It was waterboard Wednesday in the New York Times, as Philip Shenon and Scott Shane filed separate articles on the issue of waterboarding and "torture" in general.
Shenon's article on the positive outlook for Michael Mukasey's attorney general nomination tsk-tsked:
"Even some of Mr. Mukasey's supporters said at the hearing to vote on the nomination that they were troubled by the way Mr. Mukasey handled questions about waterboarding, which the United States has fiercely condemned when carried out by other nations and had prosecuted as a war crime after World War II."
On Firday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith began a segment on the controversy over Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey’s stance on water boarding with a report from Capitol Hill Correspondent Chip Reid, who exclaimed that:
Water boarding is a highly controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning...It's been used by interrogators since the Spanish Inquisition. Reportedly, it's been used by the CIA in real life, too, on a small number of Al Qaeda suspects.
In addition to this exaggerated characterization, Reid also made it seem as though the issue of water boarding was a sudden, shocking controversy, rather than an instance of a consensus nominee, well-liked by Democrats and Republicans, being attacked by those who once welcomed him:
Michael Mukasey looked like he was sailing along to easy confirmation as attorney general, until he ran aground on the issue of water boarding...If he is defeated, water boarding will be the issue that made the difference, something no one could have predicted when the hearings began.
CNN’s Jack Cafferty, in his regular "Cafferty File" segment on Thursday’s "The Situation Room," disdainfully criticized the appointment of a birth control skeptic to head a "family planning" agency at the Department of Health and Human Services by President Bush. "The question this hour is -- how much does it matter if the Bush Administration's appointee to head family planning programs has -- (LAUGHS) has been critical of birth control? This stuff is right out of ‘The Twilight Zone.'"
Cafferty’s comments came in response to the appointment of Susan Orr to the post in HHS, and aired just before the quarter-past-the-hour mark, and at the end of the 4 pm hour of "The Situation Room." Normally, "The Cafferty File" airs 5 minutes earlier at about 10 minutes past the hour, but coverage of the bombing in Karachi, Pakistan near the motorcade of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto pushed it back.
Cafferty began his "Question of the Hour" commentary bouncing off the breaking news about the bombing. He was so "taken aback" by this appointment that he read the introductory remark twice. Cafferty then "frowned upon" (easy for him) the fact that Orr’s position is "acting" director of the agency.
The media predictably went into full frenzy mode in reporting the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But leave it to the Cable News Network to interject its own brand of social commentary into the discussion. On CNN.com's Political Ticker, contributor Roland Martin openly suggests that it is "[t]ime for a black attorney general."
In the article, Martin praises PepsiCo executive Larry Thompson as an ideal candidate for nomination.
In his recent blog ("Making Headlines: The Law, Summer 2007"), CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen describes his midsummer night's dream of legal headlines he would "like to see, but probably won't." In the tradition of another more-famous CBS employee, Cohen lists his "top ten" legal headlines - a wish list with an obvious liberal slant.
Here are some of Cohen's headlines, along with the necessary translation.
Liberals love to decry the Bush administration's alleged undermining of the rule of law. The lead editorial in today's New York Times, for example, demands Congress "not capitulate in the White House’s attempt to rob it of its constitutional powers."
But ironically, just below the editorial appears a column by one Jean Edward Smith brazenly entitled "Stacking the Court." Far from condemning the possibility, the author, a Marshall University professor, endorses the prospect as a means of coercing the Supreme Court into issuing rulings more to his, and his fellow liberals', liking.
Threatens Smith, with all the subtlety of a mobster telling a mark he'd hate to see anything happen to his kids:
If the current five-man majority persists in thumbing its nose at popular values, the election of a Democratic president and Congress could provide a corrective. It requires only a majority vote in both houses to add a justice or two. Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues might do well to bear in mind that the roll call of presidents who have used this option includes not just Roosevelt but also Adams, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant.
The storyline. That's the thing. Feed the storyline.
The media has been just enthralled with the idea that the removal of political appointees, and their replacement with other political appointees, somehow constitutes a grand scandal, since it's a Republican adminstration that did it. The storyline was promoted again in a Reuters piece on Friday.
An assistant attorney general at the Justice Department announced her resignation on Friday, becoming the seventh official to quit the department since the Democratic-led Congress launched an investigation in March into the firing of nine federal prosecutors. Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, said she would step down on July 9. No reason was given.
Sounds pretty suspicious, doesn't it? Pretty sinister? Just more fuel on the fire that is the scandal of the President exercising his power to appoint and remove federal prosecutors.
On Saturday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Pete Williams presented a one-sided look at the Supreme Court's "shift to the right," conveying complaints by liberals over recent court rulings, but without showing any conservatives who supported some of the court's recent right-leaning decisions. Williams began his piece by quoting liberal Justice Stephen Breyer's complaint that "It's not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much," before playing a soundbite of the ACLU's Steven Shapiro: "Civil liberties and civil rights took a beating virtually across the board from race to religion to abortion to speech to the basic right to come into court and sue when you've been a victim of discrimination." Williams also found that Chief Justice John Roberts "has turned out to be more conservative than even some of the court's liberals thought he would be." (Transcript follows)
As we all know, Andrea Mitchell having told us so, Chris Matthews is no liberal. However the Hardball host did emphatically state on this afternoon's show that, at least when it comes to health care, he agrees with Michael Moore.
Matthews had just aired an impromptu interview that MSNBC's David Shuster had snared with Moore when the filmmaker appeared on Capitol Hill today on the occasion of this week's release of his latest work, "Sicko," regarding health care in the United States. In both Shuster's depiction of Moore's views, and in Moore's own statements in the course of the interview, Moore made clear that he wants to eliminate private-sector participation in health care insurance.
As Shuster put it: "in this movie, Moore calls for the end, the end, of for-profit healthcare."
In the aired interview, Moore described private-sector insurers as a "racket" and said "I want private insurance companies out of the equation."
So how did Matthews react to Moore's call for the killing of private-sector health care?
HARDBALL HOST CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know, I gotta agree with him on this stuff. I gotta agree with him. He's got a case. Healthcare in this country is not working.
Most of the media have spun the decision not to re-nominate Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace as being solely about the Iraq War. Only CNN and The Washington Post reported that Pace’s comment about homosexuality being immoral and his support for convicted White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby could be factors. David Niedrauer of the Culture and Media Institutelooks at the media spin.
In the MSM world of NBC, the only "rights" groups are liberal ones. And Supreme Court justices, at least women ones, are there to serve as advocates for their sex.
That was evident from the segment "Today" ran this morning, focusing on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The gist was that with Sandra Day O'Connor gone, it's a lonely struggle for Ginsburg as the high court's sole woman. "Today" portrayed that struggle not between liberals and conservatives, but between conservatives and various "rights" groups.
Campbell Brown introduced the segment.
'TODAY' WEEKEND TODAY CO-HOST CAMPELL BROWN: One thing as clear as the Court moves into its final weeks of the current session, it is much different place with just one female place among nine high court justices."
Chris Matthews began his interview of Dan Bartlett by singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in his honor. He ended with an apparently heartelt plea that Bartlett, who today announced that he will be leaving his position as counselor to President Bush, not join Fox News.
Bartlett was a guest on this afternoon's Hardball. In a segment beginning at 5:24 pm EDT, Matthews first sparred with Bartlett over the rift between President Bush and his conservative base over immigration reform. At the end of the interview, talk turned to Bartlett's future plans.
During Monica Goodling's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee testimony Dem congressman Steven Cohen of Tennessee quizzed the former Justice Department official regarding her Christian faith and the law school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson, that she attended.
An internet search reveals brief references to the interrogation in articles by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post and Maura Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. But I saw no coverage of the grilling on any of the morning news shows, nor have CNN or MSNBC picked it up as far as I have noticed.
I'm setting forth the actual transcript below, taken from this article, with the following changes. In place of "Regent" university, I'm substituting the name of an apocryphal Islamic university, which I'm calling "Prophet." In place of Christian or Christianity, I'm substituting Muslim. And in place of God, Allah.
Now imagine what kind of MSM uproar there would have been if a Republican congressman had posed these questions to a person of Muslim faith.
Congressman: And it says you went -- chose Muslim universities in part because they -- value they placed on service. What was the other [reason] that you chose Muslim universities?
Don't you dare call Mika Brzezinski a mere newsreader. Beyond simply enunciating words off the teleprompter, the MSNBC host doesn't hesitate to share her [left-leaning] views with viewers, too.
Take a segment that aired at 3:35 pm EDT today on the topic of gasoline prices. Introducing the discussion, Mika expressed her shock and outrage that sales of SUVs have recently risen despite relatively high gas prices. PoutedMika: "what's wrong with these people? Why do they need them?"
Mika's guest was Tyson Slocum of the liberal Public Citizen group, which is headed by Joan Claybrook, a former Carter administration official. Mika, of course, is the daughter of another Carter administration official, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. A couple members of the extended Carter-administration family, having a friendly chat on a day the former president is making headlines for breaking the unwritten taboo on past White House occupants bashing the incumbent.
In 2003, David Kuo resigned from the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and later wrote a book [published just before the 2006 mid-term elections] claiming that the administration was hypocritical in its dealings with religious conservatives.
The MSM had a field day because according to them [as E.J. Dionne wrote here, for example], Kuo was a religious conservative himself. But is that true? What kind of religious conservative, the day after Jerry Falwell died, would go on MSNBC's Tucker Carlson show and say this about the late pastor?:
DAVID KUO: In bringing the pulpit to politics in the very strident, narrow and frankly angry way that he did, he very much damaged the name of Jesus.
In a front-page article in the Washington Post in 1993, reporter Michael Weisskopf quipped that Christian conservatives were "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command."
Of course, that's utter malarkey, but even when well-educated Christian conservatives serve in high offices in the federal government, they don't fare much better in the liberally biased media, particularly if they graduated from Regent University, an accredited private graduate school founded by [gasp] Pat Robertson.
Take CBS's Andrew Cohen. The legal analyst/blogger who recently argued that Alberto Gonzales may well be the nation's worst Attorney General ever, picked up on a Boston Globe article to turn his anti-Gonzales drumbeat into a swipe at Bush political appointees who hail from evangelical Christian circles:
What better way to start the week than with a rousing round of WIARHSI, or in this case, an entertaining variation thereof: What If a Conservative Cartoonist Had Drawn It?
Check out Tom Toles' editorial cartoon in this morning's Washington Post. Toles depicts Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, complete with East L.A. hairstyle, having to be taught to pronounce the name of the department over which he presides in preparation for his congressional testimony.
It looks like Toles tried to give himself some cover by having Gonzales say he knows what a department is [though perhaps not what "justice" is]. Perhaps the cartoonist would try to argue that he was mocking the presumably white administration official who was coaching Gonzales, not the AG himself.
ABC News, the outfit stuffed with people who proclaimed their need to "puke" when George W. Bush was allowed to speak ill of John Kerry in presidential debates in 2004, is still betraying their bitterness. In an article on Bush using a recess appointment to make Samuel Fox the Ambassador to Belgium, reporter Tahman Bradley explained on the ABC News website:
Kerry and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., led Senate Democrats' opposition to Fox, who in 2004 contributed $50,000 to the slanderous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which used a series of television ads to undermine Kerry's combat record.
The headline was "Bush Swift Boats Belgium, Congress." That is a nonsense headline, unless we bow to ABC's affinity for liberal lingo, which has now tried to make "swift-boating" a verb, much like the conservative term "Borking." That would seem to be an improvement. As Greg Pollowitz noted at NRO's Media Blog, the original home page link was "Major Donor to 'Swift Boat' Smear Ads Is Made An Ambassador" (Emphasis Greg's). It now echoes the "Bush Swift Boats" line.
As Newsbsuters has brought you many times (see here and here among others), the MSM's focus on Bush's firing of a handful of U.S. Attorney's is wonderfully empty of any balanced treatment whatsoever. Not only has the MSM ignored the Clinton story -- where he fired EVERY one of them -- but they have also ignored the fact that Jimmy Carter also fired a U.S. Attorney for "political reasons." Not to be left behind, the Boston Globe today reports an uncritical story about Senator Edward Kennedy's (D, Mass) recent statement about the issue.
In a short report by Globe Staffer, Rick Klein, the Globe finds no room for any discussion of Clinton or Carter's firings -- par for the course for this shallowly reported story.
This is a developing story, so there's room for it to play out a bit, but the law firm congressional Democrats are hiring to help plow through the U.S. attorney firings, Arnold & Porter, has a history of heavy donations towards Democrats.
The ladies of "The View" tackled the U.S. attorney firing controversy with more false information, comparisons to the mob, and once again Rosie O’Donnell called for impeachment. Rosie reported her take of how the attorney firings went down.
O’DONNELL: Okay, Republican officials who supposedly called these judges that were fired and said, are you going to prosecute this Democratic, and they said, I can't talk about that because I'm actually a judge, and it's illegal. And they said "click," and they got fired.
O’DONNELL: Now what is really scary, are the ones who they called and said yeah, sure I will. And they're still on the bench. That’s even more frightening.
Writing in the "Swampland" blog for Time magazine today, Karen Tumulty insisted the U.S. attorney firings deserved"massive commitment of journalistic resources" before going on to cite a study showing that media attention in the past few weeks has skewed heavily towards the non-scandal scandal:
before all our commenters jump on me, let me stipulate: I think the
unfolding U.S. Attorneys story is a huge one, it deserves a massive
commitment of journalistic resources, it is not likely to go away any
time soon and I'm skeptical that Alberto Gonzales is going to survive
it. I also believe that history has shown us many times that the
broadest measures of public interest are a lagging indicator of the
significance of a story. Finally, the blogosphere deserves huge credit
for leading the way on it.
Translation: "the public don't know it yet, but this is an important story, we're going to make it an important story, and, kudos to liberal bloggers for making a fuss over it."
In 1993, Time magazine didn't show the same interest in blowing up the Clinton/Reno firings into a story the public would care about. [continued...]
On this morning's "Today," NBC's Pete Williams engaged in slip that would have made Sigmund proud, so let's bring in the father of modern psychotherapy to analyze it. After all, he's only been dead for 68 years, plenty fresh enough for purposes of punditry.
Williams had scored quite a journalistic coup, an exclusive sit-down with embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Later, Williams chatted live from DC with Matt Lauer back in the New York studio. Discussing the decision by a senior aide to Gonzales to invoke the Fifth Amendment should she be called to testify before congress regarding the firing of the U.S. attorneys, Williams said:
"Congress could try to force Monica Lewinsky -- uh, Monica Goodling, rather, to testify by giving her immunity. But it's more likely they'll simply use her reluctance to testify as another reason to wonder what really happened. Matt."
Matt managed to control his mirth, as did Williams in signing off, but you sensed a nervous chuckle was just below the surface on both ends of the conversation.
In much of the mainstream media reporting on the firing of eight U.S.
attorneys, the focus has been on stoking a political controversy from the story, ruminating on Alberto Gonzales's shelf life as attorney general, etc.
Largely left by the wayside in mainstream media reporting have been legitimate deviations the fired attorneys exhibited from Bush Justice Department priorities, such as immigration enforcement -- for instance, San Diego-based attorney Carol Lam's prosecution of immigration cases reportedly bothered the decidedly unconservative Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- and pushing for the death penalty in capital cases.
It took a while but at least one major media outlet is reporting that a reluctance to pursue the death penalty might have been a factor in at least three of the firings. [continued...]
Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly finally provided some perspective on the U.S. attorney firing story with some information the mainstream media will not report. On the March 22 edition of "The O’Reilly Factor," O’Reilly exposed much of the media spin on the situation from members of the White House press corps to several print media outlets. He then explained plausible reasons why three of the eight U.S. attorneys were fired.
The mainstream media hinted that the administration fired San Diego attorney Carol Lam for prosecuting former Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. What they failed to report is that Ms. Lam did not aggressively prosecute illegal alien criminals. Her lax approach concerned even Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein. Paul Charlton was not aggressive in pursuing marijuana cases, and even the liberal "Los Angeles Times" editorialized against fired attorney Kevin Ryan.
Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr., only had a storied legal career, the respect of Missouri Democrats and Republicans, and a stint of service to his country as Eisenhower's ambassador to India.
But to Newsweek's Holly Bailey, President Bush signing a bill naming a federal courthouse in honor of Rush Limbaugh's grandfather was a substantial distraction from the real "people's business" in Washington:
Never mind the whole U.S. attorneys' mess: President Bush is busy doing
the work of the people. What's he up to? On Wednesday afternoon, the
White House press office forwarded reporters this nugget from the
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
On Wednesday, March 21, 2007 the President signed into law:
342, which designates the United States courthouse in Cape Girardeau,
Missouri, as the Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. United States Courthouse.
Bailey cleared up any confusion for readers who might be unaware that Rush Limbaugh is the third in a line of Rush Hudson Limbaughs, and that his grandfather was a hard-working and well-respected pillar of the legal community in southeastern Missouri who died 11 years ago at age 104.
But in closing her March 21 "Gaggle" blog post, Bailey snarked that it's "Good to know that the president isn't letting another little scandal distract him from the people's business." [continued...]
UPDATES added at end of post with video link (11:08 EDT) and full transcript (12:17 EDT) as recorded by MRC/NB's Justin McCarthy.
Who needs Chuck Schumer, so long as you have Harry Smith [file photo]? Dems might well be asking themselves that this morning, after the Early Show host went after Tony Snow on the attorney firings in a manner that might have made the senior senator from New York look statesmanlike in contrast.
Things got so bad that at one point, the eminently affable Snow accused Smith of badgering him, and later suggested the CBS anchor was acting like a partisan, not a reporter. Things ended on the worst possible note, as Smith accused Snow of hiding the truth from him. See transcript below, which while complete can't convey the rancor of Smith's tone or his manifestly angry body language.
HARRY SMITH: The man out in front answering questions from the press
about this is White House spokesman Tony Snow. He's with us this
morning. Good morning, sir.
On Wednesday’s "American Morning," CNN co-host Soledad O’Brien must have surprised former Clinton administration official and Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel (D) with a tough question concerning the Bush administration’s use of executive privilege versus the Clinton administration’s use. Emanuel tried to claim the privilege is usually "reserved for national security," which even CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wasn’t buying. Here’s the exchange:
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: "You worked in the White House, the Clinton Administration, where they claimed executive privilege for Bruce Lindsey and for Sidney Blumenthal in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, essentially. Why that time around was the efforts you made -- it failed, but there was an effort to say executive privilege. Let's protect these guys. They shouldn't have to go testify before Congress. It failed. But that was what was claimed, so why this time around does it not seem fair?"