Now it's getting nasty. Katie Couric has pointedly suggested that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's past chairmanship of the Republican National Committee permitted him to snare a disproportionately large share of Katrina rebuilding funds.
The accusation came in the course of Couric's interview of Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. An aside: whereas Katie seemed frustrated in an earlier interview this morning of Mayor Ray Nagin when he was unwilling to point the finger at the Bush administration for allegedly slow progress, Amoss was much more compliant. He laid most of the fault at FEMA's feet, and also blamed the federal government for doing nothing to improve levees it allegedly knew were insufficient.
Didn't someone get the word to Ray Nagin? Didn't His Honor know he was supposed to use his Mardi Gras appearance on the Today show to bemoan slow progress in the rebuilding of New Orleans and take some helpful shots at the Bush administration for its stinginess in allocating only $91 billion?
If Nagin wasn't playing by the Bush-bashing script, Katie Couric was there to fill the gaps and use the opportunity to plump for more government programs including an expansion of perhaps the worst idea ever in welfare - 'public housing.'
Katie opened her interview with this negative assessment: "Only 50% of the debris has been removed. Basic services are still not up and running in some areas. That may lead some people to ask: what is taking so long?"
Chris Matthews, host of Hardball, appeared on the February 25 edition of NBC’s Today. Co-host Lester Holt began the segment, airing at 8:11AM EST, by asking Matthews about Iraq. He responded:
"The President, of course, got us to go to war in Iraq with the argument that someday down the road, that country over there on the other side of the world might someday help out the terrorists, and we've lost 3000 guys fighting that argument."
That statistic, of course, is not correct. The actual number, as of February 26, is 2294. The death of every soldier is tragic and their sacrifice should be remembered and honored. But the fact that Matthews rounded up by over 700 shows the grisly fascination that media members have with these milestones. Holt then asked the MSNBC host what options the United States had in a potential Iraqi civil war. Matthews then suggested a bleak and dire scenario:
If you look in the dictionary next to 'disgruntled', expect to find a photo of former FEMA Director Michael Brown. As the Today show graphic read, "Michael Brown Blames White House," and NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams was there to record every embittered word, with nary a nuanced question that might have probed Brown's account of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
In the interview excerpt shown on this morning's Today, Brown sought to exculpate himself by describing a conference call he had held with the President and top administration officials in which Brown informed them that 90% of New Orleans' population had been displaced.
Claimed Brown: "I am screaming that we need to do these things. We need all this stuff. It's like the old ketchup commercial. I just could not get the stuff to come out of the bottle."
You know the old line: find me a one-handed expert. The kind that doesn't say 'on the one hand, but on the other hand.' The Today show found one this morning. Terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey was single-handedly unequivocal in his support of the UAE port deal when interviewed by Matt Lauer.
Lauer: "Take the politics out of it. Will this really damage national security especially at these ports?"
Cressey: "The simple answer is that it won't. We've had foreign ownership of the ports . . . for a number of years now. The American security apparatus is still going to have responsibility for how security is dealt with. So it won't."
"They say that all good things must end, someday, "Autumn leaves must fall, "But don't you know, that it hurts me so, "To say goodbye to you "Wish you didn't have to go "No no no no." - A Summer Song, Chad & Jeremy
Yes, it was so beautiful for the MSM while it lasted. Seemingly endless days beneath sunny South Texas skies, filled with breathless stories of possible White House cover-ups, press secretaries under the gun, earnest doctors displaying models of damaged hearts, why, even talk of the Vice-President having to step down under fire.
But the first hint that the beautiful affair could be ending came two days ago when Mr. Cheney had an earnest meeting with another man, that suave Brit Hume. Then the president announced he was satisfied with the account of the matter. And finally those party poopers at the sheriff's office had to announce yesterday that the case was closed with no charges filed.
An unsuspecting viewer watching this morning's Today show would have thought Fox News failed to disclose that VP Cheney, during his interview with Brit Hume, acknowledged having a beer at lunch on the day of the shooting incident.
But when it comes to the MSM, it pays to be 'suspecting.'
Here's how NBC White House reporter Kelly O'Donnell artfully chose her words:
"The official White House transcript of the interview shows Cheney said 'I had a beer at lunch.' Fox News did not show that particular clip during Brit Hume's program."
I was jarred by O'Donnell's statement since, having watched "Brit Hume's program" - Special Report - I was certain I had heard reference to the mid-day beer. And sure enough, a transcript of Special Report confirms it:
It was open season on Vice President Dick Cheney on NBC's Today this morning as Katie Couric opened the show over a What's the Wait? graphic, continuing the media elite's whining that they aren't being spoonfed information from the White House: "Good morning, shooting itself in the foot? More fallout over Vice President Cheney's hunting accident as the victim suffers a minor heart attack. And once again the Bush administration delays telling the press."
Couric and Matt Lauer teased the upcoming segment with Tim Russert. Couric: "But first off still some rough sledding for the Bush administration over Vice President Cheney's hunting incident, right?" Lauer: "Yeah that's right Katie and we should also tell you that the man Vice President Cheney accidentally shot suffered a minor heart attack while still in the hospital on Tuesday. President Bush's press secretary knew about that before his news conference that same day but he didn't tell anyone. The administration was already under fire because it waited a day to tell the press when the accident happened. So what's going on? And is Vice President Cheney making a bad situation even worse by keeping silent about it? We're gonna have much more on that, Katie, with Tim Russert in just a couple of minutes."
When's the last time you recall a prominent elected official being called a morning malt liquor drinker on live national TV? It just happened on the Today show.
Today was no doubt looking for a light touch when co-host Campbell Brown interviewed New Orleans magician, comic and eccentric extraordinaire Harry Anderson in a pre-Mardi Gras piece on "Life after Katrina." But the NBC show surely got more than it was bargaining for.
When Anderson took some shots at FEMA and the federal response to Katrina, Brown, in an apparent bid for balance, responded:
"Let me ask you about Mayor Nagin, because your mayor has come under a lot of crticism too for how he's handled the rebuilding effort. What do you think of the mayor?"
She interviewed NBC reporter Richard Engel on this morning's Today show in the wake of the release of a new videotape of Jill Carroll, the US journalist kidnapped in Iraq last month. The tape showed a composed Carroll speaking before a floral backdrop.
Couric, ever the fashion maven, declared "it's actually kind of a pretty setting." Perhaps Katie can pick up some matching shoes while in 'Torino'. Engel explained that the captors appear to be sending the message that they are looking to negotiate.
While the TV-news world buzzes over whether Katie Couric brings her powdered perkiness to the "CBS Evening News" throne of Dan Rather, her current morning job still makes her look quite silly, more "That Girl" than "Evening News" anchor/icon. Drudge today is wondering whether she was "discharged" upon as she fed pigeons in Milan on camera shortly after 8 AM Eastern. Our views of the video today show no visual evidence of the number-two (and Katie later denied it happened*), but a surplus of dopey jokes about it, with Couric remarking on "sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue," and then claiming she might be needing "Purel" to clean her hands after the pigeons fed there. She makes CBS anchor Connie Chung reporting from Tonya Harding's ice rink look like the essence of hard news. Windows Media Player or Real Player
Perhaps the dumber Olympics-related "Today" moment came last Thursday, as MRC's Geoff Dickens sent along the transcript:
Today's Matt Lauer scored a Jerome Bettis-sized TD this morning by asking a question regarding the current Muslim rioting that was as unexpected as it was perspicacious. Meanwhile, former Clinton diplomat Bill Richardson offered the instinctive Democratic response to a threat to our security: bring on the UN!
Richardson, currently the New Mexico governor, described the grim state of the Muslim world: "I've never seen the situation so dire with with the threats from Iran, the victory of Hamas, the escape of Badawi in Yemen. This is a very dangerous situation. It seems that the Muslim world is exploding."
Let's give Today its due. It devoted extended coverage this morning to the growing nuclear threat from Iran. In Katie Couric's interview of Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, it was quickly established that Iran does indeed represent a serious danger. Much of the conversation involved a discussion of the various options - none of them ideal - to address the threat. One might argue that Haass' estimate that Iran remains five years away from acquiring a nuclear weapon is dangerously optimistic, but he did not attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation.
But, inevitably, Katie turned the talk to what she deemed domestic spying, alternatively dubbing it, with a wry smile, "the terrorist surveillance program."
Both NBC's "Today" on Thursday and CBS's "Early Show" on Wednesday jumped on one liberal-sounding line of Bush's State of the Union address: that America is "addicted to oil."
Matt Lauer began "Today" by joking like he was attending an Alcholics Anonymous meeting. "I'm Matt and I'm addicted to oil."
Katie responded, along with rest of the crew: "Hi Matt!"
Lauer elaborated: "You get the point. In fact it's an addiction all Americans have. We consume nearly a quarter of the world's supply and most of that for driving. Well this week President Bush called on America to break its dependence on foreign oil and search for new cleaner, energy sources but presidents, as you know, have been saying that for decades. Why is oil such a hard habit to break and does the oil used in your home actually affect what's happening in the Middle East? We'll get into that."
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry must be thinking how fortunate he was that there were no real journalists in the room -- just perky Katie Couric -- when he appeared on NBC’s Today to complain about President Bush’s State of the Union address. As NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein noted earlier, Couric did ask a couple of pointed questions, at one point asking Kerry if there “was there anything you appreciated or liked hearing” in Bush’s speech.
But when Kerry started inventing statistics in his rant against the President’s education policies, preposterously claiming at one point that “53 percent of our children are not graduating from high school,” (in fact, 73.9 percent of incoming freshmen graduate from high school, according to the most recent Department of Education tally) Couric never even blinked -- not even when Kerry haughtily accused Bush of not presenting “the real state of the Union.”
Liberals hate to be accused of having a pre-9/11 mentality. But how else can you describe it when two leading MSM lights dismiss the war on terror as a political ploy that President Bush has taken to "extremes"?
That's exactly what happened on this morning's Today show. Matt Lauer, conducting a SOTU post-mortem interview of Tom Brokaw, wrote off W's war on terror as a political tactic:
"The president talked about this fight against "radical Isam" [note that Lauer raised his hands, painting scare quotes in the air around the term] saying that the weapon they use in the fight is fear and that we cannot retreat, there's no peace in retreat. Is this an attempt in this divided nation to find some kind of term or idea that people can get united behind?"
Toggling between the Today show and Good Morning America this morning offered a perfect illustration of the very different treatment the MSM reserves for Republicans and Democrats.
At Today, Andrea Mitchell was painting a grim picture of President Bush's foreign policy record. Take the recent Hamas victory, for example, which Mitchell unequivocally labelled: "a disaster for the US peace plan."
In fact, reactions to the Hamas victory have been very mixed, with some seeing a significant silver lining, as in this column by conservative [and I might add Jewish] columnist Jeff Jacoby:
Remember the good old days, when Democrats and their friends in the MSM would regularly bash Republican administrations for doing business with less-than-democratic, even unsavory foreign governments and their leaders?
From the Shah of Iran, to Marcos in the Phillipines, Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile and a variety of strong men, authoritarians and tinpots in between, liberals lambasted Republican presidents for "coddling dictators" and doing nothing to promote freedom and democracy.
It seems the MSM has overhauled its ordre du jour [to use a phrase one might hear in, oh, Davos, Switzerland]. At least when it comes to those 'furriners,' could it be that Democrats and their MSM buds suddenly aren't so keen on . . . democracy anymore?
On yesterday's Today show, Howard Dean did his best angry imitation of Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex" and/or Rafael Palmeiro's "I have never used steroids" performances. His voice rising, Dean insisted over Katie Couric's attempts to claim otherwise that:
"Katie, not one dime of Jack Abramoff money ever went to any Democrat. Not one dime."
Confronted by such intransigence, Katie politely observed that "we'll have to look into that and clarify that for our viewers." That's apparently just what the Today researchers did overnight, and Matt Lauer, with Tim Russert in tow, informed viewers this morning of their findings.
Interviewing Howard Dean this morning, you could almost hear Katie Couric thinking: "sure, he's a fellow member of our great Democratic family. But darn it, this guy is killing us!" And thus it was that Couric gave Dean the crazy uncle treatment, hitting him with tough questions almost as if to speak over him to the rest of us out here, apologizing for the untoward antics of this unwelcome but unavoidable visitor.
Suggested Katie regarding the NSA surveillance: "If this potentially stops another terrorist attack like 9/11, why not give the White House some latitude?" Dean riffed in reply about a president who "has a habit of putting himself above the law." But Katie was dubious when Dean complained that the program "poking around into people's private lives."
There’s an old rule in marketing – stick to what sells. Lately, it appears that America’s media are doing exactly that.
Since the significant rebound in the president’s poll numbers from their October lows, along with an apparent lack of outrage by the public concerning the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and revelations of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, the media seem to be downplaying reports on current events, and, instead, focusing attention on last year’s big story that was largely responsible for the decline in Bush’s favorability ratings.
In the past three days, the media have given more air time and print space to issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, an event that occurred at the end of August 2005, than a one and a half-hour question and answer session in Kansas that the president held on Monday, and a one-hour address that the second most powerful intelligence figure in our nation gave concerning terrorist surveillance the same day.
John McCain is a straight talker. You can take it to the bank. Assuming, that is, that you're willing to rely on the Today show's say-so. During much of McCain's interview with Matt Lauer this morning, Today 'helpfully' displayed the legend "Straight Talk from John McCain." Guess that wraps it up - the man is as square a shooter as the day is long!
Some of us watching the interviewing might otherwise have thought that John McCain was positioning himself to run for president as the Know-Nothing candidate.
The topic was the NSA surveillance program, which President Bush has now dubbed the "terrorist surveillance program." When it came to the program's legality, McCain was more agnostic than a Unitarian lay minister.
President Bush went to Kansas yesterday to discuss a number of important issues facing the nation including the war in Iraq, and terrorist surveillance. Yet, what seems to have most captured the attention of America’s media is a question asked of the president by a reporter in attendance yesterday concerning whether or not he has seen the controversial film “Brokeback Mountain.” In fact, the media found this such an important issue that all three broadcast networks addressed it during their morning news programs today.
