Umm, for a start, why did the BBC website give this top headline billing, many hours after Bush’s speech? At the same time yesterday evening on CNN, the headline was ‘Bush: ‘Stay The Course’ ‘- which may be hinting that Bush is a beleaguered President, but is not influencing the political momentum much either way. Meanwhile, the Democratic response was given a subheading at CNN, ABC, and CBS, and on alternative British sites the Bush speech itself was a subheadline. My understanding is that the State of the Union Address is the President of the United States’ big moment, when he gets the opportunity to be heard and to make his assessment of the, uh, state of things in the Union. Yes, the opposing side get an official chance to respond, but that’s secondary, not of equal billing. Just what did the Democrats do that was so exceptional as to overturn this? It was Glenn Reynolds who said ‘Bush looks better now that the Democratic reply is on’, but obviously the Beeb didn’t agree.
The second thing is that, although it may seem unfair to reasonably well informed people for the Democrats to attack ‘go it alone Bush’, on reading the BBC site we don’t find that bit of the Address where he himself listed many of the thirty-five countries that have sent troops to Iraq. This is suspicious, partly because the multilateral thrust of Bush’s comments have been described by conservatives as the strongest part of it, and the Democrats are thus naturally trying to take away whatever gloss they can. This ‘money’ quote in particular is noticeable by its absence:
‘There is a difference… between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few.’
The BBC, by not reporting that emphasis and instead headlining the Democrat attack on ‘isolation’, give the Democrats a chance to score points unopposed- kind of a reverse of State of Union logic- in spite of the actual record of Bush’s speech. A related issue is that the ‘Key Point’ page the BBC devotes to Bush’s speech is clearly a ‘Most Boring Key Points’ page, with colour and specificity drained out. Since the BBC has a history of describing Bush as isolated over Iraq, and has frequently ‘forgotten’ the range of countries assisting the US militarily, at this point the Democrat’s strategy and the BBC’s editorial slant coincide to negate the impression that George Bush’s policy on the War on Terror is reasonable or sustainable. Biased old BBC. For any US readers or Bush sympathisers who would like a British antidote to this particular anti-Bush slant, Alice Bachini is a pick-me-up from point 1 on.