In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
When it comes to the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC, the Today show just can't bring itself to pronounce the 'I' word, for illegal.
In contrast with his reticent Today show appearance yesterday, this morning NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took off the verbal gloves, repeatedly condemning the union for its illegal strike, which violates the Taylor Law prohibiting public employees in New York from striking. Among other things, Bloomberg stated that striking union members would be fined two days pay for every day the strike lasts.
But whereas Today expressed concern for the plight of commuters and the city's economy, and Katie made sympathetic noises in her interview of Bloomberg, the show remained terribly bashful when it came to reporting the undeniable fact that the strike is illegal.
Chris Matthews might be off tonight, but with Andrea Mitchell sitting in, the hysterical anti-Bush beat goes on at Hardball.
Mitchell interviewed a panel in which far-left Jonathan Alter was 'balanced' by the politically-androgynous David Gergen.
When Alter surmised that the impeachment of President Bush is a real possibility in light of the NSA surveillance matter, Mitchell, rather than bursting into laughter, asked Gergen with a straight face:
"Are we headed toward a constitutional crisis?"
Gergen didn't seem to think so, but, ever the suck-up, later bent over backwards to congratulate Alter on his "excellent" column in Newsweek.
Let's get one thing straight: the the Transport Workers Union strike in NYC is illegal. Even the New York Times, in this article, had to acknowledge that stubborn fact:
"The state's Taylor Law bars strikes by public employees and carries penalties of two days' pay for each day on strike, but the transit union decided it was worth risking the substantial fines to continue the fight for what it regards as an acceptable contract."
In addition to the tremendous inconvenience the strike inflicts on the seven-million largely working-class people who use the transit system daily, the economic loss has been estimated at as much as $400 million per day.
Behavioral scientists long-ago determined that, when it comes to changing behavior, positive reinforcement works better than punishment.
With that in mind, this column has made it a point to record those [rare] occasions on which the Today show gives 'fair & balanced' treatment to the news.
Let the record therefore show that on December 19th, 2005, Today gave reasonably even-handed treatment to the revelations that President Bush has authorized, without court order, the surveillance of phone calls suspected of being Al-Qaeda-related.
There were two outside guests. Katie first interviewed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She asked the obvious question: "What legal authority does the president have to avoid the normal process of obtaining court-approved search warrants before eavesdropping is conducted?"
Hubert Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior for his cheerful approach to the political wars. In contrast, Fox & Friends Weekend's Julian Phillips, judging by his crabbiness this morning, might be dubbed the Whining Warrior.
Beyond his rain-on-the-parade words, Phillips' body language and facial expressions oozed negativity. The shot to the right is a file photo, but typifies Julian's less-than-sunny demeanor.
The show lead with news of the latest AP poll, which revealed a significant uptick in support for the Iraqi war effort among Americans, with 57% opposing immediate pull-out.
Page Hopkins is clearly the most pro-administration among the hosting triumvirate composed of herself, Kiran Chetry and Phillips. She kicked off the discussion by observing "it so interesting that a solid majority is behind staying the course in Iraq."
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
While sugarplum fairies dance in other heads, Matt Lauer dreams of US withdrawal from Iraq and envisions democracy in Iraq as having negative consequences for the United States.
As reported here, Lauer set the stage earlier this week, couching Today's coverage of the then-impending Iraqi elections largely in terms of their potential for troop withdrawal.
Matt was back at it again this morning. At the top of the show, Lauer teased election coverage this way: "If the various factions there can work together it could make it easier for our administration to get US troops out."
Lauer interviewed Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden, both in Iraq as election observers.
"We recognize the right of all women to choose whether, when, and under what circumstances to bear children. Reproductive freedom and responsibility are essential to other rights and opportunities, including pursuit of education, employment, financial security and a stable and fulfilling family life. Restrictions of reproductive choice are especially burdensome for young women and poor women. Girls Incorporated supports a woman’s freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade."
Would you say the foregoing statement, from Girls Inc. [see it here on the Girls Inc. web site]:
Judging from this article by SF Chronicle staff writer Leslie Fulbright, which Drudge posted, perhaps Tookie Williams should have been canonized and supporters of the death penalty punished in his stead.
The headline set the tone: "Tears, anger, silence at protesters' candlelight vigil; Speakers read from Williams' anti-gang children's books."
The article depicted candle-holding Tookie supporters bravely fighting the cold and singing hymns along with Joan Baez.
The article also offered a quote from the director of a program for 'troubled youths', who reportedly uses Williams' anti-gang book in his program.
Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?
Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.
Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.
The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"
Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."
In a TV-journalism age in which a good haircut and a sharp suit often seem to count for more than substance, there's something admirably old-school about Barry Schweid. Old, and unapologetically schlumpy, Schweid is the antithesis of TV's Sharp-Dressed Man.
Even so, on Fox & Friends Weekend this morning, Schweid let his liberal leanings show.
Schweid has been covering diplomacy for the Associated Press for over 30 years, and is currently its senior diplomatic correspondent. He joined FOX News Channel as a contributor for foreign affairs in 1997.
Schweid came on to discuss the issue of torture, and specifically Condi Rice's recent European tour, intended to pallliate delicate continental sensibilities on the issue.
No DNA evidence, no execution of Tookie Williams. That's the standard Fox & Friends Weekend host Julian Phillips established this morning. As he put it:
"The issue for me is, is he guilty or is he not? He still maintains his innocence. If they can prove through DNA and other stuff, fine."
To bolster his case, Phillips asserted:
"There have been a number of cases where people on death row have been executed and it's later found out through DNA evidence that they are innocent."
Oh, really? It's not surprising that Phillips didn't cite any examples to support his contention. Even avid death-penalty opponents have been unable to point to a single unequivocal case of a man being executed who was later proved innocent by DNA.
Was Matt Lauer wearing a Palestinian support scarf this morning?
Alright, I can already hear some folks out there chuckling at the notion.
But before you dismiss this as the product of the over-active mind of an MSM-bias hunter, consider:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political ralliesto talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
Has Katie Couric watched too many westerns? You know, the kind where the sheriff shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand?
You'd think so, given the repeated questions she posed to a former air marshal in the wake of yesterday's shooting of a frantic passenger claiming to have a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight .
Katie's guest was former air marshal Tony Kuklinski, who stated that "by all accounts I've seen, what [the air marshals] did was necessary."
Katie wasn't so sure:
"Do they always shoot to kill, Tony? In other words, I guess the average person hearing this [on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Katie?] might think: isn't there a way where they could have shot this person and not killed him? Wounded him or incapacitated him in some way without killing him?"
The forces of NBC, in the persons of Matt Lauer and Barry McCaffrey, launched a major attack on the enemy this morning. No, not on Al-Qaida or the Baathist dead-enders. We're talking of a real MSM enemy: Donald Rumsfeld.
Lauer began the assault by using yesterday's release of a videotape featuring Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to promote the notion of bad US troop morale. Lauer noted that Zawahiri was looking relaxed, answering questions, not bothering to be armed, and asked NBC employee, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, whether seeing such a tape motivated or frustrated the troops.
When McCaffrey didn't respond with a negative assessment of troop morale, Lauer tried another tack to produce the desired result:
Perhaps Katie Couric was only playing the reporter's role of devil's advocate, but one sensed she was speaking her own mind in interviewing Dem Rep. John Murtha on this morning's Today show.
And just what was on Katie's mind? That Iraq would dissolve into chaos and terror were the US to beat the kind of hasty retreat that Murtha advocates.
Murtha repeatedly praised the US military, but when it came down to it, flatly claimed that: "this mission is not something they can accomplish, not something they can do."
Murtha sought to distinguish between terrorism, of the type we fought in Afghanistan, and insurgency, of the kind we face in Iraq. His argument was that fighting insurgency amounts to nation-building that we cannot achieve.
Quick! Someone buy the man a Valium. Make it a double.
I'm sure most here remember the histrionics in which Shep Smith engaged while reporting from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
Smith was back in high emotional pitch today, shouting, screaming and accusing the government for its shortcomings as detailed in the just-released 9/11 Commission 'report card' on implementation of its national security recommendations.
Thankfully, Shep had James Carafano, across the video lines, to hold his hand and soothingly assure him that the sky wasn't falling.
Carafano, a cool customer, is a top scholar on security issues at the Heritage Foundation. A West Point grad and retired Army colonel, he also has a doctorate from Georgetown University and a master's degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.
No, I'm not speaking of the situation on the battleground in Iraq. I'm referring to the Today show's attitude toward the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In recent posts, here, here and here, I'd noted a surprising moderation in Today's tone.
But this morning, it was back to good old Bush-administration bashing. The segment's essence was a questioning of the administration's truthfulness. "Rhetoric vs. Reality" read the on-screen graphic, asking "When Can U.S. Troops Come Home?"
With a little help from his friend Katie Couric, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski narrated the segment.
Couric introduced him by noting that this is "a deadly time for US troops," and Miklaszewski began his report by echoing that notion.
As the total number of US dead and wounded were displayed on screen, Miklaszewski observed: "those American casualties continue to climb."
Well, true. But then again, how could the total number of dead and wounded ever decline?
Then it was on to a gloomy take on the training of the Iraqi military. Of all the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Today chose to play a clip of one who was a caricature of a skinny sad sack, literally being pushed by his US trainer.
Readers of my NewsBusters entries know that Ellen Ratner, the short end of the "Long & Short of It" feature at Fox & Friends Weekend, has been a frequent object of my ire, as seen here, here and here.
It's thus saying a mouthful that the puerile performance of pinch-hitter Ellis Henican this morning was almost enough to make one long for the short Ratner. Almost.
Henican took on fellow Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton, who normally locks horns with Ratner in the segment.
The topic was Iraqi pre-war intelligence. At one point it was noted that Hillary Clinton has posted an item on her web site criticizing the pre-war intelligence provided by the Bush administration and suggesting that if she knew then what she knows now, she might not have supported the war.
I kept waiting for some stern guy from the ACLU to show up. Maybe a Multi-Cultural Sensitivity Trainer from a nearby college.
But, lo and behold, I waited in vain, as the Today show aired a segment this morning on the Christmas Tree controversy sweeping the nation that was strongly . . . pro-Christmas Tree!
Matt Lauer introduced Tucker Carlson of MSNBC, who narrated the segment. And while the bow-tie bedecked Carlson is no Pat Buchanan when it comes to the culture wars, he's at least the MSM's idea of a conservative.
Carlson said Christian conservatives see "secular forces trying to take the Christ out of Christmas," and observed that "this year they are fighting back."
Sometimes even Marxists get it right, and no, I'm not speaking of John Kerry. It was Karl Marx himself who famously said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
To judge by his treatment at the hands of Matt Lauer this morning, John Kerry: Part Deux teeters on the brink of being dismissed as farce even by his quondam comrades in the MSM.
Kerry was in to offer his critique of Pres. Bush's speech of yesterday in which he laid out his plan for victory in Iraq.
When Kerry argued that "the insurgency has to be dealt with through a political reconciliation," Lauer cut him off peremptorily. "With all due respect," interrupted Lauer, not-so-subtle code for "not much respect is due." Lauer pointed out that "the President talked about the political process as well and laid that out in his plan for victory."
Give me a moment, please. Got to let my head stop spinning. Been watching the Today show.
See, I thought we all agreed it was bad for presidents to be poll-driven, in the image of a Bill Clinton deciding everything from foreign policy to vacation destinations based on the latest shift in public opinion.
Turns out I was wrong, at least according to this morning's Today.
Matt Lauer interviewed New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh, or "Sy" as Lauer chummily called him, regarding Hersh's piece in the magazine's current edition. As Lauer described the article, it portrays Pres. Bush as believing he has a "divine mission" to bring democracy to Iraq. Asked who was telling him that, Hersh responded:
Some of the people in the last few months with whom I've been talking for years are suddenly opening up and telling me some of their deeper concerns about this president's inability to adjust, to accept new information. I think he really does think that he's not going to be judged by today. The events on the ground will be judged in 20 years, 30 years or whatever.
Anyone who believes the Bush administration could appease the MSM and their political allies on the left via a major troop withdrawal from Iraq need look no further than this morning's Today show to be disabused of the notion.
Shades of Bush Sr.'s "read my lips" debacle, in which the very same Democrats who wheedled him into raising taxes turned immediately around and condemned him for breaking his promise.
For there was Katie Couric, questioning the wisdom of withdrawal and painting a bleak picture of a post-withdrawal Iraq.
Her guests were retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Katie's first question: "what are some of the problems about reducing the troop levels in terms of the state of Iraq? Are you worried about that?"
Ellen Ratner, the short, liberal side of The Long & the Short of It on Fox & Friends Weekend, just let the liberal cat out of the bag. Discussing the Democrats' approach to Iraq withdrawal proposals, Ratner admitted:
"If you got [Dem leaders] in a room off camera everyone agrees, but people are trying to look tough on security so the Democrats can win the House back in 2006."
Jim Pinkerton, the long, conservative side of the equation, pounced on this rare bit of Dem candor:
"Viewers should note that Ellen basically said that Democrats will think one thing and say another."
Host Julian Phillips, who moderated the debate and is hardly a Bush administration shill, scored the point for Pinkerton:
I've recently described, here and here, how an unexpected streak of reasonableness broke out at the Today show. On successive days, Matt Lauer criticized the Democrats for trying to make political hay out of Iraq without offering any alternatives of their own.
Strangely, sanity has seemingly struck again. And this in the most unlikely person of NBC reporter Jim Maceda, who only last week, as I reported here was carping that the French were not appeasing their Muslim rioters assiduously enough.
This morning, Maceda was in Iraq interviewing US troops. He summarized their message in this blunt and refreshing way: "these soldiers think the politicians who want to pull out quickly are dead wrong."