After Discrediting McCain, Williams Again Cozies Up to Obama --10/31/2008
2. Chris Matthews 'Overwhelmed' by Sight of Obama with Bill Clinton
3. Round & Round Candidates Go, It's 'Conservative' Wherever They Go
4. Elizabeth Vargas Grills Palin on Competence and Obama's Patriotism
5. Schieffer: Obama Infomercial Like Reagan's 'Morning in America'
6. WaPost: Infomercial 'Poetic and Practical, Spiritual & Sensible'
7. Diane Sawyer Touts More Taxes for 'Disproportionately Advantaged'
8. Today Show Features Cher Endorsing Obama and Bashing Bush
A week after NBC's Brian Williams spent his time with John McCain and Sarah Palin in Ohio discrediting the accuracy of their claims and pushing for assurance their campaign wouldn't mention Jeremiah Wright, Williams on Thursday night in Florida returned to the same cozy approach with Barack Obama, though without the memories of mom, he employed in earlier interviews with the Democratic candidate. After declaring Obama's campaign is "fueled by the urgent fight to fix the economy," Williams cited fresh bad economic news before cuing up Obama: "How do you tailor your message to this crowd? Is there more pain before there's a gain?"
His other three questions in the first excerpt run on Thursday's NBC Nightly News (with more to come Friday night) also didn't challenge any of Obama's claims or attacks, nor raise any detracting information: "Why did it take so long for Bill Clinton to join you for a rally like the one we saw here in Florida last night?" Then two questions which seemed to presume Obama will soon take office: "Does America need American car companies? Is three too many? Two too few? And on top of the billions already spent, what's it worth to you, if the answer is yes?" And lastly, a long question about litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees and if you don't apply one "how then do you also avoid surprises?"
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
(ABC's Charles Gibson managed to raise a broken Obama promise, as he set up a brief interview excerpt on Thursday's World News: "Last night's broadcast of Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial, that was on three networks and four cable outlets, it drew an audience of more than33 million viewers. The ad reportedly cost $3 million, and I asked Obama yesterday when we spoke whether he was able to afford that ad because he broke his promise to take public campaign financing.")
In contrast to how Williams treated Obama, last week with McCain and Palin he hit them with hostile questions, such as:
# Did this campaign get out of your control? And here's what I mean: A lot of people who know you well saw you take that microphone from that woman in Wisconsin and for the first time in a long time they said, "there, that's John McCain."
# You mention Senator Biden's comment the other day about, a new President and a test of the new President's mettle, one of your very closest friends in the Senate, Joe Lieberman said on Face the Nation quote, "our enemies will test the new President early. And it has happened throughout modern history."...When he says the new President will be tested, though, I'm missing how that's different from Senator Lieberman saying quote "our enemies will test the new President early."
# Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you especially, you Senator McCain, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and Governor, respectfully, the heart of his quote, about Governor Palin, Senator McCain, "I don't believe she's ready to be President of the United States which is the job of Vice President. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made." When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction, saying basically we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate?
# Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the '60s terrorists under this definition? Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under this definition, Governor?
# Are you going to keep your promise not to involve Reverend Wright in the campaign?
For more on those interviews, check: "Williams Hits McCain & Palin with Powell's Charge She's Unqualified," at: www.mrc.org
And: "Williams Pushes McCain & Palin on Ayers, Avoid Wright, Define 'Elite,'" at: www.mrc.org
Compare the tone of his McCain interview session with his approach to Obama earlier this year, as recounted in "Williams Tosses Softballs to Obama, Empathizes Over Elitist Image," the May 9 CyberAlert item:
Brian Williams, who slobbered over Barack Obama in their last interview in early January, did so again in a Thursday session conducted at Washington, DC's Newseum and excerpted on the NBC Nightly News. Back on January 7, Williams handed Obama a Newsweek with "Inside Obama's Dream Machine" as the cover story and wondered: "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity? Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?" On Thursday, Williams didn't pose a single challenging question nor mention Jeremiah Wright in any of the ten questions aired, but pulled the same magazine stunt, this time holding up the new Time with a smiling Obama on the cover by the words, "And the Winner* Is..." Williams fondly recalled: "Last time we were together, I handed you a copy of Newsweek, it was the first time you'd held it in your hands with you on the cover. Have you yet held this in your hands?"
Obama said he had not, prompting Williams to remind him: "Last time you looked at it and you thought instantly of your mom." Obama effused: "She'd like that picture. She always encouraged me to smile more." Proceeding to cue up Obama for a long recitation on how he's not an elitist, Williams empathized: "You end up with people talking about your bowling score, gutter balls, wearing a tie, wearing a tie with farmers. And how have you dealt with that? Is there an operating theory that guides your life these days?"
Full rundown: www.mrc.org
Now, all of the questions from Williams to Obama in the interview excerpt aired on the Thursday, October 30 NBC Nightly News (with a second part to run on Friday's newscast):
BRIAN WILLIAMS: And because these days it all comes back to the presidential campaign and the election five days from now, that brings us to the campaign trail. We're on the warning track here at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. This was one of Barack Obama's stops in Florida today. Democrats are in the minority in this region, but Obama is looking for votes. His campaign fueled by the urgent fight to fix the economy these days. Some of that corporate news had just broken when I met up with him in a tent before he took the podium here this morning.
# WILLIAMS TO OBAMA: This morning's news, 7,000 layoffs worldwide, American Express. There's another financial headline every day. How do you tailor your message to this crowd? Is there more pain before there's a gain?
WILLIAMS: And with that he was greeted by the cheers of a crowd estimated at 13,000. He delivered his latest stump speech here today. It's been called his closing argument. He came off the rope line afterwards. We joined up with him again. And during our seated interview later, we talked about last night's rally here in Florida with Bill Clinton.
# WILLIAMS TO OBAMA: Why did it take so long for Bill Clinton to join you for a rally like the one we saw here in Florida last night?
# An American industrial question, does, does America need American car companies? Is three too many? Two too few? And on top of the billions already spent, what's it worth to you, if the answer is yes?
# Senator, a question about the Supreme Court. Everyone running for President always says, especially on the narrow issue of abortion rights, no litmus test. It's said on both sides of the issue. And if that's true, if you're not going to call a future justice into the oval office, if you're successful in this endeavor and bring up the subject, how then do you also avoid surprises? I don't think George H.W. Bush 41 ever dreamed that in Justice Souter he was appointing a dependable liberal vote. And Eisenhower for years called Justice Brennan his biggest mistake in office. Two surprises that just come to mind.
This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
It was all a bit too much for former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari, as she couldn't help but make fun of Matthews' excitement, as she sarcastically quipped: "It's bringing tears to my eyes."
The following exchange occurred on the October 30 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS OVER CLIP OF OBAMA AND CLINTON APPEARANCE: Look at 'em! That is a sight Susan Molinari. That is a sight for the ages! That, I am overwhelmed by it. It is something to watch! Look at 'em! They are, look at the two winners there together. Bill Clinton said, "He's the future," Barack Obama last night. He, he passed the torch like Kennedy did to him once, figuratively speaking.
At least on the CBS Evening News. On Thursday's newscast, reporter Chip Reid explained that John McCain campaigned in northern Ohio towns Reid described as "conservative areas" while CBS colleague Dean Reynolds, with Barack Obama in Sarasota, Florida, marveled at how he's "not just concentrating on Republican states now. He's stumping in their most conservative strongholds."
Over the past few weeks Reid has referred to how Sarah Palin campaigned "in conservative rural Pennsylvania," how Obama in Roanoke "drew a crowd of more than 8,000 in this conservative corner of Virginia" and how a McCain rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin put him in a "deeply conservative suburb of Milwaukee."
From my memory, and a check of Nexis, only once in October did a CBS Evening News story describe any area of the nation as liberal -- and that came in tandem with a conservative tag. In a Friday, October 17 story, Kelly Cobiella described how in Florida "Obama has the southeast and its large number of African-American, Jewish and liberal white voters. McCain is the favorite among military and socially conservative voters in the southwest and north."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Fuller versions of the labels:
# Thursday, October 30, Chip Reid on McCain in Ohio: "Traveling from the northwest corner of the state, along Lake Erie, to Mentor in the northeast, the stops were in small towns where McCain found passionate fans at every turn. The purpose in these conservative areas is not so much to find new supporters as it is to make sure the already-converted get to the polls."
# Same night, Dean Reynolds on Obama in Sarasota: "Barack Obama is not just concentrating on Republican states now. He's stumping in their most conservative strongholds. Today it was Sarasota, Florida, which George Bush won by eight points four years ago."
# Friday, October 17, Reid on how Obama in Roanoke "drew a crowd of more than 8,000 in this conservative corner of Virginia today."
# Tuesday, October 21, Reid: "Running mate Sarah Palin, still popular with the party's base, was in conservative rural Pennsylvania this weekend."
# Thursday, October 9, Reid on McCain in Waukesha, Wisconsin: "Many in this deeply conservative suburb of Milwaukee are in a state of disbelief that Obama could actually win."
ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas grilled Sarah Palin on Thursday's Good Morning America over the issues of competence and whether or not Palin believes that Senator Barack Obama is "un-American" and "dangerous." Vargas chided Palin on her remarks about the Democratic candidate: "But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor...you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow."
When Palin assured the journalist that she was not insinuating any such thing, Vargas skeptically followed-up: "Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?" She then proceeded to repeatedly ask, four times in total, questions related to competence and why less women now support Palin. "Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection," she wondered. Referring to conservatives such as Peggy Noonan and Republicans like Colin Powell, Vargas insisted that "a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans" don't believe she's qualified.
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
After Palin responded that columnists such as Noonan should actually interview her before making such declarations, the network reporter persisted: "But what about the voters? I mean, why is there this lingering issue with you and this question about whether you have what it takes to be an effective vice president?" Before finally moving off the subject, Vargas queried, "If you could take a do-over in this campaign, what would it be?"
And when Palin asserted that she has faced sexism that male political candidates don't, Vargas adopted a skeptical tone. She first retorted, "But, is it a double-standard? I mean, reporters certainly mocked John Edwards a lot for his $400 hair cuts." Speaking of the controversy over the cost of the candidates clothing, the reporter added, "And when the report did come out about the wardrobe purchased for your whole family, it was a lot of money. $150,000." Vargas went on to cite previous candidates Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro and claimed they talked about double standards more often. She pressed, "Just give me one example."
Palin's reply referenced the journalists who wondered aloud if the Republican could be both a good mother and vice president, something that GMA weekend anchor Bill Weir did on August 30, 2008. Speaking to a McCain's political director, he fretted, "Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?" See a September 2 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
In fairness to Vargas, she did compliment Palin quite freely at the close of the interview. Speaking of the vice presidential candidate's talents to co-host Robin Roberts, she lauded: "I must tell you, when we were on the campaign trail with her yesterday, she has a phenomenal ability to connect with people" and praised "her personal skills in connecting with voters." But, that was after an interrogation about competence and being too mean to Senator Obama.
A partial transcript of the October 30 interview follows:
Following Rodriguez's discussion with Schieffer, co-host Harry Smith talked with Washington Post media critic and CNN contributor, Howard Kurtz, about the commercial. Kurtz's review was a bit more mixed: "This wasn't a 60-second ad. It wasn't a Morning America ad by Reagan, it was a show, and as a show it had to draw people in. I think it did a pretty good job of that, but as I said, at times it was a bit over the top." Earlier, Smith asked Kurtz: "What did you not like?" and Kurtz replied: "Well, for example, Maggie mentioned the faux Oval Office at the beginning, a lot of people, I think are going to find that a tad presumptuous-" Smith interrupted: "The Oval Office is not brown. It doesn't -- I don't think the Oval Office is brown, but go ahead." Kurtz pointed out: "Look at that tree in the window, it looks just like the South Lawn, he's got the flag." As Kurtz mentioned, in her discussion with Schieffer, Rodriguez observed: "...it opens with him standing in an office that some people thought looked like the Oval Office."
