On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his latest "Special Comment" to call on President Bush and Vice President Cheney to resign because of the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, contending that President Bush is only president of a "rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party." Olbermann further accused Cheney of being "without conscience" and compared the two to a "ventriloquist" and "dummy." After calling on Congress to "pressure, negotiate, impeach," Olbermann concluded: "Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9, 1974. Resign. And give us someone, anyone, about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, 'I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job.' Good night and good luck." (Transcript follows)
Broadcast network anchors and reporters on Tuesday night seemed to be in a near panic over the possibility President Bush might yet pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, while ABC's Martha Raddatz illustrated special treatment for Libby by highlighting a man sentenced to 20 years for selling cocaine, whose commutation request Bush rejected, and Martha Stewart who served five months for violations similar to Libby's. With “Libby PARDON?” on screen, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams warned that Bush is “not ruling out the possibility of a full pardon.” Bush remarked on Tuesday that “as to the future, I'm, you know, rule nothing in and nothing out.” CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric made that her hook, citing “a lot more fireworks today...sparked by what the President said he may or may not do in the future.” Bill Plante began: “A day after he commuted Lewis Libby's prison sentence, President Bush raised the ante by leaving the door open to an eventual pardon.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Angry reaction to President Bush sparing Scooter Libby jail time while the President doesn't rule out granting Libby a full pardon.” Martha Raddatz reported: “Mr. Bush took it one step further today, saying a full pardon for Libby is not off the table.” After running a clip of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow maintaining “you do not engage in these acts for symbolic or political reasons,” Raddatz charged: “But that is going to be a hard accusation to shake. At the very least, Libby went to the front of the line. There are currently close to 2,000 commutation requests pending. More than 4,000 have already been denied. During his nearly seven years in office, President Bush has granted only four commutations, including Libby.” She proceeded to highlight how “former Kansas City Royals slugger Willie Mays Aikens, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1994 for selling two ounces of crack,” but “Aikens' request to have his sentence commuted was turned down by President Bush.”
The Tuesday broadcast network morning shows all led with President Bush's commutation of the 30-month prison sentence for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, but CBS displayed "Libby Pardon" on screen throughout a report from Bill Plante; over video of Bush and then Libby ABC put "Above the Law?" on screen to frame its coverage; and both CBS and NBC featured Hillary Clinton's slam at Bush's "cronyism" -- yet failed to bring up the name Marc Rich. NBC's Meredith Vieira scolded Bill Kristol for daring to describe Joe Wilson's claims, that President Bush "subverted the rule of law" and could be "a suspect in an ongoing obstruction of justice case," as "ridiculous." Referring to the commutation, not the prosecution, Vieira lectured: "There are many people who feel that this was a travesty of justice."
[Update at bottom of post] On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC program featured two segments on President Bush’s commutation of Dick Cheney aide Lewis Libby. Substitute co-host David Muir opened the program by wondering, "This morning, above the law?" and GMA glossed over Bill Clinton's infamous pardon of Marc Rich. Instead, various anchors found time to twice highlight Senator Dick Durbin’s comment that "even Paris Hilton had to go to jail."
Although reporter David Kerley's segment did feature a quote from Republican strategist Rich Galen, both pieces seemed more interested in Democratic outrage. Kerley and Muir seemed taken with Senator Dick Durbin’s comparison to Paris Hilton:
Kerley: "But one of the most stinging statements came from Senator Dick Durbin, who said, quote, ‘Even Paris Hilton had to go to jail. No one in this administration should be above the law.’"
David Muir: "Not surprisingly, the Democrats are jumping on this. We heard from the Democratic candidates there. Senator Durbin saying even Paris Hilton went to jail. Some real red meat for the other party."
Writing about Lester Holt, I've more than once praised the NBC host for his level-headed professionalism. I may have to re-evaluate after his performance on this morning's "Today." Interviewing Joe Wilson about the Libby commutation, Holt seemed to seek to throw gasoline on the fire with leading questions, while obfuscating an important fact. Later, Meredith Vieira interrupted Bill Kristol to offer a heartelt defense of Wilson.
Holt began by reminding Wilson of his recent statement that the Libby sentence demonstrates that "this remains a nation of laws, not men."
Holt then lobbed in this question.
NBC HOST LESTER HOLT: Do you still believe that this morning?
Wilson knew just what to do with the hanging curveball:
I keep seeing this talking point phrase in multiple MSM stories about the Libby conviction; "Libby was convicted in March, the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair roiled the Reagan administration in the 1980s."(emphasis, mine) This is a misleading statement that makes the reader imagine that no high-ranking Presidential appointee, adviser, or member of the White House has been convicted of anything or sentenced to anything since Reagan's era. But, at least one past official's name should be placed above that of Libby's. Henry Cisneros was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton. Cisneros, it should be remembered, was indicted in 1995 on 18 counts of conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. Cisneros pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of lying to the FBI. Now, I'd dare say that Libby, who only worked in the office of the Vice President, was a minnow in the pond in which Cisneros swam. Cisneros was the Secretary of HUD, a presidential cabinet member, after all!
Naturally, on his way out of the White House in 2001, Clinton pardoned Cisneros.
On Monday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann opened his show railing against President Bush, contending that the President "lied us into a war" and "needlessly killed 3,584 of our family and friends and neighbors" as the Countdown host attacked the President for commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, referring to Libby's involvement in the "greatest crime of this young century." Olbermann later tagged Bush as "Worst Person in the World," and announced that he will call on President Bush and Vice President Cheney to resign in a "Special Comment" on Tuesday's show. Olbermann: "As you may have suspected, tomorrow night, here on Countdown, a 'Special Comment' calling on this Vice President and this President to resign."
With “Angry Reaction” on screen, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux opened the 7pm EDT hour of The Situation Room by asking if on the Libby commutation: “Are conservatives as angry as Democrats?” Toward the end of the hour, Malveaux, filling in for Wolf Blitzer, cued up ex-Clinton operative Paul Begala: “President Clinton was impeached for lying before a grand jury. What do you think? What do you make of this? Does this smack of a double standard?” Malveaux announced at the top of the program: “Spared from prison, President Bush commutes the sentence of former White House aide Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. Tonight, the breaking news and the reaction. Are conservatives as angry as Democrats?”
Analyst Bill Schneider soon echoed her theme: “There's going to be a lot of anger out there. I don't think it's going to be restricted simply to Democrats. Independents and some Republicans are going to be angry and it's going to feed into the anger at Washington that seems to be poisoning the mood of the country.” As for the idea “this would be popular with the base,” Schneider opined: “I'm dubious about that.” Referring to a CNN poll, Schneider argued that “when you have only 19 percent who would support a pardon...I'm not sure that I would say that this could have any positive repercussions for the President.” Malveaux, who seconds earlier cued up Begala with a liberal talking point about a Republican double standard, confronted Republican strategist John Feehery: “Does it cut two ways here? We've heard Bill Schneider saying he doesn't really think this is going to play out much in a partisan way. He believes that there are going to be a lot of Republicans who see it the same way as Democrats and say, you know, this is just preferential treatment.”
Perhaps the surprise of Monday morning was that CNN's "American Morning" hosted liberal Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz to discuss his support of former Cheney aide Scooter Libby, whom Dershowitz says has been given too stiff of a sentence. "Considering all of the circumstances of the case, first offender, good record, generally, you wouldn’t get a sentence of that length."
Co-host Kiran Chetry asked, "So, this is a little puzzling because you are not known as a friend of this administration. Some may have been a little surprised to read that you did file this friend of the court's brief on behalf of Scooter Libby. Why?" Dershowitz explained his stance, and how the circumstances of the Libby case wasn’t "a Republican-Democrat issue for me."
I was wondering when the New Republic Magazine began to delve into comedy? I guess it's all the rage with the comedic stylings of Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and John Kerry, but I had always thought the New Republic fashioned itself a magazine of "serious" political commentary. After reading a fawning, nay slobberingly sycophantic, assessment of the career of David Gregory, NBC News' White House correspondent, I have my doubts about TNR’s claims to serious analysis. The title even seems a stab at humor, or at least wild hyperbole, as they absurdly seem to think that Gregory "Saved the Press Corps". (Registration required for the New Republic)
I mean, this thing might have been written by the best The Simpsons writers or the inventive crew from the joke-shop operated by that red-headed rake, Conan O'Brien.
Sadly, I believe the magazine published this in all seriousness. I mean, imagine? They truly are positing that this ill tempered, easily provoked, admittedly "showboating", loudmouth of a reporter is something to admire and emulate!
Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's sentencing occurred on Tuesday and Katie Couric led the CBS Evening News the same way she did when Libby was convicted three months ago: With a comparison to the Iran-Contra scandal and how he's the highest-ranking official convicted of a felony in 20 years. But his conviction was news three months ago, not now. Back on March 6, Couric teased: “Guilty: Scooter Libby is convicted in the CIA leak case, the highest ranking White House official found guilty of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal.” She opened by pointing out how “Libby is the highest ranking White House official convicted of a felony in two decades.”
Fast forward to June 5 and Couric teased: “Tonight, the hammer comes down on Scooter Libby. He was once Vice President Cheney's right-hand man, now he's going to prison. The highest-ranking White House official in nearly twenty years convicted of a felony.” She began the newscast:
“Hello everyone. Not since the Iran-Contra scandal nearly two decades ago has such a high-ranking White House official been convicted of a felony. And today, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in connection with that very convoluted CIA leak case. Libby was not convicted of leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, but rather of lying about what he knew.”
Valerie Plame Wilson claims her life was ruined, her career ended, and national security possibly compromised because her CIA employ was made public, but of course she now wants to cash in with a memoir.
The CIA, for good reason, wants to make sure nothing that compromises national security gets published, and now Plame is literally making a federal case out of that, suing over CIA objections that her dates of employ are and should remain classified.
With the Democrats back in
power, network anchors are dwelling lovingly on congressional hearings
now with liberal stars like Al Gore and Valerie Plame. They've shown no
loss of appetite for hearings on the U.S. Attorney-firings scandal,
deemed a “constitutional crisis” by NBC Wednesday night. But ten years
ago, when a Republican Congress prepared subpoenas for the Clinton
White House on receiving political contributions from China, viewers
heard the networks sing a very different tune.
wondered whether subpoenas and hearings weren't democracy in action,
but a waste of America's resources. On the April 10, 1997 World News
Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings promoted a story: “When we come back,
two investigations of fundraising abuse, two of them on Capitol Hill.
Is it a waste of time and money?” Reporter John Cochran underlined the
problem of GOP partisanship: “Dan Burton is a hard-charging partisan
and has resisted investigating anyone but Democrats.”
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Chris Cuomo used a none-to-subtle visual aid to continue the program’s campaign to have Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired over the Justice Department’s dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. Early in the 7am hour, co-host Robin Roberts introduced Cuomo, who stood at the news desk with stacks of paper, meant to represent the 3000 pages of documents released on the case, piled half way to his shoulders:
Roberts: "Look at all that you have there, Chris." [Roberts points to a huge stack of papers that Cuomo has piled on his news desk.]
Chris Cuomo: "You see this stack of paper? Very relevant today. Good morning to you and good morning, everyone. The number of the day is 3,000. That's how many pages, just like this, the Justice Department handed out overnight. They offer an up-close look inside the controversial firing of eight federal prosecutors."
For his level-headed professionalism, Lester Holt is on my [admittedly short] list of MSM faves. But while Holt did hit former Ambassador [to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe] Joseph Wilson with one tough question on this morning's "Today," he let Valerie Plame's husband hijack the beginning of the interview, lobbed him numerous softballs, and failed to challenge Wilson on his blatant misrepresentation of Plame's role in sending him to Niger.
In the set-up piece preceding the interview, "Today" aired a clip of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) asking Plame, during yesterday's congressional hearing, whether she was a Republican or a Democrat. For the record, Plame sardonically acknowledged that she was indeed a Dem.
The three broadcast network evening newscasts were similar Friday night in featuring full stories on Valerie Plame's testimony before the House Government Reform Committee, including video of Plame with a woman behind her wearing a pink “Impeach Bush” T-shirt -- ABC even caught a moment when the woman was making the “shame” sign with her fingers (see screen shot to right) -- and not mentioning Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State who was the source for columnist Robert Novak's reporting of her name. CBS's Gloria Borger, remarkably, concluded her report by listing every big name involved but Armitage's: “When asked whether she'd gotten an apology from the President, the Vice President, Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, she said no.”
But there were differences. Only NBC Nightly News led with Plame as fill-in anchor Campbell Brown announced: “The CIA operative at the heart of a scandal tells Congress the Bush administration blew her cover and wrecked her career.” NBC's Chip Reid uniquely highlighted how Plame contributed to Al Gore's 2000 campaign and that she conceded “I am a Democrat.” While CBS's Borger concluded with a missing apology to her, ABC's David Kerley ended his piece by noting how Plame is taking advantage of her situation: “While Plame may have lost the undercover job she loved, the blown cover is allowing her to find a new career. She signed a book deal for more than $1 million. And oh, about all those ingredients for a Hollywood movie, there will be one of those, as well.”
Liberal Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) entered friendly territory as he appeared on the March 12th edition of The View to promote his new book Positively American. Rosie once again called for impeaching the president and pressed Senator Schumer to agree. Rosie’s nutty charge of "treason" was too much even for fringe liberal Joy Behar.
O’Donnell: "Do you think that anyone will call for the impeachment of George Bush in Congress?"
Schumer: "Probably not. Because usually impeachment is when you've committed a crime."
While members of "mainstream media" have eagerly covered Ann Coulter’s use of an vulgar term at a conservative conference, HBO host Bill Maher’s obnoxious comment about the Vice President, that "more people would live" if Dick Cheney had been assassinated, drew only sparse attention from the press.
Commenting on the diversity of the 2008 Democratic contenders, MSNBC host Contessa Brewer remarked of Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, "It’s sort of like we’re rooting for everybody all at once."
CNN put together a story featuring reporter John Roberts that absolutely hammered Vice President Cheney on Wednesday night’s Paula Zahn Now, concluding with an anonymous Republican suggesting the party needed an "exorcism" to rid itself of all its missteps and corruption.
When the Laura Ingraham show played clips, Ingraham suggested reporter John Roberts should call in – and he did. Roberts protested that the source was a "devout Republican," and not former Clinton aide David Gergen, as callers joked.
He suggested his story was "very narrowly sliced" to deal just with Cheney, and not the Libby trial. It was narrow, alright. (MP3 audio at NRO.)
Time magazine's cover story image as reality? Displaying a mini-instance of pack journalism, MSNBC and CNN shows on Thursday afternoon and night pounced on Time magazine's cover story, “The Verdict on Cheney” beside a picture of Cheney under some dark clouds, as evidence Cheney's influence is declining in the White House in the wake of the Scooter Libby verdict. It may be, but the graphics on a magazine cover hardly proves it. Plugging an interview with Michael Duffy, the author of the cover story, MSNBC's Chris Matthews asserted on Hardball: “More coming here about amazing problems facing the Vice President. He's on the cover of Time magazine as we speak and it looks bad.”
On CNN's Paula Zahn Now, Zahn trumpeted how “tonight we're bring out into the open Vice President Cheney's downhill slide” which is “not pretty” and is illustrated by, as she instructed viewers, “Look at the cover of the new Time magazine: The Vice President under a dark cloud. The headline: 'The Verdict on Cheney.' The story inside even brands him as 'the enemy within' the White House, dragging the whole administration down with him." Over on MSNBC's Countdown at the same 8pm EST hour, fill-in host Alison Stewart highlighted how “special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald referred to the quote, 'cloud over the Vice President' in his summation at the Libby trial. The folks at Time magazine painting that cloud over Mr. Cheney quite literally in their art for the new cover story, going as far as to call him quote, 'one of Bush's biggest liabilities.'"
Remember how Team Clinton always disparaged their enemies as peddlers of "trash for cash," selling their stories to book publishers and movie studios? The liberal media played along then, but not now. The March 5-11 edition of Variety notes that Warner Bros. moved quickly to secure the screen rights to "Fair Game," Valerie Plame’s upcoming memoir of her life at the CIA. Michael Fleming sells it: "It’s a delicious political thriller of secret government power, covert identity and White House manipulation tht would make for a great movie." Fleming doesn’t note the tale is much more "delicious" if you hate Team Bush.
With the story arriving before the verdict, Fleming warned "the path to release is strewn with land mines" with movies based on real life. Plame’s memoir has yet to be approved by the CIA, and sometimes real-life stories take "unpredictable turns." It turns out that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the D.C. jury that convicted Scooter Libby enhanced the bankability of Valerie Plame, The Movie.
Fresh off of testifying in the case against Dick Cheney's aide Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, NBC's Tim Russert, along with Andrea Mitchell, attacked the Vice President himself as they and Today host Meredith Vieira blamed Cheney for getting everything "wrong," pushed for his resignation and even compared him to "Darth Vader." On this morning's Today, Mitchell first pulled out the knife-
Mitchell: "Good morning, Ann. The White House says that the Vice President remains the President's most trusted counsel but many are now asking how badly has the conviction of his closest aide hurt Dick Cheney? He is the most powerful Vice President in history but is he beginning to lose his clout? Critics caractiture Dick Cheney as the Darth Vader of the Bush White House. They say wrong on everything from the treatment of prisoners to Saddam Hussein's weapons."
Just an update from Wednesday night's Hardball: Newsweek's Howard Fineman effusively praised Libby trial juror (#10) Ann Redington on MSNBC, and he did it again Thursday morning in an interview in studio on the Laura Ingraham Show. He called Redington "bright...level-headed...eloquent" and even "probably correct" on wanting Libby to get a pardon.
Of course, he also strained a logic muscle by claiming that Libby messed up in the grand jury room because he didn't realize the special prosecutor who's sending him to jail is somehow his buddy. "Fitzgerald was their friend," said Howard, since he didn't end up convicting anyone under the covert-agent-identity-protection law. Yeah, and Ken Starr was Hillary's buddy, too, since she didn't end up indicted.
"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Booth Luce
So consumed is NBC with animosity toward President Bush and VP Cheney that there is virtually no good thing that it cannot spin into a negative. Take these bookend moments from this morning's "Today." In the course of a segment she narrated on the fallout from the Libby verdict for VP Cheney, Andrea Mitchell mentioned that "Cheney says his value to the president is that he has no political ambition for himself." She then ran a clip of the Veep saying "I'm not worried about what the folks in Iowa are going to say in the caucuses of January of next year. I'm here to do a job, and that is to call 'em as I see 'em."
You might think there's no way the offering of principled advice devoid of personal political ambition could be spun into a negative. Come on, you're not thinking creatively enough. Andrea found an angle: "But others say that is also a weakness, making Cheney . . . less sensitive to the political fallout from his own advice." On that theory, I suppose Mitchell will be counseling Hillary to ignore Bill's advice, since, like Cheney, he's not running either.
Tim Russert appeared on Wednesday’s Today to discuss the Libby verdict. Unsurprisingly, anchor Meredith Vieira asked her co-worker no tough questions about his controversial role in the case. The NBC duo underscored how historic and how damaging the verdict was, with Russert asserting it will "connect with people in a large way." Then, in the strangest line in the interview, after blowing Libby’s conviction into the Trial of the Century, when asked about the verdict Russert said he "took no joy in it."
On Wednesday, attorney Victoria Toensing wrote an article for National Review Online suggesting Russert’s pretense that he didn’t know what lawyers did was a good reason for appeal: "The court prevented the defense from impeaching Tim Russert: The NBC anchorman, who has a law degree, testified he did not know a lawyer could not accompany a witness before the grand jury. The defense then exhumed three clips where Russert had said on the air that a lawyer cannot go into the grand jury with his client. The judge would not allow the jury to hear that other honorable people sometimes forget or misspeak when being grilled on the witness stand."
Do you think the folks at the Los Angeles Times were a wee-bit excited over the "Scooter" Libby verdict yesterday? Today's paper (Wednesday, March 7, 2007) devoted no less than eight articles, twenty photos, and an unbelievable 8,406 words to the story of the verdict. Unable to contain their glee, columnists harped breathlessly that the verdict "erod[es]" the Bush administration's "already weak credibility on Iraq" and "sullies the integrity of [the] administration." (link)
The headline is that Ann Redington, Libby juror #10, wants Scooter to get a pardon. But there's actually a bigger story. It is Redington herself. If you have a chance to watch a replay of her appearance on this afternoon's Hardball, billed as an exclusive, I'd urge you to do so. She is enough to renew one's faith in the goodness and intelligence of our fellow Americans.
As Matthews observed, Redington demonstrated an impressive ability to separate the wheat from the chaff in the trial, and appeared open, honest and without any political ax to grind.
View video here. The clip is longer than usual because I consider Redington's comments to be of historical and cultural significance.
Excerpts from the interview:
Matthews: "What did you think of Scooter?"
Re: I thought he seemed like a really nice guy. It wouldn't matter if he were a nice guy or not, the whole thing was obviously very difficult to have someone's future in your hands. But he seemed like a ton of fun."
On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Diane Sawyer framed of the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby through the perspective of anti-Bush liberals, continuing a tradition that began with the previous day’s evening news programs. An ABC graphic described Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, as the "fall guy" and Sawyer wondered if he was "a scapegoat."
And nowhere in the segment did the GMA co-host find time to mention some very pertinent points, such as the fact that CIA Agent Valerie Plame, wife of ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, had her identity revealed to reporter Bob Novak by an administration critic, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Sawyer interviewed Denis Collins, a juror from the trial, and a sampling of her questions seems to reveal who she thinks is responsible:
Diane Sawyer: "Do you think that Scooter Libby got in trouble because he was trimming the truth to protect his boss?"
Sawyer: "You said the Vice President had clearly tasked [Libby] to talk to reporters about CIA agent Valerie Plame. How do you think the Vice President should feel this morning?"
Sawyer: "At the end of the day, what's the big message sent by this jury and this verdict?"
The ABC anchor also failed to mentioned the apparent conflict of interests shared by juror Collins, including his friendships with reporter Bob Woodward and the fact that he was a former neighbor of Tim Russert.
That's quite an ominous headline over Sheryl Gay Stolberg's story in today's New York Times about the conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges of Lewis Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney -- "A Judgment on Cheney Is Still to Come."
"In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case. In political terms, Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment. "For weeks, Washington watched, mesmerized, as the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. cast Vice President Cheney, his former boss, in the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings in a covert public relations campaign to defend the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq and discredit a critic.