Hardened NBC watchers know to expect a shift toward the left when Andrea Mitchell is sitting in for Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." On Sunday's big media roundtable, the topic was the administration's "war" on the press. Bennett said Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, whose story on the CIA's secret prisons for terror suspects in Europe outraged Bennett, went all personal on Bennett by saying her story did not break the law: "I mean, some people would like to make casino gambling a crime, but it is not a crime." (The liberal Washington Monthly broke the story in 2003 that Bennett had a bad habit of gambling away thousands of dollars on casino slot machines. The media glee was palpable.)
Sure, Tim Russert is a pillar of the great center-left media establishment. You can take the man out of Mario Cuomo's office, but you can't entirely take Mario's office out of the man. Even so, as MSM types go, Russert is among the more fair-and-balanced.
But in his Today show appearance this morning, Tim simply didn't make sense. Asked by Campbell Brown about the White House's anger at the New York Times for its latest divulging on an anti-terror program, Russert responded:
"There is no doubt this was an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media, particularly the New York Times. It resonates with the organized Republican conservative base: taking on the media,liberal media. Remember Spiro Agnew, back in the Nixon administration: the 'nattering nabobs of negativism.'
The host of NBC's "Meet the Press" Tim Russert gave an interview to New York Times Magazine. Editor and Publisher obtained a preview.
Russert criticized Arriana Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com for her regular critiques of him, saying he doesn't read it because there are "so many untruths, it is scary. You know, there's a long history there."
He talked about Tony Snow, the incoming White House press secretary, and how he prepares for interviews the day before his Sunday talk show.
Elsewhere in his Times interveiw, Russert was asked if the White House, with ex-Fox News employee Tony Snow now running the press end, will give favorable treatment to Fox. "I don't think so," he replied. "No more than they got so far."
Apparently Tim Russert has been paying attention to the misdeeds of Democrats. Last Friday the host of NBC’s Meet the Pressappeared on the Today show. He commented that the Patrick Kennedy scandal will allow Republicans to "suggest to the country it’s not just Republicans who misbehave." I wondered if several misbehaving Democrats had somehow escaped his attention. Mr. Russert, on the May 7 edition of Meet the Press, grilled House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on that very subject:
Russert: "You have Congressman Jefferson of Louisiana, someone pleaded guilty and said he had paid him bribes. You have Cynthia McKinney investigated for roughing up a police officer. You have Congressman Kennedy who, in the wee hours, entangling himself with the police department. So the Democrats have ethical...the Democrats have ethical challenges, too, correct?"
For months, the media have blamed virtually anything but free market forces for the rise in oil and gas prices. NBC’s Lisa Myers attributed these increases to greed on a recent Nightly News report stating almost disgustedly “Exxon earned 9.5 cents on every dollar of gasoline and oil sold, cashing in at every stage of the process.”
Imagine the nerve of ExxonMobil actually making a profit. Oh the humanity.
A few days earlier, CBS’s Russ Mitchell, clearly concerned about price gouging, asked one of his guests on the Evening News, “How easy is it for a gas station, for an oil company to just jack up the price of gas?"
I bet you can’t guess the response.
Yet, in the midst of all this hysteria, a highly unlikely source – National Public Radio’s Internet website – published an article entitled “Q&A: What’s Behind High Gas Prices?” In it, author Scott Horsley adroitly cut through the hype, and
Is it possible that Tim Russert hasn’t been paying attention? The host of Meet the Press appeared on the May 5 edition of NBC’s Today show to discuss President Bush and the midterm elections. Anchor Matt Lauer also asked him about the political fallout from Representative Patrick Kennedy’s car crash:
Russert: "Republicans obviously are watching this very carefully because they want to suggest to the country it's not just Republicans who misbehave or the culture of corruption or whatever. It also could be Democrats.And they're going to really dig into this case, I think, pretty actively."
On Meet the Press this morning, Senator Edward Kennedy (D - MA) did not suggest or imply, but straight-out said that the government should take away oil companies' profits and hand it out to middle income families. Hmm, redistribution of wealth, what does that sound like? Socialism.
MR. RUSSERT: What are we going to do about $3-dollars-a-gallon gasoline?
SEN. KENNEDY: The president, the president should have called the head of the oil companies into the White House and started jawboning. He should have done that a week ago. Why he doesn’t do that, I do not understand. He ought to be pointing out that hard-working Americans, middle-class people, who have their sons and daughters in Iraq and in Afghanistan, that this is not a time for greed. And he ought to activate and call the Federal Trade Commission—which is basically a sleepy organization that has given an interim report in terms of price-fixing and gouging—he ought to get them off and have them working seven days a week, 24/7, to make sure that we know exactly who is price-gouging. And third, we ought to have a bipartisan effort to recapture, recapture these excessive profits that are going to the oil industry and return them to working families and middle-income families.
The new idea in the Democratic Party is to play the "troops card" in any situation because it will win the hearts of people instead of invoking true thought. That is exactly what Kennedy did in this situation. Shame on him.
Sunday seemed to be “Let’s Not Challenge Democrats From Massachusetts Day” on America’s top political talk shows. Similar to what occurred on “This Week” as reported here, Tim Russert on “Meet The Press” seemed content to allow his first guest, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), to say whatever he wanted to about American history regardless of accuracy, with total impunity, and with no fear of being challenged (video link to follow).
The first historical misstatement made by Kennedy was that we have now been in Iraq as long as we were in Korea: “You know, Tim, as of this week, American forces will have been in Iraq as long as America was in the Korean peninsula in the Korean war.” Certainly, any journalist worth his salt would have challenged his guest on this statement, as America more than 50 years later still has troops in Korea. In fact, according to Global Security.org, as many as 67,000 American troops were still in South Korea in 1970, 43,000 in 1991, and 37,000 as recently as October 2004. Today, this number appears to be about 30,000. Yet, Russert chose not to bring this fact to Kennedy’s attention, even when Kennedy reiterated this misstatement later in the interview.
Kennedy’s second unchallenged misstatement came when Russert asked him whether there could be huge consequences to pulling all of America’s troops out of Iraq:
Today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic Representative Jack Murtha stated his view that Americans should leave Iraq immediately at the three-year mark. He said,
“We have to say to the Iraqis, ‘This is your war. This is no longer our war. You’ve got an elected government. This is up to you now to settle this thing,’ ”
Nowhere does the article mention the time line of the two most successful American efforts to build a new nation on different principles, on the wreckage of a former government. Those two nations were Germany and Japan.
In Germany, the reconstruction began with a few elected (non-Nazi) governments in cities. Konrad Adenauer, later to become the first leader of post-war Germany, was one of those mayors. It was not until five years after the surrender in May, 1945, that Germany had its first post-war national election. And it was after that, that the security of the reconstructed nation was turned over entirely to German police forces.
You'd think that of all days, they'd be believers over at Today this morning. After all, they were blessed with presidential poll numbers for which they were surely praying. Numbers so low that Matt Lauer, Tim Russert et. al could spend an extended first segment reveling in them.
Ironically, in sowing some GOP dissent, Lauer even used the language of religion, suggesting the low numbers were "a blessing in disguise" for congressional Republicans because "they can look and say I don't have a popular president here, I can turn my back on that president." Remind Frist and Hastert not to invite you to the next GOP Unity Rally, Matt.
If ever Congress might have thought it was in for some Perky-One praise, it was this morning. After all, the kids on the Hill had just dealt President Bush a humiliating defeat on the ports deal, while safeguarding our terminals from those fanatical furriners.
But - surprise! - Katie came not to praise Congress, but to bury it.
Interviewing Tim Russert, Couric quickly turned the talk to the fact that "only 5% of the cargo coming into this country is checked. It might be one of the biggest national security threats we face as a nation in terms of terrorist attacks."
Katie then unloaded her shot in the guise of a question about Congress:
"Do they look feckless and misdirected by obsessing so much on this [UAE] issue and not perhaps looking at the big picture?"
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:
For those of you that missed it, Sunday’s “Meet the Press” panel discussion between Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, David Gregory, Paul Gigot, and Mary Matalin was an extraordinary panoply of left versus right. As it’s rare these days to see Matalin on without her husband, James Carville, this was a unique opportunity to watch Mary square off with liberal America’s favorite left-wing diva, Maureen Dowd, and the NBC White House correspondent in the middle of last week’s press corps firestorm, David Gregory.
The first interesting vignette was Gregory apologizing for calling White House press secretary Scott McClellan a jerk:
Remember the good old days, when Democrats and their friends in the MSM would regularly bash Republican administrations for doing business with less-than-democratic, even unsavory foreign governments and their leaders?
From the Shah of Iran, to Marcos in the Phillipines, Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile and a variety of strong men, authoritarians and tinpots in between, liberals lambasted Republican presidents for "coddling dictators" and doing nothing to promote freedom and democracy.
It seems the MSM has overhauled its ordre du jour [to use a phrase one might hear in, oh, Davos, Switzerland]. At least when it comes to those 'furriners,' could it be that Democrats and their MSM buds suddenly aren't so keen on . . . democracy anymore?
Over at Slate, Mickey Kaus went to town on the newest proof of the tick-tight relationship of NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert and James Carville, embarrassing "he just groped Gennifer Flowers in a bar" Clinton spinner. Russert has now created his own personal Washington ethical scandal:
Lukegate: Step 1) Tim Russert books the tired Carville-Matalin act more than 35 times on his Meet the Press talk show, boosting their bankability on the lucrative lecture circuit. Step 2) Carville--with Russert's eager prodding--also uses their most recent, conveniently-timed MTP appearance to plug his new XM Satellite radio sports show. ... That's smarmily venal enough, you say? Wrong! Step 3) Carville's co-host on the XM show is Russert's son, Luke, who is "currently a sophomore at Boston College." Russert and Carville joke about this on the air but don't quite have the balls to actually inform viewers of the key conflict:
The Today show played a dangerous game this morning, floating the notion that President Bush manipulated the release of an OBL tape in 2004 to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Today opened the segment by flashing the image to the right, which so closely juxtaposed photos of W and OBL you might have thought it was a campaign poster. And call me suspicious, but I can't help but wonder if the "Close Up" beneath the photos wasn't merely the title of the lead segment but also Today's 'subliminable' comment on the pair's relationship.
Just in case anyone missed the point, Lauer archly asked: "is OBL President Bush's not-so-secret weapon?" Lauer then suggested the WH is exploiting the latest OBL tape to conduct a "PR blitz" in support of the NSA surveillance program.
Lauer then handed the ball to NBC reporter David Gregory, who claimed that the White House has "politically seized" the moment "with the OBL tape still fresh" to "step up its campaign against its critics" on the surveillance issue.
Gregory then made a much more sinister suggestion, stating:
Via RedState, I learned Tim Russert put some of the ongoing Harry Belafonte hate gibberish against our "terrorist" president in front of Sen. Barack Obama yesterday on Meet The Press. Obama tried several times to be a gentle distancer: I wouldn't say it that way, but this man has a very valid concern. The second time around, he also tried the lame "it's a free country" line, as in "free to stand next to socialist agitators and run down the free country you live in."
MR. RUSSERT: Let’s talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?
NBC’s Tim Russert invited the New York Times reporter who broke the NSA eavesdropping story three weeks ago onto “Meet the Press” this morning. Despite the obvious controversial nature of the guest and the subject matter, Russert asked no truly compelling or interrogative questions of James Risen, and, as a result, produced an interview that not only didn’t challenge Risen about the fortuitous timing of the article’s release, but also offered the viewer no new information concerning this matter.
For instance, Russert chose to ask Risen:
MR. RUSSERT: Amid much speculation as to why the The New York Times held this story, you had written it, you had finished it, you knew it was—what reflected what your reporting had shown. It may have played a role in the election of 2004 if it had been published in October. Why was it held?
However, here’s a list of potentially more provocative and important questions that Russert chose not to ask his controversial guest:
I know Mr. Baker has already noticed Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's orations on "Meet the Press," but Mr. Taranto pointed out a Meacham quote that I found especially bizarre. (No, I don't mean him saying John McCain's trying to be a "centrist Reaganist figure." Centrist Reaganist?) Late in the segment, Meacham said of Iraq: "I just think we're in the midst of a vast historical change there, obviously, and one of the things that people in our business have to be careful about is either on a daily or hourly or weekly cycle assigning blame or credit and spinning arrows."
Hell-ooooooo? Newsweek has a snarky weekly feature devoted to assigning blame and spinning arrows called "Conventional Wisdom Watch"? Is Meacham telling us that his Bush-bashing CW is going bye-bye, or is he just having a temporary, if comical, bout of amnesia?
Asked by Tim Russert to name the biggest story of 2005, on Sunday’s Meet the Press Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek, lamented how President Bush’s incompetence on Katrina and Iraq has disillusioned the new generation about the great “positive” things government can do. Meacham fretted that the new “generation coming of political consciousness, they're coming to consciousness when there are many, many questions about the competence of the government in Katrina, the competence of the government in terms of intelligence.” But, he rued, “there's not the good part which happened in the '60s. There's not a civil rights movement. There's not a race to the moon, where things are, show what government can do in a positive way.” Meacham zeroes in on Bush as he bemoaned how Bush’s conduct “has raised a lot of questions about fundamental competence of the government, both abroad and at home, whether it's in Baghdad or in New Orleans." A conservative might see that as an unintended positive development.
Meacham was joined on the roundtable by New York Times columnist William Safire, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and NBC’s favorite historian, the left-wing Doris Kearns Goodwin, who chafed over how President George W. Bush has “taken the negative parts of his father about raising no taxes.” (Transcript excerpts follow.)
While we've tried to police the pajama party in our comments section (you behave down there or I'm coming down!), some disgruntled lefty bloggers wail in sordid tones without a nanny. James Wolcott putting down someone else for being sour is certainly an accomplishment of some sort:
Take Tim Graham, for example. The righteous stick up his butt extends to the top of his head, leaving a little nub that he's convinced has magical qualities. He believes that if he keeps rubbing it the Hooters girls will bring him extra pie.
Put aside for a moment how difficult it would be to feel magical while impaled from bottom to top. I must confess I've only been to Hooters once, for an MRC employee's farewell lunch (although the ham and cheese was magical, as I recall.) Wolcott thinks it's quite un-Christmaslike to demand Brokaw and Koppel get something more difficult than a manicure from Tim Russert.
Once you've seen the conservative columnists on Brokaw and Koppel's "Meet the Press" spot, get a look at what the lefties said in three outraged letters to Editor and Publisher for the old anchor claims that Clinton, too, would have invaded Iraq after 9/11:
Chris Dodson: For example, I would reply, "If Clinton (or Gore) were president, 9/11 would not have happened, therefore, no invasion of Iraq. How? Clinton/Gore keeps Richard Clarke at the 'principal' level, allowing him constant access to cabinet members. 'Chatter' increases through the spring and summer. Clinton/Gore order a 'shaking of the trees,' which nets the Phoenix memo and brings Colleen Rowley's concerns to the highest levels of the FBI. The CIA informs the FBI about the two terrorists in San Diego. They are brought in and the plot is unraveled."
Happily, NewsBusters wasn't the only conservative outlet to pick up on the Christmas Day "Meet the Press" with Tom Brokaw and Ted Koppel. The spectacle spurred columns by David Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg. Limbaugh summarized:
"Russert was uncharacteristically tame toward these two, offering them repeated softballs concerning the past year's main stories. But the relaxed atmosphere gave us a clearer picture of the worldview these men share, which is doubtless representative of most of the Old Media players. From race and taxes to health care and Iraq, they spoke in a monolithic liberal voice, accented by its familiar air of moral superiority."
One final blog from the MTP transcript. When Russert asked what's an underreported story in 2005, Brokaw said the failings at General Motors and the general problem of guaranteeing pensions. From there, Koppel brought up the "scandal" of the lack of government health insurance:
But, you know, to follow up on Tom's point. I think the medical care, which is a function of what we're talking about--yes, we have been priding ourselves on having the best medical care in the world--and you know something? You can get the best medical care in the world, he can get the best medical care in the world, I can. Most Americans can't. And there are 43 million Americans who aren't getting any medical care at all. That is a scandal. And...
Next, Russert moved on to Iraq. As liberals, the anchors responded only to liberal criticisms of their coverage. The concept that these networks were too fervently in favor or liberals or Democrats was not entertained. But the idea that they were too soft on the Bushies was assumed to be the dominant, if not the only legitimate, critique. Said Koppel: "Do we have a right to ask critical-- not just a right; do we have an obligation to ask critical questions? And did we fall short of that prior to the Iraq War? That's a perfectly legitimate point, and I think we all have to plead guilty, to one degree or another, to having been, you know, a little bit soft on the administration beforehand."
Brokaw tried to defend the media against the Eric Altermans of the world by saying the liberal Democrats were pathetic in their opposition:
Ick, you almost won't want to look at the Meet the Press transcript from yesterday. With Tim Russert hosting Ted Koppel and Tom Brokaw and no one else, it was predictably an hour of liberal sermonizing. It's a scandal that America won't raise taxes. It's a scandal that America won't acknowledge they go to war for oil. It's a scandal that some people still don't have government-funded health insurance. They started with Hurricane Katrina. Brokaw railed against America still having a "permanent underclass." (MRC nerd point: This is the official transcript, not reviewed against tape.)
I thought it stripped away in this country what we've all known but failed to acknowledge: that--this kind of permanent underclass that we have in this country, with so few resources available to them. To the rest of the world, it was shocking. Here's the United States of America, the richest country in the history of the world, you know, portraying itself around the globe now as the patron of democracy and to show the way, and then we have this happening in our midst. And it's a question of, now, how we move forward and begin to deal with it.
1. On the Finkelstein-strike beat, MRC’s Scott Whitlock says NBC reporter Michelle "Canoe Girl" Kosinski used the I-word ("illegal") for the first time on "Today" in reporting, "The illegal strike is taking a toll on the city’s economy, says the city’s mayor."
2. Scott also notes that CBS’s "Early Show" brought up the other I-word ("impeachment") again this morning, as co-host Hannah Storm asked CBS analyst Gloria Borger about the NSA surveillance hubbub, "What is the fallout of this going to be? Some people are already talking of impeachment proceedings." Borger shot that down: "Well, I think that’s a bridge too far." That's milder than Jonathan Turley's encouraging words about Bush's high crimes yesterday.
An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.
CBS’ Bob Schieffer, after introducing his guests Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), began the segment (from closed captioning):
“Gentlemen, we have to start this morning with this story. It is against the law, of course, to eavesdrop or wire tap U.S. citizens in this country without a court order from a federal judge. But the "New York Times" says that is exactly what the president is authorized the government to do since 9/11. The secretary of state said this morning that the president has statutory and constitutional authorization to do what he did. So I'll start with Senator Graham. Does he have that authority, senator?”
As reported by NewsBusters here, the New York Times’ William Safire made some statements on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on October 30 concerning his view of a changing tide in the media’s opinion of the president. This morning’s panel on NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” proved Safire as being rather prophetic.
To refresh everyone’s memory, Safire said that day: “Now, the wonderful thing about American attention and media coverage, is the narrative has to change. It can't stay the same, or else it's not newsworthy. And so the story will be the comeback.”
It’s probably not the first time it has happened, but with the exception of ABC’s George Will – who, of course, has been a regular on that network’s “This Week” for many years – the networks’ Sunday political talk shows had no established conservative guests to participate in their weekly panel discussions. Joining George Stephanopoulos and George Will this morning were Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, TIME magazine’s Jay Carney, and ABC’s Claire Shipman. NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” featured Katy Kay of the BBC, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC, and Terry Neal of the Washington Post. CBS’s “Face the Nation” did its annual Thanksgiving “historians” program.
The most left-leaning of the panels was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where Tim Russert invited Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” David Broder of the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson also of the Washington Post, and David Gregory of NBC News. While the “This Week” and “Matthews” panels actually engaged in a comparatively well-rounded discussion, the “Meet the Press” group spent the bulk of its half-hour talking about the “disaster” in Iraq. For instance, Robinson said, “I think that there's general agreement now that there will be a mess in Iraq when U.S. troops finally withdraw and it certainly won't be an Athenian democracy, as the administration said it was out to create.” Gregory agreed, “And unfortunately, perhaps the only outcome is a kind of low-level civil war that's akin to the Arab- Israeli situation with U.S. soldiers in the way.”
Woodruff then joined in by paraphrasing a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly: