FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Media Politics of 9/11

by NORMAN SOLOMON

For 30 months, 9/11 was a huge political blessing for George W. Bush. This week, the media halo fell off.

Within the space of a few days, culminating with his testimony to the Sept. 11 commission Wednesday afternoon, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke did serious damage to a public-relations scam that the White House has been running for two and a half years.

We may forget just how badly President Bush was doing until Sept. 11, 2001. That morning, a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer story told of dire political straits; his negative rating among the nation’s crucial independent swing voters stood at 53 percent, according to the latest survey by nonpartisan pollster John Zogby.

On Sept. 12, Bush’s media stature and poll numbers were soaring. Suddenly, news outlets all over the country boosted the president as a great leader, sometimes likening him to FDR. For many months, the overall media coverage of President Bush was reverential.

With intimidation in the air, all but a few mainstream journalists tamped down criticisms and lacquered on adulation. A kind of war-mentality sheen covered public surfaces. Guided by Bush’s top strategist Karl Rove, the administration strived to exploit the tragedy of 9/11 at every turn.

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, as the extent of prewar lies forced the Bush administration into a defensive crouch, reliance on images and rhetoric about Sept. 11 was more important than ever. For the Bush team, frequent invocation of 9/11 seemed dependable as a fortified version of patriotism — the last, and most promising, refuge of scoundrels.

The anger that we’re now hearing from the White House is the sound of an administration being hoisted by its own 9/11 petard.

The Bush estate has bet the political farm on 9/11. True, the focus of initial TV commercials on Sept. 11 imagery can always be adjusted later. But the Bush-Cheney campaign must remain inseparably tied to 9/11. The Republican Party’s national convention was scheduled unusually late on the calendar in Manhattan — until early September — to indelibly link the Bush-Cheney ticket to Sept. 11.

Hitting the USS Bush at the time of the spring equinox, the current media gale has not been all that harsh. But the media upheaval is striking because of its contrast with the very favorable political climate that the Bush political vessel has been able to create and navigate in relation to 9/11 until this spring.

Bush’s prior media problems with Iraq war policy are helping to compound his 9/11 media debacle of recent days. Now, with Clarke recounting the administration’s fixation on Iraq in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, there’s extra public outrage about the new firsthand evidence that Bush was eager to pursue his discredited Iraq obsession even while the World Trade Center was on fire.

For the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration, the parallels and negative synergies between Iraq and 9/11 issues include the common thread of extreme dishonesty. On Monday — while a typical Wall Street Journal editorial sputtered that the Sept. 11 commission had been hijacked “to provide a vehicle to embarrass the Bush administration” — the same newspaper’s front page was featuring a lead article about Sept. 11 events politely headlined “Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies.” Based on the article’s meticulous reporting, a less circumspect headline could have been: “Bush, Cheney and Top Aides Now Tangled Up in 9/11 Deceptions.”

This week, news departments that were slow on the uptake quickly found themselves out of step. Monday, while the Washington Post front-paged a major substantive article about Clarke’s charges, the New York Times buried its coverage of the subject on a back page. (The anemic Times article carried the byline of Judith Miller, who rendered invaluable prewar service to the Bush administration by reporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — based on anonymous sourcing. Miller’s source turned out to be the Pentagon’s favorite handpicked Iraqi exile “leader,” Ahmed Chalabi.) After badly lagging behind the Post, on Tuesday the Times played catch-up on the Clarke story.

Whether the Bush campaign can regain control of 9/11 as a political football remains to be seen. We should never forget that real people died on that day, and real people are still dying in Iraq because of depraved political games in Washington.

People in positions of enormous power are never more dangerous than when they see their power seriously threatened. The counterattacks on Clarke have only just begun. And during the next several months, the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration is sure to reach into its very large bag of media tricks.

NORMAN SOLOMON is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in San Francisco. He is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You. (Context Books, 2003).

 

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail