CBS Rues "Cost" of War, Cites Greenspan But Skips Anti-Tax View --11/7/2003
2. CNN's Brown Jumps on a "Doozie" of a "What If" in Iraqi Offer
3. Without Challenge,
GMA Promotes "a Campaign Missile" from Clark
4. Couric Rues "Kid-Gloves" Handling of Reagan, Loss of Free Speech
5. Showtime Refashioning
The Reagans, Will Also Air Panel on Reagan
Downbeat Dan. Dan Rather opened Thursday's CBS Evening News by reciting "the cost of the War in Iraq measured in lives of the brave," a "mounting federal debt" and a reservist who has declared bankruptcy.
John Roberts warned that the new "spending has the nation's top money man worried that the bill will come back to bite Americans. Alan Greenspan said today the long term effects of deepening debt 'could have notable, destabilizing effects on the economy' and put at risk Social Security and Medicare benefits for retiring baby boomers." Roberts then made this dubious claim: "The biggest chunk of the deficit is from the President's tax cuts." Yet Roberts failed to point out how Greenspan, in the same talk Roberts quoted, had declared his opposition to increasing taxes in order to trim the deficit.
Rather teased the November 6 CBS Evening News, over close-up video of soldier's helmets atop rifles, at a memorial service for those killed in the Chinook crash: "The cost of war in Iraq measured in lives of the brave, [video of Bush signing $87 billion bill] billions more dollars and mounting federal debt. Ask a reservist about the cost of service. His business in shambles, his debts unpaid, his family in crisis. We'll have the reservist's story."
Rather opened the broadcast: "President Bush presided at a White House ceremony today that underscored just how costly the war in Iraq has become and how costly it may remain for the foreseeable future. As CBS News White House correspondent John Roberts now reports, some experts are concerned about the impact on America's long-term economic health."
Roberts matched Rather's theme: "With a stroke of his pen, President Bush committed more money to Iraq than he spends on any domestic program. More than $65 billion for military operations, almost $19 billion for reconstruction. The President had wanted more, but Congress denied him what it called frivolous items, like $9 million to develop a zip code in Iraq, 40 garbage trucks at $50,00 apiece and $100 million to restore marsh land in Iraq."
Roberts played a clip of Bush asserting that the U.S. has the resources to see the war to victory and then Roberts noted how "every penny" in the war bill is being borrowed and will push the deficit to "well over a half trillion." After a soundbite of White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan insisting the size of the deficit is "manageable," Roberts argued:
In contradiction to Roberts' clear implication that rescinding tax cuts is the logical way to reduce the deficit, Greenspan, in a portion of his talk via satellite to the Securities Industry Association which Roberts skipped over, emphatically opposed raising taxes. The AP's Martin Crutsinger reported:
For the November 6 AP dispatch in full: story.news.yahoo.com
ABC's World News Tonight, which has yet to mention the draft memo from Democratic staffers on the traditionally non-partisan Senate Intelligence Committee which argued for using intelligence data to attack the White House during next year's campaign, for the second night in a row on Thursday treated as significant the claim the Iraq war could have been avoided if the administration had pursued an entreaty from a Lebanese businessman conveying an offer from Iraqi intelligence agents.
Martha Raddatz stressed how "the White House would not explicitly say whether this went to the President's desk" and how "the ranking Democrat of the House Select Intelligence Committee said she is seeking more information."
The New York Times played the story on its front page Thursday. "Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avert War," read the headline over the article by James Risen which prompted cable news coverage throughout the day Thursday of this one supposed overture, as if it was somehow more legitimate than many others which did not pan out.
CNN's NewsNight led with it Thursday night as anchor Aaron Brown gave it credence: "We begin with a what-if and it is a doozie. What if Saddam Hussein had been willing to do almost anything to avert a war and what if that message was sent? With Americans fighting and dying every day in Iraq the question, what if, is hardly academic being so uncomfortably close to what might have been so, what if."
But unlike ABC, CNN's David Ensor, after recounting Imad El-Hage's story, pointed out: "U.S. intelligence officials say the feeler was just one of many made to potential middlemen, which were checked out by the Central Intelligence Agency and found wanting. On another occasion, they say, Iraqi intelligence told middlemen they would meet Americans in Morocco at a certain place and time. They did not show up."
Former Clinton NSC staffer Kenneth Pollack, now with the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution, told Ensor: "There is no reason to believe that Iraqi intelligence had any intention of delivering on any of the promises that they were dangling in front of the United States. Far more likely what they were trying to do was to derail the U.S. war effort without actually giving up anything."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume carried a story in which the same points were made.
