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.
Imagine you're the host of a morning news show, and the head of the country's major opposition party has just invoked the danger of the President of the United States turning the country into a police state akin to Iran. Would you perhaps ask a follow-up question challenging your guest to substantiate his inflammatory remark? No, you wouldn't. At least, not if you're GMA's Charlie Gibson. For when Howard Dean made just such an allegation this morning, Gibson never blinked.
Discussing the NSA terrorist surveillance program, Dean stated:
"All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran, where the President of Iran can do anything they [sic] want at any time."
Press reaction – that Mideast imports are no big deal – is inconsistent with earlier assertions that oil is the reason for Iraq war. Free Market Project
Since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, politicians and pundits have argued that America’s Mideast foreign policy was governed by oil. Such claims were quite common before and after the Iraq invasion in 2003. As recently as January 14, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked on “Hardball”: “Why is the President out there saying out of nowhere that it’s wrong to say that this war was about oil or Israel? I can see where the Israel part would be sensitive, but why is he denying that this was about oil? I mean, does anybody really think that we would go into Iraq if it was down in the Congo or if it was in Bolivia?” Despite the oily hype and condemnation that has surrounded the Iraq war, the media have either dismissed or downplayed the president’s proposal to reduce U.S. reliance on Mideast oil.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” asked two different guests if this plan was just a “pipe dream.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post suggested that this could have “come straight from the mouth of Jimmy Carter. The only thing missing was the sweater.”
These same media outlets seemed to forget the “no blood for oil” drumbeat they had championed in the months before the Iraq invasion and largely since. Such reports normally focused on supposed cabals constructed by “neoconservatives” within the administration for the domination of the Mideast and its vast oil reserves, or simply to aid the profits of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton.
The Case Against Mideast Oil Such disturbing conspiracy theories ran rampant throughout the media the past four years. For example, The Washington Post published an article on Aug. 6, 2002, about a Pentagon advisory board meeting that depicted Saudi Arabia as America’s enemy and outlined a strategy supposedly concocted to take over the entire region: “This view, popular among some neoconservative thinkers, is that once a U.S. invasion has removed Hussein from power, a friendly successor regime would become a major exporter of oil to the West.”
USA Today published an article three days later concerning this same conspiratorial premise stating that “the administration is hearing from critics who support radical changes in U.S. policy, including ‘liberating’ the Saudi province that contains its oil fields.” And The New York Times ran an April 10, 2003, story discussing Vice President Dick Cheney’s position on the war: “He showed little reaction, they said, to protests around the world in which he was portrayed as the instigator of a ‘blood for oil’ war and was accused of using the conflict to benefit his former employer, Halliburton, the oil field services firm.”
That Was Then; This Is Now All this makes the ironic response to Bush’s Mideast oil reduction platform more surprising. The New York Times devoted three stories on February 1 to the president’s address dealing with this proposal. Elisabeth Bumiller and Adam Nagourney’s article quickly dismissed it with “But even that goal was less ambitious than it might have appeared – the United States gets less than 20 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf.” They later emphasized this with “Energy analysts also said Mr. Bush's goal to replace 75 percent of America’s Mideast oil imports by 2025 was not as meaningful as it appeared because the bigger suppliers to the United States are Mexico, Canada and Venezuela.”
▪ And where was this three years ago?: The Times and USA Today reported different figures on the subject. As reported by USA Today on February 2, “Middle East countries account for about 22% of total U.S. oil imports, Energy Information Administration data show, or roughly 14% of the oil used in the USA.” If America did reduce Mideast oil imports by 75 percent and didn’t replace them with other sources of oil, this would represent a 16.5-percent decline in total imports. It would also mean a 10.5-percent cut in the nation’s oil usage, both foreign and domestic.
▪ Nothing new under the sun: The Times’ David Sanger dismissed the president’s call to reduce Mideast oil imports by suggesting it was a program whose only novelty was its name: “What was new was his Advanced Energy Initiative, though the increases he proposed in clean-energy research, better batteries for hybrid cars and new ways of making ethanol largely piggyback on programs already under way at General Motors and Ford, Toyota and Honda, rather than charting a new course.”
▪ Yeah, yeah: The Times continued its attack on this proposal with an article entitled “Call to Cut Foreign Oil is a Refrain 35 Years Old.” Matthew L. Wald and Edmund L. Andrews echoed much of the content of the prior two pieces, while suggesting the public not take it too seriously: “President Richard M. Nixon promised in 1971 to make the United States self-sufficient in energy by 1980. President Jimmy Carter promised in 1979 that the nation would ‘never again use more foreign oil than we did in 1977.’”
▪ Pipeline or pipe dream?: ABC’s “Good Morning America” decided to dismiss the seriousness of this proposal. While discussing the content of the address with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on February 1, Charles Gibson asked: “Talking about energy, talking about reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent in 20 years. Pipe dream? Doable?” Gibson later asked his second guest, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) virtually the same question: “You think the idea of using alternative sources to reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil, 75 percent, 20 years, pipe dream?”
▪ Is anyone really ‘stable’?: Meanwhile, using a premise similar to that of the Times, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler downplayed the president’s point about reducing oil demand from countries that were somewhat unstable: “Only three of the 10 biggest suppliers are from the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Algeria.” Needless to say, it seems a bit disingenuous to minimize the significance of Saudi Arabia when talking about oil imports, or Iraq when it comes to instability. In addition, it would be a stretch to classify two of America’s other major oil exporters, Mexico and Venezuela, as “stable.” And, after the events of this past weekend, with riots throughout parts of Europe and Asia over a cartoon, who’s to say what represents stability?
▪ Alternative energy’s identity crisis: USA Today took a different approach to downplay the significance of Bush’s proposal. Bush proposed that a reduction in American oil demand will involve alternative energy – something that has been hyped by the political left for some time. However, in one staff article on February 1, USA Today wrote: “The former Texas oilman ticked off a series of alternative-energy initiatives, but the dirty reality is that most of the new technologies Bush is touting are costly, require taxpayer subsidies and are years if not decades from making any meaningful impact.” When did the mainstream media begin concerning themselves with such issues as cost and taxpayer subsidization? More importantly, nuclear energy, ethanol, wind and solar power are not decades away – most of these technologies have been in existence for many years and are already being employed at both the consumer and commercial levels.
Hardball's screen graphic "Global Fury" presumably referred to the rioting over the Mohammed cartoons. But it might also have been a subliminally sardonic comment about Chris Matthews' guest, Amy Goodman, host of the far-left radio show "Democracy Now."
If Hillary is angry, perhaps she's taken lessons from Goodman. This is one angry woman. Goodman's explanation by way of a justification of the rioting?
"This is about people feeling marginalized. This has to do with the war in Iraq, this has to do with 'the Occupation' [translation: Israel's claim to a right to exist], this is about hundreds being held at Guantanamo with the Koran being desecrated."