CBS: Bush's Actions "Raising New Questions About" His Leadership --9/10/2003
2. John "Even Republican" McCain, Nets Trumpet His Iraq Criticisms
3. On Iraq Money Request, a Sudden Concern About Too Much Spending
4. CBS's Smith to Kennedy: Bush Guilty of "Sexing-Up Intelligence"?
"Another Drawn-Out, Inconclusive Vietnam War in the Making?"
6. Wall Street Journal Features MRC Column on Jennings and Brokaw
7. USA Today Story Tags Coulter as "Ultraconservative" Extremist
Correction: A September 8 CyberAlert article, which included a transcript of a story by CBS's Cynthia Bowers, inadvertently twice referred to her as "Hughes."
Dan Rather opened Tuesday's CBS Evening News by dramatically intoning that President Bush's request for foreign troops in Iraq and decision to extend the tours for reservists in Iraq, is "raising new questions about the leadership of Mr. Bush and his team among reservists and their families and the people's elected representatives in both parties."
Rather announced at the top of his September 9 broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
John "Even Republican" McCain. The media's favorite Republican is back, allowing the networks to fill in their favorite sentence, in which a Republican joins with Democrats in advocating a point of view favored by journalists. In this case, how "even Republican" John McCain joined with Senate Democrats during an Armed Services Committee hearing in grilling administration officials about Iraq.
On Tuesday night, CBS's John Roberts set up a McCain clip by stressing how "even some Republicans now charge that the U.S. is spread too thin." NBC's Tom Brokaw trumpeted "tough questions coming from even Republicans in Congress," though the subsequent story by colleague Norah O'Donnell focused on only one Republican, how "it wasn't just Democrats today who were critical. Republican John McCain demanded answers..."
In contrast to McCain's hero role on TV, Wednesday's Washington Post story on the hearings didn't even mention his name. And to its credit, the Post found room for two Republican Senators who lashed at the attacks on the Bush officials, with one Senator charging that "a lot of the media don't want this to be successful."
Below, a couple of examples of September 9 network stories championing McCain's attacks and then some quotes the networks ignored but which were highlighted by the Washington Post.
-- CBS Evening News. John Roberts began his September 9 story: "The triple themes of longer deployments, skyrocketing bills, and no end in sight, dominated the Iraq debate on Capitol Hill today. Even some Republicans now charge that the U.S. is spread too thin."
Roberts went on to show a clip of Democratic Senator Carl Levin.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced: "We're going to begin tonight with the administration's formal request for $87 billion and the tough questions coming from even Republicans in Congress."
In the subsequent story, Norah O'Donnell played clips of exchanges involving Democrats Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd before getting to McCain: "But it wasn't just Democrats today who were critical. Republican John McCain demanded answers from State Department Undersecretary Marc Grossman."
In Wednesday's Washington Post, however, reporters Thomas E. Ricks and Vernon Loeb recounted criticism leveled at the hearing by several Democratic Senators, but they skipped over McCain and managed to find some Republicans with an alternate point of view.
They reported: "Republicans countered that conditions in Iraq are better than portrayed and charged that some Democrats are using U.S. casualties there to score political points. 'I find something unsavory about comments of those who seek political advantage in questioning our commitment to our troops,' Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said."
Later in the story, the reporting duo relayed: "Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) denounced the media for over-dramatizing the problems in Iraq. 'A lot of the media don't want this to be successful; they'd like to think the president's not doing a good job; they don't agree with him philosophically,' he said. 'What they fail to say is the great strides that have been made over there since the major hostilities stopped.'"
For the September 10 Post story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Suddenly, journalists are concerned about too much government spending, a concern not expressed when discussing the supposed need for a massive new prescription drug entitlement or when complaining about, to pick a recent example, perceived inadequate spending on AmeriCorps.
On Tuesday morning, CBS and NBC reporters read off the same talking points. CBS's Bill Plante worried that President Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq "is more than each of the budgets for the Education Department, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security." Over on NBC's Today, Norah O'Donnell fretted: "That's far more than the U.S. spends annually on education and nearly triple the budget for Homeland Security."
-- CBS's The Early Show, September 9. MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught this from Bill Plante at the White House: "Then there's the money. The extra $87 billion the President wants will bring the budget deficit for the next fiscal year to over $500 billion, close to five percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Territory economists regard as dangerous. The extra spending on Iraq, with a tiny slice, $500 million, for Afghanistan, is more than each of the budgets for the Education Department, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security."
-- NBC's Today. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed how NBC White House reporter Norah O'Donnell conveyed how "Congress is concerned about burdening taxpayers with an additional $87 billion. That's far more than the U.S. spends annually on education and nearly triple the budget for Homeland Security. And the White House estimates the deficit would balloon from $475 billion to $535 billion."
CBS continued its soft approach to presidential critics on its morning show, "balancing" critical Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy on Tuesday with the media's second favorite Republican, after John McCain, critical Senator Chuck Hagel. Early Show co-host Harry Smith regurgitated a discredited charge against Tony Blair as he asked Kennedy if the Bush team was just as guilty: "Tony Blair was charged with sexing-up intelligence to justify war. Do you think that charge could be put on President Bush?"
With Hagel, Smith wondered: "If Congress has to start choosing, say between a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and the cost of this war, who's going to win?"
[Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, drafted this item for CyberAlert based on transcribing completed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd.]
Smith introduced the September 9 pre-taped interview with Kennedy via satellite on Capitol Hill, not with a question to Kennedy, but with a setup to a critical quote: "Earlier, I spoke with Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy about the White House policy on Iraq. The Senator told me he thinks it's turning into a failure." Kennedy claimed: "Every single day, individual servicemen and women are losing their lives." Smith did not correct Kennedy, even though Dan Rather noted the night before no American death in seven days. He merely asked: "Senator, the President says he needs $87 billion to continue the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Should he get it?"
Smith concluded by suggesting to Kennedy that Britain was a fine example of where post-war politics ought to go in Washington: "No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, this was certainly a cornerstone of the rationale for going to war there last spring. Tony Blair was charged with sexing-up intelligence to justify war. Do you think that charge could be put on President Bush?"
The CBS host avoided the sticky point that a foreign affairs committee of the British parliament cleared the Blair government of "sexing up" intelligence, a charge made by their chief liberal media out, the tax-funded BBC.
For all the details on the BBC's discredited "sexing up" charge, check out a story in the August 25 Weekly Standard by Josh Chafetz, "The Disgrace of the BBC: Unfair, unbalanced, and afraid." See: www.weeklystandard.com
Smith then moved, "for a view on the Republican side," to Senator Hagel, and asked him if the administration should get its $87 billion request. He then inquired: "The country asks a lot of the people we send to Iraq. Deployments now, as we reported this morning, up to a year and even more for some of these reservists. Did the administration miscalculate the difficulty of this war?" Hagel said yes, "They did a miserable job of planning the post-Saddam Iraq" and "They treated many in the Congress, most of the Congress like a nuisance when we asked questions." (Those CBS quotes were rebroadcast within hours on NPR's "Morning Edition.")
Smith concluded the Hagel interview by hinting at the emerging new Democratic line of misplaced priorities, preferring guns over butter: "The President has had support of the American people for this war thus far but if Congress has to start choosing say, between a prescription drug benefit for Medicare and the cost of this war, who's going to win?"
We know which way most reporters would answer.
Another comparison to Vietnam. The extension of tours for reservists in Iraq led CNN's Brian Cabell to ask: "Is this truly a continuation of the war against terrorism, or is it possibly another drawn-out, inconclusive Vietnam War in the making?"
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd caught how Cabell ended his September 8 NewsNight story on the duty extension for another six months: "It's an argument that seems likely to become louder in the months ahead: Is this truly a continuation of the war against terrorism, or is it possibly another drawn-out, inconclusive Vietnam War in the making?"
No matter what happens, you can be sure many journalists will use any event to bring up Vietnam.
MRC Op-Ed in Today's Wall Street Journal. "Anchors? Captains Whose Ships List Leftward," a piece by MRC President Brent Bozell about the 20th anniversary of Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw as anchors, appears on page D-8 of the September 10 Wall Street Journal. That's the "Leisure & Arts" page in the "Personal Journal" section.
A paid online subscription is required for access to Wall Street Journal articles, but if you are a WSJ Online subscriber, here's the direct link as provided to me by the MRC's Rich Noyes: online.wsj.com
[Web Update: Bozell's column has been posted on the WSJ's free access site,
-- For the MRC's Media Reality Check on Jennings' career, "20 Years of Bias From ABC's Peter Jennings; Can't See Bias: 'ABC, CBS, NBC Are Mainstream Media...Largely in the Center...Without Ideologies,'" go to: www.mediaresearch.org
-- For our Media Reality Check on Brokaw's record, "Marking Tom Brokaw's Twenty Years of Tilt; Anchor Boasted 'We've Worked Hard to Drain the Bias' but Viewers Still Swimming in Liberalism," go to: www.mediaresearch.org
A USA Today story a couple of weeks ago applied an extreme ideological label to Ann Coulter, whom reporter Marco della Cava tagged as "the ultraconservative It Girl," but no one else, from comedians Bill Maher and Will Durst to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, earned an ideological label in the story on the attitudes of Californians. Della Cava creatively described Brown as "a fedora-wearing showman who is not short on character."
USA Today's labeling disparity, which I'm catching up to from my pending file, came in the August 28 "Life" section cover story, "A California state of mind," about the recall race fueling the state's flaky image. Della Cava highlighted how Californians argue that others are "just jealous because our weather is better than yours."
Bill Maher was accurately described as a "comedian" and "host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher." And although della Cava quoted a posting by Will Durst on the left-wing alternet.org site, he described him simply as "a San Francisco-based satirist."
Della Cava soon conveyed: "'Yes, this is a strange place in many ways,' says San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a fedora-wearing showman who is not short on character."
"Ann Coulter is doing a bit more seething than laughing these days," della Cava passed along before tagging her as an extremist: "The ultraconservative It Girl, most recently author of Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, recently wrote in a column that California is a place where 'cigarettes and Botox (could soon) become the hard currency of choice. At this stage, we couldn't give California back to Mexico.'"
# Walter Cronkite is scheduled to appear on tonight's (Wednesday's) Larry King Live on CNN. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who sat down Tuesday with ABC's Peter Jennings for a segment to air on tonight's World News Tonight, will also be on with King.
-- Brent Baker