Whatever may happen in the hours after I write this column, two things are certain: The next chapter in the magnificent and ancient civilization of the Nile will be yet to be known. And the role that America plays in Egypt's great, unfolding story remains also in doubt.
I well understand the Obama administration's uncertain message in the first week of the Egyptian tumult. We have always been conflicted in such moments. America's founding idea has pointed to our ultimate objective — domestic and foreign:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Is the cat fight a strictly feminine affair, or can a man and woman engage in one? Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski certainly seemed to offer up a fair facsimile of the genre today. The two traded feline fisticuffs on Morning Joe.
Scarborough went first, swiping at Katie Couric for having cavorted on a Miami beach with her beau before departing for Egypt. Mika later retaliated, archly musing about the number of Limbaugh's marriages during a segment featuring Elton John's comments on El Rushbo.
It was 16 degrees warmer in my upstate New York town this morning than it was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. If any further portent of the apocalypse is necessary, consider that on his MSNBC show this evening, Cenk Uygur compared Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan . . . and clearly came down on the side of Ronaldus Maximus.
The subject was Egypt. Uygur played the clip of Reagan's immortal "tear down this wall," and contrasted it with Obama's wan words on the need for "orderly transition" in Egypt.
On Monday's Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, disgraced former CBS anchor Dan Rather attributed the current protests in Egypt to President Obama's June 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo: "He [Obama] fueled this uprising in Egypt. When he came to Cairo, let us remember, and he spoke of- listen, we stand for freedom and democracy and listening to people. The Egyptians believed his rhetoric" [audio available here].
Host Piers Morgan's segment with Rather aired 36 minutes into the 9 pm Eastern hour. He devoted the entire interview to the Egyptian issue. Near the end of the segment, the CNN personality asked, "If you were President Obama right now, what would you now say?" The former CBS Evening News anchor began by voicing his sympathy for the President: "I'm glad I'm not because it's a real dilemma." He then placed himself in the Democrat's shoes: "I would quietly send word to Mubarak that his days are finished, that we will do our best by him. We appreciate what he's done, but events have moved past him. I would do that quietly. I wouldn't say that publicly."
On Monday's "Morning Joe," MSNBC co-host Joe Scarborough hinted that President Obama may have been a major catalyst of the current protests against the authoritarian Mubarak regime in Egypt. Scarborough referred to the president's 2009 Cairo speech and wondered if it inspired the present protests.
"Barack Obama, he goes to Cairo, he gives a speech, and he inspires – perhaps he's the one who inspires a lot of these Egyptians to get out into the streets eventually," Scarborough proposed.
The "Morning Joe" panel was discussing the transition of power in Egypt and how it might affect American politics. Scarborough characterized President Obama as on the one hand a possible galvanizing figure in the current push for freedom in Egypt, and yet on the other hand a world leader accused of inaction during oppression of Iranians by their government in 2009.
The Daily Beast contributor who once insisted that there's "no such thing as sharia law" is at it again, dismissing the threat of radical Islam presented by the political instability in Egypt.
In a January 30 post at Washington Post/Newsweek's "On Faith" feature yesterday, Reza Aslan dismissed fears that the Muslim Brotherhood is a radical group that could take Egypt in a theocratic direction should strongman Hosni Mubarak be forcibly ousted from power, even though members of the Brotherhood have expressed admiration for Osama bin Laden.
Chris Matthews on Friday asked the panelists on the syndicated program bearing his name two questions about the crisis in Egypt that must have made his liberal viewers gasp.
Moments after surprisingly asking NBC's Andrea Mitchell if "neo-conservatives who believe in really trying to push democracy" were right all along, Matthews asked David Sanger of the New York Times if George W. Bush was "better equipped than this President to deal with this crisis" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ABC News prominently featured the anti-American television network Al Jazeera on "This Week" Sunday.
Not only was the network's Washington bureau chief afforded a good amount of time during the Roundtable segment to sing Al Jazeera's praises, but as the show neared its conclusion, Sam Donaldson actually thanked the organization (video follows with transcript and commentary):
It's a metaphysical certitude that whenever anything happens in the Middle East, the media will quickly blame former President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.
Not missing the opportunity to do so, Chris Matthews began the 5PM installment of "Hardball" Friday connecting the riots in Egypt to a man that has been out of office for two years (video follows with transcript and commentary):
For general discussion and debate about all things relating to politics, the economy, and sports.
Possible talking point: Egypt.
How serious is the situation in Egypt? Will this result in a full-scale revolution that topples Mubarak? If so, will this become religious leading to some kind of new Islamic government such as in Iran? Or will Mubarak get control of the situation?
On Friday’s Countdown show on MSNBC, host Keith Olbermann announced that the episode would be his last, and spent a few minutes near the end of the show saying goodbye. He mentioned a number of infamous and pivotal points in his show’s history when he went after the Bush administration:
The show gradually established its position as anti-establishment from the stagecraft of "Mission Accomplished," to the exaggerated rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq, to the death of Pat Tillman to Hurricane Katrina, to the "Nexus of Politics and Terror," to the first "Special Comment."
As he listed a number of prominent supporters of his show, he ended up notably giving credit to the late Tim Russert of NBC for being "my greatest protector, and most indefatigable cheerleader."
Below the fold is the video and a complete transcript of Olbermann's announcement from the Friday, January 21, Countdown show on MSNBC, from about 8:53 p.m.:
CNN International's Zain Verjee on Monday's Newsroom highlighted The Guardian's left-wing talking point that the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords "points to the rise of political extremism in the United States." Verjee also bizarrely played up a post from al-Jazeera's website which speculated whether the U.S. would blame Islam for the shootings in Arizona [audio available here].
Anchor Kyra Phillips brought on the CNN International anchor 53 minutes into the 9 am Eastern hour to report on international reactions to the violence, and asked, "So, what are the headlines there, starting in Great Britain, Zain?"
Verjee launched right into The Guardian's headline as she held up a copy of the newspaper:
Reporter Devin Dwyer has a post at ABCNews.com today noting that a "confidential cable published by WikiLeaks" reveals that "American television shows broadcast across the Middle East are proving to be effective 'agents of influence' in the ongoing battle over hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims pondering jihad":
Appearing as a guest on CNN’s Parker-Spitzer, rocker Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS and the TV show Family Jewels related to viewers that he is "very conservative" on fiscal and foreign policy issues, voiced his support for President Bush and the war on terrorism - including "nation building" in Iraq - and declared that he wishes he could take back his vote for President Obama from the 2008 election.
As he later explained that he normally does not talk about politics because he believes entertainers are not qualified to speak about such matters, he also took a jab at Hollywood liberal Sean Penn and suggested that politically outspoken celebrities are "morons."
Simmons, who has a history of declaring his love for America because of the rescue of his mother from Nazi concentration camps, also discussed his visit to the house of Holocaust victim Anne Frank and its inclusion in his TV show Family Jewels.
When asked by co-host Kathleen Parker about his support for President Bush and the invasion of Iraq, Simmons revealed some of his voting history:
While most of the country took a collective gasp over the verdict in the trial of al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Ghailani, Cenk Uygur spun the disconcerting outcome as a success story for the Obama administration.
Anchoring the 3:00 P.M. EDT hour of MSNBC's live news coverage today, the liberal host of "The Young Turks" boldly and bizarrely proclaimed "our justice system worked."
After accusing congressional Republicans of being "scared of terrorists," implying that terrorists who want to kill us aren't worth fussing over, Uygur dismissed the notion that acquitting Ghailani on more than 280 charges exposed the shortcomings of trying suspected terrorists in civilian courts.
"So what?" bellowed an incredulous Uygur. "We just gave this guy, who we believe helped to kill 224 people, a fair trial."
Since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives last week, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has recited at the end of his Countdown show a new sign-off each night he has hosted noting the number of days since the GOP victory and mocking Speaker-designate John Boehner by sarcastically asking, "Where are the jobs?" At the end of Wednesday’s Countdown, he ended the show: "That's November 10th, seven days since the Republicans took control of the House. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs? I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck."
Back in February 2006, Olbermann began mocking President Bush by ending his show with the number of days since Bush’s speech on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq - referred to by Olbermann as declaring "mission accomplished." Last May, after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had lasted more than a month, the MSNBC host temporarily stopped referring to "mission accomplished" in Iraq as he turned his attention to the number of days since the oil spill occurred, but he soon brought back the reference to Iraq and added Afghanistan into the mix. Wednesday, October 20, was the last day Olbermann used this version of the sign off:
That’s October 20th. It’s the 2,729th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,318th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 184th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. I’m Keith Olbermann, leave a message after the beep. Good night and good luck.
As if people need further evidence that the left-leaning “pro-Israel” lobbying group J Street is a complete mess, the blog “Mere Rhetoric” has posted a video showing J Street co-founder Daniel Levy calling the creation of Israel in 1948 “an act that was wrong.”
Levy made the comments at a forum for Arabic news organization Al Jazeera last May. He said that he personally believed that the Holocaust “excused” the wrongful establishment of the Jewish state, but added that “there’s no reason” why Palestinians should think that the creation of Israel was justified.
“I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused – for me, it was good enough for me – an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason – there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel,” said Levy during the panel discussion.
