I was dutifully working my way through Robert Kuttner's Boston Globe column of this morning, Cleaning Up the Mess, on the lookout for some outrageous MSM morsel with which to arouse NewsBusters readers.
But all I was getting were Kuttner's "on the one hand, but on the other hand" arguments as to whether it is in Democratic interests to retake one or both houses of Congress come November. His thesis is that America is such a mess thanks to years of Republican misrule that fixing it could be a thankless task for Dems, who might be better off waiting for the deluge of the 2008 presidential elections. For the record, Kuttner does come down on the side of taking power now.
For Maureen Dowd, politics are primarily personal. This morning she managed to reduce the current Korean conflict to an image of two boys behaving badly. Meanwhile, is mocking John McCain's POW past a smart move for Hillary? Dowd offered a stunning insight into the Hillary campaign that suggests it might not be the ready-for-presidential-primetime operation some might imagine.
The topic of Maureen Dowd's subscription-required column of this morning, Is Chivalry Shivved?, is the war of words between Hillary and John McCain, as the two top presidential contenders recently fired some early shots over the other's bow on the topic of responsibility for the N. Korean nuclear mess.
With timing in the tradition of the Foley fiasco leak - geared for maximum impact on the coming elections - a study was published earlier this week by The Lancet, a British medical science journal, claiming that 655,000 Iraqis have died “as a consequence of the war.” The MSM predictably accorded the study great attention.
In this item yesterday, I noted that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and MNF Commander Casey rejected the study's findings, which is wholly at odds with the US government estimate of 30-50,000 Iraqi civilians killed.
Now, as a Pentagon official has made known, a range of experts - who notably come from across the foreign policy spectrum - has cast doubts on the report's methodology and conclusions. Moreover, one of the study authors has been revealed as an anti-war partisan as has the editor of the Lancet itself. The first is a former Democratic congressional candidate, the latter made recently outlandish accusations as to the motivations of the governments leading the war effort.
If you have a look at this NewsBusters item of mine, you'll note it is dated August 14th, 2006. It was, as noted there, the first one written after I "broke down" and subscribed to the New York Times 'Times Select' section that gives access to the work of its in-house columnists. In that historic first item, I wrote that in their pay-per-view columns, Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert had sounded the nearly-identical theme: that the Bush administration allegedly sees terrorism as something to be "exploited."
In the ensuing weeks, I wrote no fewer than 22 more NB pieces critical of items on the Times editorial page, the majority focusing on the work of the subscription-required columnists. A pretty good return on my investment, you'd have to say.
The MSM had a field day Wednesday with two reports. The first was by a Johns Hopkins scientist, suggesting that there have been more than 600,000 civilian deaths in Iraq during the current conflict - a full order of magnitude greater than the US-government estimate of 30-50,000. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election."They're almost certainly way too high. This is not analysis, this is politics," Cordesman said.
The second report was one suggesting that the Army was planning to maintain current troop levels in Iraq through 2010.
There's a saying along the lines that liberals will always oppose the use of US force - except where US security interests are not at stake. The New York Times editorial of this morning, The Age of Impunity, provides a perfect case in point.
The central thesis is this:
"Bush has squandered so much of America’s moral authority — not to mention our military resources — that efforts to shame or bully the right behavior from adversaries (and allies) sound hollow."
Along the way, the Times recommends that Pres. Bush pander to the rogue regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran by making "a clear pledge — no caveats and no fingers crossed behind his back - that he would not try to overthrow" their governments.
"Didn't the MSM get the memo? Keep Foley on the front page!" That seemed to be Chris Matthews' attitude when he was interviewed on this afternoon's MSNBC Live regarding Pres. Bush's press conference of this morning.
Appearing during the 2-2:30 PM ET slot, the transparently ticked-off Hardball host was asked: "The Mark Foley scandal has been dominating the news for over a week now. It was barely touched upon in the news conference today. Was the president, do you think, successful in refocusing attention on to the economy and national security today?"
A palpably PO'd Matthews:
"Well, he was successful to a large extent because the press, for whatever reason, decided not to ask him about the Foley scandal, which has dominated this network and so much else of the media for the last couple weeks and has been a big part of the American conversation. I don't know why though the correspondents - and they're the best in the business - chose to stick right to the issue of Iraq and North Korea, but they did, giving the president a chance to grab the headline tomorrow morning and tonight, with a big story about North Korea and his position on that topic. He has won the day on controlling the topic."
To judge by its political cartoon of this morning, the Boston Globe apparently believes that if only the Bush administration had engaged in direct talks with North Korea, it could have prevented Kim from building his bomb.
Let's leave aside that the Bush administration has in fact been talking to North Korea. Indeed, the president was proceeding in precisely the way the MSM usually implores him to do - multilaterally, via the Six Party talks.
A phalanx of Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, claims the Bush administration is to blame for the N. Korean nuclear test. John McCain responds, pointing out that it was the Clinton administration's failed "agreed framework" that let Kim Jong Il merrily go about his bomb-and-missile-making ways.
So how does Hannah Storm of CBS' Early Show frame the state of play?
"Sen. John Kerry said that you must be trying to burnish your credentials for the nomination process, he's referring of course to your presidential aspirations. I mean, what do you say to those who say that you're [her voice breaking into a horrifed squeak] politicizing this issue?"
Not the smallest bird doesn't fall but liberal pundits blame it on George W. Bush. A refreshing change of pace this morning, then, in the person of Thomas Friedman, who writes that the major responsibility for avoiding future international catastrophe lays not at the feet of the current occupant of the White House, but in Moscow and Beijing.
In the subscription-required The Bus Is Waiting, Friedman propounds the theory that a nuclearized N. North Korea and Iran will inevitably induce a string of countries across Asia and the Middle East developing atomic weapons of their own.
To prevent this, Friedman asserts that it is necessary for:
Have a look at this screen capture from the opening of this morning's 'Today': Barbra Streisand says "SEND IN THE #$&!! CLOWNS"
Since 'Today' only offered a tease at the top of the show, it was hard to know just what Babs had been up to. Was she cursing out a fan or, perhaps, calling for a takeover of power by her team of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Conyers, Henry Waxman et al.?
Turns out the correct answer was 'A' - cursing a fan. According to this New York Post article, VULGAR BABS RIPS BUSH - AND FAN - AT MSG:
The show bills itself as 'Hardball.' But in surrounding himself with regulars who are either certified liberals or renegade Republicans, doesn't Chris Matthews prove himself to be a softy, unwilling or unable to take the high heat from true-blue Republican flamethrowers?
Let me say something that might surprise some NewsBusters readers and dismay others. I like Matthews. Not that conservatives are the arbiters of patriotism, but I do consider Chris someone who loves his country and, as misguided as he may be on various policy issues - has its best interests at heart. He's no Keith Olbermann.
That said, although he professes not to be a partisan and will speak to Democrats about "your" - not "our" - party, there can be little doubt that his rooting interest hasn't changed much since the days he was a top aide to Tip.
"A North Korean ICBM hit Hawaii with a 10-kiloton atomic weapon today. Now back to Meredith and Matt for the latest on the burgeoning Mark Foley scandal. Is it doom for Republicans?"
Perhaps I exaggerate a tad with that imaginary bit of dialogue, but judging by this morning's 'Today,' you have to wonder. Good Morning America devoted the lion's share of its first half-hour to the N. Korean test of a nuclear device, with no fewer than four segments focusing on it. Over at Today, after a correspondent in China gave a report, and Lauer and Andrea Mitchell batted things around for a while, it was over. No expert analysis, no nothing. It was time to move to a report on . . . the latest lettuce recall. Have a look at the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It was only 7:06.
On a relatively slow news Sunday, perusing Google News in search of some morsel of MSM bias with which whip up NewsBusters readers, I came across these two stories, the first from CTV.ca, the second from the Hindustan Times:
"Jadakiss arrested for alleged weapon possession"
"Chikungunya visits Kerala after 30 years"
Both headlines left me baffled. Who is Jadakiss? UN diplomat? Star striker for Manchester United? Second cousin to Gene Simmons? Congressional staffer angry he didn't get an IM from Mark Foley?
And who or what is Chikungaya, and why is he/it visiting Kerala? For that matter, is Kerala a person or a place?
In Foley Case Upsets Tough Balance by Capitol Hill’s Gay Republicans, the New York Times describes the plight of gay Republican staffers in DC. According to the Times, things are so tough for them that a group gets together every week to "commiserate." The longish article makes an interesting read, but I was particularly struck by these two items. First, the article's author, Mark Leibovich, writes:
"Even though the G.O.P. fashions itself as 'the party of Lincoln' and a promoter of tolerance, it is perceived as hostile by many gay men and lesbians."
Just in time for the November elections, a new MSM theme is emerging: Iraq's not the only mess - Afghanistan's in trouble too. Just a couple days I described here the Pentagon's systematic rebuttal of Newsweek's hyper-negative portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan in its article "The Rise of Jihadistan."
One of Newsweek's "news partners" just happens to be NBC, and sure enough, NBC's 'Today' show ran a segment this morning recycling many of the charges contained in the Newsweek piece. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda were depicted as resurgent, with violence up, the opium trade flourishing, and President Karzai's influence largely limited to Kabul.
In State of Denial, Bob Woodward claims Marine Gen. James L. Jones, the U.S. commander for Europe, said that the Iraq war is a "debacle" and that "the Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld."
Two reporters from two publications followed up on the story. They couldn't have reached more diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether Woodward quoted Jones accurately. How's this for dueling headlines?
Do you favor tax cuts? If so, you're no better than a congressman wanting to slip the pants off a page. Worse, for that matter. That's the reasoning of Rosa Brooks, L.A. Times columnist. In Grand Old Party of Child Endangerment, Brooks argues that:
"Foley's acts may have damaged the handful of boys unfortunate enough to have attracted his attention, but the damage to children caused by his abuse of power is still far, far less than the damage to American children caused by this Congress' disastrous mismanagement of the American economy."
By "mismanagement," Brooks makes clear she largely means tax cuts:
"Though only the Foley scandal has generated substantial media coverage, the Republican-led Congress has a long record of child endangerment. Recall that from 2000 to 2005, Congress handed out tax breaks for the rich like hors d'oeuvres at a Republican fundraiser. They slashed the estate tax and the capital gains tax, selling these cuts with an advertising campaign that misled ordinary people into thinking the cuts were going to help working Americans, instead of just the rich."
Paul Krugman teaches teaches economics at Princeton, and has done the same at MIT. Enron evidently thought enough of his understanding of the dismal science to hire him as a consultant - though Krugman has at times been reluctant to disclose that fact. But judging by his latest anti-Wal-Mart jeremiad [subscription required] in this morning's New York Times, you really have to wonder how much the good professor of economics . . . understands about capitalism.
Krugman's portrait of Wal-Mart is a caricature of greedy management conducting what he calls a "war on wages." Krugman has apparently gotten hold of a couple leaked internal Wal-Mart memos that discuss ideas for keeping labor costs under control. Among the ideas: increasing the percentage of part-time workers, since they qualify for fewer benefits, and limiting raises for long-term employees.
While Democrats and the MSM have revelled in stressing the tough sledding in Iraq, they had been constrained to acknowledge that the mission in Afghanistan - from the overthrow of the Taliban to the fostering of democracy leading to the election of President Karzai to efforts aimed at rebuilding a country mired in medieval poverty - has been largely successful.
But in recent weeks, Democrats and the MSM have sought to paint a more negative portrait of the situation in Afghanistan, culminating in an article in the October 2nd edition of Newsweek "The Rise of Jihadistan."
The article's sub-title states its thesis in these terms: "Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they—and Al Qaeda's leaders—can operate freely." And in his famously finger-pointing interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, Bill Clinton claimed that "if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill [Bin Laden]."
David Brooks' New York Times column of this morning on the Foley matter, "A Tear in Our Fabric," is so important that I'd normally be inclined to simply reproduce it in its entirety and let it speak for itself. But as a subscription-required item, I cannot. I do offer an extended-but-redacted excerpt for our readers' consideration:
This is a tale of two predators. The first is a congressman who befriended teenage pages. He sent them cajoling instant messages asking them to describe their sexual habits, so he could get his jollies.
The second is a secretary, who invited a 13-year-old girl from her neighborhood into her car and kissed her. Then she invited the girl up to her apartment, gave her some vodka, took off her underwear and gave her a satin teddy to wear.
When you think about it, Mark Foley's mess isn't really his fault. The blame is rightly laid at the feet of those repressive Republicans - and the Catholic Church. That in a nutshell is the thesis of a column in today's Boston Globe, The gay problem in the GOP by David Link, described as a writer and attorney in Sacramento and member of the Independent Gay Forum.
On the one hand, Link doesn't hesitate to second the view of Foley's communications with the pages as "sick" and "disgusting." Link even alludes to Foley as a "degenerate." But nowhere does Link seek to hold Foley responsible for his own action. To the contrary, here is Link's seminal conclusion:
"But what can one expect from denying grown men -- and women -- a normal, adult sex life?"
Perhaps there should be a new definition of 'RINO': Republican in NBC Only.
Went it comes to hiring Republicans, NBC/MSNBC has a pronounced predilection for those with no special love for the party of Lincoln. Guys like Pat Buchanan, who quit the GOP to run against George Bush and loves to lambaste him. Or Joe Scarborough, who this morning predicted Republican doom and suggested hurling Hastert to the wolves.
The former Republican representative from the Florida Panhandle, now host of his own MSNBC show, was Matt Lauer's guest on 'Today.' The two played 'Can You Top This?' when it came to foreseeing the worst for the GOP in light of the Foley fiasco. Examples:
Lauer: "Let's talk about Dennis Hastert. What troubles me here is a couple of high-ranking Republicans, John Boehner and Tom Reynolds, go to him, they say months ago, and they talk to him about the situation with these emails and Mark Foley, and Hastert according to them says 'I am aware of it, it's taken care of.' Now Dennis Hastert doesn't remember that conversation. That seems hard for me to believe."
