Just days after substitute Today co-host Campbell Brown applied a little bit of weekday Tim Russert elbow grease to Howard Dean, asking about the Democratic split on Iraq, Brown's interview with James Carville this morning didn't even contain questions, just set-up statements.
First, MRC's Scott Whitlock reported, Brown asked a soft question on the segment's premise on whether Bush is on the mend: "So let me ask you both this question. And Michael you start. Are we going to look back at this week and say this is the week that President Bush got his mojo back?" Smerconish said yes, Bush was now the "comeback kid."
Then came Brown's completely supine non-question: "All right, James. You're laughing. Go ahead."
Yesterday Lee Cowan, of CBS News, may have exaggerated the size of the protests in Baghdad by people loyal to cleric Muqtada al Sadr, in response to President Bush’s surprise visit. But today, he made up for it. Cowan, reporting from Baghdad for "The Early Show" on CBS, was the only reporter on the 3 major network morning shows to quote from al Qaeda documents found after the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
While "Good Morning America" on ABC and "Today" on NBC gave only cursory mention of the documents, "The Early Show" led the program with the story. Co-host Julie Chen noted the significance of the documents and what they could mean when she introduced Cowan’s piece:
Has Katie Couric's departure had a salubrious effect on Matt Lauer? Freed his inner moderate? The jury's still out. And to be sure, in his interview of Bill O'Reilly this morning Lauer managed to take shots at Ann Coulter and the Iraq security situation. Still, when an MSM host suggests that releasing prisoners from Guantanamo could result, of all things, in an 'international Willie Horton,' it does make you sit up and take notice.
Meanwhile, BOR himself, fresh from his visit to Guantanamo, energetically made the case for the current system of detaining enemy combatants.
Lauer did start things out with a quick jab at the state of security, or lack thereof, in Iraq:
Our media today seem absolutely allergic to good news, especially when it comes to Iraq.
In the early morning of June 8, the story broke that American forces had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, our most infamous terrorist enemy in Iraq. This was terrific news, a time for rejoicing in America. A man who viciously caused the death of thousands, and killed Americans like Nicholas Berg by personally sawing off their heads, would kill no more.
This should have been a time for national euphoria, and for most, it was. But the media’s hearts clearly weren’t in it. Within just a few minutes of the “Today” show announcement, a viewer could draw the clear sense that the poor-mouthing had begun. Matt Lauer began by noting the “timing” was certainly right for a Pentagon dragged down by allegations of a Marine massacre at Haditha. NBC invited Sen. Joe Biden to describe how President Bush has been “basically crippled at home and abroad because of the incompetence of the way his administration has operated at home and abroad.” We’re going to discuss Bush incompetence – minutes after we learn Zarqawi was located and eliminated?
What's gotten into Campbell Brown? I'd had her pegged as a conventional MSM liberal, but in recent times, she has manifested a refreshing streak of independence that was very much on display in her interview of Howard Dean on this morning's Today show.
Things came to a head over the Dems' vague and conflicting positions over Iraq.
Began Brown: "Let me ask you about Iraq. I want to ask a straightforward question. What is the Democrats' position on Iraq? What solution do Democrats have?"
Dean: "We believe that the President is wrong to say this will be left to the next president. That's not the right approach. Secondly, we believe there needs to be a transition, that the Iraqis need to take over and our troops need to come home and be redeployed to other parts of the world to fight terrorism. The war on terror has nothing to do with the war with Iraq, or at least it didn't until the president got us in there. We believe in transition. This is now the responsibility of the Iraqis. And we believe that this cannot be left to the next administration. It needs to be dealt with now."
Hit back Brown: "But 'dealt with now', that's not that different from President Bush's position."
The networks have been eager over the last few weeks to highlight every new charge or claim related to the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq last November (a new study from the MRC counted 99 stories or interviews about it over just three weeks on the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening shows), but when a front page Washington Post article on Sunday recounted Marine Sergeant Frank Wuterich's contention that he and his squad followed the rules of engagement and were justified in their actions, the networks lost interest. NBC gave it a few seconds on Sunday's Today and a fuller story on Sunday's Nightly News, but ABC and CBS ignored it on their Sunday morning shows (GMA and Sunday Morning) while ABC's World News Tonight gave it a mere 20 seconds before a full story on suicides at Guantanamo and the CBS Evening News skipped it completely. On Monday, despite interview segments and stories on Iraq, the broadcast network morning shows ignored Wuterich's version, though ABC and NBC made time for full Guantanamo pieces. Amazingly, ABC's Charles Gibson didn't raise it with Congressman John Murtha, the lead accuser who appeared on GMA. The Monday evening shows also avoided the topic. (Detailed rundown and contrasts follow.)
Here's a strategy for pro-life activists: start talking up the fact that humans share 90% [or whatever the number is] of their DNA with seals. It might win you more sympathy from the MSM. For while the liberal media love to celebrate 'a woman's right to choose', they go all weepy at the prospect of baby seals biting the dust, er, ice.
The Today show was at it again this morning with a segment on the baby seal harvest in Canada, complete with the predictable footage of those cuddly baby seals at the mercy of heartless hunters. 'Today' even warned us that "what you are about to see may be disturbing to some people."
What have the Dems and their MSM echo-chamber been clamoring for, nay, demanding, when it comes to Iraq? Why, a troop withdrawal, of course. Yet there was Matt Lauer on this morning's Today, fretting that President Bush might . . . withdraw troops.
Lauer's lament came in the course of his interview of former General Barry McCaffrey, looking ahead to the Iraq summit that Pres. Bush is holding at Camp David beginning today with his top national security advisers.
" Do you worry about a political side of this, that the administration may pull a substantial number troops out of Iraq just prior to November's mid-term elections simply to sway public opinion?"
I'm on a quick strike down to NYC today to attend a talk radio convention.
And speaking of quick strikes, Matt Lauer launched one at Karen Hughes on this morning's 'Today.' Hughes, who serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, was on to discuss US relations in the Arab world in the, ahem, wake of the killing of Zarqawi.
At the end of the interview, Lauer hit Hughes with this 21/2-month old quote from Donald Rumsfeld:
"If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place in the world today. And I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found the formula as a country."
At 7:12 this morning, NBC's Today was already turning the Zarqawi victory into a Republican-Democrat spitting match, inviting on Senator Joe Biden (Democrat from Television, I mean, Delaware). When co-host Ann Curry asked: "Do you think, talking about politics for just a moment, that the President might be able now to use this to gain momentum, to improve the chances of, of improving his approval ratings and helping in the midterm elections coming up this November?" Biden said yes, because Bush has been "crippled" by "incompetence" at home and abroad:
Well, I hope it does improve his ratings. Look, I’m a Democrat. We get one president at a time. This election in November is not going to be for president of the United States, and he has been basically crippled at home and abroad because ofthe incompetence of the way his administration has operated at home and abroad, and that’s not good for the country. He fails, America ends up getting hurt. And so, I hope it does improve his standing. I hope it does embolden him then to take bolder moves in terms of changing policy in Iraq. He’s made some significant changes in Iran. That’s helpful. But we have a long way to go. His low ratings and his inability to rally any support is a very difficult position for the United States internationally.
How on Earth would the networks work in the alleged Marine massacre at Haditha today? Oh, don't worry. Matt Lauer was on that six minutes into the show, MRC's Geoff Dickens reports. Oh, the timing was very political, we at NBC would like to underline:
Matt Lauer: "And Mik, let me just talk about the timing of this. The, the U.S. military has been rocked over the last couple of weeks by headlines suggesting an alleged massacre in Haditha. So clearly this comes at a very important time for the Pentagon."
Early AP dispatches from the press conference Nouri al-Maliki held this morning to announce the death of Zarqawi said these words were "drawing loud applause from reporters" there.
