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Fresh CBS Hit on Bush, Imply "Criminal Probe" of White House --10/29/2004


1. Fresh CBS Hit on Bush, Imply "Criminal Probe" of White House
CBS on Thursday night launched another effort to torpedo President Bush's re-election as their reporters gloated over how their earlier hit on "missing explosives," combined with their lead story about the FBI probing one person's claim about a no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton, had meant "a bad week for Mr. Bush has gotten only worse" while John Kerry is "on a roll" now that he's "buoyed by the momentum that the weapons controversy has given him." The other networks noted the Halliburton development, but only CBS made it the lead story as Dan Rather breathlessly hyped how "the FBI will now include a criminal investigation of how the Bush administration awarded Halliburton those no-bid contracts in the first place and whether there was any insider favoritism." To give the Pentagon-centered story a Watergate-level connection to Bush's Oval Office, CBS teased the topic with an on-screen graphic of a picture of the White House with "Criminal Probe" beneath and the "Department of Justice" lettering of that department's logo above.

2. ABC and CNN Tout Video of Powder in One Bunker as Vindication
While FNC's Bret Baier on Thursday night revealed that a January 2003 International Atomic Energy Agency report listed the "total tonnage of high explosives, HMX and RDX" as "219 tons, not 377 tons," in a story soon adopted by other outlets, ABC's Martha Raddatz touted video from an ABC affiliate which showed soldiers at al Qaqaa opening barrels and boxes of a powder. She called it "the strongest evidence to date that the explosives disappeared after the U.S. had taken control of Iraq." CNN's Aaron Brown pounced on the April 2003 video as proof the media had been vindicated and the Pentagon discredited, as did the New York Times. In three separate NewsNight segments Brown contended that "it seems to me that the argument is over" and it's "game, set and match." A headline on the front page of Friday's New York Times trumpeted: "Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache."

3. Nets Promote Claim, Tied to Election, 100,000 Killed in Iraq
CBS and NBC on Thursday night promoted a survey which claimed 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war, a number six times higher than previous estimates. But even Human Rights Watch questioned the high number and the lead researcher conceded to the AP that he timed the study to be released just before the election, two factors neither CBS or NBC considered.

4. Couric Sees Parallels Between Nazi Sympathizer and Bush-Cheney
Five days before the election, NBC's Today decided to feature a taped interview with novelist Philip Roth who recently denigrated President Bush as "a man unfit to run a hardware store, let alone a nation like this one." Katie Couric pushed him to draw parallels between the fearful times in his new novel, The Plot Against America, which imagines that the Nazi-sympathizing Charles Lindbergh won the presidency in 1940 and entered an alliance with Hitler, and today's Bush presidency. Couric told him that much of the commentary in his book "seems to be applicable to the current situation." Roth wondered what she meant and she suggested: "Well, Lindbergh when he appears at the Republican National Convention in his flight suit sounds eerily similar to George Bush putting a flight suit on and going on the aircraft carrier with 'Mission Accomplished.' Cheney's statement that it's unpatriotic after September 11th to be critical of the administration. The politics of fear..."

5. Interviewing Kerry, Brokaw Informs Him Bush "Has a Higher IQ"
Kudos to Tom Brokaw for a solid interview of John Kerry in which he played devil's advocate to him on a range of subjects. In the edited interview which consumed four minutes of Thursday's NBC Nightly News, Brokaw told Kerry "the fact is, Senator, we still don't know what happened to those explosives," pointed out to him "that if you had been President, Saddam Hussein would still be in power," wondered if he's "proud to be a liberal?" (Kerry claimed he's a "fiscal conservative"), inquired if he regrets "invoking Mary Cheney in your debate with President Bush?" and, in a disclosure which took Kerry by surprise, Brokaw informed him: "Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do."

6. Curt Schilling's Admonition to "Vote Bush" Jolts GMA Crew
The Good Morning America crew was taken aback Thursday morning when Curt Schilling, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox team which won the World Series the night before, snuck in one last comment at the end of an interview with Charles Gibson: "Make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week." From Gibson and others at ABC's Manhattan studios "ohs" could be heard as an uncomfortable Gibson exclaimed "whoa" and haltingly tried to find words: "Alright. Well, something else that divides the nation." News reader Robin Roberts then demurred: "Sure, now you come to me! Thanks a lot, Charlie."


Fresh CBS Hit on Bush, Imply "Criminal
Probe" of White House

CBS Evening News CBS on Thursday night launched another effort to torpedo President Bush's re-election as their reporters gloated over how their earlier hit on "missing explosives," combined with their lead story about the FBI probing one person's claim about a no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton, had meant "a bad week for Mr. Bush has gotten only worse" while John Kerry is "on a roll" now that he's "buoyed by the momentum that the weapons controversy has given him." The other networks noted the Halliburton development, but only CBS made it the lead story as Dan Rather breathlessly hyped how "the FBI will now include a criminal investigation of how the Bush administration awarded Halliburton those no-bid contracts in the first place and whether there was any insider favoritism." To give the Pentagon-centered story a Watergate-level connection to Bush's Oval Office, CBS teased the topic with an on-screen graphic of a picture of the White House with "Criminal Probe" beneath and the "Department of Justice" lettering of that department's logo above.

(See the posted version of this item for the full-screen graphic.)

ABC's World News Tonight and the NBC Nightly News limited the late in the day Halliburton development to a brief item read by the anchor, though both may still elevate the story on Friday night. In fact, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams promised more: "There is word tonight the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the Pentagon's no-bid contracts awarded to oil services giant Halliburton. It's an expansion of an ongoing FBI investigation into whether or not Halliburton over-charged taxpayers for fuel in Iraq. The question of whether the Bush administration showed favoritism to the company, which was, of course, once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has been a campaign issue this election year. We'll have a closer look at all of this tomorrow night here on Nightly News." Indeed, Friday's Today plugged an "exclusive" interview with the "whistleblower," Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse to air on Friday's NBC Nightly News.

(The New York Times, CBS's partner in the Monday hit, placed a short story inside Friday's newspaper. The Washington Post relegated the subject to the front of its "Business" section.)

MSNBC's Hardball followed CBS's lead as Chris Matthews led his Thursday show with a phone interview with Stephen Kohn, the lawyer for Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, the Army Corps of Engineers official who alleges wrongdoing. MSNBC liked it so much they replayed the 7pm EDT Hardball at 9pm EDT in addition to its usual 11pm EDT replay.

On Thursday's CBS Evening News, following the Halliburton story by Wyatt Andrews, CBS went to Jim Axelrod with the Bush campaign who declared: "Clearly a bad week for Mr. Bush has gotten only worse. This story coming on the heels of those missing explosives in Iraq." Axelrod asserted that "on this third day of high stakes back and forth in the last week of the campaign, the usually sure-footed Bush campaign seemed a little off stride." Treating CBS's agenda hostile to the Bush campaign as the real news of the day, Axelrod suggested that "when he woke up this morning, the President was simply concerned with moving the conversation beyond those missing explosives, but now he may like what's replacing it even less."

But CBS was enthused about how Kerry is benefitting from the same news agenda. "ON A ROLL" read text on-screen below video of Kerry pumping his fist in the air in front of a huge Madison, Wisconsin crowd which came out to hear Bruce Springsteen. Byron Pitts gushed: "Welcomed by a sea of supporters, 'the Boss,' Bruce Springsteen at his side, his beloved BoSox, baseball's world champs, John Kerry can only hope to feel this good next Tuesday night." Pitts soon exclaimed: "Buoyed by the momentum that the weapons controversy has given him, Kerry went on the attack again."

Dan Rather teased at the top of the October 27 CBS Evening News, over the full screen White House/"Criminal Probe" graphic described above: "Tonight, the FBI opens a criminal investigation into how no-bid war contracts were awarded to Halliburton. We'll have late details plus the political fallout...."

Rather began his newscast, as checked by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth against the closed-captioning: "Good evening. The FBI has revealed that it is expanding its investigation into how Halliburton company billed taxpayers for its contract work in Iraq. The FBI will now include a criminal investigation of how the Bush administration awarded Halliburton those no-bid contracts in the first place and whether there was any insider favoritism. CBS's Wyatt Andrews in Washington has late details. Wyatt?"

Andrews, with a control room background, reported: "Dan, sources close to the discussions confirm that the FBI now wants to interview that top-level Army contracting official, the one who went public this week charging that the $7 billion no-bid oil contract to Halliburton was awarded improperly. FBI involvement signals that the Halliburton contract is the focus of a criminal investigation."
Over picture of her, Andrews continued: "Bunnatine Greenhouse, a top contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers, alleges favoritism and rule-breaking when the Pentagon awarded a $7 billion no-bid contract to Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, for work to repair and restore Iraq's oil infrastructure just before the war. Greenhouse charges that unnamed government employees took [text on screen] 'improper action that favored KBR's interests' by awarding KBR a five-year contract when even emergency rules call for one-year deals."
Michael Kohn, Greenhouse's attorney: "Why put a five-year contingency on? If it's going to be a compelling emergency, there was no basis to believe that the compelling emergency would last more than a year."
Andrews: "Greenhouse also charges that KBR negotiators improperly stayed in the room while government officials discussed the contract -- a conflict, she says, with the 'usual practice of excluding contractors who prepare cost estimates.' And when Greenhouse continued to fight the no-bid award, her attorney says the Army threatened her job."
Kohn: "There was great pressure being put on Bunny Greenhouse prior to that, and she was not giving in to the pressure."
Andrews, over video of Cheney: "Because Halliburton was once run by Vice President Cheney, the Kerry campaign quickly charged cronyism. John Edwards spoke to 'The Early Show' in an interview for broadcast tomorrow."
John Edwards: "I think it's just a long pattern of favoritism that this administration shows to their friends and the people they have close contacts with and-"
Andrews concluded: "But Vice President Cheney has denied ever having any influence in the awarding of that no-bid deal, and the Army has defended the contract as essential to Iraq's post-war recovery."

For the CBSNews.com version of the Halliburton story, with a picture of Bunnatine Greenhouse: www.cbsnews.com

CBS moved to the impact on the Bush campaign. Rather noted: "News of the Halliburton criminal investigation broke as President Bush was campaigning in several swing states today. CBS's Jim Axelrod is travelling with President Bush and joins us now live from Pennsylvania. Jim?"

Axelrod checked in from an outdoors spot in Yardley, Pennsylvania: "Dan, this just in from the White House. A spokesman tells CBS News the responsibility for the administration of those contracts lies with the Department of Defense. I want to quote from the spokesman: 'Anything improper should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.' So obviously the White House trying to put some distance between itself and the investigation. But clearly a bad week for Mr. Bush has gotten only worse, this story coming on the heels of those missing explosives in Iraq."
CBS then jumped to Axelrod's pre-taped material: "Thousands who lined up before dawn in Michigan got exactly what they came for from the President."
George W. Bush: "A President cannot blow in the wind. A President has to make tough decisions and stand by them."
Axelrod: "But it was the afternoon crowd in Ohio who heard the exchanges intensify about the missing explosives in Iraq. First, there was John Kerry's morning shot across the bow."
John Kerry at campaign event: "And Mr. President, it is long since time for you to start taking responsibility for the mistakes that you've made."
Axelrod: "Then, in Ohio, Mr. Bush sent his star general from the invasion of Iraq, Tommy Franks, to frame their message: No one knows yet, exactly, what happened to the explosives, nor who's to blame."
Retired General Tommy Franks, former Commander of U.S. Central Command: "He is a President who will look at you and say we don't yet have the facts, but we will get the facts."
Axelrod: "The President then followed."
Bush: "A President needs to get all the facts before jumping to politically-motivated conclusions."
Axelrod: "On this third day of high stakes back and forth in the last week of the campaign, the usually sure-footed Bush campaign seemed a little off stride. This was Mr. Bush blasting the Kerry camp for suggesting the military knew about the explosives but didn't protect them."
Bush: "The Senator is denigrating the actions of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts."
Axelrod: "So imagine what the Bush campaign was thinking when Bush surrogate Rudy Giuliani made a similar point shifting any blame away from the President."
Rudolph Giuliani on NBC's Today: "The actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"
Back live, Axelrod concluded: "When he woke up this morning, the President was simply concerned with moving the conversation beyond those missing explosives, but now he may like what's replacing it even less."

Rather turned upbeat for CBS's next piece: "CBS's Byron Pitts reports what Senator Kerry was doing today to try to rock the vote his way."

CBS's Byron Pitts reporting on John Kerry With "ON A ROLL" on-screen over video of Kerry, in front of a large Madison crowd, pumping his fist in the air, followed by wide shot of the crowd, Pitts enthused: "Welcomed by a sea of supporters, 'the Boss,' Bruce Springsteen at his side, his beloved BoSox, baseball's world champs, John Kerry can only hope to feel this good next Tuesday night."
John Kerry on stage: "When George Bush heard that 'the Boss' was playing with me and gonna be with me today, he thought they meant Dick Cheney."
Pitts: "Humor aside, Springsteen said his presence here was heartfelt."
Bruce Springsteen to the crowd as he strummed his guitar: "He has lived our history over the past 50 years. He has an informed, adult view of America and its people."
Pitts: "Buoyed by the momentum that the weapons controversy has given him, Kerry went on the attack again."
Kerry: "He believes the buck stops anywhere but with the President."
Pitts: "At this point, with five days left, it's all about turnout, momentum, milestones passed, and the mess expected ahead. A major milestone was crossed last night on the advertising front. For the first time ever, TV ad spending topped $1 billion, over $86 million spent in the battleground state of Ohio alone."
Clip of protesters: "Count our votes!"
Pitts: "And in this election, Ohio could be the new Florida. With it's 20 electoral votes, no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. There have already been court challenges to voter registration, thousands of lawyers on standby, armies of volunteers for both candidates canvassing the state. Republicans cry voter fraud."
Bob Bennett, Ohio Republican Party Chairman: "You really want everybody to vote that's entitled to vote, but you don't want dead people voting."
Pitts: "Democrats scream voter suppression."
Steve Bouchard, America Coming Together: "There are some folks, again, who don't want a certain segment of the population voting."
Pitts concluded: "Springsteen's hit song 'No Surrender' is John Kerry's favorite song, but with an election this tight, tensions this high, neither side will surrender quietly. Byron Pitts, CBS News, Madison, Wisconsin."

ABC and CNN Tout Video of Powder in One
Bunker as Vindication

While FNC's Bret Baier on Thursday night revealed that a January 2003 International Atomic Energy Agency report listed the "total tonnage of high explosives, H.M.X. and R.D.X." as "219 tons, not 377 tons," in a story soon adopted by other outlets, ABC's Martha Raddatz touted video from an ABC affiliate which she contended "is the strongest evidence to date that the explosives disappeared after the U.S. had taken control of Iraq." The video, taken April 18, 2003 by KSTP-TV of Minneapolis staffers embedded with the Army's 101st Airborne, showed soldiers at al Qaqaa opening barrels and boxes of a powder. "It is unclear how much HMX was at the facility, if that was indeed HMX," Raddatz asserted on World News Tonight, "but what seems clear from that tape is that U.S. soldiers opened up some of those bunkers, left them unguarded, and the material...has since disappeared."

CNN's Aaron Brown CNN's Aaron Brown pounced on the video as proof the media had been vindicated and the Pentagon discredited, as did the New York Times. In three separate NewsNight segments Brown contended that "it seems to me that the argument is over" and it's "game, set and match." A headline on the front page of Friday's New York Times trumpeted: "Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache." See: www.nytimes.com

At the end of Thursday's Nightline, however, Ted Koppel related how "a friend who is a senior officer in the Third Infantry Division" reminded Koppel that when he was embedded with the unit they stopped one night by al Qaqaa on their way to capture the Baghdad airport, and the friend "believes that the explosives had already been removed by Saddam's forces before we ever got there. The Iraqis, he said, were convinced that the U.S. was going to bomb the place."

After failing to run a story Wednesday night about satellite photos showing trucks outside the bunkers or how the U.S. Army brigade commander noted that the heavy American equipment flow on roadways would have prevented trucks from removing the tons of material, the CBS Evening News caught up with both topics on Thursday night. But otherwise, David Martin simply repeated the Monday story: "Two weeks ago, one Iraqi official notified the International Atomic Energy Agency the explosives had disappeared some time after April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, because of 'the theft and looting due to lack of security.' That date is important because once Baghdad fell, the U.S. was responsible for security in Iraq."

Now, a more detailed rundown of the October 28 coverage cited above:

-- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. From the Pentagon, Bret Baier held up a satellite photo: "Pentagon officials just released an image from the al-Qaqaa facility taken two days before the war began. Here it is. It's coming down on e-mail. [holding up photo] This is the printed version of it. You can see the red arrow is a truck, a large truck. The yellow arrow is a large transporter, it's called a vehicle transporter. Officials are not saying that this shows that the explosives are in those vehicles, but it does show vehicle activity at the al-Qaqaa site two days before the war began."

Baier added: "The last time the International Atomic Energy Agency could definitively say what was in the bunkers at al Qaqaa is January of 2003 when IAEA inspectors logged all the explosive there. Fox News obtained the IAEA action report the inspectors filed at that time. The total tonnage of high explosives, HMX and RDX logged in that report is 219 tons, not 377 tons according to the documents. An IAEA spokesperson said today the other 158 tons of missing RDX was stored elsewhere outside of the facility, but the organization has yet to provide documentation of those logs. In January 2003, the inspectors stated that 219 tons of explosives was stored in nine different bunkers. The inspectors then locked all the bunkers, attaching IAEA tags and seals to the doors. But on the bottom of the first page of the action report is this warning, quote [text on screen]: 'Of note was that the sealing ton bunkers was only partially effective because each bunker had ventilation shafts on the sides of the buildings. These shafts were not sealed and could provide removal routes for the H.M.X. while leaving the front door locked.'"
Baier concluded: "So even though IAEA inspectors returned in March of '03, they only checked some of the seals and cannot definitively say that all or any of the explosives were inside those bunkers."

For a look at the satellite photo: www.defenselink.mil


-- CBS Evening News. David Martin, over zoom in on satellite the photo: "A satellite photo released today by the Pentagon falls well short of solving the mystery of the missing explosives. Taken before the war, it shows trucks around the bunkers which held the explosives. There's no way of knowing what they're doing, although one interpretation is that Saddam Hussein had given the order to empty the bunkers. That's what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld thinks happened."
Donald Rumsfeld on the radio: "It's very likely that Saddam Hussein moved munitions when he knew the war was coming."
Martin: "But two weeks ago, one Iraqi official notified the International Atomic Energy Agency the explosives had disappeared some time after April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell, because of 'the theft and looting due to lack of security.' That date is important because once Baghdad fell, the U.S. was responsible for security in Iraq.
"CBS News and the New York Times obtained copies of that letter. The story broke on Monday, and ever since, the Pentagon has been scrambling to find out what really happened in the fog of war. March 1, 2003: Inspectors for the IAEA visit the weapons complex for the last time and verify the bunkers holding the explosives are still under seal. April 3rd: The first American troops reach the complex as they push toward Baghdad. They clear the compound of enemy fighters but do not search the bunkers. Their commander doubts anyone could have made off with the explosives after he got there because it would have required a convoy of trucks, and the roads were bumper to bumper with the American invasion force. American troops continued to pass through the complex on their way to Baghdad. They rummaged through its bunkers but never sealed it off. So it is possible the explosives could have been carried away by looters bit-by-bit in pick-up trucks.
"It may never be known exactly when the explosives disappeared. But in claiming that it happened after Baghdad fell, the Iraqi interim government is, in effect, laying it at the feet of George Bush, [video of Bush and Allawi in Rose Garden] the man who brought them to power. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon."


-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings announced: "There was some new information today about those explosives and when they might have gone missing. ABC's Martha Raddatz is at the Pentagon."

ABC's World News Tonight Raddatz explained, over KSTP-TV (Minneapolis) video showing soldiers inside one bunker opening round barrels and some boxes: "It is the strongest evidence to date that the explosives disappeared after the U.S. had taken control of Iraq. This tape was shot by KSTP, an ABC affiliate embedded with the 101st Airborne Division when members of the division passed through the Al Qaqaa facility on April 18th, nine days after Baghdad fell. Experts who have studied the images say the barrels seen here contain the high explosive HMX. The UN markings on the barrels are clear."
David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security: "I talked to a former inspector who's a colleague of mine, and he confirmed that this indeed is the, these pictures look just like what he remembers seeing inside those bunkers."
Raddatz, over zoom in on seal on door: "The barrels were found inside locked bunkers. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, had sealed the bunkers where the explosives were kept, just before the war began."
Albright: "The seal's critical. The fact that there's a photo of what looks like an IAEA seal means that what's behind those doors is HMX, the only sealed bunkers that had HMX in them."
Raddatz: "After the bunkers were opened, the soldiers did not stay long. They were not ordered to secure the facility. One senior officer told ABC News they would not have had nearly enough soldiers to do that. It is unclear how much HMX was at the facility, if that was indeed HMX. But what seems clear from that tape is that U.S. soldiers opened up some of those bunkers, left them unguarded, and the material, Peter, as you know, has since disappeared."

For the ABCNews.com version of the Raddatz story, with a RealPlayer clip of her World News Tonight piece: abcnews.go.com

For KSTP's posted version of the "5 Eyewitness News" story, with several pictures and video: kstp.com


-- CNN's NewsNight. Aaron Brown pounced a few hour later ABC's revelation: "We begin five days out from Election Day with the new wrinkle in the story that has dominated the campaign for four straight days and no doubt will tomorrow. We'll get to the politics of the missing explosives in a few minutes. First, the videotape shot by embedded reporters nine days after the fall of Baghdad. The tape shows American soldiers at the Al Qaqaa munitions dump. It also shows sealed IAEA bunkers. Does it close the deal? Does it end the dispute? From the Pentagon tonight, CNN's Jamie McIntyre."

Following McIntyre's story, though the video showed only a fraction of the alleged 377 tons, Brown pressed the Pentagon to give up: "There's lots of questions, who might have stolen it, where it is now, all that stuff. I want to go back to what the Pentagon is saying in reaction to the tape. They are not ready to concede game set match on this yet, right?"
McIntyre: "No. I mean, no one is disputing that this is strong evidence that the HMX, or at least part of it, was there on April 18th, but now they're saying, well, we don't know what happened to it. They have some indications that a large amount of explosives were destroyed by U.S. troops, but again, they can't-"
Brown: "But Jamie, they had, they're entitled to deal with this as they wish, of course, but they had maintained up till that moment that this tape emerged that, and the secretary says this in the radio interview, the stuff was moved before?"
McIntyre: "Well, they said that, they argued that that was more likely, but they never argued that it was impossible for it to have disappeared afterwards."
Brown: "Is that argument now off the table?"
McIntyre: "Well, clearly, barring something that would be really unexpected, this would clearly indicate that some amount, a pretty substantial amount, based on the pictures of that, was there on April 18th. So now the question is what happened to it after that?"

