"Augusto Pinochet, 91, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies" reads the headline to Jonathan Kandell's front-page obituary for the Chilean ruler in the New York Times Monday. A related editorial calls Pinochet "The Dextrous Dictator" (perhaps a play on words, as the Latin root of dextrous is dexter, meaning "on the right side," hardy har har).
Here's the lead of Kandell's obituary for Pinochet today:
"Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption, died yesterday at the Military Hospital of Santiago."
Slim pickings indeed. Perhaps we need to start looking for inanimate objects (e.g., 1982 - The Computer; 1988 - Endangered Earth), symbolic people (1950 - American Fighting Man; 1956 - Hungarian Freedom Fighter; 2003 - The American Soldier), or groups of people (1960 - US Scientists; 1966 - 25 and Under; 1969 - The Middle Americans; 1975 - American Women; 1993 - The Peacemakers; 2002 - The Whistleblowers). The list of all previous winners is here.
Perhaps YouTube, online forums, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and online media should be the Thing of the Year: The Shadow Media. Of course, Time would be writing about its own likely eventual demise, but it would fit.
At 9pm EST/PST (8pm CST/MST) on Friday night (Dec. 8), ABC will air a special edition of Primetime, “North Korea: Inside the Shadows” which will feature Diane Sawyer recounting what she found in that communist nation during a trip there back in October. If her hour-long program matches what aired in October, be prepared for a lot of North Korea officials bashing President Bush and for Sawyer to trumpet “happy” kids.
On the October 19 World News, Sawyer proved little more than a conveyor belt for the repressive communist regime's propaganda. Talking to a North Korean Army General, she relayed how “he said to us, 'make it clear to everyone in the United States, if there is another nuclear test, the person responsible is George Bush,' because he said, 'the Bush administration is backing North Korea into a corner with its pressures and its sanctions.'" In a second segment, Sawyer was taken to a school which she favorably described as “a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school." She gushed: “Ask them about their country, and they can't say enough." A teenage girl declared, in English: “We are the happiest children in the world.” Sawyer ended her piece with video of her and the class singing "Do-Re-Mi" from the Sound of Music. Far from being embarrassed by Sawyer's obsequious approach, anchor Charles Gibson proposed: "A fascinating glimpse of North Korea."
The midterm elections are approaching and some members of the media are revving up their bias. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann recently suggested that President Bush might be as big a threat as the terrorists. This was only a day after referring to conservative talk show hosts who visited the White House as the "Legion of Doom." CNN’s Jack Cafferty wondered if Karl Rove is planning an "October surprise" to salvage the Republicans’ chances in the midterm elections.
The print media have also offered unrestrained attacks from the left. A "Washington Post" report described House Speaker Dennis Hastert appearance as "a cross between Wildford Brimley and Jabba the Hutt." Nothing quite like objectivity, huh? A former "New York Times" bureau chief recently characterized the Christian right as "fascist." Perhaps he’d been chatting with "Newsweek" columnist Jonathan Alter. Alter told Don Imus he hoped the country has seen the last of "values voters."
The "Today" show fawned over Barack Obama, describing him as "electrifying" and a "rock star." This was on the same day that they giddily predicted a "perfect storm" to wipe out the Republicans in the midterms. Another early AM program, CNN’s "American Morning"encouraged author David Kuo to call for Christians to boycott the upcoming election.
On Thursday's World News on ABC, Diane Sawyer checked in from North Korea, but she proved little more than a conveyor belt for the repressive communist regime's propaganda. Talking to a North Korean Army General, she relayed how “he said to us, 'make it clear to everyone in the United States, if there is another nuclear test, the person responsible is George Bush,' because he said, 'the Bush administration is backing North Korea into a corner with its pressures and its sanctions.'" Sawyer helpfully added that “the General said to us, he does want peace. And he also said, again, reiterated, North Korea will not be the first to use a nuclear weapon.” How reassuring.
In a second segment, Sawyer was taken to a school which she favorably described as “a world away from the unruly individualism of any American school." She gushed: “Ask them about their country, and they can't say enough." A teenage girl declared, in English: “We are the happiest children in the world.” Sawyer ended her piece with video of her and the class singing "Do-Re-Mi" from the Sound of Music. Far from being embarrassed by Sawyer's obsequious approach, anchor Charles Gibson proposed: "A fascinating glimpse of North Korea."
On his show yesterday, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson congratulated Diane Sawyer of ABC for leaving the comforts of home to report from North Korea. Judging by her report this morning, you'd have to say the rigors have been worth it. Sawyer has been on a week-long stay in Dear-Leader Land, and this morning she scored an important story. A top N. Korean general flatly told her that his country has the means to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Sawyer: "We asked him what the words of North Korea meant when they said there would be a 'merciless blow' in response to any sanctions? He said he couldn't say specifically but pointed out they have short- and long-range missiles. He said 'President Bush wants us to kneel down. We cannot agree on that. If it continues, I think it will be natural to have war.'"
As I mentioned last week, CBS was pushing the notion that the Bush administration ought to kowtow to North Korean demands and agree to bilateral talks. This theme was again highlighted on Wednesday’s "Early Show" by co-host Harry Smith. Smith had the opportunity to speak with Wendy Sherman, President Clinton’s former North Korea adviser, and while he noted that people like former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, whom Smith describes as "a very wise guy about this stuff," think we should talk directly with the North Korean regime, he omitted any questions about Ms. Sherman’s role in the Clinton administration and its failed polices regarding North Korea. At the end of the 7:00 half hour, Smith inquired:
Monday's morning shows displayed the Democratic diplomacy that may take over the House and Senate next year. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter was openly dismayed that President Bush refers to North Korea's murderous communist tyrant, Kim Jong Il, as "'The Pygmy'...Not every helpful, actually." On NBC's Today, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman lamented that it's too late for Bush to salvage peace: "North Korea has concluded that this administration wants their, their head on a wall, basically, and therefore there's probably nothing the United States can do now, to really reassure the North to give up their nukes, which is really their life insurance policy." This came just a minute or so after Friedman described Kim as the "Tony Soprano of Pyongyang."
At the end of Sunday's 60 Minutes, Andy Rooney expressed bafflement over why anyone would worry about a nuclear weapon in the hands of a communist tyrant: “I don't understand why we think it's okay for us to have a nuclear weapon, but it isn't okay for some other countries to have any.” And he went on to assert a very naive and dangerous view: “I don't think any country should have nuclear weapons. And that includes ours.” Noting how many “are in a tizzy” over North Korea's nuclear weapon test, Rooney rued that “we're a little late getting exercised about this. North Korea has always been more of a threat to world peace than Iraq ever was and if we were going to attack someone three years ago to make the world safer, we should have attacked North Korea, not Iraq.”
He then rationalized how “it's not hard to understand why North Korea wants the bomb. If we Americans lived in North Korea instead of here, do you think we'd be in favor of our little country having it? You're darn right we would.” Rooney acknowledged that the UN has “been an ineffectual organization,” but contended that's why “we've got to give it more power and the way to give it more power is to give it more responsibility,” so though a minute earlier he suggested the U.S. should have attacked North Korea instead of Iraq, he argued “the UN should take the bomb away from North Korea; we should not.”
On this weekend's Fox News Watch on FNC, liberal panelist Neal Gabler, rejecting the Media Research Center's contention of liberal bias in coverage of North Korea's nuclear test, damned the MRC with faint praise in ridiculing the MRC's mission: "MRC can find a needle in a hay stack. We ought to sic them to find Osama bin Laden because they always find what they're looking for, and liberal bias is what they're looking for." Host Eric Burns had set up the lead segment: “The Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group, charges that some American news organizations are, to an extent, defending the action [atomic test] because North Korea is worried about an attack from the United States and hopes the bomb tests will be a deterrent.” Conservative panelist Cal Thomas pointed out how “ABC's Mark Litke made this point on World News Tonight.” Indeed, an October 10 MRC CyberAlert article, posted the night before as a NewsBusters item, “ABC: North Korea Has Rational 'Historic Fear' of U.S. Worsened by Bush's 'Axis of Evil,'” detailed Litke's October 9 story.
On Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer today, Howard Dean said that he had been watching UN ambassador "Josh Bolton" on all the morning shows talking tough about the UN resolution on North Korea that the Chinese have already said they're not going to fully enforce and he said it shows that the Bush administration is "toothless" when it comes to national security. When it came time for Blitzer to follow-up, he corrected Dean on what Bolton's first name really is but Blitzer failed to ask Dean the obvious question: how would he or other Democrats have gotten anything better out of the UN?
It is quite doubtful that HBO’s Bill Maher knew what he was in for when he scheduled Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute to be on his "Real Time" panel Friday night. After all, with CNN’s Lou Dobbs and liberal actor Ben Affleck surrounding her, it seemed highly unlikely the lone conservative in the discussion would survive the scrum, let alone win the debate. However, not only did Pletka hold her own, but she also ended up schooling Maher and Affleck on a virtual plethora of geopolitical issues making this one of the more enjoyable Friday Night Fights in recent memory (video link to follow).
The first lesson came when Affleck had the gall to suggest that Iran and North Korea “became more evil after” President Bush made his Axis of Evil speech during the 2002 State of the Union address (emphasis mine):
As previously reported by NewsBusters editor Matt Sheffield and others, FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume on Thursday evening noted how YouTube users had ganged up to flag as “inappropriate” a humorous 90-second video by director David Zucker that mocks the Democrats for their approach to international bad guys like Osama bin Laden and Kim Jong-Il.
Zucker’s video begins with a shot of an actress playing Secretary of State Madeleine Albright meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. The announcer gravely intoned: “In the year 2000, in an effort to stop the North Koreans from building nuclear weapons, President Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il a basketball signed by Michael Jordan.” After “Albright” hands “Kim” a basketball, the two share a champagne toast. An on-screen graphic informs: "We're Not Making This Up."
Many pundits suspect that any event that makes the world look like a dangerous place might help the hawkish Bush team at election time. NBC was not going to allow that impression to sink in, if you were watching Thursday morning's edition of Today.
David Gregory insisted that despite "partisan finger-pointing," it would be a Republican liability, another growing question mark:
Gregory: "North Korea's apparent test of a nuclear weapon has led to partisan finger-pointing. Did the President, distracted by Iraq and bent on regime change in North Korea, fail to prevent its nuclear rise?"
Sen. Jack Reed: "I think they've been tied up in intramural debate between the regime change advocates and those who want to engage."
Friday's broadcast network evening newscasts (6:30pm EDT feeds for ABC and CBS, 7pm for NBC) delivered contradictory reports on whether U.S. officials believe North Korea conducted a nuclear test last weekend. On the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod reported from the White House lawn: “The first tests on air samples from near North Korea have been completed and U.S. intelligence agencies now appear ready to confirm this was indeed a nuclear test.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams similarly relayed: “American officials say the very first tests of air samples from the skies above do show some indication of increased radiation, but they say it will be more days now before all the tests are completed.”
On ABC's World News, however, anchor Charles Gibson asserted: “There is still a question tonight as to whether North Korea did or did not conduct a nuclear test. Monitoring of the air over North Korea by the U.S., by the Chinese and by the Japanese has come up negative.” Over a matching graphic, Gibson reported: “No radioactive particles have been found.” Jonathan Karl suggested “that it may have been a failure and they have not ruled out the possibility that it could be a fake. There will be more tests coming, Charlie, it may be several days before we have anything definitive.” (Reid v Foley below)
With North Korea testing nuclear weapons and Democrats demanding that the Bush administration engage in bilateral talks with them, it should come as no surprise that the "Early Show" once again turned to Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution for analysis. O’Hanlon, made his 17th appearance of the year on Thursday’s "Early Show" where he was sure to plug his book. "Early Show" co-host Hannah Storm conducted the interview and pondered why, if the Democrats and Kofi Annan and the North Koreans want the Bush administration to engage the North Koreans directly, why wouldn’t President Bush simply acquiesce:
"But first President Bush said Wednesday that negotiating directly with North Korea would not have stopped that country's nuclear tests, and he added there would be no one-on-one talks now, that's something that Democrats are calling for...Also, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for direct talks. The North Koreans has asked for it. Why does the president say no?"
Thirteen months before North Korea exploded a nuclear bomb, CNN founder Ted Turner predicted that such an event would never happen. “I think we can put the North Korea and East Asia problems behind us,” Turner confidently proclaimed in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back on September 19, 2005.
Referring to the North Korean regime’s claim they were “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs,” Turner, having just returned from a trip to North Korea, found those promises to be 100% credible.
“I am absolutely convinced that the North Koreans are absolutely sincere,” he told an incredulous Blitzer.
