If you're looking for some fair-and-balanced commentary on the situation in Iraq, there's nothing like relying exclusively on a scholar with two degrees from Berkeley - particularly if that same person is a frequent NPR guest.
That was Good Morning America's approach this morning. The only expert invited to comment on the situation in Iraq was Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution. Predictably, he painted matters in the bleakest possible light:
"I believe that the United States has lost the ability to control events in Iraq. And it lost them long ago."
A quick Googling reveals that Telhami has both a doctorate and masters from Berkeley. He was an undergrad at Queens College in NYC, another liberal hotbed. According to his Wikipedia entry, Telhami was born into an Arab family in Israel and is a regular guest on NPR.
"General Pelosi, I'm Matt Lauer, and I'm reporting for duty!"
OK, Matt didn't quite say that as 'Today' kicked off its 'The War at Home' three-part series this morning on the lives of American veterans once they return home from war. But judging from the opening episode and the tease for what's to come tomorrow, he might just as well. NBC is clearly doing its part to tend the Dems' Victory Garden.
Of all the reporters in the NBC News stable, 'Today' tapped for this segment Jonathan Alter, a regular guest on Al Franken's Air America show and a consistently liberal columnist at Newsweek. And of all the hundreds of thousands of veterans, Today just happened to choose Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs while co-piloting a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq, and who now just happens to be . . . running for Congress as a - give me a sec here, OK, got it - Democrat.
On the syndicated Chris Matthews Show NBC's Andrea Mitchell and CBS's Gloria Borger sounded like Blame America Firsters when explaining what the American public wants in a candidate for '08. Mitchell worried that world views the U.S. as "bullies" and "arrogant." Borger punctuated Mitchell's theory saying the American voter is "done with the arrogance of American foreign policy." The following exchange occurred on the October 15th edition of The Chris Matthews Show:
Andrea Mitchell: "That and I think what might most, could be the most profound problem beyond our men and women overseas in harm's way is how much hated the United States is for a variety of reasons. Fairly or not fairly. There is a perception abroad and it's in Europe and it's in the Islamic world and it's in Asia is that we are bullies, is that we're arrogant. It goes back to decisions that were made or perceptions of decisions, the wars. And whether it's fair or not somebody's gotta fix that and that cannot be fixed with Radio Free Europe or its descendants. It is a big, big problem."
I experienced an eerie sense of déjà vu this morning while reading an AP article entitled "Iran Blames U.S. for N. Korea Nuke Test." I could swear that I had already read this same blame-America analysis somewhere else. That sent me scrambling back to my report on the piece by LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks, "A Good Week for the Axis of Evil" contained in my NB item of yesterday [but please don't read just yet]. And sure enough, I found language there that closely tracked the statement from Tehran.
So, let's have a little fun. I'll set the two statements out below, and you try to guess. Which was issued by the Men of Mahmoud, and which by a homegrown member of the Blame America Brigades? Answer below.
Contrary to what these so-called news reporters lead their readers to believe, ex-Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbechev did NOT help us "end the cold war" in any other way but to LOSE it! He was not on the same level with Ronald Reagan who is really the one responsible for ending the Cold War.
I have seen this many, many times, but it is always a good idea to continue pointing out this bias to keep people aware of just what Gorbachev's role was in the Cold War. "News" services like Reuters continue to uplift Gorby to the level of benevolent leader and kindly grandfather for helping us "end the cold war". But it just isn't true at all. Should Gorby have had his way, Russia would STILL be under the crushing thumb of the U.S.S.R. and its oppressive system.
You remember Rosa Brooks. She's the LA Times columnist who vehemently denies hating George Bush. To judge by her column of today, she has an odd way of proving it. In A Good Week for the Axis of Evil, Brooks lumps Pres. Bush in with the most evil dictators from around the globe, past and present.
After arguing that it's been a good week for "Dear Leader Kim Jong Il," Saddam Hussein and the leaders of Iran and Al-Qaeda, Brooks claims "this week's news was a humiliating setback for the United States' homegrown authoritarians — a.k.a. the Bush administration."
I was dutifully working my way through Robert Kuttner's Boston Globe column of this morning, Cleaning Up the Mess, on the lookout for some outrageous MSM morsel with which to arouse NewsBusters readers.
But all I was getting were Kuttner's "on the one hand, but on the other hand" arguments as to whether it is in Democratic interests to retake one or both houses of Congress come November. His thesis is that America is such a mess thanks to years of Republican misrule that fixing it could be a thankless task for Dems, who might be better off waiting for the deluge of the 2008 presidential elections. For the record, Kuttner does come down on the side of taking power now.
For Maureen Dowd, politics are primarily personal. This morning she managed to reduce the current Korean conflict to an image of two boys behaving badly. Meanwhile, is mocking John McCain's POW past a smart move for Hillary? Dowd offered a stunning insight into the Hillary campaign that suggests it might not be the ready-for-presidential-primetime operation some might imagine.
The topic of Maureen Dowd's subscription-required column of this morning, Is Chivalry Shivved?, is the war of words between Hillary and John McCain, as the two top presidential contenders recently fired some early shots over the other's bow on the topic of responsibility for the N. Korean nuclear mess.
With timing in the tradition of the Foley fiasco leak - geared for maximum impact on the coming elections - a study was published earlier this week by The Lancet, a British medical science journal, claiming that 655,000 Iraqis have died “as a consequence of the war.” The MSM predictably accorded the study great attention.
In this item yesterday, I noted that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and MNF Commander Casey rejected the study's findings, which is wholly at odds with the US government estimate of 30-50,000 Iraqi civilians killed.
Now, as a Pentagon official has made known, a range of experts - who notably come from across the foreign policy spectrum - has cast doubts on the report's methodology and conclusions. Moreover, one of the study authors has been revealed as an anti-war partisan as has the editor of the Lancet itself. The first is a former Democratic congressional candidate, the latter made recently outlandish accusations as to the motivations of the governments leading the war effort.
The MSM had a field day Wednesday with two reports. The first was by a Johns Hopkins scientist, suggesting that there have been more than 600,000 civilian deaths in Iraq during the current conflict - a full order of magnitude greater than the US-government estimate of 30-50,000. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies criticized the way the estimate was derived and noted that the results were released shortly before the Nov. 7 election."They're almost certainly way too high. This is not analysis, this is politics," Cordesman said.
The second report was one suggesting that the Army was planning to maintain current troop levels in Iraq through 2010.
There's a saying along the lines that liberals will always oppose the use of US force - except where US security interests are not at stake. The New York Times editorial of this morning, The Age of Impunity, provides a perfect case in point.
The central thesis is this:
"Bush has squandered so much of America’s moral authority — not to mention our military resources — that efforts to shame or bully the right behavior from adversaries (and allies) sound hollow."
Along the way, the Times recommends that Pres. Bush pander to the rogue regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran by making "a clear pledge — no caveats and no fingers crossed behind his back - that he would not try to overthrow" their governments.
"Didn't the MSM get the memo? Keep Foley on the front page!" That seemed to be Chris Matthews' attitude when he was interviewed on this afternoon's MSNBC Live regarding Pres. Bush's press conference of this morning.
Appearing during the 2-2:30 PM ET slot, the transparently ticked-off Hardball host was asked: "The Mark Foley scandal has been dominating the news for over a week now. It was barely touched upon in the news conference today. Was the president, do you think, successful in refocusing attention on to the economy and national security today?"
A palpably PO'd Matthews:
"Well, he was successful to a large extent because the press, for whatever reason, decided not to ask him about the Foley scandal, which has dominated this network and so much else of the media for the last couple weeks and has been a big part of the American conversation. I don't know why though the correspondents - and they're the best in the business - chose to stick right to the issue of Iraq and North Korea, but they did, giving the president a chance to grab the headline tomorrow morning and tonight, with a big story about North Korea and his position on that topic. He has won the day on controlling the topic."
He never fulfilled his promise to squish Fox News "like a bug," but Ted Turner has finally delivered up the $1 billion he promised to the UN. Already, the international racketeering organization has burned through $600 million of it.
To judge by its political cartoon of this morning, the Boston Globe apparently believes that if only the Bush administration had engaged in direct talks with North Korea, it could have prevented Kim from building his bomb.
Let's leave aside that the Bush administration has in fact been talking to North Korea. Indeed, the president was proceeding in precisely the way the MSM usually implores him to do - multilaterally, via the Six Party talks.
A phalanx of Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, claims the Bush administration is to blame for the N. Korean nuclear test. John McCain responds, pointing out that it was the Clinton administration's failed "agreed framework" that let Kim Jong Il merrily go about his bomb-and-missile-making ways.
So how does Hannah Storm of CBS' Early Show frame the state of play?
"Sen. John Kerry said that you must be trying to burnish your credentials for the nomination process, he's referring of course to your presidential aspirations. I mean, what do you say to those who say that you're [her voice breaking into a horrifed squeak] politicizing this issue?"