It's a shame Audie Murphy isn't around. Maureen Dowd might finally have met her soul mate.
You've surely noticed the phenomenon. When it comes to candidates, the Democrats love the military. From Mr. 'Reporting for Duty,' to a crop of Iraq and Afghanistan campaign veterans running in recent election cycles, the party of McGovern likes to combat its weak-on-national-security reputation by running the roughest, toughest GIs and jarheads it can find.
And woe to the Republican who hasn't served. Dems will deride him as a chicken hawk or worse. Maureen Dowd's pay-per-view column of this morning offers a good example of the syndrome. In the course of her broadside against Henry Kissinger, Dowd writes:
"Thirty-five years later, Mr. Kissinger, the consummate fawner, was once more able to sway a president with faux deference. Dr. K encouraged W. to play the tough guy on the war, even though he’d never gone to war himself."
When it comes to the Foley scandal, the MSM is definitely keeping its eyes on the prize: the Democratic takeover of Congress. In this NB item, I described how the New York Times editorialized this morning that it doesn't care what else flows from the scandal. So long as the Dems re-take power, the Foley flameout "will have done its job."
Over at 'Today' this morning, Matt Lauer fretted that the fallout might not come fast enough to swing the election to the Dems. Interviewing Tim Russert, Lauer said "the most cynical scenario, the worst-case scenario for Republicans is that they kept this under wraps because Foley's seat was important to holding control of the House at a time when the entire control issue is up for grabs in the mid-term elections." Matt didn't bother painting a more innocent scenario.
Give the New York Times an 'A' for honesty. In this morning's editorial, the Gray Lady openly admits the only thing it cares about resulting from the Foley scandal is the takeover of congressional power by the Democrats.
Oh, to be sure, the Times huffs and puffs about the Republican majority reaching the "point of decayed purpose so thoroughly, so fast." It also makes this startling claim: "a long, depressing pattern: When there is a choice between the right thing to do and the easiest route to perpetuation of power, top Republicans always pick wrong."
But when it gets to the editorial's bottom line, the Times makes no bones as to what this is all about for them:
No, this isn't a joke. Of all the possible photos available of Joe Negron, the Florida state representative who has replaced Mark Foley as the GOP congressional candidate in the 16th CD, the top one here is the one the Associated Press chose to accompany its article: FL GOP picks Foley replacement.
Congressmen come and congressmen go. But the Associated Press's liberal bias goes on forever.
UPDATE: Reuters has pulled a similar stunt. Here's the photo it chose to accompany its article on Negron's nomination.
Hat tips to Free Republic members Behind Liberal Lines re AP and bitt re Reuters.
Note: The AP can of course always change the photo accompanying an online article. It's always possible that by the time an NB reader clicks on the link provided above to the AP article, a responsible editor will have done so, perhaps even embarrassed by this NB item exposing AP's bias. But the photo displayed here was the one accompanying the AP article as originally posted. I saved it to our NB server.
Day One: Suspicious-but-not-explict emails. Day Two: Explicit instant messages, but no evidence Foley met with boys. Day Four: Instant message indicating Foley was indeed seeking to meet and possibly had already met with a boy.
Foley deserves what he's gotten and what is likely to come. But it seems increasingly plausible that the timed release of information - of ever-escalating seriousness - is part of a calculated campaign to keep the story in the news and inflict maximum political damage on the GOP.
That would seem the logical inference in light of the latest information promulgated this afternoon by ABC News. An article written by Brian Ross and Maddy Sauer, E-mails Show Foley Sought to Rendezvous with Page, contains the text of an instant message session in which Foley expressly tells a boy "I want to see you." Foley also mentions "I miss you a lot since San Diego," suggesting that perhaps they had already met.
If Matt Lauer ever decides to leave 'Today,' he has a promising career ahead of him interpreting for the hearing-impaired at meetings of Moveon.org and like-minded groups.
Interviewing Bob Woodward on this morning's 'Today' about his Bush-bashing State of Denial, Lauer served as a cheerleader worthy of Katie at her perkiest.
At one point, Lauer summarized matters thusly:
"You paint a picture of a White House and administration that is not tone deaf in some cases but that literally in some cases puts their hands over their ears and said we don't want to hear the information if the information is not going to bolster our company line."
That's when, in the screen capture shown here, Lauer 'helpfully' mimed the White House's 'hear no evil' attitude that Woodward alleges.