ABC Indicates Successful, Safe Election Means 'End' to Iraq War --2/3/2009
2. Lauer to Obama: Are You Worried About a Gitmo 'Willie Horton?'
3. ABC's Sawyer to McCain: 'Are You Offended' by Rush Limbaugh?
4. Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth Cheers Obama's Cabinet on Today
5. After Being Dead Wrong, NYT's DeParle Hits Welfare Reform Again
An epochal media moment Monday night on ABC's World News? In an upbeat story about the election in Iraq "with virtually no violence," reporter Jim Sciutto raised the possibility the war is now over -- just in time to enable President Barack Obama to fulfill his promise to reduce troop levels -- as Sciutto asked a member of Iraq's parliament: "Is this the end of the war?" Mahmoud Othman cautiously predicted: "If the Iraqi leaders could get together and work together sincerely, yes, this could be the end of the war."
Anchor Charles Gibson set up the story by asserting the Saturday elections "mark a major turning point in the Iraqi effort to move forward and the U.S. desire to pull back." Sciutto began with a woman who agreed with his premise "Iraq is ready to move on without the Americans." Sciutto described how "almost every day there's another handover from American to Iraqi authority" and that "it was Iraqi soldiers who kept polling stations remarkably safe" while check points "used to be manned by American soldiers. Today, they are almost exclusively Iraqi security forces."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Transcript of the piece on the Monday, February 2 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Overseas next, to Iraq, where it will take several days before results are in from Saturday's provincial elections. Just over half of the eligible voters turned out for the election which mark a major turning point in the Iraqi effort to move forward and the U.S. desire to pull back. Here's our senior foreign correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
JIM SCIUTTO: As Iraqis voted to decide their future, it was clear many were also putting America in the past. More confident in their leaders and themselves.
In a portion of Matt Lauer's interview with Barack Obama from the White House not aired before the Super Bowl, but aired on Monday's Today show, Lauer asked the President about the release of a Guantanamo prisoner coming back to haunt him. However Lauer couched the question in not public safety, but political terms, as he asked the President: "If one of those people that's released goes back and takes part in the planning of, or carrying out of, an attack against U.S. interests, you're gonna have a Willie Horton times 100 situation." In other words Lauer bypassed asking how upset the President would be if a released Guantanamo prisoner killed U.S. citizens, and went right to how worried Obama would be if Republicans made a Willie Horton like ad, featuring the terrorist, to hurt him politically.
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange was aired in the 7am half hour of the February 2 Today show:
MATT LAUER: Let me go on quickly, if I can, to some other subjects. You signed an executive order in your first week, that says you'll close the military detention center at Guantanamo within a year. So the clock is ticking. And already you've heard the criticism that you don't know what you're gonna do with the 245 prisoners being held there?
To read about Lauer's interview with Obama aired right before the Super Bowl see the February 2 CyberAlert item, "Lauer Empathizes with Obama Over 'Sobering' Intel Briefings," at: www.mrc.org
Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer on Monday repeatedly pressed Senator John McCain to attack Rush Limbaugh's assertion that he hopes Barack Obama's liberal policies fail. After playing a selectively edited clip that implied racial overtones and left out all context of what the radio host meant, Sawyer challenged: "Are you offended by what he said?"
A few seconds earlier, editing together two separate clips of Limbaugh, the GMA host played a misleading, racially-suggestive soundbite of the conservative star: "[From January 16 on radio] I don't need 400 words. I need four. I hope he fails. [From Fox News January 21 interview.] We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds. Because his father was black. Because this is the first black president. We've got to accept this." (More on the selective editing in a CNSNews.com post, "Rush Limbaugh Wants Obama to 'Fail' for Racial Reasons, ABC's Diane Sawyer Suggests," at: www.cnsnews.com )
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Sawyer then challenged the former GOP presidential nominee. "So, he says he hopes the Obama presidency fails. What do you say to Rush Limbaugh," she wondered. McCain refused to take the bait and simply asserted that all Americans hope the President can get the economy moving. Not getting the answer Sawyer was looking for, the journalist followed up: "One more try here. But, do you hope the President succeeds?" The GMA host closed out the line of questioning by pressing McCain as to whether he was "offended" by Limbaugh. The Arizona Senator also appeared on CBS's The Early Show and was asked no such question.
In contrast to the conservative radio host, Sawyer offered McCain just one question on Tom Daschle, Obama's Health and Human Services nominee. Daschle is under fire for owing three years and $140,000 of back taxes. (He's since paid them.) The ABC host simply queried: "The Senate is getting ready to consider in earnest the tax problems of former Senator Daschle who is going to be nominated for the vital issues of health care. Have his apologies satisfied you? Would you vote for him?" She certainly didn't wonder if McCain was offended by Daschle's failure to pay taxes. (Reporter Jake Tapper did cover this story in another segment, but this was the only question Sawyer offered on the subject.)
A transcript of the February 2 segment, which aired at 7:10am:
DIANE SAWYER: Just a few moments ago we were joined by a major Republican player in the stimulus package and, of course, in the loyal opposition, as he says, Senator John McCain of Arizona. And good morning, Senator McCain. Great to have you with us again. And, oh, it was close last night. It was so close.
NBC's Matt Lauer invited Vanity Fair's Maureen Orth on Monday's Today show to promote her magazine's cover story on Barack Obama and the special correspondent celebrated the new President's incoming Cabinet as she cheered: "They have big plans to green the economy. The Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Interior say, 'This is our moon shot.'" The easily impressed Orth then went on to say government is back in vogue as she crowed: "If you noticed the last eight years...the conservative philosophy is that governs best which governs least. And now people feel it's more of a time for government to intervene and so they can start trying things."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange was aired during the 8am half hour of this morning's Today show:
MATT LAUER: You got to talk to several members of this group. Before we talk about them as individuals, as a group, what struck you?
Veteran New York Times reporter Jason DeParle criticized welfare reform on Monday's front page, but has opposed it from the start: In 1996 he accused Bill Clinton of "seeking re-election with a bill that begrudges poor infants their Pampers." DeParle garnered Monday's lead story slot with an investigation into how the U.S. welfare system, which went through enormous changes in 1996 after President Clinton signed a bill replacing cash entitlement with work requirements and time limits, is functioning state by state during tough economic times ("Welfare Aid Failing to Grow as Economy Lags)."
But DeParle might not be the most objective teller of this particular tale -- his reporting has always been opposed to the welfare reform bill pushed by the GOP and signed by Clinton. At the time, he called it "a bill that begrudges poor infants their Pampers" and warned of more homelessness, drug use, prostitution, and abortions, none of which came to pass.
[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Monday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
DeParle doesn't acknowledge that in his story, which began:
Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.
The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.
The deepening recession offers a fresh challenge to the program, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 amid bitter protest and became one of the most closely watched social experiments in modern memory.
The program, which mostly serves single mothers, ended a 60-year-old entitlement to cash aid, replacing it with time limits and work requirements, and giving states latitude to discourage people from joining the welfare rolls. While it was widely praised in the boom years that followed, skeptics warned it would fail the needy when times turned tough.
Supporters of the program say the flat caseloads may reflect a lag between the loss of a job and the decision to seek help. They also say the recession may have initially spared the low-skilled jobs that many poor people take.
But critics argue that years of pressure to cut the welfare rolls has left an obstacle-ridden program that chases off the poor, even when times are difficult.
Even some of the program's staunchest defenders are alarmed.
Later, DeParle uncovered excuses for welfare reform's success:
Born from Mr. Clinton's pledge to "end welfare as we know it," the new program brought furious protests from people who predicted the poor would suffer. Then millions of people quickly left the rolls, employment rates rose and child poverty plunged.
But the economy of the late 1990s was unusually strong, and even then critics warned that officials placed too much stress on caseload reduction. With benefits harder to get, a small but growing share of families was left with neither welfare nor work and fell deeper into destitution.
END of Excerpt
The February 2 article: www.nytimes.com
DeParle sprinkled his story with labeling bias, as two liberal pro-welfare groups, the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, were simply called "research and advocacy" groups, while the center-left Brookings Institution received no label. Yet pro-reform Robert Rector was described (in paragraph 39 of the 40-paragraph story) as "an analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington who is influential with conservative policy makers."
DeParle feared the passage of Clinton-era welfare reform back in 1996. In his July 28, 1996 Times Week in Review story "Get a Job -- The New Contract With America's Poor," DeParle warned:
The risk is that it may also end poverty as we know it. By making it even worse....But the weight of the evidence suggests that most either cannot or will not lift themselves from poverty in an economy where, for more than two decades, the bottom has been dropping out for low-skilled workers. In a nation that already has the highest child poverty rates in the industrialized world the poor may indeed get poorer. And more numerous and desperate as well...If he signs the measure as it is, President Clinton will appear to have fulfilled his famous pledge about ending welfare. In truth, he will have abandoned the vision that animated the slogan. Having sought office with the aim of a redefined social contract -- health care for every American -- he will be seeking re-election with a bill that begrudges poor infants their Pampers....No doubt the harsh reality of an empty stomach will cause some people to do better. Some may indeed get jobs and marry, as [Fla. Rep. Clay] Shaw predicts. Others may turn to prostitution or the drug trade. Or cling to abusive boyfriends. Or have more abortions. Or abandon their children. Or camp out on the streets and beg.
DeParle was not prescient, to put it mildly: For one, abortion rates continued to decline even after welfare reform was passed.
1996 piece: query.nytimes.com
For the latest on bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker