There will be much wringing of hands today over the first anniversary of the “surge” announcement. The Democratic leadership has already declared the escalation a failure, despite the cut in violence on the ground. Republicans are trumpeting the “success.” What I would like to reflect on is this: At the critical turning point in America’s tragic adventure in Iraq, the editorial pages of the largest U.S. newspapers were surprisingly – even, appallingly – silent on President Bush’s likely decision to send thousands of more troops to the country.
After the plan was announced many of them did come out against it. But it was much, much too late. They dallied even as hawkish conservatives such as Oliver North, and dozens of other op-ed contributors (such as George Will and David Brooks), came out against the idea, and polls showed that 11% or less of the public backed the idea.
My survey of major papers’ editorial pages in the week before the Bush announcement found that very few said much of anything about the well-publicized “surge” idea, pro or con. The editorial page of The New York Times, for example, said nothing that week, beyond noting the "bleak realities" in Iraq, even as its regular columnists (including Tom Friedman) ripped the idea. Other papers often critical of the war, such as the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, USA Today, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- among others -- were also silent. Oddly, all of them had hailed the recent Iraq Study Group report -- which opposed an escalation.
The Washington Post did not rouse itself to take a stand. It did run a major op-ed by Sen. John McCain, titled, "The Case for More Troops." Cleveland's Plain Dealer, Denver's Rocky Mountain News, Portland's The Oregonian, Long Island's Newsday and New Jersey's Bergen Record did not breathe a word. On the Sunday before the Bush speech, The New York Times again failed to discuss the surge, even though it ran a lengthy editorial attack on Bush called "The Imperial Presidency 2.0."
An E&P article that reviews how the press (eventually) responded:
The great Richard Thompson's response: