Peter Jennings' Resumes Campaign Against Bush's Iraq Policy; ABC's Liberal Labor Day Agenda; Russert Presses Anti-Tax Cut Mantra; NY Times: Osama Dead, No He's Alive; CNN: Osama Dead AND Alive
1) After the holiday weekend, on Tuesday night Peter Jennings resumed his campaign against going to war with Iraq. He opened the show with a poll showing that "public support for attacking Iraq has dropped sharply in recent weeks," featured a soundbite from Iraq's Tariq Aziz, highlighting how Aziz "accused the Bush administration of what he called 'warmongering,'" and even blamed Bush's Iraq policy for the stock market's dive: "The prospect of war with Iraq caused anxiety on Wall Street today." CBS and NBC faulted bad manufacturing numbers.
2) The Labor Day World News Tonight delivered a series of liberal agenda stories. Dan Harris highlighted a report claiming "an old trend is returning: the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer." Barry Serafin looked at employers who are pocketing "extra profits" by not paying for overtime. And ABC touted a federal job training program Bush wants to eliminate. Claire Shipman snidely asserted: "The Labor Department even highlights the skills training on its Web site. Oddly, that message must not have reached the self-proclaimed education President."
3) In a span of just over five minutes, eight times on Meet the Press Tim Russert urged that the Bush tax cuts, most of which haven't even happened yet, be rescinded: "Would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut?....Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?....How did they squander it? With the tax cut?....As part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?....You did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it's gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut."
4) Filling in on Sunday's Face the Nation, John Roberts followed Tim Russert's lead. He asked DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe: "Why is there no great hue and cry among Democrats in Congress to repeal the tax cut?" And he raised the old class warfare argument: "Is now the time for the President to be proposing new tax cuts, particularly ones that seem to benefit wealthy investors more than they do middle and lower-income Americans?"
5) Which way is it? Tuesday's New York Times reported that U.S. military leaders have concluded that Osama bin Laden "was probably killed in the American bombing raid at Tora Bora last December." But last Wednesday, the same newspaper assured readers that "American commanders appear to have concluded that Osama bin Laden is probably still alive."
Correction: The downside of posting RealPlayer clips: Readers can catch my transcribing errors. An August 30 CyberAlert item on ABC's 20/20 showing how VH1 changed the booing of Senator Clinton into cheering on the DVD, stated: "Over the booing of Senator Clinton as she walked on stage and waved, Stossel noted: 'Some people in the audience booed her. Booed and heckled.'" In fact, he didn't say "some." He actually said: "And people in the audience booed her..."
Jennings went on to feature a soundbite from Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, highlighting how Aziz "accused the Bush administration of what he called 'warmongering.'"
To top it off, while Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw blamed new disappointing manufacturing numbers for the stock market's dive on Tuesday, Jennings claimed "the prospect of war with Iraq caused anxiety on Wall Street today."
The CBS Evening News, which led with how airport security is a joke, and the NBC Nightly News, which led with stock market fall and the economy, didn't get to Iraq until ten minutes into the broadcasts.
Jennings opened the September 3 World News Tonight, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening, everyone. The day after Labor Day, the country is back to work, the President is back in the White House, war with Iraq is at the top of the agenda, and there is widespread disagreement. An ABC News poll for Nightline finds that public support for attacking Iraq has dropped sharply in recent weeks: 69 percent in early August to 56 percent last week. And if U.S. allies are opposed to it, which most are, only 39 percent of Americans in this poll are in favor. So the President has a case to make if he wants to attack Saddam Hussein. We're going to begin with Terry Moran who is also back in Washington and at the White House. Terry?"
Moran relayed: "Peter, the President, after weeks of getting pummeled on the issue of going to war against Iraq both at home and abroad -- and, as our poll shows, as public support erodes on the issue -- has launched an aggressive counterattack...Today Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle joined a growing chorus of skeptics, declaring Mr. Bush had failed to make the case for war, and warned against going it alone."
After a soundbite from Daschle, Moran noted: "But Mr. Bush got some much-needed international support today from a very familiar corridor. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government would soon present a formal document detailing the dangers of an unchecked Saddam Hussein."
Moran stressed: "But inside the administration, there is confusion with Vice President Cheney implying that arms inspections in Iraq would be useless and Secretary of State Colin Powell arguing they are a necessary first step. At the White House briefing, the press secretary reflected that confusion."
After an update from Linda Douglass on how Capitol Hill feels about Iraq, Jennings showcased the enemy: "In South Africa today, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Tariq Aziz, met with the U.N. Secretary General to discuss the return of weapons inspectors. And then Mr. Aziz appeared on ABC's Good Morning America and accused the Bush administration of what he called 'warmongering.'"
Jennings was so obsessed with Iraq that he then blamed Bush's policy for causing the stock market to plunge: "The prospect of war with Iraq caused anxiety on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 355 points to close at 8308. On the Nasdaq, stocks were down 51 points. Investors expressing concern about the United States and about the state of the world in general."
CBS and NBC found more pedestrian reasons for Wall Street's bad day. Dan Rather stated on the CBS Evening News: "A report today that the manufacturing sector of the economy is still struggling helped to send stock prices sharply lower."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw echoed Rather: "The stock market sent a giant pessimistic signal after America's factory business reported new orders were not what they had hoped in August. That triggered giant sell orders."
Jennings' Tuesday night skew on Iraq matches the World News Tonight pattern over the past few weeks which was documented in a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes released on Tuesday: "Is ABC's 'Road to War?' Really Anti-War? World News Tonight Ignores Dangers of Inaction on Iraq, Trumpets War Foes and Dire Consequences."
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
The September 2 program led with a story by Dan Harris who highlighted how "a new report today from a liberal think tank" that says "that an old trend is returning: the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer." Barry Serafin then looked at how employers are not paying hourly workers for overtime. Serafin concluded by warning: "Workers are serving notice that their bosses and their companies will no longer be allowed to make extra profits at their expense." Finally, anchor Elizabeth Vargas promoted the value of a government job training program, bemoaning how there's "one enormous problem: the government wants to cancel the program." Claire Shipman snidely asserted: "The Labor Department even highlights the skills training on its Web site. Oddly, that message must not have reached the self-proclaimed education President."
Vargas teased at the top of the Labor Day show: "On World News Tonight this Labor Day, tough times. A new study finds American workers are barely scraping by, and the outlook for the future is grim. The Road to War: President Bush under pressure for his threats against Iraq. The Iraqis launch a public relations offensive."
Vargas began the program: "Good evening. Americans are celebrating Labor Day at a time when the American labor force is under enormous strain. Needless to say, it's been a brutal year of layoffs, recession, frayed nerves, and, of course, terrorism. There were words of optimism from the President today. But not everyone agrees. ABC's Dan Harris joins us with our Labor Day report."
Harris passed along President Bush's upbeat remarks about the economy's low inflation, low interest rates and rising productivity. Harris, who deserves credit for actually applying a liberal label, countered: "A new report today from a liberal think tank paints a much gloomier picture. It says the country's in a jobless recovery, that unemployment is likely to get worse. And that an old trend is returning: the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer."
Those latter numbers, microscopic on-screen text noted, came from something called "United for a Fair Economy."
(On Tuesday night's CBS Evening News, Anthony Mason highlighted number from "NFO World Group" showing that the rich are becoming fewer: "Even the well-off are not doing as well. For the first time in a decade the nation's community of millionaires is losing members. The number of millionaire households fell from 3.7 to 3.3 million over the past year according to a new study, a drop of almost eleven percent.")
Up next, the Labor Day World News Tonight looked at terrible companies which are ripping off their employees. Vargas bemoaned: "Americans are working harder and longer, but not everyone is being paid for their time. Over the last five years, overtime has been the subject of more than 450 lawsuits against some of the country's best-known companies. Many of the companies are accused of forcing people to work off the clock or face the consequences."
In his subsequent report, Barry Serafin assumed the employees were in the right, without any consideration for how much regular work time employees spend doing things other than work or how if companies must pay for the same productivity they will just employ fewer people to reduce costs, to say nothing of how the majority who work for a salary don't get any additional money for spending more than 40 hours a week on their job.
Serafin cited cases with Pep Boys, Wal-Mart and Monster.com, before intoning: "The law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, says overtime work requires pay of one and a half times regular wages. But a growing number of workers say companies are breaking or finding their way around the law."
I bet those supervisors don't get extra pay for finishing up what their hourly staffers didn't do.
Later in the show, ABC campaigned to preserve a federal job training program, which trains people for high-tech jobs, targeted for elimination by the Bush administration. Vargas lamented the "one enormous problem: the government wants to cancel the program."
Without ever identifying the name of the program, Claire Shipman touted success stories, such as a bus boy getting a $50,000 a year job at Sun Microsystems.
Shipman never explained why it is appropriate for companies like Sun to dump their training costs onto taxpayers, but she had time for a snotty shot at Bush: "The Labor Department even highlights the skills training on its Web site. Oddly, that message must not have reached the self-proclaimed education President. His latest budget puts the program on the chopping block, labeled 'ineffective.' The charge? Not enough graduates are getting jobs. But that's a conclusion the government admits it can't support with evidence because the Labor Department doesn't have any real statistics yet on how the three year-old effort is working."
In compact form, over the 5:30 span, here's Russert's personal agenda, as expressed in six of the eight times during the September 1 show that he urged the tax cuts be rescinded:
Russert used as his authority the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which he did not label as liberal but instead gave credibility by describing it as a group which "studies these matters very carefully."
Russert led into his tax cut phobia by highlighting a low-budget TV ad from a little-known, long-shot Democrat in New Hampshire who hasn't even won the Democratic primary: "During the campaign of George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, we heard a lot about the Social Security lockbox. And both candidates said, 'We will not spend the Social Security surplus.' We wake up, about 95 percent of the surplus is gone. The Social Security Trust Fund, surplus, is now being spent. This is an ad that Norman Jackman, who's running for the Democratic primary in New Hampshire, wrote featuring Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame:"
I was in New Hampshire last week and I never saw that ad on TV even once.
Russert turned to Lowey: "Congresswoman Lowey, should the Democrats be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens tracked down the seven additional times Russert pushed to get Lowey or Davis to agree with him on the tax cuts, starting with his citation of a liberal group's analysis as authoritative:
-- "Congressman Davis, the concern about the economy-LA Times asked the voters which party handles the economy better; 44 to 38 edge to Democrats. And even the deficit-which party handles the budget deficit better, 43-37 edge to Democrats. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who studies these matters very carefully, wrote this: 'The 5.6 trillion 10-year surplus projected last January has declined by $5.3 trillion, or 94 percent....last year's tax cut is the largest single reason the 10-year surplus has shrunk since January 2001. The tax cut amounts to 31 percent of the total deterioration. Spending for defense, homeland security and international affairs caused 16 percent of the deterioration in the 10-year projected surplus.' In light of that, would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut until we are able to restore balanced spending in Washington, get rid of the deficits, and the economy began to recover?"
Russert failed to point out that the analysis had spending hikes built in as part of the baseline, so ever-rising expenditures did not count as impacting the surplus.
-- "Congresswoman Lowey, Al Gore spent so much time in the campaign talking about the Social Security lockbox. He pledged he wouldn't spend it. Democrats pledged they wouldn't spend it. And now you're spending it, and both parties voted for it. Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?"
-- Russert made his single allusion to spending: "But it strikes me as if both parties are on a spending binge; the farm bill -- 'Whatever programs come before us, let's vote for them. Let's spend them.' Tax cuts get passed, too. And the Democrats are reluctant to say, 'We have to freeze the tax cut,' because you're afraid it's politically unpopular."
-- To Lowey: "As part, as part, as part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?"
-- "But, Congressman Davis, you did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it's gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut."
Indeed, massive spending is ongoing and tax cuts are still in the future. How about a little pressure on politicians to actually cut spending and programs so taxpayers can keep more of their own money?
A July 31 Media Reality Check by the MRC's Rich Noyes documented Russert's anti-tax cut agenda. To read, "A Bias Blind Spot for Meet the Press Host; One-Sided Questioning: Russert Pushed Both Friends and Foes of Bush Tax Cut to Suspend Its Benefits," go to:
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
MRC analyst Brian Boyd provided me with the two anti-tax cut questions posed by Roberts to McAuliffe during the September 1 segment with McAuliffe and RNC Chairman Marc Racicot. Naturally, Roberts never pressed either about cutting spending.
-- "You've been very critical of the President, saying 'every time President Bush's economic team opens their mouths markets shutter, currencies collapse, Americans watch their 401Ks diminish.' Obviously, looks like you're going with the idea of the economy being one of the front running issues, but at the same time if you're so critical of the President and his handling of the economy and deficits why is there no great hue and cry among Democrats in Congress to repeal the tax cut?"
-- "The Congressional Budget Office came out with new projections that we're going to stay in deficit spending until 2006 and the only way we'll get substantially back in the black is if the President's tax cut is allowed to expire after the year 2010 which is its last year as written. Is now the time for the President to be proposing new tax cuts, particularly ones that seem to benefit wealthy investors more than they do middle and lower-income Americans?"
The lead of a September 3 story by James Risen and Eric Schmitt in Washington, DC:
For the story in full:
The lead of a story published August 28 by Ian Fisher with John F. Burns in Asadabad, Afghanistan, a dispatch with an August 23 dateline:
To read the entirety of that piece:
But to be fair to the CNN chyron writer, he or she was just trying to summarize anchor Kyra Phillips' introduction to the story. Phillips stated: "Well, if U.S. special operations forces have, as the New York Times reports, concluded Osama bin Laden is probably dead, they can site tantalizing evidence and plenty of experts, but so can the people who think bin Laden is alive and scheming."
By running "Experts Agree: Al Qaeda Leader Is Dead Or Alive,"