Jim Rutenberg nabs a front-page byline in Friday's New York Times with his news analysis, “G.O.P. Draws Line in Border,” in which he pits “compassionate” conservatives like Bush who favor some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants against those “doctrinaire” meanies who actually want to enforce and strengthen America's border and immigration laws.
“The negotiations between the White House and Congress that will follow the Senate's passage on Thursday of an immigration bill could decide not just how the nation confronts illegal immigration but also what strain of conservatism the Republican Party carries into the midterm elections and beyond.
A night after ABC’s World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas hyperbolically led “with a major development in a Washington bribery scandal” in “a story with potentially major political implications” and Brian Ross asserted that “federal officials tell us the congressional bribery investigation now includes the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert,” which George Stephanopoulos called “potentially seismic," Ross acknowledged that the “Department of Justice issued two separate denials of our report,” yet he stood by his story. Ross asserted on Thursday’s World News Tonight: "As for the facts of our story itself, here is what our sources have confirmed today:” Ross then recited facts that didn’t sound as ominous as his Wednesday hype: How “the FBI interrogation of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff included specific and repeated questions about his relationship with Speaker Hastert,” how “although Hastert is not a formal target, the FBI has been looking into a letter Hastert and others sent to the Secretary of the Interior” about an Indian casino and “that a few days before the letter was sent, Abramoff hosted a fundraiser for Hastert at a restaurant he owned.” Doesn't "not a formal target" contradict Ross' original claim that the "bribery investigation now includes" Hastert?
Meanwhile, on FNC Morton Kondracke recommended that “ABC should remember Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard case where they didn't do the right thing and say, you know, we can't prove the story and just get rid of it.” And Jeff Birnbaum revealed that “ABC did not call the Speaker until an hour before the broadcast” and “that ABC did not check for an official response from the Justice Department, which seems sort of basic here.” (Transcripts, and video of the Wednesday Ross story, follow)
With the Yankees fresh from taking two-out-of-three from the Red Sox, why not a Today show double-header this morning?
In the opener, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Washington for talks with President Bush, Today did its best to rain out any good news emerging from Iraq.
NBC White House reporter David Gregory observed that "two leaders who have paid a heavy political price for launching the war in Iraq will stand together tonight before the country to argue there is new reason for hope."
A hope that Gregory was quick to seek dash. Whereas new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expects Iraqi forces to be able to assume major responsibility for securing the country within 18 months, Gregory described it as a "tall order given Iraqi forces have been infiltrated by gangs fueling sectarian violence in the country."
Imagine that Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank were profiling a Democrat who was as steadfastly liberal as Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is conservative. The column virtually writes itself. We can imagine the liberal described as "putting principle above expediency", "courageous," perhaps even "speaking truth to power."
But when it comes to a conservative such as Sessions, that same adherence to principle is cast in the most negative light. Consider these excerpts from Milbank's column of today, Forget Politics. This Battle Is Personal. which focuses on Sessions' stand on immigration:
"Jeff Sessions sure knows how to nurse a grudge."
"Now he is turning his prodigious anger on legislation."
"A stream of epithets about the legislation flowed from his mouth."
"He argues his points not with the courtly Southern tones of the late senator Howell Heflin (D), his predecessor, but with the harsh twang of a country tough -- which, in a sense, he is."
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." JFK Inaugural Address, 1961
"We can do just as much by withdrawing our troops." John Murtha, Winner, Profile in Courage Award, 'Today' show, 5/22/06
The Kennedys have come a long way since JFK gave his inaugural speech. Pres. Kennedy was a cold warrior, not only in the words of that speech, but in action. He stared down the Kremlin over the Soviets' installation of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and with his Cuban embargo took the world the closest it has ever been to the brink of nuclear war.
In its segment on illegal immigration and the proposed amendment to make English the country's official language, this morning's Today show pitted the following against a sole Republican senator: another senator who just happens to be the Minority Leader, the director of a school that teaches English to immigrants, the head of the association of immigration lawyers, and the NBC reporter himself, Mike Taibbi, who described the current atmosphere as 'nasty' and implied that the English language amendment was unnecessary. Along the way, Today even managed to coin a new euphemism for 'illegals.'
Taibbi began the segment reporting from what appeared to be a private-sector school in Queens, NY called the New York Language Center. Taibbi pointedly observed that at the school: "they learn one language. English. America's official national language, if a Senate amendment to a new immigration law passes." Not-so-subtle sub-text: "See, immigrants are already learning English. No amendment necessary."
In Monday's NY Times, pro-Democratic congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg lauds yet another prominent and controversial Democrat. Stolberg puts what (even for her) is some pretty impressive pro-Kennedy family spin on Rep. Patrick Kennedy's recent Capitol Hill car crash, complete with a helpful headline portraying Kennedy as a crusading victim: "For a Kennedy, Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Becomes Personal."
"He has attributed the accident to confusion caused by two medicines, Ambien, a sleep aid, and Phenergan, for gastric distress. Medical experts say his explanation for the accident is plausible, though the Capitol Police, who complained that their supervisors barred sobriety testing, said they suspected that Mr. Kennedy had been drinking. He said he had not."
Maybe the ABC show should change its name to 'Demagogue Morning America'. Earlier this week, Charlie Gibson trotted out windfall-profit taxes and limits on executive compensation as 'solutions' to high gas prices.
This morning, Kate Snow took the demagoguery up-close-and-personal, flashing a $20 bill in the faces of modest-income Americans to elict predictable responses about the tax cut they would be receiving under a Republican-backed plan.
Snow set the tone by announcing that the proposed extension of the tax cuts "would cost the federal government $70 billion." Of course tax cuts don't cost the government anything . . . since it's not the government's money. But that's not the way the MSM or liberals in Congress see it. Everything really does belong to the government, so that when it extends a tax cut, it is "spending" money.
Some people might think that striking a police officer, and almost striking a police car while driving under the influence of . . . something, are serious offenses.
Not Chris Matthews.
Here's how Matthews introduced this evening's Hardball, running down the rap sheet of various government officials who have had run-ins with the law in recent times:
"Tonight, putting on the squeeze, putting on the sleaze. Another House aide cops a plea in the Abramoff case. "Dusty" Foggo quits over the poker-and-prostitute scam. Bill Jefferson gets tagged by a witness wearing a wire. Claude Allen, the president's top domestic kick [sic] gets nabbed for shoplifting. David Savafian, his top personnel man [sic: he was a procurement official] gets arrested. Then there are the Judge Judy level cases. Cynthia McKinney who punched a cop and Patrick Kennedy who almost ran into one."
You may want to look fast, but the Democratic National Committee’s website still has a “Republican Culture of Corruption” page, implying that by installing the Democrats back in the congressional majority, we’ll have a virtual monastery of ethical restraint in Washington – with leaders like Patrick Kennedy setting the example.
The Democratic “culture of corruption” charge is taking more of a beating than the traffic barricade that introduced itself to Congressman Kennedy’s car last week. ABC, CBS, and NBC all devoted some serious air time to the story, and the fact that Capitol Police supervisors waved off a sobriety test and protectively took the son of Ted Kennedy home.
It could be argued that by Friday, May 5, the network attention to young Mr. Kennedy was historic. Pundits and academics have spent the last twenty years lamenting that the networks can’t seem to give presidential candidates more than about seven seconds a clip in soundbites. Now ABC gave Kennedy an amazing 60 seconds to read his statement announcing he was returning to the Mayo Clinic for rehabilitation. Even that wasn’t enough for NBC. This network gave him a two-minute soundbite.
This week's edition of Newsweek was the first magazine to land in our mailbox yesterday, and it probably goes without saying that there is no major Patrick Kennedy coverage in it. In fact, there's just this: a brief mention in the "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box with the note: "Bad news: Woozy wee-hour car wreck sends him to rehab. Good news: Nobody died." And this quote on the "Perspectives" page (number five): "I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police or being cited for three driving infractions...That's not how I want to live my life...I know that I need help."
That's it. Newsweek's editors could say there was little room for the story to breathe, what with a massive cover story package on AIDS, in which Newsweek acts like a complete copycat of Time magazine by honoring Bill Clinton and Melinda Gates with self-promoting columns. (Clinton's is "Editor's Choice" on the website.) But look at what else they have room for:
Apparently Tim Russert has been paying attention to the misdeeds of Democrats. Last Friday the host of NBC’s Meet the Pressappeared on the Today show. He commented that the Patrick Kennedy scandal will allow Republicans to "suggest to the country it’s not just Republicans who misbehave." I wondered if several misbehaving Democrats had somehow escaped his attention. Mr. Russert, on the May 7 edition of Meet the Press, grilled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that very subject:
Russert: "You have Congressman Jefferson of Louisiana, someone pleaded guilty and said he had paid him bribes. You have Cynthia McKinney investigated for roughing up a police officer. You have Congressman Kennedy who, in the wee hours, entangling himself with the police department. So the Democrats have ethical...the Democrats have ethical challenges, too, correct?"
In his weekly Monday "Media Notes" digest in the Washington Post Style section, Howard Kurtz digs into a little content analysis as to how the national newspapers haven't been too harsh on Congressman Patrick Kennedy's troubled past, dating back to disclosures in 1991 that he had abused cocaine, through his several embarrassing incidents in 2000:
Relatively little of this drew significant national coverage. Among the brief mentions in the New York Times, a 2002 piece on Kennedy's reelection campaign included a paragraph on his personal problems, quoting the congressman as saying: "If you are a Kennedy, people always make more of such things than really exists, and the true Kennedy haters just won't let go of it."
On Sunday's This Week, George Stephanopoulos not once but twice, referred to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as “Speaker,” a title she would presumably get if Democrats win back the House this fall. So, a Freudian slip by Stephanopoulos, a one-time staff member for the Democratic House leadership himself when they were in the majority? Before signing aboard the Clinton campaign in 1991, Stephanopoulos was a floor assistant to then-House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt.
Interviewing Congressman Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader who suggested that if Democrats win control of the House they will pursue impeachment, Stephanopoulos countered: “Democrats are also coming forward with another agenda, Speaker, ah perhaps Speaker Pelosi , she's certainly not the Speaker right now, the Democratic leader Pelosi says...” Then with DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Stephanopoulos asserted to Dean's delight: "You talked about an ethics legislation coming forward in the first hundred days, that was not one of the top four pieces of legislation that Speaker Pelo -- uh, excuse me, I don't know why I've got that stuck in my head today-" Dean chortled: "I'm glad. I like the sound of that George, I like the sound of that!"
On Day Three of the unfolding Patrick Kennedy story, the Washington Post moves it off the front page and into classic smooth-it-over mode. The story from Pawtucket, reported by David Fahrenthold, is headlined "At Home, Cynicism and Support: Many of Kennedy's Constituents Suspect Story but Don't Mind."
Fahrenthold began: "The bad news for Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy: The voters of Rhode Island do not, by and large, seem to believe his version of what led to a car crash early Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol." (He quotes male nurse Michael Rossi saying he believes the problem was alcohol, not presciption drugs. "Now the good news for Kennedy: The voters of Rhode Island -- including Rossi -- also don't seem to care."
It can't be argued that the Patrick Kennedy adventure on wheels is being ignored by the media. But part of the coverage has been suffused in a bit of overweening Kennedy-dynasty sympathy. Washington Post reporter/columnist Dana Milbank, who danced a jig of mockery in orange hunter clothes over Dick Cheney's shooting accident, wrote in Saturday's Washington Post about the "miserable character" who suffered after the crash:
Kennedy tried to ignore the din of shouted questions as he walked to the door, but he couldn't avoid the woman in the front row who asked if he would resign. He shook his head. "I need to stay in the fight," he said. Then the latest victim of the Kennedy Curse disappeared. On the decorative bookshelf behind the lectern where he spoke, there was still a copy of the Warren Commission's report on his uncle's assassination.
Let's imagine it was, oh, Karl Rove who had been involved in a car accident under circumstances identical to those surrounding Patrick Kennedy. Think the Today show would be focusing on his 'courage' and largely taking at face value his claim that prescription medicines caused the crash? Or would they, rather, be demanding to know whether he was telling the truth in claiming no alcohol was involved?
That 'Today' was in a decidedly forgiving mood was clear from the show's very opening. Note the graphic Today attached to Kennedy's image. Not "Telling the Truth?" or "Drinking & Driving?", but "Seeking Treatment".
In his subsequent report, NBC reporter Chip Reid placed his MSM imprimatur upon Kennedy's version of events. We first were treated to a clip of Kennedy's statement about his addiction to painkillers, concluding with his observation that "I struggle every day with this disease as do millions of Americans."
It’s not unfair that CNN reported on difficult times for the Republican-led Congress. However, in Bill Schneider’s report for CNN’s The Situation Room this afternoon, there was virtually no mention of how the Democrats in the House and Senate may have contributed to the low approval ratings for the legislative branch.
Schneider’s report, which aired at 4:30pm EDT, blamed the low poll numbers on several factors, while barely implicating Democrats in Congress’ inaction. Instead, Schneider wondered "how low" can GOP lawmakers go?
"Approval of Congress has dropped from 35 to 25 percent. Why? Oh let’s see. Congress can’t pass immigration reform. They can’t pass a budget. They can’t even control their own spending. Ethics? Don’t get us started. Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham and now a Democrat, William Jefferson, under investigation."
Is it possible that Tim Russert hasn’t been paying attention? The host of Meet the Press appeared on the May 5 edition of NBC’s Today show to discuss President Bush and the midterm elections. Anchor Matt Lauer also asked him about the political fallout from Representative Patrick Kennedy’s car crash:
Russert: "Republicans obviously are watching this very carefully because they want to suggest to the country it's not just Republicans who misbehave or the culture of corruption or whatever. It also could be Democrats.And they're going to really dig into this case, I think, pretty actively."
Exxon-Mobil: private-for-profit corporation or social service agency? The question arises in the wake of Matt Lauer's wide-ranging interview this morning with Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobil. Lauer's tone was not antagonistic; for that matter he was manifestly grateful to Tillerson for being the lone CEO among the Big Oil companies to accept an invite from "Today." Still, there was some bad economics on display, along with a notable attempt by Lauer to make the GOP look like ingrates to an industry with which they've been cozy. Tillerson put in a solid, undefensive performance.
Here are highlights:
Lauer: "Critics say the big oil companies crushed the competition and they are manipulating the prices. What is the truth?"
Katie Couric took industrial-strength umbrage this morning when Bill Frist suggested to the soon-to-be CBS anchor that she opposes drilling in ANWR.
Yesterday, Matt Lauer gave respectful treatment to Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that Frist's proposal of a $100 rebate amounted to treating taxpayers like ladies of the night. So the Majority Leader surely knew he was walking into the lion's den this morning.
At one point, Katie hit Frist with excerpts from two letters to the editor of her apparent paper of choice - the NY Times.
"Let's see, $100 rebate checks to all taxpayers to offset rising gas prices. That's money out of my tax dollars back to me to give back to gas companies. The way I figure it that rebate won't even cover my gas one way to Washington to complain."
Washington Post congressional reporter Shailagh Murray was blunt about America's energy problems in her Monday "Post Politics Chat": While most of the media is decrying "pain at the pump," Murray worried that "making gas cheaper only makes matters worse." A questioner complained about an earlier answer, in which Murray insisted her experience told her the price of crude oil is about supply and demand, and not who's president:
I may be going out on a limb here, but I don't think the price of crude oil has much to do with who occupies the White House. As a former Wall Street Journal reporter, I fall back on the simple supply and demand principle. People want to drive SUVs. A gazillion highway lanes are being built in China. Limited supplies of crude oil, whatever happens with ANWR. Of all the things to be surprised about, high gas prices should not be one of them.
National Public Radio offers a natural book-buying audience for ultraliberal Sen. Ted Kennedy as he sells his new tome, titled "America Back On Track." On yesterday's nationally syndicated "Diane Rehm Show," NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook sat in for Rehm. The show should have been called "The Senate Floor," since Kennedy's answers routinely went beyond two minutes and started sounding like floor speeches, as Seabrook deferentially waited for Kennedy to come up for air.
For example, Seabrook's second question was simple: "How did America get off track?" Kennedy offered a windy two-minute attack/answer about George Bush and Karl Rove's "politics of fear," as well as darkness, division, and personal destruction, just to round it out:
Much as this column is quick to point out the prevalent liberal bias of the MSM, fairness compels us to acknowledge those occasions, rare as they might be, when the MSM plays it down the middle.
NBC's handling of the recent spike in gasoline prices could be shaping up to be one of those flying-pig moments of 'fair & balanced' coverage. At the very least, there are indications that the conventional wisdom within NBC News is that the Bush administration is not to blame for the high prices, and/or that there is little government can do to stem the price rise.
As noted here earlier today, Katie Couric and David Gregory both expressed skepticism on this morning's Today show as to the government's ability to do much in the circumstances. Gregory was back at it this evening, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on 'Hardball.'
When Ellen Ratner went a couple weeks without any major liberal loopiness, one wondered whether perhaps Jim Pinkerton was having a salubrious effect on her. But things got back to normal this morning when Ratner let Pinkerton goad her into boasting that she supports "open immigration."
The opening topic on today's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend dealt with Howard Dean's recent claim that job # 1 in his view is tougher border security.
Fair reporting at the Today show is like snow in April. Rare, but not entirely unheard of. And so it was that the Today show devoted its opening segment to debunking Dem attempts to blame Republicans for high gasoline prices.
Matt Lauer set the tone with this opening tease: "Driving the political agenda: Democrats attack the Republicans for sky-high gas prices. What is really to blame?" And later, in introducing the segment, he repeated the theme: "Democrats are making an effort to pin the blame on Republicans. What is really causing all this?"
Today offered its answer in two parts: foreign and domestic causes.
Andrea Mitchell reported the following foreign causes:
On April 10, left-wing organizations held a massive rally in Washington and other cities, demanding rights (and taxpayer benefits) for illegal aliens, and the liberal media couldn’t have been more excited. The networks had multiple stories, going from city to city, and breathless phrase to breathless phrase. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer played the worn cliche card: “Not since the protests of the Vietnam era has there been anything quite like it.” Bet ten bucks that CBS has said that about just about every large liberal protest they’ve covered. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, CBS also used on-screen graphics with earth-shaking metaphors like “Awakening Giant” to describe the protesters.
On his Countdown show Tuesday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann hyped an article posted on the Vanity Fair Web site, by Washington Post and Time magazine veteran Carl Bernstein, which called for congressional hearings into, as described by Olbermann, "the entirety of the Bush administration." Olbermann referred to the crusading journalist of Watergate fame as an "eminent voice" calling for Congress to find out if the Bush White House is "worse than Watergate." He then brought aboard Bernstein for what the Countdown host touted as an "exclusive interview," to discuss the article, during which Bernstein referred to the "distressing, terrible situation" of having a Bush administration that "has not been very truthful" when it comes to "almost everything important that we have been told by this President." Bernstein also described the controversial NSA surveillance program as a "totally illegal...usurpation of power...under the guise of national security," equating it to the illegal wiretapping by the Nixon administration. Bernstein recalled how "there was an article of impeachment against Nixon for wiretapping." (Transcript follows)
Time magazine decided to rank "America's Ten Best Senators" for their April 24 edition. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Massimo Calabresi and Perry Bacon proclaim that they consulted all sorts of pundits and academics, but they mostly picked ultraliberal Democrats and moderate Republicans. Even the Republicans with more conservative voting scores (think John McCain) are seen by the media as more centrist, willing to frustrate the Bush White House.
Over at the "Right Angle" blog at Human Events Online, Rob Bluey did the work of checking these Senators' ideological scores, their lifetime American Conservative Union ratings:
Over at CBS's Public Eye blog, "Face the Nation" executive producer Carin Pratt sounds typical liberal-media notes: she wants more coverage of the planet's demise, loathes bloggers, and loves John McCain:
What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
The environment. Although with the global warming situation hard to ignore, I figure that will change...
Do you read blogs? If so, which ones? If not, what do you read on the Internet?
I don't read blogs. In fact, I am anti-blog. If I want to hear a bunch of unedited thoughts -- that's what friends are for. Who has the time? Too many newspapers and magazines. Which, one hopes, have been edited.