While all indications are that the negotiating parties are coming closer to agreement on a constitution that will create a democratic country, the Iraqis missed a self-imposed deadline at midnight last night. There are many different possible ways to approach this story. The AP's Anne Gearan has chosen to use the occasion for a news analysis piece (masquerading as straight news) criticizing the President. Her article (Bush Pushes for Elusive Progress in Iraq) focuses, not on the Iraqis, but on the Bush administration.
Iraqi leaders embarrassed Bush by blowing a second deadline Monday to complete the charter, a critical first step toward political stability and independence in Iraq and a marker on the path to an eventual U.S. exit.
For the second week in a row, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left putting a brave face on bad news. She called the latest delay a "statesmanlike decision" designed to build consensus.
Just in that two sentence section of the piece, there are several things to take issue with in terms of phraseology.
- Even if we grant that the Iraqi citizens putting together the Iraqi constitution are capable of doing some thing that would "embarrass" President Bush, it seems hard to believe that a three-day (or three-week, or three-month) delay in the ratification of a democratic constitution would be that event. For a little bit of historical perspective, the United States declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, Cornwallis surrendered in 1781, and the U.S. Constitution was agreed upon in 1787.
- The Iraqis failed to reach agreement between all parties by the second arbitrarily selected deadline. It sounds much worse if you say that they were "blowing a second deadline," but it's not more accurate.
- The "critical first step" to "political stability and independence in Iraq" was the removal of Saddam Hussein. Since that event, there have been a great many steps taken, including the capture of Hussein, the killing of his sons, the cleansing of Fallujah, the elections. Etc.
- The "scare quotes" around the "statesmenlike decision" comment from the Secretary of State, coupled with the comment that she was "putting a brave face on bad news" ignores the possibility that it was, in fact, a "statesmanlike decision," and implies that Dr. Rice is just out spinning and flacking. (Rush Limbaugh's comment about the left accusing others of what they themselves actually do leaps to mind here...)
And there's more. From the headline (is progress really that "elusive," or is the AP just not reporting it?) to the completely unnecessary (and untrue) comment that Chuck Hagel "broke with the White House over Iraq last weekend" (he "broke with the White House over Iraq" long ago), the piece is significantly slanted against the President, against the administration, and against the entire Iraq war.
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