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."
Just as our intelligence experts' parsing of the OBL tape may uncover hidden clues, so does a careful deconstruction of comments this morning by Katie Couric yield important insights into her MSM mindset.
Couric was interviewing Peter Bergen, British author of "The Osama Bin Laden I Know." At one point, Katie had this to say:
"He talks about President Bush in the tape and he says he's foolish for ignoring the poll numbers that indicate the American people want him to pull out of Iraq. How do you think he's keeping abreast of all this. It's sort of odd, isn't it? Is he just paying attention to Al-Jazeera? It's not as if he's reading the New York Times, is it?"
Trying to put out the fire that Hillary's "plantation" remark started, Dem strategist and Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Elaine Kamarck might unintentionally have added fuel to it in a just-completed Fox News interview with host Bob Sellers.
In fairness, Kamarck, pictured here, an advisor on the Gore 2000 campaign, did not unequivocally defend Hillary's comments, even saying that she personally would not have used the 'p' word.
But in defending the thrust of Clinton's remarks, Kamarck stuck her foot in it. She said:
"Plantations were terrible places where people were forced into doing certain jobs. But at least they were doing jobs."
When Republican leader Trent Lott made racially insensitive remarks, the MSM was immediately flooded with speculation as to whether he could survive in his political leadership post.
But when Hillary Clinton did the same, the Today show portrayed her as going on the offense, not being on the defense.
You might have imagined Today's graphic for this morning's segment would have read along the lines "Hillary Feeling the Heat". Imagine again. In fact it read "Off and Running? Hillary Attacks GOP." Offense, not defense.
Today also conveniently failed to mention that her 'plantation' comment was made in church. Even the New York Times was constrained to acknowledge that her remarks came at "the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem."
The piece begins by painting the poignant image of a Palestinian killed by Israelis and his bereaved family member who "choked back tears and wiped his red, swollen eyes." It ends with this slogan: ''When you have no hope, you vote Hamas."
"So what?", you ask. Palestinians are permitted to distribute campaign literature in preparation for their legislative elections on Jan. 25th. What's the big deal? Well, true. Except this wasn't a Hamas campaign flyer. It was an article in this morning's Boston Globe: A Death Hardens Support for Hamas.
One wonders whether the author, Thanassis Cambanis, wasn't smoking cannabis when composing his one-sided piece. The image he paints is of repressive Israelis hounding the innocent Hamas. But in fact, the dead man in question was the leader of a Hamas terrorist cell, according to the Israeli Defense Forces,. who was killed in a shootout with Israel forces during a raid in which Israel arrested 18 suspected "militants."
Apparently even Chris Matthews has his limits when it comes to swallowing Dem BS. The proof came on tonight's Hardball, when Matthews clearly wasn't buying Al Sharpton's transparently lame defense of Hillary Clinton's allegation, at an MLK Day event, that "the House of Representatives has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about."
Sharpton's theater of the absurd reached its apotheosis when he claimed that Hillary "did not make the comments at a Harlem church". Even the New York Times had to admit that she had spoken in "at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem," and Hardball rolled footage of her speaking at a lectern in the church draped with fabric decorated with a cross.
The demonstrators' signs read "Withdraw the Terrorist US Army", so naturally I assumed it was a DNC event, perhaps with John Kerry and Al Gore leading the way. But no, turns out that for the second day running the Today show devoted an extended first segment to the attempted strike on Zawahiri and the harm it might have done to our relations with Pakistan.
Katie Couric introduced the piece, labeling it "collateral damage in the war on terror," and noting "one thing is for sure, the attack killed women and children and has put a strain on the relationship between the US and this key ally."
Once might be excused as an aberration. Twice signals a troubling trend.
On Saturday, Julian Phillips - the over-promoted host of Fox & Friends Weekend - downplayed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. He implied that there was limited cause for concern since Iran has agreed to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to carry out surprise inspections of its nuclear sites with as little as two hours notice.
On Sunday, Phillips was back at it . His guest was Barry Schweid, senior diplomatic correspondent for AP and a Fox News contributor. And once again, Phillips trotted out his pet theory:
"They agreed to protocols with the UN in 2003 for snap inspections in two hours or less. Why are these inspections not enough?"
Judging by her comments on this morning's Fox & Friends, a five-week hiatus to attend to a detached retina has done nothing to mollify Ellen Ratner's malice. Only the bitterest of partisans would have said this, as did Ratner, of Mrs. Alito's very public distress at her husband's treatment at the hands of Senate Dems:
"Washington is a tough game. If you cannot play it, you shouldn't be in it."
Perhaps realizing that she had pushed the acrimony meter too far, Ratner added some boiler plate about "feeling sorry" for Mrs. Alito. But the cat was already out of the bag as to what was truly in Ratner's heart.
You know the Ted, Chuck & Joe Show flopped when even Chris Matthews accuses the Dems of "buffoonery" in the Alito hearings. Yet that is exactly what Matthews did in his appearance on this morning's Today show:
"I don't think any points were scored by the Democrats. There was a lot of buffoonery by Democratic senators."
For whatever reason, Matthews was on his most 'fair & balanced' behavior. For example, in discussing Pres. Bush's joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, Matthews described Merkel's predecessor, the left-wing Gerhard Schroeder, as "very obnoxious," having taken "one cheap shot after another at us" and exploited our tribulations in Iraq for his own political gain.
Discussing the Alito hearings on this morning's Today show, Matt Lauer and Tim Russert sounded less like host and analyst and more like two disappointed teenaged boys, griping as they exit the theater that the movie didn't deliver enough exploding cars and train wrecks.
Lauer's opening question sounded the theatrical theme: "did the event live up to its billing?"
Russert panned the paucity of pyrotechnics: "It sure didn't, Matt. People talked about a confrontation. It certainly wasn't that. It started off with a bang and ended with a whimper."
But to the extent things did get nasty, who was responsible? Lauer slyly suggested that it was . . . Alito's own fault.
Much as the MSM likes to bury stories inimical to Democratic interests, there was no way the Today show could ignore Mrs. Alito's tears. Not only was it clearly the political story of the day, but the footage of Mrs. Alito's distress was much too riveting not to run.
Above the graphic "Democrats Gone Too Far?", Katie Couric interviewed Delaware senator Joe Biden. Was Katie speaking from feminine solidarity, or was she assuming the role of Democratic strategist, concerned that her party had hurt itself with its latest antics?
In any case, she gave Biden a rather rough going-over, beginning with her question as to whether the Dems had indeed gone too far in their questioning that ultimately led to Mrs. Alito's weeping. Without apologizing, Biden recommended that the current confirmation process be junked. Since nominees are so cautious in their comments, Biden suggested cutting out the hearings entirely and going directly to a Senate floor debate on nominations.
As we detailed here, on yesterday's Today show Matt Lauer yesterday blurted out in the midst of an interview "let's face it, [Alito] is an ultra-conservative."
If that weren't slur enough in the liberal mindset, Dem strategist James Carville continued the assault on this morning's Today, accusing Alito of being: "completely enamored and impressed with power."
Carville and consulting sidekick Paul Begala were in to chew the fat with Katie Couric over the Alito hearings and the pair's new book, "Take it Back," their prescription for reforming the Democrat party and the country at large.
A leitmotif of the interview was Katie Couric's exasperation with Democrats. Exasperation at Dem failure to sufficiently rake Alito over the coals, exasperation at Dems for ignoring the Carville-Begala bromides for recapturing power.