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Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco
by Burt Prelutsky
by Mark Steyn
||ABC's Bumpy Path to 9/11
The controversy over ABC's "The Path to 9/11" movie missed an
important point: the Democrats went over the line in threatening to
revoke ABC's broadcast license unless changes were made to benefit
former President Clinton and officials of his Administration. By taking
this approach, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his cohorts were
acting like would-be censors.
In a letter to Robert Iger, president and CEO of the Walt Disney
Company, the parent of ABC, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid,
Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Debbie Stabenow,
Senator Charles Schumer, and Senator Byron Dorgan demanded changes in
the film, saying, "The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network
with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental
understanding of your principle [sic] obligation to act as a trustee of
the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this
public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of
broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an
open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events."
The message was unmistakable: change the film to please us or face
legal and congressional consequences. And changes were made. But where
were the cries from the media about Senator Reid & Company
violating the First Amendment?
Regarding the movie itself, it purported to take the report of the
9/11 commission and turn it into a "docudrama," which is an oxymoron.
It aired on the night before and the night of the 9/11 attacks, making
the subject matter extremely controversial and timely.
The Clinton camp had a legitimate gripe, in not wanting to be
portrayed falsely. But bickering over specific scenes in the movie is
less important than noting the fact that the Clinton and his officials
passed on numerous opportunities to kill or capture Bin Laden. AIM has pointed out that according to the London Sunday Times, and other sources, Clinton
said that the "biggest mistake" of his presidency was turning down
Sudan's offer to extradite bin Laden to the U.S.
Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, who had been a military aide to
then-president Clinton from 1996 to 1998 and later became a major
critic, gave his account of the film to WorldNetDaily. Patterson, who had been consulted by the
producers of the film, said that "I was there with Clinton and
(National Security Adviser Sandy) Berger and watched the missed
opportunities occur." He described an incident in which Berger placed
an urgent call to Clinton, who was watching a golf tournament. Finally,
on the third time that Patterson approached Clinton about the matter,
he was told that he would call Berger shortly, but by then, according
to Patterson, the window of opportunity had closed.
Conservatives were divided over the film. John Podhoretz wrote a
column for the New York Post pointing out why these docudramas are so
problematic. He argued that it did a great disservice to then-National
Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, but not to President Clinton, whose record spoke for itself.
On the other hand, Victor Davis Hanson pointed out that the movie was generally accurate and well done. Hanson argued the
tendency to exaggerate or distort real-life events occurs not only in
docudramas but in the news itself. Two good examples are so-called
historical books such as those by Bob Woodward, and Dan Rather's
"And what are we to think of Bill Clinton lamenting the movie's
supposed deviation from the 'truth,'" wrote Hanson, "or Sandy Berger's
concern about protocols, or Madeline Albright's apparent charge of
partisanship, this from a former Secretary of State who has traveled
the globe plugging her book by faulting her successors to foreign media
in a time of war. Although I'm not a fan of docudramas, I found The Path to 9/11,
with its disclaimers, far closer to the 'truth' about the saga of bin
Laden than what turned up in Bill Clinton's 'factual' autobiography."
A few months after 9/11, Byron York of National Review wrote a detailed account of the Clinton administration's record on dealing with the terrorist
acts that took place during his two terms in office. The publication
re-ran the article days before the ABC movie was shown, with this
editor's note: "When it comes to Bill Clinton's record on terrorism,
there's no need to invent fictional scenarios to show how ineffective
he was; the truth is bad enough."
President Bush's request for airtime the night of 9/11 to talk about
the war on Islamic radicalism had the effect of making the docudrama
even more controversial. Peter Rollins, the editor of Film and History,
said that Bush made the film work for his ends, "providing the upbeat
solution which the film left out." Otherwise, said Rollins, the film
"left us in ruins rather than showing the dramatic victory in
Afghanistan and then the assault on Iraq."
Wearing his film critic's hat, Rollins pointed out that while "The
Path to 9/11" was not a documentary, it used documentary techniques,
such as the hand-held camera, and "slash" shots of parts of faces for
dramatic effect, a technique created by CBS's 60 Minutes.
We are not entirely comfortable with such a technique. But tackling
history through a docudrama at least represented an attempt to deal
with something that actually happened.
In the end, the fact remains: Clinton was in power for 8 years
before 9/11. Bush was in power for only 8 months. That helps explain
why the Clinton Administration came in for so much scrutiny. CRO
2006 Accuracy in Media www.aim.org