Saturday's big front-page feature story on the indictment of I. Lewis Libby comes from political reporter Todd Purdum, and his take on prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is typically positive (and just in time for Halloween): "It was as if Mr. Fitzgerald had suddenly morphed from the ominous star of a long-running silent movie into a sympathetic echo of Kevin Costner in 'The Untouchables.'"
In the same edition, television-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley reviews prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Friday press conference and makes the very same comparison: "In any turmoil, television seeks a hero. Stepping above the political wrangling, Mr. Fitzgerald presented himself to viewers as a righteous, homespun voice of reason, using baseball metaphors to explain his investigation and the flag to defend it….Back in the United States attorney's office in Chicago, the relentless prosecutor is known as Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree. Standing at a lectern at the Justice Department, wearing a blue shirt and red tie, a film of sweat on his forehead, Mr. Fitzgerald looked more like a Jimmy Stewart character: Mr. Fitzgerald goes to Washington."
A Nexis search indicates the Times never compared Ken Starr to Eliot Ness. However, on March 24, 2002, then-Washington bureau chief (now managing editor) Jill Abramson did pass along comparisons of Starr to another historical figure, albeit one with not quite as good a reputation: "But by the time he stepped down in October 1999, relentless attacks by Democrats and Clinton allies had created a powerful caricature of him as a prude and a Torquemada leading a partisan inquisition."
Harlingen, Texas, October 28,2005: The New York Times appears to be unhappy that Karl Rove was not indicted, when the charges of perjury, making false statements and obstruction where made against I. Lewis Libby. The newspaper’s headline grudgingly stated “Rove Apparently Is Not Indicted Today…”
Today’s Times lead story also strongly reflects the newspaper’s displeasure that charges were not brought against Rove.
Though the news was all about the Libby indictment, Rove’s name is mentioned repeatedly throughout the lengthy article. Such as, “Karl Rove, President Bush’s senior advisor and deputy chief of staff was not charged today, but will remain under investigation.” Or, Mr. Rove, as the president’s alter ego…” and “...the investigation of Mr. Rove offer(s) abundant grist, at least for now, to critics who question the administration’s commitment to truth and candor.”
In a blog offering at “The Huffington Post,” MSNBC’s senior political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell shared some rather scathing opinions of White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove yesterday, and made it clear that it would have been better for the president and the country if Rove had resigned on Friday:
“The pundit world, having spent years in awe of Karl Rove, will never understand how bad he is at his White House job. His second term agenda destroyed this presidency long before Patrick Fitzgerald’s press conference. Rove sent his president on a political death march on Social Security reform with the most hopeless legislative idea since the Clinton health care bill. That showed Congress how powerless the second-term Bush would be.”
Every day, somebody at CNN picks a couple of video segments for their “Best of TV” section on their video page. From what I can tell, they can come from any of the various news categories CNN reports on such as world, business, politics, sports, health, etc. Of all the segments that they air during a given day and reproduce for their video page, typically only a couple are chosen for the “Best of TV” section.
On Friday, one of the three videos that made CNN’s “Best of TV” list was a 53 second clip of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) making a variety of accusations directed at the Bush administration on “Larry King Live.” In her rant, Boxer blamed Bush for the entire Plamegate affair, while claiming that the intent was “to punish a man's family because he told the truth about weapons of mass destruction.”
What follows is a full transcript of what CNN felt was the “Best of TV” last Friday, along with a video link.
For those of you who haven’t seen this morning’s “Meet the Press,” I highly recommend that you do so that you can see William Safire at his best, as well as some great incites from David Brooks. What follows are key statements from the two of them concerning Plamegate, and the events of the week. Though chronological in order, the numbered quotes are separate ideas that did not immediately follow one another:
1. MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: I think that was an excellent rundown and time line of a complicated series of accusations of a cover-up, but the most important single fact that emerged from the indictment is what was not in it. This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law. And the law that was violated was you must not deliberately out an agent who is undercover. And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken.
For those who have read or seen a lot of press reports since the announcement of the indictments against I. Lewis Libby on Friday, you have likely observed a growing number of quotes from White House “aides” and “insiders” concerning a state of panic and disarray within the administration. Yet, most of these reports do not give the names of the sources, and, instead, suggest that the informants wish to retain anonymity due to the current environment within the White House.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe wrote an article for the upcoming issue entitled, “Flying Blind,” wherein they asserted, “Team Bush is in turmoil.” To be sure, the title is quite appropriate, for not one of the eight “quotes” or paraphrases from White House “aides” identified the name of the source. In fact, two of these (the second and third bullets below) were referenced by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" this morning:
In the upcoming issue of Newsweek, senior editor Jonathan Alter suggests that the tactics of the Bush administration have acted to lessen democracy in America.
In a piece entitled, “The Price of Loyalty is Incompetence,” Alter states, “The same president who seeks democracy, transparency and dissent in Iraq is irritated by it at home.” The premise of the article is that Bush and Company require rubberstamps of approval from all who work in the administration without any dissent if one wants to continue to be part of the team:
Less than 36 hours after the indictments of I. Lewis Libby were announced, America’s first poll results concerning the matter were released just in time for them to be part of all the Sunday political talk shows tomorrow morning.
As reported by the Washington Post, the results of a new Washington Post/ABC News survey suggest that:
“55 percent of the public believes the Libby case indicates wider problems "with ethical wrongdoing" in the White House, while 41 percent believes it was an ‘isolated incident.’ And by a 3 to 1 ratio, 46 percent to 15 percent, Americans say the level of honesty and ethics in the government has declined rather than risen under Bush.”
The poll also puts Bush’s job approval at 39 percent. Yet, one has to wonder about its methodology. As the article indicated, “The survey of 600 randomly selected Americans represents a snapshot of initial reactions to the Libby indictment.” To be sure, 600 is an extremely small sample. Moreover, there is no indication of what the breakdown was of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents surveyed, which is particularly important given the belief by most pollsters that weekend surveys normally produce a greater percentage of Democratic respondents than is representative of the population. Regardless, the article by Post journalists Richard Morin and Claudia Deane made some pretty grave conclusions from this data:
One angle the major media hasn't underlined in the current explosion of Plamegate coverage is the legislative origins of the scandal in the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As much as liberals like Al Franken love to say they oppose treason, the bill was opposed by a handful of liberals and Democrats. Some nuggets from the Washington Post coverage follow.
President Reagan signed it, and some left-wingers protested from June 24, 1982:
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the law as a "clearly unconstitutional infringement on the right of free speech." Morton H. Halperin, director of ACLU's Center for National Security Studies, said the organization would provide legal assistance to "those whose ability to speak or write is threatened by this legislation or effort to enforce it by the Justice Department."
Here's another nugget of recent media history on indictment coverage of Democrats. While the networks have found a grave problem in Vice President Cheney's office in Scooter Libby, the same networks weren't hot to report the indictment of Maria Hsia, who helped arrange Al Gore's infamous Buddhist Temple fundraiser. On July 8, 1998, in the middle of Monicagate, Brent Baker reported in the CyberAlert that Hsia was indicted:
A 13-second item on CBS is all the coverage devoted Tuesday night to the indictment of Maria Hsia of temple fundraiser fame. Some notes on Tuesday night, July 7 coverage:
In a ten-second promo at the end of Friday's NBC Nightly News, an announcer excitedly promised, “Sunday: Joe Wilson, the man at the center of the CIA leak scandal and NBC's got him!” Viewers then saw a short clip of Wilson as he sat across from Campbell Brown: “The White House trained their guns on me.” Back to the announcer with matching text on screen: “The Dateline interview: Sunday 7, 6 Central.” CBS ran its plug for 60 Minutes inside a CBS Evening News story in which John Roberts asserted: "The case started with the outing of a CIA operative, but [prosecutor Peter] Fitzgerald found no crime in that. It didn't sit well with Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. In an exclusive interview for Sunday's 60 Minutes, he told Ed Bradley:" CBS played a soundbite of Wilson accusing Karl Rove despite Rove's vindication so far: "After Mr. Rove said about my wife, 'She's fair game,' I would like to see him frog-marched out of the White House. Whether it's in handcuffs or not is immaterial. If it was not illegal, it was certainly, it seems to me, a dubious ethical comportment. And I think we deserve better from our senior public servants."
After weeks of joyous anticipation by many in the media, a Bush Administration official, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was today indicted by a federal grand jury. NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert wanted to emphasize the event's importance, telling his MSNBC audience: "This is significant, it's the first time in 130 years a White House official has been indicted."
Not according to MSNBC's own Web site. It's "Fact File: White House Staff Indictments" provides a "brief
history of indictments in recent administrations." Going back only into the mid-1970s, it identifies eight people, including a Reagan Cabinet member and two Clinton Cabinet members, who were indicted on various charges. These included conspiracy, obstruction, embezzlement, illegal stock trading, lying to the FBI and grand larceny. One Clinton official was indicted on 39 corruption counts related to acceptance of gifts from a company he was responsible for regulating.
“The real lingering question for me is,” former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw asserted on the 5pm EDT Friday edition of MSNBC's Hardball, “was this a one-man band, or were there others in the administration who were linked to his efforts?” Brokaw added, as if it were the natural thing to wonder about: “And, of course, the question that will be raised by a lot of people not in any way fans of this administration, 'what did Dick Cheney know and when did he know it?'”
Brokaw, however, also criticized the news media for “all the speculation leading up to this” when “we ended up with one indictment today.” Looking forward, Brokaw predicted that “I don't think that he [Fitzgerald] has an indictment in mind for Karl Rove,” which, Brokaw noted, “is going to be an acute disappointment to a lot of people who are not fans of this administration.” (Brief transcripts of these comments follow.)
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had a long news conference this afternoon, addressing the end of service of his Grand Jury and the indictments handed down on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Shortly thereafter, the talk station to which I listened after the PC ran a newsbreak at 3:30 PM EST. During that break, they ran the ABC news, and one of the stories was, of course, the indictments. The story was read by a female reporter, whose name I missed and cannot find, and after talking about the Libby indictments, she said, in a hopeful tone, that Karl Rove was not indicted, but "Fitzgerald says he is still being investigated."
I listened to the entire Fitzgerald press conference, and he said nothing of the sort. He repeatedly refused to say anything of the sort about ANYONE else. He spoke about the Libby indictments. Period. He did say that the investigation was not completed. He refused to say whether or not he would attempt to impanel another Grand Jury, though it sounded, to me, as if he would not.
"Is the investigation finished? It's not over. But … very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded."
Is Rove "still being investigated?" Possibly. Possibly not. There's nothing in what Fitzgerald said this afternoon that would confirm or eliminate either possibility. As I say, I listened to the entire thing, and my reaction was "if I'm Karl Rove, this is a good thing." (For what it's worth, Kathryn Jean Lopez says that CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin agrees, that he would be "very, very encouraged" if he were Karl Rove.) I could be wrong, but for ABC news to report that "Fitzgerald says he is still being investigated" is for them to report something that's just plain not true. Fitzgerald did not say that. It's as if they're so emotionally invested in Rove being indicted that they have to keep the dream alive...
This is a very curious press conference just conducted by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. With his machine-gun delivery, he repeatedly flopped back and forth between saying that the “outing” of Valerie Plame, wife of discredited Ambassador Joe Wilson was a “serious matter,” and saying that he “reached no conclusion” whether she had been outed, and if so, when and by whom.
The mood in the room among the reporters changed appreciably as the conference went on. Initially, the press was very interested in the charges made and reasons for them, and in the charges not made against other people, and the reasons why not. But by the end of the conference, the reporters were clearly puzzled by the wandering speech of Fitzgerald and his lame analogies about a baseball pitcher throwing at a batter’s head, and a bank robber with his fingerprint on the holdup note and a signed confession.
Yesterday, Harriet Miers withdrew as a Supreme Court nominee. Today, Lewis Libby has been indicted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. So how do Keith Olbermann and Craig Crawford explain the lack of any terror alerts to distract the public from this bad news?
Maybe the "coincidence" of a terror alert being issued each time there's a bad news story about the Bush administration isn't as "consistent" as Olbermann declared just a couple of weeks ago when he posited that the liberal Republican mayor of New York was launching a panic over a potential subway attack to distract from the Plame investigation.
As ABC, CBS, and NBC all dived into live coverage today to report the indictment of Vice President Cheney's top aide Scooter Libby, this is not at all the way the networks covered indictments of cabinet officers in the Clinton years.
In September 1997, we reported in Media Watch that when former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was indicted on 39 counts, the networks aired a single evening news story. Three of the four networks -- ABC, CNN, and NBC -- underlined that the Smaltz inquiry had so far cost $9 million. None of them noted civil penalties originating from targets of Smaltz's inquiry amounted to more than $3.5 million. The next morning, CBS's morning show, called CBS This Morning, didn't even mention Espy's indictment. Months later, I noted in a Media Reality Check that on December 11, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts for misleading the FBI about payoffs to a mistress, Linda Medlar. NBC Nightly News filed one story; ABC's World News Tonight gave it 18 seconds. CBS Evening News didn't arrive on the story until the next night, and gave it nine seconds, a fraction of the two minutes Dan Rather gave the nightly El Nino update, about the weather "giving a gentle lift to the monarch butterfly." The morning shows were worse: NBC's Today passed on two anchor briefs, and ABC's Good Morning America and CBS This Morning ignored it.
As we prepare for any Patrick Fitzgerald moves today on Plamegate, and the press gets out its bottle of Clinton's Milk of Amnesia, don't just remember, as Rich Noyes did, that the media yawned when it came out that Robert Ray could have indicted Hillary. From the cobwebs of the April 1999 edition of our old paper newsletter MediaWatch, a reminder that the media also yawned when the grand jury forewoman felt she would have supported indicting President Clinton:
A silent but important figure in Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s Lewinsky investigation briefly broke her silence last month. Grand jury forewoman Freda Alexander revealed that she would have voted to indict President Clinton for perjury, if given the chance, and characterized attacks on Ken Starr as "grossly unfair." But the networks showed little interest in her revelations.
Much to Senator Chris Dodd's consternation on Thursday's Larry King Live on CNN, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, pointed out a fact rarely mentioned by the mainstream media -- that “most of the analysts at the CIA said that [Joseph] Wilson's findings, when he went to Niger, supported the conclusion that there was some deal with Iraq” for uranium. When Dodd started to counter Woodward, Woodward asserted that “Democrats and the Republicans all signed that report. That is a fact.” Woodward revealed that he had the report “in his pocket”and when King asked why, Woodward answered: "Yes I do because I knew I might be challenged." When King went to an ad break two minutes later, the camera pulled back to show everyone at the table. Woodward then slid forward across the table to Dodd what looked like a few 8-and-half-by-11 sheets of paper with a post-it on top. Dodd ignored it, but in the second before CNN went to black, Senator Lindsey Graham, sitting beside Dodd, picked them up.
The still shot is from a fraction of a second after the papers are released from Woodward's hand. Video excerpt of this event: Real or Windows Media. Dodd says something as he looks toward Woodward. If you can read lips... (Transcript of the earlier exchange follows.)
In a report last night on CNN’s “Newsnight,” David Ensor continually referred to CIA employee Valerie Plame as being “undercover.” In fact, the entire report was about the dire consequences to the agency as a whole as a result of such an "outing," as well as to Plame:
“Forty-two-year-old Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband referred to her as 'Jane Bond,' is clearly now the most famous female spy in America. Exposing her as a CIA undercover officer did damage to U.S. intelligence, U.S. officials say. They refuse to be more specific.”
Unfortunately, nowhere in the report did Ensor relay to the viewer that Plame has not been undercover since 1997, and, instead, has been working for the CIA on American soil ever since. In fact, as reported by USA Today back in July 2004:
During the Clinton scandals, the media repeated attack after attack put forth by the Clinton administration against the various independent counsels charged with investigating it. Remember the Ken Starr treatment? Well, the media has finally found a special prosecutor that they like. On today's Good Morning America, ABC's Jessica Yellin painted Patrick Fitzgerald as 'the perfect man' to investigate the possible role of White House aides in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity.
Yellin reported that Fitzgerald "doesn't mind keeping Washington waiting and worrying as long as he gets his facts right." She described him as "determined, meticulous, intense, a man with a perfect memory." And if viewers weren't yet convinced, Yellin had more: "The son of a doorman, Fitzgerald worked his way through college as a custodian. He's single and commutes between Washington and Chicago where he's the city's top federal prosecutor. And yes, he's a workaholic with stories to tell. According to one friend, he's so rarely at home that he once cooked lasagna and left it in the oven for three months without realizing it."
Republicans have taken a proper 'respect for the process' stance when it comes to Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation. This of course was a far cry from the treatment Ken Starr recieved where he was painted as an overzealous prosecutor by Clintonistas and the media. Today show was one of the many willing participants in the Starr bashing and thanks to Ann Coulter for pointing out that double standard.
During the 7:00am hour Matt Lauer posed the following question to Coulter:
Lauer: "We know the President has gone on the record. He said to me that he thinks the special prosecutor in this case is handling the investigation in an extremely dignified manner. So if indictments do come down how do Republicans react? Can some of them say this was all a sham?"
As the CIA leak investigation comes to a conclusion, America’s media have started to sell the public the man in the middle of the maelstrom, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Tonight, CBS News jumped on the bandwagon in a report filed by Jim Axelrod for “The Evening News” (video link to follow).
Like many such reports in the past week, Axelrod began by trying to dispel the notion that politics are in any way involved in this episode: “44-year-old Pat Fitzgerald, an intense and, by all accounts, apolitical prosecutor who's pursued mob bosses, crooked politicians, and Osama bin Laden like a pit bull with lockjaw.”
MSNBC's Chris Matthews assumed pernicious wrong-doing on the part of Bush officials and cited facts not in evidence as he opened Wednesday's Hardball by presuming Valerie Plame was a victim, though her publicity-seeking husband was incompatible with keeping her employer secret. Matthews declared that the “FBI closes in on the bad guys,” described Plame as “undercover CIA agent” and touted how she “was a courageous spy for her country,” even though she was working at CIA headquarters and her specific status is in dispute. Bob Novak, for instance, reported that her overseas career was over. Matthews proceeded to assert that her neighbors had “no idea” of what job she held “until quote, 'high administration officials,' closed quote, exposed her to America's enemies.” Full transcript of the show opening delivered by Matthews follows.
In the months leading up to the imminent announcement from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald concerning “Leakgate,” there has been an endless stream of gloomy predictions from mainstream media representatives that indictments would destroy the Bush administration, and totally dismantle the president’s agenda for the rest of his second term. For example, as was reported here, David Gergen stated on yesterday’s “Early Show,” “If indictments are handed down, it's going to be a real blow to the administration and comes at a terrible time.” And, “If [Bush] were to lose Karl Rove, he'll lose a right arm. And it’s really hard to climb out of a hole without your right arm.”
By contrast, CBS’s Hannah Storm had Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist Ed Rollins on “The Early Show” this morning, and the two high-profile pols didn’t agree with this assessment. In fact, both stated that if indictments are issued for Lewis Libby and Karl Rove which force them to resign, it could end up being a good thing for this White House (video link to follow):
During an appearance on CNN's American Morning, Al Franken repeated once more his "joke" that Karl Rove and Lewis Libby will "definitely be executed" for their involvement in the CIA leak investigation. When asked by substitute host Zain Verjee during the 8:20 am interview about the investigation, Franken maintained that Rove and Libby had committed treason.
Zain Verjee: "So you, you and your other liberal friends really salivating the prospect of seeing an indictment here?"
Al Franken: "Well–"
Verjee: "Are you out in your apartments sort of having a good laugh and–"
Franken: "Yes. Well, I’ll tell you why. Because there is an important aspect to this. This is really about covering for lying about why we went to Iraq. So what I see and, and of course, it looks like definitely Rove and Libby outed a CIA agent, an undercover CIA agent, which George H.W. Bush, the president’s father, who was head of the CIA, called treason. So I think, you know, people ask me what’s going to happen. I–this is treason and I think Libby and Rove definitely be executed. I think that’s, you know, I’m not–I’m against the death penalty."
Washington Post reporters Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus surprised yesterday with a slightly negative piece on Joseph Wilson, the U.S. diplomat turned discredited anti-war actvist whose wife Valerie Plame is the center of Patrick Fitzgerald's rinvestigation that has Democrats salivating and Republicans bracing over possible indictments.
But before the Post notes that in retrospect, it wasn't the best idea for Joseph Wilson and wife Valerie to pose for Vanity Fair, or for him to sign up for the Kerry campaign or (as the Post gently put its) "misstating some aspects of the Niger affair," they credit him for making a Bush claim invalid (emphasis added): "Wilson's central assertion -- disputing President Bush's 2003 State of the Union claim that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Niger -- has been validated by postwar weapons inspections. And his charge that the administration exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq has proved potent."
Sigh. Back on October 12, 2003, then-Post ombudsman Michael Getler wrote:
"On Oct. 4, The Post made an obvious mistake on the front page, reporting that chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay had found 'no evidence for another one of Bush's key claims--that Iraq sought uranium in Niger.' Bush referred to Africa, not Niger, in the now famous 16 words in his State of the Union speech."
In introducing Joe Scarborough this morning, Katie Couric described him a "former Republican congressman." After witnessing his performance, one is prompted to ask: was "former" intended to modify "congressman," or "Republican"?
In any case, Scarborough was living proof of the adage that the kind of Republicans welcome on the Today show are those willing to take swipes at the Bush administration.
Scarborough did so in spades this morning. Speaking of the Plame investigation, Katie asked, in her best butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth ingenue tone: