As the MRC’s Brent Baker reported, the broadcast network news programs focused much attention Monday on immigration issues and rallies. In an effort to demonstrate growing public sentiment in favor of giving such folks guest worker status, the “Evening News” presented data recently obtained from a CBS News poll on the subject. Unfortunately, CBS only shared the parts of the poll that seemed to support its own position on this issue while ignoring the results that didn’t (video link to follow). White House correspondent Jim Axelrod claimed: “According to a new CBS News poll, 74 percent of Americans favor allowing illegal immigrants to stay and work if they have been here at least five years, pay a fine and back taxes, speak English and don't have a criminal record. But even when you wipe away all those conditions, more Americans still favor allowing illegals to apply for work permits than oppose the idea.”
In addition, Axelrod concluded his piece by suggesting that it was conservatives that are blocking legislation that would make these protestors happy: “And despite the latest poll numbers, don't forget that in this town there is still a strong feeling among conservatives that the only nonnegotiables in immigration reform are tighter borders and stricter law enforcement. So this would hardly be the first group to demonstrate at the Mall and ultimately be disappointed.”
Yet, Axelrod and CBS chose not to include in this report other numbers from this poll suggesting that Americans are not only opposed to illegal immigration, but also think legal immigration is too high:
The three broadcast networks led Monday night with multiple stories which celebrated the protest marches held by illegal immigrants and their supporters, with all three featuring sympathetic anecdotes about the plight of those here illegally. “Tonight,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted in forwarding the red herring that conservatives are against “immigration” as opposed to illegal entry, “hundreds of thousands of people marching in streets across America, trying to convince the country that it needs immigrants." World News Tonight went to three field reports, starting with Miguel Marquez in Phoenix: “Everywhere you look, there are American flags. They're marching under the banner of 'Somos America,' 'we are American.'" But Dan Harris in New York City saw that “like many people here,” one man he spoke with “is carrying a Mexican flag. He says 'I don't need to carry an American flag for people to know that I want to be an American.'"
CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, who never uttered the word “illegal” in his lengthy introduction, teased: “They are not American citizens yet, but they want to be. And from every corner of America, immigrants took to the streets today to ask for new immigration laws. We'll go city to city tonight.” Schieffer trumpeted: "Not since the protests of the Vietnam era has there been anything quite like it. From the Canadian border to Texas, from California to the east coast, thousands upon thousands of immigrants in at least a hundred American cities took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations." Bill Whittaker championed “Alex Vega...a father of ten. He owns a business and a house in Orange County. He entered the U.S. illegally 28 years ago. He's marching today because he says he's tired of living in the shadows." From Washington's Mall, Jim Axelrod saw “tens of thousands of Americans” marching though many were illegals. Over on NBC, the least celebratory, Lester Holt heralded: “From border states like here in Arizona to unlikely places like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants alongside their supporters stepped from the shadows. Marching under the American flag, they demanded a place at the American table." (Transcripts follow.)
A turn of the channel for Katie Couric on CBS Evening News is a vote for Hillary Clinton in '08, or so proclaimed Chris Matthews on the syndicated The Chris Matthews Show yesterday morning. Matthews, right before he signed off, said if Katie Couric pulls good ratings it may mean the country is ready for Hillary Clinton as president: "Will the verdict on Katie constitute an early verdict on a Hillary sitting in the President’s chair? That’s right, before we get to vote on Hillary for President we’re gonna get to vote for Katie for Anchorwoman. We’re gonna be showing our hand about how we feel about a woman with such power. How we are going to feel about the same question in 2008. This time it will be in our living rooms using a remote flicker, the next time it will be in a voting booth. "
Please check out your local MRC bias buster as we fan out to critique the new personnel moves in TV news. National Review Online was kind enough to offer me a little real estate today to argue that Katie Couric is just another Dan Rather: "But as different as her sparkly 'That Girl' personality is from Dan Rather's wizened weirdness, they have one thing in common: Truth is a malleable commodity, something to be stretched and smudged like Silly Putty on the Sunday funnies if the political cause is right."
Over at Human Events Online, MRC's Rich Noyes says the message to conservatives in the Couric and Vieira appointments is, well, tough luck, troglodytes: "CBS’s decision to name Katie Couric as Dan Rather’s permanent replacement on the 'CBS Evening News,' and NBC’s choice of daytime talk show host Meredith Vieira to replace Couric on 'Today,' both indicate a defiant attitude toward viewers fed up with the media elite’s insular liberal approach to covering political and social issues."
Newsweek puts Katie Couric on the cover this week, and the cover story by Marc Peyser and Johnnie Roberts is easy, breezy, and totally free of any troublesome analysis of whether Couric is fair and balanced enough to attract non-liberal viewers. The most eye-opening line comes from former CBS reporter Marvin Kalb, responding to Andy Rooney's nobody's-happy-about-Katie rant on the Imus show:
"I remember when CBS hired [former game-show host] Mike Wallace and gave him the morning news," says Marvin Kalb, a former CBS correspondent who is now a senior fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center. "You should have heard the men's room conversation. My God, what have they done? They destroyed the Murrow tradition—all that. I think the negative spin on Katie Couric is unfair, and I think she is going to prove those people wrong. So take that, Andy Rooney, and screw you."
The Bush administration and all Americans got great news on the economic front Friday when the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 211,000 jobs were added in March while the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, the lowest level in four-and-a-half years. Yet NBC didn't see a booming economy. “President Bush used the jobs numbers as a starting point for a new push to try to convince Americans that the economy is, in fact, on a roll,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted before adding a “but,” as in: "But as NBC News chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson tells us tonight, the economic picture is a bit more complicated." Thompson highlighted how “a new poll out today shows 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the President's handling of the economy." After relaying how Bush blames Iraq for that, Thompson ran a soundbite from an economist who blamed slow wage growth before she recited her own litany: “Also dragging down attitudes, rising health care costs and gas prices. The nation has a negative savings rate, and household debt...is at record levels and could squeeze already strapped family budgets as interest rates continue to rise.” Thompson ended her piece with a quick look at a Massachusetts computer company which is hiring.
At least NBC gave its viewers the basic numbers of the day before trying to discount them. Friday's CBS Evening News didn't utter a syllable about the jobs/unemployment numbers, yet Bob Schieffer's show found time for a second night of coverage of how Bush “authorized leaking classified information” and for a piece on an orphanage in Kenya for elephants -- and that was even before two fluff “Assignment America” segments. ABC's World News Tonight allocated 25 seconds to the unemployment/jobs numbers as anchor Elizabeth Vargas pointed out the 31 consecutive months of job growth. (Transcript of NBC's story follows.)
USA Today omitted any reference to incoming Today host Meredith Vieira's anti-war activism in Peter Johnson's April 7 Life section article, even as a brief, indirect allusion to NewsBusters.org coverage of the controversy was included in an online filing posted the evening of April 6:
Conservative bloggers pounced on NBC's choice, saying Vieira has a long record on The View as an anti-war liberal. But Vieira said that on The View,
which she expects to leave in May, she was paid to express her
opinions. "There is nothing I have ever said that I am ashamed of," she
said, but on Today, her opinions "have no place. It's a different animal."
Like the cable networks during the day, the three broadcast networks on Thursday night were hyperbolic over the revelation that Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, testified that in July of 2003 President Bush had authorized the leaking of parts of a classified pre-war report on Iraq in order to correct misinformation being spread by Joe Wilson. All the newscasts led with the allegation and stressed Bush's hypocrisy in denouncing leaks while leaking material himself, but NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams was the most dramatic in employing the most nefarious language. He intoned: “There is an allegation tonight that President Bush authorized the leak of government information -- sensitive, classified information about Iraq -- in order to get back at a critic of his administration and the build-up to war.” Referring to Libby's charge, Williams asserted: “If what he is saying is true, it would mean he was used, in effect, by the President and Vice President to leak secrets. It is a story of much intrigue, big names, and potentially very high stakes.”
Bob Schieffer teased the CBS Evening News: “President Bush has long made clear he despises leaks and leakers. But tonight, he is accused of authorizing a leak of classified intelligence." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked: “Did the White House practice the opposite of what it preached?" White House correspondent Martha Raddatz equated Bush's supposed divulging of a pre-war assessment of a regime which no longer existed with those who disclosed ongoing operational information about the efforts to prevent terrorist attacks: “The Bush administration has vigorously pursued investigations of those who leaked documents pertaining to the secret domestic spying program, and to disclosures of secret prisons run overseas." (Partial transcripts follow.)
CBSEvening News anchor Bob Schieffer praised Katie Couric’s selection as his successor in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer aired during the 4pm EDT hour, and again in the 7pm EDT hour, of Thursday's The Situation Room. As MRC analyst Brian Boyd reported here, CBS correspondent Andy Rooney appeared on the April 5 Imus in the Morning radio program, where he told Don Imus that he was "not enthusiastic" about Couric’s hiring, and that "I don’t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she’s coming here." When Schieffer was asked about Rooney’s comments, he politely disagreed with his colleague.
Bob Schieffer: "Well, if he says he didn’t know anyone I, I hate to tell you, Andy, but you must have not talked to me, because I’m pleased she’s coming here, so I’d have to question you on that. You know, I, I learned a long time ago that I let everybody speak for themselves. That’s Andy’s view. That’s what, you know, that’s what Andy does. He, he speaks his mind. I, I just don’t agree with him. He’s a great friend of mine but I don’t agree with him on that."
Yesterday it was made official, Katie Couric is leaving the "Today" show on NBC to anchor the "CBS Evening News." While some CBS employees have been less than welcoming -- Andy Rooney for example -- for the most part CBS reporters have been good soldiers in promoting the company line. But, on this morning’s "The Early Show," co-host Harry Smith went above and beyond the call of duty in narrating a piece that was so laden with praise, it could have been mistaken for a eulogy. Take the following quotes for example:
Harry Smith: "Does Katie have the gravitas to anchor the evening news, to be the go-to guy, so to speak, on breaking news? Absolutely. Did you see Katie on 9/11? Have you seen her interview a president? She makes the powerful, uncomfortable, and makes real folks feel at home."
A day after the Democratic legislature of Massachusetts passed a mandated health insurance plan, and tellingly the day of a front page New York Times story (“Massachusetts Sets Health Plan for Nearly All”) touting the bill which Republican Governor Mitt Romney plans to sign, all three broadcast network evening newscasts led Wednesday by championing the proposal and characterizing it as a national model. ABC and NBC provided critics with just a sentence while CBS ran a totally one-sided promotional story. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "Tonight, one state's revolutionary attempt to create universal health care. If a state can do it, why can't the country?" Vargas claimed: “Most people think medical costs are too high and would like a universal insurance system to cover everyone.” Reporter Nancy Weiner soon trumpeted: “Many experts say after years of failed attempts in several states, and by the federal government the Massachusetts version of universal health care, which stresses individual responsibility, could serve as a national model."
CBS Evening News anchor Russ Mitchell celebrated the government mandate, “Imagine this: Virtually everyone guaranteed health insurance coverage. It's happening in one state, and it could be a model for the rest.” Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams dreamed: “Health insurance for everybody. Is it possible? Tonight, one state about to make it the law. If it works, will the same thing happen where you live?” He soon wondered: “If this works, why not the rest of the nation? It's been called 'mandatory health care,' 'universal health care,' and, while it has its critics, it's also being called a potential and revolutionary solution to a huge problem: the millions of uninsured Americans.” (Transcripts follow.)
Thinking ahead to 2008, it's clear that new CBS anchor Katie Couric has to be counted as a positive political asset for Hillary Clinton. Hillary's "Today" interviews have been almost universally sappy and sympathetic. (In a big-picture way, you might also see in solo-anchor Katie another sign, like Geena Davis's "Commander in Chief" on ABC, of an attempt by liberal media to push hard on the equal plausibility and authoritativeness of women in the top jobs.)
Katie may have been speaking both herself and Hillary in the interview that aired on February 18, 2004: "Hillary Clinton's choices in just about everything have been scrutinized and analyzed by almost everyone. She hopes as more women themselves assume positions of power voters will be less judgmental and more forgiving." Katie has been extremely forgiving in her Hillary interviews, ignoring almost all topics Mrs. Clinton would rather not discuss. Instead, Couric has treated her as a serious policy wonk and feminist icon. Here's some notable pro-Hillary quotes from the Clinton era forward:
Today's starters: Keeping with its tradition of political fairness and neutrality, Middle Tennessee State University is continuing its journalism conference (conference called: Self-Inflicted Wounds — Fact and Fiction in Journalism: Fabrication, Plagiarism and Confidential Sources)--kicked off earlier this week by an address from that paragon of objectivity Al Gore--with a panel discussion featuring Mary Mapes. The session is entitled "Rush to Judgment? The CBS Crisis." Any NB readers in the area?
The big media story of the day, as reported earlier by NB's Mark Finkelstein, is that Katie Couric is headed over to CBS. The NYT and LAT both have good good stories the deal and its implications. Why does Couric's leaving warrant attention, asks one blogger. Another says she won't watch "Today" if it hires "View" co-host Meredith Viera.
Playing the straight man to perfection, Matt Lauer kicked off the second half-hour of this morning's Today show by asking Katie Couric: "Anything new?"
In responding, Couric made official what she acknowledged was "the worst kept secret in America": that after 15 years she was leaving Today to go to the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes. Here, for posterity, was the opening line of Couric's announcement:
"I wanted to tell all of you out there who have watched the show for the past 15 years that after listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I've decided I'll be leaving Today at the end of May."
TV Newser is collating the latest Katie Couric news:
In Tuesday's New York Times,Bill Carter writes: "Any such announcement" about Katie Couric's move "will not be accompanied by a news conference at CBS, however, several people close to Ms. Couric said. Some reports this week have suggested that CBS was reserving space at its news headquarters for a formal introduction of Ms. Couric. But her associates said they believe that there is no possibility that that will happen this week. The reason, they explained, is that Ms. Couric will remain at NBC News through May 31, the full duration of her contract, and would not consent to appear at a CBS event, out of deference to her NBC employers."
Perhaps I was reading into things in light of the rampant speculation about Katie Couric's possibly imminent departure for the CBS Evening News anchor spot. But this veteran Today watcher sensed a distinct mood of nostalgia on the set this morning.
Katie Couric was back after a couple weeks vacation, and all the crew members went out of their way to remark on the reunion of the regular cast. Beyond that, there was something in the air as somber as Katie's black outfit, as if the cast sensed this might well be the last week they were together as a unit.
Lauer: "Haven't seen you for a couple of weeks. Good to have you back." The pair jokingly shook hands as if they were meeting for the first time.
Kudos to CBS News and Lara Logan for undermining a widely reported incident in which U.S. soldiers supposedly killed innocent Iraqis inside a mosque. On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Logan, who just three days earlier on CNN contemptuously dismissed as “outrageous” Laura Ingraham's criticism of Iraq war coverage for ignoring the courageous work of U.S. servicemen, relayed how “the U.S. says” those killed “were members of a militia responsible for executions and kidnappings who opened fire on elite Iraqi forces carrying out a raid early Sunday evening.” But, “many Iraqis believe they were innocent worshipers praying in a mosque who were slaughtered by American forces. Today the Iraqi commander in charge of that raid, whose identity we can't show for security reasons, told CBS News that was a lie." After soundbites from the Iraqi commander and a kidnap victim they rescued, Logan concluded with how the trouble facing Americans in Iraq is that Iraqis believe “another crime” was committed by Americans: “The American special operations troops who supported the Iraqis on this raid praised both their skill and their restraint. But the continuing problem for the U.S. is the public perception here that what happened Sunday was another crime committed by American forces.” (Transcript follows, plus Logan's attack on Ingraham)
At a forum with President George W. Bush Wednesday at the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, West Virginia, Gayle Taylor, the wife of a member of the military recently returned from Iraq, was drowned out by a standing ovation when she told Bush: "It seems that our major media networks don't want to portray the good. They just want to focus-" Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News found the criticism of the news media to be newsworthy. NBC's David Gregory instead decided to assert that “in a state he won twice...many here now wonder whether the sacrifice of American lives has been worth it.” NBC viewers then heard from one Mountain State resident, Donna Neptune, whom Gregory described as “a Republican." She maintained: “Those people don't want our help. Our people's being killed over there for nothing."
ABC's World News Tonight, however, was unique amongst the broadcast evening newscasts and highlighted the contention from the woman anchor Elizabeth Vargas described as “the wife of a military journalist who was just back from Iraq." Vargas set up the brief soundbite: “There has been criticism from the Bush administration and others that the media has been ignoring the good news in Iraq, distorting what's really going on there.”After the clip of Taylor, Vargas acknowledged that “it is certainly true that many of the stories from Iraq involve violence, and fear,” but she argued “it is also true that we cover all kinds of stories in Iraq. The last story Bob [Woodruff] filed before” the attack which severely wounded him, “was about a Baghdad ice cream parlor” and “when I was in Iraq in December, we spent time at this ballet school for children.” (Transcripts follow)
Unlike ABC's George Stephanopoulos on World News Tonight and Kelly O'Donnell on the NBC Nightly News, on the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod featured the far-left question from Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas at Tuesday morning's presidential press conference. Thomas blamed Bush for deaths and charged that he employed subterfuge to launch a war: "Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war?" Axelrod set up Thomas by pointing out how Bush “did something he hadn't done in three years: Call on the often combative dean of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas." While O'Donnell and Stephanopoulos didn't air the question from Thomas, they did run a soundbite of part of Bush's answer to her. Axelrod also showcased his question to Bush, one based on the questionable premise that someone who shows up outside a hotel where the President is to speak is anything but a motivated antagonist: "I spent a fair amount of time in front of that hotel in Cleveland yesterday talking to people about the war, and one woman who said she voted for you said, 'You know what? He's losing me, he's been there too long, he's losing me.' What do you say to her?" (Transcript follows.)
Toppling Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and bringing the brutal dictator before a court of law is unquestionably a major achievement of the U.S. and our allies. But TV coverage has minimized the historic significance of this case. Instead, the network’s Iraq news has been a depressingly dour drumbeat of terrorist attacks, U.S. casualties and dark warnings that Iraq is on the verge of ‘civil war.’
Not even Saddam's trial for crimes against humanity has encouraged TV to take more than a cursory look at the ex-dictator's horrifying record. Our analysts here at the MRC have just reviewed every mention of the trial on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news from October 16 (when the networks began previewing the trial) through March 15 (when Saddam himself took the stand).
Although an offer is rumored to be imminent, there appears to be an upper management split at CBS concerning the hiring of Katie Couric as anchor for the “Evening News.” According to Drudge, even though CBS President Les Moonves is “convinced Katie Couric is the right person for the job,” this is “despite warnings from top management that the move could have lackluster results.”
What makes them feel this way? “Nervous executives at CBS have been examining tapes of Couric from August 2001 -- and nitpicking her performance -- when she substituted for a vacationing Tom Brokaw.”
Does CBS anchor Bob Schieffer think that if he issues ominous warnings about "civil war" in Iraq often enough it will eventually come true and vindicate his, as of yet, unfulfilled predictions? Neither ABC or NBC raised "civil war" in their Wednesday evening newscasts, but Bob Schieffer, who has been the most prolific anchor in pushing the dire warning, did so again as he pegged off how Saddam Hussein has turned his trial into a "farce" to insist that "Iraq teeters on the edge of civil war." Schieffer opened his broadcast with a downbeat litany: "Iraq's new parliament is scheduled to meet for the first time tomorrow, but again today political leaders could not agree on a cabinet to take charge of the government, top cleric's appeals for calm went unheeded and the country may be closer than ever to civil war..."
CBS News chose the day President Bush launched a series of speeches, intended to boost support for the Iraq war, to highlight a poll which found most Americans are much more pessimistic than is the President. In laying out on Monday's CBS Evening News a series of poll findings, including how 66 percent feel Bush has been describing the “things in Iraq” as “better than they are,” both Bob Schieffer and Jim Axelrod skipped the finding that, while the media fare better than Bush, nearly a third (31 percent) say the media “make things sound worse in Iraq than they really are,” compared to 24 percent who perceive the media are describing things “better than they are” and 35 percent who think journalism on Iraq “accurately” reflects the situation.
Schieffer rattled off how the percent who believe the "war is going badly” is up while the percent who see future success is down since January, before Jim Axelrod followed Bush's warning, that the terrorists want to start a civil war, with a survey finding which matched the media's mantra: "Seven of ten Americans say Iraq is already in a civil war. Another 13 percent say it will be." Pouring on the dour numbers, Axelrod asserted: "The President wants to rally Americans, but public opinion is fading fast. Only 43 percent now believe Iraq will become a stable democracy. A 15 point drop in just two months." Axelrod concluded: “With suicide bombs now going off nearly every day in Iraq, it will take some real progress on the ground and not just speeches to revive American's optimism.” You certainly can't count on the media for any optimism. Lara Logan soon checked in from Baghdad with how “there is grave concern amongst leaders here that civil war is exactly where this country is heading.”(Transcript follows.)
The CBS Evening News on Thursday night used President Bush's signing of the Patriot Act renewal as a chance to run a full story on, as anchor Bob Schieffer worded it, “a Texas couple that blames the Patriot Act for ruining their marriage.” Really. Schieffer had first noted how “the new law does include some additional protections for civil liberties,” but “some critics still don't like it.” Reporter Kelly Cobiella looked at the plight of the wife of Mahmoud Alafyouny, who “has been in prison for two years but never charged with a crime. He's a Palestinian fighting deportation back to Jordan because the Department of Homeland Security says he's a terrorist and a danger to national security." Rae Alafyouny, a TSA agent, must drive four hours to visit the prison holding her husband who “raised money for the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Cobiella relayed how his ACLU attorneys “argue it's a double standard” since “the U.S. government has given the PLO's successor, the Palestine Authority, $1.3 billion since 1993.” But there's a big difference between government policy toward a foreign entity -- in this case money to try to maintain a stable society and reduce terrorist attacks on Israelis -- and what individuals are allowed to do. (Transcript follows.)
Dan Rather spoke at a Cherry Hill, New Jersey high school last night (Wednesday), South Jersey's Courier-Post reports this morning, and reporter Jim Walsh noted (without irony) that the disgraced and replaced CBS Evening News anchor proposed “Rather’s Rules” for improving journalism.
Isn’t that a bit like “Dr. Kevorkian’s Rules” for better medicine?
In his speech, Rather repeated his recent chiding of the national media for being too soft, and in “need of a spine transplant.” But when it came to his own journalistic transgression, the 2004 60 Minutes hit piece on President Bush's National Guard service -- a report based on forged memos -- Rather crouched behind his Nixonian stone wall:
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."
