The Iraqi Parliament has passed some new and potentially significant laws.
This particular event should have been the lead article on the front page of every newspaper. It should have been the big subject of all the talk shows. It ought to have been acknowledged by every critic of the surge—you know, the ones who initially said the surge wouldn’t work before it even began. The ones who then said Petraeus was lying about the drop in casualties. The ones who then said that it didn’t mean anything anyway because after all, the Iraqi legislature hadn’t met the proper benchmarks that would indicate political progress and reconciliation.
However, here’s how it played on the network news programs. Only ABC’s Charles Gibson saw fit to cover it, repeating an ABC pattern of being more favorable to favorable news from Iraq. And even Gibson alloted it only twenty seconds (although they were positive seconds), the sort of skim-the-surface coverage for which network TV news is notorious:
Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country’s government that has been so often criticized. Iraq’s parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces.
Much better, though, than rivals NBC and CBS. For them, no mention of the Iraqi developments, but:
The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night both found time to report on how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates broke his arm in a fall on ice and how, for the first time, a Beagle (named “Uno”) won “Best in Show” at the Westminster Dog Show.
I’m full of compassion for Gates, and I’m fond enough of beagles, but really.
Print journalists did better. Even the AP said this represents one of those much-ballyhooed benchmarks:
The new law…is one of the most sweeping reforms pushed by the Bush administration and signals that Iraq’s politicians finally, if grudgingly, may be ready for small steps toward reconciliation.
Passage of benchmark reforms on healing the country’s sectarian and ethnic rifts — along with a reduction in violence — were the primary goals of the 30,000-strong U.S. troop increase that President Bush ordered early last year.
Violence has dropped significantly, but political progress languished until the logjam broke Wednesday by the narrowest of margins. Before the vote, the only significant measure to emerge from parliament had been a law that allows reinstatement to government jobs of some low-level members of Saddam Hussein’s former Baath party.
The outcome of the October elections is likely to reshape Iraq’s political map.
No, of course it doesn’t mean we’re home free in that country. That would be an absurd assertion to make. But it does mean events are continuing in a very positive direction there. As Richard Fernandez points out:
The more reason to inform the American public of the logic behind electoral reform and why it is so vital. Iraqi and American lives have taken the country back from the brink of civil war and on the approaches to normalcy. But the last steps are the most important. This is where it all pays off.
But all the more reason to be coy or underwhelmed about what’s happening there, because it presents such an embarrassing dilemma to those who said it couldn’t be done. And those are legion, including the vast majority of Democrats, most of our MSM, and certainly the present Democratic candidates.
To its credit, the New York Times covered the story. But how it did so is also very instructive (I don’t know what the story’s placement was, since I’m only reading online and don’t have a hard copy of the paper).
First we have a headline unlikely to garner interest in reading further. Vague and generalized, it fails to describe what’s happening or why it might be important or how it ties into the surge and the benchmarks: “Ending impasse, Iraqi Parliament passes measures.”
Yawn. Still with us? Thought not.
And note the leading phrase of the headline, focusing not on the positive but on the negative, the previous stalling. The article continues in that vein:
Iraq’s parliamentary leaders on Wednesday pushed through three far-reaching measures that had been delayed for weeks by bitter political maneuvering that became so acrimonious that some lawmakers threatened to try to dissolve the legislative body.
The next paragraph is indeed positive. It mentions that the legislation has the potential to spur reconciliation and lead to representative government. But it fails to tie this into the surge and those all-important benchmarks that we’ve heard so much about—when they were unmet, that is.
The article continues to emphasize the contention around passage of the bills, and emphasizes the fairly obvious fact that Iraq is not out of the woods and that these laws may not accomplish their goals. And it’s only in the seventh paragraph that there’s any tie-in to benchmarks—and even then, for some reason, they are referred to as “so-called” benchmarks.
What about Hillary and Obama? Have they chimed in on any of this? I’ve searched and searched and found nothing.
To be fair, I haven’t found anything from McCain, either, so perhaps it’s Google (or my search techniques) that’s at fault. If any of you can find their pronouncements (or those of Reid or Pelosi, for that matter) on the subject, I’d be most interested in reading them.
But I won’t sit on a hot stove till I do.