The Bush administration: a bigger threat to national security than a foreign spy. That was Tom Brokaw's implicit assumption in his interview with former CIA Director George Tenet on this morning's "Today." Along the way, Brokaw accused former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of running a "rogue" intelligence operation.
BROKAW: In the opening passage you describe conversations in the Clinton administration between the Palestinians and the Israelis attempting to get some sort of a new peace arrangement. But the Israelis were demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a United States military intelligence analyst who had been selling them secrets, who's in jail for life. You said if you release Jonathan Pollard, I'll resign from the CIA. And yet when you were the head of the CIA, you had Condi Rice ignoring your warnings, Vice-President Cheney exaggerating the threats repeatedly, Don Rumsfeld in the Pentagon running what effectively was a rogue CIA, his own intelligence operation, and you didn't threaten to resign then.
According to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani committed "terrorism" when he suggested that the country would be "playing defense" if a Democrat was elected president in 2008. And this is the network that’s hosting a Republican presidential debate?
On Monday, an ABC graphic provided a shining example of media bias. Co-host Diane Sawer was discussing the recent surge by the stock market. During the segment, a graphic below her read, "Will Dow Hit 13,000 Today? Is Unstoppable Market Good or Bad?"
"Good Morning America" reacted to the departure of Rosie O’Donnell this week by claiming that the left-wing comedienne was a pioneer for women. (The morning program also ignored her 9/11 conspiracy theories.)
With “Today Show Bound?” as the on-screen header under video of Rosie O'Donnell, Access Hollywood co-anchor Nancy O'Dell on Friday advanced idle speculation about how “we have new information about her possibly joining the Today show.” But the “new information” was that she won't, though Today co-host Matt Lauer thought O'Donnell on the show “might work well for us.” Setting up a soundbite from Lauer at a Thursday event at the Museum of the Moving Image, O'Dell asserted: “And you can forget about Rosie being on NBC's fourth hour of Today beginning in September.” Viewers of the NBC-produced nightly entertainment news show then heard from Lauer: “Being a news show, we do have to walk a little bit of a tighter line than she's used to walking and so it might work well for us, but I don't know how well it would work for Rosie.”
Just like David Broder's analysis in the Washington Post news section today, NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert offered praise all around for the Democratic field after the Orangeburg debate. The Democratic field are not "pygmies," and everyone, including Mike Gravel, cheered on by Sam Seder on Air America radio this morning for "making Dennis Kucinich look moderate," earned stars on his forehead from NBC:
RUSSERT: Democrats overwhelmingly are very happy with the field. Almost 75 percent of the party members say we like this group. Only 50 percent of Republicans like their group. So I think that if you are stepping back and looking at the 2008 field, it’s not, in past years people say, well, it’s pygmies, they can't possibly step up. I think people can envision several of these people sitting in the Oval Office.
Leave it to NBC's Today show to find the downside of a booming stock market. Playing the class envy card Today co-host Matt Lauer teased a story on a widening gap between rich and poor as he incredulously asked the audience: "Do you feel like you're working harder and harder these days just to stay financially afloat while fat cats get richer and richer?" Lauer, not exactly a pauper himself, then threw it to CNBC's Scott Cohn who claimed: "Not only are the rich getting richer they're leaving everyone else behind. In fact the last time the rich were this much richer than everyone else was the Great Depression."
Cohn did mention the wealthy are giving more to charity but only highlighted liberal billionaire Bill Gates' good deeds.
Producer of an MSM morning news show? Got a few minutes to fill at the end of your first half-hour? Why not resort to a tried-and-true winner: a bit of good old class warfare?
That was the "Today" formula this morning. Matt Lauer introduced the segment, enviously entitled "Share the Wealth?: The Rich Get Richer," fanning the flames of envy and resentment with this opener:
TODAY CO-HOST MATT LAUER: Do you feel like you're working harder and harder nowadays just to stay financially afloat while fat cats get richer and richer? It's not just a feeling, and you're not alone. The story now from from CNBC's Scott Cohn.
In the wake of yesterday's announcement that Rosie O'Donnell will be departing "The View," the folks at "Today" had some fun this morning with the notion that Meredith Vieira, the "View" regular who Rosie replaced there, might return to the ABC gabfest.
As Vieira began a tease, in "Today's" opening, for an upcoming segment on the parting of ways at "The View," weatherman Al Roker shouted from off-camera "are you going to go back?"
Vieira went with the flow, announcing tongue-in-cheek: "So yes, I'll be leaving the 'Today' show to rejoin my friends at 'The View.' Sayanora." That's when co-host Matt Lauer, in the image shown here, picked up the phone, said "Barbara, hold on a second," handed it to Meredith, who continued "Barbara, I'm back there."
Q. How can embrace of a given policy "stall" a candidate's campaign if it helps him with the voters?
A. If the policy in question is the Bush administration's Iraq war plan, and the MSM finds it difficult to admit that support for it can be an electoral plus.
As NewsBuster Geoffrey Dickens and I have noted here and here, NBC reporters, notably including Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory, have repeatedly explained McCain's weak standing in the GOP primary polls by his support of the Iraq war.
The truth, of course, is just the opposite. Republicans are less than enthusiastic about McCain because of his embrace of non-conservative positions on everything from campaign finance to taxes to immigration. It is only McCain's support of the Iraq war that is keeping him afloat in the GOP primaries. Ditch that, and McCain would soon find himself in Chuck Hagel territory -- out of the race altogether.
On this morning's "Today," NBC's Norah O'Donnell impossibly played things both ways, claiming:
McCain's candidacy has stalled with his embrace of President Bush's Iraq war strategy. But one plus for McCain's support of the increased troop surge is that it does play well among Republican voters.
Former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg appeared on this morning's Today show to promote his new book and in the process took several jabs at wimpy Republicans who don't stand by conservative principles and the "Rosie O'Donnells of the world," that suffer from "Bush Derangement Syndrome." While Goldberg wasn't a 100 percent conservative -- he criticized the Iraq war and supports embryonic stem cell research -- it was still refreshing to hear a former member of the liberal media criticize libs on their own airwaves.
First up, NBC's Matt Lauer opened the segment by deriding Goldberg's new gig at Fox News as out of the mainstream:
Matt Lauer: "In the world of the media Bernard Goldberg used to bat lefty now he bats righty. He sold millions of books taking swings at liberals in the press. Now a regular on the Fox News Channel, Goldberg used to be a card-carrying member of the mainstream media establishment."
NBC's environmental correspondent Anne Thompson cited global warming as a primary reason to implement a new commuter tax or as she euphemistically called it, "congestion pricing," on drivers. As incoming traffic passed by her on the Holland Tunnel the Today show's Thompson began her report this way: "Good morning, Meredith. Look behind me and you'll see this is what congestion pricing seeks to reduce. The 50,000 cars a day that rumble into Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel contributing to global warming. Now global warming has long been on the environmentalist radar but today its taking center stage in our political debate."
After that eye-grabbing video Thompson went on to highlight proposals from RINO Republicans Senator John McCain and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to cut down on greenhouse gasses and even ran a portion of an ad from Robert Redford as he challenged Americans: "Our moment is now and our challenge is to solve global warming."
Does it give the Dem leaders of Congress pause to realize that the enemies of the United States in Iraq, the people killing our troops, are banking on their political success? Reid and Pelosi might be tempted to dismiss this as the raving of a right-wing blogger. They shouldn't. It is in fact the considered view of someone they surely see as a respected, nay, an authoritative source: no less than the Baghdad bureau chief of the New York Times, John Burns.
Burns was a guest on this morning's "Today." In the set-up piece, NBC White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell rolled a clip of precisely the kind of politics to which Burns later alluded, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] fumed: "No more will the Congress turn a blind eye to the Bush administration's incompetence and dishonesty." When's the last time Reid spoke with such vitriol about al-Qaeda? Just wondering.
Moments later, Matt Lauer asked Burns: "By its very nature a surge is a temporary dynamic. What is the biggest factor in your opinion as to whether they can have success in the near term and the longer term?"
NYT BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF JOHN BURNS: Well, the number of troops, that's finite. The amount of time they can stay, we think that's probably finite, too. And the calculations of the insurgents, who, as one military officer said to me, will always trade territory for time. That's to say, they will move out, they will wait. Because they know the political dynamic in the United States is moving in a direction that is probably going to be favorable to them.
On the Friday edition of ABC’s “20/20,” Diane Sawyer stood in front of an ABC generated visual aid: A gigantic mound of plastic bags and paper towels.
With no sense of irony, the ABC host then proceeded to lecture viewers on waste and the need to use cloth bags at the supermarket. Referring to plastic bags as “plastic flowers,” Sawyer intoned, “They can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in landfills. So tomorrow, use a cloth bag at the grocery store, and let the trees have some real flowers.”
Of course, the ABC host offered this helpful advice right after another segment on inefficient Americans and the amount of paper towels and plastic bags they dispose of:
ABC’s weatherman, Sam Champion, continued his crusade to get every American to adopt liberal environmental polices. While standing in front of a massive bank of televisions, he lectured viewers on their contribution to global warming: "If you think you have nothing to do with global warming, think again. From the car you drive, to the house you live in, it all contributes to the problem."
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman appeared on the "Today" show to announce that America’s best shot at winning the war on terrorism is by going green. NBC, of course, promoted the segment as "save energy, save the world."
Al Gore has complained that the media are biased against the inconvenient truth of global warming. "I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action," Gore told a "Media Ethics Summit" at Middle Tennessee State University back in February. Gore lectured journalists that any coverage of views opposed to his own was irresponsible, calling it "balance as bias."
It's impossible to imagine the big TV networks actually accepting an edict from a conservative politician to report only their side of a major public policy issue, but a new Media Research Center study of ABC, CBS and NBC's global warming coverage finds the networks are giving Gore practically everything he demanded. Not only does nearly every global warming story exclude any contrary voices, but the coverage of Al Gore personally has been exceptionally positive as well.
The first half hour of this morning's "Today" offered an unusual window into NBC's decision to air some of the materials that the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, had mailed to the network.
Matt Lauer introduced the topic.
MATT LAUER: It puts us in an unusual position, because obviously at NBC News we always want to cover the important stories of the day and the massacre at Virginia Tech is one of the most disturbing and tragic stories any of us will ever cover. But we're not used to becoming part of the story, and with this package that he sent us, Cho has made us in some way part of the story
MEREDITH VIEIRA: The decision to air some of the images he sent to us: the video clips and the photos and to discuss what was contained in that rambling and hate-filled manifesto was not taken lightly, it was not made quickly, and we understand that this is going to be seen as devastating to many people who lost loved ones in the shooting. In fact I will tell you that we had planned to speak to some family members of victims this morning but they cancelled their appearances because they were very upset with NBCfor airing the images.
If one were to contemplate all the horrible results of the actions of this murderous psychopath in Virginia, if one were to wonder how hard and emotional have become the lives of the survivors of those whom this sick individual killed, it would seem axiomatic that the Mainstream Media would be the last group such a reflection would see as a recipient of the "tough decisions" resulting from the murders . We would naturally feel pain at the loss of the families of the VT victims. Our hearts would go out to the turmoil that surviving students would face upon trying to resume their education schedules after this monumental outrage. We would even feel bad for residents of the surrounding Virginia communities as they attempt to cope with the crime. Yes, there are a lot of people to empathize with and to feel sorry for.
Before this is over, I predict that Virginia Tech President Charles Steger will apologize for errors that he and his administration made in dealing with yesterday's massacre. But as of this morning, Steger was still seeking to defend the failure to alert students for two hours after the initial murders. As Matt Lauer politely pointed out, his explanation would seem to fail a simple test of logic.
"Today" host Lauer interviewed Steger during the show's first half-hour.
LAUER: As you continue to mourn here at Virginia Tech University, you're also facing some very difficult questions from students and from parents and from law enforcement people who are saying we had a shooting take place at 7:15 in the dormitory in this part of the campus, and yet an email didn't go out warning students even to be cautious until two hours later.
Has the Imus-inspired national conversation on race and sex jumped the shark? I'm starting to suspect so after hearing Pat Schroeder this morning. Her most notable contribution to the collective dialogue was to suggest that there's something inherently masculine about verbal meanness.
The former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado was a member of a panel moderated by NBC's Lester Holt on this morning's "Today."
Give Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira credit. On this morning's "Today," Lauer suggested to his boss's face that in firing Don Imus he had caved to pressure from advertisers and people like Al Sharpton. And Vieira held Al Sharpton's feet to the fire, now that he had Imus' scalp, about going after rappers and others who use similar language every day.
Here's part of the exchange, which came at 7:05 AM EDT, between Lauer and NBC News President Steve Capus:
CAPUS: This one went so far over the line, Matt, that it was time.
LAUER: But the timing, the timing. You really don't have to try too hard to think that NBC News caved to the pressure from advertisers like Proctor & Gamble and GM and others and perhaps caved to pressure from people like Reverend Sharpton, who we'll talk to in just a second.
Whatever Andrea Mitchell has it seems to be catching. Repeatedly, NBC's Mitchell has claimed John McCain's declining support in the polls has to do with his pro-war stance, a stance that quite frankly isn't unpopular within the GOP base. Well on this morning's 'Today' show her colleague David Gregory, in a piece about low Republican morale, claimed the very same thing. Gregory claimed: "John McCain has lost ground in the polls because of his support for the Iraq war."
Now any GOP insider could tell them McCain's support for the war is one of the key stances that is keeping McCain afloat with the base of the party. One has to wonder if Mitchell and Gregory are just having the same conversation with themselves and coming to the same inaccurate conclusions.
Members of the media are working environmental bias into the oddest segments. "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion reported this week on the trendy new concept of "green weddings." According to Mr. Champion, "more and more Americans" are embracing ideas such as not using electricity during their wedding and holding the reception in a barn. Sounds great, right ladies?
On the same topic, the "Today" show’s Martin Savidge worried that climate change could have a negative effect on the nation’s pets. (Presumably, this includes Savidge’s dog "Girlfriend.") On Friday, the aforementioned Mr. Champion plugged a global warming study that predicted overly warm spring temperatures. This was right after his early April forecast of brutal cold for the Northeast.
Imagine if you will that in September 1996, just days after America launched a missile strike on Baghdad to expand the “no fly zone,” Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich met with Saddam Hussein to discuss foreign policy matters without the permission of President Clinton.
Would the media have vociferously discussed the possibility that Gingrich had violated federal law in doing so?
If the answer is a resounding “Yes,” then why have extremely few press outlets broached this issue as it pertains to current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-California) recent potentially law-breaking trip to Syria?
To best understand the issue, a little history is necessary. The Logan Act was created in 1799, and reads as follows:
Call it a flying-pig moment, or chalk it up to his concern for Dems' long-term best interests if you will. But there's no denying that on this morning's "Today," Matt Lauer absolutely unloaded on Nancy Pelosi and her ill-conceived venture into foreign policy.
The segment was entitled "Democratic Diplomacy: Has Pelosi Gone Too Far?", virtually answering the question by its very asking. In the set-up piece, David Gregory rolled two telling clips. The first was of VP Cheney's comments on the Rush Limbaugh show yesterday to the effect that Pelosi's statement regarding her trip was"nonsensical." The second was of former congressman Lee Hamilton, warning that if his fellow Dems box in the president on foreign policy, Americans might conclude that the Democrats have gone "too far."
Interviewing Tim Russert at 7:06 AM ET, Lauer came out guns ablazin'.
LAUER: Vice-President Cheney called Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria "bad behavior," a Washington Post editorial on Thursday called it "counter-productive and foolish," and op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning goes a step further and suggests her trip may actually have been a felony, that it may have violated something called the Logan Act. Tim, is this the way the Democrats wanted to get off the mark in terms of foreign affairs?
Update: See bottom of post NBC's Martin Savidge took the prize for unexpected environmental advocacy on this morning's Today show. In a global warming story, disguised as a health report, Savidge went over-the-top as he blamed your car's exhaust for seemingly every problem under the Sun. In what was initially teased as an allergy report Savidge blamed fossil fuel emissions for an increase in the pollen count that is not only leading to exacerbated allergic reactions in humans and their pets but also getting in the way of police officers trying to collect fingerprints.
In the 7am half hour, Today co-host Matt Lauer introduced Savidge's global warming, masquerading as health story, segment this way: "Are you sniffling and sneezing right now? Are your eyes so watery you can barely see the TV?Well it could be your allergies. And guess what? We may only have ourselves to blame. That story now from NBC's Martin Savidge."
Would someone please let Andrea Mitchell know that John McCain is competing for the Republican presidential nomination? He's not going up against Obama, Hillary et al. in a race to determine who can surrender fastest in Iraq.
Giving her expert analysis on this morning's "Today" of John McCain's lackluster fundraising results, Mitchell claimed that John McCain is "hurt by his support for the Iraq war."
Could Andrea possibly be more wrong? McCain's support for President Bush's Iraq policy is the only thing keeping him alive, if barely, in the GOP race. Opposition to the war would put McCain in Chuck Hagel territory -- so unpopular among Republican voters that he dare not even throw his hat into the ring.
Sometimes bias shows up in the most unexpected spots. During a segment about Americans losing out to the Dutch when it comes to average height, NBC's Dawna Friesen cited a Democratic talking point, as one of the reasons. In the 7:30am half hour of this morning's 'Today' show Friesen explored the reasons why Americans are "shrinking" in contrast to the Dutch and other Western Europeans. Along with diet and nutrition Friesen blamed our shorter statures on lack of universal healthcare:
"And there's health care. Everyone in the Netherlands has access to it whereas in the U.S., 47 million people have no health insurance."
The following is the full segment as it aired on the April 2, 'Today' show:
MRC's Matthew Balan discovered on Friday's "Today" that the latest conventional wisdom among the liberal news manufacturers at NBC is that Rudy Giuliani's struggling under a wave of forthcoming media frenzies, while John Edwards has made an Elmer's Glue bond with the American people with his "60 Minutes" interview with his wife about her cancer. First, the decline and fall of Rudy:
MEREDITH VIEIRA: “I want to switch gears here, Tim, and talk about the 2008 campaign. Two candidates, in particular making news this week, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards. Let's start with Rudy Giuliani, if we can. Reports today, that when he was mayor of New York City, he knew that Bernard Kerik had a relationship with a company suspected of ties with organized crime, or to organized crime, before he appointed him as New York City police commissioner. He also said in an interview that if he is elected to the White House, he could see his wife Judith having a role in Cabinet meetings. How would assess his campaign at the end of this week? Headed in the right direction?”
Far be it from me to put in a plug for "Today," but I do hope Nancy Pelosi & Friends were watching this morning. Congressional Dems might be quick to dismiss what President Bush predicts would be the upshot of a date-certain pull-out from Iraq. But perhaps they would not so blithely disregard the observations of one of the most experienced and respected reporters on Iraqi matters . . . a New York Times staffer, no less.
During this morning's first half-hour, "Today" aired a segment devoted to answering the question "What if US Troops Withdraw?" In the first part, narrated by David Gregory, dueling experts painted alternatively gloomy and not-so-glum pictures of what things would be like if the US withdrew. Those on the "things wouldn't-be-so-bad" side seemed to receive more than their fair share of air time.
But then, Matt Lauer interviewed John Burns. As Matt observed, "few Western journalists have as a good a perspective on this war in Iraq as New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns."
"We should have went to the mob for a loan," said Bronx homeowner Ana Rosado on CNN's March 27 "American Morning."
Her statement, extreme as it was, rivaled network reporting in March about subprime loans and foreclosures.
Reporters called the situation a “meltdown,” an “epidemic” and a “crisis” that could potentially lead to recession, and blamed lenders while almost entirely ignoring personal responsibility for borrowers. Instead, media accounts portrayed borrowers as victims, many of whom seemed shocked when their adjustable-rate mortgages adjusted upward.
While lenders were painted as the bad guys, they were rarely allowed to give any perspective. The networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, have done at least 26 stories on subprime loans just in the month of March, but only six of those included a lender’s voice. That meant an overwhelming 77 percent of stories didn’t even try to explain the lenders’ position.
From the moment she participated in an anti-war march in NYC at the time of the 2004 GOP convention, there's been little doubt as to where Meredith Vieira stands on Iraq. Even so, it was something of a shock to hear the "Today" co-host express her opposition in the first person plural this morning.
Discussing the war with Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] at about 7:05 AM ET this morning, she said:
"Six out of ten Americans don't agree [with you]. They want a pull-out from Iraq. So what are we missing? When you say we are succeeding, based on what?"
"We?" Give Meredith credit for candor; but one more reason for NBC to stop pretending it doesn't lean left.