For NewsBusters types, the question has always been whether Meredith Vieira would be as liberal as her Today show predecessor, Katie Couric. As of this morning, we have our answer. Yesterday, Hugo Chavez stood on the world stage and called the President of the United States a "devil" and claimed the speakers platform still stunk from his presence. Today, Meredith Vieira went on national TV and warned us not to be too quick to dismiss his message.
Interviewing Bill Clinton, she said:
"Now, it's easy to dismiss somebody like Chavez -- and some have -- as a nut. But do you think he is giving voice to to wider frustration in the developing world about this country and this country's policies? Do we need to change the way we act?"
Chris Matthews sees W's favorables going up and the Dem generic congressional edge going down. He's ticked, and on tonight's Hardball he made clear his explanation for this revoltin' development: the MSM isn't churning out enough bad news from Iraq.
Matthews first floated the idea during a segment with GOP strategist Ben Ginsburg and Dem counterpart Steve McMahon. I'll mention as an aside that McMahon strikes me as one of the more reasonable, straightforward Dem partisans.
Quoth Chris: "Does it bother you gentlemen both that when you watch television now that the war seems to have left the TV screen to a large extent and that's helping your [GOP] party? Does that bother you that this war is largely off television now? We're not being shown it that much."
Far be it from ABC to take sides in the fight against nuclear terrorism. As depicted by Good Morning America today, yesterday's UN speeches by Pres. Bush and Iran's Ahmadinejad were simply a battle of equals. And if anything, the guy who wants to wipe Israel off the map came off looking better in ABC's portrayal.
Host Chris Cuomo [son of Mario, brother of current New York AG candidate Andrew] set the tone: "We begin with the showdown at the United Nations, pitting President Bush against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The philosophical battlefield: Iran's nuclear program. Senior national correspondent Claire Shipman is in Washington with more on two leaders, sharply divided."
Interviewed by 'Today' host Matt Lauer this morning, former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey blamed the "immoral and ugly" way he acted out on his homosexuality on the fact that his parents were straight and thus couldn't serve as role models for him.
Lauer: "Not only as governor but as a state employee, you were living a very risky life-style. Anonymous sex with random men at places like highway rest stops. You write 'I was promiscuous and sexually active in ways I consider immoral and ugly, and I justified this by telling myself I had no other choice and that my sexual urges were irrepressible.'
Asked a sympathetic Lauer: "How hard was it to try to control them?"
That's when McGreevey got off his blame-the-straight-parents defense:
President Bush might have successfully avoided Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN yesterday, but he couldn't escape Meredith Viera's backseat driving on Iran policy on this morning's 'Today.' Perhaps convinced of the value of a good gabfest by her years on "The View," Vieira left little doubt she thinks that George and Mahmoud should soon sit down for nice coffee klatsch.
Vieira's guest was Tim Russert. Alluding to the way that Pres. Bush and Ahmadinejad avoided each other yesterday, Vieira asked him:
"Eventually will [Pres. Bush] have to sit down with this man? How much saber-rattling can you do if you're talking about the potential of going to war?"
If there's one thing you might have thought Meredith would have learned over the last 51/2 years, it's that when George Bush raises the sword, he ain't necessarily planning just to rattle it.
In the course of the last few weeks Keith Olbermann's "Special Comments" have become a Countdown staple in which the host plays to his Daily Kos demographic with vitriolic condemnations of all things Bush. I thought Olbermann had reached the nec plus ultra of nastiness with his suggestion a couple weeks ago that the Bush administration represented "a new type of fascism." I might have been wrong. MRC's Brad Wilmouth has comprehensively documented Keith Olbermann's 'Special Comment' of last night. In the course of those comments, Olbermann chose to invoke, of all things, the people's right to overthrow a tyrannical government.
You wouldn't think that someone who wrote a book condemning all religions as dangerous hokum and who favors higher taxes, drug decriminalization and gay marriage would be in danger of becoming the right's favorite liberal. But in the wake of his LA Times column of today, Head-in-the-Sand Liberals, Sam Harris might be on the way to being celebrated by conservatives and castigated on the left.
The column's subtitle really tells the story: "Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists," and Harris' essential point in that liberals refuse to recognize that fact.
In a surreal clash of the sacred and the profane, the New York Times - that citadel of secularism - has declared in its editorial of this morning that Pope Benedict "needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology," for having quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who said:
“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The Times is only being fair and balanced, I suppose. After all, hardly a week goes by that you can't pick up the paper and read an editorial condemning this or that mullah, imam or ayatollah for the latest fatwa ordering the death of such-and-such infidel or the destruction of entire countries found to be an annoyance. Or not.
The Boston Globe refers to Charlie Savage as a "staff writer." But judging by the hyper-partisan comments he made on Fox News Channel this afternoon, Savage belongs over on the opinion page.
Interviewed with two other legal reporters by FNC's Martha MacCallum, Savage took these shots at President Bush and his fellow Republicans:
President Bush is "terrorizing" Americans with the terrorism issue for political gain.
Speaking of the current rift between the president and Sen. McCain over interrogation rules for suspected terrorists, Savage snidely observed that McCain had been a POW in Vietnam while Bush spent the war "back in Texas."
Call him a shooting star. Like a meteor lighting a brilliant-but-too-brief trail across the night sky, Tucker Carlson is gone in a blaze of glory from Dancing With The Stars.
The end came shockingly fast, as viewers across the country voted by phone and decided Tucker was the celebrity they could most easily bear not to see again. And thus it was that on Wednesday, Carlson was the first to be voted off the dancing island. All of which is a shame, nay, a national tragedy when you consider that . . . we won't be seeing Tucker's lovely partner Elena Grinenko again any time soon.
Like a baseball player rescued from the nether reaches of the minor leagues and brought up to the Yankees who cuts his hair, shaves the shaggy mustache and minds his grammar in his first TV interview, Keith Olbermann was on his better behavior in a 'Today' appearance this morning.
In a temporary reprieve from the ratings purgatory that is his own Countdown on MSNBC, Olbermann was awarded an interview on Today for purposes of plumping his new book, 'The Worst Person in the World.' Lauer gave Olbermann respectful treatment, inviting him to comment on the issues of the day as if he were actually something more than a drive-by bomb-thrower.
In response, Olbermann managed to restrain most of his inflammatory instincts, perhaps realizing he was playing to a more mainstream audience and not the relative handful of netroots - and the occasional NewsBusters critic - who make up the bulk of his own show's audience.
When Ben Cardin, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland, appeared on this afternoon's Hardball, host Chris Matthews played a Cardin TV ad most of which was taken up by Cardin informing voters that:
"I always try to do what's right, what's in the best interest of Maryland families: taking on the drug companies, the oil companies, the insurance companies."
Let's first note Cardin's daring admission that he tries to do 'what's right.' Bold stuff! Actually, come to think of the track record of Maryland politicians when it comes to obeying the law, maybe it is a rather maverick position after all.
But moving to the meat of his message, is this the platform that Dems in general and Cardin in particular want to offer voters? Vote for us: we'll attack our country's biggest employers and taxpayers! You might call the platform: Cardin vs. Capitalism.
Matt Lauer had a chuckle at the expense of his guests - then took Dems to task. Michael Smerconish scolded a Republican. And Meredith Vieira gave further evidence of a style looser than that of her perky predecessor.
That's the nutshell wrap on the first half-hour of this morning's Today.
Politics first. Lauer opened his interview with the chrome-domed duo of James Carville and Philly radio host Michael Smerconish by rubbing his own less-than-hirsute pate and observing with a laugh in the shot captured here: "First time in a long time I feel like I have a luxuriant head of hair."
But things quickly turned serious. Echoing a sentiment expressed by his rookie sidekick yesterday, Lauer left little doubt he feels the Democrats are squandering an electoral opening by failing to propose sufficient specifics on national security. Lauer to Carville: "if you [Dems] ever had an opportunity to take advantage of it, it's now, and the Democrats can't get their act together."
Chris Matthews is as frustrated as an able-bodied seaman after six months without shore leave. While Matthews clearly senses this is the year for the Dems to snatch back the Speaker's gavel, hisfrustration is born of the fear that the Dems will squander the opportunity out of timidity - an unwillingness to attack President Bush on the war in Iraq.
Things boiled over during the 5 PM EDT edition of this evening's Hardball. With guests Howard Fineman of Newsweek and Chuck Todd of the Hotline as witnesses to the meltdown, Matthews first played a hard-hitting Moveon.org ad accusing Republicans of misleading the nation into Iraq and trying to "exploit 9/11" to win elections. Matthews complained that while the Republicans are willing to use the same kind of tactics against the Democrats, Dems "are afraid to run an ad like that."
Nobody likes a nag. But liberal Dems are in danger of becoming the party of scolds. First there was Tom Frank and his "What's the Matter With Kansas," scolding red-state Americans for being too dumb to realize it's in their interest to vote Democrat. Then the New York Times berated investors for reacting too enthusiastically to good economic news, driving up stock prices.
Now Los Angeles Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan in Not So 'Hot,' Arnold lashes Latinos and other minorities for being insufficently outraged over comments that Arnold Schwarzenegger recently made. Arnold, speaking of CA Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, said that Latina women with black blood are "very hot."
Was Maureen Dowd kidding about having called Tim Russert to ask if VP Cheney washed his hands after his Meet the Press appearance this Sunday? By all indications she was not, making one fear the Times columnist is slipping ever deeper into Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Dowd writes in her pay-to-read column of today, Vice Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work, "I called Tim Russert to ask if Dick Cheney had washed his hands after their interview on Sunday. Any sort of scrubbing, I wondered? Antiseptic wipe, Purell, quick shower on the way out?"
Russert reportedly replied in the negative.
Dowd was prompted to ask after reading a recent Times' health section article about a new study on the “Macbeth effect," which concluded that people who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn’t.
In her Today show debut this morning, Meredith Vieira gave a flash of her ego - but not of her liberal politics. There was the obligatory opening love-in with co-host Matt Lauer in which Vieira claimed "I feel like it's the first day of school and I'm sitting next to the cutest guy." But then there was an interesting exchange that might presage conflicts to come. In what is apparently a Today show tradition, Matt had the crew replay the opening voice-over announcing "Meredith Vieira, live from Studio 1-A in Rockefeller Plaza."
Asked Matt: "Like the way it sounds?"
Vieira: "I do, but it's still 'Matt Lauer' and 'Meredith Vieira.'"
Lauer: "I don't think that's going to change - unless you bump me off."
As the Dancing With the Stars host said, Tucker Carlson - host of the MSNBC show of the same name - "has braved some of the most perilous situations in the world, but now [for] his most intimidating assignment - dancing the cha-cha-cha on national television."
It was Tucker's turn to shine on tonight's episode of Dancing With the Stars. Carlson's professional dance partner Elena Grinenko did her best to lower expectations. Said the sultry Russian "when it comes to Tucker's ability for dancing . . . " She let a grimace express her dubious assessment. But - thanks to MRC's Brent Baker - we have the video: so you be the judge!
What would you call someone who, as per Project Vote Smart, within the last six years has received a 100% rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood and a 0% from the National Right-to-Life Committee? A 100% rating from the ACLU. A 0% rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. A 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters and a 0% rating from the conservative Family Research Council?
Oh, and someone who voted against George W. Bush for president in 2004, against the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, and who demands the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq?
I'd call that person a liberal. Not MSNBC. Not Hardball. Not Chris Matthews's field correspondent David Shuster. The person in question is Republican-barely-in-name-only Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. How did Shuster describe him in a set-up piece for Hardball's discussion of the Rhode Island GOP senatorial primary this evening? A "moderate Republican."
Latest dispatch from the MSM moral-relativism front.
MSNBC's Tony Maciulis appeared on the network's 'The Most' show this afternoon to report on a story dealing with Craigslist, the online classifed ad website. A man called Jason Fortuny had posted a fake personal on the Craigslist's Seattle page, posing as an attractive 27-year old woman seeking sex with men. The ad elicited numerous replies, many including explicit photos of the suitors.
Fortuny in turn posted the men's replies, including the photos, on another website, no doubt causing embarrassment if not more for many of them.
'Most' host Alison Stewart asked Maciulis whether the men who submitted the replies "were doing anything wrong?"
Have a look at the poll that Keith Olbermann flashed during this evening's Countdown.
Try to put aside your politics for a moment to describe - in all objectivity - the most striking aspect of the poll results. I'd say it's the fact that by a margin of almost 2:1, Americans feel more safe rather than less safe since 9/11. Pretty good accomplishment by the Bush administration, you might say.
So how did Keith Olbermann characterize the results? "55% combined think we are either as safe or less safe" since 9/11.
Matt Lauer gave it the old college try, doing his best to lure Hillary Clinton into some Bush-bashing on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. But demonstrating savvy political instincts, or at least those of her advisers, Clinton held fire, not deigning to swing at the anti-Bush softballs Lauer served up on this morning's 'Today.'
Lauer: "Are we safer today five years after the attacks of 9-11?"
Hillary: "I think it is fair to say we are safer but not safe enough. We have a lot of work to do."
Lauer lobbed a couple questions inviting Hillary to suggest that our war on terrorism has made things worse:
"I am curious how you feel about this. Do you think there are more or less people today, more or fewer people today who want to bring harm to the United States than there were in the days prior to 9-11 and the actions we have taken post 9-11?"
Did the editorialists of the New York Times and its Beantown subsidiary the Boston Globe have a little side bet as to who could fashion the viler 9/11 editorial? If so, for all the Times's earnest editorial effort to heap bile on Pres. Bush, I'm going to give the nod to the Globe. For in its editorial of this morning, the Globe made explicit what the Times only suggested: George Bush is a bigger threat to America than radical Islamic murderers.
Said the Globe of 9/11:
"In the long run, the reaction of the Bush administration may prove more harmful to the national interest than even these horrific attacks."
The New York Times's 9/11 editorial is no less despicable for being thoroughly predictable.
On a day when we should be coming together, the Times does its best to tear us apart. On a day when the focus should be on the terrorists who threaten us and the brave people who have defended us against them, the Times trains all its bile on the Bush administration.
"Without ever having asked to be exempt from the demands of this new post-9/11 war, we were cut out. Everything would be paid for with the blood of other people’s children."
Other people's children? Perhaps the children of the people who run and largely read the New York Times don't tend to enter the military and fight and die for their country. But why would that be the fault of George Bush?
America, you ignorant Islamaphobes! Alright, maybe it's not all your fault. Your anti-Muslim attitudes have been "stoked" by "inflammatory rhetoric" from . . . President Bush. That was the basic message of a segment narrated by Ron Claiborne this morning entitled "9/11 Remembered: Islamaphobia" on ABC's Good Morning America.
ABC made a weak case for the existence of widespread 'Islamophobia' in America. Let's imagine, for example, that 19 Jews had flown planes into iconic buildings in, say, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan - or France, for that matter. What do you think would befall any Jews daring to remain in any of those countries, as a matter of official policy and/or public reaction?
Paul Krugman is right about one thing, "We are, finally, having a national discussion about inequality." This thanks to liberals such as himself who have dragged the issue front and center, using as their springboard statistics suggesting wages aren't rising as fast as profits or productivity.
At the end of his subscription-required column of today, Whining Over Discontent, Krugman indulges in a bit of 'bring it on bravado', claiming that "[we liberals have] got the arguments, and the facts, to win this debate."
But just which debate is he talking about? Let's assume, arguendo, that Krugman & Lefty Co. can prove that inequality is increasing. As we would say back in the old days in the Bronx: "nu?" So what?
We're all familiar with this definition of a conservative: "a liberal who's just been mugged." This morning, Ted Koppel devised a variation on the theme that could be taken as an insult to his fellow lefties: "a liberal is a conservative who just got arrested."
Koppel's line came in the course of a Today show interview with Matt Lauer to discuss a special that Koppel is about to air in his role as Managing Editor of the Discovery Channel [so that's where he went after leaving ABC!]. As Lauer described it, the documentary, entitled 'The Price of Security,' addresses "the balance between securing the nation and protecting our individual liberties."
A few months back, 9/11 widow Kristin Breitweiser suggested that former CIA Director George Tenet and named FBI agents are as deserving of the death penalty as Zacarias Moussaoui. You might think that with opinions such as those, Breitweiser had made her liberal bones. Apparently not enough to suit Ann Curry's taste. On this morning's Today show, Curry found Breitweiser's comments on Ann Coulter insufficently bitter, and tried to lure her into even a more avid condemnation of the conservative commentator.
Curry began with this bouquet: "From your grief, you have drawn strength. You have given that strength to us." Ann, I'd say that even before Kristin came along you and your MSM colleagues had all the strength necessary to bash the Bush administration.
Later, it was on to Curry's Coulter-bashing invitation:
"Conservatives as you well know have attacked -- criticized heavily 9/11 widows, including you, for some of what you've said over the years, over these five years. In fact, on this program, Ann Coulter, the writer, said something to Matt Lauer." Today then played the clip of Coulter saying "these broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, revelling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefarazzis, I've never seen people enjoying their husband's deaths so much."
When Breitweiser decided to take the high road, offering 'kudos' to Coulter for having her 'voice heard' and being 'engaged in the political process,' Curry reacted in horror:
"But she's saying that you used your grief! She's saying --"
Winter, spring, summer or fall, All you've got to do is call. Lord, I'll be there, yes I will. You've got a friend. - James Taylor, 'You've Got a Friend'
Was it an interview, or a benefit concert - 'Dem-Aid'? Matt Lauer and Tim Russert got a one-day headstart this morning on the Today show's traditional Friday music-on-the-mall. In the course of their conversation, Matt and Tim went karaoke on us, the duo belting out a heartfelt rendition of 'You've Got a Friend' to their buddies in the Democratic party.
Yesterday, President Bush announced that 14 heavyweight terrorists, including presumed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been transfered to Guantanamo. President Bush is now calling on Congress to promptly pass legislation establishing war tribunals for the trial of the accused terrorists. The news creates a terrible bind for Democrats, forced to agree with the president on an element of the war on terror. The depth of the Dems' dilemma was evidenced by a clip Today played of Nancy Pelosi having to admit, if grudgingly, that she was "very pleased" by the news of the transfer and impending trials.
Before even a note was sounded, Today had set the stage with the graphic on display here, writing off the president's move as "the politics of terror." And once he chimed in, Lauer lost no time in playing the president's move as sheer political calculation.
Lauer: "Let's talk about the timing of this. The Supreme Court handed the administration a defeat on this subject back in June, so several months ago. The president any time in the last couple of months could have made this announcement. Why did he wait until now?"
There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from her column of this morning: Maureen Dowd does not take seriously the threat to our security and civilization that radical Islam poses.
The putative focus of New Themes for the Same Old Songs [subscription required] was a two-for-one snipe at W and Katie Couric. Straining to find some kind of parallel between the two on the occasion of Couric's CBS Evening News debut, Dowd managed: "W. and Katie were both on TV at 6:30 last night, trying to prove they were a man. Katie won, by a whisker."
Pretty catty stuff. But of more significance as a barometer of the contemporary liberal mindset were Dowd's remarks on the Islamist threat or - in her mind - the lack thereof.
Wrote Dowd: 'W., Dick Cheney and Rummy are on a campaign to scare Americans into believing that limp-wristed Democrats will curtsy to Islamic radicals and Iranian tyrants, just as Chamberlain bowed to Hitler, and that
only the über-manly Republicans can keep totalitarianism, fascism and the Al Qaeda 'threat to civilization' at bay."