Following a segment on American school children learning Chinese as a second language at the end of Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric tried her hand at reciting part of her sign off in Mandarin, telling viewers, "míngtianjiàn wanan," meaning, "See you tomorrow, good night." [Audio available here]
In the prior report, correspondent Terry McCarthy was critical of Americans for not having better foreign language skills: "Americans generally assume everyone speaks English....But Americans do not generally share such multilingual talents." He then cheered efforts in one Los Angeles elementary school to teach Chinese alongside English, starting in Kindergarten: "These kids have been studying Chinese for four years and they're pretty good....the Chinese immersion program is so popular, they have a waiting list."
On Monday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Terry McCarthy described reaction to Sarah Palin’s decision to resign as governor of Alaska: "After her bombshell announcement Friday, Sarah Palin has essentially vanished, to the frustration of some Alaskans...Even her allies in the Republican Party are perplexed."
The story featured a clip of one Alaskan resident declaring: "I don't think it's right for her just to disappear on us like that." Another clip featured former Bush communications director Dan Bartlett explaining: "She's left both supporters and detractors once again scratching their heads." McCarthy went on to remark: "And the normally effusive Rush Limbaugh, didn't know what to make of her."
McCarthy did manage to highlight speculation that Palin might have been the subject of a criminal investigation: "In fact, the only definitive statement we have about Sarah Palin is from the FBI, which says she is not the target of a criminal investigation, dismissing one theory of her sudden resignation. Palin has been targeted with 15 ethics complaints, which friends say have worn her down. 13 have been dismissed, but she says they cost the state some $2 million to investigate."
On World News Sunday, ABC correspondent Terry McCarthy filed his first report in a weeklong series, "Iraq: Where Things Stand," which will give a progress report on the six-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom's beginning. After anchor Dan Harris introduced the story by relaying that McCarthy had found "optimism" in Iraq, McCarthy began his report by informing viewers of some positive effects of the country's lower violence levels, and that Iraqis are now more concerned about the economy than security. The ABC correspondent continued: "Iraqis are slowly discovering they have a future. We flew south to Basra, where 94 percent say their lives are going well."
Not surprisingly given the past pattern, of the broadcast networks evening newscasts on Thursday, only ABC's World News devoted a full story to the fewest Americans killed in Iraq in any month since the war began. CBS and NBC gave the great news a few seconds before pivoting to full stories on the rise of female suicide bombers and the sexual assault problem in the military. ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed:
[A] statistic out of Iraq today that is remarkable: Six Americans were killed in combat in the entire month of July. That's the lowest number since the war began. That compares to the 66 combat deaths in July of last year.
From Iraq, reporter Terry McCarthy proceeded to convey how “U.S. troops on the ground don't follow statistics. They follow their gut. And these days, that tells them things are getting better.” McCarthy pointed to how an Army Sergeant, seven months into his second tour, “hasn't fired his weapon once on patrol” and then McCarthy credited the surge: “The turning point was the surge, which began 18 months ago. Three months in, U.S. fatalities peaked at 119. Since then, violence has declined steeply.”
The Pentagon on Monday released a quarterly report showing dramatic reductions in violence in Iraq compared to a year earlier, but only ABC aired a full story Monday evening while NBC gave it short-shrift as anchor Brian Williams cited the reduction in violence “by as much as 80 percent” since “before the so-called troop surge.” He then added a caveat about how the report “also warns the positive trend here remains, quote, 'fragile, reversible and uneven.'” CBS didn't mention the Department of Defense report, but gave a few seconds to a front page USA Today story on how the number of Americans killed by roadside bombs has plummeted 88 percent from a year ago.
Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased, “Report card: The government says there's good news from Iraq. Violence is down dramatically, while security and the economy are improving.” Reporter Terry McCarthy recited how “civilian deaths are down 75 percent since last July. Total security incidents are at their lowest level in over four years.” McCarthy credited “a number of reasons for the progress: Better performance by the Iraqi security forces; surprising new leadership by Prime Minister Maliki, who's confronting both al-Qaeda and the militias; and the creation of 103,000 Sons of Iraq -- local security forces, many of them recruited from the insurgency.” Indeed, McCarthy confirmed the Pentagon's assessment:
For the past three weeks, we've traveled the length of Iraq, from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north, and the reduction in violence is remarkable everywhere.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, ABC's Wold News on Monday provided a status check on how Iraqis view their lives and, consistent with how the newscast has been the most willing of the broadcast network evening shows to acknowledge positive developments, anchor Charles Gibson explained “we have polled inside Iraq and there is some good news.” Specifically, “today, 55 percent of Iraqi say their lives are going well. Last summer that number was 39 percent.”
From Iraq, Terry McCarthy reported “you cannot say that life is good in Iraq today. Not yet. Only that life is less bad.” However, McCarthy outlined:
As our poll takers spread across the country they found that for the first time in three years, people were more worried about economic and social problems than violence. And almost half think their country will be better off in a year -- double the number six months ago. In Dora, in southern Baghdad, we found these kids playing on the street. A year ago, they would haven't dared to come outside....
Back in September, when General David Petraeus reported that the surge in U.S. troops had improved the security situation in Iraq, the big three broadcast networks were openly skeptical.
"Insurgent attacks are down from 170 in January to 120 in August," ABC's Terry McCarthy noted on the September 9 World News Sunday, the day before Petraeus testified before Congress. "But that is still four attacks a day, on average. Iraq remains a very violent place....Life in central Iraq is still deadly dangerous."
Finally catching up with ABC and NBC, the night before Thanksgiving the CBS Evening News turned to chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan for a look at how conditions are improving in Iraq. But the story from Logan, who just over a month ago insisted that “we're doing extremely badly,” was more cynical and foreboding than more upbeat reports aired Thanksgiving night on ABC and NBC when CBS's newscast was bumped for football.
Fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell noted “some signs perhaps that conditions are improving. Nationwide, the U.S. military says terror attacks have fallen 55 percent since the summer.” Logan began with how “the sounds of celebration echo on the streets of Baghdad's deadly Adamiyah neighborhood for the first time since the U.S. invasion,” but in explaining that “the U.S. now fights alongside their old Sunni enemy” she said the U.S. “calls them volunteers” while “some people call them America's militia.” Explaining how local Sunni women are helping the U.S., Logan stressed how “it's so dangerous to be seen working for the U.S. that many of these women hide their identity cards.” Logan ominously warned: “The U.S. can't keep paying and protecting the Sunni volunteers forever. And if it doesn't transition into the Iraqi police, and the Iraqi government doesn't take it on, that's the danger....A danger that could send the Sunnis back to war, this time with nothing left to lose.”
Stop the presses! ABC's got a scoop: the situation in Iraq isn't ideal.
Trying to pave the way for the rejection of the Petraeus report, today's "Good Morning America" took the tack that the lack of complete calm is proof of the surge's failure.
Co-anchor Kate Snow set the negative tone by displaying a poll finding to the effect a majority of Americans believe the Petraeus report "will try to make things look better" in Iraq rather than portraying the situation "honestly."
Then it was on to a report from Iraq by ABC's Terry McCarthy. Don't miss the video of Snow and co-anchor Bill Weir walking in unison across the GMA stage, crossing a floor-map of Iraq to a video screen displaying McCarthy's report. Their studied maneuver reminded me of a bridesmaid and groom attendant doing their earnest best at a wedding rehearsal.
The leitmotif of McCarthy's report: yeah, things might be better in Iraq, but darn it, they're not perfect.
NBC Nightly News on Monday ignored a development both ABC and CBS found newsworthy, that after eight days in Iraq, two Brookings Institution scholars who describe themselves has “harshly” critical of Bush's Iraq policy, determined the situation in Iraq is better than they assumed and so the “surge” should continue into next year. Instead of reporting the fresh assessment from Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, NBC anchor Brian Williams, citing “a draft U.S. report,” aired a full story on how “there are disturbing new details about corruption at the very top of the Iraqi government.” But the NBC Nightly News has hardly been reticent before about running soundbites from O'Hanlon with dire warnings about Iraq.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson declared “the column was the talk of Washington today.” From Iraq, Terry McCarthy related that “the report tracks fairly closely with what we're seeing both in our visits to U.S. bases in and around Baghdad involved with the surge, and also our trips out to Baghdad neighborhoods talking to Iraqi population. Clearly, security is improving as the U.S. military footprint expands so the violence goes down, the sectarian killings go down.” Indeed, on CBS, David Martin noted how “with one day left in the month, American casualties in July are the lowest since the troop surge began in February. And civilian casualties are down a third.” Martin aired soundbites from Pollack and O'Hanlon as he described “just enough progress so that a critic like Michael O'Hanlon, who used to think the surge was too little too late, now believes it should be continued.”