Spain: A Media Flip-Flop

Don't think that presidential candidates are the only political players who can be accused of flip-flops. Take a look at how the media elite have spun the election in Spain.

In the year since American and allied forces liberated Iraq, the national media have endlessly planted the flagrantly false notion that America was acting in some sort of a "unilateral" fashion, a lonely hyper-aggressive cowboy thumbing its nose at the entire world. Thirty-four nations may have supported America with money and men and materials, but Americans watching and reading the news might never know, because they were repeatedly told the U.S. was "going it alone." Our "allies" weren't those who support us, but the ones who refused to help us and complained bitterly of being ignored, insulted, and abused by an arrogant White House.

So it was that news reports barely mentioned Spain and her leader Jose Maria Aznar's support. But now, when Spain has been targeted with a harrowing, systematic train bombing just days before their national elections, and voters have surged to the polls to elect a Socialist Party government that will withdraw its military support from Iraq, this previously minuscule support has suddenly been magnified 1,000 times. It's now a painful crushing of America's hopes.

Wait a minute. Which way is it, "news" people? If cooperation from Spain in the liberation of Iraq was a joke, something merely symbolic and hardly worth mentioning, how is it now a huge "blow"? The media shift in tactics has been truly whiplash-inducing.

Rewind to January 30, 2003. The Wall Street Journal published a letter from eight European leaders, including Spain's Aznar, declaring America had liberated Europe from the twin terrors of Nazism and communism, and they now stood behind the American aim of uprooting Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.

The networks were not impressed. ABC covered it, but dismissed it as "solicited" by the Wall Street Journal, and said it "sounds almost as if it could have been written" by the Bushies. NBC ignored the letter in favor of a story selling the leftist-protester notion that the U.S. was only interested in Iraqi oil. Andrea Mitchell claimed "It's the accusation the administration cannot seem to shake." (At least not so long as NBC keeps putting it on the air.)

CBS gave the letter from Aznar & Co. a sentence or two, and then devoted a whole story to Nelson Mandela, puffed as a Nobel laureate and "one of the world's most respected elder statesmen," viciously attacking Bush as "a President who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."

But as America awoke on Monday morning, March 15 to the news of the Aznar party's defeat, the networks were again highlighting the most anti-Bush angle. NBC's "Today" found a "huge" upset, a "huge loss" for Aznar, a "blow to the U.S. and to President Bush." ABC wondered: "Is support for the U.S. occupation in Iraq dwindling among our allies in Europe?" Watching ABC, I thought we didn't have any allies in Europe supporting us in Iraq. Peter Jennings specialized in implying that the U.S. was "going it alone" in Iraq.

Over at CBS, "The Early Show" announced it first and foremost as "bad news for the administration." Spain was an "important if symbolic" coalition member, and its military withdrawal "will not have a large impact on operations, but it will make a large dent in the appearance of a cohesive coalition."

How can the potential loss of Spain as an ally make a "large" public relations dent when their appearance in the coalition has almost never been recognized by the TV news elite? That doesn't make any sense. But if you're the media, you can make them up as you go along. Whatever helps the left is the standard.

During Republican administrations, the American media approaches Europe eager for an oh-so-sophisticated smashing of conservative foreign policy. Europe is only newsworthy when it dissents from the American line, and never mind how history turns out. In the 1980s, U.S. reporters lapped up every morsel of anti-American sentiment as Ronald Reagan planned to put Pershing missiles in Western Europe. The media's favorite Europeans thought the Soviet Union would stand for a thousand years, and only a bellicose nitwit would challenge them. Now we have another Reaganesque figure, and his Evil Empire has already been deposed. But the European left are offered the last word.

The incoming Socialist leader of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, sounded like an Iberian Dennis Kucinich, dismissing the liberation of Iraq as a "disaster" that had led to "nothing but hate and unrest." Journalists like to think they are the idealists. All they're channeling with the Zapatero line is strategic apathy and historical ignorance.