ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas approached Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter from the left in a taped interview played on Monday’s World News Tonight. She described the fairly liberal Pennsylvanian as “a moderate Republican” before empathizing with him over Alito’s apparent position that the Constitution does not provide a right to abortion: “How bothered are you by comments that he's made in 1985 in memos, saying that there is not a constitutional right? The Constitution does not protect the right to have an abortion?" Vargas pointed out to Specter how “you are one of a handful of pro-choice Republicans” and wondered: “But if you get the sense in these hearings that Judge Alito would overturn or weaken Roe versus Wade, would that make him unqualified if your opinion?" When Specter insisted that “there are no extraordinary circumstances to warrant filibustering Judge Alito,” a seemingly astounded Vargas blurted: "None?" Vargas also touted how Specter, a cancer survivor, “fights passionately for stem cell research." (Complete transcript follows.)
Tom DeLay’s ouster from the House leadership is the “one good thing that's come out” of the Abramoff scandal, CBS’s Andy Rooney declared Friday night during a live appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live. Asked by King about “the tapping of phones in the interest of national security,” Rooney called it “a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. And how the President has convinced himself or how the Vice President has convinced the President that this is a good thing to do, in the interests of American security, it's a disgrace." But when King suggested that “you think it's despots that do that in times of,” before King got to the word “war,” Rooney rejected King’s characterization of Bush: “Yes, they certainly do. I'm not willing to call President Bush a despot.” Rooney went on to regret how Bush gets bad information: “I don't know where he gets his information, but I don't think it's very good."
Journalists have eagerly passed along, and themselves formulated, complaints that President Bush is too isolated (ie Newsweek’s “Bush in a bubble”). But after, at his invitation, 13 former Secretaries of State and Defense came to the White House Thursday for a briefing on Iraq and a chance to give Bush and his top foreign policy officials their feedback, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff copied from a snide New York Times posting as he sneeringly stressed how “the dialogue was limited” since “the entire affair lasted just 40 minutes.” He added, as if it had some great import, that “we're told...that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has criticized the administration's handling of the war, did not say a word." To that tidbit, World News Tonight co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas chirped in: "Interesting."
Did the entire event really last just 40 minutes? The New York Times story posted Thursday afternoon simply referred to “an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former Secretaries of State and Defense about how well things are going in Iraq.” Presumably, since news accounts related the advice given to Bush by several attendees, that was preceded and/or followed by time for comments. The Times story even later noted that Bush heard from the group for another ten minutes, followed by time with his advisers. I reviewed stories aired on all three cable news networks, as well as the AP and Washington Post postings, but none included any information about the length of the consultation. [Update, 8:30am EST Friday: In the story in the hard copy edition of Friday's Washington Post, Jim VandeHeireported that "Bush spent an hour" with the "prominent foreign policy voices."]
Woodruff, who read ABC’s short item from Israel, clearly took his cue from David Sanger’s New York Times story which was much snootier than articles posted elsewhere. (Comparisons follow.)
Howard Kurtz, in his Thursday Washington Post story on Ted Koppel’s decision to join the Discovery Channel, revealed a tantalizing tidbit in his tenth paragraph about who first reached out to Tom Bettag, the Executive Producer of Nightline until Koppel’s departure from ABC in November: “The first contact came on Dec. 1, the week after Koppel's last Nightline broadcast, when Don Baer, a Discovery executive vice president who previously worked in the Clinton White House, e-mailed and then called Bettag.” (Bettag and several others from Koppel's ABC crew will follow Koppel to Discovery.)
Indeed, after nine years at U.S. News & World Report, where he rose to Assistant Managing Editor, in 1994 Baer jumped to the Clinton White House to become the chief speechwriter for President Clinton, and was later elevated to Communications Director for the Clinton White House. Baer reportedly so admired Bill Clinton that he effused about how Clinton was “the moral leader of the Universe.” (Details follow.)
Displaying a hostility to President Bush and the Iraq war similar to that expressed by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, on Tuesday’s Late Show David Letterman went further than I’ve ever heard him in revealing his derision for President Bush’s decision to launch the Iraq war and contempt for anyone who dares to criticize Cindy Sheehan. [This node, first posted at 10:45pm EST Tuesday based on a limited video clip preview of the show, was updated and substantially revised at 2am EST Wednesday.]
Letterman normally tries to make the guest look as good and entertaining as possible. But he greeted FNC’s Bill O’Reilly with disdain. When O’Reilly urged an end to tagging Bush as a “liar,” scolded Cindy Sheehan for calling the insurgents “freedom fighters” and urged people to be “very careful with what we say" in disparaging others, Letterman took him to task: "Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also." Letterman demanded: "How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?" And he tried to discredit O’Reilly’s contention: “Have you lost family members in armed conflict?" When O'Reilly conceded that "no, I have not," Letterman castigated him: "Well, then you can hardly speak for her, can you?"
Letterman mockingly recalled: "The President himself, less than a month ago said we are there because of a mistake made in intelligence. Well, whose intelligence? It was just somebody just get off a bus and handed it to him?" Letterman demanded: “Why the Hell are we there to begin with?" When O’Reilly pointed out that the British, Russians and Egyptians also presumed Iraq had WMD, Letterman retorted: “Well then that makes it all right?" Turning unusually serious, Letterman soon lectured: “I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ. Honest to Christ." That prompted O’Reilly to contend: “No way a terrorist who blows up women and children is going to be called a ‘freedom fighter' on my program." To which Letterman fired back: “I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap.”
Exactly two weeks after ABC’s Terry Moran, on the December 19 Nightline, pounded away at Vice President Dick Cheney on the treatment of detainees and the eavesdropping story, an interview in which Moran condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, left Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters, the Monday night broadcast delivered an obsequious session with Democratic Congressman John Murtha. Moran plugged the two-part segment : "Just ahead on Nightline, we'll have a Marine's lonely stand. Lawmaker John Murtha like you've never heard him before. Why this Vietnam combat vet says he'd never sign up for Iraq."
Jon Donvan, who conducted the taped interview in Murtha’s office, never challenged him as he touted Murtha’s “remarkable” comments and how his criticism of the Iraq war came “like a thunder clap” -- as if the media didn’t create the storm. But Donvan didn’t hesitate to try to discredit Murtha’s critics. Donvan contended that “the White House and its supporters set out immediately to smear Murtha's standing as an American” and insisted he’s “protected by his reputation from any smear campaign that wants to suggest he is anti-American or chicken because everyone knows that he is neither.” Donvan maintained that “Murtha's resume on defense is unassailable.” After Murtha agreed with Donvan’s proposition that it was “a wrong war to go into from the beginning," Donvan gushed: "It's very rare, very rare to hear anybody in politics come out and say 'I made a mistake.'”
Donvan also set up Murtha with a “chicken hawk” line of attack: "Do you think in the end that the enthusiasm for going to Iraq that the President had would have been different if, like you, he had actually ever seen combat? Or if Dick Cheney, like you, had ever actually seen combat or Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz or Feith, men who wanted to go to war and had never seen combat?” (Complete transcript, and a link back to Nightline’s hostility to Cheney, follows.)
Asked by Tim Russert to name the biggest story of 2005, on Sunday’s Meet the Press Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek, lamented how President Bush’s incompetence on Katrina and Iraq has disillusioned the new generation about the great “positive” things government can do. Meacham fretted that the new “generation coming of political consciousness, they're coming to consciousness when there are many, many questions about the competence of the government in Katrina, the competence of the government in terms of intelligence.” But, he rued, “there's not the good part which happened in the '60s. There's not a civil rights movement. There's not a race to the moon, where things are, show what government can do in a positive way.” Meacham zeroes in on Bush as he bemoaned how Bush’s conduct “has raised a lot of questions about fundamental competence of the government, both abroad and at home, whether it's in Baghdad or in New Orleans." A conservative might see that as an unintended positive development.
Meacham was joined on the roundtable by New York Times columnist William Safire, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and NBC’s favorite historian, the left-wing Doris Kearns Goodwin, who chafed over how President George W. Bush has “taken the negative parts of his father about raising no taxes.” (Transcript excerpts follow.)
Interviewing General Peter Pace, from Iraq, on Sunday’s This Week, fill-in host Terry Moran pressed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "One of the concerns that people have right now, post-election, is that it's one thing in a democracy to learn how to vote, it's another to learn how to lose. Are you concerned at all, and is the United States prepared, for the potential of a civil war?" Pace assured Moran that is unlikely. Later in the day, on the CBS Evening News, after Kelly Cobiella reported from Iraq on Sunni dissatisfaction with the election results, anchor John Roberts put “civil war” into play: “Are we seeing the very first signs of a potential civil war here?"
Dan Rather fawned over former President Bill Clinton, and giddily promoted Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, in a new story for the New Year’s day 60 Minutes ostensibly focused on Clinton’s effort to get low-priced AIDS medicines into China. Rather pointed out how Clinton couldn’t take Air Force One on a trip to China, and wondered: “Do you miss it?" Clinton said he misses the workplace on it. Rather, looking bemused, followed up: "Do you, in some quiet moment, look forward to the time when maybe you fly on it in a different capacity, as First Husband?" Rather then trumpeted Geena Davis’ character on ABC's Commander-in-Chief: "We now have on television, we have a woman President of the United States. Is the country ready for a woman President, a real woman President as opposed to one on television?" CBSNews.com has posted a semi-transcript of the story, but by providing summaries of Rather’s inquiries, instead of a word-for-word transcript, the sycophantic nature of Rather’s exchange is obscured. (Transcript follows.)
Earlier in the story, Rather hit Clinton from the left on the prices charged by pharmaceutical companies: “Too strong, or not strong enough, to say there’s price-gouging on these AIDS medicines?” Clinton pointed out: "Their view is they're protecting their intellectual property." Rather wasn’t convinced: "Can you argue with anybody who says, 'well I think it’s price gouging’?” Clinton came around: “Well, in my mind, I think they could sell them for a lot less without losing money. I do think that."
Without identifying David Cole as the “legal affairs correspondent” for the far-left magazine The Nation, Friday’s World News Tonight on ABC featured his denigration of the probe into who leaked the secret eavesdropping story to the New York Times and his expert declaration that “the President of the United States violated a clear criminal prohibition on warrantless wiretapping.” Reporter Pierre Thomas described Cole as a “constitutional scholar” and the on-screen graphic read: "Prof Georgetown Univ Law School." Cole’s latest piece for The Nation calls Bush an “Emperor.” Thomas did balance Cole with former federal prosecutor David Schertler, but the former homicide prosecutor has no equivalent ties to right-wing politics and did not make a declaration about which side of the dispute is correct.
Substitute anchor Claire Shipman set up the story by mis-characterizing the surveillance of international contacts with those linked to terrorists: "Now to the administration's secret eavesdropping program in which the government monitors domestic conversations without a warrant.” Thomas highlighted how “some constitutional scholars say the NSA spying is illegal and that the New York Times article disclosing it is a public service. They say this investigation is retribution." Cole argued: “On the face of it, there were two crimes committed here. One, a leak by a government official, something that happens almost every day in Washington. The other, the President of the United States violated a clear criminal prohibition on warrantless wiretapping. Yet which one is being investigated?" (More from Cole in The Nation, as well as a full transcript of the ABC story, follows.)
Catching up with an item from last week, on the Christmas weekend edition of the McLaughlin Group which featured the show’s annual “Year-End Awards,” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift named Cindy Sheehan her “Person of the Year.” Clift championed Sheehan’s negative impact on President Bush: “I give it to Cindy Sheehan, the Gold Star mother who gave the President a vacation from Hell and brought the war home in a way that it hadn’t been before and set the stage for the deceleration in the President’s poll ratings.”
In other categories, Clift assigned the “Best Spin” to the “shameless spin” from the Bush White House of “allowing the terrorists to kill thousands of Americans in Iraq so that they won’t kill thousands of Americans here.” For “Fairest Rap,” Clift forwarded: “The Bush administration misled us into war. They exaggerated the evidence they believed was true and left out all the caveats.” And for “Best Photo-Op,” Clift picked “President Bush trying to get out of a locked door. Wonderful metaphor for the trap he’s in in Iraq.”
Though Bob Schieffer introduced Wednesday's CBS Evening News by using loaded language as he pointed out how, “to protest the President's decision to continue spying on American citizens, a federal judge took the unprecedented step of resigning from the court that issues warrants in such cases,” an event also highlighted by ABC and NBC, unlike those networks, CBS White House correspondent John Roberts informed viewers how “the President got support today from an unusual quarter: Democrat Jane Harman, a key figure on the House Intelligence Committee.” He highlighted how she asserted that “I believe the program is essential to U.S. national security” and, in a slam at the leaker and the New York Times, that the “disclosure has damaged critical intelligence capabilities.” Schieffer, however, remained most interested in the resignation. After Roberts wrapped up his story, Schieffer marveled to him: “I want to go back to this federal judge resigning. I must say in all my years in the news business, I've never heard of a federal judge resigning in protest over anything.”
ABC held its “eavesdropping” coverage to an anchor-read brief, but one devoted to the judge, while in a full story on the Patriot Act and Bush's “decision to order spying inside the U.S. without a warrant,” NBC's Kelly O'Donnell highlighted the resignation. (Transcript excerpts follow.)
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.)