Best L.A. Times Columns Are Certainly Not On The Editorial Pages
Just think, in the past week we've had Steve Lopez dealing with Cardinal Mahony, Al Martinez eulogizing the Pope, Dan Neil bashing General Motors and Tim Rutten delving into why there haven't been, outside of photographers, many Pulitzers devoted to Iraqi war subjects.
I think in some ways Rutten's column was most interesting, and there is really nothing in it to take all that dramatic exception to, although I wonder whether he is implying that the American press isn't being tough enough on the Iraq war or on what I view as the fairly gallant and efficient American military.
At the swearing in last Monday of Fran Rothschild as a justice of the California State Court of Appeal, Jim Adler, an acquaintance, chastised the press. "Why isn't the press more critical of President Bush," he asked me.
I answered, "Well, after all, the President was reelected." And I could have added that some even felt all the bashing he got from the press last year helped reelect him.
There may be some indication in recent polls, the rise in gas prices, antipathy to the President's Social Security proposals, the continuation of the insurgency in Iraq and the slow progress with assemblying the new Iraq government that the bloom is off the rose already with the second term of George W. Bush.
But another way to look at it is that the American people remain, on the whole, fairly satisfied with the progress in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, where it seems democracy is gaining. Even the delays in organizing the new Iraqi government may simply reflect the fact that the Islamic fundamentalists didn't do as well in the vote as had been expected, and that the high Kurdish turnout actually forced the Kurds into the ruling coalition. Of course, the Sunni failure to vote in any numbers helped bring about this result, another example of the Sunni tendency in several Middle Eastern countries to cut their own throat.
In my own view, there haven't been many Pulitzers in Iraq, because the situation hasn't jelled yet. The Pulitzers in Vietnam that Rutten writes about developed, by and large, as the American position deteriorated, and the press got more and more pungent in its criticisms.
But in Iraq we deposed an awful regime and the insurgents are really much less admirable by any standards than the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. There also seems more strategic value in our being in the Middle East than there was in our being in Vietnam. It could just be that we are on the right track in Iraq and the Middle East and this doesn't make for the incisive critical journalism that marked the Vietnam war.
Rutten concludes by referring to what he sees as "the inherent conservatism of the Pulitzer jurors."
But it can't be that that has prevented the awarding of many Pulitzer prizes on Iraqi subjects. Let's face it, the Pulitzer jurors are a pretty liberal group and most of the Pulitzer prizes go to fairly liberal writing.