Despite some of the optimism that has been expressed in a number of recent media reports leading up to Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq – in particular, the great job that ABC News has been doing the past few days with its “Iraq: Where Things Stand” series – CBS’s “The Early Show” stayed quite glum this morning (video link to follow). Julie Chen introduced the segment stating, “President Bush says progress is being made, but many Iraqis have other ideas.” Lara Logan reporting from Baghdad then played a numbers game that created the appearance that there have been more American deaths in Iraq than is the case:
“Some 18,000 Americans have been killed and injured since the start of this war. But 94% of those casualties occurred after the fall of Baghdad.”
Arianna Huffington went on quite a rant at her blog today over the president’s speech in Philadelphia. In fact, she pulled no punches. Early on, she stated that “the president’s fanaticism is a scary prospect for the country.” But, that was just the beginning:
“The latest issues of both Time and Newsweek paint a portrait of an isolated president detached from the reality of all that is going on around him. Nothing seems to be penetrating -- not the rising death toll, not his depressed poll numbers, not the continuing revelations about the deceptions his administration used to lead us to war. Not even the growing skepticism about the war being expressed within his own party.”
On Monday's edition of Hardball, host Chris Matthews claimed that Americans were brainwashed into believing there was "a connection to 9/11" and Iraq. Matthews went on to insinuate that the Bush administration brain washed us with the way American soldiers would be greeted and the use of cheap oil.
Permit me one more morsel from the Geoff Dickens basket of bias. Today's Matt Lauer interview with Tim Russert naturally followed Katie's space trip with Ramsey Clark. Amazingly, Matt said Clark's lawyering for Saddam was a problem for....Bush? What? Isn't Clark's lawyering an embarassment for Democrats? Doesn't his resume say he was an attorney general for a Democratic president, who ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 1974? Apparently, none of that matters when everything is Another Problem for Bush:
Lauer: "Let's talk about what Mr. Clark said. Interesting you know he said that the U.S. has tried to demonize Saddam Hussein. He says he doesn't recognize demons only human beings. You can do anything you want to a demon they have no rights. How much does Ramsey Clark complicate this issue for the administration?"
Katie Couric's interview with Ramsey Clark today started out way too soft. As Clark made completely bizarre claims about mistreatment of poor Saddam, the NBC graphic said only "Defending Saddam: Ramsey Clark Inside Iraq." (Unlike Bush-shoving headers like "Rhetoric vs. Reality," or on the Plame case, the evil-or-evil choice "Dirty Politics or Broken Laws?") Katie Couric began by questioning the dictator's lawyer about the latest news: Windows Media Player or Real Player
It's hard not to reproduce the entire transcript of Katie Couric's interview with Ramsey Clark today. MRC's Geoff Dickens transcribed it all, since I said "transcribe Clark's insane parts" and he said "it's all insane." Let's start with where Couric does her job as a journalist. Near the end of the interview, Couric finally arrives where she should have begun, on the grave human rights abuses of Saddam. Windows Media or Real Player
Couric: "He's being charged with killing, the killing of 148 people from the village of Dujail in 1982. He's also likely to face subsequent charges, the gassing of 5000 people in the Kurdish, Kurdish village in March of 1988. The, the Iran-Iraq war during which about a million people were killed. The invasion of Kuwait and the violent suppression of the Shiite uprising back in 1991. Do you believe he is guilty of any of these crimes or any crime at all?"
Clark: "Katie I believe absolutely in the presumption of innocence. Not as a rule of law but as a rule of life. If you can't presume someone is fair, you can't judge them can you? Not to presume fairness is to prejudge. That's prejudice. So of course you presume but you think a lawyer's supposed to go around talking, 'well I think he's guilty of this or that or maybe this?' Can a lawyer do that for his client? What kind of a relationship can you establish with your client if you don't have a good relationship how can you represent him effectively? So the very question is asked all the time and it's not a good question."]
The headline in the Saturday, December 10 edition of Salon.com (ad watching required for non-sunscribers) was a strong statement of the publication’s belief. “The Pentagon is underreporting the number of American soldier casualties in Iraq”. This article, written by Salon "national correspondent" Mark Benjamin, then proceeds to report on a letter written to President George W. Bush by seven House Democrats.
In that letter the Democrats express their concern “that the figures that were released to the public by your administration do not accurately represent the true toll that this war has taken on the American people.”
The article then examines the various statements made in the letter. It asserts this is a “shocking charge” and “The letter writers argue that Pentagon casualty reports only show a sliver of the injuries, mostly physical ones from bombs or bullets.”
As reported yesterday by NewsBusters, a brand new ABC News/TIME poll depicted Iraqis as being very optimistic about themselves and the future of their country. The Associated Press via USA Today is sharing this information with its readers by focusing attention on the negatives first. The article, entitled “Most Iraqis Oppose U.S. Troops, Poll Says,” began:
“Most Iraqis disapprove of the presence of U.S. forces in their country, yet they are optimistic about Iraq's future and their own personal lives, according to a new poll.
“More than two-thirds of those surveyed oppose the presence of troops from the United States and its coalition partners and less than half, 44%, say their country is better off now than it was before the war, according to an ABC News poll conducted with Time magazine and other media partners.”
Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?
Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.
Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.
The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"
Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."
There’s a new poll out, done by Oxford Research International for ABC News and TIME magazine. Unfortunately, unless you were watching “This Week” on ABC this morning, or this evening’s “World News Tonight,” you likely missed it.
George Stephanopoulos referred to this poll on “This Week” this morning as he was speaking with American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad (taken from closed captioning):
“And I want to begin by showing you and our viewers some results from a new poll, conducted by ABC news and 'Time' magazine, and other international partners. It's part of our 'Iraq: Where Things Stand' series. It shows some good news. More than 70% of Iraqis think things are going well for them right now. But it also shows there's a growing gap between the Shiites and Sunnis in the country, as we've seen before. Over 80% of Shiites feel safe. They approve of the constitution. They have confidence in the Iraqi army.”
Jacob Weisberg, editor of the liberal, Washington Post-owned online magazine Slate, has asserted the credibility of a printed rumor that President Bush likes the idea of lethal retaliation against reporters opposed to the U.S.'s Iraq policy.
Weisberg wrote (emphasis added):
According to a recent report in the British press, Bush last year proposed bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters to Tony Blair. This may or may not have been a joke, but given our military's record of accidental assaults on journalists in Iraq, it's not impossible to imagine that the president thinks smart-bombing would be a good way to respond to hostile coverage. At home, it's more a matter of freezing out and anathematizing organs, such as the New York Times, that are deemed unfriendly, while promulgating his own, dubious version of reality.
The latest issue of Newsweek featured an almost 4,000 word article – written by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, with assistance from Holly Bailey, Daniel Klaidman, Eleanor Clift, Michael Hirsh and John Barry – that painted a pretty bleak picture of President Bush as possibly being “the most isolated president in modern history.” The authors referred to Bush as being in a “bubble” that blocks out thoughts, policy suggestions, and ideas that he is either unwilling or intellectually incapable of absorbing. Some of the lowlights:
“Yet his inattention to Murtha, a coal-country Pennsylvanian and rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world.”
“What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable.”
Colunmnist Charles Krauthammer's Weekly Standard essay on the moral defensibility of torture in fighting terror has raised eyebrows, and the New York Times tries to gin up more controversy in a feature on Krauthammer for the Sunday Week in Review.
The story by Anne Kornblut, "He Says Yes to Legalized Torture," includes the text box: "In a controversial article, Charles Krauthammer says that at times, coercion is morally necessary." A sidebar excerpts passages of Krauthammer's article in "the conservative Weekly Standard" interspersed with rebuttals by blogger/author Andrew Sullivan, whom the paper identifies as "also a conservative, who replied in the most recent issue of The New Republic, where he is a senior editor."
In a TV-journalism age in which a good haircut and a sharp suit often seem to count for more than substance, there's something admirably old-school about Barry Schweid. Old, and unapologetically schlumpy, Schweid is the antithesis of TV's Sharp-Dressed Man.
Even so, on Fox & Friends Weekend this morning, Schweid let his liberal leanings show.
Schweid has been covering diplomacy for the Associated Press for over 30 years, and is currently its senior diplomatic correspondent. He joined FOX News Channel as a contributor for foreign affairs in 1997.
Schweid came on to discuss the issue of torture, and specifically Condi Rice's recent European tour, intended to pallliate delicate continental sensibilities on the issue.
On MSNBC's Hardball Friday night, four weeks to the day after he devoted his show to trying to convince viewers that the Bush administration tried to make the American public believe Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks to sell the Iraq War (see earlier Newsbusters posting for details), Matthews again pushed this myth, claiming that "many, many times" between the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq invasion, "the case was made that we were going after them, the people that had attacked us. It was clear, it was emotional, it was strongly passionate." The Hardball host also proclaimed, "This isn't an argument. It's a fact," and referred to "a very aggressive campaign to connect 9/11 and Iraq." In wrapping up the segment, he even threw in the charge that the administration argued that an Iraq invasion would be a "cakewalk," which is debunked by direct quotes, featured farther down, from administration officials dating back to several months before the war started.
While conservative talk radio blazed this week over DNC chair Howard Dean's comments on Iraq, that the idea we're going to win is "wrong," an important question arises: did the average American who does NOT listen to talk radio, but relies on network morning or evening news, hear the same uproar? Are the aware of the brouhaha? Don't bet on it. A quick search of the name "Howard Dean" in Nexis from Sunday to Friday showed no Dean mention on ABC. None on CBS. NBC had this snippet on Wednesday morning from Kelly O'Donnell: "The president dismissed comments from Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, who compared Iraq to the Vietnam war." That's the closest the networks came.
What if you live in fly-over country and read the national papers online, or bought copies across the country of USA Today, or the New York Times? If you read USA Today last week, you'd know nothing of Dean's comments. The New York Times mentioned them in an A-5 story by Sheryl Stolberg on Wednesday headlined "Democrats Still Search for Plan on Iraq." Dean surfaced in paragraph 13. The Washington Post was rare for putting the story front and center on Tuesday, in a story by Jim VandeHei and Shailagh Murray headlined "Democrats Fear Backlash at Polls for Antiwar Remarks" featuring Dean's comments in paragraph two, on the front page. How about National Public Radio?
While appearing on MSNBC's Hardball on Friday December 9, NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, reacting to a clip of John Kerry saying he would not vote to authorize the Iraq War if he had it to do again because, in his words, he was "misled about the intelligence," Mitchell responded by claiming, "It's true they were lied to, misled, however you want to characterize it."
Returning from a commercial break, a clip from that morning's Imus in the Morning was shown in which John Kerry was asked by Don Imus, "Knowing what you know now ... would you still vote to authorize the President's use of force?" Kerry responded, "Absolutely not, not a possibility," and then said that what changed his mind is, "the intelligence, above all. We've learned the ways in which we really were misled about the intelligence, and the intelligence that we believe, if you had that knowledge today, we wouldn't even have a vote."
Tonight, Democrat Congressman John Murtha stuck his foot in his mouth, again, in an interview on John Kasich's program, "Heartland," on Fox News. As part of his argument that American troops should be withdrawn, starting now, he said,
"The US military is not good at nation-building. President Bush said, when he ran the first time, We're not going to get into nation-building."
Source: No transcript is yet available, but this was TiVo'ed and the quote is accurate.
What President Bush said when he was first running, before 9/11, before Congress authorized "all necessary military force" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere is irrelevant. It does not control what should/must be done, today.
Recently, Hardball with Chris Matthews has done a nightly segment called "Ending the War". The segment usually features one Republican and one left-wing Democrat to discuss how the war is going, the intelligence leading up to the War, and how the US can get out. On Thursday night's Hardball, Matthews said the following:
MATTHEWS: Did you—when you look back on the Vietnam War, if you remember—they used to have votes all the time in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. They‘d have the Cooper-Church Amendment, there would be another amendment being offered at different times. You know, Mark Hathid (ph) always had an amendment to try to return the troops. How come we‘re not saying these test votes? I don‘t understand it. If there‘s a dispute over whether to come relatively soon, like Murtha said so, and the president says, “stay until the job gets done,” how come we don‘t see this coming to a vote ever?
Perhaps it was a slip of the mind, but there was a "test vote" last month. On Novemeber 17, House Republicans entered a resolution that would pull US troops out of Iraq. The bill failed miserably.
Was Matt Lauer wearing a Palestinian support scarf this morning?
Alright, I can already hear some folks out there chuckling at the notion.
But before you dismiss this as the product of the over-active mind of an MSM-bias hunter, consider:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political ralliesto talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
The Truth? The Duelfer Report says no such thing. There's no such basis for Franken's claims.
In fact, this is what the Duelfer Report (.pdf file) said in part about President's Clinton's 1998 strikes, called Operation Desert Fox (emphasis mine):
“UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors departed Iraq just before the bombing and never returned. The Iraqis were satisfied with the outcome. They said, given a choice of sanctions with inspections or sanctions without inspections, they would prefer without." (Vol. 1, p. 11)
I heard Laura Ingraham notice Thursday that New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall used an L-word in her story on playwright and Nobel Literature Prize winner Harold Pinter's "furious howl of outrage" against America in his Wednesday acceptance remarks. It comes in paragraph five: "The literature prize has in recent years often gone to writers with left-wing ideologies. These include the European writers José Saramago of Portugal, Günter Grass of Germany and Dario Fo of Italy." Actually, these men could all be placed on the "hard left," if Lyall wanted to pick that label. Lyall's story is the top e-mailed story of the last 24 hours, as of 10 PM Eastern. The headline is wimpy in comparison to the howling speech: "Playwright Takes A Prize and a Jab at the U.S.," it says. See if the second paragraph sounds like a little "jab" to you:
Ted Rall has struck again - this time with words instead of his little cartoons. In his Dec. 6, 2005 editorial, "We're Looking for a Few Good Refuseniks", Rall attacks the US military and veterans again. Rall credits the "unelected" President Bush for the military turning its back on its once "honorable calling". Rall then blames the US soldiers for "torturing, maiming and murdering POWs, robbing and subjecting civilians to collective punishment, dropping white phosphorus and depleted uranium bombs on civilian targets."
Pooh-poohing the "they are just following orders" excuse, Rall reminds his readers that the illegal, immoral and unjust war could not have been waged without a "compliant and complicit US military". He calls for the "men and women of our armed forces" to be "held individually accountable for the carnage". Rall continues that our "government's poorly paid contract killers" do not deserve our support for blindly following orders. So much for "we support the troops but not their mission".
On his Countdown show Thursday night, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, while interviewing New York Daily News correspondent Ken Bazinet about rumors that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would soon retire, wondered if there would be "rioting from the hard right" if Bush replaced him with a Democrat. While speculating on the possibility of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman being chosen to replace Rumsfeld, Olbermann asked, "But a Democrat of any shape, stripe, or form in the Bush administration, would there not be rioting from the hard right?"
Since the Bush administration has already had a Democratic Cabinet member for almost five years, Bazinet reminded Olbermann, "Well, you know, we already have Secretary Mineta obviously at Transportation, so it's not out of the question," but then went on to voice agreement with Olbermann's expectations of conservative opposition: "I think that you might have a rebellion just this side of Harriet Miers on your hands, quite frankly."
While CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer on Wednesday night highlighted how, in a fresh CBS News/New York Times poll, President Bush’s approval rating has risen five points since October, he pointed out just one other survey finding -- one which matched a Democratic agenda item -- that “58 percent of those questioned said the U.S. should set a timetable for troop withdrawal; 39 percent said no.” But Schieffer skipped how the survey also discovered that the public agrees with Bush and rejects the policy urged by Congressman John Murtha and left-wingers, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chairman Howard Dean. As reported in the CBSNews.com summary of the poll: “Six in 10 say they would agree with President Bush’s statement that removing U.S. troops from Iraq now would be ‘a recipe for disaster.’" Specifically, 61 percent responded “yes” compared to 34 percent who replied with a “no” -- a nearly two-to-one ratio. (Transcript follows.)
Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard that despite the huge growth of the alternative media, including bloggers and talk radio, the mainstream media is still in charge as it remains able to determine the country's "conventional wisdom."
Last year, conservative talk radio, websites, and bloggers forced the Swift Boats vets story onto the national media agenda and instantly destroyed 60 Minutes's case against President Bush and his Texas Air National Guard service. But conservatives shouldn't get triumphal. The mainstream media still rules....
Consider the case of Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, who recently called for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The mainstream media treated this as a shot out of the blue by a defense hawk who suddenly concluded that the war was unwinnable. Conservatives knew better--namely that Murtha had been criticizing the war for many months and that his call for withdrawal was utterly irresponsible.
The forces of NBC, in the persons of Matt Lauer and Barry McCaffrey, launched a major attack on the enemy this morning. No, not on Al-Qaida or the Baathist dead-enders. We're talking of a real MSM enemy: Donald Rumsfeld.
Lauer began the assault by using yesterday's release of a videotape featuring Al-Qaida deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to promote the notion of bad US troop morale. Lauer noted that Zawahiri was looking relaxed, answering questions, not bothering to be armed, and asked NBC employee, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, whether seeing such a tape motivated or frustrated the troops.
When McCaffrey didn't respond with a negative assessment of troop morale, Lauer tried another tack to produce the desired result:
David Cloud reports on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's talk at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in "Rumsfeld Says the Media Focus Too Much on Negatives in Iraq," but devotes most of his small Tuesday story to anti-administration side issues and rebutting unrelated statements by Rumsfeld.
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that news media organizations were focusing too much on casualties and mistakes by the military in Iraq and were failing to provide a full picture of the progress toward stabilizing the country. 'We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact,' he said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies."
Perhaps Katie Couric was only playing the reporter's role of devil's advocate, but one sensed she was speaking her own mind in interviewing Dem Rep. John Murtha on this morning's Today show.
And just what was on Katie's mind? That Iraq would dissolve into chaos and terror were the US to beat the kind of hasty retreat that Murtha advocates.
Murtha repeatedly praised the US military, but when it came down to it, flatly claimed that: "this mission is not something they can accomplish, not something they can do."
Murtha sought to distinguish between terrorism, of the type we fought in Afghanistan, and insurgency, of the kind we face in Iraq. His argument was that fighting insurgency amounts to nation-building that we cannot achieve.
Yesterday, I posted an article here concerning a piece by Jonathan Alter of Newsweek. The inherent hypocrisy of Alter's column generated the following op-ed from me that I wanted to share for those that might be interested:
America’s mainstream media are in high dudgeon over efforts by our military to get its story out in Iraq, where winning hearts and minds is an important component of victory. Typical is Newsweek’s senior editor Jonathan Alter, who wrote an article for this week’s issue entitled “The Real Price of Propaganda.” In it, Alter came down strongly against the behavior alleged last week by the Los Angeles Times - that the Pentagon is buying placement of articles in Iraqi newspapers.