“Mission Accomplished” - Media Reaction

“Mission Accomplished” - Media Reaction

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today Op-Ed, "Relax, Celebrate Victory." The same day, exactly five years ago, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq -- with the now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner arrayed behind him in the war's greatest photo op.

PBS' Gwen Ifill said Bush was "part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan." On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, "The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a -- on a carrier landing."

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: "As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time." His guest, Joe Klein, responded: "Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me." Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run.

When Bush's jet landed on an aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded.

The following looks at how one newspaper -- it happens to be The New York Times -- covered the Bush declaration and its immediate aftermath. One snippet: "The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today."

(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/5-years-ago-how-the-media_b_99633.html)

Mission Accomplished: A look back at the media's coverage of Bush's declaration of victory in Iraq --

On the May 1, 2003, edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews was joined by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and "Democrat" Pat Caddell.

MATTHEWS: Ann Coulter, you're the first to speak tonight on the buzz. The president's performance tonight, redolent of the best of Reagan -- what do you think?

COULTER: It's stunning. It's amazing. I think it's huge. I mean, he's landing on a boat at 150 miles per hour. It's tremendous. It's hard to imagine any Democrat being able to do that. And it doesn't matter if Democrats try to ridicule it. It's stunning, and it speaks for itself.

MATTHEWS: Pat Caddell, the president's performance tonight on television, his arrival on ship?...

CADDELL: He looks like a fighter pilot.

MATTHEWS: He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him -- I mean, he seems like -- he didn't fight in a war, but he looks like he does.

Later that day, on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Matthews said:

MATTHEWS: We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like [former President Bill] Clinton or even like [former Democratic presidential candidates Michael] Dukakis or [Walter] Mondale, all those guys, [George] McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits. We don't want an indoor prime minister type, or the Danes or the Dutch or the Italians, or a [Russian Federation President Vladimir] Putin. Can you imagine Putin getting elected here? We want a guy as president.

On the May 7, 2003, edition of Hardball, Matthews asked former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy what he thought of the response to Bush's landing on the Abraham Lincoln. Looking at the footage, Liddy commented that Bush's flight suit made "the best of his manly characteristic."

On the May 1 edition of CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Williams, now anchor of NBC's Nightly News, said of Bush:

WILLIAMS: And two immutable truths about the president that the Democrats can't change: He's a youthful guy. He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit. He is a former pilot, so it's not a foreign art farm -- art form to him. Not all presidents could have pulled this scene off today.

The print media joined in the collective swoon the following day. From a May 2, 2003, article in The New York Times by staff writer David E. Sanger:

"But within minutes Mr. Bush emerged for the kind of photographs that other politicians can only dream about. He hopped out of the plane with a helmet tucked under his arm and walked across the flight deck with a swagger that seemed to suggest he had seen Top Gun. Clearly in his element, he was swarmed by cheering members of the Lincoln's crew."

Even in a White House that prides itself on its mastery of political staging, Mr. Bush's arrival on board the Lincoln was a first of many kinds.

On the May 1 edition of CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Williams, now anchor of NBC's Nightly News, said of Bush:

WILLIAMS: And two immutable truths about the president that the Democrats can't change: He's a youthful guy. He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit. He is a former pilot, so it's not a foreign art farm -- art form to him. Not all presidents could have pulled this scene off today.

On the May 3, 2003, edition of CNN's The Capital Gang, then-Time columnist Margaret Carlson spoke of the "stirring tableau":

CARLSON: A hurricane couldn't have interfered with that particular parade. It was so well done, and even though we knew that everything was choreographed down to, you know, catching that fourth hook on the ship, it was still a pretty stirring tableau. Cecil B. DeMille couldn't have been done better. And even though you know there's no Santa Claus, Christmas is still great, as it was with that particular moment.

And appearing on the May 4, 2003, edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham discussed her reaction:

INGRAHAM: Speaking as a woman, and listening to the women who called into my radio show, seeing President Bush get out of that plane, carrying his helmet, he is a real man. He stands by his word. That was a very powerful moment.

(http://mediamatters.org/items/200604270005Mission accomplished)

“He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star and one of the guys.”Lou Dobbs on George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech (CNN, 5/1/03)

“The war winds down, politics heats up. . . Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.” —PBS’s Gwen Ifill on Bush’s speech (5/2/03)

(http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3489)

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