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Angst on PBS Over Too-Long Wait for Obama's Inauguration --12/8/2008


1. Angst on PBS Over Too-Long Wait for Obama's Inauguration
In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that "what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now" as "people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?" New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: "That's right, exactly." He proceeded to fret over how "people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration" just isn't compatible with the "hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today." Baker admired how "Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush," whom Baker conceded is "still in charge," and "finding a way to assert leadership."

2. Rather: Biggest Crisis Since Pearl Harbor, So Inaugurate Sooner
Appearing on Friday's Morning Joe on MSNBC, former CBS anchor Dan Rather chided President Bush for not doing enough during his lame duck period and argued for moving Inauguration Day up to December 1. And although Rather didn't explain specifically what Bush wasn't doing enough about (The financial crisis? The terrorist incident in India?), he did hyperbolically fret: "But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War." Addressing the past practice of inaugurating presidents in March, Rather lobbied: "Thank heaven, we now swear them in, new Presidents, in January. I'd be in favor of moving it up to December 1st."

3. CBS: Wounded the 'Consequence' of Rejecting Shinseki's Advice
Media reports on President-elect Barack Obama's selection of retired Army General Eric Shinseki commonly described the pick as a "rebuke" or "repudiation" of the Bush administration for underestimating the number of troops that would be needed to occupy Iraq, but CBS's Dean Reynolds went further as he implied abiding by Shinseki's 2003 recommendation for "several hundred thousand soldiers" would have prevented wounded troops. On Sunday's CBS Evening News, over archive video of Shinseki visiting wounded soldiers -- and leading into a soundbite from Shinseki saying "veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular are confronting severe wounds, some seen, some unseen" -- Reynolds declared: "Now Shinseki will deal with the consequences of a policy that rejected his advice."

4. Conflict of Interest? Chris Matthews Silent on Rendell Gaffe
With more and more reports coming out that MSNBC's Chris Matthews is actively looking to run for Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania, questions about a conflict of interest have been raised. Can the host fairly cover the Democratic Party when he's actively trying to join its Senate ranks, and even more specifically, how objective can he be when he's interviewing Pennsylvania Democrats like frequent Hardball guest Governor Ed Rendell? Well, if last week is any indication, Matthews is failing that objectivity test as he has yet to mention on Hardball the controversy surrounding a, some believe, sexist remark Rendell made about Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano having more time to devote to being Homeland Security Secretary because she has "no life."

5. Time's Israely: Pope's a 'Scrooge' for Defending Church Doctrine
Time magazine's Jeff Israely compared Pope Benedict XVI to the most famous Charles Dickens character in his latest column, which focused on the "tough line on Church doctrine" the pontiff has taken: "[T]here is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is...quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine." Israely later put Scrooge's characteristic anti-Christmas exclamation in the mouth of the Holy Father: "[O]ne can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!"


Angst on PBS Over Too-Long Wait for Obama's
Inauguration

In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that "what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now" as "people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?"

New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: "That's right, exactly." He proceeded to fret over how "people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration" just isn't compatible with the "hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today." Baker admired how "Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush," whom Baker conceded is "still in charge," and "finding a way to assert leadership."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The exchange on the Friday, December 5 Washington Week on PBS:

GWEN IFILL: Is there any way to look at this and think to yourself that maybe what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now? I mean, there seems to be this pressure, people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers? Why isn't he -- I saw a poll where his approval rating was higher for his handling of the Mumbai attacks than President Bush's, even though he didn't do anything.
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES: That's right, exactly.
IFILL: So there's this desire-
BAKER: People voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose, in effect, between our election and our inauguration -- which is necessary to build a new government and get ready -- but it's such a long period in a hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today. And Barack Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush, who's still in charge, and finding a way to assert leadership. He's had, so far now, six press conferences since the election. He's going to have a seventh on Sunday, Pearl Harbor day. This is an unusual amount of public exposure for a President who hasn't yet taken office and he's been faster in naming his top appointments than any President-elect in modern times. He's got more than half of his cabinet and senior White House team already named. He wants to show action, he wants to show leadership but he has a little bitted number of tools to do it.
DAVID WESSEL, WALL STREET JOURNAL: And look, it's not surprising, given how rapidly the economy is deteriorating, the prospect of the auto companies going bankrupt before the inauguration -- it's an urgent problem, and if you think the President is a lame duck and is impotent then you want the new guy to take over.

Rather: Biggest Crisis Since Pearl Harbor,
So Inaugurate Sooner

Appearing on Friday's Morning Joe on MSNBC, former CBS anchor Dan Rather chided President Bush for not doing enough during his lame duck period and argued for moving Inauguration Day up to December 1. And although Rather didn't explain specifically what Bush wasn't doing enough about (The financial crisis? The terrorist incident in India?), he did hyperbolically fret: "But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War." (As big a calamity as slavery and the dissolution of the Union?)

Addressing the past practice of inaugurating presidents in March, Rather lobbied: "Thank heaven, we now swear them in, new Presidents, in January. I'd be in favor of moving it up to December 1st." (The former network anchor didn't explain how he would then deal with situations like the protracted 2000 post-election battle.)

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday afternoon, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Clearly speaking of President Bush, he complained, "And this business of being a lame duck president and saying, you know, 'Adios. I'm going to the ranch. I'm just not going to do very much during this period.' We can't afford it." Of Barack Obama, Rather enthused, "Yes, President-elect Obama is doing the best he can by getting out and raising people's spirits without over-raising their expectations."

The ex-CBS News host's comments aren't as over-the-top as ones made by Gail Collins, the editorial page editor of the New York Times. In a November 22 op-ed, she suggested, "Thanksgiving is next week, and President Bush could make it a really special holiday by resigning." See a November 25, 2008 CyberAlert posting for more www.mrc.org

A transcript of the December 5 comments by Rather and the exchange that prompted it, follow:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Gene, speaking of revisionism though, you said a lot people said that Iraq didn't have WMDs. My God, the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and the burden was on him to prove that they didn't. The Russians, the Chinese, the British, you name it. The Germans, I mean, George Tenet, the CIA director waving his arms saying, 'Mr. President, it's a slam dunk.' So-
EUGENE ROBINSON: Mmm. He said it was-
SCARBOROUGH: The overwhelming majority of intelligence operations across the globe, did they not say Saddam has weapons of mass destruction? EUGENE ROBINSON: Well- Well- Yes, but to what extent and what degree, did, in fact, he have WMD to the extent that it justified a U.N. invasion of a sovereign country by the United States preemptively? Did- Did it justify that? Indeed, those other countries that did think he had some WMD didn't think it justified a U.S. invasion or certainly most of them didn't think that. But, you know, George Bush made a decision and most people think it didn't work out that well. So, why doesn't he just own up to it?
SCARBOROUGH: Of course, Dan, at the time it was a year after 9/11, CIA director's waving his arms in the Oval Office, saying, 'Mr. President, it's a slam dunk.'
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Slam dunk.
SCARBOROUGH: What does a president of the United States do? Point to the CIA director and 'Say, sit down. You're wrong, I don't trust you'?
DAN RATHER: Well, if that's what he believes. But, by problem with all of this- and I think that good points were raised on either side here- is that's behind us, that's yesterday. Frankly, rather than see the President apologize which I think you're more likely to see Fidel Castro come riding through this room on a giraffe than you are to see George Bush apologize-
SCARBOROUGH: Write that down.
BRZEZINSKI: [Laughing] Did you get that? This is why we invited Dan today.
RATHER: -is get busy- is get busy- What we need out of the President is focus on the job at hand. We can't afford to waste an hour, much less a day or a week or a month. And this business of being a lame duck president and saying, you know, 'Adios. I'm going to the ranch. I'm just not going to do very much during this period.' We can't afford it. It used to be, of course, we didn't swear in presidents until March. Thank heaven, we now swear them in, new presidents, in January. I'd be in favor of moving it up to December 1st. Get the election over. Get a new president in December 1st. But, we're in a very dangerous period. And particularly this early in the morning, I would rather talk about football.
BRZEZINSKI: Serious times. Serious times.
RATHER: But, we're in possibly, possibly the biggest crisis we've been in since December 7, 1941 and maybe since the time of the Civil War. So, we can't afford to have this interregnum. The old order is gone. The new order is not yet in place. You need an active president right now. Yes, President-elect Obama is doing the best he can by getting out and raising people's spirits without over-raising their expectations. But, this business of, the having the interregnum in which the president says, 'Okay, the election is over and I'll leave it to the next guy.' We just can't afford that. So, rather, than arguing about whether we should or shouldn't have gone into Iraq, we did and we're now paying the consequences of it. But, I don't think you're going to see the President apologize, I would hope that in the coming days and weeks before the inauguration that the President takes charge. That's what ought to be expected of a strong executive.

CBS: Wounded the 'Consequence' of Rejecting
Shinseki's Advice

Media reports on President-elect Barack Obama's selection of retired Army General Eric Shinseki commonly described the pick as a "rebuke" or "repudiation" of the Bush administration for underestimating the number of troops that would be needed to occupy Iraq, but CBS's Dean Reynolds went further as he implied abiding by Shinseki's 2003 recommendation for "several hundred thousand soldiers" would have prevented wounded troops. On Sunday's CBS Evening News, over archive video of Shinseki visiting wounded soldiers -- and leading into a soundbite from Shinseki saying "veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular are confronting severe wounds, some seen, some unseen" -- Reynolds declared: "Now Shinseki will deal with the consequences of a policy that rejected his advice."