Wednesday’s Early Show on CBS carried a segment on Iraq emblazoned with the headline “Iraq Civil War.” The worry that Iraq is about to tip over into an all-out fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites has been thick in the media since terrorists bombed an important Shiite mosque a week ago. As CBS anchor Bob Schieffer announced that night (February 22): “One of the worst days ever in Iraq, and it’s Iraqis against Iraqis. A Middle East expert tells us the country has been plunged into civil war.”
But while there’s been a definite uptick in violence and death in the week since the mosque bombing, the “civil war” scenario has failed to materialize. On FNC’s Your World with Neil Cavuto earlier this afternoon, a panel discussed whether notions of an imminent Iraq “civil war” are a grim reality, or a media myth. Former CBS and NBC reporter Marvin Kalb spoke for the rest of the liberal establishment: "What is going on in Iraq now is deadly, serious stuff. People are dying there....This is not a myth. This is what is happening and the American people deserve to know the truth.”
Well, if Iraq’s future matches the current prognostications from the liberal media, it’s purely a matter of coincidence. Pessimistic media mavens have been fretting about a “civil war” since shortly after the coalition liberated Baghdad in April 2003. A brief review:
CBS reporter Jim Axelrod on Wednesday night described how “this is what awaited Mr. Bush upon his highly-publicized arrival in India: Tens of thousands turned out to protest America's presence in the Islamic world.” Also from New Delhi, NBC's David Gregory relayed how, over video of crowds and a few men around a burning effigy of Bush, “Mr. Bush has already been met by large anti-U.S., anti-war protests.” But while ABC's Martha Raddatz noted how Bush's “warm reception in Afghanistan stood in stark contrast to the scene when the President arrived later in India,” where “tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly Muslim, lined the streets,” she pointed out what Axelrod and Gregory skipped: “Despite the demonstrations, the President has a strong approval rating here in India, roughly 70 percent."
Actually, the “2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey,” posted again Tuesday, “found that about seven-in-ten Indians (71%) have a favorable view of the United States,” not Bush, and that “while U.S. favorability ratings have plunged in many countries, Indians are significantly more positive about the United States now than they were in the summer of 2002.” As for Bush personally, the Pew poll discovered that he's “widely admired” in India where “just over half (54%)...say they have a lot or some confidence that Bush will generally do the right thing in world affairs, a significantly higher percentage than in any other country except his own.” (Transcripts, and more on the Pew poll, follow.)
Wednesday's CBS Evening News devoted about 20 seconds to anchor Russ Mitchell highlighting how “it was revealed today” -- as if it were some kind of cover-up being exposed -- “that the [Supreme] Court's newest member, Justice Samuel Alito, sent a personal thank you note to a conservative Christian leader who supported his nomination.” Mitchell then identified that recipient as James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and stressed how he “is a leading opponent of abortion.” What did Alito write that CBS considered so newsworthy? Mitchell relayed: “Dobson read the note in his radio program today, quoting Alito as saying he appreciated those who prayed for him and he'll remember the 'trust' that's been placed in him." But a reading of the actual letter (reprinted below) suggests Dobson just got a form letter Alito sent to all of those who congratulated him on his confirmation, not a coded commitment to Dobson's agenda on abortion.
Neither ABC or NBC mentioned the matter on their Wednesday night newscasts, but that could just be due to the AP not distributing a dispatch on it until late in the day. The AP's Colleen Slevin allowed a Supreme Court spokesman to explain how the same language appeared, in Slevin's words, “in many replies he wrote to congratulatory letters." Slevin, however, felt compelled to consider potential improprieties, turning to a professor who “said Alito's letter did not appear to violate ethical standards,” before she related how “Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the letter 'grossly inappropriate.'” (More from the AP story, the text of the letter and CBS's item in full, all follow.)
According to the article by Louis Uchitelle and Megan Thee, even most of this biased sample of Americans is against raising the gas tax, but the Times helpfully tested different ways that money-hungry politicians might be able to talk them into it: