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The Bush Administration Should Stop Apologizing

By Doug Patton

Recently, on the floor of the United States Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney unceremoniously suggested to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, that Leahy do to himself what Democrats would like to do the entire country. That’s right; our normally laid-back veep dropped the big “F” bomb in the hallowed halls of Congress.

What had Cheney so miffed was Leahy’s partisan sniping about “war profiteering” by Halliburton, the company Cheney directed before becoming vice president. So, when Leahy tried to play nice by saying “hello” following a group photo on the Senate floor, Cheney let him have it.

A few days later, the vice president admitted the indiscretion on a cable news show, saying with a sly smile, “I don’t normally use language like that, but several members told me it was something that needed to be said for quite a while.”

Furthermore, Cheney made it clear he did not intend to apologize. The president should take a lesson from his second in command. So should the cabinet.

The incessant apologies from President Bush upon learning of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse were embarrassing to watch. This was especially true when he appeared on Arab television. An investigation was already under way. The system was working. Those responsible would have been punished. It is hard to know whether American media outlets and Democrat opponents would still be beating this worn out drum had the president simply stated those facts and moved on. One has to assume that the smell of blood in the political waters only made things worse.

The latest administration apology comes from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Wolfowitz observed that there is media bias concerning what the United States is accomplishing in Iraq. In the course of his testimony, Wolfowitz made the following candid statement:

“Part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors. And rumors are plentiful. Our own media have some responsibility to try to present a balanced picture, instead of always gravitating for the sensational. And the violence is certainly sensational.

Truer words were never spoken. Congressional delegations manage to talk to the troops. They are able to glean the truth. Why can’t the press? They make little or no effort to find the positive stories in Iraq. For instance, did you ever hear CNN report that allied troops, mostly Americans, have built 2,500 new schools for Iraqi children in a country that formerly denied girls an education at all?

Did they tell you that five million Iraqi children have been inoculated in a country that spent fifty cents per person per year on health care while their dictator built palaces and monuments to his twisted ego?

Have you ever heard Brokaw, Jennings or Rather report that Spanish troops, upon hearing that their cowardly new prime minister intended to pull them out of Iraq, wanted to know how they could join the American Army so they could stay and finish what has been started?

Do you know what American troops tell their congressional representatives when they have the opportunity? Many say that their biggest enemy is the American media, which will not report the whole story.

But in the spirit of the polarized times in which we live, when the message is muddled in the outrage of the moment, Paul Wolfowitz buckled to pressure and issued a open apology to the press for his remarks. Too bad. If he had stuck to his original statement, perhaps we could have had a dialog on this issue. Instead, we will no doubt be treated to another story about the prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and policy advisor at the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns are published in newspapers across the country. He is also a correspondent for Talon News Service (www.TalonNews.com). Readers can e-mail him at dpatton@neonramp.com.