On this morning's Today Katie Couric devoted a large part of the 8:00am half hour to her interview with CBS News' Mike Wallace. During the segment NBC's graphic bragged: "Role Reversal, Answering The Tough Questions." However Couric never asked Mike Wallace about his most recent visit to a Brady Center fundraiser for gun control as blogged by Tim Graham.
Couric did ask Wallace to comment on CBS spiking his story with tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand and on Dan Rather's National Guard story fiasco (He said Rather should've resigned) but for the most part the "tough questions," were of the following variety:
Couric, introducing the segment: "The guy with nerves of steel who dared to ask the toughest questions no matter how famous or infamous his subject. Turns out Mike Wallace doesn't flinch when answering tough questions either as I found out when I interviewed him at his home on Martha's Vineyard. It's been 37 years since Mike Wallace first took the chair at 60 Minutes and as long as his health obliges the 87-year-old news man sees no reason to stop the clock. Do you feel terrific?"
On to promote an annual conference on women's issues in California former NBC reporter and the current First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, stressed her desire to make sure it wasn't partisan because "that's not what I'm about." Anyone who's followed Shriver's career at NBC can't help but guffaw at that one. The following is an exchange between Matt Lauer and Maria Shriver that took place at 8:39am on this morning's Today show:
Matt Lauer: "I know this is the nineteenth of these types of conferences to be held and in the past there's been sometimes a political element to this and, and you felt very strongly that you wanted to get rid of that in terms of this conference."
Maria Shriver: "Well I wanted this conference when I took it over to be bipartisan. I wanted it to be a conference with a conscience. I wanted it to be a green conference and I wanted it to be a conference that was non-partisan. As we all know I'm in a bipartisan marriage so either, neither party can really claim me and I kind of see myself as a First Lady of all people. I really think that there are so many issues that unite us and that's what I concentrate on. I go out and talk about the issues where we have common ground. I talk about solutions, I try to talk about other people who are out talking about solutions and I think that the people whether they're Democrats, Republicans, Greens, declined to state, they're really interested in people like Sister Jennie who are out there doing things in the community, that are doing positive things. They're interested in solutions to all of these issues. They're not interested in partisan, polarizing dialogue and that's not what I'm about, never have been."
At 7:17am, in promoting an Anne Thompson piece on how "Big Oil" is enjoying record profits Couric, used the "we" word.
Katie Couric: "They say one man's pain is another man's pleasure. And it turns out the pain we all shared at the gas pump this summer brought an awful lot of pleasure in the form of big profits to the nation's oil companies.
Newsbusters fans will remember Couric tried this line before on August 15th when she declared: "I had to take out a loan to fill up my minivan. It’s crazy.”
Republicans have taken a proper 'respect for the process' stance when it comes to Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. This of course was a far cry from the treatment Ken Starr recieved where he was painted as an overzealous prosecutor by Clintonistas and the media. Today show was one of the many willing participants in the Starr bashing and thanks to Ann Coulter for pointing out that double standard.
During the 7:00am hour Matt Lauer posed the following question to Coulter:
Lauer: "We know the President has gone on the record. He said to me that he thinks the special prosecutor in this case is handling the investigation in an extremely dignified manner. So if indictments do come down how do Republicans react? Can some of them say this was all a sham?"
What the heck is a "tangy meringue of maudlin and giddy?" Check out this overwrought introduction from last night's Hardball:
Chris Matthews: "In Washington, where no one`s ever late for a hanging, the sky is grim and cloudy. The mood, a tangy meringue of maudlin and giddy. The President today called the CIA leak probe a very serious investigation, is reported to be cranky and bitter, pointing blame at his top aides and the Vice President who he has reported to have said got too deep into the intel use to sell the Iraq war. Let`s play Hardball."
Later on Hardball special correspondent David Shuster went so far out on a limb in his forecast of doom for Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that even the New York Daily News' Tom DeFrank felt the need to distance himself from his report. First Shuster's dire forecast:
On Today, at 8:52am Al Franken was on to promote his new book The Truth and repeated his twisted joke from Friday's Letterman in which he predicted that Rove and Libby will be executed for treason. Franken's "joke," drew laughter from Matt Lauer and the rest of the Today show studio. The following is just a portion of this morning's interview:
Matt Lauer: "All right, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby what’s their future? What’s your prediction in terms of indictments? Yes or no?"
