THAT LIBERAL, LIBERAL MEDIA….Peter J. Wallison is mad at the press and thinks their reporting on Iraq stinks. He provides three examples in an NRO column on Friday:

  • Tim Russert challenged Paul Wolfowitz on Meet the Press about whether he had underestimated the number of troops it would take to pacify Iraq. But shouldn’t we be looking forward instead of playing gotcha?

  • The press doggedly insists on telling us how many soldiers have died since May 1st. What’s the point of that other than to embarrass the president?

  • The press interpreted Newt Gingrich’s temper tantrum at the AEI last April as a proxy fight between Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell, even though Gingrich never even mentioned Powell’s name! What were they thinking?

Talk about working the refs. Here is Wallison’s message: we should never hold administration officials accountable for past statements. We should never tell people how many soldiers have died since the occupation began. We should pretend we have no idea what the backstory was behind Gingrich’s speech even though every sentient being in Washington knew perfectly well what it was all about. Broadly speaking, instead of “trivializing” the issues the press ought to spend its time broadcasting earnest think pieces that allow the administration to explain its policies in thoughtful and reverent tones without the distraction of actually being questioned about them.

The subtext here, as it is so often, is that the war in Iraq should be above criticism. The past is the past, and who cares if George Bush exaggerated the case for war a bit here and there? That’s mere partisan nitpicking. In fact, opposition treatment of Bush should be so respectful and highminded that, really, we might as well all just join together in a wave of national unity and allow Bush to win reelection by acclamation next November.

Unfortunately, the fact that the Bush administration did such a miserable ? and apparently misleading ? job of convincing the world that Saddam Hussein was a menace is indeed a proper topic of criticism. Especially since it appears that he is sticking to exactly those same failed policies in postwar Iraq. If we couldn’t trust him to give us the straight dope before the war, why should be trust him to give it to us now?

Asking questions of this decade’s conservative president that are every bit as tough as the questions it asked of last decade’s liberal president isn’t a sign of a liberal media that hates George Bush. It’s a sign of the media doing its job.