That didn't sound typical, and NBC's Richard Engel was more precise on Today this morning: "Spontaneous joy from Iraqi reporters gathered in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone." American reporters don't cheer American victories. They suggest this won't mean much in the long run.
NBC's Special Report around the president's remarks included analysis from Tim Russert -- in reality and in tone, the Democratic response. Russert threw several pitchers of cold water on the good news, saying people should remember the euphoria after capturing Saddam Hussein, and things didn't change much.
For weeks, the MSM has been billing as a bellwether the congressional by-election in California to replace convicted felon Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. As per the conventional wisdom, if the Democrats managed to take the seat in what is normally a GOP-stronghold, it would be seen as a harbinger of horrible things to come for the Republican congressional majority.
Well, the election was held yesterday, and - whoops! - the Republican, Brian Bilbray, won. So how did Today spin it? Why, silence was suddenly golden. At least as of the crucial first half-hour, there was time for coverage of dust in the Arizonan desert, but not a word of the Bilbray victory. Insert your imagine-if-the-Dem-had-won comment here.
Coming on long after Ann Coulter presumably left the Today show set Kathy Griffin couldn't resist taking a shot at the conservative author. Griffin cracked Al Roker up when she called Coulter a "nut-ball" and asked Al: "Doesn't she just make stuff up?"
Kathy Griffin: "I like to make fun of everybody. I think nobody is sacred, everybody can be ridiculous. And I love making fun of just all of celebrity culture."
Al Roker: "So you basically have gone after, you, you've made Steven Spielberg angry, now you're going after Oprah."
Griffin: "I go, although I'd like to go after Ann Coulter. I saw that nut-ball on the show earlier."
Matt Lauer has two different sets of standards for politically provocative authors. If you are on the left he laughs with you, if you are on the right he slams you. On this morning’s Today show Ann Coulter’s statements drew outrage from Matt but last October when Al Franken suggested Karl Rove and Lewis Libby be executed for treason Matt and the Today show crew laughed. Lauer’s interview with Coulter got particularly testy when he read excerpts from Coulter’s new book and demanded she defend them. Below are the most explosive portion of this morning’s Coulter v. Lauer showdown
While considerable attention focuses on Ann Coulter's more superficial charms, from a conservative perspective Ann's real beauty is her absolute refusal to buy into liberal logic, no matter how pervasive. That independence of mind was on display this morning during her 'Today' interview with Matt Lauer. Ann was on to tout her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, released today on . . . 6/6/6 - sign of the devil and all that. [See today's open thread.]
The first example came in the context of President Bush's current push for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit gay marriage. The liberal mantra on his initiative, as exemplified by Ann Curry's performance on yesterday's Today, is that this is a cynical political ploy and a waste of time when there are myriad 'real' issues out there to be addressed.
In the wake of the Ann Coulter interview on Tuesday's "Today" -- specifically the part where Matt Lauer simply couldn't believe Coulter's attacks on 9-11 widows channeling their grief into anti-Bush attacks on TV news shows -- here are a few reminders of how the Kristen Breitweisers of the world (who endorsed John Kerry in the fall) were given the lion's share of attention by network hosts like Matt Lauer.
An MRC study of relatives on the morning news shows found the disparity of anti-Bush victim relatives to pro-Bush relatives was 20 to 3. (The report concluded, "These relatives are entitled to their views, of course. But network viewers are entitled to a little balance, too.")
A week earlier, it was already obvious Breitweiser was doing election-year publicity against Bush:
Looks like NBC's Matt Lauer isn't missing Katie Couric too much. Emceeing a fundraiser last Wednesday night for the ahem, taxpayer funded Sesame Workshop, Lauer had a good laugh at the expense of Couric. In a bit with Elmo, Lauer uttered what sounded like a set-up line for the muppet: "Katie is moving on to a wonderful challenge, and it's one of those days that reminds me of that very famous saying..." Elmo piped in with this punchline: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, I'm free at last!" The following appeared in Lloyd Grove's column:
Matt Lauer was sure in a lovely mood the night Katie Couric left the "Today" show for good.
