2. ABC Sees "Doubts" Across U.S., CBS "Starving" Kids in Illinois
3. Morning Shows Grill Condoleezza Rice, Serve Up Softballs to Dean
4. Rather Gives Rumsfeld Time to Extol Success, Scold Candidates
5. Newsweek: Rumsfeld "Sounding More and More Like Baghdad Bob"
6. "Top Ten Surprises in President Bush's Address to the Nation"
CBS News on Monday night suddenly became concerned about the level of federal spending -- because President Bush's request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, which Dan Rather described as "$300 for every man, woman and child in the United States," threatens spending in other areas. The request, CBS's John Roberts warned, "could jeopardize the President's other spending priorities."
For expert analysis, CBS turned to Robert Greenstein, whom CBS labeled simply as a "budget analyst." He relayed the liberal spin on who benefitted from the tax cuts as he derided the idea that "we could afford tax cuts of that magnitude for the wealthiest people in the country and these ongoing costs in Iraq and a Medicare prescription drug benefit all at the same time." The Democrats, Roberts noted, "are already talking about rolling back tax cuts to pay the bills."
Just who really is "budget analyst" Robert Greinstein? He's the founder and Executive Director of the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. See: www.cbpp.org
Dan Rather led the September 8 CBS Evening News, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. $87 billion, minimum. That is what President Bush is asking Americans to spend for the war on terror. Mostly in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and around the world. $87 billion, that's $300 for every man, woman and child in the United States. And that is just for the coming year, and it's on top of the $79 billion Congress approved less than six months ago. The President revealed his new price tag in a television address last night, and John Roberts reports the reaction, pro and con, is still coming in."
Roberts began: "The collective gasp of sticker shock echoed from Baghdad to the halls of Congress today as lawmakers learned the cost to occupy and rebuild Iraq will far outstrip the cost of the war."
ABC and CBS sent reporters on Monday to pro-Bush areas to judge public reaction to Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq and both networks found a lot of worries. ABC's Dean Reaynolds heard uncertainties all over: "You can hear some doubts cropping up in Wheaton....Growing concerns in Grapevine, Texas....And some second thoughts in Golden, Colorado."
From Illinois, CBS Cynthia Bowers discovered that "some of the lunchtime diners were skeptical about the President's plans," but "even though times are tough for a lot of people around here, this is a part of the country where support has run high for the administration, and most seem to back, in principle, what the President proposed last night." Yet she highlighted one man who "worries if the economy doesn't turn around soon, the warriors may not have much to come home to."
Reynolds saw a dire result as he focused on how Wheaton, Illinois' Republican Mayor is "afraid he'll have to propose property tax hikes to pay for things like bridge repairs. So much money is being diverted to Iraq, he suspects, there'll be nothing left over for aid to the states."
Why should local city bridge repair even be a federal responsibility?
Over on CBS, Bowers showcased this ludicrous claim from a woman in Harvard, Illinois: "Money could be spent here just like on all the kids that are starving. Working in a school system, I see that every day."
There are kids "starving" in Harvard, Illinois "every day"?
Now, full rundowns of the September 8 ABC and CBS stories, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings ran through some bad poll numbers for President Bush: "A new ABC News poll, incidentally, taken over the weekend, but before the President addressed the nation last night, found almost half of all Americans think the war has increased the risk of terrorism in the United States. Only 29 percent felt that way after the fall of Baghdad. And the number of Americans who say the war was worth fighting has gone down. Mr. Bush's approval for handling Iraq was at a new low -- 49 percent. You can see what it was in April. But what is the sentiment around the country after the President made his case to the nation last night? We're going to begin in Wheaton, Illinois, with our correspondent Dean Reynolds."
Reynolds began: "Nowadays, you can hear some doubts cropping up in Wheaton."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced: "Now back to that $87 billion and who's going to pay it. You and I and we. CBS's Cynthia Bowers reports that with the economy struggling and money tight in many homes, it raises difficult questions about hard choices."
Bowers, in Harvard, Illinois: "When Shawn Chisamore heard the President promised $87 billion to fight terror overseas, he was taken aback. In his house, $87 is hard to come by."
All three broadcast network morning shows began with the same two interviewees on Monday morning: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice followed by ultra-liberal Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean. But while Rice was raked over the coals with questions from the left that heavily suggested that White House credibility was very shaky, Dean was mostly asked why he thought the Bush team was lying or the Bush presidency was in decline. Diane Sawyer inquired: "Last night, do you feel the President began to level with the American people?" Only NBC's Matt Lauer suggested Governor Dean has also changed his positions.
[Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
It's unusual for the networks to devote two sequential morning interview segments to dueling public officials, and that offers a rough sense of balance. But the side-by-side comparison of questions was jarring, as seen in these compilations of questions transcribed by MRC analysts Amanda Monson, Brian Boyd and Geoffrey Dickens:
-- ABC's Good Morning America: Charles Gibson interviewed Rice, beginning with this hardball: "How can the President say that Iraq is now the central front of the war on terror, when we've never able to establish a link between Iraq and 9/11, that link was Afghanistan?"
His second question channeled the criticism of Dean: "But the President's critics, Howard Dean and others, Howard Dean who we're about to talk to, say look, to the extent to that it is a front it is a front created by this administration by starting the war in Iraq."
For this third question, Gibson accused the administration of hiding its real motives: "$87 billion for the coming year, that's an enormous cost, much more than Congress had been led to believe this would all cost. Is the President using terrorism, really, to justify the rebuilding costs of this, of this, effort?"
Gibson ended by wondering if Rice would admit Bush dissembled: "Weapons of mass destruction, last night, in the President's speech went virtually without mention. And you heard it in virtually every paragraph of every speech he made before the war. Is that an acknowledgment that that justification for the war was incorrect?"
That was tough, but even more so in comparison to the soft touch Howard Dean, via satellite from Herndon, Virginia received next from Diane Sawyer, who described Dean "the man everybody has been talking about." She began by prompting Dean to assess Bush's honesty: "You opposed the war and you have been blistering about the post-war effort. Last night do you feel the President began to level with the American people?" When he said no, Sawyer asked mildly: "What would you be doing right now?" Sawyer did end by having Dean answer Rice: "She would say to you, not at all, they're creating a beachhead for democracy."
-- CBS's Early Show co-host Harry Smith handled Rice with three questions that matched Democratic talking points. "Last night the President asked for the United Nations involvement to get a division of multi-national force involved in fighting in Iraq. The UN was bypassed this past spring by the United States. What makes you think the UN will be receptive to sending forces this time?" That's agile spin. The U.S. came to the UN, and the UN refused to act, and then they were bypassed, but Smith made it sound as if the U.S. never tried.
Smith then brought up the next Democratic line: "Some have suggested that the war in Iraq has only made the world a more fertile place for terrorism. Witness the call from al-Qaeda just a couple of weeks ago for terrorists from around the world to go to Iraq to fight the United States and the Americans. Did the United States miscalculate what the aftermath of the war would be like in Iraq?"
Smith finished: "Osama bin Laden is still at large, Saddam Hussein is still at large. Can a war against terrorism be won with both of them still out there?"
Co-host Hannah Storm interviewed Dean: "You were quoted in the New York Times this morning as saying that Bush was beginning to remind you of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. Can you explain that analogy?" Like Sawyer, Storm asked simply what President Dean would do: "What would you do to fix the situation?"
She also threw this vague softball: "Last week you said that the United States should not take sides in the Middle East conflict. Can you explain that statement?" Storm didn't explain that AP reported that Joe Lieberman attacked Dean's statement Sunday as "a major break in half a century of American foreign policy."
Like Harry Smith, Couric gave viewers the impression that the U.S. never consulted the UN before the war: "Last night the President said the UN has an opportunity and the responsibility to assume a broader role in ensuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation. Would you concede that not going to the United Nations earlier was a mistake?" She asked about U.S. control of the command structure: "If some UN member nations balk at the concept of serving under U.S. command, will there be any flexibility there?" She also inquired if "U.S. forces been simply stretched too thin in your view?"
Couric ended with two Democratic talking points: "How do you respond to critics who are saying the administration invaded Iraq to fight terrorism and instead has created a terrorist state in the process?" And: "Why no mention of weapons of mass destruction if ostensibly that was one of the primary rationales for the invasion?"
Like CBS's Hannah Storm, NBC's Matt Lauer highlighted Dean's Vietnam-credibility-gap attack with a please-explain line: "You called his speech nothing short of outrageous and said the President was quote, 'beginning to remind me of what was happening with Lyndon Johnson and Dick Nixon during the Vietnam War.' Explain that to me." Lauer then underlined: "So, what are you, are, are you saying Governor that, are you saying that the administration is deliberately misleading the American people to justify an invasion and sending troops to Iraq?"
Lauer then repeated a hostile question to Rice, transformed into a nice question to Dean: "So, so, you were one of the people that Katie, Katie was just referring with Dr. Rice. One of these people who feels that Iraq was not a threat prior to the war and that after the war now we see Al Qaeda sympathizers and organizers streaming into that country. So we've created the terrorist threat as oppose to reacting to it?"
But Lauer was alone in adding some balancing skepticism to shifts in Dean's public line: "Let me ask you about troop strength here, because some of your statements over the past year or so have been difficult to pin down. Right now we have about 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There's a division of international troops there. The President has called, has said he'd like to see another division of international troops. So that would take us up to about 170,000 troops in that area. Is that a sufficient number, in your opinion, to secure the peace in Iraq?"
Lauer also used liberal Time columnist Joe Klein against Dean: "Let me read you something from a Time magazine article written by Joe Klein that's just come out. It says, quote, 'As his campaign gains altitude he seems to change a position a week. In the debate he changed two -- first on American troops in Iraq, then on American labor standards on trade.' How do you respond, Governor, to the feeling among some people that you're feeling your way through certain issues as your campaign builds momentum?"
It's too bad ABC and CBS didn't even approach the mild probing of Dean's positions that Lauer demonstrated.
On Monday's CBS Evening News, Dan Rather gave Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a chance to defend successes in Iraq and lash out at presidential candidates who want the U.S. out of Iraq. Rather relayed: "Rumsfeld told reporters today in Afghanistan that such statements could give America's enemies reason to continue their attacks."
On Friday's Evening News, Rather had hit Rumsfeld with 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?'" See: www.mediaresearch.org
After a clip of Rumsfeld extolling the development of town councils and how many areas are peaceful, Rather noted: "A difficult situation not made easier, Rumsfeld says, by politicians, some running for President, who want the U.S. out of Iraq. [John Kerry soundbite] Rumsfeld told reporters today in Afghanistan that such statements could give America's enemies reason to continue their attacks."
Donald Rumsfeld no different than a professional liar who lied and covered up for a despotic, murderous regime? Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom" box this week declares that Rumsfeld is "sounding more and more like Baghdad Bob."
The "Conventional Wisdom" box up front in the September 15 Newsweek leads off with this down arrow shot at President Bush: "With millions looking for work, he still insists his tax cuts will create more jobs. Maybe in India."
Rumsfeld also earned a down arrow: "On Iraq visit, gushes about 'wonderful start' to rebuilding. He's sounding more and more like Baghdad Bob."
The September 15 "Conventional Wisdom" is online at: www.msnbc.com
From the September 8 Late Show, the "Top Ten Surprises in President Bush's Address to the Nation." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. Instead of "My fellow Americans," began speech "Mad props to my peeps"
9. In 180-degree shift, is now staunchly pro-terrorism
8. Condoleezza Rice waving sign: "I love you, Carson Daly"
7. The attempt to lure Saddam out of hiding with Redskins tickets
6. Over course of speech, dropped his dog four times
5. Apologized to CBS viewers for preempting "Becker"
4. Thinking it was a radio address, he showed up in a Backstreet Boys T-shirt
3. The phrase "$87 billion" was followed by a comical "boing" sound effect
2. President's suit glammed up by the boys from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
1. Midway through speech received open-mouth kiss from Madonna
# Tonight, Tuesday, on NBC's Tonight Show: Dennis Miller.
-- Brent Baker