2. Rather Charges FNC Biased and Get Talking Points from White House
3. CNN's Cafferty: Arrogant Bush Should Stop Opposing Democrats
4. Matthews Laughs As Franken Jokes Fund's GOP Buddies Are 'Crooks'
5. ABC's Conservative Character: 'Acknowledge the War Was a Mistake'
6. "Top Ten Chapter Titles in O.J. Simpson's New Book"
The Friday broadcast network evening newscasts, seemingly with no self-awareness of the role of the traveling press corps, all focused on how in Vietnam President Bush was pressed about comparisons of the Iraq war to the Vietnam war -- a topic he commented on only when asked by a U.S. reporter. CBS was the most adamant in raising parallels, Bush's avoidance of service in Vietnam and how he is now "creating another" Vietnam. Katie Couric declared that Bush "couldn't get away from the inevitable comparisons between Iraq and the war America lost in Vietnam." Over vintage video of the Vietnam war, Jim Axelrod asserted that the Iraq war "is starting to look more and more like this war. The parallels are plain." Axelrod contended that "Mr. Bush's trip here was bound to fuel his critics who've never bought his explanation about how he managed to avoid military service in Vietnam. But Iraq raises the stakes and changes the focus from what he did during the Vietnam War to whether he's creating another one. On a just-released audiotape, President Johnson in 1966 shared his goals for Vietnam." Following audio of LBJ promising the U.S. would leave Vietnam "just as soon as you can have anybody that will guarantee stability," Axelrod intoned: "Mr. Bush's remarks today had an eerie echo as he spoke about Iraq."
On ABC's World News, fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas insisted "the war in Iraq shadowed President Bush today during his visit to Vietnam" as the Vietnam war "has drawn comparisons to America's experience in Iraq." From Vietnam, Martha Raddatz echoed Couric: "For President Bush, the comparisons to his own war in Iraq were inevitable." NBC anchor Brian Williams announced that "the topic of the current war followed" Bush "all the way" to Vietnam. David Gregory, in Vietnam, also used the "inevitable" characterization of the comparison made by journalists: "The White House tried to avoid reflecting on the war in Vietnam because of the inevitable comparisons to the Iraq war." Gregory asserted that "the obvious parallel between Vietnam and Iraq is the American public's desire to find a way out," and though the Vietnamese are still oppressed in a communist state, Gregory suggested the U.S. won: "But if there is a hopeful sign in the Vietnam of today, prosperous and western-looking, it is this -- that it is possible to lose the war but win the peace."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Bush's comments, outside the Sheraton in Hanoi where he took questions from reporters as he stood with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, occurred a little past 2am EST Friday morning, a bit past 1pm local time Friday in Vietnam. I was unable to locate video of the exchange with reporters, so don't know who asked the question comparing Vietnam with Iraq, but the White House transcript provides this as the question which generated the soundbites of Bush on which the networks pounced: "Are there lessons here for the debate over Iraq?" The transcript: www.whitehouse.gov
# CBS Evening News. Katie Couric: "Meanwhile, no surprise, President Bush faced plenty of questions about Iraq as he became only the second American President to visit Vietnam since that war. He's in Hanoi for an economic summit, but he couldn't get away from the inevitable comparisons between Iraq and the war America lost in Vietnam. Chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod is traveling with the President."
Jim Axelrod: "Meeting in Vietnam with one of his strongest allies on Iraq, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, President Bush would not rule out sending even more troops to fight the war there."
Martha Raddatz: "Elizabeth, this visit has really become a story of two wars: The war the U.S. is involved in now in Iraq and the war it was involved in more than 30 years ago. The President was greeted as a friend of Vietnam today, promoting capitalism and trade in a country which fell to communism in 1975. Tonight, at a state dinner, the President toasted his communist hosts."
David Gregory: "Thirty years after America's unsuccessful war in this country, a U.S. President was greeted in Hanoi as a friend. The Vietnamese lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the presidential motorcade speeding through Hanoi's sprawling commercial district. Today the White House tried to avoid reflecting on the war in Vietnam because of the inevitable comparisons to the Iraq War. Still, Mr. Bush said, there are lessons."
Rather endorsed Maher's take, insisting that "Fox News operates in at least a somewhat different way than every other news organization that I know." Without citing any evidence, Rather charged: "We know that they get talking points from the White House" and, he added, "I think it's pretty clear that they had wished the election had gone another way and they sought to position their programming which would raise as many questions about it as possible" since "they wanted to frame the news in a certain way actually before the news happened."
Can't imagine that ever occurred at CBS News during Rather's tenure!
An audio (MP3) and video (Real and Windows Media) clip will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert.
Speaking of framing a story, as item #1 above recounted, on Friday night correspondents for ABC, CBS and NBC all used the identical "inevitable comparison" phrase as they framed stories, on President Bush's visit to Vietnam, around equating the situation in Iraq to the Vietnam war, stories made viable by a comment from Bush prompted by a question manufactured by a member of the traveling press corps. Maybe ABC, CBS and NBC news executives didn't issue memos suggesting an Iraq/Vietnam comparison storyline -- they don't have to when everyone on staff already thinks alike -- but that's no less insidious.
Maher referred to the e-mailed memo, sent two days after the election, as being posted "today" by Huffington Post. In fact, the image of the e-mail was posted on Tuesday: www.huffingtonpost.com
Bill Maher: "I want to bring your attention to something that was on my friend Arianna Huffington's blog today, the Huffington Post. It was an internal memo from Fox News, an organization I guess that would never hire you-" [audience laughter]
HDNET's page for Rather's program: www.hd.net
What's the definition of bipartisanship? According to CNN's Jack Cafferty, it's completely supporting the Democratic agenda. On the Friday edition of The Situation Room, the CNN commentator complained that President Bush, whose "arrogance" he decried, had the temerity to re-nominate John Bolton as UN Ambassador and still support the terrorist surveillance program: "As proof that [Bush's] arrogance was not lost in the election, he wants Congress to pass legislation legalizing the NSA spy program, the one that's already been ruled illegal by a federal judge. That's not going to happen either. Great idea though, right? You do something illegal, you just get your toadies in Congress to pass a law saying that it's legal. Same thing they did with the violations of the Geneva Conventions."
[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript of the "Cafferty File" segment, which aired at 4:12pm EST on November 17:
"After the Republicans got the stuffing knocked out of them in the midterms last week, President Bush wanted to make nice. So he had these little sit-downs with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the new powers in Congress, and talked about how they were all just going to get along. That tired old phrase bipartisanship was heard over and over again, as it always is after somebody get's dusted up at the ballot box. Well, here's what's happened since then: Bush wants John Bolton confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the UN by the lame duck session of Congress. Ain't gonna happen. Bush has resubmitted six formally blocked judicial nominees to federal appeals courts and he wants those confirmed by the lame duck session. Ain't gonna happen. And as proof that his arrogance was not lost in the election, he wants Congress to pass legislation legalizing the NSA spy program, the one that's already been ruled illegal by a federal judge. That's not going to happen either. Great idea, right? You do something illegal, you just get your toadies in Congress to pass a law saying it's legal. Same thing they did with the violations of the Geneva Conventions. Here's the question then: 'Is there really such a thing as bipartisanship in Washington? E-mail your thoughts on that to Caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to Cnn.com/Caffertyfile.com. Wolf?"
Is MSNBC a liberal network? Just ask Chris Matthews, who let Al Franken whack John Fund around on Hardball Thursday night, telling Fund his "buddies" in the GOP are "crooks." While Fund took offense at the personal attacks, Matthews treated it like part of Franken's stand-up routine. At the segment's end, though, Matthews oozed all over Franken's performance: "Please come back, Al. You've been doing a lot of homework, and I think you got a 'head of the class.' Very well done. I'm not sarcastic. It's great. Thank you, Al, for coming on."
Fund never responded to the joke-slash-personal attack with the obvious line: Franken, the guy whose buddies at Air America were ripping off the Boys and Girls Clubs to pay his multi-million-dollar salary, making crook jokes? Of course, if he had, Matthews probably would have done a full Malkin on him, and told him he didn't put up with personal attacks: www.mrc.org
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Here's how it went down on the November 16 Hardball. Fund challenged Franken on how he didn't hear Franken say much about what Democrats would do about ethics reform. Franken began reasonably: "I think they can do it all at the same time and I think they will do it all in the first 100 hours. She talked about lobbying reform right away. I'm glad that Steny Hoyer won. I really admire Jack Murtha for standing up on the Iraq War. I admire his service. But part of the vote is what you were talking about, which is voting for ethics reform."
And then the mockery switch turned on toward Fund: "I mean, let's face it, this was your guys, your pals are corrupt. Your buddies, your chums, they're just, they're crooks."
Matthews didn't come to Fund's defense. He just tried to move on: "Let me ask you about the-"
Matthews shifted the attack back on Fund: "Let me ask you both -- you can start, since he just offended you and I think he did intentionally -- let me ask you, John Fund and then Al Franken, there is a notion around the building, I mean, the great joke is from Mark Russell, I've repeated it before, because it's hilarious, what does a Congressman say to another Congressman on Wednesday? 'Have a nice weekend.' I mean, the fact is, the fact, is people say we shouldn't do up on the Hill, we shouldn't be doing indictments, they shouldn't be using the subpoena power, they shouldn't be trying to find how the hell to end this war because that gets in the way of doing minimum wage and the Medicare stuff and it gets in the way of ethics."
Looking right past Fund and sounding increasingly angry, Matthews said, "You act like, John, if you do minimum wage, they don't do ethics. They can work five days a week, can't they?"
Matthews: "Right. Who decided that the Hill should only work three days a week? The Republican leadership."
When Matthews oddly brought Franken back in, saying "I'm not going to argue this" -- um, you just did -- Franken went back to the buddies gibe: "John's pals, his buddies, his friends, decided we'll only have 69 full work days in the whole, whole year. Your buddies did that."
Then, as the topic shifted to energy, Fund argued we should not leap again into subsidizing wasteful alternative energy sources like ethanol (which Franken supported), Franken did it again: "By giving tax breaks to oil companies like your buddies did in the last congress? In the last energy bill? Your pals, giving billions of dollars in tax breaks, john?" At this point, Matthews was laughing so hard at this alleged humor that he put his hand on his head, as if to say, please, I can't handle the non-stop hilarity.
Fund reacted defensively: "Al, for somebody who wants to talk about policy, you want to make it personal. I'm sorry."
Then, after Franken held forth on how brilliant "the President" (well, former President Bill Clinton) had been at a dinner, discussing the difference between an ideology and a philosophy, Matthews uncorked his toast to Franken's genius: "Please come back, Al. You've been doing a lot of homework, and I think you got a 'head of the class.' Very well done. I'm not sarcastic. It's great. Thank you, Al, for coming on."
Matthews wheezed with laughter.
It took ABC until just the ninth episode of its new Sunday night drama, Brothers & Sisters, to have its sole conservative character "grow" -- as they say of conservatives who move to the left -- from a pro-war right-winger to a critic of the Iraq war who declared it "a mistake." The show evolves around the "Walkers," a southern California family of two adult sisters and three adult brothers with Sally Field playing "Nora," the liberal widowed matriarch who regularly clashes with daughter "Kitty," the conservative half of a left/right daily TV show, played by Calista Flockhart.
On Sunday's episode, Nora was very upset by the Army's decision to recall her son, "Justin," who had served in Afghanistan, to go to Iraq. Feeling guilty about her pro-war sentiments which may have influenced Justin to enlist in the first place, before an interview with "Senator Robert McCallister," a California Republican played by Rob Lowe, Kitty plead with him to get the order rescinded. He refused, but she did him the favor during the interview of not asking about his divorce and rumors he had sex his family's nanny. Before the taped interview aired, she introduced it with an apology as she asserted: "I made a mistake in compromising the interview that you're about to see, and I made a mistake in continuing to defend a war that is in a desperate need of re-examination, re-examination which cannot come until we acknowledge that the war itself was a mistake."
[This item was posted late Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
ABC's page for Brothers & Sisters: abc.go.com
From the November 19 episode of Brothers & Sisters, Calista Flockhart, as "Kitty Walker," on the set of the imaginary Red, White and Blue television show:
"In the interview that you are about to see, I asked Senator McCallister about his stem cell bill, his position on Iraq and his aspiration towards higher executive office. What I didn't ask him about was his recent divorce. Now I wish I could I say I didn't ask the Senator about his divorce because of some high-minded notion of journalistic integrity, but it was just the opposite. I have a brother who served in Afghanistan and was recently called back to serve in Iraq. And I did the Senator a favor in the hope that he would do me one and use his influence to keep my brother home, to keep him from fighting in a war that I have defended on this very program.
From the November 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Chapter Titles in O.J. Simpson's New Book." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "People On My To-Kill List"
9. "Tuesdays With Robert Blake"
8. "The Murder Weapon: Is It Hidden In Your Town?"
7. "101 Alibis For All Occasions"
6. "Guitar Lessons, Ballroom Dancing And Other Things I've Taken A Stab At"
5. "How I Killed Pat Morita"
4. "My Confession: I Love Pop-Tarts"
3. "Things I Want To Do Before I Go To Hell"
2. "It's Not Like I'm Blaming It On The Jews"
1. "If Murdering Two People Is A Crime, Then Call Me Guilty!"
-- Brent Baker