Not surprisingly given the past pattern, of the broadcast networks evening newscasts on Thursday, only ABC's World News devoted a full story to the fewest Americans killed in Iraq in any month since the war began. CBS and NBC gave the great news a few seconds before pivoting to full stories on the rise of female suicide bombers and the sexual assault problem in the military. ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed:
[A] statistic out of Iraq today that is remarkable: Six Americans were killed in combat in the entire month of July. That's the lowest number since the war began. That compares to the 66 combat deaths in July of last year.
From Iraq, reporter Terry McCarthy proceeded to convey how “U.S. troops on the ground don't follow statistics. They follow their gut. And these days, that tells them things are getting better.” McCarthy pointed to how an Army Sergeant, seven months into his second tour, “hasn't fired his weapon once on patrol” and then McCarthy credited the surge: “The turning point was the surge, which began 18 months ago. Three months in, U.S. fatalities peaked at 119. Since then, violence has declined steeply.”
Second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled to 1.9 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department announced Thursday morning as consumer spending rose 1.5 percent in the quarter ending June 30, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, and U.S. exports soared 9.2 percent, way up from 5.1 percent in the first three months of 2008.
Yet the CBS Evening News centered a story around “disappointing” news about the supposedly “struggling economy” (with that on screen) -- while ABC and NBC, which on April 30 led with full stories on the news of a 0.6 percent (since revised to 0.9) first quarter GDP, didn't utter a syllable Thursday night about the big GDP jump. On the last day of April, ABC's Betsy Stark declared the economy had “flat lined” and NBC anchor Brian Williams warned “it's getting rough out there” as the new GDP number “stops just short of the official declaration of a recession.” Thursday night, however, ABC's World News and NBC Nightly News made time for full stories on outrage over ExxonMobil earning “the largest profit ever made by a U.S. company.” The “oil industry says it is not out of line, but some motorists feel otherwise.”
CBS anchor Katie Couric, picking up on the 4th quarter 2007 GDP revision from 0.6 percent to a minus 0.2, stressed how “the government now says the economy was receding, not growing, in the final quarter of last year” though “it picked up a bit in the first quarter of this year.” She then twisted the fresh news of a 1.9 percent jump into a negative:
But look at this: In the second quarter, when all those rebate checks were supposed to stimulate the economy, it grew less than two percent. Jeff Glor has more about the disappointing numbers.
The McCain campaign's new television ad comparing Barack Obama to shallow celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton so upset the network news operations that they all ran full stories, with ABC and NBC leading with the “attack ad.” Though all tried to frame their stories as balanced looks at attacks against each other by both campaigns, it was the McCain ad which prompted the stories, the language used painted McCain as the aggressor and Obama as the victim fighting back (“responded,” “fired back” and “hitting back”) and two of the stories featured condemnations of the McCain ad as “childish” or “juvenile.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Tonight, McCain says Obama is all star power and no substance. Obama says McCain is using scare tactics. It's getting nasty. And it's only July.” Reporter David Wright, who relayed how “Obama told an audience in Missouri the Republicans are just trying to scare voters,” concluded with how “it's getting ugly early, and some Republicans are expressing concern about McCain's tone, in particular one former McCain aide calling the new celebrity ad 'childish.'” (That would be John Weaver.)
On CBS, which put “Attack Ad” on screen, Katie Couric asserted: “John McCain sharpened his attack against Barack Obama, trying to turn his popularity against him. And late today, Obama fired back.” For an expert assessment, Chip Reid went to the Politico's David Markwho declared that the McCain ad “seems a little juvenile.”
So the Big 3 networks sent their evening news anchors on the road to follow Barack Obama around last week on his Excellent Overseas Adventure.
If the nets' managements harbored any hopes that doing so might significantly increase their overall audience, or meaningfully increase the number of viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, those hopes were dashed when last week's ratings were released Tuesday (Source for all ratings info in this post - Media Bistro Newser: July 21, 2008; July 14, 2008; July 23, 2007; July 16, 2007):
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as “the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate” -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.” Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with “(R)” in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his “the longest-serving Republican in the Senate” line.
CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as “a senior Republican” before reporter Jim Axelrod recited “the longest-serving Republican Senator ever” mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: “Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment.”
On Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume, during the show's "From the Political Grapevine" segment, FNC host Hume gave viewers another glimpse at the admiration offered terrorists in the Middle East as he reported that the Al-Jazeera network threw a birthday party for Samir Kuntar, a notorious terrorist recently released by Israel, who had previously been greeted by thousands of adoring fans when he returned to Beirut. Hume: "The Arab news network Al-Jazeera celebrated the birthday of released Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar with a cake and fireworks. The Middle East Media Research Institute reports that Kuntar, who shot an Israeli child's father in front of her, and then beat her to death with his rifle back in 1979, was given a hero's welcome on the network. One interviewer said, quote, 'You deserve even more than this. I think that 11,000 prisoners, if they can see this program now, are celebrating your birthday with you. Happy birthday.'" (Transcript follows)
The networks suggest Obama is driving the narrative, but it's the liberal press themselves doing the driving for Obama
(Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared today in Human Events.)
Just Another Clown Delivering the News
The Big Three networks just foisted a week long Obamathon upon the American people, a political, "journalistic" perversion of Jerry Lewis's annual televised good deed.
Mr. Lewis raises money for a very worthy cause. CBS' Katie Couric, NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charlie Gibson attempted to raise the Presidential credibility of an inexperienced candidate by dutifully following Illinois Senator Barack Obama to the Middle East and Europe for six days and five nights of wall-to-wall slavish and adoring reporting.
This was an unprecedented media extravaganza. Never before have all three evening news anchors been drawn out of their chairs and all over the world together and on behalf of a candidate. Their coverage of Sen. Obama was as glitteringly positive as it was all-encompassing: the primary season without the Clinton distraction.
By week's end, the voters back here Stateside could well have forgotten that Senator Obama has an opponent.
When the Israeli government and the terrorist group Hezbollah carried out a prisoner release agreement in which Israel released five Lebanese prisoners while Hezbollah released the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who had been killed, there was a substantial contrast in the way the broadcast network evening newscasts reported the story. While ABC’s Charles Gibson and Simon McGregor-Wood reported on World News that one of the prisoners, Samir Kuntar, had been convicted of the "vicious murder" of an Israeli man and his four-year-old daughter, and that upon release he was "greeted in Beirut as a returning hero," NBC and CBS both skipped over any details of Kuntar’s crime, and CBS’s Katie Couric even listed the prisoner exchange as one of several "glimmers of hope" in the conflict between Israelis and Arabs. Couric: "For the first time in years, there are some glimmers of hope in the Arab-Israeli stalemate -- a virtual cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah, and the beginning of low-level talks between Israel and Syria."
CNN and FNC further detailed the brutality of Kuntar’s crime, and FNC noted his popularity among many in Lebanon. FNC’s Morton Kondracke: "What’s most disgusting is that the Lebanese performance, tens of thousands of people turning out to welcome home a terrorist who had killed a policeman, a civilian, and then bashed in the head of the civilian's four-year-old daughter. And he's being welcomed home as though he’s a national hero, with the president there, the prime minister there, the speaker of the parliament. This is supposed to be an ally of the United States, Lebanon. What it indicates is that Lebanon, that Lebanese politics is now owned by Hezbollah ... they have veto power over whatever the Lebanese government does, you know. Lebanon is close to being lost." (Transcripts follow)
A minor item for a Friday night. File under: Which way is it?
ABC anchor Charles Gibson contended that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's “effusively kind words” about Barack Obama, who joined Sarkozy at a press conference in Paris, “bordered on an endorsement.” On CBS, however, anchor Katie Couric reported that Sarkozy said the French people have been following Obama “with passion” but, she noted, he “quickly pointed out that was not an endorsement.”
Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour hit its high point Thursday night as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Obama's speech in Berlin, with NBC's Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell the most giddy, though ABC featured a German man who hailed Obama as “my new messiah.” ABC and NBC saw Obama on a “world stage.” Charles Gibson teased ABC's newscast: “In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams, in Berlin, trumpeted how “the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us.” Viewers next heard a sycophantic Williams ooze to Obama:
When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had “ich bin ein.” We've had “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, “people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?
Talking with Andrea Mitchell, an impressed Williams marveled over how “I heard one American reporter tonight say it's hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it's hard to know what we witnessed here today.” An equally awed Mitchell gushed: “It's hard to figure out what the comparison is, what do you compare this with?” She soon asserted that in his speech Obama “acknowledged America's flaws.”
Matching CBS/Katie Couric on Tuesday night, on Wednesday evening ABC's World News followed its exclusive Barack Obama session of the day with a shorter interview segment with John McCain as anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Barack Obama, here in Israel, holding meetings at breakneck speed on the Middle East conflict.” Obama got a full five minutes with anchor Charles Gibson in Israel, not counting a glowing minute-long introduction -- Obama's “schedule here in Israel looked like a Middle East shuttle mission” -- while ABC allocated two-and-a-half minutes to David Wright with McCain. Gibson did press Obama on his foreign policy “inexperience” and Obama's declaration that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel,” wondering if that was “a rookie mistake?”
Wright began by scolding McCain for his “extraordinary statement” that “Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” Wright demanded: “Do you really think he's that craven?” Wright also lectured: “But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country.” Bizarrely, as if the media's decisions are not primarily responsible, Wright told McCain the fact that “the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does” shows a McCain campaign failure:
You've been touring here in the states, had the domestic stage all to yourself. And yet, we're talking an awful lot about foreign policy. It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and that you're left to kind of react to that.
The things people will do for love. Take David Shuster. So eager is the Obama inamorato to cover for his man, he's willing to sacrifice all semblance of reason. Faced with the implacable fact that Obama was wrong in opposing the surge, Shuster has been reduced to claiming that Americans don't care about the surge's success. Shuster made his descent into abject sycophancy on today's Morning Joe. The jumping off point was a clip from an interview of Obama by ABC's Terry Moran [Brent Baker has the full report on the interview here].
TERRY MORAN: If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?
OBAMA: No, because, keep in mind that-
MORAN: You wouldn't?
OBAMA: Well, no, keep in mind, these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. You know, hindsight is 20/20. But I think that, what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.
After a clip was aired of McCain hammering Obama on his opposition to the surge, Shuster slipped on the flippers and goggles.
ABC's Terry Moran, who back in 2006 was already enthralled with Barack Obama (“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon”), on Monday night from Iraq refrained from such infatuation as ABC's World News, nonetheless, gave Obama a lengthy platform to espouse his Iraq policy. Moran began his lead story by trumpeting how “Barack Obama came to Baghdad, and he brought his star power with him. Hundreds of U.S. troops and State Department personnel mobbed Obama at the embassy here.”
The rest of Moran's story, however, focused on “what has become an open disagreement between military commanders here and Obama, over his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable.” But while Moran raised the subject twice, Obama got plenty of time to recite his views with the two answers consuming a lengthy 50 or so seconds each and a third, about whether given the success of the surge he'd support it now, he got 25 seconds of air time -- meaning Obama three answers took up more than half of Moran's story.
For the second night in a row, on Sunday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Barack Obama's overseas trip as CBS Evening News anchor Forrest Sawyer trumpeted: “Tonight, Barack Obama on the U.S. challenge in Afghanistan, laying out the stakes in an exclusive CBS News interview.” Reporter Lara Logan set up a condensed version of her interview which had consumed the first ten minutes of Face the Nation: “Speaking out for the first time since arriving in Kabul this weekend, Senator Barack Obama offered a bleak assessment of the worsening conditions inside Afghanistan.”
On ABC's World News, anchor David Muir led with how “Barack Obama is calling it one of the biggest mistakes made in the war on terror: The Bush administration's decision to focus on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt admired Obama's need to walk on a “diplomatic and political tight rope, trying to balance his role as a U.S. Senator versus that of a presidential candidate” before heralding:
His words tonight are reverberating from the war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Pentagon.
A great first day on national television news for Barack Obama as he began his much-hyped overseas trip with a stop in Kuwait before moving on to Afghanistan. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, seemingly channeling the media's own excitement, on Saturday night hailed it as “a trip that seems to be captivating the rest of the world as much, if not more so, than many in the United States.”
ABC, CBS and CNN showcased video of Obama making a basketball shot at a gym with troops in Kuwait. Over video troops cheering Obama as he walked into the gym, on ABC's World News Jim Sciutto touted: “Though the destinations were new, the greeting was familiar. Senator Barack Obama signing autographs with soldiers on his first stop in Kuwait, even taking time to play some basketball...” Forrest Sawyer, anchoring the CBS Evening News on Saturday night, apparently with a new job after many years with ABC and MSNBC, highlighted how Obama “sank a shot from way outside the paint.” Sawyer announced over matching video:
Now, before Afghanistan Senator Obama stopped off in Kuwait to talk to the troops there. You remember all that grief Obama got for being a terrible bowler? Well, at a local gym someone handed him a basketball and he promptly sank a shot from way outside the paint. He made it look easy. You just have to pick the game.
While Thursday’s New York Times reported that the anchors from all three network newscasts will be joining Barack Obama on his trip to Iraq, they showed no such interest in following John McCain during his visit to Iraq in March. During the week of March 16, McCain’s trip received only four full-length stories during the combined ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news program coverage. Three of those stories were on NBC’s "Nightly News," one of which focused on McCain’s mistaken comment about Iran funding Al Qaeda in Iraq. ABC’s "World News" did only one full-length story on McCain’s Iraq trip, which mentioned the gaffe. The CBS "Evening News" was by far the worst, devoting only 31 words, a grand total of 10 seconds, to the Republican nominee’s Iraq visit during the entire week of evening news coverage. Read Media Research Center press release here.
Even the Times article acknowledged that McCain’s Iraq trip received little coverage: "Senator John McCain’s trip to Iraq last March was a low-key affair: With a small retinue of reporters chasing him abroad...But the coverage also feeds into concerns in Mr. McCain’s campaign, and among Republicans in general, that the news media are imbalanced in their coverage of the candidates." See the previous NewsBusters post by John Stephenson for more on the Times article.
Hitting full panic mode on Tuesday night, ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Markets are gyrating, inflation is rising, banks are closing. Consumer pessimism is at an all-time high.” Actually, only one bank. Gibson explained “we are going to devote a large part of our broadcast tonight to the economy because the news each day seems unrelentingly bad.”
It certainly is on television news where Gibson brought aboard a group of three experts “to help us separate fact from fear,” but they and Gibson spread fear as he put himself in the place of a viewer and wondered: “My house is falling apart, the real estate mortgage companies may be in trouble, and now I hear about possible bank failures. And the stock market is tanking. So how do I be thoughtful about what I do with my money?” An exasperated Gibson soon pleaded:
Tell me where people go now to make sure their money is safe. With stocks down, you think the safest place to do is in the bank, and now we're told that there could be a lot of bank failures. So where do you put your money that you know it's safe? Under the mattress?
Three weeks ago when a Newsweek poll put Democrat Barack Obama 15 points ahead of Republican John McCain, the ABC and CBS evening newscasts highlighted the out of sync finding. But when a new Newsweek survey released Friday placed Obama a mere three points in front of McCain, neither ABC's World News nor the CBS Evening News mentioned it on Friday or Saturday night.
“A startling new poll,” fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell announced during the Friday, June 20 newscast, “Barack Obama now leads John McCain nationwide by 15 points, 51 to 36 percent. This according to Newsweek.” The next night, Saturday, June 21, ABC World News anchor David Muir pointed to “a new poll from Newsweek magazine that shows Barack Obama opening a 15-point lead over John McCain.”
Newsweek's Jonathan Darman failed to consider the inaccuracy of the earlier poll as he expressed his befuddlement on Friday with the slim 44 to 41 lead for Obama: “Perhaps most puzzling is how McCain could have gained traction in the past month.”
Proving the old saw that a “gaffe” is when a politician stumbles into the truth, ABC's World News, which has showcased Americans whining about the inability to afford “joy rides” or breakfast, on Thursday night led with former Senator Phil Gramm's observation that “this is a mental recession”and “we've sort of become a nation of whiners.” In relaying the comments from the economic adviser to the McCain campaign, anchor Charles Gibson conceded “the fundamentals of the economy may be sound, as Gramm argues,” but: “There are a lot of people suffering right now. So, Barack Obama was quick to pounce, and John McCain was quick to renounce.”
Reporter David Wright featured a soundbite of Obama asserting “we need somebody to actually solve the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not all in your head,” and then backed him up: “That certainly's what voters seem to think.” A man on the street insisted: “I think it's way more than just our imagination. It's in our face. And we need help.” Wright concluded with how Gramm's “point seems to be that while consumer confidence has been at record lows, other economic indicators are pretty good -- that the fundamentals are sound.” Wright, naturally, countered: “That's no consolation to folks who worry about their mortgages and who are paying these high prices at the pump.”
Meanwhile, on the CBS Evening News after a look at Gramm/McCain, Jeff Greenfield suggested that Jesse Jackson's violent intentions toward Barack Obama -- “I want to cut his nuts off” -- will benefit Obama:
Overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House agreed to a new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) the President will happily sign, with the Senate -- including 21 Democrats -- voting for it Wednesday by 69 to 29, yet NBC and ABC painted it as “controversial” based on how the bill blocks lawsuits against telecommunications companies which cooperated with the President after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Though the program tracked communication between suspected terrorists overseas and people within the United States, not all of them Americans, NBC's Brian Williams delivered a more nefarious picture of firms that had “helped to spy on Americans” and ABC's Charles Gibson referred to “the ability to listen in on Americans without a warrant.” Williams announced:
The Senate approved controversial new rules allowing the government to listen in on phone calls and read e-mails. And what happened today is controversial in large part because America's telecommunications companies get unprecedented protection from lawsuits if they helped to spy on Americans in effect.
Gibson asserted: “One of the most controversial aspects of the bill will protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for giving the government the ability to listen in on Americans without a warrant.”
On NBC, reporter Pete Williams fretted: “This dooms more than three dozen lawsuits against telephone companies and e-mail providers over what they did to help the government intercept communications after 9/11. So this means that no court can now be asked to rule on whether the Bush administration's eavesdropping program was ever constitutional.”
As Congress takes new aim at speculators for the high price of gasoline, some media reports seem to be following suit. But as The Biz Flog explains this week, there is considerable debate over whether speculators should be blamed for the high cost of oil.
June 23, the same day Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee condemned oil speculators, the "CBS Evening News" and ABC's "World News" blamed oil speculation for a large chunk of the spike in prices.
"There's no doubt speculation plays a role in the skyrocketing price, but how much?" ABC correspondent Ryan Owens said June 23. "Experts say if it were just simple supply and demand a barrel would cost $75. Today it closed north of $135."
Scott Horsley explained oil speculation on June 29 for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," where he pointed out that there have always been financial players in the oil market and there is still a debate over what influence they really have.
If Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republican majority had faced a 9 percent approval rating at any point in the 1996 presidential election year, the media would have not let anyone forget it.
So given that and the media's frequently reminding Americans of President Bush's low approval numbers, why are the broadcast media ignoring the latest Rasmussen poll on the approval rating for Congress under the leadership of Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)?
Rasmussen's survey hit the wires yesterday, but none of the broadcast evening news programs covered the story, not even as a brief anchor mention. The July 9 "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and CBS's "Early Show," similarly paid no heed to the development.
The polling firm's official news release noted that the numbers are really bad even among Democrats -- who are only in the low-double digits in strongly approving of Congress -- and the harshest criticism comes from independents (emphasis mine):
During the weekend's coverage of President Bush's trip to the G-8 Summit in Japan, ABC correspondents Martha Raddatz and John Cochran both reminded viewers of faux pas by the President from past G-8 Summits. On World News Saturday, while downplaying expectations of any significant accomplishments at the summit, Raddatz relayed: "In fairness, the G-8 rarely has created any breakthrough announcements. The most memorable moments had little to do with real news. There was the famous shoulder rub with Germany's Angela Merkel, and the live microphone that caught the President talking in less-than-diplomatic terms while he lunched with Tony Blair." (Transcript follows)
ABC showed the clip of Bush startling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by grabbing her shoulders from behind, and a censored clip from 2006 of him using profanity while talking about the terror group Hezbollah with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this [BLEEP]-"
After leading Tuesday's Special Report with how “last year the administration reported satisfactory progress on only about eight of 18 benchmarks” while this year, in a report disclosed Tuesday, the administration determined “there has been satisfactory progress on 15 of the 18,” FNC's Brit Hume doubted “word of this progress is going to get through” to the public as he predicted:
I suspect that this broadcast tonight -- and maybe some others on this channel -- are the only ones who are going to make a headline out of this. This is not going to be a big story elsewhere.