Franken: "Oh they, they’ll be indicted. I, I am absolutely sure and this is about, of course, the war in Iraq really. It’s about the justification for the war and smearing Joe Wilson by outing his wife who’s a CIA agent. George H.W. Bush, the President’s father, said, as, when he was head of the CIA, that outing a CIA agent is treason. I, I agree. So I think that Rove and Libby will be executed." Lauer laughed along with those in the studio.
After running down all the bad news for the Bush administration on the CIA leak case and front and Harriet Miers fronts Katie Couric and Tim Russert bagged on Bush for Iraq. Couric, completely ignoring the historic election in Iraq just one week ago, instead chose to highlight the expected 2000th death while Russert used Brent Scowcroft to pit father (George Sr.) against son (George W.)
The following is the conversation that took place during the 7:00am hour:
On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews claimed his colleagues at the current White House Press Corps weren't tough enough, declared current Republican problems worse than Watergate and thought Reagan, "got away with a lot."
The following is the relevant portion of Matthews interview with Craig Crawford on his new book:
Chris Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Are politicians partly responsibility for America`s distrust of the media? Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford thinks so. He argues in his new book Attacking the Messengers: That [sic] Politicians Have Deflected Criticisms of Themselves by Convincing Americans to Blame the Media. Welcome."
Craig Crawford, Congressional Quarterly: "Hi."
Matthews: "Who has succeeded with this new device of blaming the messenger?"
NBC's Tim Russert proclaimed, "It's a year away but the Democrats are feeling almost giddy this morning," as he ran down the negative news from NBC's own poll. Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with a teaser for the Russert political analysis segment:
Lauer: "Then to Washington where it rains it really pours. President Bush says he doesn't look at the poll numbers. He might not want to. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows his approval rating is at its lowest level ever. And there's some astounding numbers when it comes to African-Americans and their support for the President. Tim Russert's gonna be here and crunch those numbers in a little while."
During the media's coverage of Katrina the race card was played again and again so it's no surprise that Lauer and Russert led with the fruits of their labor.
During the 9:00am hour of the Today show Katie Couric tried to play herself off as a middle-of-the roader. Today invited Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake to promote their new book, What Women Really Want, which included a premise that women agree on 80 percent of the issues. Couric used that as an opportunity to essentially yell, "Me too! I'm everywoman!"
Couric to Conway and Lake: "You know we were talking earlier and basically what you were saying is that women in this country are a much more cohesive unit than you might think hearing all the jazz about red states versus blue states. You say something that I've actually said in the past, we're really all purple..."
No, Katie you're all blue, stop trying to hide it.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh wasn't on this morning's Today show for very long before his credibility was immediately questioned by Couric. After her introduction and a generic 'why did you want to write this book?' query Couric pounced in just her second question:
Couric: "You know many people have viewed this book in reviews and, and newspaper accounts so far as your effort to settle scores with the President. Do you think, you obviously, there's no love lost between the two of you, that's very, very clear. Do you think your personal animus might be coloring your professional perspective so much that you can't be objective about what was really going on during the administration?"
While the buzz around Freeh's book surrounds his account of the Clinton scandals Couric managed to ask just two questions about them before to asking about the FBI's pre-9/11 preparedness.
MSNBC's Hardball correspondent David Shuster revealed he is a lot more comfortable at MSNBC than he was at Fox News. In an interview for the Herald Times the Bloomington, Indiana bred Shuster told his hometown paper he feels more at home with the liberal MSNBC. The following is from the October 2nd interview with the Times' Mike Leonard. I've bolded the more illuminating portions:
"The NBC and MSNBC reporter did appreciate being pulled off the Hurricane Rita story to hustle over to Sugarland, Texas, to cover the grand jury indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. 'That's what I feel most comfortable with," he explained, 'the political corruption sort of story.'
Covering the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton for Fox News gave the Bloomington South graduate his first big exposure as a national television correspondent. He currently works on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews program and said he thoroughly enjoys spending most of his time in the nation's capital and reporting for what he considers "the show of record when it comes to coverage of Washington."
It turns out not even the cooking segments on Today are free from liberalism. All this week NBC's Today has featured England's own "Naked Chef," Jamie Oliver, teaching parents how to prepare healthier meals for their children. On Thursday's segment Oliver joined the Today show cast in studio to prepare some healthy meals and cooked up some bias with his own distinct British flavor. The following is just a morsel of Today's Daily Recommended Allowance of liberal bias:
Matt Lauer: "This is so important to you, I know."
On this morning's Today Katie Couric and Tim Russert looked like NFL linebackers diving for a loose ball as they piled on Bush from so many different directions. First up was the gas price angle:
Couric: "I know the President is calling on the American public to conserve gasoline by driving less and he even sent a memo to all federal agency and department heads saying, the federal government, quote, 'must lead by example and further contribute to the relief effort by reducing its own fuel use during this difficult time.' How much political pressure is the President under given these rising fuel costs?"
Russert: "Enormous, Katie. It's the one issue that cuts across all class and geographic lines and as we just heard in Alexis' report it's not only gasoline cost for this fall but come this winter particularly in the Midwest and Northeast there's expectations that fuel heating costs can go up as much as 70 percent. Enormous political pressure. Why? Those are the battleground, undecided states that Republicans must continue to control to retain and control both houses of Congress."
At the top of the Today show Katie Couric attempted a guilt by association jab at Bush when she was teased upcoming stories: "But first this is the President's seventh, seventh trip to the hurricane zone and the former oilman is getting a real firsthand look at the devastation that's there."
The "oilman" reference set up the David Gregory piece on Katrina cleanup bids where he implied companies with ties to the administration were getting sweetheart deals:
At 7:10am the suddenly frugal David Gregory reported: "As you know the federal government has begun to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars everyday to rebuild the Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The question now who's getting the cash and are taxpayers getting ripped off? It's the splurge after the storms, the costly job of cleanup. Debris has to be cleared, temporary housing put in place, billions in storm work contracts signed by FEMA alone so far. A quarter billion for travel trailers. $27 million for catering. Even $700 for safety boots. The President has promised a huge reconstruction effort."
You knew it was coming. The Hurricane Katrina inspired global warming stories. Well at the top of this morning's Today show Matt Lauer invoked one of the media's favorite boogeymen:
Matt Lauer: "Then why are there so many hurricanes this year and is global warming to blame? We'll take a closer look at that."
At 7:18am Katie Couric, with a graphic next to her running down the names of all the hurricanes this season, conjectured that global warming was causing so many hurricanes this year the government was running out of names for them.
Katie Couric: "Hurricane season ends November 1st but already people are asking why have there been so many? It has been a brutal year. 17 named storms in the Atlantic, nine of them hurricanes. Among them Arlene, Dennis, the deadly Katrina and now Rita. So many in fact that only four names are left. Stan, Tammy, Vince and Wilma. After that the National Hurricane Center would have to use the Greek alphabet. Are humans partially to blame for all these natural disasters? Here's NBC's Tom Costello."
Over the weekend on his syndicated show Chris Matthews compared Bush's performance during Katrina to Jimmy Carter's infamous 'malaise' speech in 1979 and NPR's Ed Gordon cribbed from Jon Stewart when he proclaimed Katrina to be Bush's Monica. Matthews also suggested Katrina was an opportunity to make good on reparations. All the while Newsweek's Howard Fineman and the New York Times openly questioned Bush's leadership qualities and how it will affect his legacy.
Chris Matthews opened the show with his Carter comparison:
"First up, loss of faith. This week terror swept through Iraq, the Katrina death toll spiked and gas prices continued to gobble up grocery money. Only 32 percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the right direction, an all-time low for George W. Bush. Only 53 percent are optimistic about the future of the country. That’s down 16 points since July. Does it reek of 1979 when a full 84 percent of the country said they didn’t like the way things were going? Remember this? Jimmy Carter’s famous ‘malaise’ speech."
As Mark Finklestein noted in his earlier post Today can't seem to stay away from the same old themes.
Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show first with Ophelia news but quickly got to Bush's falling poll numbers: "Good morning the storm that won't leave. Hurricane Ophelia is battering the North Carolina coast for a second straight day. Damage control. President Bush heads back to the Gulf Coast for a primetime address. Can he turn around those plunging poll numbers?"
At 7:08am Katie Couric and Tim Russert explored Bush's falling poll numbers in depth:
Katie Couric: "Alright let's talk about these latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal numbers Tim and as you know the President's approval rating according to this poll is at an all-time low of just 40 percent and when you look at how that compares to his approval rating following September 11th which was 88 percent it's quite dramatic isn't it?"
Katie Couric brought on presidential historian Michael Beschloss to ask if Katrina will damage Bush's legacy. At the top of the show at 7:00 am Couric teased the upcoming segment: "Will this storm hurt President Bush's ability to accomplish his second term agenda and what impact will it have on his legacy? We'll talk with a top historian about that."
At 7:12 am Couric sat down with Beschloss in studio and opened with the following questions:
Couric: "On Close Up this morning how much damage has hurricane Katrina done to the Bush presidency? Michael Beschloss is NBC's presidential historian. Michael, good morning...So President Bush went to New Orleans to, to view the devastation for the third time. It's the first time he saw it, actually from the ground. Will the damage done, in terms of the slow response by the federal government, continue to haunt this President?"
On to promote her book Talking Back, NBC's Andrea Mitchell offered a mea culpa on pre-war reporting and asked to recall her favorite interviews called Fidel Castro, "engaging" and Bill Clinton, "fun."
At 8:44 am Katie Couric began the interview asking Mitchell about her start in the business and how it has changed.
Couric: "Well you know obviously a lot has changed in the business since you started and you've been at NBC since 1978, right? Andrea how has, how has newsgathering changed? I guess the technology..."
Mitchell: "Oh it's, it's completely different and that's one of the reasons I wrote the book because we are now in this environment where everyone is being inundated by information. There's the internet and cable and broadcasting. When I started there were three broadcast networks. There was a 6:30 news or a 7:00 o'clock news. That was it. And now you have so many different choices and I think people are really, not only confused, but we've seen the polling. Our own credibility is, you know, has really gone down. So as journalists I think we have to be concerned about our profession and particularly after the war and the misjudgments that we and political, you know, leaders made. We have to ask ourselves so I wrote about that. I took a really hard look at myself, my colleagues and political people."
Today's pushing of Bush's low poll numbers continued at 7:14 am when Katie Couric opened the political analysis segment with Tim Russert: "And now to the President's trip, back to the hurricane zone amid approval ratings that have sunk to an all-time low. Tim Russert is NBC's Washington bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press. Tim, good morning."
Couric then implied Bush's war in Iraq could impede the salvaging of New Orleans: "Can we afford it? I mean Tim, obviously, with the war in Iraq's sucking a lot of money and the federal deficit quite severe, I mean can this country afford to, to put so much money in the rebuilding of New Orleans?"
To his credit Russert said both Republicans and Democrats agreed that it was affordable but Couric then moved on to Today's theme of the day, Bush's record low polls: "Alright let's talk about the approval ratings of the President as Kelly O'Donnell mentioned there at an all-time low. We found that in Newsweek he has a 38 percent approval rating and the Associated Press poll found the President to have a 39 percent. Kelly, I think also mentioned the Zogby poll which is 41 percent, the lowest in their poll numbers. So can the President bounce back from this? How does he go about rebuilding his image?"
This morning Today show viewers woke up to the following from Katie Couric: "Good morning. Up close and personal. With his approval ratings at an all-time low President Bush gets set to take his first ground tour of New Orleans." Co-host David Gregory, subbing for Matt Lauer then piped in: Katie the President is making his third trip this morning to the hurricane zone but it's really it's first detailed look at New Orleans. He, of course, has taken a major political hit through all of this."
Later at 7:04am in a taped segment Kelly O'Donnell piled on as well:
"A less visible part of the damage done by Katrina may be what's happened to the President's approval rating." O'Donnell then threw it to Charlie Cook for his doom and gloom analysis of the President's current standing:
If you only got your news about Hugo Chavez from the Today show you could only assume that he's a sweetheart of a guy. To date Today show has yet to fully report on, shall we say, Chavez's bad side. On this morning's Today at 8:11 am, Natalie Morales offered no context in her anchor brief about Reverend Jesse Jackson's trip to Venezuela.
Natalie Morales: "The Reverend Jesse Jackson is praising a plan offered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez says he will offer the U.S. cheap heating oil for poor communities as well as cooperate with U.S. anti-drug efforts. The two men are meeting in Caracas. Jackson has called on President Bush to condemn remarks by Pat Robertson who suggested Chavez should be assassinated."
I think it's fair to say the only conclusion a devoted viewer of Today can come away with is: Why is Pat Robertson picking on this guy? Why that Hugo Chavez is a friend of the poor and an ally in the war on drugs!
