Of the three morning shows on Wednesday, only "Good Morning America" highlighted the growing controversy regarding the disclosure that PBS reporter Gwen Ifill, the moderator of Thursday's vice presidential debate, has authored a supportive book about Barack Obama and other African American politicians. CBS's "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" both skipped the subject.
GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned the book during the 7am hour and actually observed that it "has some conservatives claiming she will be biased tomorrow night." The ABC journalist added, "Ifill has said, though, she's only concerned about getting straight answers from the candidates." And although Cuomo did not repeat the story during the 8am news brief, at least ABC brought the issue up.
[UPDATE, by Brent Baker: Wednesday evening, of the broadcast network evening newscasts, only the NBC Nightly News mentioned Ifill. Andrea Mitchell ended a story by citing an unidentified "one conservative critic" and how colleagues and McCain say she's not biased:
As the stage is set for tomorrow night, one conservative critic challenged the moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS because Ifill is writing a history of a generation of black politicians titled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Palin said tonight that's motivating her to work harder. Ifill's colleagues and the McCain campaign say she is a respected professional.]
While talking to CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric about her interview with Sarah Palin, on Wednesday’s Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked: "...there is a -- I won't say growing -- but there are a number of Republicans and conservatives have started to question whether or not she's good for this ticket. What -- what is the feeling in the McCain camp about that?" Couric actually defended Palin: "Well, you know, she has helped the McCain campaign raise $30 million. Helped them double their get-out-the-vote effort. And as you can see, she's energized the crowds." On Monday, co-host Julie Chen described how "Some conservatives want Sarah Palin off the Republican ticket."
Prior to that question, Smith asked Couric: "What did she have to say about troopergate?" To that, Couric explained: "Well, you know, there is a preliminary report coming out October 10. She didn't tell me that, but she basically said that whole investigation into whether she fired the public safety commissioner because he wouldn't get rid of the trooper who had been married to her sister...had been highly politicized, that it belonged in the hands of the personnel board, rather than the state legislature, despite the fact that 8 out of the 12 who initiated the investigation are Republicans."
A few days ago, columnist Kathleen Parker outraged many conservatives with a column suggesting Sarah Palin should resign her vice-presidential nomination because she's clearly out of her league: "If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself." Parker's outraged that someone would suggest she's not conservative. But in trying to protest in a new column, she's only digging a deeper hole by comparing herself to the Dixie Chicks and conservatives to Stalinists:
The picture is this: Anyone who dares express an opinion that runs counter to the party line will be silenced. That doesn't sound American to me, but Stalin would approve. Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different than one's own, then we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)
"Good Morning America" on Wednesday reported on a new Quinnipiac poll that highlighted leads for Barack Obama in Florida and Ohio, but completely skipped the network's own national poll that found a tight race. A September 30 ABC News/Washington Post survey concluded that Obama leads Senator McCain by four points -- 50 to 46 percent. In contrast, GMA last week trumpeted an ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed Obama with a nine point lead.
On September 24, former Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos touted the larger lead and asserted, "...You have to go back to 1948 for the last time when a candidate having this kind of a lead, in late September, lost." He mentioned that on the issue of the economy, the Illinois senator is "blowing away John McCain." An onscreen graphic proclaimed, "Obama Surges Ahead." But, just a week later, GMA not only ignored findings suggesting a closer national race, the morning show highlighted a rival poll's state numbers.
In an interview in the October 3, 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly, liberal comedian Stephen Colbert explained what an emerging critique of Barack Obama might be: "He's a hope-ronaut. He's in a rarefied level of hope where the rest of us have to take tanks up with us." Interviewer Josh Wolk skeptically replied, "Is that really a comedic take? Seems more like a compliment."
Not backing down, Colbert's Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart made clear that this "attack" on the Democratic nominee would be different then that of the harsh jibes at Republicans: "Even if you're satirizing how wonderful they are, that hyperbole is setting them up for an expectation to fail, especially within the American political system now, where authenticity — and apparently mediocrity — are the manna that the populace feeds upon." Earlier in the piece, Stewart derided, "You 'good values people' have had the country for eight years, and done an unbelievably s---ty job. Let's find some bad values people and give them a shot, maybe they'll have a better take on it."
There's one good reason Gwen Ifill, the host of the PBS show Washington Week, is moderating the vice-presidential debate: she has a forthcoming book about Barack Obama (and other black Democrats) called The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill talks about the book project on YouTube here.
