Bush and Murtha: same struggle! At least, that's apparently how Joe Biden sees it. The senator from Delaware, interviewed by Katie Couric on this morning's Today show, criticized the administration's withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Iraq, and claimed the president "is determined to get it down under 100,000 troops this year. He will be down to 30,000 next year."
Biden - bidding for headlines? - continued: "his plan and Murtha's plan are not that far apart."
Of course there's a world of difference between Bush's plans and those of Murtha. As recently as in a speech given yesterday, Pres. Bush reaffirmed the US committment in these terms: "Our goal in Iraq is victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation."
It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.
Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."
If you put stock in the actual results of the Memphis GOP straw poll, you've got things . . . Oz backwards. At least, that's Chris Matthews' view.
In Dorothy's adventure, the Wizard cautioned us to "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." But this morning, Chris Matthews told us that the way to understand what happened in Memphis was to do just that - look behind the curtain at the Republican heavy-hitters lining up behind John McCain.
Interviewed by Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show, Matthews claimed:
"The big thing for McCain is the strength he showed not in the straw vote [where he finished at the bottom of the pack] but among powerful people. [Haley] Barbour, Lindsey Graham, Trent Lott and [J.C.] Watts all talked up McCain. I think McCain is building up strength."
Being an early-to-bed type, I taped SNL overnight and was playing it this morning when Good Morning America's Sunday show came on. Watching co-host Kate Snow's performance, I was tempted to double-check to make sure I hadn't inadvertently hit the VCR button in the midst of a parody of vacuous blonde MSMer.
The screen capture here is revealing. When it comes to posing prettily, Snow's a peppy pro. But when it came to substance, she revealed not merely a tired MSM bias, but a lack of preparation and perhaps an even more inherent flaw.
For starters, consider Snow's choice of sources. She began by citing the NY Times, and had as her expert guest John Dickerson of the left-leaning online magazine Slate.
Tonight's Hardball post-mortem special on the just-concluded Memphis straw poll of GOP presidential hopefuls was a treasure trove for political junkies.
One obvious conclusion: it was good night for Mitt Romney. As a northerner, someone from Massachusetts and a Mormon at that, finishing second in the South was a notable accomplishment.
But Chuck Todd of the Hotline suggested another headline:
"The biggest thing: we'll look back at this conference by saying this is when we found out that Haley became McCain's southern sherpa. He has made McCain bona fide. I think a Haley-McCain coupling from this weekend sends gigantic shock waves to Republicans."
As has been well-documented by Media Research Center [parent organization of NewsBusters], while MSMers are loath to label anyone or anything 'liberal,' they don't hesitate to brand various entities or individuals 'conservative' or 'right-wing.' Well, folks, I believe we have a new world record in the category.
On tonight's Fox News Watch, in the course of discussing the case of Colorado teacher Jay Bennish - who compared President Bush to Hitler - liberal [there, I said it] Neal Gabler managed to utter the term 'right-wing' four times . . . in 14 seconds. Yes, I checked it by my VCR timer.
Ellen Ratner doesn't just like John McCain. She doesn't even just love him. Nope. Ellen lov-v-v-v-v-e-s the person that FCC rules require us to describe as "the maverick senator from Arizona."
But the question arises: just how influential will Ellen's adoration be for Republicans choosing their 2008 presidential candidate? Can we imagine they will not be particularly swayed by the whims of a woman who openly rooted for the war in Iraq to go badly so as to damage President Bush politically?
Ratner boarded Navy man McCain's love boat in the course of this morning's 'Long and the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend, in which the diminutive Ratner regularly squares off with lanky conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton. The topic was the GOP 'cattle call' currently occuring in Memphis, at which attendees are hearing from several of the 2008 Republican hopefuls and will participate in a straw vote.
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
Joe Scarborough had some tough stuff for both parties today. He revealed that Republicans believe they will lose the House of Representatives in 2006. But no thanks to the Dems, whose failure to exploit the political opportunity he ascribed to their being "stupid."
Scarborough's appearance with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show capped a long segment themed "Has Bush Lost His Clout?" The answer was a resounding 'yes' in NBC's mind.
Today outlined a litany of presidential woe:
Being forced to accept changes to the Patriot Act to win its approval.
Action by Republicans in Congress to block the UAE ports deal.
Erosion of the president's "once ardent base."
Possibly being "forced to bend" on NSA surveillance.
A gloomy forecast for Iraq.
Dismal poll ratings.
Speaking of polls, NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell only featured the results of polls showing Pres. Bush's approval ratings at or below 40%, ignoring major polls such as this one by the Washington Post/ABC that has the president above 40%.
Nina Burleigh burst on the national scene in 1998 when, as reported by MRC here, the former Time reporter famously said of Bill Clinton: "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal."
Turns out the real culprit in the Colorado kerfuffle over the teacher who compared Pres. Bush to Hitler is . . . the student who complained about it. Just ask Matt Lauer.
Interviewing teacher Jay Bennish this morning, Lauer laid out this sympathetic scenario:
Lauer: "The family here, the student's family, didn't go to the school board with this tape."
Bennish: "They never contacted me."
Lauer: "They shopped it around to conservative media outlets and finally released it to one and created an uproar. On the tape you can hear Sean Allen [the student in question] asking you questions that seem to be egging you on a little bit. Do you feel you were set up?" (More of the transcript here with thanks to Geoffrey Dickens.)
Don't expect to see Chris Matthews and Hillary Clinton dining tête à tête any time soon. On this evening's Hardball, he described her as "Dukakis in a dress."
The comment arose in the course of his interview of House Majority Leader John Boehner. The topic was McCain. Boehner, perhaps with a grain of reluctance, labelled McCain a "good guy." But Boehner cut Matthews short when he floated a scenario in which the GOP would turn to McCain as its candidate "if you see Hillary coming, if it looks like she's got up a head of steam."
Boehner: "Wait a minute. You know, if ifs and buts and were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas. I don't think she can win."
Give Katie Couric a Best Supporting Actress in the MSM production of "Doom & Gloom: the Iraq Story." Interviewing NBC military analyst Gen. Wayne Downing on this morning's Today Show, Couric was skeptical that Iraqi forces would ever be able to defend the country, underlined the view of a "vicious cycle" there, and darkly conjectured that civil war was only "a matter of time."
Couric noted reports that U.S. and British troops will pull out of Iraq by the spring of 2007, then stated: "The U.S. military denies those reports saying there is no time-table and U.S. troops will withdraw when the Iraqi forces can secure and defend that country."
I don't watch the network evening news shows. Really. But for whatever perverse reason, I decided to flip among ABC, NBC and CBS tonight, and hit some morally relativistic pay dirt. CBS Evening News equated attempted murder with the exercise of basic First Amendment freedoms.
Readers here are familiar with the incident in which the Iranian Mohammed Reza Taheri, with the reportedly admitted intent of avenging the mistreatment of Muslims, drove an SUV into a crowd on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Introducing a segment on the incident, CBS stated: "It is the second skirmish over religion on campus in a few weeks."
Former FEMA Director Michael Brown offered Chris Wallace and Fox News Sunday an exclusive this morning, and in return Wallace gave Brown a platform from which to tee off on the Bush administration and in particular on DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend. Wallace probed Brown's arguments on occasion, but largely gave Brown free rein.
Highlights from the Brown hit parade:
"I think we had dropped the ball long before Katrina hit in not doing the kind of catastrophic disaster planning that the federal government should have been doing."
"Secretary Chertoff's order for me to stay [in the operations center] in Baton Rouge is one of the tipping points that made this disaster worse."
And here we thought the MSM was biased against President Bush. Wrong! On this evening's Fox News Watch, reliable lefty Neal Gabler informed us that just the opposite is true. Turns out. . . the MSM has uncritically propagated an overly positive image of the president. Who knew?
Gabler's shocking revelation came in the course of a discussion of the recent Katrina revisionism. In particular, News Watch aired footage from an ABC interview from this past week in which the president made this frank acknowledgement:
"Here's the problem that happened in Katrina. There was no situational awareness, and that means that we weren't getting good, solid information from people who were on the ground, and we need to do a better job. One reason we weren't is because communications systems got wiped out, and in many cases we were relying upon the media, who happened to have better situational awareness than the government. And when you have the media [with] better situational awareness than the government, the American people are saying, 'Wait a minute. What is happening? How come the federal Government and state government and local governments couldn't do a better job of providing information necessarily so that people could react better?"
Who would have thought it?: in the crucial first half-hour of their respective shows this morning, Fox & Friends Weekend didn't cover the incident at the University of North Carolina in which an Iranian drove an SUV through a crowd, injuring five people - but the Today show did.
Interviewed by Today co-host Lester Holt, one of the students who was injured stated: "I personally think it was definitely, definitely intentional, for sure."
As the injured student described the incident, involving an SUV driven by recent UNC grad Mohammed Reza Taheriazar of Iran:
"I look up and i see a car coming through in the middle of campus, which is pretty odd to begin with. I keep walking. He's going really slow. It doesn't seem like he has any malicious intent. All of a sudden I just hear the car's engine rev. I look up and the car is right there coming right at me, about five feet from me. I ended up on the hood and luckily rolled off without serious injuries."
What got into Good Morning America? Each of the network shows ran its compulsory pre-Oscar segment this morning. But while Today was airing a bland piece on the freebies that celebrities in attendance get in gift bags, GMA's segment had a most unexpected angle, asking whether Hollywood has become too political - read 'liberal.' As Tim Graham has noted, Jon Stewart and George Clooney have denied that Hollywood suffers from any such bias, but GMA host Charlie Gibson acknowledged the slant frankly.
He framed it this way:
"Now we turn to the politics of the Oscars. We've talked a lot about the culture wars in America, the blue state/red state divide, the clash between more traditional moral values and more liberal points of view.
Is it just coincidence? Barely a week after new media from Rush Limbaugh [subscripton required] to this column found the Today show appearance of NY Times foreign-affairs maven Thomas Friedman noteworthy, Today had him back again this morning. Could the new media be driving news choices at the antique?
In any case, while the ostensible purpose of Friedman's appearance was to discuss President Bush's current trip to India, his most interesting comments came in relation to Iraq and by extension to the entire Middle East. His notion: the path from dictatorship to democracy in the region necessarily passes through a period of fundamentalist religious rule.
Is Chris Matthews rooting for civil war in Iraq? It's hard to interpret his words otherwise when, after asserting that officials in previous administrations and former President Bush had warned that going into Iraq would lead to civil war, Matthews observed:
"The problem is it took a little time for this to take shape."
"The problem," Chris?
Matthews' hoping for the worst was just the capper on the Bush-bashing fest he conducted with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show. Those nature documentaries of vultures on the Serengeti plain have little on the way Matthews and Lauer went after President Bush's political bones.
Now it's getting nasty. Katie Couric has pointedly suggested that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's past chairmanship of the Republican National Committee permitted him to snare a disproportionately large share of Katrina rebuilding funds.
The accusation came in the course of Couric's interview of Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. An aside: whereas Katie seemed frustrated in an earlier interview this morning of Mayor Ray Nagin when he was unwilling to point the finger at the Bush administration for allegedly slow progress, Amoss was much more compliant. He laid most of the fault at FEMA's feet, and also blamed the federal government for doing nothing to improve levees it allegedly knew were insufficient.
Didn't someone get the word to Ray Nagin? Didn't His Honor know he was supposed to use his Mardi Gras appearance on the Today show to bemoan slow progress in the rebuilding of New Orleans and take some helpful shots at the Bush administration for its stinginess in allocating only $91 billion?
If Nagin wasn't playing by the Bush-bashing script, Katie Couric was there to fill the gaps and use the opportunity to plump for more government programs including an expansion of perhaps the worst idea ever in welfare - 'public housing.'
Katie opened her interview with this negative assessment: "Only 50% of the debris has been removed. Basic services are still not up and running in some areas. That may lead some people to ask: what is taking so long?"
If you look in the dictionary next to 'disgruntled', expect to find a photo of former FEMA Director Michael Brown. As the Today show graphic read, "Michael Brown Blames White House," and NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams was there to record every embittered word, with nary a nuanced question that might have probed Brown's account of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
In the interview excerpt shown on this morning's Today, Brown sought to exculpate himself by describing a conference call he had held with the President and top administration officials in which Brown informed them that 90% of New Orleans' population had been displaced.
Claimed Brown: "I am screaming that we need to do these things. We need all this stuff. It's like the old ketchup commercial. I just could not get the stuff to come out of the bottle."
Anyone who thinks Fox News goes too easy on Republicans would have to think twice after watching Chris Wallace's rugged cross-examination of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on this morning's 'Fox News Sunday.' Wallace cornered and confronted Romney until he was eventually forced to admit that his position on abortion had "evolved" in a manner that suggests political opportunism.
Wallace began by noting that Romney has been accused of "flip-flopping on the issue of abortion." He put Romney's own words up on the screen from the time he was running for governor of largely pro-choice Massachusetts: "I believe women should have the right to make their own choice."
Ellen Ratner has nailed a 'No Foreigners Need Apply' sign to the Statue of Liberty. On this morning's Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner opined that no foreign company, regardless of nationality, should operate our ports, or for that matter other significant chunks of our economy.
Claimed Ratner, the real issue is "what kind of jobs, what kind of outsourcing are we going to do in this country?"
When fellow "Long & the Short of It" guest Jim Pinkerton said that foreign policy considerations [such as the potential relevance of the port deal to our ability to get intelligence and site bases in the Middle East] are more important than who gets port jobs, Ratner replied skeptically "is it?" Apparently for Ratner, the ability of the longshoremen's union to place a favored few of its own is more important than our country's national security objectives.
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is for many the voice of the center-left foreign policy establishment in the U.S. So much so that, in introducing him this morning, GMA host Charlies Gibson declared that Friedman's latest book should be required reading. Given Friedman's status, his nuanced and not-altogether-bleak assessment of the situation in Iraq on this morning's GMA merits consideration.
It was tempting to headline this entry with the provocative notion Friedman floated that perhaps only a Saddam was capable of holding Iraq's fractious components together. But Friedman was by no means endorsing Saddam's despotic rule, musing rather whether Saddam was a cause or an effect. As Friedman put it:
You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
When it comes to the controversy surrounding the UAE port operations deal, left is right, right is left and the MSM seems caught somewhere in the middle, trying to balance its cultural versus its political instincts.
Then, on this morning's Early Show, Dan Bartlett sounded more like a multi-cultural sensitivity trainer than the presidential counselor he is when he declared:
"We shouldn't be setting different types of rules for different types of companies just because they may come from the Middle East . . . What kind of mixed signals are we sending to the world when we say that some companies that play by the rules can have business with America but other companies who play by the rules can't? That's not the way America does business."
Conservative author? Want to be invited on MSM shows and given deferential treatment? No problema! Just be willing to take serious shots at a Republican president. Case in point: on tonight's Hardball, Chris Matthews rolled out the red-carpet for author Bruce Bartlett, who had worked in the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations. Title of Bartlett's book? "Impostor : How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy". Bingo!
Matthews: "If you had to narrow it down to the biggest offense, as you see it, that Bush is not conservative, what is it?"
Bartlett: "Spending. Spending is just totally out of control. Bill Clinton was actually vastly better on the budget and there is simply no comparison between the two."