2. CBS's Schieffer Names "Best Line," Frets "No Great Initiatives"
3. NBC Dubs Ashcroft "Keeper of Patriot Act," Regurgitates '99 Quiz
4. CNN: "Remarkably Combative Speech," Patriot Act Vow a "Red Flag"
5. On FNC, Kondracke Laments Tax Cuts Over Big New Health Care Plan
6. Olbermann Equates Bush List of Iraq Coalition with Dean's Rant
7. Letterman's Mock Iowa PSA: "Nominee Loses to Bush in Landslide"
8. MSNBC's Nachman Passes Away, Recognized Media's Liberal Bias
9. "Top Ten Howard Dean Excuses"
State of the Union coverage: ABC News. Like NBC, ABC not only aired the Democratic response from Senator Tom Daschle and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, but also featured a segment with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Peter Jennings hit him with a question from the left which could be considered both anti-Kerry and anti-Bush, how a student in Iowa argued that since Kerry voted for the Patriot Act and the Iraq war resolution, "if you support John Kerry for President you might as well stay home on election day as Bush is already doing a good job of leading America into a war and shredding the Constitution."
Toward the end of ABC's two-hours, Jennings asserted that "beyond all of the lofty phraseology on which speechwriters work so vigorously, tonight there were a huge number of hot button issues which are going to be the basis of a very, very potentially angry political campaign." Jennings also mimicked what he stressed on Monday night, how a new poll shows most people "think the Democrats in the Congress are doing better with the economy."
Later, on Nightline, Ted Koppel lamented that "if the President is afflicted by any doubts on the progress of the war in Iraq, he gave no evidence of it. He hammered away at a number of issues that are red meat for his conservative constituency."
The details of the lowlights from ABC's 9-11pm EST coverage:
-- Right after Bush completed his address, Jennings commented: "An extremely confident President of the United States on his third State of the Union address..."
-- Following the official Democratic response, Kerry appeared via satellite from someone's kitchen in Concord, New Hampshire. After asking him what's wrong with Bush's upbeat view of the nation's condition, Jennings recited a letter he saw written by a far-left student:
-- A few minutes before 11pm EST, Jennings observed: "I want to get a final comment from George Stephanopoulos here in Washington in part, George, because the State of the Union Address has a certain majesty as I said earlier no matter who the President is, but beyond all of the lofty phraseology on which speechwriters work so vigorously, tonight there were a huge number of hot button issues which are going to be the basis of a very, very potentially angry political campaign."
As noted in Tuesday's CyberAlert, the ABC poll found Bush has the highest approval rating, at this point in a presidency, since Eisenhower.
-- On Nightline, before interviewing Wesley Clark followed by Leon Panetta and Ken Duberstein, Koppel rued: "George W. Bush was self-confident and self-assured in his delivery this evening. If the President is afflicted by any doubts on the progress of the war in Iraq, he gave no evidence of it. He hammered away at a number of issues that are red meat for his conservative constituency -- making income tax reductions permanent, extending the Patriot Act, to name just a couple."
State of the Union coverage: CBS News. Dan Rather saw an omnipotent President Bush as he asserted that "he and his party control not only the executive branch, but also through elections by the people, both houses of the legislative branch, and some would say also the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court." Bob Schieffer thought that Bush's "best line" was about how "we'll never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." But, Schieffer fretted, the speech offered "no great initiatives" -- read spending boondoggles -- so it fell a "little bit flat." Rather wrapped up CBS's 92 minutes of coverage by reciting the attacks on Bush by Democratic presidential candidates, including how Howard Dean who charged: "Hard-working Americans will see through this President's effort to wrap his radical agenda with a compassionate ribbon."
(The highlight on CBS for the night may have come after CBS News signed off at 10:32pm EST, 28 minutes earlier than ABC and NBC. CBS went to its Two and a Half Men sit-com and viewers were treated to an opening scene of a ten-year-old boy getting to see the bare buttocks and red thong panties of his father's roommate's girlfriend as her T-shirt rode up when she reached for a bowl in the kitchen. Quite the public interest priority.)
Details on the highlights quoted above from CBS's 92 minutes:
-- Dan Rather as Bush made his way across the House floor following his address: "Sustained standing applause for President George W. Bush after a strong speech, strongly delivered by a confident President and party leader beginning his drive for reelection. And why would he not be confident? He and his party control not only the executive branch, but also through elections by the people, both houses of the legislative branch, and some would say also the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court. Plus at least the present prospects for his party are, it has an excellent chance to not only win the election to presidency but also to increase the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House and to make more Republican appointments to the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal court system. So the rhetorical question, why would he not be confident?"
Who has confidence that David Souter will instill conservative values?
Bob Schieffer soon remarked: "I thought his best line, for me anyway, was when he said we'll never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people. But tonight's speech, very businesslike, very well-delivered. But again, when there are no great initiatives being proposed, should I say perhaps a little bit flat in contrast to some of the speeches we've heard from this President in times past."
John Roberts echoed Schieffer: "And I agree with Bob that I think one of the best lines of the night was that zinger that he threw not only at France and Germany, but also at Howard Dean when he said he wouldn't seek permission to defend the security of our people. You'll recall that Howard Dean in the campaign trail not too long ago said before he went to war in Iraq he would have sought the permission of the United Nations, to which the White House at that point had said, 'I'm not quite exactly what country Howard Dean would be President of, but the United States should not be asking permission to defend the homeland.'"
-- At 10:30pm EST, immediately after the Democratic response, Rather wrapped up coverage by recounting candidate attacks on Bush: "Now, the President in his State of the Union Address emphasized his main messages, which included, 'The nation remains at war with terrorists and must see the fight through to the end.' Also the President argued the economy is getting better, his tax cuts should become permanent.' John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts, who's trying to get the Democratic nomination for President said tonight, and I quote, 'He,' President Bush, 'is not making America safer,' basically argued there's been too much emphasis on Iraq. Howard Dean, the Vermont Governor who's also trying to get this Democratic presidential nomination, said, quote, 'Hard-working Americans will see through this President's effort to wrap his radical agenda with a compassionate ribbon,' that's a quote. And former General Wesley Clark said, and I quote him, 'It's all smoke and mirrors designed to hide the stark fact that he has no real plan for our future.' There has been no comment yet from Senator John Edwards, who finished second in Iowa."
State of the Union coverage: NBC News. Tom Brokaw dubbed John Ashcroft "the keeper of the Patriot Act." NBC featured not only the Daschle/Pelosi Democratic response, but in its two hours the peacock network brought aboard both John Kerry and Wesley Clark, but Brokaw challenged Clark on his record of supporting the war last year and corrected him when he cited Bush's claim of an "imminent" threat. Brokaw pointed out how the "phrase he used was not an 'imminent threat' but a 'gathering threat.'" Later, Brokaw interviewed Newt Gingrich and quizzed him about soaring spending under Bush. In a taped piece reviewing Bush's three years in office, David Gregory regurgitated how in 1999 Bush "failed a reporter's pop quiz on the names of world leaders."
The details on two of those items from NBC's 9-11pm EST coverage:
-- As cabinet members walked into the House chamber just after 9pm EST, Brokaw remarked: "No need to introduce Don Rumsfeld, one of the best-known members of this cabinet or any cabinet in recent memory. John Ashcroft, the Attorney General, coming in right behind him, the keeper of the Patriot Act."
-- David Gregory provided a fairly balanced story on various views of Bush's performance in office, but he gratuitously brought up that late 1999 "quiz" given to Bush by Boston TV reporter Andy Hiller: "Four years ago the Governor of Texas, who had barely seen the world, and who had failed a reporter's pop quiz on the names of world leaders, had no idea his presidency would be defined by his place on the world stage."
As NBC put up a picture of each leader, Gregory played the video from November 1999:
State of the Union coverage: CNN. Post-speech CNN's reporters portrayed an unproductively combative Bush. Aaron Brown commented about how he was "struck by the President's decision to put that Patriot Act paragraph so high in the speech" given that's "a flag as red as the President's tie." Paula Zahn observed how when he "cited the David Kay report, who he said identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related programs," and concealment from the UN, Senator Ted Kennedy "was grimacing." Joe Klein insisted that "the foreign policy section of the speech was surprisingly defensive." Klein complained that Bush "talked about the Democrats as if they were just a bunch of lawyers. He said, 'they view terrorism more as a crime problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments.' This was a remarkably combative speech."
CNN sandwiched Senator Ted Kennedy between Bush's address and the Democratic response with Wolf Blitzer featuring Kennedy from Statuary Hall immediately before the Democratic response began: "We saw you throughout the speech sometimes grimacing, sometimes, Senator, not very happy. What's your bottom line reaction to what you heard from the President?"
More about the Brown/Zahn/Greenfield/Klein exchange just after Bush finished his address, as caught by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd:
Zahn: "Last year in his State of the Union Address, the President showed he was willing to go to war with Saddam Hussein. Well, this year, the President made it abundantly clear he is prepared to go to battle with the Democrats...."
Brown: "I was a little struck by the President's decision to put that Patriot Act paragraph so high in the speech. That's a flag as red as the President's tie in the national debate that's about to unfold. Jeff, am I off point here?"
State of the Union coverage: FNC. Mort Kondracke of Roll Call bemoaned "how little there was in the way of compassionate conservative new agenda stuff" since Bush's health care plan would "only cover five million of the 43 million uninsured people in this country." Kondracke complained that "if you can afford a $1.8 trillion extension of the existing tax cuts over a ten-year period, you can afford $100 billion or $200 billion" for a health care program, prompting anchor Brit Hume to explain that tax cuts allow "people to keep their money. The kind of programs you're talking about are where you take the people's money away from them and then you spend it."
The exchange, from a few minutes after Bush completed his address, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
State of the Union coverage: MSNBC. Before Bush's address Keith Olbermann sarcastically asked: "Is it likelier that we will find actual weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's pants than it is that we will find that phrase in Mr. Bush's fourth State of the Union address?" Olbermann also wondered how Bush could "trumpet an economy recovery when 39 percent of Americans fear they or a family member may lose their jobs this year." Two hours after Bush finished up, Olbermann argued that Bush's calm listing of nations helping the U.S. in Iraq reminded him of Howard Dean's "growling" about winning in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Wall Street Journal reporter John Harwood contended Bush "was just about as empty as Howard Dean."
In between, at about 10pm EST, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Chris Matthews took on Bush from the right: "A lot of conservatives, a lot of right-to-life people would say not having a right-to-life commitment in there is leaving a child behind. Howard [Fineman], isn't that an amazing statement to drop that from a conservative Republican's agenda?"
More on Olbermann's advocacy:
-- Opening the 8pm EST, pre-speech Countdown show: "Good evening. George W. Bush's third State of the Union address was centered on Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction. One year later, one hour from now, perhaps 'the' question: Is it likelier that we will find actual weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's pants than it is that we will find that phrase in Mr. Bush's fourth State of the Union address. Our fifth story on the Countdown tonight, the President's balancing acts. How to register victory in a war without mentioning the primary argument for that war. And how to trumpet an economy recovery when 39 percent of Americans fear they or a family member may lose their jobs this year?"
-- At the top of the 12am EST edition, Olbermann played this clip from Bush's speech: "To our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, The Netherlands [pause for applause] Norway, El Salvador and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq."
Olbermann sarcastically quipped to Wall Street Journal reporter John Harwood: "John, maybe it's just me, but when I heard that, I could not help but hear in my head, Howard Dean growling New Hampshire and South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Could the President's reading of those names possibly have had anything to do with Dean last night?"
The news media may be excited by the surprise victory of John Kerry in Iowa, animated by the Democratic contest and eager to highlight polls showing weak numbers for President Bush, but a comedy feature on Monday's Late Show with David Letterman on CBS suggests the wider, less political culture doesn't assume Bush is so weak or Democrats so popular. The show featured a mock public service announcement explaining how the Iowa caucus system works ("voters arrive at designated sites," "groups are formed" by candidate preference and delegates are appointed to go to a convention to pick the nominee.) But it ended with this zinger: "And finally, that nominee loses to Bush in a landslide."
MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down what the announcer said over matching video in the fake ad featured on the January 19 Late Show, which was taped before Monday's caucuses took place:
Not so sure on the accuracy of the description of the process, but a humorous last line.
Jerry Nachman, the Editor-in-Chief of MSNBC who sadly passed away Monday night at age 57 after a battle with cancer, recognized the major media have a liberal bias and occasionally reminded his colleagues of it. In an op-ed for the New York Times in 2000, Nachman maintained: "What's not new is that most newspeople are Democrats, even liberals....What is new is that newsies no longer try to keep their politics personal." In late 2002, he blamed liberal bias for the media "pile-on" against Roger Ailes for offering some post September 11th terrorist attack advice to President Bush when the media hardly reacted at all to revelations about how CNN President Rick Kaplan stayed overnight in Clinton's White House.
Nachman, who had a long media career which included running the news operations at WCBS-TV and WNBC-TV in New York City, serving as the top editor at the New York Post and putting in a stint as Executive Producer of ABC's Politically Incorrect, ended his career at MSNBC where he hosted a show during the latter half of 2002 and since had been a regular fixture offering analysis on a variety of MSNBC shows.
