For NewsBusters types, the question has always been whether Meredith Vieira would be as liberal as her Today show predecessor, Katie Couric. As of this morning, we have our answer. Yesterday, Hugo Chavez stood on the world stage and called the President of the United States a "devil" and claimed the speakers platform still stunk from his presence. Today, Meredith Vieira went on national TV and warned us not to be too quick to dismiss his message.
Interviewing Bill Clinton, she said:
"Now, it's easy to dismiss somebody like Chavez -- and some have -- as a nut. But do you think he is giving voice to to wider frustration in the developing world about this country and this country's policies? Do we need to change the way we act?"
Chris Matthews sees W's favorables going up and the Dem generic congressional edge going down. He's ticked, and on tonight's Hardball he made clear his explanation for this revoltin' development: the MSM isn't churning out enough bad news from Iraq.
Matthews first floated the idea during a segment with GOP strategist Ben Ginsburg and Dem counterpart Steve McMahon. I'll mention as an aside that McMahon strikes me as one of the more reasonable, straightforward Dem partisans.
Quoth Chris: "Does it bother you gentlemen both that when you watch television now that the war seems to have left the TV screen to a large extent and that's helping your [GOP] party? Does that bother you that this war is largely off television now? We're not being shown it that much."
Far be it from ABC to take sides in the fight against nuclear terrorism. As depicted by Good Morning America today, yesterday's UN speeches by Pres. Bush and Iran's Ahmadinejad were simply a battle of equals. And if anything, the guy who wants to wipe Israel off the map came off looking better in ABC's portrayal.
Host Chris Cuomo [son of Mario, brother of current New York AG candidate Andrew] set the tone: "We begin with the showdown at the United Nations, pitting President Bush against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The philosophical battlefield: Iran's nuclear program. Senior national correspondent Claire Shipman is in Washington with more on two leaders, sharply divided."
President Bush might have successfully avoided Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN yesterday, but he couldn't escape Meredith Viera's backseat driving on Iran policy on this morning's 'Today.' Perhaps convinced of the value of a good gabfest by her years on "The View," Vieira left little doubt she thinks that George and Mahmoud should soon sit down for nice coffee klatsch.
Vieira's guest was Tim Russert. Alluding to the way that Pres. Bush and Ahmadinejad avoided each other yesterday, Vieira asked him:
"Eventually will [Pres. Bush] have to sit down with this man? How much saber-rattling can you do if you're talking about the potential of going to war?"
If there's one thing you might have thought Meredith would have learned over the last 51/2 years, it's that when George Bush raises the sword, he ain't necessarily planning just to rattle it.
Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, well known for slamming conservatives, talked last night with former President Clinton and proceeded to offer him non-stop softball questions. The ex-President plugged his new Clinton Global Initiative program to fight poverty, global warming and support racial reconciliation. (Stewart did not press as to what specifically the project will do.) The tenor of the comedian’s questions can be summed up in this query on what makes Clinton happy:
Stewart: "All right, so what, in your mind, you’ve worked, you’ve worked in government for most of your career. Now you are out and doing private initiatives, these types of things. What’s more effective? What are you having more fun doing and what do you think is more effective?"
Yes, that’s right. Jon Stewart asked the former President what he found "fun," political or private life? It became clear, very early in the program, just how the talk show host differentiated between George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Stewart: "We got a fine program for you tonight Former president Bill Clinton will be sitting down with us today. And uh, I'll ask him probably questions about the political climate and the complex issues, and he will be like [high pitched, hysterical voice], duh, I don't know. Oh, no, wait. That's, uh, oh, right, no, this is President Clinton."
On Monday’s “Early Show,” co-host Hannah Storm interviewed First Lady Laura Bush. Unlike Mrs. Bush’s interview on “Today,” Storm’s questions were much more supportive of the first lady, yet she still managed to sneak in a few questions regarding America’s image abroad and the first lady’s role in approving President Bush’s speeches.
Storm held off until her fourth question before delving into the issue of America’s reputation abroad:
You wouldn't think that someone who wrote a book condemning all religions as dangerous hokum and who favors higher taxes, drug decriminalization and gay marriage would be in danger of becoming the right's favorite liberal. But in the wake of his LA Times column of today, Head-in-the-Sand Liberals, Sam Harris might be on the way to being celebrated by conservatives and castigated on the left.
The column's subtitle really tells the story: "Western civilization really is at risk from Muslim extremists," and Harris' essential point in that liberals refuse to recognize that fact.
In a surreal clash of the sacred and the profane, the New York Times - that citadel of secularism - has declared in its editorial of this morning that Pope Benedict "needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology," for having quoted a 14th century Christian emperor who said:
“Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
The Times is only being fair and balanced, I suppose. After all, hardly a week goes by that you can't pick up the paper and read an editorial condemning this or that mullah, imam or ayatollah for the latest fatwa ordering the death of such-and-such infidel or the destruction of entire countries found to be an annoyance. Or not.
In a brief item on the Friday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asserted: “At the top of tonight's news briefing, a who's who of President Bush's adversaries on the world stage all together in one place. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among the leaders in Havana for the meeting of the non-aligned nations. Raul Castro is playing host. His older brother, Fidel, is still recovering from intestinal surgery.”
ABC and NBC, however, realized those leaders and others gathered, for the summit in Havana of the “Non-Aligned Movement,” are enemies of the United States, not just the current occupant of the Oval Office. Fill-in ABC anchor Kate Snow referred to how the organization “regularly takes anti-American stances and today was no exception” and reporter Jim Avila, in Cuba, relayed how “America's short list of antagonists” were “all bashing the United States for opposing Iran's nuclear program, all of them together in Cuba, capital of anti-Americanism.” NBC's Brian Williams, anchoring from Havana, described the summit of non-aligned nations as “all of the enemies of the United States, really, gathered in one room.”
The Boston Globe refers to Charlie Savage as a "staff writer." But judging by the hyper-partisan comments he made on Fox News Channel this afternoon, Savage belongs over on the opinion page.
Interviewed with two other legal reporters by FNC's Martha MacCallum, Savage took these shots at President Bush and his fellow Republicans:
President Bush is "terrorizing" Americans with the terrorism issue for political gain.
Speaking of the current rift between the president and Sen. McCain over interrogation rules for suspected terrorists, Savage snidely observed that McCain had been a POW in Vietnam while Bush spent the war "back in Texas."
Via LGF comes this report from the paragons of neutrality at Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime
Minister Tony Blair launched a withering attack on Thursday on what he
called “mad anti-Americanism” among European politicians.
Blair, U.S. President George W. Bush’s closest ally in the so-called war on terror, said the world urgently needs the United States to help tackle the globe’s most pressing problems. [...]
Blair, accused by critics of being Bush’s poodle who slavishly follows Washington’s line,
sought to stifle a revolt in his ruling Labour Party last week by
promising to quit within a year after almost 10 years in office.
Matt Lauer had a chuckle at the expense of his guests - then took Dems to task. Michael Smerconish scolded a Republican. And Meredith Vieira gave further evidence of a style looser than that of her perky predecessor.
That's the nutshell wrap on the first half-hour of this morning's Today.
Politics first. Lauer opened his interview with the chrome-domed duo of James Carville and Philly radio host Michael Smerconish by rubbing his own less-than-hirsute pate and observing with a laugh in the shot captured here: "First time in a long time I feel like I have a luxuriant head of hair."
But things quickly turned serious. Echoing a sentiment expressed by his rookie sidekick yesterday, Lauer left little doubt he feels the Democrats are squandering an electoral opening by failing to propose sufficient specifics on national security. Lauer to Carville: "if you [Dems] ever had an opportunity to take advantage of it, it's now, and the Democrats can't get their act together."
The L.A.Times published a story on the 13th that treated Chinese dictator, "Chairman" Mao, as a beloved and "iconic" figure but found no room in their story for any mention of the "great leader's" human rights abuses, tortures or the many murderous pogroms which took the lives of millions of his fellow citizens decade after decade as he ruled with an iron fist.
The story, sporting the title "Mao Is Their Canvas," was a puff piece investigating the secretive artists who painted the massive Mao portrait that hung at Tiananmen Square during and after the dictator's lifetime. Certainly the lives of these "people's artists" was somewhat interesting, but the disturbing thing was how gently the tyrant was treated in the story itself.
Chris Matthews is as frustrated as an able-bodied seaman after six months without shore leave. While Matthews clearly senses this is the year for the Dems to snatch back the Speaker's gavel, hisfrustration is born of the fear that the Dems will squander the opportunity out of timidity - an unwillingness to attack President Bush on the war in Iraq.
Things boiled over during the 5 PM EDT edition of this evening's Hardball. With guests Howard Fineman of Newsweek and Chuck Todd of the Hotline as witnesses to the meltdown, Matthews first played a hard-hitting Moveon.org ad accusing Republicans of misleading the nation into Iraq and trying to "exploit 9/11" to win elections. Matthews complained that while the Republicans are willing to use the same kind of tactics against the Democrats, Dems "are afraid to run an ad like that."
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creation Borat Sagdiyev has caused so much outrage in Kazakhstan with his new movie, President George W. Bush will address the issue when he meets the Kazakh leader.
Bush is set to hold talks with Nursultan Nazarbayev over oil supply--and disgusted Kazakhs have demanded action over Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Roman Vassilenko says, "We have made it clear that we are unhappy with the character's representation. He does not represent the true people of Kazakhstan."
Was Maureen Dowd kidding about having called Tim Russert to ask if VP Cheney washed his hands after his Meet the Press appearance this Sunday? By all indications she was not, making one fear the Times columnist is slipping ever deeper into Bush Derangement Syndrome.
Dowd writes in her pay-to-read column of today, Vice Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work, "I called Tim Russert to ask if Dick Cheney had washed his hands after their interview on Sunday. Any sort of scrubbing, I wondered? Antiseptic wipe, Purell, quick shower on the way out?"
Russert reportedly replied in the negative.
Dowd was prompted to ask after reading a recent Times' health section article about a new study on the “Macbeth effect," which concluded that people who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn’t.
In her Today show debut this morning, Meredith Vieira gave a flash of her ego - but not of her liberal politics. There was the obligatory opening love-in with co-host Matt Lauer in which Vieira claimed "I feel like it's the first day of school and I'm sitting next to the cutest guy." But then there was an interesting exchange that might presage conflicts to come. In what is apparently a Today show tradition, Matt had the crew replay the opening voice-over announcing "Meredith Vieira, live from Studio 1-A in Rockefeller Plaza."
Asked Matt: "Like the way it sounds?"
Vieira: "I do, but it's still 'Matt Lauer' and 'Meredith Vieira.'"
Lauer: "I don't think that's going to change - unless you bump me off."
What would you call someone who, as per Project Vote Smart, within the last six years has received a 100% rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood and a 0% from the National Right-to-Life Committee? A 100% rating from the ACLU. A 0% rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. A 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters and a 0% rating from the conservative Family Research Council?
Oh, and someone who voted against George W. Bush for president in 2004, against the confirmation of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, and who demands the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq?
I'd call that person a liberal. Not MSNBC. Not Hardball. Not Chris Matthews's field correspondent David Shuster. The person in question is Republican-barely-in-name-only Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. How did Shuster describe him in a set-up piece for Hardball's discussion of the Rhode Island GOP senatorial primary this evening? A "moderate Republican."
Rosie O’Donnell, the new host of "The View," restrained herself for exactly one week before letting fly with her extreme liberalism. On the September 12 edition, in response to fellow co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s comment that militant Islam is a grave threat, O’Donnell stated that "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America." The comedienne also attacked America’s response to 9/11:
O’Donnell: "We were attacked not by a nation. And as a result of the attack and the killing of nearly 3,000 innocent people we invaded two countries and killed innocent people in their countries."
Have a look at the poll that Keith Olbermann flashed during this evening's Countdown.
Try to put aside your politics for a moment to describe - in all objectivity - the most striking aspect of the poll results. I'd say it's the fact that by a margin of almost 2:1, Americans feel more safe rather than less safe since 9/11. Pretty good accomplishment by the Bush administration, you might say.
So how did Keith Olbermann characterize the results? "55% combined think we are either as safe or less safe" since 9/11.
Matt Lauer gave it the old college try, doing his best to lure Hillary Clinton into some Bush-bashing on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. But demonstrating savvy political instincts, or at least those of her advisers, Clinton held fire, not deigning to swing at the anti-Bush softballs Lauer served up on this morning's 'Today.'
Lauer: "Are we safer today five years after the attacks of 9-11?"
Hillary: "I think it is fair to say we are safer but not safe enough. We have a lot of work to do."
Lauer lobbed a couple questions inviting Hillary to suggest that our war on terrorism has made things worse:
"I am curious how you feel about this. Do you think there are more or less people today, more or fewer people today who want to bring harm to the United States than there were in the days prior to 9-11 and the actions we have taken post 9-11?"
Did the editorialists of the New York Times and its Beantown subsidiary the Boston Globe have a little side bet as to who could fashion the viler 9/11 editorial? If so, for all the Times's earnest editorial effort to heap bile on Pres. Bush, I'm going to give the nod to the Globe. For in its editorial of this morning, the Globe made explicit what the Times only suggested: George Bush is a bigger threat to America than radical Islamic murderers.
Said the Globe of 9/11:
"In the long run, the reaction of the Bush administration may prove more harmful to the national interest than even these horrific attacks."
The New York Times's 9/11 editorial is no less despicable for being thoroughly predictable.
On a day when we should be coming together, the Times does its best to tear us apart. On a day when the focus should be on the terrorists who threaten us and the brave people who have defended us against them, the Times trains all its bile on the Bush administration.
"Without ever having asked to be exempt from the demands of this new post-9/11 war, we were cut out. Everything would be paid for with the blood of other people’s children."
Other people's children? Perhaps the children of the people who run and largely read the New York Times don't tend to enter the military and fight and die for their country. But why would that be the fault of George Bush?
We're all familiar with this definition of a conservative: "a liberal who's just been mugged." This morning, Ted Koppel devised a variation on the theme that could be taken as an insult to his fellow lefties: "a liberal is a conservative who just got arrested."
