Along the Tracks

Thursday, January 23, 2003

A classic from the liberal press

This headline immediately made me think Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had chosen his words perfectly - and after reading the story, I’m even more convinced he did.

However, the story - from the Associated Press, no less - is a classic example of a liberal story writer slipping opinion into an erstwhile “news” article. To wit:

  • “French leaders reacted angrily Thursday to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s dismissal of France and Germany as the ‘old Europe’ ....”
    Thus, the lede pulls Rumsfeld’s quote out of context - and does not provide that context to the reader until the 12th paragraph. The context was the NATO alliance, and the differences of opinion on Iraq between “new” and “old” members. Rumsfeld was pointing out that Germany and France no longer are representative of “Europe” as a whole, and this in response to a reporter’s question which made the assumption that Germany and France spoke for “Europe.”

  • What follows the lede are five paragraphs of various French officials showing indignation at Rumsfeld’s characterization, giving the reader plenty of evidence that the words were offensive to the French, regardless of what the words actually said. The setting is finally spotlighted with this:
    “Rumsfeld made the remarks (still unquoted - P.M.) at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday after the leaders of France and Germany agreed to counter U.S. threats of war against Iraq by committing together to give peace a chance.”
    Those are my italics. Note that characterization of what the dynamic duo of Germany and France are doing. Giving peace a chance. Those words are not in quotes, so it’s AP’s statement, not those governments’. Germany and France aren’t trying to “head off war,” or “keep tensions from escalating” or “maintain viability of the U.N. inspection process.” They’re literally trying to give peace a chance. No bias there, eh?

  • Finally, after another paragraph of setup, the AP delivers the actual Rumsfeld quote, with context:
    “‘Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem ... but you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe, they’re not with France and Germany on this. They’re with the United States,’ he said.

    “In responding to a reporter’s question about French and German qualms, Rumsfeld hinted the United States would turn to new NATO members in Eastern Europe for support.

    “‘You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t,’ he said. ‘I think that’s old Europe. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east and there are a lot of new members.’”

    Not nearly so controversial or “dismissive,” now that one sees the whole quote. Actually, you could say Rumsfeld’s merely pointing out the facts. NATO Europe of 2003 is much broader than the “old Europe” of the Cold War alliances. And the “new Europe” is supportive of the U.S. position, along with a portion of the “old Europe,” i.e., Great Britain. So, finally, the AP gives the “other” side - Rumsfeld’s actual statement. Balance restored, right?

  • Wrong! The next paragraph makes the very assumption Rumsfeld just challenged:
    “Washington’s European allies are deeply divided over the possibility of war, with the French and Germans opposing any rush toward military action while the United States and Britain intensify their military buildup on Iraq’s borders.”
    So, despite what Rumsfeld was quoted as saying immediately prior to this paragraph, AP’s “Europe” consists of just three countries - Germany, France and GB - which are “deeply divided.” Sorry, everybody else on the continent, you don’t count!

    Who exactly is being “dismissive” here?

    Condensed version

    The Washington Post provides Mary McGrory her regular space to spin, twist and outright lie, today claiming the peace marches were “faith-based,” despite being organized and largely manned by the front group for the atheistic, Stalinist Workers World Party.

    On the other hand, Richard Cohen (also in the Post) uses a recent anti-American screed by novelist John le Carre to point out the vacuousness of the left’s “anti-war” position - or is it “anti-Bush”?

    The Akron Beacon Journal editors tell us they remember way back when it was much colder in Ohio than it is now - so quit yer yappin’!

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer scolds Gov. Bob Taft for avoiding the budget issue before the November elections, but admits his generalized remedies are necessary, and pushes the GOP-controlled legislature to follow Taft’s lead.

    The Lima News is more skeptical of the Taft plan - particularly proposals for new spending when present areas face cuts and tax hikes are being considered.

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