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."
Ten times? A dozen? Maybe more? Eventually I lost count of the number of times that this morning's Today show trumpeted President Bush's low poll ratings. This was liberal schadenfreude on steroids.
In the very first words out of her mouth opening the show, Katie Couric spoke of W's ratings being at an "all-time low," while archly noting that W's visit today was his first "ground tour" of New Orleans.
While the delight in W's political distress was unrelenting for the remainder of opening half-hour, the low point came from NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell, who attributed the basest and most cynically political motives to W in his efforts to aid New Orleans.
As O'Donnell put it, "to repair perceived damage over the initial federal response, Washington is throwing billions at the problems."
Was FEMA head Mike Brown Assistant City Manager of Edmond, OK, or was he Assistant to the City Manager? And did he serve from 1975-78 or from 1977-80?
Small beer, you might think, but a heady enough brew for the Today show to lead with this morning.
Andrea Mitchell reported on a Time Magazine piece which she claimed raised "serious questions about the management training" Brown had received.
Mitchell, archly noting that Brown is "a political appointee," as if all previous FEMA directors weren't, introduced a clip from Time reporter Carolina Miranda, who stated that the "biggest discrepancy that we found . . . was the fact that the White House release listed him as an Assistant City Manager for the City of Edmond, Oklahoma from 1975-78, saying that during this time he had oversight of the emergency services division for that city and that it was vital experience to his charge as FEMA Director."
When Matt Lauer eventually leaves the Today show, he can look forward to a career in slow-pitch softball. His talents were on full display this morning in his interview of Hillary Clinton.
The conventions of good journalism dictate that when guests, particularly intrinisically political ones, are interviewed, they are challenged on their assumptions.
But when Today's Matt Lauer interviewed Hillary Clinton this morning, what seemed at first to be a lead-up to such a challenge turned out in fact to be just the opposite, as Lauer handed Hillary yet another club with which to bash the Bush administration.
Lauer began by reading from Hillary's letter criticizing the federal response in general and FEMA in particular.
You might have thought that Lauer would have raised the issue of incompetence at the state and local [read Democratic] levels. But no, Lauer entirely bought into Hillary's logic, lamely inquiring whether Her Hilllaryness felt "this was a problem with an entire [federal] system, or did some key individuals make poor decisions?"
Aaron Broussard, a Democrat who is the President of Jefferson Parish, Lousiana, was just interviewed on CNN.
The essence of his rant was that the federal government in general and FEMA in particular are "covering their butts" by concealing the number of dead.At one point Broussard said, verbatim, that FEMA was trying to hide the fact that they had "murdered" thousands of people through their bureaucratic incompetence.
The CNN interviewer did not call Broussard on his outrageous accusation that the Bush administration had "murdered" thousands of its citizens. Not one peep, not one reference to his slander. The interviewer simply bade Broussard a fond farewell, with thanks for his appearance.
It had to happen. When the chorus of MSM complaints of federal inaction was drowned in a sea of thousands of soldiers moving into New Orleans, the MSM nimbly adjusted. Now the problem is . . . too many soldiers.
NBC's Carl Quintanilla framed it this way on this morning's Today show, with the rubric "Chaos in New Orleans" displayed on screen:
"Now that the military is moving in huge convoys of soldiers, concerns that too strong a military presence in too small a space could cause accidents, crashes."
Today then aired footage of a rescue helicopter that had rolled over in the mud, as Quintanilla fretted "it's just what residents of New Orleans do not need as they decide whether to leave a ravaged city or tough it out."
When it comes to the MSM's treatment of the Bush administration's response to Katrina, it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Anyone seen Kathleen Blanco lately? Remember her, the Democratic Governor of Louisiana, the lady who put in a few shaky, overwhelmed performances at the beginning of the Katrina catastrophe? She seems to have disappeared off the MSM radar screen.
How about the Mayor of New Orleans, another Democrat? How many Americans can even name him? Compare and contrast with the role Rudy Giuliani played in the wake of 9/11.
Instead, Today's focus this morning was almost entirely on the shortcomings of the federal [read Republican-led] government in its response to Katrina.
Katie Couric spoke of "the growing chorus of criticism over the government's response to this national crisis."
Chorus-leader Couric first grilled FEMA Director Michael Brown. Criticized about the lack of law and order, Brown said that by Sunday there would be 30,000 National Guard troops on the ground. That wasn't good enough for Katie, who after saying she didn't want to "belabor the point" went on to do just that, carping that "it seems like a pretty long lag time."
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the MSM water, up pops Cindy Sheehan.
The Today show’s pretext for bringing back Cindy was her return to Crawford.
It seems that Sheehan’s media consultants have been hard at work, grooming a more media-savvy, less over-the-top image for Sheehan.She managed to avoid charging W, as she has in the past, with being the world’s biggest terrorist, or engaging in thinly-veiled anti-Semitism as when she previously spoke of neo-con Paul Wolfowitz making her “skin crawl.”
Yet one sensed that not far beneath the buttoned-down exterior, the demons lurked.
You know the MSM figure a story has legs when they create a logo for it, and sure enough Today opened its segment with a natty little logo of an American solider, an Iraqi flag, and the emblazoned question: "Iraq – the new Vietnam?”
In to answer the question was that paragon of objectivity Chris Matthews – former aide to Dem House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
There’s nothing Dems like better than a renegade Republican, and Chuck Hagel has been filling that role nicely. Lauer opened with this quote from Hagel: “The reason I don’t think more troops are the answer right now is that we’re past that stage right now. We’re locked into a bogged-down problem not dissimilar to Vietnam.”