CNN on Tuesday afternoon gave credibility to the ruminations from a few hardcore leftists that President Bush should be impeached over authorizing, without prior court approval, eavesdropping on people within U.S. borders communicating with those abroad who have ties to al-Qaeda. Both Jack Cafferty and anchor Wolf Blitzer raised the subject during the 4pm EST hour of The Situation Room. Cafferty's question of the hour: “Do you think it's an impeachable offense for the President to authorize domestic spying without a warrant?” He set that up by insisting that “if you listen carefully, you can hear the word impeachment.” He asserted that “two congressional Democrats are using it, and they're not the only ones,” referring to how “Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to legal experts yesterday asking if they think the President's wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant is a quote, ‘impeachable offense,' unquote.” Cafferty cited the claims of John Dean and touted how Newsweek's Jonathan Alter “says that similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.” (Tom Johnson filed a NewsBusters item on Alter's online rant.)
Sandwiched between Cafferty's question and his reading of e-mail replies, Blitzer set up a live interview with Boxer on Capitol Hill: “Some Democrats now are raising the possibility that Mr. Bush's authorization of the plan may be an actual impeachable offense. Joining us now, one of the staunchest critics, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Precisely, Senator Boxer, where do you stand on this very sensitive issue of impeachment?" Blitzer did, however, soon move on to challenging Democratic spin on the “domestic spying” matter. (Transcripts follow.)
In an interview conducted Sunday in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney, and shown on Monday’s Nightline, Terry Moran decided “to put this personally” and condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, leaves Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters. Moran asked: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, “it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney’s defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran’s contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?” Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether “the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?" (Transcript follows.)
Picking up on a front page New York Times story, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” the three broadcast networks led Friday night with the revelation, which animated the cable networks during the day, about how post-9/11 the NSA has monitored communication by a few thousand people in the U.S. in touch with those on al-Qaeda lists captured in Pakistan, or an expanding chain of those connected to that initial cache. Despite the limited focus on identifying sleeper agents before they could murder Americans, the networks treated the policy as a violation of the rights of all Americans. With “Big Brother” in front of a picture of President Bush, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: “Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans." NBC's Brian Williams teased: "Government spying. Tonight, revelations of domestic eavesdropping on hundreds of phone calls by the federal government, part of top secret orders by President Bush after 9/11." Williams insisted that now “the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us.”
Though the White House maintains the policy is legal and congressional leaders as well as a federal judge were told about it in 2002, CBS characterized the policy as illegal. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Has the government been using its spy satellites to illegally eavesdrop on Americans?” Schieffer then declared as fact: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11.” (Transcripts of the newscast leads, and some excerpts from the New York Times story, follow.)
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, led Thursday night with glowingly positive spins on the election in Iraq. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, the only anchor in Iraq, celebrated in her tease: “So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future.” She then led World News Tonight with how “millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government.” Remarkably, she pointed out how “the Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” Campbell Brown, filling in for Brian Williams, teased NBC Nightly News: “A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day." She began her program by trumpeting: “It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy.”
Bob Schieffer suggested surprise at the success as he teased the CBS Evening News: “Iraq held an election and millions voted. It really happened, but what happens next?” Schieffer then delivered a positive, yet more muted than ABC or NBC, lead in which he described “one of the largest turnouts for a free election in the history of the Arab world.” (Transcripts follow.)
A couple of left-wing groups organized a small protest outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to denounce imaginary “cuts” in spending on programs for the poor, but instead of properly labeling the protesters or pointing out how the “cuts” are nothing more than a slowing of the rate of long-soaring growths in the programs, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams saw non-ideological “religious activists” who were “arrested after a sit-in protesting a controversial Republican budget bill that will cut $42 billion from a range of federal programs, including health care for the poor and elderly, child care, student loans and food stamps."
Williams probably took his cue from AP reporter Elizabeth White, who led her dispatch by citing how “U.S. Capitol Police arrested 115 religious activists who were protesting a House Republican budget plan's cuts in social programs...” She described Jim Wallis, “the event's organizer,” simply as the “founder of the Christian ministry group Sojourners.” In fact, Sojourners, and co-sponsor Call to Renewal, are quite liberal. Even Wednesday's Washington Post, in a story previewing the protest, tagged Sojourners as a “liberal Christian journal.” Sojourners liked the AP story so much, they posted it on their Web site. (Lengthier transcripts, and an earlier example of NBC's hype of “cuts,” follow.)
The roundtable members Monday night on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume derided the premise of this week’s Newsweek cover story with President Bush on the cover inside a bubble. Inside the magazine, under the “Bush in the Bubble” headline, Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe insisted: “Bush may be the most isolated President in modern history, at least since the late-stage Richard Nixon.”On FNC, Morton Kondracke contended “that this piece comes directly from the Washington establishment. ‘Bush is in a bubble that does not include us. We should be inside the bubble, all buzzing in Bush's ear.’” Kondracke contended that Bush talks to the people that he wants to talk to. But the people who he doesn't talk to is, you know, this Washington old guard that buzzes back to the press all the time." Mara Liasson of NPR rejected the premise of the article that Bush would act differently if only he talked to more people and suggested Newsweek was frustrated by a White House staff who “aren't inviting them in for long lunches where they bare their souls.”
Fred Barnes characterized the magazine’s take as a “hearty perennial...for journalism” and recalled how Newsweek had dismissed President Reagan’s White House as “The Detached Presidency." In fact, the September 7, 1981 Newsweek article was headlined: “A Disengaged Presidency.” But the first sentence of the story acknowledged the media’s lack of respect for Reagan and included the “detached” term: “For weeks the White House press corps has wondered and wisecracked about Ronald Reagan's detached style of leadership: his apparent unfamiliarity with some issues before him, his reliance on aides and campaign-style cue cards in dealing with Congressional power brokers and foreign leaders.” The piece, which carried Eleanor Clift’s byline, later charged: “Reagan's undemanding approach to his work can lead to embarrassing displays of inattention and ignorance.” (The discussion on FNC and how the Newsweek story also praised 41 for raising taxes, as well as an excerpt from the 1981 article, follow.)
NBC anchor Brian Williams raised a wide variety of issues with President Bush in interviews conducted through the day Monday, starting in the morning in the Oval Office and ending with a session following the President’s speech in Philadelphia. But in an interview conducted on Air Force One on the way to Philadelphia, and shown on Monday’s NBC Nightly News, Williams raised, in the guise of what he overheard someone wonder, the racist angle in the response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Williams proposed: “After the tragedy, I heard someone ask rhetorically, ‘What if this had been Nantucket, Massachusetts, or Inner Harbor Baltimore or Chicago or Houston?’ Are you convinced the response would have been the same? Was there any social or class or race aspect to the response?” Bush rejected the notion.
A September 9 NewsBusters item related, with video, how on the Daily Show on Comedy Central, Williams seemed to come dangerously close to endorsing the view that racism was behind the slow rescue of residents in New Orleans as he approvingly relayed how, a “refrain” he heard from “everyone watching the coverage all week,” was “had this been Nantucket, had this been Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, how many choppers would have-” At that point, audience applause caused him to cut off his sentence as he gestured toward the audience to cite affirmation of his point. Hard to imagine that if Williams heard the refrain, which is out there, that the hurricane’s destruction of abortion clinics in New Orleans shows it was meant as God’s punishment of sinful behavior in the city, Williams would have so willingly passed along that line of reasoning. (Transcript of the Williams-Bush exchange follows.)
