Interviewing Howard Dean this morning, you could almost hear Katie Couric thinking: "sure, he's a fellow member of our great Democratic family. But darn it, this guy is killing us!" And thus it was that Couric gave Dean the crazy uncle treatment, hitting him with tough questions almost as if to speak over him to the rest of us out here, apologizing for the untoward antics of this unwelcome but unavoidable visitor.
Suggested Katie regarding the NSA surveillance: "If this potentially stops another terrorist attack like 9/11, why not give the White House some latitude?" Dean riffed in reply about a president who "has a habit of putting himself above the law." But Katie was dubious when Dean complained that the program "poking around into people's private lives."
When John Roberts wrapped up his report Wednesday night, about President Bush's visit to the National Security Administration (NSA) in Maryland, by relaying how “one Republican Senator told CBS News tonight she might consider loosening the standards for approving the wiretap and allowing more officials at the Justice Department, not just the Attorney General, to authorize eavesdropping, so that it could begin just as soon as the NSA needed it,” CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer seemed astounded: "Now, just a second, John. Are you telling me there's a feeling amongst Republicans up in the Congress that they're going to give more people in the government the authority to eavesdrop without warrants? Is that what you're saying here?" Roberts confirmed how “that's what one Republican Senator is suggesting.” Schieffer remained astonished: "Well, what do you think the mood is up there? Do you think anything like that could pass?" Roberts passed along how “it's certainty being considered by Republicans. They've got the majority in the Senate and in the House, and if they want it they'll probably get it.” To which Schieffer shot back: "Well, we'll sure see about that.” (Transcript follows.)
On Monday, President Bush gave a speech and took questions at Kansas State University. It's been a couple of days, and the last wire stories on that have probably been written. So it's interesting to look and see what the Associated Press thought was newsworthy about the speech.
First, they ran a story from Jennifer Loven, which focused on the NSA's surveillance program.
President Bush pushed back Monday at critics of his once-secret domestic spying effort, saying it should be termed a "terrorist surveillance program" and contending it has the backing of legal experts, key lawmakers and the Supreme Court.
Notice that the term "domestic spying effort" is used to describe the program, while the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" is in quotes, emphasizing that, while the President may want to call it a "terrorist surveillance program," the AP knows that it is actually a "domestic spying effort."
Bush's remarks were part of an aggressive administration campaign to defend the four-year-old program as a crucial and legal terror-fighting tool. The White House is trying to sell its side of the story before the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings on it in two weeks.
An "aggressive administration campaign" to "sell its side of the story." Maybe, just maybe, that's necessary, because the stories that have been published have only told the other side. Certainly, the AP, in this story, has emphasized that they don't think that the President's characterization is accurate. They've implicitly called him a liar by continuing to call the program "domestic spying" when the White House has repeatedly pointed out the inaccuracy of the term.
In any event, there was another AP story from the KSU event, a non-bylined story which focused on the President's assertion that "the war on terror is an 'ideological struggle'," and appears to have been mostly written before the speech occurred.
There’s an old rule in marketing – stick to what sells. Lately, it appears that America’s media are doing exactly that.
Since the significant rebound in the president’s poll numbers from their October lows, along with an apparent lack of outrage by the public concerning the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and revelations of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, the media seem to be downplaying reports on current events, and, instead, focusing attention on last year’s big story that was largely responsible for the decline in Bush’s favorability ratings.
In the past three days, the media have given more air time and print space to issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, an event that occurred at the end of August 2005, than a one and a half-hour question and answer session in Kansas that the president held on Monday, and a one-hour address that the second most powerful intelligence figure in our nation gave concerning terrorist surveillance the same day.
On CBS, The Early Show opened this morning with a discussion of the NSA's electronic surveillance program on Al-Qaeda suspects that it continues to call "domestic spying." It was the first item teased at the open. Rene Syler:
Using the National Security Agency as a backdrop, President Bush today will once again defend his domestic spying program as vital to the war on terror.
Less than a minute later, as they introduced the various stories they'd be covering, it was mentioned again. Julie Chen:
As we noted, President Bush has been defending his covert program to spy on Americans, and we'll have the latest on that in just a moment.
John McCain is a straight talker. You can take it to the bank. Assuming, that is, that you're willing to rely on the Today show's say-so. During much of McCain's interview with Matt Lauer this morning, Today 'helpfully' displayed the legend "Straight Talk from John McCain." Guess that wraps it up - the man is as square a shooter as the day is long!
Some of us watching the interviewing might otherwise have thought that John McCain was positioning himself to run for president as the Know-Nothing candidate.
The topic was the NSA surveillance program, which President Bush has now dubbed the "terrorist surveillance program." When it came to the program's legality, McCain was more agnostic than a Unitarian lay minister.
California’s upcoming GOP primary just got interesting. Former U.S. Rep. and decorated veteran Paul "Pete" McCloskey recently announced that he will challenge Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy) in June.
Often described as a "maverick Republican" (code word for liberal) by the mainstream media (MSM), McCloskey is being lauded as a "moderate" who will restore the conservative principles of small government to a scandal-plagued Washington. To drive the point home, Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay’s names are invoked frequently in articles on the subject.
McCloskey ran against President Richard Nixon in 1972 as an antiwar candidate and testified in congress along with Vietnam Veterans Against the War organizer John Kerry, who he also endorsed for president in 2004. All this, combined with having been co-chairman of the first Earth Day in 1970 and one of the authors of the Endangered Species Act, makes McCloskey a "good" Republican in the eyes of the media.
In a tough interview conducted by CNN's Wolf Blitzer live on the 7pm EST hour of Monday's The Situation Room, and re-played during Tuesday's 5pm hour, radical-left singer Harry Belafonte stood by his recent declarations that President Bush is both “the greatest tyrant in the world” and the “the greatest terrorist in the world,” as well as how the Department of Homeland Security is the "new Gestapo." Blitzer ridiculed Belafonte's ludicrous comparison: "But no one has taken you or anyone else, as far as I can tell, to an extermination camp and by the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, even millions decided to kill them, which is what the Nazis did." Blitzer soon pressed: “Are you saying that President Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden?" Belafonte responded that "I'm saying that he's no better,” and proceeded to reiterate how “I do believe” that Bush is “a terrorist. I do believe that what our government does has terror in the center of its agenda.”
Blitzer read what the Raleigh News and Observer last week quoted Belafonte as charging: “When you have a President that has led us into a dishonorable war, who has killed tens of thousands, many of them our own sons and daughters, what is the difference between those who would fly airplanes into buildings killing 3,000 innocent Americans? What is the difference between that terror and other terrors?” Blitzer then asked: “Now that raises the issue of moral equivalency. Are you saying what the Bush administration, what the President is doing is the moral equivalent of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden ordered on 9/11?" Belafonte maintained that “I don't want to make those kind of comparisons,” but then ran through how “al Qaeda tortures. We torture. al Qaeda's killed innocent people. We kill innocent people.” (Complete transcript follows.)
It’s been apparent since the story broke about President Bush’s terrorism surveilance program that the media wanted to frame the debate as "domestic spying" and warrantless wiretaps, and nowhere has this been more clear than on CBS’s "The Early Show" this morning. In the span of 9 minutes, there were two stories regarding the subject, and four mentions of or references to this topic.
7:00 Story Tease:
Good morning, I'm Julie Chen. Despite questions about its legality, President Bush is vigorously defending his domestic spying program saying it's necessary to fight terrorists. We'll hear what the President had to say and talk to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Chen: "First we want to get right to our top story this morning, domestic spying. President Bush is vigorously defending the controversial eavesdropping plan. He insists it's legal and vital to the war on terrorism. CBS Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante has the very latest. Good morning to you, Bill."
This year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration was a wild and woolly collection of left-wing blather.
In Washington, showing remarkable feats of amnesia that he was ever vice president in a corrupt administration, Al Gore gave a speech claiming President Bush was a law-breaking president and his illegal actions a threat to the survival of our democracy, an extraordinary accusation for even this man to make, given the same policies were executed by the Clinton-Gore administration.
In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin announced that God wanted New Orleans to be a “chocolate” city again. When challenged that this might make him sound like a little racist, he dug a deeper hole by claiming whites were the milk in his milk-chocolate shake.
Even in this stew of silliness, Hillary Rodham Clinton still managed to draw headlines for herself by marching into a Baptist church with Al Sharpton in Harlem and giving a fiery speech. First, Hillary sounded the same Clinton-amnesia notes as Gore, charging that President Bush’s team was historically filled with corrupt cronies, that his presidency "will go down in history as one of the worst.” But with Sharpton proudly looking on, she threw the race card on the table with a big, noisy thwack. “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about.” Bush is not only incompetent. Dennis Hastert is a slave master. Laura Bush was right. It was “ridiculous.”
When Matt Lauer began peppering Bill O'Reilly with rapid-fire questions on this morning's Today show, the prime-time host complained "you're going so fast - it's 7:10 in the morning!"
Judging by his sub-par performance, O'Reilly wasn't kidding.
Oh, to be sure, in his very first sentence the No-Spin Zone-ster called the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee "pinheads." But is that much more than middle-school machismo?
When it came to the substance of the Alito hearings, O'Reilly's fastball had no bite. Said BOR in criticizing the Dems' performance "you don't go to his college club, and say look at this, he was in a club in college. That's just dopey."
All three major broadcast networks this evening covered President Bush’s speech in Kansas today concerning the domestic spying program. They all included the same quote of the president saying, “If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?” And, they all referenced statements made today at the National Press Club by Deputy Director of National Intelligence and former National Security Agency director Gen. Michael Hayden. Unfortunately, none of them did justice to the extraordinarily compelling description of the NSA eavesdropping program offered by the general, or his explanation of errors and omissions that have been quite common in media reports on this issue.
Regardless, what was conspicuously absent from the “NBC Nightly News” report on this subject was the most compelling statement made today by Gen. Hayden: “Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such.”
To be sure, it couldn’t have been a time issue that prevented NBC from including this key segment of Gen. Hayden’s statement. After all, toward the end of the broadcast, Brian Williams had plenty of time to discuss the person in the Kansas State University audience who asked President Bush if he had seen the movie “Brokeback Mountain,” as well as show footage of the president’s answer (from closed captioning): “I hadn't seen it. I would be glad to talk about ranching but I haven't seen the movie.” In fact, there was even time for Williams to speak glowingly about the film (also from closed captioning):
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos invited former presidential candidate John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) on “This Week” yesterday to discuss a variety of pressing issues facing the nation. Primary amongst them was how the senator felt about domestic spying, and current revelations revealed in a New York Times article last month. During the discussion, Kerry made a rather glaring contradiction (hat tip to reader “JDW”) that should have set off alarm bells in any investigative reporter. Instead, Stephanopoulos gave Kerry a pass.
As the discussion moved in the direction of NSA wiretaps, Stephanopoulos played a clip of Karl Rove saying: “President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats -- some important Democrats clearly disagree.” Stephanopoulos said: “He must have had you in mind. You've called the program a clear violation of the law.” To which Kerry replied: ‘We don't disagree with him at all. It is a violation of law and we don't disagree with him at all and this is exactly what Karl Rove does.”
The NYT's chief political reporter Adam Nagourney was ultra-sensitive to any sign of harsh Republican rhetoric during the 2004 campaign, and he’s no less raw about it a year later, using strong terms to describe Karl Rove’s speech to the Republican National Committee in a front-page story Monday. But what about Howard Dean calling Rove "unpatriotic"?
“With a campaign of high-profile national security events set for the next three days, following Karl Rove's blistering speech to Republicans on Friday, the White House has effectively declared that it views its controversial secret surveillance program not as a political liability but as an asset, a way to attack Democrats and re-establish President Bush's standing after a difficult year.”
In attacking White House counselor Dan Bartlett over the NSA's surveillance of al Qaeda suspects, Katie Couric went as far as to cite a convicted terrorist's lawyer's claim of Bush's "crime." In the 7am half hour of this morning's Today, Couric noted "that many people believe that the President broke the law," and then went on to quote from George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley that Bush's order, "was a crime." However Couric failed to mention that Turley is currently part of a convicted terrorist's appeal process, a terrorist who once cheered the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
The Today show played a dangerous game this morning, floating the notion that President Bush manipulated the release of an OBL tape in 2004 to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Today opened the segment by flashing the image to the right, which so closely juxtaposed photos of W and OBL you might have thought it was a campaign poster. And call me suspicious, but I can't help but wonder if the "Close Up" beneath the photos wasn't merely the title of the lead segment but also Today's 'subliminable' comment on the pair's relationship.
Just in case anyone missed the point, Lauer archly asked: "is OBL President Bush's not-so-secret weapon?" Lauer then suggested the WH is exploiting the latest OBL tape to conduct a "PR blitz" in support of the NSA surveillance program.
Lauer then handed the ball to NBC reporter David Gregory, who claimed that the White House has "politically seized" the moment "with the OBL tape still fresh" to "step up its campaign against its critics" on the surveillance issue.
Gregory then made a much more sinister suggestion, stating:
The Associated Press is reporting an outpouring of support for al Qaeda in Pakistan, and, in particular, for Osama bin Laden as a result of America’s attack on al Qaeda operatives over a week ago:
“Sympathy for al-Qaida has surged after a U.S. airstrike devastated this remote mountain hamlet in a region sometimes as hostile toward the Pakistani government as it is to the United States.
