Rep. John Murtha is no Cindy Sheehan, but the Washington Post's inability to do some simple reporting on Murtha's Iraq war record is reminiscent of its limited Lexis-Nexis skills last summer. As I documented at the time, the Post simply ignored Sheehan's wild ravings about President Bush being the biggest war criminal and a lying bastard, about liberal bloggers being the only thing preventing the U.S. from becoming a fascist state, about insurgents being freedom fighters and Iraq having held a sham election, etc., etc.
Now I see a story slated in the Post for Saturday's front page about an excitable evening in the House, which voted 400 million to 3 against an immediate withdrawal from Iraq: House GOP Calls For Vote On Iraq Pullout, by Charles Babington. And here's the nut graf on Murtha:
A night after leading with Democratic Congressman John Murtha's call for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Friday's CBS Evening News painted him as a victim of unjust attacks on his “patriotism,” though CBS provided no supporting soundbite of any such accusation, ludicrously insisted he was a “leading supporter” of the war and featured clips of Democrats, including “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned” (that would be John Kerry), who “fired back" at the “personal attacks” on Murtha.
Anchor Bob Schieffer framed the story: “When Pennsylvania's hawkish Democratic Congressman John Murtha said yesterday the time had come to withdraw our forces, Republicans accused him of wanting to cut and run, and all but challenged the patriotism of war critics.” Reporter Bob Orr began with the ridiculous assumption that Murtha “had been one of the leading supporters of the war in Iraq." In fact, as my Thursday night NewsBusters item detailing CBS's coverage noted, in May of 2004 Murtha proclaimed that “we cannot prevail in this war at the policy that's going today.'' (NewsBuster's Noel Sheppard here, and Tim Graham here, dug out other instances of Murtha's hostility to the war going back to 2003.)
Orr proceeded to assert that “the White House turned its guns on the Democratic hawk, comparing him to a left-wing filmmaker,” Michael Moore. “Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert piled on,” Orr added before quoting Hastert and then painting Democrats as the aggrieved party: “But Democrats, angered by what they saw as personal attacks, fired back." Orr featured Senator Carl Levin denouncing the “smear” of Murtha and how “another decorated veteran whose own patriotism has also been questioned went even further." Viewers then heard from Senator John Kerry: "It frankly disgusts me that a bunch of guys who never chose to put on the uniform of their country...” Orr them empathetically relayed Murtha's view that “the war has been mishandled, and people have had enough,” before he ended by showcasing a Republican to illustrate how “name-calling exploded in the House." (Complete transcript follows.)
As recounted in my Thursday NewsBusters item, on that evening's World News Tonight, in setting up the lead story about Congressman John Murtha's call for troop withdrawal from Iraq, anchor Bob 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.'” On Friday's World News Tonight, Woodruff backtracked: “A clarification about a report that we aired last night in our coverage of the ongoing debate about the original case for war and the Democratic allegations that the White House misled the American public. We reported that the President was calling such charges 'irresponsible' and 'unpatriotic.' He did say they are 'irresponsible.' He did not call them 'unpatriotic.'”
Tonight, the Newsweek web site is topped by a picture of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) with the words superimposed: "WHY JOHN MURTHA IS RIGHT: It's time to stop deluding ourselves on Iraq." The commentary by longtime Newsweek foreign correspondent Christopher Dickey begins with his attempt to buttonhole war architect Paul Wolfowitz on the war's aftermath, but he's unsatisfied. Bushies are ideologues unlike anti-war liberals like Dickey:
"So the big mistake in Mesopotamia, it would seem, was not following the grand plans of the best and the brightest who took us to war there in 2003. Others failed, not they. And maybe the armchair war-lovers of the Bush administration really believe this. Ideologues see the world through different lenses than ordinary people. From their perches in government or academe, they like to imagine themselves riding the waves of great historical forces. Faced with criticism, they point fingers at their enemies like Old Testament prophets and call down the wrath of heaven.
An Italian film crew claims that the US military indiscriminantly blanketed civilians in Fallujah with the white phosphorus during last year's assault on the city. The Denver Postpicks up the Colorado angle on the white phosphorus non-story, and while it impeaches the credibility of the film's star witness, it buries the lead, and leaves most of the background fabrications intact.
Here's the big news. The "witness," Jeff Englehart, can only claim to know that 1) white phosphorus was used in the attack, and 2) someone inside the city got caught in it:
Englehart said Thursday that some of his statements were taken out of context. He maintained that he believes white phosphorus killed civilians, though he never saw anyone burned by it while in Fallujah.
As my fellow newsbusters have pointed out the media has incorrectly portrayed John Murtha as a new anti-war convert war and this morning's Today show was no different. In the 7:00am hour of Today David Gregory acted as if Murtha had just changed his mind on the war yesterday:
David Gregory: "Back home on Thursday one of Congress's most hawkish Democrats, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam veteran who voted for the war abruptly changed his stand."
After Gregory's piece Katie Couric used Murtha's speech to hit White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace with Today's Theme of the Week: Even War Supporters Oppose Bush The following are all of Couric's questions to Wallace:
Katie Couric: "Nicolle Wallace is the White House Communications Director. Ms. Wallace good morning to you."
Add the Los Angeles Times to the list of media outlets trumpeting an incomplete portrait of Rep. John Murtha's announcement yesterday.
Splashed across page one, above the fold, of today's Times is a largecolor photo of Murtha (see it) next to the headline, Democratic Hawk and War Veteran Wants U.S. Troops Out of Iraq Now."
The title of the caption in the color photo is "About-face," and the article itself also references an "about-face" by Murtha, even though Murtha began expressing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq within six months after the invasion, as documented by this Noel Sheppard Newsbusters post and this Tim Graham Newsbusters post (in reference to Murtha's 2004 Ted Koppel appearence).
CBS’s “The Early Show” began this morning’s program with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq yesterday (video link to follow). Much like the way the networks ignored Rep. Murtha’s past statements against the war in their evening news broadcasts yesterday, Rene Syler began the segment by referring to him as “an influential Democratic congressman with close ties to the military.” Bill Plante called him “a pro-defense Democrat who voted for the war.” Once again, no reference to Murtha having changed his view of the Iraq war back in September 2003 as reported by NewsBusters here.
Plante, while not suggesting that Murtha’s statements yesterday were at all partisan, referred to the White House’s response as “sharply partisan.” In addition, Plante positioned the announcement of a proposed South Korean reduction of troops in Iraq as a “polite protest” of the war by that country, “a decision the White House insisted wasn’t final.” Yet, Plante’s own network is reporting at its website: “The Defense Ministry said it plans to include the troop reduction plan when it seeks parliamentary approval for extending the deployment in Iraq, as it is required to do each year.” As such, it isn’t final.
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
Rep. John Murtha's anti-war pessimism leads Friday's New York Times, but criticizing the war isn't new for the "conservative" congressman.
"Fast Withdrawal Of G.I.'s Is Urged By Key Democrat" is the headline to Eric Schmitt's story:
"The partisan furor over the Iraq war ratcheted up sharply on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as an influential House Democrat on military matters called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops and Republicans escalated their attacks against the Bush administration's critics....'Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home,' Mr. Murtha said, at times choking back tears. Mr. Murtha's proposal, which goes well beyond the phased withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq that other moderate Democrats have proposed, stunned many Republicans who quickly held their own news conference to criticize the plan."
Between the lead story on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Thursday night from Joe Johns on Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s call for withdrawing troops from Iraq and a piece by Candy Crowley on Bush and Cheney striking back at their war critics, Cooper read a statement from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan comparing Murtha with Michael Moore. Cooper followed that with a retort from Moore himself released “exclusively to CNN.” Cooper read how McClellan asserted that given Murtha’s past support for a “strong America,” it “is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” After finishing his recitation of McClellan’s statement, Cooper hyped how “just moments ago Michael Moore released this statement exclusively to CNN.” With the text on screen, Cooper relayed the comment from the far-left filmmaker: “'Unfortunately, the President doesn't understand that it is mainstream middle America who has turned against him and his immoral war, and that it is I and the Democrats who represent the mainstream. It is Mr. Bush who is the extremist.'" (Screen text of rest of Moore's claim follows.)
As reported by the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker, the network evening news broadcasts tonight all lead with Congressman John Murtha’s (D-Penn.) call for the removal of American troops from Iraq. Yet, they seemed disinterested in focusing much attention on Rep. Murtha's “denouncement” of the Iraq war more than a year ago. (Please see a May 10, 2004 CNN story stating, “Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, in a news conference with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the problems in Iraq are due to a ‘lack of planning’ by Pentagon chiefs and ‘the direction has got be changed or it is unwinnable.’") Maybe most important, the networks totally ignored the fact that Rep. Murtha has been expressing disgust with the Bush administration’s prosecution of this war since six months after it started.
Rep. Murtha first voiced his displeasure with how things were going in Iraq on September 16, 2003, when he called for the immediate firing of President Bush’s defense leadership team. The network news organizations this evening chose not to inform their viewers of this, and, instead, implied that Rep. Murtha was a "hawk" that has always supported this war, and that his statements today were recent revelations.
Quite the contrary, the New York Times reported on September 17, 2003 (link courtesy of Common Dreams.org):
Rep. John Murtha is getting a second round of liberal media gravitas for opposing the Iraq War after he voted for it. Brent Baker just noted the May 7, 2004 CyberAlert, where Koppel used Murtha and former Reagan official William Odom (whom he later acknowledged opposed the war before it occurred), as grist for his question of the day (or every day): "Tonight, Hanging in the Balance: Is Iraq an unwinnable war?"
In fact, Koppel liked Murtha's pessimistic stance so much, he devoted the entire May 10, 2004 Nightline to an exclusive interview with the pessimist. One choice exchange came in the discussion of whether Defense Secretary Rumsfeld should resign, or if he's responsible for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib:
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.