On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Sheila MacVicar described Barack Obama’s visit to Israel’s Holocaust memorial during his continuing Middle East tour as: "...yet another chance to see how the Senator looks in statesman clothes." MacVicar imbued Obama with the mantel of "statesman" just last Friday when she described the upcoming trip: "...Senator Obama is taking to the skies to stride on the world stage. It's a chance for Americans to take a look at how he measures up as a statesman...it's an attempt to demonstrate he has the necessary gravitas to maneuver through diplomatic minefields, especially in the Middle East."
Earlier in Wednesday’s report, MacVicar described Obama’s meeting with top Israeli officials and made sure label the conservative: "The day began with a double helping of breakfast and conversations with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister and leading right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu." MacVicar concluded her report with a preview of Obama’s next stop:
This afternoon he'll travel by helicopter with not one, but two ministerial tour guides, the foreign minister and the defense minister, to the Israeli town of Sderot, which is frequently a target of Palestinian rockets. For Obama it's a chance to show that he understands and feels the plight of Israelis. For the Israelis, it's a chance to make their point about their strategic weakness.
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric about Barack Obama’s trip to Iraq and asked: "He's had a very full plate here the last three or four days. Is it -- is there a way to sort of gauge what the Senator has been able to accomplish thus far?" Couric, who along with the other network anchors is following Obama on the trip, responded: "Well, I think in his time in Iraq, and as you know, Harry, he's still there, has been very, very productive."
Couric then went on to describe the Obama’s good fortune: "And let's say simply serendipitous that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, after some clarification over the weekend and going back and forth, virtually endorsed Senator Obama's plan to have a timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, U.S. combat troops by the year 2010." She also pointed out that Maliki’s "endorsement": "...was somewhat surprising, disconcerting, and embarrassing to the Bush Administration." Couric concluded: "So in terms of a withdrawal strategy, he [Obama] and Prime Minister Maliki are definitely on the same page."
At the top of Monday’s CBS "Early Show" a full six minutes of coverage was devoted to Barack Obama’s world tour, while only three minutes was given to a John McCain interview. During the interview with McCain, co-host Harry Smith wondered: "You know, when you have the network anchors chasing your opponent across the Middle East it's a little hard to make news. What is your strategy to get folks to pay attention to your message over the next couple of days?" Co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked a similar question to Republican pollster Frank Luntz on Friday: "Can John McCain even compete next week?"
The coverage of Obama consisted of co-host Julie Chen talking to New York Times Baghdad correspondent Richard Oppel, followed by a clip of CBS correspondent Lara Logan’s interview with Obama in Afghanistan. Oppel highlighted recent news of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki supporting Obama’s troop withdrawal plan: "...he was quoted accurately. He did express a clear affinity for Obama's 16 month proposal."
Later, when interviewing McCain, Harry Smith also brought up Maliki’s comments: "But one of the other things that -- one of the other things that he [Obama] has said is that maybe the troops should be out within the next 18 months, an idea that Prime Minister Al Maliki basically agrees with. Maybe the surge, in fact, did work. Is it time for American troops to start coming home?" That statement was in response to McCain pointing out to Smith that: "We are winning the war. And Senator Obama was wrong. He railed against it. He voted against the surge. And he said it would fail. He was wrong there."
On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Sheila MacVicar reported on Barack Obama’s upcoming international tour and declared: "...Senator Obama is taking to the skies to stride on the world stage. It's a chance for Americans to take a look at how he measures up as a statesman...it's an attempt to demonstrate he has the necessary gravitas to maneuver through diplomatic minefields, especially in the Middle East."
MacVicar then explained how well-received Obama’s troop withdrawal plan would be to the Iraqi people:
...people know he has proposed to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months. American presidents have not been popular here for nearly 20 years. But Iraqis say they do want U.S. troops to go home. 'I'm for withdraw now,' says this shopper. 'The Americans have caused all our problems.' 'If Obama's plan is true,' he says, 'we bless it. We need withdraw today.'
MacVicar then looked at the rest of Obama’s planned trip: "On to Europe where many are enthusiastic." She quoted one British citizen who claimed: "If there were a vote here in the UK he'd probably win something like 5-1." MacVicar concluded her report by observing: "There's no question...that even this far away Mister -- Senator Obama, more than any other recent presidential candidate, excites great interest."
While Thursday’s New York Times reported that the anchors from all three network newscasts will be joining Barack Obama on his trip to Iraq, they showed no such interest in following John McCain during his visit to Iraq in March. During the week of March 16, McCain’s trip received only four full-length stories during the combined ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news program coverage. Three of those stories were on NBC’s "Nightly News," one of which focused on McCain’s mistaken comment about Iran funding Al Qaeda in Iraq. ABC’s "World News" did only one full-length story on McCain’s Iraq trip, which mentioned the gaffe. The CBS "Evening News" was by far the worst, devoting only 31 words, a grand total of 10 seconds, to the Republican nominee’s Iraq visit during the entire week of evening news coverage. Read Media Research Center press release here.
Even the Times article acknowledged that McCain’s Iraq trip received little coverage: "Senator John McCain’s trip to Iraq last March was a low-key affair: With a small retinue of reporters chasing him abroad...But the coverage also feeds into concerns in Mr. McCain’s campaign, and among Republicans in general, that the news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates." See the previous NewsBusters post by John Stephenson for more on the Times article.
While reporting that a top U.S. diplomat will attend an international meeting with an Iranian negotiator on Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Bill Plante suggested such a meeting represented the Bush Administration moving toward Barack Obama’s goal of direct negotiations with Iran: "Absolutely a first and it's a sharp break from what has been the policy of the Bush Administration...Now official disclaimers aside, the fact that the administration is sending someone to this meeting is a very big deal. And since Obama has put it into the political debate it is sure to stay as part of the political discussion."
Following that report, co-host Harry Smith talked to political analyst Jeff Greenfield about the impact on the presidential campaign:
So interesting, this has been part and parcel of the political discussion of the two campaigns for several months now. Barack Obama says we should talk to some of these folks. McCain has long maintained, very much along the administration lines, we don't talk unless they stop enriching uranium. How does this reflect, do you think, upon the campaigns?
Greenfield responded by describing how the diplomatic meeting would help Obama: "But if your whole argument, and it was Senator Clinton's as well, against Obama is he's naive, he doesn't understand the world, and now to have the administration say, 'okay, the precondition we can set aside,' it tends to undercut the argument, which is going to be a key to Obama's critics, that he doesn't understand the world."
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," left-wing comedian and CBS commentator Nancy Giles, upset over the Barack Obama New Yorker cover, remarked to co-host Harry Smith: "So is the New Yorker at some point going to do a similar wild interpretation of the rumors about John McCain or have him holding his wife as a trophy, stepping on his ex-wife?"
Like MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who on Monday worried that the magazine cover was "too sophisticated" for the American public to understand, Giles similarly fretted: "But the thing about this particular cartoon is that I think for the people who really already believe that Barack Obama is Muslim...because of the fear that this country has, this will maybe reinforce that fear. They -- I don't think they'll see that as satire." When Smith described how the cartoon was meant to mock Obama’s critics, Giles added: "I get that...but I think that there may be people who just look at the cover and see it for what it is."
For his part, Smith actually defended the New Yorker and suggested the Obama campaign was overeacting: "Why's everybody going crazy about this?...Front page story in the New York Times this morning is people are trying to figure out what's funny about this campaign and so far nothing has been funny about Obama. Is Obama off-limits?...what we're returning to the age of absolute political correctness?"
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez aired her interview with John McCain that followed his Monday speech to the National Council of La Raza and teased the segment by asking: "Up next, Senator John McCain, a maverick or a flip-flopper to Latinos?" During the interview, Rodriguez, who hosted the liberal La Raza conference, pressed McCain from the left on his immigration stance: "You championed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. But now as the nominee you admit you wouldn't vote for it if it came up today. Why not?" [audio excerpt available here]
After McCain explained that the legislation had failed twice due to lack of popular support, Rodriguez wondered: "The fact that it failed, does that tell you that the American people didn't want it or that your party didn't want it?" Rodriguez then followed up by quoting Obama campaign talking points: "Some political analysts say, and in fact, Senator Obama made the comments here yesterday, that when you became the nominee, when you could no longer risk alienating your conservative base, you started emphasizing border security over a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. What about that?"
When McCain later suggested that: "Americans want the confidence that we'll have secure borders. And then I believe the overwhelming majority of them will support a humane and compassionate approach to temporary worker program and to a comprehensive immigration reform." Rodriguez responded: "But securing the border could take years. What if it never happens? When will you get to comprehensive immigration reform?"
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez reported from California and touted her role as emcee at the annual conference for the liberal Hispanic group La Raza: "The conference for the National Council of La Raza, the country's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group. Yesterday I hosted the luncheon in San Diego where Senator Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of thousands. Later today I will host the one where Senator McCain will be speaking."
At the top of the show, Rodriguez teased the segment by proclaiming: " Both John McCain and Barack Obama are reaching out to this voting bloc. And ahead this morning I'll tell you the 45 million reasons why they both covet the Hispanic vote." Later during the segment Rodriguez continued to emphasize the importance of the Hispanic vote: "From coast to coast, in countless corners of American cities, the Latino influence is undeniable. Latinos are the largest minority in this country. 45 million strong and growing. By 2050 that number's expected to almost triple to 128 million. And a growing Latino population means more influence for Latino voters."
Following that observation, Rodriguez played a clip of Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, praising past immigration protests in the Hispanic community: "In 2008 we're culminating on several years of activism and mobilization of the Latino community. Just look back two years ago, with the 2006 marches, where millions of people took to the streets, many of them young people, who said today we march, tomorrow we vote. Well, tomorrow has arrived."
On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith introduced a segment on comments by John McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm: "Let's talk about the economy now. Number one on voters' minds. Senator John McCain has been backed into a corner by a key economic adviser and forced to disavow some controversial statements." A report by correspondent Bill Plante followed in which he declared: "After spending the past week trying to convince voters that he does feel their pain, McCain was forced into full damage control after his economic adviser appeared to mock the troubles faced by many Americans."
Plante went on to quote Gramm’s "controversial" comments: "Gramm questioned the true extent of the country's economic downturn, saying, 'you've heard of mental depression. This is a mental recession. We have sort of become a nation of whiners, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.'" In reality, Gramm’s assertion that America is not in a real recession is completely accurate, as a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth and there has yet to be even one quarter of negative growth.
As far as Gramm’s "nation of whiners" comment, the "Early Show" would certainly know about that given its own recent whining about the economy. On June 30 Smith talked to economic analyst Mark Zandi and the two of them declared a recession. On June 24, co-host Julie Chen proclaimed a "perfect storm of economic woes" afflicting the nation.
Meanwhile on Friday’s show, Plante concluded his report by explaining: "Gramm said that he'd only been talking about the nation's leaders. But the comment played right into the Democrats charge that Republicans are a bunch of plutocrats who don't care about the average voter." Following Plante’s report, Smith talked to political analyst Jeff Greenfield, who made a similar observation about "plutocratic" Republicans:
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith reacted to Jesse Jackson’s controversial comments about Barack Obama by sympathizing with the left-wing activist: "Honestly to me, as somebody who sat in an Operation Push [Founded by Jesse Jackson] meeting some 30-plus years ago in an old theater in Chicago, hearing this and seeing this, there's something a little sad about it."
While Smith was "a little sad" about Jackson wanting to "cut his [Obama’s] nuts off," liberal guest Keli Goff observed that Jackson was suffering from: "...an illness that I said is plaguing certain aspects of the black community, which I called JNS Syndrome...Jealous Negro Syndrome...I won't call it epidemic because it's only a certain group of people-" Smith then finished her thought: "These guys laid down their lives, or bled the blood, and others are taking-" Goff continued: " Right, right. Are reaping the benefits. You know, the Barack Obamas of the world who've had it, compared to our parents, so easy, in some respects." Apparently Smith "bled the blood" with Jackson and others.
On Wednesday's CBS "Early Show," co-host Russ Mitchell declared: "The high cost of gas is hurting everyone these days. Families, businesses, and even charities. Many organizations that deliver food to the sick and elderly are being hit extra hard." In the report that followed, correspondent Kelly Wallace went even further: "In one rural California case, according to the president of Meals on Wheels nationwide, cutting back from daily deliveries to one every 14 days proved fatal. Two seniors were found dead."
The Meals on Wheels president, Enid Borden, explained that: "We have people who are literally dying in their homes waiting for a meal. That's a crisis." Wallace also played a clip of Maryland Meals on Wheels executive director, Tom Grazio, who worried: "Some day in the not too distant future, unless things get better, we'll be telling people they can't eat today and that's disheartening."
Wallace then described " a dire situation in New York City," where Meals on Wheels director Marcia Stein continued the melodramatic theme: "For the first time in our 25-year history, we are having to ration food. We're having to make tough choices about who gets a meal, who does not get a meal, what days somebody might be without food." From this report, one is under the impression that people are literally starving to death across the country due to high gas prices. In May, the "Early Show" described how one woman "...pumps out her own blood, making $40 a pop so she has enough money to pump gas."
While most of the questions co-host Russ Mitchell asked Barack Obama on Wednesday’s "Early Show" were rather bland, he did challenge Obama from the left on the Senator’s commitment to a complete troop withdrawal from Iraq: "Last week you said you would refine your policy regarding troop withdrawal after you go to Iraq and have the chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground...What do you say to those folks out there who are saying ‘I voted for this guy because he told me he was going to bring the troops home in 16 months now he says he wants to refine his position.’"
Obama reassured Mitchell: "I have been entirely consistent that we are going to end this war when I'm president and that the timetable's going to be a pace that is safe for our troops, one to two brigades per month, which adds up to 16 months. That position has not changed." Mitchell made sure: "So that's still the plan, 16 months after you take office?" Obama replied: "Absolutely."
The other questions during the interview were not as challenging:
A report on the economic policies of John McCain and Barack Obama by correspondent Chip Reid on Monday’s CBS "Evening News" suggested that Obama’s supposed middle class tax cut would be more beneficial for American families: "Obama's plan is to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and use the savings for a middle-class tax cut...A recent study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Obama's plan would give a cut of more than a thousand dollars to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year. Under McCain's plan, they'd get just $319."
The "non-partisan" Tax Policy Center is actually a product of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Urban Institute. Reid went on to explain that: "On spending, Obama wants to jump start the economy with another round of stimulus checks for taxpayers to the tune of $50 billion." After outlining McCain’s policies on taxes and spending, Reid observed: "McCain also now supports extending the Bush income tax cuts, even though he once opposed them as too generous to the wealthy. Barack Obama says McCain's switch is more evidence that a McCain presidency would be more of the same. "
At the end of the segment, Reid mentioned the candidates’ proposals on gas prices: "As for the price of gas, both candidates have elaborate plans for bringing it down in the long run but neither one offers much in the way of short-term relief." Apparently Reid forgot about McCain’s support for a temporary gas tax holiday. While the effectiveness of that policy can be debated, it certainly would qualify as "short-term relief."
Near the end of Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show" there was a taped segment of co-host Julie Chen talking to the executive producer of the CBS reality show "Big Brother," Allison Grodner, who previewed some of the contestants in the show’s new season: "Dan is a Catholic school teacher from Michigan. He really doesn't think women are equal. And he felt really strongly, especially, about the possibility that Hillary Clinton would have become president. He said he would have left the country. And he was dead serious about that."
After describing the stereotypical conservative white male, Grodner went on to describe an Obama supporter on the show, a young Afircan-American woman: "Libra is the rebel mom and strong opinions, very liberal. She's the Obama girl in Bush country." Just prior to that description of the "rebel Obama girl" a clip was played of the conservative Dan explaining his opposition to Obama: "My only concern is Barack Obama is wildy charismatic, has a huge aura around him. Which, if you're not very educated, you may vote for him just because, you know, he's more charismatic."
"Big Brother," which is hosted by Chen, seems to be taking a political angle this season. Watch video of cast preview here.
Over the Fourth of July weekend I took a trip to the media’s shrine to itself in downtown Washington D.C., known as the Newseum, and was troubled by the fact that the exhibit on journalistic ethics took up less space in the seven floor building than the gift shop. Given the $20 admission fee, one might expect a little more attention paid to journalistic principles than to souvenirs like Newseum boxer shorts.
The exhibit featured various interactive computer displays that challenged visitors to test their judgement of real life ethical scenarios by choosing between different options of how to report a story. After answering, a screen would appear, showing percentages of how the general public answered versus how journalists responded.
In general, journalists tended to be more willing to take the questionable ethical course of action. However, one scenario was particularly disturbing. A picture was shown of an infant child in Africa lying on the ground starving, with a vulture a few feet away. The question was do you just report the story or do you try to help the child? About 70% of the general public responded by saying they would help the child, the same number of journalists, about 70%, said they would report the story without intervening.
While the Newseum deserves credit for a moving exhibit giving tribute to September 11 and one commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the lack of representation given to journalistic ethics definitely detracted from the overall experience. Though the front of the museum proudly displays the First Amendment etched in stone, it would do well to remember the responsibility that comes with that freedom.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to John McCain supporter Carly Fiorina and Barack Obama supporter Senator Claire McCaskill about the respective economic plans of the presidential candidates: "Bear market blues. Wall Street returns from the holiday as gas prices set another new record. Can either candidate calm America's fears?" At one point, Smith asked Fiorina: "How do we do all of this stuff? And we're not making more money, the tax rolls are not growing, the coffers are not full. We're just talking about deficit -- if nobody's going to get taxed, isn't this just going to be deficit city?" (audio available here)
While Smith did not feel the "coffers" were "full," at least not full enough for him, in reality, government tax revenue has tripled since 1965 and since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003, corporate income tax revenue has reached its highest level in over 20 years.
Smith began the segment by touting a new CBS poll: "The economy remains a major issue for voters as we head into the fall elections. In fact, a recent CBS News poll shows 78% of Americans think the economy is in bad shape." Considering the "Early Show’s" declaration of a recession last week it’s easy to understand such poll results.
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith teased an upcoming segment on John McCain giving Republican strategist Steve Schmidt greater control of his campaign: "John McCain shakes up his campaign again. Is this the jump start he needs to get him to the White House?" Later, co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased the segment this way: "Up next here for us, John McCain shakes up his struggling presidential campaign. We're talking with Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican campaign strategist."
The segment began with a report by correspondent Chip Reid, who declared:
For months, top Republicans have been urging John McCain to make changes in his campaign after a series of missteps...One example, the night of the final Democratic primary. Both Barack Obama and McCain gave speeches as their party's nominees...But compared to Obama's speech, McCain's fell flat with a small crowd and an ugly green back drop. It was a cry for change.
However, a major "misstep" by the Obama campaign this week, Obama supporter Wesley Clark degrading John McCain’s military record, was only given two news briefs during Tuesday’s "Early Show," totaling 90 seconds. Considering Clark’s comments were made on CBS’s "Face the Nation," one would expect a bit more coverage. In contrast, Thursday’s segment on McCain’s "struggling" campaign received nearly three and a half minutes.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an interview with actress Elizabeth Perkins from Showtime’s ‘Weeds’: "We're going to see what she thinks about weed. Not the show, the plant." Later, Chen offered yet another tease: "You know her from 'Weeds' on Showtime. Elizabeth Perkins. We're going to find out if she thinks marijuana should be legal."
Later during the segment Chen eagerly asked the question: "Since it is 'Weeds' it seems like a natural question. As a person...as Elizabeth Perkins, do you believe marijuana should be legalized?" Predictably, Perkins replied: "Oh, yeah, absolutely...Alcohol is legal. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me why marijuana's not. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me." Chen’s only response was to laugh and declare: "In the name of the show."
Chen followed up by referring to Perkins’ moralist anti-drug character on the show, Celia Hodes: "And Celia Hodes would say?," Perkins replied: "Oh, put them all in jail." Chen interjected: " I know...she's so self-righteous." Earlier in the segment, Chen explained that Perkins’ character on the show was an alcoholic "hypocrite." Perkins went on to explain that: "Well Celia's probably the only character on the show who's never smoked marijuana." Chen wondered: "Is she going to cave?" After Perkins said no, Chen pressed: "Oh, you never know, we still have a few episodes left-" At that point Perkins explained: "Never cave with marijuana because that's the 'evil drug,' according to her." Chen laughed.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on global warming by fretting: "...are penguins sending us warning signs about global warming?" Later, correspondent Debbye Turner talked to biologist Dee Boersma, who claimed that "Well, penguins are the canaries in the coal mine. Penguins are telling us, as marine sentinels, that our southern oceans are changing."
Boersma, who according to newsmeat.com donated $1,000 to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, went on to condemn a wide range of human activity that she felt was harming global penguin populations: "Penguins are affected not only by climate variation and climate change, but they're affected by lots of activities that we do from moving oil around, because we spill oil, from plastics that we dump into the oceans, to fishing that takes away their food."
Earlier in the segment, Turner lamented: "We've all seen pictures like these. Polar bears in danger because global warming is literally melting their habitat. But they are far from the only animal affected by climate change." She later discussed the dire situation facing penguins: "Academy award winning documentary March of the Penguins chronicled the Emperor Penguins amazing struggle to reproduce and survive. Experts say because of soaring temperatures and decreasing ice that the day could come that they make their final march."
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to foreign correspondent Lara Logan about the situation in Afghanistan and she declared: "So seven years later we have more troops in the country than we have ever had. And yet no one is admitting the fact that we are facing strategic defeat in a country that wanted us there. Unlike Iraq, they actually wanted us there."
Smith introduced the segment by proclaiming: "U.S. officials say attempts to root out Al Qaeda and the Taliban are failing. And for the second straight month in June, militants killed more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq."
During the segment, Smith displayed his foreign policy credentials in reference to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border: "I've been reading lightly about these tribal areas. I was there about 20 years ago. I described it to a friend of mine, it's like the Star Wars bar. You can't trust anyone there. You don't know who's loyal to who." So Afghans and Pakistanis are like strange-looking aliens?
Showing the kind of intrepid journalism that morning news is known for, on Monday’s CBS "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith led a panel discussion about some recent celebrity divorces, when publicist Marvet Britto observed: "...men are, you know, patting each other on the back when philandering happens. Sad as it may be...You know, look at Bill Clinton. It's not like he's -- you know, we're walking down the street thinking, ‘oh, look what he did.’"
The topic came up when Smith and the other panelists, divorce attorney Raoul Felder and clinical psychologist Robi Ludwig, were discussing Christie Brinkley’s divorce from her husband, who had an affair. In response, Smith awkwardly laughed and quickly moved on.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to economic analyst Mark Zandi about the state of the economy and asked: "Oil's up, gasoline's up, food prices up, stocks, way, way, way, way down. Home owner -- home values are down. Is there an end in sight to all of this bad news?" Zandi replied: "You just made me depressed. No. It's just bad news. It really is...It's just a really tough time for many Americans."
Later, Smith commented on how all the bad economic news seems to contribute to bad economic events: "It just seems like we're in this cumulative cycle that, you know, once one threshold of bad news gets reached, we reach to yet another one." That comment sparked this exchange with Zandi:
ZANDI: Yeah, it's a self re-enforcing negative cycle. You know, that's what happens during recessions, and that's what we're in the middle of right now.
SMITH: Whoa, is this a recession?
ZANDI: You know that -- that's a debate among economists and policy makers. But in the minds of the average American household I think there's no debate, this is a recession. I mean they're worth less today than they were a year ago, they're purchasing power is lower. I mean, for most people that's the definition of recession. So, economists can debate it but I think most people think this is a recession.
On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming interview with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair about global warming: "Also ahead this morning, we'll talk about a disturbing new report from some scientists in Colorado who say that there is the very real possibility that for the first time we will see the ice in the North Pole melt away completely during the summer."
Rodriguez elaborated as she later introduced the segment:
There are disturbing reports out this morning about the situation in the North Pole. Scientists are saying that by this summer there may be no ice on the North Pole at all, and that would be a first. Although the scientists also say there would be no significant short-term consequence to this, to not have ice in the North Pole year-round for the first time in history is symbolic of the growing threat of global warming.
On Wednesday’s CBS "Evening News," political analyst Jeff Greenfield suggested that Barack Obama was becoming more moderate: "...a relentless march to the center. He's determined not to be defined as Dukakis was and as John Kerry was, as outside the mainstream." Greenfield cited examples of Obama’s move to the middle by describing how: "His compromise on warrant -- on how you can wiretap foreign nationals with the FISA compromise, I think, was one example. He's saying maybe his anti-free trade rhetoric was a little overblown."
Greenfield even went so far as to bizarrely claim that Obama’s flip-flop on public financing was somehow evidence of his more moderate positions: "And by abandoning public financing, which he pledged to, he's saying ‘If I got more money than the other guy, I'm going to use it. I want to win.’"
The segment began by anchor Katie Couric declaring: "...the polls of summer. For now the heat is on the Republicans...Barack Obama's getting quite a bounce in the polls." Greenfield continued to tout Obama’s "bounce in the polls" by proclaiming: "It's an early summer blizzard, of polls that is, most of them gladdening Democratic hearts and furrowing Republican brows. Senator Barack Obama is up by 6 points in a USA Today/Gallup Poll, 12 in an LA Times/Bloomberg survey. Newsweek has the spread at 15 points nationally." However, it has been clearly demonstrated that the L.A. Times and Newsweek polls were outliers.
On Tuesday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric reported on Zimbabwe’s opposition leader dropping out of an election against the nation’s socialist dictator, Robert Mugabe, and lamented how: "The fear and danger that now pervades the streets of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe is a tragic departure from the hope and promise that began with his landslide victory nearly 30 years ago." File footage of an unidentified reporter covering Mugabe’s 1980 election followed: "A self-described Marxist has won the right to form the first government of the new state of Zimbabwe."
Couric continued to describe Mugabe’s promising rise to power:
When Robert Mugabe was first elected in 1980, he was a hero. He was seen as one of Africa's most promising black leaders...The son of a carpenter, the revolutionary and former school teacher said he had, quote, "inherited the jewel of Africa." A country rich in resources, Zimbabwe claimed independence from Britain in 1965 when it was known as Rhodesia. During the '80s, Zimbabwe's government received international support...at a time its neighbor, South Africa, practiced apartheid. The country's economic condition and public health improved. But in the '90s, Mugabe became more authoritarian. This one-time revolutionary squashed all opposition and faced charges of cronyism and corruption.
On Monday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric teased an upcoming segment remembering controversial comedian George Carlin: "...he was a comedy legend who made us laugh and think." During the segment, correspondent Jim Axelrod followed the same theme: "George Carlin made lots of us laugh...But his genius was making us think." Immediately following that observation a clip was played of Carlin declaring: "This country was founded by a group of slave owners who told us that all men are created equal. That is what's known as being stunningly, stunningly full of [expletive]."
Later in the segment, Axelrod again praised Carlin: " But what Carlin loved best was using irreverence to force us to re-exam what we'd long stopped thinking about." That statement was followed by Carlin ranting: "Here's another question I have: How come when it's us it's an abortion and when it's a chicken it's an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden?" One wonders, when Couric and Axelrod say Carlin "made us think," who exactly is "us"?
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show, " co-host Julie Chen lead the show with a depressing segment on the economy: "...with the economic woes hitting the nation, we have your complete guide to surviving the big squeeze." Chen proceeded to highlight high gas prices, then explain how "...the crisis in the housing market is also a drag on the economy," and finally, "Completing this perfect storm of economic woes, the devastating floods in the Midwest and how they will directly impact food prices."
When discussing the housing crisis with correspondent Thalia Assuras, Chen asked in desperation: "Thalia can you tell us anything good? Is there any relief in sight?" Assuras then offered a small glimmer of hope: "Well, the Senate toady is actually going to consider a foreclosure prevention plan or rescue plan of looking at the numbers here. It's going to provide $300 billion in new cheaper mortgages for high risk homeowners." However she then made it clear that Bush Administration would soon crush such hope: "But you know Julie, there's going to be a lot of squabbling and the White House has threatened a veto."
Following Chen’s report, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to financial advisor Dave Ramsey and took the same pessimistic tone: "So with all this economic volatility, what are we supposed to do?...if there was ever a time to panic, is this it? It sounds pretty gloomy." In contrast, Ramsey was having none of it: "Absolutely not. I'm sorry I'm not with Chicken Little and we're not handing out helmets. There -- it is not a time to panic, there's lots of good things going on in our economy and for most people this may represent opportunity."
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Jeff Glor did a report on "five things you should know about John McCain" and highlighted details such as: "Number four, a maverick even back in high school, John McCain was nicknamed ‘the punk’...A reputation that followed him to the naval academy." During the segment, USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro added: "John McCain graduated five slots from the bottom of the Annapolis class of 1958."
Contrast those bits of information with the hard-hitting facts revealed about Barack Obama during a similar segment on last Wednesday’s show: "Number four -- in addition to enjoying basketball and cycling during down time, Obama loves to play Scrabble...Obama's job as a teenager was at a Baskin Robbins and to this day he does not like ice cream." The segment on Obama also described how he and Michelle met and where he buys his suits.
Meanwhile, on Monday’s show, Glor also focused on McCain being born in Panama: "Number five, McCain was not born in any of the 50 United States...His father had been stationed there by the Navy, creating an eventual source of controversy." Shapiro added: "The Constitution says a president has to be a natural born citizen." Glor also questioned McCain’s skill as a pilot: "Number three, when McCain was not down in Vietnam, it was not his first. It was not his second. But his third plane crash as a pilot." Finally, Glor got to number one: "...when he first ran for Congress he was charged with being a carpet bagger."
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez described the Catholic Church’s refusal to allow filming on Church property of a movie prequel to "The DaVinci Code," starring Tom Hanks, this way: "...the battle between Tom Hanks and the Vatican. You know he's in Rome filming the prequel to 'The Da Vinci Code,' 'Angels and Demons,' and the Church there is up in arms, they're barring them from filming in churches. They believe the film, like the book, is sacrilegious."
On Wednesday, ABC’s "Good Morning America" featured a story on the controversy in which correspondent Nick Watt declared: "When the might of Rome clashes with a literary behemoth, expect some colorful language. 'An offense against God,' is what a diocese of Rome spokesman just called this book." Watt then later proclaimed: "The Dan Brown express will not be stopped," to which GMA co-host Diane Sawyer replied: "Yes, Nick, I mean that's the irony, isn't it? The more the Church complains, probably the better it is for the business."
Meanwhile, on Thursday’s "Early Show," correspondent Allen Pizzey explained: "Fans of the book, 'Angels and Demons,' keep streaming into the churches in Rome where the plot unfolds. But the film crew turning it into a movie has been banned from them and any other Church property. The plot is not overly anti-Church, but some of the most graphic scenes are not something with which the Church wants to be associated."