Clarity can come from unexpected places -- even that unlikeliest of sources, MSNBC.
Such has been the case with a pair of recent guests on "The Rachel Maddow Show" who made a series of surprising statements -- albeit only in the context of MSNBC.
Example one -- Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, appearing on Maddow's show May 12 and criticizing Dick Cheney's assertion that harsh interrogation of captured al Qaeda prevented terrorist attacks after 9/11 --
WILKERSON: You'll notice that Cheney always says, seven and a half years or almost eight years, no terrorist attack and so forth. That's because he has the honor of being, or the dishonor of being the man on whose watch 3,000 Americans died. More Americans died from a terrorist attack under Dick Cheney's leadership, if you will, than any other president in our history.
Back in 1996, Bob Dole picked him as his vice presidential running mate, and some in the news media exploited the selection of Kemp to deliver backhanded insults about the “haters” who comprised the rest of the Republican Party. CNN's Bill Schneider: “He is a rare combination -- a nice conservative. These days conservatives are supposed to be mean. They're supposed to be haters.” And:
Most conservatives these days come across as mean [video of Newt Gingrich] or intolerant [video of Pat Buchanan] or grouchy [video of Bob Dole]. Kemp is tolerant and inclusive. He has an excellent relationship with minorities. He showed real courage two years ago when he came out against Proposition 187, the punitive anti-illegal immigration measure in California. Kemp is not a hater.
A look back to May of 2001, when Republican Senator Jim Jeffords switched from Republican to Democrat, likely offers a preview of the themes the press corps will advance again in covering Senator Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party. From the Thursday May 24, 2001 MRC CyberAlert (see link for complete rundowns):
Jeffords Defection Theme #1: Bush should move left to the center. CBS’s John Roberts relayed how a Democratic pollster hoped, "he may be forced to govern from the middle." NBC’s Campbell Brown pushed Bush to the left: "The President’s options? Political analysts say bi-partisan compromise."
Jeffords Defection Theme #2: Label him a "moderate," or a "maverick," but never what he really is, a liberal. Looking at ideological ratings, Jeffords’ record makes him 24 points less conservative and 25 points more liberal than a true moderate like Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.
Jeffords Defection Theme #3: Blame conservatives for making the Republican Party too conservative. ABC’s Linda Douglass referred to his "frustration with his increasingly conservative party." NBC’s Lisa Myers worried about how he "was treated as a pariah in his own party." On MSNBC, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter suggested the Republican Party left him.
Jeffords Defection Theme #4: Scold the Bush White House for punishing him for working to eviscerate their bills. NBC’s Lisa Myers credited his departure to how "he is deeply offended by lack of respect from the White House and from key Senate Republicans."
Nothing in American politics is quite so intriguing as the Central Intelligence Agency. There is a certain mystique surrounding this agency, almost wholly because it has proven to be quite good at keeping secrets.
Thus, whenever the actions of the CIA are widely reported in the media, the story typically becomes a fixation for many news outlets - and any former agent who is able to shed light on these actions are usually well-received. But even here, the media has limits.
But while Scheuer is an equal-opportunity critic of missteps by Democratic and Republican administrations, the broadcast news media seem to draw the line at allowing him on air to find fault with President Obama.
Scheuer wrote a column in Sunday’s Washington Post, daring to claim that the president’s actions in publishing the so-called CIA torture memos were morally reprehensible:
It's not often I hear three jaw-dropping claims in the course of a single day.
On "The Rachel Maddow Show," this can happen in a matter of minutes, especially when author Ron Suskind is the guest.
Suskind appeared on Maddow's MSNBC program on April 22 and wasted little time making dubious assertions stemming from the Senate Armed Services report that questioned the legality of al Qaeda interrogations --
In the 1950s, as then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R., Wis.) and his House Committee on Un-American Activities investigated liberal and progressive artists in search of Communist-oriented dissidents, Hellman and Bernstein collaborated on what would become one of several major works fomented by government activities: the play and film Cradle Will Rock, and Arthur Miller’s play and opera The Crucible are others.
Sometimes, readers must wonder if newspaper correspondents ever passed a class in basic civics. If journalists had, they’d know that Congress consists of two bodies, the House and the Senate. A member of one body doesn’t chair a committee from the other. No Senator – not even Joe McCarthy – could run a House committee. A clue might have been that his title was senator rather than congressman or representative, but perhaps that's expecting too much.
