David Gregory: Blame Congress, Not Media
Responding to Scott McClellan’s charge that “the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq,” NBC White House correspondent David Gregory defended his profession.
I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us in the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that.
If there wasn’t a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate? Where was public opinion about the war? What did the former president believe about the prewar intelligence? He agreed that — in fact, Bill Clinton agreed that Saddam had WMD.
The right questions were asked. I think there’s a lot of critics — and I guess we can count Scott McClellan as one — who thinks that if we did not debate the president, debate the policy in our role as journalists, if we did not stand up and say, “This is bogus,” and “You’re a liar,” and “Why are you doing this?” that we didn’t do our job. And I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.
Gregory’s right here. Yes, the press dutifully passed on the claims about what classified intelligence reports said that were made by the president, administration officials, and others. But, certainly, they reported the counter-arguments with vigor. The views of Brent Scowcroft, Jim Baker, and other prominent Republican critics were given especial prominence.
It’s the job of the press to gather and present information, not to decide policy. We elect a president and 535 representatives, divided into two Houses of Congress, to do that. Ultimately, it’s Congress’ job to check and balance the president, not the media’s.
The gang at Media Matters apparently disagrees, noting that, “Of the 258 Democrats in Congress at the time, 147 voted against the resolution, while 110 voted for it. One Democrat did not vote.”
But the arguments of those 147 were most certainly heard. But the fact of the matter is that 43 percent of the Democrats, including such luminaries as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, voted with the president along with almost all the Republicans. This after a debate that dragged on for more than a year.