Good News is Sometimes Actually News, Even Near an Election

CNN reports that Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah, a member of the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list and planner of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, was killed this past April in an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.

Chris in Paris, writing on the popular AMERICAblog, is furious.

CNN tows the line, again. Sure the world is better without someone like him, but why the big announcement and hype now? The air strike happened months ago in April and suddenly out of nowhere, it makes a splash. Give me a break. If only Tom Ridge was around to call more alerts, on queue, during the election season. These people are so pathetic and I can’t wait until they get thrown out on their asses. I have had it with the fear card being over-played and so-called accomplishments being over-hyped. Yes, I have had enough.

[Update: Josh Marshall has a similar, but much more understated, reaction: “Hmmm. Guy involved in the embassy bombings killed in April. And it’s October. Okay.”]

CNN Hype Umm, maybe because the DNA tests confirming his death were just completed? And it’s not like there’s a lot of hype over this. No banner headlines. No proclamations that the war is almost over. Just a hyperlink on the front page of with a bland headline. (Indeed, if you look at the screen capture thumbailed at right, you’d swear that “Rent Movies from Netflix” was the top story of the day.)

The man had been a major al Qaeda operative for fifteen years and was responsible for the deaths of at least a couple dozen Americans. He has been confirmed dead and taken off the Most Wanted list. Surely, that rates some mention? You want hype, look at the Natalie Holloway and Jon Benet Ramsey stories. Or Mark Foley. Or Macaca. This, friends, ain’t hype.

Mark Danziger argued in a column yesterday that American journalists would be more highly regarded if they took some cues from their predecessors.

In World War II, Ernie Pyle found and publicized flaws in our military — but he did it in the context of supporting the larger war effort. In Vietnam, Joe Galloway spent his first night in the field as a journalist manning a machine gun emplacement.

That’s not what we ought to expect from our media today. We don’t need journalists as cheerleaders (not that Pyle or Galloway ever were) or as combatants. But I do know that a lot of us would feel better about the criticism leveled by the media at things the U.S. is doing if we were sure that — in the event of an ambush by enemies determined to kill some of us — they wouldn’t just see it as a good story.

I’m not asking for White House-led journalism, just journalism from people who convince me that they really do have our best interests —as opposed to our best stories — at heart.

The same could be said for our citizen journalists, too. Surely, we can take sides in the partisan fight without losing sight of the fact that it’s an intramural one. We can be happy when enemies of our country are eliminated, even if it provides some incremental advantage to incumbent politicians we would like to see defeated in the next election.

That what’s good for America is good for President Bush doesn’t negate the fact that it’s good for America.

UPDATE: Mark Halperin et al write the following on ABC News’ blog under the heading “The Note: Pending: Six Days of November Surprises”:

How the (liberal) Old Media plans to cover the last two weeks of the election:

1. Glowingly profile Speaker-Inevitable Nancy Pelosi, with loving mentions of her grandmotherly steel (see last night’s 60 Minutes), and fail to describe her as “ultra liberal” or “an extreme liberal,” which would mirror the way Gingrich was painted twelve years ago.

2. Look at every attempt by the President to define the race on his terms as deluded and desperate; increasingly quote Republican strategists saying that the President is hurting the party whenever he enters the fray.

3. Refuse to join the daily morning Ken Mehlman-Rush Limbaugh conference calls, despite repeated invitations. LINK

4. Imbue every Democratic candidate for whom Bill Clinton campaigns with a golden halo.

5. Paint groups that run ads or do turnout for Republican candidates as shadowy, extreme, corrupt, and illegitimate; describe their analogues on the left as valiant underdogs, part of a People’s Army (with homage to Rich Lowry).

6. Care more about voter disenfranchisement than voter fraud.

7. Take every Republican quote expressing some trepidation about the outcome and banner it.

8. Drop any pretense of covering good news from Iraq (uhm&.) or good news about the economy, including some upcoming positive macro numbers (Quick, Note readers: name the current Secretary of the Treasury.). LINK

9. Amplify Obama-mania as a metaphor for the Democratic Party being the party of excitement and the future.

10. Fail to follow Bob Novak’s analysis of the difference between Democratic and Republican oppo plants. LINK

11. Lock in the CW (which, shockingly, could be wrong) that the winner of two out three Senate races in Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri will control the Senate.

About right.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Cernig says:

    Hi James,

    Not being American, I am not quite so partisan about what is good for America – although in general I think America is a fine nation of good people who got conned into voting for a charlatan.

    However, in this case the news is good for the world and if it happens to be good news for Bush too then I’m just fine with that.

    Moreover, this guy’s death was reported back in April too. It’s easy enough to google. I enjoy AmericaBlog as often as I do OTB, but in this case they jumped a little too far.

    Still it’s hardly in that same category as Rush Limbaugh claiming Fox was either off his meds or acting, is it?

    Regards, C

  2. James Joyner says:


    Fair enough. The news now is just the confirmation, I guess.

    And true ’nuff on Limbaugh. I’ve long viewed him mostly as an entertainer rather than an opinion journalist, though.

  3. civilbehavior says:

    600K Iraqi’s dead, 22,000 Americans maimed or dead in less than four years as compared to Saddams 500K tops in 21 years….so who’s counting?

    Did I hear someone say “we’ve never been stay the course”?

    Foolish Americans……

  4. b says:

    From the CNN article:

    DNA testing confirmed the Pakistani government’s claim, U.S. officials said, and Atwah’s name was removed from the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

    Am I missing where it says when the DNA tests were completed? I’m not saying it wasn’t done recently, just please point me to where it says when the tests came back.

  5. madmatt says:

    I can get a dna test done within 48 hrs…exactly how incompetent is the bush admin?

  6. >Lock in the CW (which, shockingly, could be

    The House GOP conrol contract on tradesports is currently running in the 30’s. So if you’re so sure the CW is wrong, you have a great oppurtunity to triple your money.

    If this is the case, I invite you to put your money where your mouth is. Otherwise, it sounds rather like whistling past the graveyard.

  7. Pug says:

    Hopefully Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah arrived in Hell about seven months ago and is well aware now that the seventy-two virgin thing is a lie.

  8. Tom says:

    I guess when you are getting the shit knocked out of you and all the lies you told are starting to unravel, well it is time to dust off another “top level operative”, isn’t it? Here we are. October being the worst month EVER for American troops, but we killed another al quida member. Wow, big deal! We have been killing 2nd in commands for years now. How many 2nd in commands do they have? Or maybe we are just being lied to again. What do you think? Are you proud to be an American? During five years of lies and misconduct we have developed into a semi-fascist state where most of the world hates us and we are making more terrorists every day due to our inability to even understand the difference between Sunnis, Kurds, etc. How many Arab speaking intelligence folks do we have? People please. This is not very difficult. If your own children lied to you all the time, you would put a stop to it, right? If your kids were constantly “making things up”, you would stop it right? How about your kids failing at every opportunity – would you step in to change things? Of course you would, but not for bushco. I can’t figure that one out. For all the incompetence and criminality, what do you get out of it? And really, I am asking – what do you get out of the whole debacle? Anybody? Bueller?, Anybody? Please help me to understand how and why losing our civil rights, treasury, global image, fine men and women, souls, moral compass balances out with bushco’s vanity war. Why are we there again? Please wake up, it’s about time.

  9. Anderson says:

    You know, I’d always *heard* The Note was crap, but I never actually looked at it. No need to, it seems.

  10. spencer says:

    Of course you are right, Larry Kudlow doing an interview of Nancy Pelose on CNBC is just another example of the liberal press bias.

  11. Bandit says:

    How the (liberal) Old Media plans to cover the last two weeks of the election:

    The same way they handle it every other day. Unpaid campaign contributions to the Dems.

  12. Craig says:

    Refuse to join the daily morning Ken Mehlman-Rush Limbaugh conference calls, despite repeated invitations.

    Why on earth would any serious journalist want to sit in on a daily call with a guy who ridicules his political opponent’s terminal disease? The right has smarter commentators; Limbaugh just isn’t one of them. And can we view any journalist as “serious” who sees failing to listen to Limbaugh’s drivel as evidence of journalistic partisan bias?

  13. James Joyner says:

    Craig: I presume the list is somewhat tongue in cheek. Still, I thought that one odd as well. (I don’t know if such a call actually exists, although I doubt it.)