Katie Couric's gone, but not to worry: the Today show hasn't missed a beat of liberal bias. This morning's topic was one near and dear to the MSM heart - gay marriage. And sure enough . . .
Ann Curry interviewed MSNBC show host and former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough on the issue. But while Ann theoretically is serving as Matt Lauer's temporary co-host pending the arrival of Meredith Vieira, Curry seems stuck in her erstwhile newsreader mode, dutifully parroting DNC and NY Times talking points.
The basic liberal line on the marriage amendment debate is "why are we wasting time on this when there are so many more pressing issues to be addressed?" And sure enough, the very first words out of Curry's mouth to Scarborough were: "we are in the middle of a rising public debate about the war with Iraq and Haditha and hurricane season is coming. Why in your view is the president attacking gay marriage now?" Hurricanes and Haditha in one sentence - not bad, Ann. But if only you had worked Halliburton in there, it would have been shades of My Fair Lady: 'in hurricanes, Haditha and Halliburton, amendments hardly happen!'
This just in from Reuters, dateline Las Vegas: "Addressing the annual convention of CBS affiliates, [Katie] Couric predicted that the 'pretentious era' of the evening-news anchor is going to be a thing of the past." The headline, at least on the New York Times website, is "Couric Hopes to End 'Pretentious Era' in News."
Um, a peek at an online dictionary says "pretentious" is defined as "Making or marked by an extravagant outward show; ostentatious. See Synonyms at showy." Didn't this woman just sit at the center of a wildly extravagant three-hour tribute to her greatness on Wednesday morning? And to get up the next day, and say this?
As Katie Couric departed the Today show after 15 years Wednesday with hours of "misty, watercolor memories" -- for you in the under-40 crowd, that's Streisand singing "The Way We Were," in, ouch, 1973 -- it’s quite obvious that CBS knew it was not only getting one of America’s most famous journalists, but also one of America’s most liberal ones. In the weeks since Couric announced her CBS move on April 5, she has seemed especially outspoken.
She told Ted Kennedy his goal of government-mandated health coverage was a “noble goal”; swooned over Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem “I Am Woman” and oozed over how it shaped her; insisted that teaching tolerance of homosexuality should be done at an early age; and promoted Al Gore’s direst ice-cap-melting predictions: “Even Manhattan would be in deep water, right?” To mark Couric’s NBC career, here’s a very brief listing of some of Katie’s dramatic liberal bias, going all the way back to 1991. (See more from our main page here.)
On the "Couric Watch" over at TVNewser, Brian Stelter noticed the early reviews for the looong Katie Couric goodbye on Wednesday were negative. Take B&C Beat at Broadcasting and Cable magazine:
But today’s Today orgy of tribute was ridiculously over the top, so long by so far that even Couric seemed to know it. Shortly after 8 a.m., when Matt Lauer promised even more tributes to come, Couric chimed in, “Sorreee!" Almost exactly an hour later, as the tributes kept coming, Couric acknowledged, “It’s a lot of Katie.”
CBS's Early Show wasn't the only morning show yesterday doing unpaid commercials for "social justice" products. MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed that on her penultimate Today performance Katie Couric was talking up Global Goods Partners products. Katie once again insisted we know exactly what she thinks about America:
Couric: "I think it's really wonderful how you, just purchasing these products. I mean not only do you get a beautiful object, but you really do feel good about consuming. You know because so often it's just sort of blind consumption, especially in this country, I think. And so to be able to have the full circle happen is really I think a very gratifying thing."
Well the final goodbye came this morning but Today has been drawing out Katie Couric's farewell for what seems like forever or at least the last few weeks. Starting back on May 15th Today as been running a regular Goodbye Katie segment featuring some fond adieus from Katie's buddies in the media, entertainment and political worlds. Below you can find a list of those who said goodbye and no surprise it's full of liberal politicians and celebrities. Republicans are few in number, only four to be exact. Some of the goodbyes were particularly syrupy, like this long-winded goodbye from Bill Clinton on yesterday's Today: Video: Windows Media or Real Player Plus MP3
A bit of political gender-bending on this morning's Today, as ostensibly conservative radio talk show host Michael Smerconish called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq while the normally hyper-partisan James Carville did anything but ride to the defense of his fellow Democrat, Congressman William Jefferson, apparently caught with his hand in a $100G cookie jar.
The pair were Katie Couric's guests largely for purposes of discussing the investigation into the possibility that Marines killed numerous Iraqi civilians in cold blood in the city of Haditha. Carville sought to exploit the subject for all its political worth, coming close to excusing the Marines who were directly involved for purposes of condemning those higher up the chain of command.
The Friday morning and evening broadcast networks shows pounced on how when asked, at the joint Thursday night Bush/Blair press conference, whether he had any regrets about the conduct of the war in Iraq, President Bush responded: “Saying, ‘bring it on.' Kind of tough talk you know that sent the wrong signal to people” and “some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, ‘wanted dead or alive.'”
CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer suggested Bush isn’t always so honest as he described it as “an unusual burst of candor from President Bush.” Schieffer soon called it an “extraordinary statement” and reporter Jim Axelrod agreed it was “startling.” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams found Bush’s answer so important that he played a stand-alone clip of the “most interesting moment” and brought aboard Tim Russert who saw a “remarkable, remarkable admission." On her last night as anchor of World News Tonight, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas asserted that “some of the bold talk we once heard from them is gone. Now they are voicing regrets and admitting mistakes.” Jake Tapper framed a story around how Bush and Blair “came together to project confidence in the new Iraqi government, but perhaps what came across strongest was regret." (Transcripts, and a brief look at the mornings shows, such as how NBC’s Today opened with “Admitting Mistakes” on screen, follow.)
The Today show doesn’t like to judge. In the past, they have used the HBO series Big Love as a pretext to describe polygamy as the "next civil rights battle." They also had a serious piece on an "artist" who was promoting female public nudity. And now we have the lighter side of child rape. The May 26 edition of NBC’s Today featured an interview with Mary Kay LeTourneau. You may remember her as the women who was convicted in 1997 for having sex with her then 12-year-old student. She has since served a seven year prison sentence and is now married to the former victim, Vili Fualaau, 21. Here’s how Matt Lauer introduced the piece at 7:32AM EDT:
Lauer: "Most skeptics thought it could never last. Theirs was truly a love against all odds. He was a sixth grader in suburban Seattle. She was a star teacher and a married mother of four. What began as a mentorship quickly developed into a sexual affair."
You almost expected The Edwin Hawkins Singers to turn up on set. For, short of Hillary raising her right hand on the steps of the Capitol some time in January of 2009, it just doesn't get much happier for Today than this morning. In one fell news cycle, George Bush and Enron evil-doers laid low.
It couldn't have come quick enough for Katie Couric. Interviewing Tim Russert on the president's mea culpa performance of yesterday, in which he and Tony Blair admitted to mistakes in his handling of Iraq, she asked:
"Do you think both men should have tried this approach sooner?"
Lest anyone think that the president's remorse will appease the MSM, it was obvious that, now with a taste of blood, the liberal media pack will only call for more. Couric wasted no time in going after Donald Rumsfeld:
With the Yankees fresh from taking two-out-of-three from the Red Sox, why not a Today show double-header this morning?
In the opener, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Washington for talks with President Bush, Today did its best to rain out any good news emerging from Iraq.
NBC White House reporter David Gregory observed that "two leaders who have paid a heavy political price for launching the war in Iraq will stand together tonight before the country to argue there is new reason for hope."
A hope that Gregory was quick to seek dash. Whereas new Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he expects Iraqi forces to be able to assume major responsibility for securing the country within 18 months, Gregory described it as a "tall order given Iraqi forces have been infiltrated by gangs fueling sectarian violence in the country."