This morning on CBS's "The Early Show," in the 7:00 half hour, Rene Syler interviewed their regular political analyst Craig Crawford about whether the President broke the law in authorizing eavesdropping without a warrant, and the President’s poll numbers. This segment was one sided and negative towards the President.
Syler opened her segment saying "In a news conference Monday, President Bush vehemently defended spying on Americans to protect them against terrorism. The President said he broke no law authorizing the secret program and said the practice would continue despite concerns that it infringes on civil liberties." In introducing a story in this way, it would be fair to assume the bulk of the interview would be on this subject. Wrong. The interview ranged from the foreign surveillance issue, to finding the negatives in improving poll numbers for the President, to an assertion by Craig Crawford, in answering a question about what this is all about and what these issues mean, that what’s at stake here is not only control of Congress, but the Constitution.
It may not be as inane as Anna Quindlen's lumping of Nazis with the religious right, but Jonathan Alter's web-only piece about President Bush and the NSA "scandal" nonetheless contains some of this week's worst overstatements from a Newsweek columnist. (Hat tips to Kathryn Lopez and Jonah Goldberg in the Corner.)
Excerpts from Alter on what he calls "Snoopgate" (fo' shizzle!):
President Bush...made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War...
CBS’ Thalia Assuras did a piece for “The Early Show” this morning concerning the domestic spying controversy (video link to follow). In it, she exclusively presented the views of Democrat members of Congress as well as a “legal scholar” who believes this program is illegal. Yet, she chose to not question any Republicans concerning this issue, or bring on a constitutional attorney with an opposing view. As a result, she presented a segment wherein Democrats and detractors of this program were seen countering each videotaped position the president made during his press conference yesterday. This gave the appearance that the president is on an island with nobody in Congress or in the legal community willing to defend this newly revealed covert program.
In an interview conducted Sunday in Iraq with Vice President Dick Cheney, and shown on Monday’s Nightline, Terry Moran decided “to put this personally” and condescendingly proposed to Cheney that the VP’s refusal to refute prisoner-abuse allegations and “surveilling Americans” by the Bush administration, leaves Moran ashamed of a country he would not want to “pass on” to his daughters. Moran asked: “I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, “it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney’s defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran’s contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?” Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether “the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: “Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?" (Transcript follows.)
The December 15 disclosure by The New York Times that President Bush had authorized eavesdropping on suspected terrorist connected telephone conversations inside the United States has developed into a national debate about the legality of such an intelligence operation.
There have been allegations of overstepping presidential authority and even criminal action being taken by the administration. Seldom is it mentioned that Congress was given a detailed briefing on the special program.
Even the New York Times hid that element of the story, placing one it in the 22nd paragraph of its very lengthy article, writing, “After the special program started, Congressional leaders from both political parties were brought to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office in the White House. The leaders, who included the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, learned of the N.S.A. operation from Mr. Cheney, General Michael V. Hayden of the Air Force, who was then the agency’s director and is now the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and George J. Tenet, then director of the C.I.A., officials said.”
The folks over at The New York Times must be laughing their heads off. With the President’s poll numbers on the rise, a fabulous election result in Iraq, and the potential extension of a key antiterrorism bill that the administration holds dear, the Times stole Christmas from the White House last week with the release of one carefully-timed article.
After some pretty horrible months in September and October, President Bush has been fighting his way back up from a virtual poll abyss. The economy—regardless of left-wing protestations to the contrary—has been humming. Energy prices—regardless of, well, you get the point—have been plummeting. And, the Sunnis, who largely boycotted the past two elections in Iraq, were giving signs that they would participate in Thursday’s elections in very large, enthusiastic numbers.
All the President needed to make this holiday season a truly joyous one was a relatively safe, incident-free day at the Iraqi polls Thursday, and the Patriot Act to be extended before Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.
The Grinch…err., I mean, the Times had something else in mind.
As NewsBusters’ Clay Waters reported, a National Security Agency surveillance program, codenamed “Echelon,” – apparently similar to what the NSA is doing today to counter terrorist activities that has garnered tremendous media outrage in the past four days – existed some years ago. In fact, according to a February 27, 2000 Associated Press article, the ACLU had been expressing its concern regarding this program for quite some time:
“Nevertheless, the American Civil Liberties Union has been requesting congressional hearings on Echelon for nearly a year. In a letter sent to the House Government Reform Committee in April 1999, the ACLU said: ''It is important that Congress investigate to determine if the Echelon program is as sweeping and intrusive as has been reported.''
