When Bill Clinton nominated ACLU general counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, what are the odds that, in the very first sentence of its report, the Today show described Ginsburg as "liberal"? Roughly the same as the Saints winning this year's Super Bowl, perhaps?
Yet this is how Katie Couric opened Today this morning: "Breaking news: President Bush is nominating conservative judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court."
Matt Lauer got into the spirit, adding Alito "is so consistently conservative he has been called 'Scalito,'" i.e., in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Tim Russert then weighed in, expressing skepticism that Alito could get 60-65 Senate votes. Russert did acknowledge that Ted Kennedy praised Alito when he was nominated to the Appeals Court, but explained that that was 15 years ago and Kennedy will will make a distinction now that Alito is being nominated to the Supreme Court.
Is Julian Phillips of Fox & Friends Weekend undergoing a sea change?
Readers of my entries here and at Free Republic know that over the months I've enjoyed skewering Julian when he has let his liberal slip show. But this morning, Julian sang a very different song.
The context was a report that Bill Clinton yesterday urged his fellow Democrats to speak out bluntly on controversial issues, from abortion to religion.
Phillips had this to say:
"You can speak up and be tough but the question is, do you have any different solutions? And I think that's the thing with the Democrats at this time. They have to come up with some alternatives and I don't see that they have actually come up with anything yet." [emphasis added]
Are you a Republican or conservative? Want to get invited on a morning MSM show? No problem! Just be prepared to do one thing - criticize the Bush administration.
We've seen the pattern in recent weeks at the Today show. First there was Bill Kristol, fiercely attacking the Miers nomination. Yesterday, GOP congressman-turned-MSNBC-host Joe Scarborough upped the ante, accusing VP Cheney of a "lie."
And this morning brought an appearance by conservative uber-celebrity Ann Coulter.
The first hint that a warm reception was planned for Ann was the fact that Today chose Matt Lauer to interview her, rather than Katie Couric with whom Ann had famously clashed on air after having described Couric as an "affable Eva Braun."
What earned Ann her invite? Matt gave it away when he cited to Ann her recent comment "in which you compared the Bush White House with the Nixon White House."
Bingo! Any conservative willing to invoke the Nixon White House in discussing W is welcome on Today!
In introducing Joe Scarborough this morning, Katie Couric described him a "former Republican congressman." After witnessing his performance, one is prompted to ask: was "former" intended to modify "congressman," or "Republican"?
In any case, Scarborough was living proof of the adage that the kind of Republicans welcome on the Today show are those willing to take swipes at the Bush administration.
Scarborough did so in spades this morning. Speaking of the Plame investigation, Katie asked, in her best butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth ingenue tone:
I'm on the road this week, but a quick take from this morning's Today.
As it did the day after the Iraqi referendum, Today buried the story today that, with tabulations completed, 78% of Iraqis voted in favor of adopting the proposed new constitution.
At least 10 x more time was accorded to yet more car bombings in Baghdad, Hurricane Wilma and storms in the Northeast. Even the story of some stranded dolphins merited several times more airtime than the Iraqi vote, not to mention some sympathetic tongue-clucking by Katie.
To read their bios, there are some remarkable similarities between Ken Starr and Pat Fitzgerald. But not in their media treatment.
Starr was born into humble circumstances, the son of a part-time barber who worked his way through college, got an Ivy League degree along the way, and went on to a brilliant legal career. He clerked for a Supreme Court justice, was a judge on the federal Appeals Court [the level just below the Supreme Court] and served as the United States Solicitor General. Viewed as a brilliant, moderate conservative, earlier in his career he was frequently mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee.
Pat Fitzgerald also came from a modest background, the son of a doorman in Brooklyn, and went on to Amherst and Harvard Law. After serving as an Assistant US Attorney in New York, he was later named US Attorney for Northern Illinois, a key position with jurisdiction over the Chicago area.
Less newsworthy than a baseball game, and in any case, just another "potentially divisive event." That's the back-of-the-hand treatment the Today show gave the apparent approval of the Iraqi constitution in this weekend's referendum.
Katie Couric opened Today by touting a tropical storm in the Caribbean, the travails of Rove and Libby and the White Sox's victory. Not a word about the Iraqi referendum.
That didn't come until a few minutes into the show, during the news recap, and even then NBC reporter Mike Boettcher tried to put the worst possible face on matters. After finally acknowledging that "Iraq does indeed appear to have a new constitution," Boettcher wasn't so sure this was good news.
"The question now," he somberly asked, "is whether the document will unite or divide Iraq?" Boettcher went on to describe the impending trial of Saddam Hussein as "another potentially divisive event," i.e., along with the 'yes' vote on the constitution.
