[This article was reprinted at length and with favor in "Inside Politics" in the Washington Times today (Thursday).]
A poll by Rasmussen Reports today (Wednesday) illustrates the pervasive dishonesty of the American press in dealing with the NY Times story about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) intercepts of international communications. There are both minor dishonesties and major ones in this story as first reported by the Times and later a gaggle of reports throughout the media.
The major dishonesties are demonstrated by the two questions asked in the Rasmussen poll just reported. Here’s the first, and the responses:
Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States? Yes 64% No 23%
The key fact is that these conversations cross international boundaries. Many parts of the MSM persist in calling this “domestic” spying. This is a lie. These calls are international, not domestic.
Here’s the second question and the responses:
Is President Bush the first President to authorize a program for intercepting telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States? Yes 26% No 48%
As Michael's blog mentions, this is CBS reporter Kelly Cobiella's depressing story from Iraq this morning, another attempt to record new victories for the efficient terrorists:
"The final election results from the December 15 election still aren't in, but the preliminary numbers have sparked massive protests and a new wave of violence. Thousands of angry protestors marched in the streets of Baghdad demanding new elections under United Nations supervision, they say the religious Shiite coalition has stolen the mid-December vote; they're threatening to boycott the new parliament if they don't see a change. As many here feared, the election results are already sparking a new wave of sectarian violence across the country -- a pipeline up in flames, a well-coordinated attack on an Iraqi checkpoint in Baqouba, and six blasts which rocked Baghdad.
On Tuesday morning’s Early Show on CBS, host Harry Smith continued to spread media pessimism about the situation in Iraq while interviewing Michael O’Hanlon from the left leaning Brookings Institution in the 7:00 half hour. Smith began the interview by asking O’Hanlon about the return of violence in Iraq, "We just watched this piece with Kelly Cobiella, there had been this peace, this lull, this sort of seeming cessation of violence during the election period and for awhile, the violence is back again, there are lines at gas stations because the price of gas has gone up in Iraq, it seems a little bit like business as usual has returned there, what do you make of this?" Smith later expressed his doubts about democracy in Iraq and their future ability to establish a government, "people are encouraged to participate in this democracy, can they form a government was the question we were asking a couple of weeks ago, do you see any signs that this is actually going to take place?"
Conservatives rightly complain that MSM shows such as Today have a paucity of guests from the right, and that those who do appear are treated with skepticism if not outright disdain.
But I'd say there's an exception to the rule. It's my sense that conservatives want to see Ann Coulter appearing only rarely on MSM shows, and that when she does, that the occasion be treated as something of a Texas Steel Cage Match, or better yet, as the introduction of a Kong-like creature brought onto the set, to be released from her shackles for the briefest of moments as she confronts her antagonists while displaying her panoply of rhetorical weapons.
That rule was honored when, a couple years ago, Katie Couric interviewed Coulter. The appearance came not too long after Coulter had described Couric as the "affable Eva Braun" of morning television. There was electricity in the air, ill-disguised animosity, the sense that an actual cat-fight might break out at any moment.
Next, Russert moved on to Iraq. As liberals, the anchors responded only to liberal criticisms of their coverage. The concept that these networks were too fervently in favor or liberals or Democrats was not entertained. But the idea that they were too soft on the Bushies was assumed to be the dominant, if not the only legitimate, critique. Said Koppel: "Do we have a right to ask critical-- not just a right; do we have an obligation to ask critical questions? And did we fall short of that prior to the Iraq War? That's a perfectly legitimate point, and I think we all have to plead guilty, to one degree or another, to having been, you know, a little bit soft on the administration beforehand."
Brokaw tried to defend the media against the Eric Altermans of the world by saying the liberal Democrats were pathetic in their opposition:
The Zogby and Rasmussen polling organizations released some interesting survey results before Christmas that the mainstream media will certainly not report to their loyal customers. Taken in their totality, these polls show:
President Bush’s job favorability numbers are back to the levels they were at well before hurricane season began
The revelations of NSA eavesdropping are not having a negative impact on the president
Americans are feeling better about the War on Terror than they have since more than a year ago
Americans are feeling better about things in Iraq than they have all year
First, Rasmussen released presidential job favorability numbers on Saturday:
Wilson goes on to directly charge that today’s Hollywood elites cite "danger" as well as an "anti-war stance" as to what keeps celebrities away. Wilson also cited, perhaps a bit too distressingly, that the "Show now depends on Christian hip-hop groups."
The American press did not side with the Nazis in WW II and afterwards. But parts of it are siding with the Ba’athists in the Iraqi War, now. Witness this lede from the Lexington Herald-Leader, in Kentucky, online version, today (Friday):
An Iraqi court has ruled that some of the most prominent Sunni Muslims who were elected to parliament last week won't be allowed to serve because officials suspect that they were high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
Knight Ridder has obtained a copy of the court ruling, which has yet to be circulated to the public.
The ruling is likely to dampen Bush administration hopes that the election would bring more of the disaffected Sunni minority into Iraq's political process and undermine Sunni support for the insurgency. Instead, the decision is likely to stoke fears of widening sectarian divisions in a nation already in danger of descending into civil war.
Over at "Best of the Web," James Taranto has provided another very typical service of his, knocking the bias and inaccuracy at the Reuters wire service. (Trying to find any data on the Internet on the survey "by the Chicago-based National Qualitative Centers" reported below outside this strange Reuters article is tough, although there is this liberal delight from a public-radio station discussion board.) Reports Taranto:
Something is wrong with the arithmetic in this dispatch from Reuters:
President George W. Bush ranks as the least popular and most bellicose of the last ten U.S. presidents, according to a new survey.
Notice it or not, Al Gore’s ersatz TV network named Current TV is part of the American media.
On Monday, “Current” ran a news-type program, Current Controversy, with one of its post-pubescent male hosts, about “Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre.” The host called this a documentary, and said it had run on an Italian network in November. The analysis began by citing and showing on screen three news sources that had accused the US of using chemical weapons in the battle for Fallujah. Those sources were: Aljazeera.net, the Tehran Times International Edition, and The Independent in the UK Online Edition. As Dave Barry often wrote, I’m not making this up.
Apparently, the editors and reporters at Current are either unaware of, or do not care about, the editorial slants of these three sources. The only one they could miss out of ignorance would be The Independent. But that British rag wears its bash-America policy on its sleeve. Anyone who’s read more than one edition of it would know this.
There were only two subjects that concerned the media during President Bush’s December 19th news conference: Bad news on Iraq and domestic spying. Problems in Iraq accounted for six questions, while there were seven on domestic spying. (Note: Questions were counted based on their topic. Follow-ups on the same subject were not counted as separate questions.)
The assembled members of the press seemed relatively uninterested in the successful Iraqi elections. In fact, there were no questions specifically about the elections or about the improving economy.
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.