“Chris Matthews” Panel Proves NYT's William Safire Rather Prophetic

As reported by NewsBusters here, the New York Times’ William Safire made some statements on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on October 30 concerning his view of a changing tide in the media’s opinion of the president. This morning’s panel on NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” proved Safire as being rather prophetic.

To refresh everyone’s memory, Safire said that day: “Now, the wonderful thing about American attention and media coverage, is the narrative has to change.  It can't stay the same, or else it's not newsworthy. And so the story will be the comeback.”

Safire’s point was that the media had been harping on every event as having a negative implication for the president regardless of the validity. But, in his view, this tide would turn, and the media would start focusing attention on the president’s accomplishments and his comeback.

This morning, Safire’s prediction became reality, as a panel of left-leaning guests – Katty Kay of the BBC, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, David Gregory of NBC News, and Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic – presented one of the most positive collective views of the Bush administration that any “Matthews” panel has offered in many months.

The positivity began as Matthews asked Sullivan, “Do you think the president has achieved something, at least quelling the opposition for a few months?”

Sullivan responded: “Yes. Because ultimately we can't get out. Most people, even those who believe this was a mistake, even those who disagree with his conduct of the war accept that a sudden withdrawal would be a catastrophe for the West, for the possibility of Islamic terrorism everywhere, and for the possibility of democracy in the Middle East. So there is no alternative.”

Matthews then prefaced this for Kay: “Katty, it seems to me the president has a clear position: ‘We're sticking until we get the job done. A defensible democratic Iraq.’ The Democrats -- big split now.”

Katty’s response: “There clearly is a clarity in the president's position. I thought the most interesting bit of the speech he gave in Annapolis this week was when he said that the timetable would be set by commanders on the ground, by conditions on the ground and not by politicians here in Washington. And gave this long pause, stared at the audience. It was a very defiant moment. Plus that the Democrats who are coming out with a whole array of options. The problem it seems for the Democrats is that it's very difficult to criticize the handling of the war in Iraq, and yet at the same time, stay there to get the job done. They haven't come out with a coherent way of putting that message together.”

Sullivan then did something few in the media have done in the past couple of months. He actually said that things are going better in Iraq: “What matters is what's happening in Iraq. And what is happening in Iraq, I would argue, is not all bad. There is clear progress. And General Casey is doing very good work in training the Iraqi army. There is actually the beginnings of a democratic government, elected December 15, a big election coming up that will transform the dynamic. Give us the first-ever government that is democratically elected in Iraq. That will change the dynamic. There is splits among the Sunnis. One very interesting part of the president's speech is when he separated out what he called rejectionists.”

Matthews responded, “I loved him doing that.”

Gregory at one point also expressed an optimistic view: “What the White House now believes is that as long as the White House is on a trajectory toward an end game here, as long as the president can articulate that, that's better than even a smart contrarian view like congressman Murtha of withdraw precipitously. Because if there is a vision to stick it out with the prospect of a democratic Iraq and some progress, Republicans feel like they can use that against the Democrats who have yet to really find their voice.”

Of course, this is just one segment of one program. However, is it possible that Safire’s October 30 prediction is beginning to come true, and that the tone of the media is changing course due to its novelty and newsworthiness?

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.