This AP article also referenced a letter that the NSA had sent to Congress concerning the upcoming “60 Minutes” story:
Travel caused me to miss Friday's big lead scoop in the New York Times on domestic spying by the National Security Agency ("Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"), but the rest of the blogosphere took the story on from multiple angles, questioning the pieces timing, agenda, even its newsworthiness.
The Times article no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned:
Behavioral scientists long-ago determined that, when it comes to changing behavior, positive reinforcement works better than punishment.
With that in mind, this column has made it a point to record those [rare] occasions on which the Today show gives 'fair & balanced' treatment to the news.
Let the record therefore show that on December 19th, 2005, Today gave reasonably even-handed treatment to the revelations that President Bush has authorized, without court order, the surveillance of phone calls suspected of being Al-Qaeda-related.
There were two outside guests. Katie first interviewed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. She asked the obvious question: "What legal authority does the president have to avoid the normal process of obtaining court-approved search warrants before eavesdropping is conducted?"
What follows is the lede from a Baltimore Sun article today (Sunday) about Army recruitment as reprinted in The Day in New London, Connecticut. It demonstrates, again, the truth of Mark Twain’s dictum, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Washington — The Army met its recruiting goal for November by again accepting a high percentage of recruits who scored in the lowest category on the military's aptitude tests, Pentagon officials said Thursday, raising renewed concerns that the quality of the all-volunteer force will suffer.
The Army exceeded its 5,600 recruit goal by 256 for November, while the Army Reserve brought in 1,454 recruits, exceeding its target by 112. To do so, they accepted a “double digit” percentage of recruits who scored between 16 and 30 out of a possible 99 on the military's aptitude test, said officials who requested anonymity.
The article does note, later on, “Still, Army officials continue to say that at the end of the recruiting year, next Sept. 30, the total percentage of Category IV soldiers will be no more than 4 percent.”
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”
An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.
CBS’ Bob Schieffer, after introducing his guests Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), began the segment (from closed captioning):
“Gentlemen, we have to start this morning with this story. It is against the law, of course, to eavesdrop or wire tap U.S. citizens in this country without a court order from a federal judge. But the "New York Times" says that is exactly what the president is authorized the government to do since 9/11. The secretary of state said this morning that the president has statutory and constitutional authorization to do what he did. So I'll start with Senator Graham. Does he have that authority, senator?”
Hubert Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior for his cheerful approach to the political wars. In contrast, Fox & Friends Weekend's Julian Phillips, judging by his crabbiness this morning, might be dubbed the Whining Warrior.
Beyond his rain-on-the-parade words, Phillips' body language and facial expressions oozed negativity. The shot to the right is a file photo, but typifies Julian's less-than-sunny demeanor.
The show lead with news of the latest AP poll, which revealed a significant uptick in support for the Iraqi war effort among Americans, with 57% opposing immediate pull-out.
Page Hopkins is clearly the most pro-administration among the hosting triumvirate composed of herself, Kiran Chetry and Phillips. She kicked off the discussion by observing "it so interesting that a solid majority is behind staying the course in Iraq."
As reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, the media are in full dudgeon over new revelations of a secret eavesdropping, antiterrorism strategy by the White House. However, there are some key elements of this story that the president just discussed in his weekly radio address as reported by the Associated Press that The New York Times and others either neglected to share with the public, or downplayed in their reports:
“Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ‘consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.’ He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ‘a clear link’ to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.”
In a post-9/11 world, this does seem to be a reasonable strategy to avert further terrorist attacks. Wouldn’t most Americans wish that the 9/11 hijackers all had their “international communications” intercepted regardless of the existence of a court order to do so?
In his article, “Iraq insurgents say election truce won’t last”, Fadel al-Badrani offers the reader a view from the insurgents’ side of the war. According to al-Badrani, “secular insurgents and Islamist militants” (AKA Islamofascists) plan to resume attacks against US troops and Iraqis that cooperate with the United States. Politicians, such as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafair, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, are also listed as targets.
Al-Badrani, an Iraqi journalist working for Reuters, was able to obtain quotes from leaders of the insurgent groups, such as “Muhammad’s Army” and the “Islamic Army”. Leaders called the attacks part of their “holy war”. The leader of Muhammad’s Army promised that “the coming days will be tough on the Americans and their supporters in the Iraqi Army.”
Paul Farhi wrote an article for today’s Washington Post that confirmed yesterday’s Drudge Report exclusive sited by NewsBusters that the New York Times failed to disclose a major story it broke surrounding U.S. spying in America was part of a soon to be released book by one of its columnists, James Risen. In addition, Farhi indicated that the timing of the release of this report might indeed have been designed to correspond with a Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act. The antiterrorism bill was blocked last evening in the Senate with members claiming revelations in the Times article may have been the death knell.
According to the Post:
“The [Times] offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.”
And what about the timing surrounding the renewal of the Patriot Act?
Picking up on a front page New York Times story, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” the three broadcast networks led Friday night with the revelation, which animated the cable networks during the day, about how post-9/11 the NSA has monitored communication by a few thousand people in the U.S. in touch with those on al-Qaeda lists captured in Pakistan, or an expanding chain of those connected to that initial cache. Despite the limited focus on identifying sleeper agents before they could murder Americans, the networks treated the policy as a violation of the rights of all Americans. With “Big Brother” in front of a picture of President Bush, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: “Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans." NBC's Brian Williams teased: "Government spying. Tonight, revelations of domestic eavesdropping on hundreds of phone calls by the federal government, part of top secret orders by President Bush after 9/11." Williams insisted that now “the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us.”
Though the White House maintains the policy is legal and congressional leaders as well as a federal judge were told about it in 2002, CBS characterized the policy as illegal. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Has the government been using its spy satellites to illegally eavesdrop on Americans?” Schieffer then declared as fact: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11.” (Transcripts of the newscast leads, and some excerpts from the New York Times story, follow.)
On the 4pm hour of CNN's The Situation Room, on air personality Jack Cafferty blasted the Bush administration's decisions to combat the War on Terror, especially the Patriot Act and the Iraq war. Cafferty also said the administration leaked name of CIA agent and "covert operative" Valerie Plame. This diatribe served as a segue for "The Question of the Hour", which asked reader's opinions about the New York Times' report of the NSA spying on American citizens. Cafferty offers no proof other than the report by a known left-wing publication.
Newsweek correspondant Howard Fineman and New York Times' writer Anne Kornblut appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss the Times report that the NSA was given permission by the Bush administration to spy on potential terrorists. This report just so happened to be printed on the front page of the Times a day after the successful election in Iraq. Surprisingly, Chris Matthews wanted to get the reason why the newspaper decided to print this information on the front page when the historic event in Iraq should have been the only story receiving big headlines. Matthews asked Kornblut "why did you break it today", only to get a simple response that "there was room in the paper". Matthews later followed up with "you have no criticism on this" [referring to the Times' decision to put this on the front page], Kornblut said "I was working on other things today so I don't know". How convenient.
This morning’s New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has certainly created a huge buzz in the media that has taken some focus away from the good news concerning yesterday’s highly successful elections in Iraq: “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.”
The Drudge Report, in an exclusive, just announced that this story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau is just “one of many ‘explosive newsbreaking’ stories that can be found -- in [Risen’s] upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!” Yet, “The [Times] failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.”
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
On Tuesday morning’s Early Show in the 7:00 half hour, Harry Smith interviewed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. In a humorous moment, during the interview Harry Smith forgot Senator Frist’s name while in the process of asking a question:
"But the violence doesn't seem to be abating Mr. uh , uh , it's, we have 30,000 Iraqis dead, acknowledged by the President yesterday, more than 1,000 United States men and women have died in this conflict thus far, is there a body count at which point the cost of the war is no longer acceptable?"
Smith took a hostile tone with Frist, questioning him with Democratic talking points. While Frist was answering the question, and talking about the dangers of cutting and running in Iraq, Smith interrupted him and asserted that there were no terrorists in Iraq until the United States got there, and that in fact it is the United States who has now created a "terrorist haven" in Iraq.
The latest issue of Newsweek featured an almost 4,000 word article – written by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, with assistance from Holly Bailey, Daniel Klaidman, Eleanor Clift, Michael Hirsh and John Barry – that painted a pretty bleak picture of President Bush as possibly being “the most isolated president in modern history.” The authors referred to Bush as being in a “bubble” that blocks out thoughts, policy suggestions, and ideas that he is either unwilling or intellectually incapable of absorbing. Some of the lowlights:
“Yet his inattention to Murtha, a coal-country Pennsylvanian and rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world.”
“What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable.”
In a TV-journalism age in which a good haircut and a sharp suit often seem to count for more than substance, there's something admirably old-school about Barry Schweid. Old, and unapologetically schlumpy, Schweid is the antithesis of TV's Sharp-Dressed Man.
Even so, on Fox & Friends Weekend this morning, Schweid let his liberal leanings show.
Schweid has been covering diplomacy for the Associated Press for over 30 years, and is currently its senior diplomatic correspondent. He joined FOX News Channel as a contributor for foreign affairs in 1997.
Schweid came on to discuss the issue of torture, and specifically Condi Rice's recent European tour, intended to pallliate delicate continental sensibilities on the issue.
