Though more than a year ago Democratic Congressman John Murtha denounced the Iraq war, asserting that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today,'' on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all led by championing Murtha's call for the immediate withdrawal of troops and showcased his ridicule of Vice President Cheney's lack of military service. “On military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer asserted in bucking up Murtha's credentials at the top of his newscast, insisting therefore “all of Washington listened” to him. The media certainly did. With the text on screen, Schieffer soon highlighted how Murtha “noted the Vice President had never served in the military and said, and I quote, 'I like guys who got five deferments and had never been there, then send people to war and don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'” Schieffer asked John Roberts: “So, in this kind of situation, the White House has got to be worried about, because this is clearly a sign that support for the war is beginning to fade on Capitol Hill."
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams teased: “The war of words over Iraq. Tonight a key Democratic supporter in Congress says it's time to get out, while the White House steps up its attacks on critics.” Williams led by touting: “When one Congressman out of 435 members of Congress speaks out against the war in Iraq, it normally wouldn't be news, but it was today, because of who he is. Congressman John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran....Today, John Murtha said the U.S. must get out of Iraq. It's a debate that has followed President Bush halfway around the world.”
“An influential Democrat who supported the war says American troops should come home now," anchor Bob Woodruff trumpeted at the top of ABC's World News Tonight. Woodruff distorted President Bush's comments in Asia as he insisted Bush “took every chance he could to say that people who question his rationale for going to war in Iraq are not only wrong, but irresponsible and unpatriotic.” ABC's new White House reporter, Martha Raddatz, then claimed that “a visibly perturbed President called Democrats 'irresponsible' for continuing to criticize his administration's use of pre-war intelligence." And Raddatz highlighted how “Murtha ripped into the Vice President, taking aim at his lack of military service." In fact, Bush and Cheney are upset about being charged with “lying” to get the nation into a war, not at general criticism. ABC gave Cheney barely 30 seconds, but devoted more than 90 seconds to a “1st Person” excerpt from Murtha. (Full transcripts follow.)
[UPDATE, 8:50pm EST Friday: On Friday night Woodruff offered “a clarification about” his claim Bush called his critics “unpatriotic.” Woodruff reported: “He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'” See this Friday NewsBusters item for the entirety of Woodruff's correction.]
The lead story today is Rep. John Murtha's call for US troops to be pulled out of Iraq. The media is trumpeting this as a huge blow to the Bush Administration since Murtha was one of the Democrat's "hawks". According to the AP:
"Murtha's shift from an early war backer to a critic advocating withdrawal reflects plummeting public support for a war that has cost more than $200 billion and led to the deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. troops."
According to an article in Roll Call from May 6, 2004, Murtha's bring them home now stance is nothing new.
There are two absolutely extraordinary aspects of this story. One is that Bill Clinton, a former President of the United States, offered the “good German” defense of the murderers, torturers, and rapists who worked for Saddam Hussein, and he did so on foreign soil. Equally extraordinary, however, is the fact that only Newsmax.com, and an on-line publication called Village Soup in Maine, bothered to report this comment. Here is the quote:
"When [the U.S.] kicked out Saddam, they decided to dismantle the whole authority structure," Clinton told an audience at American University in Dubai. "Most of the people who were part of that structure were good, decent people who were making the best out of a very bad situation," he added.
The White House is counterattacking anti-war critics charging that "Bush lied" us into Iraq, and Elisabeth Bumiller files a short piece showing the vice president has joined in ("Cheney Says Senate War Critics Make 'Reprehensible Charges'"). Cheney was speaking to a Frontiers of Freedom gathering in Washington when he said those accusing Bush of manipulating war intelligence were making "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."
The updated, online version of Bumiller's article claims:
"In his speech, Mr. Cheney echoed the argument of Mr. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the past week that Democrats had access to the same prewar intelligence that the White House did, and that they came to the same conclusion that Mr. Hussein was a threat. The administration, however, had access to far more extensive intelligence than Congress did. The administration also left unaddressed the question of how it had used that intelligence, which was full of caveats, subtleties and contradictions. Many Democrats now say they believe they had been misled by the administration in the way it presented the prewar intelligence."
The headline, “US Has Detained 83,000 in War on Terror”, greeted me when I logged on the Internet on Wed. Nov. 16 after lunch. I was stunned. Where were all the prisoners being held? Was this another leak from the CIA? I clicked on the link without thinking twice.
Surprise, Surprise – another AP story extolling the negatives from Iraq. Another day, another negative story from the AP.
The article opens with the statement “The United States has detained more than 83,000 foreigners in the four years of the war on terror, enough to nearly fill the NFL’s largest stadium”. Since when do we equate the war on terror and terrorists with the size of football stadiums? I have yet to see an article where the writer compared the number of Coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians killed by the terrorists in Iraq to the capacity of a sports arena. I was at a loss trying to understand why such a comparison was necessary or appropriate.
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.