Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?
Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.
Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.
The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"
Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."
In a TV-journalism age in which a good haircut and a sharp suit often seem to count for more than substance, there's something admirably old-school about Barry Schweid. Old, and unapologetically schlumpy, Schweid is the antithesis of TV's Sharp-Dressed Man.
Even so, on Fox & Friends Weekend this morning, Schweid let his liberal leanings show.
Schweid has been covering diplomacy for the Associated Press for over 30 years, and is currently its senior diplomatic correspondent. He joined FOX News Channel as a contributor for foreign affairs in 1997.
Schweid came on to discuss the issue of torture, and specifically Condi Rice's recent European tour, intended to pallliate delicate continental sensibilities on the issue.
No DNA evidence, no execution of Tookie Williams. That's the standard Fox & Friends Weekend host Julian Phillips established this morning. As he put it:
"The issue for me is, is he guilty or is he not? He still maintains his innocence. If they can prove through DNA and other stuff, fine."
To bolster his case, Phillips asserted:
"There have been a number of cases where people on death row have been executed and it's later found out through DNA evidence that they are innocent."
Oh, really? It's not surprising that Phillips didn't cite any examples to support his contention. Even avid death-penalty opponents have been unable to point to a single unequivocal case of a man being executed who was later proved innocent by DNA.
Was Matt Lauer wearing a Palestinian support scarf this morning?
Alright, I can already hear some folks out there chuckling at the notion.
But before you dismiss this as the product of the over-active mind of an MSM-bias hunter, consider:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political ralliesto talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
Has Katie Couric watched too many westerns? You know, the kind where the sheriff shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand?
You'd think so, given the repeated questions she posed to a former air marshal in the wake of yesterday's shooting of a frantic passenger claiming to have a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight .
Katie's guest was former air marshal Tony Kuklinski, who stated that "by all accounts I've seen, what [the air marshals] did was necessary."
Katie wasn't so sure:
"Do they always shoot to kill, Tony? In other words, I guess the average person hearing this [on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Katie?] might think: isn't there a way where they could have shot this person and not killed him? Wounded him or incapacitated him in some way without killing him?"
The forces of NBC, in the persons of Matt Lauer and Barry McCaffrey, launched a major attack on the enemy this morning. No, not on Al-Qaida or the Baathist dead-enders. We're talking of a real MSM enemy: Donald Rumsfeld.
Lauer began the assault by using yesterday's release of a videotape featuring Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to promote the notion of bad US troop morale. Lauer noted that Zawahiri was looking relaxed, answering questions, not bothering to be armed, and asked NBC employee, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, whether seeing such a tape motivated or frustrated the troops.
When McCaffrey didn't respond with a negative assessment of troop morale, Lauer tried another tack to produce the desired result:
Perhaps Katie Couric was only playing the reporter's role of devil's advocate, but one sensed she was speaking her own mind in interviewing Dem Rep. John Murtha on this morning's Today show.
And just what was on Katie's mind? That Iraq would dissolve into chaos and terror were the US to beat the kind of hasty retreat that Murtha advocates.
Murtha repeatedly praised the US military, but when it came down to it, flatly claimed that: "this mission is not something they can accomplish, not something they can do."
Murtha sought to distinguish between terrorism, of the type we fought in Afghanistan, and insurgency, of the kind we face in Iraq. His argument was that fighting insurgency amounts to nation-building that we cannot achieve.
Quick! Someone buy the man a Valium. Make it a double.
I'm sure most here remember the histrionics in which Shep Smith engaged while reporting from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
Smith was back in high emotional pitch today, shouting, screaming and accusing the government for its shortcomings as detailed in the just-released 9/11 Commission 'report card' on implementation of its national security recommendations.
Thankfully, Shep had James Carafano, across the video lines, to hold his hand and soothingly assure him that the sky wasn't falling.
Carafano, a cool customer, is a top scholar on security issues at the Heritage Foundation. A West Point grad and retired Army colonel, he also has a doctorate from Georgetown University and a master's degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.
No, I'm not speaking of the situation on the battleground in Iraq. I'm referring to the Today show's attitude toward the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In recent posts, here, here and here, I'd noted a surprising moderation in Today's tone.
But this morning, it was back to good old Bush-administration bashing. The segment's essence was a questioning of the administration's truthfulness. "Rhetoric vs. Reality" read the on-screen graphic, asking "When Can U.S. Troops Come Home?"
With a little help from his friend Katie Couric, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski narrated the segment.
Couric introduced him by noting that this is "a deadly time for US troops," and Miklaszewski began his report by echoing that notion.
As the total number of US dead and wounded were displayed on screen, Miklaszewski observed: "those American casualties continue to climb."
Well, true. But then again, how could the total number of dead and wounded ever decline?
Then it was on to a gloomy take on the training of the Iraqi military. Of all the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Today chose to play a clip of one who was a caricature of a skinny sad sack, literally being pushed by his US trainer.
Readers of my NewsBusters entries know that Ellen Ratner, the short end of the "Long & Short of It" feature at Fox & Friends Weekend, has been a frequent object of my ire, as seen here, here and here.
It's thus saying a mouthful that the puerile performance of pinch-hitter Ellis Henican this morning was almost enough to make one long for the short Ratner. Almost.
Henican took on fellow Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton, who normally locks horns with Ratner in the segment.
The topic was Iraqi pre-war intelligence. At one point it was noted that Hillary Clinton has posted an item on her web site criticizing the pre-war intelligence provided by the Bush administration and suggesting that if she knew then what she knows now, she might not have supported the war.
I kept waiting for some stern guy from the ACLU to show up. Maybe a Multi-Cultural Sensitivity Trainer from a nearby college.
But, lo and behold, I waited in vain, as the Today show aired a segment this morning on the Christmas Tree controversy sweeping the nation that was strongly . . . pro-Christmas Tree!
Matt Lauer introduced Tucker Carlson of MSNBC, who narrated the segment. And while the bow-tie bedecked Carlson is no Pat Buchanan when it comes to the culture wars, he's at least the MSM's idea of a conservative.
Carlson said Christian conservatives see "secular forces trying to take the Christ out of Christmas," and observed that "this year they are fighting back."
Sometimes even Marxists get it right, and no, I'm not speaking of John Kerry. It was Karl Marx himself who famously said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
To judge by his treatment at the hands of Matt Lauer this morning, John Kerry: Part Deux teeters on the brink of being dismissed as farce even by his quondam comrades in the MSM.
Kerry was in to offer his critique of Pres. Bush's speech of yesterday in which he laid out his plan for victory in Iraq.
When Kerry argued that "the insurgency has to be dealt with through a political reconciliation," Lauer cut him off peremptorily. "With all due respect," interrupted Lauer, not-so-subtle code for "not much respect is due." Lauer pointed out that "the President talked about the political process as well and laid that out in his plan for victory."
Give me a moment, please. Got to let my head stop spinning. Been watching the Today show.
See, I thought we all agreed it was bad for presidents to be poll-driven, in the image of a Bill Clinton deciding everything from foreign policy to vacation destinations based on the latest shift in public opinion.
Turns out I was wrong, at least according to this morning's Today.
Matt Lauer interviewed New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh, or "Sy" as Lauer chummily called him, regarding Hersh's piece in the magazine's current edition. As Lauer described the article, it portrays Pres. Bush as believing he has a "divine mission" to bring democracy to Iraq. Asked who was telling him that, Hersh responded:
Some of the people in the last few months with whom I've been talking for years are suddenly opening up and telling me some of their deeper concerns about this president's inability to adjust, to accept new information. I think he really does think that he's not going to be judged by today. The events on the ground will be judged in 20 years, 30 years or whatever.
Anyone who believes the Bush administration could appease the MSM and their political allies on the left via a major troop withdrawal from Iraq need look no further than this morning's Today show to be disabused of the notion.
Shades of Bush Sr.'s "read my lips" debacle, in which the very same Democrats who wheedled him into raising taxes turned immediately around and condemned him for breaking his promise.
For there was Katie Couric, questioning the wisdom of withdrawal and painting a bleak picture of a post-withdrawal Iraq.
Her guests were retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Katie's first question: "what are some of the problems about reducing the troop levels in terms of the state of Iraq? Are you worried about that?"
Ellen Ratner, the short, liberal side of The Long & the Short of It on Fox & Friends Weekend, just let the liberal cat out of the bag. Discussing the Democrats' approach to Iraq withdrawal proposals, Ratner admitted:
"If you got [Dem leaders] in a room off camera everyone agrees, but people are trying to look tough on security so the Democrats can win the House back in 2006."
Jim Pinkerton, the long, conservative side of the equation, pounced on this rare bit of Dem candor:
"Viewers should note that Ellen basically said that Democrats will think one thing and say another."
Host Julian Phillips, who moderated the debate and is hardly a Bush administration shill, scored the point for Pinkerton:
I've recently described, here and here, how an unexpected streak of reasonableness broke out at the Today show. On successive days, Matt Lauer criticized the Democrats for trying to make political hay out of Iraq without offering any alternatives of their own.
Strangely, sanity has seemingly struck again. And this in the most unlikely person of NBC reporter Jim Maceda, who only last week, as I reported here was carping that the French were not appeasing their Muslim rioters assiduously enough.
This morning, Maceda was in Iraq interviewing US troops. He summarized their message in this blunt and refreshing way: "these soldiers think the politicians who want to pull out quickly are dead wrong."
Remember the good old MSM formulation from the days when Newt was Speaker? The notion that slowing the runaway growth of any government program was actually a cut?
Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's back.
My local paper, the Gannett-owned Ithaca Journal, leads with this tear-jerker of a banner headline: "Budget Cuts Would Hit State's Poor Hard". Here is a link to the article.
Gannett News reporter John Machacek writes of thousands of welfare recipients being "squeezed," the poor being dealt a "blow" and the proposals "poking sizeable holes in New York's safety net."
Predictably, the story comes complete with heart-tugging personal stories: a cancer survivor living in a YMCA; a single mother with an asthmatic child, both worried about how the 'cuts' might affect them.
ESPN loves to run the clip of NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi stomping down the sideline, demanding to know "what the hell is going on around here?"
Watching the Today show the last two mornings, one is tempted to ask the same question.
As reported here, Matt Lauer yesterday criticized the Democrats for their lack of a plan for Iraq. This morning, Matt & Co. were, mirabile dictu, back at it again.
Lauer introduced the segment in this surprisingly W-friendly way: "President Bush has taken a beating on Capitol Hill from Democrats unhappy with the way the war is going, but do the president's critics have an exit strategy of their own?"
Norah O'Donnell, who's never been accused of pro-Republican bias, narrated the segment entitled "Do Democrats Have Plan for Iraq?"
What Princess Diana was to land mines and Bono is to Third World debt, Katie Couric is fast becoming to torture.
For the second time in a few days, Couric has run a lopsided piece on the use of torture in military interrogation.
Last Thursday, Today aired a segment in which three people expressed their views on torture, and, surprise!, they all condemned its use. We first heard from a sensitive soul from "Human Rights Watch." Next was a former CIA lawyer appointed by Bill Clinton, and finally . . . John McCain.
When Katie brought the discussion back into the studio, you might have thought her guest, former FBI official Joe Navarro, was there to provide some balance to the preceding calvalcade of condemnation. But no! Navarro gleefully piled on with yet another condemnation of torture. Katie, renowned interrogation expert that she is, weighed in with her own view that torture yields unreliable information, eventually letting it be known she was in turn relying on . . . McCain!
If there's one area in which the French take a back seat to no one, it's in the realm of surrender and appeasement. We have seen history repeat itself today as French Prime Minister de Villepin announced a series of new and expanded welfare programs to reward the Muslim rioters who have set fire to 300 French cities.
But those heroic Gallic efforts to appease Muslim insurgents aren't coming fast enough to please NBC reporter Jim Maceda.
In a segment airing on this morning's Today show, Maceda, reporting from Paris, proclaimed that the French government is "getting the message" of the disaffected "French youths." But appeasement is simply taking too long for Maceda's taste:
Imagine that a Democrat had been elected mayor of the nation's largest city, a place where Republicans enjoyed an overwhelming registration edge. Picture too the Dem winning in record-breaking fashion. Do you think the Today show might have mentioned it the next morning?
So do I. Yet, incredibly, Katie & Co. this morning never once mentioned the historic triumph of Mike Bloomberg in the very New York City from which their show is broadcast.
Bloomberg not only won re-election, but his 20-point margin was the largest ever by a Republican candidate in NYC, larger even than that of Rudy Giuliani at the height of his popularity, and this in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:1.
In constructing a balanced panel to discuss a president's fortunes, one does not normally select one person who opposes him and. . . another person who opposes him and ran against him in a general election.
But that was the Today's show notion of 'fair & balanced' this morning. In to discuss W's drooping poll numbers were former Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers and Patrick Buchanan. In introducing Buchanan, Couric highlighted his GOP credentials. But while stating Buchanan had been an aide in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, Katie conveniently omitted mentioning that in 2000 he had, as the presidential nominee of the Reform Party, run a bitterly critical campaign against George W. Bush and has since been an incessant Bush critic, particularly on the centerpiece of Bush's foreign policy - the war in Iraq.
Get the hook! Days after the nation's attention has turned elsewhere, the Today show is still trying to haul the bedraggled carcass of "Fitzmas" across the headlines.
This morning's show opened with the on-screen headline "Libby Arraignment." In the world of judicial proceedings, arraignments are a notorious bore. Defendant arrives, enters two-word plea, leaves. Hate to tell you, Katie, but this ain't OJ. Not even Scott Peterson. If Today insists on subjecting America to extended coverage of every procedural step in the Libby case, its ratings could go the way of Aaron Brown.
Chris Matthews was then brought in to conjecture darkly about Karl Rove, and predict that, ooh!, VP Cheney might have to testify at the Libby trial.
The morning's most revealing moment came when Katie turned the discussion to yesterday's revelations of secret CIA prisons to house top Al-Qaida officials. No sooner had the words "CIA prisons" left her mouth than Chris Matthews was caught shaking his head in disapproval. The camera quickly cut away, but it was too late. MSM-types like Matthews can't bear the thought of our government taking tough measures to deal with those who would murder us.
No one could blame you if you guessed it's from one of the "secret CIA prisons" whose existence is being reported today.
After all, that is the legend that the Today show imposed over the photo. Katie Couric opened the show with it, ominously asking: "could there be another Abu Ghraib out there?"
In fact, the photo is from Abu Ghraib. But it was only when the same photo was displayed later in the half-hour that that fact clearly emerged.
Consider Today's cunning in choosing the photo it displayed. On the one hand, it is so lurid as to be sure to draw viewers' attention. On the other, Today avoided using one of the famous man-on-a-leash photos, since viewers would have immediately realized it was from Abu Ghraib.
This morning's Today show made a gift of millions in free advertising for a soon-to-released Wal-Mart-bashing documentary: "The High Cost of Low Prices."
Robert Greenwald, the film's producer, has already established his Michael Moore-wannabe credentials with "Outfoxed," a documentary critical of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News.
Greenwald should be the last to accuse others ofpaying low wages. The producer of the anti-Wal-Mart film is on the prowl for unpaid ["volunteer"] field producers! See Greenwald's web site: http://www.robertgreenwald.org/
Today dramatically portrayed the substance of the film's arguments against Wal-Mart: that it forces small competitors out of business, and pays low wages.
When Bill Clinton nominated ACLU general counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, what are the odds that, in the very first sentence of its report, the Today show described Ginsburg as "liberal"? Roughly the same as the Saints winning this year's Super Bowl, perhaps?
Yet this is how Katie Couric opened Today this morning: "Breaking news: President Bush is nominating conservative judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court."
Matt Lauer got into the spirit, adding Alito "is so consistently conservative he has been called 'Scalito,'" i.e., in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Tim Russert then weighed in, expressing skepticism that Alito could get 60-65 Senate votes. Russert did acknowledge that Ted Kennedy praised Alito when he was nominated to the Appeals Court, but explained that that was 15 years ago and Kennedy will will make a distinction now that Alito is being nominated to the Supreme Court.