Lynne Cheney Was Right: CNN Special Spews Democratic Talking Points

October 30th, 2006 4:27 PM

Lynne Cheney was right. The Vice President’s wife recently attacked a CNN pre-election special as straight out of Democratic talking points. The program in question, "Broken Government: Power Play," aired on October 26 and discussed presidential power. Reporter John King introduced his special that night on location at Independence Hall, Philadelphia. Close your eyes and it sounds like an ad straight out of the DNC:

John King: "Justice, on Mr. Bush's terms, would mean challenge after challenge, test after test of the balance of powers laid out in the Constitution, adopted here in Philadelphia's Independence Hall 219 years ago, written by men, who, for all their brilliance, could not have imagined jet aircraft, let alone jet aircraft used as weapons. Nor could men determined to find the lasting antidote to tyranny have imagined the Internet, spy satellites, other technological advances now so central in the war on terror. But they did warn, in this hall, time and time again of too much presidential power, creating a careful system of checks by the Congress and the courts, lines the Bush administration, in the name of protecting Americans from another attack, has repeatedly stretched, rewritten, and sometimes just ignored."

Mrs. Cheney appeared on "The Situation Room" the next day and had this to say about Mr. King’s special:

Lynne Cheney: "...I watched the program on CNN last night, which I thought -- it's your 2006 voter program, which I thought was a terrible distortion of both the President and the Vice President's position on many issues. It seemed almost straight out of Democratic talking points using phrasing like ‘domestic surveillance’ when it's not domestic surveillance that anyone has talked about or ever done. It's surveillance of terrorists. It's people who have al Qaeda connections calling into the United States. So I think we're in the season of distortion, and this is just one more."

A few seconds later, she bluntly restated her feelings on the special:

Cheney: "... Wolf, ‘Broken Government.’ Now, what, what kind of stance isthat?...So, you know, I shouldn't let media bias surprise me, but I worked at CNN once... I watched your program last night and I was, I was troubled."

In the segment, which aired at 7:30p.m., anchor Wolf Blitzer attempted to defend the program’s intentions, saying it was designed to "get people to think." A brief analysis of the  special’s more incendiary moments shows that the real aim appears to be getting people to vote Democratic.

Throughout the special, Moazzam Begg, a former detainee is featured. He is a man that the U.S. government, to this day, suspects of involvement in terrorism. (This point is belatedly mentioned at the show’s close.) CNN treated his testimony as genuine and this is how John King introduced him at 8:02p.m:

King: "Islamabad, Pakistan, an edgy place in the weeks after September 11. Moazzam Begg, among the newcomers arriving from neighboring Afghanistan after the bombs started falling, he thought he had escaped, until a midnight knock at the door introduced him to the most expansive display of presidential power in American history."

Moazzam Begg: "I opened the door to be faced with people, several of them, pointing guns and electric stun guns toward me. Nobody said anything. They didn't ask me any questions. They didn't identify themselves. They pushed me to the forecourt of -- of my house, and then into the front room, where I was made to kneel. My hands were shackled behind my back. My legs were shackled. The last thing I saw, before they put my hood over my head, was them walking towards the room where my children were."

So Bush’s display of presidential power is more expansive then Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War? It’s worse then FDR imprisoning 100,000 Japanese citizens during World War II? It’s more egregious than Nixon’s abuses during Watergate? (King mentions Lincoln and FDR later in the special but dismisses comparisons to Bush’s actions.)

Mr. King talked to several prominent liberals, including John Podesta and West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. At 8:20p.m, Byrd recounted how he originally had such high hopes for President Bush:

Robert Byrd: "I looked with great hope upon our president when he first came to the Oval Office."

King: "Democrat Robert Byrd is the longest serving senator in history, always carrying a copy of the Constitution as he has crossed paths, and sometimes swords, with 11 presidents. He fondly recalls a dinner invitation just after George W. Bush moved into the White House."

Byrd: "I was very impressed -- and I told my wife on the way home so -- very impressed that he said grace at the meal. He was a humble man, I thought, a man who will think of the scriptures, and who will think of the Constitution, who will be a man who will listen."

Of course, the Senator is given time later in the program to state how Bush disappointed him.

It’s not hard to see why Mrs. Cheney objected to her husband’s portrayal. At 8:37p.m., King discussed the Vice President’s "dark side:"

(Onscreen: Photo of man holding a poster that says: "Wanted: Dick Cheney: Secrecy Czar" Then, a second poster that reads: "The world is not for profit, Dick!")

King: "The dark side. He is well aware of the label."

Cheney: "I suppose sometimes people look at my demeanor and say, well, he's the Darth Vader of the administration."

King: "His default, especially since 9/11, is assume the worst, whether the issue is intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs or what legal status to give suspected terrorists in U.S. custody, people like Moazzam Begg."

(File footage) Cheney: "These are not prisoners of war. These are terrorists. These are people who, some of whom, may in fact have been involved in planning or supporting the attack on the United States on September 11."

Perhaps most puzzling moment is the special’s resolution to the story of Moazzam Begg. King closed the program by first allowing Begg to harshly attack the President:

King: "Moazzam Begg calls Birmingham home again, not Gitmo or Bagram, and he owes his freedom to a man he calls a criminal, George W. Bush."

Begg: "And if he continues to be in power, then I can only fear for the future of the world."

King: "Begg's release was a reluctant favor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, because of the outrage in Britain and around the world at the images from Guantanamo Bay and Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, images Charlie Swift says helped the very enemy Mr. Bush has promised his aggressive tactics would defeat."

Two minutes later, King seemed to accept a bizarre chain of logic from Mr. Begg. He claimed to not hate America, but then threatened the country and justified the murder of American soldiers in Iraq:

King: "The questions about Moazzam Begg are more immediate, a paradox in Mr. Bush's world of whatever it takes."

Begg: "Did I kidnap, imprison, torture, beat to death anybody? Did I do those things, or did not the United States of American government do that?"

King: "The President released Begg over the objections of his national security team. U.S. intelligence officials insist Begg exaggerates the harshness of his treatment, and to this day these intelligence officials stand by the accuracy of the statement Begg signed while in U.S. custody. Among other things, it said Begg trained at three al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, knew at least a half dozen al Qaeda operatives, and planned to take up arms against the United States before fleeing through Tora Bora to Pakistan."

Begg: "It was coercive, and it was under duress that I signed it."

King: "Do you hate America or Americans?"

Begg: "No, I don't hate Americans or America, and the reason why I don't hate them is because I never hated them to begin with."

King : "Islam, he says, forbids killing innocent civilians. Begg has no qualms, however, with attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, because they are, in his view, occupying Muslim lands on Mr. Bush's orders."

Begg: "His abuse of power has been able, allowed him to get away with abduction, kidnap, false imprisonment. He's a man who has brought more destruction and more terror on the earth than any of the terrorists."

King: "And while insisting he is no threat, no terrorist, Begg also insists the president who jailed him, in the name of keeping America safe, will someday learn his lesson."

Begg: "Once you take this road and once you go down this road, you are actually making the world a much, much less safe place, because if that's what the Americans are going to do around the world, then they must accept repercussions."

With specials like these, it’s not hard to see why Mrs. Cheney labeled CNN as a front for Democratic talking points.