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.)
The CNN Headline News show "Showbiz Tonight" led Monday night with controversy over the movie "V for Vendetta," and stomped hard on the idea that it was directed at the Bush administration. Host A. J. Hammer began with a promo: "On ‘Showbiz Tonight,’ the war in Iraq, the war on terror and the hottest movie in America. The shock and awe over 'V for Vendetta.' And the controversy. Is art imitating life? A political thriller where the hero is a terrorist. Is that really such a bad thing?"
Is this a rhetorical question? Or is Hammer auditioning for al-Jazeera International?
MRC's Michelle Humphrey tipped me off to the story. Hammer explained: "All right, let me tell you what happened this weekend. America had a big choice of movies. Here's the one they made No. 1: 'V for Vendetta.' This is a movie all about terrorism. This is a movie that raises some serious and unsettling questions about who should really be called a terrorist. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. A movie that has chilling allusions to everything from September 11 to government spying to terror bombings to the war in the Iraq. It`s a movie that opened just as we crossed yet another disturbing milestone in the struggle to end the seemingly unending war in Iraq. It`s enough to make critics and Showbiz Tonight ask, what's going on here?"
Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today." She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts."
In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't." Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."
Video excerpt #1, “Shore” listing misdeeds (1:25): Real (2.5 MB) or Windows Media (2.9 MB)
Video excerpt #2, “Shore” making McCarthy era comparison (1:15): Real (2.2 MB) or Windows Media (2.5 MB)
Was it David Gregory, or an SNL parody of a biased liberal MSMer? The topic on this morning's Today show was whether media coverage of Iraq has presented a distorted picture. Under the circumstances, you might have thought Gregory would have feigned some facsimile of fairness. But his very first question to James Carville advanced the theory that . . . President Bush is a liar.
Asked Gregory: "Is the problem for this president and top administration officials that the public doesn't believe what they say anymore?"
Like a top point guard, Laura Ingraham tenaciously fought through the Gregory-Carville double-team to make her case. She pointed out that NBC and the Today show expended huge resources to cover the Olympics and even to answer the question "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" She suggested that they devote some of the same resources to broadcast the Today show directly from Iraq, that they accompany troops, speak with US and Iraqi military personnel and with villagers and see the reality on the ground.
The United American Committee is planning a permanent protest, starting on April 30, of the new Al-Jazeera news network planned for the U.S. and English speakers worldwide. Called Al-Jazeera International, it will feature mostly British and American former MSMers. The group calls Al-Jazeera's American plans "Jazeeragate," and wants the demonstration at the studio to "continue daily indefinitely."
Al-Jazeera, the television network that many call the propaganda wing of the radical Islamist movement in the world, is scheduled shortly to launch their network in English aimed at Americans with their new studios being in Washington DC. The United American Committee objects to the establishment of the network in America; "It's as if Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minster for Hitler, were to have set up a station in America during WWII." says Lee Kaplan, member of the UAC executive committee. Al-Jazeera plans on launching their 24 hour 7 day a week channel in America this spring. In response, the UAC is calling for a 24 hour 7 day a week protest in front of the Al-Jazeera studios to begin Sunday April 30th and continue daily indefinitely. The new studio of Al-Jazeera America is located at 1627 K St. NW, Suite #200, Washington, DC 20006.
The group explains why it doesn't like Al-Jazeera.
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.
The English-language version of Al Jazeera is coming to America, but Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnists Gail Shister wonders: "is America ready for Al Jazeera?"
The English version will be called Al Jazeera International (AJI) and has recruited journalists from the mainstream media. Dave Marash, formerly of ABC's "Nightline," and former CNN anchor Riz Khan have been recruited.
The new network promises "accurate, impartial and objective reporting," and one journalism instructor said Al Jazeera is no different than Fox News.
Al Jazeera "clearly has a point of view, but so does Fox," says Kelly McBride, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"There's a market for that in the world, and in the United States, it's probably a growing market."
The Washington Post reports that anti-American or anti-U.S. military movies and plays are all the rage in Egypt. It's like George Clooney wearing a towel.
CAIRO -- When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited this city last month, Egyptians had an unusual choice: watch her on TV as she expounded on issues of war and peace in the Middle East, or go to a neighborhood movie theater and see her portrayed by a look-alike actress belly-dancing and placed in "adult" situations.
The film in question is "The Night Baghdad Fell," which depicts Egyptian obsessions with war, sex and the United States. Wildly anti-American, it has done a brisk business for two months, a long screen life for Egyptian-made films. In "Night," Egyptians fret about an American invasion of Egypt and the potential destruction of their capital. Americans are bullies, rapists and mindless killers.
On Friday afternoon’s The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider touted Senator Russ Feingold’s motion to censure President Bush as his choice for this week’s "political play of the week," heaping this praise upon him: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it’s risky, that’s what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that’s a tough one." Earlier in his piece, Schneider played a soundbite of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggesting Feingold was displaying "principle." That prompted Schneider to recall Ronald Reagan: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate." (Transcript follows.)
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?"
Over at TimesWatch on Thursday, Clay Waters tackled a controversy over a postponed play celebrating the life and activism of Rachel Corrie, an American-flag-burning activist for Israel-hating Palestinian terrorism. The third anniversary of Corrie’s death by standing in front of an Israeli bulldozer drew Jesse McKinley to write in the Times about how a Manhattan theatre company was delaying its staging of a British Corrie-celebrating play drawn from her life and writings. As Clay reported:
McKinley presents a false choice on how to take Corrie's activism: "Given the sharply divided opinions of Ms. Corrie -- idealistic or recklessly naive, depending on one's political point of view -- Mr. Nicola said on Monday that the workshop needed ‘more time to learn more and figure a way to proceed.’"
On Thursday night's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann characterized the logic of the White House's newly released National Security Strategy as insane by comparing its architects to individuals who fail the sanity test: "Does the individual continue to take action A and continue to get result B, while insisting that next time he will get result Z?" Referring to the Bush administration as "the forces that got us into Iraq," Olbermann declared that they are "still expecting to get result Z." After reading from the strategy, the Countdown host snidely quipped, "Actually finding WMD, result Z, is apparently beside the point."
Olbermann, who routinely signs off his Countdown show on an anti-war note by recounting the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq "since the declaration of mission accomplished," teased Thursday's show by summarizing the Bush policy of preemptive war as: "We can start it in order to keep somebody else from starting it." While showing footage of the aftermath of a bombing in Iraq, he sarcastically added, "Well, after all, it has worked so well in Iraq." Notably, while Olbermann later interviewed Time magazine's Michael Duffy, someone thought it was a good idea to display the words "The Empire Strikes Back" at the bottom of the screen, presumably referring to America's airstrikes in Iraq, during their discussion. (Transcript follows.)
The Bush Administration keeps telling Americans that we are fighting a war against terror. But, is the country really buying into that vague description of what is going on in our world? With each passing day, the answer seems more likely to be...No!
A Washington Post article dated March 9, 2006 is headlined “Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing”. It states, “As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and the majority say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence.”
What the Administration wants to deny is there are growing numbers across the United States that do not buy into the politically correct montra that Islam is a peaceful religion. Their attitudes have become more and more negative concerning Muslims worldwide with the media reports about Islamic outrage and savagery.
It’s been one day since the retirement of Mike Wallace from CBS’s "60 Minutes" was announced, and this morning the "Early Show" aired a taped interview with Wallace conducted by Harry Smith. The segment was a look back on Wallace’s career, and it seems Wallace has only one regret; he never got to interview George W. Bush, as evidenced by the following exchange:
Harry Smith: "So many bad guys you've interviewed, politicians, celebrities by the score. Is there a favorite to do one kind of interview vs. the other?"
Mike Wallace: "For substance, and by that I, you know what I mean, to be able to talk to the Ayatollah Khomeini or various Presidents, every President since Abe Lincoln..."
I thought the MSM is ardently opposed to the death penalty. Aren't these the same folks who wrung their collective hands at the prospect of poor Tookie Williams getting the needle? Sure, he murdered four people in cold blood and joked about it, but hey! - he wrote a children's book.
But, no! The Today show was distraught at the prospect that "the 20th hijacker" might have slipped the noose [or the needle]. They went so far as to play a clip from a family member of one of the 9/11 victims saying that "I felt like my husband had been killed again." Shades of that NAACP anti-Bush ad from 2000. See item #2 here of this MRC report.
Sen. Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for warrantless eavesdropping on suspected terrorists is drawing major attention -- even if its political chances are roughly zero. The front page of the Washington Post blows the hot air of publicity on Feingold's leftist crusade, but the headline is "A Senate Maverick Acts to Force an Issue." Why are the "mavericks" always to the left of the party mainstream?
Reporter Shailagh Murray does a better job of defining Feingold in paragraph number 12: "a Democratic outsider and iconoclast and a darling of progressives." Although it should be said that a pile of people who don't like this censure stunt are "progressives." This would be better described as an act of an ultraliberal, on the radical left, throwing a bone to the MoveOn crowd and the Daily Kosmonauts. Then she really makes Feingold sound like a weird combination plate:
Give Dem strategist Hillary Rosen high marks for candor.
It's been obvious for ages that from Medicare to Social Security to foreign policy, the Dems don't have anything that comes close to a hint of a suggestion of an outline of a constructive proposal.
Just the same, Democrats deny that the only thing they have to offer is fear itself. They claim they're being constructive, and keep promising to come forth, at a date certain, with specific proposals. It's just that the date somehow manages never to arrive.
It was thus curiously refreshing to hear a Democrat admit what everyone knows: the Dems have no policy and see no reason to offer one. The particular context was the war in Iraq. Interviewing Rosen on this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews asserted: "I don't think your party [your party?] has a policy."
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."
Fresh from winning an Oscar for his movie "Crash," director Paul Haggis is looking to produce and direct a movie based on the memoirs of Richard Clarke, the disgruntled former anti-terrorism official who accuses the Bush Administration of botching the war on terrorism.
Reuters reporter Tatiana Siegel has the story. Notably missing is when the expected release date for the picture will be. Anyone willing to bet against a summer of 2008 launch?
Hot off his best picture win for "Crash," Paul Haggis is in final negotiations to direct and produce "Against All Enemies," a project based on Richard A. Clarke's best-selling memoir chronicling the Bush administration's handling of terrorist threats.
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.)