2. Chris Matthews Recalls How He "Cheered Like Mad" for Gorbachev
3. Newsweek's Alter Admits Lack of Neutrality on Stem Cell Research
4. MSNBC's Witt Sees Vindication for Newsweek in One Koran Incident
5. NPR Hits Hard at RNC's Mehlman, But Goes Softer on DNC's Dean
6. Letterman's "Top Ten Ways to Cheer Up Saddam Hussein"
NBC's Katie Couric treated UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is mired in a scandal Couric only lightly touched, as a wise sage, empathetically ending her taped interview with him, which aired on Tuesday's Today: "You literally have the weight of the world on your shoulders." He agreed: "I do, but not everybody understands that." Monday's NBC Nightly News ran a clip from the interview in which Couric treated the UN as an aggrieved party: "Are you angry that the United States has not been more supportive of the UN?" She set up her Today segment by noting how she had begun by asking "him how he could convince an American audience that the UN is still a relevant and important?" Couric soon reminded Annan of how Bush's nominee for Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton "said in 1994, in the course of a speech, that 'if the UN building lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.' Does John Bolton have your support?" Couric pressed him repeatedly to denounce Bolton: "You're wiggling out of this Mr. Secretary General. Does John Bolton have your support?" And: "Do you wish it were someone else who had been nominated?"
The June 6 NBC Nightly News ran an excerpt from Couric's interview taped in the UN's general assembly hall. Anchor Brian Williams set it up: "Another issue still not completely resolved from the Saddam Hussein period, corruption in the United Nations Oil-for-Food program. Several UN officials have been fired amid accusations that they skimmed money from that program. Some U.S. Senators have called for the resignation of Secretary General Kofi Annan. Kofi Annan granted an interview today to NBC's Katie Couric for tomorrow's Today show."
Indeed, in the 7am half hour on the June 7 Today, Couric introduced her interview: "On Close-Up this morning, an exclusive interview with the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan. The United Nations has been plagued by problems, scandals, and a strained relationship with the U.S. in recent years. I sat down with the world's highest ranking diplomat in general assembly hall and asked him how he could convince an American audience that the UN is still a relevant and important."
Annan cited the UN's work for tsunami relief and then Couric got to the exchange shown on NBC Nightly News.
Couric then got to what you'd think would be the focus of the entire interview: "The biggest scandal to occur under Annan's watch was the oil-for-food program in Iraq, a humanitarian effort that sent hundreds of millions dollars into the hands of Saddam Hussein." Annan conceded "it was mishandled and yes there may have been fraud," and Couric added: "But perhaps even more embarrassing, that his son Kojo was allegedly involved, though a final report is still pending."
After Annan noted reading about his son's problems was "painful" for him, Couric moved on to a series of questions which she likely hoped would get Annan to denounce Bolton:
Couric then jumped to Iraq: "The UN I know has a 50 member team in Baghdad. Could the UN be doing more than it is now?"
Finally, Couric wondered about his legacy, as if that is important: "Annan says despite calls by his critics to step down, he'll serve out his term until it expires next year."
Back on the Today set, Couric gave credence to internal UN reform publicity events: "Meanwhile, 170 world leaders will meet at the UN in September to discuss a host of reforms, from increasing international aid to developing countries to more carefully monitoring human rights around the world to administrative changes that would make the UN more efficient."
Eighteen years after the fact, we've learned that Chris Matthews had, as Rush Limbaugh at the time dubbed irrational enthusiasm for Mikhail Gorbachev, a "Gorbasm." On the Chris Matthews Show over the weekend, Matthews recalled that in 1987 "I remember being on a Washington street corner when Gorby came by in a car and I just cheered like mad" because "he was the guy that was helping to end the Cold War." Newsweek's Howard Fineman excitedly piped up: "I did that, I did that. I was on that same street corner maybe." Matthews proceeded to contend that "you could argue" that Gorbachev "was the primary man in ending the Cold War." That prompted Tucker Carlson to ask: "Do you believe had Ronald Reagan not been President that Gorbachev would've dismantled his own country?" Matthews downplayed Reagan's role: "Well I think it had a lot to do with the nationalities problem. It was coming apart already as we saw in Afghanistan. People wanted to leave!"
The syndicated 30-minute Chris Matthews Shows airs mainly on NBC-owned and affiliated stations, but also on other affiliates in a lot of markets. Due to NBC's coverage of French Open tennis, many NBC stations had to bump the show from its usual spot. On Washington, DC's WRC-TV, that moved it from 10am Sunday to 1am Monday morning.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught the exchange in question, on the show devoted to looking at presidential decisions over the years.
Matthews set up the segment with video from 1987 of President Ronald Reagan making his famous 'trust but verify' comment and Gorbachev saying 'you always say that.'"
Matthews proposed: "I don't think, unless you grew up through the whole Cold War you could understand how great a picture that was. We grew up scared to death of third World War. Of the Soviet Union, the idea that a guy like Gorby could come along and be a regular human being after Molotov and Stalin and Kruschev. You're the young one here."
The MRC's Jessica Barnes caught Alter's admission from near the end of a 6:30am half hour EDT appearance by phone on the June 6 Imus in the Morning radio show carried by MSNBC.
Alter: "I'm really ticked off these days about the stem cell research debate, because, as you know, for me it's kind of a personal thing, so I don't have a lot of neutrality on it."
As a cancer survivor with an adult-stem-cell transplant under my belt, I'm not exactly neutral on the issue of embryonic-stem-cell research. It may end up being the best chance to save my life. But this column is not about my life or even the lives of millions of others who could be cured of everything from cancer to Parkinson's to Alzheimer's. It's about the political life of this country.
My perspective could be skewed (all politics is local), but I have a gut feeling that President Bush is headed for a serious bruising on this issue, as are at least some of the 180 Republicans and 14 Democrats who voted last week against the stem-cell-research bill that passed the House. These members may look back ruefully on this vote as one that helped get them tossed out of office. After all, every American who has a relative with one of these diseases'€"which means nearly every American'€"is beginning to understand the issue in a new way: it's "pro-cure" versus "anti-cure," with the anti-stem-cell folks in danger of being swept into the medical wastebin of history....
Bioethical blowhard Leon Kass of the University of Chicago conned Bush into seeing the issue as morally complex, but the rest of the world understands that it's simple enough'€"reproductive cloning (to create Frankensteins), no; embryonic-stem-cell research (to cure diseases), yes. (The phrase "therapeutic cloning" should be retired.) Enshrining this basic distinction in law is a better bulwark against the "slippery slope" problem than hair-splitting limitations. Most nations understand this. Only Bush bitter-enders and the pope are in the perverse position of valuing the life of an ailing human being less than that of a tiny clump of cells no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
The stem-cell debate has been linked to abortion, as if depriving science of the use of these cells somehow extends "the culture of life." But here the "pro-life" position should argue for therapeutic research. Under Bush's stem-cell policy, 400,000 surplus blastocysts at fertility clinics are eventually thrown in the trash instead of a few thousand being used to enhance life. To be intellectually coherent, Bush would have to shut down all in vitro clinics, depriving millions of infertile couples of the chance for a child. Fat chance.
Most Americans still don't know all these details, but they're beginning to understand that religious extremists are hijacking the political system and robbing us of our essential national character -- faith in the future....
Unless there's another war, stem cells will become one of the defining issues of the 2006 campaign. Look for smart Democrats to run ads with relatives of the afflicted ("My sister has Parkinson's," "My father has Alzheimer's") pointing out that Congressman X is so extreme, he voted against a bill supported by many Republicans to begin curing these diseases. This will inevitably lead to backpedaling and compromise and the victory of a broad-based "pro-cure movement" that may help save not just my life, but your cousin's or your mother's or your own.
END of Excerpt
For Alter's column in full: www.msnbc.msn.com
The Pentagon on Friday night released a report detailing just five cases of minor abuses of the Koran over the past three years at the Guantanamo Bay detainee camp, including one incident in which a guard urinated near an air vent intake and some of his urine splashed on a Koran inside a cell. But MSNBC's Alex Witt tried to turn that into vindication of Newsweek's infamous retracted report that guards flushed a Koran down a toilet. Hosting Friday's Countdown, Witt asked Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Do your colleagues, Howard, feel absolved by this disclosure tonight? Do you think it, you know, almost does not seem to matter that there was not an actual toilet once urine is involved?" Fineman agreed with her sentiment: "Now the Pentagon has pretty much confirmed everything right up to the edge, literally to the edge of the latrine, if you will. And I think it's their credibility that's now in question." Skipped by Witt and Fineman: How the Pentagon confirmed three times as many incidents (15) of Koran abuse by detainees.
Fill-host Witt teased at the top of the June 3 Countdown with Keith Olbermann: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? A late-breaking admission from the Pentagon tonight. The details are released of Koran abuse at Gitmo, including details that a guard urinated through an air vent onto a detainee and his Koran."
Witt opened the show, next to a big "Koran Abuse" graphic, as tracked by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening, everyone. I'm Alex Witt, in for Keith Olbermann. It is take-out-the-trash night at the Pentagon. The Defense Department deep-sixing information it does not want covered by releasing it after 7pm on a Friday. Luckily for us, this newscast does not start until 8. Our fifth story on the Countdown, remember those allegations of Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay? The Pentagon is confirming tonight that some of the more salacious details are true. It turns out that prison guards at the detainee center employed a variety of creative means to desecrate the Koran, including soaking them with water balloons, kicking them, stepping on them, scribbling obscenities inside them. And while none of the incidents involved actual toilets, one prison guard, it is confirmed, used his own urine, splashing a copy of a Koran and a detainee. For that you don't really need a toilet, do you?
Witt's first question: "Do your colleagues, Howard, feel absolved by this disclosure tonight? Do you think it, you know, almost does not seem to matter that there was not an actual toilet once urine is involved?"
On March 1, National Public Radio's drive-time program Morning Edition broadcast an interview with Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. The questioner, Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep, was loaded for bear, stating (or insinuating) that the GOP's "Southern strategy" is racist; that Republicans are indifferent to the average life span of blacks being shorter than that of whites; and that there is considerable sentiment among conservatives to "eliminate," not merely reform, Social Security. Inskeep closed that segment by remarking, "We've also extended an invitation, by the way, to Democrat[ic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean." At long last, this past Friday a Morning Edition interview with Dean aired, but Inskeep's questions were far less confrontational.
[Tom Johnson, who monitors NPR for the MRC, filed this item for CyberAlert.]
Each party-chair interview ran just short of four minutes. Inskeep's March grilling of Mehlman aired as a stand-alone piece, while last Friday's chat with Dean constituted roughly half of a segment that also included audio from Republican strategist Matthew Dowd and, briefly, both Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Mehlman.
Following are Inskeep's March 1 questions to Mehlman:
-- "You mentioned the party of Lincoln. This is also the party that made a historic calculation in the 1960s to welcome former Democrats who had opposed civil rights. Do you think it is necessary for your party to acknowledge that a mistake was made?"
-- "One of [Bush's] arguments for private, or personal accounts as you refer to them, is that African-Americans have a shorter life expectancy, [and] therefore, under the current system, they get less money under Social Security, and if there was an individual investment account, there'd be something to leave their children. Are you saying that you don't expect anything to be done about the factors that cause African-Americans to have shorter life expectancies, such as health care?"
-- "The President has said in recent days [that] he would be willing to consider a form of a tax increase, in order to finance some of the changes in Social Security. The amount that affluent Americans pay in Social Security taxes would increase substantially under that suggestion if it became law. Why didn't he talk about that before the election?"
-- "This is a proposal that would cause some Americans, over time, to pay substantially more. This is a President who, during the campaign, said repeatedly he was against tax increases, and attacked his opponent and called him a tax-raiser. How does he get around [unintelligible] to this new position?"
-- "Some conservatives have been against Social Security for many, many years on philosophical grounds. Is that part of the reason the Democrats are having so much trouble trusting what the President says, because the goal here, for some, is to eliminate a Democratic, New Deal program because of what it is?"
And here are Inskeep's questions to Dean last Friday, June 3:
-- "You said you're not the party of gay marriage and not the party of abortion. Wouldn't it be accurate, though, to say that you are a party where many leaders agree with gay marriage, and you're a party that strongly favors abortion rights?"
-- "Did you speak about moral values in precisely the same way when you were a presidential candidate before the 2004 election?" (Here, Inskeep was following up on Dean's line, "We are a party that believes that the principal difference between us and the Republicans is not that we all, [on] the Democratic side, think abortion's a wonderful thing. I don't know anybody who thinks abortion is a wonderful thing.")
-- "Is there a slice of the electorate that's comparable that you're going after?" [i.e., are Democrats pursuing a group of voters that hasn't supported them lately -- "comparable," that is, to Republican pursuit of black votes.] -- "How?" (in response to Dean's stated goal of luring Catholic voters back to the party)
Inskeep also played down one of the Democratic chairman's most notorious utterances, noting that Dean "drew criticism several months ago for a public statement that began, 'I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.' The rest of his statement got less attention, even though it's at least as interesting." (The rest of the statement, Dean told Inskeep, was, "'But I admire their business model for running campaigns.' Something like that.")
Imagine Mehlman declaring, "I hate the Democrats and everything they stand for." Then imagine, if you can, NPR minimizing such a meanspirited declaration.
From the June 6 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways to Cheer Up Saddam Hussein." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Let him oppress just one Kurd a few hours a week
9. Surprise him with a year's supply of mustache dye
8. Bring him his old "World's Greatest Dictator" mug
7. Laugh at his impression of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
6. Give him a collection of hilarious "Yo mullah's so fat" jokes
5. Remind him his one permitted phone call saved him 15% on his car insurance
4. Membership in the "Falafel of the Month Club"
3. Show him some of them "Hey, Vern" movies
2. Package of new underpants
1. Three words: Los Angeles jury
-- Brent Baker