Three days after CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered, on The Situation Room, “if Bill Clinton could run for President again, would he be re-elected?" and Jack Cafferty excitedly agreed “he probably would be, in a heartbeat” since "Clinton would be the answer to a prayer” for Democrats, CNN's Bill Schneider on Friday awarded Bill Clinton with his “Political Play of the Week.” Schneider touted how “in a series of appearances this week, the former President made a point of separating his career from his wife's,” so “if Senator Clinton runs for President, it will be harder to depict her campaign as the Clinton restoration.” Schneider trumpeted how this week Bill Clinton had “won the 'Great American Award' from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and the 'J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding.'”After a clip of Clinton praising Jimmy Carter for how “he won a Nobel Prize, which he richly deserved, as much for what he did after he left the White House as when he was in," Schneider heralded how "Bill Clinton is still campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize. But, for now, he'll just have to settle for the 'Political Play of the Week.'" (Transcript follows.)
CBS and ABC played to petty jealousies on Thursday night. Both aired silly stories which contrasted the large retirement package, earned by former ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond, with the average retiree income or the burden rising gas prices supposedly put on a typical family. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer announced: “The average American enters the golden years -- retirement -- expecting to live on less than $30,000 a year, and that includes Social Security. Well, it turns out to be a little more golden than that if you run a big oil company,” as if it's news that a successful executive, just like a network anchor, would retire with more than the average income. Reporter Anthony Mason proceeded to hype the biggest number possible -- “Lee Raymond is being rewarded in his retirement with a breathtaking package worth nearly $400 million” -- though that counts stocks and options which will take years to amass. Mason concluded by pointing out how Raymond made $190,000 a day in 2005 while “the average American worker...earns $43,000 a year." The Washington Post reported that Raymond may just get $8 million a year for his pension -- half what CBS will pay Katie Couric to read a tele-prompter for a half hour a night.
ABC's World News Tonight featured a “First Person” account from a man who claimed rising gas prices are “forcing him to change the way he and his family live their life.” Gary McIlroy used his ABC platform to lash out: “The oil companies continue to have soaring profits and soaring prices. And the American people are the ones taking it. We're the ones being gouged. So I sent a letter to the White House, saying, you know, we can't take this anymore if prices continue to go up and our paychecks are staying the same.” Vargas then ludicrously linked gas prices to Raymond's compensation, as if supply and demand have nothing to do with it: “Those high gas prices, in the meantime, are helping finance one of the richest retirement packages in U.S. corporate history. Former ExxonMobil Chairman Lee Raymond received compensation worth nearly $400 million when he retired last year.” Unmentioned by Vargas: How the chief of Disney, which owns ABC, got a lot more when he departed. (Transcripts follow.)
Forget the lack of evidence, we have our story of presidential duplicity and we're sticking with it. Picking up on a front page Washington Post story about how back in May of 2003 President Bush had cited trailers found in Iraq as proof of WMD, when a secret field report filed two days earlier had concluded the trailers had nothing to do with bio-weapons, on Wednesday morning ABC's Charles Gibson trumpeted how Bush made a statement he "knew at the time that was not true" and so it's “another embarrassment for the White House.” Reporter Martha Raddatz agreed “it certainly is.” But though as reported by FNC's Carl Cameron, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan pointed out at the Wednesday briefing that the day before Bush's 2003 comments a joint CIA/DIA report had concluded the trailers were bio-weapons labs, ABC's World News Tonight plowed ahead Wednesday night, ignoring the more substantial report which had much-wider distribution -- and CNN's Jack Cafferty (“ABC News has even reported that President Bush knew what he was saying about those trailers was false”), as well as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (“The President knew they weren't mobile weapons labs from the very start. How Nixonian is this? We will ask John Dean"), piled on.
Cameron relayed on Special Report with Brit Hume: “Defense Intelligence Agency command issued a joint report with the CIA that said they were weapons labs. The six-page document titled 'Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants' concluded that there could be no other purpose for the trailers beyond biological weapons....Waving that report, the White House spokesman said it was the basis of the President's remarks.” Raddatz acknowledged in her Wednesday World News Tonight story that “the White House said today the President, at the time, believed his statement to be true," but skipped the powerful evidence of how the White House had received an official intelligence report backing up the WMD discovery. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up the Raddatz piece: “Tonight, questions about claims the President and members of his administration made in 2003. They said two trailers in Iraq were mobile weapons labs, proof Saddam Hussein had been developing weapons of mass destruction. The problem was, a Pentagon team had already determined the trailers had nothing to do with WMD.” (More and transcripts follow)
CNN's Wolf Blitzer wondered, on Tuesday's Situation Room, “if Bill Clinton could run for President again, would he be re-elected?" Though Clinton never reached 50 percent (43% in 1992, 49% in 1996), Jack Cafferty excitedly agreed with the proposition: "Oh, I think he probably would be, in a heartbeat, don't you?" Cafferty listed some other potential candidates, such as "the Governor down in Virginia" who "might be a good guy" and "they got Barack Obama," but instead, “who do you see on TV? You see Hillary and Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy." Cafferty maintained: "Clinton would be the answer to a prayer. Not Hillary, her husband." The exchange followed the 5pm EDT hour “Cafferty File" segment question: "Can religion help the Democrats?" That was prompted by Bill Clinton's recommendation to Democrats that they emphasize “values” and religious beliefs. None of the e-mailed replies Cafferty read had made any suggestion about Bill Clinton running for President again. (Transcript follows.)
On Tuesday's Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN, Dobbs scolded “this country's major daily newspapers” for how they “misled” readers in their coverage of immigration rallies since “their headlines failed to tell the truth about what the rallies are all about: Rallies in favor of illegal immigration, and amnesty for illegal aliens.” Dobbs showed the front pages of four newspapers, starting with the New York Times' headline of “Immigrants Rally in Scores of Cities for Legal Status,” followed by the Washington Post's description of “Immigration Rights Rallies,” USA Today's “Historic rallies voice a 'dream'” and the Wall Street Journal's “Immigration-Policy Protests Draw Huge Crowds of Workers.”
Dobbs, however, offered praise for one newspaper's “astute” take, quoting approvingly from a Tuesday Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial which contended: “Organizers wanted the marches to be more about people and less about policy. Most television stations swallowed the bait and delivered news reports soft enough to follow Sesame Street on PBS.” (Transcript, of the comments from Dobbs, follows.)
The three broadcast networks led Monday night with multiple stories which celebrated the protest marches held by illegal immigrants and their supporters, with all three featuring sympathetic anecdotes about the plight of those here illegally. “Tonight,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted in forwarding the red herring that conservatives are against “immigration” as opposed to illegal entry, “hundreds of thousands of people marching in streets across America, trying to convince the country that it needs immigrants." World News Tonight went to three field reports, starting with Miguel Marquez in Phoenix: “Everywhere you look, there are American flags. They're marching under the banner of 'Somos America,' 'we are American.'" But Dan Harris in New York City saw that “like many people here,” one man he spoke with “is carrying a Mexican flag. He says 'I don't need to carry an American flag for people to know that I want to be an American.'"
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, who never uttered the word “illegal” in his lengthy introduction, teased: “They are not American citizens yet, but they want to be. And from every corner of America, immigrants took to the streets today to ask for new immigration laws. We'll go city to city tonight.” Schieffer trumpeted: "Not since the protests of the Vietnam era has there been anything quite like it. From the Canadian border to Texas, from California to the east coast, thousands upon thousands of immigrants in at least a hundred American cities took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations." Bill Whittaker championed “Alex Vega...a father of ten. He owns a business and a house in Orange County. He entered the U.S. illegally 28 years ago. He's marching today because he says he's tired of living in the shadows." From Washington's Mall, Jim Axelrod saw “tens of thousands of Americans” marching though many were illegals. Over on NBC, the least celebratory, Lester Holt heralded: “From border states like here in Arizona to unlikely places like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants alongside their supporters stepped from the shadows. Marching under the American flag, they demanded a place at the American table." (Transcripts follow.)
Erik Sorenson, a former CBS and MSNBC news executive, foresees a “challenge” ahead for Meredith Vieira establishing her credibility on NBC's Today in the face of her anti-war activism and so she'll have to “modulate” her on-air pontificating. On Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, Howard Kurtz, picking up on Vieira's anti-war comments as first noted on NewsBusters, asked Sorenson: “Meredith Vieira marched in an anti-war demonstration a couple years ago, and she said on The View that the war was 'built on lies.' Does that create a credibility problem for her when she's interviewing guests on the Today show about Iraq?" Sorenson, the President of MSNBC from 1999 through early 2004 and Executive Producer of the CBS Evening News from 1991 to 1995, responded in the affirmative: “I think it's going to be a challenge” since “she has been out there with her opinions. And that's not going to be considered appropriate on the Today show. And she will have to modify that and modulate that voice." (Transcript follows.)
On this weekend's McLaughlin Group, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift -- referring the President Bush's September 2003 insistence, in the wake of the Valerie Plame controversy, that “I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information,” a technical accuracy since he had apparently declassified information released in order to counter claims made by Plame's husband, Joe Wilson -- charged: “President Clinton's manipulation of words did not set off a chain of events that took us into an unnecessary war and cost people's lives. It was a personal indiscretion of so much lesser magnitude than what we're dealing here.” Assessing Bush's credibility, she saw him as less credible than Wilson and accused Bush of having “lied” with the “consequence” of thousands being killed, “Wilson's credibility versus the President's credibility: I'd put my money on Wilson. This is a crystalizing piece of information that people can understand the storyline. The President lied, they see the video clips and they know the consequences of a war with over two thousand people dead.” (Partial transcripts follow.)
Reminiscent of Al Franken on the Late Show last October, on Friday's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, actor Ben Affleck charged that President Bush “probably also leaked” Valerie Plame's name and so “if he did, you can be hung for that! That's treason!” In full rant, an apoplectic Affleck asserted: “You could be killed. That's not a joking around Tom DeLay 'I'll do a year, I bribed the state officials with corporate money.' That's like they shoot you in the battlefield for doing that.”
Affleck appeared on Maher's panel with Senator Joe Biden and Bill Sammon of the Washington Examiner. A couple of minutes later, after Sammon suggested Tom DeLay's resignation means the loss of a “poster boy for the left” so they can't use him anymore to raise funds, Affleck besmirched DeLay as a “criminal” while simultaneously demonstrating his political naivete. Though the Texas redistricting orchestrated by DeLay made his district less Republican, Affleck contended: "Tom DeLay personally gerrymandered that district so severely that it looks like a map of Italy....There won't be a Democrat elected in that seat for a thousand years. You can't say he's the poster boy for the left. He happens to be an incredibly powerful Republican who is a criminal and now you blame Democrats for pointing it out!"
Video clip of Affleck talking about hanging and shooting Bush for treason (35 seconds). Real (1.1 MB) or Windows Media (1.25 MB), plus MP3 audio (200 KB).
The Bush administration and all Americans got great news on the economic front Friday when the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 211,000 jobs were added in March while the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, the lowest level in four-and-a-half years. Yet NBC didn't see a booming economy. “President Bush used the jobs numbers as a starting point for a new push to try to convince Americans that the economy is, in fact, on a roll,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted before adding a “but,” as in: "But as NBC News chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson tells us tonight, the economic picture is a bit more complicated." Thompson highlighted how “a new poll out today shows 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the President's handling of the economy." After relaying how Bush blames Iraq for that, Thompson ran a soundbite from an economist who blamed slow wage growth before she recited her own litany: “Also dragging down attitudes, rising health care costs and gas prices. The nation has a negative savings rate, and household debt...is at record levels and could squeeze already strapped family budgets as interest rates continue to rise.” Thompson ended her piece with a quick look at a Massachusetts computer company which is hiring.
At least NBC gave its viewers the basic numbers of the day before trying to discount them. Friday's CBS Evening News didn't utter a syllable about the jobs/unemployment numbers, yet Bob Schieffer's show found time for a second night of coverage of how Bush “authorized leaking classified information” and for a piece on an orphanage in Kenya for elephants -- and that was even before two fluff “Assignment America” segments. ABC's World News Tonight allocated 25 seconds to the unemployment/jobs numbers as anchor Elizabeth Vargas pointed out the 31 consecutive months of job growth. (Transcript of NBC's story follows.)
Like the cable networks during the day, the three broadcast networks on Thursday night were hyperbolic over the revelation that Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, testified that in July of 2003 President Bush had authorized the leaking of parts of a classified pre-war report on Iraq in order to correct misinformation being spread by Joe Wilson. All the newscasts led with the allegation and stressed Bush's hypocrisy in denouncing leaks while leaking material himself, but NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was the most dramatic in employing the most nefarious language. He intoned: “There is an allegation tonight that President Bush authorized the leak of government information -- sensitive, classified information about Iraq -- in order to get back at a critic of his administration and the build-up to war.” Referring to Libby's charge, Williams asserted: “If what he is saying is true, it would mean he was used, in effect, by the President and Vice President to leak secrets. It is a story of much intrigue, big names, and potentially very high stakes.”
Bob Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News: “President Bush has long made clear he despises leaks and leakers. But tonight, he is accused of authorizing a leak of classified intelligence." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked: “Did the White House practice the opposite of what it preached?" White House correspondent Martha Raddatz equated Bush's supposed divulging of a pre-war assessment of a regime which no longer existed with those who disclosed ongoing operational information about the efforts to prevent terrorist attacks: “The Bush administration has vigorously pursued investigations of those who leaked documents pertaining to the secret domestic spying program, and to disclosures of secret prisons run overseas." (Partial transcripts follow.)
Meredith Vieira, one of the hosts on ABC's daytime show The View, who announced on Thursday's program that she has agreed to replace Katie Couric as co-host of NBC's Today, marched in an anti-Iraq war protest back in August of 2004. On the Monday, August 30, 2004 edition of The View, the former CBS 60 Minutes reporter told viewers that she attended the anti-Bush protest held in New York City on the Sunday before the Republican convention opened, insisting: "I didn't go anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. I'm still so upset about this war and I'm so proud I live in a country where you can protest." She showed a photo of herself marching with her pre-teen daughter and her husband, Richard, who was the senior political producer at CBS News for most of the 1980s. Behind her in the photo: A protest sign featuring a “W,” for George W. Bush, with a slash through it.
Earlier in 2004, she declared of the Iraq war: "Everything's been built on lies. Everything! I mean the entire pretext for war." And, with war impending in March of 2003, Vieira argued that anti-war protests "should be consistent and repeated every day, I believe." On other episodes of The View Vieira has also made clear her opposition to the death penalty and when guest Ann Coulter charged that “liberals hate America,” Vieira called that “stupid" and became defensive: “But some people wrap themselves in the flag -- I mean, that's what some liberals are against.” Then she charged: "Just like McCarthy: 'I'm just being patriotic.'"
Video clip #1: Vieira talking about participating in the 2004 anti-Iraq war march (1:25). Real (2.5 MB) or Windows Media (2.9 MB), plus MP3 audio (425 KB).
A day after the Democratic legislature of Massachusetts passed a mandated health insurance plan, and tellingly the day of a front page New York Times story (“Massachusetts Sets Health Plan for Nearly All”) touting the bill which Republican Governor Mitt Romney plans to sign, all three broadcast network evening newscasts led Wednesday by championing the proposal and characterizing it as a national model. ABC and NBC provided critics with just a sentence while CBS ran a totally one-sided promotional story. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "Tonight, one state's revolutionary attempt to create universal health care. If a state can do it, why can't the country?" Vargas claimed: “Most people think medical costs are too high and would like a universal insurance system to cover everyone.” Reporter Nancy Weiner soon trumpeted: “Many experts say after years of failed attempts in several states, and by the federal government the Massachusetts version of universal health care, which stresses individual responsibility, could serve as a national model."
CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell celebrated the government mandate, “Imagine this: Virtually everyone guaranteed health insurance coverage. It's happening in one state, and it could be a model for the rest.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams dreamed: “Health insurance for everybody. Is it possible? Tonight, one state about to make it the law. If it works, will the same thing happen where you live?” He soon wondered: “If this works, why not the rest of the nation? It's been called 'mandatory health care,' 'universal health care,' and, while it has its critics, it's also being called a potential and revolutionary solution to a huge problem: the millions of uninsured Americans.” (Transcripts follow.)
Kudos to CBS News and Lara Logan for undermining a widely reported incident in which U.S. soldiers supposedly killed innocent Iraqis inside a mosque. On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Logan, who just three days earlier on CNN contemptuously dismissed as “outrageous” Laura Ingraham's criticism of Iraq war coverage for ignoring the courageous work of U.S. servicemen, relayed how “the U.S. says” those killed “were members of a militia responsible for executions and kidnappings who opened fire on elite Iraqi forces carrying out a raid early Sunday evening.” But, “many Iraqis believe they were innocent worshipers praying in a mosque who were slaughtered by American forces. Today the Iraqi commander in charge of that raid, whose identity we can't show for security reasons, told CBS News that was a lie." After soundbites from the Iraqi commander and a kidnap victim they rescued, Logan concluded with how the trouble facing Americans in Iraq is that Iraqis believe “another crime” was committed by Americans: “The American special operations troops who supported the Iraqis on this raid praised both their skill and their restraint. But the continuing problem for the U.S. is the public perception here that what happened Sunday was another crime committed by American forces.” (Transcript follows, plus Logan's attack on Ingraham)
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Wednesday night employed a nice euphemism for left-wing environmental groups (those “who care chiefly about our planet”) , thus without conveying any sense of their ideological agenda, he passed along their ridiculing of the Bush administration for not going far enough in hiking the miles per gallon (mpg) standards for SUVs. In leading with the announcement from the Transportation Department, Williams noted that SUVs “have been considered trucks” and thus “been able to duck the mileage rules for American cars.” Williams, who anchored from Washington, DC, presumably so he could attend the Radio-Television News Directors Association dinner, then relayed how “the folks here in Washington and elsewhere who care chiefly about our planet and the insatiable American need for energy, said these new standards will not, in fact, reduce our consumption of oil.”
Reporter Tom Costello soon highlighted how “environmental groups complain the biggest gas-guzzling pickups on the road are still exempt and mileage standards for both cars and light trucks should be much tougher: 40 miles per gallon, not 24." He concluded with the spin of the environmental groups: "The new standards will add about $200 to the average sticker price, but environmentalists wonder what the country is getting for the money.” (Partial transcript follows.)
Bill Maher ended his HBO show Friday night, Real Time with Bill Maher, with a tirade about supposed efforts by the Bush administration to suppress information about global warming. Picking up on the allegations of NASA's James Hansen who was featured on last Sunday's 60 Minutes, Maher charged that “cowboy” Bush “and his corporate goons at the White House tried to censor Mr. Hansen from delivering” the message that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced within ten years or a disastrous “tipping point” will be reached. Maher then quipped: “This from the crowd that rushed into a war based on an article in The Weekly Standard.” Yes, Hansen was “censored” -- right onto the platform of an entire 60 Minutes segment devoted to his apocalyptic theories.
Maher proceeded to level a serious accusation: “Failing to warn the citizens of a looming weapon of mass destruction -- and that's what global warming is -- in order to protect oil company profits, well that fits for me the definition of treason.” Maher nefariously concluded: “We are letting dying men kill our planet for cash and they're counting on us being too greedy or distracted, or just plain lazy, to stop them. So on this day, the 17th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, let us pause to consider how close we are to making ourselves fossils from the fossil fuels we extract.” (Transcript follows.)
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann charged on Thursday night's Countdown that the e-mail, in which ABC News producer John Green complained that “Bush makes me sick,” was “leaked to the infamous, deplorable Matt Drudge” by a desperate White House. His evidence? “I'm not even going to put the 'if that came from the White House somehow' thing in there because the timing's too good.”
Olbermann proposed to Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank: “Does this not smack of desperation on the part of the White House, to let something like that leak out right now?" Olbermann had gone too far even for Milbank, who came to Drudge's defense: "I, first of all, am never going to call Matt Drudge deplorable. Every time he links to one of my stories, I get an extra 50,000 hits." On Green, Milbank indicted his colleagues as he called for condemnation of the ABCer: “We have to say it is unacceptable for a journalist to be doing this, in part because, look, you and I and other journalists go out all the time and say things critical of Bush, but this fellow, I don't know him, is obviously very personally invested.”
In leading his Countdown show on Wednesday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann pegged “the day in 1988 when the first George Bush sandbagged Dan Rather during a live interview on CBS as the moment” when “the process of blaming the messenger became an essential ingredient in American politics,” raised Joe McCarthy's name in noting the location of President Bush's criticism of press coverage of Iraq and railed against the “unforgivable” criticism of the media by radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, whom he described as someone “that I've known socially.” And that was all before he brought aboard Helen Thomas.
Olbermann asserted that the war of “the government versus the news has just escalated anew, and it is approaching a carpet bombing stage. Exhibit A, Wheeling, West Virginia, where Joe McCarthy started his string of the most memorable speeches, today's stop on the George W. Bush 'I am nothing if not deeply misunderstood ' Express.” After playing clips of Ingraham on Tuesday's Today show urging reporters in Iraq “to actually have a conversation with the people instead of reporting from hotel balconies about the latest IEDs going off," Olbermann presumed that meant she had no concept of journalists who have given their lives: “That hotel balcony crack was unforgivable. It was unforgivable to the memory of David Bloom, it was unforgivable in consideration of Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt...”
Video clip of Olbermann castigating Ingraham, and a little more of his insults (55 secs): Real (1.7 MB) or Windows Media (1.9 MB). Plus MP3 audio (330 KB). Bonus video of the 1988 Bush 41-Rather confrontation, cited by Olbermann, at the bottom of this posting.
At a forum with President George W. Bush Wednesday at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, West Virginia, Gayle Taylor, the wife of a member of the military recently returned from Iraq, was drowned out by a standing ovation when she told Bush: "It seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus-" Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News found the criticism of the news media to be newsworthy. NBC's David Gregory instead decided to assert that “in a state he won twice...many here now wonder whether the sacrifice of American lives has been worth it.” NBC viewers then heard from one Mountain State resident, Donna Neptune, whom Gregory described as “a Republican." She maintained: “Those people don't want our help. Our people's being killed over there for nothing."
ABC's World News Tonight, however, was unique amongst the broadcast evening newscasts and highlighted the contention from the woman anchor Elizabeth Vargas described as “the wife of a military journalist who was just back from Iraq." Vargas set up the brief soundbite: “There has been criticism from the Bush administration and others that the media has been ignoring the good news in Iraq, distorting what's really going on there.”After the clip of Taylor, Vargas acknowledged that “it is certainly true that many of the stories from Iraq involve violence, and fear,” but she argued “it is also true that we cover all kinds of stories in Iraq. The last story Bob [Woodruff] filed before” the attack which severely wounded him, “was about a Baghdad ice cream parlor” and “when I was in Iraq in December, we spent time at this ballet school for children.” (Transcripts follow)
Dan Gainor of the MRC's Free Market Project alerted me to the potentially left-wing plot of the episode of Law & Order set to air tonight (Wednesday) on NBC at the show's new time of 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST. The NBC Web site page for the program provides this preview:
WAS VENGEANCE THE REASON BEHIND THE SLAYING OF A PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTOR? -- A private military contractor is found shot to death in his hotel room and Detectives Fontana (Dennis Farina) and Green (Jesse L. Martin) believe vengeance is the motive in a politically charged case that questions the reason America is at war. The detectives soon narrow their focus on a fellow commando Kevin Boatman (guest star Pablo Schrieber) and the younger brother of a man who was murdered by Iraqi insurgents while under the victim's questionable command. But as A.D.A. Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) fights to keep a frightening video of the Iraqi execution out of court, he confronts unexpected political intrigue when more details are revealed about a recently captured terrorist.
Be cautioned, however, that L&O's often take plot twists in which the initially-assumed motivations for crimes turn out to be inaccurate.
Unlike ABC's George Stephanopoulos on World News Tonight and Kelly O'Donnell on the NBC Nightly News, on the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod featured the far-left question from Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas at Tuesday morning's presidential press conference. Thomas blamed Bush for deaths and charged that he employed subterfuge to launch a war: "Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war?" Axelrod set up Thomas by pointing out how Bush “did something he hadn't done in three years: Call on the often combative dean of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas." While O'Donnell and Stephanopoulos didn't air the question from Thomas, they did run a soundbite of part of Bush's answer to her. Axelrod also showcased his question to Bush, one based on the questionable premise that someone who shows up outside a hotel where the President is to speak is anything but a motivated antagonist: "I spent a fair amount of time in front of that hotel in Cleveland yesterday talking to people about the war, and one woman who said she voted for you said, 'You know what? He's losing me, he's been there too long, he's losing me.' What do you say to her?" (Transcript follows.)
Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today." She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts."
In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't." Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."
Video excerpt #1, “Shore” listing misdeeds (1:25): Real (2.5 MB) or Windows Media (2.9 MB)
Video excerpt #2, “Shore” making McCarthy era comparison (1:15): Real (2.2 MB) or Windows Media (2.5 MB)
Asked to provide an assessment of life is for ordinary Iraqis on the third anniversary of the start of the war, on Monday's ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News, Dan Harris and Richard Engel provided different pictures. ABC's Harris conveyed more bad than good, but acknowledged some hope expressed by an Iraqi family. NBC's Engel, however, stuck exclusively to the negative. “Iraqis today show a range of complex, competing emotions,” Harris relayed as he profiled a family in which “the question of whether Iraq is better off three years later provokes debate” with the 15-year-old daughter pleased that “toppling the regime made Iraq free.” After relating how a man in a long gas line maintained such a line “never would have happened under Saddam,” Harris pressed him: “Would you really rather have Saddam back, or long gas lines? 'We don't want Saddam. But we need a better economy and more security.'” Harris concluded with how the family expresses “the same, seemingly contradictory emotions, so common in Iraq today. They sometimes miss the days of Saddam, but don't want him back. They want the Americans to get out, but just not yet.”
A more dire Engel began with how “since the U.S. invasion, there has not been a single day without mortar fire, car bombings, or IED attacks. This is not the world Afrah wanted to bring her daughter into.” Engel highlighted how callers to a radio show “complain about kidnapings, police death squads and murders between Sunnis and Shiites." He concluded with how one man told him that “when he leaves his house in the morning...he tells his family he might not see them again." Engel proceeded to tell anchor Campbell Brown about how “my closest Iraqi friend” thinks “his country is now lost." (Transcripts follow.)
[Be advised that this item includes accurate quotations of vulgarities.] When Congresswoman Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen contended Friday night, on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, that servicemen she's met in Iraq are “saying 'we're proud of our mission, we know what we're doing over here. We don't want you guys in Washington to lose it over there,'” actor/comedian Richard Belzer condescendingly fired back, claiming that to “ask them” is “bullshit” since, apparently unlike him, “they don't read twenty newspapers a day.” Ros-Lehtinen cited the knowledge of her Marine officer stepson, but Belzer, who plays “Detective John Munch” on NBC'sLaw & Order: SVU, retorted: “Doesn't mean he's a brilliant scholar about the war because he's there.” A quite agitated Ros-Lehtinen sputtered: "Oh, you are though! You are though? Okay." To which Belzer affirmed: "Well I have more time...” Host Bill Maher interjected that Belzer's point was that a 19-year-old is in the army “because he probably couldn't find other employment." The Republican Congresswoman from Florida countered that her stepson is a college graduate, leading Belzer to snidely denigrate the military: "You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job.”
Ros-Lehtinen mocked him: "Yeah, you know because you've been there." Belzer rudely lashed back: "What, I don't fucking read!? Don't do that!" He went on to argue: "It's this patronizing thing that people have about if you're against the war everyone's lumped together. You know, the soldiers are not scholars, they're not war experts." That was too much for host Bill Maher: "You're going to lose even me...”
On Thursday's ER, a leading character on the NBC drama set in a Chicago hospital, declared in reference to her husband being deployed to Iraq: “My duty is to be a good doctor and to be a good wife, not to be brainwashed into falling in line with some pseudo-patriotic delusion." The blast from “Dr. Neela Rasgotra,” played by Parminder Nagra, came at the end of a scene of a gathering of spouses of deployed soldiers. When one woman, whose husband would not be home for the impending birth of their child, proclaimed that “our loved ones are serving our country, and it's a small price to pay,” Dr. Rasgotra replied: "I think it's a huge price to pay, especially under the circumstances." The woman wondered: “What circumstances?" Dr. Rasgotra explained: "Well, the way the whole thing's been handled, how we got into it, how it's been managed....I still haven't seen any weapons of mass destruction, have you?" As they all sat in a home's living room, Dr. Rasgotra pleaded with the group: "You can't tell me that you believe 100 percent in your heart that we should be in Iraq, can any of you?" (Transcript follows, as well as other instances of left-wing activism on ER.)
A day after leading with how a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put President Bush's approval at a low 37 percent (see this NewsBusters item), Thursday's NBC Nightly News again emphasized the negative for Bush and ignored how its own survey found public support for Bush policies which the media have derided, such as majority support for the NSA wiretapping program, the Patriot Act and making Bush's tax cuts permanent. From the White House, David Gregory asserted that "they're clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the President's eroding support in the country." Gregory suggested that "at his lowest level yet in the polls, the President is left to wonder: Which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency." Ironically, Gregory relayed how "Republican leaders have said they're worried that the President's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked." Indeed they have been by Gregory and NBC News. While Tim Russert on Wednesday night gave a sentence to how "voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security," like with the terrorist surveillance issue, neither NBC Nightly News nor Today have yet to mention how 56 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent." (Transcript follows.)
Citing a Thursday column from Baghdad by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Fred Barnes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, scolded the news media for delivering a “daily diet” of news about explosions while missing progress on the political front. Ignatius began his column: “There has been so much bad news out of Iraq lately that you have to pinch yourself when good things seem to be happening. But there are unmistakable signs here this week that Iraq's political leaders are taking the first tentative steps toward forming a broad government of national unity that could reverse the country's downward slide.” He concluded: “Pessimism isn't necessarily the right bet for Iraq.”
Barnes, Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard, observed, “Here's what struck me about it: David Ignatius reported about a lot of top level private meetings of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds of the number of meetings over, what, the last couple of weeks, I think. Where were the reporters? Why did David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, have to go over there and reveal that to us? I mean, the reporters ought to know about that. These are major figures politically in Iraq and we get nothing from them except word of explosions. From the other reporters -- that's the daily diet." (More from Barnes, and an excerpt from the Ignatius column, follow.)
As noted by Tim Graham Tuesday in a NewsBusters item about 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace announcing that he will retire at the end of this season, “perhaps the most-recounted Wallace anecdote didn't appear on CBS, but on PBS.” Indeed, on an edition of the PBS panel series Ethics in America, devoted to war coverage, which was taped at Harvard in late 1987, Mike Wallace proclaimed that if he were traveling with enemy soldiers he would not warn U.S. soldiers of an impending ambush. “Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?", moderator Charles Ogletree Jr. suggested. Without hesitating, Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher duty...you're a reporter." When Brent Scrowcroft, the then-future National Security Adviser, argued that "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second," Wallace was mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by [the imaginary] North Kosanese on American soldiers?"
George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel, reacted with disdain: "I feel utter contempt. Two days later they're both walking off my hilltop, they're two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists, they're not Americans." The discussion concluded as Connell fretted: "But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists." (More quotes follow.)
Video excerpt #1, comments from Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace (3:10) Real (2.4 MB) or Windows Media (2 MB). Plus MP3 audio (560 KB)
Video excerpt #2, angry reaction from Marine Colonel George Connell (38 secs) Real (500 KB) or Windows Media (450 KB). Plus MP3 audio (115 KB) See note below about video quality.
Does CBS anchor Bob Schieffer think that if he issues ominous warnings about "civil war" in Iraq often enough it will eventually come true and vindicate his, as of yet, unfulfilled predictions? Neither ABC or NBC raised "civil war" in their Wednesday evening newscasts, but Bob Schieffer, who has been the most prolific anchor in pushing the dire warning, did so again as he pegged off how Saddam Hussein has turned his trial into a "farce" to insist that "Iraq teeters on the edge of civil war." Schieffer opened his broadcast with a downbeat litany: "Iraq's new parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time tomorrow, but again today political leaders could not agree on a cabinet to take charge of the government, top cleric's appeals for calm went unheeded and the country may be closer than ever to civil war..."
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.)