I suppose that quoting Al Franken for evidence of liberal media bias is, if you'll excuse the expression, like shooting fish in a barrel.
Nevertheless, perhaps it's useful for the archives to record one of Franken's remarks this evening in the course of his appearance on MSNBC's 'Scarborough Country.'
Commenting on Vice President Cheney's decision not to follow Harry Whittington to the hospital, Franken mused:
"It's inconceivable that you don't go to the hospital unless there's a reason you don't go to the hospital. If you had been drinking, you wouldn't go to the hospital. Or, you're an amazing jerk, that's the other. Or both."
Thirty-six minutes into tonight's Hardball, host Chris Matthews finally permitted a Cheney defender, former Cheney aide Ron Christie, to grace his program. Even then, Christie was denied an unobstructed opportunity to make his case, having to share the segment with hyper-partisan Dem consultant Bob Shrum - he of the record-breaking number of losing presidential campaigns - who tried to drag in everything from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina.
Until Christie's belated appearance, Hardball was an absolutely ceaseless cavalcade of criticism heaped on the Veep and his handling of the shooting incident that included:
clips of NBC reporter David Gregory haranguing Scott McClellan;
file footage of Gloria Borger supposedly tripping up Cheney over the Saddam/Al-Qaeda connection;
MSNBC reporter David Shuster's decidedly downbeat portrayal of events;
a grim assessment from Washington Post reporter Jim Vandehei;
a pessimistic view of Whittington's medical situation by former NIH director Bernadine Healy; and finally
a panel discussion with former Clinton Press Secretary Dede Myers and DC factotum David Gergen
The negative portrayal of the Vice-President and of the administration's handling of the matter was absolutely unrelenting.
Imagine you're a member of the media, and in your heart you believe that a major official wouldn't mind seeing you burn to death. Think that might affect the way you cover him?
A comment on this morning's "Early Show" by veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante, while perhaps intended to be light-hearted, pulled back the curtain on just how antagonistic the White House press corps believes VP Cheney to be toward them. But more importantly, it suggests how antagonistic they likely feel in return.
The topic was the Veep's accidental shooting of hunting partner Harry Whittington, and more particularly the very contentious press conference yesterday between the White House press corps and presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. Windows Media or Real Player
Let the record show that it took the MSM less than a day to float the possibility that Dick Cheney intentionally shot Harry Whittington.
And who better to surmise that the Vice-President might have been trying to bump off his buddy than Ron Reagan, that primetime speaker at the Kerry convention who moonlights as an MSNBC "political analyst"?
Reagan appeared on tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews, and in decrying the fact that the Secret Service apparently denied local law enforcement immediate access to Cheney, said the following:
"Law enforcement is entitled to investigate this case, to find out what happened, to find out if he had anything against Mr. Whittington, and to find out - again I don't mean to suggest anything - to find out if anyone had been drinking . . ."
Good Morning America took a double-barrelled blast at Vice President Cheney this morning over his accidental shooting of a quail-hunting companion, suggesting the White House might have tried to cover up the incident and calling into question a witness's version of events.
GMA did at first describe the accident as having occurred because the victim, attorney Harry Whittington, failed to observe the quail-hunting rule by which hunters remain in a single line as they advance, indicating that the accident occurred after Whittington left the line to retrieve a bird from the tall grass.
But GMA host Charlie Gibson later claimed that there was "growing political fallout" from the incident, wondering:
The gist is that global warming is causing Arctic ice to melt, depriving polar bears of territory to hunt seals, the staple of their diet.
Author Geoffrey Lean [special sympathy for the hungry?] brands Bush's stance on climate change "obdurate," which last I looked means "hardened in wrongdoing or wickedness; stubbornly impenitent." No media bias there!
When's the last time you recall a prominent elected official being called a morning malt liquor drinker on live national TV? It just happened on the Today show.
Today was no doubt looking for a light touch when co-host Campbell Brown interviewed New Orleans magician, comic and eccentric extraordinaire Harry Anderson in a pre-Mardi Gras piece on "Life after Katrina." But the NBC show surely got more than it was bargaining for.
When Anderson took some shots at FEMA and the federal response to Katrina, Brown, in an apparent bid for balance, responded:
"Let me ask you about Mayor Nagin, because your mayor has come under a lot of crticism too for how he's handled the rebuilding effort. What do you think of the mayor?"
She interviewed NBC reporter Richard Engel on this morning's Today show in the wake of the release of a new videotape of Jill Carroll, the US journalist kidnapped in Iraq last month. The tape showed a composed Carroll speaking before a floral backdrop.
Couric, ever the fashion maven, declared "it's actually kind of a pretty setting." Perhaps Katie can pick up some matching shoes while in 'Torino'. Engel explained that the captors appear to be sending the message that they are looking to negotiate.
Imagine you're the host of a morning news show, and the head of the country's major opposition party has just invoked the danger of the President of the United States turning the country into a police state akin to Iran. Would you perhaps ask a follow-up question challenging your guest to substantiate his inflammatory remark? No, you wouldn't. At least, not if you're GMA's Charlie Gibson. For when Howard Dean made just such an allegation this morning, Gibson never blinked.
Discussing the NSA terrorist surveillance program, Dean stated:
"All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran, where the President of Iran can do anything they [sic] want at any time."
Hardball's screen graphic "Global Fury" presumably referred to the rioting over the Mohammed cartoons. But it might also have been a subliminally sardonic comment about Chris Matthews' guest, Amy Goodman, host of the far-left radio show "Democracy Now."
If Hillary is angry, perhaps she's taken lessons from Goodman. This is one angry woman. Goodman's explanation by way of a justification of the rioting?
"This is about people feeling marginalized. This has to do with the war in Iraq, this has to do with 'the Occupation' [translation: Israel's claim to a right to exist], this is about hundreds being held at Guantanamo with the Koran being desecrated."
No more than a couple years ago, headlines invoking Britney Spears in a "lap" controversy might have brought to mind images of graphic goings-on in the Champagne Room.
But time marches on, and Britney-the-new-mother is now caught in a lap-gate of an altogether different sort after photos were snapped of Britney driving her car with her four-month old son in her lap rather than secured in a car seat. In the latest development, according to this LA Times article, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy went to her Malibu home on Tuesday "to collect information for child welfare investigators" in connection with the matter. For the record, Spears says she was feeling hounded by paparazzi and drove off with the baby in her lap to escape them.
There's been speculation today that Democrats and their MSM allies would turn on erstwhile hero John McCain in the wake of his breathtakingly critical letter to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - whom we are legally required to refer to as "a rising star of the Democratic party."
But at least one MSMer with impeccable Dem credentials - Chris Matthews - was reveling in the cat fight this evening.
Obama and McCain apparently had a gentlemen's agreement that they would cooperate in a bi-partisan way on a lobbying reform bill. But it seems that Obama back-tracked, withdrew from the agreement, and came out in support of Dem leader Harry Reid's highly partisan proposal.
McCain unloaded on Obama with a letter he made public containing, among others, these jabs:
Today's Matt Lauer scored a Jerome Bettis-sized TD this morning by asking a question regarding the current Muslim rioting that was as unexpected as it was perspicacious. Meanwhile, former Clinton diplomat Bill Richardson offered the instinctive Democratic response to a threat to our security: bring on the UN!
Richardson, currently the New Mexico governor, described the grim state of the Muslim world: "I've never seen the situation so dire with with the threats from Iran, the victory of Hamas, the escape of Badawi in Yemen. This is a very dangerous situation. It seems that the Muslim world is exploding."
Hey, I'm a multi-culturalist. I'm happy to see people observing their various religious holidays, from Christmas to Chanukah to Ramadan. But somehow, my multicultural enthusiasms run out of steam when it comes to . . . condoning the sacking of foreign embassies.
Not Julian Phillips. The co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend blithely condoned the current rioting and burning of foreign embassies around the world by Muslims angered by depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. His explanation-by-way-of-excuse: "different religion, different culture."
In the course of the show's opening segment, Fox's Yasmina Ykelenstam reported live from Beirut, where rioters had set fire to the Danish embassy. She reported that there has been violence across the city, including at the Norwegian embassy, and cars smashed and burned. Back in the studio, Kiran Chetry reported that in Damascus, Syria, rioters had also set fire to the Danish embassy.
When it comes to malign intent, Ellen Ratner will be hard-pressed ever to outdo the hope she expressed in 2003 that the Iraq war go badly in order to promote Democratic political interests.
But Ratner might well have plumbed a new personal low in religious stereotyping and sheer ignorance this morning when she explained Justice Sam Alito's recent vote to stay an execution by claiming that he votes the "Catholic ticket."
Her ill-informed allegation came in the course of "The Long & the Short of It," a regular Fox & Friends Weekend feature in which she debates conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton.
Let's give Today its due. It devoted extended coverage this morning to the growing nuclear threat from Iran. In Katie Couric's interview of Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, it was quickly established that Iran does indeed represent a serious danger. Much of the conversation involved a discussion of the various options - none of them ideal - to address the threat. One might argue that Haass' estimate that Iran remains five years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon is dangerously optimistic, but he did not attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation.
But, inevitably, Katie turned the talk to what she deemed domestic spying, alternatively dubbing it, with a wry smile, "the terrorist surveillance program."
On a slow news day, a couple Today show notes, both concerning Matt Lauer.
Readers will recall, as described here, that on the eve of the confirmation hearings Lauer branded Sam Alito an "ultraconservative." No mea culpas from Matt this morning in the wake of Alito's vote splitting from the court's conservative wing and staying the execution of a death-row inmate. Today did label Alito's decision a "Supreme Surprise." Observed Katie Couric:
"Everyone expected Alito to be a reliable, consistent conservative on the high court which is why so many are a little shocked that he sided with liberals and moderates in his very first vote on the high court last night."
Liberals hate to be accused of having a pre-9/11 mentality. But how else can you describe it when two leading MSM lights dismiss the war on terror as a political ploy that President Bush has taken to "extremes"?
That's exactly what happened on this morning's Today show. Matt Lauer, conducting a SOTU post-mortem interview of Tom Brokaw, wrote off W's war on terror as a political tactic:
"The president talked about this fight against "radical Isam" [note that Lauer raised his hands, painting scare quotes in the air around the term] saying that the weapon they use in the fight is fear and that we cannot retreat, there's no peace in retreat. Is this an attempt in this divided nation to find some kind of term or idea that people can get united behind?"
Toggling between the Today show and Good Morning America this morning offered a perfect illustration of the very different treatment the MSM reserves for Republicans and Democrats.
At Today, Andrea Mitchell was painting a grim picture of President Bush's foreign policy record. Take the recent Hamas victory, for example, which Mitchell unequivocally labelled: "a disaster for the US peace plan."
In fact, reactions to the Hamas victory have been very mixed, with some seeing a significant silver lining, as in this column by conservative [and I might add Jewish] columnist Jeff Jacoby:
Liberal media bias isn't limited to news reporters. At least when it comes to the Boston Globe, it clearly extends to the sports department.
Boston Globe sports reporter Dan Shaughnessey just completed an interview with the edgy Jim Rome, host of the eponymous 'Jim Rome is Burning' on ESPN. The topic was Detroit's worthiness as a Super Bowl site. Shaughnessey vigorously defended Motown in these terms: "Detroit is a real city. You can get the New York Times here."
In closing, Shaughnessey took a gratuitous swipe at recent Super Bowl host city Jacksonsville, calling it a "yahoo town" that should never have been granted hosting privileges.
With all the speculation about Katie Couric moving to the CBS Evening News anchor desk, a guy like me whose shtick is to cover her antics at the Today show could be concerned about his blogging future.
Not to worry. Flipping over to Good Morning America today reassured me: there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of liberal media bias and the talking heads to spout it.
The topic was President Bush's impending State of the Union Address. In assembling its panel, GMA resorted to an old MSM trick - coupling a fire-breathing liberal opponent of the president with someone ostensibly from the Republican side, but who in many ways is an opponent-in-disguise. And so it was that host Charlie Gibson's guests were James Carville and Bay Buchanan, who in her own right and on behalf of brother Pat have been antagonists of the Bushes on many an issue from Iraq, to Israel to trade for many years.
Remember the good old days, when Democrats and their friends in the MSM would regularly bash Republican administrations for doing business with less-than-democratic, even unsavory foreign governments and their leaders?
From the Shah of Iran, to Marcos in the Phillipines, Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile and a variety of strong men, authoritarians and tinpots in between, liberals lambasted Republican presidents for "coddling dictators" and doing nothing to promote freedom and democracy.
It seems the MSM has overhauled its ordre du jour [to use a phrase one might hear in, oh, Davos, Switzerland]. At least when it comes to those 'furriners,' could it be that Democrats and their MSM buds suddenly aren't so keen on . . . democracy anymore?
Just when you thought the MSM elites couldn't get any more condescending . . .
Ellen Ratner pulled back the veil this morning and exposed what she and surely others in the liberal media think of their fellow Americans: we're just too damn dumb to understand how the Bush administration is abusing us. Her proposed solution? Democrats need to explain matters to us "in very simple terms."
Ratner's comments came at the end of this morning's "The Long & the Short of It" feature on Fox & Friends Weekend, in which Ratner regularly locks horns with conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton.
Pinkerton broached the NSA surveillance issue, asserting that it is playing very well for President Bush, and suggesting that "if the Dems were smart they'd be talking about Medicare and things like that but they can't get off their ACLU reflex."
On yesterday's Today show, Howard Dean did his best angry imitation of Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex" and/or Rafael Palmeiro's "I have never used steroids" performances. His voice rising, Dean insisted over Katie Couric's attempts to claim otherwise that:
"Katie, not one dime of Jack Abramoff money ever went to any Democrat. Not one dime."
Confronted by such intransigence, Katie politely observed that "we'll have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers." That's apparently just what the Today researchers did overnight, and Matt Lauer, with Tim Russert in tow, informed viewers this morning of their findings.
Interviewing Howard Dean this morning, you could almost hear Katie Couric thinking: "sure, he's a fellow member of our great Democratic family. But darn it, this guy is killing us!" And thus it was that Couric gave Dean the crazy uncle treatment, hitting him with tough questions almost as if to speak over him to the rest of us out here, apologizing for the untoward antics of this unwelcome but unavoidable visitor.
Suggested Katie regarding the NSA surveillance: "If this potentially stops another terrorist attack like 9/11, why not give the White House some latitude?" Dean riffed in reply about a president who "has a habit of putting himself above the law." But Katie was dubious when Dean complained that the program "poking around into people's private lives."
John McCain is a straight talker. You can take it to the bank. Assuming, that is, that you're willing to rely on the Today show's say-so. During much of McCain's interview with Matt Lauer this morning, Today 'helpfully' displayed the legend "Straight Talk from John McCain." Guess that wraps it up - the man is as square a shooter as the day is long!
Some of us watching the interviewing might otherwise have thought that John McCain was positioning himself to run for president as the Know-Nothing candidate.
The topic was the NSA surveillance program, which President Bush has now dubbed the "terrorist surveillance program." When it came to the program's legality, McCain was more agnostic than a Unitarian lay minister.
When Matt Lauer began peppering Bill O'Reilly with rapid-fire questions on this morning's Today show, the prime-time host complained "you're going so fast - it's 7:10 in the morning!"
Judging by his sub-par performance, O'Reilly wasn't kidding.
Oh, to be sure, in his very first sentence the No-Spin Zone-ster called the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee "pinheads." But is that much more than middle-school machismo?
When it came to the substance of the Alito hearings, O'Reilly's fastball had no bite. Said BOR in criticizing the Dems' performance "you don't go to his college club, and say look at this, he was in a club in college. That's just dopey."
The Today show played a dangerous game this morning, floating the notion that President Bush manipulated the release of an OBL tape in 2004 to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Today opened the segment by flashing the image to the right, which so closely juxtaposed photos of W and OBL you might have thought it was a campaign poster. And call me suspicious, but I can't help but wonder if the "Close Up" beneath the photos wasn't merely the title of the lead segment but also Today's 'subliminable' comment on the pair's relationship.
Just in case anyone missed the point, Lauer archly asked: "is OBL President Bush's not-so-secret weapon?" Lauer then suggested the WH is exploiting the latest OBL tape to conduct a "PR blitz" in support of the NSA surveillance program.
Lauer then handed the ball to NBC reporter David Gregory, who claimed that the White House has "politically seized" the moment "with the OBL tape still fresh" to "step up its campaign against its critics" on the surveillance issue.
Gregory then made a much more sinister suggestion, stating:
Q: How does a lefty media maven know he's gone off the deep end?
A. When even fellow liberal Jane Hall laughs at him.
Neal Gabler should take the lesson to heart, because that's exactly what befell him on tonight's Fox Media Watch. The subject matter was the media's handling of Hillary's 'Plantation Declaration'. Jane began with a surprisingly candid assessment of Clinton and her presidential ambitions:
"She's clearly running for President and I think the media should quit going around that fact. She's tiptoeing around that fact. The question I have was whether [her plantation remark] was spontaneous or planned. She's been so planned - that's what she's been known for. [She might have given an impromptu answer to a question] but if she reached for the race card, then that's a different context."
I like Kiran Chetry. Kiran Chetry is a friend of mine. Alright, she isn't a friend of mine. But the mother-to-be is a pleasant presence in her role of co-host on Fox & Friends Weekend. Still, in her comments on Karl Rove this morning, she let show a certain DNC-mindset.
The topic was Rove's appearance yesterday at the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, at which he laid out a battle plan for the 2006 mid-term elections. Rove was shown saying "honorable people can have honest political differences, and we should strive for civility and intellectual integrity in our debates and arguments."
That seemed to surprise Kiran: "Rove, known for being the one who is the attack dog at the White House, was actually calling for civility."