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."
Reminds me of the old joke: "The food at that restaurant is absolutely terrible."
"Yeah - and the portions are so small!"
This morning's 'Today' simultaneously offered criticism of a potential attack on Iran while complaining we don't have the means to carry out such a strike.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was shown stating that the idea of a [tactical] nuclear strike on Iran "is completely nuts." NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported the skepticism of military experts who say "air strikes could slow Iran's nuclear research but not end it. And Iran could retaliate militarily against Israel and launch terrorists against the US."
In a column appearing in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post, Peter Perl, the paper's director of professional development, heaps scorn on Tom DeLay and in particular on his strong religious beliefs. The column approaches parody, so much does it seethe with secular, elitist condescension.
The headline sets the tone: "DeLay's Next Mission From God".
"DeLay may be leaving Congress, but he will be back with a vengeance [note choice of phrase], in a new and potentially more powerful role, because he is a ferociously determined man who believes he is on a politico-religious mission from God."
"DeLay's crusade [again note choice of term] will not be sidetracked by the acts of mortals such as states' attorneys, crooked lobbyists and disgraced former staffers who are poised to testify against him. In DeLay's world he answers only to a higher power, and his personal Armageddon has only just begun."
"He will artfully squeeze a load of money from the Christian Right as he makes his thunderous argument from multiple pulpits in the weeks and months ahead."
"The new Tom DeLay will combine aspects of the Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and Lee Atwater, the late right-wing political consultant with the legendary killer instinct."
"Looking back, I see DeLay as a somewhat pathetic figure."
"What struck me as truly pathetic, though, was his shambles of a family life."
"We will see DeLay constantly smiling as he delivers his message because in his heart he knows that we hopeless sinners will always hate the messenger."
In keeping with the religion-themed nature of Perl's column, let's undertake a little exegesis of his parting shot at DeLay - that he will be "constantly smiling because . . . he knows that we hopeless sinners will always hate the messenger." If DeLay is a devout Christian - as is the gist of Perl's column - why would he believe that sinners are "hopeless"?
When things got a bit contentious this morning between conservative Jim Pinkerton and liberal Ellen Ratner on Fox & Friends Weekend's 'Long & the Short of It' segment, Pinkerton proposed a peace plan that other warring parties might well wish to adopt: "let NewsBusters.org sort this out."
The bone of contention was just what what it was that President Bush declassified - some would say leaked - and that Scooter Libby is in turn alleged to have provided to the press - presumably in the person of Judy Miller of the NY Times.
Ratner: "This was a Nixon bad-list kind of trick [presumably a reference to Nixon's 'enemies' list] to get . . . "
Host Kiran Chetry [back from maternity leave - and beautiful as ever, I might add]: "Why?"
That didn't take long! Back in the MSM's Watergate heyday, it took a while for a steady drumbeat of revelations, stories and allegations to gather sufficient momentum. The pace has apparently quickened in the modern liberal-media world. On this morning's Today show, speaking of the allegation that President Bush authorized the disclosure of information by Scooter Libby, Matt Lauer asked Chris Matthews: "scale of 1 to 10, [where] 10 is a deal-ender, where does this fall?"
Matthews didn't hesitate: "heading to 10."
Even Lauer seemed taken aback: "Really, that big?"
For good measure, Matthews later analogized VP Cheney to Henry II having put out a hit leading to the murder of a dissenter in his administration.
The graphic claims 'Kerry Plays Hardball', but it was all slow-pitch softball this evening for the junior senator from Massachusetts. After feeding Kerry a number of leading questions letting him tee off on the way Pres. Bush allegedly misled the country into war, talk turned to exit strategies.
Matthews: "Senator, you have a plan, pretty hard, about how we can deal with getting out of Iraq."
Kerry: "Well, it's time to get tough, Chris."
Now there's a courageous politician for you - one willing to admit he's tough.
Kerry repeated a stock formulation he's been using this week: "The policy is broken. When you go down to the Vietnam War Memorial, you take a look at it, you see that almost half the names that are on that wall were added after our leaders knew that the policy wasn't working. That's immoral, and I believe it's immoral today for us to pursue a policy where our kids are dying, losing their limbs, going to Walter Reed . . . because Iraqi politicians won't compromise."
The quintessential item of conventional wisdom on immigration is the impracticality of deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal aliens already in our country. Yet there are dissenters. Conservative columnist and former Reagan aide Jim Pinkerton has said "I think actually you could if you wanted to."
I've suggested that deporting illegals seems at least as practicable as administering the amnesty program. In the same piece in which Pinkerton's quote appears, I put it this way:
"[D]eporting illegal immigrants is much more feasible than the elaborate process the amnesty crowd proposes. Under the amnesty plan, the same 11-12 million illegals would have to be identified and located. They would have to be tested to determine if they had attained English proficiency, monitored for over a decade to see that they sought and maintained jobs, paid their fines, etc. If we can do all that, why couldn't we put the same people on buses to the border or planes to overseas locations?"
Is there something in the water at NBC/MSNBC? Laughing gas in the ventilation system, perhaps? Earlier today, I posted the photo below, showing Matt Lauer dissolving in laughter on this morning's Today show. It happened when Katie made her momentous announcement that she was leaving for CBS. Matt pretended to take it totally in stride, making to move right on, intoning "also coming up in this half-hour" in his best canned host-voice before bursting out.
This evening, it was Chris Matthews' turn to double over in laughter. Now granted, Matthews had a better excuse - his guest was the daffy Howard Dean. Matthews managed to keep a straight face when Dean first claimed that the Democrats "want to bring this country back together again so everybody is respected," and then proceeded to lash out at every Republican within arm's reach.
Could NewsBusters be Matt Lauer's guilty pleasure?
Have a look at the two screen captures. The first depicts Pat Buchanan's Today show appearance of March 24th. You'll note that NBC sought to pass Buchanan off as a "Republican strategist." That bit of false packaging elicited this NewsBusters entry, taking NBC to task for its attempt to lull viewers into believing the show was presenting a balanced panel [Buchanan was paired for the day with former Clinton spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers].
Now look at the second screen shot, from Pat's Today show appearance of this morning, his first since March 24th. Today ditched the "Republican" tag, neutrally and accurately labeling Buchanan an 'MSNBC political analyst'.
Playing the straight man to perfection, Matt Lauer kicked off the second half-hour of this morning's Today show by asking Katie Couric: "Anything new?"
In responding, Couric made official what she acknowledged was "the worst kept secret in America": that after 15 years she was leaving Today to go to the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes. Here, for posterity, was the opening line of Couric's announcement:
"I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I've decided I'll be leaving Today at the end of May."
Be the death literal or figurative, in recent days Democrats and their MSM claque have demonstrated a ghoulish penchant for dancing on the graves of their political opponents. As documented here, on the very day of his death last week, MSNBC's Alison Stewart, subbing for Keith Olbermann on Countdown, took nasty parting shots at Caspar Weinberger. Stewart disparaged as both a budget "slasher" and a big spender the man who, as Ronald Reagan's Defense Secretary, contributed mightily to winning the Cold War.
Today, it was Tom DeLay's retirement announcement that brought out the worst in the left. Bob Shrum was Chris Matthews' guest on Hardball, and so avidly did Shrum exult in DeLay's predicament that former GOP Rep. Susan Molinari was plainly repulsed. But far from taking Shrum to task for his unseemly asperity, Matthews commended him.
You could see this one coming a mile away. As soon as Matt Lauer announced that Today was inaugurating a series called 'One Nation Under God' on the role religion plays in our country, and that the first episode would focus on President Bush, you knew we were in for a bumpy ride.
The series plays off a new book, 'American Gospel', by Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham. In his set-up [and I do mean set-up] piece, David Gregory claimed that "the Bush era has created not just a political but a religious divide."
Continued Gregory: "Critics have accused the president of using religion to close himself off from opposing points of view." Oh, I don't know, David. He seems to hear you pretty loud and clear.
NBC and MSNBC have a penchant for gulling viewers into believing they are presenting balanced panels by pairing a partisan Democrat with Pat Buchanan. The sleight-of-hand recently reached an apex when the Today show mislabeled Buchanan a "Republican strategist." Buchanan - the fellow who quit the GOP in 1999 to run for president against W as the candidate of the Reform Party. See report with revealing screen shot here.
Any pretense that Buchanan is anything but a Bush administration critic often more in synch with the Democrats than the GOP was stripped away on this evening's Hardball, when a partisan Democrat let the cat out of the bag.
Perhaps I was reading into things in light of the rampant speculation about Katie Couric's possibly imminent departure for the CBS Evening News anchor spot. But this veteran Today watcher sensed a distinct mood of nostalgia on the set this morning.
Katie Couric was back after a couple weeks vacation, and all the crew members went out of their way to remark on the reunion of the regular cast. Beyond that, there was something in the air as somber as Katie's black outfit, as if the cast sensed this might well be the last week they were together as a unit.
Lauer: "Haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. Good to have you back." The pair jokingly shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time.