By Darryl Mason
It certainly wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that President Bush has few friends left in the mainstream media. At least, there are few who will come out and praise him directly for something he's done.
One of Australia's most popular newspaper columnists and bloggers, Andrew Bolt, ran a blog post today about President Bush's appearance at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner where he cracked jokes, and talked about how he should make his eventual memoirs "a pop-up book".
Bolt's praise of Bush was gushing :
You can see those comments for yourself here.
George Bush has been personally vilified beyond all reason and measure.
But he has retained an unusual civility and dignity - and a terrific line in self-deprecatory wit.And he maintains a chivalry and graciousness that would put many of his critics to shame.
For examples of the vicious spite, malice and barbarity of the latter, read the comments. (The worst have been deleted.)
It should be noted that as far as Bush having "a terrific line in self-deprecatory wit", it's highly unlikely that Bush wrote his own speech. Without a script in front of him, or one memorised, Bush is notoriously bad at making his thoughts and opinions come out in easy-to-understand sentences.
As Bolt mentions, his blog administrators have been censoring comments that Bolt has deemed to be full of "vicious spite, malice and barbarity". In censoring what he interprets to be un-acceptable comments, Bolt is doing what few media blogs in the world have yet done.
Short of calling for the assassination of the president, blogs on mainstream media sites from the Washington Post to the London Times regularly feature dozens, sometimes hundreds, of rabidly critical and furious comments about what the president has done to the US, to Iraq, and to the world in general.
The comments Bolt has allowed through are somewhat harsh, but I think his censorship is more to do with the fact that so few Bolt blog readers have anything good to say about Bush, that he is trying to even up the balance of opinion somewhat.
It's a hard task, as many of the comments praising Bush read like cut and paste comments that can be regularly found on other news blog message boards where the anti-Bush crowd hugely outnumber those with a good word to say.
Like these comments, for example, which include key right-wing, pro-WoT talking points :
"What a truly great and noble President GW Bush is. A remarkable man who stands for freedom and justice and is prepared to make the hard decisions despite the hollow mockery of our enemies."
"How can you compare a man who is trying to save the world from terrorism, a war which must be won. To one that enslaved millions, Hitler cannot be compared to Bush. Bush is fighting for freedom while Hitler went to fight for domination."It's also hard to know if Bolt is serious in his gushing praise for Bush :
"I think he’s probably too nice for the job, despite what his haters say...despite the tirades of abuse he’s received over the war on terror, virtually all the errors he’s made in the conduct of that war have been errors of being too nice and too moderate, not too brutal."
"...imbeciles who hate Bush really just hate America and everything what America stands for."
....he has retained an unusual civility and dignity - and a terrific line in self-deprecatory wit.He may well not be.
And he maintains a chivalry and graciousness...
Bolt found his large blog audience off the back of being a full-blown global warming sceptic, a near ceaseless blamer of 'The Left' for the all the world's ills, a faithful Israel apologist, and his endless promotion of the most extreme of Australia's Muslim clerics and spokesmen as being representative of the entire Australian Muslim community, which they clearly are not.
Bolt likes to tease and infuriate his audience, and then pretend to be outraged when he provokes angry comments which he then uses to bolster his absurd and clearly irrelevant argument that 'The Left' are obsessed with violence and constantly apologise for the brutality of the world's worst dictators and totalitarians.
To opinionsts like Bolt, an avid and faithless supporter of the Iraq Occupation, anyone with a bad word to say about President Bush, or Australia's prime minister John Howard, is a seething, vicious "Leftie" or Bush-basher or Howard-hater. Bolt clearly doesn't believe in shades of grey.
Likewise, anyone who criticises the appalling failure of the Iraq Occupation is not only a "Leftie" but may well be a supporter of Al Qaeda.
In BoltWorld, if you believe in global warming, or that the world is currently undergoing the first stages of severe and long-lasting climate change, then you have been taken in by a new religion designed to make money off dread and fear.
Bolt can be entertaining, but like most opinionists who avidly supported the Iraq Occupation and long denied the rise of the insurgency - citing Donald Rumsfeld quotes as proof that "The Left" was trying to undermine American forces in Iraq - Bolt now barely or rarely mentions what is happening in Iraq, despite the Iraq Occupation being the biggest story since 9/11.
And therein lies the greatest example of Bolt's credibility problem.
Such blind, blatant ignorance to what is now happening in Iraq can only lead you to wonder if Andrew Bolt actually has no problem with the full-scale slaughter of Iraqis, be they Christian or Shia or Sunni or Kurds.
Like many of his stripe, Bolt spent days mocking 'The Lancet' study into Iraqi civilian deaths, which concluded more than 650,000 people are likely to have perished during the Occupation.
Now it has been revealed that British PM Tony Blair's own advisers had accepted the credibility of 'The Lancet' methodology used to tally up the 650,000 + figures, Bolt has gone silent on the issue.
Again, it's a pattern of behaviour Bolt no doubt consciously uses to incite and frustrate a key percentage of his online audience. From a general overview of comments alone, it's easy to assume that more than half of Bolt's readers come to his blog because they get a kick out reading things that piss them off or make them feel outraged.
There would be next to no general audience for hard right-wing leaning blogs in Australia, the UK or the US, if their opponents didn't secretly enjoy getting wound up at such sites. But increasingly, as Andrew Bolt shows today, those visitors are being censored or locked out of the comment board debates.
Anyway, President Bush still has at least one constant and unquestioning friend in the mainstream media, even if he is half the world away in Australia.