Jewish World Review April 10, 2003 / 8 Sivan, 5763
Giving government a good name
The alienation between the government
of the United States and its people has narrowed sharply in
the past two weeks, as the story of the war in Iraq has
unfolded on our TV screens. The conviction that the
government will not tell the truth, which lay at the root of
that distrust, has been laid to waste by the forthrightness
and openness of the war coverage by the Bush
The synapses between the government and the public have
narrowed as the war has progressed. People have come to
understand that the government says what it means and
means what it says.
When we are assured that Washington will do all it can to
avoid civilian casualties, we are impressed by the use of
precision-guided munitions to make good on this promise.
When we are told that American troops will be protected
and prisoners of war rescued, we are heartened by the low
casualty figures and the gallant mission to free Jessica
Lynch. When we hear that the war will be won quickly, we
watch breathlessly as American troops slice their way into
A public conditioned by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon
and Bill Clinton to hearing lies from its president now has
begun to develop a trust in government that bridges the
most fundamental gap in American politics over the past 30
years - the credibility gap of official Washington.
When a helicopter goes down, the Pentagon strains to tell
us exactly who was killed and precisely what caused the
crash. It is almost as if it hastens to give us bad news and
conceals the good. We don't hear body counts of enemy
soldiers, but when an American dies, the military briefers
report it instantly and breathlessly.
When something goes wrong, when friendly fire causes
American or Kurdish or British deaths, we learn about it
immediately - from our own government. When the
progress of the war inclines us to euphoria, we learn the
bad news of the combat that awaits us in the future - from
our own Pentagon.
Unaccustomed to hearing the truth from our politicians, we
are getting it squarely from our government.
Those news organs, entertainers and political figures who
appeal to us based on a distrust in government are the big
losers in this new era of trust and credibility. When The
New York Times implies that a quagmire lies ahead but
hints that our government doesn't want us to know the truth
or when retired generals darkly hint that plans have gone
awry, we have only to turn on our televisions and see the
war live and in person, reported with all the accuracy and
immediacy we could possibly want.
This disjuncture between the dire predictions and ominous
warnings we read in the elite media and the reality we see
on television footage is widening the credibility gap of the
doomsayers and narrowing it for the government.
The line "Trust me, I'm from the government" is no longer a
Extremists of the left and the right still bemoan our loss of
privacy and warn of plots to deceive us. But their
prophesies increasingly belong to the paranoia of the
way-out left and the far right, rather than a rational calculus
based on experience.
We are watching, hearing and reading our government
telling us the truth, and it is a welcome change for us all.
Do we trust our government to intercept phone calls and
monitor Internet traffic? How do we balance the need to
protect privacy and stop another terrorist attack? Can we
trust police and prosecutors not to abuse the new power
the Patriot Act gives them?
These are the central questions of Homeland Security
policy. The reservoir of good will and trust engendered by
the tenor and nature of the coverage of the war in Iraq is
helping us all to see that the government of Johnson, Nixon
and Clinton is not the government of George W. Bush.
This government is one that we can, increasingly,
grudgingly, guardedly trust.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.
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03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
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01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
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12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
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12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
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11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
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11/08/02 I have egg on my face
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10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
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10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
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10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
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09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
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08/28/02: Trust the military
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08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
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07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
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06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
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05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
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04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
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03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
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02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
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02/01/02: They all talk in the end
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01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine
01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
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12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
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11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
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11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
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11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
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© 2002, Dick Morris