On this morning's Today show NBC's Matt Lauer pondered if anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan had caused a shift in President Bush's rhetoric and then threw the words of RINO Sen. Chuck Hagel in Dan Bartlett's face. Lauer also showed impatience when it came to setting a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal but at the same time worried that the administration might be rushing things with their deadlines on the Iraqi people.
Lauer opened Today at 7:00am with this teaser:
Lauer: "Then we're gonna see a new side of President Bush. On Monday for the first time the President specifically mentioned the number of U.S. troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is that a response to the protest at his Texas ranch? We'll talk to a top advisor to the President about that in a couple of minutes."
MSNBC's David Gregory took umbrage with criticism of the media’s coverage of Cindy Sheehan on last night's Hardball at around 7:53pm. The following is a brief exchange from a segment that featured talk show host Melanie Morgan and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen:
Gregory: "Melanie, let me, let me begin with you. Does Cindy Sheehan have something important to say?"
Melanie Morgan: "I think that Cindy Sheehan believes that she has something very important to say and she has the right to say whatever it is she wants to say. But that doesn`t mean because the mainstream media has portrayed her as a very sympathetic, lone grieving mother, that actually represents the case. In fact..."
Gregory: "Well, hang on one second. Hang on. Let me just, I can`t let all these mainstream media attacks go by. How has the media done that? I will grant that you there`s a news vacuum in August and she`s become a national figure, when perhaps, another part of the year, she may not have. But, I mean, let`s not get so far away from this process that we don`t say that this is a grieving parent who lost a son in, in the war. So, I mean, you just assume that the media is trying to prop her up?"
On last night's Hardball David Gregory questioned a Republican candidate’s viability but enthusiastically asked a losing Democratic candidate if he’ll run again. Gregory invited Rep. Katherine Harris and Democratic loser Paul Hackett on the August 10th show. The following is just a sample of the dispiriting questions to Harris:
Gregory: "Isn`t it true, isn`t it true that the White House and even the President`s brother, the Governor of Florida, have discouraged you from entering this race?"
Gregory: "One, one of the issues that I have detected from my own reporting at the White House is that the view within the White House is that you are simply too polarizing a figure in Florida to win."
Gregory brought up one of the left's favorite but tired talking points, about a possible fixing of the 2000 election when he asked: "Does the President owe you? Do you expect him to, to campaign with you down the stretch?"
No bias directly from Al Roker this morning but he did let a guest's guffaw-inducing remark pass without comment. Esquire's Fashion Director Nick Sullivan was on to promote his magazine's Second Annual Best Dressed List. At approximately 9:40am this morning Roker asked Sullivan about one of the winners, Bill Clinton:
Al Roker: "When it comes to fashion what can we learn from somebody like, like Bill Clinton?"
Nick Sullivan, Fashion Director for Esquire: "Well Bill is one of those politicians that, politicians fall into two camps. Either they dress so that nothing about them gets noticed because they don't want to detract from it or they dress in a quietly elegant way which underlines their trustworthiness if you like. This is true of Kofi Annan and it's true of Billand it's true of Tony Blair who made the list last year. There's something about it that's, that says, 'I'm serious about business.'"
On last night's Hardball on MSNBC, Chris Matthews did his best to keep morale down here on the home front when he brought on anti-war parents of a fallen soldier and asserted American lives were being "wasted" on Iraq like "pouring water into a sand hole." The following is just some of the exchange. Read on for more.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Schroeder, why do you think we`re in this war? What do you think is the real reason for this war in Iraq?
PAUL SCHROEDER: Well I really don`t know why. I could guess, which might be unfair. But I would guess it has to do with oil. It has to do with deposing a dictator that we used to love and came to hate.
On this morning's Today show both Katie Couric and Andrea Mitchell took swipes at John Bolton. First at 7:04 am Andrea Mitchell aired footage of John Bolton getting booed as he got out of his car: "Well today is John Bolton's first full day on the job as UN ambassador. His challenge there will be to shake up the organization, as the President wants, without alienating anyone who can help him get the job done. As he arrived at his New York offices Monday Bolton ignored a handful of passersby booing his appointment." Later in the piece Mitchell ran a soundbite from Sen. Barack Obama critical of Bolton and then led into a warning to Bolton from Kofi Annan: "The President and his top advisors have been scathing in their criticism of the UN and its leader Kofi Annan. After the appointment Annan promised to work with Bolton but cautioned..." [Kofi Annan: "It is alright for one ambassador to come and push but an ambassador always has to remember that there are 190 others who will have to be convinced."]