Ever wonder what makes Keith Olbermann such a fine journalist? Well, according to the former sportscaster, it’s the fact that he doesn’t "make the facts up" like Rush Limbaugh does.
PBS host Jim Lehrer trumpeted his objectivity in a more creative way. Using a food analogy, the anchor deemed himself the "flavor of neutrality." (Just a thought, but where do the liberal flavors originate? Ben and Jerry's?)
Perhaps longing for the "good old days," NBC News chose no less an authoritative source than Matt Lauer to announce that the situation in Iraq is a civil war. Maybe NBC is attempting to recreate the famous "Cronkite moment"?
Interestingly, this same network that is so eager to declare a civil war, has, at times, been hesitant to label Hezbollah a terrorist group.
'Today' continued this morning its campaign of promoting the Baker-Hamilton slo-mo surrender. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell left little doubt as to her inclinations with this mini-editorial in the guise of a report:
"Americans might well be asking today after all the high-profile summits this week on two continents 'is the administration any closer now to an exit strategy for Iraq?'"
Noting that "time is running out and options limited," Mitchell wanted to know whether President Bush is "ready to change policy before events overtake him?" She then launched into a description of the policy changes to be proposed by the Baker-Hamilton Study Group.
Yesterday, I noted here the pride of place 'Today' accorded Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, to trumpet his abjectly bleak view of Iraq. Haas confirmed Meredith Vieira's assessment of his position: "You do not believe that there is anything about the situation that is winnable, I take it." He added that Iraq would be seen as a "colossal foreign policy failure."
All this sets the stage nicely for the forthcoming, much-leaked recommendations of the Baker Study Group, which effectively will be calling for a slow-motion retreat and surrender.
Enter John Podhoretz. In his NY Post column of today, Podhoretz excoriates both the Study Group's members and its recommendations. Excerpts:
It's hard to be a sunny optimist when considering the situation at Iraq. Things are tough, no doubt. That said, was Today, the show whose NBC News parent famously declared "civil war" earlier this week, giving us a fair-and-balanced view of matters this morning when the only expert we heard from expressed the most unalloyed pessimism on Iraqi prospects?
Meredith Vieira interviewed Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations and former principal adviser to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. At the end of their conversation, Vieira summed up Haas's views this way: "You do not believe that there is anything about the situation that is winnable, I take it."
The other networks are not quite ready to jump on NBC's "civil war" bandwagon. "Secretary of State Matt Lauer" (according to Howard Kurtz) and other NBC reporters have decided to declare the situation in Iraq a civil war, a move that is praised by some in the MSM and denounced by others. Reports the New York Observer:
“It was their decision to make and their process,” said Jon Banner, the executive producer of ABC’s World News. “We constantly discuss editorial matters here—all the time, every day. How that decision got made there I have no idea, nor do I want to guess.”
“To be honest with you, I think it’s a political statement, not a news judgment,” said Rome Hartman, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News. “We deal with the events of the day, and we decide the best way to describe those events based on the news of the day, not by—never mind, I’m not gonna go there.”
Then he did.
This morning, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller announced the paper will follow NBC's lead and allow its reporters to refer to the conflict in Iraq as a "civil war."
Keller said in a statement to Editor & Publisher:
"After consulting with our reporters in the field and the editors who directly oversee this coverage, we have agreed that Times correspondents may describe the conflict in Iraq as a civil war when they and their editors believe it is appropriate. It's hard to argue that this war does not fit the generally accepted definition of civil war. We expect to use the phrase sparingly and carefully, not to the exclusion of other formulations, not for dramatic effect. The main shortcoming of 'civil war' is that, like other labels, it fails to capture the complexity of what is happening on the ground. The war in Iraq is, in addition to being a civil war, an occupation, a Baathist insurgency, a sectarian conflict, a front in a war against terrorists, a scene of criminal gangsterism and a cycle of vengeance. We believe 'civil war' should not become reductionist shorthand for a war that is colossally complicated."
Amid all of the media excitement of NBC’s choice to grandly pronounce the ongoing violence in Iraq a “civil war,” some (like MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann) are gleefully touting NBC’s editorializing as a “Walter Cronkite moment,” referring to the then-CBS Evening News anchor’s 1968 editorial declaring that the U.S. had become “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam.
In their desire for a U.S. retreat in Iraq, journalists had previously pronounced Cindy Sheehan’s protesting in Crawford, Texas and Democratic Congressman John Murtha’s calling for a withdrawal of troops to be “Cronkite moments” of the Iraq war, each time apparently hoping that the weight of the media's pessimism finally forces a change in U.S. policy.
My antenna went up when Matt Lauer opened this morning's "Today" with these words: "Good morning. Civil war. A bloody weekend of sectarian clashes in Iraq and no sign it's letting up."
"Civil war"? I was certain I hadn't heard Today employ the term before. And sure enough, Lauer shortly thereafter declared: "For months the White House rejected claims that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated into civil war. For the most part news organizations like NBC hesitated to characterize it as such. After careful consideration, NBC News has decided the change in terminology is warranted and what is going on in Iraq can now be characterized as civil war."
Lauer later brought in retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey to make the case for the change in terminology.
Anyone who tunes into late-night comedy shows knows that many black comedians utter the n-word with rapid-fire frequency. Perhaps Michael Richards mistakenly thought that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the white gander. In any case, in a Today show appearance this morning, Jesse Jackson declared that he would be working to "prohibit" the use of the word. He didn't offer specifics, but one question naturally arises. Would Jackson's n-word ban begin where the word is most frequently in use - the black community?
Interviewed by weekend host Lester Holt [one of my MSM favorites for his level-headedness, I might add] on the Michael Richards mess, Jackson floated his proposal in these terms:
Wednesday’s Fox and Friends discussed the recent feud between Rosie O’Donnell and Kelly Ripa. Co-host Gretchen Carlson said what so many of us are thinking.
Kelly Ripa complaining about singer Clay Aiken covering her mouth on TV: "Regardless of whatever the sexual orientation is, it was outrageous, it was out of line, it was unprofessional, and he wouldn't have done it to you because there is respect there." (End Video)
Gretchen Carlson: "Maybe he should do it to Rosie O'Donnell. You know what? This really just upsets me. Just stay out of everyone else's business, Rosie. I mean, for goodness sake, Kelly Ripa is the host of this show. Clay Aiken made a mistake in putting his hand over her mouth. You just don't do that to the host of a show when you are a guest and by the way, according to Kelly Ripa, he did not even say thank you for being the co-host of her show that day. I don't think Kelly Ripa should get any blame for what she said. She says 'look, it's cold and flu season, when I said I don't know where that hand's been,' she did not mean-"
Attacking Fox News is not an unusual tactic of the mainstream media, but on Tuesday’s Today, Matt Lauer began the show with a false claim about Fox News.
Matt Lauer: "But we begin this morning with the controversial story out of Fox News: The O.J. Simpson case. Fox News Corporation deciding to cut its losses and cancel that highly controversial project where he speaks out about those notorious murders."
The problem here: the Fox broadcast network, not Fox News, almost aired the interview with O.J. Simpson. He did accurately call it Fox later in the broadcast but, never issued a correction. Meanwhile, on Fox and Friends, Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Gretchen Carlson questioned Bill O’Reilly on whether the mainstream media will tie Fox News in with the O.J. Simpson interview.
This morning, NBC’s Today led the broadcast by highlighting Fox’s decision not to air their smarmy interview with O. J. Simpson about how he “would” have killed his wife “if” he had committed the crime, which, of course, most Americans believe he did, only to escape a double-murder conviction in a circus of a trial. But while NBC seemed to be enjoying Fox’s pain today, back in the ’90s, their Today show was perhaps O.J.’s most sympathetic venue on TV.
This morning, co-host Matt Lauer talked to the late Nicole Brown’s sister Denise in both the 7am and 7:30am half-hours about the awfulness of Fox’s deal with O.J., which News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch scuttled on Monday, saying it was an “ill-considered project” — perhaps the understatement of the decade.
The network morning shows noticed Indonesian Muslims protesting President Bush, but sadly, once again, they tended to sanitize out the extremists. In this case, protest leaders called for the execution of Bush, but the networks mostly offered Americans quotes from protesters saying they loved America, just hated the president. They left out what Agence France-Presse reported: a protest leader declared through a loudspeaker: "Kill him, kill him...the blood of George Bush is halal," meaning it was not a sin under Islam to kill him. "Not only is it halal, it is obligatory to kill him."
The networks seem to want the American audience to bite on the Democratic line that conservative policies make us unpopular around the world, when people would be much more agreeable under the sorry-we-didn’t-mean-to-be-a-superpower poses of a Gore, Kerry, or Hillary Clinton. Showing protesters who want to execute our president tend to ruin the line of the day. On NBC’s Today on Monday, Matt Lauer led off the show with a plug for their "Hello, Go Home" segment on Bush's visit. MRC’s Justin McCarthy found reporter Kelly O’Donnell’s selected protesters who stressed their love for America, and their hatred for Bush:
On Monday’s Today, NBC emphasized that Bush is still losing the War in Iraq, and is now losing key allies. Norah O’Donnell picked out sound bites from some of Bush’s allies so they would appear critical of the president and the war. O’Donnell added quotes from Senator John McCain, Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle, and Prime Minister Tony Blair. The entire transcript is below.
Meredith Vieira: "Harry Truman called the presidency the loneliest job in the world and President Bush might agree with him these days. Now it appears he's losing some of his key supporters over the war in Iraq. NBC's Norah O'Donnell is at the White House with more. Good morning, Norah."
Okay, not really. Well, maybe it is, I don't follow the price of poultry and I'm sure the media doesn't have it that high in its pecking order either. But they do when it comes to gasoline, and it's up from two weeks ago.
The law of supply and demand be damned, it's up and it's screwing you just in time for the trip to grandma's house!
Up a whole nickel from two weeks ago! Man is that gonna gobble up your travel budget. Just ask Matt Lauer.
In 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned for president by promising tax cuts for the middle class. Fourteen years later, his Party ran on a similar “tell the people exactly what they want to hear” motif, this time the mantra being a speedy withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Though separated by almost a decade and a half, these campaign strategies were quite similar to a now illegal marketing scheme called a bait and switch – whereby a company advertises a product for sale at a cheap price to lure in customers. Unfortunately, the organization’s retail outlets don’t actually have the item in stock forcing anxious shoppers to consider more expensive products that are available.
I Dig a Phony
Much like this advertising scam, the 1992 and 2006 political campaigns had three things in common:
NBC's Today carried a series on faith this week, and finished it Thursday morning with two liberal journalists about a new website Newsweek is setting up on faith. It all sounded very much like soft-soap Episcopalianism, no doubt because the preacher on the set was Newsweek editor and Episcopalian Jon Meacham, along with Sally Quinn, a writer best known as the wife of former top Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Ann Curry began by saying Meacham and Quinn "started a conversation about religion over lunch one day, and that discussion hasn't stopped." Curry continued:
"It's so interesting to think about how, just, what, 20 years ago, we would not speak about faith in America in any sort of big way. We talked about basically the separation of church and state meant that we didn't speak about church because we felt it was going to inflame and cause problems. What has changed? What has changed fundamentally about America that now lets us talk so much about it? In fact, have it influence policy in America. Sally."
The Friday broadcast network evening newscasts, seemingly with no self-awareness of the role of the traveling press corps, all focused on how in Vietnam President Bush was pressed about comparisons of the Iraq war to the Vietnam war -- a topic he commented on only when asked by a U.S. reporter. CBS was the most adamant in raising parallels, Bush's avoidance of service in Vietnam and how he is now “creating another” Vietnam. Katie Couric declared that Bush “couldn't get away from the inevitable comparisons between Iraq and the war America lost in Vietnam.” Over vintage video of the Vietnam war, Jim Axelrod asserted that the Iraq war “is starting to look more and more like this war. The parallels are plain.” Axelrod contended that “Mr. Bush's trip here was bound to fuel his critics who've never bought his explanation about how he managed to avoid military service in Vietnam. But Iraq raises the stakes and changes the focus from what he did during the Vietnam War to whether he's creating another one. On a just-released audiotape, President Johnson in 1966 shared his goals for Vietnam." Following audio of LBJ promising the U.S. would leave Vietnam “just as soon as you can have anybody that will guarantee stability," Axelrod intoned: "Mr. Bush's remarks today had an eerie echo as he spoke about Iraq."
On ABC's World News, fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas insisted "the war in Iraq shadowed President Bush today during his visit to Vietnam” as the Vietnam war “has drawn comparisons to America's experience in Iraq.” From Vietnam, Martha Raddatz echoed Couric: “For President Bush, the comparisons to his own war in Iraq were inevitable.” NBC anchor Brian Williams announced that “the topic of the current war followed” Bush “all the way” to Vietnam. David Gregory, in Vietnam, also used the “inevitable” characterization of the comparison made by journalists: “The White House tried to avoid reflecting on the war in Vietnam because of the inevitable comparisons to the Iraq war.” Gregory asserted that “the obvious parallel between Vietnam and Iraq is the American public's desire to find a way out,” and though the Vietnamese are still oppressed in a communist state, Gregory suggested the U.S. won: “But if there is a hopeful sign in the Vietnam of today, prosperous and western-looking, it is this -- that it is possible to lose the war but win the peace." (Transcripts, and a little bit on the morning shows, follows)
In a surprising moment on Today this morning, NBC Middle East Bureau Chief and self proclaimed pacifist Richard Engel warned of the dangers of pulling out of Iraq too soon. In his reporting, Engel warned that a premature withdrawal could be dangerous on a global scale.
Richard Engel: "As the debate in the U.S. increasingly focuses on finding an exit strategy from Iraq after the Democrats gains in congress, 7,000 miles away, U.S. Troops and Iraqis face tough questions: What will happen on the ground if U.S. Forces leave? What are the options? Analysts say staying the course isn't one of them, but neither is pulling out too quickly."
Chris Matthews is so blatantly anti-Iraq war that any time he's discussing it, he ought to be balanced out but that wasn't the case on this morning's Today show. NBC's Matt Lauer sat idly by as the host of Hardball compared Iraq to Vietnam and demanded the President relent to Democrats and withdraw troops as soon as possible. Matthews even was dismayed that the President still dared to use the word, "victory."
Matthews ranted to Lauer: "I mean the President lost the election. He, he still talks like he won the election. The Democrats who control both houses want to begin withdrawing our troops. It's all about numbers of troops and the timetable for getting them out and the President and Tony Snow right there said they don't, they don't go along with that thinking."
In the giddy aftermath of a Democratic victory, the cheery tone of morning television can begin to look like excessive enthusiasm. On Wednesday morning's Today, co-host Meredith Vieira interviewed Montana's liberal Democratic Senate challenger, Jon Tester, who at the time was narrowly ahead and not yet declared the winner. Vieira noticed that despite the close call, "yet, you have a smile on your face, sir." When asked how he came this far, Tester said people came out to vote for honesty and integrity, about Iraq, and health care.
Vieira perkily concluded: "Well I hope you keep the smile on your face there Jon Tester. Thank you very much. Back to you, Matt."
NBC's Today correspondents on Tuesday made sure to underline that Republicans were seen as racist in the Senate campaigns in Tennessee and Virginia. Reporter Tom Costello began his report:
"Matt, good morning. This has been a hard fought race. It's been injected with advertisements viewed by many as being racist by the Republican National Committee. The Corker campaign repudiated those ads, as did the Ford campaign, of course."
By many? Try "by many Democrats," at least. From there, David Shuster (usually assigned to Chris Matthews on MSNBC), also underlined the alleged-racist angle on the Virginia race:
"Meredith, good morning. A statistical dead heat is not at all where the incumbent Republican George Allen ever thought he would be. Allen had been talked about being a presidential contender in 2008 but his campaign has been set back by a series of missteps including his use of the term macaca and allegations about his use of the N-word to describe blacks, but the key issue in this race has been the Iraq war...
If your morning coffee isn't strong enough to jolt you awake, just watch the Today show. The scaremongering should get your heart skipping a few beats.
On today's edition, reporter Tom Costello picked up on a new study that urges seat belts be added to school buses. Among the findings of the study, 17,000 children a year are injured in school bus accidents.
Nevermind that statistically, school buses are safer for ferrying your kids to school than the family SUV or that seat belts on school buses do more harm than good, as studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have shown.
Oh, did I mention Costello left out that t he American Academy of Pediatrics study also calls for kids to not squirrel around on the bus so as to lessen injuries and for better supervision of kids on buses to prevent injury?
Chris Matthews just couldn't wipe that grin off his face. Interviewing him on this morning's 'Today,' Meredith Vieira began by suggesting that despite the tough electoral environment for Republicans, polls over the weekend were showing movement in their direction. She started to pose a question, but so distracting was Matthews' mugging that she couldn't continue, asking instead "why are you smiling?"
"Because I think it's going to be a wipe-out. I think the Democrats are going to carry the House by 20-some, high-20s and I think the Senate seats are perhaps not six, but five, and I can see a big victory for the Democrats."
Here's an antidote from an unlikely corner for all the Dem outrage at the 'November surprise' of the Saddam verdict. On this morning's 'Today,' none other than Chris Matthews just pronounced his considered opinion that the verdict actually helps . . . the Democrats.
According to Matthews, given the unpopularity of the war, anything that draws attention to Iraq hurts Republicans. Apparently that even extends to a good-news story such as the Saddam verdict. Opined Matthews to host Lester Holt:
"One general rule would be anything that brings attention to Iraq is bad for the Republicans. I think Iraq's become a four-letter word for the voter. And this trial and condemnation of Saddam Hussein is probably going to remind us of Iraq again. It's probably going to help the Democrats to some extent."
Karmic balance? The Dow Jones hits a new high. The 'Dowd' Jones hits a new low. In her pay-to-read column this morning, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times analogizes the relationship of Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to that of preacher Ted Haggard and a male prostitute.
Setting the titillating tone with her headline, "A Wartime Love Story", Dowd writes:
At the heart of every administration, there is one relationship above all others that shapes history . . . W. is the hood ornament, but Cheney & Rummy are the chitty chitty bang bang engine of this administration.
It’s a beautiful love story, really, even more touching than Ted Haggard, the evangelical preacher and Bush White House adviser, asking a male prostitute for crystal meth, or Borat putting a bag over the head of a squealing Pamela Anderson and carrying her off.
As reported here, in a story airing on 'Today' of October 28th, NBC reporter Richard Engel delved into the most private concerns of US soldiers serving in Iraq. Engel queried one solider about his fears of dying in combat, or as he put it:
"You ever worry one day your number's gonna come up?"
Engel also drew soldiers out on their concerns as to the faithfulness of their loved ones back home, inviting them to discuss "the Jody," described by one soldier as "the guy who is back home with your wife or your girlfriend." Added Engel: "They worry and tell stories about soldiers going home to empty houses."
James Carville and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish were invited on this morning's Today show to discuss the impact of John Kerry's gaffe but when Smerconish insisted Kerry wasn't attacking the troops Vieira took that opening to ask: "Do you think it could backfire because it does, again, draw attention to Iraq?" Vieira then tossed the following softball to Carville: "So do you think this, this will have no legs whatsoever then, that's what you're saying James?"
The following is the entire segment as it occurred on the November 2nd Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "So will Senator Kerry's gaffe help the Republicans in the midterm elections? James Carville is a Democratic strategist and author of Take It Back and Michael Smerconish is a Republican radio talk show host and author of Muzzled. Good morning to both of you."
Just yesterday a reader brought to my attention the sudden TV ubiquity of John Harwood. He pointed out that - CNBC and Wall Street Journal credentials notwithstanding - Harwood is a predictable liberal voice. And sure enough, it was none other than Harwood that David Gregory chose for a comment on L'Affaire Kerry on this morning's 'Today.' And darn if that reader wasn't right about Harwood's leftward tilt. Let's read and analyze Harwood's statement:
"It's difficult to see, in a campaign dominated by unhappiness about the Iraq war, how these comments will be a driving force in the last few days."