NPR’s Nina Totenberg declared on this weekend’s Inside Washington that the House vote to extend the current tax rates on dividends and capital gains was “immoral” as she ridiculously claimed, in the face of ever-soaring entitlement spending, that Congress is cutting aid to the poor. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas backed her up, asserting that “we need to raise taxes...and who better to raise them on than the super-rich?" Totenberg argued of the tax rate extension vote: “I just think it's immoral to do that, not to mention fiscally irresponsible, when you're cutting people who have nothing -- from children off of Medicaid and mothers who depend on childcare losing the childcare and can't work. And then what do they do? Go back on welfare? I mean, it is, it's, I just think it's immoral." Columnist Charles Krauthammer tried to insert some rationality into the tax hike advocacy of Totenberg, Thomas and columnist Mark Shields, as he pointed ot that if the House position does not prevail and "you abolish" the current rate "you are essentially raising" taxes when that current rate expires in two years. (Transcript follows.)
It’s long been known that NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams dropped out of the George Washington University in 1979 to intern in the Carter White House’s correspondence office sorting letters. But in the 7:30 half hour of Thursday’s Today we learned that 13 years earlier, in a 1966 letter to President Lyndon Johnson, he had proclaimed his commitment to the “Democret” party. Williams came aboard the Today show to plug a National Geographic book for which he wrote an introduction, Dear Mr. President: Letters to the Oval Office from the Files of the National Archives. As viewers saw Williams’ 1966 handwritten letter to Johnson, Lauer noted how the seven-year-old Williams “signed off the letter ‘one of your young Democrets,' not Democrats." Williams quipped: “You know, I was a young sycophant is what I was. And yeah, we've done Democrets. I think that's a chewing gum product. We've looked it up. It is no political party and for a registered independent it's now very embarrassing." Lauer razzed him: "Independart, you mean." Williams replied: "Oh, very funny." (Full text of the letter follows.)
The Thursday NBC Nightly News framed the House vote, to extend dividend and capital gain tax rate reductions another two years beyond their December 31, 2008 scheduled end, through a liberal prism which assumes all the money earned belongs to the government and that measures the fairness by the dollar amount of cuts for the rich versus the poor -- a silly notion since the wealthy pay most of the taxes. If the extension is not passed by the Senate and signed by the President, tax rates would rise at the beginning of 2009.
Anchor Brian Williams set up the story: “The House passed its version of a bill that would keep tax cuts for capital gains and dividends in place through the year 2010. It is a top priority for the Bush administration, but some in Congress today said those priorities are misplaced.” Chip Reid interwove soundbites from two liberal Democrats around his observation that “it was at times a furious debate, Democrats accusing Republicans of using tax cuts to reward the rich.” With a matching graphic on screen, Reid relayed how “Democrats say” that “nearly half” of the cut, 48 percent, “will go to people making more than $500,000 a year.” Reid segued to a third Democratic soundbite: “Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, whose district was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, says the cuts show Republican priorities are, quote, 'screwed up.'" Reid ran two Republican soundbites as he noted how “Republicans defend the cuts as an essential part of President Bush's domestic agenda. Tax cuts for investors, they say, fuel a growing economy," but he countered that with how “a non-partisan deficit watchdog says tax cuts can hurt the economy when Congress fails to pay for them." Yes, tax cuts must be “paid for.” (Transcript follows.)
While CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer on Wednesday night highlighted how, in a fresh CBS News/New York Times poll, President Bush’s approval rating has risen five points since October, he pointed out just one other survey finding -- one which matched a Democratic agenda item -- that “58 percent of those questioned said the U.S. should set a timetable for troop withdrawal; 39 percent said no.” But Schieffer skipped how the survey also discovered that the public agrees with Bush and rejects the policy urged by Congressman John Murtha and left-wingers, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chairman Howard Dean. As reported in the CBSNews.com summary of the poll: “Six in 10 say they would agree with President Bush’s statement that removing U.S. troops from Iraq now would be ‘a recipe for disaster.’" Specifically, 61 percent responded “yes” compared to 34 percent who replied with a “no” -- a nearly two-to-one ratio. (Transcript follows.)
On Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer reminded viewers how “we reported last night that a group of House Republicans was ready to start proceedings to permanently remove Tom DeLay from the House leadership because of his indictment on campaign money laundering charges. Well, the Republicans held a closed-door meeting today, but there was no effort to remove DeLay, who has stepped down temporarily until the case is resolved.” Indeed, on Tuesday’s newscast Gloria Borger claimed that “tomorrow morning, House Republicans are going to meet behind closed doors and they are going to tell their leaders in no uncertain terms, ‘We never want Tom DeLay back as our Majority Leader.' They're saying to their leaders, ‘We want new elections in the early new year. And if you don't allow us to do it, we are going to force these elections on you.'” Borger promised: “I guarantee you, Bob, there are going to be people coming out of the woodwork to run for leader in the Republican Party. There's no shortage of ambition up here." (Full transcript follows.)
The Tuesday broadcast network evening newscasts jumped on an inconsequential House hearing, which the AP reported was attended by just seven Members of Congress, where five residents of New Orleans hurled charges that racism limited help after Hurricane Katrina. ABC actually led with the hearing as anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "On World News Tonight, the angry voices from inside the storm. The victims of Katrina tell Congress they're still not getting help because they are poor and black." Vargas trumpeted the charges: “They were brought in front of Congress today so that the voiceless could be heard. Five people whose lives were torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. Five black people who say that when the hurricane came, for so many like them, race did matter.” One woman asserted: “When we stepped outside, guns were pointed on us. I felt like we were being told to go outside in order to be killed. No one's going to tell me it wasn't a race issue." ABC reporter Linda Douglass acknowledged believability was in question: "Members listened intently but were skeptical of some of the more extreme charges. Like this one, from [Dyan] French [Cole], who insisted someone deliberately flooded poor neighborhoods." She ludicrously alleged: "I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee." Ridiculously, Vargas characterized the hearing as "extraordinary.”
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer championed Dyan French Cole, affectionately known to CBS News as “Mama D,” as he described her as a “key witness” and reminded viewers that CBS’s “John Roberts first reported on her from New Orleans right after the hurricane. And now Congress isn't likely to forget her, either. She gave them an earful today.” CBS viewers won’t have her wackiest and most insidious charge to forget since in nearly an entire story devoted to her rants, Roberts avoided discrediting her by never mentioning her claim about how the levees were “bombed.” Instead, he personally interviewed her and took her allegations seriously: "She came...to testify on whether race played a role in the Hurricane Katrina response." NBC anchor Brian Williams touted how “a special House committee heard emotional testimony from Katrina survivors who insisted racism was a big factor in the government's slow response to the disaster.” Kerry Sanders, who showcased Dyan French Cole, also skipped over her levee “bombing” charge, began: "In New Orleans, according to a Gallup poll, six in ten blacks said if most of Katrina's victims were white, the rescues would have come faster." (Transcripts follow.)
Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle’s contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time -- but not the lead story (CBS led with the Hussein trial).
ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the “less serious” one, but CBS called the remaining charge the “more difficult to prove.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas related how “a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy.” NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “a judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering.” CBS’s Gloria Borger, however, reported that DeLay’s “office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove.” (Transcripts follow.)
On Monday, ABC announced the new anchor pairing, starting in January, of Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff (see this NewsBusters item). Alerting viewers to it at the end of Monday’s newscast, Vargas asserted that “we are committed to every way maintaining the standard of excellence established by Peter Jennings” and Woodruff promised that “we will try to make Peter proud.” One Woodruff resume listing ABC is proud enough to tout is his trip to North Korea. The ABCNews.com announcement boasted of how “in June 2005 he got unprecedented access to the secretive country of North Korea.”
But, as documented at the time by the MRC, Woodruff’s reports during his week inside the totalitarian regime showcased North Korean officials denouncing the U.S. and happy kids doing art and playing music. The June 10, 2005 CyberAlert, “ABC: North Koreans Hate Americans, Offer Great Music/Art for Kids,” recounted: “North Koreans are isolated from outside information and fed a steady diet of anti-American propaganda, but that apparently doesn't make the anti-American comments from regime operatives, or citizens with minders standing nearby, unnewsworthy to ABC. ‘There are large gaps in what the world knows about the North Korean leader and his people,’ World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted before asserting that ‘many North Koreans, it seems, have strong opinions about Americans.’ From Pyongyang, Bob Woodruff went aboard the captured USS Pueblo and relayed how the ‘officer who gave us a tour today said the ship's an example of American crimes and another reason Koreans don't like Americans.’ The uniformed woman declared: ‘They invaded to our territory, and they supplied information, so all Koreans were angry.’ Woodruff traveled to a collective farm where found an 11-year-old girl who said of Americans: ‘They killed Korean people.’ Finally, Woodruff went to the ‘Children's Palace’ where ‘5,000 North Korean kids are trained after school in music, art and sports.’ The video showed healthy kids in colorful uniforms playing instruments, painting and dancing." (Full transcript and pictures follow.)
Friday’s American Morning on CNN featured an interview session with two members of a Cleveland-area Marine reserve unit just back from Iraq who outlined how their one-on-one experience with Iraqi people showed the situation isn’t nearly as hopeless as the media portray it. Miles O'Brien set up the segment: "The story we get out of Iraq on a daily basis, whether it's through politicians or through the media, is generally a story which doesn't paint a rosy picture of the situation there. A couple of Marines who are just back from some very difficult duty in Iraq would like to tell you a little different story.” Corporal Stan Mayer relayed how “we saw a lot of transformation in the towns we went into. They really kind of, they got a lot safer, we got a lot more smiles after we spent enough time in a certain area." O'Brien pressed: "The big picture analysis here is that, that, militarily, this is a -- it may not be a war that the U.S. can win. Do you disagree with that?" Corporal Jeff Schuller shot back: "Definitely."
Doing a search on Yahoo News, I discovered how CNN found them: They were the focus of a Monday Christian Science Monitor story which reported that “soldiers clearly feel that important elements are being left out of the media's overall verdict” on Iraq. Focusing on the 3/25 Marine unit, reporter Mark Sappenfield traveled to Brook Park, Ohio and found that “amid the terrible scenes of reckless hate and lives lost, many members of one of the hardest-hit units insist that they saw at least the spark of progress” and that “their conversation could be a road map of the kind of stories that military folks say the mainstream media are missing.” Sappenfield relayed how “the Iraq of Corporal Mayer's memory is not solely a place of death and loss. It is also a place of hope. It is the hope of the town of Hit, which he saw transform from an insurgent stronghold to a place where kids played on Marine trucks. It is the hope of villagers who whispered where roadside bombs were hidden. But most of all, it is the hope he saw in a young Iraqi girl who loved pens and Oreo cookies.” (Full transcript of CNN's segment follows as well as an excerpt from the CSM article.)
After leading their evening newscasts with Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for a withdrawal from Iraq, the ABC and CBS shows on Tuesday skipped Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman’s disclosure that, after a recent trip to Iraq, he saw "real progress" and argued against withdrawing troops. The NBC Nightly News merely gave Lieberman a brief soundbite. But on Wednesday’s Tonight Show on NBC, Jay Leno raised the perspective of the 2000 Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate with Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Leno characterized Lieberman’s position as one which “more or less agrees with the President” as he pressed Dean: “How about Joe Lieberman now? Obviously a prominent Democrat....He came back, and he's been there a few times to Iraq. And he more or less agrees with the President, correct?" Dean, who dismissed Bush’s speech as “repetitive dribble,” began his answer: “Everybody gets to march to their own drummer in this party...” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night speculated about whether America has reached a Walter Cronkite Vietnam war assessment "tipping point" as Cooper set up a laudatory profile of anti-war Republican Congressman Walter Jones. After an ad break, Cooper went to Christiane Amanpour who asked French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin if he feels his anti-war efforts have now been "vindicated?" Cooper recalled: "On hearing Walter Cronkite say the war in Vietnam had reached a stalemate after the Tet offensive, President Lyndon Johnson famously said, 'If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost middle America.' Fast forward thirty-seven years, there's no Walter Cronkite to speak for middle America, but reporting from middle America, from a congressional district where support for the military and the President traditionally runs high, we do have CNN's John King." King described Jones' "dramatic transformation" against the war and highlighted a pro-war veteran as well as a retired Marine Colonel who declared: "I'm more convinced than ever that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will be the Republicans' Robert S. McNamara." King then contended: "Such talk in a patriotic place like this is telling."
In the next segment of Anderson Cooper 360, Amanpour sat down with the anti-war de Villepin, who as "France's Foreign Minister, was way out in front voicing French dissent." Amanpour cued him up: "You obviously did not support it, and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?" Amanpour soon relayed de Villepin's shot at violence in the U.S.: "And on France's fiery unrest, two weeks of rioting by French youths of African and Arab origin, de Villepin admits these people do face discrimination, but he downplays the violence compared to what's happened in the U.S." (Transcripts of both stories follow.)
ABC’s Jessica Yellin, live on Wednesday’s Good Morning America, exploited First Lady Laura Bush’s tour of White House Christmas displays, cards and decorations to hit her with an emotion-laden inquiry about regretting the war in Iraq: “Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?" Mrs. Bush replied with how “every loss is too many” and said that “I want to encourage Americans to reach out to our military families who suffer the most.” Yellin followed up by continuing her agenda: "And do you hope the U.S. will be out of Iraq by this time next year?" Yellin posed her serious questions about three minutes into Mrs. Bush’s descriptions of the cards and ornaments in the East Room. (Transcript follows.)
It will be liberal night tonight (Wednesday) on the late night shows, according to the guests listed on their Web sites: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is scheduled to appear on CBS'sLate Show with David Letterman, DNC Chairman Howard Dean is set to appear on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is listed as the guest for Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report will feature Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor of the far-left The Nation magazine. The slightly less liberal, but still liberal Detroit columnist/talk radio host Mitch Albom is scheduled to come aboard CBS’sLate Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
In an interview taped for ABC’s Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005, rapper Kanye West, who in September during NBC's Concert for Hurricane Relief had declared that “George Bush doesn't care about black people,” told Walters that he stands by the allegation. In the ABC special aired Tuesday night, in which Walters featured West as the second of her ten “most fascinating people,” she played the clip and then asked him: “Do you think what you said then you still feel today?" West responded: "I spoke from, I spoke from my heart, and I stand by my statement." (Brief transcript follows.)
Twelve days ago when Democratic Congressman John Murtha, who had long been critical of the Bush administration’s running of the war, advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all emphasized his importance and influence as they led with his press conference. CBS showcased Murtha’s attack on Vice President Dick Cheney’s lack of military service and ABC ran a 90-second excerpt of Murtha. But on Tuesday night, after the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed (“Our Troops Must Stay”) from the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, in which he cited “real progress” in Iraq and argued against withdrawing troops, ABC and CBS didn’t utter a syllable about his assessment. The NBC Nightly News, at least, squeezed in a soundbite from Lieberman, though David Gregory also highlighted a puny protest as he relayed how “opposition to the war followed the President today to a Denver fundraiser, as more than a hundred angry critics met Mr. Bush's motorcade.” In his op-ed, Lieberman had bemoaned: “What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.”
ABC’s World News Tonight, which led with multiple stories from New Orleans on the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, held its coverage of Iraq to a brief item on “peace activists” taken hostage and anchor Elizabeth Vargas provided a 20-second preview of Bush’s Wednesday speech on his Iraq policy.
Snowstorms topped the CBS Evening News before David Martin provided a story on how Secretary of Defense “Rumsfeld rattled off signs of progress,” which Martin ran through. “For all the progress cited by administration officials,” Martin then ominously concluded, “one key factor shows no sign of improving: For the past two months, an average of three Americans has been killed each day in Iraq, and that's the highest since January." Anchor Bob Schieffer then turned to Lara Logan in Baghdad who said one of Rumsfeld’s assertions “simply isn't true” and undermined a couple of others. (Full transcripts of the CBS and NBC stories follow, as well as more on Murtha coverage.)
In a taped interview aired Monday night on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes, agreed that the Bush National Guard story should not have aired if the memos could not be authenticated “beyond a reasonable doubt,” revealed that the weekend Mapes and her colleagues were putting the story together “was chaos” inside the 60 Minutes offices and that Dan Rather has “acknowledged to me that he did not see the finished piece before it went on the air.” Contradicting earlier reports that he and Rather got into an argument at a urinal, Wallace maintained that “I had a pleasant, sensible discussion with Dan. I said everybody who was involved with you in this thing, everybody got fired. Why didn't you go with them?” Wallace soon resisted Bill O’Reilly’s characterization of the Memogate story as a “fiasco.”
Moving on to Iraq, Wallace contended that “Iraq is becoming a kind of Vietnam” and asserted that “we should never have gone into Iraq. We were sold a bill of goods.” Wallace, however, suggested Bush may not really have been in charge and thus may not be to blame: “Now, whether the President was sold a bill of goods or whether Dick Cheney was sitting in the chair at that time, I don't know.” (Transcript follows, as well as a look back at Wallace’s May of 2004 attack on Bush and the war.)
media elite are to the left of the public in several policy areas
related to the war on terrorism, a poll "of opinion leaders and the
general public conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People
& the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign
Relations," found. While 56 percent of the public believes "efforts to
establish a stable democracy" in Iraq will succeed, 63 percent of the
news media elite think it will fail; a plurality of 48 percent of the
public think going to war in Iraq was correct, but 71 percent of the
news media elite consider it a bad decision; the public is split evenly
at 44 percent on whether the Iraq war has helped or hurt the war on
terrorism, but an overwhelming 68 percent of the news media elite say
it has hurt; and 46 percent of the public believe torture of terrorist
suspects is often or sometimes "justified," 78 percent of the news
media elite contend it is "rarely" or "never" justified. Plus, news
media elite approval of Bush's job performance -- at a lowly 21 percent
-- is half that of the public's.
Another example of network journalists creating their own self-fulfilling story. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams set up a full story on how President Bush has returned to his Texas ranch “after an overseas trip that was not supposed to be about Iraq, but that topic ended up following him all the way around the world.” As if reporters, who were the ones posing the questions to him about Iraq and making it a topic on their newscasts, had nothing to do with it! Then, over video of Bush trying to open the closed doors in China, David Gregory opened his piece by finding deep meaning in the minor incident: “The President's botched exit from an impromptu press conference spoke volumes about this latest trip abroad." Gregory proceeded to act as if reporters were mere observers when they were directly responsible for imposing their news agenda: "All this month, from Latin America to Asia, foreign travel has provided Mr. Bush no escape from his political troubles. In Argentina, trade talks collapsed overshadowed by anti-America protests and persistent questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak investigation." (Full transcript follows.)
On November 4, the night of Bush's press conference in Argentina, a NewsBusters item recounted how “the broadcast networks...treated as of great import how President Bush was 'dogged' at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.” NBC's “Brian Williams stressed how Bush's 'political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.' Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's 'domestic woes came along, too' with 'four of five' press conference 'questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.'”
Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features another weekly submission from Randy Cohen, writer of "The Ethicist" column, about a non-political topic -- who should pay for damage done to an office building by a doctor’s patient -- but on Friday’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS Cohen made clear his disgust with President Bush. When Ferguson raised Bill Clinton’s name, Cohen reacted with outrage that Ferguson was still concerned about such old news: "Oh, Clinton, he's been out of office for, you know, how long? Seven years. Some little lie about his personal life. We've got a guy now who lied the country into a war. You're talking about Clinton from seven years ago?" Actually, Clinton left office fewer than five years ago. Cohen advised that on Monica Lewinsky “he should have said, 'None of your business' and then after that, it's between him and his wife.”
Cohen’s hostility to President Bush isn’t based on recent events. A MRC CyberAlert item in June of 2003 recounted: “Since President Bush is either a 'liar’ or 'corrupt’ or just plain 'incompetent’ now that his reasons for war with Iraq have all been found to be untrue, the 'ethicist’ columnist for the New York Times wondered on CNN whether Bush can 'honorably’ continue to serve in office.” (Full rundown of those comments, in which he made Aaron Brown seem reasonable, as well as what he said Friday night on CBS, follows.)
On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN’s Bill Schneider awarded Congressman John Murtha his “Play of the Week,” and after Schneider’s piece host Wolf Blitzer suggested the call by Murtha, “a very moderate conservative” (whatever that is), to withdraw troops is reminiscent of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s 1968 assertion the U.S. was losing in Vietnam, and so Republicans “probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider explained his pick: “In 1968, Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the Vietnam War had become a stalemate. That was a turning point. Now, it's too early to tell whether what happened this week was a turning point in Iraq, but it certainly was the political 'Play of the Week.'” Schneider played up Murtha’s influence: "He rarely speaks to the press. When he does, Washington listens. This week, Murtha spoke.”
When Schneider finished his recap of Murtha’s remarks and the reaction to them, Blitzer reminded him and viewers: "Bill, you’ll remember what President Johnson said when he heard what Walter Cronkite had said at that point, after coming back from Vietnam. He said if he’s lost Walter Cronkite, he’s probably lost the country. And I suppose that some Republicans are saying now if they’ve lost John Murtha, a very moderate conservative Democrat, a strong supporter of the military, they, they probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider agreed: "I think they do." (Complete transcript follows.)
A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his “patriotism,” though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a “leading supporter” of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned” (that would be John Kerry), who “fired back" at the “personal attacks” on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: “When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics.” Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha “had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as my Thursday night NewsBusters item detailing CBS's coverage noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today.'' (NewsBuster's Noel Sheppard here, and Tim Graham here, dug out other instances of Murtha's hostility to the war going back to 2003.)
Orr proceeded to assert that “the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker,” Michael Moore. “Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on,” Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: “But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the “smear” of Murtha and how “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country...” Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that “the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough,” before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how “name-calling exploded in the House." (Complete transcript follows.)
As recounted in my Thursday NewsBusters item, on that evening's World News Tonight, in setting up the lead story about Congressman John Murtha's call for troop withdrawal from Iraq, anchor Bob Woodruff “distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush 'took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.'” On Friday's World News Tonight, Woodruff backtracked: “A clarification about a report that we aired last night in our coverage of the ongoing debate about the original case for war and the Democratic allegations that the White House misled the American public. We reported that the President was calling such charges 'irresponsible' and 'unpatriotic.' He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'”
Between the lead story on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday night from Joe Johns on Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for withdrawing troops from Iraq and a piece by Candy Crowley on Bush and Cheney striking back at their war critics, Cooper read a statement from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan comparing Murtha with Michael Moore. Cooper followed that with a retort from Moore himself released “exclusively to CNN.” Cooper read how McClellan asserted that given Murtha’s past support for a “strong America,” it “is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” After finishing his recitation of McClellan’s statement, Cooper hyped how “just moments ago Michael Moore released this statement exclusively to CNN.” With the text on screen, Cooper relayed the comment from the far-left filmmaker: “'Unfortunately, the President doesn't understand that it is mainstream middle America who has turned against him and his immoral war, and that it is I and the Democrats who represent the mainstream. It is Mr. Bush who is the extremist.'" (Screen text of rest of Moore's claim follows.)