This morning on CBS's "The Early Show," in the 7:00 half hour, Rene Syler interviewed their regular political analyst Craig Crawford about whether the President broke the law in authorizing eavesdropping without a warrant, and the President’s poll numbers. This segment was one sided and negative towards the President.
Syler opened her segment saying "In a news conference Monday, President Bush vehemently defended spying on Americans to protect them against terrorism. The President said he broke no law authorizing the secret program and said the practice would continue despite concerns that it infringes on civil liberties." In introducing a story in this way, it would be fair to assume the bulk of the interview would be on this subject. Wrong. The interview ranged from the foreign surveillance issue, to finding the negatives in improving poll numbers for the President, to an assertion by Craig Crawford, in answering a question about what this is all about and what these issues mean, that what’s at stake here is not only control of Congress, but the Constitution.
Dennis Anderson writes in Editor and Publisher that most reporters are viewed negatively by US troops in Iraq.
Not that reporters are particularly trusted anyway, but as a class of people having a high and visible participation in the war in Iraq, dozens of GIs and Marines I've spoken with allow as how they just don't trust reporters.
There was Staff Sgt. Cory Blackwell of Lancaster, recently headed for his second tour in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division, nicknamed the "Ivy Division" and "The Regulars."
Blackwell, 27, is a professional soldier. He holds the customary glum view of professional news gatherers in the Iraq war.
"We tried to stay away from them," he said. "You had the feeling that whatever you might be doing, they wanted to catch you at something on tape. That would make their career."
There is some very weird liberal opinion on display in this week's Newsweek. Which is goofier?
A) Cindy Sheehan interviewed by Newsweek in the "Fast Chat":
But the peace movement in the U.S. remains small. Why? One thing that has prevented the peace movement in America is the media. I spoke with 5,000 people in North Carolina on March 19, 2005, and the press called the protest "insignificant." They covered the Terri Schiavo case instead.
You feel like you were mistreated by the press? They got hold of everything I've ever said and scrutinized it so carefully. They never scrutinized what Bush said...
The folks over at The New York Times must be laughing their heads off. With the President’s poll numbers on the rise, a fabulous election result in Iraq, and the potential extension of a key antiterrorism bill that the administration holds dear, the Times stole Christmas from the White House last week with the release of one carefully-timed article.
After some pretty horrible months in September and October, President Bush has been fighting his way back up from a virtual poll abyss. The economy—regardless of left-wing protestations to the contrary—has been humming. Energy prices—regardless of, well, you get the point—have been plummeting. And, the Sunnis, who largely boycotted the past two elections in Iraq, were giving signs that they would participate in Thursday’s elections in very large, enthusiastic numbers.
All the President needed to make this holiday season a truly joyous one was a relatively safe, incident-free day at the Iraqi polls Thursday, and the Patriot Act to be extended before Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.
The Grinch…err., I mean, the Times had something else in mind.
After President Bush concluded his press conference, the networks decided he was passionate, even "testy," said Tim Russert. That's virtually always a good description of White House reporters facing a Republican president. To be specific, MRC's Scott Whitlock noticed that Tim Russert proclaimed, "The Bush media blitz continues. This was a President who was passionate, animated, even testy about the eavesdropping situation, Brian. He realizes that this issue has legs, if in fact Republicans in Congress go forward with their investigation." Russert insisted the contoversy over domestic "spying" is "still a big question and clearly the President does not enjoy being challenged about it."
On ABC, MRC's Megan McCormack watched ex-Clinton spin artist George Stephanopoulos holding court with his "nonpartisan" opinions on how the "humble" Bush of Sunday night was the "defiant" Bush of Monday morning. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas noted his vigor in defending a "secret spying program." (As opposed to a overt, watchable spying program?)
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales surfaces this morning to offer his critical take on the president's speech and beaches himself on another failed attempt to provide TV criticism instead of political criticism. For example, he tries to put his Bush-bashing jokes in the mouths of others. On the Sunday night at 9 PM air time, Shales quipped: "Watch for one wag or another to say that 'Desperate Housewives' followed 'Desperate President.'" After a whole review trying not to completely lose his skimpy veil of objectivity, he lets it all hang out at the end:
Over on the smaller networks that have no news departments, regular programming continued without interruption, since the president's speech was not aired. The WB happened to be showing "The Wizard of Oz," which once aired opposite a speech by Ronald Reagan. Mrs. Reagan later said she enjoyed published comments comparing the president to the wizard. Bush seems less likely to be likened to Oz except to the extent that the wizard is at one point denounced as "a humbug." Moments later, told he is "a very bad man," the great and powerful Oz says, "Oh no, my dear, I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad wizard."
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”
An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.
CBS’ Bob Schieffer, after introducing his guests Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), began the segment (from closed captioning):
“Gentlemen, we have to start this morning with this story. It is against the law, of course, to eavesdrop or wire tap U.S. citizens in this country without a court order from a federal judge. But the "New York Times" says that is exactly what the president is authorized the government to do since 9/11. The secretary of state said this morning that the president has statutory and constitutional authorization to do what he did. So I'll start with Senator Graham. Does he have that authority, senator?”
Hubert Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior for his cheerful approach to the political wars. In contrast, Fox & Friends Weekend's Julian Phillips, judging by his crabbiness this morning, might be dubbed the Whining Warrior.
Beyond his rain-on-the-parade words, Phillips' body language and facial expressions oozed negativity. The shot to the right is a file photo, but typifies Julian's less-than-sunny demeanor.
The show lead with news of the latest AP poll, which revealed a significant uptick in support for the Iraqi war effort among Americans, with 57% opposing immediate pull-out.
Page Hopkins is clearly the most pro-administration among the hosting triumvirate composed of herself, Kiran Chetry and Phillips. She kicked off the discussion by observing "it so interesting that a solid majority is behind staying the course in Iraq."
In his article, “Iraq insurgents say election truce won’t last”, Fadel al-Badrani offers the reader a view from the insurgents’ side of the war. According to al-Badrani, “secular insurgents and Islamist militants” (AKA Islamofascists) plan to resume attacks against US troops and Iraqis that cooperate with the United States. Politicians, such as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafair, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, are also listed as targets.
Al-Badrani, an Iraqi journalist working for Reuters, was able to obtain quotes from leaders of the insurgent groups, such as “Muhammad’s Army” and the “Islamic Army”. Leaders called the attacks part of their “holy war”. The leader of Muhammad’s Army promised that “the coming days will be tough on the Americans and their supporters in the Iraqi Army.”
The really interesting stories in today's Washington Post are hiding off the front pages. On page A-23 (and not even the TOP of A-23) is the Dan Balz story "Pelosi Hails Democrats' Diverse War Stances." That's a sunny way of saying again, "Democrats Have No Iraq Plan." Balz begins his summary of a Pelosi sit-down with the Post:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
The three broadcast network evening newscasts, particularly ABC and NBC, led Thursday night with glowingly positive spins on the election in Iraq. ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, the only anchor in Iraq, celebrated in her tease: “So much pride. So much joy. The chance at a better future.” She then led World News Tonight with how “millions of Iraqis went to the polls in unprecedented numbers. They did so to elect a parliament which will write a new constitution and elect a new government.” Remarkably, she pointed out how “the Bush administration set this process into motion nearly three years ago with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.” Campbell Brown, filling in for Brian Williams, teased NBC Nightly News: “A huge turnout. Millions casting their votes on a peaceful and historic day." She began her program by trumpeting: “It has been quite simply a remarkable day in Iraq, one that could have a real impact on the U.S. mission there. Millions of Iraqis all across the country lined up to cast ballots in today's historic elections. Even among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, as well as Shiites and Kurds, the turnout was heavy.”
Bob Schieffer suggested surprise at the success as he teased the CBS Evening News: “Iraq held an election and millions voted. It really happened, but what happens next?” Schieffer then delivered a positive, yet more muted than ABC or NBC, lead in which he described “one of the largest turnouts for a free election in the history of the Arab world.” (Transcripts follow.)
CNN's Anderson Cooper reported that he went on a patrol with troops in Baquba, north of Baghdad. After it was all over, one soldier said to him, "Sorry it wasn't more exciting for you."
Cooper said that he "told him I wasn't looking for excitement, and in fact, I was glad the day unfolded as it did."
Why would a serviceman expect that a reporter wanted excitement? After seeing enough media reports, he assumes this reporter wants more of the same, more violence to serve as grist for the mill.
Cooper says he is always approached by soldiers complaining about media coverage.
"Every soldier I talked to today said the media hasn't done a good job of telling the full story from Iraq. It's a complaint I've heard before, and certainly understand. I do think television tends to focus on the bombs and the bullets, the most dramatic headlines. So much of what happens here never makes the nightly news."
Margaret Friedenauer is a reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner, and is currently embedded with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Iraq. In addition to whatever reporting she's producing for the newspaper, she's also blogging her experiences. Yesterday, she put up an interesting entry on "The view from on the ground" which was enlightening in ways she intended, and also in ways that I don't think she intended. It dealt with the situation on the ground in Iraq, and the comment she had was that "everything I thought I knew was wrong."
As reported by Brent Baker in today's CyberAlert, on December 13th, during the second hour of Anderson Cooper 360, CNN highlighted Cindy Sheehan's trip to England, where she traveled to spread her anti-war message. CNN correspondent Paula Newton championed Sheehan as "America's most famous bereaved mom" who "isn't challenged on her opinions about President Bush here in Britain." Newton's piece also featured a British woman who "says she will stop Tony Blair a la Sheehan." The woman, of Stop the War-U.K., declared that President Bush is "nothing but a warmonger."
The transcript from today's CyberAlert continues below.
Washington Post TV writer Tom Shales, fresh from defending TV news no matter how wrong it is (as in Mary Mapes), is fussing this morning that Terry Moran had the unmitigated gall to question the TV coverage of Iraq as less than three-dimensional:
Moran sounded similarly specious Monday night with a report he taped in Iraq. "It's not the place you see on TV every night," he said. "Much of the media coverage here is one-dimensional." So then, what? We should put on our 3-D glasses? "Nightline" was going to show all the bad boys of broadcasting how to do it? Moran's report wasn't revolutionary and didn't justify his lecturing others in the TV news business.
While sugarplum fairies dance in other heads, Matt Lauer dreams of US withdrawal from Iraq and envisions democracy in Iraq as having negative consequences for the United States.
As reported here, Lauer set the stage earlier this week, couching Today's coverage of the then-impending Iraqi elections largely in terms of their potential for troop withdrawal.
Matt was back at it again this morning. At the top of the show, Lauer teased election coverage this way: "If the various factions there can work together it could make it easier for our administration to get US troops out."
Lauer interviewed Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden, both in Iraq as election observers.
New York magazine's Meryl Gordon captured the end of Ted Koppel's arrogant reign over "Nightline," and Koppel grew especially cranky (he "drips with contempt") when asked about the Bush administration's public relations on the war in Iraq.
Twice in the past two years, Koppel has raised the ire of the Bush administration with segments called "The Fallen," in which he read aloud the names of the soldiers who had died in Iraq. "I didn’t do it to piss them off," he says. "It was to honor the people who have lost their lives, to remind us that a tiny fragment of the population is bearing a disproportionate burden." His voice drips with contempt as he talks about the Bush team’s spin tactics on Iraq. "There’s this sense, ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about what’s going on over there—just do what we tell you, don’t question it. We know what we’re doing, leave the grown-ups alone.’ It’s not smart, it’s not healthy, and in the final analysis, it doesn’t work."
