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Feingold's Censure Motion Earns CNN's "Political Play of Week" --3/20/2006


1. Feingold's Censure Motion Earns CNN's "Political Play of Week"
On Friday afternoon's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider touted Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush as his choice for this week's "political play of the week," heaping this praise upon him: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it's risky, that's what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that's a tough one." Earlier in his piece, Schneider played a soundbite of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggesting Feingold was displaying "principle." That prompted Schneider to recall Ronald Reagan: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate."

2. Snippy Fineman: "How About Some Unbiased Readers for a Change?"
In last Wednesday's "Live Chat" on the Newsweek Web site, Howard Fineman came online to chat about the pro-life trend in South Dakota and how that might affect the Republicans. (Their answer: it will hurt them.) Fineman seemed to be having a fine time, claiming "I'm glad to be doing one again. I always learn a lot doing them. As Newsweek's chief political correspondent, I can't do my job by hunkering down inside the Beltway, either literally or digitally." But it wasn't long before the hunkering down occurred. In response to a write who suggested that "the majority of the media is liberal and pro-choice," Fineman retorted: "You know what? I'm tired of being accused of bias and being liberal. I have been covering all sides of every argument in politics for a quarter century, and I think I am as fair and neutral as it is humanly possible to be -- which is not perfect. How about some unbiased readers for a change?"

3. Belzer Knows Better About Iraq than Uneducated Soldiers in Iraq
When Congresswoman Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen contended Friday night, on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, that servicemen she's met in Iraq are "saying 'we're proud of our mission, we know what we're doing over here. We don't want you guys in Washington to lose it over there,'" actor/comedian Richard Belzer condescendingly fired back, claiming that to "ask them" is "bulls**t" since, apparently unlike him, "they don't read twenty newspapers a day." Ros-Lehtinen cited the knowledge of her Marine officer stepson, but Belzer, who plays "Detective John Munch" on NBC's Law & Order: SVU, retorted: "Doesn't mean he's a brilliant scholar about the war because he's there." A quite agitated Ros-Lehtinen sputtered: "Oh, you are though! You are though? Okay." To which Belzer affirmed: "Well I have more time..." The Republican Congresswoman from Florida noted that her stepson is a college graduate, leading Belzer to snidely denigrate the military: "You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job." He went on to argue: "It's this patronizing thing that people have about if you're against the war everyone's lumped together. You know, the soldiers are not scholars, they're not war experts." That was too much for host Bill Maher: "You're going to lose even me..."


Feingold's Censure Motion Earns CNN's
"Political Play of Week"

On Friday afternoon's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider touted Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush as his choice for this week's "political play of the week," heaping this praise upon him: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it's risky, that's what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that's a tough one." Earlier in his piece, Schneider played a soundbite of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggesting Feingold was displaying "principle." That prompted Schneider to recall Ronald Reagan: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate."

[This item, by the MRC's Megan McCormack, was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Host Wolf Blitzer set up the segment on the "maverick Democrat" from Wisconsin, which aired shortly before 5pm EST:
"A solo charge this week by a maverick Democrat. Is he tilting at windmills? Could he skewer his own party with that lance of his? Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider is joining us now live. Bill?"

Schneider used Feingold's record of being the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act following 9/11 to demonstrate his "maverick" credentials. For Schneider, Feingold's move to censure the President is more evidence that the senator from Wisconsin "isn't afraid to take a stand."
Bill Schneider: "Wolf, Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush has been called foolish, bold, reckless, courageous, self-serving and principled. We call it the political play of the week. Senator Russ Feingold isn't afraid to take a stand. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act after 9/11 and the first senator to propose a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Now he's moved to censure President Bush for authorizing wiretaps without a court warrant."

The rest of the transcript shows Schneider's excitement to be highlighting a Democrat, who with this action has become a "hero to the left," while, Republican critics were "scornful" of Feingold's move.

Senator Russ Feingold, on the Senate floor: "Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law."
Schneider: "Republicans are scornful."
Representative John Boehner, House Majority Leader: "If he's more interested'€"interested in the, in the, in the safety and security of the terrorist as opposed to the American people."
Schneider: "Democrats are nervous."
Senator Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader: "I think that people should cool their jets and let the process take its course."
Schneider: "Conventional wisdom says Feingold's move will backfire and rally Republicans. '€˜Russ Feingold, Karl Rove's secret weapon,' a conservative blogger writes. Knowing heads say Feingold's positioning himself for the Democratic nomination. He's certainly become a hero to the left. A liberal blogger urges readers to, '€˜donate your spine to Senate Democrats.' Here's another possibility."
Reid: "My personal conviction is that Senator Feingold did this as a matter of principle."
Schneider seemed to accept Reid's belief in Feingold's "principled" move, and equated it to the contributions former President Ronald Reagan made to the Republican party.
Schneider: "Imagine that. Acting on principle need not be political suicide. Ronald Reagan gave Republicans a healthy injection of principle just when they needed it, after Watergate. It did them a world of good. Now people are asking, what do Democrats stand for?"
Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, on an earlier Situation Room: "Look, at some point the Democratic party and the leadership must grow a backbone."
Schneider seemed to all but applaud Feingold's choice to attack the President on the wiretapping controversy, rather than going after the "easy" issue of the Dubai ports deal, where the President received a great deal of criticism from fellow Republicans.
Schneider: "Spines, backbones, they help you stand up for what you believe. Of course it's risky, that's what a play of the week is all about. Senator Feingold did not choose an easy issue to confront the President on, like allowing an Arab government-owned company to operate U.S. ports. He chose wiretapping conversations with suspected terrorists and that's a tough one. Wolf."

Snippy Fineman: "How About Some Unbiased
Readers for a Change?"

In last Wednesday's "Live Chat" on the Newsweek Web site, Howard Fineman came online to chat about the pro-life trend in South Dakota and how that might affect the Republicans. (Their answer: it will hurt them.) Fineman seemed to be having a fine time, claiming "I'm glad to be doing one again. I always learn a lot doing them. As Newsweek's chief political correspondent, I can't do my job by hunkering down inside the Beltway, either literally or digitally." But it wasn't long before the hunkering down occurred. In response to a write who suggested that "the majority of the media is liberal and pro-choice," Fineman retorted: "You know what? I'm tired of being accused of bias and being liberal. I have been covering all sides of every argument in politics for a quarter century, and I think I am as fair and neutral as it is humanly possible to be -- which is not perfect. How about some unbiased readers for a change?"

For the March 15 online session: www.msnbc.msn.com

[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. See: newsbusters.org ]

The exchange:

"Hudson, OH: Given the majority of the media is liberal and pro-choice do you expect the media including Newsweek to cover this issue objectively and without personal bias?"

"Howard Fineman: You know what? I'm tired of being accused of bias and being liberal. I have been covering all sides of every argument in politics for a quarter century, and I think I am as fair and neutral as it is humanly possible to be -- which is not perfect. How about some unbiased readers for a change?"

Reminder: this is in a web chat with a (perhaps wishful-thinking) headline "Political Backlash," with this completely biased piece of framing in the introduction:
"With states moving to restrict abortion and the Supreme Court drawing closer to the day when it might actually reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion, GOP leaders see big political risks -- and the possibility of getting more than they asked for. The South Dakota law, for instance, would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother, not in cases of rape or incest. Polls show that is farther than most Americans want to go."

Newsweek does not decide that since the polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans favor parental consent before abortions and oppose partial-birth abortion, whether Democrats "see big political risks" in going further to the left "than most Americans want to go." For his part, Fineman thinks the right to abortion is an inalienable right:
"I think that in the 60s and 70s we enshrined the idea of individual rights, and Roe was a product of that -- and, in the case of women's rights, there is no going back. Nor, as a general matter, should we want to go back on women's rights."

And the carping by Fineman continued with this question:

"Atascadero, CA: Why in the world would any man's laws force a woman to bear a pregnancy due to rape or incest thereby raping her twice in my opinion? I shall never understand why politics enters into the privacy of such a woman's only world. What are these lawmakers thinking? Certainly not of the woman, nor of the unborn child who would surely be unwanted under these dire circumstances."

"Howard Fineman: One has to ask whether, if most of the SoDak legislators were women, they would have denied the rape exception. Making that statement doesn't and shouldn't brand me a 'liberal.' I am just a reporter trying to be logical and fair."

"The overwhelming tenor of the questions (and Newsweek readers, too?) was liberal and outraged like Atascadero. Hudson, Ohio was the oddball. It was amusing when Fineman ended the chat this way: "Whether we are Christians or not, I think we would all agree that our public discourse could use some love and grace."

Too bad Fineman didn't have any grace to offer Hudson, Ohio.

Belzer Knows Better About Iraq than Uneducated
Soldiers in Iraq

[Be advised that this item includes accurate quotations of vulgarities.] When Congresswoman Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen contended Friday night, on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, that servicemen she's met in Iraq are "saying 'we're proud of our mission, we know what we're doing over here. We don't want you guys in Washington to lose it over there,'" actor/comedian Richard Belzer condescendingly fired back, claiming that to "ask them" is "bullshit" since, apparently unlike him, "they don't read twenty newspapers a day."


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Ros-Lehtinen cited the knowledge of her Marine officer stepson, but Belzer, who plays "Detective John Munch" on NBC's Law & Order: SVU, retorted: "Doesn't mean he's a brilliant scholar about the war because he's there." A quite agitated Ros-Lehtinen sputtered: "Oh, you are though! You are though? Okay." To which Belzer affirmed: "Well I have more time..." Host Bill Maher interjected that Belzer's point was that a 19-year-old is in the army "because he probably couldn't find other employment." The Republican Congresswoman from Florida countered that her stepson is a college graduate, leading Belzer to snidely denigrate the military: "You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job."

Ros-Lehtinen mocked him: "Yeah, you know because you've been there." Belzer rudely lashed back: "What, I don't fucking read!? Don't do that!" He went on to argue: "It's this patronizing thing that people have about if you're against the war everyone's lumped together. You know, the soldiers are not scholars, they're not war experts." That was too much for host Bill Maher: "You're going to lose even me..."

[This item was posted, with video, Saturday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. The video and audio will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, but in the meantime, to view a clip in either Real or Windows Media formats, or to listen to an MP3 audio clip, go to: newsbusters.org ]

During the 2004 campaign, liberals contended that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's experience in Vietnam as a ground soldier made him an expert on the Iraq war, but now, by Belzer's reasoning, soldiers and Marines actually on the ground in Iraq have no credibility.

Belzer is a conspiracy theorist who authored the 1999 book, "UFOs, JFK and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Believe." Amazon's page: www.amazon.com

His NBC bio notes that "he hosted and produced The Belzer Connection, a series of conspiracy-theory prime time specials for the Sci-Fi Channel." For that NBC bio: www.nbc.com

The Internet Movie Database's page on Belzer: www.imdb.com

On the March 17 Real Time with Bill Maher, produced at CBS Television City in Los Angeles and aired live on HBO at 11pm EST, Belzer and Ros-Lehtinen were joined on the panel by liberal writer Michele Mitchell. Belzer had a boisterous audience on his side during this exchange with Ros-Lehtinen which I attempted to transcribe, impeded by the frequent talking over each other:

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: "Having been in Iraq a few times, and Afghanistan, having met the troops one-on-one with free reign and asking them what they're doing, they're saying 'we're proud of our mission, we know what we're doing over here. We don't want you guys in Washington to lose it over there'. And there is a great sense of determination that what they are doing is making a difference. And yes, it has been an important mission what we're doing, come on."
Richard Belzer: "Yeah, come on. Our soldiers now are at-"
Ros-Lehtinen: "Are a volunteer force, a volunteer force."
Belzer: "Okay, fine. No one questions the nobility and the honor that these men and woman who are serving and what they're doing. No one questions that. But now they're targets, they're not going out. Now they're just protecting each other and they're in the middle of a civil war. So it's really not fair to have these people who volunteered their lives to protect our nation under false pretenses to now be, to have targets-"
Ros-Lehtinen, over loud applause for Belzer: "Ask them. Ask them if it's fair! Wait a minute, wait a minute. My stepson, wait a minute, my stepson-"
Belzer: "That's bullshit: ask them! They're not, they don't read twenty newspapers a day. They're under the threat of death every minute. They're not the best people to ask about the war because they're gonna die any second."
Ros-Lehtinen: "Wait a minute! You are talking about my stepson, my stepson who just finished last week eight months of duty-"
Belzer over Ros-Lehtenin: "God bless your stepson. Doesn't mean he's a brilliant scholar about the war because he's there. (applause) And God bless him."
Ros-Lehtinen, quite agitated: "Oh, you are though! You are though? Okay."
Belzer: "Well I have more time, I'm not there. My life is not under threat."
Ros-Lehtinen: "Thank you. I'm glad."
Maher: "I think the point he's trying to make is that a 19-year-old who is in that army because he probably couldn't find other employment-"
Ros-Lehtinen: "He's a college graduate. He's a Marine officer. He volunteered for the Marines."
Belzer: "He's the exception for the rule."
Ros-Lehtinen: "He's not the exception for the rule. I've been there-"
Belzer: "You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job-"
Ros-Lehtinen: "Yeah, you know because you've been there and-"
Belzer: "What, I don't fucking read!? Don't do that!"
Maher, over Belzer: "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Come on. Wait, wait, wait. That, don't."
Belzer: "Pardon my French."
Maher: "That was over the line and now you're going to lose-"
Belzer: "It's this patronizing thing that people have about if you're against the war everyone's lumped together. You know, the soldiers are not scholars, they're not war experts-"
Maher: "You're going to lose even me like Michael Moore did when he came down on Charlton Heston in Columbine."

HBO's page for Real Time with Bill Maher: www.hbo.com

-- Brent Baker