COMMENTS: Imus by Default

The dust continues to settle in the Imus affair. Former morning radio host Don Imus kept his appointment with the women basketball players he insulted over the airwaves, even though Imus in the Morning no longer exists. The meeting was not treated as important enough to lead any of the three newscasts. But because there was no consensus about what story should be more important, Imus ended up as Story of the Day by default. ABC's lead was the car crash that injured John Corzine, the Governor of New Jersey, as he was en route to host the Rutgers-Imus conference. NBC chose the search for missing White House e-mails. CBS led with the aftermath of the explosion in Iraq's parliament building.

It turned out that only one parliamentarian, not three, had been killed by the bomb in the cafeteria. The shock was still severe, however. All three networks had their Baghdad correspondents cover the emergency mourning session of parliament convened in response. CBS' Martin Seemungal saw Sunni and Shiite members stand "united in silent tribute" and heard Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani voice emotional defiance: "The Iraqi parliament and the people are all one. They cannot be torn apart." Investigators suspect that the suicide attack was committed either by kitchen staff or by a bodyguard for one of the legislators, ABC's Hilary Brown reported: both bodyguards and politicians are "fast-tracked through security checks or not checked at all." Fareed Sabri, a Sunni MP, told her: "I know of one the ministers who has got about 750 bodyguards. So how can you check all the background of those people?"

Attacks are not supposed to happen inside the Green Zone enclave, CBS' Bill Plante pointed out from the White House. He quoted Gen Raymond Odierno: "We are going to have bad days. Frankly, yesterday was a bad day, a very bad day." And as a consequence "now gone is the perception of any safe zone in this city at war," NBC's Richard Engel reflected.

Elsewhere in Iraq, NBC' Mike Taibbi filed another entry in his On The Line series. It follows individual soldiers in the USArmy's Third Infantry Division from Fort Benning as they go to war. This time Taibbi picked Josh James, a rookie private, as he prepared--"psyching himself past that last vestige of nervousness"--for his first day of active combat duty guarding the Kuwait-Baghdad highway at Camp Kalsu. The road is nicknamed "the moon" because roadside bombs leave so many craters. James was all geared up for action when his shift was canceled. "I was all [expletive] prepared and everything." "You have got a whole year brother," his sergeant promised. The 19-year-old rookie may seem young…but not so young. He already has a two-year-old son back home in Georgia.


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