Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been under attack lately from those in the press, and with Congress out of session, and not much happening in the world of politics over the Easter weekend, the attacks continued this morning on CBS’s "The Early Show." And, once again, Harry Smith got confused by the facts (remember this and this).
Smith interviewed Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of "Newsweek" magazine regarding an article that appeared in today’s edition of the publication, particularly the portions of the article that dealt with a chat Thomas had with former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki. Smith’s first question contained erroneous information:
Darn it, when the MSM have a Republican in their sights, shouldn't he have the good grace to sit there and take it until he's hounded from office? That would appear to be NBC's operative principle, judging by Today's coverage of the Rumsfeld flap. Much of the emphasis this morning was not so much on the substance of the controversy but on the fact that the Pentagon is fighting back against the calls for Rumsfeld's ouster.
Topping it all was the very first question that Matt Lauer posed to his guest, retired Marine Lt. General Mike DeLong, a Rumsfeld defender:
"Have you been asked by Secretary Rumsfeld to be here on his behalf?"
Different day, different Today show anchor, different attitude. As we documented yesterday, Couric's Complaint: Why Won't Rumsfeld Critic Bash Bush Too?, when Katie Couric hosted a segment on the matter of the retired generals calling for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, she chose as her guest one of the generals calling for Rumsfeld's head. Her most notable contributions to the discussion were to invite her guest to take a shot at Pres. Bush as long as he was at it, and to ask why he didn't come out sooner with his criticism so he could have 'shaped public opinion far earlier.'
This morning it was Lester Holt's turn in the Today show host seat. Now, it might just be in the normal course of the news cycle that his guest was a former general who is opposed to Rumsfeld's departure. But there was no mistaking Holt's even-handed treatment of the issues, in stark contrast with Couric's cheerleading for the Rumsfeld-must-go crowd.
Hard-left anti-war reporter Seymour Hersh, who tried so hard in 2004 to get President Bush defeated with the Abu Ghraib scandal, and was given many media opportunities to make his case, had another great week in the media this week with his New Yorker article suggesting Bush wanted to drop bunker-busting nukes on Iranian nuclear sites. As usual, the article was larded with anonymous sources that no one can check or evaluate for political motives.
In interviews on network morning TV this week, no challenge to Hersh’s reporting genius emerged. Both hyped his Pulitzer (is that required before he accepts the invite?) On CBS Monday, MRC's Mike Rule found co-host Hannah Storm didn't challenge Hersh's methods or conclusions, just asking instead for wisdom from the oracle. Notice how many times she promotes him by saying "You say" and repeating his publicity points:
Tim Graham and Mark Finkelstein have already reported on the mainstream media's Rumsfeld bashing interviews with retired General John Batiste. So it’s no surprise that TheEarly Show has also piled on. In a segment that aired at 7:05AM EDT, on the April 14 edition, correspondent Bill Plante listed the generals who are calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. It was a fairly straightforward piece, but Plante couldn’t resist getting in at least one liberal zinger:
Plante: "The White House says that the defense secretary hasn't discussed resigning with the president and the president isn't about to fire him. Of course if the president did, he'd be admitting that he had failed."
Who says NBC won't highlight the accomplishments of the US military? Why just this morning the Today show had on as its very first guest a recently retired general, John Batiste.
Oh, wait. The purpose of inviting him was to provide a platform for his call for the ouster of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Again we see the pattern illustrated yesterday with Newt Gingrich's appearance. See Iraq Knock Nets Newt Net Nod. Republicans, military folks, etc. are welcome on Today - so long as they're prepared to take shots at the Bush administration and its policies.
There is no reason to doubt Batiste's sincerity. He said that his motivation is the servicemen and women and their families. He stated that he had come forward to demand "accountability for a war plan was built to invade Iraq but failed to build the peace. Accountability for what happenened at Abu Ghraib. Accountability for a leadership style that which is intimidating, abusive. It was not a two-way street of respect."
As has been noted here before, the surest way for a Republican to get himself invited onto a broadcast network news show and accorded respectful treatment is to be prepared to take shots at the Bush administration.
The time-tested technique was on display on this morning's Today, as Newt Gingrich got the kind of kid-glove treatment he could have only dreamed of back in his Speaker days when the MSM was vilifying him as 'the Gingrich Who Stole Christmas'.
At the top of the show, Matt Lauer teased Newt's appearance in these terms:
"A prominent politican is saying US policy in Iraq since toppling Saddam Hussein has been an enormous mistake. This isn't a Democrat. It's a Republican - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich."
