Following recent White House insistence that U.S. operations in Iraq are going quite well and the media should try accentuating the positive for a change, CNN's Howard Kurtz on Sunday asked CBS correspondent Lara Logan whether slanted media coverage might be to blame for the American public's unfairly negative opinion of the war. Kurtz, who told Wolf Blitzer on Friday that the media's Iraq coverage is indeed too negative, kicked off the interview on a friendly note by telling Logan that "Bush and Cheney essentially seemed to be accusing you and your colleagues of carrying the terrorist message by reporting on so many of these attacks." And then, in one of the more inspiring television segments I can remember, Logan absolutely handed it to him. To get the best sense of her poise and obvious emotion, you have to watch the clip. If you don't do video, though, here are some high points:
Kurtz: "Critics would say, well, no wonder people back home think things are falling apart because we get this steady drumbeat of negativity from the correspondents there."
Logan: "Well, who says things aren't falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn't see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces. What about all the American soldiers that died this week that you didn't see on our screens? ... If you had any idea of the number of Iraqis that come to us with stories of abuses of U.S. soldiers and you look at my coverage over the last few weeks, or even over the last three years, there's been maybe two or three stories that have related to that."
A little later, she went off to great effect about how U.S. military operations can actually prevent journalists from covering the more cheerful reconstruction stories Bush and Cheney are eager to see aired:
"You know, our own editors back in New York are asking us the same things. They read the same comments. You know, 'Are there positive stories? Can't you find them?' You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack. Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked. I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country. Reconstruction funds have been diverted away from reconstruction to -- they've been diverted to security. Soldiers, their lives are occupied most of the time with security issues. Iraqi civilians' lives are taken up most of the time with security issues. So how is it that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?"
At this point, I'm doing mock karate chops and high kicks. Take that, conservative spin doctors! Ka-blam! It's also at this point that Kurtz brought up a video clip for Logan to comment on, featuring conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham knocking Iraq correspondents for broadcasting "from hotel balconies."
Logan zinged back: "Well, I think it's outrageous. I mean, Laura Ingraham should come to Iraq and not be talking about what journalists are doing from the comfort of her studio in the United States, the comfort and the safety ... I have been out with Iraqi security forces over and over again. And you know what? When Bob Woodruff was out with Iraqi security forces and he was injured, the first thing that people were asking was, Oh, was he being responsible by placing himself in this position with Iraqi forces? And they started to question his responsibility and integrity as a journalist. I mean, we just can't win. I think it's an outrage to point the finger at journalists and say that this is our fault. I really do. And I think it shows an abject lack of respect for any journalist that's prepared to come to this country and risk their lives."
Impressively, Logan made all these cogent, vehement points without once raising her voice. She just calmly countered the criticism with more rhetorical firepower than I've seen in a long time. Rachel Sklar titled her post on the Logan-Kurtz face-off "Gigantic Huge Honking Girlcrush on Lara Logan," and I can only concur; I finished watching the segment mentally nominating her for every important leadership role I can think of, from the Oval Office to the U.N. But of course, she's already kicking ass and making the world a better place doing the job she signed up to do. I can only send CBS a fan letter in hopes that we keep seeing more of her, and hold up her speaking-truth-to-power fearlessness as a model for what to do when confronted with a specious argument.