Abbas Resignation Yet Another Blow to Bush - September 8, 2003

Times Watch for September 8, 2003

Abbas Resignation Yet Another Blow to Bush

Failure isnt an orphan when it comes to President Bushs Middle East peace proposals. The headline to James Bennets Sunday front-page story on the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas makes it clear U.S. credibility has taken a hit: Abbas Steps Down, Dealing Big Blow To U.S. Peace Plan.

The opening paragraph of Bennets story does nothing to contradict that assertion: Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation as Palestinian prime minister today, and Israel tried to kill the spiritual leader and founder of Hamas with an airstrike in Gaza City, as the Bush administration's drive for Middle East peace appeared in danger of disintegrating.

So, something goes wrong in the Middle East and the Times portrays it as a setback to the Bush administrations peace efforts. Was it the same way when President Bill Clinton was expending so much energy on Middle East peacemaking?

A May 22, 2000, story by Deborah Sontag didnt put the blame on the U.S. In a story headlined: Israel Summoning Negotiators Home After New Attack, Sontag mentions in the fourth paragraph: Late Saturday night, because of surging violence in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, Mr. Barak also canceled a trip to consult with President Clinton on the American-mediated final status peace talks. Although Mr. Clinton's advisers said they understood, the cancellation indicated that Israel was setting its own timetable despite prodding from administration officials who have devoted two terms to the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort and feel that their time is ebbing away. Of course one cant make a perfect parallel between these two scenarios. But Sontag doesnt come close to suggesting that Clintons drive for peace was in danger of disintegrating or suggest looming failure, although Clinton was directly snubbed.

Sontags story from July 10 of that year, Baraks Coalition Crumbles On Eve Of Summit Talks, takes the blame-aversion even further. Although it talks about the problems of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Baraks coalition woes before he left for a Camp David summit, nowhere in her 1600-word article does the name Clinton come up: Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government disintegrated today as one right-leaning party after another quit in protest against anticipated concessions to the Palestinians, leaving him on unsteady ground on the eve of his departure to the Camp David summit meeting. Would such a meltdown on the eve of a Bush-led Middle East summit be reported without a single mention of the word Bush? Times Watch has its doubts.

For the rest of James Bennets story on the big blow to U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East, click here.

Insensitive Times?

The Times zealous sensitivity patrol must have been off duty when Charlie LeDuffs profile of former child star (and candidate for California governor) Gary Coleman arrived on the copydesk. LeDuffs Saturdays dispatch, Heres the Rest of Me, Another Californian Says, opens: He is the other show-biz Arnold running for governor of California-the poorer, smaller one. But even more than his movie-star counterpart, he is a prisoner of make-believe, a captive of a freakish body, a man trapped inside a character, the punch line to his own life.

Times Watch is second to no one in standing against politically correct blandishment and the patronizing plague of oversensitivity. But still. Is Coleman, who stands at four feet eight inches (growth stunted since childhood by drugs he takes for failed kidneys) really all that freakish to look at?

For the rest of Charlie LeDuffs story on Gary Coleman, gubernatorial candidate, click here.

Bleak for Bush in Iraq

After President Bush addressed the nation Sunday night on Iraq and the War on Terror, David Sangers news analysis Monday casts U.S. prospects in a shade of unmitigated bleakness. In case one missed the headline spin (Grim News About Iraq), Sanger gives his readers this opening sentence: President Bush's task tonight was to convince the country that the terrible toll of the long, hot, casualty ridden summer in Iraq was a necessary price to pay in a broader struggle against terrorism, and to prepare the electorate for years of occupation, billions more in expense, and many bad days. Thats a pretty impressive sentence in its way, crafted to contain not a single positive word. One doesnt have to believe things are going swimmingly in Iraq (they arent) to think Sanger is indulging in overkill.

Bushs prospects dont get any brighter later on: This evening, with his poll numbers dropping and his political problems mounting, Mr. Bush insisted there was no turning back.The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations, Mr. Bush insisted, in justifying the cost in blood and deficit-inducing spending.

For the rest of David Sangers grim news, click here.

Democrats Demand Rumsfeld ResignFirestone Fired Up

Liberal Democrat Rep. David Obeys call for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and deputy secretary Paul Wolfowitz sparks a Saturday story from reporter David Firestone: Senior House Democrat Urges Top Defense Hands to Resign.

Firestone insists: Obey's remarks reflected a growing fury among Congressional Democrats about the handling of the occupation and the vast sums that will be required to rebuild Iraq at a time of record-setting budget deficits in the United States.

Rather eagerly, Firestone predicts others will follow, and throws out some names: Mr. Obey will probably not be the last Democrat to demand high-level resignations. On Thursday, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said Democrats were willing to pay to rebuild Iraq, but not for what she said was the administration's poor planning. On the Senate floor today, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, questioned how Republicans could be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars on Iraq while refusing to spend $6 billion to bring the administration's education program, known as No Child Left Behind, up to its authorized spending level. Apparently, $12.4 billion for the school testing program just isnt enough for Byrd, who knows something about spending money.

For the rest of David Firestones piece, click here.