In a later segment Brown approached David Kay from the same angle: "Let me ask you then, David, the question I asked Jamie. In regard to the dispute about whether that stuff was there when the Americans arrived, is it game, set, match? Is that part of the argument now over?"
Kay: "Well, at least with regard to this one bunker and the film shows one seal, one bunker, one group of soldiers going through and there were others there that were sealed, with this one, I think it is game, set and match..."

In a subsequent "Brown Table" session, Brown asked Time's Joe Klein: "Joe, on the explosives story, it seems to me that the argument is over. We now have pictures of American soldiers. The pictures are time-stamped. They are looking at barrels of this stuff. We know where they are, what it is. Where does the Bush people -- where does that campaign go with this story now? Just forget it?"
Klein: "They may continue to hammer at it if we hammer at it and if the Kerry campaign hammers at it. The really striking thing to me, Aaron, was that they pulled out once again the satellite photos of the trucks outside the bunkers, the very stuff that now is so embarrassing to us because they were proven to be false when we made the argument about weapons of mass destruction. It just -- it smacks of desperation and it goes to what John was just saying."

Nets Promote Claim, Tied to Election,
100,000 Killed in Iraq

CBS and NBC on Thursday night promoted a survey which claimed 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war, a number six times higher than previous estimates. But even Human Rights Watch questioned the high number and the lead researcher conceded to the AP that he timed the study to be released just before the election, two factors neither CBS or NBC considered.

Dan Rather gave it one sentence on the October 28 CBS Evening News: "U.S. researchers reported the war has directly or indirectly caused the deaths of about 100,000 Iraqi civilians." Over on the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced: "'Iraq Watch' tonight, and one measure of the high cost of war. A new study from Johns Hopkins University estimates that 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the start of the war, the majority as a result of U.S. air strikes. This is a much larger figure than some previous estimates. The Pentagon had no comment on the number, but said it had taken great care to prevent civilian deaths."

An October 28 AP dispatch by Emma Ross, brought to my attention by the MRC's Rich Noyes, noted the political agenda behind the timing of the guestimate. An excerpt:

....Designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, the study is being published Thursday on the Web site of The Lancet medical journal....

The report was released just days before the U.S. presidential election, and the lead researcher said he wanted it that way. The Lancet routinely publishes papers on the Web before they appear in print, particularly if it considers the findings of urgent public health interest.

Those reports then appear later in the print issue of the journal. The journal's spokesmen said they were uncertain which print issue the Iraqi report would appear in and said it was too late to make Friday's issue, and possibly too late for the Nov. 5 edition.

Les Roberts, the lead researcher from Johns Hopkins, said the article's timing was up to him.

"I emailed it in on Sept. 30 under the condition that it came out before the election," Roberts told The Associated Press. "My motive in doing that was not to skew the election. My motive was that if this came out during the campaign, both candidates would be forced to pledge to protect civilian lives in Iraq (news - web sites).

"I was opposed to the war and I still think that the war was a bad idea, but I think that our science has transcended our perspectives," Roberts said. "As an American, I am really, really sorry to be reporting this."...

END of Excerpt

For the AP article in full: story.news.yahoo.com

Friday's Washington Post carried a story on the guestimate. Post reporter Rob Stein explained that "the estimate is based on a September door-to-door survey of 988 Iraqi households -- containing 7,868 people in 33 neighborhoods -- selected to provide a representative sampling."

Stein noted, however, that not all buy it: "Previous independent estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq were far lower, never exceeding 16,000. Other experts immediately challenged the new estimate, saying the small number of documented deaths upon which it was based make the conclusions suspect. 'The methods that they used are certainly prone to inflation due to overcounting,' said Marc E. Garlasco, senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, which investigated the number of civilian deaths that occurred during the invasion. 'These numbers seem to be inflated.'" For the Post story in full: www.washingtonpost.com

Couric Sees Parallels Between Nazi Sympathizer
and Bush-Cheney

NBC's Katie Couric interviewing Philip Roth Five days before the election, NBC's Today decided to feature a taped interview with novelist Philip Roth who recently denigrated President Bush as "a man unfit to run a hardware store, let alone a nation like this one." Katie Couric pushed him to draw parallels between the fearful times in his new novel, The Plot Against America, which imagines that the Nazi-sympathizing Charles Lindbergh won the presidency in 1940 and entered an alliance with Hitler, and today's Bush presidency. Couric told him that much of the commentary in his book "seems to be applicable to the current situation." Roth wondered what she meant and she suggested: "Well, Lindbergh when he appears at the Republican National Convention in his flight suit sounds eerily similar to George Bush putting a flight suit on and going on the aircraft carrier with 'Mission Accomplished.' Cheney's statement that it's unpatriotic after September 11th to be critical of the administration. The politics of fear..."

When did Dick Cheney ever say it's "unpatriotic" to criticize the administration?

At the top of the 8:30am half hour on the October 28 Today, Couric touted the session:
"Coming up in this half hour we've got a rare interview with Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Philip Roth. He rarely talks to people on television. I think he hasn't done an interview since the sixties."

Couric set up the interview, as observed by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "Author Phillip Roth has been awarded nearly every literary honor a writer could hope for including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for American Pastoral as well as the National Book Award, twice. His other well known novels include Goodbye Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint and The Human Stain but it's the 71-year-old's author's latest work, his 26th that may prove to be his biggest seller yet. It's called The Plot Against America and it imagines a different and potentially more sinister outcome to the 1940 presidential election. In a rare television interview he shared with me what inspired him and whether he thinks this story may be relevant in today's heated political climate."


Without identifying the location, Today then jumped to the interview taped in front of a fireplace in a country-like home.

Couric's first question: "I understand that four years ago you were reading Arthur Schlessinger's book called A Life In the 20th Century and there was something in it that peaked your fascination with a hypothetical scenario. What was it?"
Roth: The extreme right-wing of the Republican Party wanted to nominate Lindbergh in 1940.
Couric: "Lindbergh of course was never nominated for President. In 1940 it was Republican Wendell Wilkie who ran against and lost to incumbent FDR. But Roth became fascinated by the idea of a hypothetical Lindbergh presidency."

Couric explained the dynamic of the book: "As he has done in previous works Roth makes himself a character in his own story. This time he recalls his life as a seven-year-old boy growing up in Newark, New Jersey with his parents and older brother."

She then drew parallels to current times: "You have said it's a mistake for readers to look at this or consider it a commentary about the times we live in now. But so much of it seems to be applicable to the current situation. So why not have it reverberate in that way?"
Roth: "What's applicable?"
Couric: "Well Lindbergh when he appears at the Republican National Convention in his flight suit sounds eerily similar to George Bush putting a flight suit on and going on the aircraft carrier with 'Mission Accomplished.' [Bush footage shown] Cheney's statement that it's unpatriotic after September 11th to be critical of the administration. The politics of fear. We've talked about that recently and, and how both candidates are using it to rally voters to their perspective sides."
Roth: "People make all kinds of uses of books and, and I can't control what they do and nor do I care too of course they're free. But my intentions I know were not to illuminate anything about the Bush administration or the conditions we're living in now."
Couric: "Even if it wasn't your intent could you see now today, now that the book is completed why parallels might be drawn?"
Roth: "There is one aspect of the book that I do think is relevant and that's the word 'fear.' I think the many people who seem to be responding to this book in ways they haven't responded necessarily to previous books of mine may be grasping hold of it because the atmosphere of fear in the book touches something that's alive in their experience now."
Couric: "In an essay for The New York Times Book Review you did describe President Bush as quote, 'A man unfit to run a hardware store, let alone a nation like this one.'"
Roth: "I think that's true. You know living up here in the country I have friends who are acquaintances who own things like hardware stores and general stores and gas stations and so on. And what made me think of that line was I watched them operate. And I think Bush couldn't do this."
Couric: "That's pretty damning and some might say disrespectful."
Roth: "Disrespectful has no meaning, he's the President. It is damning."
Couric: "Do you think in any way this is a cautionary tale?"

The Today Web site has an excerpt from the book: msnbc.msn.com

Interviewing Kerry, Brokaw Informs Him
Bush "Has a Higher IQ"

Kudos to Tom Brokaw for a solid interview of John Kerry in which he played devil's advocate to him on a range of subjects. In the edited interview which consumed four minutes of Thursday's NBC Nightly News, Brokaw told Kerry "the fact is, Senator, we still don't know what happened to those explosives," pointed out to him "that if you had been President, Saddam Hussein would still be in power," wondered if he's "proud to be a liberal?" (Kerry claimed he's a "fiscal conservative"), inquired if he regrets "invoking Mary Cheney in your debate with President Bush?" and, in a disclosure which took Kerry by surprise, Brokaw informed him: "Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do."

A rundown of the interview conducted in Madison, Wisconsin:

Brokaw: "Senator, if things are so wrong in Iraq and in America, why is this election still so close, just the weekend before Election Day?"
Kerry: "Because it's polarized. And because the Bush campaign has mostly run a very negative campaign to push the hot buttons of polarization..."
Brokaw: "A number of people even in your own party, however, say, 'look, it's anybody but Bush.' They're still not warming to John Kerry."
Kerry: "Well, I don't agree with that. Everything in our indicators show differently. The rope lines, the people that I'm meeting around the country. There's an energy out there."
Brokaw: "This week you've been very critical of the President because of the missing explosives in Iraq. The fact is, Senator, we still don't know what happened to those explosives. How many for sure that were there, who might have gotten away with them? Is it unfair to the President, just as you believe he's been unfair to you, to blame him for that?"
Kerry: "No. It's not unfair. Because what we do know, from the commanders on the ground, is that they went there, as they marched to Baghdad. We even read stories today that they broke locks off of the doors, took photographs of materials in there. There were materials. And they left."
Brokaw: "The flip side of that is that if you had been President, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Because you-"
Kerry: "Not necessarily at all."
Brokaw: "But you have said you wouldn't go to war against him." [edit jump]
Kerry: "That's not true. Because under the inspection process, Saddam Hussein was required to destroy those kinds of materials and weapons and we would-"
Brokaw: "But he wasn't destroying them."
Kerry: "But that's what you have inspectors for. And that's why I voted for the threat of force because he only does things when you have a legitimate threat of force. It's absolutely impossible and irresponsible to suggest that if I were President, he wouldn't necessarily be gone. He might be gone..."
Brokaw: "Let me ask you about social and domestic issues. Your colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Ted Kennedy, says that he's proud to be a liberal. You proud to be a liberal?"
Kerry: "Depends on what the issue is, Tom. I've always hated labels. And I don't abide by labels. You know, I'm an ex-prosecutor. I've sent people to jail for the rest of their life. I've busted up the number-two organized crime figures' organization in New England. What does that make me? I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. What does that make me?"
Brokaw: But you don't deny your liberal credentials."
Kerry: "On certain issues, I'm a liberal, Tom. On certain issues I'm a conservative. I'm a fiscal conservative. I believe in balancing the budget. And we worked at it, and we did it in the 1990s...
Brokaw: "You're very protective of your family, and very proud of them, I know. Do you regret invoking Mary Cheney in your debate with President Bush?"
Kerry: "No, I, again-"
Brokaw: "You don't regret it at all?"
Kerry: "Tom, it was done with respect, and it was done with pure sense of admiration for Dick and Lynne Cheney, who I think obviously love their daughter and are very proud of their daughter. She's made it a public thing. He's made it a public thing. I could have and should have perhaps mentioned Dick Gephardt, who honors his daughter and loves her, in the same way."
Brokaw: "Someone has analyzed the President's military aptitude tests and yours, and concluded that he has a higher IQ than you do."
Kerry: "That's great. More power. I don't know how they've done it, because my record isn't out in public. So I don't know where you're getting that from."
Brokaw: "Do you think he's a smart man?"
Kerry: "I do. Yes, I do think he's a smart man."
Brokaw: "Do you think too many people in your party underestimate?"
Kerry: "I think people have always underestimated President Bush. But I'm proud that in those debates, I didn't underestimate him."

For a transcript and video, via MSN's proprietary software, of the interview: www.msnbc.msn.com

I have no idea from where the military aptitude IQ claims comes.

Brokaw is scheduled to interview George W. Bush on Sunday, so I'd guess that interview will run on Sunday's NBC Nightly News.

Curt Schilling's Admonition to "Vote
Bush" Jolts GMA Crew

Charles Gibson interviewing Curt Schilling The Good Morning America crew was taken aback Thursday morning when Curt Schilling, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox team which won the World Series the night before, snuck in one last comment at the end of an interview with Charles Gibson: "Make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week." From Gibson and others at ABC's Manhattan studios "ohs" could be heard as an uncomfortable Gibson exclaimed "whoa" and haltingly tried to find words: "Alright. Well, something else that divides the nation." News reader Robin Roberts then demurred: "Sure, now you come to me! Thanks a lot, Charlie."

Schilling's recommendation came at the end of an interview at the top of the 8am half hour as he and his wife sat inside Fenway Park in Boston. The MRC's Jessica Anderson took down the exchange:

Gibson: "Curt, Shonda, great to have you with us. Congratulations."
Shonda Schilling, wife: "Thank you. Thank you."
Curt Schilling: "Thank you. Make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week."
Gibson, with other "ohs" heard in the studio: "Whoa. [Chuckling] Alright. Well, something else that divides the nation, as well. Alright, let's go to Robin Roberts with the news."
Robin Roberts: "Sure, now you come to me! Thanks a lot, Charlie."

One wonders if they would have reacted differently if Schilling had urged support for Kerry.

-- Brent Baker