“Demonstrating that not even weekends are safe from Democratic Party-sponsored anti-Rush Limbaugh attacks,” Brian Maloney observed on the Radio Equalizer blog on Saturday, “the talk titan is now under fire for a relatively mundane (and actually quite accurate) reference to the shameless political exploitation of Ted Kennedy's illness.”
CBS anchor Katie Couric on Friday night used the jump in the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent to cheerlead for how the “stimulus” bill is “creating” jobs, an impact her newscast illustrated with two full stories after reporter Anthony Mason declared: “It's the government that's going to have to pull us out of this recession.” (On ABC's World News, Betsy Stark similarly saw salvation in the stimulus spending. Citing predictions of even higher unemployment, she contended: “That's why the stimulus plan is so important. If it's successful, those huge job losses should slow down.”)
Couric teased the CBS Evening News: “The recession has now cost nearly four-and-a-half million Americans their jobs. We'll show you the new jobs his stimulus plan is creating.” She then led by promising: “In a moment we'll be telling you about all the jobs the stimulus plan is creating, but first, why those jobs are so desperately needed.”
At the end of Thursday’s CBS Evening News correspondent Chip Reid reported important breaking news about President Obama's graying hair: "...the rate at which President Obama is adding salt to his pepper is what’s surprising, even if his inner circle says ‘no big deal.’" Axelrod observed: "The gray seemed to be on him from the moment he took the oath. There was talk during the campaign that maybe he was dying his hair gray to look more seasoned, but his barber says bunk." He later concluded the report by declaring: "If there's any consolation for Mr. Obama, it's that gray equals gravitas, and a president can never have too much of that."
Perhaps a good example of the President’s "gravitas" would be the gift he gave to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a diplomatic visit this week: a 25-DVD box set, including such films as E.T., The Wizard of Oz, and Star Wars. So far, neither CBS nor any of the networks or cable channels have covered this Obama gaffe.
President Obama's health care summit at the White House played into receptive television news hands Thursday night as NBC displayed “Fixing Health Care” on screen before reporter Chuck Todd appropriated the coach who inspired “win one for the Gipper” by touting how “the President's drive to pass health care got a Knute Rockne-like boost with a surprise appearance” by Senator Ted Kennedy, while ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson, who on Sunday had decried as a “national shame” America's lack of universal health care, effused: “I was blown away by President Obama's grasp of the subject, how he connected the dots, how he answered the questions without any script.”
CBS's Chip Reid corroborated Obama's point about soaring costs by citing a business where “in 2005, it cost $75,000 to cover about 25 employees. In 2008, it cost $148,000,” as if more government involvement to expand the number of people covered will lower costs. Reid also hailed Obama's fresh approach: “Instead of doing battle with insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, and doctors, this time all those groups are in the room, most agreeing that now is the time for shared sacrifice.”
On Tuesday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Lara Logan reported on the Obama administration’s effort to improve relations between the United States and Russia by abandoning a missile defense system proposed under the Bush administration: "It's become one of the most contentious issues dividing the U.S. and Russia. American plans to deploy a missile defense system on Russia's doorstep...The Obama administration's willingness to even open discussions on the issue is a dramatic reversal of U.S. policy under President Bush, who dismissed Russian objections. That dispute helped bring U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest point since the break-up of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago. Today the President made it clear he's already started to change that."
Rather than offer any criticism, Logan cited Steven Pifer of the left-leaning Brookings Institution, who declared: "It seems to me that when we're looking for issues on which we can signal to the Russians that we're prepared to be more flexible and listen to some of their concerns, missile defense is one." At the top of the broadcast, anchor Katie Couric teased the segment by describing Obama’s proposal as an "intriguing suggestion."
Media Research Center President and NewsBusters.org Publisher Brent Bozell today called on all of President Barack Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nominees to pledge to preserve the First Amendment freedoms of conservative and Christian talk radio. Bozell asserted that if they do not do so, they should not be confirmed by the Senate.
Denouncing the so-called Fairness Doctrine is not enough. Last Thursday, the Senate passed a rider from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that creates broad new free speech-suppression regulatory powers for the FCC.
The nebulous Durbin Amendment potentially allows for the FCC to prematurely rescind talk radio station licenses and creates many new regulatory avenues by which the FCC can silence talk radio with such vague requirements as "encourag(ing) and promot(ing) diversity" in media ownership and "ensur(ing) that broadcast station licenses are used in the public interest."
Taxpayer-subsidized journalist Bonnie Erbe has some advice for Democrats: use the 2010 Census and subsequent redistricting to your maximum advantage to gerrymander and "gender-mander" the Congress chock full of left-wing constituencies.
Depoliticize the Census? Surely they jest! Taking politics out of the Census is like taking milk out of the cow or coal out of Newcastle or diamonds out of Tiffany. Politics is the lifeblood of the Census—without politics, there is no Census.
The Census is part of the spoils of victory for whichever party controls the White House at the turn of each decade. Gerrymandering—using Census data to create voting districts that artificially lean toward one end of the political spectrum or the other—is as uniquely an American tradition as Thanksgiving. The thought of trying to depoliticize the census is, well, decidedly un-American.
Though there was never any announcement on this side of the Atlantic that there would be a full-blown joint news conference today when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stops by to meet with President Obama, some British journalists are rather cranky this morning about the fact that there won't be one. Some who flew over with Brown last night thought there would be an Obama-Brown newser, and were surprised to hear when they arrived that there wouldn't. They see it as a snub.
"Mr Brown might lament," writes Toby Harnden of The Telegraph, "that despite the so-called 'special relationship' Britain is now getting the same treatment as the president of Uruguay but he need not despair. I'm told there's a chance he might get drinks with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening."
It was news media conventional wisdom during the 2008 presidential campaign: the worse the economy, the better it was for Democrat candidate prospects. But now that they have the legislative and executive branches and the burden of actually governing, that advantage is slowly being chipped away.
CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, who first starting connecting that perhaps a Democrat-controlled federal government might not be the best thing for the United States earlier this year, gave something of a downbeat rant on Feb. 2 about Obama's handling of the economy so far.
"Until the Obama administration starts listening, until they start paying attention to what you're watching - to the stock market, until they realize that their agenda is destroying the life savings of millions of Americans - then all I can give you is caution," Cramer said on his March 2 broadcast.
At the taping late Monday afternoon of CBS's Late Show, host David Letterman asked guest Katie Couric about “this bonehead Rush Limbaugh,” prompting Couric to plead: “Dave, don't do this to me, please! Don't do this to me.” But Letterman was just getting rolling with insults as he asserted Limbaugh's attire on Saturday at CPAC made him look “like an Eastern European gangster.” Focusing on Limbaugh's physical appearance, Letterman recited how Limbaugh's “got the black jacket on, the black silk shirt and it's unbuttoned, like, 'oh yeah, when you think Rush Limbaugh, you think ooh let's see a little flesh.'”
CBS posted the exchange as the “Big Show Highlight” preview for Monday's show. It's now the lead video in rotation on the Late Show's home page where it is displayed under the “Rush in the Flesh” heading. You can also view the Flash video clip from this interior page. [Update: video added to this post]
“Ultimately,” President Barack Obama will get his way on “universal” health coverage, because of “just one fact” ABC's Dr. Tim Johnson declared “I want to let everybody hear,” and that is the “national shame” of how “we spend more than twice as much, per person, on health care in his country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we're the only one that doesn't have universal coverage.”
Answering a question from World News anchor David Muir on Sunday night about the likelihood health care reform will pass, Johnson predicted:
I think there's going to be an intense, partisan debate. But ultimately, David, there is just one fact I want to let everybody hear: We spend more than twice as much, per person, on health care in his country as the average of all other industrialized countries, yet we're the only one that doesn't have universal coverage. That's a national shame and I think ultimately that's what's going to unite Democrats and Republicans.
NPR's Nina Totenberg revealed Friday, not surprisingly, that she was enchanted by President Barack Obama's address earlier in the week to a joint session of Congress. “It made me feel pretty good. I thought it was a great speech,” she enthused before relaying a contrast with former President George W. Bush: “A friend of mine said, 'oh my God, we have a President again!'” Totenberg added that “in some ways, that's not fair to Bush,” but she insisted: “That's the way you felt. You felt this was a guy who was totally in charge.”
Totenberg quoted her friend immediately after Newsweek's Evan Thomas trumpeted on Inside Washington: “He looked like he belonged there unlike President Bush who sometimes seemed like 'what is this guy doing there?' even if you like him, 'he really doesn't belong.' He showed natural leadership and that alone made a big difference.”
In Friday night stories on President Barack Obama's plan to reduce troops in Iraq by 90,000, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned a key factor raised by ABC reporters Jake Tapper and Martha Raddatz.
On ABC's World News, over video of Tapper standing at Camp Lejeune with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Tapper noted: “Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen today credited President Bush's surge, opposed by then-Senator Obama, with helping to pave the way for today's announcement.” Viewers then heard a short soundbite from Gates: “It clearly has put us in a very different place in terms of where Iraq is.”
Up next on the February 27 newscast, Raddatz addressed the military's reaction, and shared her assessment:
I think if there hadn't been a surge, if there hadn't been such success, you wouldn't have seen those Marines clapping today. It would be a very different kind of speech.
Teasing a fawning segment on First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric declared: "And the lady of the house feeling right at home." Couric later introduced the segment: "And finally tonight, ever since Abigail Adams moved into the White House in 1800, every First Lady has brought her own personal touch to the executive mansion, and the city of Washington. As Bill Plante tells us, the new First Lady is busy making her mark."
White House Correspondent Bill Plante gave a glowing review of the First Lady’s first month: "For Michelle Obama, welcoming famous Americans to the White House seems effortless...But the new First Lady goes from traditionally elegant and formal to relaxed and casual with ease. Just days before this tribute to Stevie Wonder, she charmed culinary students in the White House kitchen, talking about how tough it is to get her kids to eat vegetables...Michelle Obama's been to all the usual places around Washington -- the Kennedy Center, Fords Theater, and nationally, she's been on the covers of Vogue and People magazine...After a month, it's already clear that Michelle Obama won't be content to stay behind these well-guarded gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Plante concluded his report by observing: "She's also been touring government agencies, but it's her message to local children that seems most important to her. As she tells them over and over, you, too, can be President or First Lady...And it's her ability to connect that could make her mark as First Lady."
PHILLIPS: And as we wrap this up and take it on to the next hour, I know Obama has inspired you tremendously on many different levels. Tell us why.
WONDER: He really echoes the spirits of so many voices that have come before him, talking about bringing us together as a united people of the United States of America. And to live in a time and space where we have a second chance to really make this, again, the great country that we deserve to always be. And I'm just very, very proud to have said to him about five years ago, when he was running for senator, I said, you know, I know that this is what you want to do and this is what your goal is for Illinois. But I really believe that if we pray on this, you'll become the president of the United States. And so we prayed in my studio, at Wonderland Studios. And then here we are in 2009. It's a wonderful thing.
The anchor congratulated Wonder again and then wrapped up her interview:
PHILLIPS: Yes, you are. And he's still got the innocent baby smile. Stevie, great to see you. Come back and see us again, OK?
At the end of Wednesday’s CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric introduced a segment on Tysheoma Bethea, a 14-year-old girl who attended Obama’s address to Congress: "President Obama has said one of the biggest adjustments of his new job is living in a bubble. Now, to combat that problem, he started to read a handful of letters everyday from average Americans. One letter, written by an eighth grader from Dillon, South Carolina, caught his eye, and her story caught ours."
Correspondent Mark Strassmann then reported: "Thanks to Tysheoma Bethea, everyone at J.V. Martin Junior High now shares the audacity of hope...Last night, the 14-year-old watched President Obama read America her letter to Congress, a plea to build a new school for her small town." Strassmann described the situation at Bethea’s impoverished school and how Obama had instantly inspired them: "Too often at J.V. Martin Junior High dreams die early. 85% of students live below the poverty line. This school, built in 1896, is falling apart. For generations here, hope has been in shambles. The dropout rate is 60% and the daily fight is against a poverty of the spirit. But last night, this junior high reconnected to hope."
At the top of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith declared: "Tax the rich. New details on how President Obama plans to pay for his $3 trillion budget." Later, correspondent Bill Plante reported on Obama’s proposed budget in a matter-of-fact way with little skepticism: "It spends almost $4 trillion. That's trillion with a 'T.' And the deficit is $1.75 trillion because of spending on the recession. And it raises taxes on the wealthy in order to pay for some new proposals on health care. The president wants to set aside $634 billion over the next ten years as a down payment on health care reform. He'd get the money by lowering the limit on tax deductions for high earners and by trimming some Medicare spending."
In Plante’s report, Politico’s Mike Allen was quoted: "This budget is going to have some highly symbolic cuts to show people that tough choices are going to be made." Plante elaborated: "Those include what officials call 'massive cost overruns' at the Defense Department. A phase-out of direct payments to farmers making more than $500,000 a year. Elimination of the federal mentoring program, a Bush administration initiative which is labeled ineffective. And closing the loophole which allows Wall Street investment managers to pay income tax at the rate of only 15%."
Despite calling for massive new spending on education, universal health care and more money for bailing out banks, no ABC anchor on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning used the word liberal in describing Barack Obama's February 24 address to Congress. In contrast, ABC host Terry Moran on February 27, 2001 anticipated that a similar speech by President George W. Bush would be "conservative."Following that address, he spun it as "hard core conservatism: fiscal restraint; deep, across-the-board spending and tax cuts; the privatization of part of Social Security."
And yet, on Tuesday's post-speech coverage, on that evening's "Nightline" and on Wednesday's "Good Morning America," no anchor applied the liberal label to Obama's address. The same Moran who saw "hard core conservatism" in Bush's appearance before Congress, described a "big and bold speech" from the current President. He also enthused that "President Barack Obama didn't sugarcoat it, he found bad guys on Wall Street and in Washington." Regarding the President's obviously liberal plans on the economy and health care, Moran reiterated, "The answer, the President argued, go big, big plans, big changes."
While discussing President Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress and the Republican response given by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez observed: "And Americans loved it. The polls show that they're very optimistic, and then out comes Bobby Jindal, Debbie Downer, saying ‘hated it, it's not going to work.’" Rodriguez made the remark while speaking with Democrat Dee Dee Myers and Republican Dan Bartlett. She turned to Bartlett and asked: "Do you think the Republican Party's taking the right approach, Dan, being so vocal with their objections?"
At the top of the show, Rodriguez interviewed Vice President Joe Biden and asked: "...the Republican party came out with their own charismatic, young, dynamic, ethnic spokesperson after the speech and said ‘we don't buy it, we're not on board.’ Are you taking any of their objections into account? Are any of their objections legitimate in your view?" Biden replied: "Sure. I'm sure there's -- there's some legitimate objections they have. But what I don't understand from Governor Jindal is, what would he do?...if you choose the inaction that Governor Jindal is talking about, how responsible is that? While people are just sinking into the abyss."
Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday applauded Barack Obama's address to Congress, lauding it for making "a start at inspiring hope out in the country."The "This Week" host appeared on "Good Morning America" and affirmed co-host Robin Roberts' question about whether Obama "hit his marks last night."
Stephanopoulos asserted that the President needed to show that he had a strong plan to fix the economy. He then complimented, "And I think he made a good start last night." He singled out the section of Obama's speech on bailing out the banks and cooed, "And I think that was the single-most effective passage in the speech." And while Stephanopoulos noted that this plan will cost "billions of more dollars," at no time did he discuss how the country would pay for all the programs and reforms the President wants to enact.
Co-host Roberts, on the other hand, should be commended for actually raising that question when she interviewed Joe Biden in a separate segment. Speaking of those who bought houses they couldn't afford, she pressed the Vice President: "And now, billions of dollars are going to help both. Isn't that rewarding bad behavior? Folks are still outraged about this."
Some of the odd and/or noteworthy takes in television coverage following President Barack Obama's Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress:
- On MSNBC, Chris Matthews predicted “we're going to hear a fairly right-wing speech tonight,” from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in response to Obama, because “the only position left in America right now politically that he's left open is on the far right, and Bobby Jindal is headed for it,” along with Sarah Palin, since “Barack has grabbed the center with the charm he showed tonight in his excellent rhetoric.”
- ABC's Charles Gibson, who like his broadcast network colleagues refrained from labeling Obama or his speech as liberal, introduced Jindal with an ideological tag: “He is a very conservative Republican and you'll hear that reflected, I think, in his remarks tonight.”
- On CBS, Katie Couric reacted to Obama's speech with some strange “cosmic” analogies, touting how Obama had succeeded in his effort to “really connect the dots, in a way, to explain to people that micro-cosmically this will help them, this is just not a national macro-cosmic plan for the economy.”
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod made the rounds of the broadcast network evening newscast anchors on Tuesday to discuss President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, but CBS's Katie Couric, in uniquely offering some balance by matching Axelrod with a segment featuring House Minority Leader John Boehner, only served to expose her impatience toward GOP opposition. With Axelrod, she cued him up to expound on the administration's policies, pressed him about nationalizing banks and empathized with the terrible conditions inherited by Obama's team. In contrast, with Boehner she wondered if Republicans are “out of touch,” suggested they are stuck between having either the country or their base “hate” them and asked:
Do you think the Republicans are digging themselves in a hole by not being more supportive of the President's proposals?
Couric prompted Axelrod to explain how the administration will overcome criticism of the mortgage plan: “How do you explain that this is not going to be helping out somebody's brother-in-law who put down no money, spent too much money on his house and basically cut corners while other families feel like, 'listen, we did everything right.'?” She soon lamented what Bush left behind: “When you were running this campaign did you ever envision inheriting this job at a time when the country is in such deep trouble?”
Tonight at 9pm ET President Barack Obama will address Congress for the first time. He will be speaking about his plan for the economy and we here at NewsBusters will be putting on a live chat. Feel free to talk about the speech itself, media reaction to it, and anything else you might think of.
In commemoration of the one-month anniversary of the Obama family moving into the White House, on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "For the last month, as President Obama has settled into running the country, the first family has settled into life at the White House. While President Obama has been trying to repair our failing economy, First Lady Michelle Obama has become his number one advocate. Visiting five federal agencies this month,plugging her husband's economic stimulus plan."
Rodriguez went on to describe the Obamas hitting the Washington D.C. social scene: "In one month, the Obamas have engaged in their community, reading to school kids and visiting community organizations...They've become part of the local scene, eating out and attending a performance at the Kennedy Center. They're familiarizing themselves with their new home...They just hosted their first black-tie dinner and have entertained nearly 200 school children at the White House. But above all, in five weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Obama have learned their role as parents-in-chief to daughters Malia and Sasha."
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with FDIC Chairwoman Shelia Bair and asked: "I can't think of a better morning to have you here, because all the talk is about the bank and if you look at the cover of The Washington Post, there it is, the n-word, 'nationalization,' which you have said you would be surprised if we get to that point. But isn't it maybe going to be a necessary evil?" On February 16, Rodriguez asked Republican Congressman Eric Cantor: "Can the Republican Party accept that there are situations when large-scale government intervention is necessary?"
After Bair downplayed the possibility of a government takeover of banks, Rodriguez countered: "But it sounds to me like it's a very real scenario that the government could wind up owning a majority stake in these banks if these stress tests show serious cracks because the stock is worth so little now, we don't have to put that much money in to own a majority." Bair replied: "Well, I think the inter-agency statement that was released yesterday indicated a strong presumption in favor of private control. And I think we would like to continue that. It's a very tough thing to run a bank." Rodriguez responded: "You would like to but is it realistic, do you think?"
ABC, CBS and NBC reporters over the past two days have relayed how the Obama administration proposes to cut the annual federal deficit from $1.3 trillion to $533 billion in four years by cutting spending on the war in Iraq and raising the income tax rate for those earning more than $250,000. Not considered: How since the Bush tax cuts the revenue paid by the richest -- and their share of total income taxes collected -- have been rising year-by-year. So will a tax hike, from 35 to 39.6 percent, really increase the amount the wealthiest pay, or will they find ways to avoid reporting income and thus the government will see little, if any, additional revenue -- to say nothing about the wisdom of alerting investors during an economic downturn that their tax rate will soon jump?
Monday night, CBS's Chip Reid reported: “Most of the savings would come from winding down the war in Iraq, ending the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year and cutting spending.” Jake Tapper, also Monday night, on ABC: “Another source of revenue being proposed -- allowing the Bush tax cuts for a family earning over $250,000 a year to expire in 2011, increasing that tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.”
Americans increasingly see the danger in Barack Obama's scheme to spend our way out of economic difficulty. So for the mainstream media, it's all hands on deck to bolster confidence in Obama and his decisions. The dependable Jonathan Alter reports for duty in the March 2 Newsweek, also posted on the magazine's Web site. Titled "America’s New Shrink: Chin up, everyone. This president is well poised to bring us back from the brink," the article is loaded with happy talk about Obama and his incredible attributes. A few examples:
. . . Because my take on Obama, based on conversations with him and his team stretching back more than four years and extending into the White House, is that he has a firm grasp of the psychological and substantive challenges of the presidency. Equally important, his 2008 campaign proved that he possesses a superior sense of timing. He knows that now is not the moment to cheerlead, not when the financial players are lying dazed on the field. There will be time for that, when the banks have been "restructured" (see, that sounds better than "nationalized") and the credit starts flowing again.
. . . It's early yet and much can change, but the new president is showing signs of carrying himself in a more naturally confident way, with the right blend of traits. He's bold enough to add a couple of zeroes to the conversation about spending, but humble enough to utter those three most unpresidential words: "I screwed up."
Obama's confidence is the product of an unusual combination of good early parenting by his mother and grandmother and his own search for racial identity. "The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment," he writes in "Dreams From My Father" of a moment of painful clarity when he was in high school. His white relatives, he now realized, could never understand him. "I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone."