Michael Hayden, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, appeared on both Fox News Sunday and This Week with George Stephanopoulos, but though at a Senate hearing just three days earlier Hayden and other intelligence officials had cited the potential damage caused by the New York Times story disclosing the program to eavesdrop on al-Qaeda communication inside the U.S., only Fox's Chris Wallace raised the subject. Stephanopoulos was more interested in himself as a potential victim of big brother: “Let me try to give you a hypothetical, see if you can answer it. I went to Pakistan after 9/11. I interviewed a Taliban representative. If after that interview, that person calls me, am I captured?” Wallace asked: "You and other top officials say that disclosure of this program has harmed national security. Do you mean that just in theory, or in fact? Has publication of the New York Times story, to the best of your reckoning, actually changed the way terrorists do business? Do you feel that they're acting differently since this story broke out?" Hayden would only say that the success of American intelligence “is not immune from the disclosure of its techniques and procedures to our enemy." (Brief transcripts follow.)
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift leveled a parting shot at retiring Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, condemning him for putting his imprimatur on President Bush's tax cuts. On this weekend's edition of the McLaughlin Group, Clift warned: “I don't think the legacy of Alan Greenspan is finished because the bill hasn't yet come due for those tax cuts at the high end that he gave the green light to and testified on Capitol Hill that we had such a big surplus, that the surplus was worrisome. That was not based on fact. That was based on fiction." She later fretted that the “tax cuts would not have gone through if Alan Greenspan had not blessed them.” As for Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, Clift damned him with feint praise: “He's not an outright ideologue, he's not a supply-sider. This appointment could have been a lot worse.”
Introducing a Friday CBS Evening News story on the state of the media, part of a week-long “The State of...” series prompted by the annual State of the Union address, anchor Bob Schieffer pointed to how a CBS News/New York Times poll found that “most Americans have at least some confidence in the media, and more than two out of three [69 percent] believe the stories the media report are accurate.” As Schieffer spoke, viewers saw a graphic titled “Confidence in the media?” with “at least some” listed at 63 percent. Left unnoted: Only 15 percent said they had a “great deal” of confidence compared to 48 percent who expressed only a “fair amount” of confidence. Schieffer and CBS skipped, however, how the survey determined that twice as many believe that “compared to other Presidents, the news media have been harder on President Bush,” at 35 percent, than the 18 percent who see the media going “easier on President Bush.” The plurality, 45 percent, responded that the media are “treating President Bush the same.”
The poll conducted in late January didn't ask about ideological bias in the media, but a PDF posting of the results relayed how those on the left have more faith in the media than do those on the right: “Large majorities of Democrats and liberals (about seven in 10 of each) think the news media tells the truth all or most of the time. About half of Republicans and conservatives agree.” Specifically, asked “how much trust and confidence do you have in the news media?”, 75 percent of Democrats answered “a great deal” or a “fair amount,” compared to 52 percent for Republican respondents. And 48 percent of Republicans, but just 25 percent of Democrats, have "not very much" or "no" confidence in the news media. (Brief transcript, and another poll finding, follow.)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that the unemployment rate for January fell by 0.2 percent from December, down to 4.7 percent, the lowest level since July of 2001. But viewers of ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News on Friday night heard nothing about it, though ABC had time for another full story on the “cartoon outrage” by Muslims and a full piece on an Institute for Highway Safety study on how design changes in SUVs have reduced deaths in smaller vehicles they hit. CBS managed to find time for how, as relayed by anchor Bob Schieffer, when asked about President Bush’s contention that “the Constitution gives him the authority to eavesdrop without a court order on U.S. citizens suspected of having ties to the terrorists”and that “his predecessors have used that same authority,” Bill Clinton “told CBS Radio that as far as he knows, all wiretapping done by his administration was done with the authority of court orders." Before getting to some downbeat stock numbers, NBC anchor Brian William at least devoted twenty seconds to how “job creation was solid last month” as the “unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percent to 4.7, the lowest it's been since July 2001.” (Brief transcripts follow.)
In the wake of the departure from CBS News of John Roberts to CNN, CBS News President Sean McManus on Thursday promoted Jim Axelrod to assume Roberts' Chief White House Correspondent slot, named Lara Logan Chief Foreign Correspondent and shifted Byron Pitts to “National Correspondent, covering the biggest domestic stories and reporting on a new beat focusing on faith, family and the culture.”
Pitts won the “John Kerry Suck-Up Award” at the MRC's 2005 “DisHonors Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2004,” for his sycophantic post-Kerry convention speech wonderment over how Kerry had supposedly reminded his sister that on her deathbed their mother told him, "integrity, that's what matters," and "tonight," Pitts truckled, "John Kerry tried to show that integrity." In a runner-up, on that morning's Early Show, Pitts had narrated a Kerry profile that could easily have passed for a Democratic campaign commercial. The more than three-minute story included quotes only from Kerry, his wife, laudatory soundbites from liberal Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, and Pitts' fawning narration: "Tonight's acceptance of the Democratic nomination is more than merely a day, it's his destiny." Pitts also earned a runner-up spot for the “Blue State Brigade Award,” in the MRC's “Best Notable Quotables of 2004: The Seventeenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting,” for, on the day Kerry announced John Edwards as his running mate, gushing: "It was the all important and perfectly choreographed first glimpse of the Democratic Party's new dream team." (Transcripts -- and video clips -- follow.)
ABC and NBC, on Thursday night, didn’t find CIA Director Porter Goss’s lambasting of leakers and the news media, for publicizing secret information, very newsworthy. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer, however, noted that at a Senate hearing the intelligence officials who testified “seemed at one point as concerned about leaks to the news media as the nuclear threat" from Iran and CBS reporter David Martin pointed out how “the leak that dominated the hearing was the New York Times story about the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping on suspected al-Qaeda operatives inside the U.S.” Roberts also highlighted how “CIA Director Goss delivered a tirade against news leaks." But ABC’s World News Tonight ignored the topic completely, confining itself to an anchor-brief about testimony on the continuing threat from al-Qaeda, while NBC’s Andrea Mitchell allocated a mere eleven seconds to how the intelligence officials "claim the leaks about domestic eavesdropping have already disrupted valuable operations against terrorists," compared to nearly three times more time -- 29 seconds -- to how “Democrats were outraged that the administration still won't provide more details about its domestic spying" as well as how the administration won’t “say how many people are being wiretapped." (More of what Goss and Michael Hayden said, and newscast transcripts, follow.)
ABC on Wednesday night devoted a story to how New Orleans residents are upset that President Bush, in his State of the Union address, did not advocate even more money for those hurt by Hurricane Katrina. Reporter Steve Osunsami littered his story with several supposed Bush voters who are angry at him. “The speech was practically over before the President mentioned Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in America's history,” World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas fretted. She added: “Many people in New Orleans were not happy about it.” Osunsami began with a woman who proclaimed: “Last night, the proof was in the pudding. He doesn't give a damn about us!" Osunsami outlined “what many residents wanted to hear: A greater share of the tax revenue generated from oil and gas drilled off Louisiana's shore, even more money for stronger levees, and a rebuilding plan that would cover each and every affected homeowner.”
Osunsami noted how $85 billion has already been allocated, before he proceeded to cue up soundbites from Bush voters. A doctor argued that "this is a situation that requires big government help” and a woman contended that “the government's job is to protect me, and that's what I expect them to do." Osunsami cautioned: "Perhaps the State of the Union Address wasn't the place for announcing policy aimed at helping these homeowners, but there's a feeling here that they were slighted." (Transcript follows.)
While CBS News coverage of the State of the Union speech showcased the bombast of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the ABC News coverage was the most hostile to Bush and conservative policies with its analysis delivered through a liberal prism. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas began the evening by emphasizing Bush’s low approval rating fueled by “an inept response to Hurricane Katrina, and the indictment of a high ranking White House official and, of course, growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.” She resurrected Watergate as she highlighted how Bush’s 42 percent approval level “is the worst for a President entering his sixth year in office since Watergate hammered Richard Nixon." Charles Gibson noted that Bush “tries to unite,” but then painted Democrats as victims of Bush deceit as he stumbled through an adage which many have mocked Bush for once messing up: “A lot of Democrats feel this has not been a uniting President. They have gone down that road before trying to work with the President, and of course the old expression is, ah, ‘Fool me once, ah, shame on you. Fool me more than once, fool me twice or ten times, shame on me.'”
Following the speech, Vargas noted how Bush had offered an “olive branch” to Democrats. That prompted Gibson to again suggest that Bush is more to blame for partisan fighting: "Yes, he did. And you wonder if he had done this four years ago, five years ago, if indeed there might have been greater comity in the city of Washington, greater cooperation in the city than there has been so far through the Bush presidency." Gibson also relayed the odd analysis, from ABC’s political team, that of 62 paragraphs in the speech, “48 could have been given verbatim by President Bill Clinton.” Dr. Tim Johnson, a “single-payer” advocate, complained that on health care Bush “was just...tinkering with the system that is basically broken.”
Of the broadcast networks, ABC uniquely highlighted the Spanish language Democratic response from LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Vargas relayed how he “blamed the Bush administration's, quote, ‘reckless policies for increasing the national debt, the number of uninsured Americans, including 39 percent of Latinos, and the number of failing students and the ranks of the poor.'" As if one Democratic response were not enough. (Transcripts follow.)
Picking up on President Bush’s assurance, in his Tuesday night State of the Union address, that military decisions in Iraq will be made by military leaders, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough rejected the notion of any such military independence, but during ABC’s coverage, when Charles Gibson similarly questioned if the military will be able to determine troop levels, retired General Jack Keane, Vice Chief of Staff of U.S. Army from 1999-2003, maintained that the feared political pressure is an illusion. Matthews asserted that the Generals in Iraq were not “really given the freedom to say how many troops they needed because when Shinseki said this is going to take a couple of hundred thousand troops, not a hundred thousand troops, he was cashiered. So this idea that these guys are free to think out loud, I thought, has been yet to be proven." Scarborough echoed: “They parrot, for the most part, the Generals and the Admirals, 99 percent of them parrot” the Pentagon. Keane contended on ABC that the idea that “the military commanders are under some kind of pressure from the administration” is false and military commanders will “call the shots as they see them.” (Transcripts follow.)
President Bush didn’t play for with Democrats in 2002, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews complained to Senator John McCain just before 11pm EST Tuesday night. Raising how in his State of the Union address Bush had made an “appeal for comity, for civility,” Matthews charged when Bush wanted authorization for military action against Iraq, “he jammed that vote right up against the election of 2002. That wasn't a very civil thing to do, to force the Democrats to vote right before an election to give him basically full authorization to do what he wanted to do, but wouldn't say what it was. Was that a civil move?" McCain rejected Matthews’ premise and reminded Matthews of how “we had taken a vote during the Clinton administration that had called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” Matthews countered: "But that was by democratic means, not by war." (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
The saying goes that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Along the same vein, NBC’s Tim Russert never misses an opportunity to denounce a tax cut or pass along arguments in favor of raising taxes. And NBC anchor Brian Williams didn’t even have to mention taxes to lead Russert, a few minutes after President Bush finished his State of the Union address Tuesday night, to fret about how Bush hasn’t raised them. Williams noted how President Bush “is known to be very frustrated at what he sees as a large part of the population in the country, and in that chamber tonight, that doesn't seem to agree with his message that this is a nation at war.” Russert retorted: “Critics have responded by saying well, if that's the case, Mr. President, ask people for sacrifice. Democrats have pointed out it's the first war we've been involved in where the President hasn't raised the revenues or the taxes in order to pay for it.” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
Before President Bush’s Tuesday State of the Union address, at least three network reporters seemingly read from the same talking points as they described the public mood with the exact same word: “sour.” As noted in an earlier NewsBusters item, on World News Tonight, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos insisted that “the country is just in a sour mood.” About 90 minutes before Bush’s address, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield wondered “whether the President can connect with a populace that is in a sour, pessimistic mood?” He pointed out how “only Nixon, in the year of his resignation, had a lower job approval rating,” before echoing his earlier question: “I think the President would like the country to believe he feels their pain or at least their anxiety about health care, about jobs, about the whole sense that something's gone a little sour." Then on Fox, minutes before Bush began, Chris Wallace attributed the “sour” assessment to Bush as he predicted Bush would deliver a “presidential pep talk where he believes that the country has, the mood has turned sour -- sour on the war, sour on the economy, sour on the government's response to Katrina.” Afterward, Wallace described the speech as “tough in terms of the war in Iraq and people souring on that.” (Transcripts follow.)
Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday, ABC’s World News Tonight delivered the most downbeat take on the public attitude facing President Bush as he delivers his State of the Union (SOTU) address. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas framed the evening around how Bush “is coming off the worst year of his presidency, from the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, to record-high energy prices, to growing unhappiness with the war in Iraq.” George Stephanopoulos soon insisted that “the country is just in a sour mood,” as evidenced by Bush’s 42 percent approval rating, “ten points below where it was last year.” Stephanopoulos added: “And for the first time in his presidency, a majority of Americans...want to follow congressional Democrats rather than President Bush: 51-35.” Stephanopoulos, however, did allow that “on the other hand, President Bush is still very strong on national security.” (Transcript follows.)
“The war in Iraq has basically turned out to be a disaster,” Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, declared from London live on Monday’s Larry King Live. In the segment in which journalists discussed the serious injury from a bomb in Iraq to ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, she lamented how “journalists have paid for it, paid for the privilege of witnessing and reporting that.” She added: “For some reason which I can't fathom, the kind of awful thing that's going on there now on a daily basis has almost become humdrum. So when something happens to people that we identify, like Bob and like Doug, we wake up again and realize, no, this is not acceptable, what's going on there. And it's a terrible situation." King replied: “Well said.” Later, in a segment on kidnaped journalist Jill Carroll, Amanpour asserted that “by any indicator Iraq is a black hole” and a “spiraling security disaster.” A DrudgeReport.com posting alerted me to Amanpour’s remarks. (Transcript follows.)
CBS decided that the night before President Bush’s State of the Union address would be a good time to launch its “State of the...” series with a look at the "State of the Scandals," a judgment which allowed the CBS Evening News to revive the Plame case. Gloria Borger insisted that “on the eve of the President's State of the Union speech, official Washington is distracted, not by policy debates or the war, but by scandal.” She started with Jack Abramoff and how his links to Tom DeLay and Bob Ney have set back their congressional roles. She moved on to point out how President Bush “won't reveal the pictures taken of him with the lobbyist at White House functions.”
Borger then urged viewers: "Don't forget that other Washington scandal that still haunts the White House: the CIA leak investigation. Federal prosecutors want to know who, if anyone, inside the White House knowingly leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent to Washington journalists.” Though the commonality of such knowledge is in play, she then declared as fact: “That's a crime. And lying about it is a crime too. That's what Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, has been charged with.” She asked: “Will Dick Cheney testify?” Borger jumped to how “top presidential advisor Karl Rove is still under investigation for his role in the leaks.”
Borger did, however, note that “while Democrats haven't received any money from Abramoff's own checkbook, they did receive one-and-a-half million he directed to them through his clients.” And she gave rare, yet brief, air time to how “Democrat Bill Jefferson was the target in an FBI sting in which cash was found in his freezer.” (Transcript follows.)
Bob Schieffer mostly posed unobjectionable questions on the news of the day (Hamas, Iran, etc.) to President George W. Bush in an interview conducted Friday and then excerpted on the CBS Evening News. But he did pose three inquiries from the agenda of the left which caught my attention. Schieffer wanted to know, in reference to NSA eavesdropping, if Bush thinks “there is anything that a President cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?" Raising “horror stories about torture,” Schieffer cited Hubert Humphrey in pressing Bush on whether he worries the U.S. is “losing the moral high ground in some way?" Moving on to dependence on foreign oil, Schieffer touted New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s advocacy of, in Schieffer's words, a “huge gas tax” because it’s “the only way to cause people to change their ways.” (Full quotations follow of these questions from Schieffer.)
Despite the decision by the editors of CBSNews.com not to highlight the finding in a new CBS News/New York Times poll, of how 61 percent believe President Bush authorized wiretaps in order to “fight terrorism,” with just 29 percent saying he did it just to “expand the powers of the presidency,” on Thursday's CBS Evening News John Roberts alerted viewers to the finding. Roberts relayed: “On the NSA spying program, President Bush went into today's press conference with a boost. A new CBS News/New York Times poll found 61 percent of Americans believe the eavesdropping is meant to fight terror and the majority support that [53 percent back Bush authorizing wiretaps]." When Roberts ended his piece, anchor Bob Schieffer marveled at how “it looks to me as if the President has decided to make this a political issue to show that he is strong in the fight against terrorism and perhaps the Democrats are weak. And I must say, looking at that poll, he may be succeeding."
Just as the CBS Evening News went on the air in the East, CBSNews.com posted a rundown of the survey, “Poll: Bush's Approval Remains Low.” But it did not include any mention (and still does not as of 11pm EST) of the public backing for Bush on what the media have portrayed as scandalous illegality. Instead, the home page posting highlighted the findings on Bush's approval rating, the administration's plans for Katrina victims, the Iraq war, the Jack Abramoff case, rating of Congress and the condition of the health care system. An accompanying PDF of the complete poll results, “The Bush Presidency and the State of the Union: January 20-25, 2006,” included the NSA eavesdropping findings. (Partial transcript follows.)
While CBS and NBC reporters were willing Thursday night to outright tag, without any qualifiers or attributions to others, Hamas as a “terrorist” group, for the second night in a row, ABC's World News Tonight distanced itself from the term -- even avoiding it during a friendly profile of a terrorist. ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased from Jerusalem: “Tonight, a monumental shake-up in the Middle East. Hamas declared the winner of the Palestinian elections. The U.S. calls them terrorists.” But that was it for the label. Woodruff proceeded to refer to Hamas as “the militant Islamic group that calls for the destruction of Israel” and he conceded “there is no question that Hamas is more militant and more overtly Islamic than the secular leaders it defeated.” Woodruff also noted that “through its military wing,” Hamas “has led the fight against Israel,” but he then put a nice and generous face on Hamas, adding that “through its charities” Hamas has “provided free schooling, medicine and food.”
Following his opening story on the election victory by Hamas, Woodruff set up a piece on how “one of its most-celebrated figures,” a woman who won a seat, “is a mother who sent her sons to their deaths.” With “A Bombers' Mother” as the on-screen tag, Wilf Dinnick provided a non-judgmental look at how “Palestinians voted for Miriam Farahat because she's made astonishing sacrifices in her quest to destroy Israel. Farahat has sent three of her six sons on suicide missions. That's why her supporters call her Um Nidal, the 'Mother of the Struggle.'” Without ever calling her or her murdering sons either “murderers” or “terrorists,” Dinnick concluded with her “sacrifice” for the cause: “Today, she vowed to do whatever Hamas asks of her. 'I am ready to serve,' she says. And if that means sacrificing her three remaining sons, Um Nidal says she's willing.” (Full transcripts of ABC's stories, as well as the labeling aired by CBS and NBC, follows.)
Catching up with a distorted story from early in the week: On Monday's Nightline, ABC ran a silly story by Brian Ross impugning the integrity of the two most conservative Supreme Court justices, for a "judicial junket" in Colorado where at a Federalist Society conference Antonin Scalia played tennis and the acceptance by Clarence Thomas of a NASCAR jacket. Over hidden-camera video of Scalia on a tennis court, Ross stressed how Scalia missed the swearing-in of Chief Justice Roberts and featured law professor Stephen Gillers, "a recognized scholar on legal ethics," as his expert, running seven soundbites from him (compared to just two from a Scalia-defender). But Ross failed to note how Gillers is a left-winger who in The Nation in 1999 fretted about the "nightmare" of more conservative Supreme Court justices. Ross, however, tagged the Federalist Society as "a conservative activist group" as he buried a brief mention of how the group "says this was no junket at all but a legal seminar, in which Justice Scalia taught a ten-hour course." Ross even tried to smear Scalia with a link to scandal: "Scalia also attended the scheduled cocktail receptions, one of which was sponsored in part by the same lobbying and law firm where convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff once worked."
Ross acknowledged, after his taped story aired, that "it isn't just Justice Scalia. Justices at all ends of the political spectrum take plenty of these trips to lots of nice places, all paid for by somebody else." But Ross didn't go beyond Scalia and Thomas and the Tuesday Good Morning America version plastered on screen, over video of Scalia playing tennis, "ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE: SCALIA CAUGHT ON TAPE.” (Full transcript, and more on Gillers, follows.)
When John Roberts wrapped up his report Wednesday night, about President Bush's visit to the National Security Administration (NSA) in Maryland, by relaying how “one Republican Senator told CBS News tonight she might consider loosening the standards for approving the wiretap and allowing more officials at the Justice Department, not just the Attorney General, to authorize eavesdropping, so that it could begin just as soon as the NSA needed it,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer seemed astounded: "Now, just a second, John. Are you telling me there's a feeling amongst Republicans up in the Congress that they're going to give more people in the government the authority to eavesdrop without warrants? Is that what you're saying here?" Roberts confirmed how “that's what one Republican Senator is suggesting.” Schieffer remained astonished: "Well, what do you think the mood is up there? Do you think anything like that could pass?" Roberts passed along how “it's certainty being considered by Republicans. They've got the majority in the Senate and in the House, and if they want it they'll probably get it.” To which Schieffer shot back: "Well, we'll sure see about that.” (Transcript follows.)
In a tough interview conducted by CNN's Wolf Blitzer live on the 7pm EST hour of Monday's The Situation Room, and re-played during Tuesday's 5pm hour, radical-left singer Harry Belafonte stood by his recent declarations that President Bush is both “the greatest tyrant in the world” and the “the greatest terrorist in the world,” as well as how the Department of Homeland Security is the "new Gestapo." Blitzer ridiculed Belafonte's ludicrous comparison: "But no one has taken you or anyone else, as far as I can tell, to an extermination camp and by the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, even millions decided to kill them, which is what the Nazis did." Blitzer soon pressed: “Are you saying that President Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden?" Belafonte responded that "I'm saying that he's no better,” and proceeded to reiterate how “I do believe” that Bush is “a terrorist. I do believe that what our government does has terror in the center of its agenda.”
Blitzer read what the Raleigh News and Observer last week quoted Belafonte as charging: “When you have a President that has led us into a dishonorable war, who has killed tens of thousands, many of them our own sons and daughters, what is the difference between those who would fly airplanes into buildings killing 3,000 innocent Americans? What is the difference between that terror and other terrors?” Blitzer then asked: “Now that raises the issue of moral equivalency. Are you saying what the Bush administration, what the President is doing is the moral equivalent of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden ordered on 9/11?" Belafonte maintained that “I don't want to make those kind of comparisons,” but then ran through how “al Qaeda tortures. We torture. al Qaeda's killed innocent people. We kill innocent people.” (Complete transcript follows.)
For the third time in fewer than two weeks, the CBS Evening News on Tuesday night made sure that viewers realize how the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito would move the court “to the right.” (Neither ABC or NBC have shown such concern for alerting viewers as to the ideological direction of the Supreme Court.) Anchor Bob Schieffer recalled how “the President promised during the election to move this court to the right. And from what we heard in these hearings, what we've already seen with Judge Roberts on the bench, it is moving to the right, isn't it?" Jan Crawford Greenburg of the Chicago Tribune agreed: "That's right” and so “that means this court is poised for an historic shift to right on those key social issues like abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, the death penalty, and perhaps even questions of presidential power."
Last Wednesday (January 18), Schieffer proposed to Greenburg: “This court is moving to the right, isn't it?" Greenburg provided the same answer as she would six days later: "That's right.” She went on to point out how “President Bush said he was going to nominate conservatives like Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.” And six days before that, on Thursday, January 12, as detailed in this NewsBusters item, Schieffer cued up Greenburg with an open-ended version of the same question: “How is he [Alito] going to make the court different than Sandra Day O'Connor, who he is going to replace?" Greenburg replied: “There's little question, Bob, that he would move this court to the right...” (Transcripts follow)
In a December 23 USA Today front page story, “USO cheers troops, but Iraq gigs tough to book; Safety concerns, disagreement with war keeping many celebrities from volunteering,” reporters Martin Kasindorf and Steven Komarow related how actor/comedian Robin Williams, “who like [Al] Franken has been an outspoken critic of Bush's management of the war -- and [Wayne] Newton, a Republican who backs Bush, say some stars have turned down the USO because they thought such performances would amount to endorsing the war.” But in a Friday evening Nightline story, Terry Moran, through his use of soundbites from two left-wingers, portrayed cowardly conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh who isn't a stage performer, as the problem facing the USO in trying to get stars to go to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moran asserted: “While the USO has been able to attract some big names for tours in recent years -- Jessica Simpson, Robin Williams, the rapper 50 Cent -- some of the top stars are AWOL. Like, say-" Comedian Kathy Griffin charged: "Mel Gibson, big conservative. Go on over, Mel, anytime. They'd be glad to see you. They all love Braveheart." Moran elaborated on how Griffin, a “opponent of the war” who has done several USO tours, “loves performing for the troops and she wonders why some vocal war supporters have stayed home." Moran then featured this blast from Griffin: “I think Rush Limbaugh should, you know, pop a few of those Oxycontin that he probably still has laying around and go over. I mean, I'm not saying go straight, he's got to take the edge off, but, you know, put your money where your mouth is, O'Reilly, go do a book tour or something over there." (In fact, Limbaugh hasn't gone on a USO tour, but in late February 2005 he did go on a U.S. Agency for International Development trip to visit troops in Afghanistan.)
Moran let Al Franken tell an anecdote about how Sylvester Stallone was too afraid to go to Iraq before excusing liberals from any responsibility: "USO President Ned Powell insists the divisive politics of the Iraq war and the liberal tilt of Hollywood have had no impact on the organization's ability to recruit stars.”
Video excerpt: (1:55) Real (3.3 MB) or Windows Media (3.8 MB), plus MP3 audio (900 KB). (Update, with Limbaugh's take, and full transcript follows.)
With an “Uncle Sam Is Watching You” graphic on screen, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened Friday night's Countdown by exaggerating the threat of the federal request for Google records to check the exposure of pornography to children and, of course, the NSA “spying”policy. “If you Googled it, the government wants to know about it,” Olbermann warned, “and if you made a phone call or sent an e-mail that was monitored by the NSA without court approval, the government wants you to know it feels its actions were plenty legal.” Olbermann reported: “President Bush starts taking his domestic spying defense tour on the road. How about we all Google the name George Orwell?” Olbermann proceeded to describe the public relations events as a “big brother PR blitz” with “President Bush heading back to the National Security Agency for another visit next week on Wednesday, all part of the administration's latest push to convince everybody else that the President has the constitutional power to order all the spying, with none of the bothersome warrants, that he wants.”
Citing the administration's contention that only those who had contact with terrorist-affiliated people were monitored, Olbermann charged, while interviewing Craig Crawford, that “there has been a lot of condescension from the administration over the years since the election, but honestly, do they think everybody here is a 6-year-old idiot?" Olbermann went on to complain about Karl Rove's “post 9/11 mindsets drivel." Olbermann also quoted the Justice Department's contention that the 9/11 congressional resolution “places the President at the zenith of his powers” and asked: “Is there is somebody in the White House saying, 'look, it's to our advantage to make the President look as much like either a Superhero or would-be dictator as possible?'” (Transcript follows.)
Driving home tonight (Friday), the MRC's Rich Noyes caught how ABC Radio talk show host Mark Levin, on Washington DC's WMAL, marked the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan: By reciting, just past 6pm EST, from Reagan-bashing quotes spewed by journalists which were compiled by the Media Research Center. In June of 2004, just after Reagan passed away, the MRC produced a Special Report titled, “Ronald Reagan -- The 40th President and the Press: The Record.” (Levin's show is also carried by WABC in New York City, WJR in Detroit and WBAP in Ft. Worth/Dallas.)
Below is a reprint of the Executive Summary of the report from which Levin quoted, and direct links to all the sections of it.
Just before reading e-mailed responses to his “Cafferty Files” question of the 4pm EST hour on Thursday afternoon's The Situation Room on CNN, “How important is the new Osama bin Laden tape?", Jack Cafferty proposed a conspiracy existed in the timing, one meant to help Bush justify his NSA wiretapping: “The last time we got a tape from Osama bin Laden was right before the 2004 presidential election. Now here we are, four days away from hearings starting in Washington into the wiretapping of America's telephones without bothering to get a court order or a warrant, and up pops another tape from Osama bin Laden. Coincidence? Who knows.” One viewer endorsed Cafferty's conspiracy theory: “It seems suspicious. Every time the Republicans get into trouble, bin Laden sends a tape. Is it possible bin Laden's working out of the White House?” Earlier, Cafferty took a shot at President Bush's decision to invade Iraq: “The thought of this mutant hanging out in a cave somewhere and sending taped threats to the American people makes me angry. Why wasn't this guy taken care of before we went wandering off into Iraq?” (Transcripts follow.)
In his report released Thursday on Henry Cisneros, Clinton's HUD Secretary for several years who had pled guilty in 1999 to some charges, Independent Counsel David Barrett asserted that his probe was hindered by Clinton administration officials, even after they left office. But the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News, which had time for some hardly hot news stories, such as a popular restaurant in New Orleans, didn't utter a word about Barrett's complaint. ABC's World News Tonight allocated 35 seconds to Barrett and Cisneros. Anchor Bob Woodruff pointed out how “Barrett accused Clinton officials of using their power to quote, 'blunt any effort to bring about a full and independent examination.'” Woodruff added: “Critics called Barrett's investigation 'incompetent,' 'wasteful' and 'without merit.'"
Barrett maintained in his report: "Beginning in the summer of 1997, the OIC developed, to the extent it could, evidence concerning efforts by officials of DOJ and the IRS to contain and limit the investigation of Cisneros's actions.” Barrett specifically cited Janet Reno and rued: “In the end enough high-ranking officials with enough power were able to blunt any effort to bring about a full and independent examination of Cisneros' possible tax offenses in the face of what seemed to many to be obvious grounds for such an inquiry." (What CBS and NBC covered instead, the ABC item in full and links to stories on Barrett's report, follow.)
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday night refrained from applying any ideological tag to the far-left group of lawyers, who represent terror suspects at Guantanamo and elsewhere, which filed a lawsuit against the NSA's program to eavesdrop on communications between terrorists abroad and people inside the U.S., but none hesitated to place a conservative label on those opposed to Oregon's assisted-suicide law (which the Supreme Court upheld). The network reporters avoided labeling the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which was founded by the radical-left William Kunstler, and whose President, Michael Ratner, declared last month: “Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country."
On CBS, Wyatt Andrews related how, in ruling against the assisted-suicide law, former Attorney General John Ashcroft “was answering to conservatives pushing the Bush administration to protect life.” Andrews added: "This ruling also brought the first big case vote by the new chief justice, John Roberts, who sided with the conservative minority." But, without any labeling, John Roberts reported how “the NSA spying program was branded a violation of the Constitution by two civil liberties groups.” ABC's Lisa Stark pointed out how “the court's two most conservative members, Scalia and Thomas, disagreed” with the majority ruling. Anchor Bob Woodruff, however, had teased the newscast: "Two major civil rights groups sue to shut down the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping program." Pierre Thomas made those suing seem innocuous, relaying how the “attorneys, along with authors, scholars and Muslim support groups, claim unauthorized government eavesdropping will limit their ability to do their jobs." Over on NBC, Pete Williams noted how “Christian conservatives today called the ruling dangerous,” yet anchor Brian Williams announced how “today, civil rights lawyers filed the first lawsuit to challenge the government's program of monitoring the overseas phone calls of some Americans." (Transcripts follow.)
FNC’s Brit Hume on Monday night picked up on how, in trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as a bigot, Senator Ted Kennedy, in a quote showcased by many media outlets, read from what was really a satire. Hume noted how at the hearings last week Kennedy read this from a magazine published by Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP): “People nowadays just don't seem to know their place. Everywhere one turns, blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and Hispanic.” Hume informed his viewers: “But the magazine's editor at the time says the article was pure satire, a send-up of what liberals think conservatives think. He added quote, 'I think left-wing groups have been feeding Senator Kennedy snippets and he has been mindlessly reciting them,' unquote." As Tim Graham noted in a Friday NewsBusters item, in his ABCNews.com blog that day, Jake Tapper first reported how Dinesh D’Souza, the editor to whom Hume referred, had let him know that the 1983 piece in Prospect magazine was satire.
Last week, NBC, CNN and the Washington Post -- amongst many other outlets -- highlighted Kennedy’s reading of the quote, which he displayed on a board behind him, yet none, as far as I’ve observed, have offered any clarification. NBC’s Pete Williams featured the Kennedy soundbite on Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News and Thursday’s Today; CNN’s Bob Franken recited it himself on Thursday’s American Morning; and two Thursday Washington Post stories quoted Kennedy’s citation of the quote. (Rundown follows.)
NBC and ABC on Monday night gave time to short items on Al Gore's charge, leveled during a morning speech, that President Bush's “domestic surveillance” means he “has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently." And MSNBC's Countdown led with it as host Keith Olbermann showcased a clip of Gore with his allegation before Olbermann insisted: "Just more old-fashioned partisanship? Not when it's Bob Barr joining Gore in the same complaint about NSA spying. Not when it's Arlen Specter calling for a full investigation." Seeing great import in the Gore-Barr alliance, Olbermann ruminated about how “the creations of the last two serious third political parties in this country define the cliche politics makes strange bedfellows.” Seemingly suggesting a potential repeat scenario, Olbermann recalled how in 1854 Republicans “started as a third party with disaffected Democrats abandoning their own sitting President and the Whigs, who had been in office until a year earlier, deserting en masse, putting aside their personal hatreds to create a one-issue party against slavery.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “Gore made some of the toughest charges yet from a prominent Democrat. He called for an independent investigation of the NSA spy program which he called a threat to the very structure of our government." After a clip of Gore's declaration, “What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law [rising applause] repeatedly and insistently," Williams offered no contrary view and then passed along how "Al Gore noted that he gave the speech on Martin Luther King Day because Dr. King himself had been a victim of illegal domestic spying by the FBI." But in holding the FBI accountable for the “spying,” Williams obscured who was behind it: Liberal heroes Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas at least pointed out that while “Gore called for an independent counsel to investigate the program,” it's a policy “which the administration has said is, in fact, legal." (Transcripts follow.)