As Americans, we all enjoy the right to criticize the president. But particularly on august occasions like the State of the Union, most agree that the office of the presidency is entitled to a modicum of respect. Or not -- at least in Meredith Vieira's case.
David Gregory set the stage on this morning's "Today,"with his depiction of W's mood:
"The president was more modest in his approach, he appeared humbled, a real sense that he reconizes that it's going to be difficult to keep both Democrats and Republicans on board here as he tries to persuade the country to stick with him on Iraq."
That's when Vieira put her own vulgar stamp on matters:
"Yeah, not exactly like a dog with his tail between his legs but obviously no posturing, either."
A few minutes after President George W. Bush finished his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, ABC News White House reporter Martha Raddatz scolded him for repeating “sad echoes” of things he's said “so many times in the past.” As if that makes Bush's warnings, about the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda or how terrorists could come to the U.S. if we lose in Iraq, any less of a realistic threat.
Raddatz lectured: “I thought tonight there was some sad echoes of things he said so many times in the past. When he got to this global war on terror, when he got to Iraq, and you heard him concentrate on that global war on terrorism, those were the sad echoes. He brought up al Qaeda again, he brought up Osama bin Laden. He brought up Zarqawi in Iraq, who died many, many months ago. That's what he concentrated on. He avoided, to a great degree, the sectarian violence which is really the major problem in Iraq and once again, told Americans that if we didn't succeed in Iraq that the terrorists could come to the United States. And he's said that so many times in the past.”
Appearing on MSNBC's State of the Union coverage, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw praised President Bush for talking about global warming in his speech, lamenting that it was a subject the "Republican-dominated Congress has given very little attention to." Brokaw obverved that Bush had used the term "global warming" for the "first time since he's been President." Brokaw: "I think that you can give him an A for identifying the priorities that had been before this country for some time, and that the Republican-dominated Congress has given very little attention to. Global warming, he used that phrase for the first time since he's been President." (Transcript follows)
Just a couple of minutes before 9pm EST Tuesday night, as viewers awaited President Bush's State of the Union address, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer cued up Anderson Cooper to inform viewers of how there would be an “issue that’s presumably going to be thunderously missing from this speech.” Cooper explained: “Yeah, of course, you’re talking about Hurricane Katrina, you’re talking about the Gulf Coast states and Mississippi and the rebuilding of New Orleans. No mention of that in this speech tonight. That is certainly going to upset a lot of people in the Gulf Coast region who already feel that the country has moved on, that Washington has forgotten them. In the State of the Union, the President, as we have been told so far, will make no reference to New Orleans or to Mississippi, the rebuilding there. So much still needs to be done there, obviously, and we will not be hearing about that tonight from this President.” (Hat tip to MRC's Rich Noyes)
Loyal NB readers might recall that on the eve of President Bush's recent address on the new way forward in Iraq, I had the chance to participate in a conference call for bloggers with White House press secretary Tony Snow and Brett McGurk of the National Security Council.
With the State of the Union Address just a few hours away, Tony Snow - after a long day making the media rounds - organized a similar event in which your faithful NewsBuster again took part.
I had a chance to ask a question this time around, and chose to focus on recent events in Iraq. After referring to the headlines that have been made by the recent arrest of some 600 militiamen in Iraq, I noted a lesser-publicized report that the Iraqi army had arrested a senior aide to Moktada al-Sadr, Sheikh Abdul al-Hadi Darraji. He was arrested last Friday in a raid on a Baghdad mosque near Sadr City.
I asked Snow whether those events signal that we have in some way turned the corner in obtaining the willingness of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in going after Shia militias, and if so, how have we been able to achieve this?
Tuesday’s "Good Morning America" attempted to simultaneously trash George Bush while also building up the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, who, according to anchor Robin Roberts, is "electrifying" the presidential race. Meanwhile, the ABC program chose to allow political columnist Mary Ann Akers to assert President Bush will be delivering his 2007 State of the Union address "from the gutter." GMA correspondent Claire Shipman set up the nasty quote by remarking on how little applause is expected during the speech:
Claire Shipman: "And we’re also told that the speech will run about an hour, that’s taking into account anticipated applause. But, of course, they can't be counting on an overwhelming amount of that this year. The State of the Union address is normally an occasion marked by steady applause, lawmakers scrambling over each other to glad-hand the President. This year’s address, Bush's first in front of a Democratic Congress, may have an entirely different tone."
Mary Ann Akers (Columnist, Washington Post website) "Essentially, President Bush is going to be delivering his State of the Union address from the gutter. His approval ratings are dismal. The American people, according to the latest polls, are relying more on Congress than they are on the President to resolve the Iraq war."
Akers has delivered snarky, liberal-pleasing comments in the past. She previously wrote the "Heard on the Hill" column for Roll Call. And in 2006, as a Huffington Post columnist , Akers sarcastically wrote about George Allen’s campaign troubles, noting that the Senator’s newly found Jewish heritage had resulted in a nickname: "Macacawitz."
With puff pieces on Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi, the mainstream media just can’t stop fawning over leading Democrats. Their latest is newly elected Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who is scheduled to deliver the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union address.
On Tuesday’s American Morning, reporter Dana Bash showed her love for this freshman Democrat teasing the Senator "I love what you’ve done with the place [his temporary office]." Laughter followed. After mentioning his son serves in Iraq, Bash asked the hardball question, "don’t you think that actually gives you a leg up in some way, that you really have a personal investment?"
On Monday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann made known his latest conspiracy theory that the Bush administration times the release of news on terror threats for political benefit. As he interviewed Newsweek's Richard Wolffe, Olbermann asked about the recent report from ABC News that al-Qaeda in Iraq had planned on sending terrorists to attack the United States, wondering if it was politically timed before the State of the Union since the administration has a history of "releasing information on what has usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis." Olbermann: "Given the administration habit, it's almost a record of releasing information on what has usually been lame terror threats during or near times of political crisis, is it too cynical to think that the timing of these stories today might be suspicious on the eve of the State of the Union Address with the President going out there virtually naked tomorrow night?" (Transcript follows)
On ABC's World News Saturday, correspondent Laura Marquez filed a story on the upcoming trial of Lewis Libby regarding his role in leaking CIA analyst Valerie Plame's identity. Marquez relayed the theory that Bush administration members deliberately leaked her identity "to get back at" her husband, Iraq War critic Joe Wilson, without mentioning the revelation that Richard Armitage, formerly an assistant to Colin Powell and a dove in the run-up to the Iraq War, admitted to having inadvertently been the original leaker. Instead of mentioning this aspect of the story which undermines the theory of a deliberate conspiracy, Marquez suggested "dirty politics" was behind the leak as she pointed out the trial's bad timing with the President's upcoming State of the Union speech. Marquez: "It will remind the American public just how dirty politics can get." (Transcript follows)
I looked around when I heard someone crying, and there was Pollyanna bawling her eyes out. That's how depressing was the one-two punch of pessimism in Paul Krugman's and Bob Herbert's New York Times pay-to-peruse columns of today.
Just in time for the elections, the pair paint a picture of America so dreary you half-expected the Google logarithm to place Prozac ads on the page. Krugman tries to talk down the economy, while Herbert sees a more deep-seated malaise. Annotated excerpts:
Krugman: "Bursting Bubble Blues"
"The housing boom became a bubble . . . the question now is how much pain the bursting bubble will inflict." Guessing Krugman's answer: a lot.
"Some say the worst is already over . . . So maybe this is as bad as it gets. But I think the pessimists have a stronger case." Told you so!
I was dutifully working my way through Robert Kuttner's Boston Globe column of this morning, Cleaning Up the Mess, on the lookout for some outrageous MSM morsel with which to arouse NewsBusters readers.
But all I was getting were Kuttner's "on the one hand, but on the other hand" arguments as to whether it is in Democratic interests to retake one or both houses of Congress come November. His thesis is that America is such a mess thanks to years of Republican misrule that fixing it could be a thankless task for Dems, who might be better off waiting for the deluge of the 2008 presidential elections. For the record, Kuttner does come down on the side of taking power now.
On Friday night, MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough featured opposite takes on a Friday Washington Posteditorial proclaiming that the recent revelation that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the original leaker of Valerie Plame's identity discredits Joe Wilson's accusations about a White House conspiracy to punish him by ruining his wife's career. On his Countdown show, Olbermann slammed the Washington Post for its "startling conclusions" and attacked the logic of the Post's reasoning. On Scarborough Country, Scarborough hit the New York Times and other media, including "left-leaning TV hosts," for not following the Post's lead and correcting its "character assassination" of the Bush team. Scarborough also delved into the inaccuracy of some of Wilson's claims about his trip to Niger and whether it really contradicted Bush's State of the Union claims about Iraq's efforts to acquire uranium. And while Scarborough presented some balance on his show by allowing one of his two guests to defend Wilson (Rachel Sklar after Wilson critic Christopher Hitchens), Olbermann followed his normal routine of choosing guests who will bolster his anti-Bush views, this time in the form of Wilson/Plame attorney Melanie Sloan. (Transcripts follow)
He has pretty much maintained a low profile for the past few years but now Gary Hart has emerged only to fall off the deep end with his latest BLOG entry at the Huffington Post. In Hart's new delusional world view, America is quickly turning into another imperial Rome with President Bush as Augustus Caesar. Here is a comical excerpt from Hart's bizarre screed:
Is university 'journalism' education anything more than training camp for liberal cadres preparing to join MSM ranks? Take, for example, this morning's op-ed in the Seattle Times by Floyd J. McKay, a journalism professor emeritus at Western Washington University.
He spouts straight-from-the-Gore's-mouth alarmism about global warming, going so far as to propose that high school students be forced to view Al's flick. He also takes predictable shots at the Bush administration and talk show hosts, throwing in a particularly nasty swipe at Christian conservatives in the process. Excerpts below.
"Migrations [from farm to city] in India and elsewhere in Africa and Asia cannot be sustained at today's Western standard of living. Even at one car per family, without air conditioning and supermalls, the world's environment cannot survive the onslaught."
"I'd suggest we start by making Al Gore's slide-show movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," required viewing in every high school in the country."
On the 7pm hour of CNN's The Situation Room on Tuesday afternoon, Jack Cafferty admitted President Bush "might have been on to something" when discussing the Axis of Evil in his 2002 State of the Union address (video link from Expose the Left to follow). The topic of the hour was North Korea's long-range missile "testing". North Korea is a country in Bush's Axis of Evil.
CAFFERTY: That was January 2002, the president referring, of course, to Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Fast forward four years. The U.S. has now been involved in the war in Iraq for well over three years with no end in site. Iran continues its efforts to enrich uranium, insisting it's just for peaceful purposes while many around the world fear they are actually embarking on a nuclear weapons program. And now we have North Korea going ahead today with test missile launches, including the failed launch of at least one long- range missile today. Looks like President Bush might have been on to something, doesn't it. Here's the question, which country from President Bush's axis of evil, Iraq, Iran, or North Korea poses the greatest threat to the United States. E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. John?
On Tuesday, National Public Radio's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" interviewed Fred Barnes of FNC and the Weekly Standard on his new book "Rebel In Chief." Gross began by asking Barnes if after the anti-Bush books by old Bush officials like Paul O'Neill and Bruce Bartlett, he set out to be a pro-Bush counterweight to those. (He said no.) NPR's website also posted an excerpt of the book, including Barnes reporting on an afternoon meeting with network anchors before the 2005 State of the Union address:
For now, though, the president has to attend an off-the-record lunch in the White House study adjacent to the State Dining Room. "Why do I have to go to this meeting?" Bush asks his communications director, Dan Bartlett. "It's traditional," Bartlett explains. Indeed, for years, the president has hosted the TV news anchors for lunch on the day of the State of the Union address. It's an invitation the anchors eagerly accept. Peter Jennings and George Stephanopoulos of ABC, Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams of NBC, Chris Wallace and Brit Hume of Fox, and Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff of CNN will be there. So will Dan Rather of CBS, magnanimously invited in spite of having sought to derail the president's reelection campaign by spotlighting four documents (later proved to be fabrications) that indicated Bush had used political pull to get into the Texas Air National Guard and avoid Vietnam duty, and that he had been honorably discharged without fully completing his service. (At the lunch, Rather will suddenly appear solicitous of Bush. "Thank you, Mr. President," he will say as he leaves. "Thank you, Mr. President." Bush will betray no hint of satisfaction.)
Both NBC's "Today" on Thursday and CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday jumped on one liberal-sounding line of Bush's State of the Union address: that America is "addicted to oil."
Matt Lauer began "Today" by joking like he was attending an Alcholics Anonymous meeting. "I'm Matt and I'm addicted to oil."
Katie responded, along with rest of the crew: "Hi Matt!"
Lauer elaborated: "You get the point. In fact it's an addiction all Americans have. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's supply and most of that for driving. Well this week President Bush called on America to break its dependence on foreign oil and search for new cleaner, energy sources but presidents, as you know, have been saying that for decades. Why is oil such a hard habit to break and does the oil used in your home actually affect what's happening in the Middle East? We'll get into that."
As was reported yesterday on NewsBusters, Democratic Senator John Kerry wasn't challenged on the Today show after he claimed that 53% of Americans don't graduate from high school. Well on this morning's Early Show, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin made an equally silly claim, "50% of all residents in the United States live along the Gulf Coast." I listened to the soundbite several times to ensure I heard him correctly.
The claim came during an interview with Harry Smith about President Bush's State of the Union Address and the challenges in rebuilding New Orleans, but was Harry Smith even listening to Nagin? One would think a competent journalist would have picked up on such an outragreous claim and challenged Nagin on it, or asked Nagin to clarify his remarks. Would Smith had let that slide if it were a Republican making such assertions?
The Boston Globe is not exactly breaking news on its front page this morning, running a story in which they found "legal specialists" who were willing to call the President a liar. This matches, of course, the general position of the Boston Globe on the Bush administration, so these specialists are credible and believable, and warrant front-page mention.
Legal specialists yesterday questioned the accuracy of President Bush's sweeping contentions about the legality of his domestic spying program, particularly his assertion in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that "previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have."
Shortly before 8am EST Wednesday on CNN's American Morning, co-host Miles O'Brien expressed outrage at Cindy Sheehan's ejection from the House of Representatives during Tuesday evening's State of the Union address, declaring that her free speech had been "thwarted." Mr. O'Brien incorrectly stated that soon after Ms. Sheehan entered the gallery, and revealed that she was wearing an anti-war T-shirt, security went up to her and "grabbed her and took her out of her seat." When it was pointed out to Mr. O'Brien that Ms. Sheehan, prior to her removal, had been ordered to cover up the shirt, which was in violation of a House rule against any form of demonstration in the galleries, he brushed off the issue and revealed the source of his information: Cindy Sheehan's own blog entry posted on left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore's website.
“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.”
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.
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.)