2. Matthews: What Kind of 'Klutz' Takes Orders from Rush Limbaugh?
3. Stephanopoulos Quizzes Obama on Tie to Ayers; Olbermann Enraged
4. ABC's Cokie Roberts: U.S. Discriminates Against Catholic Illegals
5. NYT: European Health Care Superior to 'High-Cost' U.S. 'Failure'
6. NY Post Carries MRC Review of NYT Book: 'His Heroes Are Liberals'
7. Letterman's 'Top Ten Questions President Bush Asked the Pope'
A broadcast network anchor again worried Wednesday night about how much the ongoing Democratic primary battle "is hurting" the candidates and their chance to beat Republican John McCain in the fall. After CBS's Bob Schieffer pointed out how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found the percent who consider Hillary Clinton to be "honest and trustworthy" has fallen from 52 to 39 percent over the past year, Couric fretted: "How much do you think this infighting is hurting both candidates?" Schieffer confirmed the fighting is "taking a toll on the Democrats" as he marveled at how McCain is even with the two Democrats despite Bush's very low approval rating:
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Three weeks ago, Harry Smith, filling in for Couric, and ABC anchor Charles Gibson (twice) worried about the impact of the continuing campaign on the likelihood of a Democratic taking back the White House.
The Friday, March 28 CyberAlert posting, "Smith & Gibson Fret to Obama Protracted Race Will Hurt Party," recounted:
In interviews with Barack Obama aired Thursday night, CBS anchor Harry Smith and ABC anchor Charles Gibson both shared their concern over how the protracted Democratic race could hurt the party in the fall -- with Smith urging Obama to demand, "with some severity," that Hillary Clinton exit the race -- while Gibson hailed Obama's "extraordinary speech" on race before he wondered if Obama worries "race could become" the "central...issue." Smith told Obama: "If you're the presumptive candidate here, isn't it time that you say, with some severity, that we can't go on like this?" After Obama replied "well, no," Smith rued: "At the cost of losing the general election?"
Gibson lamented: "No matter who emerges as the nominee for this, is the eventual nominee hurt by the extension of this contest?" Gibson next raised the same poll numbers he highlighted the night before, "But you had to be sobered by that Gallup poll yesterday: 28 percent of her supporters would vote for McCain if you get the nomination, 19 percent of yours would vote for him."
For the entire CyberAlert article: www.mrc.org
A CyberAlert item the day before, "ABC Conveys Worries Obama-Clinton Battle Will Hurt Party in Fall," reported:
The broadcast networks rarely highlight poll numbers other than their own, but on Wednesday night [March 26] ABC's World News pegged a story to a Gallup survey which confirmed the ongoing Democratic presidential battle will harm the party's chances in November. With "HURTING THE PARTY?" on screen beneath pictures of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, anchor Charles Gibson warned: "Many Democrats have been worried that the protracted fight, between Senators Clinton and Obama, might start alienating voters and hurt the party's chances against John McCain in the fall. Well, now there is evidence that may, indeed, be the case."
Reporter Jake Tapper outlined the evidence: "The notion that the current tough tone could hurt the party against Republican Senator John McCain is a real concern among top Democrats. A new poll indicates that 28 percent of Clinton supporters say they would vote for McCain over Obama should she not get the nomination. 19 percent of Obama supporters say they'd go for McCain over Clinton."
For the rest of the previous CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Couric's exchange with Schieffer on the Wednesday, April 16 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Six days before the Pennsylvania primary, a new poll [Los Angeles Times] of likely voters finds Clinton has just a five-point lead over Obama [46 to 41 percent]. But there are plenty of undecideds. In fact, 12 percent of voters have not yet made up their minds.
Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" has ticked off Chris Matthews. On Wednesday's Hardball, Matthews insulted Limbaugh's listeners, who are voting in the Democratic primary, as he questioned: "What kind of klutz do you have to be to take orders on how to vote from Rush Limbaugh and to change your party identity so that you can vote against, for somebody to screw the other party?"
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Wednesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following discussion occurred at the top of the show on the Wednesday, April 16, edition of Hardball.
JOHN BAER, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS: And we have seen evidence in Pennsylvania of the kind of thing that was rumored earlier in the campaign which is Republicans changing their registration in order to vote. As you know in Pennsylvania you have to be a Democrat to vote in the primary. There has been evidence that, that's happened in Pennsylvania. CHRIS MATTHEWS: To do what? BAER: The Republicans have gone over, have gone over- MATTHEWS: You mean strategic voting? BAER: Strategic voting and vote for Hillary to get her on the ballot because- MATTHEWS: You mean "Ditto-Heads." "Ditto-Heads!"
ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, a co-host of Wednesday night's Democratic debate, quizzed presidential candidate Barack Obama about his relationship with William Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground, a radical group that conspired to bomb buildings such as the Pentagon in the 1970s.
Prefacing the issue under the "general theme of patriotism," and previous questions about why Obama has, at times, refused to wear an American flag lapel pin, Stephanopoulos noted: "[Ayers] never apologized for [the bombings]. And in fact, on 9/11, he was quoted in the New York Times, saying, 'I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough.'" The ABC host pointedly observed that Obama's campaign has described the relationship with Ayers as "friendly." Stephanopoulos then asked: "Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"
The question enraged MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who charged at the start of his 10 PM EDT live post-debate second edition of Countdown: "The campaign may have seemed dirty. It had nothing on one of the moderators of the debate tonight." He soon elaborated on his anger at Stephanopoulos:
[This item is adapted from a Wednesday night posting, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Obama's response included stating that Ayers's actions happened when he was very young and asserted they weren't relevant. Oddly, he went on to compare a man who was involved in bombings that killed people to his colleague, Republican Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. Obama stated, "The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions."
It should be pointed out that conservative radio host Sean Hannity encouraged Stephanopoulos, who appeared on Hannity's show on Monday, to ask the question about Ayers.
A transcript of Stephanopoulos's question and Obama's comment about Coburn:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But first, a follow up on this issue, general theme of patriotism in your relationships. A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11, he was quoted in the New York Times, saying, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house and your campaign has said you were "friendly." Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?
BARACK OBAMA: The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.
ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts appeared on Wednesday's Good Morning America to tout Pope Benedict's views on illegal immigration and rail against the illegals who are "discriminated" against. Roberts, who rode with President Bush as he drove to meet the Pope and kick off the pontiff's American tour, played up the Pope's supposed opposition to U.S. immigration policy. She asserted: "These, you know, the people who are being discriminated against -- and the Pope has said that he's fearful that there's a xenophobia going on in America."
Continuing to blithely frame the issue as one of bigotry against illegals, Roberts continued: "And the people who are being discriminated against, the President says he doesn't think it's because they're Catholic, but they are Catholic and they're being discriminated against." Earlier in the segment, GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo continued the theme and told viewers: "More frank talk is expected from Il Papa regarding immigration. He thinks the U.S. needs to be more immigration friendly." Of course, Cuomo and Roberts actually left out a key part of the Pope's message on immigration.
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
As noted by the MRC's Matt Balan, in addition to lamenting the impact that sending illegals home would have on families, the Pope also suggested: "The fundamental solution [would be] that there is no longer any need to immigrate, that there are sufficient opportunities for work and a sufficient social fabric that no one any longer feels the need to immigrate." That is quite a long way from railing about "xenophobia going on in America." And it's certainly not what Pope Benedict said in his April 15 press conference while flying to America. See National Catholic Reporter: ncrcafe.org
A transcript of the Wednesday, April 16 segment:
DIANE SAWYER: But we are going to begin with the Pope's visit, his first to the United States. And as we said, Chris Cuomo live on the south lawn of the White House with our coverage. Chris, good morning.
New York Times entertainment writer Mike Hale previewed a Frontline documentary, "Sick Around the World," for Tuesday's Arts section, and wholly embraced its left-wing premise (transmitted by a Washington Post reporter) that nationalized health care is superior to the failed U.S. version: "If your latest battle with your H.M.O. has you pounding your head with frustration, 'Sick Around the World' on PBS may spur you to more drastic action, like leaving the United States altogether."
[This item is adapted from a TimesWatch posting by the MRC's Clay Waters: www.timeswatch.org ]
An excerpt from Hale's laudatory April 15 review:
In this "Frontline" report on Tuesday night, the Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid travels to five countries -- Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- that manage to provide some form of universal health coverage to their populations. In each nation, he reports, insurance premiums are significantly lower than those in America (in Britain there are none), and the waiting time to see a doctor is either tolerable (in Britain) or nonexistent.
This fast-moving and entertaining hour starts from the premise that the American health care system, with its high costs, multiple gatekeepers and failure to provide insurance for much of the population, is a failure. And Mr. Reid makes the case (in about 10 minutes per country) that other capitalist democracies have not just cheaper and more equally available health care, but also better care over all, with longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates. The clinics and hospitals he visits may not be as spacious and well buffed as those in American suburbs, but surveys of these countries' citizens -- the actual consumers of care -- show rates of satisfaction that should make American providers blush.
Hale goes on and on before finally admitting in an aside that government-run health care is not "perfect":
Nothing is perfect, of course. We see German doctors taking to the streets in mass protests over the low payments they receive. We learn that the Japanese and Taiwanese systems are running at a deficit, which will mean either higher fees or higher taxes. But even if those Asian countries were to make up their deficits immediately, they would still be spending only half as much of their gross domestic product on health care as the United States -- and, by all accounts, providing far more to their people than the "safety nets" that our presidential candidates propose as solutions to the American crisis.
One area "Sick Around the World" doesn't explore is the one that probably makes many Americans -- those well above the poverty line, anyway -- most nervous about the idea of medical regulation: the availability of the kind of heroic, expensive care we expect when our hearts fail, or cancer strikes....
END of Excerpt
For the April 15 review in full: www.nytimes.com
Among the many questions Hale doesn't bother to ask -- will Americans be as amenable as Europeans to long waiting lists and more regulation that discourage technological advances?
For daily updates on bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org
Sunday's New York Post featured a book review, by Clay Waters of the MRC's TimesWatch, of Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice by New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau. That's the paper's Justice Department reporter, notorious for printing the sensitive details of classified terrorist surveillance programs on the front page of the Times. Waters observed: "Lichtblau rarely turns his prodigious journalistic energy toward digging out the successes of NSA's warrantless surveillance, which he clearly thinks is illegal. Surveying the administration's pleas not to run the surveillance story, Lichtblau states baldly: 'The image we'd been presented a year earlier in our meetings with the administration of a united front -- with unflinching support for the program and its legality -- was largely a facade. The administration, it seemed clear to me, had lied to us.' His heroes are liberals like the 'staunch defender of civil liberties' Sen. Russ Feingold. And much ardor is spent defending 'well respected' Clinton Justice Department official and 9/11 commission member Jamie Gorelick against Attorney General John Ashcroft's 'McCarthyesque' accusations."
The review on the New York Post's site: www.nypost.com
Text of the review, "EXCLUSIVE RETORT: TIMES REPORTER GOT THE SCOOP, BUT HE LOST THE WAR," in the April 13 New York Post:
Is he a hero or a villain?
Eric Lichtblau, author of "Bush's Law," is the New York Times reporter who exposed classified information on two federal anti-terrorist surveillance programs. His new book is advertised as "the unprecedented account of how the Bush administration employed its 'war on terror' to mask the most radical remaking of American justice in generations." The quotation marks around "war on terror" are warning flags regarding the ideological sympathies of both Lichtblau and Times editor Bill Keller, who has defended Lichtblau's reporting against White House and conservative outrage.
