2. Moran Tells Fleischer Iraq's Disarmament is "Substantive"
3. Bush "a Pro-War Zealot" Who is "Changing the Rules" on Iraq
4. NBC: Missile Destruction "Too Painful for People Here to See"
5. Today's Town Meeting: Iraqi Disarmament Undercuts Bush Case
6. Chris Matthews Goes on a Tear Against "Kid" Bush on Iraq
7. NBC Anchor Suggests al-Qaeda Arrest Undermines Bush Critics
>>> "2003 Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters." CyberAlert subscribers can get tickets for $150, $25 off the regular price, for the Thursday, March 27 event in Washington, DC. For all the info and how to buy tickets:
"The U.S. could go to war against Iraq as early as late next week," ABC's John McWethy predicted at the top of Monday's World News Tonight before Terry Moran lamented how "there's nothing that the current Iraqi regime could do in the way of disarmament to avoid war" and warned that the Bush administration's "hard line could complicate some of the diplomacy at the United Nations."
Peter Jennings led the March 3 World News Tonight: "Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin this Monday with the war against Iraq that already grinds steadily on in some ways. The Pentagon said today that in southern Iraq, U.S. and British warplanes fired on five targets around the southern city of Basra. Iraqis say that six civilians were killed. There is no independent verification. The Pentagon says the pilots were patrolling the no-fly zone and responded to anti-aircraft fire. There is a lot of buzz today about the possibility that a major U.S. attack on Iraq -- 'the' attack -- may occur sooner than many people have thought it would. So we're going to go straight away to ABC's John McWethy at the Pentagon. John, what are you hearing?"
John McWethy checked in, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Peter, from military civilian sources here in Washington and overseas, we're getting a sense that things are coming to a head, that the U.S. could go to war against Iraq as early as late next week. One of the clues that we're all going to get is a public announcement by the administration saying that UN inspectors, journalists, and humanitarian workers need to get out of Iraq within three days."
Jennings turned to Terry Moran at the White House: "Terry, is there a suggestion here that diplomacy is getting in the way of the Bush administration's intentions?"
As opposed to Iraq's "hard line" of defiance for 13 years and the UN's "hard line" insistence on doing nothing about it.
Matching his theme on World News Tonight (see item #1 above), earlier in the day at the White House briefing ABC's Terry Moran repeatedly pressed Ari Fleischer about how Iraq destroying a few missiles is "substantive" and "real disarmament."
When Fleischer disagreed, Moran countered: "But it is substantive, it is not just process, this is substance, this is real destruction of weapons." MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed that Moran rued: "So, it's the administration's view that making war in Iraq now is preferable to any further piecemeal, substantive disarmament?"
A few minutes later, Los Angeles Times reporter Ed Chen suggested Bush's dissatisfaction with Iraq's pace of disarmament illustrates "the President's well-known impatience."
The exchange took place during the noontime EST, March 3 press briefing carried live by the cable news networks:
Moran: "Ari, the destruction of these Al-Samoud missiles now represents about ten percent, a little more, of their entire medium-range missile capability. That's a piece of real, substantive disarmament under international supervision. But it's not total disarmament. But you aren't denying that that's real disarmament?"
A few minutes later, Los Angeles Times reporter Ed Chen contended: "While we're on the disarmament process, Iraq clearly starting to destroy some of its weapons, perhaps not as quickly as the administration would like. Clearly it can't all be done in one instant in some big bang theory. So doesn't this speak to the President's well-known impatience? That his patience is running out, he's not willing to give this process more time?"
"Even" President Bush's critics are critical of him. CNBC anchor Brian Williams on Monday night raised how "even late night comics, critics of this President, are painting him as a kind of pro-war zealot figure of some sort." Williams also suggested Bush is guilty of "changing the rules in the middle of the game" by demanding regime change, then disarmament and "now the guy's got to be out of the country as well."
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught the reasoning by Williams expressed on the March 3 News with Brian Williams on CNBC.
After a piece by David Gregory on Turkey's decision not to allow U.S. troops to stage from the nation, Williams asked Gregory: "David, this may be unable to be put into numeric terms, what part's disappointment and what part's surprise at a White House where even late night comics, critics of this President, are painting him as a kind of pro-war zealot figure of some sort?"
Williams must be watching Jay Leno. From what I recall, last week David Letterman was making a lot more fun of the French.
During a subsequent session with Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Williams wondered: "And Howard, how much exposure does the President have on this issue of changing the rules in the middle of the game -- first regime change, then disarmament, now the guy's got to be out of the country as well?"
Disarmament, even a little bit of it hurts. Literally. Apparently serious, from Baghdad on Monday's Today, NBC reporter Ron Allen claimed that no pictures were released by the Iraqis of the destruction of some Al-Samoud missiles "because Iraqi officials say the process is too painful for people here to see."
On the March 3 Today, Allen checked in with the official Iraqi regime spin of the day, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed:
Today co-hosts Katie Couric and Matt Lauer spent a segment of Monday's "town hall" meeting on Iraq obsessed with how Iraq's destruction of some Al-Samoud missiles supports the views of "people in the international community" who think Saddam Hussein "is taking steps to cooperate with weapons inspections" and how the French, Germans and Russians "are looking on here and saying, 'See we told you. Put more inspectors in there, give them more time and Saddam Hussein can be disarmed.'"
Couric also put the burden on Bush, as she asked Senator Joe Biden about Bush "raising the bar" to demand that Hussein leave Iraq: "Is the administration doing this because no matter what Iraq does it will not meet the requirements in terms of disarming that will prevent a war from actually happening?"
Intermixed with the loaded questioning Couric did once raise the possibility that Hussein is disarming only as a ploy to divide the international community and Lauer recalled how inspectors didn't think Iraq had a nuclear arms program when it really did.
Lauer set up the March 3 segment by listing Today's guests: "On Close Up this morning the question of war. During our first hour this morning we are holding a town hall meeting examining the issue of a potential military confrontation with Iraq. On our main panel we have Aziz Al-Taee, born in Baghdad. He sought political asylum in the U.S. after Saddam Hussein brutalized his family. He is now chairman of the Iraqi-American Council. Democratic senator Joe Biden of Delaware is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nancy Soderberg is a former US Representative to the UN Security Council and former member of President Clinton's Security Council. Ms. Soderberg is now an NBC News analyst. Republican representative Steve Buyer of Indiana is a Gulf War veteran and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve. Retired Army General Montgomery Meigs is a former commander of U.S. forces in Europe and now an NBC analyst and Steve Emerson an expert on terrorism and national security also an NBC analyst."
Lauer began by asking Biden about Turkey's failure to approve U.S. troop placement.
Turning to Buyer, Lauer focused on Iraq's supposed cooperation: "Congressman let me talk about what happened also over the weekend. Saddam Hussein started to destroy some of these Al-Samoud II missiles, the ones that are exceeding the UN requirements. So now people around the world can say, 'Look pressure is working, he is beginning to disarm,' is he cooperating or is he playing a game in your opinion?"
Next, Couric turned to another guest, but stayed on the same subject, though she allowed that it may just be a ploy by Hussein to divide the international community: "Meanwhile Mr. Aziz Al-Taee, as we mentioned you were born in Baghdad. You have friends and family who were tortured by Saddam's henchmen. Seeing these latest developments, the destruction of the 17 Al-Samoud missiles, also Iraqi contention that they do have evidence that chemical and biological weapons were destroyed long ago. Is this an indication to you that Saddam Hussein has woken up and smelled the coffee. Or is he just giving as much as he needs to, to keep public opinion throughout the world divided and to stave off military action, at least, for now."
Couric followed up: "But what would you say to people in the international community, who as Matt mentioned, are thinking cooperating has begun, he is making an effort. He is taking steps to cooperate with weapons inspections?"
Lauer then remained on the same point with Soderberg: "Ambassador Soderberg maybe this is a good question for you because the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese are looking on here and saying, 'See we told you. Put more inspectors in there, give them more time and Saddam Hussein can be disarmed.' So what does the Bush administration do as these missiles are being destroyed?"
Couric opened the discussion up to all: "Let me just throw something out to all of you. Why doesn't containment work? Some people might say it's been 12 years since the Gulf War, he hasn't done anything radical. He seems to be under control. And there certainly is a school of thought that containment is the, the appropriate policy."
Couric soon suggested to Biden that Bush had raised demands on Hussein to an impossibly high level: "Let me, let me ask Joe Biden this question. Senator over the weekend we heard the Bush administration saying disarming Hussein is not enough, there needs to be a regime change. Saddam Hussein needs to be out of there. Were you a) Surprised that they are raising the bar and b) Are they doing this, is the administration doing this because no matter what Iraq does it will not meet the requirements in terms of disarming that will prevent a war from actually happening?"
MSNBC's Chris Matthews, whose Hardball show has fewer viewers than the cancelled Donahue had, went on a tear against President Bush, whom he described as "a kid," and others in the administration over their Iraq policy. Matthews charged on Friday's Imus in the Morning: "It's going to make every Arab kid grow up to hate our guts for the next thousand years."
Matthews argued that the policy has nothing to do with any danger posed by Iraq's arsenal. Instead, "it's about changing these governments around so that they play ball with us."
On Bush, Matthews bemoaned: "This kid has got religion, he goes to bed at 9:30, he doesn't drink, he's got God on his side, his family doesn't complain against him -- he's basically got the bit in his teeth and he's going to war, and the people around him aren't questioning it."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down some of what Matthews spewed on the February 28 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC:
-- "It looks like Bush 43 is going to go, he doesn't care. There's an interesting little item in the paper today about how Bush 41, the family as it's called, are concerned about going it alone, ripping apart the alliance that Bush Senior had going into Baghdad the first time, or going into Kuwait. I think they're worried about it, I'm worried about, but you know, this kid has got religion, he goes to bed at 9:30, he doesn't drink, he's got God on his side, his family doesn't complain against him -- he's basically got the bit in his teeth and he's going to war, and the people around him aren't questioning it. I think Colin Powell is aboard, Wolfowitz is out there, you know, almost like a fanatic saying, 'I don't even know how much the thing is going to cost, but we're going.' These guys are going to war and there's no way around it. At this point, they probably have to."
-- "Well, you know my gut, I've been against this war. They said it was anthrax, then they said they did '93, then they said they did 2001. They've got every excuse, it's like throw it against the wall and see if it sticks, and it's basically an attitude that the guys around the President are ideologues, they don't like despotisms, they want to go in there and knock off those Arab leaders, they want to change the Middle East around so it's peaceful and the Israelis can cut a better deal, and it's all about ideology and, to some extent Israel, but it's hardly any of it is about guns. I think the gun part of this thing has always been BS.
On the bright side, NBC Nightly News anchor John Seigenthaler on Saturday night suggested that the capture of al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed discredits an anti-Bush talking point used by liberals.
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed that in interviewing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the capture, Seigenthaler proposed on the March 1 broadcast: "As you know, the White House has been accused by some of paying more attention to Saddam Hussein and Iraq and not enough attention to the war on terror. Does this arrest change that debate?"
Indeed it does.
On Monday night's Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Carl Cameron looked at how Senator Joe Biden on Monday had to drop from a speech sections in which had criticized the Bush team for allowing Iraq to distract it from the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders." -- Brent Baker