No 'Heck of a Job' by the Press

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 28, 2005; 8:57 AM

It seems to me that:

--Michael Brown is in denial if he believes, as he said at yesterday's congressional hearing, that his mistake was not holding more press briefings during Katrina. Given that his "heck of a job" didn't include staying on top of the 20,000 desperate souls at the New Orleans Convention Center, perhaps it's just as well that he had limited contact with reporters. And why is his reward after quitting to stay on the FEMA payroll for another month?

--No one is going to confuse George W. with Jimmy Carter, even if, as ABC's Terry Moran noted, Bush is the first president to make such an explicit plea for energy conservation since Carter donned a sweater and put solar panels on the White House roof. This is, after all, the first time in five years that Bush has asked Americans to cut back, and he hasn't forced anyone (like auto companies) to do anything (like improve their average mileage).

--Cindy Sheehan looked awfully happy while getting arrested, like she was mugging for the cameras. Could she possibly miss being in the news?

--The media have done a poor job of describing who was behind Saturday's big antiwar demo in D.C. This is in no way to cast aspersions on the tens of thousands of ordinary folks who showed up to demonstrate their opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq. But many journalists shortchanged their readers and viewers in not saying more about the radical group ANSWER.

The Washington Post offered this brief description of ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice: "Both groups have sponsored other major demonstrations against the war in Iraq but also protested U.S. foreign policy in places ranging from Haiti to the Gaza Strip."

I wonder if the media would have resorted to such shorthand in covering a group as far to the right as ANSWER is to the left. In Slate, Christopher Hitchens blames journalistic laziness:

"Saturday's demonstration in Washington, in favor of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, was the product of an opportunistic alliance between two other very disparate 'coalitions.' Here is how the New York Times (after a front-page and an inside headline, one of them reading 'Speaking Up Against War' and one of them reading 'Antiwar Rallies Staged in Washington and Other Cities') described the two constituenciess of the event:

" The protests were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus .

"The name of the reporter on this story was Michael Janofsky. I suppose that it is possible that he has never before come across 'International ANSWER,' the group run by the 'Worker's World' party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the 'resistance' in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a 'wide range of progressive political objectives' indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper--to mention only two radical left journalists--who have exposed 'International ANSWER' as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism."

Andrew Sullivan is equally appalled:

"I'm sorry, but I can respect criticism of the conduct of this war. In fact, I find it hard to respect those who refuse to subject the conduct of this war to constructive criticism. But I cannot respect the organizations and agenda that pollute such legitimate criticism, or their fellow-travelers. Anyone who attends rallies organized by International ANSWER deserves no quarter and no hearing. And the notion that abruptly abandoning the beleaguered Iraqi people to the tender mercy of Jihadists is somehow 'progressive' boggles the mind. As Hitch observed of the motley crew in Washington last weekend: 'Was there a single placard saying, 'No to Jihad'? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, 'Yes to Kurdish self-determination' or 'We support Afghan women's struggle'? Don't make me laugh.'"

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