With a hat tip to the Drudge Report, in what could be an advancement of media protestations that air marshals on American Airlines flight 924 overreacted when they shot and killed distraught passenger Rigoberto Alpizar, TIME magazine reported last night that another passenger on the plane is claiming he never heard the word “bomb”:
“‘I don't think they needed to use deadly force with the guy,’ says John McAlhany, a 44-year-old construction worker from Sebastian, Fla. "He was getting off the plane." McAlhany also maintains that Alpizar never mentioned having a bomb.
Ted Rall has struck again - this time with words instead of his little cartoons. In his Dec. 6, 2005 editorial, "We're Looking for a Few Good Refuseniks", Rall attacks the US military and veterans again. Rall credits the "unelected" President Bush for the military turning its back on its once "honorable calling". Rall then blames the US soldiers for "torturing, maiming and murdering POWs, robbing and subjecting civilians to collective punishment, dropping white phosphorus and depleted uranium bombs on civilian targets."
Pooh-poohing the "they are just following orders" excuse, Rall reminds his readers that the illegal, immoral and unjust war could not have been waged without a "compliant and complicit US military". He calls for the "men and women of our armed forces" to be "held individually accountable for the carnage". Rall continues that our "government's poorly paid contract killers" do not deserve our support for blindly following orders. So much for "we support the troops but not their mission".
Has Katie Couric watched too many westerns? You know, the kind where the sheriff shoots the gun out of the bad guy's hand?
You'd think so, given the repeated questions she posed to a former air marshal in the wake of yesterday's shooting of a frantic passenger claiming to have a bomb aboard an American Airlines flight .
Katie's guest was former air marshal Tony Kuklinski, who stated that "by all accounts I've seen, what [the air marshals] did was necessary."
Katie wasn't so sure:
"Do they always shoot to kill, Tony? In other words, I guess the average person hearing this [on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Katie?] might think: isn't there a way where they could have shot this person and not killed him? Wounded him or incapacitated him in some way without killing him?"
Vaughn Ververs of the CBS News blog “Public Eye” critiqued a NewsBusters post today concerning a report made by the “CBS Evening News” last night about the former 9/11 commission’s newly released report card on the government’s response to homeland security issues. Ververs apparently asked correspondent Robert Orr and producer Ward Sloane for their opinions on the NewsBusters analysis: “The ‘news’ in the former 9/11 Commission's briefing was not that the U.S. is doing a very few things right, but rather that four years after the attacks, the U.S. government is largely failing in its very expensive $100 billion attempt to prevent another one.”
Although this might indeed be what the mainstream media perceived as the “news” in this briefing, the reality is that there were a total of 41 categories that the former commission graded the government on, and this CBS News report only shared some of the the “D’s” and the “F’s,” while totally ignoring all of the “C’s,” “B’s,” and “A’s” that the government received. Aren’t these grades “news” as well? Shouldn’t the public be informed as to what the government is doing properly to protect them from terrorist attacks, or are only the failures “news?”
On Friday, NewsBusters reported the results of a new Rasmussen poll indicating that the public’s view of the War on Terrorism has dramatically improved in the past couple of months, but none of the mainstream media were opting to share this information with the citizenry. Well, another polling agency has just done a survey confirming this increase in American optimism concerning this subject. Yet, in this case, the very media outlet that paid for the survey is the one not including the results in its own published report.
On Sunday, TIME magazine posted an article at its website concerning a recent poll done for it by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas (SRBI). This survey covered the typical analysis found in most polls these days including the president's job approval rating, how the public feels things are going in Iraq, etc. Yet, TIME curiously chose not to share with its readers an entire section from this SRBI survey concerning how the public feels the War on Terrorism is going.
The folks at PollingReport.com have the results that TIME didn’t share with its readers. For instance, 49 percent of those surveyed felt that the president is doing a good job handling the War on Terrorism. This is up from 46 percent in their poll taken after Katrina hit.
Quick! Someone buy the man a Valium. Make it a double.
I'm sure most here remember the histrionics in which Shep Smith engaged while reporting from New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
Smith was back in high emotional pitch today, shouting, screaming and accusing the government for its shortcomings as detailed in the just-released 9/11 Commission 'report card' on implementation of its national security recommendations.
Thankfully, Shep had James Carafano, across the video lines, to hold his hand and soothingly assure him that the sky wasn't falling.
Carafano, a cool customer, is a top scholar on security issues at the Heritage Foundation. A West Point grad and retired Army colonel, he also has a doctorate from Georgetown University and a master's degree in strategy from the U.S. Army War College.