You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying. Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them.
Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president." Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.
One tried-and-true way to measure a media bias is to compare and contrast events. The comparisons are rarely perfect, but they can illuminate that the "news" is very much a product of human opinion, and rarely do the major media’s assignment editors seem to consider how they covered something in 2006 to something they covered in 1996 (or sometimes, how they covered something in March compared to December). Today’s experiment: Russ Feingold’s censure ploy versus Rep. Bob Barr making rumbles about a Clinton impeachment in 1997. The WashPost put Feingold on A-1 and A-2 yesterday. What about Bob?
It broke out at exactly this time of year in 1997, when Barr, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested to chairman Henry Hyde that they consider impeachment for Clinton for illegal fundraising from China and other scandals. Hyde was asked about it on "Fox News Sunday," and said they were studying it, but found it a "bit of a stretch." Both the Post and the Washington Times put a few paragraphs in on Monday, March 17. Then the paths diverge.
What is the gist of Kaplan's nasty and condescending article ("Claude Allen's life sentence," 3/15/06)? Kaplan surmises that Mr. Allen's "compromises" and "cognitive dissonance" as a conservative black male may have taken a "psychological toll" on him. She then questions if this caused Allen to "finally crack under the pressure."
It doesn't get much more hostile and arrogant than this, folks. Writes Kaplan (emphasis mine),
Without their own poll with which to batter President Bush, last Friday the NBC Nightly News led with how “the latest Associated Press poll has the President's job approval at 37 percent” as anchor Brian Williams pointed how “that matches President Clinton at the lowest point in his presidency.” (NewsBusters item with details.) But NBC caught up Wednesday night with the other networks, and though its new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey found the exact same 37 percent presidential approval rating -- so no fresh news -- Williams nonetheless led with the poll number. Bringing aboard Tim Russert, Williams prompted him: “Tim, let's start with that all-important benchmark for Presidents, the approval rating." Russert outlined: "It is not good news for President Bush, Brian. Approve: 37 percent. Disapprove of his job: 58 percent. And look at this Brian, 'direction of the country.' Only one in four [26 percent] Americans say the country is in the right direction; wrong track, 62 percent.”
Russert proceeded to highlight how “Democrats will take great joy in” the finding that 50 percent want Democrats to control Congress, “a 13 point bulge” over the 37 percent who prefer Republicans. “Analysts, of both political parties,” Russert stressed, “say with that kind of number if the election was held today they [Democrats] could re-capture the House and Senate.” But, Russert noted, “inside the poll, voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security.” (Transcript follows.)
For those of you that are unfamiliar, “Boston Legal” is an Emmy-winning television program broadcast by ABC on Tuesdays. In its most recent episode, one of the key attorneys, Alan Shore – played by James Spader – raised various issues facing our nation in his closing arguments (video link to follow). His monologue included references to weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, terrorist surveillance, you name it.
When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up. They didn’t.
It’s been one day since the retirement of Mike Wallace from CBS’s "60 Minutes" was announced, and this morning the "Early Show" aired a taped interview with Wallace conducted by Harry Smith. The segment was a look back on Wallace’s career, and it seems Wallace has only one regret; he never got to interview George W. Bush, as evidenced by the following exchange:
Harry Smith: "So many bad guys you've interviewed, politicians, celebrities by the score. Is there a favorite to do one kind of interview vs. the other?"
Mike Wallace: "For substance, and by that I, you know what I mean, to be able to talk to the Ayatollah Khomeini or various Presidents, every President since Abe Lincoln..."
On the 4pm hour of CNN's The Situation Room, 'anchor' Jack Cafferty made the audience aware of Republicans attempting to reform lobbying procedures. Specifically, House Republicans are introducing a bill that would increase the reporting requirements for lobbyists who take members out to dinner or buy them expensive gifts. Before reading a description of the bill, Cafferty asked CNN watchers if they wanted to "laugh out loud", implying that you can not take this call for reform serious. Cafferty lamented his opinion by calling those who believe that Republicans are committed to lobbying reform, "retards".
Marc Morano at our CNSNews.com chronicles how the hard-left "peace" groups are fighting each other and feuding so much that they cannot unify for a big rally on the third anniversary of the beginning of the Allied liberation of Iraq:
...the groups appear to be caught in their own brand of civil war, criticizing each other for management styles, sympathizing with Communist dictators, and pandering to the media. They have bickered over alleged racism and even over issues like who would get more microphone time and pay for the portable toilets at anti-war rallies.
