Rich Lowry on Saturday had a fabulous exchange with one of Fox News's many liberal contributors over why the media stopped covering Iraq.
As the discussion on "Fox News Watch" turned to this week's troop withdrawal, the National Review editor claimed wartime press reports are "extremely defeatist all through the prism of Vietnam and then if we succeed it kind of ends in a whimper."
Newsday's Ellis Henican countered, "People get bored in a hurry and we got bored with this [war] two or three years ago."
Lowry marvelously sniped back, "When we started to win" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well it's a notable milestone. I mean, it's obviously not the end by any means. We still have 50,000 guys there and there's still a lot that's up in the air. The problem I have, you know, NBC declared the Iraq War a civil war, rightly in my mind, but I'm not sure they ever walked that back and said, "No, actually the civil war has ended because the surge has suppressed the violence." And this is the typical trajectory of war coverage. It's going to happen in Afghanistan if we succeed there. We're extremely defeatist all through the prism of Vietnam and then if we succeed it kind of ends in a whimper.
ELLIS HENICAN, NEWSDAY: Let me say this quickly. The other typical trajectory of war coverage is people get bored in a hurry and we got bored with this one two or three years ago...
LOWRY: When we started to win, when we started to win!
HENICAN: No, whatever. But frankly it's nice to see some coverage again. Maybe you and I should go over there, how about that?
LOWRY: Would that all wars would be so boring.
Indeed. After all, it seemed that once the 2007 surge showed success, America's media totally lost interest.
I guess it was much more fascinating for them when things weren't going well.
A marvelous example of this occurred on October 7 of that year. After the announcement that September 2007 saw a sharp decline in American casualties in Iraq, CNN's Howard Kurtz asked "Reliable Sources" guests Barbara Starr and Robin Wright why our media didn't report the news.
They amazingly responded:
ROBIN WRIGHT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Not necessarily. The fact is we're at the beginning of a trend -- and it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq.
There are combat deaths. There are sectarian deaths. And there are the deaths of criminal -- from criminal acts. There are also a lot of numbers that the U.S. frankly is not counting. For example, in southern Iraq, there is Shiite upon Shiite violence, which is not sectarian in the Shiite versus Sunni. And the U.S. also doesn't have much of a capability in the south.
So the numbers themselves are tricky. Long-term, General Odierno, who was in town this week, said he is looking for irreversible momentum, and that, after two months, has not yet been reached.
KURTZ: Barbara Starr, CNN did mostly quick reads by anchors of these numbers. There was a taped report on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." Do you think this story deserved more attention? We don't know whether it is a trend or not but those are intriguing numbers.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: But that's the problem, we don't know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress. This is a very positive step on that potential road to progress.
KURTZ: But let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.
STARR: Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news.
Yep - losing is news. Winning isn't.
Good thing the media don't cover sporting events that way.