Here’s a quick informal poll:Who has heard news of Russia’s recent troop buildup in the South Ossetia region of Georgia?
Most of our readers would immediately think of the Russian invasion of that region last summer, during the presidential contest, but the Russians are arguably saber rattling again with a fresh buildup of boots on-the-ground ahead of planned NATO exercises.
Last August, the media coverage immediately took the angle of breathless anticipation on how each presidential candidate would react to such a situation.John McCain’s position was easily established from his record over many years in the Senate.Then-Senator Obama’s position was much more difficult to ascertain – but the media gave him ample time to figure it out, helping the candidate defer those questions to the September 26 debate.In fact, a good example of such activism was shown in the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland, who in his August 31 op-ed insisted:
A Friday New York Times front-page story on "gay marriage" by Jeremy W. Peters was a piece of perfection – if you believe conservatives should be banned from the pages of the Times. Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill to establish same-sex marriage as the same thing as heterosexual marriage, and Peters utterly failed to locate a conservative source or a conservative argument. Instead, readers were "treated" to a press release for the gay left. No one objected in the story to Paterson’s bizarre analogies to slavery, as if gay Americans are picking cotton on the plantation:
At a news conference in Manhattan on Thursday, Mr. Paterson, a Democrat, invoked the abolitionist movement of the 1800s, the writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision to argue that New York had neglected civil rights for gays and lesbians for too long. "I’m putting a stop to it," he said. "We have a duty to make sure equality exists for everyone."
Peters downplayed the obvious point that Paterson’s poll ratings are dismal. He ended up sounding like a reporter arguing that President Bush could push a bill through Congress with an approval rating in the 20s:
Congressman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, "went to a really different school" than Republicans to study economics.
He just never went to class, judging by DeFazio's disjointed remarks about the Great Depression during his most recent appearance on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."
During a segment in which Maddow talked about congressional Republicans proposing an alternative budget to Obama's fiscal blueprint for fiscal 2010, with the GOP pushing for spending cuts, Maddow asked this of DeFazio --
President Obama might be at risk of losing MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow, though it could be worse for him. Instead, she might remain a reliable shill.
After Obama unveiled details of his strategy against al Qaeda on Friday, Maddow played clips of Obama's remarks during her show that night, juxtaposed with similar comments by George W. Bush while he was president --
MADDOW: First, though, superficially, I think it has to be acknowledged that in today's speech, there were some George Bush-ish moments.
BUSH: These terrorists must be pursued ...
OBAMA: They must be met with force ...
Bush and Obama are then heard to say, in unison though years apart, " ... and they must be defeated."
PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers isn’t proud of his power-lusting service as a White House hatchet man for Lyndon Johnson. But he isn’t doing himself or PBS any favors by misleading reporters who are nosing around into how he helped invade the sexual privacy of the White House staff in the LBJ era. Over at Slate, Jack Shafer first wrote a great piece on how Moyers wanted the press man-handled for Lyndon. (Read the whole thing.)
Then he added a piece that did some sleuthing to demonstrate that Moyers, that scold of Republican truth-mangling, tried to mislead The Washington Post. Shafer, a left-leaning libertarian sort, insisted "my beef with Moyers isn't what he did in the mid-1960s but his refusal to acknowledge in a straightforward manner what he did." Here's how it unfolded:
The Washington Post asked him last week to comment on its discovery that he had directed the FBI to investigate Johnson administration figures who were "suspected as having homosexual tendencies." He confessed to the Post via e-mail of having scant memories of the incidents of four decades ago but volunteered that the inquiries could have been in response to allegations brought to Johnson by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Washington Post columnist Colby King scoffed Friday at the notion former President Ronald Reagan brought more substance to the White House than does President Barack Obama as King also raised the Iran-Contra scandal as evidence of Reagan's mismanagement of foreign policy.
On Inside Washington, a weekly show produced and aired over the weekend by Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, but first broadcast Friday night on the local PBS station, King contended: “This President connects with people.” That prompted fill-in moderator Mark Shields to ask columnist Charles Krauthammer: “Is it Reagan-like in that sense?” Krauthammer cautioned: “Well, except that Reagan, I think, had a lot more substance and he had a lot more ideas-” Cutting Krauthammer off, a chortling King jeered: “More substance than Obama?!”
Krauthammer held firm and then pointed out how Obama's “never managed a candy store, and the way he put together his cabinet shows that he's got a long way to go,” so while “he's very fluid in his speech,” on foreign affairs he's “extremely slow on delivery because he's extremely unsure.” To which King -- the Post's deputy editorial page editor from 2000 to 2007 -- derisively interjected: “He's managed as well as Reagan with Iran-Contra.”
If you were to construct, from everything you know about the species, a stereotypical, liberal member of the MSM, Jennifer Siebens would be it. Recently, Ms. Siebens gave an interview to the student newspaper--the Oberlin Review--at her alma mater, Oberlin College. In it, she revealed her admiration for the radical movements of the '60's and current infatuation with President Barack Obama.
Yes, I know, a natural and common transition.
On her love of Oberlin College and the '60's era hippy love fest, Siebens had this to say:
Catching up on an item from Friday night, the three broadcast evening newscasts aired virtually nothing on January 23 about President Obama’s executive order permitting federal funding of abortions, overturning orders signed by President Bush in his first week in office back in 2001. Both CBS and NBC’s White House reporters squeezed in a single sentence about Obama’s action during stories about the economic stimulus bill, while ABC’s World News said nothing about the orders on Friday.
But on Sunday’s World News, ABC’s Dan Harris highlighted conservative criticism of Obama’s abortion decision, arguing that it showed how “despite his desire to reach out to people who disagree with him, the new President may find that on some issues, it may be impossible to find common ground.” Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi also painted the President -- whom she said hoped “not to provoke” conservatives by banning photographs of the signing -- the victim of a “brutal” reaction from conservatives:
Authors often try to release their books at an absolutely perfect moment for stoking sales. Exhibit A is PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who scheduled her liberal "era of Obama" thrill-fest about hot-shot black Democrats for Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day. Tony Blankley did almost exactly the opposite. To paraphrase the famous Bill Buckley slogan for National Review, Blankley’s new book stands athwart the historic Obama swearing-in, yelling stop. It’s titled "American Grit," and it calls for a "new nationalism," a notion at odds with Obama’s open disdain for American exceptionalism.
The Left and their media allies have spent nearly every day since 9/11 painting America as an impending dictatorship, a George Bush migraine-headache nightmare of off-shore Guantanamo persecutions and foreign Abu Ghraibs. It’s their goal to regain America’s global popularity by promoting national weakness as an ideal. Their agenda calls for us to try everything a United Nations bureaucrat would have us do: a military in retreat, an executive branch discarding all those horrid martial powers. The exception, of course, is the impending and necessary war on the emission of carbon dioxide. We have met the real terror threat, and it is not al-Qaeda, but the gasoline-burning combustion engine. Move over, Petraeus: there’s a new emissions-free sheriff in town, and his name is Gore.
Among President Barack Obama's abundant initial achievements -- bringing peace to Gaza by the mere specter of his looming presidency, at least according to Rachel Maddow.
Maddow's gooey reverence for Obama was on full display Monday night as her MSNBC show was broadcast live from the Mall in Washington.
Teasing an upcoming segment, Maddow made this confident assertion --
Coming up on part two of our very last Lame Duck Watch, NBC correspondent Richard Engel will join us live with the latest news from Gaza City, for the last legacy of the Bush administration abroad may be Israeli troops pulling out of Gaza literally on the occasion and because (forefinger raised for further emphasis) Barack Obama is being inaugurated tomorrow.
The man hasn't even taken office and we're already witnessing retreat.
Walking the freezing streets of Washington D.C. at 5:00 on the morning of the Inauguration, you could already feel the excitement. In a sense, it’s understandable that so many in the press went overboard in their coverage Tuesday: history was made before our eyes. I didn’t mind it, really. But what is offensive was the constant refrain that "America comes together" during Inaugurations. This is a line applied to Democrats. Republicans are not awarded that courtesy by the press.
The most obvious contrast comes from the Associated Press. On January 12, 2001, the AP headline was "Texans’ inaugural ball will be definitive Texas excess." Reporter Suzanne Gamboa asserted: "It would be redundant to say this party put on by Texans is big, but is it big enough to meet the definition of Texas excess? You bet." The AP noted $1.75 million in corporate sponsorships, and trotted out the usual "watchdog groups" to lament the lobbyist access through excess.
It was thus sad to read in Tuesday’s Washington Post that Linda Lichter has passed away at the age of 53, survived by her husband. Linda was someone who was charmed by Victorian values -- her always-spotless downtown D.C. office was furnished with antiques -- and she argued that yesteryear’s stricter roles for both men and women gave dignity and power to both sexes. Her last book, The Benevolence of Manners: Recapturing the Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living, championed an age of politenesss that has indisputably been lost in today’s modern world.
But Linda’s more famous work was her collaboration on The Media Elite. Using both surveys of journalists and quantitative studies of news media content, Bob and Linda Lichter demonstrated that America’s newsrooms were overpopulated with liberals whose political views formed the template for media coverage of such issues as nuclear energy, oil prices and busing.
The news media are giddy with excitement as Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day approaches — CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday’s American Morning touted how "Obama has some big shoes to fill, roughly the size of the ones up on the Lincoln Memorial....Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages."
But it would be a mistake to think reporters are always so worshipful of new presidents. While most presidents do start with a media honeymoon, a review of the past 20 years finds reporters are more celebratory when Democrats are taking over the White House, while coverage of GOP inaugurals has included a fair number of anti-conservative stinkbombs:
On Wednesday's episode of Bravo's Top Chef: New York reality show, “cheftestant” Stefan Richter could be seen wearing a red T-shirt with a gold hammer & sickle -- the emblem of Soviet totalitarianism which oppressed hundreds of millions and murdered tens of millions -- inside a gold-outlined Red Army star, matching the colors and symbols on the Soviet flag. In the scene on the NBC-owned Bravo cable channel, Richter, owner of Stefan's European Catering in Santa Monica, California, was lighting up a cigarette as he argued with some other chefs in his contestant group over the elements of a meal menu.
This isn't the first time an NBC show has featured someone sporting the pro-Soviet communist shirt. Back in April of 2006, an entertainment reporter wore the very same shirt over two nights on the NBC-produced Access Hollywood.
Much as when then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught with a prostitute last March, the arrest Tuesday of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on allegations he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat raises the issue of whether or not the Big Three networks will forthrightly tag him as a “Democrat.”
Among wire services, the Associated Press has included the “Democrat” label in its round-up, but not in the lead paragraph, while Reuters linked Blagojevich to "fellow Democrat President-elect Barack Obama."
So what would happen if the corruption charges were flung at a Republican Governor of Illinois?
Director Ron Howard appeared for a C-SPAN Washington Journal interview Monday morning on Capitol Hill with British screenwriter Peter Morgan to discuss their new film Frost/Nixon, based on Morgan’s play on the 1977 interviews between British TV star David Frost and the Republican president who resigned. The jarring moment came near the end, when C-SPAN host Steve Scully asked "For a generation who doesn’t remember Nixon or these interviews, what do you want them to come away with?"
Howard replied that Nixon’s crimes were "quaint" compared to the current administration: "Well, it’s a great drama. It doesn’t have a political axe to grind, and yet you know, it speaks to democracy, the media, the way it all works in the modern era. The only thing that’s kind of quaint about the story at all is the fact that, you know, uh, that the Nixon crimes pale by comparison, with uh, with uh, um, um, [picks up pen] you know, what we’ve been reading about and hearing about in the last few years. Uh, and yet, it also reminds us that abuse of power at any level cannot be accepted, and, so if there’s a political point to be made, you know, I’d say it’s nonpartisan, but that’s the point."
Less than nine months ago, the Obama campaign was slamming Hillary Clinton as utterly unqualified on foreign policy, having had no substantive experience during her husband’s administration and being dreadfully wrong in her judgment as a Senator when it came to “the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation,” the war in Iraq.
A March 11, 2008 memo by Obama ally (and now incoming White House Counsel) Gregory Craig suggested Clinton (unlike Obama) was using “false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.” The memo was passed around as Clinton was slamming Obama as not ready to take a “3am phone call” on a national emergency.
Yet today, as President-elect Barack Obama named Hillary Clinton to the top foreign policy post in his administration, none of the three broadcast network anchors chose to disrupt the moment by reminding anyone of Obama’s argument of a few months ago that, when it came to foreign policy, Clinton is an inexperienced phony. [UPDATE at end]
Working on the day after Thanksgiving, Brian Williams used Friday's NBC Nightly News to promote a new book from FDR's grandson, providing Williams with an opportunity to propose: “In your estimation, could we use a little FDR right about now?” Though Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies failed to end the Depression, Williams hailed him as “the man who led this nation out of financial disaster.” Conceding “we can no longer talk to him,” as if we'd benefit from doing so, Williams trumpeted how “tonight we think we have about the next best thing” in FDR's grandson, Curtis, who “lives in the south of France after a career with the UN.”
Williams cued up Roosevelt, “I know you've been asked for comment along these lines lately: In your estimation, could we use a little FDR right about now?” Roosevelt naturally agreed as he recalled “FDR is credited with a fantastic list of legislative achievements,” but “to me, his achievement in conveying confidence and hope to the American people was far more important” and so “I hope Obama picks it up” and will “convey to the American public that they have to join him in coping with this recession.”
On Tuesday’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter couldn’t imagine why anyone would see conflict-of-interest troubles if Hillary Clinton becomes Secretary of State while her husband the ex-president has a sprawling international foundation with its mitts in a long list of countries. Alter insisted all of Clinton’s work is "very, very positive. It’s been for great causes around the world." Alison Stewart guest-hosted for Maddow, and pushed the button that started Alter’s Bill-burnishing remarks:
STEWART: Is Bill Clinton a stumbling block for Hillary Clinton getting the Secretary of State gig?
ALTER: You know, I don’t think he really is, unless, for some reason, they just refuse to disclose as much as the Obama people want them to. There’s nothing that's all that terrible here. Most of the money that Clinton has raised, in fact, it's very, very positive. It's been for great causes around the world. Fighting poverty. Fighting AIDS.
Evidence of how much softer the ABC interview with Bill Ayers could have gone on Friday was displayed by the radical-left (and yet taxpayer-funded) Pacifica Radio network, as Ayers and his wife and fellow Weather Underground bomber Bernadine Dohrn appeared on the talk show "Democracy Now!" Co-host Juan Gonzalez asked: "As you say, in 1968, you were expecting that the war would be ended, because a majority of the population opposed it.
Once again — perhaps this time hoping that they are right — Time magazine has ostentatiously declared: “The End of the Reagan Era.” In the November 17 “commemorative edition,” the magazine features a piece by historian Richard Norton Smith explaining how “the Age of the Gipper ends with Obama’s election.”
But we’ve seen this movie before. Back in 2006, Time’s Joe Klein enthusiastically suggested the Democrats’ midterm election victory marked “the end of the conservative pendulum swing that began with Ronald Reagan’s revolution.”
Before that, in 1993, a Time cover story proclaimed that Bill Clinton was “Overturning the Reagan Era,” complete with an upside-down picture of Reagan. Reporter Nancy Gibbs insisted that passage of Clinton’s package of tax increases “brings to an end a bankrupt period in American politics. The narrow votes on Thursday and Friday represent the first real rejection of Reaganomics, a doctrine that survived for more than a decade in which taxes were lowered, spending raised, and Congress was blamed while everyone watched the deficit soar.”
Before the networks had even declared Barack Obama the winner Tuesday night, CBS historian Douglas Brinkley announced that the “Age of Ronald Reagan” was “coming to an end tonight.” Shortly before 11pm EST, Brinkley told anchor Katie Couric: “We're looking at a historic victory for the Democrats and Barack Obama. I think you have to go back to 1964 when Lyndon Johnson had such a landslide over Barry Goldwater to see how momentous this is.”
In a Tuesday night piece wrapping up yesterday’s election, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh sought out liberal historian Robert Dallek, who similarly declared that Obama’s win “is probably going to mark the end of the Reagan era — this whole conservative impulse that has dominated the country's politics for the last generation....I think you're going to see a whole new era of federal progressive activism.”
Going into Tuesday’s election, polls show Democrat Barack Obama with a modest lead over Republican John McCain, but one group whose support of Obama should not be in doubt is the national media. Surveys of journalists conducted over the past three decades show the media elite are extremely consistent in choosing Democratic candidates on Election Day.
If only journalists were permitted to vote, we would never have had a President Reagan or a President Bush, but would have instead faced Presidents McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis and Kerry. It wouldn’t have been close.
In their 1986 book, The Media Elite, political scientists S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda S. Lichter reported the results of their survey of 240 journalists at the nation’s top media outlets: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. When asked about their voting patterns, journalists admitted their preference for Democrats: