2. ABC Goes to Baghdad for Reaction: U.S. Wants to "Enslave Iraq"
3. Treating as Relevant the Inability to Convince Ted Kennedy
4. Stressing How Top Republicans Oppose Dividend Tax Cut
5. Ceci Connolly Laments What "Clintonesque" Bush Left Out
6. Juan Williams "Touched" by Bush's Caring Attitude
7. Chris Matthews Ridicules Bush on Hydrogen Car
8. Helen Thomas: Bush "Is the Worst President in...History"
Couric: "Everybody Thinks" Dividend Tax Cut Favor the Rich
Lauer Feels Guilty for Owning
SUV, Exceeding "Fair Share" of Gas
Minutes after President Bush completed his State of the Union address ABC News reporter Michel Martin whined that it failed to address "the core complaint of his critics" as "a strong majority of citizens believe that his plan strongly favors the rich," and "he doesn't seem to have done anything to address those complaints tonight."
Following comments from George Stephanopoulos about the "sweeping" nature of Bush's speech and from Cokie Roberts about how Bush tried to demonstrate his compassionate conservative policies, an off-camera Martin argued over video of Bush shaking hands in the House chamber:
Maybe "a strong majority" of people wouldn't think his tax cuts favor the rich if the media didn't so deliberately distort coverage of the impact of Bush's tax plan. For documentation of the media's tilt, see the MRC's study by Rich Noyes, "Reporters Push Spin of Anti-Tax Cut Liberals: Echoing Daschle, Reporters Assert Bush's Tax Cut Is Lousy Stimulus, Favors Wealthy & Worsens Deficit." That's online with numbers at:
For the other side, we go to Berlin, I mean Baghdad. After the Democratic response, ABC News went to Dan Harris in Baghdad who called President Bush's charge, that Iraq is not cooperating with inspectors, "low hanging fruit" for them to dismiss by pointing "out that the inspectors have been here for more than 60 days and have so far found nothing." Plus, as far as Bush's idea of "liberating" Iraq, "Saddam Hussein was on TV a couple of hours ago saying the Americans want to enslave Iraq."
CBS and NBC coverage also featured reaction pieces from their reporters in Iraq, but CBS's Elizabeth Palmer and NBC's Ron Allen refrained from so generously relaying enemy propaganda as they stuck to how Iraqi citizens may or may not hear what Bush said and Iraq's comments on Monday's UN report.
At just about 10:30pm EST, the MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me, Peter Jennings went to Harris in Baghdad. Harris related: "When the leadership of this country wakes up in a couple of hours, the sun is just coming up right now, I suspect they will latch on to many of the complaints we've heard from President Bush tonight. Most notably I think the low hanging fruit is this idea that they're still hiding weapons of mass destruction. They'll point out that the inspectors have been here for more than 60 days and have so far found nothing. I think you'll also hear a reaction to this idea that President Bush put forward of liberating Iraq. Saddam Hussein was on TV a couple of hours ago saying the Americans want to enslave Iraq."
As if anything Bush said would change Ted Kennedy's mind. Just after Bush finished, CBS's Dan Rather went to Bob Schieffer who highlighted how before Bush's speech Senator Ted Kennedy had released a statement denouncing Bush's "go it alone foreign policy" and said he will introduce an amendment requiring a new resolution to demand "convincing evidence of an imminent threat" from Iraq.
Schieffer sniffed: "So if the President's goal tonight was to begin to lay out the case for why it may be necessary to go to war against Iraq, he has not as yet convinced all the Democrats."
Near the end of CBS's coverage Jane Clayson recounted how Bush's speech did sway some. Citing a survey of 600 people conducted for CBS News by Knowledge Networks via the Internet a week earlier and immediately after Bush's address, Clayson noted how approval for U.S. military action against Iraq jumped from 67 to 77 percent while disapproval fell from 32 to 22 percent.
Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert made sure NBC viewers realized that top Senate and House Republicans are "cool" to President Bush's wish to eliminate the tax on dividends, but Brokaw also pressed two Democrats about Bush's case for war with Iraq.
Russert noted, observed MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The President made another mention about eliminating taxes on the dividends from stocks. The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Republican Bill Thomas, decidedly cool to that point..."
Later, Brokaw informed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "On the question of taxes. The President said tonight, 'I am proposing that all income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year.' He also talked about the need to eliminate the double taxation on dividends. Just this week, Bill Thomas, who is the head of the Ways and Means Committee in the House, and your own Senator Charles Grassley, who is the head of the Senate Finance Committee from the state of Iowa, a Republican, have expressed grave reservations about the permanence of the President's tax cut, but especially about the tax on the dividends being eliminated completely. Isn't it unrealistic, given the fact that you've got these two men who are the point men really for you saying wait a minute?"
But Brokaw also took on Democratic guests about the persuasiveness of Bush's case on Iraq. Brokaw to House Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi: "You didn't think that he was persuasive when he said that Saddam Hussein, who was moving mobile laboratories around and could use some of those biological or chemical agents and pass them along to terrorists, that he didn't make a persuasive case about that very strong possibility?"
And Brokaw to Senator Ted Kennedy: "The President's remarks on Iraq tonight, the possibility of a tie between Saddam Hussein and terrorist agents, whether they are al-Qaeda or otherwise, did any of that cause you to rethink your position in opposition to the possibility of a war?"
Once again, on Fox, Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly complained about what wasn't in Bush's State of the Union speech. Last year she lamented how it lacked liberal priorities, bemoaning how there was "very little with respect to minorities, the uninsured, the homeless, the elderly, Enron workers who have lost their life savings."
This year she grumbled, during the Fox coverage anchored by Tony Snow: "A couple of the things that were not mentioned tonight, Tony: Immigrants, race relations, Osama bin Laden, state budget deficits. Those are going to be some of the things to look for when the President's budget also comes out next week."
Earlier, Connolly had recited all of the new spending Bush promised and suggested he was "sounding almost Clintonesque." From her, that's a compliment not a criticism. She reported:
An editor's note: "Fox" is not FNC and FNC is not Fox. "Fox" is the broadcast network and FNC, the Fox News Channel, is the cable news service.
Williams "touched" by Bush. Watching President Bush, NPR's Juan Williams conceded on FNC, led him to see Bush as "a human being...who cared deeply about the average person trying to make a go of it in this world, in the United States. And I just hadn't expected it and I'm touched by it."
Nothing like a bunch of new spending programs and expanded entitlements to warm a liberal's heart.
During the Brit Hume-anchored FNC post-speech coverage on FNC, Williams opined: "One of the things that struck me when he talked was helping the children of prisoners, when he talked about helping addicts. I don't think many people associate George W. Bush with that kind of specific compassion and reaching out to people..."
He later elaborated: "Sitting here as an African-American, he was touching on a lot of issues that hit home for me. And so I thought, this is a surprise to me, I didn't expect it in this way. I knew he was going to talk about Medicare, and that really, I think, is going to be the big news coming out of this, is the idea that seniors would have to get prescription drug benefits out of HMOs, but in so many ways you could see that this was a human being is what struck me Brit, who cared deeply about, you know, the average person trying to make a go of it in this world, in the United States. And I just hadn't expected it and I'm touched by it."
In America in 2003 liberals are still shocked to learn that anyone right of center cares about other people.
-- Matthews to Republican Senator Rick Santorum: "Are you comfortable being in the political party of the hydrogen car?...No, seriously, though, is this a serious environmental proposal or is this simply something to throw away to try to get the soft suburbanite woman who has a soft spot in her heart for the environment? Is it a serious proposal, the hydrogen car?"
-- Matthews to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey: "As a man of Texas. Did you know that you were the party of the hydrogen car? Are some of these things in this speech just baby talk babble for the masses to swallow? I mean, do we really believe the President has this tremendous interest in hydrogen cars? I mean, did the President of the United States really go on national television to trash trial lawyers because they give all their money to Democrats? Was a lot of this just malarkey?"
As opposed to Matthews' nightly rants?
President Bush "is the worst President in all of American history," Hearst Newspapers White House reporter Helen Thomas proclaimed at a Society of Professional Journalists awards event in California nearly two weeks ago. John Bogert cited the derogatory remark in a January 19 story for the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, a story the DrudgeReport.com picked up on Tuesday.
From the Daily Breeze Web site it's impossible to tell whether Bogert is a reporter or columnist or whether the posting is of a news story or opinion piece, but it reads like an op-ed as it provides a first-hand recounting of Bogert's encounter with Thomas. An excerpt from the January 19 posting by Bogert about what Thomas, the long-time UPI reporter, said:
As veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas signed my program Thursday evening at the Society of Professional Journalists' annual awards banquet, I said, "First time I ever asked a reporter for an autograph."
"Thank you, dear," she said, patting my arm. "Don't lose heart."...
Thomas, in case you've never seen a presidential news conference, is the woman who has haunted every U.S. president since JFK....
I attended this Biltmore Hotel banquet for two reasons -- Thomas and Jean Adelsman. Jean is the retired managing editor of the Breeze and the recipient Thursday evening of a Journalist of the Year award, along with Judy Muller of ABC News...
As late as 1972 she was the only woman on the Nixon China trip. Still, she survives in a Washington press corps that she says has gone soft, accepting presidential spin without question.
There was a lot of that in her speech, this talk of devaluation in the character of leadership. Not surprisingly for an admitted liberal, she held her greatest praise for John Kennedy, the only president in her estimation who made Americans look to their higher angels....
She seemed to have sympathy and affection for everyone but George W. Bush, a man who she said is rising on a wave of 9-11 fear -- fear of looking unpatriotic, fear of asking questions, just fear. "We have," she said, "lost our way."
Thomas believes we have chosen to promote democracy with bombs instead of largess while Congress "defaults," Democrats cower and a president controls all three branches of government in the name of corporations and the religious right.
As she signed my program, I joked, "You sound worried."
"This is the worst President ever," she said. "He is the worst President in all of American history."
The woman who has known eight of them wasn't joking.
END of Excerpt
But with her far-left rantings at White House press briefings, Thomas long ago became a joke to all but her journalistic sycophants.
The entire story is posted at two places:
Bias comes full circle on the Today show. First, Today, like all network shows, portrays President Bush's tax cut plan as favoring the rich, especially the proposal to eliminate the double-taxation of dividends. Then, Today's Katie Couric on Tuesday asked a guest to confirm how "everybody thinks" the dividend tax cut "does favor the rich instead of the working class, right?"
Meanwhile, at another point on Today, Matt Lauer linked job losses to the 2001 tax cut and, citing Bush's plan to push for another tax cut, wondered: "Why will this be different?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught the two examples, on the January 28 Today, of distorted looks at Bush's tax cut plan.
-- CNBC anchor Ron Insana informed Couric: "Well the centerpiece of the President's plan, as you know, is this exclusion of dividend taxes for shareholders around the country who pay taxes on dividends that they receive from the stocks that they hold. The President has proposed wiping out those taxes altogether. That is the most expensive part of the program."
But as a Tax Foundation report noted, contrary to Couric's image, a majority of those earning dividend income make less than $50,000 a year: "Of all taxpayers that claimed some dividend income in 2000, nearly half (45.8 percent) earned less than $50,000 in adjusted gross income (which includes dividends). Moreover, 63.8 percent of those taxpayers claiming dividends earned less than $50,000 in just wages and salaries." For the full report, see: http://taxfoundation.org/DividendIncome.html
-- During an interview with White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett, Matt Lauer wanted him to explain:
For the third time in barely six weeks, NBC has devoted a segment to promoting the agenda of those out to convince people to cease driving SUVs. On Tuesday, Matt Lauer displayed Today's agenda: "What about the looming war with Iraq. What impact might it have on you? Is it really about oil? We're gonna find out what you need to know before you start your car this morning."
Spurred by the Natural Resources Defense Council's efforts, Lauer interviewed the NRDC's Robert Kennedy and Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and, once again, Today gave free air time to Arianna Huffington's ads about how SUV drivers support terrorism.
Lauer, who admitted owning an SUV, expressed guilt about it: "While it's great to haul my son's junk around am I using more than my fair share of the fuel, the precious fuel that's available?"
This free promotion is one of a series donated to the liberal cause by NBC. The December 17 Today hyped the efforts of some liberals to scare people away from driving SUVs. "Is your SUV a weapon of terrorism?" co-host Lester Holt asked at the top of the show. Later, Holt promised: "Coming up in our next half-hour. Is your SUV a weapon of mass destruction?" Citing the What Would Jesus Drive? PR gimmick, co-host Ann Curry trumpeted a "drumbeat" against SUVs before highlighting guest Huffington's ads: "Your ad campaign...tries to convince Americans to give up their SUVs, having SUV drivers saying things like, 'I helped hijack an airplane.' 'I helped blow up a night club.' 'I gassed 40,000 Kurds.' Are you saying that people who are driving SUVs are contributing to terrorism?" For details:
And on the January 7 NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw announced: "Sport utility vehicles, SUVs, are in a peculiar position in the American psyche these days. They are at once very popular and despised. Popular for the room, power and safety, despised for their gas-guzzling, more-power-than-is-necessary appetite. Now a familiar political and social commentator has decided the best way to attack SUV drivers is to accuse them of aiding terrorism." See:
On Tuesday morning this week, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Lauer plugged the upcoming segment: "Then is it all about oil? That's what some are arguing about the preparations for war with Iraq. We are gonna find out what you need to know before you start your car this morning."
Today promoted "controversy" over SUVs, as Lauer introduced the segment: "Some people can't live with them while others can't imagine living without them and now with war looming on the horizon the controversy around SUVs is heating up. Robert Kennedy Jr. is Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sam Kazman represents the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group which by the way is partially funded by the auto industry."
Nice how Lauer slipped in that shot at CEI's credibility by noting a funding source after having not labeled NRDC as liberal or named any of its donors.
Lauer went first to Kennedy, cuing him up: "What's your main beef with SUVs? What's your best ground for attacking them?"
Kennedy complained about how "we are about to send troops to, to the Mid-east in a conflict and, and many of our troops may die of it. And it's a conflict that is, rises out of our dependence on Mid-eastern oil. What we should be doing in this country, people who care about this country, should be saying, like we did in World War II, we should say, 'We're gonna use less oil in our country.' And unfortunately the SUVs now, are driving our oil use. They take advantage of a loop-hole in the corporate average fuel efficiency standards which are the standards the federal government establishes for automobiles..."
Lauer gave Kazman a chance to fire back: "You feel as if the SUVs and their owners are being made scapegoats. Explain that to me."
Lauer soon revealed his guilt -- both being guilty of owning an SUV and how he feels guilty about it: "In the effort of full disclosure, I have two cars one of them is an SUV. And while yeah it's great to haul my son's junk around am I using more than my fair share of the fuel, the precious fuel that's available?"
Lauer oddly asked Kennedy: "Mr. Kennedy, you're a fan of free markets right? Supply and demand."
After Kennedy railed about how SUVs are not safe, Lauer prompted Kazman to outline how he sees safety in size, but then Lauer challenged him: "What about the people who are involved in an accident where their car is hit by an SUV? Aren't they three times more likely to be killed in an accident?"
Next, Lauer gave more free air time Huffington's ads: "Let me do this. Let me roll a commercial that's becoming, that's getting a lot of attention lately. This is from Arianna Huffington's group. We'll roll it and we'll talk about it on the other side."
Following an ad break, Lauer highlighted what the ad claimed: "And this commercial goes on to say that these are SUV owners so they are drawing a connection between owning an SUV, driving an SUV, Mr. Kennedy and aiding terrorists? Is that a fair connection?"
Lauer ended by giving Kazman the last word: "Real quickly. Mr. Kazman, the terrorist link connection between SUVs. Fair or unfair?"
Kazman may have been allowed to provide balance to Kennedy, but by showcasing this liberal cause Today served to advance the liberal agenda of one side of the American political system. When did a conservative cause promoted by CEI lead to a Today segment framed around CEI's conservative spin?
> Expect another CyberAlert, or a CyberAlert Special, later today with a rundown of any bias in morning show coverage of the State of the Union.
-- Brent Baker, and Brad Wilmouth on the night team with, for a while, Ken Shepherd