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.
After President Bush made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday, putting it back in the news, the question became how long would it be before the media would try to frame the war in Afghanistan in a negative light? For CBS, the answer was this morning as reporters on "The Early Show" sounded almost like Taliban cheerleaders in their attempt to undermine President Bush’s credibility and tout bad news coming out of Afghanistan. For instance, Julie Chen introduced a report from Sheila MacVicar:
Julie Chen: "Julie Chen: "Before India, the President's first stop was Afghanistan where despite his reassurances that things are going well, the Taliban are, in fact, staging fierce new attacks."
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.”
Americans who read the New York
Times must have wrinkled their brows in puzzlement after reading the
February 26, 2006 article about a former government official and
spokesman for the Taliban walking the campus of Yale University as a
Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi has been granted special student status and
the state department has awarded him entry into the United States on
a student visa. This is an interesting turn of events for a person
who could just as easily have ended up as a guest of the United
States in a cell at Guantanamo Bay.
Prior to his arrival as a student, Rahmatullah had been imprisoned at
Bagram Air Base. He had been a member of the Taliban government,
serving both in Afghanistan and in the United States as Second
Foreign Secretary and Ambassador-at-Large.
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.
CBS reporter Jim Axelrod on Wednesday night described how “this is what awaited Mr. Bush upon his highly-publicized arrival in India: Tens of thousands turned out to protest America's presence in the Islamic world.” Also from New Delhi, NBC's David Gregory relayed how, over video of crowds and a few men around a burning effigy of Bush, “Mr. Bush has already been met by large anti-U.S., anti-war protests.” But while ABC's Martha Raddatz noted how Bush's “warm reception in Afghanistan stood in stark contrast to the scene when the President arrived later in India,” where “tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly Muslim, lined the streets,” she pointed out what Axelrod and Gregory skipped: “Despite the demonstrations, the President has a strong approval rating here in India, roughly 70 percent."
Actually, the “2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey,” posted again Tuesday, “found that about seven-in-ten Indians (71%) have a favorable view of the United States,” not Bush, and that “while U.S. favorability ratings have plunged in many countries, Indians are significantly more positive about the United States now than they were in the summer of 2002.” As for Bush personally, the Pew poll discovered that he's “widely admired” in India where “just over half (54%)...say they have a lot or some confidence that Bush will generally do the right thing in world affairs, a significantly higher percentage than in any other country except his own.” (Transcripts, and more on the Pew poll, follow.)
Former UPI White House reporter Helen Thomas gave an interview to Campus Progress, the campus project of the liberal Center for American Progress. Her theme, unsurprisingly, was that the Washington press corps is a bulk pack of weenies:
Starting after 9/11, they rolled over and played dead—they were so afraid of being called unpatriotic and un-American and they thought the American people were watching on television. They lost their guts and they did a lousy job. It was so clear, for two years, that President Bush wanted to go to war. Every day on the podium in the press room, we heard Ari Fleischer and then Scott McClellan say in one breath, “9/11—Saddam Hussein—9/11—Saddam Hussein—9/11—.” So later on when they said, no, Saddam Hussein had no links with them it was a little late in the game.
In an interview with NPR's "On The Media," former ABC reporter Dave Marash, now signed up for the English-language version of al-Jazeera, goes almost faint singing the praises of his new employer:
Al-Jazeera in Arabic is, I believe, one of the most revolutionary and positive influences on the Arabic-speaking, mostly Islamic Middle Eastern world in, literally, centuries. It has opened up public discourse and it has brought American standards of reporting to an area that previously had nothing but really moronically state-controlled television and news operations.
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.
Harry Belafonte spoke at the State of the Black Union on February 25. The event, which took place in Houston, saw Mr. Belafonte provide this definition of terror. He opined:
"Sending young men and young women, sons and daughters from America, to murder people in other nations is an act of terror."
The aging pop singer also wondered aloud whether Osama bin Laden was, in fact, guilty of masterminding the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (Click here to see the entire speech. Belafonte’s more incendiary comments begin at the one hour and 17 minute mark.)
Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, appeared on the February 25 edition of NBC’s Today. Co-host Lester Holt began the segment, airing at 8:11AM EST, by asking Matthews about Iraq. He responded:
"The President, of course, got us to go to war in Iraq with the argument that someday down the road, that country over there on the other side of the world might someday help out the terrorists, and we've lost 3000 guys fighting that argument."
That statistic, of course, is not correct. The actual number, as of February 26, is 2294. The death of every soldier is tragic and their sacrifice should be remembered and honored. But the fact that Matthews rounded up by over 700 shows the grisly fascination that media members have with these milestones. Holt then asked the MSNBC host what options the United States had in a potential Iraqi civil war. Matthews then suggested a bleak and dire scenario:
At a birthday party last night, a friend of mine mentioned how strong Gen. Tommy Franks was on Fox arguing against the idea that allowing the UAE to own ports is a security risk. The show was "Hannity & Colmes" on Thursday night, and Franks began by explaining his overview to Hannity (from the Fox online transcript):
I personally believe that we have had no greater ally in seeking a resolution of problems in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue, the Israeli issue, than we have found in the United Arab Emirates.
With regard to maintaining contact with the Taliban, even before Sept. 11 — and I'll exercise caution how I say this — but I'll say that I believe we had every reason to be thankful for the relationship and the dialogue that existed between the United Arab Emirates and the Taliban, as it assisted us in our efforts to understand what was going on in Afghanistan.
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:
National Public Radio's "Diane Rehm Show" is created at American University NPR station WAMU (88.5 FM), but is nationally syndicated to about 100 stations. Today's first hour tilted to the left. On one side was retired Air Force officer Randall Larsen, a founder of the Institute for Homeland Security, calmly arguing that the DPW deal is not a grave threat. On the other side was a pile of Democrats arguing against soft-on-defense President Bush: Sen. Chris Dodd, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, and P.J. Crowley of the liberal Center for American Progress, a former staffer on Bill Clinton's National Security Council. That's 3-to-1 liberal (unless you count the host and make if 4 to 1).
On Monday, Rehm's first hour focused on presidential secrecy, with an unopposed liberal duo of "historians," the former Washington Post reporter and columnist Haynes Johnson and Tim Russert's favorite pop-historian, former LBJ aide and Hillary pal Doris Kearns Goodwin. (At least Tuesday's show on voting rights featured conservative expert Roger Clegg.)
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."
Politicians across the political spectrum are raising their voices against the arrangement which would allow a United Arab Emirates company to manage six U.S. seaports, and on Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN's Jack Cafferty acted as a rabble-rousing activist as he encouraged his viewers to rise up against any politician who doesn't act to block the deal and he highlighted two viewer e-mails which advocated the impeachment of President Bush over the matter. Cafferty excoriated: "If our elected representatives don't do everything in their power to stop this thing, each of us should vow to work tirelessly to see that they are removed from public office....Here's the question. What should be done to stop a deal that would allow an Arab company with ties to terrorism to run U.S. ports?" Cafferty soon read from one e-mailer who argued that "this deal is nothing short of collusion with a foreign power of unknown intent during wartime. The President should be impeached." And another: "Putting George Bush in charge of our country was a huge mistake, and my fellow citizens finally realize that it was a disaster. Time to impeach this President." (Transcript follows)
With Republicans and Democrats both up in arms over the port deal with the United Arab Emirates, what are the newspapers in the UAE saying about the controversial deal? Today’s Gulf News, a Dubai-based newspaper that has an English language edition on the Web, has an article today that throws all of its fire at those in Congress who would block the Dubai Ports World from taking over operations at six major U.S. ports -- Hillary Clinton is singled out -- while a second article gives President Bush pretty good reviews for standing firm.
For an insight into how the port fight is being portrayed in the region, here’s an excerpt from the February 22 story by GulfNews.com staff writer Shakir Husain, which heavily quotes a pro-Dubai article from the Financial Times:
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."
On the 7pm hour of CNN's The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty who anchors the segment "The Cafferty File" said that President Bush used the "fear" card to get elected to a second term in office. Cafferty also implied that the War in Iraq is not apart of the War on Terror when he compared the Iraq war as being "advertised" apart of the latter. Cafferty also mocked the "fight them [terrorists] over there so we don't have to fight them over here" line.
JACK CAFFERTY: Since 9/11, the priority number one has been to protect this country from another terrorist attack. President Bush rode our fear of that very thing to a second term in office. The War in Iraq is advertised as part of the War on Terror. A half a trillion dollars and 2300 dead Americans soldiers, so that we can quote "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here". But what about over here?
You can take the man out of CBS and NBC, but apparently you can't take the MSM out of the man.
Long-time MSMer Marvin Kalb, former moderator of Meet the Press, is now a Fox News contributor. But the specialist on foreign affairs is still offering up opinions that would put him in the mainstream back at CBS or NBC.
Interviewed by Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, Kalb offered a very grim take on the nuclear stalemate with Iran, suggesting that any diplomatic or economic sanctions aimed at the country could result in Iranian retaliation in the oil markets.
Kalb might well be right. But he took his un-rosy scenario one giant step further, flatly stating that U.S. air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities are "not going to work." It wasn't clear if he meant that in military or diplomatic terms, or some combination thereof, though he did add "imagine the international uproar that would be created by the United States bombing another Muslim country."
Over at NRO's Media Blog, Stephen Spruiell hits a point I meant to hit. As much as I disliked the Post's flood-the-zone Cheney-hunt coverage today (Top of page one, then two more stories on A-10, Kurtz on the Hume interview on front page of Style), there were two stories that showed the Post thinking outside the typical liberal-media box.
The first is "The Legal Woes of Rep. Jefferson" — a front-page look at a Democrat mired in scandal that punctures the notion, promoted by Democrats, that Republicans are the only ones with ethics problems:
The investigation of Jefferson and the recent guilty plea by a former aide give Republicans the chance to argue that corruption in Washington has a bipartisan tinge.
Republican groups frequently invoke the Jefferson case in defending their party from broad-brush charges of corruption. Even Public Citizen, a liberal consumer watchdog group, featured Jefferson on an "Ethics Hall of Shame" list recently.
With regards to the war on terror, what is the focus of the mainstream media? Is it fighting and winning? Or are they more concerned with embarrassing the Bush administration? Fran Townsend, a White House Homeland Security advisor, appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN and Fox News on Friday, February 10th. The contrast could not be more stark. CNN, CBS and ABC focused on warrants, wiretaps, and whether the mayor of Los Angeles was properly informed of the President’s speech regarding a foiled attack. All of these networks, except FNC, failed to ask Townsend about the prison break of 23 terrorists, including 13 members of Al Qaeda, which one would assume is an important story.
Ms. Townsend appeared first on the CBS Early Show at 7:10AM EST. Harry Smith seemed skeptical about the timing and the subject of the President’s speech. He started by asking, "Why did the President choose yesterday to reveal this information about a plot that’s almost four years old now?" Ms. Townsend patiently explained that the members of the cell had been arrested and the leads exhausted, therefore this case was one that the President could freely discuss. Smith then went on to question whether there was an actual threat:
On Thursday's "Countdown," we learned from Keith Olbermann that:
The CIA leak investigation roars back to life. Scooter Libby claimed he had been authorized to reveal classified information, authorized by his boss, the vice president.
Newly disclosed documents indicating that the vice president's former chief of staff already has testified that he was authorized by his superiors to disclose classified information to reporters in order to make the a case for war in Iraq...
If he's defending himself by saying, Well, he did, and saying the vice president told him to, because that's not really germane to this case, did he just throw the vice president of the United States under the proverbial bus?
Note how the wording of these statements leaves the impression that the authorization claimed by Libby included the Plame leak. Did it? What is it that Olbermann isn't telling us this time?
Over at Townhall, columnist Larry Elder wrote about an interview on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross." Most of the interviews and reviews on that show are about arts and culture, but politics are also a topic. It airs on at least 350 NPR affiliates across the country. Elder writes about her interview with former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin about the inappropriateness of the Bush tax cuts. (Audio can be found here.) He centers in on the liberal questioning:
Gross: "This is the first time, as far as I understand it, that we've cut taxes during wartime. What does the math look like, paying for Iraq while cutting taxes?"
In an interview conducted in her office, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told FNC’s Jim Angle that the “very valuable” terrorist surveillance program “fits within” the FISA law. In the session excerpted on Friday’s Special Report with Brit Hume, she deplored how leaks are hurting intelligence efforts and scolded the news media for “not extremely accurate” characterizations of the program. Zeroing in on the New York Times, which first revealed the program, Harman asserted their story was “inaccurate” because they reported it included a “domestic-to-domestic” surveillance effort. She also charged that “these leaks are compromising some core capability of the United States,” regretting how “it's tragic that this whole thing is being aired in the newspapers.” As to who is the blame, however, she bore in on the Bush administration for how “this can't be handled in normal channels because this administration refuses to share the information with Congress." (Transcript follows.)
President Bush gave some details Thursday concerning foiled plots by al Qaeda to attack America, including one plan to fly a plane into the tallest building on the West Coast that was successfully averted. Unfortunately, those that rely on either The New York Times or The Washington Post for their news might have missed these revelations, for this story was curiously not placed on the front page of either of these papers.
The New York Times strategically placed its article on this subject on page A22. Times’ editors must have felt that more information about what the administration knew concerning the levees in New Orleans before Katrina hit, warnings on ADHD drugs, how Haiti elections are shaping up, a resignation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, security issues at America’s borders, and how magazines use numbers on their covers to tantalize consumers were more important than America foiling al Qaeda attacks.
Vice-President Cheney spoke, last night, to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The AP has a snippet of his speech in their video stories this morning. The passage that they've got up includes the following from the Vice President, speaking on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program:
Some of our critics call this a "domestic surveillance program." Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about communications, one end of which is outside the United States and therefore interational and one end of which we have reason to believe is somehow tied to or related to Al-quaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States.
She interviewed NBC reporter Richard Engel on this morning's Today show in the wake of the release of a new videotape of Jill Carroll, the US journalist kidnapped in Iraq last month. The tape showed a composed Carroll speaking before a floral backdrop.
Couric, ever the fashion maven, declared "it's actually kind of a pretty setting." Perhaps Katie can pick up some matching shoes while in 'Torino'. Engel explained that the captors appear to be sending the message that they are looking to negotiate.
Over at the NBC Nightly News "Daily Nightly" blog, NBC "investigative producer" Robert Windrem relates how at the 2:30 pm editorial meeting on Wednesday, "we had a lively discussion of what the context should be" about the Muslim cartoon jihad. For his part, Windrem agreed with local liberal academics, who somehow can link cartoonists to police brutality:
The bottom line for me was that this can't be dealt with as a story about cartoons or even about Islamic prohibitions about the depiction of Muhammad. It has to be about the simmering pot that went to boil, as Shibley Telhami, the University of Maryland scholar, said this morning on Washington radio. He noted that this is the Islamic version of the Rodney King verdict. In that case, it wasn't just about the verdict against four Los Angeles policemen. It was about African-Americans' belief, whether based on reality or perception, that they had been the victims of decades of racism and thuggery by the LAPD.