On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC host David Gregory wrapped up his interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham by setting up a debate with anti-war NBC reporter Richard Engel, who wasn't shy this week in asserting on NBC's Today that the Iraq war was unnecessary, that Saddam Hussein was growing more moderate and respectable by the day, and was gaining acceptance in Europe.
After Gregory played a clip of that -- complete with Engel calling Iraq a "giant distraction of resources" from Afghanistan, just like a congressional Democrat -- Senator Graham insisted that the NBC reporter was "completely rewriting history" and that Saddam "was not becoming a good citizen, he was becoming a more dangerous dictator. The world is better with him dead."
Even as this stage of the Iraq war, as the surge seems to quite clearly brought peace and calm, never-say-it's-a-win die-hards in the liberal media are the first line of attack on the Republican position:
Laura Ingraham and Greg Gutfeld had some fun Thursday evening bashing NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel for absurd comments he made on the "Today" show this week.
As NewsBusters reported Tuesday, Engel that morning told NBC's Ann Curry:
If there had been no invasion Saddam would still be in power. He was probably getting more moderate. He was being welcomed into the, into, by, by a lot of European countries, he was being welcomed in Eastern Europe in particular. He was heading in a, in a direction of accommodation.
On Thursday's "O'Reilly Factor," substitute host Ingraham and guest Gutfeld had a field day with what the former labeled "The Dumbest Things of the Week" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
That break comes in an AP email to staff from "Standards Editor" Tom Kent. He must have or at least should have known that its contents would get out. Jim Romenesko at Poynter Online (HT Legal Insurrection) appears to have posted it first, about 16 hours after Kent hit the "send" button:
Subject: Standards Center guidance: The situation in Iraq
... we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
Yesterday the Gallup organization released a poll showing that Americans trust Republicans over Democrats on most major issues heading into the general election season. Today the same polling outfit released a poll that found a large number of Americans blame George W. Bush for the faltering economy.
Nearly two years after Barack Obama was elected president, Americans still are inclined to blame his predecessor for the nation's current economic problems.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, more than a third of those surveyed said George W. Bush deserved a great deal of the blame for economic woes and a third said he should get a moderate amount of it. Not quite another third called that unfair, saying Bush warranted not much or none of the responsibility.
On Wednesday’s Countdown show, responding to conservatives who wanted President Obama to give more credit to President Bush for apparent successes in Iraq, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann sarcastically thanked the former President and charged that the war in Iraq was Bush’s "false war." He went on to claim that, "The neocons lied about Iraq to get us in there."
Guest Jeremy Scahill of the left-wing "The Nation" magazine joined in slamming President Bush and "neocons" for the Iraq war, claimed the troop surge did not play a significant role in stabilizing the country, and ended up asserting that Bush administration members who supported the invasion "shouldn't be able to leave their houses without being confronted with the death and destruction that their lies caused."
And, even though various news outlets reported on the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in the country years before the 2003 invasion, Scahill claimed that "it was the Bush administration's policy in Iraq that created an al-Qaeda presence in that country."
But, as previously documented by NewsBusters, back in January 2003 and again in March 2004, the NBC Nightly News relayed claims that the Bush administration had "passed up several opportunities to take [Zarqawi] out well before the Iraq war began."
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith served as an apologist for President Obama, who failed to credit President George W. Bush with the Iraq troop surge in an Oval Office address Tuesday night: "...while he [Obama] did not acknowledge...President Bush's support for the surge....he at least gave it tacit agreement – approval. And he has certainly approved a surge in Afghanistan."
Smith made the defense during an interview with Arizona Senator John McCain, who took the President to task for opposing the 2007 troop surge: "...it was President Bush who made the decision – over the vociferous option of the President of the United States, then Senator Obama – to do the surge. And if we had done what President Obama wanted, we would have failed in Iraq because he even voted against the funding for it." After Smith claimed that Obama "had a year and a half to rescind" his opposition to the surge and eventually gave "tacit agreement" to it, McCain replied: "...if we had done what he wanted to do, we would have left and we would have lost and had a horrendous setback to America's national security."
Smith moved on to Afghanistan, still skeptical of the success of the Iraq surge strategy: "If, in fact, the surge was successful in Iraq, is that – is there a lesson from that to be applied to Afghanistan now that we've – there are more than 320 kids have been killed in Afghanistan this year. Are the lessons of Iraq applicable to Afghanistan?"
NBC's Matt Lauer wanted one question to stick in the minds of his Today show viewers, as from the top of Wednesday's show, to his interview with Vice President Joe Biden, the Today co-anchor repeatedly asked was the Iraq war "worth it?" As part of the analysis of the President's Oval Office speech last night, in which Barack Obama announced an end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Lauer invited on Biden, in the 7am half hour, to press him about the costs of the war as he asked: "There is a question being asked in homes all across the country this morning, after seven years and 4,400 lives and tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women wounded, some of them horrifically, and of course billions and billions of dollars spent, was Iraq worth it?" [audio available here]
For his part Biden responded that since he had a son who served in Iraq for a year, "I could never say to any of those parents it's not worth it" but that didn't dissuade Lauer from pursuing his line of questioning, from the left, as he cited a New York Times editorial to the Vice President:
NBC's Richard Engel has done some good reporting from Iraq. But scratch the reporter's surface, and you find a political partisan eager to echo the anti-Bush party line. Witness his exchange with Ari Fleischer on Morning Joe today. Engel twisted the former Bush press secretary's words, accusing him of alleging an Osama Bin Laden connection with Iraq. Fleischer had palpably said no such thing.
The springboard was Fleischer's citation of a 1998 OBL interview in which the terrorist boss said America was weak because it is unable to see through long wars. Fleischer went on to argue that America's resolve will be tested should things go badly wrong in Iraq or Afghanistan, thus putting under pressure the arbitrary dates that have been set for US withdrawal from those countries.
Engel jumped in to accuse Fleischer of claiming an OBL tie with Iraq. Even after Fleischer made explicitly clear he was alleging no such connection, Engel obdurately pressed his point.
In the midst of bashing Pres. Bush over Iraq this evening, Rachel Maddow's mic went suddenly dead, forcing her MSNBC show to go to commercial.
When she returned [and after paraphrasing a line from Macbeth], Maddow let it be known she was "such a conspiracy theorist" but didn't dare tell the audience what she was thinking because "it would discredit me forever."
President Barack Obama's decision to include, in his Tuesday night address from the Oval Office on the end to the “combat mission” in Iraq, a sentence respectful toward former President George W. Bush, appalled MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
Anchor Keith Olbermann recited Obama's graciousness toward Bush (“It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset, yet no one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security”) and then, obviously speaking for himself and the entire MSNBC team, proposed: “There are people who would support President Obama who would howl at hearing that said aloud more than once.” Maddow indeed howled, launching into an indignant rant:
To have in this speech, as combat operations are ending, to have...the President not only not addressing the circumstances in which we went to war, but these kind words for President Bush, describing his “commitment to our security” despite the recklessness with which President Bush discarded that national security in favor of this war of choice, which only diminished our security, and is responsible, probably, for the Afghanistan war still going on today, for the deaths of people who have died in Afghanistan after the time after which that war would have ended had we not gone to Iraq -- not to mention all of the people who died in Iraq.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the rounds of the six broadcast and cable morning news shows on Tuesday morning to help set the table for the President’s speech marking the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Of the six network anchors Gibbs spoke with, only CBS’s Harry Smith failed to ask whether President Obama would extend credit to President Bush for the successful surge strategy (a strategy then-Senator Obama denigrated as futile).
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos recited House GOP Leader John Boehner’s dig at politicians who “fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy,” and then rejected Gibbs claim that Boehner’s was “made up history.” NBC’s Matt Lauer recited Obama’s own words to Gibbs: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq are gonna solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."
New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote an article Tuesday largely about the success America has had rebuilding Iraq without ever mentioning the name of former President George W. Bush.
To be sure, "Nation Building Works" also addressed some of the failures: the absence of "social trust," the lack of doctors and engineers, as well as rampant corruption to name a few.
But in a column published the very day President Obama is to address the nation about Iraq, it seems particularly odd that the man at the helm when America invaded - and who against public sentiment as well as the will of the current White House resident orchestrated a surge of military forces in 2007 largely responsible for the success of this mission - is conspicuously absent:
Defenders of controversial imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have been touting his past efforts in offering counterterrorism advice to the FBI as a way to illustrate his bridge-building intentions. Much like other reports, they tend to gloss over the more controversial aspects of Rauf's statements. But, as is typical with the Ground Zero mosque imam, it can be demonstrated that he is frequently speaking with a forked tongue.
There is no doubt that Rauf has made some questionable and incendiary comments regarding America and her role in the Muslim world. Perhaps these statements fit the imam's overall rhetoric involving U.S. complicity in the attacks of 9/11. As does the following statement to the FBI, which is conveniently omitted from media reports defending Rauf.
Bridge-building imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was giving a crash course in Islam for FBI agents in March of 2003. When asked to clarify such terminology as ‘jihad' and ‘fatwa', Rauf stated (emphasis mine throughout):
"Jihad can mean holy war to extremists, but it means struggle to the average Muslim. Fatwah has been interpreted to mean a religious mandate approving violence, but is merely a recommendation by a religious leader. Rauf noted that the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks could be considered a jihad, and pointed out that a renowned Islamic scholar had issued a fatwah advising Muslims in the U.S. military it was okay to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan."
Here is how the Wall Street Journal began its lead editorial, "Victory in Iraq," on Aug. 20 --
When the men and women of Fourth Brigade, Second Infantry Division deployed to Iraq in April 2007 as part of President Bush's surge, American soldiers were being killed or wounded at a rate of about 750 a month, the country was falling into sectarian mayhem, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had declared that the war was 'lost.'
On Wednesday, the 'Raiders' became the last combat brigade to leave Iraq, having helped to defeat an insurgency, secure a democracy and uphold the honor of American arms.
For viewers of NBC and MSNBC earlier that week, the title of Fourth Brigade, Second Infantry Division would likely have struck a chord -- on Aug. 18, both networks interrupted their scheduled broadcasts with exclusive live coverage of the brigade crossing the border into Kuwait, the last US combat brigade to leave Iraq.
Once again, the co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Joe Scarborough hinted that "certain networks," (ahem, MSNBC) hold quite the double standard between Democrats and Republicans. When the subject matter was President Obama's snub of an Iraq War question during his vacation at Martha's Vineyard – he remarked "We're buying shrimp, guys" – Scarborough pointed out that network coverage of Bush would have been far more negative.
As NewsBusters reported last week, Scarborough also believes "certain networks" will "maul" Haley Barbour if he runs for President in 2012.
The show's co-host Willie Geist first opined that news coverage might have been different with President Bush. "I hate to make this point too often," he said, "but imagine for a moment George W. Bush were on his sixth vacation, and he was asked about Iraq, and he said 'I'm buying shrimp.' You think that wouldn't be a headline everywhere?"
"You're implying there's a double-standard, Willie," conservative guest Pat Buchanan snickered.
Alas, it wasn't supposed to end this way, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow lamented to NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Baghdad last week after the departure of the last American combat brigade from Iraq.
Engel recounted his experiences covering the war, getting into Iraq on false pretenses just before the US-led invasion in 2003 and spending considerable time in the country thereafter (first part of embedded video) --
MADDOW: So you were here throughout for the first five, six years of the war?
ENGEL: Yes. I took little breaks but, straight, I was here 10, 11 months a year.
MADDOW: So when you, thinking now in August 2010, this is ending. I mean, Operation Iraqi Freedom ends now and did you have any idea this is the way that it would end?
ENGEL: It's ending with a little bit of a whisper.
Rich Lowry on Saturday had a fabulous exchange with one of Fox News's many liberal contributors over why the media stopped covering Iraq.
As the discussion on "Fox News Watch" turned to this week's troop withdrawal, the National Review editor claimed wartime press reports are "extremely defeatist all through the prism of Vietnam and then if we succeed it kind of ends in a whimper."
Newsday's Ellis Henican countered, "People get bored in a hurry and we got bored with this [war] two or three years ago."
Lowry marvelously sniped back, "When we started to win" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The peaceful departure of the last U.S. combat forces from Iraq this week was another milestone towards the successful end of a war that many liberal journalists declared lost four years ago. Since early 2009, the war in Iraq has been a relatively low priority for the national press, which has focused on decrying the war in Afghanistan and cheerleading the Obama administration’s aggressive domestic agenda.
But over the last eight years — since journalists began decrying what they termed the Bush administration’s “rush to war” in August 2002, a full seven months before the first bombs fell — the Media Research Center has analyzed TV coverage of the Iraq conflict. The bottom line: reporters were obvious skeptics from the very beginning, and did all they could to push withdrawal and defeat before George W. Bush’s surge strategy saved the day.
A quick review of the media’s approach over the past eight years, with many links to the additional information that can be found at www.MRC.org:
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used a clip of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Tim Osborn, stationed in Iraq, commenting on how he had previously felt that the war in Iraq "wasn’t ever going to stop," to fit into the Countdown host’s suggestion that American troops had remained in Iraq too long. But what Olbermann did not show his viewers is that Staff Sergeant Osborn had also expressed strong support for the war effort in a clip which was shown earlier that evening on the NBC Nightly News during a piece which correspondent Richard Engel filed from Iraq:
RICHARD ENGEL: He tells me his greatest accomplishment: giving Iraqis a chance.
STAFF SERGEANT TIM OSBORN, U.S. ARMY: If what was going on here was going on in America, I wouldn't want my kids to grow up in that world. I would want somebody else to come in and help. And if it took them doing what we did here, then I would welcome that.
But Olbermann was apparently only interested in using a clip of Staff Sergeant Osborn that would fit into the MSNBC host’s characteristic anti-war shtick:
The August 16 Weekly Standard highlighted a striking change in views from Time’s Joe Klein, whose take seems to have changed to fit what’s fashionable. On August 2, in a “Swampland” blog post looking at President Obama’s speech touting the end of combat operations in Iraq, Klein fretted it “will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush's juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce—six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely—the ‘end of combat operations.’”
But back when Bush’s USS Lincoln landing occurred, Klein was more enthralled with it, asserting on the May 4, 2003 Face the Nation: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day.” (Video, from the MRC’s archive, is of the matching exchange between Bob Schieffer and Klein. Audio: MP3 clip.) The Weekly Standard’s “Scrapbook” page observed:
As Peter Wehner noted at the Commentary magazine blog Contentions, “Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.”
Even in that 2003 CBS appearance, however, Klein wasn’t happy about Bush’s successful PR maneuver, regretting how it illustrated the “major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent President.”
For the media, "Mission Accomplished" represents everything that was wrong with the George W. Bush administration and its war policy. The image of Bush declaring unequivocal victory mere weeks after the invasion of Iraq has been ballyhooed as a visual representation of Bush's arrogance, naivete, even dishonesty (the media contrived most of this meme - more on that below).
Will Barack Obama have a "Mission Accomplished" moment? That is, will the media seize on something he or his administration has said as evidence of the large gap between his rhetoric and the effects of his policies and tout it for years to come as indicative of his flawed style of governing?
The gap already exists. The White House's "Recovery Summer" initiative and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's statement, "welcome to the recovery" are completely divorced from economic reality. The only question is whether the media will seize on the catchy and baseless slogans (the two criteria of the "Mission Accomplished" media standard) coming from the White House to illustrate the sizable gap between this administration's rhetoric, and the facts on ground, so to speak.
Christiane Amanpour on Sunday asked a rather surprising question of her "This Week" panel concerning President Obama's speech earlier in the week about the troop draw down in Iraq:
Do you think everybody is taking a lot of credit but not giving credit where credit is due?
Obviously, "everybody" in this instance meant the current White House resident who chose not to give credit to former President George W. Bush for the success in Iraq or to even mention "the surge" in his address.
After former Bush speechwriter now Washington Post contributor Michael Gerson said, "I didn't find the speech to be a particularly generous speech...he's attempting to take credit for something that he opposed," some truly shocking statements were made by Amanpour and Politico's John Harris (video follows with transcript and commentary):
President Barack Obama told disabled veterans in Atlanta on Monday that he was fulfilling a campaign promise by ending U.S. combat operations in Iraq "on schedule."
But the timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops in Iraq was decided during the Bush administration with the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by U.S. and Iraq officials on Nov. 16, 2008. The Iraqi parliament signed SOFA on Nov. 27, 2008.
The agreement, which had been in negotiations since 2007, set a timetable calling for most U.S. troops to leave Iraqi towns and cities by June 30, 2009, with about 50,000 troops left in place until the final withdrawal of all U.S. military forces by Dec. 31, 2011.
All three broadcast evening newscasts on Monday ran full reports on President Obama’s declaration that all combat troops would leave Iraq by the end of this month, leaving behind 50,000 troops designated for training and support. But only ABC’s World News bothered to point out how the end of American combat involvement in Iraq can be credited “in large part, because of the final actions of the last administration.”
Correspondent Yunji de Nies uniquely pointed out: “Just before leaving office, President Bush sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq and extended the tours of many more — a move then-Senator Obama opposed.”
ABC even showed a clip of Obama on the Senate floor in 2007 predicting the surge would fail: “I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy that has already been tried and a policy that has failed.”
Neither CBS nor NBC pointed out how Obama was capitalizing on a policy he opposed, but all of the networks were skeptical of Obama’s claim that Iraq was a healed nation:
On Thursday's The Dylan Ratigan Show, MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan went after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and complained about the lack opposition to the conflicts: "Why isn't there an alarm that we've been perpetrating this war?...there aren't enough people in this country that honestly give a damn. No one really cares." His solution to the supposed apathy? A draft. [Audio available here]
Ratigan began his rant by describing the financial and human toll of the wars. He particularly highlighted "the innocent civilians that our bombs are killing. As many as 105,000 dead in Iraq, the number in Afghanistan approaching 13,000, that we have killed." He argued: "We might even be creating more terrorists....being there may be doing more harm than good." On his May 13 program, Ratigan condemned the U.S. military for "dropping predator bombs on civilians willy-nilly."
Describing the limited number of Americans who have loved ones on the front lines, Ratigan proclaimed: "...it's a way for the politicians to isolate on the poorest and the most isolated group of soldiers they can get and protect themselves from our society, were they to understand how violent and oppressive the actions we are taking against our own people are in perpetrating these wars." Ratigan then proposed: "...we have to raise the stakes on this to decide whether we get out or keep going. And the only way I can see to do that is to return the draft." He further declared: "Maybe if the sons and daughters of more Americans families, like those of our politicians, were either being killed in combat or facing the stresses of endless repeat deployment, our policymakers would start questioning why we're still there..."
It goes without saying that Monday's media coverage of Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.V.) death was predictably sycophantic on a disturbing number of levels.
However, the award for most disgraceful use of a politician's passing to further one's agenda has to go to MSNBC's Chris Matthews who ended last night's "Hardball" memorializing a senator he had great esteem for by attacking former President George W. Bush.
"Let me finish tonight with a tribute to a U.S. senator who shared my deep American objection to the Iraq War," he began.
Readers are cautioned that where Matthews went from here was offensive in the extreme (video follows with transcript and commentary):
While the television networks were doing an Obama Superiority Dance, proclaiming the president's firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal and replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus was "brilliant," something was missing in the coverage. That was a sense that if Petraeus is universally honored as the savior of Iraq, why do the networks all forget it was Obama and Biden who suggested Petraeus and his surge was a bad idea a few years ago?
On NBC, Chuck Todd was promoting it as a "commander-in-chief moment." Mr. Todd, please read a piece of this Meet the Press interview from September 7, 2008, with appreciation for fill-in host Tom Brokaw actually pushing new V.P. nominee Joe Biden about whether the surge and its architect deserved any credit for improvements in Iraq. Biden didn't want to cry uncle:
BROKAW: Here you were, just one year ago, on Meet the Press. This was your take on the surge at that time, so let's listen to that, Senator. "I mean, the truth of the matter is this administration's policy and the surge are a failure," you said, "and that the surge, which was supposed to stop sectarian violence and - long enough to give political reconciliation, there has been no political reconciliation."
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday claimed that for what General Stanley McChrystal allegedly said about the White House, he legally, morally, ethically, professionally ought to be canned.
Discussing the issue with colleagues Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie on "The Daily Rundown," Mitchell claimed McChrystal's alleged statement "crosses the line of insubordination, and it crosses the line of the military code of justice."
She later made a comment one can't possibly imagine such a liberal media member making when George W. Bush was in the White House, "There is a reason why the military code of justice says you don't diss the Commander in Chief" (video follows with partial transcript and commentary, h/t HotAirPundit):
Huffington Post writer and author of poetry and fiction, Anis Shivani, demonstrated what we have seen in bits and pieces throughout the liberal MSM, though it is rarely seen in such dramatic and sweeping fashion. Shivani harnessed all of the rational thought he could muster, gathered a bevy of intelligent rhetoric, armed himself with a cache of well-reasoned arguments and... quickly dispensed with them prior to writing his recent column.
The gist of the piece? Every major catastrophe to hit America can be traced to one singular event - George Bush and the 2000 Presidential election results.
Shivani starts off by listing examples of American catastrophes - 9/11, Enron, Katrina, Wall Street, the BP spill.
He then explains (emphasis mine throughout):
"It all began with the Florida election theft in 2000 (all of the now-familiar excuses were first used in full force, in total conjugation, for this first disaster). It gave a signal to everyone managing and regulating and overseeing any kind of operation, public or private, that henceforth it was the day of the jackals, that accountability and honesty and certitude were out the door."
For good measure - and in tune with his liberal colleagues - the BP oil spill is singled out as being directly Bush's fault: