NYT Can't Help Itself: Chides Bush In Bhutto Coverage
Dec. 26, 2004: The tsunami. Dec. 27, 2007: The Bhutto assassination. The two events mingled in my mind as I read the news accounts, because both are epochally bad news events. The impact of the first we now understand well; the impact of the second is anyone's guess.
I assume that many of Bhutto's inner circle were in fact physically close to her in Rawalpindi when the attack occurred, so her party will be more than merely leaderless going into the elections scheduled next month. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine Pervez Musharraf surviving today's attack politically. I doubt the attack had any Musharraf fingerprints on it -- save for not providing enough government security for Bhutto -- but the nation will turn against him even more now.
The assassination probably also spells doom for radical Islamic parties sympathetic to al Qaeda, since many Pakistanis will blame Islamist terrorists for the attack. Still, the attack shows how long the road will be in the war on terror:
The lesson for the West is that the war with the Islamists is not only far, far from over but in fact may be accelerating, and that more leaders with the sort of courage, resolve and energy displayed by Bhutto are needed now more than ever.It is on that note that I circle back to the lead, and how the media addressed Bush in its coverage of the Bhutto assassination. In the first round of reporting, all but one of the US' major news outlets covered the story responsibly. Guess which one didn't.
President Musharraf must take the war to the ungoverned places of the country or see such atrocities continue. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is the most inviting goal for the al Qaeda cells, an issue which could have used a lot of attention in the presidential campaign reaching its crescendo. (Hugh Hewitt)
Yes, the NY Times, whose story included these decidedly non-objective and wholly inappropriate paragraphs:
The assassination also adds to the enormous pressure on the Bush administration over Pakistan, which has sunk billions in aid into the country without accomplishing its main goals of finding the Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden or ending the activities of Islamic militants and the Taliban in border areas with Afghanistan.and
Bush administration officials began working behind the scenes over the summer to help Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf create a power-sharing deal to orchestrate a transition to democracy that would leave Mr. Musharraf in the presidency, while not making a mockery of President Bush’s attempts to push democracy in the Muslim world.The goal of our aide to Pakistan is not to catch Osama bin Laden, but to win the larger War on Terror and contain the nation's nuclear arsenal. The NYT's blind focus on negatives puts it in a place which would have the paper declare the capturing of Hitler to be the prime reason why we spent so much money on WWII, and because he was never found, the whole bloody affair was a waste and an embarrassment to America.
And whether the NYT likes it or not, Pakistan is a Muslim democracy today. Not ideal by any reckoning, but in recent months, the government has functioned well enough. The Supreme Court stood up to Musharraf, who then acted dictatorially, but had to back down due not to the UN for cryin' out loud, but due to the will of the Pakistani people, who made their voices heard, so an election was set for January.
Does the NYT not see the benefit of trying to bring democracy to the Islamic world? Or is it just too lazy and shortsighted to go for anything valuable that requires a long slog?
Compare the NYT's snideness to the reporting of AP and MSNBC. The AP account is straightforward, reportorial, despite a long history of anti-Bush reporting from the wire service:
Pakistan is considered a vital U.S. ally in the fight againstand other Islamic extremists including the . and his inner circle are believed to be hiding in lawless northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.
The U.S. has invested significant diplomatic capital in promoting reconciliation between Musharraf and the opposition, particularly Bhutto, who was seen as having a wide base of support in Pakistan. Her party had been widely expected to do well in next month's elections.
MSNBC also raised the same points as the NYT, but again without the cheekiness. These level-headed paragraphs are from a media outlet that has openly positioned itself as the anti-Fox, pro-left cable outlet, but today at least, the staff at MSNBC appears to understand the requirements of objective reporting:
Bhutto’s return to the country after years in exile and the ability of her party to contest free and fair elections had been a cornerstone of Bush’s policy in Pakistan, where U.S. officials had watched Musharraf’s growing authoritarianism with increasing unease.The LA Times coverage was similar to AP's and MSNBC's, while WaPo and CNN reported the story without reference to Bush Administration policies.
Those concerns were compounded by the rising threat from al-Qaida and Taliban extremists, particularly in Pakistan’s largely ungoverned tribal areas bordering Afghanistan despite the fact that Washington had pumped nearly $10 billion in aid into the country since Musharraf became an indispensible counter-terrorism ally after Sept. 11, 2001.
Against this background of responsible reporting of a tragedy with potentially inconceivable consequences, the NYT stands out as an immature, inappropriate and unruly guest at the party, hardly differentiated from the Kos-tic rants of the leftyblogs.
Isn't there someone who can spank their bottom and send them to their room?