Lichtblau's first scoop (both were co-authored with colleague James Risen) revealed the National Security Agency's warrantless monitoring of international communications involving terrorist suspects - or, in misleading Times-speak, "domestic eavesdropping." The Pulitzer-winning duo later exposed a monitoring program involving SWIFT, an international banking operation officials had been successfully probing for terror leads.
In the book, Lichtblau gathers up troubling anecdotes of botched cases and bureaucratic overreach in the months after 9/11 to conclude with typical overstatement that, after the Towers fell, "Guilt and innocence became almost antiquated notions."
He's dubious about terrorist tips from the public: "Still, the tips came. A clerk at a rental agency thought it odd that some Muslim men had returned a rental truck so soon. An assistant at the photo-developing shop noticed shots of New York City landmarks on a roll of film. Every lead now had to be followed; discretion was a thing of the past."
But how would Lichtblau (and the Times) react if an uninvestigated lead turned tragic?
Lichtblau rarely turns his prodigious journalistic energy toward digging out the successes of NSA's warrantless surveillance, which he clearly thinks is illegal. Surveying the administration's pleas not to run the surveillance story, Lichtblau states baldly: "The image we'd been presented a year earlier in our meetings with the administration of a united front -- with unflinching support for the program and its legality -- was largely a facade. The administration, it seemed clear to me, had lied to us."
His heroes are liberals like the "staunch defender of civil liberties" Sen. Russ Feingold. And much ardor is spent defending "well respected" Clinton Justice Department official and 9/11 commission member Jamie Gorelick against Attorney General John Ashcroft's "McCarthyesque" accusations. (Ashcroft claimed a Gorelick memo helped build the "wall" between intelligence officers and criminal investigators, preventing their sharing counterterrorism information.)
The villains are equally obvious. There is "fearsome," "ultraconservative" Ashcroft, but Lichtblau's true contempt is reserved for Ashcroft's successor, the admittedly hard-to-defend Alberto Gonzales. (Bush's own screen time in "Bush's Law" is surprisingly sparse.)
Lichtblau may fancy himself another Bob Woodward, but there's little cloak-and-dagger here. A brief mention of meeting a source at a "coffee shop in the shadows of Washington's power corridors" won't send screenwriters rushing to their laptops.
Mostly, Lichtblau is preoccupied with getting scooped. Check his response when it looked as if the Times wouldn't run the NSA story: "Each tidbit that came out .ñ.ñ. set off fears in my mind, real and imagined, that the story would break publicly somewhere else, and my own paper would get beat." A journalist who believed the Constitution was being massacred daily by Ashcroft & Co. was primarily worried another newspaper might expose the outrage first? Sure, save the American way of life - just make sure my byline's on it.
"Bush's Law" isn't totally misguided. Lichtblau ably diagnoses the FBI's dysfunction and bureaucratic bumbling: "For years after the explosion of the Internet, agents couldn't e-mail one another. The FBI's software system made it next to impossible to transmit photos as attachments, so when 9/11 hit, a Florida field office had to overnight photos of the suspected hijackers to Washington."
But there are too many self-important sentences like: "If the Curt Weldons and Alberto Gonzaleses of the world got to decide what the public had a right to know, I thought, we were all in trouble." How fortunate we all are that the Lichtblaus and Kellers have taken up that responsibility instead.
There has been no terrorist attack on US soil in six years, which Lichtblau attributes vaguely to "smarter defense, or stronger offense, or luck, or patience by al Qaeda." That seems uncharitable. Isn't it just possible that the Bush administration, amid the easily mocked color-coded warnings and other fumbling, has done something right? If so, don't expect to read it from Lichtblau.
From the April 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Questions President Bush Asked the Pope." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "Where is the little lady?"
9. "How long have you been Poping?"
8. "Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel?"
7. "Have you ever tried eggs benedict?"
6. "Could you perform an exorcism on Dick Cheney?"
5. "You on spring break?"
4. "What are you doing for Passover?"
3. "Could you record a wacky greeting for my voicemail?"
2. "Can I come up to visit you and Rudolph at the North Pole?"
1. "Could you do something about my approval rating?"
-- Brent Baker