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CBS's Roberts Lays Out Case for How Kerry is No "Flip-Flopper" --9/8/2004


1. CBS's Roberts Lays Out Case for How Kerry is No "Flip-Flopper"
CBS's John Roberts, who last week twice highlighted "a one-day flip-flop" by President Bush on whether the war on terror could be won, on Tuesday night devoted an entire story to undermining Bush's claim that John Kerry is a "flip-flopper" on Iraq. "Kerry has consistently said holding Saddam accountable was and remains the right thing to do. And he's been just as consistent in his opposition to the way President Bush went to war," Roberts declared before he rationalized Kerry's vote against the $87 billion to fund troops in Iraq as only happening after he voted for it "on condition it be paid for by rescinding a portion of the President's tax cuts." So "when that provision failed, and seeing no new plan in the bill to win the peace, he turned thumbs down in protest." Roberts fretted: "So the big problem for John Kerry, say some analysts, is not his record, it's allowing the Bush campaign to control the message."

2. ABC Frets Over Kerry's "Muddled Message" and Cheney's Attack
ABC and CBS fretted Tuesday night over a comment by Vice President Cheney while ABC also devoted a story to befuddlement over why John Kerry isn't doing better given all the bad news for Bush. Dean Reynolds was rankled over how Kerry has not "seized" on any line of attack as he has "muddled his message and failed to make this race more about Bush than himself." ABC anchor Peter Jennings set up a full story on how Cheney said that if Americans "make the wrong choice in November, then the country is in danger of another terrorist attack. So, did he mean that a terrorist attack would be more likely under a Democratic administration?" ABC's story featured the "outraged" reaction from Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

3. Olbermann Outs Himself as Someone "Who Didn't Vote for Cheney"
In the midst of kvetching Tuesday night over Vice President Dick Cheney's remark about the danger of electing Kerry/Edwards, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann outed himself as someone "who didn't vote for Mr. Cheney." Before accusing Cheney of "terrorizing people," Olbermann insisted that he "tries not to knee jerk everything based on left and right." He needs to try harder.

4. CNN: U.S. Troops in Iraq "Much Like the Soviets in Afghanistan"
The analogies to Vietnam have never been far from Iraq coverage, but on Monday's NewsNight, CNN's Walter Rodgers analogized the U.S. situation in Iraq to another quagmire: The Soviets in Afghanistan.

5. 60 Minutes Tonight to Air 4th Anti-Bush Hit Job So Far This Year
Tonight (Wednesday) CBS's 60 Minutes will feature a Dan Rather interview with Ben Barnes, a former Texas House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor, who, according to the 60 Minutes Web page, will discuss the role "he played in getting President George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard -- and why he now regrets it." This will mark at least the fourth anti-Bush hit job on 60 Minutes this year (after pieces promoting the anti-Bush angles in books by Paul O'Neill, Dick Clarke and Bob Woodward), not even counting Lesley Stahl's giggling session with the Kerry and Edwards families, the promotional extended clip from Fahrenheit 9/11's scene of Bush's seven minutes in the classroom added to a re-run of a Michael Moore profile, to say nothing of the multiple stories with photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

6. ABC's Charles Gibson Pegs Bush's Lead at "Just" 7 Points
George W. Bush's lead over John Kerry is now at "just" seven points? That's how ABC's Charles Gibson, who speculated on Tuesday morning that "maybe the President's convention bounce was not as big as everyone thought," characterized Bush's lead in the Gallup poll after Time and Newsweek polls had him up by 11 points. But isn't seven points pretty substantial after a year in which many polls put Bush behind or barely tied with Kerry?


CBS's Roberts Lays Out Case for How Kerry
is No "Flip-Flopper"

CBS's John Roberts CBS's John Roberts, who last week twice highlighted "a one-day flip-flop" by President Bush on whether the war on terror could be won, on Tuesday night devoted an entire story to undermining Bush's claim that John Kerry is a "flip-flopper" on Iraq. "Kerry has consistently said holding Saddam accountable was and remains the right thing to do. And he's been just as consistent in his opposition to the way President Bush went to war," Roberts declared before he rationalized Kerry's vote against the $87 billion to fund troops in Iraq as only happening after he voted for it "on condition it be paid for by rescinding a portion of the President's tax cuts." So "when that provision failed, and seeing no new plan in the bill to win the peace, he turned thumbs down in protest."

Roberts then tried to equate Bush and Kerry as he lectured: "And something you won't hear President Bush mention on the campaign trail is that he threatened to veto a version of that bill because he didn't like it." But he only threatened to veto it, he didn't do what Kerry did and oppose it in the end. "So the big problem for John Kerry, say some analysts," Roberts empathized, "is not his record, it's allowing the Bush campaign to control the message."

Dan Rather set up the September 7 story which followed the lead story on U.S. troop deaths in Iraq topping one thousand and Dick Cheney's remarks (see item #2 below for Cheney coverage):
"Harsh words have become the rule in this Campaign 2004, and today, for the first time, President Bush used a term for Senator John Kerry that he previously left to others: He taunted Kerry directly by calling him 'a flip-flopper.' And chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports, true or not, that accusation is a key part of the President Bush's plan for re-election."

Roberts began: "When it comes to Iraq and the war on terror, this is how President Bush wants voters to see John Kerry."
Crowd: "Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop."
Roberts: "The chants of 'flip-flop' highlight a strategy to undercut Kerry's credibility on a key issue in this campaign. The President made the attacks a central theme of his convention speech and voters, it seems, are getting the message."
Frank Luntz, pollster: "We asked Ohio swing voters right after George Bush to give me one word to describe John Kerry. The top answer was 'flip-flop.' They succeeded. They got that message out."
Roberts: "An effective strategy, but is it accurate? For example, when the President mocked Kerry today for adopting yet another new position on Iraq-"
Bush at campaign rally: "This one is not even his own. It is that of his one-time rival, Howard Dean."
Roberts: "-at least part of that statement appeared to be true."
Kerry on Monday: "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time."
Howard Dean in a Democratic debate in 2003, clip undated: "I think this was the wrong war at the wrong time."
Roberts asked: "But is it a flip-flop? Kerry has consistently said holding Saddam accountable was and remains the right thing to do. And he's been just as consistent in his opposition to the way President Bush went to war."
Kerry at "front porch" event: "It's not that I would have done just one thing differently in Iraq. I would have done everything differently in Iraq."
Roberts: "Kerry's other big flip-flop, according to the President: Funding for the troops in Iraq."
Bush: "He said, 'well, I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.'"
Roberts concluded from in front of a big crowd at a Bush event: "True, Kerry first voted for the $87 billion, on condition it be paid for by rescinding a portion of the President's tax cuts. When that provision failed, and seeing no new plan in the bill to win the peace, he turned thumbs down in protest. And something you won't hear President Bush mention on the campaign trail is that he threatened to veto a version of that bill because he didn't like it. So the big problem for John Kerry, say some analysts, is not his record, it's allowing the Bush campaign to control the message. John Roberts, CBS News, Columbia, Missouri."

John Kerry On screen as Roberts made a matching point:
"KERRY ON IRAQ FUNDING:
For $87 billion if paid for by rolling back some tax cuts"

Last week Roberts wasn't so reluctant to describe President Bush as a "flip-flopper" when he misspoke about not being able to win the war on terror. On the Monday, August 30 CBS Evening News, Roberts asserted: "For all the Republicans' careful planning, President Bush himself gave his opponents an opening to question his leadership. In an interview aired today, he said of the war on terror, 'I don't think you can win it.'"

The next night, Tuesday August 31, Roberts contended: "With one of the convention's opening-night speakers at his side, President Bush today insisted to this group of Tennessee veterans he will succeed in the war on terror."
Bush at American Legion: "A war we did not start, yet one that we will win."
Roberts: "And just to make sure they heard it right:"
Bush: "Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win."
Roberts: "It was a one-day flip-flop of his own, correcting a statement Monday that the war on terror could not be won, a misstep that yanked the President's carefully scripted convention badly off message just as he was seeking to reinforce his image as a strong leader."

ABC Frets Over Kerry's "Muddled Message"
and Cheney's Attack

ABC and CBS fretted Tuesday night over a comment by Vice President Cheney while ABC also devoted a story to befuddlement over why John Kerry isn't doing better given all the bad news for Bush. ABC anchor Peter Jennings set up a full story on how Cheney said that if Americans "make the wrong choice in November, then the country is in danger of another terrorist attack. So, did he mean that a terrorist attack would be more likely under a Democratic administration?" ABC's story featured the "outraged" reaction from Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, just before the John Roberts story detailed above in CyberAlert item #1, intoned:
"As the fighting and dying intensify in Iraq, on the campaign trail here at home, Vice President Cheney cranked up the political rhetoric. Recalling the 9/11 attacks, Cheney told a Republican town hall meeting in Iowa that if President Bush is not re-elected, then quote, 'the danger is that we'll get hit again.' Democrat John Edwards denounced that as, and I quote, 'Dick Cheney's scare tactics.'"

Following its piece on Cheney, ABC's Dean Reynolds looked at bafflement over how even though "the economy, health care, poverty and the war in Iraq are all problems for the President" while "polls show more than half the country believes Bush is leading the nation in the wrong direction," Kerry has not "seized" on any line of attack as he has "muddled his message and failed to make this race more about Bush than himself."

Jennings introduced the first of two September 7 campaign stories on World News Tonight: "Vice President Cheney said something today, in this campaign, which caught a lot of people's attention. That if Americans, he said, make the wrong choice in November, then the country is in danger of another terrorist attack. So, did he mean that a terrorist attack would be more likely under a Democratic administration? Here's ABC's Jake Tapper."

Tapper began: "Republicans made it the central argument of their convention -- the President will do a better job than John Kerry protecting the country from terrorists. But the Vice President went one big step further."
Cheney, sitting on stool, at town hall meeting in Iowa: "If we make the wrong choice, and the danger is, that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Tapper: "Democrats were outraged."
John Edwards, at press conference: "Dick Cheney's scare tactics today crossed the line. What he said to the American people was if you go to the polls in November, and elect anyone other than us, and another terrorist attack occurs, it's your fault."
Tapper: "Is there any evidence terrorists are more likely to attack if Democrats are in charge? There is no evidence, but Republicans base their remarks on this statement from Kerry's convention speech, which they say means Kerry would wait to be attacked, then retaliate."
Kerry in convention speech: "Let there be no mistake, I will never hesitate to use force when required. Any attack will be met with a swift and a certain response."
Tapper: "Republicans say Democratic criticism of the President's doctrine of pre-emptive war indicates Democrats are more likely to play defense. Democrats say the President's campaign in Iraq has made more enemies for the U.S., making the U.S. less safe. This is the debate for every day between now and November. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington."

Jennings segued to the next story: "Senator Kerry was in Ohio this afternoon, a state he and the President have both visited many times. It's going to be a battleground state until the end, we think, at least as of now. The Senator has been trying to regain his political footing after a rough couple of weeks. And here is ABC's Dean Reynolds."

Reynolds began: "John Kerry has had an array of issues on which to mount a stiff challenge to George W. Bush. The economy, health care, poverty and the war in Iraq are all problems for the President. And polls show more than half the country believes Bush is leading the nation in the wrong direction. Yet, with so many avenues of attack, Kerry seized none convincingly, muddled his message and failed to make this race more about Bush than himself. Initially, Kerry saw the question of who would make a better Commander-in-Chief as an advantage."
Kerry at convention: "I'm reporting for duty."
Reynolds: "But on that, Kerry may have been his own worst enemy, and on a subject he should have mastered. His read-the-small-print stand on Iraq allowed bush to portray him as a flip-flopping hair-splitter. [over video of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad] And an independent effort to erode his integrity knocked Kerry off-stride. So, this week, with only eight more to go, he pivoted. A meandering stump speech has been replaced by one with a catchy punch line he hopes will encapsulate Bush's shortcomings."
Kerry: "George W. Bush. 'W' stands for wrong. Wrong directions, wrong choices, and it's time to put it right."
Reynolds concluded: "Kerry is in the process of spending $50 million on advertising in 20 states, including here in North Carolina. But there is no question that the campaign is now winnowing down the states considered essential. And right now, there are no plans for Kerry to return here after today. The major thrust now will be in Florida and the Midwest. And Kerry will have to prove again that he can really come from behind. Dean Reynolds, ABC News, Cincinnati."

Olbermann Outs Himself as Someone "Who
Didn't Vote for Cheney"

In the midst of kvetching Tuesday night over Vice President Dick Cheney's remark about the danger of electing Kerry/Edwards, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann outed himself as someone "who didn't vote for Mr. Cheney." Before accusing Cheney of "terrorizing people," Olbermann insisted that he "tries not to knee jerk everything based on left and right." He needs to try harder.

On Countdown, Olbermann played this clip from Cheney at a town meeting in Iowa: "If we make the wrong choice, and the danger is, that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."

Olbermann then posed this is his first question to guest David Dreier, a Republican Congressman from California who appeared with liberal Democrat Bill Press: "As a citizen who didn't vote for Mr. Cheney, but still thinks of him as my Vice President, and tries not to knee jerk everything based on left or right, I simply can't believe he got up and told voters, essentially, elect Kerry and we'll get hit again and maybe we'll get hit in a way that will be devastating. How is that statement by Mr. Cheney by itself not invoking and essentially doing the work of terrorizing people?"

CNN: U.S. Troops in Iraq "Much Like the
Soviets in Afghanistan"

The analogies to Vietnam have never been far from Iraq coverage, but on Monday's NewsNight, CNN's Walter Rodgers analogized the U.S. situation in Iraq to another quagmire: The Soviets in Afghanistan.

The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught this assessment from Rodgers, In Iraq, on the September 6 NewsNight: "The so-called Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad is now a no-go zone, and U.S. troops are in isolated fortresses much like the Soviets in Afghanistan."

60 Minutes Tonight to Air 4th Anti-Bush
Hit Job So Far This Year

Tonight (Wednesday) CBS's 60 Minutes will feature a Dan Rather interview with Ben Barnes, a former Texas House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor, who, according to the 60 Minutes Web page, will discuss the role "he played in getting President George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard -- and why he now regrets it." This will mark at least the fourth anti-Bush hit job on 60 Minutes this year (after pieces promoting the anti-Bush angles in books by Paul O'Neill, Dick Clarke and Bob Woodward), not even counting Lesley Stahl's giggling session with the Kerry and Edwards families, the promotional extended clip from Fahrenheit 9/11's scene of Bush's seven minutes in the classroom added to a re-run of a Michael Moore profile, to say nothing of the multiple stories with photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

And that's all from a show which has yet to touch the anti-Kerry swift boaters on a network whose evening newscast, the CBS Evening News, has only condemned and smeared the members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

(With 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt's retirement, CBS in May ended the pretensions about any separation between the Sunday 60 Minutes and Wednesday 60 Minutes II by dropping the "II" from the Wednesday edition.)

For CBS's plug for tonight's 60 Minutes which will air at 8pm EDT/PDT, 7pm CDT/MDT: www.cbsnews.com

From past CyberAlerts, a sampling of the anti-Bush agenda pushed by 60 Minutes over the past year or so, from oldest to most recent:

-- October 16, 2003 CyberAlert. CBS hyped as "new questions tonight," allegations it played at the top of Wednesday's 60 Minutes II, from former State Department intelligence bureau official Greg Thielmann, that Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council contained inaccurate and unsupportable claims about Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons. But CBS was playing loose with the facts in putting self-promotional marketing ahead of accuracy since CBS itself featured the same basic charge from Thielmann back on July 9 and he leveled his allegations, against Powell and other Bush officials, during PBS's June 13 Now with Bill Moyers. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- December 15, 2003 CyberAlert. CBS's Lesley Stahl is worried the U.S. might "torture" Saddam Hussein by depriving him of sleep or making him "very cold" or "very hot." Interviewing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for Sunday's 60 Minutes, Stahl wanted Rumsfeld to confirm: "The Red Cross can see him soon?" She soon raised the notion of "torture," demanding to know: "Would we deprive him of sleep, would we make it very cold where he is, or very hot?" When Rumsfeld insisted we would we follow the Geneva Conventions, that wasn't good enough for Stahl who pressed: "Sleep deprivation, that kind of thing. You're ruling it completely out, is that what you're telling us?" Classic Rumsfeld: "I'm not telling you anything other than I have just told you." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- January 12, 2004 CyberAlert. Network newscasts don't usually publicize the exclusive interviews with an author to be aired later on a competing network, but the networks were so excited by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's blasts at Bush -- as 'a blind man in a room full of deaf people' -- that on Friday night ABC and NBC picked up on the shot at Bush released by CBS to promote his appearance on 60 Minutes. That 60 Minutes piece featured a tale that only a liberal could dream of, that President Bush believed his tax cuts only helped the rich. Bush supposedly worried: "Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- March 23 CyberAlert. Sunday's 60 Minutes devoted two 13-minute segments, totaling just over 26 minutes, to Dick Clarke's charges against the Bush administration over ignoring the terrorist threat, but though Clarke oversaw the Clinton administration's counter-terrorism policy for eight years, Lesley Stahl didn't mention Clinton until nearly ten minutes into the first segment, and that was a laudatory recollection of how the Clinton team prevented some millennium attacks. Stahl only alluded to the Clinton years once more, but on Monday's Fox and Friends, FNC analyst and international businessman Monsoor Ijaz delved into a subject skipped over by CBS, how Clarke himself had blocked efforts, pushed by the Abu Dabi royal family, to capture Osama bin Laden. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- March 29 CyberAlert. 60 Minutes conceded on Sunday night that most of the reaction it received, to Lesley Stahl's two-parter a week earlier promoting Dick Clarke's new book and his attacks on the Bush administration, was negative and questioning of CBS's motives -- a bias re-enforced just minutes earlier when Ed Bradley delivered an interview with Condoleezza Rice that was far more hostile than how Stahl had treated Clarke. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- April 19 CyberAlert. During his 60 Minutes sessions aired Sunday night with Bob Woodward, author of the new book, Plan of Attack, CBS's Mike Wallace mocked President's Bush's smarts and belief in freeing people from oppression. Wallace demanded: "Who gave George Bush the duty to free people around the world?" Wallace also jeeringly proposed: "The President of the United States, without a great deal of background in foreign policy, makes up his mind and believes he was sent by somebody to free the people -- not just in Iraq, but around the world?" Woodward shared Wallace's concern: "It is far-reaching, and ambitious, and I think will cause many people to tremble." Having established Bush's irrationality, Wallace moved on to wondering "how deep a man is President George W. Bush?" Woodward contended: "He is not an intellectual. He is not what I guess would be called a deep thinker." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- June 29 CyberAlert. CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday promoted Michael Moore's Bush-bashing movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, by airing a nearly minute-long excerpt of one of its most disparaging sequences about President Bush, showing him sitting in the classroom for seven minutes on 9-11. Setting up a re-run of a 2003 profile of Moore, 60 Minutes ran a 55 second excerpt from Moore's new film, complete with Moore's derogatory narration: "Not knowing what to do, with no one telling him what to do, and no Secret Service rushing in to take him to safety, Mr. Bush just sat there and continued to read My Pet Goat with the children. Nearly seven minutes past with nobody doing anything." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- July 12 CyberAlert. CBS's Lesley Stahl seemed as enthusiastic on Sunday's 60 Minutes for the Kerry/Edwards ticket as were Teresa and John Kerry and Elizabeth and John Edwards as the two couples and Stahl all giggled and laughed about how well everyone was getting along. Stahl prompted them to explain what they were laughing about as they campaigned together and posed such tough questions as: "How, do you think, the honeymoon is going?" Stahl began her session by enthusing to Kerry: "You're looser. Do you think that his energy is rubbing off on you?" Not once did Stahl broach the liberal ideology of the two candidates, but she did raise the far-left Ron Reagan Jr. as some kind of authoritative moral figure as she cited his attack on President Bush over how "justifying the war in Iraq by citing God" is "what Osama bin Laden does." See: www.mediaresearch.org

How CBS has dealt so far with Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

-- May 5 CyberAlert. CBS on Tuesday night tried to discredit some Vietnam veterans critical of John Kerry by impugning them as partisan activists tied to the Bush campaign, though the only link seems to be a public relations firm involved in the 2000 campaign, and tarring all of them with the supposed dirty work for Richard Nixon of one. Very McCarthyistic. CBS's Byron Pitts went back to 1971 as he recalled how John O'Neill, who debated Kerry about Vietnam on ABC's Dick Cavett Show, "was handpicked by the Nixon administration to discredit Kerry." Pitts added, without any explanation, that "the press conference was set up by the same people who," in 2000, "tried to discredit John McCain's reputation in Vietnam service." Then Pitts connected the anti-Kerry veterans to a presumed nefarious "strategy" they had nothing to do with implementing: "It's the same strategy used to go after Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam." See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- August 6 CyberAlert. CBS, CNN and MSNBC on Thursday night decried a new anti-Kerry TV ad produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. CBS anchor John Roberts stressed criticism of it: "A harsh new television ad that attacks John Kerry is being denounced as quote, 'dishonest and dishonorable' by a Bush supporter, Republican Senator John McCain." (Just last week on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather trumpeted "John Kerry's band of brothers from Vietnam on one last mission.") See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- August 20 CyberAlert. Kerry Blast at Bush Moves Nets to Finally Show Swift Boat Ad. See: www.mediaresearch.org

-- August 25 CyberAlert. Only 105 days after the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth appeared in a Washington press conference (May 4), Tuesday CBS's Early Show became the first broadcast network morning news program to interview a member of the group, John O'Neill, author of Unfit to Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. But Smith interrupted O'Neill with protests ("hang on a second...no, no, no, you listen for a second"), while he presented the other guest, Paul Alexander, as merely a filmmaker, and asked him two softball questions. In fact, Alexander has written a book celebrating Kerry so heartily that Publishers Weekly called it "a shallow campaign hagiography." www.mediaresearch.org

# Plus: "The Media vs. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." The MRC's Rich Noyes recently compiled a rundown of the mainstream media's hostility to the swifties. See: www.mediaresearch.org

ABC's Charles Gibson Pegs Bush's Lead
at "Just" 7 Points

George W. Bush's lead over John Kerry is now at "just" seven points? That's how ABC's Charles Gibson, who speculated on Tuesday morning that "maybe the President's convention bounce was not as big as everyone thought," characterized Bush's lead in the Gallup poll after Time and Newsweek polls had him up by 11 points. But isn't seven points pretty substantial after a year in which many polls put Bush behind or barely tied with Kerry?

The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught Gibson's "just" framing of the race as he set up a September 7 Good Morning America review of the Labor Day campaign events: "To presidential politics next. There are now only 56 days until the presidential election and the sprint for the White House appears to be tightening up. This morning, maybe the President's convention bounce was not as big as everyone thought. A new poll from Gallup has the President's lead over John Kerry at just seven points, and the candidates are stepping up their back-and-forth attacks."

-- Brent Baker