Tuesday's Washington Post carries one of those editorials disguised as a "news analysis" headlined "Bush's 'Axis of Evil' Comes Back to Haunt United States." The writers displayed their liberal stripes by quoting only Democrats and Clinton staffers. Reporters Glenn Kessler and Peter Baker began:
Nearly five years after President Bush introduced the concept of an "axis of evil" comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the administration has reached a crisis point with each nation: North Korea has claimed it conducted its first nuclear test, Iran refuses to halt its uranium-enrichment program, and Iraq appears to be tipping into a civil war 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.
ABC's Mark Litke, checking in from Seoul on Monday's World News, seemed to rationalize North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's pursuit of a nuclear weapon as he treated as credible the contention the regime has had, for decades, a reasonable fear of U.S. invasion, a fear exacerbated by President George W. Bush. Litke proposed: “It's difficult to imagine Kim Jong Il as a clever and calculating leader who knows exactly what he wants, but, in fact, he may be much smarter than most people realize." Litke soon outlined, leading into a soundbite from Clinton administration UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, how “Kim has justified his missile tests and nuclear program as a deterrent to what he sees as an eventual U.S. invasion. It's a longstanding fear dating back to the Korean War when Kim's father, Kim Il Sung, feared the U.S. would use nuclear weapons against his country. That historic fear was reinforced 50 years later when the U.S. labeled North Korea part of an 'Axis of Evil' with Iran and Iraq. Kim Jong Il feared he would always be next after Iraq." (Transcript follows)
As they padded for time waiting for a live statement on the North Korean nuclear test from President Bush in the 9 am hour of Today on Monday, NBC's Andrea Mitchell scolded that Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were building reconciliation between North and South Korea, but Bush came in and ruined it, overruling his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, "cutting him off at the knees." Typically, Today co-host Matt Lauer insisted the North Korean nuclear test was just the latest in a string of bad news for Bush, from Iraq and Iran to the Mark Foley page scandal.
Matt Lauer led into the Clinton-praising section: "Andrea, I have to say as David [Gregory] mentioned a second ago, when I was there a few years ago it was surprising to me that there is starting to be this communication and actual physical contact between South and North Korea. This, there's a super highway being built that really connects the two."
First, Katie Couric wondered who made America the "boss" of the world, now ABC’s Diane Sawyer wants to know if "the U.S. can tell other countries whether they can have nuclear weapons or not...." Sawyer asked the question on the October 9 edition of "Good Morning America." The GMA anchor talked with Donald Gregg, former ambassador to South Korea under the first President Bush, about North Korea’s apparent test of a nuclear weapon. Ms. Sawyer composed the following query to Gregg about whether America has the right to criticize such testing:
At the conclusion of CNN’s "Your World Today," which features an international take on the news of the day, anchors Stephen Frazier and Rosemary Church read a variety of e-mails on North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons. Only in the morally relativistic world of CNN, where all opinions are equal, could a letter like this repeated aloud:
Church: "And a completely different view. Soh, from Singapore writes: ‘The North Koreans have done the right thing. Since the end of the Korean War, they have been subjected to hostilities from the United States. and other western powers. This bomb is a source of tremendous pride for the Korean people, north and south. The world should congratulate the North Korean people for this achievement."
One can imagine a 1930s CNN reading German e-mails congratulating Hitler on his triumphant liberation of Poland.
On Friday night’s edition of Inside Washington, a program which airs on the Washington DC area PBS station WETA, and re-airs on Sunday mornings on the DC ABC affiliate, WJLA, and consists of a round table of political pundits, one of the topics discussed was North Korea. As was widely discussed last week, North Korea test fired a long range missile that could potentially hit the United States called the Taepodong 2 missile. Panelist Mark Shields attempted to make a joke out of the name:
"Does anybody else think Taepodong sounds like a male enhancement device available on cable?"
However, the rest of his exchange with fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer was not so light hearted. Shields used the subject of North Korea to segue into an attack on the administration’s Iraq policy, suggesting that an attack on North Korea would have been a better strategic move than the war in Iraq. Charles Krauthammer disputed this, noting the differences between Iraq and North Korea.
Give the Ragin' Cajun credit: the man works fast. In a Today show appearance lasting only six minutes, and shared with former Bush administration official Dan Senor, Carville managed to work variations on the word 'failure' into his comments no fewer than six times.
At the same time, I defy anyone to read the transcript or watch a replay of Carville's comments on Pres. Bush''s foreign policy and find one solitary instance in which he proposes an alternative or even offers constructive criticism. His rap was utterly bereft of any notion of what the Democrats would do, and do better, if they regained power.