Tired of public opinion polls? Well, an article in today’s New York Times might be an indication that Americans have seen enough polls in the past three months, and that a new strategy is necessary to inform them how to think. How does it work? Well, instead of releasing data that supposedly represents a statistical picture of the nation’s views on a subject, make the data significantly more real by putting names and faces to the numbers.
The article in question, entitled “Even Supporters Doubt President as Issues Pile Up,” effectively introduced this strategy in its first four paragraphs:
The big news story from Iraq yesterday was the suicide bombing in Mahmudiya which killed 31 people. The Washington Post story makes it clear what the "insurgents" are really doing:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.
Ellen Ratner, the short, liberal side of The Long & the Short of It on Fox & Friends Weekend, just let the liberal cat out of the bag. Discussing the Democrats' approach to Iraq withdrawal proposals, Ratner admitted:
"If you got [Dem leaders] in a room off camera everyone agrees, but people are trying to look tough on security so the Democrats can win the House back in 2006."
Jim Pinkerton, the long, conservative side of the equation, pounced on this rare bit of Dem candor:
"Viewers should note that Ellen basically said that Democrats will think one thing and say another."
Host Julian Phillips, who moderated the debate and is hardly a Bush administration shill, scored the point for Pinkerton:
The Associated Press and United Press International are reporting that another Democratic hawk, Norm Dicks (D-Washington), has changed his position on the Iraq war. They are both quoting from and referencing a Seattle Times article first published about 16 hours ago entitled “Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake.” Yet, they are conveniently ignoring previous statements made by Dicks concerning the war that were also reported by the Seattle Times.
I've recently described, here and here, how an unexpected streak of reasonableness broke out at the Today show. On successive days, Matt Lauer criticized the Democrats for trying to make political hay out of Iraq without offering any alternatives of their own.
Strangely, sanity has seemingly struck again. And this in the most unlikely person of NBC reporter Jim Maceda, who only last week, as I reported here was carping that the French were not appeasing their Muslim rioters assiduously enough.
This morning, Maceda was in Iraq interviewing US troops. He summarized their message in this blunt and refreshing way: "these soldiers think the politicians who want to pull out quickly are dead wrong."
In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry:
On his Countdown show Wednesday night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann devoted much of one segment to criticizing Vice President Cheney’s November 21 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a speech in which the Vice President took exception with how the Associated Press characterized his attacks on Democratic Senators who have accused President Bush of lying about pre-war intelligence. Even though Cheney’s original speech on November 16 at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute made clear his comments were directed at "some U.S. Senators," rather than anti-war critics in general, the AP ran the headline, "Cheney says war critics dishonest, reprehensible," which gives the false impression Cheney was calling all opponents of the Iraq War "dishonest" and "reprehensible." Cheney’s November 21 statement that "I do have a quarrel with that headline" so offended Olbermann that he characterized Cheney’s well-founded, and relatively polite, complaint as "vitriol" toward the media. The Countdown host proceeded to distort Cheney’s words himself to prove his contention that the Vice President’s complaints were unfounded.
Ted Rall, the far left editorial cartoonist and anti-American pundit, has used his cartoons to slander our soldiers again. Remember - Ted was the one that mocked the death of Pat Tillman in one of his little drawings. This time he has really gone too far and I am shocked that no one has called him out on it.
In his little piece of so-called artwork from 11.10.05, Ted claims that the US Military is raping young boys in US custody. He cites McCain's anti-torture proposal as protecting detainees from "sodomy, anal rape and touching in the dirty place". In the last frame of his cartoon, Ted shows a blind-folded detainee bent over with one soldier telling another "Only rape the cute ones for now".
In his new web column, Newsweek's Paris bureau chief and Middle East regional editor Christopher Dickey writes about his dinner last Sunday with former Time White House columnist Hugh Sidey, who suffered a fatal heart attack the next day. Unfortunately, Dickey spoils his reminiscence of his friend with a lament/rant concerning the good old days when the liberal establishment media had the field all to themselves (emphasis added) :
For most of Hugh’s career, well into the 1980s, small-town newspapers told people what local editors thought they needed to know, and a handful of national media gave them what the press barons thought they ought to know. You could count the important national media on your fingers: Time and NEWSWEEK, The New York Times and to a lesser extent the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, AP, UPI, plus the three major broadcast networks—that was it. This could have been a terrible system, but in retrospect it seems a benevolent oligarchy. These media were not oblivious to market forces, but neither were they compelled to pander to them. They felt a duty to cover Washington politics, major economic issues and foreign news in considerable detail, even if only a fraction of their readers ever got past the headlines. They could dare to be boring, if that’s what it took to be responsible.
ESPN loves to run the clip of NFL coaching legend Vince Lombardi stomping down the sideline, demanding to know "what the hell is going on around here?"
Watching the Today show the last two mornings, one is tempted to ask the same question.
As reported here, Matt Lauer yesterday criticized the Democrats for their lack of a plan for Iraq. This morning, Matt & Co. were, mirabile dictu, back at it again.
Lauer introduced the segment in this surprisingly W-friendly way: "President Bush has taken a beating on Capitol Hill from Democrats unhappy with the way the war is going, but do the president's critics have an exit strategy of their own?"
Norah O'Donnell, who's never been accused of pro-Republican bias, narrated the segment entitled "Do Democrats Have Plan for Iraq?"
As reported by NewsBusters here, the media’s current fascination with Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) completely ignores the decade of the ’90s when the congressman was a leading pork-barrel spender. Yet, maybe more curious, this love affair is thoroughly dismissing some rather recent earmarking that made the papers before Mr. Murtha became the media’s favorite anti-war spokesman.
Not the least of these articles was a front-page, 2,200 word expose in the June 13, 2005 Los Angeles Times by Ken Silverstein and Richard Simon. The headline set the tone: “Lobbyist's Brother Guided House Bill; A family member's ties to special interests raise questions in the case of Democrat John Murtha.” The crux of the article is that Murtha’s brother is a senior partner in a company called KSA Consulting. Said consulting firm received $20.8 million in defense contracts in 2004 (Times link expired):
Another example of network journalists creating their own self-fulfilling story. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams set up a full story on how President Bush has returned to his Texas ranch “after an overseas trip that was not supposed to be about Iraq, but that topic ended up following him all the way around the world.” As if reporters, who were the ones posing the questions to him about Iraq and making it a topic on their newscasts, had nothing to do with it! Then, over video of Bush trying to open the closed doors in China, David Gregory opened his piece by finding deep meaning in the minor incident: “The President's botched exit from an impromptu press conference spoke volumes about this latest trip abroad." Gregory proceeded to act as if reporters were mere observers when they were directly responsible for imposing their news agenda: "All this month, from Latin America to Asia, foreign travel has provided Mr. Bush no escape from his political troubles. In Argentina, trade talks collapsed overshadowed by anti-America protests and persistent questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak investigation." (Full transcript follows.)
On November 4, the night of Bush's press conference in Argentina, a NewsBusters item recounted how “the broadcast networks...treated as of great import how President Bush was 'dogged' at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina, with questions about Karl Rove and the CIA leak matter -- a self-fulfilling agenda since those questions were posed by reporters from the Washington press corps. In short, the media made its agenda the news and then marveled over it.” NBC's “Brian Williams stressed how Bush's 'political troubles following him to Argentina from faraway Washington.' Kelly O'Donnell zeroed in on how Bush's 'domestic woes came along, too' with 'four of five' press conference 'questions related to the political fallout from the CIA leak case.'”
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Why, thank you, Wolf. It's getting ugly out there. According to Vice President Cheney, if you question, if you dare question the use of pre-war intelligence, according to that speech this morning, you are dishonest and reprehensible.
My remarks today concern national security, in particular the war on terror and the Iraq front in that war. Several days ago, I commented briefly on some recent statements that have been made by some members of Congress about Iraq. Within hours of my speech, a report went out on the wires under the headline, "Cheney says war critics 'dishonest,' 'reprehensible.'"
One thing I've learned in the last five years is that when you're Vice President, you're lucky if your speeches get any attention at all. But I do have a quarrel with that headline, and it's important to make this point at the outset. I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof. Disagreement, argument, and debate are the essence of democracy, and none of us should want it any other way.
Ted Koppel closes up shop on "Nightline" tonight. He will be widely revered and remembered as a voice for hard news and serious long-form reporting. Several decades ago, Koppel’s format was even welcomed by conservatives at the time as a place to be heard for more than six seconds. ("The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" was another. Both were biased at times, but offered some space to be heard.) But Koppel also has a record with some serious (sometimes atrocious) liberal bias. One of the most recent: going to Vietnam to interview communists to prove John Kerry was right about his war record.
The first that comes to mind: "Nightline" devoted a one-hour special resurrecting the October Surprise myth that Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign operatives nefariously delayed the release of American hostages in Iran for political gain. When media and congressional investigations again proved the theory a farce, we asked for a retraction and an apology, and a "Nightline" spokeswoman told us: "That is not a broadcast for Nightline. That's a headline. That's not a half-hour show." There’s a list of bias examples in this Brent Bozell column from 1997. For something more up to date, you can consider the hard-left sources Koppel dug up to explain those thuggish neoconservatives wanting to wage war on Saddam here.
An Associated Press article dated Saturday, November 19, 2005, quotes Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA) as saying “Our troops have become the enemy. We need a change of direction in Iraq.” The article went on to report that his “call a day earlier for pulling out troops sparked a nasty, personal debate over the war.”
Washington Post writer Charles Babington wrote on Saturday, “Democrats physically restrained one colleague, who appeared as if he might lose control of himself as he rushed across the aisle to confront Republicans with a jabbing finger. They accused Republicans of playing political games with the war.”
Commander Adam G. Alexander, USN (ret), or Whitefish, MT sees more villainy than child play in the political arena. He explains that he had a combat role in two wars, which were lost, naming Korea and Vietnam. He says they were lost, “…not by the military, but by the politicians. The politicians allowed themselves to be controlled by the actions of protesters. It is well understood that the large number of them were using the war for their own good, pushed by a very few people and the Communists. What we have now are the same type of people who are using this war only (in an) attempt to take over Congress and the White House.”
In case someone would actually buy the Chris Matthews fairy tale that America was a land of silence against those thuggish neoconservatives after 9-11, see the 2002 Best of Notable Quotables. The General Phil "Cheap Shot" Donahue Award chronicles media people suggesting George Bush knew and allowed 9-11. The Fourth Reich Award for Portraying John Ashcroft As A Fascist is rather self-explanatory. And so it continues, through the Give Appeasement A Chance Award and the Begala and Carville War Room Award for Bush Bashing, the Blame America First Award and the Bill Moyers (Subsidized) Sanctimony Award. You can't miss Helen Thomas.
On the other hand, Chris Matthews does not acknowledge how wonderful Iraq looked to the media then. The Good Morning Morons Award winner, for example: “Iraqi citizens are preparing to go to the polls to decide whether Hussein stays in office.” – Preview of an October 14 segment on CNN’s American Morning with Paula Zahn posted on CNN’s Web site. And ABC's David Wright won for silliest analysis for his evening echo the next night: “Seven years ago, when the last referendum took place, Saddam Hussein won 99.96 percent of the vote. Of course, it is impossible to say whether that’s a true measure of the Iraqi people’s feelings.” As for Matthews himself, see his conversation with liberal Newsweek reporters on February 11, 2002, just five months after the so-called Big Shutup began:
The hed isn't snappy, but I'm trying to come up with new slogans for a paper
that can't bring itself to accurately describe Rep. John Murtha.
There's a slim ray of hope from congressional reporter Shailagh Murray, who in a live chat today acknowledged there was more to his background than what we've been reading in her paper:
Why won't the Post tell its readers about Murtha's mixed record on the
Iraq War? For example, he said two years ago that he'd been misled
about WMD and joined with Rep. Pelosi in calling for high-level
administration resignations; he accused Bush of delaying a major
military callup until after the presidential election (a callup that
never happened); he joined a small minority in voting against a
resolution declaring the world safer for having been rid of Saddam; and
voted in favor of Rep. Rangel's (in my view, bogus) resolution to
reinstate the draft. He's entitled to these views -- but aren't the
Post's readers entitled to know about them, as opposed to the simple
"hawkish Democrat" narrative you and your colleagues are presenting?
Chris Matthews has never pretended that he's an unbiased journalist. He's a former aide to Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives during the 1980s. His show, Hardball, developed an audience during the late 1990s, as he was one of the few liberal pundits not to accept the Clinton spin, for the most part, during the scandal-ridden 2nd Clinton term. But he's still a liberal, and he's made some utterly outrageous comments over the border in Canada, as reported in the Toronto Sun.
"The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said.
I don't know what he was watching during that 18 month period, but I remember quite a lot of what I'd consider a "robust discussion" of what was happening. The President made his "axis of evil" comments in January of 2002, and the next 14 months were spent clearly headed to a showdown with Iraq. There was discussion in the press. There was discussion in the House of Representatives. There was discussion in the US Senate. There was discussion at the United Nations. There was discussion in print and on the airwaves. I'd wager that there was "robust discussion" on Matthews' own television show.
"If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective."
Who, exactly, does Chris want to say is not evil? Bin Laden? Hussein? Zarqawi? The Taliban? The men who flew the planes into the twin towers? The bombers of the U.S. Cole? The bombers who blew up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? The bombers who first went after the twin towers in 1993? Are those not evil acts? Or are they just evidence of a "different perspective?" And if it is just a "different perspective," what difference does it make? Are we not entitled to look upon a perspective that targets the death of countless innocent civilians as "evil?" An embarassing performance from one of the guiding lights of the Washington punditocracy...
This morning’s Good Morning America found symbolism in President Bush’s encounter with a locked door when attempting to leave a press conference. In the opening tease at 7:00 AM, Charlie Gibson said, "No way out. President Bush tries the wrong door on his trip to Asia and has fun for the cameras. But the big question now: Does he have an exit strategy for Iraq?"
Later, Jessica Yellin, reporting from Mongolia, couldn’t let the door incident go. She said, "This wraps up a trip that saw no major accomplishments for the U.S. on key issues, but that did produce a classic and symbolic video moment.
"It happened as Mr. Bush attempted to make his exit after a press conference in China, only there was no way out for the Commander in Chief."
CBS News Iraq correspondent Kimberly Dozier filed a video report only found on the Internet where she declares that "commanders have told us that they're going to have fewer members of the media along with their detection teams as a way to save American lives."
Said the Iraq correspondent:
"Now, when it comes to roadside bombs, I almost don't know what else to say and commanders don't know what else to do. We have almost said it all before and they've tried it all before.
"They have wrapped all of their soldiers in armor when they go out on the streets, soldiers you see now have heavily armored vehicles, they have Kevlar head to toe just about.
The AP on Sunday significantly misrepresented President Bush's public statements on pre-war intelligence. It's not the first time, it won't be the last, and it long ago ceased being surprising. But it is unacceptable journalistic malpractice. This story begins in earnest about a week and a half ago, when after months of being hammered by critics on the left as having "lied," the President finally stood up and addressed the issue of pre-war intelligence. His speech, addressing the reality that he's been constantly under attack for the past two years, represented an attempt to defend himself and his administration. It was, of course, immediately called an "attack" by the Associated Press, and others of their stripe. But they apparently didn't listen to, or read, what he actually said. Otherwise, they'd never have been able to write the following:
After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy. "People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."
The President "abruptly toned down" nothing. In the speech that caused all of the initial uproar, he said the same things. He said "when I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it." He said "it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war." So the comments that the AP is portraying as "abruptly toned down" are the same comments that he made at the time of "his attack on war critics." Those comments are nothing new. There's just another opportunity for the AP to misrepresent the President, and cast him in a negative light. And that's nothing new, either...
This headline from AP yesterday seemed accurate: "Iraq War Criticism Stalks Bush Overseas." But who are the stalkers? It's another way of saying "Reporters Stalk Bush Overseas." They are the black clouds following him everywhere, touting the death toll and his poll ratings for dishonesty in every story. As in this paragraph: "An AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month found a significant drop in the share of Americans saying Bush is honest. Also, with the U.S. death toll now above 2,080 in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of the country disapproves of Bush's conduct of the war." AP reporter Jennifer Loven's first words are "His was policies under siege at home..."
It's good to remember, as Powerline pointed out last year, that Loven is married to an environmentalist advocate who was touted by John Kerry's campaign as a major supporter.
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:
Sunday’s New York Times Magazine features another weekly submission from Randy Cohen, writer of "The Ethicist" column, about a non-political topic -- who should pay for damage done to an office building by a doctor’s patient -- but on Friday’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS Cohen made clear his disgust with President Bush. When Ferguson raised Bill Clinton’s name, Cohen reacted with outrage that Ferguson was still concerned about such old news: "Oh, Clinton, he's been out of office for, you know, how long? Seven years. Some little lie about his personal life. We've got a guy now who lied the country into a war. You're talking about Clinton from seven years ago?" Actually, Clinton left office fewer than five years ago. Cohen advised that on Monica Lewinsky “he should have said, 'None of your business' and then after that, it's between him and his wife.”
Cohen’s hostility to President Bush isn’t based on recent events. A MRC CyberAlert item in June of 2003 recounted: “Since President Bush is either a 'liar’ or 'corrupt’ or just plain 'incompetent’ now that his reasons for war with Iraq have all been found to be untrue, the 'ethicist’ columnist for the New York Times wondered on CNN whether Bush can 'honorably’ continue to serve in office.” (Full rundown of those comments, in which he made Aaron Brown seem reasonable, as well as what he said Friday night on CBS, follows.)
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, in a new article entitled “Bush at the Tipping Point,” joined an expanding list of media representatives that have not only completely ignored statements made by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) concerning his disappointments with the Iraq war that came before his Thursday call for troop withdrawals, but also thoroughly misrepresented the level of support that Murtha gave to the initial war resolution back in October 2002:
“Murtha was the one-man tipping point. Initially a strong supporter of the conflict, he had voted for it and the money to pay for it. But on his last trip to Iraq, he had become convinced not only that the war was unwinnable, but that the continued American military presence was making matters far worse.”
As reported by NewsBusters here, Congressman Murtha first voiced dissent for this war in September 2003, and then again in May 2004. However, maybe most important, the record before the war resolution passed on October 11, 2002 shows Murtha as having initially been against invading Iraq, and only getting onboard when a revised resolution was proposed on October 2. Prior to those revisions authored by Democrats in the House to assuage dissenters like Murtha, the Congressman was quite vocal against an invasion:
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift, in a new column previewing on MSNBC.com, has finally moved the “Bush lied” debate in a direction that has been highly anticipated: in her view, the alleged misinformation concerning Iraq WMD is equivalent to what President Lyndon Johnson and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara did in 1964 concerning the Gulf of Tonkin incident:
“There is a parallel with Vietnam in the falsehoods advanced by government to rally congressional support and public opinion for war. Take the ongoing controversy over exactly what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. Although analysts on the scene radioed back to Washington that there was no cause for alarm, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara glossed over doubts about a second attack on American ships and trumpeted the alleged expansion of the war by the North Vietnamese to rally Congress and the American people to escalate a war that had been losing public support. Sen. William Fulbright, one of only two senators to oppose the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, said in a speech on the Senate floor, ‘We will rue this day.’”
On Friday’s Situation Room, CNN’s Bill Schneider awarded Congressman John Murtha his “Play of the Week,” and after Schneider’s piece host Wolf Blitzer suggested the call by Murtha, “a very moderate conservative” (whatever that is), to withdraw troops is reminiscent of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite’s 1968 assertion the U.S. was losing in Vietnam, and so Republicans “probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider explained his pick: “In 1968, Walter Cronkite returned from Vietnam and told Americans that, in his opinion, the Vietnam War had become a stalemate. That was a turning point. Now, it's too early to tell whether what happened this week was a turning point in Iraq, but it certainly was the political 'Play of the Week.'” Schneider played up Murtha’s influence: "He rarely speaks to the press. When he does, Washington listens. This week, Murtha spoke.”
When Schneider finished his recap of Murtha’s remarks and the reaction to them, Blitzer reminded him and viewers: "Bill, you’ll remember what President Johnson said when he heard what Walter Cronkite had said at that point, after coming back from Vietnam. He said if he’s lost Walter Cronkite, he’s probably lost the country. And I suppose that some Republicans are saying now if they’ve lost John Murtha, a very moderate conservative Democrat, a strong supporter of the military, they, they probably realize they’ve got some serious problems." Schneider agreed: "I think they do." (Complete transcript follows.)
On the Bias by Omission Watch, over at TKS, Jim Geraghty responds to the teen-idol Bill Clinton cover story at Esquire by recounting the more shocking parts of a New Republic story on Clinton yammering at his Global Initiative meeting. Check out what Geraghty bolded:
And, perhaps most striking, in a discussion of climate change, Clinton cast the war on terrorism as a blip on the radar of history: "[W]e have become arrogant in the present. All of us. Osama bin Laden's arrogant in the present. I mean, he really thinks it matters if he blows us up and kicks a few thousand American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia or whatever. And we really think it matters if we blow him up, more than how we all live and how people will be living 100 years from now."