If he’s a cowboy, he’s the reluctant warrior, the Shane in the movie, strapping on the guns as the last resort because he has to, to protect his family, drawing on the emotions of 9/11, tying them to Saddam Hussein, using the possible or likely rejection vote from the U.N. as a badge of honor. --- Howard Fineman 3/6/03
That's probably his most famous quote. But it wasn't the only one extolling the virtues of our manly president. One of the most notorious pieces of the Iraq run-up for me was this one in TIME, which epitomized the press's fawning crush on George W. Bush:
FINEMAN (11/27/01): So who are the Bushes, really? Well, they’re the people who produced the fellow who sat with me and my Newsweek colleague, Martha Brant, for his first interview since 9/11. We saw, among other things, a leader who is utterly comfortable in his role. Bush envelops himself in the trappings of office. Maybe that’s because he’s seen it from the inside since his dad served as Reagan’s vice president in the ‘80s. The presidency is a family business. Dubyah loves to wear the uniform—whatever the correct one happens to be for a particular moment. I counted no fewer than four changes of attire during the day trip we took to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and back. He arrived for our interview in a dark blue Air Force One flight jacket. When he greeted the members of Congress on board, he wore an open-necked shirt. When he had lunch with the troops, he wore a blue blazer. And when he addressed the troops, it was in the flight jacket of the 101st Airborne. He’s a boomer product of the ‘60s—but doesn’t mind ermine robes.
Today Fineman writes about that interview and the media's failure after 9/11….
For journalists, the most patriotic thing we can do is our jobs -- which meant that we all should have doubled down on skepticism and tough questions. Some did. I wish I could say that I was one of them.
He certainly wasn't one of them. Indeed, he was a very reliable, enthusiastic mouthpiece for the administration…. Here's a little quote from Fineman from 2003:
I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn’t revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn’t a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA’s leave-Saddam-in-place team.
It actually makes you yearn for he said/she said, doesn't it? At least the other side would be represented…. [T]o me, it didn't take a professional journalist to see that George W. Bush and the Cheney cabal were warmongering liars. After all, they'd signaled their intentions for years. It was even on the internet. I hope he's wiser too, but I'm not getting my hopes up.