That didn't take long! Back in the MSM's Watergate heyday, it took a while for a steady drumbeat of revelations, stories and allegations to gather sufficient momentum. The pace has apparently quickened in the modern liberal-media world. On this morning's Today show, speaking of the allegation that President Bush authorized the disclosure of information by Scooter Libby, Matt Lauer asked Chris Matthews: "scale of 1 to 10, [where] 10 is a deal-ender, where does this fall?"
Matthews didn't hesitate: "heading to 10."
Even Lauer seemed taken aback: "Really, that big?"
For good measure, Matthews later analogized VP Cheney to Henry II having put out a hit leading to the murder of a dissenter in his administration.
European Jewish Press reports that the BBC's Board of Governors censured BBC Online for a report saying the United Nations had "called for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal" from all territories gained during the Six-Day War, when in fact the UN only "called for a negotiated 'land for peace' settlement."
The governors report, which specifically singled out the reporting of the UN resolution after the 1967 Israeli-Arab ’Six-day war’, stated that the piece on the BBC news website did not give a balanced view of events.
Absence of factual reporting
The UN Security Council 242 is very specific when it calls for a connection between a "withdrawal from territories" and all nations in the region’s "right to live in peace".
Drudge links to an AP story about two national book chains who are apparently afraid of having their coffee bars blown up.
Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries.
"For us, the safety and security of our customers and employees is a top priority, and we believe that carrying this issue could challenge that priority," Borders Group Inc. spokeswoman Beth Bingham said Wednesday.
This morning’s Jerusalem Post has a wrap on yesterday’s elections, which saw the once-dominant Likud party drop to fourth place, winning only 11 seats in the new parliament. One of the Likud members ousted in yesterday’s election says that some Israeli media outlets were blatantly biased against Likud and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, which stood against plans to transfer West Bank settlements to the Palestinians.
An excerpt from the Post story, which had multiple bylines:
Where is the liberal moral outrage? Oh, to be sure, the left is making its political points in the wake of the case in which a man is facing the death penalty in Aghanistan for having converted from Islam to Christianity. Story here. Administration critics have been quick to question the value of Pres. Bush's efforts in bringing democracy to the Muslim world if situations such as this one are the outcome.
But in reporting the matter on this morning's Today, NBC's Andrea Mitchell cast domestic protest of the matter strictly in terms of moral outrage on the part of the "Christian right".
As expected Chris Matthews marked the anniversary of the Iraq War on last night's Hardball in typical negative tones he lets his kids indulge in Che Chic. Responding to a guest explaining kids in the Middle East wearing Bin Laden shirts were making an anti-authoritarian statement akin to the way American kids wear Che Guervara shirts, Matthews disagreed it was simliar and admitted: "I mean, a lot of our kids wear them. I see kids wearing them all the time, I think my kids wear them. It’s like a Robert Marley T-shirt at this point." The following is the full exchange between Matthews and Kristinn Taylor of FreeRepublic.com:
Kristinn Taylor: "But you know, the poll that matters is the poll in the streets. And if you remember, there have been all these predictions of, you know, great uprisings in the Arab street if we went into Iraq. Three years ago, the Arab street is still pretty calm."
“Some diplomats suggest that if Hamas supports a moribund 2002 Saudi peace initiative, it will somehow ‘recognize’ Israel without having to say so; some suggest that a Hamas offer of another cease-fire may be enough to ‘forswear violence.’ But so far, Hamas is not playing along. It sees the agreements with Israel as a honey trap and recognition of Israel as impossible. In the meantime, Hamas is working on the heartstrings and sense of justice of the West, to keep aid flowing. Hamas's victory also signaled the death of the ‘peace process’ as it has been practiced.”
Greg Sheffield mentioned earlier the wacky al Jazeera-Fox comparisons in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. I would only add in that Gail Shister report, former ABC reporter Dave Marash is coming out swinging again in defense of his new employers, Al-Jazeera, against those "hysterical" Americans who aren't fond of Arab propaganda channels:
Marash says he expected a backlash when he was hired. When it comes to the Arab world, Americans display an "anxiety and suspicion that sometimes rises to the hysterical level."
Note: Marash was talking on a speakerphone in Washington, with AJI publicist Jazayerli in the room. Network policy, she said.
When does healthy reportorial reserve cross the line into cynicism? Today's coverage this morning of Operation Swarmer, the counter-insurgency offensive in the Samarra region of Iraq, illustrates the issue.
NBC's skepticism was as clear as the legend that appeared on-screen throughout the segment: "Were Iraqi Targets Hit?" Surely it is appropriate to ask and try to answer how effective a military operation has been. But in openly wondering whether any targets were hit, Today perhaps comes close to labelling the operation a sham.
Questions about NBC's motives were only heightened when immediately following the Samarra segment, Today ran a piece, narrated by White House antagonist-in-chief David Gregory, which posed the question: "Politics of War: Can Bush Overcome Iraq?"
It’s been almost 3 years since the Iraq war began. How do I know? Because I was constantly reminded of this fact by CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. Four different people, 2 co-hosts and 2 reporters either mentioned that we are approaching the three year anniversary, or that it’s been almost 3 years since the war began. If you listened to CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent, Lara Logan, you’d believe not much has been achieved in that time:
Lara Logan: "Three years after this war began Iraqis are still facing an uncertain and violent future. Much of the blame for that is placed on the shoulders of the Americans by many people here who still resent the occupation."
Bush and Murtha: same struggle! At least, that's apparently how Joe Biden sees it. The senator from Delaware, interviewed by Katie Couric on this morning's Today show, criticized the administration's withdrawal of 30,000 troops from Iraq, and claimed the president "is determined to get it down under 100,000 troops this year. He will be down to 30,000 next year."
Biden - bidding for headlines? - continued: "his plan and Murtha's plan are not that far apart."
Of course there's a world of difference between Bush's plans and those of Murtha. As recently as in a speech given yesterday, Pres. Bush reaffirmed the US committment in these terms: "Our goal in Iraq is victory, and victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens, and when Iraq is not a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks against our nation."
Tom Fox, a member of the anti-American Christian Peacekeeper Teams, has been
murdered by terrorists in Iraq who held him hostage for more than three months,
the New York Times reported on Saturday.
the paper carried a follow-up report that Fox "had apparently been tortured
by his captors before being shot multiple times in the head and dumped on a
trash heap next to a railway line in western Baghdad."
On yesterday’s syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews worried Cheney might start a war over his "crowd pleaser" comments because Iran’s nuclear ambitions are now "a matter of national pride for Iranians." Howard Fineman for his part is taking Al Gore seriously again and claimed a new movie featuring Gore is going to turn him "into a cult figure." During the show’s prediction segment where Matthews asks the panel to "tell me something I don’t know," Fineman gave offered this scoop:
Howard Fineman: "Chris you know how Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives? Well there are in politics and two of the big names you're gonna be hearing in the ‘08 cycle for president Newt Gingrich and Al Gore. Mark my word the movie about Al Gore and his crusade on global warming is gonna turn him not into, only into a cult figure on the campaign trail but a real candidate."
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"
The CBS Evening News on Thursday night used President Bush's signing of the Patriot Act renewal as a chance to run a full story on, as anchor Bob Schieffer worded it, “a Texas couple that blames the Patriot Act for ruining their marriage.” Really. Schieffer had first noted how “the new law does include some additional protections for civil liberties,” but “some critics still don't like it.” Reporter Kelly Cobiella looked at the plight of the wife of Mahmoud Alafyouny, who “has been in prison for two years but never charged with a crime. He's a Palestinian fighting deportation back to Jordan because the Department of Homeland Security says he's a terrorist and a danger to national security." Rae Alafyouny, a TSA agent, must drive four hours to visit the prison holding her husband who “raised money for the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Cobiella relayed how his ACLU attorneys “argue it's a double standard” since “the U.S. government has given the PLO's successor, the Palestine Authority, $1.3 billion since 1993.” But there's a big difference between government policy toward a foreign entity -- in this case money to try to maintain a stable society and reduce terrorist attacks on Israelis -- and what individuals are allowed to do. (Transcript follows.)
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
While CBS has its guru Michael "Clinton Rocks" O'Hanlon, ABC's "Good Morning America" today used another current hot morning pundit in New York Times columnist Thomas "In the Tank for Ethanol" Friedman. MRC's Brian Boyd noticed that when asked how Iran could punish America, Friedman grew positively giddy thinking about the whopping economic depression they could give us:
Charles Gibson: "When Iran threatens harm and pain what can they do necessarily? I mean, are they talking about restricting oil sales and cutting off oil and perhaps driving the price of oil up? Are they talking about causing more problems in Iraq for the United States, what?"
Who is Michael O’Hanlon? Viewers of "The Early Show" on CBS may think he is the preeminent expert on the Middle East and Islam. For everyone else, he is a senior fellow at the left leaning Brookings Institution who has praised President Clinton’s "strong defense record." This morning marked his fifth appearance on the program since January 26 of this year, that’s 5 appearance in 31 possible weekdays, and all times he was interviewed by Harry Smith. O’Hanlon has been Smith’s go to guy on matters such as the Palestinian elections which brought Hamas to power, the controversy over the Danish cartoons, the ports deal with the United Arab Emirates, and most recently on the Iranian nuclear situation.
Joe Scarborough had some tough stuff for both parties today. He revealed that Republicans believe they will lose the House of Representatives in 2006. But no thanks to the Dems, whose failure to exploit the political opportunity he ascribed to their being "stupid."
Scarborough's appearance with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show capped a long segment themed "Has Bush Lost His Clout?" The answer was a resounding 'yes' in NBC's mind.
Today outlined a litany of presidential woe:
Being forced to accept changes to the Patriot Act to win its approval.
Action by Republicans in Congress to block the UAE ports deal.
Erosion of the president's "once ardent base."
Possibly being "forced to bend" on NSA surveillance.
A gloomy forecast for Iraq.
Dismal poll ratings.
Speaking of polls, NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell only featured the results of polls showing Pres. Bush's approval ratings at or below 40%, ignoring major polls such as this one by the Washington Post/ABC that has the president above 40%.
Who would have thought it?: in the crucial first half-hour of their respective shows this morning, Fox & Friends Weekend didn't cover the incident at the University of North Carolina in which an Iranian drove an SUV through a crowd, injuring five people - but the Today show did.
Interviewed by Today co-host Lester Holt, one of the students who was injured stated: "I personally think it was definitely, definitely intentional, for sure."
As the injured student described the incident, involving an SUV driven by recent UNC grad Mohammed Reza Taheriazar of Iran:
"I look up and i see a car coming through in the middle of campus, which is pretty odd to begin with. I keep walking. He's going really slow. It doesn't seem like he has any malicious intent. All of a sudden I just hear the car's engine rev. I look up and the car is right there coming right at me, about five feet from me. I ended up on the hood and luckily rolled off without serious injuries."
An OpinionJournal.com editorial (registration required) about yet another layer of intelligence bureaucracy, the DNI (Directorate of National Intelligence) raises important questions about why the public has learned so little about conditions and events in pre-war Afghanistan and Iraq:
(DNI is reluctant) to release what's contained in the millions of "exploitable" documents and other items captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These items--collected and examined in Qatar as part of what's known as the Harmony program--appear to contain information highly relevant to the ongoing debate over the war on terror. But nearly three years after Baghdad fell, we see no evidence that much of what deserves to be public will be anytime soon.
What issue will doom Congressional Republicans in 2006? In February, it was Abramoff, while the month of March is shaping up as the UAE ports controversy.
This morning, the Times once again insists that the Republicans will face trouble in the 2006 elections. Last month it was ethics scandals and Jack Abramoff. This month’s Times-selected Republican killer is shaping up to be the ports deal with United Arab Emirates.
A story by Carl Hulse and Scott Shane, “Doubts Back Home Fuel G.O.P. Worries About Ports Deal,” drives that idea hard.
“Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped.”
Is it just coincidence? Barely a week after new media from Rush Limbaugh [subscripton required] to this column found the Today show appearance of NY Times foreign-affairs maven Thomas Friedman noteworthy, Today had him back again this morning. Could the new media be driving news choices at the antique?
In any case, while the ostensible purpose of Friedman's appearance was to discuss President Bush's current trip to India, his most interesting comments came in relation to Iraq and by extension to the entire Middle East. His notion: the path from dictatorship to democracy in the region necessarily passes through a period of fundamentalist religious rule.
Is Chris Matthews rooting for civil war in Iraq? It's hard to interpret his words otherwise when, after asserting that officials in previous administrations and former President Bush had warned that going into Iraq would lead to civil war, Matthews observed:
"The problem is it took a little time for this to take shape."
"The problem," Chris?
Matthews' hoping for the worst was just the capper on the Bush-bashing fest he conducted with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show. Those nature documentaries of vultures on the Serengeti plain have little on the way Matthews and Lauer went after President Bush's political bones.
Ellen Ratner has nailed a 'No Foreigners Need Apply' sign to the Statue of Liberty. On this morning's Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner opined that no foreign company, regardless of nationality, should operate our ports, or for that matter other significant chunks of our economy.
Claimed Ratner, the real issue is "what kind of jobs, what kind of outsourcing are we going to do in this country?"
When fellow "Long & the Short of It" guest Jim Pinkerton said that foreign policy considerations [such as the potential relevance of the port deal to our ability to get intelligence and site bases in the Middle East] are more important than who gets port jobs, Ratner replied skeptically "is it?" Apparently for Ratner, the ability of the longshoremen's union to place a favored few of its own is more important than our country's national security objectives.
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is for many the voice of the center-left foreign policy establishment in the U.S. So much so that, in introducing him this morning, GMA host Charlies Gibson declared that Friedman's latest book should be required reading. Given Friedman's status, his nuanced and not-altogether-bleak assessment of the situation in Iraq on this morning's GMA merits consideration.
It was tempting to headline this entry with the provocative notion Friedman floated that perhaps only a Saddam was capable of holding Iraq's fractious components together. But Friedman was by no means endorsing Saddam's despotic rule, musing rather whether Saddam was a cause or an effect. As Friedman put it:
You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
When it comes to the controversy surrounding the UAE port operations deal, left is right, right is left and the MSM seems caught somewhere in the middle, trying to balance its cultural versus its political instincts.
Then, on this morning's Early Show, Dan Bartlett sounded more like a multi-cultural sensitivity trainer than the presidential counselor he is when he declared:
"We shouldn't be setting different types of rules for different types of companies just because they may come from the Middle East . . . What kind of mixed signals are we sending to the world when we say that some companies that play by the rules can have business with America but other companies who play by the rules can't? That's not the way America does business."
Last week, the New York Times haughtily washed its hands of the controversial Mohammad cartoons, saying it had no intention of printing them because it was the paper’s policy to avoid “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols.” (Though that didn't prevent the paper from running a photo of "The Virgin Mary" painting clotted with elephant dung). Besides, the editorial sniffed, “the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”
But while the Times may have passed on defending free expression in order to avoid protests from Muslims, it’s apparently not concerned about stoking Muslim opinion against the United States and the war in Iraq, judging by its decision today to run a three-year-old photo of a prisoner at Abu Ghraib.