The Hill is a specialized publication, mostly for Members of Congress and those whose living depends on Congress. Still, an article in The Hill today (Wednesday) is typical of the media coverage of the Senate vote yesterday to require “reports” to Congress on the progress of the Iraq War.
The title is “Needed: An Exit Strategy from Iraq.” It is written by Rep. Jane Harman (D. Calif) and its lede includes these paragraphs.
There is now a strong bipartisan consensus that we need an exit strategy. But yet to emerge is the content of that strategy.
We have two overriding objectives in Iraq: to facilitate a viable power-sharing agreement among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds and to turn over responsibility for security to the Iraqis on a steady basis.
One day after Katie Couric snapped at Bill Frist for "parroting" the administration line on Iraq, Matt Lauer asked Joseph Biden if a new Senate resolution on Iraq had, "any teeth in it?" NBC’s Today show has been hoping to use a new Republican resolution on Iraq as a way to show even supporters are fleeing from Bush. Unfortunately for Couric and company Senator Frist merely reiterated administration policy yesterday so this morning they turned to Biden to slam the administration.
Couric opened this morning’s Today: "Then the war in Iraq. It’s becoming increasingly unpopular and Congress is trying to respond." A few minutes later NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell opened her report using language that Joe Biden would later cite in his interview:
It’s become almost too commonplace of late – an article by a major, mainstream newspaper suggesting that President Bush misled the American people, as well as Congress, concerning the existence of WMD in Iraq, and the threat Iraq represented to America. For instance, just yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial with such a premise:
“To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A.”
And, a front-page Washington Post article this past Saturday by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus asserted this same theme:
“President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.”
Yet, neither of these two publications was so convinced about this issue before Bush was first inaugurated in January 2001, and both took rather strong positions about the existence of such WMD in Iraq, and the threat that country represented to America.
Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s op-ed yesterday did not mince words. In Dionne’s view, the president’s speech on Veterans Day was pure, “partisan politics” that “will only add to his troubles.” Dionne’s contention was that the president is just continuing a pattern of partisan attacks that he started in October 2002 as Congress was debating the Iraq war resolution:
“There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-Sept. 11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised.”
Earlier today, TimesWatch made a run (with help from bloggers EU Rota and Cori Dauber) at a tendentious New York Times editorial claiming Bush "misled Americans" about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and terrorist connections. Now the White House itself has gotten in on the act, dissecting Tuesday's lead editorial, "Decoding Mr. Bush's Denials," piece by piece.
To the paper's charge that foreign intelligence services did not suupport U.S. intelligence, the White House rebuts:
"But Even Foreign Governments That Opposed The Removal Of Saddam Hussein Judged That Iraq Had Weapons Of Mass Destruction."
Katie Couric snapped at Majority Leader Bill Frist on this morning's Today show. Today brought on Sen. Bill Frist to discuss his and Senator John Warner's proposed strategy for leaving Iraq. Clearly hoping for an "Even Republicans are opposed to Bush's polices," moment, Couric was dismayed when Frist, instead, offered a plan very similiar to the administration's goals. A disappointed Couric jumped on Frist:
Couric: "Let me ask you about this proposal. Other than parroting the goals of the White House can you explain to the American people specifically what you want this proposal to do?"
In August 2005, the Associated Press was put on notice by readers and editors that the stream of negative AP reports from Iraq needed to be balanced with positives from Iraq. The AP responded by posting FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) on their website explaining how the war is covered. Based on a review of Associated Press articles in October 2005, the FAQ’s should be renamed the “falsely answered questions”.
The AP claimed their stories focused on “political developments in Iraq, writing daily about both political success and stalled efforts”. Based on Internet searches, the AP published approximately 207 articles about the war in Iraq during October 2005. Out of the 207 articles, 127 began with negative titles. In addition, titles of 65 articles referred to deaths in Iraq.
Bill Bennett, in a new article at National Review Online, is questioning a possible "prewar intelligence giveaway" in light of remarks that Sen. Rockefeller made to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday on November 13, 2005. In responding to a question that Sen. Rockefeller himself "hyped" intelligence, here's what the vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence told Wallace (emphasis mine):
ROCKEFELLER: ... I took a trip by myself in January of 2002 to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and I told each of the heads of state that it was my view that George Bush had already made up his mind to go to war against Iraq — that that was a predetermined set course which had taken shape shortly after 9/11.
CBS’s Thalia Assuras did a piece on “The Early Show” this morning (video link to follow) about President Bush’s falling poll numbers. In it, she took a snippet out of an interview that Bob Schieffer did with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) yesterday on “Face The Nation” to indicate that the senator was “concerned” about these polls and what they are currently suggesting. However, the sentences after this fragment that were not included in Assuras’s report qualified McCain’s concerns.
For example, Assuras stated, “The latest poll shows his support remains at its lowest ever, and that’s causing concern in his own party.” Then came McCain’s quote: “As a loyal Republican and a person who’s loyal to this president I am of course concerned. These numbers are not good.”
However, what CBS chose not to show the viewer were McCain’s next sentences (from caption dump):
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.
On NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” this morning, the host’s panel members stated that the reason 55 percent of Americans surveyed in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were comfortable with the way the CIA is treating captured terror suspects is because Americans either “don’t know the truth” or “don’t want to know what the specifics are.”
The discussion was focused on torture issues raised in Congress this week, and Matthews brought up this poll to demonstrate that a majority of Americans don't seem to be concerned by how the CIA is interrogating prisoners. Andrew Sullivan of the New Republic quickly responded, “I don't think they know the full truth of what we're doing.”
John Cusack is a fabulous actor. I’ve been a huge fan since “Sixteen Candles,” which, depressingly, is 21 years old. Yet, the opinions he expressed yesterday at the Huffington Post blog are going to make it very difficult for his work to be viewed objectively in the future:
“Bush 2. How depressing, corrupt, unlawful and tragically absurd the administration's world view actually is...how low the moral bar has been lowered...and (though I know I'm capable of intellectually lazy notions of collective guilt) how complicit our silence as citizens is...Nixon, a true fiend, looks like a paragon of virtue next to the criminally incompetent robber barons now raiding the present and future.”
On MSNBC's Hardball on Friday night, host Chris Matthews sought to convince viewers that the Bush administration intentionally tried to make the American public believe Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks before the Iraq War "to win support for the war."
In his opening introduction, Matthews plugged the upcoming segment as "a look at the rhetoric the Bush administration used to perpetuate the idea of a connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks," as if this motive were fact. In a setup piece for the segment, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster contended that before the war, President Bush "started claiming that Iraq and the group responsible for 9/11 were one and the same," and backed up this assertion using a soundbite from Bush that was selectively edited to distort an answer Bush made to a reporter’s question.
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift has a new article out, and she once again doesn’t have anything good to say about President Bush. In fact, she now believes that his presidency is in such a state of disarray that Bush needs to “change direction, the way President Bill Clinton did after losing both the House and Senate in 1994.” Clift seems to forget that this change of direction didn’t help the Democrats win back the Congress in 1996, which put Clinton in a position where he was forced to accede to most of the Republican demands in 1997 which included tax cuts that he fought against for two years.
CBS's Rene Syler interviewed the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, in the first half hour of today's Early Show. Her first question to Pace was prefaced by the body count of yesterday's suicide bombings at American hotels in Amman, Jordan at the hands of terrorists who had crossed the border from Iraq. In light of that tragedy, Syler wondered: "Do you take this as a sign that we are losing the war on terror?"
Though Syler and other co-hosts of the Early Show mentioned today is Veteran's Day and briefly thanked American veterans for their military service, there were no positive stories on accomplishments in Iraq or Afghanistan or reviews of progress in the war on terror overall. This is par for the course for the Early Show, however, as I've blogged here and here. The full transcript is posted below:
You would think that this would be front-page, headline news:
“The insurgent organization al Qaeda in Iraq asserted responsibility Thursday for the blasts that tore through three hotels here the night before, the deadliest terrorist attack ever carried out in Jordan.
“‘After studying and observing the targets, the places of execution were chosen to be some hotels which the tyrant of Jordan has turned into a back yard for the enemies of Islam, such as the Jews and Crusaders,’" the group said in a statement.”
Oddly, the editors of the Washington Post must not have thought a statement from the terrorist organization that has declared war on America was very important, for they buried it on page A21.
No, I don't mean the Bush Administration, whose unwillingness to apologize for itself drives mainstream media into perpetual indignation.
Michelle Malkin got a response from a reporter--not the Washington Post's--after she asked about issuing some kind of correction following reports about war atrocity claims by Jimmy Massey, which have since been debunked by St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris. The reply, from USA Today's Rick Hampson, is a depressing example of indifference to the truth. Malkin quotes him:
I personally have no plans for a follow up. Our story was not so much
about the veracity of Massey's claims -- few if any of those mentioned
in the Post-Dispatch piece were in our story -- as the reaction in a
small, patriotic town to its former Marine recruiter coming back as a
war protester. (We also went into Massey's psychological history.)
Certainly, he had a lot of critics/opponents/skeptics in town even back
then. So I don't expect we'll revisit the subject.
The Washington Post’s new ombudsman Deborah Howell, in only her second article in her new position, chose to defend journalists’ use of unnamed sources. Of late, this has become quite a hot-button issue, as an increasing number of articles from more and more media outlets seem to rely almost exclusively on anonymous suppliers of information, supposedly from within the White House.
In fact, in the past week, two of America’s leading magazines, Newsweek and TIME, published articles about turmoil inside the White House with bold predictions about changes to come within the administration. The latter just Monday claimed that deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, Treasury Secretary John Snow, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are all about to leave the White House in a huge administration reshuffling.
Yet, in both of these reports, not one source was named. This makes the beginning of Howell’s article even more disturbing:
Last evening, NBC’s “Nightly News” began its program with a report from the Pentagon concerning new rules governing the torture of prisoners. In a two minute forty-four second piece, a total of 15 seconds was devoted to demands by Republican leaders of Congress for an investigation into who leaked information about overseas CIA detention centers to the Washington Post.
Brian Williams began the segment by bringing up Abu Ghraib, and passed it off to Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon, who, of course, began with stories of Abu Ghraib as pictures of abuse there rolled across the screen. Miklaszewski finished the segment (video link to follow):
Even the movie reviews on Today aren't free from liberal bias. During his review of the new movie Jarhead Gene Shalit lapsed into the language of Moveon.org types in his description of the film:
Gene Shalit: "Good morning and welcome to the Critic's Corner. Jarhead, from the distinguished director Sam Mendes, is an immediate classic. No exploding mines, no flying shrapnel its glory is in its understatement, its frightening quietude. Jarhead, that's slang for a Marine, is set in Desert Storm, America's first oil war."
After coming back from a clip of the movie I half-expected to see Shalit holding a "No blood for oil," protest sign.
CBS's The Early Show ran a positive story set in Iraq today which cast the work of American troops in a positive light and showed CSI: New York star Gary Sinise airing criticism of negative media coverage. The story by correspondent Hattie Kauffman, however, was a gimmicky plug during "CSI Week" on the Tiffany network's morning show to plug new episodes of the trio of highly-watched CBS crime dramas.
Towards the end of her report on Sinise's charity, Operation Iraqi Children, Kauffman set up Sinise's criticism of the media: "In addition to his performances on the USO tour, Sinise continues to stay in touch with the troops in Iraq. From them, he hears the good news that he complains is overlooked in press coverage."
Sinise: "I get another side of the story that we don't hear through the media, and it's, you know, more positive things happening than you would think."
Kauffman agreed: "The news reports are a bomb, a car bomb, a suicide bomb."
Sinise continued: "It's always about a bomb or a suicide bomber or somebody getting killed. And, of course, that's dramatic and all of that. But on a day-to-day basis, there's a lot of improvement. There's a lot of hope. There's a lot of kids that are going to school that never got to do that before."
The Associated Press has found a unique way to ensure that negative statements and comments regarding Iraq get wide circulation.. Just have two writers do similar pieces with different titles and release them on the same day. The articles should contain the same negative comments and talking points. Throw in a few token positives, rearrange the flow of the articles and you have a hit. It’s a given that someone will read at least one of the articles and come away with an idea of bad things in Iraq. If the AP strikes the mother lode and a reader is exposed to both pieces, the repeated negatives work like a subliminal message.
Such is the case with 2 stories released by the AP on October 25, 2005. The subject was the failure to find any fraud in the Constitutional referendum in Iraq. The 10-day audit was completed and the citizens ratified Iraq’s Constitution. Thomas Wagner’s article, “Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters”, was posted at 0928 EDT. Mariam Fam’s article, “Iraq’s Constitution Ratified by Voters”, came later in the afternoon at 1600 EDT.
Some follow-up on the story of Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, a Marine killed in Iraq on Memorial Day, whose last letter home the New York Times excerpted in an October 26 story marking the 2000th fatality in Iraq.
Sunday's New York Post has the reaction of Starr's girlfriend to the paper's dishonestly selective quotation of his last letter to her: "The reason I chose to share that letter was the paragraph about why he was doing this, not the part about him expecting to die. It hurt, it really hurt,"
As summarized by TimesWatch and others last week, reporter James Dao's story printed a portion of the letter that fit into the paper's agenda of emphasizing the "grim mark" of the 2000th death, thus reducing Starr to a man just waiting to die: "Sifting through Cpl. Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the Marine's girlfriend. 'I kind of predicted this,' Cpl. Starr wrote of his own death. 'A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances.'"
But here's the full context of that quote, as Michelle Malkin first revealed, showing how Starr felt about his death in the context of the fight for freedom in Iraq (portion left out by the NYT in bold):
"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
The Washington Post published two articles today about the war in Iraq. One made the front-page, the other was relegated to page A16. Curiously, the one dealing with a major offensive along the Syrian border was buried. By contrast, the one dealing with American casualties was on the front-page.
In an article entitled “For Many in Iraq, Death is Quick and Capricious,” Steve Fainaru shared recent casualty totals, while specifically detailing the actions of some of America’s heroes that lead to their unfortunate death:
“The growing number of U.S. military deaths, which reached 2,000 last month and has since risen to 2,035, underscores a grim reality: There are countless ways to die in Iraq.”
This article was not only on the front-page, but was also 1,800 words.
On this weekend’s McLaughlin Group, veteran Newsweek Washington bureau reporter Eleanor Clift hailed the secret session of the Senate stunt as “a welcome show of spine that Democrats needed.” She proceeded to predict that “the Democrats are going to push” the contention that President Bush “abused his authority” in going to war and so “frankly, if the country, according to the polls, believes by a margin of 55 percent that President Bush misled us into war, the next logical step is impeachment and I think you're going to hear that word come up and if the Democrats ever capture either house of Congress there are going to be serious proceedings against this administration." Sounds like a motivation for journalists covering next year’s campaigns. (Clift had concluded her weekly Friday column on MSNBC.com: “On the day the Scooter Libby indictments were handed down, Conyers invoked the language of Watergate: 'What did the President and the Vice President know, and when did they know it?’ If the political tables turn, impeachment may not be so far-fetched after all.”)
Picking up on how fellow McLaughlin Group panelist Pat Buchanan described the administration’s use of pre-war intelligence, Clift charged: “'Hyped,’ 'cherry-picked,’ 'misled,’ whatever the words you use to me are criminal offenses when you see the suffering that has gone into this war and the cost of this war. It was a war of choice that was sold to American people on fear." Asked to predict if Karl Rove will resign, Clift said no before she condescendingly asserted that President Bush “can't tie his shoelaces without Karl Rove."
Video of Clift raising impeachment, in Real or Windows Media. (Fuller quotations of Clift follow as well as an excerpt from her posted column.)
Outcry continues over the Times' omission of quotes from the last letter of Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Starr. As recounted yesterday on TimesWatch, a Times story by James Dao last week marking the death of 2,000 U.S troops in Iraq printed one part of a letter from Cpl. Starr, to be delivered to his girlfriend in case of Starr's death. That portion of the letter showed the Marine foreseeing his own death.
But as Michelle Malkin first revealed, after receiving a letter from Cpl. Starr's uncle, the Times left out the very next part, which explained what Starr considered the greater meaning of his sacrifice in Iraq. In doing so, the Times left readers with a diminished, one-dimensional portrait of a doomed Marine, instead of one who saw his sacrifice in the context of something greater and worthwhile.
We interrupt our regular programming for a left-wing blast at American foreign policy.
About three-fourths of the way through last night’s ERon NBC, a character giving a dinner table blessing began her prayer with rhetoric that could have been lifted from MoveOn.org's Web site: “Thank you, Lord, for the blessings we are about to receive. Look over those now who cannot be with us, including the countrymen who fight to protect us in an overseas war founded on lies told to us by our government.”
Up to that point, there had been no discussion of the war or politics at all (the main plot line was about a sick baby monkey being treated secretly by the ER docs). After the anti-war protest, the story resumed without any further political references.
In constructing a balanced panel to discuss a president's fortunes, one does not normally select one person who opposes him and. . . another person who opposes him and ran against him in a general election.
But that was the Today's show notion of 'fair & balanced' this morning. In to discuss W's drooping poll numbers were former Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers and Patrick Buchanan. In introducing Buchanan, Couric highlighted his GOP credentials. But while stating Buchanan had been an aide in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan White Houses, Katie conveniently omitted mentioning that in 2000 he had, as the presidential nominee of the Reform Party, run a bitterly critical campaign against George W. Bush and has since been an incessant Bush critic, particularly on the centerpiece of Bush's foreign policy - the war in Iraq.
In tomorrow’s (Friday) Washington Post is a front page article entitled “Youths in Rural U.S. are Drawn to Military.” The title is correct. The lede, however, is a single sentence that displays for all to see the bias of the Post against the war and against its volunteer military. It reads:
“As sustained combat in Iraq makes it harder than ever to fill the ranks of the all-volunteer force, newly released Pentagon demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war.”
The second paragraph reads:
“More than 44 percent of U.S. military recruits come from rural areas, Pentagon figures show. In contrast, 14 percent come from major cities. Youths living in the most sparsely populated Zip codes are 22 percent more likely to join the Army, with an opposite trend in cities. Regionally, most enlistees come from the South (40 percent) and West (24 percent).”