“A week after the attack, villagers insist no members of the terror network were anywhere near the border village when it was hit. But thousands of protesters flooded a nearby town chanting, ‘Long live Osama bin Laden!’"
Harry Belafonte is at it again. The Associated Press reported last evening (hat tip to the Drudge Report) that the entertainer, in a speech to the Arts Presenters Members Conference, “compared the Homeland Security Department to the Nazi Gestapo on Saturday and attacked the president as a liar.”
The article quoted Belafonte as having said, “‘We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended.’” Belafonte once again had nothing but disdain for America’s current president: “Bush, he said, rose to power ‘somewhat dubiously and ... then lies to the people of this nation, misleads them, misinstructs, and then sends off hundreds of thousands of our own boys and girls to a foreign land that has not aggressed against us.’"
Courtesy of MEMRI.org, the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, we find that the media apparently "mistranslated" the latest tape from Osama bin Laden. Although it was widely reported that bin Laden offered America a "truce," in fact what he offered was to adhere to a truce should we propose one. Translated by MEMRI.org, these are the relevant portions of what bin Laden actually said:
"We have no objection to accepting a long-term cease fire under fair conditions which we will uphold…both sides will benefit from such a cease fire, from security and stability…"
Unsurprisingly, one of the mistranslations originated with Al-Jazeera, which is hardly an impartial source. Indeed, one has to wonder whether they have a slot in the door marked, "al-Qaeda tapes." This is their translation of bin Laden’s statement:
Sometimes a story just doesn't seem to be "all there." Cinnamon Stillwell suspected as much in a NewsBusters item on January 10:
Call me overly suspicious, but the story of 16-year-old Farris Hassan traveling to Iraq on a whim strikes me as unbelievable.
Hassan's interview with Rita Cosby of MSNBC, a Florida newspaper columnist's skepticism, and a January 18 posting by the Northeast Intelligence Network (NIN), which describes itself as "a small contingent of experienced investigators ..... founded by veteran private investigator Douglas J. Hagmann," all appear to confirm Stillwell's suspicions. What is known of Farris Hassan's saga at this point should also, one would think, raise some red flags with Homeland Security.
MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews got himself into some hot water Thursday evening when he suggested that Osama bin Laden in his recently released tape sounded “like an over-the-top Michael Moore here, if not a Michael Moore” (video link to follow). On last night’s installment, Matthews invited on MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to discuss this issue in greater detail (video link to follow).
After being asked by Matthews if bin Laden was playing politician, Scarborough moved the discussion in a media direction: “You look at, like, for instance, him saying that George Bush went to war because of -- because he wanted to help his buddies out, his oil buddies out. Well, that sounds a lot like not only Michael Moore, it also sounds like Ted Kennedy who said this whole thing was invented, this war was invented in Texas by Karl Rove to help his political supporters out.”
As reported yesterday by NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein, Katie Couric of NBC’s “Today Show” wondered aloud on yesterday’s program if Osama bin Laden might be getting information from the New York Times. It turns out that Couric isn’t the only media representative asking this same question. A just released Editor and Publisher article reported on more such media opining. First, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson said the following on that network’s “Scarborough Country” Thursday evening (full transcript to follow):
“By the merchants of war who financed Bush's presidential campaign, in the words of Osama bin Laden and many on the left. In other words, Halliburton is responsible for this war, every single talking point. I hate to think of Osama bin Laden reclining in his cave in Waziristan, reading the op-ed page of ‘The New York Times.’ But, clearly, he is. He's got every talking point. It's uncanny.”
According to E&P, Carlson wasn’t the only one to suggest that Osama is paying attention to the American press:
Joe Klein of TIME magazine fame wrote a fabulous piece recently entitled “How to Stay Out of Power; Why liberal democrats are playing too fast and too loose with issues of war and peace.” In it, the typically liberal Klein offered a typically liberal readership a side of the domestic spying issue that must have made many subscribers wonder if their mailman had accidentally put a copy of the National Review in their mailbox.
Klein began by addressing the hypocrisy of a letter that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) recently released that was supposedly written on October 11, 2001 to then National Security Agency director General Michael V. Hayden. “In it she expressed concern that Hayden, who had briefed the House Intelligence Committee about the steps he was taking to track down al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, was not acting with "specific presidential authorization."
With an “Uncle Sam Is Watching You” graphic on screen, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann opened Friday night's Countdown by exaggerating the threat of the federal request for Google records to check the exposure of pornography to children and, of course, the NSA “spying”policy. “If you Googled it, the government wants to know about it,” Olbermann warned, “and if you made a phone call or sent an e-mail that was monitored by the NSA without court approval, the government wants you to know it feels its actions were plenty legal.” Olbermann reported: “President Bush starts taking his domestic spying defense tour on the road. How about we all Google the name George Orwell?” Olbermann proceeded to describe the public relations events as a “big brother PR blitz” with “President Bush heading back to the National Security Agency for another visit next week on Wednesday, all part of the administration's latest push to convince everybody else that the President has the constitutional power to order all the spying, with none of the bothersome warrants, that he wants.”
Citing the administration's contention that only those who had contact with terrorist-affiliated people were monitored, Olbermann charged, while interviewing Craig Crawford, that “there has been a lot of condescension from the administration over the years since the election, but honestly, do they think everybody here is a 6-year-old idiot?" Olbermann went on to complain about Karl Rove's “post 9/11 mindsets drivel." Olbermann also quoted the Justice Department's contention that the 9/11 congressional resolution “places the President at the zenith of his powers” and asked: “Is there is somebody in the White House saying, 'look, it's to our advantage to make the President look as much like either a Superhero or would-be dictator as possible?'” (Transcript follows.)
The folks at the Grey Lady again can't seem to wrap their noggins around the fact that the NSA program is tapping international calls made from this country, AND calls that come in from other countries.
What is so hard to grasp here? Terrorism is a clandestine business. Should we be calling the terrorists we're monitoring to let them know they are being monitored? Have there been any wrongful deaths, convictions or violations in connection with the NSA program? No. Do the American people support it? Yes.
Savor this morsel, from the NYT political pundit / terrorism analyst / foreign policy opinion leader / surveillance expert Eric Lichtblau :
Exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is seen in this April 1998 file photo in Afghanistan. Al-Jazeera aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, saying al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
Just as our intelligence experts' parsing of the OBL tape may uncover hidden clues, so does a careful deconstruction of comments this morning by Katie Couric yield important insights into her MSM mindset.
Couric was interviewing Peter Bergen, British author of "The Osama Bin Laden I Know." At one point, Katie had this to say:
"He talks about President Bush in the tape and he says he's foolish for ignoring the poll numbers that indicate the American people want him to pull out of Iraq. How do you think he's keeping abreast of all this. It's sort of odd, isn't it? Is he just paying attention to Al-Jazeera? It's not as if he's reading the New York Times, is it?"
Just before reading e-mailed responses to his “Cafferty Files” question of the 4pm EST hour on Thursday afternoon's The Situation Room on CNN, “How important is the new Osama bin Laden tape?", Jack Cafferty proposed a conspiracy existed in the timing, one meant to help Bush justify his NSA wiretapping: “The last time we got a tape from Osama bin Laden was right before the 2004 presidential election. Now here we are, four days away from hearings starting in Washington into the wiretapping of America's telephones without bothering to get a court order or a warrant, and up pops another tape from Osama bin Laden. Coincidence? Who knows.” One viewer endorsed Cafferty's conspiracy theory: “It seems suspicious. Every time the Republicans get into trouble, bin Laden sends a tape. Is it possible bin Laden's working out of the White House?” Earlier, Cafferty took a shot at President Bush's decision to invade Iraq: “The thought of this mutant hanging out in a cave somewhere and sending taped threats to the American people makes me angry. Why wasn't this guy taken care of before we went wandering off into Iraq?” (Transcripts follow.)
Harry Belafonte recently compared George W. Bush and the architects of the Iraq war to those who planned the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In a speech on Sunday, January 15, he said:
"Killing is our easiest tool....It is an act that has driven fear and terror into the hearts of the American people. What is the essential difference in quality of our humanity for those who would do the cruel and tragic deed of flying an airplane into a building and killing 3,000 innocent Americans and those who would lie and lead the nation into a war that has killed hundreds of thousands? Excuse me, fellow citizens, if the line for me becomes a little blurred."
Ted Rall, the cartoonist that hates President Bush and the military, decries the January 13 “massacre” in Pakistan while claiming that the United States is committing “murder by mistake”. In his Jan 17 op-ed, “Death From Above: US Drone Planes Have a Nearly Perfect Record of Failure”, Rall states that the Hellfire Missiles “slammed into three local jewelers’ houses” and killed “at least 22 innocent civilians, including five women and five children.” He neglects to mention that the #2 Al Qaeda terrorist was supposed to be dining with the “jewelers”. He also neglects to mention that stories are now coming out that 3, possibly more, Al Qaeda terrorists are believed to have been killed in the air strike, including the bomb making mastermind, Abu Khabab al-Masri.