ABC's Gibson Cues Up Bush to 'Crow' Over Success of 'Surge' --11/21/2007
2. NYT Sees Reality: 'Baghdad Starts to Exhale as Security Improves'
3. ABC's Sawyer: 'Vigilantes' Going 'Too Far' to Combat Illegals?
4. CBS's Early Show Champions the 'Dixie Chicks of Bridge'
5. Time Mag Rejected Hiring Karl Rove, Saw Him as McCarthyite Felon
Instead of pounding President Bush with the usual media focus on failures in Iraq, ABC anchor Charles Gibson, in his Tuesday interview at Camp David with President and Mrs. Bush, actually pointed out how many doubted the surge strategy and wondered if he wanted to "crow?" Gibson inquired in an excerpt aired on World News: "You took a lot of doubting and rather skeptical questions about the surge. I'll give you a chance to crow. Do you want to say I told you so?" Bush demurred from the opportunity. Indeed, a January MRC report documented the media hostility toward Bush's plan: "TV's Pre-Emptive War Against Iraq 'Surge'; Before Iraq Plan Unveiled, Reporters Said It Was Unpopular, Wouldn't Work & War Was 'Lost Cause.'"
Prompted by Bush's satisfaction that Iraqis are "beginning to see enough security so that reconciliation is taking place, as well as the economy's beginning to move," Gibson pressed the President on problems with "reconciliation." Leading to a correction from Bush, Gibson had earlier referred to "a lot of bellicose rhetoric that has been aimed at Iran" and cited how "you yourself at a news conference recently raised the specter of World War III." Bush clarified: "I said if you want to avoid World War III."
[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The full question, as listed in a transcript of the interview posted on ABCNews.com: "There's been a lot of bellicose rhetoric that has been aimed at Iran, and you yourself, at a news conference recently, raised the specter of, of World War III if there was a nuclear armed Iran. Just my curiosity, why not turn the rhetoric around and smother them with kindness, call their bluff and say, look, if you're seriously interested in nuclear power, we'll build the nuclear power plants for you?"
The full text of the exchange about crowing over the success of the surge: CHARLES GIBSON: You took a lot of doubting and rather skeptical questions about the surge. I'll give you a chance to crow. Do you want to say, I told you so?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: [LAUGHS] No, I don't, because the decision, while it was a tough decision was really studied, and uh, and it was based upon the recommendations of wise military commanders.
CHARLES GIBSON: Don't you take some satisfaction, though, in the fact that the, that the levels of violence have come down so far?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Absolutely, primarily because I, you know, I hurt when America loses a soldier anywhere, and it breaks my heart to think about loved ones who will miss a child, or a husband. And having said that, I'm thrilled for the Iraqis that they're beginning to see enough security so that reconciliation is taking place as well as in, as the economy is beginning to move.
The ABC News transcript: abcnews.go.com
ABC has been far ahead of the other networks in recognizing improvements in Iraq, the November 15 CyberAlert posting, "NBC Catches Up With ABC to Highlight Safer, Better Life in Iraq," pointed out: www.mrc.org
Until the November 14 NBC Nightly News piece, ABC's World News had been the only broadcast network evening newscast airing reports from Iraq on improving conditions:
-- October 23 CyberAlert: "ABC Airs Upbeat Iraq Story on Fallujah's 'Remarkable Turnaround.'" See: www.mrc.org
-- October 31 CyberAlert: "ABC: Iraqis Adapt to 'New Normal' as 'Violence on Downward Trend.'" See: www.mrc.org
-- November 2 CyberAlert: "Only ABC Reports Military's Stats on Violence Plunging in Iraq." See: www.mrc.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a transcript of what the November 20 World News aired of the discussion, taped at Camp David in Maryland, about being too "bellicose" toward Iran and the situation in Iraq:
CHARLES GIBSON: There has been a lot of bellicose rhetoric that has been aimed at Iran. And you yourself at a news conference recently raised the specter of World War III.
Now, let's rewind to January for a look back at how the networks covered Bush surge plan, as recounted in a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes released on Thursday, January 11, the day after President Bush's speech announcing his decision:
TV's Pre-Emptive War Against Iraq "Surge"
Before Iraq Plan Unveiled, Reporters Said It Was Unpopular, Wouldn't Work & War Was "Lost Cause"
By the time President Bush delivered his Iraq speech Wednesday night, the news media had spent several days engaged in what the military calls "preparing the battlefield." The media's air war against the plan to try to actually win the Iraq war assured that most of Bush's audience would have already heard journalists claiming the new mission is wrong-headed and doomed to failure.
# "Like a folly." Last Tuesday on NBC's Today, anchor emeritus Tom Brokaw argued that the way Saddam Hussein was executed revealed Iraq as "a deeply divided country along tribal lines," and that sending more troops would "seem to most people...like a folly." Brokaw added: "I think a lot of people who are raising their hands to join the armed services are wondering, '€˜I'm giving my life for that?'"
# "Wrong Way Corrigan." The next morning on Today, political analyst Chris Matthews declared the President's plan dead on arrival: "I expect it will be treated the way Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia was reacted to. The American people aren't gonna like it." Matthews insisted that the voters wanted to end, not mend, Bush's Iraq policies and "for the President to go Wrong Way Corrigan on this thing and to increase the number of troops, take us deeper into Iraq, would be to reject the opinion of the American people."
# "Absolutely no difference." This week, as more details of the President's plan were revealed, the anti-surge drum-beat got louder. On CBS's Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked Baghdad reporter Lara Logan if extra troops would make a difference. "The best thing we have is to look at what has happened already. When the U.S. brought in 12,000 more troops into Baghdad last summer, it made absolutely no difference," Logan replied. "In fact, security here in Baghdad got even worse."
# "Lost Cause?" On Tuesday's Today, NBC's White House reporter David Gregory suggested even White House insiders have lost faith. "As the President prepares to start a new phase of the war in Iraq, the White House is fending off charges that key figures in the administration have concluded the war is lost." NBC's graphic headline read "Lost Cause? Can U.S. Win the War In Iraq?" Gregory also cited unnamed "critics" to suggest Bush's motives were psychological: "U.S. commanders who opposed adding troops to Iraq have been replaced, prompting critics to charge the President's resolve has become stubbornness."
# Roll call of critics. On Wednesday's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer confronted White House aide Dan Bartlett: "I just want to run through a partial roll call of the number of people who have either opposed what the President is going to do, or expressed serious reservations." As she read off names such as Colin Powell and Chuck Hagel, their names and faces scrolled over her right shoulder. "I could go on and on," Sawyer told Bartlett. "What don't they get? What don't they understand?" Bartlett objected, saying some of the generals she listed as critics "helped devise this plan."
# "Breaking Point." On yesterday's Today, co-host Meredith Vieira doubted that the U.S. military could meet the challenge: "The cornerstone of his plan is sending around 20,000 additional U.S. troops into the war zone. But is the military stretched to the breaking point already?" Reporter Jim Miklaszewski suggested it was: "The pace of two wars has left two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades rated '€˜Not Ready to Fight.'"
# "The cost has been enormous." Uniquely last night, CBS's Katie Couric decided to introduce Bush's speech by repeating the war's terrible toll: "Four years into the war, the cost has been enormous. More than 3,000 American military killed, more than 22,000 wounded. The dollar cost, close to $400 billion." Emphasizing her point, CBS posted each demoralizing statistic as a full-screen graphic.
The new plan may succeed, or it may fail. But the media's mantra these past few days has been that failure seems inevitable, so we shouldn't even try.
END of Reprint
For the online posting of the January 11 Media Reality Check: www.mediaresearch.org
Less than a month ago the lead New York Times editorial began with how "the news out of Iraq just keeps getting worse," so the paper's liberal readership surely got indigestion over Tuesday's lead news story from Baghdad by Damien Cave and Alissa Rubin, "Baghdad Starts to Exhale as Security Improves." It was even accompanied by three photos of normal life in the Iraqi capital.
For more on the October 23 editorial: www.timeswatch.org
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
The November 20 Times article made a public bow to reality, admitting:
The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad's streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.
As a result, for the first time in nearly two years, people are moving with freedom around much of this city. In more than 50 interviews across Baghdad, it became clear that while there were still no-go zones, more Iraqis now drive between Sunni and Shiite areas for work, shopping or school, a few even after dark. In the most stable neighborhoods of Baghdad, some secular women are also dressing as they wish. Wedding bands are playing in public again, and at a handful of once shuttered liquor stores customers now line up outside in a collective rebuke to religious vigilantes from the Shiite Mahdi Army.
Iraqis are clearly surprised and relieved to see commerce and movement finally increase, five months after an extra 30,000 American troops arrived in the country. But the depth and sustainability of the changes remain open to question.
To be sure, the article has plenty of anecdotes suggesting people still live in fear in Baghdad, and emphasized the incomplete nature of the gains:
By one revealing measure of security -- whether people who fled their home have returned -- the gains are still limited. About 20,000 Iraqis have gone back to their Baghdad homes, a fraction of the more than 4 million who fled nationwide, and the 1.4 million people in Baghdad who are still internally displaced, according to a recent Iraqi Red Crescent Society survey.
For the New York Times article in full: www.nytimes.com
According to ABC anchor Diane Sawyer, a new Oklahoma law making it a felony for U.S. citizens to knowingly provide shelter or transportation to illegal immigrants goes "across the line," "too far," and turns people into "vigilantes." Interviewing Lou Dobbs, CNN host and noted opponent of illegal immigration, on Tuesday's edition of Good Morning America, Sawyer appeared to be aghast at what she considered "turning people in" for offering assistance to illegals.
The GMA host even quizzed Dobbs about whether his problem is with Hispanics in general. After noting a new Census Bureau report that found last names such as Garcia and Rodriguez are increasing in number, she guardedly wondered: "To Lou Dobbs, is this a good thing or a bad thing?" After Dobbs responded in favor of legal immigration, Sawyer plowed ahead with her question about the new Oklahoma law. She incredulously queried: "People are vigilantes about transportation and shelter? Isn't that going too far?"
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The CNN host, who was appearing to promote Independents Day, his new book on politics and the '08 election, firmly responded by educating Sawyer to the fact that federal statutes already make it a crime to knowingly assist someone in breaking the law. The ABC host closed the immigration conversation by politely, but firmly, asserting: "We could go on all morning, you and I, and may some day, I hope."
Earlier in the interview, however, when Dobbs peddled his populist mantra about big corporations taking advantage of average Americans, the GMA anchor was nowhere near as combative. She jokingly asked if the cable host would be running for President and tossed him this softball about the other two political parties: "Why can't the Republican and Democratic parties get it done?"
Sawyer has made her opinion on immigration quite clear. In October, she traveled to Mexico to interview that country's President and report live on the state of the border. The ABC anchor alleged that emotional Americans "fueled by anger" were driving the debate on the contentious issue. See October 9 CyberAlert for more: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the November 20 segment, which aired at 7:40am:
DIANE SAWYER: We're going to turn now to CNN anchor Lou Dobbs creating a kind of revolution, if he has his way. He has a new book out called "Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit." It's a swashbuckling review of what is broken in America, including the Republican and Democratic parties, if I read it right. And Lou Dobbs is with us this morning. It's good to see you.
Apparently, the game of bridge has officially become edgy and provocative. On Tuesday's Early Show on CBS, co-host Hannah Storm interviewed a U.S. championship bridge team that, at the World Bridge Championship in China last month, held up a sign which declared: "We didn't vote for Bush." As a result of this dissent, the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" have become a media cause celebre with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann championing their plight. CBS co-host Julie Chen teased the segment at the top of the show by portraying the bridge players as victims: "Four previously mild-mannered bridge champions facing backlash and a ban for criticizing President Bush." Later, co-host Harry Smith made the Dixie Chicks comparison, lamenting: "Remember when the Dixie Chicks caused a firestorm of controversy back in 2003? Natalie Maines said she was ashamed of our foreign -- of U.S. foreign policy, criticizing President Bush....Now a much quieter group, some call the 'Dixie Chicks of Bridge' is caught up in a somewhat similar storm of controversy."
The segment began with reporter Debbye Turner describing the details of the injustice: "Now, these women, who have won several awards, are facing a backlash and could face tough sanctions, including a year long ban from competition...Now we'll see how the bridge ladies play this hand. But the cards may be stacked against them." How ironic that the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" chose to exercise their free speech against Bush while in an oppressive Communist dictatorship.
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
As the interview began, Hannah Storm eagerly asked team member Jill Levin about the reaction of people to the anti-Bush sentiment:
STORM: And Jill, what was the response?
At the end of the segment, Storm returned to the theme of the bridge team as victims of oppression and pushed them to agree with that assessment:
STORM: Let me ask a question. Do you guys -- you guys have agreed now that you're not going to speak out against the President. Is that the terms of this, I mean?
The courage it must take to speak out against President Bush on Chinese soil in the company of the French.
Here is the full transcript of the November 20 segment:
7:01AM TEASER, JULIE CHEN: Also coming up this morning, are they the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge"? Four previously mild-mannered bridge champions facing backlash and a ban for criticizing President Bush. They are live here today.
7:21AM, HANNAH STORM: Coming up in our next half hour, the champion bridge players who, like the Dixie Chicks, aren't ready to make nice.
