Accuracy in Media

The “Condi for President” movement is gathering steam. The recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) featured an “Americans for Dr. Rice” booth, and 47 percent of the public in a new Fox News poll says Rice would make a good president. Even more important, the Wall Street Journal has run an article about the new “neorealists” guiding foreign policy in the Bush Administration, focusing on the arrival of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. The article was obviously intended to be a flattering portrait of Rice. But that is not the way it may come out in the end.  

The article serves as a useful reminder of the schizophrenia at the paper. The Journal has long been known to have a strong ideological divide, even a virtual Church-State separation, between the editorial page and the news pages.

While the editorial page has been a staunch supporter of the Iraq war and the global war on terrorism, this Journal “news” article blasted the “neo-cons” in the administration who were said to have been behind the “hard-line” foreign policy in the first Bush term, including the invasion of Iraq. 

In this connection, remember that the recent UCLA-Missouri study attempting to quantify media bias found that, by its criteria, the Wall Street Journal was further to the left than even the New York Times. That’s a reflection of the bias of the Journal’s news pages. So, to those familiar with these facts, the pro-Rice screed in the Journal is a matter of some concern. 

Indeed, in its attempt to be kind to Rice, the Journal may have done her more harm than good.

The Journal story reports, for example, that “The most recent sign of a shift in the administration’s tone came last week in London. After an intense day of diplomacy, Ms. Rice brokered a compromise agreement among Russia, China, France and Britain for the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for allegedly violating commitments to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Over the weekend, nearly all other IAEA member countries endorsed the agreement. Ms. Rice’s aides came away touting the efficacy of the U.N. and the IAEA?organizations disdained by Bush aides three years ago in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.”

The Journal makes it sound as if this was a great victory. In fact, the compromise resolution endorsed a nuclear-free Middle East, a concept that entails the dismantling of Israel’s secret defensive nuclear weapons program. Reflecting the views of the Arab/Muslim bloc, the Europeans, and China and Russia, the resolution takes the heat off Iran and implicitly makes Israel out to be a villain in the Middle East conflict. This was the “realistic” price of the U.S. getting the other countries to agree to send the issue of Iran’s nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. Getting the matter to the Security Council, of course, guarantees nothing. In fact, many observers believe the Security Council will never agree to do anything substantial about the matter. It is simply a way to buy time. In the end, if anything is done, it will probably be accomplished by a “Coalition of the Willing,” such as what was done in the case of Iraq.

As the treatment of Rice’s approach to the Iran problem indicates, the authors of the Journal article, Jay Solomon and Neil King Jr., assume that putting the term “neorealist” on a policy of depending on the U.N. or appeasing the “international community” will sound attractive. But how realistic is it, considering the U.N.’s failures on Iraq, to expect that the world body will do anything about Iran? A natural follow-up is how going to the U.N. with the Iran nuclear problem squares with Dr. Rice’s tough rhetoric about making sure Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

From a conservative perspective, one could argue that the difference Rice is making at the State Department has not been good. AIM has reported on how she recently announced that the State Department is working with the liberal Aspen Institute on an Edward R. Murrow journalism program to train foreign journalists. Murrow, of course, is the CBS journalist who made his name by attacking anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy and is the subject of the George Clooney film, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Rice should have honored an anti-communist journalist, such as the late author and Reader’s Digest writer John Barron, with such a program. But it’s wiser, from the point of view of cultivating the press, to go with the liberal icon Murrow.

On another matter of critical importance to U.S. foreign policy, the American Prospect, a liberal magazine, has noted with great pleasure that Rice personally intervened last September when U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton was calling for major changes in a so-called U.N. World Summit outcome document that sought to expand the U.N.’s authority in world affairs. The Prospect said that Rice had participated in a conference call with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and that the next day Bolton sent a letter to his U.N. counterparts pulling back from his demands.

Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor for the British Guardian, provided the details, noting that Straw had “made a personal plea” to Rice and asked her “to rein in John Bolton?” That was accomplished when Bolton eventually agreed to a summit outcome document that advocated strengthening the U.N. in global affairs. Bolton was even forced to water down U.S. opposition to global taxes.

Such actions by Rice are viewed by liberal writers at the Prospect and the Journal as welcome because they despise the so-called “neo-conservatives,” or “hardliners,” who have been widely reported to have been in charge of U.S. foreign policy. But their slanted coverage is based on another false assumption?that the war in Iraq was conceived in secret by the “neo-cons” and quickly executed in open defiance of the U.N. and our allies.

In fact, the Bush administration did not rush into war. It took the matter to the United Nations, where it got a unanimous Security Council Resolution, 1441, to give Iraq one last chance to come clean on its weapons of mass destruction programs. The clear implication was that if Iraq didn’t cooperate, the next step would be military action. Some conservatives, like Jed Babbin, have argued that the Bush Administration wasted precious time going to the U.N. for approval of the war in Iraq.

Hans Blix, who led the U.N. inspectors back into Iraq in November of 2002, returned after 60 days to tell the world body and the world that “Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.” It was clear by that point that the war had become inevitable.

The apparent point of the Journal’s depiction of Secretary Rice as a “neorealist” was to flatter her, and to keep her moving in the direction of increased reliance on the U.N. in global affairs. But you don’t have to be a “neo-con” to think this spells big trouble for the U.S., our allies, and the world itself in the case of Iran.

If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, we may all be pining for the days when the hardline “neo-cons” were truly in charge of U.S. foreign policy. More delay by the administration on this vital matter suggests that the movement for “President Condi” could quickly lose steam.

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