Imagine you're a newswire editor writing the headline for a story in which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has accused Pres. Bush of 'religious absolutism.' What would be a fair headline? Something like:
Albright Accuses Bush of 'Religious Absolutism'
Now consider Reuters' actual headline:
Albright Critical of Bush's Religious Absolutism
Note the not-so-subtle difference. We've moved from Albright accusing Bush of religious absolutism, to Reuters effectively reporting Bush's absolutism as a fact, of which Albright is simply critical. Not even a set of quotation remarks around 'religious absolutism' to clarify that the words are Albright's, and not unquestioned fact.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." JFK Inaugural Address, 1961
"We can do just as much by withdrawing our troops." John Murtha, Winner, Profile in Courage Award, 'Today' show, 5/22/06
The Kennedys have come a long way since JFK gave his inaugural speech. Pres. Kennedy was a cold warrior, not only in the words of that speech, but in action. He stared down the Kremlin over the Soviets' installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and with his Cuban embargo took the world the closest it has ever been to the brink of nuclear war.
In its segment on illegal immigration and the proposed amendment to make English the country's official language, this morning's Today show pitted the following against a sole Republican senator: another senator who just happens to be the Minority Leader, the director of a school that teaches English to immigrants, the head of the association of immigration lawyers, and the NBC reporter himself, Mike Taibbi, who described the current atmosphere as 'nasty' and implied that the English language amendment was unnecessary. Along the way, Today even managed to coin a new euphemism for 'illegals.'
Taibbi began the segment reporting from what appeared to be a private-sector school in Queens, NY called the New York Language Center. Taibbi pointedly observed that at the school: "they learn one language. English. America's official national language, if a Senate amendment to a new immigration law passes." Not-so-subtle sub-text: "See, immigrants are already learning English. No amendment necessary."
News story, or Gore 2008 press release? At first glance it was hard to tell, but . . . wait! Yup, there it is: (Reuters). So yes, this is cold, hard reporting of just-the-facts, ma'am. Then again, consider the opening paragraphs:
Al Gore brushes aside talk of another run for the U.S. presidency and wages a new campaign to protect the Earth that he says must be won.
The former Democratic vice president sounds the alarm as a citizen activist armed with his old slide show turned into a Hollywood movie about the threat of global warming.
After a couple days in which the only people offered the opportunity to comment on the controversy surrounding the Da Vinci Code were the movie's director and cast members, this morning's Today show finally gave an outside expert and Catholic officials their shot. The result was an oddly ambivalent reaction in which the movie was simultaneously praised as offering an opportunity to teach about the Church - and condemned as filled with lies.
A quick recap on the state of play at Today. Matt Lauer has been "On the Road with the Code" this week. On Tuesday, as reported here, NBC reporter Melissa Stark timidly raised the matter of the controversy with Code director Ron Howard. Stark didn't bother informing viewers just what all the fuss is about - which is none other than the movie's premise that Christ wasn't really divine, that he was married to Mary Magdalene and had children with her, that the true religion is the "feminine divine" and that the Roman Catholic Church has perpetrated a murderous patriarchal plot to suppress the truth. That's all!
If "The Da Vinci Code" was already feeding the flames of controversy with its challenge to the basic tenets of Christianity, actor Ian McKellen managed to pour a refinery tank's worth of gasoline on the fire on this morning's 'Today' show, asserting that the Bible should carry a disclaimer saying that it is "fiction." Video: Windows Media or Real Player, Plus audio MP3
Matt Lauer, in his second day "On The Road With The Code," was in Cannes for the film festival, where the Code will have its debut. It has already been screened to some critics, who have given it decidedly mixed reviews.
Let's be clear: the Da Vinci Code portrays Christianity as a fraud and the Roman Catholic Church as a murderous conspiracy. As Archbishop Angelo Amato, the number two official in the Vatican doctrinal office which was headed by Pope Benedict until his election last year recently stated, if "such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising."
Yet the Today show has decided to offer the movie, scheduled for release this week, untold millions in free advertising by devoting hours of, um, worshipful coverage to it, going so far as to send Matt Lauer to Europe for the week to be "On the Road with the Code."
For those who think that sports broadcasts might offer a respite from liberal media spin . . . think again. At least when it comes to ESPN [an arm of ABC] the same ESPN that forced Rush Limbaugh out from his position as an NFL commentator for expressing his views on QB Donovan McNabb.
Much of the debate about high gasoline prices involves allegations that oil companies are 'gouging' and making 'windfall profits.' So if you were an MSM show preparing a graphic display of the various components that add up to the price of gas at the pump, the one thing you would be sure to separately break out would be profit, wouldn't it?
Not if you're the Today show. Not if you want to camouflage the fact that, in fact, the government's take via taxes dwarfs the amount that the various levels of commerce take in profit.
In conjunction with the appearance of Chevron CEO David O'Reilly, this morning's 'Today' ran just such a graphic display of the components of the price of a gallon of gas. The first panel showed that the cost of crude oil contributes $1.67 per gallon. Next was taxes, 44 cents. Now, you might have thought that the final panel would have shown profit. But no. Instead of separating out profit, Today displayed a panel mystifyingly lumping in profit with "refining and transportation" for a total of 78 cents, or roughly double government's tax take.
If you're not outraged by the NSA program that monitors phone-calling patterns, you're probably . . . too dumb to understand its implications. That, in a nutshell, and I do mean nutshell, was Ellen Ratner's argument on this morning's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend. Oh, well, that - and opening our borders with Mexico.
Host Julian Phillips [who expressed his personal opposition to the NSA program] put it to Ratner that "most Americans don't care about this. They say the NSA should do that to keep our security intact."
"Until some neighbor who might work at a spy agency gets their phone records and starts spewing it around town that somebody is talking to somebody or divorce records get subpoenaed or something like that. You know, most people don't understand the impact of how bad this really is."
psychosis: 'A severe mental illness in which the person has lost contact with reality."
OK, I'm not kidding: judging from tonight's episode of Hardball, either the MSM is psychotic, or I am. You be the armchair psychiatrist.
Chris Matthews' guest was NY Times media reporter Bill Carter. Matthews, discussing W's low poll numbers, observed:
"Bush is down there, Lou Harris, a liberal pollster, let's get straight on that, has got him down at 29. Is it too easy now to bash him? Even the money guys now in our business are saying, 'hit him again'. Is it too easy now to bash him?"
Carter: "You have to say, the media didn't go after him for a long time."
One thing is certain: the people within the government leaking the existence of secret anti-terror programs to the press are trying to hurt the president politically. Chris Matthews believes they have been more successful in achieving that goal with the recent leak of the phone data collection program than they were with the terrorist surveillance program leak.
On this morning's Today show, Matt Lauer asked Matthews: "Will there be a huge political fallout? Americans are evenly split on the domestic program [i.e., the terrorist surveillance progam]. Do you see this as the same situation?"
"No. Nobody can imagine being on the telephone with an Al Qaeda agent but they can imagine privacy matters.
You'd think that any reasonable person would be glad that we are not suffering the kind of turbulent times on American campuses experienced during the '60s and early '70s. Campus buildings sacked and put to the torch, student union buildings occupied by armed militants, academic careers and lives disrupted, and the ultimate tragedy of four young people killed at Kent State.
Could it be that Chris Matthews isn't reasonable? On this evening's Hardball, Matthews wasn't glad - he was galled, seeming to express nostalgia for that riotous past.
His guest was author Tom Wolfe, who back in the day had written of radical chic, and most recently wrote the disturbing tale of amoral campus life "I Am Charlotte Simmons". Wolfe spoke of having recently attended a reunion of 1969 Stanford campus radicals, recalling "that's when they blew up buildings and everything else."
Maybe the ABC show should change its name to 'Demagogue Morning America'. Earlier this week, Charlie Gibson trotted out windfall-profit taxes and limits on executive compensation as 'solutions' to high gas prices.
This morning, Kate Snow took the demagoguery up-close-and-personal, flashing a $20 bill in the faces of modest-income Americans to elict predictable responses about the tax cut they would be receiving under a Republican-backed plan.
Snow set the tone by announcing that the proposed extension of the tax cuts "would cost the federal government $70 billion." Of course tax cuts don't cost the government anything . . . since it's not the government's money. But that's not the way the MSM or liberals in Congress see it. Everything really does belong to the government, so that when it extends a tax cut, it is "spending" money.
Check out the screen capture from this morning's Today show. NBC respectfully describes the Iranian head of state - he of the threats, among other things, to wipe Israel off the map - as "President Ahmadinejad." And our own president? He's just "Bush."
Today aired the graphic in the course of Matt Lauer's interview of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Despite mental meanderings in Ahmadinejad's letter that prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize this morning about "Crazy Mahmoud", Lauer seemingly attached great significance to the missive, repeatedly pressing Secretary Rice to seize the occasion to open direct talks with the Iranians. In doing so, Lauer was perhaps channeling former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, who just yesterday wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal urging the administration to commence such talks with a view to settling "all issues of mutual concern."
Some people might think that striking a police officer, and almost striking a police car while driving under the influence of . . . something, are serious offenses.
Not Chris Matthews.
Here's how Matthews introduced this evening's Hardball, running down the rap sheet of various government officials who have had run-ins with the law in recent times:
"Tonight, putting on the squeeze, putting on the sleaze. Another House aide cops a plea in the Abramoff case. "Dusty" Foggo quits over the poker-and-prostitute scam. Bill Jefferson gets tagged by a witness wearing a wire. Claude Allen, the president's top domestic kick [sic] gets nabbed for shoplifting. David Savafian, his top personnel man [sic: he was a procurement official] gets arrested. Then there are the Judge Judy level cases. Cynthia McKinney who punched a cop and Patrick Kennedy who almost ran into one."
