2. ABC: Bush "Imposing" Pax-Americana, MSNBC: Like Nixon on Vietnam
3. Rather to Rumsfeld: "Is This Going to Be Another Quagmire?"
4. Reviewers Denounce Showtime's 9/11 Movie as Too Pro-Bush
5. Unemployment Rate Down, But Networks Stress "Surge in Job Cuts"
Channeling David Obey, Tom Brokaw indirectly and Wolf Blitzer directly. Sunday night, after President Bush's address to the nation, NBC's Tom Brokaw twice asked whether someone in the administration should be "held accountable" for the mess in Iraq, a theme which matched the demand made last week by a single Member of Congress, liberal Democrat David Obey, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz resign.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on Late Edition, asked National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about Obey's demand and then Blitzer brought Obey himself aboard the 10pm EDT CNN Sunday where he lent credibility to Obey, declaring: "Congressman Obey speaks with 34 years experience in the House, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. When he speaks, people in the House of Representatives listen."
The media certainly do.
Just after Bush's 8:30pm EDT speech from the White House, CBS returned immediately to a Without a Trace repeat, ABC spent a couple of minutes with post-speech analysis and NBC stuck around for about ten minutes, to 9pm EDT, with Tim Russert followed by two guests.
Up first with Brokaw after Russert, Senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Brokaw reminded him of how he "said earlier today it's time for the American people to be, to get a 'leveling speech' from their President. Did the President level with the American people tonight Senator Biden?"
Biden thought he did: "He did Tom and he should be given credit for that. It's an incredible first step. The second step now is to be as resolute in his negotiations at the United Nations, to get that international support and I hope our allies are as magnanimous in acknowledging past mistakes as the President implicitly did. He's made a real u-turn here Tom. He's essentially rejected the advice of his neo-conservatives up to now who've been wrong and embraced the advice of Powell. I think it took a big man to do that and I plan on supporting him."
Brokaw soon asked: "Senator Biden, obviously there has been a profound failure of intelligence about what would happen once we got to Baghdad. Shouldn't someone in the administration be held accountable for that?"
Brokaw posed the nearly identical question to retired Army General Barry McCaffrey: "Same question to you that I asked Senator Biden. Should someone be held accountable for what happened in Baghdad once we got there and found the situation was 180 degrees different than what the Pentagon had promised it would be?"
Later, on the 10pm EDT CNN Sunday Wolf Blitzer made a rare Sunday evening appearance to anchor the hour. In a segment with Obey and Republican Congressman Peter King, Blitzer read to Obey an excerpt from his letter in which Obey charged that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz "have made repeated and serious miscalculations -- miscalculations that have been extremely costly to the American people in terms of lives lost, degradation of our military..."
Blitzer wondered: "You don't really expect them to resign, so you?"
Blitzer turned to King and bucked up Obey's importance: "Congressman King, Congressman Obey speaks with 34 years experience in the House, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. When he speaks, people in the House of Representatives listen."
Blitzer then played a clip from Late Edition earlier in the day of him raising the Obey demand with Rice.
After President Bush's Sunday night address to the nation, ABC's Terry Moran employed a pejorative term in characterizing his plan as "imposing" a "kind of Pax-Americana on the Muslim Middle East." On MSNBC, Chris Matthews claimed that "one of the parts of the speech tonight was so reminiscent of the Vietnam era" and David Gergen of U.S. News agreed "it did have overtones of Vietnam and speeches we heard from President Johnson and President Nixon" and "as things went badly on the ground, of course, their presidencies disintegrated."
Following Bush's 20-minute long 8:30pm EDT speech, ABC anchor Peter Jennings asked Terry Moran to confirm that the $87 billion in new spending Bush proposed is "on top of all the money for construction, right?"
Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews proposed: "I thought one of the parts of the speech tonight was so reminiscent of the Vietnam era you and I lived through. The President talking about how we're going to deal with these threats to our personnel over there. That's really what the speech was about tonight -- convince the America People that the casualties we're taking are minimalized by the best efforts by our people and also they're necessary to fight against world terrorism. He talked about 'we're going out to take direct action against the terrorists in the Iraqi theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks.' He talked about 'staying on the offensive,' about 'a series of precise attacks against enemy targets' using Iraq intel. Didn't that sound to you like 'search and destroy' and do you think that convinced the American people that he has a plan to protect our troops?"
Dan Rather stuck on Vietnam-era analogies. On Thursday's CBS Evening News Rather, from Baghdad, asked Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, whether the Iraq situation is a "tar baby" or "quick sand" or a "'quagmire' out of the Vietnam era." Fast forward to Friday night and Rather confronted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with the same theme: "Mr. Secretary, you know just this week in the paper, there's been phrases used, rank and file Americans, saying 'are we into quick sand?' 'Is this going to be another quagmire?'"
For more about Rather's session with Sanchez, see Friday's CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
Rather's first question: "I want to read you something that Retired U.S. Marine General Anthony Zinni, who you know well-"
Rather also picked up on criticism of Rumsfeld from the right: "Now William Kristol, no one accuses him of not being a supporter of President Bush. I want to give you a chance to answer his criticism and there's no other way to describe it."
Rather got to the Vietnam analogies: "Mr. Secretary, you know just this week in the paper, there's been phrases used, rank and file Americans, saying 'are we into quick sand?' 'Is this going to be another quagmire?'"
One wonders what "rank and file Americans" with whom Rather hangs around.
As CyberAlert predicted, newspaper critics have denounced a Showtime movie for being too favorable to President Bush. The September 5 CyberAlert forecast: "On Sunday night, September 7, Showtime will premiere DC 9-11: Time of Crisis, what I understand will be a 'docudrama' with a sympathetic take on President Bush and his top aides in the days after September 11, 2001. So, expect some derisive reviews in newspapers on Saturday and Sunday."
Reviews in USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Times and the Boston Globe all ridiculed the script and acting in it, but the favorable portrait of President Bush really upset the reviewers.
"Sheer propaganda," sniffed USA Today's Robert Bianco. Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times insisted the movie delivered "a sour, partisan undertone." The Washington Post headline declared: "Showtime's 'DC 9/11' Is a Shameless Bush Booster." Reviewer Tom Shales began the piece below: "Simultaneously dull and disgraceful, DC 9/11: Time of Crisis...uses the tragic attack on America in 2001 as the basis for a reelection campaign movie on behalf of George W. Bush." Shales complained that the movie "is primitive propaganda that portrays Bush as the noblest hero since Mighty Mouse." The Boston Globe characterized it as "too pro-Bush."
-- Robert Bianco in the September 5 USA Today: "Written by Lionel Chetwynd, Crisis purports to be an inside report on the Bush administration's response to the Sept. 11 attacks based on interviews with members of that administration. Never mind the obvious opportunities for self-serving twaddle, none of which are missed. How exactly did anyone at Showtime think this project was even possible?
For the full USA Today review: www.usatoday.com
-- Alessandra Stanley in the September 5 New York Times. An excerpt:
....This made-for-television movie on Showtime Sunday night is less a first draft of history than a final rewrite of a Tom Clancy screenplay. George W. Bush, uncannily impersonated by Timothy Bottoms, is its action-adventure commander in chief. "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come get me," the fictionalized President barks at an overprotective security officer keeping him hidden aboard Air Force One on that fateful day. "I'll just be waiting for the bastard."...
"DC 9/11" was written by Lionel Chetwynd, a filmmaker who is one of Hollywood's more outspoken conservatives, and it reflects his unstinting admiration for the President. (In his eyes, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is not particularly eloquent, and Vice President Dick Cheney is a kowtowing yes-man.)
All docudramas round out the facts to fit a story line. Few would dispute the basic accuracy of the film: even his most virulent opponents give the President credit for adapting to the unimaginable attack with speed and resolve.
But a movie about George W. Bush's first serious challenge -- broadcast at the beginning of his re-election campaign and in the middle of a murky, costly war with no marked ending -- inevitably lends it a sour, partisan undertone....
