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?
On the public-access TV show I host, 'Right Angle', the topic this past week was immigration. A Cornell campus radical expressed the view that not only should our borders be completely open, but that we shouldn't screen immigrants for criminal history or even . . . for being known Al-Qaeda members.
Now, if the radical making these sophomoric suggestions isn't quite a sophomore - he's in fact a grad student - perhaps some slack can be cut him as he continues to live, largely divorced from reality, within the liberal cocoon of the ivy-league tower.
The same defense cannot be offered to explain away the equally churlish remarks that Dave Rossie serves up week after week. Rossie is associate editor of the Gannett newspaper, the Binghamton [NY] Press & Sun Bulletin. In addition to his editing duties, Rossie writes a syndicated weekly column that, in its juvenile tone, reads like something worthy of an over-the-top 10th grader.
When Ellen Ratner went a couple weeks without any major liberal loopiness, one wondered whether perhaps Jim Pinkerton was having a salubrious effect on her. But things got back to normal this morning when Ratner let Pinkerton goad her into boasting that she supports "open immigration."
The opening topic on today's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend dealt with Howard Dean's recent claim that job # 1 in his view is tougher border security.
Advice to any Republican loyalists planning to watch a replay of this evening's Hardball: hide the sharp objects, put the firearms under lock and key, flush any potentially poisonous potions. With lovely-but-lethal Norah O'Donnell sitting in for Chris Matthews, this might have been the most unrelenting gloom-a-thon since Watergate. Riffing off the latest polls showing W at 33%, it was one guest after another - from Bob Shrum to Kate O'Beirne to a panel of "hotshots" - painting a decidedly unrosy scenario. And just when things couldn't get any more dread, a former Clinton administration official popped in to predict millions might die from bird flu thanks to government inattention "in recent years."
Fair reporting at the Today show is like snow in April. Rare, but not entirely unheard of. And so it was that the Today show devoted its opening segment to debunking Dem attempts to blame Republicans for high gasoline prices.
Matt Lauer set the tone with this opening tease: "Driving the political agenda: Democrats attack the Republicans for sky-high gas prices. What is really to blame?" And later, in introducing the segment, he repeated the theme: "Democrats are making an effort to pin the blame on Republicans. What is really causing all this?"
Today offered its answer in two parts: foreign and domestic causes.
Andrea Mitchell reported the following foreign causes:
On the heels of MSM outrage at the retirement package granted to Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond [see Brent Baker's report here], Good Morning America was back at the class-warfare ramparts this morning with a new target in its sights, Dr. William McGuire, head of UnitedHealth Group. As the result of share prices that have increased over 7,000 percent, stock options granted McGuire are currently worth in excess of $1 billion.
ABC reporter Dan Harris narrated the segment, and GMA set the tone with its title - "You Must be Kidding!" But there was no joking about the class-warfare on display in the opening lines: "The head of one of the nation's largest healthcare companies is sitting on more than a billion dollars in stock openings while Americans go uninsured."
On this morning's Today show, NY Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman repeated his astonishing wish that the price of crude oil . . . go to $100/barrel ASAP. This is apparently a favorite Friedman mantra, as NewsBusters/MRC's Tim Graham and Brian Boyd have noted.
Friedman's theory is that extremely high oil prices are desirable because they would induce behavioral changes that would ultimately decrease demand and force oil prices way down. Here's how the exchange with host Matt Lauer unfolded:
Friedman: "I hope the Iranians get as crazy as they want. My attitude toward the president of Iran is 'you go, girl', because the faster we get to $100 a barrel, pal, the quicker we're going to get back to $20. Because when we go to $100/barrel, then you're going to see all these people change their behavior and their oil-buying habits and their car-buying habits in a fundamental way."
Hope springs eternal, and thus it was with some optimism that I read the opening lines of this morning's Boston Globe editorial, The Tel Aviv Atrocity, regarding the latest barbarism in which "an Israeli woman was torn apart in sight of her two young daughters and her husband." Was the Globe really about to unequivocally call for those who target civilians to be brought to full justice?
No, the Globe wasn't, and call me naive for even thinking they might. To the contrary, it was more of the same moral relativism and outright falsehood we have come to expect from the MSM and in this specific case, the Globe, otherwise known as the Boston farm team of the NY Times.
Darn it, when the MSM have a Republican in their sights, shouldn't he have the good grace to sit there and take it until he's hounded from office? That would appear to be NBC's operative principle, judging by Today's coverage of the Rumsfeld flap. Much of the emphasis this morning was not so much on the substance of the controversy but on the fact that the Pentagon is fighting back against the calls for Rumsfeld's ouster.
Topping it all was the very first question that Matt Lauer posed to his guest, retired Marine Lt. General Mike DeLong, a Rumsfeld defender:
"Have you been asked by Secretary Rumsfeld to be here on his behalf?"
Different day, different Today show anchor, different attitude. As we documented yesterday, Couric's Complaint: Why Won't Rumsfeld Critic Bash Bush Too?, when Katie Couric hosted a segment on the matter of the retired generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, she chose as her guest one of the generals calling for Rumsfeld's head. Her most notable contributions to the discussion were to invite her guest to take a shot at Pres. Bush as long as he was at it, and to ask why he didn't come out sooner with his criticism so he could have 'shaped public opinion far earlier.'
This morning it was Lester Holt's turn in the Today show host seat. Now, it might just be in the normal course of the news cycle that his guest was a former general who is opposed to Rumsfeld's departure. But there was no mistaking Holt's even-handed treatment of the issues, in stark contrast with Couric's cheerleading for the Rumsfeld-must-go crowd.
Who says NBC won't highlight the accomplishments of the US military? Why just this morning the Today show had on as its very first guest a recently retired general, John Batiste.
Oh, wait. The purpose of inviting him was to provide a platform for his call for the ouster of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Again we see the pattern illustrated yesterday with Newt Gingrich's appearance. See Iraq Knock Nets Newt Net Nod. Republicans, military folks, etc. are welcome on Today - so long as they're prepared to take shots at the Bush administration and its policies.
There is no reason to doubt Batiste's sincerity. He said that his motivation is the servicemen and women and their families. He stated that he had come forward to demand "accountability for a war plan was built to invade Iraq but failed to build the peace. Accountability for what happenened at Abu Ghraib. Accountability for a leadership style that which is intimidating, abusive. It was not a two-way street of respect."
As has been noted here before, the surest way for a Republican to get himself invited onto a broadcast network news show and accorded respectful treatment is to be prepared to take shots at the Bush administration.
The time-tested technique was on display on this morning's Today, as Newt Gingrich got the kind of kid-glove treatment he could have only dreamed of back in his Speaker days when the MSM was vilifying him as 'the Gingrich Who Stole Christmas'.
At the top of the show, Matt Lauer teased Newt's appearance in these terms:
"A prominent politican is saying US policy in Iraq since toppling Saddam Hussein has been an enormous mistake. This isn't a Democrat. It's a Republican - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich."
On a light news day, why not run a generic piece on President Bush's low poll numbers and his assertedly bleak prospects for reviving them? That was apparently the thinking at the Today show this morning.
Today themed the segment "Can Bush Save Presidency?", and NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell seemed to answer the question in the negative, kicking things off with this gloomy assessment:
"For President Bush, low poll numbers have not just been a dip or temporary rough patch but appear now to be a sustained pattern that is different than his predecessors of both parties who went through their own tough times." She continued: "His . . presidency appears to have a chronic case of the below-40 percent blues."
After David Gergen was shown suggesting that "presidents have sometimes broken out of slumps when they've had big, bold initiatives and unexpected victories - that often shake things up" O'Donnell reappeared to dump cold water on the notion that W could have any such luck:
"Looking back, some second-term presidents have been able to rebound. President Reagan's approval fell to 34 percent with the arms-for-hostages scandal. Pres. Clinton hit 41 percent around impeachment. But both bounced back up to the 60s as they left office. Analysts say the prospects for Mr. Bush are not as good because of the weight of ongoing events: Iraq, gas prices, the CIA leak case and hurricane response."
Gergen popped back up to pessimistically proclaim: "After a while those negative feelings really do congeal, they crystallize, they become firm and then it's very hard to break out."
O'Donnell: "political observers claim big speeches and staff changes won't turn things around and suggest the president may have to wait to seize on any good news."
Commentator Stu Rothenberg then observed: "If there is something he can brag about he needs to quickly then be able to go to the American public and make his case and drive home the point. But for now he simply doesn't have much ammunition at his disposal."
Count on Today and its MSM cohorts to do their best to keep things that way.
Imagine you're a news show host, and a former presidential adviser just claimed that the United States military is near to "a state of rebellion" against civilian authorities. Do you think you might have asked a follow-up question or two?
Apparently not, at least if you're Matt Lauer interviewing James Carville, who made just such an inflammatory allegation on this morning's Today show. The topic was the source of the leak of the alleged plans for an attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear capabilities, such plans said to extend to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy hardened, underground facilities.
Carville was adamant that the military were behind the leak. His theory was that the military "thought by leaking this, it would lessen the chances that they would do something foolish in Iran which is always a possibility with this administration."