Syria: To Attack or Not Attack, Part Two

Weekend coverage continued daily on the debate about Syria. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal updated their old articles and released new information. The Times article was a regular news piece,  while the WSJ piece was an opinion piece done by a regular columnist. There are obvious differences in the writing style and scope of information, but the main message is the same: Obama, in a ‘stunning’ move, is asking for Congress’s permission to launch a military strike against Syria.

The Wall Street Journal’s cover of this developing story has been different from the New York Times. An opinion piece by columnist Gerald F. Seib was the main article featured on their website, titled “Obama’s Road Map to Get Congressional Backing on Syria”; the Times titled “McCain Urges Lawmakers To Back Plans for Syria”, later that day changed to “President Gains McCain’s Backing On Syria Attack”. Just by examining their titles, the reader can tell how the tone of the article will portray the politics surrounding this debate.

In WSJ, Seib refers to Senator John McCain as “nobody in Congress [who] has been more vocal or consistent in pushing for action in Syria”,  and to South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham as his “sidekick”. “Those two form the backbone of a group of Republicans who would be only too happy to see the U.S. opposing Syria’s regime.”

The Times refers to this duo in a less sarcastic tone, more in an appraising tone. “The White House’s aggressive push for Congressional approval of an attack on Syria appeared to have won the tentative support of one of President Obama’s most hawkish Republican critics, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who said Monday that he supported a “limited” strike if the president did more to arm the Syrian opposition.”

In WSJ, Seib talks about the potential impact that Congress can have on this vote. He says that the “bitterly divided” Congress will have to unite, and that Obama is ‘throwing himself’ onto the mercy of a group of lawmakers as a last-ditch effort. Look at the following key words in this quote: “given up”, “failed”,”sidestepped”, and “dependent”. “But having given up on the idea of winning support for action at the United Nations Security Council, and having failed to win the support of America’s most trusted military partner, Britain, and having sidestepped the idea he can move decisively on his own, the president now has left himself dependent on a Congress where even his most anodyne proposals have been facing trouble.”

While this article is an opinion piece written by a columnist, it was the first suggested article on the WSJ website, until another piece also about Syria was released later on Monday.

One main issue with the Times article was wordiness; a majority of people reading this article are only going to read the first page, not all three. (Note: this review is of the first version of this article, which was posted on Monday morning. The Times updated and shortened the article later Monday evening.) This article has a lot of information that the public needs to know, but a majority of their audience will be getting this information from a television broadcast from NBC.  Also, in the earlier version of this article, the authors use White House staffers as sources for quotes, but do not name these individuals for their protection. In a story like this that involves many notable people, the authors could have gotten quotes from people they can name.

Congress is currently in recess, and will vote on this urgent matter on September 9th. Until then, France waits to proclaim definitive action in Syria. People are moving to safer areas out of Syria, and the government is preparing their defenses and retaliation for any possible attacks.

While we’re waiting and reading and watching the news, Americans should be identifying the key words used in reports and be aware of political biases. While we do not directly get to vote on this issue, we can write to our congressmen and remind them of the people they are representing.

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