Koppel's line came in the course of a Today show interview with Matt Lauer to discuss a special that Koppel is about to air in his role as Managing Editor of the Discovery Channel [so that's where he went after leaving ABC!]. As Lauer described it, the documentary, entitled 'The Price of Security,' addresses "the balance between securing the nation and protecting our individual liberties."
Winter, spring, summer or fall, All you've got to do is call. Lord, I'll be there, yes I will. You've got a friend. - James Taylor, 'You've Got a Friend'
Was it an interview, or a benefit concert - 'Dem-Aid'? Matt Lauer and Tim Russert got a one-day headstart this morning on the Today show's traditional Friday music-on-the-mall. In the course of their conversation, Matt and Tim went karaoke on us, the duo belting out a heartfelt rendition of 'You've Got a Friend' to their buddies in the Democratic party.
Yesterday, President Bush announced that 14 heavyweight terrorists, including presumed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been transfered to Guantanamo. President Bush is now calling on Congress to promptly pass legislation establishing war tribunals for the trial of the accused terrorists. The news creates a terrible bind for Democrats, forced to agree with the president on an element of the war on terror. The depth of the Dems' dilemma was evidenced by a clip Today played of Nancy Pelosi having to admit, if grudgingly, that she was "very pleased" by the news of the transfer and impending trials.
Before even a note was sounded, Today had set the stage with the graphic on display here, writing off the president's move as "the politics of terror." And once he chimed in, Lauer lost no time in playing the president's move as sheer political calculation.
Lauer: "Let's talk about the timing of this. The Supreme Court handed the administration a defeat on this subject back in June, so several months ago. The president any time in the last couple of months could have made this announcement. Why did he wait until now?"
The President of the United States addressed the nation, the media and the world today (well, most of the world - the mainstream networks felt it unnecessary to break from their soaps to carry the speech) from the White House. He spoke for 37 minutes, and addressed the current state of the War On Terror. He talked about the attacks on September 11th. He talked about the terrorists who have been caught, and how the information from them led to the capture of other terrorists. He talked about multiple attacks on the United States that had been thwarted by the capture and interrogation of these terrorists. He spoke about the need to continue to gather information. He spoke about the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, and the bill that he has sent to Congress to authorize military tribunals. He talked about the transfer to Guantanamo of certain high-profile terrorists, and the treatment that everyone at Guantanamo has received. He talked about trying the men responsible for 9/11, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from her column of this morning: Maureen Dowd does not take seriously the threat to our security and civilization that radical Islam poses.
The putative focus of New Themes for the Same Old Songs [subscription required] was a two-for-one snipe at W and Katie Couric. Straining to find some kind of parallel between the two on the occasion of Couric's CBS Evening News debut, Dowd managed: "W. and Katie were both on TV at 6:30 last night, trying to prove they were a man. Katie won, by a whisker."
Pretty catty stuff. But of more significance as a barometer of the contemporary liberal mindset were Dowd's remarks on the Islamist threat or - in her mind - the lack thereof.
Wrote Dowd: 'W., Dick Cheney and Rummy are on a campaign to scare Americans into believing that limp-wristed Democrats will curtsy to Islamic radicals and Iranian tyrants, just as Chamberlain bowed to Hitler, and that
only the über-manly Republicans can keep totalitarianism, fascism and the Al Qaeda 'threat to civilization' at bay."
In the coming hours and days, my colleagues at MRC and NewsBusters are sure to provide comprehensive, in-depth analysis of Katie Couric's debut this evening as the anchor of the CBS Evening News. From the opening segment, whose message was that things are worse in Afghanistan than you realize, to an interview with MSM foreign policy fave Thomas Friedman decrying tax cuts, to anti-McDonald's hypster Morgan Spurlock, ahem, spuriously trying to pass himself off as an opponent of hype, it was all pretty predictable liberal stuff.
But Katie did - unintentionally no doubt - permit a telling moment of candor to slip through the MSM filter. Introducing a segment on Pres. Bush' speech today on matters of national security, Couric said:
"The war on terror began of course with the September 11th attacks on the United States."
The very first line of Patrick Buchanan's official MSNBC bio describes him as a conservative. Fair enough. But is MSNBC as forthcoming about the political leanings of its liberal analysts? I was watching 'The Most' this afternoon when the hitherto unknown-to-me Juliette Kayyem appeared to give her assessment of a national security speech that Pres. Bush gave today before an association of military officers.
Host Alison Stewart introduced Kayyem simply as an "MSNBC terrorism analyst" who had "taken time out" from her Harvard Kennedy School teaching duties to appear.
I was struck by the relentlessly negative tone of Kayyem's comments. For example, Stewart's first question was: "The president continued to talk about us being a nation at war. Is war the right term, and who would the war be against?"