If there's one area in which the French take a back seat to no one, it's in the realm of surrender and appeasement. We have seen history repeat itself today as French Prime Minister de Villepin announced a series of new and expanded welfare programs to reward the Muslim rioters who have set fire to 300 French cities.
But those heroic Gallic efforts to appease Muslim insurgents aren't coming fast enough to please NBC reporter Jim Maceda.
In a segment airing on this morning's Today show, Maceda, reporting from Paris, proclaimed that the French government is "getting the message" of the disaffected "French youths." But appeasement is simply taking too long for Maceda's taste:
Imagine that a Democrat had been elected mayor of the nation's largest city, a place where Republicans enjoyed an overwhelming registration edge. Picture too the Dem winning in record-breaking fashion. Do you think the Today show might have mentioned it the next morning?
So do I. Yet, incredibly, Katie & Co. this morning never once mentioned the historic triumph of Mike Bloomberg in the very New York City from which their show is broadcast.
Bloomberg not only won re-election, but his 20-point margin was the largest ever by a Republican candidate in NYC, larger even than that of Rudy Giuliani at the height of his popularity, and this in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:1.
In constructing a balanced panel to discuss a president's fortunes, one does not normally select one person who opposes him and. . . another person who opposes him and ran against him in a general election.
But that was the Today's show notion of 'fair & balanced' this morning. In to discuss W's drooping poll numbers were former Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers and Patrick Buchanan. In introducing Buchanan, Couric highlighted his GOP credentials. But while stating Buchanan had been an aide in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, Katie conveniently omitted mentioning that in 2000 he had, as the presidential nominee of the Reform Party, run a bitterly critical campaign against George W. Bush and has since been an incessant Bush critic, particularly on the centerpiece of Bush's foreign policy - the war in Iraq.
Get the hook! Days after the nation's attention has turned elsewhere, the Today show is still trying to haul the bedraggled carcass of "Fitzmas" across the headlines.
This morning's show opened with the on-screen headline "Libby Arraignment." In the world of judicial proceedings, arraignments are a notorious bore. Defendant arrives, enters two-word plea, leaves. Hate to tell you, Katie, but this ain't OJ. Not even Scott Peterson. If Today insists on subjecting America to extended coverage of every procedural step in the Libby case, its ratings could go the way of Aaron Brown.
Chris Matthews was then brought in to conjecture darkly about Karl Rove, and predict that, ooh!, VP Cheney might have to testify at the Libby trial.
The morning's most revealing moment came when Katie turned the discussion to yesterday's revelations of secret CIA prisons to house top Al-Qaida officials. No sooner had the words "CIA prisons" left her mouth than Chris Matthews was caught shaking his head in disapproval. The camera quickly cut away, but it was too late. MSM-types like Matthews can't bear the thought of our government taking tough measures to deal with those who would murder us.
No one could blame you if you guessed it's from one of the "secret CIA prisons" whose existence is being reported today.
After all, that is the legend that the Today show imposed over the photo. Katie Couric opened the show with it, ominously asking: "could there be another Abu Ghraib out there?"
In fact, the photo is from Abu Ghraib. But it was only when the same photo was displayed later in the half-hour that that fact clearly emerged.
Consider Today's cunning in choosing the photo it displayed. On the one hand, it is so lurid as to be sure to draw viewers' attention. On the other, Today avoided using one of the famous man-on-a-leash photos, since viewers would have immediately realized it was from Abu Ghraib.
This morning's Today show made a gift of millions in free advertising for a soon-to-released Wal-Mart-bashing documentary: "The High Cost of Low Prices."
Robert Greenwald, the film's producer, has already established his Michael Moore-wannabe credentials with "Outfoxed," a documentary critical of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News.
Greenwald should be the last to accuse others ofpaying low wages. The producer of the anti-Wal-Mart film is on the prowl for unpaid ["volunteer"] field producers! See Greenwald's web site: http://www.robertgreenwald.org/
Today dramatically portrayed the substance of the film's arguments against Wal-Mart: that it forces small competitors out of business, and pays low wages.
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."