press kept telling me what a great guy W was, so why has Mr. Nice Guy alienated every ally in the world?

Also, at the press conference last week, Bush called on reporters in a pre-selected manner (there’s no evidence their questions were vetted, however) and snubbed Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House House press corps. Peter Johnson, media reporter for _USA Today_, said reporters were summoned into the East Room in pairs, “as if we were in grammar school and were being called on the line for something,” CBS’ Bill Plante says. Follow-up questions were non-existent. And on Sunday’s talk shows, Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday derided Thomas as the “nutty aunt” who wasn’t professional and she was kept around only because people were “personally fond of her.” (Brit is, he quickly assured us.)
Is this the action of a White House that respects the idea of a free and independent press? Obviously not. It’s not entirely the reporters’ faults, however. They’re caught in a bad spot. They know that if they hit too hard, they get cut out, and they’ll have to answer to their editors back home. Trust me, no reporter wants to do that. Plus, when the news conferences are televised, and with the president’s personal popularity still relatively high — especially in anxious times — they don’t want to look like assholes jumping on the guy. In the battle with Bush for the hearts and trust of the public, individual reporters with a lot to lose (careers, assignments, access, etc.) know who will win that battle. No president looks bad when he attacks the press.
There are a lot of reasons for this situation, and the list is long and relatively well-known. I’m not going to rehash how the country got to this point. But I do offer at least a small step toward a solution.
Me.
I know it sounds presumptuous, but unlike the high-powered White House reporters, or the embedded correspondents with the troops, if the majority of my 800+ readers yesterday donated $5 each, you would have your own guy in the field with contacts among the Turks and the Kurds, people ready to help me get into the country and an eye on the ground when the shooting ends and the occupation begins.
Look, I know I can’t do much. I’m one guy. And I truly believe reporters from _The New York Times_, the _Washington Post_ and other newspapers are doing their best in bad situations. But every story can benefit from having many sets of eyes looking at it, from a myriad of angles. The big guys will be able to get stories that I won’t be able to, that’s a fact of life. But with your help and support, I can report stories over in Iraq that the big guys can’t or won’t. It’s not that I have a monopoly on truth or that they or hopelessly corrupt. It’s just that the more people reporting on something the better.
And I have nothing to lose. My sources aren’t dependent on permission from Ari Fleischer. My stories don’t demand access to the White House. I have no access to lose if I piss off the powers that be in Washington. And shouldn’t that be the point of intrepid journalism?
If you’ve been reading my site, you know its take and you know whether to trust me or not. I can’t _make_ anyone trust me. All I can do is work at earning your trust. I hope I’ve done that so far.
The B2I fund is over $1800 now, with $1800 from me, for $3600 total. That’s great, and I’m thankful to everyone who has donated, but it’s frankly not enough. I estimate between $8,000 and $10,000 is needed for a month there, to cover travel, bribes, hiring or drivers and translators, etc. Please drop a little scratch in the bucket over to your right. You’re not just helping me get over to Iraq, you’re helping yourself understand the world a little better.
And if you can’t donate or don’t want to, please pass this site along to others. At least spread the word.
Thanks very much…
Christopher.

More Americans favor war

It seems I was right after all when I predicted that between President Bush’s Xanex news conference last week would shift public opinion. At the time, I predicted a shift of between 5 and 7 percentage points in favor of war. Well, according to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted March 7 to 9, 44 percent of respondents said the United States should act against Iraq “soon” compared to 36 percent two weeks — right in line with my 5-7 percentage points, given the poll’s margin of error.

It seems I was right after all when I predicted that President Xanex’s news conference last week would shift public opinion. At the time, I foresaw a shift of between 5 and 7 percentage points in favor of war. Well, according to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted March 7 to 9, 44 percent of respondents said the United States should act against Iraq “soon” compared to 36 percent two weeks ago — right in line with my 5-7 percentage points, given the poll’s margin of error. On the brighter side, however, a majority — 52 percent — of respondents want to continue to give weapons inspectors more time. On the other hand, that number is down from 62 percent two weeks ago, indicating an erosion of confidence in the inspection regime.
poll-results.jpgAs far as Bush making the case for attacking Iraq, the numbers haven’t budged since the last poll conducted March 4-5, with 52 percent saying the president has presented enough evidence and 43 percent saying he hasn’t. Previous results were 53 percent and 42 percent, respectively.
Encouragingly, 60 percent of respondents want the United States to take the views of its allies — both of them — into account, compared to 36 percent who want the United States to act unilaterally. When it comes to the Security Council and possible vetoes from France, Russia or China, however, the numbers are much closer, with 44 percent saying America should act anyway and 49 percent saying America should take the veto(es) into account, results that fall within the margin of error. Confusingly, though, a solid 55 percent approved of the U.S. taking action even if the Security Council nixes the latest resolution setting a March 17 deadline for Iraq to produce evidence of disarmament. Forty-one percent would disapprove of military action, indicating that a majority of Americans are confused on what the word “veto” means.
Over all, 66 percent to 30 percent favor using military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Interestingly, 51 percent of respondents think Bush is more interested in removing Saddam from power than in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (26 percent.) At the same time, 40 percent of respondents were _personally_ interested in rooting out WMD and 34 percent were personally interested in removing Saddam.
The respondents indicate the public is split on Bush’s motivations, with 48 percent saying this war is driven by a personal desire to finish his father’s business and 46 percent saying personal desires are not involved. Perhaps most tellingly, however, is that 62 percent of respondents don’t think the administration is telling the public what it needs to know about its reasons for attacking Iraq, and 33 percent think the administration is the model of loquaciousness.
And finally, almost half — *45 percent* — believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
The poll was conducted via telephone among 1,010 adults with a 95 percent confidence and a 3 point margin of error.