Of course, many soldiers and Marines have been wounded in Afghanistan and it's hardly an established fact that more American troops in Iraq in 2003 would have precluded a large number of American casualties which would require services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

From the Sunday, December 7 CBS Evening News:

DEAN REYNOLDS: ...In picking Eric Shinseki to head Veterans Affairs, the President-elect offered a symbolic rebuke to the Bush administration for under-estimating the insurgency in post-war Iraq that the former General memorably warned would take far more resources to fight.
SHINSEKI, FEBRUARY 25, 2003: Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers.
REYNOLDS: Now Shinseki will deal with the consequences of a policy that rejected his advice.
SHINSEKI, ON SUNDAY: Veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular are confronting severe wounds, some seen, some unseen.

Conflict of Interest? Chris Matthews
Silent on Rendell Gaffe

With more and more reports coming out that MSNBC's Chris Matthews is actively looking to run for Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania, questions about a conflict of interest have been raised. Can the host fairly cover the Democratic Party when he's actively trying to join its Senate ranks, and even more specifically, how objective can he be when he's interviewing Pennsylvania Democrats like frequent Hardball guest Governor Ed Rendell?

Well, if last week is any indication, Matthews is failing that objectivity test as he has yet to mention on Hardball the controversy surrounding a, some believe, sexist remark Rendell made about Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano having more time to devote to being Homeland Security Secretary because she has "no life."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoff Dickens, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbuters.org]

Yet Matthews' NBC colleague Ann Curry thought it was important enough to devote not just one but two anchor reads, like this one, on Thursday's Today show:

ANN CURRY: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is apologizing for comments he made about Homeland Security nominee Janet Napolitano, comments that some complained were sexist. Earlier this week, near an open microphone, Rendell said that Napolitano would be good for the job because she has no family. He said for that job, quote, "You have to have no life."

For the record the last time Rendell appeared on Hardball, was on Tuesday night, and he was granted the typical friendly interview from Matthews, in which he and Matthews pushed Barack Obama to outdo FDR in big government spending. The following exchanged occurred on the December 2, edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's make some news Governor. Do you get a sense from the President-elect that he's open to the numbers you gave? $136 billion for infrastructure. That's bridges and stuff like that. He's getting requests for money, obviously from the auto industry tonight, in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker is gonna have to deal with that. But let me ask you did you get a sense that he's wanting, some people are talking about a trillion-and-a-half dollar stimulus package, something really, you know, equivalent to something like we saw or could have seen, maybe we should have seen in the early days of the New Deal. Something really big.
ED RENDELL: Well we didn't actually get in to talking numbers although we did lay on the table, because the, one of the things that the President-elect wanted to find out from us is what did we estimate were ready-to-go projects that we could have a shovel in the ground in the next 18 months. And we used a compilation of different things to say $136 billion. And I don't think that was something that shocked him or that he found-
MATTHEWS: Yeah.
RENDELL: -in of itself to be too extreme. That's number one. Number two, there was nothing I heard that would indicate a trillion-and-a-half stimulus program. I think it's gonna be significant. Certainly more significant than anything Congress has talked about but-
MATTHEWS: Yeah.
RENDELL: -but not on that level. Not on that level.
MATTHEWS: The argument is, of course, that the U.S. economy, the GDP is about $13 trillion and over three years it'll be $39 trillion and to have a real impact over the next three years, is what we're probably talking about, you need more than, you need a lot more juice than a trillion bucks. That's what I'm talking about, Governor. It's gotta be big time.
RENDELL: I understand and I think that they, they are thinking big and they are thinking bold and, you know, Paul Krugman had said that FDR failed not because he didn't have the right vision but because he didn't have the courage to, to do it the scale that was needed. And I think President-elect Obama understands that.
MATTHEWS: Well I'm definitely with Krugman on that. I think The New Deal was a little slow in acting. Roosevelt should have been a lot more gutsy than he was in the beginning. He was gutsy enough. Let me thank you very much Governor Ed Rendell, chairman of the, of the National Governors Association that hosted President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden this morning in Philadelphia.

To read more about Matthews considering a Senate run see: www.politico.com

And: www.washingtonpost.com

Time's Israely: Pope's a 'Scrooge' for
Defending Church Doctrine

Time magazine's Jeff Israely compared Pope Benedict XVI to the most famous Charles Dickens character in his latest column, which focused on the "tough line on Church doctrine" the pontiff has taken: "[T]here is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is...quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine." Israely later put Scrooge's characteristic anti-Christmas exclamation in the mouth of the Holy Father: "[O]ne can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!"

The correspondent's Thursday column on Time.com, titled "The Pope's Christmas Gift: A Tough Line on Church Doctrine," began with Israely apparently lamenting that the old nicknames for the Pope are no longer effective tools: "Those nicknames from the past -- God's Rottweiler, the Panzercardinal -- don't seem to stick anymore. After acquiring a reputation as an aggressive, doctrine-enforcing Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI has surprised many with his gentle manner and his writings on Christian love." He then saw it fit to give the Pope the "Scrooge" nickname, just in time for Christmas: "But with the Christmas season upon us, there is growing proof that the 82-year-old Pope is also quite willing to play the part of Scrooge to defend his often rigid view of Church doctrine."

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

For Israely's column on Time.com, see the December 4 item, "The Pope's Christmas Gift: A Tough Line on Church Doctrine," at: www.time.com

How are the Pope and the Catholic Church being "rigid" this time around? The Holy See, which has permanent observer status at the United Nations, recently voiced its opposition to a proposed General Assembly resolution which calls for the end to legal discrimination against homosexuals. According to a December 1, 2008 article in The Times of London, all of the member nations of the European Union "have signed a draft declaration drawn up by France, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, condemning 'discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.'"

For The Times of London's December 1 article on the Holy See's rejection of the draft UN resolution, see Richard Owen's item, "Vatican opposes de-criminalising same sex unions," at: www.timesonline.co.uk

Israely quoted from the Holy See's nuncio to the UN, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who expressed why the Church was against the resolution: "...Migliore said the Vatican's opposition to the U.N. proposal was driven by concern that countries that prohibit gay marriage would somehow be targeted. Said Migliore: '€˜Countries that don't recognize the union between people of the same sex as marriage will be punished and pressured.'" The Time magazine correspondent then briefly tried to explain that the Church was off-base in its concerns: "The U.N. declaration does not in fact mention gay marriage, and most of the nations that support it themselves don't allow people of the same sex to wed."

The declaration may not mention "gay marriage" specifically, but the language of the resolution, "discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity," is so general that the Holy See seems to be justified in its concerns. The Vatican's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, actually took this line of reasoning in explaining the Church's stance: "[The resolution] introduces a declaration of political value that could result in systems of control, according to which, every norm -- not only legal, but also related to the life of social or religious groups -- which does not place every sexual orientation on exactly the same level could be considered as contrary to respect of human rights."

For more on Fr. Lombardi's statements on the draft UN resolution, see the December 2, 2008 item on Zenit.org, "Vatican Opposes Discrimination Against Homosexuals: Spokesman Restates Teaching After Holy See Criticized:" www.zenit.org

Later, Israely turned to another issue in which he thinks Pope Benedict is being "rigid" -- the "sign of peace" during the Catholic Mass:

Benedict has said repeatedly that the Church is forced to speak out against the tide of secularization, especially in Catholicism's home turf in Europe. His kindly manner notwithstanding, Benedict does not seem to hesitate doing or saying what he deems necessary to keep Catholicism from straying too far from its doctrinal tradition.

And that includes revisiting the Catholic liturgy if necessary. His top Vatican deputies are now studying a change to the mass that would affect the moment when members of the congregation are asked to greet each other with a "sign of peace." Worshippers then exchange handshakes, or sometimes a hug or kiss. In 2007, writing about the exchanging of the peace, Benedict called for "greater restraint in this gesture which can become exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly before the reception of Communion." It may now be moved earlier in the service....

Though there is no indication if or when the proposed movement of the peace would happen, this change would respond to a desire by the Pope to rein in some of the excesses that he sees in the ways the faith is currently celebrated. And to those who wonder why not just let everyone to say 'peace' when and where they please for Christmases to come, one can imagine Benedict flashing that gentle smile, tilting his head ever so slightly and declaring: Bah Humbug!

END Excerpt

One would think that Mr. Israely has witnessed Catholic Masses before -- he is Time's correspondent in Rome, after all. The "sign of peace" isn't about letting people offer peace "when and where they please." As Pope Benedict pointed out, it can often become more than just a handshake, hug, or kiss, but too often turns into a two-minute-long love fest where people are wandering around the inside of the church to give friends bear hugs, forgetting that they're carousing in a sacred place. He has a duty, as the chief earthly teacher of the Catholic Church, to educate the faithful on issues like divine worship and morality. The Holy Father must really be a "Scrooge" for trying to call to mind that Catholics attend Mass to worship God first!

This isn't the first time Israely has been critical of the pontiff. In a September 2007 piece titled "Will the Pope Behave in Austria?," he bemoaned how Benedict failed to mention "the history of forced conversions and other violence by Catholics against the indigenous population" when the Holy Father spoke about the Church's participation in the European settlement of Latin America.

For more on Isrealy's September 2007 criticism of Pope Benedict XVI, see Matthew Balan's September 7, 2007 item on NewsBusters.org,"Time's Jeff Israely Asks 'Will The Pope Behave in Austria?'" at: newsbusters.org

-- Brent Baker