Journalists just can't resist highlighting how the late President Gerald Ford expressed disagreement with President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and with Vice President Dick Cheney's adamant pursuit of it. A fresh example: Barely two minutes into MSNBC's Saturday coverage of Ford's funeral, Newsweek political reporter Howard Fineman ruminated about how “the interesting thing is that Gerald Ford himself, toward the end of his life, in conversations with Bob Woodward...said basically I disagreed with the idea of going to war in Iraq and he wondered about Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld,” who “were known for their probity and caution and for their lack of ideology, for their realistic view of the world. How was it, Ford wondered toward the end of his life, that those two guys, part of that all-star team of realists, had gotten hooked up in what Ford regarded as a mistaken war?"
Tom Brokaw took the occasion of the ceremonies attending the death of President Ford to take shots at the foreign policy of both Presidents Ford and Reagan. Speaking with Chris Matthews on MSNBC during the 6 PM ET hour, Brokaw observed: "President Ford and Henry Kissinger, fairly I think you can say, were over-infatuated with the Shah of Iran. Iran was an important launching pad for the United States should a war with the Soviet Union break out. It was also the source of great oil [sic], but there was already at that time very strong evidence in Iran that there was an Islamic uprising that eventually overthrew the Shah of Iran."
The Shah fell largely because Jimmy Carter abandoned him. Is Brokaw saying the US should have jumped earlier on Ayatollah Khomenei's bandwagon?
Entertainment Weekly TV critic Ken Tucker put both Keith Olbermann and Rosie O'Donnell on his Best of TV List for 2006.
6 Countdown With Keith Olbermann MSNBC The best anchor in the biz right now books off-the-beaten-pundit guests, refuses to maintain the ridiculous pose of ''objectivity,'' and is funny as hell. Which is where some of his competitors wish he'd go.
7 The View ABC Detonate the small nuclear bomb called Rosie O'Donnell and watch a mere chitchat show explode with barbed wit and fierce sociopolitical debate. She's forced Elisabeth Hasselbeck to try to learn how to form coherent thoughts, made a revitalized Joy Behar her ally in common sense, and frequently left her boss Barbara Walters speechless.
Newspaper cultural critics often seemed to be bringing their politics and not just their artistic senses to the table when judging the "best" products of 2006. Friday’s Weekend section of The Washington Post compiled a set of lists of the best in art, music, and movies, and some of the Post critics were dropping some liberal (and radical, even Marxist) politics into their choices. The music critics were the most political. Curt Fields had two liberal/radical Bush-hater favorites on his Best list:
7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice" single and the intriguing "Shut Up & Sing" documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."...
9. The Coup, "Pick a Bigger Weapon." This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy."
The Times may have taken it too far this time. I would think more than a few in the Manhattan wine-and-cheese set, even those who oppose the war, will be astute enough to substitute the name "Osama bin Laden" and his "orchestration of the 9/11 attacks" for "Saddam Hussein" and his "vile and unforgivable atrocities" in the Times' Friday editorial. Here are a couple of easy examples:
Atheist activist Sam Harris recently proclaimed on National Public Radio that America needed a lot more mockery of religious belief. "I think the criticism of irrationality just has to come from 100 sides all at once,” he declared. “In the entertainment community, maybe you'll just have people making jokes that are funny enough and true enough so as to put religious certainty in a bad light."
Harris said he’s been trying hard to make contacts among the mind-benders in the news and entertainment media to find those God-scorning people who feel “a profound sense of relief that comes with hearing somebody call a spade a spade.”
At the top of the Saturday Washington Post Style section is the headline "The Hard Core of Cool: Confidence, Grace, And Underneath It All, the Need to Be Recognized." Right next to the headline is a Reuters photo of Sen. Barack Obama, his head tilted up and eyes gazing toward the heavens. It's an essay by Metro section columnist (and former Post reporter) Donna Britt, part of the Post's ongoing "Being A Black Man" series.
Britt theorized that while white, Latino, and Asian men "have been deemed cool, black men remain cool's most imitated, consistent arbiters. I mean, there's cool -- and then there's brothercool. (Italics hers.) Think of Barack Obama's instantaneous ascension to 'coolest man in Congress.'"
