New York media treasure Pete Hamill and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol erupted into a verbal brawl yesterday over the Pentagon’s ban on showing pictures of coffins of returning soldiers from Iraq.
Voice of the people Hamill can’t get enough of them, while the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard sees it all a bit unseemly.
Kristol defended the restriction as a “matter of taste.” Hamill, a former columnist and editor-in-chief of both the New York Daily News and New York Post, wants as many coffin pictures as it takes to arouse public opinion against the continued occupation of Iraq. He wants images of “blood on the ground.” Kristol retorted that people understand soldiers die in wars. Americans, after all, are not “idiots,” he said.
Hamill bemoaned tight military control over the media that was instituted after Vietnam, where reporters could go anywhere they wanted to report on the fighting. Kristol doesn’t believe the current media are hindered by the Pentagon. He noted that CBS, a mainstream media outfit, broke the news about Abu Ghraib.
Christopher Buckley, author of "Thank You for Smoking" and contributor to the Daily Beast website, agreed that a Vietnam “mindset” controls policymakers in the Pentagon. He sided with Kristol about controlling media access in the age of the 24/7 news cycle. “Just imagine if CNN was around during the D-Day invasion,” he said. A few days after the beaches were taken and allied forces were “mired in the hedgerows,” CNN would have questioned “whether the invasion was worth it.”
Buckley added a dose of levity to the proceeding. In talking about his high-profile endorsement of Barack Obama, which led to his departure from the National Review, Buckley said he is still waiting for his ambassadorship. Host Arianna Huffington kidded that Buckley may be appointed to the Court of St. James. “More like Equatorial Guinea,” he replied.