Imagine you're a news show host, and a former presidential adviser just claimed that the United States military is near to "a state of rebellion" against civilian authorities. Do you think you might have asked a follow-up question or two?
Apparently not, at least if you're Matt Lauer interviewing James Carville, who made just such an inflammatory allegation on this morning's Today show. The topic was the source of the leak of the alleged plans for an attack on Iran to destroy its nuclear capabilities, such plans said to extend to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy hardened, underground facilities.
Carville was adamant that the military were behind the leak. His theory was that the military "thought by leaking this, it would lessen the chances that they would do something foolish in Iran which is always a possibility with this administration."
Reminds me of the old joke: "The food at that restaurant is absolutely terrible."
"Yeah - and the portions are so small!"
This morning's 'Today' simultaneously offered criticism of a potential attack on Iran while complaining we don't have the means to carry out such a strike.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was shown stating that the idea of a [tactical] nuclear strike on Iran "is completely nuts." NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell reported the skepticism of military experts who say "air strikes could slow Iran's nuclear research but not end it. And Iran could retaliate militarily against Israel and launch terrorists against the US."
The quintessential item of conventional wisdom on immigration is the impracticality of deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal aliens already in our country. Yet there are dissenters. Conservative columnist and former Reagan aide Jim Pinkerton has said "I think actually you could if you wanted to."
I've suggested that deporting illegals seems at least as practicable as administering the amnesty program. In the same piece in which Pinkerton's quote appears, I put it this way:
"[D]eporting illegal immigrants is much more feasible than the elaborate process the amnesty crowd proposes. Under the amnesty plan, the same 11-12 million illegals would have to be identified and located. They would have to be tested to determine if they had attained English proficiency, monitored for over a decade to see that they sought and maintained jobs, paid their fines, etc. If we can do all that, why couldn't we put the same people on buses to the border or planes to overseas locations?"
When it comes to combining campy, staged video with liberalism nobody tops Geraldo Rivera. On last night's Geraldo At Large, in a story about proposed legislation to lower the hunting age in Wisconsin Rivera, seen holding a rifle outside the Fox studios in New York, crouched down to get a child's opinion on the law: "So get this, there’s a new bill pending in the state of Wisconsin that would lower that state’s legal hunting age, putting loaded guns into the hands of children between the ages of eight and eleven. Kids like William here, making them bonafide gun-toting hunters. So what do you think of that idea William?"
William: "I hate it."
Rivera: "You hate it? Ooh!"
And later in the show Rivera, supposedly on vacation, called for Puerto Rican statehood from the deck of his sailboat:
In a week in which immigration has unquestionably been the big story, how did Newsweek choose to frame the issue? The national security implications of a porous border, perhaps? The impact on our economy of millions of illegals, some of whom work, some of whom are a drain on social services? Come on. We're talking the magazine whose most visible reporter is Eleanor Clift. Newsweek chose to focus on . . . the plight of illegal immigrants, with its cover blaring "Illegals Under Fire".
Consider that editors scrutinize every word on the cover of a national newsweekly for its implications and impact. They didn't choose "Under Fire" randomly. With its allusions to lethal force, and printed in red, Newsweek was sending a not-so-subliminal message.
Rich Noyes suggested the other day that one reason Likud and the Israeli right wing was crushed at the polls was some old-fashioned liberal media bias. Perhaps. But my old friend Joel Rosenberg (best-selling fiction writer) blogs about his dinner table at the Radio and TV News Correspondents dinner, and how he explained the Israeli election returns. I thought: hmm, no wonder we haven't had a lot of reporting from Israel on American TV. Things are pretty good:
Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party did not win as big as they expected (29 seats when they were riding high in the mid-40s just two months ago). But they still won. Olmert will likely put together a left-wing coalition of somewhere around 65-70 seats. Every member will support his game-changing plan to give away the vast majority of the Biblical lands of Judea and Samaria to the terrorist government of Hamas. He has said he won't let them join if they don't.
The Israeli right got crushed. Likud dropped from 38 seats to just 12. Already efforts are underway to drive Bibi Netanyahu out of politics forever. Other nationalist and religious parties did better than expected. But together, the right has lost the initiative. Why?
Think two words: secure and exhausted.
Israelis feel more secure today than at any other time in their modern history. A former top official in Israeli military intelligence put it to me this way over breakfast at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem last June: Saddam is gone. Arafat is dead. They have peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The Syrian military has been driven out of Syria. The security fence and dramatically improved Israeli intelligence and police work have stopped 99% of the suicide bombings. The economy is surging. Tourism is surging. Life isn't perfect. But when has it ever been for the Jewish people. Right now, Israelis feel it's about as good as it gets.
Regular readers of this column know the delight that has been taken in skewering Ellen Ratner for her loopy liberalism, as here, here and here.
You can thus imagine my surprise when, on this morning's 'Long & the Short of It' segment on Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner offered up some tough talk on immigration. Ratner's remarks were simpatico with the take of Jim Pinkerton, the Newsday and Tech Central columnist who represents the conservative side of the equation.
An aside: Pinkerton is one of the rare conservative commentators willing to roll up his sleeves on government reform. Have a look at his recent TCS column regarding a radical cabinet re-organization proposal by former GOP congressman Bob Walker that would shrink the number of cabinet departments from fifteen down to five.
Some might say it wasn't necessarily my finest moment at NewsBusters when, back in December, I speculated that, reporting from a chilly Rockefeller Plaza, Today's Matt Lauer might have been wearing a Palestinian 'solidarity scarf.' See Keffiyeh-Gate?
At the time, I noted that:
So-called "Palestinian support scarves" have become items of radical fashion chic. Check out this web-site, which advertises "Palestinian support scarves," explaining:
"The traditional Palestinian headdress has become a symbol of support for the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation. From political rallies to talk shows, supporters of the Palestinian cause have begun donning this traditional scarf as a show of solidarity." [emphasis added]
Keith Olbermann might be on vacation, but that doesn't mean MSNBC's mean-spiritedness took a day off. If guest host Alison Stewart was auditioning for the Olbermann seat, she might well have ingratiated herself with her MSNBC bosses with the disdain she dispensed on the day of Caspar Weinberger's death.
Weinberger passed away today at age 88. He had served as President Reagan's Secretary of Defense. As Bloomberg News put it:
"Weinberger . . . oversaw the U.S. military buildup under President Ronald Reagan that helped hasten the Soviet Union's collapse."
In all its cacophony and moments of absurdity, this morning's Today show segment on immigration was a supremely edifying example of the confusion, high emotion and complexity of the immigration debate. Matters reached their Alice-in-Wonderland apotheosis when Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was shown arguing that illegal immigrants are good . . . 'citizens.' Said Feinstein:
"They pay taxes, their children are Americans, they go to schools, they're good citizens and they're needed."
This was in line with the fait accompli argument advanced by La Raza representative Janet Murguia. She referred to what she estimated as the 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country as "people are working in backbreaking work that nobody else wants to do in this country. We need to . . . understand that they are already part of this country."
Sean Hannity has made border security and illegal immigration a major cause, spending time at and broadcasting shows from our border with Mexico. Give GMA credit for having Sean on this morning's show to discuss the issue. That said, Charlie Gibson put on a display of bleeding-heart liberalism at its most predictable, confusing compassion with tolerance of criminality.
Gibson wasted no time: "Let's start with the House bill. It would build a wall along our southern border, turn 12 million people into felons and make it criminal to give an illegal immigrant help. Is that what this country is about?"
Countered Hannity: "I think this country is about laws and the rule of lawand I think you've got to come into this country and do it the way my grandparents did it, which is legal."
In October 2002, North Korea publicly admitted to having a nuclear weapons program (see here and here). This was a clear violation of the 1994 agreement it made under the Clinton administration not to seek to build nuclear weapons. (By the way, there may be evidence that President Clinton knew as President that North Korea was breaking its promise [see this]).
You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying. Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them.
Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president." Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.
I thought the MSM is ardently opposed to the death penalty. Aren't these the same folks who wrung their collective hands at the prospect of poor Tookie Williams getting the needle? Sure, he murdered four people in cold blood and joked about it, but hey! - he wrote a children's book.
But, no! The Today show was distraught at the prospect that "the 20th hijacker" might have slipped the noose [or the needle]. They went so far as to play a clip from a family member of one of the 9/11 victims saying that "I felt like my husband had been killed again." Shades of that NAACP anti-Bush ad from 2000. See item #2 here of this MRC report.
It's not exactly news to the GOP base that John McCain is not one of them. But it was perhaps noteworthy to hear Chris Matthews, ostensibly a McCain man [at least when it comes to his preference among Republican presidential hopefuls], acknowledge that fact on this evening's Hardball. He might also have raised eyebrows on the other side of the aisle by ripping Democrats for their weakness on illegal immigration.
Speaking of the issues that were stressed at this past weekend's Republican coffee klatsch in Memphis, Matthews stated "all I heard was . . . no gay marriage, immigration - lock it up, stop illegals - keep cutting taxes and keep appointing conservative justices."
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"
For some time now, Chris Matthews has played the leitmotif of a "second-rate second term" at the White House. When on this evening's Hardball he invited Margaret Carlson to whack the Bush pinata, there were embarrassing consequences for the toothy ex-Time editor, now languishing at Bloomberg News.
Matthews tried his best to tee it up for Carlson:
"Margaret, I look at a pattern of events and they come out of people's mouths, conservatives, liberals, whatever: Katrina - competence question. That nomination for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers, and now the ports issue. Is there a pattern of not being on base as we say in baseball, being caught off base by the President?"
Who is Michael O’Hanlon? Viewers of "The Early Show" on CBS may think he is the preeminent expert on the Middle East and Islam. For everyone else, he is a senior fellow at the left leaning Brookings Institution who has praised President Clinton’s "strong defense record." This morning marked his fifth appearance on the program since January 26 of this year, that’s 5 appearance in 31 possible weekdays, and all times he was interviewed by Harry Smith. O’Hanlon has been Smith’s go to guy on matters such as the Palestinian elections which brought Hamas to power, the controversy over the Danish cartoons, the ports deal with the United Arab Emirates, and most recently on the Iranian nuclear situation.
Joe Scarborough had some tough stuff for both parties today. He revealed that Republicans believe they will lose the House of Representatives in 2006. But no thanks to the Dems, whose failure to exploit the political opportunity he ascribed to their being "stupid."
Scarborough's appearance with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show capped a long segment themed "Has Bush Lost His Clout?" The answer was a resounding 'yes' in NBC's mind.
Today outlined a litany of presidential woe:
Being forced to accept changes to the Patriot Act to win its approval.
Action by Republicans in Congress to block the UAE ports deal.
Erosion of the president's "once ardent base."
Possibly being "forced to bend" on NSA surveillance.
A gloomy forecast for Iraq.
Dismal poll ratings.
Speaking of polls, NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell only featured the results of polls showing Pres. Bush's approval ratings at or below 40%, ignoring major polls such as this one by the Washington Post/ABC that has the president above 40%.
I don't watch the network evening news shows. Really. But for whatever perverse reason, I decided to flip among ABC, NBC and CBS tonight, and hit some morally relativistic pay dirt. CBS Evening News equated attempted murder with the exercise of basic First Amendment freedoms.
Readers here are familiar with the incident in which the Iranian Mohammed Reza Taheri, with the reportedly admitted intent of avenging the mistreatment of Muslims, drove an SUV into a crowd on the campus of the University of North Carolina.
Introducing a segment on the incident, CBS stated: "It is the second skirmish over religion on campus in a few weeks."
As NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein pointed out this morning, Hollywood’s liberal streak is now so obvious even the news media are taking notice. But it isn’t just that celebrities are liberal activists in their spare time — liberal talking points are also finding their way onto TV and movie screens.
Case in point: Last night’s ER, NBC’s long-running medical drama. The March 2 episode saw the much-promoted return of “Dr. John Carter,” played by Noah Wyle, who left the show at the end of last season. Last night’s episode had John volunteering at a refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, where hundreds of thousands have died in a real-life humanitarian catastrophe. Even as they portrayed the Janjaweed militia as the chief villains, the ER writers couldn’t resist taking a potshot at inaction by a supposedly racist U.S. Congress. Windows Media or Real Player
What issue will doom Congressional Republicans in 2006? In February, it was Abramoff, while the month of March is shaping up as the UAE ports controversy.