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Following Smith's interruption, Kurtz continued his critique: "But also, and then the politicians coming on at various moments that say -- talk about what a great guy Obama is. Well, you know, that seems like a standard canned political commercial. Where I thought the biggest mis-step was, was at the end. The whole point of this infomercial, Harry, was to bring Barack Obama out of the clouds to show that he is somebody who can relate to average people, working people, the railroad worker, the widow working two jobs, and then suddenly...they cut to the big stadium and the big rally and you're back to the Obama who gave the speech in Berlin."
The Early Show coverage also included mentions of Obama breaking his promise to accept public campaign financing, providing the money for such a prime time ad. In a report at the top of the show, correspondent Jeff Glor explained: "Flush with cash, the Obama campaign reportedly paid three million for the prime time rights. Money they have thanks to Obama's June decision not to use the public financing system. A troubling flip-flop, says John McCain." Later, Smith remarked to Kurtz: "Yeah, but McCain called it 'a gauzy feel-good commercial, paid for with broken promises.' That's a pretty good line." Kurtz replied: "It is a good line, I'm sure his speech writers worked a long time on that and McCain has a point in that Obama did flip-flop on the promise to accept public financing. Had he done that he couldn't have afforded to buy all of this time on the networks."
From the October 30 show:
JEFF GLOR: Julie, good morning to you. If you were watching television last night, it was tough to miss. Barack Obama, as he used both his money and connections, to make another pitch and John McCain responded. As if Barack Obama needed more help.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Jeff Glor in Florida, thank you, Jeff. Joining us now, Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation. Good morning, Bob.
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales offered his own endorsement of Obama for President with an oozy review of Obama's half-hour infomercial, which he called "Obamavision." That certainly was supposed to carry more than one meaning, including a tribute to Obama's visionary politics. It wasn't hidden in tiny type on the home page like yesterday's sleaze-Internet-cash story. It stood out in bold lettering: "An Appeal to the Masses: Poetic and practical, Obama's paid political broadcast was a montage of montages."
Shales was more syrupy than that in the full text: "Somehow both poetic and practical, spiritual and sensible, the paid political broadcast, which aired on seven major cable and broadcast networks (on Univision, it was identified as 'Historias Americanas'), was a montage of montages, a series of seamlessly blended segments interweaving the stories of embattled Americans with visions of their deliverer, Guess Who."
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For Shales' October 30 piece in the Washington Post, "ObamaVision: An Appeal to the Masses," go to: www.washingtonpost.com
For more on the Post's shruken October 29, 2008 item about Obama's questionable online donations, see the October 30, 2008 CyberAlert item, "WaPost Puts Obama's Sleazy Online-Donor Security Avoidance on Page...2" at: www.mrc.org
While there was some rhetoric about the horrid last eight years, Shales later admitted, "Most of the talk was conversational in that laid-back, not-to-worry, calmly passionate, defiantly hopeful Obaman way."
Meanwhile, the Style-section front pager trashed the opposition. Obama was effective in being the anti-McCain, the polar opposite of Cranky Grandpa:
Although McCain was not seen during the half-hour, one could easily summon the contrasting image of the Republican while watching Obama. McCain has come across on television as relatively worried, whiny, fusty and falsely folksy. He brought bad news; he has come to epitomize and personify it. Obama brings you medication along with the list of symptoms; he has developed a great bedside, as well as fireside, manner.
It was the easiest thing in the world, watching the skillfully edited hodgepodge put together by his campaign, to picture Obama as president. That's one thing the film was designed to do, especially for the doubters and those scared, "undecided" voters out there.
Shales was so hopelessly devoted to "Obamavision" that he started comparing Obama's image-making to Reagan's "Morning in America" ads, but Obama's ad was in no way positive about America's present condition. Shales even compared the Democratic convention to a....Biblical pageant?
The tone and texture recalled the "morning in America" campaign film made on behalf of Ronald Reagan, a work designed to give the audience a sense of security and satisfaction; things are going to be all right. Obama was narrator of his film, but also its star, appearing in excerpts from speeches delivered before tremendous crowds (including the finale to the Democratic convention, a nearly biblical pageant), sitting or standing in a flag-bedecked office that looked comfortable and White Housey, and in campaign footage out amongst the folks, the people, the faithful, the huddled masses.
So the Obama film was a little bit of Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments? Or maybe it's a Frank Capra movie about Washington remade by an idealist:
The half-hour was underscored with music in a kind of elegiac, Aaron Copland mode -- sorrow and stature. Obama seemed as heroic a figure as Henry Fonda's Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath," but with more of a Jimmy Stewart personality. He has come, the film said, to show us all the way, and if we don't know it by now, and after all those millions spent to tell us, it's our fault.
...Now it seemed to be turning into a Frank Capra movie; after all, "Grapes of Wrath" did not have a happy ending, but, according to last night's multicast -- in spectacular ObamaRama -- this movie will.
END of Excerpt
Spectacular ObamaRama? Shales did make an error in his review, mistaking Obama's mom for Grandma in the overworked early-morning homework story: "For the umpty-umpth time, he told the story of how Granny woke his 8-year-old self up at 4:30 a.m. to go over homework and how, when he grumbled about it, she'd respond with, 'Well, this is no picnic for me, either, buster.'" Shales didn't suggest that this story is odd, considering Obama's wandering mother left him for years at a time with the grandparents, which contrasts sharply with the task-master image.
The only sour spot for Shales was "a weirdly retro reference at one point to curbing 'Russian aggression.'" Doesn't Obama know that liberals like Shales think it's not "retro" to root for some Barney the Dinosaur foreign policy? Enemies, what enemies?
While interviewing three generations of voters in one Florida family, Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer on Thursday pushed back when the mother of the household assailed Senator Joe Biden's claim that paying higher taxes is patriotic. After Marylee Gizzi described the "great offense" she took at Biden's remarks, Sawyer parroted Obama talking points and retorted: "He argues, you know, he's just going back to the Reagan tax cuts. It's not a penalty."
Continuing to defend the Democratic ticket's economic plan, she haltingly added, "He would argue disproportionately advantaged, the wealthy in this country, who have increased their share, more than the middle class has increased its share." After Gizzi lauded the "incredible" accomplishments of Sarah Palin, Sawyer looked for some kind of negative assessment: "There were a lot of people who brought a lot to the table. You must have a sense of whether you'd like her to be president, should something happen to him [McCain]." At no point did Sawyer attempt to grill the Obama-supporting daughter into saying something negative about her choice for president.
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:16am on October 30:
DIANE SAWYER: There are battleground states. And there are battleground families who love each other a lot. But nonetheless divide on their voting, sometimes by generations. And I had a chance to go into a wonderful home and sit down with three women who are still talking it out. They welcomed us into the home. Three generations. Mother.
NBC's Today show, on Thursday, aired an Access Hollywood clip of Cher wearing a "Barack the Vote" t-shirt as she actually bashed George W. Bush, to his first cousin's face. The President's first cousin, Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, conducted the interview in which Cher declared: "I've been alive for 11 Presidents and I feel that this is the worst time I've ever seen," and called the current President, "The Big Divider." Cher also claimed the only way she would be seen at a Sarah Palin rally would be "in my nightmares."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange was aired on the October 30 Today show:
MATT LAUER: She is 62 and still going strong. Cher. But when she cancelled her Las Vegas show a little earlier this month a lot of people started speculating about her health.
-- Brent Baker