This morning, it was the New York Times publishing a positive story about tomorrow’s historic elections in Iraq. ABC News has been doing a lot of optimistic segments on this subject since Sunday. Tonight, it was the “NBC Nightly News’” turn (video link to follow). Brian Williams introduced the segment by first suggesting that the “American media often cannot report the good news in Iraq because travel is still so dangerous.” He continued: “But tonight, we do have some extraordinary pictures of life there, and there are signs you'll see of progress.”
Richard Engel then showed young boys playing soccer on a street, a fashion show that occurred a month ago, along with a film festival. Then, on to the bastion of capitalism, the Baghdad stock exchange, where “without computers, traders take orders by phone and execute them by hand, an average of $3 million in shares trades here a day, 10 times the amount under Saddam.”
During an interview with Karen Hughes Chris Matthews, harking back to his days in the Carter administration, pondered if America's polices were to blame for Osama Bin Laden's attacks. Matthews asked Hughes: "Are we sometimes to blame for the hell that we’ve raised? That`s all I`m asking. Is it always the other guys` fault, or do we do things that send signals that we are the enemy of those people?"
About 15 minutes into Tuesday's "Hardball," Matthews posed the following question to Hughes:
CBS’s Hannah Storm interviewed long-time Bush ally and current ambassador Karen Hughes on this morning’s “The Early Show,” and appeared rather testy and ready for a fight (video link to follow). Storm began by painting an incredibly negative view of Iraq leading up to tomorrow’s elections, and then hammered Hughes on why the ambassador thinks things will get better after Iraqis go to the polls for the third time this year:
“What makes you think that the elections will be a turning point? What makes you think they will make Iraq a more secure place for its citizens and the U.S. troops there?”
When Karen Hughes cited a poll that showed growing optimism in Iraq it was no surprise that Matt Lauer was already armed with a poll he preferred that showed the opposite. In the 7:00am half hour Lauer asked Karen Hughes about America’s image in the Middle East: "When you travel around the world especially to Muslim countries, places like Pakistan and, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia when you talk about the subject of Iraq do the people that you talk to see U.S. forces there as occupiers or liberators"
Karen Hughes: "Well I think Matt actually it's very interesting. One of the things I came home with was the impression that people around in the region look at Iraq and they have a, a view that I don't think is supported by the Iraqi people themselves. They look at Iraq and they see the daily violence. And a lot of people told me, they worry that Iraq is not better off when in fact polling shows that the Iraqi people themselves believe their lives are pretty good and that they feel, I saw a poll this week 71 percent of the people in Iraq feel that, that their lives are good now and they're even greater numbers are optimistic that their lives will be even better a year from now. And so I think that's important that people in the region see that the Iraqi people themselves feel that they are better off than they were under the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein."
They call the magazine “Newsweek,” but in today’s 24-hour news cycle, a weekly magazine that is seen as a recycler of old news is courting a death wish. To avoid this, Newsweek gives us haughty pieces of attitude, not only in the cover stories, but on the cover itself. Remember the cover on Iraq with the words “Bush’s $87 Billion Mess”?
This week’s edition is the latest in a series of let-‘er-rip Bush-bashing covers. It pictures President Bush floating encapsulated in a bubble with the headline “Bush’s World. The Isolated President: Can He Change?” The headline on the cover story inside is “Bush In A Bubble.” They worry that Bush is possibly “the most isolated president in modern history.”
Late last night, the New York Times decided to run a story alleging major ballot fraud on the eve of the Iraqi elections through fraudulent ballots from Iran:
Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said. The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border.
But there is one problem with the Times article... the single-sourced story appears to be totally false:
The head of Iraq's border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday's elections. "This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq's borders. "I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters....
In a potential sign of the changing tide in the media, the New York Times published an article at its website late this evening entitled “Sunni Bastion Now Turning to Ballot Box.” In it, Edward Wong depicted pre-Election Day Iraq as being almost a shining example of democracy in action.
Wong began optimistically: “Along the main boulevard here in Saddam Hussein's hometown, hundreds of campaign posters have flowered where insurgents once tossed homemade bombs at American troops.” By the third paragraph, he was almost exultant: “But turnout in the parliamentary elections on Thursday is expected to be high, reflecting the shift in attitude of many Sunni Arabs toward the American-engineered political process.” By the fourth paragraph:
Just in time for the media’s latest knee-jerk reflex of gloom preceding this week’s elections, MRC’s Rich Noyes has updated his year-long study of 2005 Iraq war coverage on ABC, CBS, and NBC. A new review of media coverage in October and November continues the pessimistic trend, with the traditional broadcast networks airing six stories in negative tones for every Iraq story with a positive angle. Read the whole thing for a summary of John Murtha’s instant TV stardom and Jake Tapper’s readiness to believe wild claims of detainee abuse, carefully excluding wacky claims that American soldiers use lions to scare detainees. The official story count falls this way:
[B]etween October 1 and November 30….we could classify only 34 stories (10%) as positive or optimistic, compared to 200 (62%) that emphasized negativity or pessimism about the Iraq mission, a six-to-one disparity. (The remaining 90 stories were neutral.) During the first nine months of the year, we found 211 stories (15%) emphasizing positive developments, compared with 848 (61%) that relayed mainly bad news. For the year, the number of negative stories on Iraq stands at 1,048 (61%), to just 245 positive stories (14%).
As Election Day approaches in Iraq, the “CBS Evening News” tonight chose to lead with an al Qaeda video (video link to follow) that showed masked gunmen executing Iraqi police recruits in the middle of the day, as well as two Iraqi women pleading for their lives before being shot. Correspondent Lara Logan interviewed Michael Ware, a western journalist who is so well connected in this part of the world that he is regularly given such videos. During the interview, Ware suggested that this particular tape was “an inspirational video” that aids “recruitment” and acts as a “fund-raising device.”
Ware then interviewed a Ba’athist “insurgent” who used to be a top-ranking military official under Saddam. At the conclusion of this interview, Logan chided the Bush administration for not using this man’s services: “Ironically, this insurgent commander is exactly the type of military leader that the U.S. once turned away, but is now reaching out to, hoping to lure them back into the Iraqi army that's desperately short of experienced leaders.”
Lara Logan, a correspondent for CBS News who, according to the CBS website, lives in London with her husband, filed a report this morning on the CBS “Early Show” from Baghdad as featured at NewsBusters. The text of her report shows tremendous similarities to an article by Patrick Cockburn published this morning in the British daily The Independent.
To begin with, Cockburn’s article is entitled “Iraq: 1000 Days of War,” with a subheading “From Shock and Awe to a country torn between insurrection and democracy.” Logan’s segment this morning began: “Well, it wasn't long after U.S. Forces unleashed their shock and awe campaign that the Iraq war seemed to be over. But it's now a thousand days since it all began in March 2003 and we're still here.”
On Tuesday morning’s Early Show in the 7:00 half hour, Harry Smith interviewed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. In a humorous moment, during the interview Harry Smith forgot Senator Frist’s name while in the process of asking a question:
"But the violence doesn't seem to be abating Mr. uh , uh , it's, we have 30,000 Iraqis dead, acknowledged by the President yesterday, more than 1,000 United States men and women have died in this conflict thus far, is there a body count at which point the cost of the war is no longer acceptable?"
Smith took a hostile tone with Frist, questioning him with Democratic talking points. While Frist was answering the question, and talking about the dangers of cutting and running in Iraq, Smith interrupted him and asserted that there were no terrorists in Iraq until the United States got there, and that in fact it is the United States who has now created a "terrorist haven" in Iraq.