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Brian Williams Derides Petraeus as No Eisenhower --9/13/2007


1. Brian Williams Derides Petraeus as No Eisenhower
Interviewing General David Petraeus for Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams insisted he admit "al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around" on 9/11, demanded to know "how are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?" and derided Petraeus' admission that he's not sure if the war has made Americans safer: "I heard a commentator on television say, 'Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?'" That unnamed commentator: Williams' corporate colleague, Chris Matthews. Williams challenged Petraeus: "Over the last two days of testimony, you mentioned al-Qaeda by our count 160 times. Now, for a lot of Americans, al-Qaeda, that's the guys who flew those planes into the buildings in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. Explain what you mean because al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around that day." When Petraeus answered that "they're the organization that has carried out the most horrific, most damaging terrorist actions in Iraq with just barbaric casualties," Williams pressed Petraeus over "all these insurgents, how can you be so sure in a war without uniforms or membership cards, the claim by the critics is it fuzzes it up, it makes it a convenient, unified argument....How are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?"

2. Ingraham's New Book Dishes on Her Time Inside CBS News and MSNBC
In the 1990s, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was an exception to the rule, a conservative allowed into the rarefied air of network news. She was a Sunday night commentator on the CBS Evening News -- matched on the left by Senator Bill Bradley -- and then a host of a live morning show on MSNBC. In her new book, Power to the People, Ingraham dishes on what it was like in the lion's den: "From Day One, I was a fish out of water in the television news business. I didn't come from their world and I didn't buy into their worldview. They knew it and I knew it. As a conservative lawyer who had worked for the Reagan administration and clerked on the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas, I didn't fit the CBS mold of the earnest, idealistic, liberal, 'citizen-of-the-world' type attracted to the news business. I might as well have dropped in from a blinking spaceship from Saturn."

3. CNN Gives Redford Platform to Denounce 'Retarded' Bush Team
On CNN Sunday night, it was like Ted "Captain Planet" Turner was still running the place. CNN anchor Tony Harris interviewed Robert Redford with a sense of awe about his latest Sundance Summit with local officials to "fight global warming." Redford trashed President Bush as "pretty transparently awful on the environment," and the administration as "retarded in its views," but said "what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things." The anchorman, Harris, replied: "That is so great." He professed disappointment that the President would not meet with Redford, as if he were a world statesman and eminent scientist: "Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the President, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen."


Brian Williams Derides Petraeus as No
Eisenhower

Interviewing General David Petraeus for Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams insisted he admit "al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around" on 9/11, demanded to know "how are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?" and derided Petraeus' admission that he's not sure if the war has made Americans safer: "I heard a commentator on television say, 'Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?'" That unnamed commentator: Williams' corporate colleague, Chris Matthews.

Williams challenged Petraeus: "Over the last two days of testimony, you mentioned al-Qaeda by our count 160 times. Now, for a lot of Americans, al-Qaeda, that's the guys who flew those planes into the buildings in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. Explain what you mean because al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around that day." When Petraeus answered that "they're the organization that has carried out the most horrific, most damaging terrorist actions in Iraq with just barbaric casualties," Williams pressed Petraeus over "all these insurgents, how can you be so sure in a war without uniforms or membership cards, the claim by the critics is it fuzzes it up, it makes it a convenient, unified argument....How are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?" Williams ended by recalling how "moments after you responded to a question that you weren't sure that the war in Iraq had made Americans safer, I heard a commentator on television say, 'Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?'"

That "commentator on television" would be MSNBC's own liberal Chris Matthews. As Mark Finkelstein reported in a NewsBusters posting about Tuesday's Hardball:

Cut to a clip of Gen. Petraeus responding to a question from Sen. John Warner (R-Va.)

SEN. JOHN WARNER: Are you able to say at this time if we continue what you have laid before the Congress here as a strategy, do you feel that that is making America safer?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq.

WARNER: Does that make America safer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I don't know, actually. I've not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multi-National Force-Iraq.

Matthews went apoplectic.

MATTHEWS: This must be a first, an American field commander who can't say whether the sacrifices he's asking of his troops every day and night are worth it to their country. Did General Washington not know the answer in the American Revolution? Did General Eisenhower not know the answer in World War II? What are we doing in Iraq if the very man commanding the war doesn't know if it's doing us any good in terms of our national security? This is the real news of the [pronounced with contempt] so-called Petraeus Report. The General who won't tell how long it will take us to achieve the mission in Iraq can't tell us whether achieving that mission -- should it ever be achieved -- is worth it.

END of Excerpt

For Finkelstein's posting: newsbusters.org

[This item was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the Williams interview with Petraeus, conducted at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, as edited to air on the September 12 NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: He's a four-star Army General and a Ph.D. from Princeton. He's a patriot, presiding over a tough slog of a war, but delivering a pretty steadfast message here this week. Petraeus insisted to us today he is realistic about this fight.
GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS: I'm no longer an optimist or a pessimist about Iraq. I think it's time just to be a realist, and it's just very, very hard.
WILLIAMS: How does this end with a more peaceful Iraq? And your answer in part was, cement walls, blast walls. And we've seen them over there, and we've seen what they've done to neighborhoods. Is that tragic, in part, to you that the answer has to include cement?
PETRAEUS: It is tragic. It is in part tragic, but it is also the result of a realistic appraisal of the situation.
WILLIAMS: Over the last two days of testimony, you mentioned al-Qaeda by our count 160 times. Now, for a lot of Americans, al-Qaeda, that's the guys who flew those planes into the buildings in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. Explain what you mean because al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around that day.
PETRAEUS: No, al-Qaeda Iraq is part of the greater al-Qaeda movement. It receives direction and communications and even really leadership. You know, I didn't mention that to try to tie this into the global war on terror. I mentioned it because they are the wolf closest to the sled, if you will. They're the organization that has carried out the most horrific, most damaging terrorist actions in Iraq with just barbaric casualties.
WILLIAMS: All these insurgents, how can you be so sure in a war without uniforms or membership cards, the claim by the critics is it fuzzes it up, it makes it a convenient, unified argument.
PETRAEUS: Well, it's not a unified force, and I have not tried to make that case. What we have had is a situation in which there are insurgents who have been loose confederation with al-Qaeda at various times.
WILLIAMS: I guess what I'm trying to understand is, at the start of the war, when I was flying in a Chinook with General Downing, that helicopter was shot at by a farmer. He wasn't even yet known as an insurgent. We didn't know we had insurgents yet. It was too early in the invasion. But when did that happen? And how are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?
PETRAEUS: Well, we do not label them all al-Qaeda, and I have tried very hard not to imply that or to state that. There clearly are Sunni Arab insurgents, again, resistance fighters, rejectionists, various labels, if you will, that are independent of al-Qaeda.
WILLIAMS: Angry Iraqis.
PETRAEUS: Angry Iraqis. They just don't like the situation in which they've found themselves. They feel, again, particularly Sunni Arabs, of course, used to run the country and they don't. And they know they're probably not going to again.
WILLIAMS: Moments after you responded to a question that you weren't sure that the war in Iraq had made Americans safer, I heard a commentator on television say, "Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?"
PETRAEUS: What I was getting at there was there were a number of questions that were about topics well beyond Iraq. What I was trying to get at is I'm the MNFI commander, I'm the commander in Iraq, we have hugely important interests in Iraq. It's a very, very significant, important endeavor.

Ingraham's New Book Dishes on Her Time
Inside CBS News and MSNBC

In the 1990s, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was an exception to the rule, a conservative allowed into the rarefied air of network news. She was a Sunday night commentator on the CBS Evening News -- matched on the left by Senator Bill Bradley -- and then a host of a live morning show on MSNBC. In her new book, Power to the People, Ingraham dishes on what it was like in the lion's den: "From Day One, I was a fish out of water in the television news business. I didn't come from their world and I didn't buy into their worldview. They knew it and I knew it. As a conservative lawyer who had worked for the Reagan administration and clerked on the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas, I didn't fit the CBS mold of the earnest, idealistic, liberal, 'citizen-of-the-world' type attracted to the news business. I might as well have dropped in from a blinking spaceship from Saturn."

[This item is adapted from a posting, by Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An excerpt from Ingraham's book:

....One of the closet conservatives at the network told me that most of the producers and on-air talent thought the top brass's decision to hire me was a "pathetic sell-out to the Right."

My mother used to tell me that she worried about me working at CBS. "Who will be your friend there? Who will look out for you?" she asked protectively. Her instincts were right as usual. But I was just a rookie and kept thinking 'Any day now Paula Zahn is going to speak to me!" (In the New York bureau, I was told not to enter the make-up room until she was out of the chair.)

In 1997 I turned in a script I had written for a piece I filmed on abortion for the Sunday CBS News. "You can't use the term pro-life," a producer said to me after reading my draft.

"Why?" I asked, incredulously.

"Because it's CBS policy -- 'anti-abortion rights activists' is what we use," she said flatly.

"Why?" I asked again.

Irritated that she had to provide an explanation, she snapped: "Because we do not want to appear like we're taking sides. We don't use 'pro-choice' either. For them we use 'abortion rights activists.'"

This job was definitely not going to work out.

While I was still negotiating with CBS, a new cable network named MSNBC contacted me about becoming one of their on-air 'friends.' The deal was that I would appear on MSNBC three days per week and write columns for msnbc.com. It wasn't much money, but I thought it sounded fun and different. So soon I found myself working for two different television networks simultaneously.

Compared to my CBS experience, my time as a political analyst and on-air host at MSNBC was idyllic, but still rocky. When we launched the cable network's first live television show out of Washington in August 1998, MSNBC execs told us we wouldn't have teleprompters for months. This was the new, cutting-edge high-tech news outlet and they couldn't get their act together enough to get teleprompters? So my producer Lia Macko and I improvised with an easel and a big white pad of paper. Every day Lia would write the show topics on the pad with a big magic marker and flip the pages segment to segment. Guests thought it was a gag. A few months later we got prompters. I still have the pad.

The episode was a sign of things to come, a sign that the "new media" was maybe not so "new" after all....Sure enough, my producer and I ran into resistance from NBC executives on everything from whether we could book the cast of Gilligan's Island to whether we could cover the Juanita Broaddrick rape allegations against Bill Clinton. (NBC's own Lisa Myers did the story and we still had to fight tooth and nail to air the piece on the show.)....

I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to two news executives -- Jon Klein of CBS News (now president of CNN) and Steve Capus of MSNBC (now president of NBC News). If both of them hadn't fired me, I wouldn't be hosting a radio show heard by millions today. I left television for a true 'new media' experience. And I love it.

END Excerpt from Ingraham's book

Amazon's page for the book: www.amazon.com

PS: Looking back at Laura's career at CBS, I found this priceless tidbit in the June 6, 1997 CyberAlert, outlining how angry the liberals were when CBS hired moderate GOPer Susan Molinari to co-anchor their new Saturday Early Show in 1997:

"The GOP News from CBS," read the headline over a May 29 New York Times editorial which argued: "With the hiring of Representative Susan Molinari to move directly from Congress to the anchor desk, CBS has reduced the wall [between news and politics] to dust. In fact, having already hired Laura Ingraham, CBS News now employs more famous Republican women than the Republican National Committee does." See: www.mrc.org

CNN Gives Redford Platform to Denounce
'Retarded' Bush Team

On CNN Sunday night, it was like Ted "Captain Planet" Turner was still running the place. CNN anchor Tony Harris interviewed Robert Redford with a sense of awe about his latest Sundance Summit with local officials to "fight global warming." Redford trashed President Bush as "pretty transparently awful on the environment," and the administration as "retarded in its views," but said "what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things." The anchorman, Harris, replied: "That is so great." He professed disappointment that the President would not meet with Redford, as if he were a world statesman and eminent scientist: "Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the President, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen."

Harris began the segment with the gooey "Access Hollywood" kind of introduction, without any pesky liberal label: "We know Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid, a Legal Eagle, Bob Woodward and All the President's Men. But this actor has spent much of his life as a political and environmental activist. He joins us tonight from the Sundance Summit, an event he is co-hosting to help fight global warming."

[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

After Redford professed nervousness about his earpiece, the substance began. Notice how soft and vague and promotional Harris was during the "Sunday Spotlight" segment on the 10pm EDT edition of the September 9 CNN Newsroom:

HARRIS: I have to ask you, we understand this is the third year of this conference. What do you think that you are accomplishing with these city leaders and state leaders?
REDFORD: Well, I can tell you what we intend to accomplish, which is basically an extension of what we've already accomplished from the first conference which was two years ago. The idea behind this -- let me tell you how I -- if you're interested...
HARRIS: Sure.
REDFORD: How I got involved in this in the first place. About 23 years ago, I was at a conference with an organization that I had started on the environment in Denver -- at the Jewish hospital in Denver. And we were talking about clean air in Western states. And suddenly there was a lunch presentation by two scientists from the Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. And it was on climate change centering on global warming. And it shocked everyone because what they were saying was that we were in a process of a slow meltdown on a part of our environment.
Well, it was such a shock, and that nobody knew about it. And then that led to me inviting the Soviet Academy of Sciences to Sundance along with our scientific community in 1989 because the two polluting countries at that time were the United States and the Soviet Union.
[Editor's note: And no other country in the world polluted? Earth to anchorman?]
So having the two scientific communities come together to discuss this issue seemed to me like a good thing because I thought it would get traction. So in 1989, we had this conference. In fact, they did. We had the Soviet Academy of -- the head of their space program, Roald Sagdeev, Carl Sagan headed up our scientific community. And they both agreed at that time that this was an issue that was already overdue in 1989 and had to be addressed immediately. Otherwise, we were going to see things like Kilimanjaro's melting, ice caps melting.
And it was going to affect not only climate change but our lives as individuals. So, anyway, it didn't get any traction because that was premature. Those were the days when they were still being denied as an issue. And the power of politics at that time to support that denial was so strong that we were never able to get any traction. So now it's almost 20 years later, and I decided that probably going at the top was a waste of time, particularly with this administration...
HARRIS: That's what I was going to ask, if that was the case.
REDFORD: Well, this administration, I don't think, needs a lot of discussion. It's pretty transparently awful on the environment. So therefore, it's pretty clear that not only are they supportive of issues to help our environment, but they want to go against them, because I think they are living in a day long gone by.
But -- so forget about them. Where are you going to find the solutions? Where are you going to find the action and the traction? Well, it's going to come from the grassroots. And that involves mayors and governors, people that are closer to the citizenry, people that are closer to the American public, and know what the real problems are, and, therefore, are more in touch with what the solutions can be. So-
HARRIS: OK.
REDFORD: -that's why I decided to bring mayors to Sundance to have a discussion to find out if we can bring all the mayors on board to push up from the grassroots and push Congress and eventually leadership when it comes around into taking action on a federal level. So that has been the intention.
HARRIS: So how are you actually helping these mayors? I mean, what are you giving them in terms of tools, information, funding or helping them identify funding sources that will get this work done? How are you helping them?
REDFORD: Well, aside from the good food and a nice environment to be in, what we're doing is using the -- you know, let's face it, the first year we had mayors, a lot of mayors that came from different communities. And these are not just major cities. These are communities all over the United States. There were a lot of them that were not believers. There were a lot of them that were just ignorant about the issue itself. But there were enough mayors like Mayor Daley of Chicago who -- and Mayor Nickels of Seattle who were actually doing things already and they could demonstrate the results.
Such as, by creating new industries that come from new technologies, you are going to create new jobs. And therefore, you are going to affect the economy. So what has happened, the turning point, I think, has come not from films or lectures or literature about how bad things are. We've had that. America doesn't do well with doom and gloom. We've had that. We get that.
Now what? Well, now what is what I think is the exciting part, which is the optimistic part, which is that we can now do something ourselves as individuals that can change the course of things.
HARRIS: That is so great. That's where I wanted to take this.
REDFORD: It's great. It's optimistic.
HARRIS: Right.
REDFORD: Yes. That to me is the most exciting part of it. So let's move to the next part by bringing -- because Sundance, as a place, is very committed to art obviously because of the film festival and the film labs and so forth and my own life. Bringing art into the picture to help tell the story is another issue. So we bring artists to the table to help the mayors tell the story about what they are doing.
Now that's going to work its way up to the top. You can already see, I think, that Congress -- I mean, Congress, despite its being constipated for so long on this issue, is beginning to turn because they're getting pressure from the voters, the public. And that's because of what the mayors are telling them.
So I think there's a great movement coming from the grassroots, which is probably more democratic than what we have right now anyway. So I'm pretty excited about this. And there are changes that are occurring and they are very, very positive. I'm really -- I'm just sorry so much time was lost in the interim.
HARRIS: Have you really given up on trying to reach this administration? Eighteen or so months left with this president. Have you really given up on trying to have a dialogue with him? Have you ever had a dialogue with the president?
REDFORD: Oh, yes -- no, no, no, forget it. It's not worth it. It's a waste of time because I think this administration is so retarded in its views and arrogantly so that they aren't interested. As a matter of fact, the more you try to reason with them, as we can see, I mean, this is not new news. As we can see, the more you bring reason to the table, the more they create -- the more they seem to enjoy denying it or pushing it away. So no, forget about them. It's going to be who comes next, and it's going to be stopping this president and his administration from doing any more damage than they've already done.
HARRIS: Boy, I sure would love to see the day when the two of you -- you and the president, actually had a real dialogue. But I guess it's not going to happen. I guess it's...
REDFORD: It would be a very short conversation, I would tell you that much.
HARRIS: OK. Robert Redford, it is great to see you. Thank you for your time this evening.

-- Brent Baker