Al Gore, "improbably charismatic"? That's the premise of this week's cover story in Time magazine, titled "The Last Temptation of Al Gore." He is, according to the ogling opening of Time writer Eric Pooley, everything the Democrats could want, "the perfect stealth candidate for 2008," with "the grass-roots appeal of Barack Obama," who "spoke out loud and clear and early" against the Iraq war, but also " candidate with the operational toughness of Hillary Clinton—someone with experience and credibility on the world stage." In short:
In other words, you would want someone like Al Gore—the improbably charismatic, Academy Award–winning, Nobel Prize–nominated environmental prophet with an army of followers and huge reserves of political and cultural capital at his command. There's only one problem. The former Vice President just doesn't seem interested.
It's quite rare for President Bush to lecture reporters, but he did it Thursday morning to British reporters in a Rose Garden press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. When reporters for Sky News and BBC tried to suggest strongly that Blair was the lamest of ducks, President Bush upbraided them for "trying to do a tap dance on this political grave" and said Blair is a solid, respected leader, unlike some political players (in the press?): "There's a lot of blowhards in the political process, a lot of hot air artists, people who've got something fancy to say."
After reporter Adam Boulton of Sky News pressed Bush if he's "partly to blame" for Blair retiring, a reporter for the program BBC Newsnight really stirred up the president:
QUESTION: Mr. Blair, you outlined some very big policy areas there in your discussions with the president. Is it really possible, do you think, to make significant progress on them in the time that you have left? And, Mr. President, if I could ask you: Is this really still the right man to be talking to?
Can you imagine CNN providing live coverage to a Republican presidential candidates forum before a conference put on by the Family Research Council? Or would CNN worry that their coverage was promoting the FRC event and adding heft to the FRC’s national image? Flip that scenario to a group on the religious left, and you have the reality of CNN’s announcement that they will air a forum for the top three Democrat contenders at a conference organized by Sojourners, a group of "progressive Christians" who want more government aid to the poor and less money for the "disastrous" war in Iraq. CNN announced in a press release:
CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of a presidential candidate forum on faith, values and politics during the Sojourners "Pentecost 2007" conference in Washington, D.C. The event will be held Monday, June 4, on the campus of The George Washington University, and CNN will broadcast the forum live during the 7 p.m. (ET) hour of The Situation Room.
The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and author of the best selling book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, has invited Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama to share their ideas and proposals about pressing social issues with a special emphasis on poverty. Wallis also invited CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien to moderate the forum.
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz interviewed America's top anchorman for Thursday's paper, and the anchor of ABC's World News was determined: "Charlie Gibson was determined not to lead his newscast with the preacher's death." He explained:
"It lends importance to a figure whose legacy contained a lot of positives and a lot of negatives," says the ABC anchor, who was once a reporter in Falwell's home base of Lynchburg, Va. "It venerates the subject to an extent that I didn't think belonged there. He was a controversial figure."
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has issued a call to media outlets to stick to a script of liberal bias and emphasize "Falwell's history of denigrative comments and examine the cultural progress toward inclusion, acceptance and respect that he fought against." Their website even included a story from CNN’s Newsroom from Tuesday afternoon, in which CNN prominently included old protest video that placed a large illustration of Falwell’s face next to a large illustration of Hitler’s face. So much for GLAAD's "anti-defamation" pose. Video: Real (582 KB) or Windows (659 KB) plus MP3 (97 KB)
On "Anderson Cooper 360," CNN correspondent Randi Kaye, who raised eyebrows in December for a story worrying about Saddam suffering when he hanged, shared no comparable horror at the death of Falwell. Her transcript read like a commercial for GLAAD, as their president Neil Giuliano was the only talking head in the piece (except for taped tidbits of Falwell) as he insisted Falwell was un-Christian: "Falwell’s attacks were a violation of religious faith."
The sudden death of Rev. Jerry Falwell on Tuesday marked not just the passing of a television evangelist, but of a historic conservative leader and regular cable TV pundit. The mainstream media developed a strong distaste for him because he entered the political arena and helped establish a stronger conservative movement. For reporters, he was the definition of the far right, someone whose support made a Republican unacceptable, and any Republican who attacked him (like John McCain in 2000) quickly became a media hero. The Washington Post infamously described him as leading a flock that was "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." Here's a selection of "Notable Quotables" capturing their attitudes:
"In 2000, John McCain ran for President as a different kind of politician....Straight talk included taking on powerful Christian conservatives like Jerry Falwell, whom he called an ‘agent of intolerance.’....McCain is [now] trying to repair relations with the religious right.... For McCain, doing so could jeopardize his reputation for being a different kind of politician." — Reporter Dan Harris on ABC’s World News Tonight, April 14.
Is President Bush mentally ill? Sharon Begley is a senior editor for science at Newsweek, which apparently entitled her to conduct a tired psychoanalysis of President Bush and his state of denial about the war in Iraq, suggested earlier in his life by his comforting his mother as his sister Robin died of leukemia at age three, and his alcohol abuse as an adult. It "could all be dismissed as psychobabble," Begley wrote, but she marshaled experts to diagnose him from afar for his "pathological certainty that things are going well."
In an article titled "The Truths We Want to Deny," Begley, a longtime Newsweek writer (recently returned to the fold after five years at the Wall Street Journal), overcame the awkwardness of diagnosing mental illness from a distance:
On CNN's Reliable Sources this weekend, liberal former CNN Crossfire co-host Bill Press returned to his old network to deliver an old, reliable liberal talking point: the 'mainstream media' is largely responsible for the war in Iraq, because they failed to ask the tough questions that would have convinced the country about the soundness of leaving Saddam Hussein alone. Laura Ingraham provided the opposition, who said the media opposes the war, and doesn't want to cover the bloody aftermath of an American withdrawal:
BILL PRESS: I beg to differ. Look, the media, in large part, gave us this war, because they went along and repeated everything that George Bush said without asking tough questions. And I'm even talking about The New York Times.
For Mothers' Day, The Washington Post did the same thing it does most days: promote liberal causes. At the top of the Metro section is an article headlined "Pushing the Motherhood Cause: Group Works to Give Busy Women A Voice on Family Issues." It was also promoted on the front of Sunday's paper under the headline "Activist Mothers Unite." But a reader would have to go inside the Metro section to paragraph 11 to see the liberal cause revealed in the group, called MomsRising: "Co-founder Joan Blades also helped launch the liberal group MoveOn.org -- 'the great success story of Internet politics,' said Michael Cornfield, who wrote a book on the topic."
Reporter Donna St. George's story was surrounded with attractive color photos of mothers interacting with their toddlers, and began with the typical emphasis on the supposed nonpartisan activism that's all the rage:
Brent Bozell called us into a huddle yesterday at American Media Bias HQ and said there's a clear message on Opie & Anthony's incredibly crude rape remarks about Condi Rice. It's not about the shock jocks: all they care about is shock. It's about the left demonstrating another double standard. If a Rush Limbaugh made this kind of very objectionable remark about Maxine Waters, how many leftists would break an ankle running to the public square?
For their part, Opie & Anthony are truly equal-opportunity assassins. They encouraged public sex in historic Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City (which got them fired). They joked that Boston Democratic Mayor Thomas Menino was dead (which got them fired). Even if this is satellite radio -- and in a few cases, like New York and DC, "free FM" CBS stations -- will they be fired yet again? How will the left respond?
On his must-read "Best of the Web Today" column for Opinion Journal, the online home of the excellent Wall Street Journal editorial page, James Taranto did a nice analysis on Associated Press reporter Mark Sherman:
Washington Post reporter Alan Cooperman reported in Saturday's Religion section on evangelical scholar Francis Beckwith rejoining the Catholic Church. This is a controversial act, but centered on theology (in this case, the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI). But to find the correct (or the entertaining?) analogy, Cooperman selected a blogger who compared it to Hulk Hogan switching professional wrestling organizations:
The president of the Evangelical Theological Society, an association of 4,300 Protestant theologians, resigned this month because he has joined the Roman Catholic Church.
The May 5 announcement by Francis J. Beckwith, a tenured associate professor at Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Tex., has left colleagues gasping for breath and commentators grasping for analogies.
In a blog at The Huffington Post, PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers displayed the crackling synapses of the liberal mind. He quickly zig-zagged from Queen Elizabeth being greeted at the White House to Prince Harry going to Iraq (the poor, deluded sitting duck) to pampered plutocrats who received tax cuts in a time of war. "War should be the great equalizer...Instead, mostly folks from the working class and professional soldiers are doing the dying in Iraq, while the rich spend their tax cuts."
I do hope multi-millionaire Moyers channeled the tax savings from his government-TV gains back into the federal Treasury. ("Dear IRS: I will show the fortitude our president lacks. Here is my entire tax cut returned to where it belongs, in the government's superbly efficient hands.") Here's how his logic unfolded in greater detail:
My colleague Dan Gainor mentioned there was a Hillary-book story on the front of the Life section of Thursday's USA Today. The headline was "Hillary books vie for votes." Reporter Bob Minzesheimer devoted his story to forthcoming Hillary books, both due in bookstores on June 19: one by Carl Bernstein, still living off his Watergate fame, and one by Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta of the New York Times. Gerth first broke the Whitewater story open on March 8, 1992.
Left out: any new or forthcoming Hillary book by conservatives, including Bay Buchanan's brand new book The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton -- or my book with Brent Bozell on Hillary's history of syrupy, excuse-making media coverage, Whitewash, due in September. (That should explain Dan's friendly tip after he saw the headline.)
While the liberal media tries to make over a Kansas tornado to resemble their perfect media bias storm over Hurricane Katrina, the floods in Missouri may be a more analogous comparison. But the CBS Evening News wasn't going to allow local residents to blame the federal government without a rebuttal -- if the president was Bill Clinton.
On Wednesday night's newscast, CBS reporter Cynthia Bowers reported that residents were upset the feds didn't shore up the levees, as they failed to do after "the historic flood of 1993, which killed 48 people and did nearly $20 billion worth of damage to nine waterlogged states." But that shouldn't be associated with Clinton, Bowers implied: "Actually, it's not the federal government's responsibility to maintain every levee. Most of the hundreds of levees along the Missouri and Mississippi River are built and kept up by the people who live next to them."
Back in 1993, CBS Evening News reporter Vicki Mabrey didn't use the words "Clinton" or "Democrats" when locals began complaining about the government response, but ended the story on a sad note: "But the government has no way of keeping towns from asking for federal assistance, just like there's no way to guarantee the Mississippi will never flood again."
Liberal newspapers like The Washington Post will try to drag every Democrat into the mainstream, even the radical ones. On today's Federal Page, reporter/columnist Lois Romano tells the tale of Rep. Barbara Lee of Berkeley, the only member of the House so radical that she voted against a military response to 9/11. The headline puts her in the current vogue: "A Voice Against Presidential War-Making Now Leads A Chorus." Romano describes how she's getting standing ovations in the Democratic caucus for her pragmatism:
Don't get her wrong; she says she will never vote for any measure that funds this war, including the one that could come for a vote today. But she is credited by Democrats with being able to balance principle and pragmatism...Lee, 60, is soft-spoken and is no lefty flame thrower. The daughter of a veteran of two wars (whom she still calls "Colonel"), she says she is not a pacifist.
This week’s Newsweek cover story on political courage ("Wanted: A New Truman") is truly baffling. Evan Thomas has a strange way of assessing what marks courage in our presidential contenders. He easily acknowledges that John McCain’s long tenure as a prisoner of war trumps everyone else. But he writes "All the candidates will use their life stories to show a sense of moral purpose." How did Hillary display her sense of moral purpose?
You may not believe it, but Thomas claimed: "Hillary Clinton had a stark moral choice: whether to stay with her husband when President Clinton's philandering with Monica Lewinsky was exposed. Her decision to stand by him could not have been easy." Inside the media-Democrat complex, moral courage is not displayed by condemning adultery. It is displayed by tolerating adultery and maintaining political viability for the party in power – not to mention nicely setting up your own senatorial and presidential campaigns down the line.
Time magazine's list of "The Most Influential People in the World," or the Time 100, has already earned controversy for implausibly leaving President Bush off the list. But in a magazine stuffed with valentines to important people written by their friends, admirers, and family members, Time's staff writers promoted Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as not only influential, but naturally moderate. Karen Tumulty claimed Hillary "has always been a more moderate and pragmatic politician than either her admirers or her detractors believed." Joe Klein praised Obama for "conservative boldness," but he really meant that Obama's tone was cautious and reserved, devoid of red meat, since Klein also noted Obama "swims contentedly in the Democratic Party's mainstream" -- which everyone knows is not conservative.
Klein's Obama tribute carried the headline: "A young yet audaciously thoughtful U.S. Senator makes his run at history." This gooey article led the "Leaders and Revolutionaries" section. Obama "has attached himself to the notion of audacity....The whoosh of his candidacy, in the polls and in the amount of money raised, has been audacious as well."
U.S. News & World Report is traditionally known as the staid sister of Time and Newsweek, so it’s a little shocking to see these harsh words on the cover this week: "Bush’s Last Stand: He’s plagued by a hostile CONGRESS, sinking POLLS, and an unending WAR. IS HE RESOLUTE OR DELUSIONAL?" (Capitals theirs.) The cover story by Kenneth T. Walsh is loaded with Bush-bashing quotes from named and anonymous sources. Walsh began by noting Bush has compared his trials to those of Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, and the diagnosis that Bush is mentally ill emerges from DNC chairman Dr. Howard Dean: "This is delusional – comparing yourself to two of our greatest presidents!" Liberal historian Robert Dallek added, "a great majority see him as stubborn and unyielding...And everything he touches turns to dust."
It's Nitpicking Tuesday. In the Washington Post Style section, the weekday ad for the "Live Online" chats at washingtonpost.com caught my eye. Today's 1 pm session with a black Post columnist is promoted with this language:
Opinion: Columnist Eugene Robinson discusses the diversity of the Democratic presidential candidates -- and the Country Club look of the first GOP debate.
Is that their best way to say "all white, all male"? As if the Post found any "diversity" worth mentioning when the candidates were female (Elizabeth Dole) or minorities (Alan Keyes)?
Former CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer told Columbus Dispatch writer Tim Feran that the gossip was untrue that he was trashing Katie Couric in the press. "I was not the source for that story, period. I had nothing to do with it...and I don't know who did." Schieffer also took exception to the Bill Moyers theory that the national media were enablers to President Bush's runup to war in Iraq.
Q: In his recent PBS report about the run-up to the Iraq war, Bill Moyers said: "The press has yet to come to terms with its role in enabling the Bush administration to go to war on false pretenses." Do you agree?
A: I don't think we enabled them to go to war, although there's no question we should have asked harder questions. But I think the Democrats should have asked harder questions, the CIA should have asked harder questions, the people within the administration should have asked harder questions. Somewhere along the way, the decision to go into Iraq somehow became the fault of the press.
Here is the kind of debate that's common on taxpayer-subsidized PBS: two liberals arguing over the right degree of rage over President Bush on Iraq. Should it be white hot? Or just hot enough that you don't burn your mouth on it? On Thursday night's edition of his eponymous show, Tavis Smiley interviewed Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.
Ignatius worried out loud about finding some degree of national unity in the Iraq end game, and suggested Bush hatred is running contrary to the national interest: "People are so angry in Washington. The debate is so intense that I just worry that we're just slipping a gear as a country. People are almost so angry at George Bush that they want to see this thing fail to spite him, and that should be. That's wrong." Smiley tried to suggest he was asking "devil's advocate" questions, but his angry tone and finger-pointing body language gave his personal opinion away:
SMILEY: Far be it for me to argue with you, but let me just take the devil's advocate position on this, just to press you a little bit more on this. Why shouldn't we be outraged? Why shouldn't we be angry with George Bush?
IGNATIUS: We should be...
SMILEY: Why shouldn't this be the issue around which we will throw down a gauntlet and be angry? We're losing lives every day, why not this, if any issue, to be just outraged about?
Brent Bozell's culture column this week follows up on how the world of rap music will change in the wake of Don Imus getting canned for his rapper's language against the Rutgers women's basketball team. Russell Simmons, one of the founders of Def Jam Records, made waves by endorsing some voluntary steps toward better self-control:
He doesn’t advocate dropping this language altogether, which is unfortunate. Simmons concedes that millions of adults listen to unexpurgated rap CDs, and is unwilling to condemn it. Still, the move to take this off mainstream radio is a significant start. On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Simmons declared, “I think that children, and parents, and everyone else who doesn't really understand the hip-hop community should have a choice....we want people to choose what they want. And if you turn on mainstream radio, you shouldn't have to hear these words.”
Print accounts of the House of Representatives turning into Pelosi Palace, passing a so-called "hate crimes" expansion act to please the gay left, don't seem to notice there is a left side on the debate over this bill. There are "civil rights groups" on one side, and "conservatives" on the other. That apparently would make them an "anti-civil rights" group.
In The Washington Post, reporter Jonathan Weisman quotes Speaker Nancy Pelosi using words from the Pledge of Allegiance to back the left wing, not to mention Ted Kennedy and Steny Hoyer, but none of them are described as liberals. Weisman can't even call the bill's backers "gay advocates," just "advocates," as if idealistic blandness (and not ideological severity) defined the left, while these idealists were opposed by the staunchest of conservatives:
Diane Sawyer granted an interview for the May issue of Reader’s Digest. In it, Sawyer said she is eager to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and would jump at the chance to interview Osama bin Laden. The interviewer, Sara Davidson, did not press Sawyer on the question of whether she was too soft or light in her interviews with anti-American heads of state (as with asking Syrian dictator Bashar Assad whether he has Shania Twain on his iPod). But Sawyer did use the words "fanatic extremists" and "horrific terrorists," which doesn’t always emerge first in journalistic conversations.
RD: Who else are you most eager to interview? Sawyer: Kim Jong-il. I think he is unlike anyone else in a leadership position in the world right now, and North Korea is such an intriguing country.
Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin at the Washington Examiner's gossip page report that ABC is dialing back its D.C. prostitution scoop, and reporter Brian Ross is an unhappy camper:
Yeas & Nays hears that, as of this writing, the segment will reveal only two new names and is currently slotted for a mere seven minutes at the end of the hour-long broadcast (you'll recall that Palfrey turned over nearly 15,000 phone numbers to ABC News back in March).
Interviews with both Palfrey and former deputy secretary of state Randall Tobias (who left the State Department last week after being interviewed by ABC News for the "20/20" piece) are currently scheduled, leaving precious little time remaining for much else (and for all of those salacious details you¹ve been waiting for). Sources tell Yeas & Nays that Ross, who had anticipated a far juicier piece, is none too happy with the final results, especially after he and the network promoted this story for weeks.
Here's another sign that public broadcasters aren't worried about the appearance of Democratic favoritism. National Public Radio reporter Nina Totenberg -- legendary (or infamous) for championing Anita Hill's unsubstantiated sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas, and then yawning at all harassment claims against Bill Clinton -- is hiring the daughter of liberal Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards as a summer intern, and her NPR bosses "gave the green light, since the election is still 18 months away."
The Washington Post gossip column that broke the story couldn't even get word from NPR as to whether Cate Edwards will stop making campaign appearances during the internship. Here's what the "Reliable Source" column by Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger passed along:
The first regular episode of the latest incarnation of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS featured Comedy Central host Jon Stewart (recently hailed by Moyers as "the Mark Twain of our day") mocking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for appearing to be a "low-functioning pinhead" and comparing the Bush administration to the mobster characters in the movie Goodfellas. He suggested the White House press corps was a joke, suggesting they're the Washington Generals to Bush's Harlem Globetrotters: "the government is just you know, blowing the doors off the media."
First, the "Daily Show" fake anchor expressed amazement on the Friday night show that Gonzales would be so willing to look foolish and wildly incompetent so that Congress would fail in its attempt to impose oversight:
Sports Illustrated has this annoying tendency to serve up its sports coverage with a side dish of liberal politics. On its website, basketball writer Jack McCallum wrote of deciding to compare Democratic presidential candidates to NBA playoff teams after watching the Democrats debate on C-SPAN in the middle of the night after some spicy quesadillas.
He began by lauding Mike Gravel's routine of poking Barack Obama about which country America should "nuke" next. "So there you are -- Gravel is the Golden State Warriors. A feisty, combative, in-your-face underdog who loves the public stage." Later, McCallum added to the comparison: "Unorthodox and even a little scary, both are trying to overcome the odds with offense." Here are the other comparisons, enough to ruin the day of a conservative fan of any of these teams:
Surely, CNN doesn’t stand for Communist News Network. But CNN’s Soledad O’Brien went looking for the "grass roots" of the pro-illegal immigration movement in Chicago during Tuesday’s Your World Today at mid-day. She interviewed a man she described as "Shaun Harkin of the March 10th Movement." She did not describe him with ideological precision: he’s a fervent Leninist.
An instant Googling of "Shaun Harkin" quickly brought up an article from Socialist Worker Online, where "SHAUN HARKIN explains why the Russian revolutionary Lenin and the theory that Lenin developed about the rise of imperialism remains so relevant today." Harkin concluded: "The dynamics of imperialism that Lenin analyzed are still present. His approach continues to offer the best framework to understand imperialism -- and is an essential tool for revolutionaries today."