As has been well-documented by Media Research Center [parent organization of NewsBusters], while MSMers are loath to label anyone or anything 'liberal,' they don't hesitate to brand various entities or individuals 'conservative' or 'right-wing.' Well, folks, I believe we have a new world record in the category.
On tonight's Fox News Watch, in the course of discussing the case of Colorado teacher Jay Bennish - who compared President Bush to Hitler - liberal [there, I said it] Neal Gabler managed to utter the term 'right-wing' four times . . . in 14 seconds. Yes, I checked it by my VCR timer.
United States officials announced yesterday that the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will be closing in a few months. This gave NBC yet another excuse to show a montage of the famous abuse photos. Mike Boettcher, appearing at 7:06AM EST on the March 10 edition of Today, described the planned closing this way:
Boettcher: "During Saddam Hussein's reign and later under U.S. occupation, Abu Ghraib became perhaps the world's most notorious prison. Photographs of prisoner abuse by American guards at Abu Ghraib sparked an international scandal." (Pictures of abused prisoners overlap Boettcher’s comments.)
So it wasSaddam Hussein and the United States that made the prison notorious? A naked pyramid may be bad, but it’s not the same as brutal murder.
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?"
James J. Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said he is not surprised by the poll's results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonized the Arab world since 2001, he said.
Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."
Cole said he was shocked when a radio talk show host asked him if Islamic extremists would set off a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next six months. "It was ridiculous. I think anti-Arab racism and profiling has become respectable," he said.
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%.
Is only positive news about American Muslims fit to highlight?
After issuing this week a massive three-part series with a glowing portrait of the imam of a Brooklyn mosque (while glossing over his sympathies for the terrorist group Hamas), Wednesday's Times buries on page 18 attempted murder by a radical Islamist looking for revenge against Americans.
Brenda Goodman’s “Defendant Offers Details Of Jeep Attack at University,” details what happened on the campus of the University of North Carolina but, like the headline, leaves off some pertinent data.
Turns out the real culprit in the Colorado kerfuffle over the teacher who compared Pres. Bush to Hitler is . . . the student who complained about it. Just ask Matt Lauer.
Interviewing teacher Jay Bennish this morning, Lauer laid out this sympathetic scenario:
Lauer: "The family here, the student's family, didn't go to the school board with this tape."
Bennish: "They never contacted me."
Lauer: "They shopped it around to conservative media outlets and finally released it to one and created an uproar. On the tape you can hear Sean Allen [the student in question] asking you questions that seem to be egging you on a little bit. Do you feel you were set up?" (More of the transcript here with thanks to Geoffrey Dickens.)
An ABC News/Washington Post poll, released late Monday afternoon, found majority support for a media bete noire, FBI and NSA wiretapping of people inside the United States in the war on terror, but those findings were ignored in the story posted on the Washington Post Web site and aired on ABC's World News Tonight. Instead, both stressed how 80 percent believe “civil war” is likely in Iraq. “Majority of Americans Believe Iraq Civil War is Likely,” read the WashingtonPost.com headline over the 5:30pm EST story by Richard Morin, which is likely to appear in near-identical form in Tuesday's hard copy. The subhead: “Washington Post-ABC News Poll Finds Sharp Decline in Optimism About Iraq War.” [10pm EST: Indeed, link now goes to March 7 print story on page A3, with a new headline: "Majority in U.S. Fear Iraq Civil War; Poll Also Finds Growing Doubt About Bush"]. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas relayed how “65 percent say the Bush administration has no clear plan for ending the war,” before George Stephanopoulos outlined how the public is “all over the map” on what to do in Iraq. The Post story, and ABC, however, did note that the public is also sour on Democrats. Sounding exasperated, Vargas cued up Stephanopoulos: "In the meantime, Democrats are incapable of capitalizing on this?" The ABC duo also ignored Bush's approval level pegged at 41 percent, seven points higher than the “all-time low” for Bush last week in a CBS News poll (NewsBusters item) which was much-touted by the networks (MRC Media Reality Check).
Give Katie Couric a Best Supporting Actress in the MSM production of "Doom & Gloom: the Iraq Story." Interviewing NBC military analyst Gen. Wayne Downing on this morning's Today Show, Couric was skeptical that Iraqi forces would ever be able to defend the country, underlined the view of a "vicious cycle" there, and darkly conjectured that civil war was only "a matter of time."
Couric noted reports that U.S. and British troops will pull out of Iraq by the spring of 2007, then stated: "The U.S. military denies those reports saying there is no time-table and U.S. troops will withdraw when the Iraqi forces can secure and defend that country."
I don't watch the network evening news shows. Really. But for whatever perverse reason, I decided to flip among ABC, NBC and CBS tonight, and hit some morally relativistic pay dirt. CBS Evening News equated attempted murder with the exercise of basic First Amendment freedoms.
Readers here are familiar with the incident in which the Iranian Mohammed Reza Taheri, with the reportedly admitted intent of avenging the mistreatment of Muslims, drove an SUV into a crowd on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Introducing a segment on the incident, CBS stated: "It is the second skirmish over religion on campus in a few weeks."
It's not often that a guest on a TV news program has the boldness to put the interviewer's political activism record in play, but Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California, who appeared on Sunday's This Week from San Diego to criticize the ports deal, made sure viewers were reminded of host George Stephanopoulos' past work on behalf of President Bill Clinton's agenda. On three occasions, Hunter answered questions from Stephanopoulos by including a reference to “your former boss,” as in how “your former boss, President Clinton,” gave the Emir of the United Arab Emirates “advice on who he should hire to get this deal through.” Hunter, who appeared with a Republican Senator from the other side of the nation, Susan Collins of Maine, also proposed: “I don't think President Clinton, your old boss, knows the facts of the transshipments that take place through Dubai, sending nuclear components to all parts of the world and especially to people who don't like America.” That slam prompted a defensive Stephanopoulos to jump in: “He actually supports the legislation proposed by you and Senator Clinton which would ban foreign entities from managing our ports." A bit later, when Stephanopoulos wondered if the ports deal would hurt Republicans in the fall election, Hunter came back with how “a few years ago when the Chinese military tried to buy the old naval base in Long Beach, California, we stopped that and that was stopped by Republicans in Congress, even though your boss, President Clinton, supported that.” (Transcripts follow.)
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."
President Bush arrived in Pakistan “like a drug dealer...under cover of night,” according to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. On Friday’s Hardball, Matthews highlighted the security measures taken to protect Bush as he arrived in the same country in which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden may have found sanctuary, but he pivoted between suggesting the threat to Bush is quite real and language that suggested the President had skulked into Pakistan like a coward.
Would he have preferred Bush arriving in a bright red suit with a bulls-eye painted on his back?
Beginning the segment at about 5:25pm EST on Friday night, Matthews first asked MSNBC’s Hasan Zaidi to describe “the weird way in which our President had to enter your country, enter that country today.”
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.)