Imagine you're a news show host, and a former presidential adviser just claimed that the United States military is near to "a state of rebellion" against civilian authorities. Do you think you might have asked a follow-up question or two?
Apparently not, at least if you're Matt Lauer interviewing James Carville, who made just such an inflammatory allegation on this morning's Today show. The topic was the source of the leak of the alleged plans for an attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear capabilities, such plans said to extend to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy hardened, underground facilities.
Carville was adamant that the military were behind the leak. His theory was that the military "thought by leaking this, it would lessen the chances that they would do something foolish in Iran which is always a possibility with this administration."
Reminds me of the old joke: "The food at that restaurant is absolutely terrible."
"Yeah - and the portions are so small!"
This morning's 'Today' simultaneously offered criticism of a potential attack on Iran while complaining we don't have the means to carry out such a strike.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was shown stating that the idea of a [tactical] nuclear strike on Iran "is completely nuts." NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported the skepticism of military experts who say "air strikes could slow Iran's nuclear research but not end it. And Iran could retaliate militarily against Israel and launch terrorists against the US."
When things got a bit contentious this morning between conservative Jim Pinkerton and liberal Ellen Ratner on Fox & Friends Weekend's 'Long & the Short of It' segment, Pinkerton proposed a peace plan that other warring parties might well wish to adopt: "let NewsBusters.org sort this out."
The bone of contention was just what what it was that President Bush declassified - some would say leaked - and that Scooter Libby is in turn alleged to have provided to the press - presumably in the person of Judy Miller of the NY Times.
Ratner: "This was a Nixon bad-list kind of trick [presumably a reference to Nixon's 'enemies' list] to get . . . "
Host Kiran Chetry [back from maternity leave - and beautiful as ever, I might add]: "Why?"
Today the New York Times finally corrects a left-wing myth perpetrated in its pages as fact.
“An article on Feb. 9 about the military's recruitment of Hispanics referred incompletely to the belief of some critics that Hispanics in the Iraq war and blacks in the Vietnam War accounted for a disproportionate number of casualties. Statistics do not support the belief. Hispanics, who are about 14 percent of the population, accounted for about 11 percent of the military deaths in Iraq through Dec. 3, 2005. About 12.5 percent of the military dead in Vietnam were African-Americans, who made up about 13.5 percent of the general population during the war years.”
But that milquetoast correction doesn’t hint at the charged nature of what reporter Lizette Alvarez wrote in the Feb. 9 edition, which simply restated left-wing paranoia as fact:
B. Duane Cross writes at NASCAR.com that NBC was unable to find people in the racing stands who would persecute their "plants" wearing Middle Eastern clothing. Also, the NBC crew did not do a good job of concealing themselves.
NBC News baited the hook, but netted nothing in its "sting" attempt to find anti-Muslim sentiments during the Martinsville race weekend....
The inference is that NASCAR fans are bigots, and NBC News was hoping to bait fans into making insensitive remarks to the Muslim / Arab people it had planted at the track.
Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, said Wednesday that no instances of unrest were reported. "No one bothered them," Poston said.
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.
The graphic claims 'Kerry Plays Hardball', but it was all slow-pitch softball this evening for the junior senator from Massachusetts. After feeding Kerry a number of leading questions letting him tee off on the way Pres. Bush allegedly misled the country into war, talk turned to exit strategies.
Matthews: "Senator, you have a plan, pretty hard, about how we can deal with getting out of Iraq."
Kerry: "Well, it's time to get tough, Chris."
Now there's a courageous politician for you - one willing to admit he's tough.
Kerry repeated a stock formulation he's been using this week: "The policy is broken. When you go down to the Vietnam War Memorial, you take a look at it, you see that almost half the names that are on that wall were added after our leaders knew that the policy wasn't working. That's immoral, and I believe it's immoral today for us to pursue a policy where our kids are dying, losing their limbs, going to Walter Reed . . . because Iraqi politicians won't compromise."
Comedy Central's hit show "South Park" just won a Peabody, the highest award given to TV shows. The most recent episode dealt with the controversy surrounding depictions of Mohammad.
In the episode, everyone in the country is terrified that the Fox animated show "Family Guy" is going to show Mohammad. All in the town of South Park are afraid for their lives at the thought of Muslim retribution.
But in the end, Fox chickens out and censors the Mohammad character, covering him up with a black rectangle.
The show's main character, Peter Griffin, is told by his wife Lois that she doesn't want to cook dinner for his ex-girlfriend. Peter responds that maybe they can just have tea, to which the talking dog Brian responds, "You mean like the time you had tea with Mohammad, the prophet of the Muslim faith?"
Gabriel Schoenfeld has an essay in Commentary where he says the New York Times broke the law when it reported on the NSA eavesdropping program.
Disclosing classified information, like that given to the New York Times about monitoring Al Qaeda phone calls, is illegal. But there is an avenue for whistleblowers to expose wrongdoing that involves classified info, although it has nothing to do with flashy headlines and self aggrandizing journalists.
As for whistleblowers unhappy with one or another government program, they have other avenues at their disposal than splashing secrets across the front page of the New York Times. The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 shields employees from retribution if they wish to set out evidence of wrongdoing. When classified information is at stake, the complaints must be leveled in camera, to authorized officials, like the inspectors general of the agencies in question, or to members of congressional intelligence committees, or both. Neither the New York Times nor any other newspaper or television station is listed as an authorized channel for airing such complaints.
The New York Times damaged American surveillance efforts.
Today's starters: Keeping with its tradition of political fairness and neutrality, Middle Tennessee State University is continuing its journalism conference (conference called: Self-Inflicted Wounds — Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources)--kicked off earlier this week by an address from that paragon of objectivity Al Gore--with a panel discussion featuring Mary Mapes. The session is entitled "Rush to Judgment? The CBS Crisis." Any NB readers in the area?
The big media story of the day, as reported earlier by NB's Mark Finkelstein, is that Katie Couric is headed over to CBS. The NYT and LAT both have good good stories the deal and its implications. Why does Couric's leaving warrant attention, asks one blogger. Another says she won't watch "Today" if it hires "View" co-host Meredith Viera.
The New York Post reports that Arab news channel Al Jazeera is having trouble finding any U.S. cable providers willing to carry its new English-language channel.
AL-Jazeera International, the English-language network of the controversial Arab channel Al-Jazeera, is set to launch this summer - but still does not have a single cable company signed up to carry it.
The network is staffed largely by Western journalists, including "Nightline" correspondent David Marash and veteran interviewer David Frost.
It had been set to launch last month, but for unexplained reasons, postponed its start date until summer.
Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained that there's a media angle in the war on terrorism: fighting terrorist media channels.
Slowly and with difficulty, are we also learning to fight a modern war of ideas.
But a battle was won last week when the U.S. Treasury Department designated Hezbollah's al Manar satellite television operation as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist organization. By prohibiting transactions between U.S. entities and al Manar, and freezing any assets al Manar may have in the U.S., this designation gives the government the tools it needs to cripple al Manar's internationally broadcast incitements to terrorism.
Powell's Books plans to carry the magazine in its West Burnside Street store as usual. Rich's Cigar Store downtown and some outlets of the national chain Barnes & Noble also plan to stock it.
"I never like giving any offense, but the truth is that many of the books I stock have material that will offend somebody with something," said Powell's owner Michael Powell, who said he disagrees with Borders' decision.
Investor's Business Daily reprints (this is at least the second time) British Prime Minister Tony Blair's March 21 speech at the Foreign Policy Center in London. See the whole thing at Real Clear Politics. This part about the media's characterization of insurgent attacks as coalition setbacks and not contemptible violence against innocents jumped out at me:
They have so much clearer a sense of what is at stake. They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong, that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.
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.
There’s some odd wording in Pentagon reporter Thom Shanker’s short piece Tuesday on an unusual ceremony in a Pennsylvania meadow.
“Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gazed across a rolling meadow on Monday, its grass yellow in late winter's grip, and toward the stand of hemlock trees marking the area where Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. He then bent and wordlessly placed a medallion at the base of a temporary memorial here.
“Known as the defense secretary's ‘coin,’ the medallion is an elaborately pressed memento that Mr. Rumsfeld hands out to troops he meets in combat zones overseas.
“His visit was his first to the site where passengers of Flight 93 overpowered their hijackers and sent an airliner crashing into the countryside instead of its intended target, the Capitol in Washington. His gesture was intended to link that event, through the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, to the wars started by the Bush administration in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
In all its cacophony and moments of absurdity, this morning's Today show segment on immigration was a supremely edifying example of the confusion, high emotion and complexity of the immigration debate. Matters reached their Alice-in-Wonderland apotheosis when Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was shown arguing that illegal immigrants are good . . . 'citizens.' Said Feinstein:
"They pay taxes, their children are Americans, they go to schools, they're good citizens and they're needed."
This was in line with the fait accompli argument advanced by La Raza representative Janet Murguia. She referred to what she estimated as the 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country as "people are working in backbreaking work that nobody else wants to do in this country. We need to . . . understand that they are already part of this country."
Sean Hannity has made border security and illegal immigration a major cause, spending time at and broadcasting shows from our border with Mexico. Give GMA credit for having Sean on this morning's show to discuss the issue. That said, Charlie Gibson put on a display of bleeding-heart liberalism at its most predictable, confusing compassion with tolerance of criminality.
Gibson wasted no time: "Let's start with the House bill. It would build a wall along our southern border, turn 12 million people into felons and make it criminal to give an illegal immigrant help. Is that what this country is about?"
Countered Hannity: "I think this country is about laws and the rule of lawand I think you've got to come into this country and do it the way my grandparents did it, which is legal."
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".
The Associated Press Thursday evening reported that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff feels the U.S. would have been safer had the Dubai Ports World deal gone through: “The U.S. missed an opportunity to make its shores safer when it drove away a Dubai-based company poised to operate cargo terminals at several American seaports, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Chertoff said the international shipping firm DP World could have helped implement stronger security at many ports where the U.S. now has limited influence.”
This represents quite a flip-flop for the esteemed wire service that is felt to have started the whole controversy with its February 11 article which began: “A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.”
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly had radio host Laura Ingraham on “The O’Reilly Factor” Tuesday evening (hat tip to Expose the Left). Fresh from her battle with NBC’s David Gregory on the “Today Show,” O’Reilly wanted Ingraham’s view (video link to follow) about NBC (from closed captioning):
Bill: Is it your opinion that NBC news spins the war in Iraq negative?
Laura: Well, it's not between me and NBC, Bill.
Bill: Look, you're an analyst. You watch these people. Is it your opinion that NBC news spins the war negative?
Laura: I think that the coverage of the war by NBC that I have really focused on, especially since I was in Iraq last month, to me it seems bizarrely focused only on the I.E.D.'s, only on the latest reprisal killings that are taking place. When stories that are so fascinating and interesting and broader and human interest, stuff the "Today" show and NBC likes to do, those stories are out there for anyone to get. I don't get it.
O’Reilly then made a very bold castigation of NBC:
A U.S. News and World Report article identified a lawsuit filed by the publishers of the Oregonian in Portland for the unsealing of documents in a pending case involving the National Security Agency and terrorist surveillance: “In a motion filed Friday, lawyers for the Oregonian Publishing Co. argued that it is in the public interest to know the contents of documents that could prove the existence of a potentially illegal domestic spying program.”
The Oregonian has no pony in this race. Instead, it is clearly muckraking without regard to how it might impact national security and the war on terror:
“‘This appears to be the first case in which documents have been filed with the court demonstrating the National Security Agency's practice of wiretapping private conversations,’ said Charles F. Hinkle, a lawyer for the publishing company. ‘We are not interested in the content of the attorney-client communications. We are interested in what the government did.’"
The case in question involves allegations by the federal government that an Oregon-based Islamic charity has ties to al Qaeda and is funding them. Apparently, one of the charity’s directors gave $130,000 in travelers checks to Chechen rebels in March 2000. The charity’s funds were frozen in February 2004 by the federal government , and the charity was designated as terrorists in September 2004.
Regardless, the Oregonian believes it's acting for the public good:
On his Monday March 20 Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann disputed President Bush's recent contention that he had never claimed "that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein" by citing one awkward quote from the President, which stood in contrast to other public statements that more clearly communicated the point about the 9/11 attacks being a lesson that inspired a confrontation of Iraq, rather than Iraq actually being involved in the attacks. Olbermann rhetorically posed the question: "Who does the President think he's 'f'-ing kidding?" On the Tuesday March 21 show, Olbermann added that "any six-year-old would have recognized that his administration had deliberately left exactly that impression." Guest Craig Crawford labeled Bush's recent comments as "presidential prevarication" and compared it to Bill Clinton saying, "Depends on what the definition of 'is' is." Notably, as recounted by CyberAlert, the Countdown host once before used selectively edited statements by Dick Cheney to make it appear the Vice President had claimed a connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, while omitting more of Cheney's words which clarified his meaning. (Transcripts follow.)