In Sunday's "Book World" section of The Washington Post, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham reviewed the new book by Richard Reeves titled "President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination." He noted:
President Reagan marks a surrender of sorts. The establishment has, for the moment at least, given in and decided that Reagan was a great historical figure after all. That Reeves arrived at such a conclusion is particularly notable. Twenty years ago, in 1985, he published The Reagan Detour , arguing that "the Reagan years would be a detour, necessary if sometimes nasty, in the long progression of American liberal democracy."
Over at the Tapped blog, Matthew Yglesias is delighted that "Shrill Bush bashing has crossed over to the section of the media where it really counts: the sports pages. Here's [ESPN football reporter and online columnist] Sal Paolantonio on the Philadelphia Eagles management structure":
More important, no one is fighting for the players on the field. There is a fine line between building a consensus and creating a cabal -- an echo chamber where the tough questions don't get asked because the answers are all the same. (See: Bush White House.)
M.Y. gets a little too excited about the electoral potential with less informed voters based on offhand comments like these, since most of the column fusses about bad Eagles roster decisions:
In the Newsweek Live Chat this week, reporter Richard Wolffe faces the usual Daily Kosmonauts and MoveOn hard cases, but his attempts to land in the sensible center were at times just a little too weak:
Hartford, CT:If Bush is allowed to get away with these illegal spying tactics, plus the Patriot Act infringements on our Privacy and Civil Rights, what is left of Liberty for all? How is America any different than Iraq was under Saddam Hussein?
Richard Wolffe: Well by and large the administration doesn't commit genocide on its own people or torture them. It doesn't fill mass graves or keep rape rooms. So there are quite a few ways in which America is different from Saddam's Iraq.
Terry Mattingly explores how the media should "excommunicate" Pat Robertson from the Iron Rolodex as the gaffe list lengthens. The deepest dig: calling him the "Bishop Jack Spong of the far right." (Mattingly notices some of the same CBS interviews on Public Eye I noted Friday.)
The Washington Post editorial page very sloppily blurs Pat Robertson together with Iran's leader Ahmadinejad in the Saturday edition. You can lament Robertson's take on Sharon, but he's not a Holocaust denier or virulent Israel-hater. There's also an anti-Robertson cartoon. Is it just me, or have the Saturday cartoon spreads in the Post dumped their usual humorous, almost nonpartisan focus in favor of anti-conservative yuk-yuks?
At one of those "indy-media" sites the hard Left hosts (and who's leftier than San Francisco?), the socialist "peace" freaks of Code Pink plan to protest Hillary Clinton as she has a comfortable chat with former NBC "Today" and "Dateline" anchor Jane Pauley:
On Saturday January 28th Senator Hillary Clinton of New York will sit down with Jane Pauley at The Bar Association of San Francisco Special Benefit Event at the Masonic Center. While using San Francisco as a backdrop for Clinton's re-election campaign, the event is an opportunity for Bay Area Democrats to dish-out $75.00 - $300.00 to attend at 7:00pm no-host reception followed by an evening of political image makeover chit-chat with Pauley and Clinton.
It's always curious when liberal-media types start hailing the brilliance of conservatives when their arguments line up with liberal wishes. Since the Jack Abramoff plea, both Newt Gingrich and National Review Online have suggested it would be nice for House Republicans to find a Majority Leader with a more reformist image. To MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, these people are suddenly brilliant and impressive, as he declared in a "Today" pundit segment on Friday. MRC's Scott Whitlock took it down yesterday.
"Well, Newt Gingrich isn't, maybe, the most popular guy in the country. But he is ruthlessly brilliant. And he knows that this is the time to nail this guy. And he's going out and said, let's get rid of Delay, now. And you've got the National Review, the historically conservative, very impressive magazine all these years for the conservative movement, started by Bill Buckley. That's come out now and called for him to get out of the way. I think the big casualty here, to the delight of the liberals and chagrin of the people who helped build the Republican majorities, Tom Delay looks like victim number one here. I'm not sure the party's going to be the victim by next November. Because one of the great ironies of politics is that when you get the body out of the way, the party that suffered the loss doesn't seem to look so bad."
On CNN Headline News's "Showbiz Tonight" last night, Tom O'Neil, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and its Oscar website TheEnvelope.com, couldn't seem to make up his mind on Jon Stewart hosting the Oscars. He started out suggesting Stewart could be a disaster as a political "assassin comedian."
It`s a huge gamble, Brooke, because you know, Jon Stewart, the reason we love him as a comedian is that he's one of those assassin comedians and often that doesn`t [end up] working at the Oscars. Remember what happened just last year when Chris Rock went offline. He was insulting Jude Law at one point and then Sean Penn came out and protested. Well, that`s the kind of thing that Jon does all the time.
Twice before he`s hosted awards shows, not successfully. The last time he did the Grammys, "The Hollywood Reporter" said he was, quote unquote, "hopelessly awkward and uncomfortable."
Brian Montopoli on the CBS Public Eye site asked some CBS insiders about whether Pat Robertson is as newsworthy as he used to be. They said no:
I asked "Evening News" host Bob Schieffer for his thoughts on Robertson and whether he thought there were others who better represent evangelicals. Schieffer, who considers himself a religious person, has covered Robertson and interviewed him several times in the past, and says "at the beginning he represented a particular point of view, and articulated it quite well." But he's reluctant to cover him now.
"I think we have to be very careful about quoting Robertson, because I'm not sure who he represents anymore," he said. "His comments have gone beyond interesting and into bizarre." The "Evening News," he points out, has not covered Robertson's recent comments.
Today's Washington Post Style section offers a pile of articles worthy of comment. First, Post fashion critic Robin Givhan saddled up for another politicized fashion critique, trashing the fashions of slimy GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Less predictable than Givhan trashing Abramoff (in betting terms, that article was a drop-dead lock) is Tom Shales going postal on NBC's desperate-Episcopal drama "Book of Daniel." His headline calls it "A Mean-Spirited, Unholy Mess."
In short, he concluded: "I cannot recall a series in which a greater number of characters seemed so desperately detestable -- a series with a larger population of loathsome dolts. There ought to be a worse punishment than cancellation for a show that tries this hard to be offensive and, even at that crass task, manages to fail."
Laura Ingraham's radio show started today (she's back from Brazil) with this media bias nugget: while The Washington Post carries as its front page Abramoff headline "Bush To Give Up $6,000 In Abramoff Contributions," paragraph 17 of Jonathan Weisman's story (well inside the paper Post and on page 2 of the online version) carries the better man-bites-dog angle of this story:
All but three of the 24 politicians giving up the funds are Republicans. The three Democrats -- Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.) -- have pledged to shed a total of $97,000 in contributions. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Reid has no intention of shedding the $47,000 he has received from Abramoff's lobbying team and tribal clients.
National Review's Jay Nordlinger began his potpourri-of-thoughts "Impromptus" column today with a telling thought on the state of the media in our times of war:
Couple of days ago, I was reading a speech by Peter Pace. It was a very good speech, too — on strategy in Iraq. (Find it here.) Who’s Peter Pace? He’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And as I was reading, I realized how little I know of our commanders — of the people who are fighting the war (the war in Iraq, and the War on Terror at large). Who are these guys (Pace, Abizaid, Petraeus, et al.)? Where are they from? What are they like? Who are their wives? What are their nicknames? Etc.
ABC's Terry Moran, a new Nightline co-host who was until recently a dogged attack-questioner of the Bush White House -- and of course, an even more recent attack-questioner of Dick Cheney -- sent a very sensible note to the new World News Tonight blog about the Jack Abramoff scandal and how lobbying has grown because the size of government has grown. Now let's see if he sounds like this on Nightline:
The real reason there's so much power for sale in Washington is that there's so much power in Washington. The British newspaper The Independent said today that President Woodrow Wilson could not have imagined today's $4 billion lobbying industry. They are quite right -- but Mr. Wilson could hardly have imagined today's $1 trillion-plus federal government, whose powers reach into every nook and cranny of American life. When the federal government can influence what happens in your business or your backyard or your bedroom -- you are quite properly going to want to influence it right back. That's not corruption; that's self-government. And while it would be swell if that dialogue happened in a pristine, college-seminar-style setting -- or maybe a private club -- free of the grubbiness of real-world interests, it doesn't. This, after all, is America. And we grub.
There's a reason or two why Tim Russert rules the Sunday morning news show roost. One of them is he asks tough questions based on preparation. By contrast, on Sunday's "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer displayed the opposite. His interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin looked like the questions of someone who did no homework, like CBS pulled a man out of a Denny's and told him to play journalist -- and they were certainly questions that avoided any kind of toughness on Nagin.
There was nothing, first and foremost on the journalist's plate, about Nagin's wild exaggerations about a death toll of 10,000 and the rampant rape and murder he and his top cops gave to the national media. There was no question asking Nagin about his utter failure to order a mandatory evacuation until the last minute. There was no question asking Nagin about his failure to evacuate citizens by city bus or Amtrak train. There was no question asking Nagin about race-baiting and finger-pointing at FEMA and Team Bush. Schieffer has painted Michael Brown as the picture of incompetence, but Democrat Nagin is presented as a firm leader. Nagin faced only these softballs:
I know Mr. Baker has already noticed Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's orations on "Meet the Press," but Mr. Taranto pointed out a Meacham quote that I found especially bizarre. (No, I don't mean him saying John McCain's trying to be a "centrist Reaganist figure." Centrist Reaganist?) Late in the segment, Meacham said of Iraq: "I just think we're in the midst of a vast historical change there, obviously, and one of the things that people in our business have to be careful about is either on a daily or hourly or weekly cycle assigning blame or credit and spinning arrows."
Hell-ooooooo? Newsweek has a snarky weekly feature devoted to assigning blame and spinning arrows called "Conventional Wisdom Watch"? Is Meacham telling us that his Bush-bashing CW is going bye-bye, or is he just having a temporary, if comical, bout of amnesia?
As Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas debut tonight as the co-anchors of "World News Tonight," the traditional liberal bias promises to continue. On today's "Good Morning America," Woodruff reported from Iran, and made sure to equate conservatism with oppression: "One more indication of the growing conservatism here: this week the government closed down a daily newspaper and banned a women’s magazine. It has happened many times before but these are the first to be targeted since the new President was elected in August." Earlier in his 7am half-hour report, Woodruff asserted: “There is a new ultra-conservative President here, who is causing worry both inside and outside this country.”
Today's chat on WashingtonPost.com with Post media writer/CNN host Howard Kurtz began with a burst of hyperbole:
New York, N.Y.: Howard, In the early going, can you predict how big a story Jack Abramoff's guilty plea will be in the coming weeks and months?
Howard Kurtz: Big. Huge. Very large. A story of historic proportions. It may take awhile, but when information starts to dribble out, as it inevitably will, about what Abramoff is telling prosecutors about his dealings with some members of Congress and their aides, we will have an important and potentially delicious case study of corrupt Washington lobbying.
When the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll was publicized in the Post on December 20, the big front-page headline was Bush's approval rating going up again. In the middle of the story, the Post noted counterpoints, such as: "On some key domestic issues, including immigration, Americans remain highly negative about the Bush presidency." Finally, today, the Post publicizes in its paper the actual numbers in a story by Dan Balz:
"The Post-ABC News poll found that four in five Americans think the government is not doing enough to prevent illegal immigration, with three in five saying they strongly hold that view. The same poll found that 56 percent of Americans believe that illegal immigrants have done more to hurt the country than to help it, with 37 percent saying they help the country. About three in five Republicans and a bare majority of Democrats agreed that illegal immigrants are detrimental to the country."
Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show drew its highest audience ever tonight, in a very unnatural way: Olbermann did a fictional cameo inside a new episode of the NBC sea-serpent sci-fi show "Surface." (Instead of drawing about one-third of a million viewers, Keith's cameo came in a show that draws ten million or more viewers.) The lead character, scientist Dr. Laura Daughtery, is interviewed for "Countdown" on MSNBC and questioned for her belief in a coming ecological catastrophe through the sea monsters, and she's then mocked by Keith as he ends his show in trademark fashion by throwing paper at the camera.
Before the new work year really kicks in, one little thing that caught my eye in between holidays. The PBS show "Charlie Rose" had a panel of film critics on to discuss the year in movies on December 21: Richard Corliss of Time, A.O. Scott of the New York Times, David Denby of The New Yorker, and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. (For cultural conservatives, consider this fact: an hour-long show on the year in movies and no mention of "The Chronicles of Narnia.") The perfect moment of taxpayer-funded liberal unanimity came in discussing George Clooney's movies "Syriana," and more specifically, the CBS-boosting "Good Night and Good News."
