Reading about the Republican Party’s crumbling support for the Iraq war (a few years late and many billion dollars short), two quotes jumped out at me:

“I fully understand that when you watch the violence on TV every night, people are saying, ‘Is it worth it, can we accomplish an objective?'” Bush told a Cleveland business group. …
“I’ve seen this movie before from the liberal left in America, who share no responsibility for what happened in Cambodia when we said no,” said McCain, whose campaign has lost support partly because of his advocacy of the war.

It reminded me of yesterday’s post by Gareth Higgins, and the connection between violence of TV and movies and the real violence of terrorist acts and war. It was the juxtaposition of the quotes that caught my attention, for certainly a veteran like McCain understands how far from a movie is the violence of war. But why do Bush’s comments on the war so often reference the “violence on TV”—as opposed to violence in Iraq? You can do your own Google search—but here are a few examples:

From the same Cleveland speech: “”They know we’re kindhearted, decent people who value human life, and they understand that Americans will recoil from the violence on our TV screens.”
Feb. 14, 2007: “And I can understand why people are concerned when they turn on the TV screens and see this violence. It’s disturbing to people, and it’s disturbing to the Iraqi people.”
April 19, 2007: “Americans, rightly so, are concerned about whether or not we can succeed in Iraq. Nobody wants to be there if we can’t succeed, especially me. And these—violence on our TV screens affects our frame of mind….”
June 14, 2006: “I understand how tough it is for the American people to reconcile death on their TV screens when the president’s saying we’re making incremental progress toward an important goal.”

One possible criticism could be that Bush is trying to create some subtle distance between his policy and the reality of Iraq’s violence by so often referring to it in relation to TV coverage. Is the conservative response that Bush is correctly identifying part of the problem as the media’s negative coverage of Iraq’s carnage? Neither of these satisfy my curiosity regarding the consistency of this mantra, so seriously, can somebody explain Bush’s fixation with our TV screens?
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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