Upon the launch of his 7pm EST MSNBC show, the July 15, 2002 CyberAlert reported: "In a New York Times piece on August 13, 2000, the day before the Democratic convention opened in Los Angeles, Nachman, then Executive Producer of ABC's Politically Incorrect, expounded on his belief that most journalists are liberals. An excerpt:
My phone is pulsating like a blender. The calls are from my press buddies. They're all coming, you know, to cover the Democrats. Years ago we'd be talking pegs, angles. Who's gonna defect in some platform fight? What caucus will Reagan try to charm to steal the nomination from Ford? Will Jesse apologize tomorrow night for the Hymietown thing? Dukakis definitely won't pick Bentsen; I got it nailed.
This week the calls are about whether I can get them into the Playboy Mansion soiree and, hey, you're in TV, what about that Streisand thing? Are you, like, going? I'm relieved. Better they're talking parties than politics.
When they talk politics I get irritated. Because most of the media coming to L.A. should wear delegate badges rather than press passes. What's not new is that most newspeople are Democrats, even liberals. One accepted study reported that 91 percent of journalists polled voted for Bill Clinton in 1992; 43 percent of their fellow Americans did so that year.
What is new is that newsies no longer try to keep their politics personal. There was a time when journalists held their political cards very close to the vest. But now they share.
I remember returning to WCBS-TV in New York in the fall of 1994 to run the news department. Election Day arrived, and a Republican was elected governor. The next day the newsroom was in emotional shambles. Remember, most of them are kids. New York governors had been Cuomo or Carey for all the memory they had. Rockefeller was the name of a skating rink.
The kids were keening. I thought I had walked into some large, collective shiva call. The staff was bereft. Those Republican guys, they explained with bewilderment and fear, had, like, taken over the Senate and the House, too. I think I heard a chorus of "Kumbaya" somewhere near the water cooler; I'm all but certain someone shouted "Oh, the humanity!" over by the assignment desk.
The staff shuffled into my office to be consoled. Many of them believed me to be avuncular, another misperception I would have to work on. "Children," I began, "it is true that a Republican is the governor-elect of New York." Someone sniffled. I flipped a box of tissues in his direction. "But you must remember that so are the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut and New Jersey and California." I pointed out that Republicans had occupied the White House for 28 of the prior 42 years.
There was a collective gasp: they had no idea aliens had landed in so many places....
END of Excerpt of Nachman's New York Times op-ed
And an excerpt from the November 21, 2002 CyberAlert:
MSNBC's Jerry Nachman criticized the media "pile-on" against Roger Ailes for offering some post September 11th terrorist attack advice to President Bush when the media hardly reacted at all to revelations about how CNN President Rick Kaplan stayed overnight in Clinton's White House....
During MSNBC's 4pm EST Lester Holt Live on Tuesday [November 19], MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Holt picked up on what Nachman was saying and asked Nachman, who was a guest on the show: "Well, let's cut to the chase. Is this the liberal media at work that Roger Ailes complains about?"
Nachman, who is Editor-in-Chief of MSNBC, confirmed: "In a word, yes. I really believe that. I believe that given his example that the former President of CNN spent nights, not in the Lincoln bedroom but in some other bedroom, some Motel 6 bedroom of the White House, why wasn't there the pile-on? Why weren't there the columns we see today in the New York Times and in all the papers around the country?"
Earlier in the day, Nachman, who seems to sometimes appear on every MSNBC show, informed Pat Buchanan and Bill Press: "I can tell you from personal experience that other news division Presidents' bosses were hanging out with Clinton in Hollywood and, believe me, it's human nature, as Pat and Bill will say, that if a guy in a job like that says, 'What do you think?' you answer."
END of Excerpt of previous CyberAlert
I never met or talked to Nachman, but it seems like he was a sensible guy.
For MSNBC's tribute to him, with a picture to remind you of who he was: msnbc.msn.com
From the January 20 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Howard Dean Excuses." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "The Iowans turned it into a popularity contest"
9. "People don't seem to find shouting 'Presidential'"
8. "Weekend before the caucus, wasted 55 crucial hours marrying Britney Spears"
7. "By mistake, campaigned in Ohio"
6. "Due to fatigue on campaign trail, kissed hands and shook babies"
5. "Dennis Kucinich stole one percent of my vote"
4. "Saddam Hussein endorsement didn't help"
3. "In retrospect, shouldn't have opened speeches with 'Yo Mama' jokes"
2. "Bad idea to keep asking self, 'What would Dukakis do?'"
1. "Majority of voter base stayed home to watch 'My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé'"
-- Brent Baker, with Brad Wilmouth and Ken Shepherd on the night team