Catching up on an item from the August 22, Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN, host Zakaria -- formerly of Newsweek -- ended his show with commentary in which he ridiculously suggested that Americans who oppose construction of a mosque near Ground Zero could learn a lesson about tolerance from the terrorist group Hezbollah, and cited the group as being accepting of diverse religions – including Judaism – in Lebanon in light of the restoration of a synagogue in Beirut. Without informing viewers of the history of viciously anti-Semitic speech from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and other leading figures within the anti-Israel group, the CNN anchor quoted Hezbollah’s claim that, rather than being anti-Semitic, they are simply opposed to "Israel’s occupation of Arab lands." Zakaria:
The project is said to have found support in many parts of the community, not just from the few remaining Jews there, but also Christians and Muslims and Hezbollah. Yes, Hezbollah, the one that the United States has designated a foreign terrorist organization. Hezbollah’s view on the renovation goes like this: Quote, "We respect divine religions, including the Jewish religion. The problem is with Israel’s occupation of Arab lands, not with the Jews." Food for thought.
But, as recounted by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Hezbollah members not only desire to take over all of Israel which they consider to be occupied, but the group’s leader Nasrallah has been very direct in his anti-Semitic speech, once even declaring that if the Jewish people "all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."
Here's a fact you're not likely to see on tonight's evening news broadcasts: According to a recent poll, Arabs living abroad are more likely to be opposed to the "Ground Zero Mosque" than the American media are.
According to a recent survey by the Arabic online news service Elaph (Arabic version here), 58 percent of Arabs think the construction should be moved elsewhere. And according to a Media Research Center study released last week, 55 percent of network news coverage of the debate has come down on the pro-Mosque side.
The MRC study also found that on the question of whether opposition to the mosque demonstrated a widely held "Islamophobia" among Americans, 93 percent of network news soundbites answered ion the affirmative. In contrast, when asked whether the United States is a "tolerant" or "bigoted" society, 63 percent of Elaph respondents chose the former.
Disgraced former White House correspondent Helen Thomas will be receiving a lifetime achievement award next month from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Coming roughly three months after Thomas was forced to resign from Hearst Newspapers for disgustingly telling Israeli Jews to move back to Germany and Poland and "get the hell out of Palestine," this is clearly going to raise a lot of eyebrows especially with all the media's recent hyperventilation over so-called Islamophobia.
Consider how the following report from The Hill is going to play in an environment where the press are accusing Americans of being anti-Muslim (h/t Hot Air headlines):
This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour appeared on Thursday's Good Morning America and offered a softball question to Hillary Clinton about her daughter's wedding. After discussing Middle East peace, Amanpour gushed, "And of all of the things you have undertaken over the last several months, was your daughter's wedding- where does that fit in there? And hard? Difficult?"
The ABC host was previewing a longer interview scheduled for Sunday's edition of This Week.
GMA co-host Robin Roberts cheered, "From the politicians hoping to make history in November, to one politician trying to make history right now."
Amanpour speculated as to whether Tea Party nominees would derail the administration's efforts in the Middle East: "Is it possible to have the President's foreign policy agenda, you know, furthered, even if a lot of Tea Party candidates do end up being the candidate [sic]?"
Appearing as a guest on Saturday’s Huckabee show on FNC, actor Jon Voight condemned Time magazine for the cover on its September 13 issue which provocatively displays the words "Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace" in the middle of a Star of David made from daisies. Voight charged that there must be anti-Semitism at Time magazine if such a cover could be devised. Voight:
Listen, if Israel falls we all fall. Did you see the Time magazine, did you guys see the Time magazine cover? Cover? It was amazing. Here's a cover with a Star of David on it, and it says Israel doesn't care about peace. ... But this is anti-Semitism. This is, who are the anti-Semites who are running Time magazine? And their prior cover, you know, they alluded to the Islamophobia, they're calling America Islamophobic.
As previously documented by NewsBusters, Time managing editor Richard Stengel bizarrely seemed to see a down side to fewer terrorist attacks against Israelis when he appeared on the Thursday, September 2, Morning Joe on MSNBC, as he suggested that it was a "sad truth" that the low level of recent violence from terrorists -- including the "Hamas folks" -- had made Israelis feel less urgency about negotiating with Palestinians. Stengel:
On Sunday’s syndicated Chris Matthews Show, after host Matthews asked if electing a President whose middle name was "Hussein" had "opened a door to better relations with the Arab and Islamic world. Or has it opened a door to more xenophobic American negativity?" the panel mostly agreed that Obama’s election was more of a "net plus" for America’s relations with the world's Muslim population. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius had a dissenting view that "President Obama raised expectations that there would be a different kind of America. That in itself could be dangerous."
After former CBS News anchor Dan Rather argued that "I think it's opened the door to both, but, on balance, and in the main, it's still a net plus in terms of the country's reputation," the BBC’s Katty Kay agreed and implicated President Bush in damaging America’s relations with the Muslim world. Kay: "I agree that it's a net plus, particularly when you compare it with what came before and the invasion of Iraq and how much of a problem that was for America's relations with the Middle East."
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell concurred: "I agree because after the invasion of Iraq and with this President and his multicultural background, it is a net plus."
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius then weighed in with a more pessimistic take:
Tuesday's Washington Post offered this study tidbit: "President Obama received far more favorable coverage from Arab television networks than on American newscasts during the first 18 months of his term."
Academics Stephen Farnsworth, Robert Lichter, and and Roland Schatz found the coverage on five Arab networks (including al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyah) was 7.9 percent more positive than negative, compared to 2.6 percent more positive on European networks and 7.9 percent more negative on the ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox evening newscasts.
"Reporting on the president's character was a major part of international news reports on Obama, and was an area where Obama was highly regarded," the study proclaims.
ABC's Claire Shipman waxed ecstatic over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday's Good Morning America, as she reported on Mrs. Clinton's efforts in the Middle Eastern peace process. Shipman exclaimed how the Secretary had a "distinct, quite public moment of triumph" in her meetings with leaders from both sides, and noted how Clinton has become an "international political celebrity."
Anchor George Stephanopoulos, former communications director for President Bill Clinton, introduced the correspondent's report, which aired 44 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour. Stephanopoulos noted past administrations' failure "to broker a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians" and then proclaimed how it was Mrs. Clinton's "turn to try to make diplomatic history." Shipman began by highlighting how Hillary "remains one of the most popular members of the administration" and how she was now "squarely center stage" with the possibility of bringing "something different to this Middle East process."
In Time Magazine Managing Editor Rick Stengel's mind, it's really "sad" that the wall between Israel and the West Bank - intended to keep murderous terrorists in the Palestinian territory - has been a success. Stengel apparently considers Isreali deaths worthwhile if they lead to more productive peace talks.
In a "Morning Joe" segment yesterday titled "Why Israel doesn't care about peace" - after the upcoming Time cover story - Stengel posited that the lack of violence in Isreal is responsible for that country's supposed reluctance to reach a peace deal. Stengel stated (video below the fold - h/t Jim Hoft):
They haven't had a car bombing in two and a half years. And the sad truth really is that the wall with the West Bank has actually worked. I mean, most Israelis in the course of their lives don't come into contact with any Palestinians at all. The wall is functioning. And the Gaza strip is so small and so isolated they feel that those folks, the Hamas folks are not that big of a threat...
I mean, the Israelis feel like, you know what? The status quo isn't so bad and we don't mind is there is no peace at all.
On Wednesday’s Countdown show, responding to conservatives who wanted President Obama to give more credit to President Bush for apparent successes in Iraq, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann sarcastically thanked the former President and charged that the war in Iraq was Bush’s "false war." He went on to claim that, "The neocons lied about Iraq to get us in there."
Guest Jeremy Scahill of the left-wing "The Nation" magazine joined in slamming President Bush and "neocons" for the Iraq war, claimed the troop surge did not play a significant role in stabilizing the country, and ended up asserting that Bush administration members who supported the invasion "shouldn't be able to leave their houses without being confronted with the death and destruction that their lies caused."
And, even though various news outlets reported on the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in the country years before the 2003 invasion, Scahill claimed that "it was the Bush administration's policy in Iraq that created an al-Qaeda presence in that country."
But, as previously documented by NewsBusters, back in January 2003 and again in March 2004, the NBC Nightly News relayed claims that the Bush administration had "passed up several opportunities to take [Zarqawi] out well before the Iraq war began."
While MSNBC host Keith Olbermann was recently dismissive of conservatives for highlighting radical Islam’s persecution of homosexuals in some countries, the Countdown host also has a history of showing more interest in mocking conservatives who complain about the persecution of women by radical Muslims than of actually reporting on such mistreatment.
Last July, Olbermann ignored a story about an Iranian woman accused of adultery who was sentenced to death by stoning – a story carried by the NBC Nightly News and ABC’s World News – but on September, 28, 2007, when conservative activist David Horowitz mistakenly cited an image from a movie as if it were taken from an actual stoning, the MSNBC host pounced to slam Horowitz, calling him a "right-wing fringer," naming him "Worst Person in the World," as he sarcastically mocked the conservative activist’s attempt to draw attention to such persecution. Olbermann:
The image is actually from a 1994 film made in Holland... [The actress] has made at least three appearances on Dutch TV since. Evidently she’s okay. But keep plugging away, Mr. Horowitz. Let’s keep spending billions of dollars to stoke up religious hatred and send our kids to their deaths on the battlefield so we can prevent Dutch actresses from having to do scenes in which their characters are buried alive in a movie. Right-wing water carrier David, "I saw it in the movies, it must be real," Horowitz, today’s "Worst Person in the World!"
By contrast, on July 8, 2010, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up a report about a woman who was awaiting the sentence of stoning to death in Iran, and treated the issue with the seriousness that it deserves: