Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Pollyanna Does Baghdad

Imagine a massive policy undertaking by a U.S. administration. Early promises prove … misleading. Execution is a bit iffy. History’s judgment rides on the project’s success or failure.  The first draft of that history, of course, is provided by the media. I like to think that we have a strong fourth estate that will always ...

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Imagine a massive policy undertaking by a U.S. administration. Early promises prove ... misleading. Execution is a bit iffy. History's judgment rides on the project's success or failure. 

The first draft of that history, of course, is provided by the media. I like to think that we have a strong fourth estate that will always treat an administration's assertions with a respectful but skeptical approach. Just because I like to think something, however, doesn't make it so. 

It has been interesting to watch the media's approach to the roll-out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA -- aka Obamacare). For several years, the media forgot that it was allowed to question claims about how PPACA would work, or to investigate the status of preparations. Then there was the public launch in early October of last year, at which time the press had more important things to think about (Sen. Ted Cruz reciting Dr. Seuss). Then, at last, it was time to look at how the administration was executing its grand plan. 

Imagine a massive policy undertaking by a U.S. administration. Early promises prove … misleading. Execution is a bit iffy. History’s judgment rides on the project’s success or failure. 

The first draft of that history, of course, is provided by the media. I like to think that we have a strong fourth estate that will always treat an administration’s assertions with a respectful but skeptical approach. Just because I like to think something, however, doesn’t make it so. 

It has been interesting to watch the media’s approach to the roll-out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA — aka Obamacare). For several years, the media forgot that it was allowed to question claims about how PPACA would work, or to investigate the status of preparations. Then there was the public launch in early October of last year, at which time the press had more important things to think about (Sen. Ted Cruz reciting Dr. Seuss). Then, at last, it was time to look at how the administration was executing its grand plan. 

There was criticism, to be sure. The word "glitch" was eventually used only with sarcasm. But to connect this back to foreign policy, it is fun to think about how the current "look on the bright side" reportorial standards would have shaped coverage of the Iraq War. Some sample headlines below. Feel free to try your own. 

Despite Some Early Glitches, Meet Ahmed — Demonstrably Better Off

After Rocky Start, Administration Assures that it has Accomplished Its Own Goals for Better Governance

U.S. Has Thousands of Acres of Iraq Now Under Control

Opposition Must Accept: After Implementation There’s No Going Back on U.S. Involvement

White House Misspoke about WMD, but Democratization Goals Validate Mission

Phil Levy is the chief economist at Flexport and a former senior economist for trade on the Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush administration. Twitter: @philipilevy

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