WASHINGTON: The Bush administration took steps last week to counter seemingly unexpected consequences stemming from its own embedded-media program in Iraq.
With public opinion of the conflict rising and falling in reaction to the 24-hour, blow-by-blow coverage, administration officials took to the airwaves to calm nerves and remind the public that war requires patience and perspective, and that America was committed to toppling the Iraqi regime regardless of how long it may take.
"It's important to remind ourselves that what the world is seeing is 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week television news on this subject," said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on ABC News' This Week on March 30. "It's been going on nine days. It's a little early for postmortems."
Matthew Felling, media director at the Center for Media and Public Affairs, interpreted the new message from Rumsfeld as the result of unexpected reactions to the Pentagon's embedding program.
"This is the most disciplined administration on record when it comes to message control, but the embeds are forcing them to do a bit of improv on the fly," he said. "The real-time aspect of the embeds is pushing the storyline along at a pace of its own rather than at a pace the administration would like to set, and it is disorienting to them."
He remained confident, however, that the administration had weighed the cost of such variables before implementing the program, and hence was probably still more pleased than not with the results thus far.