Regular readers of my threads at FR know that Julian Phillips of Fox & Friends Weekend has been a favorite target for my barbs.
Fairness therefore dictates that I salute him when he gets something right, as he did this morning.
The topic was the planned neo-Nazi march in Toledo, OH and the violence it sparked among largely black protesters.
Co-host Alisyn Camerota teed up the issue: "the question always arises, do you let the neo-Nazis or other groups, like the KKK, march?"
Phillips' answer was unequivocal and spot-on: "my answer is you let them march." While making clear that he understandably takes strong issue with such groups' positions, he repeated: "this is America. You let them march."
In a deliciously ironic twist of fate, shortly before airing a segment aimed at embarrassing the Bush administration by suggesting that it had staged a video conversation between the president and soldiers in Iraq, the Today show was caught staging . . . a video stunt.
In the Bush/Iraq segment, Today screened footage indicating that prior to engaging in a video conversation with President Bush, soldiers on the ground in Iraq were given tips by a Department of Defense official.
But the only advice that the official was shown as giving was a suggestion to one solider to "take a little breath" before speaking to the president so he would actually be speaking to him. It was also stated that some of the soldiers practiced their comments so as to appear as articulate as possible. But there was no indication, or even allegation, that the soldiers were coached as to the substance of their comments or in any way instructed what to say.
Ever wonder where the media find those people for the heart-wrenching personal interest stories used to illustrate a point? Me too.
The Today show aired a doozy this morning, and used it to make a hair-raising prediction that pointed the finger at insufficient government welfare spending.
The topic was increasing fuel prices, and in particular the rising cost of home heating.
Reporter Tom Costello sagely informed us "those high heating bills will hit low-income families especially hard." Well, yeah. That's one of the things about being low-income, you can't afford as much stuff, nachos to natural gas..
We were then treated to a clip of Joanne Baker, a not-elderly black Philadelphia woman living in what appeared to be a comfortable two-story home who lamented:
Does the MSM sense blood in the Bush administration water? That seems to be the case, judging from the breathtaking accusation that Katie Couric just leveled at it.
The context was Couric's interview of Chris Matthews on the subject of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into possible leaks in the Valerie Plame affair.
Matthews was hostile enough, musing whether the Bush administration "in defending themselves against the charge we went to war for a corrupt or bogus reason, that there wasn't any weaponry, a deal with nuclear weapons, did they break the law?"
But even that was insufficiently venomous for Katie's taste. She cut Matthews off peremptorily, interjecting:
"Yeah, and Chris isn't it more than just Iraq, doesn't it speak about the way this White House possibly operates?" Couric risibly sought a fig leaf of cover from what was clearly her own opinion by tacking on at the end of her question "in the minds of some."
If you invite the chubby kid from down the block to the birthday party, is it fair to criticize him for eating cake?
There was something of that lack of hospitality to the Today show's interview of President and Laura Bush this morning
For weeks now, Today has been reveling in its contribution to the Katrina relief effort, notably in its collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Two weeks ago, Today transformed Rockefeller Plaza into "Humanity Plaza," erecting Habitat homes for transport to the stricken area.
This morning, the action moved to Covington, Louisiana, where a home was being erected on site. And who was there, hammer at the ready to lend a hand, but President Bush himself, accompanied by Laura.
Charles Krauthammer has called the Miers nomination a "joke."
George Will called her "the wrong pick."
Bill Kristol labelled the nomination a "mistake."
David Frum suggests she is "not good enough."
Senators Brownback, Thune and Lott have expressed reservations.
So what are these folks up to? Well, to listen to Ellen Ratner, of Fox & Friends Weekend "Long & Short of It" feature, they are consciously . . . lying.
Yes, in her appearance this morning, Ratner claimed that the Republicans are "protesting too much" about Miers' lack of conservative credentials in a "concerted effort" [read "conspiracy'] to dupe Democrats into accepting her.
Said Ratner: "I think she is a stealth, very conservative candidate. I think they are raising this as a way of causing a lot of storm so liberals can say 'well, maybe she is not that bad' and I think this is a concerted effort to get her through."
Can you recall the last time the Today show invited a major conservative commentator on to opine on the issues of the day? Neither can I.
But there was Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol this morning, under Today's 'hopeful' graphic "Is Bush Losing His Base?", being treated deferentially by David Gregory.
Why? It's the old MSM maxim: conservatives are only welcome when they're willing to take shots at fellow conservatives/Republicans. We saw the same phenomenon in play earlier this week as Katie Couric gave respectful treatement to Rush Limbaugh, playing a clip in which he described the Miers appointment as having been made "in weakness."
Kristol began by observing that some recent White House political errors can be attributed to the fact that Karl Rove has been "distracted" in recent weeks by his multiple grand jury appearances.
Call it 'gotcha' journalism, or perhaps just a revealing look inside the liberal media mind, but Katie Couric just engaged in a stunning leap of logic on this morning's Today show.
She was interviewing long-time Harriet Miers friend and colleague Nathan Hecht, who worked for years with Miers at the same law firm, and is now a member of the Texas Supreme Court. An aside: Hecht is an affable and impressive combination of aw-shucks gentility and acute, articulate advocacy. If W had been looking for an outside-the-beltway Texas pick, he could have done much worse than Hecht himself!
In any case, Katie immediately honed in on the abortion issue. Hecht acknowledged that when it came to abortion, he and Miers have "probably talked about it some," then flatly averred: "she's pro-life."
If you can tell a lot about a person by their friends and
enemies, then it should be revealing to see how people are lining up on the
On the enemies [or shall we say ‘serious doubters’] side: Rush
Limbaugh, George Will, Mark Levin and Terence Jeffrey.
On the ‘friends’ side: Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and, as of
this morning, the Today show.
We put Today in the 'friends' category because friendship, or at least advocacy of the Miers
nomination, can be the only possible explanation for the puff piece Today ran
this morning on President Bush’s support for “strong women.”
A red flag should have immediately gone up when David
Gregory, who normally spends his days antagonizing Scott McClellan in the WH
press room, introduced the segment with this bouquet to W’s feminism:
There was something of a world-turned-upside down feel to this morning's Today show.
There was Katie, putting WH spokesman Dan Bartlett on the hot seat. Nothing unusual about that. But rather than using allegations or statements coming from the left, Couric threw in Bartlett's face statements made by Rush and Bill Kristol.
Katie ran a clip of Rush's oft-quoted remark that the Miers pick was made "in weakness,' and Kristol's admission of being "disappointed, depressed and demoralized."
Bartlett responded with a litany of defenses. Most were along the line that Miers does indeed share W's judicial philosophy. One defense strained credulity: "during the selection process, many people recommended we look for someone from outside the judiciary." Isn't that convenient?
Even as the news was breaking during the first minutes of the show, Katie Couric wasted absolutely no time in launching the first of what are sure to be many hits on Harriet Miers, who appears to be President Bush's pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court.
Katie took her shot under the guise of a question to Tim Russert: "You know, Tim, the Bush administration has been hit recently with allegations of cronyism. Do you think this is going to feed into that?"
And of just what have those recent allegations of cronyism consisted? The widely reported "fact" that former FEMA Director Mike Brown was the "college roommate" of Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA.
For five years I've hosted a local, community-access political TV talk show, 'Right Angle.' We've had hundreds of guests, many of them college students, with a good smattering of high school students and even a handful of middle-schoolers.
But for sheer embarrassing, puerile, vapidity, none of them has been the equal of the utterly unwatchable Ellen Ratner, the short, and liberal, half of "The Long & the Short of It" feature on Fox & Friends Weekend.
Try this on, for utterly vacuous 'political commentary,' from this morning's just-completed episode. Responding to conservative counterpart Jim Pinkerton's prediction that Roberts would acquit himself well as Chief Justice, Ratner had this to say:
"Oh, Jim, you just wait. [Roberts] will be so right-wing that you won't even know he has a left-wing."
With a tone and a look on his face suggesting "what have I just done?", Tim Russert let the cat out of the bag this morning about the Dems' political motivations in the prosecution of Tom DeLay.
The context was an otherwise-predictable interview with Katie Couric of the Today show. But toward the end, Russert had this to say: "DeLay is a fierce partisan infighter" then added "and the Democrats realize that and are trying to respond in kind."
Whoops! That kind of candor isn't supposed to slip through the MSM filter, particularly coming from one its leading 'wise men.' Thanks, Tim!
In a telethon that would have been the envy of Jerry Lewis, the Today show's first half-hour painted a portrait of wall-to-wall gloom for America and for the political fortunes of George Bush.
This was done against a backdrop of Jimmy Carter's pet charity Habitat for Humanity quite literally pounding home the message - as it builds homes for the displaced in Rockefeller Center - of the difference a Democrat president can make.
In the news recap, a quartet of woe for Republicans:
Hapless former FEMA Director Michael Brown getting grilled by Congress.
Bill Frist denies wrongdoing in the sale of hospital stocks.
Sen. Pat Leahy importuning the president, when it comes to the nomination to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, to "be a uniter, don't be a divider." Yes, there's nothing like a towering giant of the bench like David Souter to bring a troubled nation together.
Abu Ghraib even puts in an appearance, with news of Lynndie England's conviction.
David Gregory, antagonist extraordinaire of GOP White House press secretaries, then did a segment on the issue of whether "taxpayers are getting ripped off" by the hurricane relief effort. Calling it "the splurge after the storm," Today aired a clip of liberal Dem stalwart Henry Waxman wringing his hands over possibly excessive profits being rung up by the contractors.
For conservatives seeking refuge from the hurricane of liberalism that is the MSM, sports coverage is normally a safe redoubt. And if any sport would normally be considered a haven safe from liberalism, it is golf.
But danger lurks everywhere. And it took no more than the flimsy excuse of an important golf event being played in the Washington, DC suburbs for the MSM to air a love letter to Democratic icon JFK.
The piece was aired this morning at the beginning of the USA Network's coverage of the Presidents Cup, an event in which a US team goes up against a team of players from countries around the world outside Europe.
Rich Lerner, who normally works for the Golf Channel, narrated the segment. In fairness, Lerner is undoubtedly the Golf Channel's most talented essayist, and often brings perceptive and moving dimension to his reporting. But here, he was palpably incapable of preventing his true liberal colors from showing.
In its Katrina coverage, the MSM made hay at President Bush's expense in suggesting that the government's sluggish response was the result of racism.
Given the early and energetic preparations of government at all levels for Rita, you might think that it would impossible for the MSM to recycle the racism canard. But that didn't stop the Today show from giving it the old college try this morning.
Lester Holt normally strikes me as a solid professional. In footage from yesterday aired on this morning's show, Holt reported from Galveston, covering the last of the evacuees, largely poor people it seemed, being put on school buses "who had no other way to leave."
Holt asked what appeared to be a poor black man sitting on a school bus about to be evacuated: "were you afraid that you could be left behind here?"
It was just a comment made in passing, but it was very revealing in its own way.
On this morning's Today show, in discussing incipient Hurricane Rita, Katie Couric observed "if Rita turns into a hurricane, it will be the seventh." She then added pointedly added "there have been a lot this year!"
We can all read Katie's 'subliminable' message:
"Gotta be the global warming/Bush's failure to sign the Kyoto Treaty/hole in the ozone layer/Halliburton/VRWC/Republican SUVs and who knows, probably the lack of 'free' national health care."
There's only one small problem with Katie the Climatologist's theory. Far from being "a lot," seven hurricanes in a year is very typical, and far from the recent high of 12, which occurred 36 years ago.
It's got to be hard for Today and its MSM cohorts. In the wake of President Bush's inspired speech, with its ambitious agenda for rebuilding the gulf coast, attention is turning toward the future and away from the 'good old days.' You know: that period right after Katrina hit when the liberal media were in their glory, reveling in the halting governmental response, focusing almost entirely on the shortcomings of the Bush administration.
Gripped by nostalgia for that glorious recent past, and being the good recyclers that liberals are, the Today show took a walk down memory lane this morning, re-running some of the most inflammatory footage from the hurricane's immediate aftermath.
NBC reporter Mark Mullen, live in New Orleans, introduced file footage of a black woman at the notorious Convention Center, holding a baby as she screamed at the camera "get us out of here, we want to get out of here."
The Today show brought Bill Clinton in this morning to provide color commentary on President Bush's speech of last night. Bill wouldn't bite on the worst of Matt Lauer's attempts to have the ex-President condemn his successor.Right out of the box, Lauer tried to lure Clinton into criticizing the nation's lack of preparedness.
Lauer: "Were you surprised . . . that four years after 9/11 with so much time, energy and money spent on preparedness in this country that we seemed so ill-prepared to handle a catastrophe in a major American city?"
Clinton didn't swing at the softball, observing that "handling the aftermath of a natural disaster is different from preventing a terrorist attack." He observed that the federal government has been "quite good at [preventing terrorist attacks]" then curiously added "in spite of the breakdowns that led up to 9/11."
Is the Today show stuck in a time warp? Could Today be trying to stem its dipping ratings by doing a reality-show version of 'Groundhog Day,' the hit movie in which every day was the same for Bill Murray?
Well, we didn't hear Cher singing "I Got You Babe" in the background, as she did when the alarm would go off for Murray, but other than that, there was an eery resemblance.
Readers might want to check my blog. They'll find that the very last entry was entitled "Today Show Revels in Prez' Polls."
Well guess what? Different day, same . . . stuff.
There was Katie Couric at her post, once again interviewing Tim Russert.
And once again, the topic was the latest round of poll numbers. The screen legend read "The President's Plunging Poll Numbers."