At the beginning of the Persian Gulf War we all sat quietly on our couches and left the fighting to the network anchors. We also deferred to the wisdom of the retired military experts hired to guide us through the minefields.
But as the days and nights wore on, Americans became battle-savvy and, like football fans, they all started developing their own opinions as to how the game should be fought. Suddenly, the generals' strategy was being questioned by the man in the street, and there were rumblings that those giving the briefings did not know what they were talking about.
I first sensed skepticism when my taxi driver said, "You know what we ought to be doing. We should find Saddam Hussein's bunker and drop a 1,000-pound delayed bomb loaded with TNT down his chimney. It has 30 seconds to go off, and if Saddam doesn't give up Kuwait, we will drive a stake through his heart."
"That's a good idea," I told him.
"Then how come Tom Brokaw never thought of it?"
"He's been dealing with the Scud missile problem, and he can't think of everything."
"If you solve the Saddam question, you don't have a Scud problem."
"You sound as if you know a lot about the military situation. Were you in the service?" I asked.
"No, but my brother was a truck driver in Korea."
When I reached the office, I found Bob Goodier studying a map of Kuwait in The Washington Post. "This is where we make our next move," he yelled, bringing his thumb down on a spot in the desert.
"Have you checked it with Dan Rather?"
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him," Bob chuckled.
"But you can't call for a military operation without having at least two of the four networks approving."
Goodier said, "This is no longer an anchorman's war. It's a couch potato's war and we call the shots."
"You really want to open up the front in Kuwait now?"
"What if Eisenhower had hesitated to invade on D-Day?" he asked.
"He had no choice. George Will wasn't there to tell him what to do. Look, there's a danger in letting the couch potatoes run the war."
"Then why do they allow us to watch it on the tube? We cannot be expected to sit there and just suck our thumbs when there is so much bombing to be done."
"All America wants is for us to be a well-informed public. We can't call the shots as well."
"It doesn't take a couch potato long to know how to shoot down an Iraqi fighter plane."
"Goodier, you have to leave the fighting to Peter Jennings."
"It's like watching football and not being able to tell the coach how to run the team."
"What do you think we should do?"
"I think we should drive a stake into Saddam's heart."
"You're the second person who suggested that today."