2. ABC's George Stephanopoulos Presses Tony Blair to Name Mistakes
3. Washington Post Ombudsman Concedes "Political Bias" in PDB Story
4. Couric Delivers Giddy and Upbeat Session with Hillary Clinton
5. ABC's Charles Gibson Still Dreaming About John McCain for VP
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."
The second of the two April 18 60 Minutes segments promoting Woodward's book ended with this discussion between Wallace and Woodward, who holds the title of Assistant Managing Editor of the Washington Post:
Woodward, referring to Bush on Iraq: "The President still believes, with some conviction, that this was absolutely the right thing, that he has the duty to free people, to liberate people, and this was his moment."
With that, 60 Minutes went to Wallace for some final comments on the 60 Minutes set. After claiming that keeping the book's allegations secret prevented them from getting a White House reaction, which they would welcome for next week, Wallace noted how Viacom owns both CBS News and the publisher of Woodward's book, but his words betrayed his disdain for the suggestion of any improper influence: "Incidentally, for the record, though it had nothing to do with our reporting this story, Bob Woodward's publisher, Simon and Schuster, is owned by the same company we are, Viacom."
CBSNews.com has posted a text version of the Wallace/Woodward interview, but it only approximates what aired and many of the quotes do not match what aired (I found three differences, in just the short passages quoted above, between what aired and the CBSNews.com's transcript.) See: www.cbsnews.com
A few days after the White House press corps pressed President Bush repeatedly, at a news conference, to name mistakes he's made in the war on terrorism, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked British Prime Minister Tony Blair the same question in an interview featured on Sunday's This Week. ABC apparently considered the subject the most important of the interview since it was the only exchange from it excerpted on Friday's World News Tonight during a plug for Stephanopoulos' upcoming Sunday session.
On This Week, Stephanopoulos set up the interview by saying that it took place on Friday, but he did not say where it occurred, though viewers could see that it took place in some sort of living room-type setting. (Blair met with President Bush in DC on Friday.)
Stephanopoulos pressed Blair: "When President Bush was asked the other night, he couldn't name a single mistake he had made in the war on terror. So do you think there are any?"
CyberAlert items on the media's obsession with getting Bush to apologize or admit mistakes:
-- April 14 CyberAlert: Following President Bush's news conference on Tuesday night, NBC News anchor Brian Williams pointed out to David Gregory how Bush refused to "admit" any mistakes and complained that "I didn't detect a straight-on answer there." Gregory agreed before he insisted: "This President could be accused in some places today of filibustering at times." Similarly, over on ABC, George Stephanopoulos bemoaned how "the President was quite defiant tonight, even at times defensive. No apologies, no acceptance of personal responsibility." ABC's Peter Jennings acknowledged the agenda of the White House press corps in repeatedly trying to get Bush to admit mistakes and errors during his presidency and Stephanopoulos admitted reporters "want to see some concession of responsibility by the President." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Focusing on how the Washington Post a week earlier had led a story with a very misleading reference to how "President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan," when the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in question made no reference to "lower Manhattan," Post Ombudsman Michael Getler conceded on Sunday that since the wording falsely suggested that Bush was warned about an attack in the area of the World Trade Center, "readers who believe this introductory paragraph was, or could be seen as, misleading and conveying a political bias make a fair point, in my view."
The April 12 CyberAlert picked up on the distorted April 11 front page Post story: On Sunday [April 11], though the memo only talked about the possibility of plane hijackings, not of flying them into buildings, the subhead on a front page Washington Post story suggested Bush learned more than he did: "Aug. 6 Report to President Warned of Hijacking." Reporters Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus opened their April 11 story with a very misleading sentence: "President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan."
Not until four paragraphs later did the Post duo acknowledge that the "targeting of a building in lower Manhattan" had nothing to do with what actually occurred on September 11, noting how "officials said the photographing of the federal buildings was later judged to be 'tourist activity,'" by some Yeminis.
For more about distorted reporting of the PDB, along with a link to the Washington Post story in question: www.mediaresearch.org
The August 6 PDB referred to "recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York," and while there are federal buildings in lower Manhattan, they are all over New York City and New York state.
"'A Building in Lower Manhattan'" read the headline over Getler's April 18 Ombudsman column on the editorial page. An excerpt:
The White House release April 10 of the top-secret "President's Daily Brief" of Aug. 6, 2001 -- carrying the headline, "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" -- made front-page headlines in all the Sunday papers....
The lead of the story by reporters Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus said: "President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan."...
Well, that is close to, but not exactly, what the document said. After a reference in the PDB to some earlier and uncorroborated reports about al Qaeda hijacking plans, the pertinent paragraph says: "Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."
The memo refers to "federal buildings" and not "a building," as the story's first sentence does. The memo does not use the word "targeting." It mentions "New York" but does not specify "Lower Manhattan."
There are federal buildings in Lower Manhattan, not far from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which were not federal buildings, once stood. But the way the lead was written can easily produce an image that suggests more of a specific warning about what unfolded a month later than was actually in the text. The words "targeting a building in Lower Manhattan" present a mental picture closer to the World Trade Center than does "federal buildings in New York," which could mean many locations.
Many readers, after reading the actual PDB text that was reproduced on Page A6, angrily objected to this phrasing; one described the story as "an egregious misrepresentation of what was presented to the president." Why do this "other than to mislead the casual reader into thinking that the words in the story, 'a building in lower Manhattan,' [were] meant to be the World Trade Center?"...
The Post story did report, toward the end, that the PDB item about surveillance grew out of FBI interviews of tourists from Yemen who were taking pictures of the Foley Square courthouse in downtown New York. This, reporters explain, is why their reference was to one building. And because that building is near what turned out to be Ground Zero, it was important because it gave at least some reason to expect an attack in that area.
Nevertheless, readers who believe this introductory paragraph was, or could be seen as, misleading and conveying a political bias make a fair point, in my view. This was obviously a big story and the top of it could easily have stuck to the actual language and content of the briefing, which was pretty dynamic on its own....
Finally, contributing to what the complaining readers viewed as political spin, was the other half of the top of Sunday's front page, which featured an article by reporters Milbank and Mike Allen headlined, "Bush Gave No Sign of Worry in August 2001." This was a perfectly legitimate story -- revisiting the activities and the outward demeanor of the president around the time that secret briefing was being delivered. But its placement, and the choice of a small photo between the two stories of the president in a golf cart near his Texas ranch in August 2001, fueled the skepticism.
"Message conveyed," wrote one reader. "Fully aware of Osama bin Laden's plans to hijack an airliner and crash it into a building in lower Manhattan, Bush has fun on the golf course."
These are tense times. News, in its purest form, is very powerful. Maybe Post editors would edit the stories and choose the picture in the same way if they had it to do again. But it seems to me that these complaints, even if some of them reflect political views, are valid criticisms and worth learning from.
END of Excerpt
For Getler's column in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Katie Couric provided a giddy and upbeat session Friday night with Senator Hillary Clinton to promote the publication of the paperback version of her book, Living History. Couric gushed about how "she's received like a rock star. She works on economic development in upstate New York, gives foreign policy and civil rights speeches, shakes hand after hand, signs book after book."
Recalling how she was booed at a New York City concert shortly after September 11th, Couric empathized: "But it had to hurt your feelings." But Couric found a positive spin, trumpeting how "by last week, some of those jeers had turned to cheers."
Picking up on Clinton's advocacy of more troops for Iraq, Couric echoed the liberal line: "You say commit more troops. But that's the same thing LBJ did in Vietnam. Do you worry that this is another Vietnam?"
Looking to the future, Couric championed: "Now, at 56, Hillary Clinton has a vision for herself. She's a powerful U.S. Senator, and something of a phenomenon in the publishing world. The hardcover edition of her book sold more than three million copies worldwide."
To end the interview, Couric asked Clinton to "play 'complete the sentence'" with her. Couric's set-ups: "If I weren't a politician, I would be?", "The thing I hate the most about myself is?", "My guiltiest pleasure is?", "I'm proudest that?" and "I would like my tombstone to say?"
Dateline anchor Stone Phillips set the tone for the April 16 segment with this admiring introduction: "From the moment Americans met her 12 years ago, it was clear she was a woman to be reckoned with. Smart, tough, ambitious, she seemed tailor-made for the world of politics. So it should come as no surprise that the title, Senator, fits Hillary Clinton like a glove."
Some excerpts from Couric's session with Senator Hillary Clinton, taped at the Clinton home in New Castle, New York:
Couric began: "It's springtime in Washington. The monuments of the nation's capital are framed by the cherry blossoms. But like the blossoms themselves, this serene impression is fleeting, and fragile. It's always political season in this town, and this year the skies look angrier and more turbulent than ever. Washington is gripped by the political equivalent of war, and one of the Democrats' not-so-secret weapons is the junior Senator from New York. And just as Hillary Clinton is hitting the stump and hitting the Republicans, the paperback version of her best-selling autobiography, Living History, is hitting the bookstores."
Couric began with a gentle challenge: "In the afterward to your paperback version of your book, you deplore the partisan atmosphere we've seen in Washington. 'Too often,' you write, 'ideology and partisanship, not evidence or value, dictate policy choices.' But it seems at times you yourself were as partisan as many Republicans. So aren't you being slightly hypocritical?"
Couric continued: "Many Republicans would say there are few politicians more partisan than the former First Lady. In fact, many Democrats have urged Senator John Kerry to choose her as his running mate to guarantee enthusiastic support among hard-core Democrats. On Wednesday, the two Senators campaigned for the first time together in New York. But now it's official. Hillary Clinton says this [video of two on stage together] is as close as we'll ever come to seeing a Kerry-Clinton ticket."
Couric pressed her about becoming the VP nominee: "If John Kerry called you tomorrow, and said, 'Hill' -- whatever he calls you -- 'Senator, Hillary, I'd like you to be my Vice President?'"
Couric: "Do you think it would be appealing to you to be President of the United States? I'm asking a hopeless question-"
Couric then announced: "Whatever her aspirations, these days she seems to be the life of the party -- the Democratic Party. And at times she's received like a rock star. She works on economic development in upstate New York, gives foreign policy and civil rights speeches, shakes hand after hand, signs book after book."
But, Couric lamented, "much to her dismay, she's also used to help elect Republicans" who use her in fundraising letters.
Couric soon recalled, over video and sound from the concert event shown by VH-1: "But when she first arrived on Capitol Hill, it was a rocky start. At a benefit concert for 9/11 victims at New York's Madison Square Garden in November of 2001, Senator Clinton was booed by the assembled firefighters and police officers."
Couric turned to Iraq: "But in the middle of her six-year term, Hillary Clinton knows her political fortunes can change at any time, and the issues this year are fraught with political peril. She voted for the war with Iraq."
Couric moved on to the Clinton administration's role in figting terrorism: "How do you feel when people say, 'Well the Clinton administration should've done this., they should've responded more forcefully to the USS Cole. There were many things that could've been done prior to the Bush administration taking over, things that weren't done.'"
Couric: "Do you dislike President Bush personally?"
Couric trumpeted: "Now, at 56, Hillary Clinton has a vision for herself. She's a powerful U.S. senator, and something of a phenomenon in the publishing world. The hardcover edition of her book sold more than three million copies worldwide."
Couric raised Lewinsky and ludicrously claimed Mrs. Clinton was "candid" about the topic: "I noted in this book, you write quite candidly about the whole Monica Lewinsky affair. And I know you probably hate to talk about it, hate to think about it. But it is in the book. It is in the paperback. Is it hard for you to know that once again, that part of your life is out there?"
Couric treated them as a regular couple: "How would you describe your relationship with President Clinton? Do you guys get to even see each other much, because you're running around?"
To wrap up the session, Couric herself applied some drug store psychiatry: "Let me ask you to finish, let's play complete the sentence. If I weren't a politician, I would be?"
MSNBC.com has posted a transcript of the interview and an "MSN Video" box provides an audio clip of about four minutes of what NBC aired: www.msnbc.msn.com
When Hillary Clinton's book was released last June, Barbara Walters promoted it. As documented in the June 9, 2003 CyberAlert:
For that item, and other items on book coverage that weekend: www.mediaresearch.org
Couric interviewed Hillary about the book on the June 10 Today. CyberAlert recounted: While Katie Couric often treated Hillary as a victim, just as did ABC's Barbara Walters, Couric also raised subjects not brought up by Walters, such as how many were disturbed about an un-elected First Lady taking a policy role and those who felt "dissed" by Hillary's dismissal of stay-at-home moms. Couric empathized with Hillary's plight because since her days at Wellesley College she's been "a so-called lightning rod, a term that would haunt you, really for the rest of your life," prodded Hillary to run for President and delivered this doozy of a loaded question about negative reaction to her political activities: "Were you surprised at the backlash? The really vitriolic, violent backlash against you in many ways? Do you think it was good old-fashioned sexism?" See: www.mediaresearch.org
ABC's Charles Gibson can't let go of his dream of John McCain on the ticket with John Kerry. On Friday, five weeks after he begged McCain to "let me imagine" such a scenario, McCain returned to Good Morning America and Gibson asked him again about the possibility.
The March 11 CyberAlert looked at how media figures were salivating for McCain to make another national run, with Gibson pressing McCain about forming "a dream ticket" with Kerry and when McCain demurred, saying such a scenario is "hard to imagine," Gibson begged: "Let me imagine it."
On the April 16 GMA, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, Gibson recalled: "Last time you were here, I asked you whether you might be open."
The rundown of the March 10 GMA session, as recounted in the March 11 CyberAlert.
For several other examples in that CyberAlert of media figures yearning for another national McCain candidacy: www.mediaresearch.org
-- Brent Baker