The worst possible 'solution' to the high cost of gasoline would be price controls, since they would simultaneously discourage production while driving up demand. But running a close second and third in the bad-idea sweepstakes would be a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and a cap on the amount oil companies can pay their executives. Two out of three ain't bad, so let's give GMA's Charlie Gibson an A- for his attempt to demagogue the gas-price issue this morning.
His guest was the soft-spoken James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, the nation's third-largest oil company.
Gibson opening shot was to suggest that "consumers have a right to be angry" in light of the estimated $135 billion the six largest oil companies are expected to make in 2006. Gibson didn't attempt to suggest why high profits justify consumer anger. Remember, market economics dictate that sellers price their products at the level yielding the highest profits, not necessarily at the highest possible price. Consider Wal-Mart, for example, which has reaped huge profits by consistently offering prices lower than those of competitors.
Let's imagine it was, oh, Karl Rove who had been involved in a car accident under circumstances identical to those surrounding Patrick Kennedy. Think the Today show would be focusing on his 'courage' and largely taking at face value his claim that prescription medicines caused the crash? Or would they, rather, be demanding to know whether he was telling the truth in claiming no alcohol was involved?
That 'Today' was in a decidedly forgiving mood was clear from the show's very opening. Note the graphic Today attached to Kennedy's image. Not "Telling the Truth?" or "Drinking & Driving?", but "Seeking Treatment".
In his subsequent report, NBC reporter Chip Reid placed his MSM imprimatur upon Kennedy's version of events. We first were treated to a clip of Kennedy's statement about his addiction to painkillers, concluding with his observation that "I struggle every day with this disease as do millions of Americans."
'Today' had two 9/11 family members on as guests this morning to react to yesterday's jury determination of life in prison rather than the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui. That the family member who expressed general support for the process was relatively unknown, whereas the bitter Bush-administration critic, Kristin Breitweiser, is a household commodity, is indicative of MSM coverage in the years since 9/11.
Ironically, it was the family member that was disappointed in the verdict who expressed pride in America and the process, whereas Breitweiser, who got the verdict she preferred, remained bitter.
First to speak was Hamilton Peterson, who lost his father and step-mother on United 93. Katie Couric opened by asking him why he believes Moussaoui should have received the death penalty. Consider Peterson's response:
Imagine you're a US Senator. A citizen has just suggested that a former CIA Director and named FBI agents merit the death penalty as much as convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Do you:
A. condemn such an outrageous comment? B. move on to another topic? C. congratulate the citizen for making "an absolutely accurate point"?
If you're Joe Biden [D-DE], the answer, incredibly, is 'C'.
Here's how it went down. In a 'Hardball' devoted to reactions to today's jury decision giving life in prison to Moussaoui, both Rudy Giuliani and Biden had expressed regret that Moussaoui hadn't been given the death penalty, in light of the fact that he knew of but failed to disclose the 9/11 plot.
Exxon-Mobil: private-for-profit corporation or social service agency? The question arises in the wake of Matt Lauer's wide-ranging interview this morning with Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobil. Lauer's tone was not antagonistic; for that matter he was manifestly grateful to Tillerson for being the lone CEO among the Big Oil companies to accept an invite from "Today." Still, there was some bad economics on display, along with a notable attempt by Lauer to make the GOP look like ingrates to an industry with which they've been cozy. Tillerson put in a solid, undefensive performance.
Here are highlights:
Lauer: "Critics say the big oil companies crushed the competition and they are manipulating the prices. What is the truth?"
Katie Couric took industrial-strength umbrage this morning when Bill Frist suggested to the soon-to-be CBS anchor that she opposes drilling in ANWR.
Yesterday, Matt Lauer gave respectful treatment to Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that Frist's proposal of a $100 rebate amounted to treating taxpayers like ladies of the night. So the Majority Leader surely knew he was walking into the lion's den this morning.
At one point, Katie hit Frist with excerpts from two letters to the editor of her apparent paper of choice - the NY Times.
"Let's see, $100 rebate checks to all taxpayers to offset rising gas prices. That's money out of my tax dollars back to me to give back to gas companies. The way I figure it that rebate won't even cover my gas one way to Washington to complain."
Since we had snow - Tony Snow - in April, why not another unseasonable event - Matt Lauer citing Rush Limbaugh as a respectable source for purposes of making a point?
The issue was high gas prices, and the pandering band-aid some in Congress have proposed by way of a $100 tax rebate. Today displayed this quote from El Rushbo, from his show of this past Friday:
"Instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of w----s, just solve the problem."
If Lauer did not explicitly endorse Rush's take, he came close, certainly recognizing that Rush's point merited a response. Lauer filled in the blanks when he read the quote out loud, then posed this question to guest Pat Buchanan: "Pat, has anyone put forth any solution that can solve this problem?"
Give Ellen Ratner credit for consistency - if not for logic. For the second week running Ratner used her 'Long & Short of It' platform on Fox & Friends Weekend to tout her solution to the immigration problem - sheer surrender in the form of 'open borders'.
Ellen - honcho of Talk Radio News - was back at it this morning: "I want to say again . . . I know it gets a lot of mail, why I am in favor of really having open borders between Canada and Mexico, because there is not going to be a way -- you will have lots of -- "
As oft-documented by MRC - NewsBusters' parent organization - the MSM is quick to label people 'conservative', 'right-wing' and various 'ultra' variations thereon. But the MSM typically turn shy when it comes to the 'liberal' label. In a surprising twist, not only did Katie Couric speak of George Clooney as a liberal this morning, but the Hollywood star didn't hesitate to pin himself as a liberal, and an old one at that. What's more, Katie even suggested that Clooney's advocacy of countless liberal causes might be diluting the brand.
The topic was Clooney's advocacy of international involvement to end the humanitarian disaster in Darfur in the Sudan. Wikipedia entry on the Darfur conflict here. It is notable that although the conflict largely pits Arabs against non-Arabs, the populations on both sides are Muslim. This seems, by the way, to have been something of Celebrity Advocacy Week at Today. As noted here, yesterday it was Angelina Jolie's opportunity to tout her support for universal childhood education [courtesy the American taxpayer].
You can't say Angelina Jolie doesn't think big - with your tax dollars. In an interview aired on this morning's Today show, Jolie advocated applying the No Child Left Behind Program . . . to every child in the world, courtesy the American taxpayer.
Ann Curry, Today newsreader and NBC Dateline host, had interviewed Jolie during her recent trip to Africa to promote education. At one point, Curry made this somewhat surprising observation to the Hollywood star:
"There is another very famous person who talks about education. And you sound a lot like her: Laura Bush."
Jolie engaged in a, no pun intended, pregnant pause and a nervous chuckle. You could hear the gears grinding as she seemingly asked herself 'just how political can I get here?'
At the end of her interview on this morning's 'Today', Katie Couric asked Kaavya Viswanathan why she had wanted to come on the show. Couric's implication was clear: the Harvard undergrad caught in a plagiarism scandal had done herself absolutely no good by her appearance.
The Harvard Crimson recently broke the story of the numerous passages in Viswanathan's coming-of-age novel that bear striking similarities to lines from two books by Megan McCafferty. Isn't there something derivative, by the way, to the feel of the book's very title: "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life"? Amazon listing here.
Have a look at the two screen captures from this morning's shows. Same issue, different takes. Good Morning America is apparently sure that gas price gouging exists, and wants to stop it. 'Today' is agnostic, simply posing the question whether gouging is going on.
But when you turn to the substance of the two segments, there was one consistency: neither show adduced any evidence of gouging. Not a scintilla to show that oil companies are in fact colluding. And without collusion there can be no sustained gouging, since any company that pushed prices higher than market levels would immediately lose its sales to competitors.
Over at GMA, the guest was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for all the world looking like a politician wanting to give the appearance of doing something about a problem over which he in fact has little control.
Sawyer opened by raising the gouging issue: "You are targeting gouging, which is the guy at the pump, the middle guy. How is this going to help and how soon, specifically, the person paying $2.91 on average right now?"
A seemingly sympathetic Frist replied:"Diane, you're exactly right. This $2.91, over $3 in some areas right now, cannot be sustained by the person driving their kids to school or filling up their tractor with fuel."
Much as this column is quick to point out the prevalent liberal bias of the MSM, fairness compels us to acknowledge those occasions, rare as they might be, when the MSM plays it down the middle.
NBC's handling of the recent spike in gasoline prices could be shaping up to be one of those flying-pig moments of 'fair & balanced' coverage. At the very least, there are indications that the conventional wisdom within NBC News is that the Bush administration is not to blame for the high prices, and/or that there is little government can do to stem the price rise.
As noted here earlier today, Katie Couric and David Gregory both expressed skepticism on this morning's Today show as to the government's ability to do much in the circumstances. Gregory was back at it this evening, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on 'Hardball.'
When yet another gloomy segment on gas prices and the pessimistic prospects for the GOP finally drew to an end on this morning's Today show, you might have thought that a fluffy piece on crosswords and how mental games help keep aging minds sharp would have offered a respite from liberal media bias.
Hollywood-handsome NBC reporter Peter Alexander somehow managed to work into his segment clips of two liberal icons: Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart! Both are apparently crossword aficionados. Who knew?