Some of the odd and/or noteworthy takes in television coverage following President Barack Obama's Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress:
- On MSNBC, Chris Matthews predicted “we're going to hear a fairly right-wing speech tonight,” from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in response to Obama, because “the only position left in America right now politically that he's left open is on the far right, and Bobby Jindal is headed for it,” along with Sarah Palin, since “Barack has grabbed the center with the charm he showed tonight in his excellent rhetoric.”
- ABC's Charles Gibson, who like his broadcast network colleagues refrained from labeling Obama or his speech as liberal, introduced Jindal with an ideological tag: “He is a very conservative Republican and you'll hear that reflected, I think, in his remarks tonight.”
- On CBS, Katie Couric reacted to Obama's speech with some strange “cosmic” analogies, touting how Obama had succeeded in his effort to “really connect the dots, in a way, to explain to people that micro-cosmically this will help them, this is just not a national macro-cosmic plan for the economy.”
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod made the rounds of the broadcast network evening newscast anchors on Tuesday to discuss President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, but CBS's Katie Couric, in uniquely offering some balance by matching Axelrod with a segment featuring House Minority Leader John Boehner, only served to expose her impatience toward GOP opposition. With Axelrod, she cued him up to expound on the administration's policies, pressed him about nationalizing banks and empathized with the terrible conditions inherited by Obama's team. In contrast, with Boehner she wondered if Republicans are “out of touch,” suggested they are stuck between having either the country or their base “hate” them and asked:
Do you think the Republicans are digging themselves in a hole by not being more supportive of the President's proposals?
Couric prompted Axelrod to explain how the administration will overcome criticism of the mortgage plan: “How do you explain that this is not going to be helping out somebody's brother-in-law who put down no money, spent too much money on his house and basically cut corners while other families feel like, 'listen, we did everything right.'?” She soon lamented what Bush left behind: “When you were running this campaign did you ever envision inheriting this job at a time when the country is in such deep trouble?”
Americans increasingly see the danger in Barack Obama's scheme to spend our way out of economic difficulty. So for the mainstream media, it's all hands on deck to bolster confidence in Obama and his decisions. The dependable Jonathan Alter reports for duty in the March 2 Newsweek, also posted on the magazine's Web site. Titled "America’s New Shrink: Chin up, everyone. This president is well poised to bring us back from the brink," the article is loaded with happy talk about Obama and his incredible attributes. A few examples:
. . . Because my take on Obama, based on conversations with him and his team stretching back more than four years and extending into the White House, is that he has a firm grasp of the psychological and substantive challenges of the presidency. Equally important, his 2008 campaign proved that he possesses a superior sense of timing. He knows that now is not the moment to cheerlead, not when the financial players are lying dazed on the field. There will be time for that, when the banks have been "restructured" (see, that sounds better than "nationalized") and the credit starts flowing again.
. . . It's early yet and much can change, but the new president is showing signs of carrying himself in a more naturally confident way, with the right blend of traits. He's bold enough to add a couple of zeroes to the conversation about spending, but humble enough to utter those three most unpresidential words: "I screwed up."
Obama's confidence is the product of an unusual combination of good early parenting by his mother and grandmother and his own search for racial identity. "The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment," he writes in "Dreams From My Father" of a moment of painful clarity when he was in high school. His white relatives, he now realized, could never understand him. "I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone."
It seems that some in Congress are so upset that our troops and their president have achieved what looks like victory in Iraq to seasoned, on-the-ground observers like Michael Yon that they feel compelled to get in their final digs to somehow discredit the war's legitimacy.
One such congressman is Democrat Henry Waxman of California (image originally found at the Washington Post), whose Committee on Oversight and Government Reform decided to re-hash the famous "sixteen words" President Bush used in his January 2003 State of the Union Speech ("The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa").
The conclusion of Waxman's 10-page Memorandum (a PDF at this link) begins by saying:
Yes -- "perhaps." Hard to believe there are people who harbor doubts about this. Not so shocking to learn they dwell on the left side of the aisle.
Former "Wonkette" blogger Ana Marie Cox, a contributor to Time magazine and The Daily Beast, appeared on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night to discuss, among other things, a Los Angeles Times story about Bush cabinet members receiving talking points on accomplishments they can cite from the 43rd president's tumultuous tenure.
Two of the achievements cited are that Bush has "kept the American people safe" since 9/11 and the president's work to curb AIDS in Africa. Maddow and Cox take it from here --
Though given a perfect opportunity to do so, Tom Brokaw on Sunday chose not to discuss the similarities between Franklin D. Roosevelt's refusal to work with President Herbert Hoover on solving the Depression before he was inaugurated in March 1933 and president-elect Barack Obama doing the same thing today with George W. Bush.
For those not familiar with the historical reference, the financial crisis at the time of the 1932 elections was so bad that banks were failing on almost a daily basis. As a result, Hoover felt the country couldn't wait until March when inaugurations used to take place to hear what Roosevelt's plan was to solve these problems, and wanted FDR and his economic team to come to the White House in order to work some things out together.
Sadly, Roosevelt refused, and although he claimed it was so that his hands wouldn't be tied once he officially became president, some historians feel FDR's delay was designed to allow the crisis to deepen so that it would become easier for him to get his policy proposals passed.
On Sunday's "Meet the Press," the fact that President Bush wants to work with Obama and his team concerning the financial crisis surfaced in discussion with former Reagan treasury secretary James Baker and former Clinton commerce secretary Bill Daley. Unfortunately, Brokaw chose not to address this seemingly-important historical comparison and precedent (video embedded below the fold, relevant section begins at 6:15, file photo):
"Good Morning America" correspondent Claire Shipman on Tuesday actually suggested that Americans "pitch in" $2000 to help pay off the deficit or even give up their lattes. Reporting on the news that the U.S. federal deficit is projected to rise to $482 billion in 2009, Shipman seriously proposed: "Now, we came up with a few GMA solutions to try to put this in perspective. If every American were to pitch in $2,000, we could pay off this year's deficit."
Continuing the absurd "solutions," Shipman elaborated, "Or, if we handed over, each of us, 500 gallons of gasoline or, in terms we could all really understand, if every American gave up 666 lattes for a year, we could pay off this year's deficit." Leaving aside the slightly demonic 666 suggestion, there was one piece of advice left out of the ABC reporter's piece: At no point did she talk about wasteful government spending or the possibility of cutting back on entitlement programs. Shipman also took a shot at President Bush, calling the deficit "a parting gift from one president to the next of the most unwelcome sort." Conservatives may have complained about some of Bush's spending, but he certainly didn't act without the help of many Democrats in Congress.
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell appeared this morning on the May 28 "Fox & Friends" to discuss the Oprah effect on the 2008 presidential race. It appears the daytime host may be taking a ratings hit from erstwhile loyal viewers chagrined by her backing the Illinois senator, although Obama himself seems to be benefiting from the backing. Also discussed: former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan's new book. [audio available here]
Below is a transcript taken down by MRC intern and NewsBusters blogger Lyndsi Thomas:
GRETCHEN CARLSON, "Fox & Friends" co-host: All right, so the details being leaking about this book, who better to discuss it than media hounds like you guys. Brent, let me start with you because McClellan says in this book that "as Press Secretary I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium and the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided." Is this a bitter guy or this a guy who just wants to get the truth out?
On Thursday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered his latest "Special Comment" rant against President Bush, this time attacking him for threatening to veto an extension of the Protect America Act unless it includes provisions to give immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies who have cooperated with government surveillance in the past.
Calling the President a "liar" who was "slinging crap" and using "a form of terrorism against his own people" to gain support, Olbermann accused President Bush of fascism: "If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it! There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You're a fascist! Get them to print you a T-shirt with fascist on it! What else is this but fascism?" (Transcript follows)
On Thursday's Countdown show shortly before 9:00 p.m., just an hour before hosting a special Countdown to discuss CNN's Democratic debate from that night, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann delivered his latest "Special Comment," this time attacking President Bush for threatening to veto a new FISA law if Congress refuses to include liability protection for telecom companies that have assisted in surveillance in the war on terrorism, arguing that Bush would be endangering Americans by delaying the bill's passage. The MSNBC host, who once scolded public figures who use Nazi references, made his own latest invocation of Nazi Germany, as he compared the telecoms to the Krupp family who were convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg.
In Joy Behar’s fantasy world, an automatic tax increase for nearly all income taxpayers are simply "taking back tax cuts to the rich." And if one calls it a tax increase, one is engaging in "double speak." On the January 29 edition of "The View," the co-hosts chatted about President Bush’s last State of the Union and co-host Joy Behar added this comment on the president’s tax hike veto pledge.
"There was one point where he says, you know, ‘no- we will not-’ basically he’s saying we’re not going to take back our tax cuts to the rich. Which he interprets as ‘tax increases.’ Just because you’re taking it back, he says it’s an increase. See that double speak I don’t care for."
The Jerusalem Post caught another fauxtography scam out of the mideast this week. It appears that Hamas legislators have staged fake power outages to illustrate how oppressed they are for the benefit of journalists. The Journalists were treated to a photo op of the Hamas legislators sitting in their halls of power surrounded by burning candles in rooms with curtains drawn. The scene was set to show how they have had their power cut by the eeeevil Jews. Only problem is, midday sunlight can clearly be seen against the curtains. So, the candles were unnecessary. All they had to do was open the curtains and they would be able to see just fine. Obviously Reuters (and others) allowed Hamas to manipulate the facts. But that didn't seem to bother any of these so-called journalists who were quite happy to go along.
In what looks like an editorial authored by one of the more extreme members of the Democratic Underground, the New York Times ended the year with a rabid leftwing rant that among other things accused American soldiers of war crimes on a large scale:
In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.
NewsBusters and affiliate The Business & Media Institute have been reporting for many months the continuous, bearish assessments of economic gloom and doom by America's press.
Of course, this all comes despite 24 straight quarters of Gross Domestic Product growth, 50 consecutive months of job gains, higher wages for virtually all Americans, and last month's consumer spending explosion.
Ignoring all this Sunday morning were panelists on "The Chris Matthews Show" who demonstrated such a deplorable lack of economic acumen that maybe they shouldn't be allowed to comment on such matters when cameras and microphones are on.
Day Deux of the "MSNBC Booed Bush" controversy, and Joe Scarborough was looking to make up ground . . .
For those who missed the story, in a burst of candor "Morning Joe" host Scarborough mentioned on yesterday's show that members of the MSNBC newsroom had booed President Bush nearly continuously during the 2003 State of the Union.
Today, Scarborough asserted that most of the boo-birds were gone from the network, and claimed for good measure that rival Fox News Channel is "all Republicans." Joe was peeved that Bill O'Reilly had expounded on the booing incident on last evening's O'Reilly Factor.
View video here[that's MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski making sympathetic sounds in the background.]
UPDATE: Joe and Mika discuss this NB item. Video (0:57): Real (1.55 MB) or Windows (1.78 MB), plus MP3 (435 kB).
Joe Scarborough has pulled back the curtain on the liberal bias at MSNBC, describing an incident in which people in its newsroom ceaselessly booed President Bush during a State of the Union address.
The revelation came on "Morning Joe" today at 6:02 A.M. EDT. Joe was discussing a recent episode at the Seattle Times in which reporters and editors cheered the news that Karl Rove had resigned. Scarborough applauded Seattle Times Executive Editor Dave Boardman for issuing a memorandum reproving his colleagues. For more, read NB items by Brent Baker and Ken Shepherd.
Joe went on to describe a similar incident at MSNBC.
VIEW VIDEO OF JOE'S ACCOUNT OF THE NEWSROOM INCIDENT HERE.Note: that's newsreader Mika Brzezinksi heard murmuring in assent, though one has to wonder just how thrilled she was by Joe's candor in outing her fellow MSNBC liberals.
The very first topic on the March 7 edition of The View, was about the conviction of ‘Scooter’ Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice. So what do Rosie O’Donnell and Joy Behar have to say? They convict the vice president of "treason." Behar exclaimed that it is a "delight" for her that Dick Cheney is "in trouble"and Rosie O’Donnell agreed. Behar, known for her conspiracy theories, suspected the timing of Vice President Cheney’s blood clot.
At that point, Barbara Walters sought to play Pontius Pilate washing her hands free of Joy and Rosie. In standard disclaimer format she stated:
"I would like to point out, which Rosie and I talk about, that the opinions expressed in this program are the opinions of the individual people."
After some very controversial remarks on Wednesday’s edition of The View comedian and neoconservative Dennis Miller appeared on Thursday. After discussing John McCain’s announcement and the recent feud between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Miller joked about Nancy Pelosi’s rapidly blinking eyes, leading Barbara Walters to defend her as "terrific." Miller also debated Rosie O’Donnell on the finer points of the Patriot Act. The exchanges are below.
Joy Behar: "How about Nancy Pelosi, what do you think of her?"
Dennis Miller: "Well, listen. If they pick her as the VP, I’m not going to be able to watch State of the Unions. Because if she is back there like, with the blink- it looks like she was signaling the Carpathia that she hit an iceberg or something."
One last tidbit from State of the Union Night: On Tuesday night’s Charlie Rose talk show on PBS, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and ABC political director Mark Halperin and White House correspondent Martha Raddatz took turns sticking forks into President Bush and saying he was done. Meacham said Bush attempted to show he’s "actually involved with reality, that he’s a reality-based figure." Halperin agreed that the president "wanted to show that he had a reality-based presidency, but I don’t think he did. I think the war is over politically." Halperin even suggested that if Congress could vote by secret ballot, both Republicans and Democrats would vote to end the war – and vote for Bush’s presidency "to end today."
On Wednesday's The View, the morning after the State of the Union address, Barbara Walters oozed about how it was a “treat to see the first female Speaker of the House” as she hailed Nancy Pelosi with a hearty fist-raised “hooray” while Rosie O'Donnell sang “I am woman, hear me roar,” O'Donnell denounced Bush for praising the subway hero when he sends Americans “to die in Iraq,” Joy Behar charged that Bush's insistence on the surge in the face of public opposition means the U.S. is “not a democracy anymore” and that led O'Donnell to urge Bush's impeachment.
O'Donnell's chastisement of Bush for daring to pay tribute to Wesley Autrey: “I think it's interesting, too, that he wants to hail this hero in New York, who is obviously a great man, who saved a stranger's life. One man's life, worth it. But he sends 20,000 new Americans over to die in Iraq.” O'Donnell soon asserted that “someone, I believe, should call for the impeachment of George Bush” so “the world knows that the nation is not standing behind this President's choices, that the nation, a democracy, feels differently than the man who is leading as if it were a dictatorship, and that we represent this country, he does not lead as a monarch.” Behar chipped in: “Amen.” (Noel Sheppard's earlier NewsBusters item highlighted O'Donnell's call for Bush's impeachment.)
Video clip #1, of Walters and O'Donnell gushing over Pelosi (38 seconds): Real (1.1 MB) or Windows Media (1.3 MB), plus MP3 audio (200 KB)
A night after CNN anchors fretted about how Katrina and the recovering Gulf region were “thunderously missing” from President Bush's State of the Union address, CBS and NBC picked up the cause. CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric regretted on Wednesday night how “there was not one mention of Katrina, though the suffering and hardship continue.” Noting that “there are still 13,000 people living in FEMA trailers,” Couric asserted: “Some who lost everything are asking, 'What about us?'” Reporter Armen Keteyian, a veteran of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, featured one New Orleans man who, “like many here, watched the President's speech, his rage rising with every word." Keteyian listed how “there were 5,596 words in the President's speech last night,” and insisted that “reaction to the fact that not a single one was either Katrina or Louisiana was felt...all across the Gulf." Kateyian concluded with how “words like 'relief' and 'recovery' now seem as empty to them as last night's presidential address.”
Leading into an image of a headline in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “New Orleans left out of president's script,” as if a local newspaper story should have national import, David Gregory highlighted on Wednesday's NBC Nightly News: “That focus on Iraq, and the political toll it's taken, has led the White House to divert its attention from other priorities -- like rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina. Last night, not a word. The omission was headline news.”
Kate Zernike's front-page profile of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (featuring a large picture of Pelosi shaking Bush's hand at last night's State of the Union address) opened with a celebration of Pelosi's femaleness and ends with "poignant commentary" by the left's new favorite Bush fighter, Democrat Sen. James Webb of Virginia.
"The first two words of the evening on Tuesday were evidence of how much has changed here: 'Madam Speaker,” boomed Congressional escorts, 'the president of the United States.'"
With the president mentioning "global climate change" in his State of the Union, CNN’s Miles O’Brien was happy he finally mentioned it. But, of course, he’s not doing enough and "more drastic action is needed.". Because his proposals are voluntary and not mandatory, it is "essentially toothless." O’Brien featured Gene Karpinski of the liberal League of Conservation Voters to call for "mandatory caps on global warming," but featured no contrary view.
The CNN anchor then predicted a very grim future.
Miles O’Brien: "Bush’s remarks were a small concession to what an overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe is a huge problem. They say in the coming decades, climate change will melt glaciers, flooding coastal areas as see levels rise. It will likely increase the frequency of extreme weather events like catastrophic hurricanes and it could lead to entire species going extinct, such as polar bears which are already struggling as their arctic habitat melts."
Leftists always complain that FNC’s "Hannity & Colmes" is a perpetually uneven match, a game of Strong vs. Weak where Sean Hannity always gets to be more aggressive and that other Colmes fellow is timid. On the PBS "NewsHour," I’d say the situation is reversed. Mark Shields is the Hannity that always sounds a strong partisan tone, and David Brooks is the timid guy, willing to tone it down for the face time and, as Bill Clinton once put it, "preserve his viability" within the network he’s on.
After the State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Shields remembered Bill Clinton’s 1998 speech as a "rhetorical home run" and really drove home how great that prickly Jim Webb was: "I think that the old line that freshmen should be seen and not heard was totally repealed and revoked." After lauding the Webb speech’s eloquence and memorability, Brooks helpfully added: "Mark said ‘A star is born.’"
At the beginning of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Bush graciously discussed Nancy Pelosi and her history making role as the first female Speaker. He also congratulated Democrats on their new majority status. This, however, wasn’t enough for Paul Begala. The CNN contributor appeared on a post-speech edition of "Anderson Cooper" and digressed into a rant about how Bush referred not to the Democratic Party’s success, but, rather, the Democrat majority. According to the always polite Begala, this is something only the "kook right," "the fringe" and the "Rush Limbaugh crowd" engages in:
Paul Begala: "At the very beginning, [Bush] opened with this beautiful grace note to Nancy Pelosi, talked about how her father, Thomas D'Alessandro, had served in the House, and the daughter had grown up to become Speaker. It was beautiful....And then in the very next paragraph -- I have it marked here on the White House text -- he congratulated the new ‘Democrat’ majority, as he said. Now, the White House transcript says ‘Democratic.’ There is a difference. My party's the Democratic Party. But the sort of kook right, not the responsible Republicans, but the fringe, the Rush Limbaugh crowd, likes to call my party the Democrat Party. They think it's some sort of insult or something. And frankly, I guess it is insulting. Why would you do that when you're the president of both parties and the majority of your country now is affiliated with the Democrat Party? Why would you say that?"
As Americans, we all enjoy the right to criticize the president. But particularly on august occasions like the State of the Union, most agree that the office of the presidency is entitled to a modicum of respect. Or not -- at least in Meredith Vieira's case.
David Gregory set the stage on this morning's "Today,"with his depiction of W's mood:
"The president was more modest in his approach, he appeared humbled, a real sense that he reconizes that it's going to be difficult to keep both Democrats and Republicans on board here as he tries to persuade the country to stick with him on Iraq."
That's when Vieira put her own vulgar stamp on matters:
"Yeah, not exactly like a dog with his tail between his legs but obviously no posturing, either."
A few minutes after President George W. Bush finished his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, ABC News White House reporter Martha Raddatz scolded him for repeating “sad echoes” of things he's said “so many times in the past.” As if that makes Bush's warnings, about the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda or how terrorists could come to the U.S. if we lose in Iraq, any less of a realistic threat.
Raddatz lectured: “I thought tonight there was some sad echoes of things he said so many times in the past. When he got to this global war on terror, when he got to Iraq, and you heard him concentrate on that global war on terrorism, those were the sad echoes. He brought up al Qaeda again, he brought up Osama bin Laden. He brought up Zarqawi in Iraq, who died many, many months ago. That's what he concentrated on. He avoided, to a great degree, the sectarian violence which is really the major problem in Iraq and once again, told Americans that if we didn't succeed in Iraq that the terrorists could come to the United States. And he's said that so many times in the past.”
Appearing on MSNBC's State of the Union coverage, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw praised President Bush for talking about global warming in his speech, lamenting that it was a subject the "Republican-dominated Congress has given very little attention to." Brokaw obverved that Bush had used the term "global warming" for the "first time since he's been President." Brokaw: "I think that you can give him an A for identifying the priorities that had been before this country for some time, and that the Republican-dominated Congress has given very little attention to. Global warming, he used that phrase for the first time since he's been President." (Transcript follows)
Just a couple of minutes before 9pm EST Tuesday night, as viewers awaited President Bush's State of the Union address, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer cued up Anderson Cooper to inform viewers of how there would be an “issue that’s presumably going to be thunderously missing from this speech.” Cooper explained: “Yeah, of course, you’re talking about Hurricane Katrina, you’re talking about the Gulf Coast states and Mississippi and the rebuilding of New Orleans. No mention of that in this speech tonight. That is certainly going to upset a lot of people in the Gulf Coast region who already feel that the country has moved on, that Washington has forgotten them. In the State of the Union, the President, as we have been told so far, will make no reference to New Orleans or to Mississippi, the rebuilding there. So much still needs to be done there, obviously, and we will not be hearing about that tonight from this President.” (Hat tip to MRC's Rich Noyes)
Loyal NB readers might recall that on the eve of President Bush's recent address on the new way forward in Iraq, I had the chance to participate in a conference call for bloggers with White House press secretary Tony Snow and Brett McGurk of the National Security Council.
With the State of the Union Address just a few hours away, Tony Snow - after a long day making the media rounds - organized a similar event in which your faithful NewsBuster again took part.
I had a chance to ask a question this time around, and chose to focus on recent events in Iraq. After referring to the headlines that have been made by the recent arrest of some 600 militiamen in Iraq, I noted a lesser-publicized report that the Iraqi army had arrested a senior aide to Moktada al-Sadr, Sheikh Abdul al-Hadi Darraji. He was arrested last Friday in a raid on a Baghdad mosque near Sadr City.
I asked Snow whether those events signal that we have in some way turned the corner in obtaining the willingness of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki in going after Shia militias, and if so, how have we been able to achieve this?