LISA SCHWARZBAUM: "Obviously he's telling a story that we can all feel much happier about. This is about how journalism spoke up to power and how they stared back at a bully. And It comes out at a time when the media wants to think about whether we need to stand up further to, you know, to pressures brought to bear. But I'm fascinated that Clooney is using this kind of charming, you know, "Ocean’s 12/13/14" kind of fame that he has in order to make these movies of what he takes as political importance. I think that's a very valuable use of his celebrity."
To wrap up our list of the Best of NQ's worst quotes of the year, a look now at the more recent winners in the Dubya era. For reasons which shall become obvious (length), we'll go backwards in this post. 2005's Quote of the Year (Mary Mapes on her strange philosophy of journalism) is here.
Dan Rather's Gloom, 2004: "What drives American civilians to risk death in Iraq? In this economy it may be, for some, the only job they can find." — Dan Rather teasing a report on the CBS Evening News on March 31, the day four American civilians were killed and mutilated in Fallujah, Iraq.
Picking up where we left off, here are the judges' picks for worst Quote of the Year during the Slick Willie era.
Onward, Christian Mouth-Breathers, 1993: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." -- Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1 news story.
Hurray, Grown Men Can Weep, 1994: "Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears." -- Newsweek Senior Writer David A. Kaplan, February 28 news story.
To welcome in 2006, I thought it might be fun (as one radio host suggested) to take a look back at all of our Quotes of the Year from the Best of Notable Quotables of the Year, all the worst, dumbest, and most bizarre quotes of each particular year. First, a look at the four years of President Bush Number One.
Iran-Contra Hangover, 1989: "For the most part, the Nicaraguan Contras burned villages and murdered civilians. On behalf of their cause, Reagan sold out his oath of office and subverted the Constitution....Oliver North presented himself as the immortal boy in the heroic green uniform of Peter Pan. Although wishing to be seen as a humble patriot, the colonel's testimony showed him to be a treacherous and lying agent of the national security state, willing to do anything asked of him by a President to whom he granted the powers of an Oriental despot." -- Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham narrating his PBS series America's Century, November 28.
A friend told me on Wednesday I had to check out Wolf Blitzer's taped CNN interview with ex-president Jimmy Carter. Filling in as host on "The Situation Room," Tom Foreman puffed up Carter's resume: "Since losing the White House 25 years ago, Jimmy Carter developed a reputation as a better ex-president than president. This is not a reputation that he cares for much. Nonetheless, he has been a leading voice for free and fair elections, and a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner -- a very accomplished man."
Blitzer read Carter wild, accusatory paragraphs about Bush's "imperialistic" policies. In his second quoting-the-book question, Blitzer asked: "Let me read from 'Our Endangered Values' once again, Mr. President. "Some neo-cons" -- referring to neoconservatives in the administration -- "now dominate the highest councils of government. They seem determined to exert American dominance throughout the world and approve preemptive war as an acceptable avenue to reach this imperialistic goal." Blitzer explained that Team Bush believes it can wage pre-emptive war on nations which threaten our security to prevent terror attacks: "That's their argument for preemptive strikes, an argument you reject?" Carter said no, he would defend the country against an imminent threat, but Iraq wasn't imminent.
Our analysts discovered quite a contrast on the evening news shows Monday night, displaying two different ways of covering Iraq. ABC's "World News Tonight" honored the Iraqi voter as part of a series on people of the year. "NBC Nightly News" aired another gloomy Richard Engel piece saying democracy in Iraq was like a kidnapped bride. MRC's Megan McCormack filed both transcripts to show the contrast.
NBC, 12/26: Anchor substitute Campbell Brown: “In Iraq, a Kurdish coalition and the main Shiite religious group have taken a third each of the earliest votes cast in the recent election. Those votes by expatriates, soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients are just a small percentage of the overall balloting. Meanwhile, the nation has suffered it’s bloodiest day since the election, with nine attacks that left at least twenty dead. NBC’s Richard Engel in Baghdad has the latest.”
Washington Post columnist (and former Post reporter) David Ignatius concludes his year in review by endorsing the notion that liberal reporters ought to stick by their biases and passions. Don't be afraid to be liberal, and don't try to please everyone (conservatives):
It was a bad year, finally, for the people who are paid to make sense of things -- the unhumble and increasingly unloved scribes in my business. Newspaper circulation was plummeting, network television lost its anchors, literally and figuratively, and new media seemed to be feeding on popular anger at the Mainstream Media and its claims of impartiality.
At the center of some of the year's biggest stories stood the media themselves -- trying to balance codes of professional ethics against demands of citizenship. The New York Times lionized Judith Miller for going to jail to protect her sources from a grand jury investigation, but when her key source turned out to be Vice President Cheney's top aide, the cheering stopped and Miller lost her job. Top editors of the Times and The Post tried to act responsibly by discussing explosive intelligence stories with the White House before publication, and then they were vilified by the left for publishing too little and by the right for publishing anything at all.
Signaling the slow-as-a-glacier news pace right now, the big AP story of the morning is "Core of White House Staff Largely Intact." And they're trying to tell us planes landing safely is not news, but this is? Reporter Jennifer Loven projects: "The big question is how much longer Bush's inner circle can hold together."
Of course, there is room eventually for liberal spin, the old Newsweek bubble-boy spin: "And the lack of change has contributed to criticism of Bush as governing from inside a bubble that isolates him from smart dissent, healthy competition, fresh ideas and bad news. 'If people stay that long, group-think can set in, and that's dangerous for a president,' [David] Gergen said."
Young Newsweek writer Devin Gordon (Duke, class of 1998?) did the magazine's weekly Live Talk online chat Thursday on his cover story on the movie of "The DaVinci Code." In addition to sounding completely in the tank for the movie, including defending the casting choices, Gordon was a bit cheeky when dealing with serious questions about the film being objectionable to Catholics:
Bossier City, LA: This is just typical of Hollywood to produce a movie like this to make a buck in spite of the fact that the underlying premise is absolute heresy. Ron Howard would have been burned at the stake if he lived 500 years ago.
While we've tried to police the pajama party in our comments section (you behave down there or I'm coming down!), some disgruntled lefty bloggers wail in sordid tones without a nanny. James Wolcott putting down someone else for being sour is certainly an accomplishment of some sort:
Take Tim Graham, for example. The righteous stick up his butt extends to the top of his head, leaving a little nub that he's convinced has magical qualities. He believes that if he keeps rubbing it the Hooters girls will bring him extra pie.
Put aside for a moment how difficult it would be to feel magical while impaled from bottom to top. I must confess I've only been to Hooters once, for an MRC employee's farewell lunch (although the ham and cheese was magical, as I recall.) Wolcott thinks it's quite un-Christmaslike to demand Brokaw and Koppel get something more difficult than a manicure from Tim Russert.
Once you've seen the conservative columnists on Brokaw and Koppel's "Meet the Press" spot, get a look at what the lefties said in three outraged letters to Editor and Publisher for the old anchor claims that Clinton, too, would have invaded Iraq after 9/11:
Chris Dodson: For example, I would reply, "If Clinton (or Gore) were president, 9/11 would not have happened, therefore, no invasion of Iraq. How? Clinton/Gore keeps Richard Clarke at the 'principal' level, allowing him constant access to cabinet members. 'Chatter' increases through the spring and summer. Clinton/Gore order a 'shaking of the trees,' which nets the Phoenix memo and brings Colleen Rowley's concerns to the highest levels of the FBI. The CIA informs the FBI about the two terrorists in San Diego. They are brought in and the plot is unraveled."
Copy-catting the tendencies of certain conservative media watchdogs, Washington Post political writer Mark Leibovich produced an article for the front page of today's Style section on the top quotes of the year for public figures (mostly politicos and their families, except for Tom Cruise pounding Matt Lauer, Rafael Palmeiro's read-my-lips, no-steroids testimony -- oh, and Drew Barrymore raving about her bathroom break in the woods.) Leibovich finds his quote of the year to be President Bush telling his soon-to-be-reassigned FEMA director Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."
Leibovich explained: "Really, it was never even close. The president's vote of confidence had all the markings: Patently false, it came during a widely viewed event, was uttered by a prominent speaker, played to an unflattering caricature (of both people), and packed supreme irony," since Brown was out within days. "I think for concision and cluelessness, Bush wins hands down," Ted Widmer, identified as a Clinton speechwriter, adds. (Leibovich also nominated the president's mother for saying that for hurricane victims, being evacuated to Houston is "working very well for them.")