January 27, 2003
It is not merely Bush's opponents who have failed to grasp the rules, but ordinary reporters who believe their sole job is to get at the truth. American journalists emerge from university journalism schools, which teach rigid notions of factual reporting and "objectivity". But facts can be very slippery creatures, especially when sliding through the hands of skilful politicians and their spokesmen. The journalists may see the sleight-of-hand, but in the US the conventions of their trade make it hard for them to convey it.
"It's not that the press is uncritical of the people it covers," says Steven Weisman, the New York Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, "but it's critical the way a sportswriter is critical, calling the points and measuring success or failure based on wherever the administration wants to be. So in a situation like this, when the administration is set on waging a war, is enacting its programme and is winning seats at elections, then in a funny way the press becomes like a ga-ga sportswriter. Except for scandals, the press is unable to set the agenda in this country."