Tags: Washington | Post | Jennings | ABC | Step | Attack | President

Washington Post, Jennings, ABC Step Up Attack on President Bush

Thursday, 13 September 2001 12:00 AM

Already, liberal media outlets have been raising questions about the president’s taking a circuitous route back to Washington from Florida after being informed of Tuesday’s terrorism.

The most direct salvo came from longtime liberal columnist Mary McGrory in today’s Washington Post.

Building up to her attack on the president, McGrory praised New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

After noting that President Bush had not reiterated Guiliani’s call for "tolerance for people who come from countries who are suspected of plotting the carnage” (a sentiment that has since been expressed by the administration through Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft), the columnist went on to say the president "could not find the beat.”

"He allowed himself to be hauled about the country like a fugitive to bunkers at Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.”

She added that his security would want to protect him, but that the president "might have reflected that if Washington wasn’t safe for him, it wasn’t safe for the rest of us.”

The columnist did not mention information coming out of the White House since then that the president did in fact reject security recommendations that he not return to Washington at all the day of the terrorist attack.

As a predictable liberal opinion journalist, one might expect McGrory to fire away at President Bush as the country rallies around him. One might not be surprised that she would fail to mention that at the time, there was good information that Air Force One was a target of the terrorists. "The rest of us” were not so precisely targeted. Some unannounced detours might be logical to a Secret Service whose number one job is to protect the president. However, as has been said, sometimes, you have to "consider the source.”

But what to make of an exchange on ABC-TV between correspondent Claire Shipman and anchorman Peter Jennings?

In a transcript provided to NewsMax.com by the Media Research Center, Shipman (at approximately 9:40 a.m. Wednesday) said:

"Some people on Capitol Hill [She doesn’t name them] and in the security community are wondering about why the White House was so quick and so open with the information today that the white House itself and Air Force One may have been a target. Not that they’re suggesting that information is wrong, but there is a thinking among some [again, not named] that the White House was eager to put that information out in order to make it plain that President Bush had to spend his day yesterday flying around the country instead of coming straight back to Washington, that there may have been some politics involved in that decision…”

Anonymous sources conveying valuable information are a staple of good journalism. Anonymous sources firing cheap political shots, especially in a time of crisis, are usually regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism. Cheap political shots in an emergency situation could backfire on anyone identifying himself.

Jennings, a Canadian, noted "we’re all pretty skeptical and cynical about Washington,” and that, of course, Shipman was not expected to reveal her sources. But the TV anchor asked if the correspondent was saying "people in the political establishment are saying what we’re getting is a story from the White House today to explain why the president was traveling from Florida to Louisiana yesterday, under what we thought at the time was the pressure of his security detail.”

Shipman’s reply was that, again, "nobody is saying that what the White House and also the attorney general has said is not accurate — it looks plain from a number of sources that there may have been a plane aimed at the White House. People are just wondering” about why the information was put out so quickly and is "something the white House is eager, obviously, to make plain.”

"Nobody is saying” it, but by bringing up anonymous quotes implying it, the seed is planted. Even in time of crisis when Americans are rallying around the President of the United States, cheap-shot politics seems to live on in some quarters.

As is so often the case, an antidote to that comes from talk radio. On his show Thursday, Rush Limbaugh commented on those who sniped that President Bush’s speech was not long enough. Those who voice that criticism, he noted, overlook the fact that any president, to make a long speech would have to have the required "level of knowledge” justifying length, something then still being gathered.

"In the midst of a situation like this, we expect a man with a series of words to be able to somehow alleviate or solve or, something short of that, the situation. That’s not reality,” declared the popular radio talkmeister.

"But these network anchors seem to desire somebody on television uttering words that have a calming influence and so forth, and that that somehow solves the situation, or at least goes in the direction of solving it. It’s totally unrealistic.”

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Already, liberal media outlets have been raising questions about the president's taking a circuitous route back to Washington from Florida after being informed of Tuesday's terrorism. The most direct salvo came from longtime liberal columnist Mary McGrory in today's...
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2001-00-13
Thursday, 13 September 2001 12:00 AM
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