Free speech is certainly wonderful to watch when practiced by one in possession of compelling ideas mixed with two doses wit and a splash of sarcasm. Such was the case on Thursday evening when comedian Dennis Miller was given the stage on “Hannity & Colmes” to pontificate anew with nary a discouraging word from the resident liberal antagonist (video available here courtesy of our friend at Ms Underestimated):
Looks like they found evidence of water on Mars, but unfortunately, they also found a sucker fish in water, so we're not allowed to study it any more.
Do you know why I'm no longer liberal? Because I wanted to stop my sentences one word short of the word "but." You know, as a liberal, I found myself using the word "but" more frequently than a proctologist filling out his day planner.
Then, Miller made an observation that most NBers are likely to find somewhat objectionable:
On CBS's "Saturday Early Show," co-anchor Tracy Smith offered a look ahead at the year 2007. The show consulted a set of experts for what would be hot and happening in the new year. In between predictions about a hot stock market and more wines in capped bottles, there were liberal sentiments thrown in, and not just the one where "earthy crunchy" and organic would be in.
Hotline's John Mercurio predicted that Al Gore would get an Oscar nomination for his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which would spur interest in a Gore 2008 presidential campaign. Soul singer Gladys Knight talked gauzily about how we should all show more love and have an end to all wars. Tracy Smith popped back in to applaud a "lovely sentiment from Gladys Knight."
I tell you what happened was I think I was eating dinner -- or lunch, rather, at an outdoor cafe. And I think this guy who -- I don't know if he believes in what he's doing or thinks he's helping, but I think, my belief was what he was saying was blatantly anti-American.
If you make the sitting president a murderer, you make my little brother-in-law who I've known since he was 6 a murderer, because he's on the ground in Iraq for his second tour and he's been shot.
This morning's "Today" show characterized the execution of Saddam Hussein with a multiplicity of negative terms. According to NBC reporter Richard Engel, reporting from Baghdad:
"The Iraqi government is now going to great lengths to say that this execution was carried out with the utmost respect for human rights; that it was a very organized, precise event. However, interviews that we've conducted with witnesses, judges and other people who attended and followed all the proceedings say it was much more emotional and chaotic."
Continued Engel: "The execution was primitive and vindictive. "
Engel stated that the site of the execution was one of Saddam's most notorious intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, where Shia radicals were executed, "Shia from the same party now leading the Iraqi government." As video of Prime Minister Maliki, a Shia, flashed on the screen, Engel concluded: "today was their revenge."
Just deserts were dished out to one Saddam Hussein last night. Few deserved it more than he.
There is no reason for me to recount his many crimes against humanity here, but it is a good thing he has paid for his evil -- and paid with his life.
That is all that needs to be said about that...
But, in reading the AP's story by Abdul-Zahra, something else comes to the fore that is vexing to anyone looking for truth in the media. Of course, truth is always in short supply from our friends at al-AP, but with Abdul-Zahra's report we see a constant misuse of the English language.
CBS broke into programming at about 10:18 Eastern time to report that Saddam Hussein had been executed. The short Special Report was drily anchored by Katie Couric, but included a brief interview with the typical Democratic expert: Richard Holbrooke, an Assistant Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador under Bill Clinton. Couric left out the worked-for-Clinton part. Unsurprisingly, Holbrooke said the execution of Saddam would have absolutely no effect on the dire situation in Iraq for President Bush:
“In the long term, it doesn’t change anything…He was a dead man walking. And so in the end for President Bush, Katie, the crisis, this emergency he’s facing, the policies he has to announce shortly, are not going to be changed by what happened today.”
MRC's Times Watch man and NB blogger Clay Waters appeared again on FNC's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" on Friday afternoon to discuss the New York Times and its unhappiness with the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein. Substitute host Stuart Varney began: “In an op-ed piece entitled ‘The Rush to Hang Saddam Hussein,’ editors questioned if the trial was legitimate, and if Iraq would be better off with him dead. Clay Waters is disgusted, but not surprised. He is director of Times Watch….Clay, to you first, I read this editorial and they called, the Times called the trial flawed, politicized, and divisive, and a lost opportunity. What do you make of all this?”
Waters replied: “Well, obviously, the Times is not going to be sad to see him go, but at the same time, it is clear just from the preview that Bush is not going to get a positive story out of this, as you can see. It’s started already. It’s going to be like the Zarqawi thing. Bush got half a day of positive coverage and then the media went back to their usual template of doom and gloom, Iraq equals Vietnam. And even today, online they said the trial might be ruined by, quote, "politically driven haste" to execute Saddam after a deliberative trial." Of course, this editorial makes the opposite case, they said this was a lousy trial, so they shouldn’t hang Saddam. The only consistency is don’t hang Saddam. That’s the only thing the Times is consistent about.”
MRC’s Michelle Humphrey passed along an example of CNN already feeling the pain of Saddam Hussein. On Thursday night’s "Anderson Cooper 360" – re-aired Friday in the 9 AM hour – CNN reporter Randi Kaye did a whole story suggesting the idea that hanging Saddam was a cruel and outdated mode of execution. This is the same program that recently focused on the coldly efficient killers of American troops without focusing any sympathy on their suffering. Instead, they focused on how insurgents supposedly tried not to slaughter innocents as they shot at American troops.
Kaye began: "This is what is Iraq's government calls the death chamber. Soon, Saddam Hussein will be here to meet the same fate as these men. This is what his final moments will look like. But we wanted to know what hanging will feel like. Will Saddam suffer in death?"
NBC began its Friday Today broadcast with the grim-sounding news that Saddam Hussein will be executed soon. Why grim? Isn't this a moment, at least a day, showing some good news from Iraq, and reminding the country that it did something in deposing Saddam that pleased the Iraqi people? For NBC, this is merely a short interruption in the non-stop bad news from Iraq. It's an event they are predicting will be quickly overshadowed by increased violence. Lauer concentrated on the fears of our government, and Russert declared violence was a "huge fear" of the administration. Russert went on to predict that the Bush team would try to justify the war on Saddam around the execution of the dictator, but any echo of celebration "could in fact be very short term, depending on what level of violence follows his death."
An uptick in violence might happen. But it also seems that this prediction helps prevent a single news cycle from sounding any kind of positive note. Lauer began the Saddam part of his chat with Russert this way:
Both ABC’s "Good Morning America" and NBC’s "Today" picked up where they left off yesterday, and promoted a new "Washington Post" story detailing how former President Ford and ex-President Nixon were closer friends than previously believed. Both networks used the opportunity to once again highlight Gerald Ford’s dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, and both networks portrayed Mr. Ford as being more anti-war than he in fact was.
ABC and NBC for the most part played the same audio clips from both the Woodward tapes and a Nixon tape from 1973, including playing the exact same shortened audio clip of President Ford as evidence that the former Republican president strongly disagreed with the war in Iraq:
"I think Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq."
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell claimed:
"Gerald Ford believed the Iraq war was a mistake...Gerald Ford told [Bob] Woodward that he strongly disagreed with the president’s decision to go to war..."
Open for comment on any particular topic. Here's a few:
Coverage of Gerald Ford too positive? Try taxpayer-supported Pacifica's "Democracy Now" radio show, with this classic headline: "President Gerald Ford Dies at 93; Supported Indonesian Invasion of East Timor that Killed 1/3 of Population."
Greg Sargent of the lefty American Prospect complains that the media's failing to remember fondly and aggressively Gerald Ford's "Vietnam is so over" comments, and their relevance for getting Bush to acknowledge defeat today.
Was it just good-natured joshing, or did some MSM elitism creep into Matt Lauer's interview-ending question to Tim Russert on this morning's "Today"?
"What's up for the New Year for you? Same thing as usual: keg of Old Milwaukee and a noise-maker?"
What's this? Condescension to Russert's blue-collar image leavened with a dab of drunken-Irishman humor? The camera crew burst into guffaws, but check the video - was Russert's laugh a bit more strained?