This morning, the Times once again insists that the Republicans will face trouble in the 2006 elections. Last month it was ethics scandals and Jack Abramoff. This month’s Times-selected Republican killer is shaping up to be the ports deal with United Arab Emirates.
A story by Carl Hulse and Scott Shane, “Doubts Back Home Fuel G.O.P. Worries About Ports Deal,” drives that idea hard.
“Senator Jon Kyl, a staunch supporter of President Bush who faces a potentially difficult re-election fight this year, is hearing a lot from constituents in Arizona about the plan to allow a Dubai company to operate shipping terminals at Eastern ports. Most think the deal should be stopped.”
Is it just coincidence? Barely a week after new media from Rush Limbaugh [subscripton required] to this column found the Today show appearance of NY Times foreign-affairs maven Thomas Friedman noteworthy, Today had him back again this morning. Could the new media be driving news choices at the antique?
In any case, while the ostensible purpose of Friedman's appearance was to discuss President Bush's current trip to India, his most interesting comments came in relation to Iraq and by extension to the entire Middle East. His notion: the path from dictatorship to democracy in the region necessarily passes through a period of fundamentalist religious rule.
Is Chris Matthews rooting for civil war in Iraq? It's hard to interpret his words otherwise when, after asserting that officials in previous administrations and former President Bush had warned that going into Iraq would lead to civil war, Matthews observed:
"The problem is it took a little time for this to take shape."
"The problem," Chris?
Matthews' hoping for the worst was just the capper on the Bush-bashing fest he conducted with Matt Lauer on this morning's Today show. Those nature documentaries of vultures on the Serengeti plain have little on the way Matthews and Lauer went after President Bush's political bones.
NewsBuster Tom Johnson has condensed his time reviewing NPR broadcasts for MRC (poor man) into an article for The American Enterprise magazine. His general theory is that NPR has traveled from a fairly radical past to a present in which it's fairly indistinguishable in its biases from the rest of the "mainstream" media establishment. Here's an excerpt:
Most old-school or throwback leftist bias on NPR falls into one of three categories, listed below in ascending order of importance.
The first contains examples of a frequently amusing sociopolitical exoticism. In October 2004, for example, All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block referred to Ralph Nader as a "major" Presidential candidate. A few days after the election, reporter Pam Fessler gave "international monitors" plenty of time to gripe about how voting rules in the U.S. vary from state to state.
The Washington Post reports that the US is opposing the UN's feeble trotting-out of a new Human Rights Council, but doesn't bother to explain criticisms of the proposal. Almost 2/3 of the article is devoted to quoting the Council's supporters and describing the supposed "improvements," without any discussion of why these changes make things worse.
[Annan and other supporters] noted that provisions to subject all council members to scrutiny of their human rights record would discourage countries with poor records from joining. They also said that council members suspected of abusive behavior can be suspended by a vote of two-thirds of the U.N. membership present.
Ellen Ratner has nailed a 'No Foreigners Need Apply' sign to the Statue of Liberty. On this morning's Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner opined that no foreign company, regardless of nationality, should operate our ports, or for that matter other significant chunks of our economy.
Claimed Ratner, the real issue is "what kind of jobs, what kind of outsourcing are we going to do in this country?"
When fellow "Long & the Short of It" guest Jim Pinkerton said that foreign policy considerations [such as the potential relevance of the port deal to our ability to get intelligence and site bases in the Middle East] are more important than who gets port jobs, Ratner replied skeptically "is it?" Apparently for Ratner, the ability of the longshoremen's union to place a favored few of its own is more important than our country's national security objectives.
You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
When it comes to the controversy surrounding the UAE port operations deal, left is right, right is left and the MSM seems caught somewhere in the middle, trying to balance its cultural versus its political instincts.
Then, on this morning's Early Show, Dan Bartlett sounded more like a multi-cultural sensitivity trainer than the presidential counselor he is when he declared:
"We shouldn't be setting different types of rules for different types of companies just because they may come from the Middle East . . . What kind of mixed signals are we sending to the world when we say that some companies that play by the rules can have business with America but other companies who play by the rules can't? That's not the way America does business."