7:30AM, HARRY SMITH: Remember when the Dixie Chicks caused a firestorm of controversy back in 2003? Natalie Maines said she was ashamed of our foreign -- of U.S. foreign policy, criticizing President Bush. It was just ten days before the beginning of the war in Iraq. Radio stations burned their CDs. No one would play their songs. Now a much quieter group, some call the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge" is caught up in a somewhat similar storm of controversy. They had just won an international bridge tournament in china when one of them held up a sign. See what the sign says? "We didn't vote for Bush." We're going to talk to them in this half hour."
HANNAH STORM: A group of American bridge players set off a political storm that could get at least one of them suspended for a year or more. As Early Show Correspondent Debbye Turner reports, these women are now being called the "Dixie Chicks of Bridge."
STORM: Team Captain Gail Greenberg, an 11-time world bridge champion is here, along with team members Debbie Rosenberg and Jill Levin. And good morning to all of you.
Radar Online reported Tuesday that before being signed as a contributor by Newsweek magazine, former Bush White House strategist and adviser Karl Rove, whom Newsweek brought aboard along with Markos Moulitsas of the far-left Daily Kos, was first shopped to Time magazine, but that deal didn't occur because those running Time "think Karl is essentially an unindicted coconspirator in a whole string of felonies." Radar media critic Charles Kaiser assessed in a November 19 posting: "Time's editors apparently felt the cost/benefit analysis wouldn't be in their favor if they embraced the man who has done more than anyone to keep the spirit of Joe McCarthy alive and well in American politics."
For older media-watchers, this recalls the Washington bureau of Time sitting around on C-SPAN on the verge of the first Iraq war in 1991 dismissing John McCain and his "super-patriots" who marched around in "brown shirts." For details of that thinking, check the March 1991 edition of the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter: www.mrc.org
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by the MRC's Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An excerpt from Kaiser's posting:
For its part, Time magazine said nothing publicly about Rove's arrival at Newsweek, but a well-placed source told me that Bob Barnett (every Washington literati's favorite lawyer, including Bill Clinton) had traveled to the Time-Life building on Sixth Avenue to offer Rove's services before Newsweek snared them. Time's editors apparently felt the cost/benefit analysis wouldn't be in their favor if they embraced the man who has done more than anyone to keep the spirit of Joe McCarthy alive and well in American politics. (Read Joshua Green's definitive profile from the Atlantic in 2004.) "Time thought this wouldn't be like hiring George Stephanopoulos," my source explained. "They think Karl is essentially like an unindicted coconspirator in a whole string of felonies."
Besides the obvious shock value, there was another reason Rove's arrival in the fourth estate was inevitable. In public, Rove is one of dozens of conservatives who assiduously bash the press. Last summer, channeling Agnew, Rove told Rush Limbaugh that "the people I see criticizing [Bush] are sort of elite effete snobs." But at the same time, Rove was constantly massaging big-time Washington journalists over long lunches at the Hay Adams Hotel.
The result of this continuous media handling was a mostly kid-glove treatment of Rove by great Washington political reporters like Anne Kornblut. The day after Rove dodged an indictment by the special prosecutor, this is how Kornblut appraised him in the New York Times: "a cheerful, sharp-witted operative fond of sparring with reporters off the record." It's that kind of hard-hitting approach that got Kornblut stolen away by the Washington Post -- but also makes it possible for Jon Stewart to provide an essential reality check on our nation's capital.
END of Excerpt
For the Radar posting in full: radaronline.com
Sometimes, it's fun to see the broader context of a quote like Kornblut's on Rove. Here it is, via Nexis, from October 29, 2005:
Mr. Rove, a cheerful, sharp-witted operative fond of sparring with reporters off the record, was drawn into the case because of conversations he had had with two reporters about the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had attacked the administration's account of intelligence to justify war in Iraq.
On July 9, 2003, Mr. Rove confirmed to the columnist Robert D. Novak that he had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a C.I.A. officer; Mr. Novak revealed her identity in his column several days later. Referring to an "Official A," whom people briefed on the case have identified as Mr. Rove, the indictment recounted those events, as well as a conversation that Official A had with Mr. Libby about the subject. Mr. Rove also tipped off Matthew Cooper of Time magazine to Ms. Wilson's identity in a phone conversation on July 11, two days after he spoke to Mr. Novak.
The circumstances surrounding those conversations have fueled outrage from Mr. Rove's political adversaries, who have long viewed him as a take-no-prisoners renegade who will stop at nothing to ruin his critics. Mr. Wilson has called Mr. Rove's actions an "outrageous abuse of power" that was "certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House."
END of Excerpt
In other words, Kornblut's report was balanced enough to note Rove haters who think he's the "renegade who stops at nothing" to ruin people. It's nice Kornblut made room in her story for the movers and shakers at Time magazine.
-- Brent Baker