Just when you're ready to write Chris Matthews off as a hopeless liberal, he pulls something like he did tonight, criticizing the New York Times for its latest leak of an anti-terror program.
Matthews' guests were the Rev. Al Sharpton and conservative radio talk show host Melanie Morgan. On the subject of the Times leak, Sharpton predictably proclaimed that the Gray Lady was "absolutely right," while Morgan sided with President Bush. That's when Matthews weighed in with his surprising pronouncement:
"Melanie, on this issue, believe it or not, I'm with you. I think the Times should not have run that story, I don't think we needed to know that. It wasn't really about us; it was of more interest to the enemy."
Should we look for Matt Lauer to close his next interview of Condi Rice by clasping her hands? Perhaps a verklempt Dick Cheney thanking Campbell Brown for "standing by me through every crisis"? Could be, judging by Al Roker's interview of Star Jones this morning.
OK. Star isn't Secretary of State. She's someone who got bounced as co-host of a televised coffee klatsch. Even so, some of the journalistic values on display were eye-brow raising. For openers, what does it say about Today's news values that the interview, stretching across two half-hours and three segments, was the longest this veteran Today watcher can remember?
And then there was the personal relationship between Al and Star. The flag first went up when Star thanked Al for having phoned her with information: "I actually remember a phone call when you saw something in the paper that I had not even seen that was pretty nasty."
As fellow NewsBuster Mithridate Ombud noted today, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll has flatly accused the Bush administration of anti-Semitism in its criticism of The New York Times for its latest leak of an anti-terror program. Claimed Carroll:
"The Times is a good target... Also, the name of the New York Times contains the word 'New York.' Many members of the president's base consider 'New York' to be a nifty code word for 'Jewish.' It is very nice for the president to be able to campaign against the Jews without (a) actually saying the word "Jew" and (b) without irritating the Israelis."
Is this an emerging MSM theme? Perhaps, judging by Chris Matthews' line of questioning on this evening's Hardball.
Do you know the joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and is informed he needs an operation that would cost $25,000? When he asks if there are any cheaper alternatives, the doc responds, "well, for $75, I can touch up your X-rays."
That's Barack Obama's approach to healing the Dems' affliction when it comes to dealing with religious conservatives on social issues. He's not looking to change the substance, only the appearance.
In introducing Obama, GMA's Robin Roberts did describe him as "one of the Democrats' rising stars." But I think that might be some kind of required FCC label, so we'll cut Robin slack. Particularly so in light of the very probing question with which she ultimately hit Obama, and the telling response she elicited.
If she was watching 'Today' this morning, you can imagine Hillary Clinton using her best North-Korean-parliament rhythmical clapping in response to what she saw. It might be 'ronery' in her Georgetown or Chappaqua spreads, but it's always heart-warming to know you've got friends at the highest-rated morning show.
The premise was that while Hillary has been a long-time bogeywoman of the right, "these days Clinton's biggest critics aren't necessarily in the GOP." It was noted that "she was recently booed by Democratic audiences for arguing against timetable to pull US troops out of Iraq."
The segment also noted her "split with liberals" in her support for an amendment prohibiting flag burning."
Over the last couple days, I've received four emails from one liberal reader of these columns, repeatedly asking me why conservatives are so 'angry and mean-spirited'. I tried explaining that while anger is common to the human condition, in no way do conservatives have a monopoly on the emotion. To the contrary, I cited a recent study revealing that, even when controlling for relevant variables, Republicans tend to be happier than Democrats.
Since I was unable to prove the proposition to the reader's satisfaction, I very much hope he was watching this evening's Hardball. For the show provided a perfect case in point of Republican good humor and raw Dem anger.
Sure, Tim Russert is a pillar of the great center-left media establishment. You can take the man out of Mario Cuomo's office, but you can't entirely take Mario's office out of the man. Even so, as MSM types go, Russert is among the more fair-and-balanced.
But in his Today show appearance this morning, Tim simply didn't make sense. Asked by Campbell Brown about the White House's anger at the New York Times for its latest divulging on an anti-terror program, Russert responded:
"There is no doubt this was an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media, particularly the New York Times. It resonates with the organized Republican conservative base: taking on the media,liberal media. Remember Spiro Agnew, back in the Nixon administration: the 'nattering nabobs of negativism.'
As a veteran Couric watcher, I've recently come to follow [without actually watching] doings at The View, since Katie's replacement Meredith Vieira was for years a member of the show's cast. For those unfamiliar with it, The View is an all-female televised coffee klatsch and gabfest of which Barbara Walters is the creator, partial owner and a co-host.
The View has a distinct liberal tint to its patter. And as we know, one of the tenets of feminist theology is that women have a right to whatever body size they want, free of societal restraints.
How ironic - some might say hypocritical - that one reason for the recent firing of co-host Star Jones is that . . . she refused to stay fat! As you'll note from the before and after pics here, Star has undergone a dramatic physical transformation. According to this AP article:
You're having a first conversation with someone. Alright, maybe you don't agree with him, but he seems rational. Then, out of the blue, he blurts something so strange, so disconnected from reality, that you say to yourself 'whoah! - who is this guy?' And you go back and rethink everything else he had said in light of his suddenly-exposed madness.
That's what is was like watching Chris Matthews' interview of Ken Auletta on this evening's Hardball. Alright, Auletta's the media columnist of the New Yorker. So you have no illusions. This is a liberal. Even so, he seems so urbane, so calm, even reasonable. You could almost imagine having a drink and a conversation at sunset on the deck of one of those fancy Hampton houses you picture him visiting on weekends.
If the mark of a person at ease with himself is the ability to have a chuckle at his own expense, then Rush Limbaugh is a supremely serene man. In the wake of the incident in which he was detained at the Palm Beach International Airport when it was discovered he had in his luggage a vial of Viagra with a prescription not in his name, you might have imagined that Rush would have begun today's show with an indignant denial of wrongdoing. He might have explained in tedious detail that in fact the prescription had, with personal privacy in mind, been written in his doctor's name.
But no. Rush opened by poking gentle fun at the situation, and even, in the process, at himself:
Come on, Carl. The Tigers are in first place. GM announced some good news this morning. The sun is gonna shine again. Why so cranky?
The senior Democratic senator from Michigan had some very testy exchanges with Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade this morning. The topic was possible troop reductions in Iraq. Levin has been leading the Dem charge in alleging that the Bush administration is orchestrating the drawdowns with an eye on the November elections.
At one point, the give-and-take went like this
Brian: "Judging by conditions on the ground, do you think the President enjoys having troops over in Iraq? Do you think he would keep them there one day past where they should be there or have to be in harm's way?
The Seer of MSNBC hath spoken: no matter how good the news might be now for President Bush, he will be in worse shape come the November elections.
That was Chris Matthews' reading of the entrails on this morning's Today show. Guest-hosting David Gregory interviewed him, and, sounding the same theme we saw over at this morning's Early Show, cast the controversy over the latest leak of an anti-terror program not as a threat to national security, but as "this attack on the New York Times."
Gregory teed up this softball for Matthews: "The question is, whether should we be taking their [the administration's] word for it, that these are legal programs? Do you think the administration, any administration, has earned the right . . . to protect that kind of secret?"
Given NewsBusters' goal of exposing outrageous liberal media bias, perhaps I should switch focus from the Katie-less Today to Harry Smith & Co. at the Early Show. I rarely check in on the show, which has languished seemingly forever in last place. But, happening upon it this morning, Smith's bald-faced bias left me breathless.
Smith's guest was Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report. Talk was first of the proposed flag-burning amendment. A snide Smith observed:
"I'm just curious about this. Because somewhere I read in the last couple of days in the entire history of the republic there have only been 200 documented serious incidents of this in the entire history of the United States." Lotta history there, Harry.
It became a laugh line long ago: "If we can't [insert your favorite dubious activity here], the terrorists will have won."
But that didn't prevent Keith Olbermann from trotting out the cliché tonight. A line so tired it would have to be months fresher not to be merely hackneyed. And all this in defense of the New York Times' latest leak of an anti-terrorist program - this time that of the the program designed to track terrorists' financial transactions.
Even Olbermann seemed abashed at stooping so low, but that didn't stop him. Claiming that the anti-terror program is "legally questionable," Olbermann actually said that "as the old saying goes" if the Times can't report this "haven't the terrorists won?"
There could be an NBC intern out of work by lunch-time. Somebody failed to get the DNC/MSM talking points to Barry McCaffrey. A guest on this morning's Today show, the retired general obstinately refused to go along with the party line in reacting to the news that a drawdown of US troops in Iraq is in the works. Didn't Barry at least watch Carl Levin over the weekend? The Dem senator from Michigan had made it clear that this was all about election-year politics.
Co-host Campbell Brown picked up right where Levin left off.
Brown: "Based on your assessment of the situation on the ground, do you think this plan is realistic?"
McCaffrey: "Yeah, sure. . . Realistic assumptions will probably occur."
No-o-o-o-o! Brown took another tack: "Put 'realistic' aside and tell me whether you think it's a good idea, though."
As Brit Hume put it, "Senator Specter, who gets worked up over anything, doesn't seem bothered by the NY Times disclosure of [the anti-terror banking program]. He's going to 'look into it'."
Indeed. Specter, who began his political career as a prosecutor, played defense lawyer for the Gray Lady on this morning's Fox News Sunday. Host Chris Wallace asked the senior senator from PA "do you think the Times was wrong to publish this story as well as the NSA warrantless wiretap story, and does it rise to the level that they should be prosecuted?"
"Well, we have seen the newspapers in this country act as effective watchdogs. You had Jefferson lay out the parameter saying if he had to choose a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he'd choose newspapers without government . . . I don't think that the newspapers can have a totally free hand. But I think in the first instance, it is their judgment.
In 2000, that darn MSM elected George Bush by bashing Al Gore. And when it comes to the theological argument as to whether gays and women should be Christian clergy, well, actually, there isn't an argument. There's only one side. The liberal one, of course.
Don't believe me? Ask Neal Gabler. The reliably liberal member of the Fox News Watch panel expressed those views on this evening's show.
Host Eric Burns asked whether the torture and murder of two US soldiers, coupled with the charges brought against a group of Marines in the killing of an Iraqi civilian brought us to a turning point of more open press opposition to the war.
Responded Gabler: "I think it is a right-wing frame to say is this a turning point to go overtly against the war. As if [the press] have been covertly against the war." In a strange non sequitur he continued "This press elected George Bush by bashing Al Gore. This press facilitated our entrance into the war and acted as if Bush had had a sudden turn-around by going to Iraq."
If Dave Rossie were simply a columnist, one might dismiss his sophomoric liberal rants as, well, sophomoric liberal rants. But what is disturbing is that when he's not pounding out his latest condemnation of all things Republican, the Gannett chain has seen fit to give Rossie the power to edit news at one of its papers, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. Not long ago, Rossie, finding the mere impeachment of Pres. Bush insufficient, called on the world to boycott the United States.
Rossie's latest opus concerns commencement addresses. After knocking administration officials for speaking at military institutions, and singling out VP Cheney for "defending the practice of spying on Americans via illegal wire taps," Rossie gave an example of a commencement speech of which he approved - heartily.
Norah O'Donnell was the guest host on this evening's Hardball. Discussing the arrest of seven alleged domestic terrorists charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower among other targets, O'Donnell asked her panel of 'Hardball Hotshots': "where is this hatred coming from?"
Mike Barnicle was first to propose a socio/psychological explanation: "Freedom, the freedoms we have here. Liberty, the liberties we have here, the isolation that many people feel from our society. . . Poverty, mental illness is part of it."
Let me share a little trade secret. Lately, when I've been on the prowl for something to write about, I go to the editorial page of the Los Angeles Times. It's a treasure trove over there, I tell ya!
Take this morning's editorial - 'Battling over Bishops' - in which the Times decides to wade into the controversy roiling the Episcopal Church. Here's the kernel of the Times' argument
"What both controversies [over homosexual and female clergy] have in common is not only a fixation on sex and gender but also the challenge of deciding what religious practices can and should change with the times."
When it comes to cutting and running, John Kerry, Jack Murtha and Nancy Pelosi take a back seat to no one. But what if - quelle horreur! - the terrorist insurgents in Iraq beat them to the white flag punch?
Amidst the news of the day, from plots to bomb the Sears Tower to more Dem disunity, Jim Miklaszewski let slip this little bombshell, coming from a press conference by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey:
"On the positive front, Casey revealed for the first time the Sunni insurgency has reached out to both the U.S. and Iraq to find some way to end their terrorist campaign."
Norah loves Larry. At least, she loves the way Larry Eagleburger phrased things about North Korea. At the same time, Eagleburger made clear there's no love lost between himself and Dick Cheney, taking some surprisingly acerbic shots at the Veep.
The former Bush, Sr. Secretary of State appeared on this evening's Hardball. Guest host Norah O'Donnell interviewed him along with former Clinton defense official Ashton Carter. Carter had in turn written an op-ed in today's Washington Post, which as indicated by its title, If Necessary, Strike and Destroy, advocates blowing the North Korean ICBM off its launch pad if N. Korea persists in its launch preparations.
Maybe it was just tough love, but NBC's "Today" gave the Democrats a rather rough going-over this morning. And cast in the role of flip-flopping heavy was none other than John Kerry. The subject matter was Democrat disunity over plans for Iraq, and co-host Campbell Brown set the tone by suggesting that the internal debate could be evidence of "a Democratic party at war with itself."
Norah O'Donnell began the segment she narrated by observing that "Republicans are working to exploit Democratic divisions in November elections." After noting that Kerry has a proposal to pull all troops out by 2007, she cut to a clip of Sen. Mitch McConnell [R-KY] on the floor of the Senate pointing out "the junior senator from Massachusetts has had four positions on Iraq."
In a chock-filled first half-hour of Today, the family of one the soldiers murdered in Iraq shared their grief and pride, Andrea Mitchell got it all wrong about conservative discontent, and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett declined to rise to Matt Lauer's bait.
Although the appropriateness of publicizing the grief of bereaved families is often debated, their dignity is a frequent source of inspiration. Here, the father of PFC Thomas Tucker of Oregon, reportedly tortured and murdered by the new al-Qaeda leader in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Zarqawi, spoke with simple eloquence:
"We don't understand the big political picture. We understand what has happened. Our son has died for the freedom of everybody in the United States. We are very proud of our son."
CBS radio news just ran an item on the departure of Dan Rather. There was a surprising bit of candor in which CBS reported that Rather had "expressed frustration, feeling he'd been shelved by the network."
There was also a bit of - presumably - unintentional humor. We were treated to a clip of the Washington Post's [very liberal] media critic Tom Shales informing us that Rather "was a very activist anchor, and he changed the role of anchor."
For a TV host, there's nothing much more difficult than interviewing a family member of someone who has been killed or seriously harmed. So when the uncle of one of the US soldiers kidnapped and killed in Iraq called for the offering of a massive ransom and a prisoner exchange, give Matt Lauer credit for having had the courage to challenge him.
Here's how it went down.
Lauer was interviewing Ken MacKenzie, a well-spoken, well-informed uncle to PFC Kristian Menchaca. Asked Lauer:
"A group linked to al-Qaeda on its website has claimed that they actually took Kristian and another soldier. What's your reaction to that?"
"My reaction is the United States government should have immediately notified these Shura Council mujahadeen that the United States government was offering a $100-million reward and offering to exchange the 2,500 mujahadeen detainees that Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq plans to release several weeks from now. I think the U.S. government was too slow to react to this, they should have had a plan in place. Because the U.S. government did not have a plan in place, my nephew has paid for it with his life."
Know what the problem is with the Bush administration? They take terror threats too darn seriously. And that causes a 'backlash.'
At least, that's the claim of author Ron Suskind, who was on the Today show this morning to discuss his recently-released book, 'The One Percent Doctrine'. Suskind is a former Wall Street Journal reporter. Those who might think that would indicate a conservative bent should be aware that, perhaps more than at any other paper in America, there is a remarkable contrast in the political leanings of the news and the editorial operations of the WSJ. Yes, the editorial page is keenly free-market conservative. But as per a 2004 study, the Journal's news operation is 'the most liberal of all 20 news outlets [studied]', more liberal than even the New York Times.
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy: if you're an American who wants marriage to be reserved exclusively for one man and one woman . . . you might be a yahoo!
Don't believe me? Ask liberal Newsday columnist Ellis Henican. He appeared on Fox & Friends First this morning to debate radio talk show host Mike Gallagher on a variety of topics, including the Democrats' recently announced six-point plan to be implemented should they take back the House in the November elections.
Gallagher argued that this was something the Dems cooked up on the spur of the moment, frustrated by the good news for the Republicans generated by the killing of Zarqawi, the exculpation of Rove and other events.
Other mournful morsels from the article by AP writer Elliot Spagat:
"Fewer parents are walking their children to school in this border city's Linda Vista neighborhood."
"A sense of unease has spread in this community of weather-worn homes." [Nice touch with 'weather-worn'!]
"People rarely leave their houses now to go shopping," Osorio, 37, said as she clutched a bottle of laundry detergent in a barren courtyard. 'They walk in fear.'" [Extra credit, Elliot, for the clutched detergent bottle.]
"Her husband, Juan Rivera, 29, has stopped taking their two children to the park on weekends. 'We want to go out but we can't.'"
"In a blitz that began May 26 . . . It was the latest salvo . . . " [Nice war imagery!]
Neal Gabler might have hit a new low when it comes to the coarseness of his criticism. On this evening's Fox News Watch, he branded as 'sub-moronic' a statement President Bush made during his recent Iraq trip. And, furious that the media has been insufficiently critical in its coverage of Iraq for his taste, Gabler repeatedly labelled the MSM 'brain dead.'
Gabler began his assault by pouring cold water on the president's recent uptick in the polls: "the boost is very small. . . If you want to look at his numbers, his numbers are very, very low."
Even so, Gabler was galled that the press hasn't given sufficient attention to the bad news from Iraq. "The most positive media development for the president has been the fact that on the very day that he visited Baghdad, 24 Iraqis were killed in Kirkuk of all places and 50 were killed around Iraq, but it got no coverage. It was page 15 of the New York Times."