As recounted in the November 6 CyberAlert, ABC led Wednesday night with "an ABC News investigation" of what Peter Jennings characterized as "what appears to be an opportunity lost" to work with "a man who was in the process of trying to broker a deal that might have avoided war with Iraq." Brian Ross proceeded to recount how a Lebanese businessman forwarded an offer from Saddam Hussein's intelligence chief to allow U.S. agents to travel freely around Iraq to confirm Iraq's disarmament. The offer never made it as high as the Deputy Secretary level, and, in a point ABC skipped, did not include Hussein's removal from power. But Ross mocked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's claim that there was no way to avoid war: "Ten days later the war began as U.S. officials said there was no other option." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Jennings followed up on Thursday night, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "We have one item today about our report yesterday that war with Iraq might have been avoided. We reported that a Lebanese-American businessman was on the verge of brokering a deal between the administration and individuals very close to Saddam Hussein. The story was confirmed by an important advisor to the Pentagon, but other official reaction yesterday was all from sources. Tonight, the administration is a little bit more on the record. ABC's Martha Raddatz joins us from the Pentagon tonight on this subject of whether war might have been avoided. Martha?"
Raddatz explained: "A lot of government officials were asked about this today, Peter, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who said he'd only heard about it through press reports."
While the memo from a Democratic staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee has earned a lot of coverage this week on FNC and CNN, with FNC first reporting it on Tuesday after Sean Hannity highlighted it on his radio show, ABC and CBS have avoided it and NBC on Thursday night got to it, though only briefly and vaguely. Chip Reid started a story on the NBC Nightly News and CNBC's News with Brian Williams, about deteriorating personal relations in the Senate, with the memo: "Tempers boil over here almost daily. Yesterday, the issue was a leaked memo in which a Democratic staffer suggested an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence in the war on Iraq."
Wednesday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, Brian Wilson quoted from the memo: "This two-page Democratic strategy memo outlines a plan for Democrats to turn what is supposed to be a bipartisan investigation into the accuracy of prewar intelligence, into a partisan political election year attack. It suggests that Democrats, quote, 'prepare to launch an investigation when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time. But we can only do so once. The best time would probably be next year.'
ABC's in-kind contribution to the Wesley Clark campaign. Last week Clark, citing Harry Truman's "the buck stops here," suggested President Bush was responsible for September 11th and this week he charged that the Bush team had a plan to invade seven Middle Eastern nations, a claim he could not back up when confronted by FNC's Carl Cameron, but on Thursday's Good Morning America Charles Gibson didn't raise either allegation with Clark.
Instead, Gibson avoided any challenging questions as he promoted Clark's campaign message of the day. Diane Sawyer plugged the upcoming segment on the November 6 show by playing up the supposed importance of what Clark would say: "And General Wesley Clark is going to join us live this morning. He's got a big blast he's about to deliver to the President on the Iraq reconstruction plan." Gibson soon gushed about "a campaign missile from Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark" as he proceeded to summarize Clark's upcoming speech before he concluded by endorsing its relevance: "General Clark, significant speech today from a Democratic presidential hopeful on Iraq."
Gibson announced as he introduced Clark: "In your papers tomorrow, on the news tonight, you will hear about a campaign missile from Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, who will take on the President's plans for Iraq. And General Clark is joining us this morning. Good to have you back with us."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down Gibson's questions in the form of pleas for him to share his wisdom:
-- "In this speech you're going to make today, you say you want a non-American to guide the reconstruction of Iraq, a non-American. After bearing so much of the sacrifice in this war, you want us to turn over, now, the reconstruction to someone else?"
-- "All of those points you're going to make in the speech today, and some of those points the administration might even agree with and say that they're trying to do."
-- Gibson: "One of the things you say is you want the Iraqi army brought back to active duty, reconstituted in effect, which would take a considerable period of time to do. Senator McCain said yesterday we need another division in Iraq, that security is absolutely essential. Do you agree with him? Twenty thousand more troops?"
-- "One other thing you suggest, and I'm interested given the fact that you have some military background, is that the helicopter attack, the downing of that Chinook and the death of those 15 Americans on Sunday, is something that didn't need to happen. Why not?"
Gibson wrapped up: "General Clark, significant speech today from a Democratic presidential hopeful on Iraq. Thanks for being with us."
Clark should be thanking ABC for such a generous forum.
Katie Couric on Wednesday morning bemoaned the "kid-gloves" standard for Ronald Reagan as Matt Lauer recalled how "while he was in office he was known as the Teflon President." Now that CBS pulled its mini-series on him, Couric claimed the devotion of conservatives to him "is leaving some to wonder if the nation's 40th President is somehow untouchable, now and forever." She also ludicrously asked that if those upset by the CBS mini-series "can basically exert this kind of political pressure and create an environment where, perhaps, free speech is not exercised?"
But the night before, on the November 5 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper: 360, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed, the Washington Post's liberal television critic, Tom Shales, rejected the notion of any censorship or restriction on free speech.
Cooper read from a posting by Barbra Streisand: "'This is censorship' -- this from Barbra Streisand -- 'pure and simple. Well, maybe not all that pure. Censorship never is. Today marks a sad day for artistic freedom, one of the most important elements of an open and democratic society.' Tom, today are you mourning for the loss of artistic freedom?"
Shales retorted: "No, not yet. It's no more censorship, Anderson, than if you're going over your script for tonight's show and you go, 'Nope, nope, nope, nope.' Like that, you know. It was an editorial decision, and I think a very good one. I think whatever happened, it has no political significance, particularly."