"DC 9/11" traces Mr. Bush's transition from new, untested president to committed wartime leader, but along the way it rarely misses a chance to suggest that the Clinton administration's weakness was to blame for the disaster.
"I want to inflict pain," Mr. Bush tells Prime Minister Blair over the telephone. "Bring enough damage so they understand there is a new team here, a fundamental change in our policy."
The script does not air-brush Mr. Bush's first, awkward stumbles, and it faithfully recreates his stiff televised statement from Barksdale Air Force Base. The movie also puts him back on his feet very quickly. On Air Force One, he is totally in control. "Hike military alert status to Delta," he instructs Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (John Cunningham). "That's the military, the C.I.A., foreign, domestic, everything," he explains to Mr. Rumsfeld, who was also Secretary of Defense under President Gerald R. Ford. "And if you haven't gone to Defcon 3, you oughtta." He then gets on the line with Mr. Cheney (Lawrence Pressman): "Vice? We are at war."...
END of Excerpt
For the New York Times review in full: www.nytimes.com
-- "Showtime's 'DC 9/11' Is a Shameless Bush Booster," read the headline over the September 6 Washington Post review by Tom Shales. An excerpt:
Simultaneously dull and disgraceful, "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis," a new Showtime movie, uses the tragic attack on America in 2001 as the basis for a reelection campaign movie on behalf of George W. Bush.
The film is an insult to those who perished in the attacks and, really, an insult to America generally, but it's so insanely boring that people aren't likely to become very outraged over it. Written by conservative Republican Lionel Chetwynd, who admits to a bias in Bush's favor, the film -- premiering on Showtime tomorrow night at 8 -- is primitive propaganda that portrays Bush as the noblest hero since Mighty Mouse.
Nothing in historical record suggests Bush acted particularly heroically Sept. 11, 2001, but Chetwynd's script has him all but saddling up a horse and riding over to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban man-to-man. When Bush announces he will give a speech to the nation from the White House and aides try to talk him into seeking a safer location, Bush bellows, "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come on over and get me. I'll be home!"
Bush repeatedly demands he be taken to the White House as Air Force One flies aimlessly about on that horrible September day: "I've got to get back to Washington because I'm not going to let those people keep me from getting home," he barks. And earlier: "Get me home!...The American people want to know where their damn president is." And still earlier: "People can't have an AWOL President!"
All this may be pure fantasy that occurred only in Chetwynd's head, or wishful thinking by members of the Bush administration, who cooperated with Chetwynd in his research....
END of Excerpt
For the Shales review in its entirety: www.washingtonpost.com
-- "'DC 9/11' is too pro-Bush, and too late," declared the Boston Globe headline over a September 6 review by Mark Jurkowitz. An Excerpt:
If "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis" could ever be cut down to a bite-size portion, it would make the best presidential reelection ad ever conceived, one that would force every Democratic challenger to abandon the chase for the White House.
Most Americans, of all political stripes, would agree that in the frantic days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, George Bush's steely leadership and deft tone helped stabilize a nation knocked out of its equilibrium and stripped of its comfortable preconceptions. This Showtime "docudrama" promises to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the administration's machinations and deliberations in the days right after 9/11. Instead, it proves a slick piece of propaganda that deifies the president and portrays the wheels of government as turning with well-oiled precision in the face of the gravest crisis to confront the country in a generation.
Whether visiting the injured, ordering an ultimatum to the Taliban, perusing Psalm 23, or affirming American values in a misty-eyed conversation with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush (Timothy Bottoms) is unbowed, unflappable, and unwavering. He is, to put it in Hollywood terms, part John Wayne and part Gary Cooper, with a little Jimmy Stewart tossed in for good measure....
END of Excerpt
For the Globe review in full: www.boston.com
Lionel Chetwynd doesn't mind being held to a different standard in Hollywood for his conservative views. The veteran writer-director is used to the tilted playing field. He has rumbled up and down its terrain for years.
The disparity "makes me a better writer and filmmaker," says Mr. Chetwynd, the writer and producer of Showtime's "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis," airing at 8 p.m. tomorrow....
"A liberal can go out and make...'The West Wing,' which is not even thinly disguised as a liberal view of politics, and do hours of propaganda every week, and no one questions it," he says.
"It's not something that's done behind closed doors. It's openly accepted by everyone, including me," says Mr. Chetwynd, whose previous credits include "The Hanoi Hilton" (1987), about American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, as well as numerous TV films and news specials.
Mr. Chetwynd says he faced withering questioning, some insulting, at the recent Television Critics Association meeting where he promoted the film.
"They demanded to know, did I contribute money to George Bush, how much did I contribute," he says. He also got questions about his personal life and the people with whom he associates.
"Because I'm a Republican, I am suspect and should not be trusted," he says.
He says if Harry Thomason, a longtime TV producer and famous pal of former President Bill Clinton's, had made a film depicting that presidency, he wouldn't face such an assault....
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.washingtontimes.com
I watched the movie, I mean docudrama, last night and I didn't think it was as bad as the reviews made out, though it did come across more like a C-SPAN hidden camera effort than a full-fledged movie. I also noticed that the producers made deals with CNN and FNC for news video, so while most of the newscasts shown were made into generic feeds, Brit Hume got two clips and Wolf Blitzer got one.
Showtime's additional airings of the movie, times supposedly EDT and PDT:
- Showtime Too East 09/08/03 9:30 PM
For Showtime's page on the "docudrama," go to: www.sho.com
For the Friday CyberAlert item on it: www.mediaresearch.org
The unemployment rate fell in August by one-tenth of a percent to 6.1 percent, but the networks on Friday night buried that news and instead emphasized an increase in the number of jobs lost. "The Labor Department today reported an unexpected August surge in job cuts by U.S. employers," CBS's John Roberts asserted.
Usually the networks follow the New York Times. This time, the news cycle allowed the networks to beat the Times to the punch. "Defying Forecast, Job Losses Mount for a 22nd Month," read the Saturday New York Times story. The Washington Post's front page headline: "Payroll Jobs Down in August."
A quick look at the Friday night, September 5, take on ABC, CBS and NBC:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased: "The jobs disappearing from the economy. 90,000 in August. Some Americans have given up looking for work altogether."
Jennings later plugged the upcoming story: "When we come back, tens of thousands of jobs lost. And some of them may never return."
Jennings set up the eventual story: "The government released new unemployment figures today and they came as a surprise. Instead of adding jobs as expected, the economy lost another 93,000. The unemployment rate actually went down slightly to 6.1 percent, but it is not necessarily a positive development because it reflects the fact that many people have given up looking for work altogether."
ABC reporter Betsy Stark pointed out: "The U.S. has lost more jobs in the last two year than any period since the Great Depression."
But ABC did follow Stark with a piece by Dean Reynolds on worker shortages in some areas: hair stylists, nurses, veterinarians, advertising, accountants and engineers.
-- CBS Evening News. Over a "Job Cuts" graphic, anchor John Roberts asserted: "The Labor Department today reported an unexpected August surge in job cuts by U.S. employers. The disappointing figures cast a shadow on recent indications that the economy is finally starting to come out of the doldrums."
CBS's Anthony Mason explained: "The U.S. economy gave up another 93,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate did dip in August because many discouraged people just gave up looking for work..."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's up front tease: "Jobs wanted. The unemployment rate goes down a notch, but America still loses almost 100,000 more jobs. Are they gone for good?"
Brokaw introduced the subsequent story: "Now to the American economy and the unemployment numbers that are out today. Once again, the overall number looked encouraging. The unemployment rate ticked down in August one-tenth to 6.1 percent. The troubling number, however, was the payrolls report. Companies slashed 93,000 more jobs last month, surprising analysts who were expecting jobs to be gained."
# Peter Jennings and Dennis Miller. Scheduled to appear Monday night on CNN's Larry King Live: Peter Jennings, who is marking 20 years as anchor of World News Tonight. And Dennis Miller is scheduled to make another appearance on Tuesday night on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
-- Brent Baker