2. Hussein Trial Could Prove "Embarrassing" for U.S., ABC Worries
3. Reuters Frets About Horrors of "Life Under U.S. Occupation"
4. Jennings Grants Hussein Capture Was "Triumph" of Good Over Evil
5. CBS's Storm Bids Biden to Expound on "Internationalizing" Iraq
6. "Top Ten Questions Asked by Saddam Hussein When He Was Captured"
ABC News suppressed its poll conducted after Saddam Hussein's capture which showed a ten point jump in approval for how President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq and a 4 point up tick in his overall approval rating, but NBC showcased on Monday's NBC Nightly News its survey finding that in the wake of Hussein's capture Bush's approval rating jumped by 6 points while his margin over Howard Dean expanded from 12 to 21 points.
Though the findings of the new ABC News/Washington Post poll were recounted in a story in Monday's Post, ABC's Peter Jennings didn't utter a syllable about them on Monday's World News Tonight or before or after Bush's 11:15am EST press conference which Jennings introduced and wrapped up. (Nor did Jennings cite any poll numbers when he anchored Sunday's World News Tonight or ABC's prime time special that night, both of which aired before the poll results were probably available.)
The only hint as to the good news for Bush came in a small graphic on screen for a few seconds on Monday's Good Morning America as Claire Shipman tried to diminish the impact of catching Hussein. She highlighted how "ABC News has a new poll out today that shows most Americans don't believe Saddam's capture means the job is done there" as she warned that if "if the situation isn't stabilized," the capture of Hussein "is not going to seem decisive for this administration."
As she was saying that, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, GMA put up a picture of a bearded Hussein which filled three-fourths the screen with the left-hand fourth showing a graphic citing a single poll number from an "ABC News/Washington Post poll" on "President Bush's Approval Rating," listing it at 58 percent after Saddam's capture compared with 48 percent in mid-November. In fact, the numbers were for approval of how Bush is handling the situation in Iraq.
(Shipman in full. During the 8am half hour discussion with Charlie Gibson about the political implications of Saddam's capture for President Bush, Shipman observed: "And look, this is a personal victory and a political coup for President Bush, but interestingly, Americans are still very cautious. ABC News has a new poll out today that shows most Americans don't believe Saddam's capture means the job is done there; in fact, far from it. So I think six months from now, if you still see exploding violence there, if the situation isn't stabilized, Saddam's victory [sic] is not going to seem decisive for this administration.")
In that morning's Washington Post, reporter Claudia Deane recounted how a "Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted yesterday" found that "President Bush received immediate credit for his handling of the situation in Iraq, with his approval rating in that area jumping to 58 percent, from 48 percent in mid-November." Deane added in her December 15 story that "Bush's overall job approval rating in the Post-ABC News survey was 57 percent, 4 percentage points up from a survey conducted last week and the same as this time last month."
Deane also explained: "The Post-ABC poll was conducted yesterday afternoon and evening among a randomly selected sample of 506 adults nationwide. The margin of sampling error for results is plus or minus five percentage points." For the article: www.washingtonpost.com
NBC wasn't so reluctant to reveal the results of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey which documented a bump in support for President Bush on Sunday over Saturday. Tim Russert came aboard Monday's NBC Nightly News to run through the findings with anchor Tom Brokaw who cautioned that the fresh numbers represented only a "snapshot" of the public mood in the hours after the news of Hussein's capture.
The pollsters were in the midst of taking the poll when the news broke, so they compared their numbers from those surveyed on Saturday with what answers they got with those reached on Sunday. On whether the nation is "heading in right direction," that jumped from 41 percent on Saturday to 56 percent on Sunday, Russert noted, with "on the wrong track" falling from 48 percent to 30 percent.
Bush's job approval, Russert relayed, went up 6 points on Sunday, moving from 52 percent to 58 percent while his disapproval fell from 41 to 34 percent.
Russert soon got to the Bush versus Dean head-to-head numbers: "George W. Bush versus Howard Dean. On Saturday, it was 51 to 39. On Sunday, 52 to 31. Eight percent of Dean support drifted away from him after the capture of Saddam Hussein. As you've been saying all program long, these are only snapshots of Saturday and Sunday. It's very volatile. A lot of things can change. But that's where we are tonight."
For MSNBC.com's article summarizing the poll results: msnbc.msn.com
[Web Update, December 23: The following week, on Monday night December 22, with Peter Jennings on vacation, World News Tonight acknowledged a new ABC News/Washington Post survey which found a rise in Bush's approval rating.
Substitute anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced on the December 22 World News Tonight: "A new ABC News/Washington Post poll today has some very positive news for President Bush. His overall approval rating is 59 percent, the highest it's been since the summer."
From the White House, Terry Moran reported: "Some good news for the President in our poll. For first time since April, our poll finds more Americans approve than disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy, by a margin of 51 to 44 percent." But, Moran added, Bush got a "poor grade" on the deficit with a 52 percent disapproval to 44 percent approval rating on that topic.
Vargas then noted how "63 percent of those polled said it doesn't matter if the U.S. ever finds weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's good news for the President since the search there continues to come up empty." Moran proceeded to run through how 59 percent expressed the view the war in Iraq was worth fighting, up 7 percent from November, and 62 percent believe the war has contributed to U.S. long-term security. Moran wrapped up by pointing out that though Democratic presidential candidates are feeding off anger at Bush, only 12 percent in the poll said they are "angry" at Bush.
For the ABCNews.com summary of the poll conducted Dec. 18-21: abcnews.go.com
For the Tuesday Washington Post story: www.washingtonpost.com]
ABC worried again about how a trial for Saddam Hussein could prove "embarrassing for the United States" because "we supported him for so long" and "gave him some of the instruments that he used to terrorize his own people."
That concern on Monday from Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson came 24 hours after his colleague, Terry Moran, expressed the same sentiment from a snowy White House lawn. As recounted in the December 15 CyberAlert, barely an hour after Paul Bremer had announced the capture of Saddam Hussein, Moran reminded viewers how "Secretary Rumsfeld was over in Baghdad meeting with Saddam Hussein years ago" and "there are allegations that the United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war. And all that could spill out in a big show trial." For more on ABC's approach on Sunday morning: www.mediaresearch.org
Does Peter Jennings follow Reuters in coming up with a negative/European elite spin or is it the other way around? It's often hard to tell. But on Sunday and Monday it looks like Reuters followed Jennings.
During ABC's Sunday night prime time special on the capture of Saddam Hussein, Jennings declared that "there's not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power."
The next morning, Reuters correspondent Joseph Logan opened a dispatch from Baghdad: "Joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein gave way to resentment toward Washington Monday as Iraqis confronted afresh the bloodshed, shortages and soaring prices of life under U.S. occupation." Logan went on to quote an Iraqi building contractor who charged: "The only difference is that Saddam would kill you in private, where the Americans will kill you in public."
FNC's Brit Hume on Monday night highlighted the Jennings quote in his "Grapevine" segment with the on-screen text of Jennings' words crediting the MRC: "As quoted by Media Research Center, Dec. 15." For the matching CyberAlert item: www.mediaresearch.org
For the Reuters article, dated 5:03am ET on December 15, "Saddam Arrest Cheer Fades Into Iraqi Ire at U.S.," see: story.news.yahoo.com
Peter Jennings conceded that the capture of Saddam Hussein represented the "triumph" of good over evil. On Monday's World News Tonight, he acknowledged: "There are moments in history when good triumphs over evil and this was clearly one of them."
Naturally, however, Jennings felt compelled to ad a caveat: "But no one believes it will mean an end to the war and the violence continued in Iraq today."
The day after the Bush foreign policy team had a major success in Iraq, CBS's Hannah Storm brought on a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, but instead of quizzing Senator Joe Biden about how maybe his views are misguided, she simply prompted him to elaborate on how the capture of Saddam Hussein presents an opportunity to pursue Biden's quest to "internationalize" the effort. She also fretted about how Russia and France have "been excluded as of last week from bidding on these large contracts in postwar Iraq, so, what is their motivation, why get in the game now?"
Storm set up the segment on the December 15 Early Show: "There is a growing chorus on Capitol Hill now urging the Bush administration to use Saddam Hussein's capture as an opportunity to internationalize the war effort in Iraq. And one of those voices belongs to Sen. Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee."
Storm's leading questions, as taken down by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd:
-- "You have long been calling for NATO involvement in Iraq. What makes you confident that now the Bush Administration will reach out to these other countries. Do you think this capture will be a catalyst for that?"
-- "And yet we have these nations who oppose the war like France and Germany and Russia, they've all been excluded as of last week from bidding on these large contracts in postwar Iraq, so, what is their motivation, why get in the game now? Does Saddam's capture change that landscape at all?"
-- "Well, you have said this is a great opportunity for the United States to demonstrate to the world why the US was involved in this war with Iraq. But to do so, Saddam's crimes would have to be exposed in a very effective manner. So what sort of tribunal or trial are you going to support and propose?"
-- "You have called for more U.S. troops to enter into Iraq. What about this capture now? Does that change?"
From the December 15 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions Asked by Saddam Hussein When He Was Captured." Late Show Web page: www.cbs.com
10. "Be honest...have you ever seen a nicer spider hole than this?"
9. "Who's got a coat hanger -- this beard itches like a son of a bitch!"
8. "Anyone have a mint?"
7. "Is this about the illegal music downloads?"
6. "Am I going to be on 'Cops'?"
5. "Which describes me better right now -- 'haggard' or 'grizzled'?"
4. "How did you get past my impenetrable styrofoam brick?"
3. "Do I get the 25-million-dollar reward?"
2. "How's the war going?"
1. "Will you go easy on me if I tell you where Martha Stewart is hiding?"
Tonight on the Late Show: ABC's Barbara Walter.
# President Bush on ABC Tonight: ABC will air a Prime Time "Special Event" Tuesday night at 8pm EST/PST, 7pm CST/MST, featuring a Diane Sawyer interview with Bush taped earlier in the day.
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-- Brent Baker