Couric Cues Up Clinton's Talking Points, Assumes Worst in Iraq --12/2/2003
2. CNN's Morton: Nixon and Clinton Haters, But No Reagan Haters
3. CNN Veteran to Oversee News on New Left-Wing Radio Network
4. Liberals Marvin Kalb and Lou Cannon Denounce
The Reagans Movie
Assuming the worst and matching your guest's agenda. When Senator Hillary Clinton appeared Monday morning on NBC's Today after returning from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, Katie Couric's first question didn't consider the possibility that maybe things in Iraq look better on the ground than they do from afar on TV, as many other visitors have observed. Instead, her first question to Clinton: "What are your impressions of the situation in Iraq? How bad is it, in your view?"
And instead of pressing Clinton about the feasibility of her mantra about "internationalizing" the situation by bringing in the UN, a policy which would hasten the U.S. retreat from Iraq, Couric worried about how the Bush policy may lead to a premature withdrawal: "Well let me ask you about that exist strategy because it's been controversial. The notion of having caucuses and indirect election rather than direct elections has been criticized by the head Shiite cleric and many obviously Iraqis or Shiites. Do you think an exit strategy is being crafted at, at, sort of, the risk of not establishing a true democracy in Iraq?"
Couric set up the December 1 segment with Clinton, and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed who accompanied her on her trip, both of whom appeared via satellite from Capitol Hill:
Couric's second question: "Well Senator Reed, since Senator Clinton brought that up, what, how are the soldiers, how are U.S. forces holding up given the fact that November was the bloodiest month since so-called, major combat operations ended with more than 70 U.S. soldiers killed. What was your sense of morale?"
Couric, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, next cued up Clinton: "So Senator Clinton, what's the solution then?"
After Clinton talked about bringing in the UN to "internationalize" the situation, Couric simply wondered: "Do you think the Bush administration would be recep-, excuse me, receptive to that?"
Couric moved on to Bush's surprise trip: "Let me ask you though about the President's visit to Iraq over the weekend to Baghdad, his surprise visit on Thanksgiving Day. Not surprisingly it's been getting mixed reviews depending on one's political views. Some have, have praised the President and said this was a huge morale boost for the troops who badly needed it and others have said it's basically the President was staging a positive photo-op to boost his popularity. Where do you come down on the President's visit, Senator Clinton?"
After Clinton's "good but" answer, Couric stuck to pitching up another softball: "Well let me ask you about that exit strategy because it's been controversial. The notion of having caucuses and indirect election rather than direct elections has been criticized by the head Shiite cleric and many obviously Iraqis or Shiites. Do you think an exit strategy is being crafted at, at, sort of, the risk of not establishing a true democracy in Iraq?"
Couric's last question once more simply cued up some Clinton talking points: "We're about out of time, Senator Clinton. What are your major, and Senator Reed. But, but I know you wanted to talk specifically about Afghanistan. So quickly, if you could. What are your major concerns about what is going on in Afghanistan right now?"
There were Nixon-haters and Clinton-haters and now there are Bush-haters, but there were no Reagan-haters. So contended CNN's Bruce Morton in a piece on Monday's Inside Politics about how "liberals are back and they're angry." Morton recalled how "liberals used to be angry years ago" at Presidents Nixon and Johnson but, he insisted, "liberals fell silent after Vietnam. You couldn't, after all, hate Ronald Reagan. The Gipper was just too nice a guy." And during Bill Clinton's presidency, "it was the conservatives who did the hating."
Liberals weren't Reagan-haters during the 1980s? The mean-spirited attack on Reagan in CBS's The Reagans mini-series moved to Showtime is just the latest evidence for how liberals hated Reagan, blaming him for everything from AIDS to homeless people freezing to death on the streets while his war-mongering policies endangered the world, his tax cuts helped the rich and his supposed budget cuts hurt the poor. Reagan was regularly the target of liberal vitriol.
But Morton isn't the first reporter to have seen Clinton-hating from conservatives after having missed any Reagan-hating by liberals. A 1998 study by the MRC of Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Times and the Washington Post from 1981 to 1988 and from 1992 through mid-April 1998, found those publications featured 63 uses of the term "Clinton hater," compared to one single use of "Reagan hater."
Prompted by a story on the front page of Monday's USA Today, "Liberals finding their voice -- and it's angry; Bush is target: 'We have been too nice,'" an article which highlighted liberal books, the impact of Moveon.org, money being poured into anti-Bush efforts by George Soros and talk of a new liberal talk radio network, CNN had Morton review the history of anger as a motivator in politics.
Morton began his December 1 piece: "The liberals are back and they're angry. Al Franken's book is angry. Molly Ivens' book Bushwhacked is angry. They're having a Hate Bush dinner in Hollywood. And the official Democratic Party Web log is called, yes, 'kicking ass.'"
Of course, conservatives dominated talk radio long before anyone heard of Bill Clinton.
Two veterans of cable, a medium supposedly dominated by conservatives, will have key roles in a new left-wing radio network being cobbled together by a group calling itself Progress Media, the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg reported on Monday. Former CNN producer Shelly Long, whom Rutenberg described as "a longtime network news producer who was most recently in charge of American Morning" on CNN, "will oversee news programming" on the proposed network which is pursuing Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo to take hosting slots. Rutenberg also noted that "Jon Sinton, Progress Media's President, said the company had hired Lizz Winstead, one of the creators of The Daily Show," on Comedy Central, "to oversee entertainment programming."
An excerpt from the speculative December 1 story, "Liberal Radio Group Says It Is Close to Acquiring 5 Stations," by Rutenberg:
A Democratic investment group planning to start a liberal radio network to counterbalance conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh says it is close to buying radio stations in five major cities.
The acquisitions would represent a major move toward making the network real. After its conception was announced in February, many radio analysts and even some Democratic activists predicted that the network would face too many challenges to get off the ground, including finding stations to run its programming and bucking a historical record replete with failed liberal radio attempts.
But executives with the newly formed company, Progress Media, said late last week that if all went as planned they would have the network running by early spring, in time to be part of the public dialogue during the presidential campaign season.
The executives said the stations they were acquiring reached all radios in 5 of the 10 largest media markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston. They said they would buy stations in other markets in the near future.
"We're steady as she goes to have a broadcast debut in early 2004, which gives us time to be part of the election year," said Mark Walsh, the company's chief executive and an Internet entrepreneur formerly with VerticalNet and America Online....
[Jon Sinton, Progress Media's President] said Progress Media was pursuing a deal to give the comedian Al Franken a daily talk show. The company, whose programming division is to be called Central Air, is also talking with representatives of the comedian Janeane Garofalo.
The network has hired Martin Kaplan to be the host of an early evening talk show about the news media. Mr. Kaplan is associate dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and was once a speechwriter for Walter F. Mondale as well as a Disney studio executive.
Mr. Kaplan said in an interview that part of his charge would be to address some of the more extreme voices on the right. "It will be a chance to make fun of the pomposity and the bullying which the right has engaged in, and which a good chunk of the mainstream media has bought into," he said....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full, with Rush Limbaugh's retort: www.nytimes.com
During Showtime's Monday night panel, Controversy: The Reagans, two liberals, Marvin Kalb and Lou Cannon, denounced the inaccurate portrayal of Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the movie switched from CBS to an airing Sunday night on Showtime. In addition, a co-producer of the film contradicted Showtime's CEO and admitted that the movie was not historically accurate, answering "no" when asked if the movie was "meant to be historically true?"
Meanwhile, on FNC's Hannity & Colmes on Monday night, Ronald Reagan's adopted son Michael condemned the portrayal he saw of his father, complaining: "They made my father look like Mr. Magoo." And as for the repeated instances in the movie of Ronald calling his wife "Nancy-pants," Michael Reagan revealed: "I never heard my dad call Nancy 'Nancy-pants.'"
During the 9pm EST panel show from Washington, DC on Showtime, and simulcast on C-SPAN, former NBC News correspondent Marvin Kalb, who is now with the Shorenstein Center at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, asserted: "The tone of it was insensitive, I think it was hostile in many places. I think when one realizes that President Reagan is in California in the tail end of a deep siege with Alzheimer's, this is not the time to do this kind of a movie."
After panel moderator Frank Sesno, a CNN veteran, ran a clip from the movie in which Holmes Tuttle, Mike Deaver and others in 1965 discuss how to convince Reagan to run for Governor of California, a scene in which they talk about how they can teach Reagan what to say and they suggest that they've been "talking to the wrong Reagan," meaning Nancy really decides for her husband, former Washington Post reporter Lou Cannon, who has penned several biographies of Ronald Reagan, rued:
Later, Cannon added: "I'm sure everybody on this panel and that you remember the famous debate where Lloyd Bentsen says to Dan Quayle, you know, 'I know John F. Kennedy and you're no John F. Kennedy.' Well I do know Ronald Reagan. This isn't Ronald Reagan. And I know Nancy Reagan and this isn't Nancy Reagan."
For a look at some of Cannon's books on Reagan, see these Amazon.com pages:
For, Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power: www.amazon.com
But in a taped message which aired before the movie, Showtime Chairman and CEO Matt Blank had maintained: "As you probably know, The Reagans has been criticized by those who have yet to see it as an unbalanced denouncement of Ronald Reagan's presidency. We believe it is, in fact, an honest portrayal of many of the turning points in his life and in his political career....A diligent attempt was made by the filmmakers to have factual sources for every scene in this movie. For dramatic purposes, some dialogue has been embellished and some characters are composites. But nearly all of the historical facts in the movie can be substantiated and have been carefully researched."
And last Wednesday morning on FNC's Fox & Friends, MRC analyst Amanda Monson noticed, Blank insisted "we think it is" when asked if the movie would reflect "an accurate depiction" of the lives of the Reagans.
The November 26 exchange:
Steve Doocy: "Well, I'm sure you're going to have a big audience because people are wanting to see what all the controversy is about. The big question though is, is the version you're going to run an accurate depiction of what the Reagans life has been like?"
Blank: "Well, we think it is. Obviously some people will disagree. At the end of this movie you'll learn that Ronald Reagan is a man who entered the Cold War, brought down the Iron Curtain. He also was a man involved in Iran Contra, who didn't mention the word AIDS for seven years of his administration. The Ron and Nancy Reagan story is one of the great love stories of our time and yes, Nancy Reagan was a very tough woman and a very demanding woman. And I think that it'll be a very balanced portrayal of their life and Ronald Reagan's presidency."
But, as Micheal Reagan, a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host, noted on FNC's Hannity & Colmes on Monday night: "The reality of it is, if I can jump in for a moment, the only time you got anything positive out of this show last night was if you stayed awake long enough and you were willing to suffer through the terrible acting to get to the end when they scrolled at the end to show you what my father accomplished as President of the United States of America. Nowhere during the movie did they really, really get into what he did for America, what he did for the military."
Indeed, the movie did not credit Reagan with winning the Cold War and only in a post-movie bit of text on screen did viewers learn:
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down some of Michael Reagan's comments:
-- Sean Hannity: "Did you watch the whole thing, Michael?"
-- Reagan: "This was a 'trash Nancy' movie. My goodness gracious. If Nancy, Nancy should have put her head under the covers last night when this movie was on."
-- Reagan: "But the reality of this whole thing is, the way it was really, you know, portrayed, the whole thing, was just, it was just so disingenuous to my father. They made my father look like Mr. Magoo. And, listen, it wasn't Mr. Magoo running the White House. It was President Ronald Reagan. ..."
-- Hannity: "I would say this isn't so much about one version or interpretation. This is about real character assassination. And as you once said, this really took your father, this affable, lovable man, and just portrayed him as a bumbling idiot who was-"
Monday morning on NBC's Today, Katie Couric allowed former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan to run through what she found most inaccurate about the movie but then, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Couric pointed out how "many people bemoaned what happened," when Viacom, in the wake of conservative protest, moved the movie from CBS to Showtime, "as a real loss for free speech in this country."
Couric asked on the December 1 Today: "In closing, what about, just a quick note about the brouhaha that ensued. Many people bemoaned what happened as a, as a real loss for free speech in this country. Other, others, I mean obviously this, sort of, brought up all sorts of different feelings. And I'm just curious now after all is said and done what do you think about CBS's decision to move it to cable? Do you think they, they buckled under pressure that they shouldn't have buckled under or they did the right thing and it was a so-called moral decision?"
Noonan said she believes CBS Chairman Les Moonves did the right thing when he dropped it from CBS when he realized it was political propaganda and she marveled at the "spontaneous uprising" by the public when many saw the movie as "unfair," and "that's free speech."
Showtime has scheduled three more airings of The Reagans:
-- Thursday, December 4 at 8pm EST on Showtime East, 8pm PST on Showtime West
The Thursday one, any maybe the others, will be followed by a re-play of the hour-long panel show.
For my take on the movie, see the December 1 CyberAlert: I spent three hours -- two hours and 53 minutes to be exact -- on Sunday night watching The Reagans on Showtime so I could spare you the pain: The movie was every bit as awful as conservatives feared with a belittling portrayal of Ronald Reagan. The movie delivered a cartoonish Ronald Reagan who read words fed to him by others, seemed capable only of uttering short quips about "commies" and "big government" and followed the orders of others -- mainly an all-controlling Nancy Reagan who came across every bit as what rhymes with witch. One reviewer observed: "We get Iran-Contra, but not Reagan's 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' We get the stupefyingly ill-advised visit to a cemetery where Nazi SS troops were buried, but not the Reagans teary-eyed at the memorial for the Challenger astronauts." www.mediaresearch.org
# Tonight, Tuesday, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt.
-- Brent Baker