One argument at the beginning of the Bill Moyers PBS special on our alleged Bush-polishing press corps centered around a White House press conference just before the Iraq war began on March 6, 2003. Within hours on that night, leftists were complaining that reporters weren't harsh enough.CBS Radio's White House reporter Mark Knoller made a rare protest against the Moyers charge on their Public Eye site. I'm a little surprised that Knoller is the only White House reporter to challenge Moyers on the idea that they were all Bush patsies, just as I'm surprised that no one in the White House press corps really challenged Helen Thomas when she called them all Bush patsies.
The formulation Moyers used -- that reporters failed to "challenge the president" that he was lying about WMD -- is trumped up, and suggests that reporters should not have merely suggested that war protesters and other countries had doubts. Apparently, Moyers wouldn't have honored a reporter as challenging unless they rhetorically punched the president in the face, suggesting his case for Iraq was crawling with lies. Moyers obviously and sleazily skipped the case of ABC's Terry Moran, who insulted all his colleagues as "zombies" after the press conference. He, by contrast, should have earned an A from Moyers from challenging Bush as leading the world in arrogance:
"In the past several weeks, your policy on Iraq has generated opposition from the governments of France, Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, the Arab League, and many other countries; opened a rift at NATO and at the UN; and drawn millions of ordinary citizens around the world into the streets in anti-war protests. May I ask what went wrong that so many governments and peoples around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly, but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?"
Moyers painted a very incomplete picture by excluding all the media voices that hailed war protesters and bombed away at Team Bush in the months before the war. He might be upset that at that "zombie" conference, Helen Thomas didn't get a question. But she was there day after day in the briefing room, asking Moyers-tickling questions to Ari Fleischer such as this one on January 6 against Bush: "why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?"
Perhaps most ridiculously, Moyers omitted that he himself was lecturing away on tax-supported stations from coast to coast before the war, pounding his little podium about people who wear flag pins on TV. On February 28, 2003, he typically suggested that Bush was morally equivalent with the plane-bombers of Manhattan: "I put it [a flag pin] on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. If a reporter quoted Moyers back to Bush, and asked for a reaction, using Moyers logic, we would say that journalist didn't "challenge the president."