Indeed, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Iraq while on ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson read a short update about “increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan” since “in the month of June there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month.” CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 was also silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks.
The Pentagon on Monday released a quarterly report showing dramatic reductions in violence in Iraq compared to a year earlier, but only ABC aired a full story Monday evening while NBC gave it short-shrift as anchor Brian Williams cited the reduction in violence “by as much as 80 percent” since “before the so-called troop surge.” He then added a caveat about how the report “also warns the positive trend here remains, quote, 'fragile, reversible and uneven.'” CBS didn't mention the Department of Defense report, but gave a few seconds to a front page USA Today story on how the number of Americans killed by roadside bombs has plummeted 88 percent from a year ago.
Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased, “Report card: The government says there's good news from Iraq. Violence is down dramatically, while security and the economy are improving.” Reporter Terry McCarthy recited how “civilian deaths are down 75 percent since last July. Total security incidents are at their lowest level in over four years.” McCarthy credited “a number of reasons for the progress: Better performance by the Iraqi security forces; surprising new leadership by Prime Minister Maliki, who's confronting both al-Qaeda and the militias; and the creation of 103,000 Sons of Iraq -- local security forces, many of them recruited from the insurgency.” Indeed, McCarthy confirmed the Pentagon's assessment:
For the past three weeks, we've traveled the length of Iraq, from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, and the reduction in violence is remarkable everywhere.
On Sunday evening, ABC and CBS presented opposite views on whether racism by white voters will hurt Barack Obama on election day, as each network cited its own polling data. On ABC's World News Sunday, referring to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, anchor Dan Harris reported that "race does not appear to be a major factor," although he qualified that contention by pausing and adding, "right now." But on the CBS Evening News, correspondent Randall Pinkston more pessimistically referred to the "Bradley Effect," the theory that white voters sometimes lie to pollsters about their willingness to vote for a black candidate. Pinkston also found: "In a recent CBS News poll, for white voters who say race is a factor in their presidential choice, McCain leads Obama by nearly 20 points. It's a major problem for Obama with no easy solution." But it is also notable that while both reports focused on the possibility that racism by some white voters might hurt Obama, neither report examined black voters who might choose not to vote for a white candidate out of racism toward whites. (Transcripts follow)
Applying the same invidious approach to campaign spending as journalists so often do to society where they equate outcome with fairness and consider income disparities to be an injustice which must be dealt with by forced redistribution of wealth via the tax code, on Friday night ABC anchor Charles Gibson fretted that Barack Obama's fundraising advantage over John McCain violates “basic fairness.” Citing Obama's decision to opt out of public financing since he knows he can raise much more than McCain, Gibson complained to George Stephanopoulos:
George, I've heard a lot of political analysis today about his decision, but let me ask you a question about basic fairness. People in this country like to believe that people play on a level playing field and that a campaign will be about ideas and personality. If you start with that much more money, is it basically fair?
Of course, conservatives would point out that the mainstream media have never provided “a level playing field” to candidates to the right of center. If Obama can raise more than his opponent it just reflects greater enthusiasm for him. And there's hardly any nobility in taking taxpayer money when you know you'll be challenged to raise a larger amount voluntarily. But I suspect what really infuriates Gibson is Obama's decision to abandon public financing, a basic tenet of liberalism.
Getting in some last shots at President Bush as his trip to Europe came to an end in London, CBS and ABC on Sunday night focused stories on Bush's unpopularity on the continent where “they're glad he's on his way out” and it's “an understatement to say that Mr. Bush is unpopular.” CBS correspondent Bill Plante asserted “much of Europe thinks of Mr. Bush as a cowboy who has ridden roughshod over the wishes of his allies and they're glad he's on his way out,” before the CBS Evening News featured a woman on the street who declared: “Good-bye. It was not fun. And I am looking forward to the change.” Then viewers heard from protesters: “George Bush? Terrorist! George Bush? Terrorist!” Plante proceeded to highlight:
According to a Pew Research Center poll out last week, Europeans -- a majority of Britons, French and Germans -- believe a new President means a better U.S. foreign policy, and for most Britons, French and Germans, Barack Obama's personal story and opposition to the war make him a heavy favorite over John McCain when it comes to their confidence in his handling of foreign policy.