Managing Editor's Note: The following was originally published at Greyhawk's Mudville Gazette blog on January 25, 2010.
Wow - growing evidence that multiple identical letters appearing in multiple different newspapers under multiple names implies some sort of astroturf campaign. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, at this development.
Just wait 'til the even bigger news sites discover this story. I don't have to wonder what will happen - I know - and whoever launched these various letter-writing campaigns should be well aware of what's coming, too. After all, it's happened before, and not long ago... (screen wavers, fades out... and...)
On Thursday’s The O’Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O’Reilly used the show’s regular "Reality Check" segment to highlight comments made by Hearst columnist Helen Thomas in which she questioned whether terrorists really should be called "terrorists," and seemed to express a view of moral equivalence between the United States and the terrorists with which America is at war.
When asked in an interview with Mediaite what her point was in repeatedly asking Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan at a January 7 press conference why al-Qaeda terrorists are trying to kill Americans, as if to suggest that such behavior was provoked by wrongdoing by the U.S., Thomas responded:
I was trying to find out why, why, what’s, look, we’ve been in this war, eight, nine years, against this so-called terrorism. And I do say "so-called" because in the newspapers, if you read, you read about the militants, you don’t read about us bombing everybody, and never really explaining why, and going into three, four different countries, Middle East, Africa, and so forth. Who are we? And why are we doing this?
On Monday’s The O’Reilly Factor, the FNC host had previously highlighted Thomas’s bizarre exchange with Brennan from January 7:
Regular viewers of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart are accustomed by now to the verbal battles that ensue when Stewart brings conservative guests on his show. The guests usually leave with a bit of egg on their faces, and Stewart comes off as the hard hitting, divisive and sarcastic critic.
But viewers were treated to a rare dose of sincerity and intelligent debate on Monday, when Stewart hosted former legal counsel for the Bush Justice Department John Yoo. Following up on what was a meaningful and intelligent interview Monday night, Stewart apologized to his audience on Tuesday for not being his usual cutthroat self, and daring to discuss issues in a civilized tone.
Yoo and Stewart duked it out for almost 30 minutes (videos below the fold), but the host did not manage to get the better of Yoo, who is now infamous among liberal circles for writing the legal briefs justifying expanded executive powers to combat terrorism under the previous administration.
Stewart ended the segment with a very uncharacteristic--given his tendency to demonize conservatives--call for civility in the public discourse (brief partial transcript after videos):
On Tuesday's The O'Reilly Factor on FNC, during the show's regular "Pinheads and Patriots" segment, host Bill O'Reilly highlighted an example of left-wing hatred from a man who appears to be part of the anti-war left, as O'Reilly showed video of the unidentified "deranged" man who started shouting at former President George H.W. Bush in a Houston restaurant. The heckler used obscenities and called the former President "murderous" and a "Zionist," and blamed him for millions of deaths.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, January 12, The O'Reilly Factor on FNC:
NBC's Andrea Mitchell, on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend, claimed that the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not helped in the fight against terrorism, going as far as to say "They've hurt," and "we have inspired more Jihadis against us." Mitchell also played defense for Barack Obama on his terrorism policy as she hailed the President's recent speeches on the issue have been "strong" and "substantive," and "he's now trying to...take the reins and be the CEO," in the fight against al Qaeda. [audio available here]
The following exchanges were aired on the January 10 edition of The Chris Matthews Show:
In the eyes of many in the liberal media, President Obama can do no wrong. If he does, it's not his fault; he is simply a victim of circumstance, or he made the best decision he could given the options. One can tell news items portraying Obama in this light by their descriptions of problems in the passive voice.
Take yesterday's New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, for instance. The piece displays a conspicuous use of the passive voice in the headline: "Promise to Trim Deficit Is Growing Harder to Keep", instead of, say, "Obama's Policies Make Deficit Reduction Unlikely".
The refrain is getting old. When Obama's economic policies caused the debt to skyrocket, and didn't lead to recovery but rather to more federal spending aimed at shoring up the economy, it was because the recession was worse than the administration had planned. Obama's brilliant plans to raise taxes on businesses failed because Congress succumbed to political pressure. Anticipated savings in Iraq were nullified when it turned out winning a war in Afghanistan might actually require significant funding. And Medicare is already being cut to pay for the health care overhaul, so those cuts can't go towards drawing down the deficit. You see, it's never actually Obama's fault.
CBS’s Sunday Morning featured a commentary in which New Yorker magazine staff writer Rebecca Mead looked back at the past decade and hailed the “remarkable...election of a certified intellectual as President” before she cited “unforeseen blights of the era,” listing: “Small plates, Sarah Palin, Chinese dry wall, jeggins.” A fine encapsulation how the New York-based media elite’s view the world.
In her opinion piece tied to confusion over what to call the just-completed decade, she also characterized “the cumulative casualties of war and the infringements of civil liberties that took place under President Bush” as “evidence of at least partial victory” for al-Qaeda.
Mead’s CBS commentary delivered a condensed version of a January 4-dated New Yorker article, “What Do You Call It?,” in which she expressed astonishment John Kerry did not beat George W. Bush and fantasized about a Gore presidency. Mead rued how “the decade saw the unimaginable unfolding” of “the depravities of Abu Ghraib, and, even more shocking, their apparent lack of impact on voters in the 2004 Presidential election.” Plus, she imagined in the magazine:
In the alternate decade of fantasy, President Gore, forever slim and with hairline intact, not only reads those intelligence memos in the summer of 2001 but acts upon them; he also ratifies the Kyoto Protocol and invents something even better than the Internet.
On CNN Newsroom today, anchor Rick Sanchez talked about terrorism with Octavia Nasr, CNN senior editor for Arab Affairs:
SANCHEZ: And good, good, good, good, good, good. You see, this is a point that I'm trying to make, Octavia.
The terrorists weren't in Iraq. We know that now. There was really a small band of them along with the mujahedeen which became al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as we know. But we have known for 10 years now that these really bad terrorists, the guys we really should have been going after a long time ago, are in Yemen. We knew that a long time ago.
The assertion that Iraq was terrorist-free prior to our intervention has become an article of faith for liberals like alleged journalist Sanchez. Yet it conflicts with evidence, including evidence many liberals once found compelling. The Clinton State Department, for example, reported on Patterns of Global Terrorism 1999. Among its findings:
Iraq continued to plan and sponsor international terrorism in 1999. Although Baghdad focused primarily on the anti-regime opposition both at home and abroad, it continued to provide safehaven and support to various terrorist groups. . .
A former war correspondent for CNN is threatening legal action against bloggers who suggest that video of him reporting the first Gulf War from a television studio is "fake news." The video shows Charles Jaco and another correspondent dramatically recounting events from the Persian Gulf, and later shows Jaco and the camera crew joking around in what appears to be a television studio (video embedded below the fold).
"My attorneys intend to act immediately against those of you receiving this who have sent and forwarded these emails accusing me of falsifying coverage," Jaco wrote in a memo to a local blogger who circulated the video via email. He also announced his intention to demand that LiveLink and YouTube remove the video from their respective sites.
On the CBS Evening News on Saturday, correspondent Kimberly Dozier reported on a recent rise in homegrown Islamic extremism in the United States and explored the motivation behind it: “... terrorism experts agree militant Islam is becoming an American problem....the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make potent recruiting tools. They’re portrayed by the militants as America’s war on Islam.”
Dozier went on to cite American bigotry as another cause: “Muslim community leaders here say young people are also being driven to extremes by post-9/11 anti-Muslim propaganda like this.” An obscure anti-Muslim video was played as she continued: “And rising incidents of genuine anti-Muslim discrimination. Civil rights complaints have jumped 10 percent in just the past year, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations.”
While using C.A.I.R. as a credible source, Dozier only briefly mentioned the organization’s radical ties: “There’s been tension between the FBI and the Council over alleged links to militant groups which it denies.” She then offered a dismissive statement from C.A.I.R.: “It says U.S. authorities should start using the Muslim community as a resource, not an adversary, to help it police its own.”
Despite all the campaign assurances that he would see the Afghan war effort through, liberals are incensed that Obama is following through on his pledge to, you know, win. The latest lefty to excoriate the president for pursuing America's enemies abroad is veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who today lamented that Obama must now be dubbed a "war president."
"Obama should remember his own battle cry and tell the hawks: 'Yes, we can,' " Thomas wrote today in her syndicated column for Hearst Newspapers. Maybe he should also remember his insistence that Afghanistan "is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity."
And he has remembered those wise words. But his supporters, who flocked to the "good war" cause as way to contrast Democratic national security efforts with the supposedly ill-intentioned Iraq war--and rip on George Bush in the process--have exhausted the political usefulness of Afghanistan, and are now calling for withdrawal.
As part of an ongoing series called Today's Buzziest Stories of the Decade, NBC's Meredith Vieira, on Monday's Today, featured a segment with former Iraq war POW Jessica Lynch, and with it brought back some of the "Buzziest" bias of the decade as Vieira declared Lynch's story was "exaggerated to sell a war hard up for appealing heroes," and described Lynch as a "pawn of the military that was trying to sell, some said, a war to the American public." While the stories of Lynch's ordeal were indeed exaggerated, something Lynch decried in the segment, for Vieira to claim the war was "hard up for appealing heroes," was a gross exaggeration in itself.
As the MRC's Rich Noyes pointed out in his 2005 Special Report, "TV's Bad News Brigade," there were plenty of stories of heroism for the media to tell, that they all too frequently ignored. Interestingly enough Vieira's own colleague, Andrea Mitchell, on April 4, 2005 did mention the story of one "appealing" hero, that of the late Sergeant Paul Smith who earned the Medal of Honor, as Mitchell recounted then:
Comedy Central's Jon Stewart on Wednesday absolutely tore apart President Obama's speech on Afghanistan for being a virtual rehashing of former President George W. Bush's 2007 address concerning a troop surge in Iraq.
In the opening segment of "The Daily Show," Stewart asked, "[I]s 30,000 troops the military equivalent of two Advil?"
From there, Stewart used videoclips to show just how much Obama's speech resembled what Bush said more than two years ago concerning Iraq.
"The Daily Show" host also surprisingly demonstrated how people on both sides of the aisle -- politicians and pundits alike -- hated what Obama had to say (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript, h/t Story Balloon):
Writing for Newsweek magazine’s feature on the top ten “startling scoops” of the past ten years, ex-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather identified the most shocking: “Abu Ghraib has opened our eyes, serving as a dark icon that reminds us our fiercest enemies – hubris, cruelty, and ignorance – wage war from within.”
Rather went on to proclaim that the prisoner abuse scandal “is still the subject of debate and the source of despair, a shadowy gateway to learning how these wrong-headed practices became American policy.”
Early in the brief article, Rather claimed: “Many don’t know that the story aired in the wake of debate and delay. At the time, there were deep fears that all of us would face a blast furnace of criticism for taking on the administration, ‘undermining the troops,’ and possibly exposing our soldiers to fresh anger from the Muslim world.” Rather certainly was not concerned with going after the Bush administration with fraudulent documents later that same year.
Rather defended the decision to break the story by arguing: “It was only the American public that was in the dark, never consulted or considered when these policies were approved. Back then, we all needed awakening to what was being done in our names.” He then alleged more widespread abuses by the U.S. military: “A couple of years earlier, when our team was in Afghanistan, we had heard whispers of abuse underway at Baghram Airport, where Americans were in charge of an unknown number of prisoners. We flat out didn’t believe it. Now we know better.”
Previewing the President's speech tonight, NBC's Matt Lauer invited on Karl Rove, on Tuesday's Today show, and pressed the former White House senior adviser if the reason Afghanistan still required the U.S.'s attention is because the previous administration "took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan," and "concentrated too heavily on Iraq." Rove hit back, accusing Lauer and Bush administration critics of "revisionism." And later, when Lauer questioned if there were enough "resources" to counter the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan Rove fired back that any one in the Obama administration was in no position to criticize:
"Well look, first of all, they, resources were sent as they were needed, but I would remind you this, President Obama is in no position whatsoever to criticize what President Bush did. Because in 2007, President Obama, then a member of the United States Senate, voted against war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. If this was so vital, then why did he not speak out? He was chairman of a committee overseeing NATO. He could have easily called a hearing to say, ‘I'm concerned about this issue.' He did not."
The following a complete transcript of the interview as it was aired on the December 1, Today show:
In the past several days, FNC has given attention to the plight of three Navy SEALs who helped capture one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq – a man named Ahmed Hashim Abed who is believed to have planned the savage murder of four Blackwater security guards in Fallujah in 2004. Due to accusations of prisoner abuse by Abed, these American troops are now facing the possibility of court-martial. On Wednesday’s Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Steve Centanni began his report:
It was March of 2004. Fallujah was a hotbed of insurgent activity. Four Blackwater contractors were ambushed and killed. Their bodies were mutilated and burned, then dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River. The man believed to have planned that attack, Ahmed Hashim Abed ... had long evaded capture. But when a team of Navy SEALs finally did catch up with him in September of this year, they weren't hailed as heroes. Instead, three of them were brought up on charges.
Fox and Friends also raised the story Wednesday morning, and Thursday’s show delved further into the matter as former JAG officer and defense attorney Tom Kenniff appeared as a guest and argued that the accusations of abuse are consistent with al-Qaeda’s practice of advising its members to level false accusations of abuse against American troops if captured. Kenniff:
It's a night and day difference between the media's scrutiny of former President George W. Bush and the current command-in-chief, President Barack Obama. And the coverage of three Navy SEALs now facing a court martial that captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq, who allegedly was the mastermind of the murder of four Blackwater contractors in Fallujah in 2004, is proof.
John Scott, host of "Fox News Watch" noted this story on the show's Nov. 28 episode and asked why there hasn't been more coverage about it.
"Pretty outrageous story came out, in my view, this week," Scott said. "These three Navy SEALs who were involved in capturing one of the most wanted bad guys in Iraq - the guy supposedly responsible for planning the execution of those four Blackwater contractors. The SEALs are now facing charges because the guy somehow wound up with a bloody lip. Is the media paying attention?"
On CBS’s Sunday Morning, New York Daily News Washington correspondent James Meek related President Obama’s visit to the graves of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead at Arlington National Cemetery: “Now, cynics may say this was just an Obama photo-op. But they weren’t there looking him in the eye. I saw a man fully carrying the heavy burden of command on a weighty day.”
In an article Meeks wrote for the Daily News on Thursday, he used harsher terms to denounce any “cynics” critical of Obama’s visit: “If they’d been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile. His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.” To use such a personal experience to promote the current administration and attack critics seems rather cynical.
In the Sunday Morning piece, Meek almost poetically described the President’s appearance at the section of the cemetery reserved for Iraq and Afghanistan war dead: “I was in Section 60 that morning when he made an unscheduled stop before huddling with his war council on sending more GIs into harm’s way. In a bone-chilling drizzle, he and the First Lady walked through the rows of gleaming white headstones. I saw the President embrace grieving widows, mothers, and battle buddies tending to the graves of loved ones. He asked about each one.”
In an interview published November 11 at Salon.com, titled, "Woody Harrelson on war, death, LBJ and Obama," by Andrew O'Hehir, actor Woody Harrelson, who stars in the new film, The Messenger, recounts his conspiracy theory that America invaded Afghanistan not because of the 9/11 attacks, but because Chevron wanted to overthrow the Taliban and build an oil pipeline. Harrelson:
The guys from Chevron went in and met with the Taliban and realized those guys just weren't in control enough. That's why they wanted to oust them. Otherwise it's an absurd concept: You're going to war because a guy from some other country, a Saudi, is living somewhere in the mountains?
Harrelson, known for being anti-capitalism, continued: "It's a foreign policy gone way wrong. But that's how it always is. American foreign policy has always been not about spreading democracy, but about spreading capitalism."
He also made known his concerns that Barack Obama could become another LBJ because of an unwillingness to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and opined that while JFK was "one of our last great Presidents," Jimmy Carter "was pretty great, too."
Thursday’s off-lead story by James Glanz and Walter Gibbs is on recent revelations that Peter Galbraith, an “unpaid adviser to the Kurds” who has influenced Democratic policymakers like former senator (now Vice President) Joe Biden and Sen. John Kerry, stands to make millions from his closeness to the Kurds and a Norwegian oil company.
Given the typical Times sympathies for anti-war and leftish “blood for oil” arguments, the Times couldn’t ignore the story, and indeed provides a lot of new damning details -- but also has one enormous gaffe that lets Vice President Biden off the hook.
On last night's "Rachel Maddow Show", the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh commended President Obama for taking the reins in Afghanistan. Hersh stated that Presidents must decide their own war strategies. But in the early stages of the war in Iraq, Hersh was a leading critic of similar actions by the Bush administration. Hersh's hypocrisy suggests he is more concerned with the political implications of military policy than strategic ones.
"Lincoln did not let McClellan write a report on how to win a war against the South," Hersh told Maddow, in reference to Gen. George McClellan, initially the top general for the Union during the Civil War. Hersh was offering a historical perspective on why Presidents should not rely on military commanders to form strategy--McClellan was a disastrous general, after all (video embedded below the fold).
Forget Ford Hood and investigating the so-called "terror" connections of Nidal Hasan.
Yours truly has come across something the current crowd running our government might see as even more sinister. The Obama administration, the FBI, the Justice Department, and, most importantly, the White House's speech police simply have to get on this right away.
You see, General David Petraeus visited the Air Force Academy last week and may have uttered a word once thought to have been stricken from all speeches and discussions relating to military matters.
Interviewing Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith cited a cause of the shooting at Ft. Hood: “...the Iraq war, the escalation in number of cases of post traumatic stress disorder...the more people go back to these fields, these theaters of war, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, it multiplies the incidence of these kinds of things occurring.”
Smith went on to ask Shinseki: “Is the Army and is the Veterans Administration really equipped to deal with this flood of a problem?” The VA secretary responded: “Veterans Affairs employs 19,000 mental health professionals to address things like PTSD and TBI and depression. And some of the other mental health issues that come up from time to time with exposing people to the high stress, high dangers associated with combat.” The shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, never served in combat nor had post traumatic stress disorder.
As reports of the Fort Hood shooting began to pour in yesterday, numerous news outlets neglected to mention that the shooter is a Muslim. Either the potential import of this fact was completely lost on these journalists, or they omitted the shooter's Muslim affiliations out of a concern for political correctness.
CBS and NBC both omitted the shooter's faith in their East Coast feeds last night, as reported by Brent Baker. The Los Angeles Times left key facts out of its report, published at 9:46 EST (which has since been edited), even though other other media outlets had reported them. Among these was that shooter Nidal Malik Hasan was Muslim, and that he had previously expressed on an Internet forum affinity for suicide bombers.
The Associated Press reported at 8:15 EST that Hasan had "come to the attention" of Army officials at least six months ago for these Internet posts.
Is Chris Matthews feeling pressure to keep up with the Olbermanns when it comes to flinging invective at conservatives? On this evening's Hardball, discussing Dick Cheney's statement—-made at a dinner at which he received an award—that Pres. Obama is dithering on Afghanistan, an apparently incensed Matthews spluttered [unexpurgated in the original]:
"What G--D--- award . . . are they giving these guys?"
Though its $1.4 trillion red-ink result was mostly known well ahead of its final issuance, the Treasury Department either conveniently got its year-end accounting work done in time for a Friday afternoon release of the final Monthly Treasury Statement, or held it until that time. Last year's report was released on Wednesday, October 15.
The final statement shows receipts of $2.105 trillion, "outlays" of $3.522 trillion, and a "deficit" of $1.417 trillion. That is $962 billion higher that last year's "deficit" of $455 billion.
The terms "outlays" and "deficit" are in quotes for reasons I will explain in this post.
There is good news and bad news about the reporting on the results by the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger. The good news is that after at least three months of obsessing over how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were contributing to the massive increase in this year's "deficit" compared to fiscal 2008 when they have been almost completely if not totally irrelevant (here, here, and here at NewsBusters; here, here, and here at BizzyBlog), Crutsinger correctly dropped them from the discussion. Of course, that means he was repeatedly wrong to cite those wars or even defense spending as a whole as a contributing factor in the first place. But don't wait by the phone for Martin's apology.
For the second night, CBS devoted time in its “Afghanistan: The Road Ahead” series -- which consumed the entirety of Tuesday's CBS Evening News -- to stressing how the decision to go into Iraq undermined success in Afghanistan. Lara Logan, CBS's chief foreign correspondent, rued “the U.S. allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from the Tora Bora mountains” and then, in endorsing the view she credited to “many,” she contended:
What many here see as the gravest error of all: Afghans were wary as the U.S. turned its attention to invading Iraq. And they were right. Everything from reconstruction and aid to the fight itself suffered as the U.S. shifted its resources and its focus away from Afghanistan and the commitment it had made to the Afghan people. Not surprisingly, Afghan support for the war began to fade.
Unaddressed: President Barack Obama is wavering on that commitment since he's now resisting General Stanley McChrystal's recommendation for a big troop increase to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban while Vice President Joe Biden is advocating an air strike-centered approach which will leave Afghan citizens in danger.
So while chuckleheads like Jesse Jackson and Senator Roland Burris hilariously blame George Bush for Chicago losing the 2016 Olympics, whiny columnists like Mike Lupica are up in arms that conservatives might be gloating over President Obama’s big screw-up. Apparently laughing at all this is somehow anti-American, because Obama is our President, and he was doing this for all of us.
You know… kind of like when Bush was trying win a war in Iraq – and all those left wingers stood behind him.
And that’s my first point: The right has every right to gloat over Obama’s humiliation, because, thankfully, NO ONE DIED.
On Monday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric delivered a “How We Got Here” review of Afghanistan after eight years of U.S. troops on the ground, culminating with Couric conveying as fact -- based on the view of Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- the relatively simplistic liberal critique of how Iraq distracted the U.S. from the more important battle in Afghanistan.
“With Hamid Karzai in place as the interim leader of Afghanistan, the drum beat of war moved west to Iraq,” Couric recalled in using the loaded “drum beat of war” language, leading intoAlbright's scolding of former President Bush: “The problem was that he took his eye off the ball and linked two things that didn't go together, which is al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and so things got much worse.” Couric pounded home the point: “By October of 2006, there were 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and just 21,000 in Afghanistan.”
Viewers then heard corroboration from John Nagle, President of the liberal-leaning Center for a New American Security where Albright sits on the Board of Directors. Nagle asserted: “We gave the Taliban time to re-group, chased them out of Afghanistan, they re-grouped in Pakistan and now the years of neglect are coming back to haunt us.” Couric concluded with how President Obama is following through on his pledge to fix the misjudgment: “Making good on a campaign promise, President Obama called for a troop increase in Afghanistan, bringing the number of U.S. forces there to a record 68,000.”