Ever since Watergate hero Bob Woodward revealed a 66-page secret Pentagon report Sept. 22 in The Washington Post that revealed U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was seeking an additional 40,000 American troops for Afghanistan, the White House has deftly controlled the message, shaped the narrative, crafted the president’s wartime image and kept the news media eating out of its hand as it made its way toward a final decision.
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On the surface, it might appear that publication of the McChrystal report came as a surprise to President Barack Obama, forcing him to scramble to respond before he wanted to and triggering a slow, two- month-plus reassessment that has been criticized by former Vice President Dick Cheney as “dithering.”
But a detailed examination of news coverage of the reassessment issue in the major national newspapers, primarily The Washington Post and The New York Times, suggests that many angles and details of the stories were being carefully fed by White House aides to all-too-willing reporters who dressed it up as the inside dope. In reality, many reporters were steered into spinning the story exactly the way the White House wanted it told, with relatively little skepticism or criticism.
And now that a decision will be announced Tuesday night, here is how the media told it: Obama, faced with a difficult and agonizing decision, was wisely taking his time and deliberatively listening to all of the arguments, pro and con, including dissenters on his staff, pushing the military for more details about goals, tactics, cost in dollars, exit strategies and timetables.
Read More: By RICHARD BENEDETTO, Politico