Saturday, April 12, 2003
Karl Rove, Professor Marvel to George Bush’s Oz, took his turn displaying some disinformational themes from the new spring collection on Friday before the exhausted and compliant editor-types at the busy American Society of Newspaper Editors convention. Perhaps unaware of the Bush Administration’s obsession, a report in Saturday’s New York Times states Mr. Rove “told a gathering of newspaper editors here today that the news media's exhaustive coverage of the war in Iraq had confused people by subjecting them to reporters' "mood swings" and the results of endless polling about the military's progress…Mr. Rove lamented what he described as news organizations' changing interpretations of how the war was proceeding…news coverage…of a statue of Saddam Hussein being pulled to the ground in Baghdad, did not match the earlier "flood of commentary that the military was bogged down and the strategy flawed."
The networks tone changed, or drifted from what the administration thought it would be, when, thru the live embed reports, we all witnessed real live battle stripped of the Hollywood soundtracks but with a heightened drama conveyed through the eyes of the soldiers observed by night vision, full color or mostly obscured by sand. Remember bonding and Secretary Rumsfeld not being able to understand why the embeds were getting off message? Mr. Rove started to understand, through some mysterious agency that couldn’t possibly be endless polling, that the American public was also getting off message by bonding with the pictures of American youth in very perilous circumstances. Sometimes, I’m guessing, having a ranking administration official who isn’t so much a loose cannon as he is a loose revolver can be a handy thing.
“Mr. Rove praised the Pentagon's policy of "embedding" reporters with the troops in Iraq. "The public has been helped to see the reality of things in a way they never have before," he said, adding that a longtime distrust between the news media and the military had been eased. But he was critical of the frequency with which newspapers and television networks alike had sought Americans' opinions on the progress of the war and the performance of the president. "It raises a question: How much polling is too much?" he said. "When does it all begin to take away from the story and overwhelm all of us with too many numbers in too short a period of time?"
I love how Mr. Rove indirectly implies administration responsibility for an action that blindsided them for a day or so. Then with heavy brass cojones the equal to any Iraqi Information Minister he further implies responsibility for easing the Vietnam era schism between press and military. You have to admit the guy is good.
The satellite videophone shut down, to me, seemed to be a brief PR regroup at a time when field commanders were unsuccessfully asking for a brief tactical regroup. Mr. Rove should realize that spin is defenseless against a live picture. Real or fake once it’s a picture perceived to be real and live, like the Vincennes "victims" I discussed in a previous post, nothing short of an act of God will change that majority perception. Mr. Rove should take his own advice: "So much information is coming so fast and from so many different directions that it can also make it difficult to maintain perspective…” Having firm opinions mirrored by polling data must be a great comfort. "I'm not here to provide answers, only making observations," he said. "Observations," he concluded, "shared by 68.5 percent of registered voters in a survey conducted by the Pew Charitable Trust.
I’m wondering, when a man's opinion is molded by polling data can he really claim allegiance with a people who, when polled, have answered without calculation?
Photo: BROOKS KRAFT/GAMMA FOR TIME