Different day, different Today show anchor, different attitude. As we documented yesterday, Couric's Complaint: Why Won't Rumsfeld Critic Bash Bush Too?, when Katie Couric hosted a segment on the matter of the retired generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, she chose as her guest one of the generals calling for Rumsfeld's head. Her most notable contributions to the discussion were to invite her guest to take a shot at Pres. Bush as long as he was at it, and to ask why he didn't come out sooner with his criticism so he could have 'shaped public opinion far earlier.'
This morning it was Lester Holt's turn in the Today show host seat. Now, it might just be in the normal course of the news cycle that his guest was a former general who is opposed to Rumsfeld's departure. But there was no mistaking Holt's even-handed treatment of the issues, in stark contrast with Couric's cheerleading for the Rumsfeld-must-go crowd.
Who says NBC won't highlight the accomplishments of the US military? Why just this morning the Today show had on as its very first guest a recently retired general, John Batiste.
Oh, wait. The purpose of inviting him was to provide a platform for his call for the ouster of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Again we see the pattern illustrated yesterday with Newt Gingrich's appearance. See Iraq Knock Nets Newt Net Nod. Republicans, military folks, etc. are welcome on Today - so long as they're prepared to take shots at the Bush administration and its policies.
There is no reason to doubt Batiste's sincerity. He said that his motivation is the servicemen and women and their families. He stated that he had come forward to demand "accountability for a war plan was built to invade Iraq but failed to build the peace. Accountability for what happenened at Abu Ghraib. Accountability for a leadership style that which is intimidating, abusive. It was not a two-way street of respect."
CBS's The Early Show dealt with the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card this morning, and, in the process, demonstrated again their lack of interest in presenting anything that might be beneficial to the President in a positive, or even a neutral, fashion. This attitude showed itself more, however, in the way that things were said, rather than in what exactly was said. There were the typical offhand accusations of insincerity, but most of the reporting was fairly straightforward. And the questions that Harry Smith asked of Mary Matalin were, for the most part, appropriate. But the tone and attitude that Smith displayed were not. (Windows Media video available here.)
The first piece was the news report on the resignation, from CBS' White House Correspondent Bill Plante. Of course Plante's report started, as most CBS reports on the President do, with emphasis on negatives.
A quick take on a morning when I'm headed to Washington, DC.
Sometimes, you just can't win with the MSM. For weeks, the MSM has been calling for a White House shake-up. So when it came in spades yesterday with the resignation of chief of staff Andy . . . Card [spades, Card. Come on, tough room here!], naturally the media applauded the bold move.
Or not. Veteran NewsBusters readers know better. There is no appeasing the liberal media. They recalibrate their line of attack and move on. But who could have predicted the tack Matt Lauer would have taken in interviewing good-soldier Mary Matalin on this morning's Today show? Lauer suggested, of all things, that Card left . . . too soon!
It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.
Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."
Tasteless personal attacks are nothing new on Air America Radio, but some deserve special mentioning. Coming out of a taped skit at the beginning of the second hour of her afternoon show on Friday (January 13, 2005), here's the incomparable Randi Rhodes (emphasis mine / audiotape on file):
Sam Alito fans must feel confident when the Washington Post Style section is mocking the Democrats for their "tender roast" of Alito. Marcia Davis writes lightly about how the Democrats promised a feisty brawl, but didn't deliver. When Sen. Cornyn suggested Alito was a lock, Davis wrote:
That's hard to take when Americans have been promised a smackdown. This is a reality TV nation, a WWF kinda country, where we like to see a fight even when we know it isn't real, even when we know the stakes might just be a bag of Cheetos.
So when it's the Supreme Court, well, that's when the sparks are supposed to fly. That's what Democrats had promised in the Alito hearings. The New Jersey judge with humble roots would replace the all-important swing seat of Sandra Day O'Connor, they said. Abortion rights are at stake. The issue of executive power is on the table like never before in light of the president's recent wiretapping episodes. Alito is a guy who may be an extremist posing as a moderate.
Conservatives rightly complain that MSM shows such as Today have a paucity of guests from the right, and that those who do appear are treated with skepticism if not outright disdain.
But I'd say there's an exception to the rule. It's my sense that conservatives want to see Ann Coulter appearing only rarely on MSM shows, and that when she does, that the occasion be treated as something of a Texas Steel Cage Match, or better yet, as the introduction of a Kong-like creature brought onto the set, to be released from her shackles for the briefest of moments as she confronts her antagonists while displaying her panoply of rhetorical weapons.
That rule was honored when, a couple years ago, Katie Couric interviewed Coulter. The appearance came not too long after Coulter had described Couric as the "affable Eva Braun" of morning television. There was electricity in the air, ill-disguised animosity, the sense that an actual cat-fight might break out at any moment.
Today’s New York Times featured a Carl Hulse article that depicted the future of the Republican Party as being almost as bright as Alaska for the next several weeks. In Hulse’s view, just about everything that has gone wrong in America in 2005 can be linked to Republicans, while, conversely, in a 27 paragraph piece, there was only one paragraph that suggested any problems for the party on the opposite side of the aisle. Frankly, this article read more like a press release from a political strategist than a column in a leading, national newspaper.
First, Hulse set the stage: “The ugly debate in the House on Friday over the Iraq war served as an emotional send-off for a holiday recess, capturing perfectly the political tensions coursing through the House and Senate in light of President Bush's slumping popularity, serious party policy fights, spreading ethics investigations and the approach of crucial midterm elections in less than a year.”
He then established the goal: “Capitol Hill was always certain to be swept up in brutal political gamesmanship as lawmakers headed into 2006 - the midpoint of this second presidential term and, perhaps, a chance for Democrats to cut into Republican majorities or even seize power in one chamber or the other.”
Then, Hulse enumerated all the Republican shortcomings:
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.
On NBC’s “Meet The Press” this morning, host Tim Russert stocked his panel with three left-of-center journalists – Nina Totenberg of NPR, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, and David Gregory of NBC News – to discuss the events of the week. When they got to the nomination of Samuel Alito to replace retiring justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Russert mentioned that when Bill Clinton was president, both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, despite obvious Liberal leanings, were approved by a strong majority of both Democrats and Republicans. “And they say, ‘Why can't we have the same courtesy to conservative jurists under President Bush?’"
In response, Totenberg said: “If you look at the Ginsburg nomination, for example, she'd been a judge, I think, for 12 years. She'd been, actually, a pretty conservative liberal judge, if you can be such a thing.” This could be the first time that anyone has referred to the former general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union as being “pretty conservative.”
As the discussion ensued, Totenberg expressed frustration with the president’s second choice to replace Sandra Day O’Connor:
In constructing a balanced panel to discuss a president's fortunes, one does not normally select one person who opposes him and. . . another person who opposes him and ran against him in a general election.
But that was the Today's show notion of 'fair & balanced' this morning. In to discuss W's drooping poll numbers were former Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers and Patrick Buchanan. In introducing Buchanan, Couric highlighted his GOP credentials. But while stating Buchanan had been an aide in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, Katie conveniently omitted mentioning that in 2000 he had, as the presidential nominee of the Reform Party, run a bitterly critical campaign against George W. Bush and has since been an incessant Bush critic, particularly on the centerpiece of Bush's foreign policy - the war in Iraq.
Within seconds of President Bush finishing his announcement of Samuel Alito as the nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court, the CNN “American Morning” team was ready to attack and criticize this decision (video links to follow). First, Candy Crowley said, “I think what you're going to see is some disappointment that this is obviously a white male replacing a female, leaving just one female on the Supreme Court.”
Next up was Ed Henry:
“Candy is absolutely right. She set the stage perfectly. The word I'm hearing over and over from Democrats is ‘provocative.’ They basically say the president, A, did not consult with Democrats as he did with Chief Justice John Roberts, as he did before Harriet Miers was nominated. Also that they feel that Judge Alito is more conservative than they expected. They were hoping more of a consensus choice. This is already opening the door for Democrats to try to make the case that there are extraordinary circumstances here, i.e. that they may filibuster the nominee. That's why you heard the president immediately say that Judge Alito deserves an up or down vote. That is code for don't filibuster this nominee.”
The Associated Press, in its continued obsession with the religious affiliations of Supreme Court justices and nominees--as long as they are Catholic--released its first story of the day concerning the rumored pick of Samuel Alito for the high court: Alito Would Be Fifth Catholic on Court.
The brief story notes, “If confirmed, Samuel Alito would be the fifth Roman Catholic on the current Supreme Court and the 11th Catholic to serve in the court's history.” It then goes on to list the names of those eleven.
When Bill Clinton nominated ACLU general counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, what are the odds that, in the very first sentence of its report, the Today show described Ginsburg as "liberal"? Roughly the same as the Saints winning this year's Super Bowl, perhaps?
Yet this is how Katie Couric opened Today this morning: "Breaking news: President Bush is nominating conservative judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court."
Matt Lauer got into the spirit, adding Alito "is so consistently conservative he has been called 'Scalito,'" i.e., in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Tim Russert then weighed in, expressing skepticism that Alito could get 60-65 Senate votes. Russert did acknowledge that Ted Kennedy praised Alito when he was nominated to the Appeals Court, but explained that that was 15 years ago and Kennedy will will make a distinction now that Alito is being nominated to the Supreme Court.
Are you a Republican or conservative? Want to get invited on a morning MSM show? No problem! Just be prepared to do one thing - criticize the Bush administration.
We've seen the pattern in recent weeks at the Today show. First there was Bill Kristol, fiercely attacking the Miers nomination. Yesterday, GOP congressman-turned-MSNBC-host Joe Scarborough upped the ante, accusing VP Cheney of a "lie."
And this morning brought an appearance by conservative uber-celebrity Ann Coulter.
The first hint that a warm reception was planned for Ann was the fact that Today chose Matt Lauer to interview her, rather than Katie Couric with whom Ann had famously clashed on air after having described Couric as an "affable Eva Braun."
What earned Ann her invite? Matt gave it away when he cited to Ann her recent comment "in which you compared the Bush White House with the Nixon White House."
Bingo! Any conservative willing to invoke the Nixon White House in discussing W is welcome on Today!
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:
If you invite the chubby kid from down the block to the birthday party, is it fair to criticize him for eating cake?
There was something of that lack of hospitality to the Today show's interview of President and Laura Bush this morning
For weeks now, Today has been reveling in its contribution to the Katrina relief effort, notably in its collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Two weeks ago, Today transformed Rockefeller Plaza into "Humanity Plaza," erecting Habitat homes for transport to the stricken area.
This morning, the action moved to Covington, Louisiana, where a home was being erected on site. And who was there, hammer at the ready to lend a hand, but President Bush himself, accompanied by Laura.
Charles Krauthammer has called the Miers nomination a "joke."
George Will called her "the wrong pick."
Bill Kristol labelled the nomination a "mistake."
David Frum suggests she is "not good enough."
Senators Brownback, Thune and Lott have expressed reservations.
So what are these folks up to? Well, to listen to Ellen Ratner, of Fox & Friends Weekend "Long & Short of It" feature, they are consciously . . . lying.
Yes, in her appearance this morning, Ratner claimed that the Republicans are "protesting too much" about Miers' lack of conservative credentials in a "concerted effort" [read "conspiracy'] to dupe Democrats into accepting her.
Said Ratner: "I think she is a stealth, very conservative candidate. I think they are raising this as a way of causing a lot of storm so liberals can say 'well, maybe she is not that bad' and I think this is a concerted effort to get her through."
Can you recall the last time the Today show invited a major conservative commentator on to opine on the issues of the day? Neither can I.
But there was Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol this morning, under Today's 'hopeful' graphic "Is Bush Losing His Base?", being treated deferentially by David Gregory.
Why? It's the old MSM maxim: conservatives are only welcome when they're willing to take shots at fellow conservatives/Republicans. We saw the same phenomenon in play earlier this week as Katie Couric gave respectful treatement to Rush Limbaugh, playing a clip in which he described the Miers appointment as having been made "in weakness."
Kristol began by observing that some recent White House political errors can be attributed to the fact that Karl Rove has been "distracted" in recent weeks by his multiple grand jury appearances.
Call it 'gotcha' journalism, or perhaps just a revealing look inside the liberal media mind, but Katie Couric just engaged in a stunning leap of logic on this morning's Today show.
She was interviewing long-time Harriet Miers friend and colleague Nathan Hecht, who worked for years with Miers at the same law firm, and is now a member of the Texas Supreme Court. An aside: Hecht is an affable and impressive combination of aw-shucks gentility and acute, articulate advocacy. If W had been looking for an outside-the-beltway Texas pick, he could have done much worse than Hecht himself!
In any case, Katie immediately honed in on the abortion issue. Hecht acknowledged that when it came to abortion, he and Miers have "probably talked about it some," then flatly averred: "she's pro-life."
If you can tell a lot about a person by their friends and
enemies, then it should be revealing to see how people are lining up on the
On the enemies [or shall we say ‘serious doubters’] side: Rush
Limbaugh, George Will, Mark Levin and Terence Jeffrey.
On the ‘friends’ side: Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and, as of
this morning, the Today show.
We put Today in the 'friends' category because friendship, or at least advocacy of the Miers
nomination, can be the only possible explanation for the puff piece Today ran
this morning on President Bush’s support for “strong women.”
A red flag should have immediately gone up when David
Gregory, who normally spends his days antagonizing Scott McClellan in the WH
press room, introduced the segment with this bouquet to W’s feminism:
I've been reading all of the pro and con commentary in the Blogosphere and the MSM from fellow members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and, while I sympathize mainly with those who believe Bush has missed an historic opportunity by not nominating a Brown, McConnell or Luttig, it appears to me most everybody is missing the fundamental point.
That point is this: As long as the Senate GOP leadership refuses to confront head-on the Democrats' abuse of the filibuster and end it, the Democrats have a veto if they choose to use it. And choose it they will for any nominee short of one with an undeniably perfect record - John Roberts - or one with no record at all, Harriet Miers.
Bush knows all hell would break loose politically if he nominated a candidate from the Old Guard wing of the GOP who would satisfy the Senate Democrats. Such a move would likely spark a revolt among the GOP's conservative infrastructure (note, it's not just "the base"). The resulting Senate GOP majority of one or two and a paltry five or six in the House would mean Bush would twiddle his thumbs for the last two years of his White House residency.
So faced with a certain filibuster, which would quickly become bitter and impassable so long as the Senate GOP continued to shake in its boots and be terrified at the prospect of actually confronting the Democrats, Bush has only two choices.
Nobody expects the GOP majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote the Miers nomination down and barring a miracle, her utter lack of written commentary anywhere in the known world deprives the Democrats of the usual ideological reasons to vote no. About all they have left is arguing that she lacks the appropriate "judicial temprament" or that she is another Abe Fortas presidential crony. Those last two dogs just won't hunt, as Slick Willie might say.
Put simply, with Frist and the Senate GOP leadership, we get a Roberts or a Miers. There is no in-between.
In an article in today’s New York Times entitled “When a President is Not Spoiling for a Fight,” journalist Richard Stevenson practically called President Bush a chicken for nominating Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court:
“There is still much to learn about Harriet E. Miers, but in naming her to the Supreme Court, President Bush revealed something about himself: that he has no appetite, at a time when he and his party are besieged by problems, for an all-out ideological fight.”
“By instead settling on a loyalist with no experience as a judge and little substantive record on abortion, affirmative action, religion and other socially divisive issues, Mr. Bush shied away from a direct confrontation with liberals and in effect asked his base on the right to trust him on this one.”
In the Times’ view, the Miers pick is indicative of a president in dire trouble:
There was something of a world-turned-upside down feel to this morning's Today show.
There was Katie, putting WH spokesman Dan Bartlett on the hot seat. Nothing unusual about that. But rather than using allegations or statements coming from the left, Couric threw in Bartlett's face statements made by Rush and Bill Kristol.
Katie ran a clip of Rush's oft-quoted remark that the Miers pick was made "in weakness,' and Kristol's admission of being "disappointed, depressed and demoralized."
Bartlett responded with a litany of defenses. Most were along the line that Miers does indeed share W's judicial philosophy. One defense strained credulity: "during the selection process, many people recommended we look for someone from outside the judiciary." Isn't that convenient?
Even as the news was breaking during the first minutes of the show, Katie Couric wasted absolutely no time in launching the first of what are sure to be many hits on Harriet Miers, who appears to be President Bush's pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court.
Katie took her shot under the guise of a question to Tim Russert: "You know, Tim, the Bush administration has been hit recently with allegations of cronyism. Do you think this is going to feed into that?"
And of just what have those recent allegations of cronyism consisted? The widely reported "fact" that former FEMA Director Mike Brown was the "college roommate" of Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA.
For five years I've hosted a local, community-access political TV talk show, 'Right Angle.' We've had hundreds of guests, many of them college students, with a good smattering of high school students and even a handful of middle-schoolers.
But for sheer embarrassing, puerile, vapidity, none of them has been the equal of the utterly unwatchable Ellen Ratner, the short, and liberal, half of "The Long & the Short of It" feature on Fox & Friends Weekend.
Try this on, for utterly vacuous 'political commentary,' from this morning's just-completed episode. Responding to conservative counterpart Jim Pinkerton's prediction that Roberts would acquit himself well as Chief Justice, Ratner had this to say:
"Oh, Jim, you just wait. [Roberts] will be so right-wing that you won't even know he has a left-wing."