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Bush vs. the media about War in Iraq

The Bush administration has started a new strategy in the war in Iraq. It's the media's fault. MSNBC'S Keith Olbermann takes a look at the recent statements by the president, and talks with Richard Wollfe from Newsweek magazine.

The Bush Administration is frustrated with the media’s negative outlook on the War in Iraq and has made it known to them.  However, the media isn’t staying silent in this blame game.

Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek” magazine’s White House correspondent joined Keith Olbermann on 'Countdown’ to discuss the Bush Administration’s newest attack on the media.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, 'COUNTDOWN’:  It's one thing to question if the media's being representative in its reporting from Iraq.  But with this, frankly, paranoid tone set by the administration and enacted by people like Laura Ingraham, is that what we're left with about Iraq, defending the actions conducted in this nation's name with desperation and stupidity?

RICHARD WOLFFE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE:  Well, look, you've got to have more darn sight more respect for people like Richard Engel and the dozens and dozens of reporters who risk their lives, literally, every day for the story than you have for people like you and me sitting in a studio, or Laura Ingraham sitting in a radio studio, and commenting on this.

No matter how often they do their flying in and flying out and talking to troops down on the ground there, it's much, much harder living in Iraq.  So that's the first point.

The second point is, what are people thinking here?  Of course, the media focuses on bad news, on death and violence.  First of all, this is a war, which has been hugely expensive in terms of blood and treasure.  And secondly, that's the way life is.  It's not a bias of the media.  If it was a bias, then why has cable news talked about murders?  Why don't they have whole shows that talk about childbirth?

You know, it just doesn't work like that.  So it's incredibly naive, it's partisan, and it's ironic for people who claim to be rooting out bias to start saying we should be biased in how we report the war.


Now to the government battling the media, the signs of that that we saw today.  The old joke is, don't get into an argument with the guy who owns the ink factory.  Some of our leaders, Nixon, Agnew, a lot on the far right recently, have won temporary victories in that kind of fight, but long term, they're 0 for forever.  Has anybody in the administration looked at that all-time record, said, This is not a good finisher?

WOLFFE:  Well, right now, the goal is to fire up the base.  And actually this is successful in firing up the base.  You can rank it alongside the sort of impeachment talk that people are stoking up as well.  You know, it's a common enemy.  And at a time when the Republican Party and conservatives in general are feeling very disillusioned about the war and about their president, you've got to find something to rally around.  Beating up the media is one of those.

OLBERMANN:  Monday the president shocked a lot of people by opening the floor in Cleveland to questions from folks who did not agree with him.  Yesterday the president shocked a lot of people by opening the floor in the White House press room to questions from Helen Thomas, who'll be joining us in a few minutes, by the way.

Judging by the event today, military families, lot of chamber of commerce, in West Virginia, I'm gathering this great experiment is over.  Are we not likely to see more of this watch Mr. Bush take on all comers kind of thing?

WOLFFE:  Well, I think it's kind of self-defeating if it is, because actually the president got some very good reviews for taking questions and for being feisty in his response.  When it comes to something when the president makes news for calling on a questioner, that's where we are.

I think they're going to actually do more of the opening for questions thing.  The problem is that who they hand out the tickets to.  They can't predict the questions, but they can skew the audience, of course, by giving out tickets to party supporters, activists, as a kind of reward for being loyal.

OLBERMANN:  Is it fair to say, ultimately, on this, that the fundamental disconnect regarding the White House is this, that even if the media did get entirely Pollyanna and we had live coverage of every supermarket opening in Iraq, that right now, a decisive majority of Americans would still be responding to that by saying, Great, we're happy for them, but it's not worth more of us dying?

WOLFFE:  Well, up to a point.  You know, I think American public opinion has actually been very consistent on this war.  Right from the outset, the polls said two years, and no more.  That's how long we think this should go on for.  They got to the two-year mark, opinion started to slide.  I don't think it really matters what we say.  People have the good sense to understand this is hugely more costly than it was meant to be.