AP, NYT Downplay U.S. Role in Chile Mine Rescue; Times Writers Cast Rescue Effort As a 'Political Calculation'

October 13th, 2010 9:16 AM

Michelle Malkin picked up on this vibe yesterday, and it has become more obvious in the intervening day: The establishment press, or at least parts of it, are downplaying the American exceptionalism -- and the exceptional Americans -- involved in the Chilean mine rescue.

Reports early this morning at the Associated Press and New York Times exemplify the point. Times reporters Alexei Barrionuevo and Simon Romero even chose to deliberately cast the rescue in brazenly cynical political terms.


First here are a few paragraphs from the AP's Frank Bajak and Vivian Sequera (saved here at host for current and future reference and for fair use and discussion purposes, since the current report will probably be revised throughout the day; bolds are mine throughout this post):

... The capsule - the biggest of three built by Chilean navy engineers - was named Phoenix for the mythical bird that rises from ashes. It was painted in the white, blue and red of the Chilean flag.


The miners' vital signs were closely monitored throughout the ride, given a high-calorie liquid diet donated by NASA, designed to prevent nausea from any rotation of the capsule as it travels through curves in the 28-inch-diameter escape hole.


... U.S. President Barack Obama praised rescuers, who include the team from Center Rock Inc. of Berlin, Pennsylvania who built and managed the piston-driven hammers that pounded open the hole.

The above is the only mention of NASA in the AP report. Not to understate the importance of the rations, but it seems to me that readers would be pleased to know that NASA engineers -- led by one exceptional American engineer -- did something infinitely more important: They designed the capsule the Chilean navy engineers built, as described in this AOL News Report:

Clinton Cragg is a NASA engineer on a troubleshooting safety team set up in the wake of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He had spent much of his professional life in the Navy, where he served as a submarine captain, accustomed to living in confined space.


So when the Chilean rescue authorities settled on a plan for reaching the 33 miners trapped 2,400 feet below a desolate desert, but needed a contraption to bring them to the surface, Cragg would become the perfect man to pitch in.


It had to be the smallest possible vehicle for the job, a capsule that would fit into a hole the size of a bicycle tire, with no wasted space for luxury, no elbow room for comfort.


When Cragg turned over the design elements to the Chilean navy, which refined them and built the capsule, the rescue craft that emerged looked as if it belonged on a science fiction movie's drawing board. Shaped like a cigar canister, with a drop-through escape hatch at the bottom, the capsule is designed to bring all 33 men up, one at a time, on a 20-minute ride from the hellhole where they have been trapped since Aug. 5. It is 13 feet long and weighs 926 pounds.


"NASA is in the business of building unique, one-of-a-kind vehicles," Cragg told AOL News. "I thought we could help."

Read the whole thing.

As startling as AP's NASA oversight was, the avoidance of credit given to U.S. involvement and the deliberate injection of politics into the rescue story by the New York Times's Barrionuevo and Romero are simply inexcusable:

The race to save the miners has thrust Chile into a spotlight it has often sought but rarely experienced. While lauded for its economic management and austerity, the nation has often found the world’s attention trained more on its human rights violations and natural disasters than on uplifting moments. [1]


But the perseverance of the miners, trapped so far underground in a lightless, dank space, has transfixed the globe with a universal story of human struggle and the enormously complex operation to rescue them.


It has involved untold millions of dollars, specialists from NASA and drilling experts from a dozen or so countries. [2] Some here at the mine have compared the rescue effort to the Apollo 13 space mission, for the emotional tension it has caused and the expectation of a collective sigh of relief at the end.


... The decision by Mr. Piñera, Chile’s first right-wing leader in 20 years, to stake his young presidency on an unbridled push to rescue the miners was an extraordinary political calculation. [3] But it has paid big dividends, bolstering his popularity at home and propelling him onto an international stage often dominated by other large personalities in the region.


After a cave-in trapped the miners on Aug. 5, their fate was uncertain, at best. Advisers to Mr. Piñera counseled him not to raise expectations that they could be found alive. Laurence Golborne, the mining minister, said publicly that their chances of having survived were slim, comments that bothered many Chileans.


But Mr. Piñera, who was in Ecuador when the news came of the lost miners, argued differently. “I had a strong conviction, very deep inside of me, that they were alive, and that was a strong support for my actions,” he said in an interview in late August. [4]


  • [1] - Imagine a mining rescue of this nature in mainland China. Would anyone in the press write that "While lauded for its economic management and austerity, the nation has often found the world’s attention trained more on its human rights violations and natural disasters than on uplifting moments"? Neither can I. The Chilean human rights violations under Augusto Pinochet ended over two decades ago. Routine Chinese human rights violations continue to this day.
  • [2] - There may have been "experts from a dozen or so countries," but it is as clear as can be that Yankee involvement and Yankee ingenuity have been among the key factors in the rescue's success. To its credit, the AP separately did a story yesterday on expert driller Jeff Hart, whose boss described him as "'simply ... the best' at drilling larger holes with the T130's wide-diameter drill bits." Malkin correctly noted: "In a different day and age, Jeff Hart would be the most famous American in our country right now." But not today.
  • [3][4] - My God, does anyone besides these two ultra-cynical, insulting New York Times writers (and, I suppose, certain elements of the paper's audience) believe that Piñera's actions have been based on "political calculation" and not a human desire to save lives, which the final paragraph amply demonstrates?

As the press minimizes the heroic role of NASA and American engineers, workers, and their employers, it can count on one thing that will keep a lid on the full story -- Yankee humility. The folks involved will soon be back at their regular gigs, secure in and proud of the knowledge that they made a difference. That's enough for them. This writer salutes and thanks all of you for what you did during the rescue, and for what you do every day.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.