The hostility to "artistic freedom" argument was made Wednesday night by CNBC's Brian Williams and that morning by CBS's Harry Smith who asked a guest: "Barbra Streisand said today marks a sad day for artistic freedom. Do you think CBS allowed themselves to be bullied by this?" For more on that and other hostile reaction to CBS's decision to move The Reagans to Showtime, see the November 6 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Couric's teaser at top of the show November 6 show: "And while he was in office he was known as the Teflon President, Ronald Reagan. Now that CBS has pulled a controversial miniseries about him some are wondering if the former President is totally off-limits to criticism these days. We'll have more on that."
-- Couric's teaser before going to 7:30 break: "And still to come this morning on Today, the heated debate over what can and can't be said about this country's 40th President. Is Ronald Reagan untouchable? We'll take a look at that but first this is Today on NBC."
-- Matt Lauer's teaser at the top of 7:30 half hour: "Then we'll talk about Ronald Reagan. CBS was pressured to pull its upcoming miniseries now a lot of people are asking whether the man once known as the 'Teflon President,' remains untouchable. We'll ask a leading Republican strategist about that."
-- Couric set up a taped piece: "Former President Ronald Reagan has rarely appeared in public since he told America in 1994 that he had Alzheimer's disease. But his supporters are speaking for him this week, pressuring CBS to move its upcoming miniseries to cable. Their devotion to the Reagan presidency and legacy is leaving some to wonder if the nation's 40th President is somehow untouchable, now and forever. Here's NBC's Chip Reid."
Reid: "Former President Ronald Reagan has always inspired passionate devotion from his supporters."
-- Couric then introduced an interview session: "Republican strategist Ed Rollins is a former Reagan adviser."
Couric's questions to him:
# "I'm just curious what did you make of all this brouhaha over this miniseries? I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it."
# "CBS executives have said it wasn't political pressure that caused them to move this miniseries to cable. Do you buy that?"
# Couric: "At the same time though, does that bother you at all? That, that one group in America or many Americans no matter, you know-"
# "But as you well know Ed there have been a lot of dramatizations, miniseries, movies about former presidents. I just got the list and movies, Nixon, JFK miniseries. I mean there have been a ton, of course, about the Kennedys and, and they have been dramatizations. Truman with Gary Sinise; Kissinger and Nixon; LBJ: The Early Years. So what makes this different? In other words, words were put in the mouths of other former presidents, these were dramatizations, a lot of them were semi-fictionalized accounts of, of situations. So why such kid-gloves when it comes to President Reagan?"
# "Do you think that the fact that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease makes people even more passionate and emotional about this?"
# "Do you think this will change the way presidencies are recounted and perhaps even dramatized in the future no matter what the political stripes are?"
# "Well it's certainly been interesting watching all this unfold hasn't it?"
Showtime will feature a panel discussion about the Reagan presidency after its airing of The Reagans mini-series, the New York Times reported Thursday. Reporter Bill Carter also revealed that the movie is back in editing to "refashion" it for Showtime and that Viacom sees CBS as having a higher standard than Showtime where it is appropriate to air films with a point of view.
An excerpt from the November 6 story by Bill Carter:
The Showtime cable network -- which picked up the "The Reagans" mini-series after its sister network CBS dropped it amid intense criticism from Republican and conservative groups -- is preparing a panel discussion to follow the broadcast of the television movie.
Matt Blank, the Showtime chairman, said yesterday that the discussion forum would provide an opportunity to hear from the film's critics and supporters. "We want to create a dialogue to give those who may think the movie is unfair to Ronald Reagan's presidency or Ronald Reagan, the man, to speak their mind, and also give those with an opposing point of view a chance to speak," Mr. Blank said.
Showtime has not yet set a date for its showing of "The Reagans," nor has it said what it paid CBS to acquire the rights. CBS paid a license fee of just under $10 million to Sony's television production unit for "The Reagans," and hopes to recoup most of that investment from the sale to Showtime. Both Showtime and CBS are owned by Viacom....
CBS executives denied that political pressure or the threat of an advertising boycott influenced their decision, and noted that no advertisers had even seen the film. In a statement Tuesday, the network said the final film did not "present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans" and that "subsequent edits that we considered did not address those concerns."
"A free broadcast network, available to all over the public airwaves, has different standards than media the public must pay to view," the statement said.
Mr. Blank noted that Showtime, a pay cable channel, and thus not dependent on advertising, was an appropriate place for films with a distinct political view. But he emphasized: "Nobody knows yet what the Showtime version of the film will be. That is still to be determined."
Indeed, the producers of the "The Reagans" returned to the editing room in Los Angeles yesterday to refashion the film for use on Showtime.
CBS's decision that the film was not suitable for its audiences brought down more criticism on the network, this time from both liberal and Democratic groups, as well as some Hollywood producers who denounced what in their view was a capitulation to political pressure....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.nytimes.com
Since the movie was made with dramatic breaks to lead into commercials, it won't flow very smoothly on Showtime, which has no ads, unless it is somehow edited to get around that problem.
# Since I keep running out of room for it, on Saturday I'll distribute highlights of many of the dozens of newspaper stories which have quoted the MRC and/or cited our role in the successful effort to get CBS to drop The Reagans mini-series.
-- Brent Baker