Hard to knock Today this morning for its take on the President's latest poll numbers. Today's theme? That while W's poll numbers on his handling of the economy are down, in fact the economy is up.
As Katie Couric put it: "The President's poll numbers on Iraq and economy are falling even though by all measures the economy is doing well."
Katie returned to the theme in her interview of Tim Russert: "The President's staff should be scratching their heads. In theory they have reason to crow" about the economy, yet the polls show that by a margin of 47%/41%, Americans disapprove W's handling of it.
Today went so far as to trot out a variety of statistics making the case that the economy is doing well, pointing to strong numbers on GDP growth, home ownership and home prices, and low unemployment.
The question arose: what explains Americans' unjustifiably gloomy view of the economy? Today's answer? "Spillover" from the country's pessimistic view of Iraq, and Americans' negative reaction to high energy and health care costs.
As Today pointed out, W's marks for handling Iraq are also down, with only 34% approving his handling of the war, and a majority of Americans believing that the country is not less vulnerable to terrorism as a result of the Iraq war.
Today highlighted the fact that the administration has done something of an about-face on the issue of troop withdrawal from Iraq, now floating the idea that it could occur, whereas not long ago it refused to discuss the possibility. Russert suggested that it was concern over the mid-term elections that is driving the withdrawal talk. He also noted that "neo-cons" are criticizing the administration, saying it should not be talking about withdrawal.
As an aside, could it really be that only "neo-conservatives" favor staying the course in Iraq? What about good old "conservatives"? We used to speak of "hawks" and "doves." Might not that be more accurate, or is Today suggesting it's just a Wolfowitz-Perle-Kristol cabal at work?
There was a final piece of irony. Russert spoke of waking up in the morning, turning on the radio and hearing the news of more deaths of US military people in Iraq. He observed that millions of Americans hear the same thing, and that this accounts for the gloomy mood. No doubt true, but Russert thus ignores the complicity of the media in pounding a steady drumbeat of negative news.
Yes, the deaths and setbacks should and must be covered. But does the MSM give Americans the broader picture of the movement toward democracy and the rebuilding of the Iraqi economy that are afoot? With a media like this, the American people might have been demanding armistice with the Axis by 1942.
Finkelstein has degrees from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts "Right Angle," a local political talk show. Finkelstein specializes in exposing liberal bias at NBC's Today Show.