Not the smallest bird doesn't fall but liberal pundits blame it on George W. Bush. A refreshing change of pace this morning, then, in the person of Thomas Friedman, who writes that the major responsibility for avoiding future international catastrophe lays not at the feet of the current occupant of the White House, but in Moscow and Beijing.
In the subscription-required The Bus Is Waiting, Friedman propounds the theory that a nuclearized N. North Korea and Iran will inevitably induce a string of countries across Asia and the Middle East developing atomic weapons of their own.
To prevent this, Friedman asserts that it is necessary for:
Everybody's got an opinion about what should've been done, and what needs to be done, about North Korea's nuclear weapons tests - especially, newspapers. An article by Susan Jones of CNSNews.com recaps how papers are blaming Bush and China, and providing foreign affairs advice about how to defuse the situation.
"A North Korean ICBM hit Hawaii with a 10-kiloton atomic weapon today. Now back to Meredith and Matt for the latest on the burgeoning Mark Foley scandal. Is it doom for Republicans?"
Perhaps I exaggerate a tad with that imaginary bit of dialogue, but judging by this morning's 'Today,' you have to wonder. Good Morning America devoted the lion's share of its first half-hour to the N. Korean test of a nuclear device, with no fewer than four segments focusing on it. Over at Today, after a correspondent in China gave a report, and Lauer and Andrea Mitchell batted things around for a while, it was over. No expert analysis, no nothing. It was time to move to a report on . . . the latest lettuce recall. Have a look at the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It was only 7:06.
On a relatively slow news Sunday, perusing Google News in search of some morsel of MSM bias with which whip up NewsBusters readers, I came across these two stories, the first from CTV.ca, the second from the Hindustan Times:
"Jadakiss arrested for alleged weapon possession"
"Chikungunya visits Kerala after 30 years"
Both headlines left me baffled. Who is Jadakiss? UN diplomat? Star striker for Manchester United? Second cousin to Gene Simmons? Congressional staffer angry he didn't get an IM from Mark Foley?
And who or what is Chikungaya, and why is he/it visiting Kerala? For that matter, is Kerala a person or a place?
Just in time for the November elections, a new MSM theme is emerging: Iraq's not the only mess - Afghanistan's in trouble too. Just a couple days I described here the Pentagon's systematic rebuttal of Newsweek's hyper-negative portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan in its article "The Rise of Jihadistan."
One of Newsweek's "news partners" just happens to be NBC, and sure enough, NBC's 'Today' show ran a segment this morning recycling many of the charges contained in the Newsweek piece. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda were depicted as resurgent, with violence up, the opium trade flourishing, and President Karzai's influence largely limited to Kabul.
In State of Denial, Bob Woodward claims Marine Gen. James L. Jones, the U.S. commander for Europe, said that the Iraq war is a "debacle" and that "the Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld."
Two reporters from two publications followed up on the story. They couldn't have reached more diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether Woodward quoted Jones accurately. How's this for dueling headlines?
While Democrats and the MSM have revelled in stressing the tough sledding in Iraq, they had been constrained to acknowledge that the mission in Afghanistan - from the overthrow of the Taliban to the fostering of democracy leading to the election of President Karzai to efforts aimed at rebuilding a country mired in medieval poverty - has been largely successful.
But in recent weeks, Democrats and the MSM have sought to paint a more negative portrait of the situation in Afghanistan, culminating in an article in the October 2nd edition of Newsweek "The Rise of Jihadistan."
The article's sub-title states its thesis in these terms: "Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they—and Al Qaeda's leaders—can operate freely." And in his famously finger-pointing interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, Bill Clinton claimed that "if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill [Bin Laden]."
It's a shame Audie Murphy isn't around. Maureen Dowd might finally have met her soul mate.
You've surely noticed the phenomenon. When it comes to candidates, the Democrats love the military. From Mr. 'Reporting for Duty,' to a crop of Iraq and Afghanistan campaign veterans running in recent election cycles, the party of McGovern likes to combat its weak-on-national-security reputation by running the roughest, toughest GIs and jarheads it can find.
And woe to the Republican who hasn't served. Dems will deride him as a chicken hawk or worse. Maureen Dowd's pay-per-view column of this morning offers a good example of the syndrome. In the course of her broadside against Henry Kissinger, Dowd writes:
"Thirty-five years later, Mr. Kissinger, the consummate fawner, was once more able to sway a president with faux deference. Dr. K encouraged W. to play the tough guy on the war, even though he’d never gone to war himself."
If Matt Lauer ever decides to leave 'Today,' he has a promising career ahead of him interpreting for the hearing-impaired at meetings of Moveon.org and like-minded groups.
Interviewing Bob Woodward on this morning's 'Today' about his Bush-bashing State of Denial, Lauer served as a cheerleader worthy of Katie at her perkiest.
At one point, Lauer summarized matters thusly:
"You paint a picture of a White House and administration that is not tone deaf in some cases but that literally in some cases puts their hands over their ears and said we don't want to hear the information if the information is not going to bolster our company line."
That's when, in the screen capture shown here, Lauer 'helpfully' mimed the White House's 'hear no evil' attitude that Woodward alleges.
Being a regular Fox News Watch viewer, there was nothing surprising, tuning into last evening's discussion of the Clinton-Chris Wallace dust-up, in hearing lefty panelist Neal Gabler take his employer and colleagues to task.
Among his moves, Gabler:
Claimed "this network's reputation [presumably as right-leaning] precedes it."
Asserted that Chris Wallace "did not frame the question properly. He asked 'why didn't you do more?' Which is like asking 'will you stop beating your wife?'"
Defended Wallace only at the expense of other Fox colleagues: "He is not a Hannity, he's not an O'Reilly he's not a Brit Hume, Cavuto, Gibson." Hume of course is not merely an on-air personality but also the powerful FNC managing editor.
Spurned host Eric Burns' entreaty to add someone from another network to his list of partisan TV personalities.
Later, amiable liberal Jane Hall chimed in - after smilingly mentioning that she was glad she had recently re-signed with FNC [and thus presumably was not vulerable to recriminations]. Claimed Jane: "this network's commentary beat up on him, beat up on Clinton, and did not beat up on Bush."
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that a TV host whose idea of a show-closer is tossing wadded-up balls of paper at the camera would indulge in middle-school-worthy taunts about someone's weight. And yet . . . I actually was surprised when on tonight's show, Keith Olbermann unleashed a string of jibes aimed at Roger Ailes' physique. So surprised that when Olbermann first began his barrage, with a comment about Ailes doing something "between pies," I truly wondered whether I had misheard him or perhaps misunderstood his intent. Fat jokes? Could my fellow Cornellian really be stooping that low?
He could. Olbermann's mean-spirited motive soon became manifest. Displaying what was presumably the least flattering photo of the Fox chief he could find [shown here], Olbermann followed that comment with this string of insults:
When the Pope recently accused Muslim extremists of using violence to advance their ends, they responded . . . with violence. Not to compare myself to the Pontiff, but I recently accused a liberal columnist of being consumed with Bush-hatred, and she has now responded . . . by cataloguing the many things she hates about Bush.
With one of his inimitable montages, Rush Limbaugh documented today the way in which the MSM got hung up on a handshake - one the media reported didn't come off between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf during their recent White House visit.
Though WH spokesman Tony Snow has reportedly indicated that the pair did shake hands off-camera, the media tea-leaf readers seemingly imbue The Handshake That Didn't Happen with dire implications for the achievement of US goals in the region. Ironically, on the very same day, the MSM has yet to report on a major, positive development in the region - one that would bring a smile to the lips of even a Nancy Pelosi or a New York Times editorialist - were they not solemnly sworn to ac-cen-tu-ate the negative from now till Election Day.
Rush Limbaugh just mentioned that the Dems' latest strategy to keep the NIE story bubbling is to make a hullabaloo over the Bush administration's decision not to declassify and release the entire NIE report. I then turned to the Yahoo News page, and what do I find but an Associated Press article with this headline and lead paragraph:
White House refuses to release full NIE
WASHINGTON - The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.
Anytime Maureen Dowd writes about Hillary, I figure it's good for an NB item. But reading and re-reading the pay-per-view Another Clinton Seduction at cock's crow, I just couldn't get a handle on what Dowd was getting at. Coming back to it in the light of a beautiful Ithaca morning, it suddenly dawned on me: Mo is mad at Hillary, and there are two reasons:
Hillary hasn't been tough enough on George Bush; and
Incredible as it might sound, Hillary - in contrast with certain NY Times columnists - has figured out a way to make men like her.
Dowd's ire is unmistakeable when it comes to Hillary's insufficient Bush bashing: "She has been like a silent-film star,lacking a voice in this chilling time when the Bush administration has Photoshopped the Constitution, portrayed critics as traitors, and spurred terrorism with a misconceived and mismanaged war in Iraq."