Along about that time, some of the geniuses who had been clamoring for Iraq speech looked at some polls and said, Whoa! This ain't working so good for us. The President and the Networks:
The Speech that Didn’t Air (But Won the Ratings)

For months, the President of the United States has been challenged to lay out for the American people the whys and wherefores of war with Iraq.

The President would speak, the Vice President would speak, the Secretaries of State and Defense would speak and the National Security Advisor would speak. After they spoke, the litany would crank up again: But he’s got to lay it out so the American people will understand it. Now, not many real American people were saying that, but you had enough self-appointed spokespersons you couldn’t have gotten near a microphone anyway.

Well, the aforementioned would speak again, adding the British Prime Minister with his perspective. But the Secretary of State doesn’t agree with the Secretary of Defense, and the President has just absolutely, no question about it, got to lay this all out so the American people will understand it. Oh, and by the way, he’s got to go to the U.N.

So the President goes to the U.N., and he lays his hand on that table a lot more clearly than Presidents usually do. We don’t know about your section of the American people, but by then our section had a pretty good grasp of what this is all about, recognizing there are some details that we dare not be told lest the Attorney General lock us up as security risks.

Along about that time, some of the geniuses who had been clamoring for Iraq speech looked at some polls and said, Whoa! This ain’t working so good for us. The American people want the President to talk about something else now.

When I’m done, said the President, and off he goes to Cincinnati to say some more, to begin promptly at 8:01 p.m. on October 7. Well, somehow or other — it gets really confusing here — the ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS television networks decide not to broadcast the speech. The Fox Network, on the other hand, actually delayed the start of a major league baseball game (a lot harder than delaying the start of a pre-taped sitcom) to broadcast the speech, which was also carried live by all the major cable networks. In addition, at least some local broadcast affiliates of the networks rebelled and carried the speech.

After the speech, the Neilson people, who make a living counting such things, got out their digital abacuses and estimated that at least 17 million people watched the President. The nearest broadcast competitor was NBC’s "Fear Factor," during which 12.2 million numbskulls watched morons eat bees or something, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Unlike this piece, the President’s speech was serious. If you didn’t see it, you should read it. If you did see it, you should still read it. If you agree with him, tell him so, he’ll appreciate it. If you have questions, ask him. If you don’t agree with him, tell him so. Either way, it will be refreshing for him to hear from real Americans instead of that bunch of puffed-up clowns who run around using your name in vain.

As to the networks, an audience of 17 million people they didn’t get is sufficient unto a bunch of television suits blaming someone else for their poor news judgment. That the White House didn’t make an official request for the time is an intriguing sidelight, but at most suggests a list of folks who shouldn’t play poker with this President.

October 11, 2002
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