As they padded for time waiting for a live statement on the North Korean nuclear test from President Bush in the 9 am hour of Today on Monday, NBC's Andrea Mitchell scolded that Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were building reconciliation between North and South Korea, but Bush came in and ruined it, overruling his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, "cutting him off at the knees." Typically, Today co-host Matt Lauer insisted the North Korean nuclear test was just the latest in a string of bad news for Bush, from Iraq and Iran to the Mark Foley page scandal.
Matt Lauer led into the Clinton-praising section: "Andrea, I have to say as David [Gregory] mentioned a second ago, when I was there a few years ago it was surprising to me that there is starting to be this communication and actual physical contact between South and North Korea. This, there's a super highway being built that really connects the two."
"A North Korean ICBM hit Hawaii with a 10-kiloton atomic weapon today. Now back to Meredith and Matt for the latest on the burgeoning Mark Foley scandal. Is it doom for Republicans?"
Perhaps I exaggerate a tad with that imaginary bit of dialogue, but judging by this morning's 'Today,' you have to wonder. Good Morning America devoted the lion's share of its first half-hour to the N. Korean test of a nuclear device, with no fewer than four segments focusing on it. Over at Today, after a correspondent in China gave a report, and Lauer and Andrea Mitchell batted things around for a while, it was over. No expert analysis, no nothing. It was time to move to a report on . . . the latest lettuce recall. Have a look at the clock in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It was only 7:06.
The TV networks have enough trouble noticing a single governor's race across the country. But for some reason, the attorney general's race in New York drew attention when Republican candidate Jeanine Pirro drew a federal investigation for wanting to have her cheating husband wire-tapped. (NBC's Today has aired five segments or mentions of Pirro in the last ten days.) Will NBC and others in national TV news report on her opponent, Andrew Cuomo, and his weird habit of investing campaign money in risky hedge funds run by supporters? The New York Times reported on page A-24 on Friday:
Two years ago, Andrew M. Cuomo put more than half of his campaign treasury into a hedge fund, making him one of the few New York politicians to invest campaign money in anything riskier than a sure bet.
In the case of Mr. Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, the hedge fund was directed by one of his largest financial backers, a man who also handled Mr. Cuomo’s personal money. The investment of $750,000 turned out to be all upside, with a return of nearly 20 percent after one year.
Just in time for the November elections, a new MSM theme is emerging: Iraq's not the only mess - Afghanistan's in trouble too. Just a couple days I described here the Pentagon's systematic rebuttal of Newsweek's hyper-negative portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan in its article "The Rise of Jihadistan."
One of Newsweek's "news partners" just happens to be NBC, and sure enough, NBC's 'Today' show ran a segment this morning recycling many of the charges contained in the Newsweek piece. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda were depicted as resurgent, with violence up, the opium trade flourishing, and President Karzai's influence largely limited to Kabul.
NBC’s Matt Lauer and Tim Russert continued their pile-on of Denny Hastert and the GOP overall, on this morning’s Today show. Still pushing the Mark Foley story, Lauer and Russert noted how Republicans were running away from Hastert and cited Bush’s declining poll ratings in a new NBC poll. In the 7am half-hour Russert ticked off the negatives for Republicans:
Matt Lauer: "Alright we got some new poll ratings. NBC News/Washington or Wall Street Journal ratings. We've got the President's approval ratings down to 39 percent from 42 just about a month or so ago. What's driving these numbers down in your opinion?"
Tim Russert: "Well Matt, we've, we've polled American people Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. So clearly the breaking of the Foley story, the National Intelligence Estimate came out on Iraq, the Woodward book. We've had 13 deaths now in Iraq over the last couple of days. It, it is a two-prong attack, if you will. The culture of corruption beginning to take hold--"
In the midst of Day 3 the Today show's exhaustive coverage of Mark Foley, NBC's Norah O'Donnell actually shoe-horned in one more reference to Bob Woodward's State of Denial in her Foley story. Right before she concluded the set-up piece to Matt Lauer's interview with Joe Scarborough, O'Donnell referenced the Woodward book as yet another nail in the coffin for Republicans.
Norah O'Donnell: "Republicans are increasingly nervous that the Foley scandal raises questions about their credibility on moral values. Add to that the new book by Bob Woodward, State of Denial, that raises questions about another GOP strength, national security."
Network morning shows stayed on the Mark Foley scandal on Tuesday. ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN all harped on the "conservative" Washington Times editorial calling for Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign. (The Times is conservative, but no one expects the networks to describe the liberal newspapers -- or themselves -- with an ideological label.) ABC's Brian Ross came on strong, suggesting the Republican problem was "one of hypocrisy, talking tough about going after pedophiles on the Internet but not doing much about it when it comes to one of their own." CBS's Hannah Storm wondered if the scandal would "take down the Republican leadership in the House." NBC's Tim Russert used a rare P-word quoting a panicked Republican: "If there's a perception that we overlooked perversion in order to hold on to power we are finished." And CNN brought on a braying Paul Begala and found Democrats were "particularly enjoying the fact" that House campaign chairman Thomas Reynolds was ensnared in the controversy.
Former attorney general John Ashcroft was invited on this morning's Today show to promote his book Never Again but he found himself talking about somebody else's book instead. In the 8:30 half hour NBC's Meredith Vieira assaulted Ashcroft with excerpts from Bob Woodward's latest book and even went on to question Ashcroft about the "moral basis of the war on terrorism," and asserted, "Many people feel that our civil liberties have been chipped away bit by bit since, since 9/11."
Teasing the segment Matt Lauer called Ashcroft, "a very controversial figure," and in her opening Vieira noted he was "a lightning rod for criticism." Hmm, I wonder how many times Today referred to Janet Reno in those terms?
When it comes to the Foley scandal, the MSM is definitely keeping its eyes on the prize: the Democratic takeover of Congress. In this NB item, I described how the New York Times editorialized this morning that it doesn't care what else flows from the scandal. So long as the Dems re-take power, the Foley flameout "will have done its job."
Over at 'Today' this morning, Matt Lauer fretted that the fallout might not come fast enough to swing the election to the Dems. Interviewing Tim Russert, Lauer said "the most cynical scenario, the worst-case scenario for Republicans is that they kept this under wraps because Foley's seat was important to holding control of the House at a time when the entire control issue is up for grabs in the mid-term elections." Matt didn't bother painting a more innocent scenario.
If there was a competition on Monday morning to see who would give Bob Woodward the most free publicity, NBC's Today was the hands-down winner. Between the introductory promos, an Andrea Mitchell report, a Tony Snow interview, and a Bob Woodward interview, NBC gave "State of Denial" 15 minutes of publicity in the first half hour of Monday's show. In those 15 minutes, NBC viewers saw the book's red cover displayed on the screen six times, the title was mentioned at least five times, and the on-screen graphics carried the title for most of those 15 minutes.
After Matt Lauer promoted the Mark Foley story, he added: "Counterpunch. The Bush administration fights backs, fights back against explosive claims in Bob Woodward's new book that it bungled the war in Iraq." Seconds later, Meredith Vieira added: "And another big story out of Washington, that bombshell book from legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward paints a scathing picture of the Bush administration's handing of the war in Iraq, that goes as far as to say the White House is deliberately misleading the public."
In the wake of Rep. Mark Foley's sudden resignation over ABC finding his sexually charged electronic messages to teenage male House pages, Monday's broadcast network morning shows all began with Foley, and the networks presented doom-laden scenarios of a crumbling Republican majority and some demands for Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republican House leaders to resign. "But this is more than just one man's downfall," insisted Matt Lauer on NBC. "It could be a major blow to the Republican Party, desperately trying to hold on to control of Congress in the coming midterm elections." ABC's Robin Roberts wondered, "this morning, newly revealed e-mails, the denials, dealings of a Congress in chaos. Could the Foley scandal cost the Republicans the House? "
ABC's Chris Cuomo and CBS's Julie Chen each pushed Tony Snow to suggest Hastert and others should resign. Chen also asked if Republican leaders should be questioned "under oath." ABC's George Stephanopoulos dramatically called the scandal "a Category Three hurricane and it's picking up steam." When CNN's Soledad O'Brien then tried to suggest she was "certainly not rushing for anybody's resignation," Snow protested: "Sure you are." None made historical comparisons with Democrats caught in sexual relationships with House pages or other teenagers.
If Matt Lauer ever decides to leave 'Today,' he has a promising career ahead of him interpreting for the hearing-impaired at meetings of Moveon.org and like-minded groups.
Interviewing Bob Woodward on this morning's 'Today' about his Bush-bashing State of Denial, Lauer served as a cheerleader worthy of Katie at her perkiest.
At one point, Lauer summarized matters thusly:
"You paint a picture of a White House and administration that is not tone deaf in some cases but that literally in some cases puts their hands over their ears and said we don't want to hear the information if the information is not going to bolster our company line."
That's when, in the screen capture shown here, Lauer 'helpfully' mimed the White House's 'hear no evil' attitude that Woodward alleges.
This morning's big political news at 'Today' was the Bob Woodward book, State of Denial. Turf battles and rivalries in a White House - who would have thought it? Dems are presumably clinging to it as the Last Best Hope for Liberal-kind.
But in terms of revealing the liberal MSM mindset, I found much more interesting a few off-the-cuff comments made by members of the Today cast. At the end of the first half hour, the entire gang gathered on the studio couch, and talk centered on a just-completed segment on a proposal in NYC to ban the use of trans-fats by city restaurants.
While the Today show noted there was some good news for the Bush side in the declassified NIE report they spent most of their time emphasizing the negative. Today host Matt Lauer, in an interview with William Bennett, stressed the portion of the NIE report most likely to hurt Bush, highlighted a poll of Iraqis to push the Democratic line of early withdrawal and then quoted Hillary Clinton's most recent attack on the administration.
At the top of the show Lauer opened: "On Tuesday the President declassified parts of an intelligence report that's both good and bad news for the administration. While it claims that a victory in Iraq would demoralize the terrorists it also says the war there has strengthened the jihadist movement."
Viewers of this morning's Today expecting a balanced panel discussing Bill Clinton's outburst at Fox News were greeted with James Carville debating...Paul Begala? Meredith Vieira, for the most part, sat back as Carville and Begala pumped up Clinton, rallied the Democratic base and attacked everything from the administration's war on terror to Condoleezza Rice, to Fox News. There was no Michael Smerconish or any other vaguely right-of-center counterpart to make points against Clinton's outburst.
The following is a transcript of the entire segment:
Meredith Vieira: "Norah O'Donnell, thanks. Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala worked closely with former President Clinton, their book, Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory is now out in paperback and updated with new material. Good morning to both of you gentlemen. I want to start with you James."
Since one of the main issues at hand was Fox News' alleged bias, you would have thought NBC would have assembled a more 'fair & balanced' panel than James Carville and liberal sidekick Paul Begala. But just when you thought Meredith Vieira was going to lead a one-sided seance, she actually hit the liberal duo with two tough questions.
Carville provided the opening, ill-advisedly claiming that "not one 'assertation' of fact" by Clinton during his FNC interview has been challenged. Guess what, James? We've got some serious 'assertatin' goin' on over he-ah, in the person of Condi Rice, and Vieira was quick to point that out.
Vieira: "Not everybody agrees what he said is fact."
In this morning’s interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Today host Matt Lauer mostly asked serious questions about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and what more that country could do but right before the end of the interview Lauer asked Musharaff to elaborate on a charge he made about the Iraq war:
Lauer: "In your book you wrote, quote, 'I never favored the invasion of Iraq because I feared it would exacerbate extremism as it most certainly has. The world is not a safer place because of the war in Iraq, the world has become far more dangerous.' A recent classified National Intelligence Estimate, in this country, draws that exact same conclusion. So let me ask you, do you think then President Bush should be blamed for making the world a less safe place?"
A soldierasked the Secretary to define just who is the enemy. In professorial, avuncular fashion, Rumsfeld carefully described how a limited number of Muslim extremists have hijacked their faith and sought to impose their warped vision on their co-religionists. That others were seeking to regain power lost when the United States deposed dictatorial regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And that still others are simply criminal elements.
Now that John McCain and his fellow “moderate” Republican Senators have made a deal with the White House allowing the CIA and U.S. military to go about the job of protecting America from terrorists, NBC’s Matt Lauer is distressed that the group didn’t “stand up” to the White House and insist on even softer treatment.
In an interview on Friday morning’s Today, Lauer confronted McCain: “Why didn’t you guys stand up and take a stand on specifics? Why didn’t you say look, OK, there’ve been reports, for example, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the secret CIA centers that he was waterboarded, we will not let that stand, Mr. President?”
And Lauer held up Colin Powell as the arbiter of whether this was a good deal, asking McCain: “Do you think now that this moves in the direction where he’ll be satisfied?”
In this morning's interview with Bill Clinton, as first observed here, NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira treated the former president as a wise sage that could solve everything that's wrong with George W. Bush and his policies.
On Hugo Chavez's remarks calling the President, the "Devil" Vieira, gave some credence to the Venezuelan president's claims, as she asked the former President: "Do we need to change the way that we act?," and "is the developing world frustrated with the way that we treat them?"
Vieira then turned to Clinton for advice on Iran: "Let me ask you, then, about President Bush refusing to meet with the Iranian president Ahmadinejad, the other day. He said he would not do that, they wouldn't be in the same room together. If you were president today would you have met with the president of Iran?"
For NewsBusters types, the question has always been whether Meredith Vieira would be as liberal as her Today show predecessor, Katie Couric. As of this morning, we have our answer. Yesterday, Hugo Chavez stood on the world stage and called the President of the United States a "devil" and claimed the speakers platform still stunk from his presence. Today, Meredith Vieira went on national TV and warned us not to be too quick to dismiss his message.
Interviewing Bill Clinton, she said:
"Now, it's easy to dismiss somebody like Chavez -- and some have -- as a nut. But do you think he is giving voice to to wider frustration in the developing world about this country and this country's policies? Do we need to change the way we act?"
Interviewed by 'Today' host Matt Lauer this morning, former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey blamed the "immoral and ugly" way he acted out on his homosexuality on the fact that his parents were straight and thus couldn't serve as role models for him.
Lauer: "Not only as governor but as a state employee, you were living a very risky life-style. Anonymous sex with random men at places like highway rest stops. You write 'I was promiscuous and sexually active in ways I consider immoral and ugly, and I justified this by telling myself I had no other choice and that my sexual urges were irrepressible.'
Asked a sympathetic Lauer: "How hard was it to try to control them?"
That's when McGreevey got off his blame-the-straight-parents defense:
President Bush might have successfully avoided Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN yesterday, but he couldn't escape Meredith Viera's backseat driving on Iran policy on this morning's 'Today.' Perhaps convinced of the value of a good gabfest by her years on "The View," Vieira left little doubt she thinks that George and Mahmoud should soon sit down for nice coffee klatsch.
Vieira's guest was Tim Russert. Alluding to the way that Pres. Bush and Ahmadinejad avoided each other yesterday, Vieira asked him:
"Eventually will [Pres. Bush] have to sit down with this man? How much saber-rattling can you do if you're talking about the potential of going to war?"
If there's one thing you might have thought Meredith would have learned over the last 51/2 years, it's that when George Bush raises the sword, he ain't necessarily planning just to rattle it.
Meredith Vieira's question on Monday about Hillary Clinton decrying Bush's "Fear Factor presidency" seemed like a tired NBC-show plug to me. (What next? Vieira asking the First Lady, "An interrogation bill. Bush faces McCain. Deal Or No Deal?") So where did this Hillary Clinton quote originate? After a little Nexis searching, it's from an interview Sen. Clinton gave to the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on January 19, 2005. (NewsMax had it at the time.) Does Vieira have an excellent memory? Or who pulled this old chestnut out?
Saying the Bush administration uses scare tactics rather than sound policy, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed deep concerns about the president's second term on a visit to Rochester on Tuesday. "The fear factor has become the overriding strategic approach that this administration uses," Clinton told the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board.
Meredith Vieira used the occasion of Laura Bush's in-studio appearance on this morning's Today to pepper the First Lady with criticisms from Hillary Clinton and even Republicans. The First Lady was on to promote her global literacy initiative but, not surprisingly, she ended up having to defend against Today's attack line of the day. After a set-up piece from NBC's Kelly O'Donnell that noted: 'some of the biggest names within [the President's] own party....continue to resist some of his plans for how terror suspects are treated,' Vieira asked if the First Lady's global literacy initiative would help restore the nation's reputation, presumably, destroyed by the President's anti-terror policies:
Over the last week, President Bush’s poll numbers have improved. While the media was quick to highlight poll results when the President’s numbers were declining, they have been less enthusiastic about noting his resurgence. Referring to the "New York Times," co-host of "Fox and Friends" Steve Doocy noted:
"...So, this is really big news for the White House and I'm sure it's going to be on page one. So anyway, with a –because I know that when the president's approval rating was falling, it was on page one..."
Mr. Doocy searched the entire front section of the "Times" on air and was unable to locate news of improving popularity for President Bush. However, it was not just the ‘New York Times" that has omitted improving poll numbers. NBC’s "Today" made no mention of an NBC poll just released yesterday showing President Bush’s approval climbing to 42%. Additionally, neither ABC’s "Good Morning America" nor CBS’s "Early Show" mentioned President Bush’s improved standing with American voters.
Rosie O’Donnell, the newly installed co-host at "The View," observed the 9/11 anniversary by stating that America "squandered" world support and the next day she asserted that "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam."
O’Donnell wasn’t the only media member to use September 11 as a pretext to bash America. CBS veteran Andy Rooney suggested in his "60 Minutes" commentary that America start acting in a way that "wouldn’t make so many people in the world want to kill us." MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann went further, accusing President Bush of "impeachable" offenses and "lies."
Appearing on another network, but continuing in the same vein, Sean Penn talked to CNN’s Larry King and mused about the President bringing fascism to the United States...
Appearing with NBC's Matt Lauer on the Today show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann discussed his recent vitriolic attack on President Bush from the September 11 broadcast of his Countdown show, during which Olbermann had accused Bush of a "crime against" 9/11 victims for not accomplishing the construction of a memorial at Ground Zero, and had accused Bush of the "impeachable offense" of "lying by implication" regarding the Iraq War. While Olbermann's inflammatory comments were not quoted by Lauer or Olbermann, the MSNBC host rationalized his rant by comparing it to President Bush's speech to the nation "politicizing 9/11 in his own way." Olbermann: "I might add that I was on the air two minutes before the President was politicizing 9/11 in his own way. I don't see that there's much difference." Olbermann also contended that views similiar to his shared by a segment of the American population were "not being articulated in the mainstream media." Olbermann: "I thought that there was a part of the persona of the nation not really being articulated in the mainstream media." (Transcript follows)
Three days after delivering a "Special Comment" (which can be found with video here) on his Countdown show denouncing President Bush on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announced that not only will he replay his "Comment" on tomorrow night's Countdown due to being "inundated with your comments and requests," but also announced that he will appear on tomorrow's Today show to "discuss the 'Comment' and other political matters." In Monday night's "Special Comment," Olbermann charged that the President had committed the "impeachable offense" of "lying by implication" to get America into a "fraudulent war" in Iraq, and called the President's "reprehensible inaction" in securing the construction of a memorial at Ground Zero a "crime against" 9/11 victims. It is also likely the MSNBC host will be promoting his recently released book, Worst Person in the World, which is based on a regular segment on Olbermann's show which sometimes features political targets and, according to an MRC study, has targeted conservatives for ridicule eight times as often as liberals. (Transcript follows)
Now it's time for one of those moments known as the Things I Wouldn't Have Done If I Knew I Was Ever Going To Get A Real News Job Again Department. In this case, it's new NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira, who, in a short stretch from her hosting "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" in syndication, hosted this special feature on the DVD for the Disney direct-to-DVD cartoon Lion King 1 1/2. She hosted the cartoon character Timon the Meerkat in "Who Wants to Be King of the Jungle?" There are several obvious reasons for saying yes to this gig. 1. The cash. 2. Being a nice ABC corporate player. 3. But most of all, for the children. (One more pic...)