Unlike CBS and NBC, ABC on Wednesday night reported on criticism from the right of how President Barack Obama is addressing terrorism, but correspondent David Wright tried to discredit the critics' points by reacting with astonishment and sarcastic snipes. Astonishment: “Do you really feel like President Obama has made the country less safe?”
Sarcasm: Rebutting former Bush speech writer Marc Thiessen's bewilderment (“Why are we taking a terrorist who just tried to bring down a plane and telling him, 'You have the right to remain silent'? That's insane”), Wright disparaged the point with an extreme exaggeration of the alternative which reflected the left's caricature of the pre-Obama policy: “So you say water-board him, torture him?” (Wright did at least allow Thiessen to explain: “You don't have to water-board him and torture him. You have to question him.”)
Without pointing out how President Obama described Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as “an isolated extremist,” a “suspect” and a “passenger” who “allegedly” tried to ignite an explosive device, Wright recited former VP Dick Cheney's comment that President Obama “seems to think if we get rid of the worlds ‘War on Terror,’ we won't be at war” and then countered by reading the White House's retort, “We are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it.”
ABC visually undermined the conservatives by displaying these two headings on screen:
During fill-in anchor David Muir's introduction: “BLAME GAME”
Over the beginning of Wright's piece: “POLITICS AS USUAL?”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Wednesday, December 30 World News with Diane Sawyer on ABC:
FILL-IN ANCHOR DAVID MUIR: There is a political firestorm, Eric [previous reporter], brewing in Washington. Critics are blasting the Obama administration tonight for failing to stop the bomber in the first place, and for its response ever since. David Wright on that part of the story tonight.
DAVID WRIGHT: Today, the President's critics clearly sensed vulnerability. On talk radio-
WMAL RADIO IN DC HOST CHRIS PLANTE: There is a war going on down there, you knucklehead.
WRIGHT: And on TV.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY): This was a failure and a breakdown from beginning to end.
REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN): The Director of Intelligence and the CIA didn't do their job.
WRIGHT: The conservative chatter was all sharply critical of the administration's response to an act of terrorism. Former Vice President Dick Cheney gave a scathing quote to the online journal Politico, writing: “President Obama is trying to pretend we're not at war. He seems to think if we get rid of the worlds ‘War on Terror,’ we won't be at war. But we are. And when President Obama pretends that we aren't, that makes us less safe.”
Tonight, the White House communications director responded: “We are at war,” he said. “The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it.”
WRIGHT TO THIESSEN: Do you really feel like President Obama has made the country less safe?
MARC THIESSEN, FORMER BUSH AIDE: I absolutely do.
WRIGHT: President Bush's former chief speech writer says it was a mistake to order Guantanamo to be shut down, to stop enhanced interrogation methods and to give terrorists their day in court.
THIESSEN: Why are we taking a terrorist who just tried to bring down a plane and telling him, “You have the right to remain silent”? That's insane.
WRIGHT: So you say water-board him, torture him?
THIESSEN: You don't have to water-board him and torture him. You have to question him.
WRIGHT: Naturally, the Democrats cried foul.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): We believe that our country should be focused on strengthening our homeland security system rather than engaged in political fighting.
WRIGHT: Today, we reached former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by phone in Wisconsin.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER, BY PHONE: Trying to place American lives first should not be political, and I don't understand why senior Democrats wouldn't want to have exactly the same values.
WRIGHT: He and other top Republicans clearly see this issue as a weakness for the Democrats and the country. David Wright, ABC News, Washington.