The “Today Show’s” Matt Lauer ended his segment with guest Bill O’Reilly this morning by playing a video clip of the exchange between President Bush and this reporter at Kansas State University, after which he asked O’Reilly: “So, O'Reilly, have you seen it? Should it be given the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year?”
This year’s Martin Luther King Day celebration was a wild and woolly collection of left-wing blather.
In Washington, showing remarkable feats of amnesia that he was ever vice president in a corrupt administration, Al Gore gave a speech claiming President Bush was a law-breaking president and his illegal actions a threat to the survival of our democracy, an extraordinary accusation for even this man to make, given the same policies were executed by the Clinton-Gore administration.
In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin announced that God wanted New Orleans to be a “chocolate” city again. When challenged that this might make him sound like a little racist, he dug a deeper hole by claiming whites were the milk in his milk-chocolate shake.
Even in this stew of silliness, Hillary Rodham Clinton still managed to draw headlines for herself by marching into a Baptist church with Al Sharpton in Harlem and giving a fiery speech. First, Hillary sounded the same Clinton-amnesia notes as Gore, charging that President Bush’s team was historically filled with corrupt cronies, that his presidency "will go down in history as one of the worst.” But with Sharpton proudly looking on, she threw the race card on the table with a big, noisy thwack. “When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about.” Bush is not only incompetent. Dennis Hastert is a slave master. Laura Bush was right. It was “ridiculous.”
When Matt Lauer began peppering Bill O'Reilly with rapid-fire questions on this morning's Today show, the prime-time host complained "you're going so fast - it's 7:10 in the morning!"
Judging by his sub-par performance, O'Reilly wasn't kidding.
Oh, to be sure, in his very first sentence the No-Spin Zone-ster called the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee "pinheads." But is that much more than middle-school machismo?
When it came to the substance of the Alito hearings, O'Reilly's fastball had no bite. Said BOR in criticizing the Dems' performance "you don't go to his college club, and say look at this, he was in a club in college. That's just dopey."
In attacking White House counselor Dan Bartlett over the NSA's surveillance of al Qaeda suspects, Katie Couric went as far as to cite a convicted terrorist's lawyer's claim of Bush's "crime." In the 7am half hour of this morning's Today, Couric noted "that many people believe that the President broke the law," and then went on to quote from George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley that Bush's order, "was a crime." However Couric failed to mention that Turley is currently part of a convicted terrorist's appeal process, a terrorist who once cheered the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
The Today show played a dangerous game this morning, floating the notion that President Bush manipulated the release of an OBL tape in 2004 to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Today opened the segment by flashing the image to the right, which so closely juxtaposed photos of W and OBL you might have thought it was a campaign poster. And call me suspicious, but I can't help but wonder if the "Close Up" beneath the photos wasn't merely the title of the lead segment but also Today's 'subliminable' comment on the pair's relationship.
Just in case anyone missed the point, Lauer archly asked: "is OBL President Bush's not-so-secret weapon?" Lauer then suggested the WH is exploiting the latest OBL tape to conduct a "PR blitz" in support of the NSA surveillance program.
Lauer then handed the ball to NBC reporter David Gregory, who claimed that the White House has "politically seized" the moment "with the OBL tape still fresh" to "step up its campaign against its critics" on the surveillance issue.
Gregory then made a much more sinister suggestion, stating:
As reported yesterday by NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein, Katie Couric of NBC’s “Today Show” wondered aloud on yesterday’s program if Osama bin Laden might be getting information from the New York Times. It turns out that Couric isn’t the only media representative asking this same question. A just released Editor and Publisher article reported on more such media opining. First, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson said the following on that network’s “Scarborough Country” Thursday evening (full transcript to follow):
“By the merchants of war who financed Bush's presidential campaign, in the words of Osama bin Laden and many on the left. In other words, Halliburton is responsible for this war, every single talking point. I hate to think of Osama bin Laden reclining in his cave in Waziristan, reading the op-ed page of ‘The New York Times.’ But, clearly, he is. He's got every talking point. It's uncanny.”
According to E&P, Carlson wasn’t the only one to suggest that Osama is paying attention to the American press:
Just as our intelligence experts' parsing of the OBL tape may uncover hidden clues, so does a careful deconstruction of comments this morning by Katie Couric yield important insights into her MSM mindset.
Couric was interviewing Peter Bergen, British author of "The Osama Bin Laden I Know." At one point, Katie had this to say:
"He talks about President Bush in the tape and he says he's foolish for ignoring the poll numbers that indicate the American people want him to pull out of Iraq. How do you think he's keeping abreast of all this. It's sort of odd, isn't it? Is he just paying attention to Al-Jazeera? It's not as if he's reading the New York Times, is it?"