Once assumed to be the likely successor to Dan Rather, White House correspondent John Roberts is leaving CBS to become CNN's "senior national correspondent" starting February 20.
At CBS, Roberts defined himself as part of that network's liberal spin machine -- castigating conservatives, adoring liberals -- highlights of which are documented in this 2004 Media Reality Check (obviously written before CBS became infatuated with Katie Couric). One of the best quotes came when Roberts was filling in for Rather on the CBS Evening News back on May 30, 1994, when he offered this ridiculously sensationalized take on "lethal" golf courses:
“To spotlight his priorities, President Bush invited ordinary people -- a teacher, a physicist, an Afghan politician, the family of a fallen soldier -- to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. But a Democratic congresswoman turned the tables on Mr. Bush by inviting a guest of her own: Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar protester who has dogged Mr. Bush from his Texas ranch to the White House. Ms. Sheehan's presence loomed large in the House chamber, though she was not there. Capitol Police arrested her before the speech began, ejecting her from the gallery after they discovered her wearing an antiwar T-shirt. A police spokeswoman said Ms. Sheehan was charged with unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor.”
On today's CNN American Morning, anchor Soledad O'Brien began a story with: "Lots of people in New Orleans wondering exactly what happened last night. They listened to the president for about 47 minutes before there was even a mention of their city."
After playing a clip from President Bush's State of the Union address, she continued: "And that was kind of it. The president went on for just about a minute. A little bit less. Didn't offer any new money, any new aid."
CNN correspondent Dan Lothian then said New Orleans people believe, "That it was a slap in the face. And this comes, of course, after
residents have been telling us that they don't believe the White House
has been doing nearly enough to help." He then spoke to a handful of people who complained. $85 billion in government money has already been committed to the region, he mentioned, but "of course, people here simply don't believe that they're getting any of that money or that that money is nearly enough."
In Washington, many people look to Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales to see how the President's State of the Union went, at least as a televised event. Shales said it was competent, if forgettable. But his opening paragraph was bizarre:
Whether George W. Bush is, at best, the worst president since Herbert Hoover -- as a seemingly sizable number of Americans appear to believe -- he acquitted himself fairly well and came off as basically competent when he delivered his fifth State of the Union speech last night.
Could we have a footnote, please? You can't find much in Google, unless you're taking a poll of liberal professional historians who still pine for the sepia-toned prospect of President Mario Cuomo. Is Shales just taking a humorous bit of poetic license? If so, he ought to be clearer about it.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry must be thinking how fortunate he was that there were no real journalists in the room -- just perky Katie Couric -- when he appeared on NBC’s Today to complain about President Bush’s State of the Union address. As NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein noted earlier, Couric did ask a couple of pointed questions, at one point asking Kerry if there “was there anything you appreciated or liked hearing” in Bush’s speech.
But when Kerry started inventing statistics in his rant against the President’s education policies, preposterously claiming at one point that “53 percent of our children are not graduating from high school,” (in fact, 73.9 percent of incoming freshmen graduate from high school, according to the most recent Department of Education tally) Couric never even blinked -- not even when Kerry haughtily accused Bush of not presenting “the real state of the Union.”
Sometimes, it's interesting to follow the choice of words reporters use and wonder whether they mean to send subtle signals. Yesterday morning, in Bill Plante's report on the "Early Show" on why the State of the Union speech might be important for Bush, David Gergen explained in a soundbite that it could be crucial for maintaining the GOP majority in the next two election cycles. Plante followed up: "And that's one reason the theatrical ritual of the president appearing before Congress in this spectacle continues even though there's no requirement for it."
Spectacle? That word could connote an embarrassing appearance. A Nexis search of CBS for “spectacle” and “State of the Union” finds this from the Saturday "Early Show" of January 16, 1999, where the “spectacle” was not Clinton’s speech but the Senate impeachment trial:
Liberals hate to be accused of having a pre-9/11 mentality. But how else can you describe it when two leading MSM lights dismiss the war on terror as a political ploy that President Bush has taken to "extremes"?
That's exactly what happened on this morning's Today show. Matt Lauer, conducting a SOTU post-mortem interview of Tom Brokaw, wrote off W's war on terror as a political tactic:
"The president talked about this fight against "radical Isam" [note that Lauer raised his hands, painting scare quotes in the air around the term] saying that the weapon they use in the fight is fear and that we cannot retreat, there's no peace in retreat. Is this an attempt in this divided nation to find some kind of term or idea that people can get united behind?"
While CBS News coverage of the State of the Union speech showcased the bombast of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the ABC News coverage was the most hostile to Bush and conservative policies with its analysis delivered through a liberal prism. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas began the evening by emphasizing Bush’s low approval rating fueled by “an inept response to Hurricane Katrina, and the indictment of a high ranking White House official and, of course, growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.” She resurrected Watergate as she highlighted how Bush’s 42 percent approval level “is the worst for a President entering his sixth year in office since Watergate hammered Richard Nixon." Charles Gibson noted that Bush “tries to unite,” but then painted Democrats as victims of Bush deceit as he stumbled through an adage which many have mocked Bush for once messing up: “A lot of Democrats feel this has not been a uniting President. They have gone down that road before trying to work with the President, and of course the old expression is, ah, ‘Fool me once, ah, shame on you. Fool me more than once, fool me twice or ten times, shame on me.'”
Following the speech, Vargas noted how Bush had offered an “olive branch” to Democrats. That prompted Gibson to again suggest that Bush is more to blame for partisan fighting: "Yes, he did. And you wonder if he had done this four years ago, five years ago, if indeed there might have been greater comity in the city of Washington, greater cooperation in the city than there has been so far through the Bush presidency." Gibson also relayed the odd analysis, from ABC’s political team, that of 62 paragraphs in the speech, “48 could have been given verbatim by President Bill Clinton.” Dr. Tim Johnson, a “single-payer” advocate, complained that on health care Bush “was just...tinkering with the system that is basically broken.”
Of the broadcast networks, ABC uniquely highlighted the Spanish language Democratic response from LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Vargas relayed how he “blamed the Bush administration's, quote, ‘reckless policies for increasing the national debt, the number of uninsured Americans, including 39 percent of Latinos, and the number of failing students and the ranks of the poor.'" As if one Democratic response were not enough. (Transcripts follow.)
Picking up on President Bush’s assurance, in his Tuesday night State of the Union address, that military decisions in Iraq will be made by military leaders, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough rejected the notion of any such military independence, but during ABC’s coverage, when Charles Gibson similarly questioned if the military will be able to determine troop levels, retired General Jack Keane, Vice Chief of Staff of U.S. Army from 1999-2003, maintained that the feared political pressure is an illusion. Matthews asserted that the Generals in Iraq were not “really given the freedom to say how many troops they needed because when Shinseki said this is going to take a couple of hundred thousand troops, not a hundred thousand troops, he was cashiered. So this idea that these guys are free to think out loud, I thought, has been yet to be proven." Scarborough echoed: “They parrot, for the most part, the Generals and the Admirals, 99 percent of them parrot” the Pentagon. Keane contended on ABC that the idea that “the military commanders are under some kind of pressure from the administration” is false and military commanders will “call the shots as they see them.” (Transcripts follow.)
President Bush didn’t play for with Democrats in 2002, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews complained to Senator John McCain just before 11pm EST Tuesday night. Raising how in his State of the Union address Bush had made an “appeal for comity, for civility,” Matthews charged when Bush wanted authorization for military action against Iraq, “he jammed that vote right up against the election of 2002. That wasn't a very civil thing to do, to force the Democrats to vote right before an election to give him basically full authorization to do what he wanted to do, but wouldn't say what it was. Was that a civil move?" McCain rejected Matthews’ premise and reminded Matthews of how “we had taken a vote during the Clinton administration that had called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” Matthews countered: "But that was by democratic means, not by war." (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
The saying goes that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Along the same vein, NBC’s Tim Russert never misses an opportunity to denounce a tax cut or pass along arguments in favor of raising taxes. And NBC anchor Brian Williams didn’t even have to mention taxes to lead Russert, a few minutes after President Bush finished his State of the Union address Tuesday night, to fret about how Bush hasn’t raised them. Williams noted how President Bush “is known to be very frustrated at what he sees as a large part of the population in the country, and in that chamber tonight, that doesn't seem to agree with his message that this is a nation at war.” Russert retorted: “Critics have responded by saying well, if that's the case, Mr. President, ask people for sacrifice. Democrats have pointed out it's the first war we've been involved in where the President hasn't raised the revenues or the taxes in order to pay for it.” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
Before President Bush’s Tuesday State of the Union address, at least three network reporters seemingly read from the same talking points as they described the public mood with the exact same word: “sour.” As noted in an earlier NewsBusters item, on World News Tonight, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos insisted that “the country is just in a sour mood.” About 90 minutes before Bush’s address, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield wondered “whether the President can connect with a populace that is in a sour, pessimistic mood?” He pointed out how “only Nixon, in the year of his resignation, had a lower job approval rating,” before echoing his earlier question: “I think the President would like the country to believe he feels their pain or at least their anxiety about health care, about jobs, about the whole sense that something's gone a little sour." Then on Fox, minutes before Bush began, Chris Wallace attributed the “sour” assessment to Bush as he predicted Bush would deliver a “presidential pep talk where he believes that the country has, the mood has turned sour -- sour on the war, sour on the economy, sour on the government's response to Katrina.” Afterward, Wallace described the speech as “tough in terms of the war in Iraq and people souring on that.” (Transcripts follow.)
In the article, "Sheehan Arrested in House Gallery", CNN.com completely ignored the facts of Cindy Sheehan's meeting with President Bush in June 2004. Instead of reporting Cindy's own words to David Henson, staff writer for the Vacaville Reporter, CNN relied on talking points from Cindy's public relations team.
According to CNN:
"Sheehan and other relatives of troops killed in Iraq met with Bush during a visit to Fort Lewis, Washington, in April 2004, shortly after Sheehan's son was killed. During that meeting with Bush, the President refused to look at pictures of Sheehan's son, didn't want to hear about him and 'didn't even know Casey's name'."
That is completely different from Cindy's personal account of her meeting with President Bush back in June 2004. Cindy was interviewed by David Henson and the archived article is posted online here. According to the Henson article, Cindy said "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis." She went on to say, "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."
It turns out that media coverage of the nation’s economic growth can vary a lot depending on how strong or weak the economy is doing. Strong numbers are downplayed or undermined and weak numbers like the fourth-quarter results are highlighted in some of the major media.
The Commerce Department released the fourth-quarter Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) January 27, and the 1.1 percent growth was well below the 2.8 percent analysts had predicted. Though the stock market rose by 98 points and the dollar rallied strongly against most other currencies, much of the news was strongly negative. Articles over the weekend had phrases like “The economy slowed to a near crawl in the final quarter of 2005, a listless showing that was the worst in three years,” and “Those numbers suggested that the economy is slowing – and an end is in sight to free spending.”
One of the most bearish reports came from that evening’s “NBC Nightly News.” Reporter Anne Thompson began her segment in a similar vein:
Well, we've now got the AP's analysis on the President's State Of The Union address tonight, and it is nothing if not predictable. Frankly, one wonders whether Ron Fournier even bothered to wait until the speech had started, never mind ended, before producing this news analysis.
The state of the union is fretful. President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years.
His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things.
Of the three broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday, ABC’s World News Tonight delivered the most downbeat take on the public attitude facing President Bush as he delivers his State of the Union (SOTU) address. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas framed the evening around how Bush “is coming off the worst year of his presidency, from the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, to record-high energy prices, to growing unhappiness with the war in Iraq.” George Stephanopoulos soon insisted that “the country is just in a sour mood,” as evidenced by Bush’s 42 percent approval rating, “ten points below where it was last year.” Stephanopoulos added: “And for the first time in his presidency, a majority of Americans...want to follow congressional Democrats rather than President Bush: 51-35.” Stephanopoulos, however, did allow that “on the other hand, President Bush is still very strong on national security.” (Transcript follows.)
What do you get when you cross a so-called editorial cartoonist with a person that hates the Military, Republicans, President Bush and America? If you answered “Ted Rall”, you hit the nail on the head.
In his latest attempt at cartooning, called "Relative Moralism", Rall depicts two members of the military preparing for a remote missile launch. One of the soldiers voices concern about the innocent people that will be killed by the missile attack. The soldier with his finger on the button offers excuses for killing innocents such as their proximity to the bad guys. The same soldier then remarks that “those people don’t like us anyway. The more we kill the better.” In the final frame, Rall depicts two men with an obvious Middle Eastern appearance and turbans. One has a cell phone to his ear while the other voices concern about killing innocent people.
According to MSNBC blogger Eric Alterman, the U.S. detaining Iraqi women who may have information about suspected terrorists is very similar to the kidnaping of journalist Jill Carroll. Alterman, best known for writing books such as "What Liberal Media," wrote the following in his MSNBC blog on January 31st:
"I’d like to congratulate the Bush administration for having the good taste to not make too big a deal about the kidnaping of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll by Iraqi insurgents. Since the Bush administration is in the business of politically kidnaping innocent people too, including the wives of people it wants to surrender. I hate to say it because of all the baggage it carries but it reminds me of the deliberate murder of the innocent Ethel Rosenberg, to try to get a confession out of her husband." (Emphasis added)
Conservatives should be happy to see Reuters running a story headlined "Abortion rights groups say battle being lost." But reporter Carey Gillam conducts an almost perfect lesson in how not to label the opposing sides. Not only is one side "pro-choice" or "abortion rights activists," while the other side are "anti-abortion advocates," but Gillam finds "conservatives" on the pro-life side four times, but never finds an L word for the abortion-on-demand folks:
-- "The expected Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court of conservative jurist Samuel Alito, who is favored by anti-abortion advocates, is seen as a key turning point. Yet it is only the latest in a series of blows to abortion rights advocates..."
The Free Market Project has noticed of late how the media are warming back up to the notion of a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies. The windfall profits tax was a hotter topic in the months after Katrina, but the idea didn't stick then. But now with a new session of Congress, a State of the Union address on the way, and 2005 profit reports running over the wires, the push to soak "Big Oil" is on again. [see more below the fold]
Tonight President Bush will deliver his annual State of the Union Address, and Harry Smith of the "Early Show" previewed the speech this morning. Smith interviewed Dan Bartlett, Counselor to the President in the 7:00 half hour and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the 7:30 half hour. There were stark differences in the tone Smith took with each of his guests, and in the amount of time allotted to each. Bartlett was on the program for only 3 minutes, and fielded 3 questions, while Senator Kennedy was given 7 minutes to answer four, two of which related to the passing of Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Following a routine introduction of Dan Bartlett, Harry Smith asked some tough questions which in itself is not bias, but when that is combined with the negative tone that was taken and compared to the way Senator Kennedy was treated, it raises questions about fairness. The following are Smith’s questions for Bartlett.
If you thought Teddy Kennedy’s pratfall over Samuel Alito’s membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group was embarrassing (quoting magazine satire articles as if they were real), you should see what ABC’s “Nightline” tried to pull last week.
The subject was the ethics of judicial travel. As investigative reporter Brian Ross explained in the middle of the piece, “Justices at all ends of the political spectrum take plenty of these trips to lots of nice places, all paid for by somebody else." But this was no expose on justices “at all ends of the political spectrum.” It was a shameless hit piece on conservatives, complete with hidden-camera cheap shots.
This past Sunday on Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, viewers were treated to an interview of former President Jimmy Carter conducted by reporter Rita Braver. Most of the subject matter that was covered was fluff, what President Carter does to keep himself busy, trips he’s taken, elections he’s overseen and so forth. Yet, Braver eventually delves into the realm of politics, stressing Carter’s criticism of the Bush administration, but whitewashing over his own shortcomings.
Though the fact that the economy tanked and hostages were held in Iran during President Carter’s term, Braver only mentions that in passing:
"The economy floundered but what really doomed his Presidency was when Iranian radicals took over the US Embassy in Tehran and held dozens of Americans hostage for more than a year."
The teaser sentence: “The vote is a triumph for President Bush and conservatives who have longed to tilt the balance of the court to the right.”
Stout’s text emphasizes Alito’s conservatism again and again:
“Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has been widely praised for his intellect and integrity but both admired and assailed for his conservative judicial philosophy, was sworn in today as the 110th justice in the history of the Supreme Court. The ceremony, at the Supreme Court, came shortly after Justice Alito was confirmed by a sharply divided Senate, which voted 58 to 42, largely along party lines.”
The Washington Post has chosen to run on their opinion page this morning, in advance of tonight's State Of The Union Address, an apparent attempt at humor from someone named David Atkins. It's a mocking, snarky piece, that is, unfortunately for the Post, not close enough to reality to actually be funny. Written in the first person voice of President Bush, though strangely lacking in malaprop and grammatical errors, it purports to be a "fact-check" on things in the SOTU that aren't strictly accurate. Some of the "highlights" include:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has alerted me that the line, "No person is above the law" should instead be "One person is above the law." My comment that "we have carefully listened to critics of our domestic surveillance program" should have read "listened in on..."
From her USA Today's piece on the Alito confirmation, check out this gibberish (3rd paragraph as it appeared at 12:15 PM; obviously it could be corrected at any moment or taken down; NOTE--USAT updated and fixed in their 1:54 PM update; see related comment below):
Alito, 55., who has compiled a mostly conservative record during 15 years on the bench, becomes the 110th. justice to serve on the high court. He succeeds retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,who has provided a deciding vote in favor of maintaining a woman's right to end her pregnancy and other controversies women's right to terminate their pregnancies, among other controversial matters.
So is Ms. Kiely obsessed, or is it just a glitch? Given that abortion is the first legal issue mentioned in her report, my money is on "obsessed."
In the past few months, conceivably the greatest attention given by the antique media to any subject has been to quash the confirmation of Samuel L. Alito to the Supreme Court. According to a LexisNexis search, CBS News has done 156 stories on this nominee's background along with objections to his confirmation. ABC News has done 174. NBC News has done 133. CNN has done a staggering 679.
As for the print media, the Washington Post has done 257, while the New York Times has done an extraordinary 339.
Yet, despite all the efforts by the antique media to block it, Mr. Alito was just confirmed in the Senate by the vote of 58 to 42. It appears that the losing streak of the antique media continues unabated.
Eleanor Clift's online column for Newsweek is titled "Capitol Letter," but perhaps this week the title ought to be "Sour Grapes." She laments the visual of new Justice Alito sitting in robes to watch the State of the Union address. In the lamest of all possible attack lines (on one of the lamest campaign claims), Clift goes back to whapping on the old uniter-not-a-divider Bush theme of 2000.
The problem with this line (and the original Bush line) is that any Democratic decision to go partisan and "divide" against the president can be (lamely) presented as Bush's failure to be enough of a uniter. But who is the divider on Alito? Republicans did not cast "divisive" votes against nominees they clearly understood to be pro-abortion votes (Ginsburg confirmed 89-3, Breyer confirmed 89-9), but Democrats are unwilling to do the opposite for pro-life justices.