The feuding appears to have precluded any kind of nationally coordinated anti-war rallies from happening on March 19, the third-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Small, local protests are planned by various anti-war groups around the country.
"The souring of the political atmosphere is largely due to ANSWER, which, in our experience, consistently substitutes labels ('racist,' 'anti-unity') and mischaracterization of others' views for substantive political debate or problem solving," reads the open letter issued last Dec. 12, by the group United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). It marked the opening salvo in a war of words that has been fought on the groups' individual websites and all over the blogosphere.
At the University of California Berkeley, Iraq correspondents discussed the controversy over whether or not journalists can provide an accurate picture of the situation in Iraq.
Those in attendance: Anna Badkhen of the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackie Spinner of the Washington Post, John Burns of the New York Times and Mark Danner, a Berkeley journalism professor and contributor to The New York Review of Books.
Jackie Spinner, Washington Post staff writer and author of "Tell Them I Didn't Cry," an account of a year spent in Baghdad starting in May 2004, disagreed that reporters in Iraq are prevented from telling both sides. "I think we're getting 90 percent of the story," she said. When disbelieving guffaws rang out from the audience, she retorted, "Excuse me, have you been there?" She went on to explain how when Washington Post reporters can't go out, "we rely on this whole cadre of Iraqi stringers and translators, who in the case of the Washington Post are Post-trained journalists."
Those skeptical of this reliance should take the time to read Spinner's book, which describes in detail the tight bond between the Post's Baghdad correspondents and the Iraqis who risk their lives to work for the bureau, often keeping their jobs a secret even from family members lest the insurgents kill them in retaliation. Before the situation in Iraq turned even more dangerous, Spinner — a UC Berkeley journalism alumna — would dress in a headscarf and full-length abaya and ride to the scene of an incident. There she would wait while her translator brought her an Iraqi who she could interview inside the tinted windows of the car. Later, she could not always go herself, but would be in constant contact with the Iraqi staff, guiding what questions they asked and pressing for details of the source's mannerisms, hesitations, and context.
Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert’s nightly conservative/O’Reilly-mocking show "The Colbert Report" invited on MSNBC host Keith Olbermann Tuesday night to double up on the O’Reilly bashing. It started predictably, before the word "Nazi" came out:
Colbert: "Why do you have a problem with my hero, papa bear Bill O'Reilly? You guys have been going at it, hammer and tongs."
Olbermann: "Well, Stephen, he's an idiot."
Colbert: "You say that like it's a bad thing. I think he sees the world simply, okay? Without all your complicated facts."
Olbermann: "We're both saying the same thing. He's an idiot."
The media has manufactured another furor over "controversial" Pat Robertson comments. The televangelist has said he was referring to terrorists when he described radical Muslims as "satanic." His statements recently came under the scrutiny of the women on ABC's The View. On the March 14 edition of the program, View co-hosts used Robertson’s comments as an excuse to generally bash religion. Joy Behar stated, "And a lot of the nasty people represent religion in this world.." She also added, "There’s too much anger between extreme religions." Just getting warmed up, the host then took a gratuitous and bewildering swipe at Rush Limbaugh: "Rush Limbaugh, people like that, get your attention because they’re radical."
"He said 'Hello, Wendy, this is Jay Leno,"' the Sherman Oaks resident remembered. "`I'm calling about the letter you wrote and I want to apologize. I just want to let you know we make mistakes sometimes and we don't mean to hurt people."'
He’s baaaack. Although it certainly shouldn’t be lost on the reader that such statements are good marketing for his soon to be released film about Hurricane Katrina, controversial actor and director Spike Lee, in an interview with the New York Observer, once again addressed the possibility that New Orleans’ levees were intentionally exploded. In addition, he suggested that folks who consider this possibility are similar to Jews that talk about the chance of another holocaust happening. His reasoning? Well, it happened before:
“‘Here’s the thing,’ he said. ‘Even today, a large part of the African-American community of New Orleans thinks that those levees were bombed. Now, whether that is true or not, that should not be discounted.’ He rattled off past government trespasses: 1927’s Great Flood of Mississippi, when the levees were, in fact, blown up; the flooding of the Ninth Ward during Hurricane Betsy in 1965; the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
“‘So, in the collective mind of African-Americans, it is not some science-fiction, hocus-pocus thing to say that the government is doing stuff,’ he continued. ‘Even if it didn’t happen, you cannot discount it and dismiss it as Oh you people are crazy. It’s what people think—talk to Jewish people. Because of the Holocaust, you know, anything that happens, it’s like, ‘Oh! It’s starting again.’ And I’m not going to fault someone of Jewish ancestry that feels like that because that happened! This is history.’”
What's beautiful about this reasoning is that Lee has created a marvelous self-fulfilling prophecy that seems to have eluded him: high profile folks like him continue to float this idea, and then say that since people believe it is possible, it is significant. Amazingly, he continued to try and justify this premise:
I thought the MSM is ardently opposed to the death penalty. Aren't these the same folks who wrung their collective hands at the prospect of poor Tookie Williams getting the needle? Sure, he murdered four people in cold blood and joked about it, but hey! - he wrote a children's book.
But, no! The Today show was distraught at the prospect that "the 20th hijacker" might have slipped the noose [or the needle]. They went so far as to play a clip from a family member of one of the 9/11 victims saying that "I felt like my husband had been killed again." Shades of that NAACP anti-Bush ad from 2000. See item #2 here of this MRC report.
The D.C. Superior Court recently ruled that thousands of non-District residents had been illegally compelled to pay a business tax. But rather than portray the tens of millions lost by local businessmen to the city government, the Post portrayed the ruling as harmful to the city's bottom line.
Staff Writer Albert Crenshaw focused on the concerns of city officials
and a sympathetic liberal think tank:
Ed Lazere, executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute,
which analyzes D.C. tax and budget issues, said the tax generates about
$100 million a year for the city. If the ratio of suburbanites to D.C.
residents is the same among real estate investors and other owners of
unincorporated businesses as among workers generally -- roughly
two-thirds suburban to one-third District -- then the loss could round
to $70 million, "which is huge," he said.
In his first appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman since “joking” on the October 21 show (NewsBusters item with video) about how Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove “are going to be executed” because “outing a CIA agent is treason,” and President Bush is at risk too, Al Franken on Tuesday's program scolded Vice President Dick Cheney for not visiting the hospital room of his accidental shooting victim, Harry Whittington. In his usual mocking tone meant to come across as humorous, but which reflects a serious commentary, Franken, who briefly impersonated Cheney as a drunk, contended that Cheney was “drunk and couldn't show up at the hospital” or “he's an amazing jerk.” Third option: “Or, of course, both." Franken soon reiterated that “the idea that it's very common to shoot someone in the face, it's not unless you're, you know, you're drunk....Or he's just a big jerk." (Trancript follows.)
Was this a news report, or a coming attraction for a new series about inter-generational love? Perhaps there's a third explanation: a not-too-subtle kiss blown in the direction of a soon-to-be new employer.
Amidst rampant speculation that Katie Couric might be leaving the Today show to anchor the CBS Evening News, Couric narrated a segment on this morning's Today on the occasion of Mike Wallace's announcement this week that he will be retiring from '60 Minutes'. If you think it's impossible to sustain a gush for five minutes, you obviously weren't watching Katie this morning.
Excerpts from Katie's paen to Wallace:
He "seems to succeed at everything except slowing down."
"Fearless and willing to ask anything."
"How do you stay so vibrant, so active, so alert and continue to work so hard?"
His departure "leaves big shoes for 60 Minutes to fill."
"His legend will never fade."
Back in the studio, when Matt Lauer observed that "at 88, he is astounding," Katie offered up the ultimate accolade:
Sen. Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for warrantless eavesdropping on suspected terrorists is drawing major attention -- even if its political chances are roughly zero. The front page of the Washington Post blows the hot air of publicity on Feingold's leftist crusade, but the headline is "A Senate Maverick Acts to Force an Issue." Why are the "mavericks" always to the left of the party mainstream?
Reporter Shailagh Murray does a better job of defining Feingold in paragraph number 12: "a Democratic outsider and iconoclast and a darling of progressives." Although it should be said that a pile of people who don't like this censure stunt are "progressives." This would be better described as an act of an ultraliberal, on the radical left, throwing a bone to the MoveOn crowd and the Daily Kosmonauts. Then she really makes Feingold sound like a weird combination plate:
On the Tuesday night edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews asked if Cheney would "see the light" and retire.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well Mike Wallace announced his retirement today, and Mike Wallace who I thought never would retire. If he retires, maybe Cheney's gonna see the light. What do think? No? No takers on that?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: I'm not sure if Cheney would see it that way.