I’m in my mid-forties and remember well the terrorist incidents of the 1980s – the bombing of the US Embassy and the Marine Barracks in Beirut, the bombing of the US Embassy in Kuwait, the kidnapping of CIA Station Chief William Buckley, the high jacking of Kuwait Airlines Flight 221, the high jacking of TWA Flight 847, the high jacking of the Achille Lauro, the bombing of the Rome and Vienna airports, the bombing of the La Belle disco in West Berlin, and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. It’s quite a list.
That comes from a note sent to James Fallows by someone he describes as a “current U.S. diplomat.” S/he goes on to point out that all of that failed to provoke the kind of hysteria we are seeing today…which raises the obvious question: what changed? Here’s how the diplomat answers it:
I think the primary explanation for the divergent attitudes of the American public is the 24-hour cable (and internet) news cycle and an opposition party (with its own supporting media/internet apparatus) that will use anything to whip up public sentiment against the incumbent President.
Fallows received that note as part of a discussion he initiated about President Obama’s leadership style and whether or not he’s done enough to allay the current hysteria. Obviously Daniel Drezner doesn’t think so.
Now there’s been a lot of loose talk about how Trump is simply exploiting some of the less savory elements of GOP voters — but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Indeed, it suppresses Barack Obama’s biggest foreign policy failing: his failure to make Americans feel safer…
It’s on Republicans when they make stupid or incorrect pronouncements about foreign policy and counterterrorism. But the GOP is responding to public anxiety. And that anxiety, and the failure to alleviate it, is currently on the president.
I applaud Drezner for calling out the Republicans for their “incorrect pronouncements about foreign policy and counterterrorism.” But did you notice who he left out? The media.
Is it the solely the President’s job to be the Consoler-in-Chief? As adults, it seems like that should be on each of us. But it has always been my assumption that it is the job of our free press to bring us the information we need in order to do so – not to simply fan the flames or stand idly by while politicians use lies and distortions to conjure up fear.
A couple of years ago NBC’s Chuck Todd declared that it was not the media’s job to correct GOP falsehoods. After getting a lot of heat for saying that, he tweeted that it was the job of the White House to do so. That strikes me as a fundamental question we need to address.
I know where I come down on that one. The role of a free press is much more than to play sportscaster to the “game” of politics. It’s position was established in our Bill of Rights in order to ensure that citizens have access to the information they need to participate intelligently in our democracy. Part of that job is to call out politicians who lie and/or distort the truth for their own political gain.
That is exactly what we do here at the Washington Monthly. If you agree that it is our job to do so, please consider making a donation to support our work. Thank you.