In addition to her portrait of Obama, Ifill will also investigate Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama's; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who Ifill describes as "very charismatic" in the video; and Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. "They all chose to get into politics for the most upstanding of reasons, and they all have achieved much more than their parents could have hoped." It doesn't hurt that it's made Obama a mega-best-selling multi-millionaire author.
In her day-on-the-campaign-trail stories about the VP candidates, Katie Couric didn't even try to deliver equal treatment. Last week, after her piece on her day with Joe Biden, I outlined what she must do to be consistent with Palin this week. She failed. Unlike with Biden on September 22, in the “Sarah Palin: Behind the Scenes” story on Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Couric declared a McCain-Palin policy position “misleading,” deliberately highlighted a policy disagreement between the two (drilling in ANWR), condescendingly demanded that Palin list the names of newspapers she read in Alaska and then treated Palin's conservative views as alien and thus in need of explanation -- pressing her on whether she agrees global warming is “man-made,” hitting her repeatedly on whether it should be illegal for a 15-year-old rape or incest victim to get an abortion or the “morning-after” pill and requiring she offer her position on teaching evolution.
Couric asserted that “it will take about ten years for domestic drilling to have an impact on consumers,” before accusing Palin: “So isn't the notion of 'drill, baby, drill' a little misleading to people who think this will automatically lower their gas prices?” On how Palin is an ill-informed dolt: “What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” Couric wouldn't let go: “Like what ones specifically?” and “Can you name a few?” [UPDATED below with how growing up Palin “consumed newspapers with a passion.”]
Jumping to social issues, as the two sat on the campaign bus, Couric insisted Palin reiterate how she adheres to views Couric framed as extreme:
CNN commentator Jack Cafferty, true to his form over the past several weeks, launched another attack on Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday’s The Situation Room. During his regular "Cafferty File" segment during the 4 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program,he played a clip from the latest interview the Alaska governor did with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, in which she partially answered her critics’ questioning of her readiness to be vice president by repeating the list of offices that she has held over the years. After she concluded with her past position of Alaska oil and gas commissioner/regulator, the CNN veteran condescended, "A regulator of oil and gas. How can -- how can anybody, including John McCain, take this woman seriously?... When this is over they all write books. Hers will be titled, ‘How I Committed Political Suicide on the CBS Evening News.’"
When he returned at the end of the hour to read some of the viewer responses to the question, Cafferty read nothing but negative responses to the question, with one exception, and he continued his condescension after reading it. A woman named Trudy wrote, "Within three minutes, you remind me why I don't watch the opinionated news on CNN.... Your condescending attitude towards Sarah Palin is another example of the lock-step Left trying to portray a Republican as less intelligent." Caffery then replied, "Trudy, when it comes to Sarah Palin, that's not much of a reach."
On Tuesday night's "Hardball," Chris Matthews wondered if Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, "an Ivy League grad" and "genius," was really a good choice to play the role of Sarah Palin in Joe Biden's debate prep. During a segment with Democratic consultant Nancy Skinner, who is prepping Granholm, the "Hardball" host implied the "Harvard Law" graduate may not be the best "fit" to play the Republican vice presidential nominee:
She's a genius. You think she is, in, in her manner, in her background and she's born in Canada. How does she sort of fit the role of Sarah Palin? Why is she a good sparring partner to play that role?
A little later in the segment Matthews painted Palin as empty-headed as he worried the "neo-conservatives" would "home-school" her in the "ideology of the right," like they did to Dan Quayle and George W. Bush.
The following exchanges occurred on the September 30 edition of "Hardball":
In his look at the "McCain campaign's end-run around media," San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Joe Garofoli pitted one media insider's defense of McCain campaign strategy on the matter of Gov. Palin's press availability, and that at the end of his 20-paragraph story:
"All politicians go through a stage where they want to minimize how much they are exposed to the media," said Paul Friedman, vice president of news at CBS, the network that scored one of the three major Palin interviews. He shrugged at what could be learned in a news conference that couldn't in a one-on-one interview. "I just don't think it is that cosmic of an issue. We'll see more of the candidates soon. Just wait for the debates."
To counter Friedman, Garofoli cited female journalists and pundits who complain that Palin is being overly sheltered. Aside from PBS's Judy Woodruff and CNN's Campbell Brown, Garofoli noted the complaints of conservative Kathleen Parker, labeling the syndicated columnist, and rightfully so, by her ideological label.
But when it came to labeling a liberal critic of Palin, the chief of a liberal feminist organization was treated as a non-partisan observer, even though her organization was co-founded by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem:
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith aired the second half of his interview with the parents of Sarah Palin, Chuck and Sally Heath, and described how: "From mayor of Wasilla to governor of Alaska, and now a vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin's sudden appearance on the national scene has been celebrated, and increasingly criticized." Palin’s father responded: "They're digging and digging for the bad side, yeah. And there is no real bad side. They're fabricating a lot of things, which I don't want to go into, yeah."
Smith then followed up: "Is that hurtful to you as parents?" Palin’s mother replied: "Very. Very. Mostly because you know how it affects the kids." After the clip of the interview was played, co-host Julie Chen asked Smith: "Did they talk about how difficult it is to hear their daughter be the butt of so many jokes ever since she stepped out onto the national spotlight?" Smith responded: "Well, you know, it's interesting, because we talked to Chuck about that. He saw the -- at least the first episode from 'Saturday Night Live' and he said that he thought Tina Fey did a good job. I'm not so sure they would have appreciated this past Saturday night's episode, though." Chen replied: "Yeah, I agree." On Monday, Chen remarked on that latest SNL skit, declaring: "Tina Fey has just so much material to work with, this is like, probably a dream come true for her."
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Jeff Glor reported on the presidential candidates’ reactions to the failure of the financial bailout, beginning with Obama: "Barack Obama's campaign had already released copies of a planned speech, saying lawmakers have agreed on an emergency plan. When that prediction went poof, Obama urged calm." Glor then turned to John McCain: "But Politico's Mike Allen believes John McCain had far more to lose. By suspending his campaign and jetting back to Washington, McCain staked a critical part of this campaign on a deal, then most of his fellow Republicans voted no and not a single representative from McCain's home state of Arizona voted yes." Half the Arizona congressional delegation are Democrats.
A clip Mike Allen was then played: "McCain set himself up for trouble. He came in late, he was a little half-hearted and now he owns a failure." Despite the bailout being characterized as a McCain failure in that report, earlier in the show, co-host Harry Smith questioned Virginia Congressman Jim Moran on the Democrats failure to pass the legislation: "Congressman Moran, let me ask you. You voted in the affirmative, yet, at least 40% of your Democratic colleagues voted against that. How -- how are you going to convince them that they should change their votes?"
MSNBC may have dropped Chris Matthews as “news anchor” of major political news events, but he was a major presence during coverage of Friday’s debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. Immediately following the debate and in a special Hardball that aired at midnight EDT, Matthews insulted John McCain as “troll-like” and insisted the Republican nominee showed “contempt” for Obama by looking at moderator Jim Lehrer instead.
But Obama was sensational, correspondent Andrea Mitchell gushed: “He seemed to be a lot more genial than you might have expected. But, boy, he did show a command of foreign policy in terms of the nuts and bolts of it.”
An astounding thing happened on CNN Monday evening: not only did Lou Dobbs say that Democrat Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden makes "many more misstatements than Sarah Palin," but he also chided Wolf Blitzer and the "Situation Room" crew for failing to point it out during their Bash Sarah session.
In preparation for the upcoming vice presidential debate, Blitzer brought on CNN analysts Gloria Borger and Jeffrey Toobin, as well as "The Weekly Standard's" Steve Hayes, to handicap the event.
As you might expect, Palin was the butt of many jokes leading Dobbs to marvelously inject the following during a mid-segment promo for his upcoming program (h/t NB reader Kevin Groenhagen):
Following up on our item on CNN.com last week, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) has apologized for his attack on Sarah Palin that strangely smeared hunters and gun owners as racists and anti-Semites: "anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks."
CNN Political Ticker reports it again, but there's no explicit identification of Hastings as a Democrat (plus no mention in either post that Hastings was impeached and removed as a federal judge.) The headline is bland again: "Black Florida congressman apologies [sic] for Palin comments."
CNN's Martina Stewart elides the D label by noting Hastings "spoke at a panel on the shared agenda of Jewish and African-American Democrats during the annual conference of the National Jewish Democratic Council," and was attacked by Jewish Republicans, so a reader can deduce the point. But it's funny how reporters can just tiptoe around the basics.
On Monday night's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric announced her day “on the campaign trail with Governor Palin” won't air until Tuesday, but CBS still made room for an excerpt of her time Monday in Ohio with Sarah Palin and John McCain in which Couric repeatedly pressed the two about an overheard comment Palin made Saturday about Pakistan, badgering them with five follow-ups before moving on to Palin's “reaction” to criticism of her answers during her previous Couric session. But a week-and-half-ago, when Couric's day on the campaign trail story with Joe Biden was delayed by news on the financial front, CBS ran video of Couric cuing up Biden on what he and Obama would do to resolve the crisis followed by one challenging question with no follow-up.
At a Philadelphia restaurant on Saturday a man demanded: “So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?” Palin answered: “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.” Couric decided: “That's almost the exact position Barack Obama has taken and that you, Senator McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Governor Palin, are you two on the same page on this?” Couric pounded away: “Is that something you shouldn't say out loud?” and “Are you sorry you said it Governor?” When McCain called it a “gotcha soundbite,” Couric retorted: “It wasn't a 'gotcha.'”
Couric turned to Palin: “What did you learn from that experience?” Palin: “That this is all about 'gotcha' journalism.”
With the vice presidential debate only a few days away, MSNBC gave a lot of attention on Monday to what Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin are doing to prepare for their one and only debate. Along with this, MSNBC also gave a lot of airtime to Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" parody of Palin's interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, showing clips of the skit seven times between 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. However, only Morning Joe featured "Saturday Night Live's" parody of Senator Barack Obama, and even then the focus was on the portion of the skit which parodied Senator John McCain's "gimmicks."
Of the seven times that MSNBC showed clips from Tina Fey's Palin impersonation, many of them lead into discussion about Palin's lack of foreign policy expertise and comments about how Fey's impersonation could lead to negative effects for McCain's campaign.
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to comedian Bill Maher on his new anti-religion movie and Maher declared: "Isn't there time for one [movie] for the tens of millions of people who are rationalists, who think like I do, and who are afraid that the Sarah Palins of the world are going to be taking over? We've had eight years of George Bush and a faith-based administration. We can't afford another."
Following that comment, Smith observed: "Here's the thing that was an underlying thought. And this -- a serious thought, I thought. In the movie was you wish that Christians were more -- if they were really going to be Christians, would be more Christ-like?" Maher replied: "Don't we all? I think everybody -- I mean, that's something I don't think is even controversial that the message of Jesus, which is very good. It's about love and, you know, forgiveness. It's certainly not about shooting wolves from an airplane. That gets lost with all the nonsense and the bells and whistles." Smith responded by loudly laughing at the jab at Sarah Palin, who as governor approved shooting wolves as a means of controlling the wolf population in Alaska.
In a September 29 blog post aimed at "Placing Blame" for failure of the bailout package in the House of Representatives today, Time's Joe Klein began by tossing, "I don't blame John McCain for not rounding up enough Republican votes to get this bailout bill through the House of Representatives."
Klein added a few other reasons he doesn't blame the Arizona senator:
...he's never held a leadership position and therefore doesn't know how to whip votes and finally--well, uh--there is one tried and true method for getting members of Congress to vote aye and McCain opposes it: a sweetener, like say, funding for a bridge in their districts. That is one reason why we have earmarks. McCain is opposed to giving away baubles for the greater good.
Yet he left out one key fact. It was Democratic, not Republican votes that doomed the bailout agreement.
"The View" co-hosts, who seemingly have difficulty understanding the Constitution, have demonstrated their lack of understanding in economics. Recapping Friday’s presidential debate on the September 29 edition of "The View," co-host Sherri Shepherd wondered how we can raise taxes. Whoopi Goldberg replied "it’s not going to happen. We are in too much financial trouble. We can’t."
A very brief lesson in economics will explain to the co-hosts that financial crisis may be the time to reduce taxes. It certainly is not the time to raise taxes as Herbert Hoover demonstrated possibly aggravating and prolonging the Great Depression. According to economist Art Laffer, in his theory "The Laffer Curve," sometimes reducing taxes can in fact generate more revenue. While the other "View" co-hosts fretted about taxes, Elisabeth Hasselbeck cited Barack Obama in possibly scaling back on extravagant spending promises.
Like an MSM version of Nancy Pelosi, whose hyper-partisan floor speech reportedly angered many GOP members, Chris Matthews wasted no time in trying to pin the blame for the defeat of the bailout plan on John McCain. Appearing during MSNBC's 2 PM hour, the key to Matthews' argument was his assertion that Dems "overwhelmingly" supported the measure, whereas McCain failed to rally a sufficient number of Republicans.
Love the bailout or hate it. Decry its defeat or rejoice in it. But one thing is clear: Matthews grossly misstated the facts. Far from supporting the plan "overwhelmingly," fully 40% of House Dems voted against it: a margin of 141-94. Republicans, the more free-market oriented of the two parties, were always more wary of the plan. It was clear that passage was largely going to depend on massive Dem support. If McCain failed to deliver, surely Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama failed as much or more.
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith played a clip of the latest Saturday Night Live skit mocking Sarah Palin and following the clip, co-host Julie Chen remarked: "Tina Fey has just so much material to work with, this is like, probably a dream come true for her."In May, Chen placed Hawaii in the Atlantic Ocean and it was not part of a comedy skit. Co-host Maggie Rodriguez chimed in: "Well that's why Lorne Michaels was able to lure her back after she left, and I have a feeling she's going to be coming back a lot." During the recent Emmy awards, Tina Fey remarked: "I want to be done playing this lady Nov. 5...So if anybody can help me be done playing this lady Nov. 5, that would be good for me."
Later, Smith played a clip of the first part of his interview with Sarah Palin’s parents, Chuck and Sally Heath. Chuck Heath said he thought Fey’s impersonation was funny: "They replayed that, and replayed that, and replayed that. I thought it was kind of cute, yeah, yeah. Yeah, Tina Fey did a good job." Smith began the interview by asking the Heaths: "What would you tell folks who would say 'I'm not -- I'm not so sure that Sarah Palin's ready to be vice president.' What would you tell them?" Chuck Heath replied: " She's ready to do anything she wants to be. And she's -- she perseveres, she works so hard. She learns so fast. Yeah. I worry about that at all. That's what I'll tell them, yeah. If you want some honesty, yeah, not a typical politician, get her, yeah." The second part of the interview will be aired on Tuesday and includes Palin’s parents reacting to media coverage of their daughter.
At the top of Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen declared: "Palin on the hot seat as she readies for her debate. Some conservatives want Sarah Palin off the Republican ticket." In the segment that followed, co-host Maggie Rodriguez similarly proclaimed: "...the question a lot of Americans are asking this morning, including some prominent Republicans, is whether Sarah Palin is ready." Correspondent Jeff Glor then explained: "Sarah Palin has mostly been kept away from reporters but the interviews she has done are raising eyebrows."
Glor went on to cite one conservative columnist calling for Palin to step down: "But even some conservatives are concerned, including syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker who said 'Palin is clearly out of her league' and called for the Alaska governor to leave the race." Based on that, Alex Burns from politico.com concluded: " I think there are a small number of people who will publically say that they're worried about her abilities as a candidate. I think there's a larger number of people who privately express kind of muted criticism and concern."
"Good Morning America" reporter David Wright on Monday highlighted the specter of the "Palin Problem" for John McCain and asserted that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin'sadvisors "are trying to lower expectations. But even among some conservatives, expectations couldn't be any lower." Yet, while the ABC morning show mentioned the supposed struggles of the Republican vice presidential candidate, the program has ignored embarrassing gaffes from Senator Joe Biden.
Wright played clips of "Saturday Night Live" mocking Palin for discussing the proximity of Alaska and Russia. Placing great weight in comics, he intoned, "... The comedians have their doubts" about Palin. However, GMA has failed to report on Joe Biden's doubly inaccurate assertion last week that "When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television" to calm people down. (There was no television at the time and FDR wasn't president.) The morning program has also ignored video of the Delaware senator telling a disabled man in a wheelchair to "stand up."
When the latest installment of Saturday Night Live parodied Friday’s presidential debate, the NBC comedy program gave attention to Barack Obama’s connections to convicted criminal Tony Rezko, corrupt Chicago politics, and Obama’s recent attempts at "playing the race card," which notably are all matters that the mainstream news media have given little attention to. While the show also took a number of shots at John McCain, several times having him propose a bizarre gimmick like challenging Obama to a pie-eating contest for example, the Illinois Senator also received several noteworthy jabs. One line involved McCain’s character, played by Darrell Hammond, referring to Obama, played by Fred Armisen, as making an earmark request titled "Tony Rezko Hush Money." Obama’s character also bragged that his tax cut plan would benefit Chicago politicians and city employees "because my plan would not tax income from bribes, kickbacks, shakedowns, embezzlement of government funds, or extortion."
The Obama character later promised that he would "play the race card" against dictators like North Korean President Kim Jong Il if necessary to guilt-trip them into dismantling their nuclear programs, as he would accuse Kim of refusing to cooperate with him because "I’m not like the other guys on the $5 and $10 bills."
During a phone interview with FNC anchor Megyn Kelly, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who already voiced disapproval of Barack Obama's attempt to suggest that Kissinger would agree with his intention to meet personally with Iranian President Ahmadinejad, on Saturday elaborated on his disagreement with Obama, and clarified his views on how America should negotiate with Iran. The segment began with a soundbite of Obama from the debate trying to lecture McCain about Kissinger’s views. Obama: "Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisors, who, along with five recent Secretaries of State, just said that we should meet with Iran, guess what, ‘without precondition.’ This is one of your own advisors."
Asked by Kelly if he supported having a President "meet with Ahmadinejad without preconditions," Kissinger responded: "No, I don’t. I have argued that, at some point, negotiations with Iran are important. But it is my view that they should be on the working level, and that the President should not be involved until we know that we are close to an agreement, or that we know what the nature of the agreement is." Kelly soon sought clarification: "So, in other words, you favor negotiations at the lower level, perhaps all the way up to the Secretary of State, but you do not believe an American President should sit down without preconditions, as Barack Obama says he would like to do." Kissinger: "That is correct."
Since Friday’s presidential debate, all three major broadcast networks have highlighted one of Barack Obama’s more commanding moments when he charged that John McCain was wrong in some of his pre-Iraq war predictions, but the media have so far ignored Obama’s incorrect assertion that "there was no Al-Qaeda" presence in Iraq before America’s invasion in 2003. Before the 2003 invasion, various news sources – some American, some from other countries – were already citing the governments of various countries as they reported that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, not only was already in Iraq plotting attacks to be carried out in Europe, but that he already had an association with Osama bin Laden and had spent time in Afghanistan. But during Friday’s debate, Senator Obama asserted: "Now, keep in mind that we have four times the number of troops in Iraq, where nobody had anything to do with 9/11 before we went in, where, in fact, there was no Al-Qaeda before we went in, but we have four times more troops there than we do in Afghanistan."
By contrast, ABC, CBS, and NBC have all played the following soundbite of Obama from the debate which is more favorable to the Illinois Democrat: "John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003. And, at the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy, you said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni. And you were wrong."
Notably, back in January 2003 and again in March 2004, the NBC Nightly News relayed claims that the Bush administration had "passed up several opportunities to take [Zarqawi] out well before the Iraq war began." The below was first posted on February 29 of this year, and lists some of the relevant reporting on Zarqawi from various sources and countries:
During Friday’s post-debate coverage on MSNBC, Chris Matthews portrayed Barack Obama as appearing "more presidential" while he complained that John McCain "was crunched over, almost grumpy in physical manner," as he contended that McCain "may not have been presidential." Matthews also complained that McCain did not look at Obama at all during the debate, a theme which Matthews touched on repeatedly that night. Matthews: "[McCain] may not have been presidential, however. Not once tonight, in an hour and a half, did he look at his opponent. He was crunched over, almost grumpy in his physical manner. I think a lot of people will take that body language as contemptuous of his opponent. They won’t like it. Barack Obama, on the other hand, who kept agreeing with McCain, over and over again, saying I agree with the point you made, I agree with the point you made, looked more presidential, although I believe on points, he gave away too much."
Matthews also characterized McCain as "troll-like" and "grumpy," and asked if Americans "really want to put up with four years of that," and described McCain as seeming "really contemptuous" of Obama. Guest John Heilemann contended that McCain "hates Obama." Matthews: "Do people really want to put up with four years of that? Of sitting there angrily, grumpily, like a codger? Like, like, I don’t want to push it too far, but didn’t he seem really contemptuous of his opponent? Do you want to put up with four years of that?"
During a special edition of MSNBC’s Countdown show after Friday’s presidential debate, Keith Olbermann seemed to insert a joke about the weight of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger into a conversation about the performance of John McCain and Barack Obama. As previously documented by the MRC’s Matthew Balan, the Countdown host brought up McCain’s difficulty in pronouncing the name of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and liberal Air America and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow contended that Obama’s most memorable line was when he accused McCain of being "wrong" about Iraq. Referring to Obama’s line in which the Illinois Democrat incorrectly suggested that Kissinger agreed with him about meeting with dictators like Ahmadinejad, Olbermann, who has a history of making fat jokes about conservatives on his Countdown show, made a quip at Kissinger’s expense in which the MSNBC host seemed to pick on his weight: "Or, perhaps, throwing Henry Kissinger back in Senator McCain’s face, which is physically a tough act to do certainly."