2. Three Reporters See Media Coverage of Iraq as Excessively Bleak
3. Cronkite: Torquemada's "Spirit Comfortably at Home" in Ashcroft
4. "Top Ten Surprises in Bush's Address to the United Nations"
Instead of challenging Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean for the basis of his allegation about how "the extreme right wing has shown nothing but contempt for democracy," on ABC's Good Morning America this morning Charles Gibson simply cued Dean up with the quote and asked him to affirm it. Similarly, instead of asking Dean to justify fellow liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy's scurrilous charge against Bush, Gibson simply prompted him to react to it: "Do you agree with Senator Kennedy that the, that the reasons for going to war were a fraud made up in Texas?"
Later, Gibson didn't react at all when Dean named as his favorite car the Chevrolet Blazer -- that's an SUV condemned by liberal environmentalists, a Democratic core constituency.
Gibson prompted Dean to spout off: "Interesting, you said in a, in a rally in Copley Square in Boston this week you said, 'democracy itself is at stake in this election' and then you said, 'the extreme right wing has shown nothing but contempt for democracy.' Do you think that the extreme right wing is in control of this administration and do you think it shows contempt for democracy?"
Dean took advantage of the opportunity to reiterate his view, running through the usual litany about Florida, the California recall and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, though he conceded that occurred before Bush took office.
Dean appeared in ABC's Times Square studio for the September 24 session with Gibson. MRC analyst Amanda Monson took down Gibson's question, which began with getting Dean's take on Bush's speech the day before to the UN:
-- "Do you think we're any closer today to getting assistance from other nations in Iraq than we were before the President's speech."
-- "If you were President would you cede control to the UN for the rebuilding effort inside Iraq?"
-- "You'd say take it UN, you do it. A, that's not a very popular political move in this country and B, your giving control in Iraq to countries that opposed the way in the first place."
-- "Would you vote for the $87 billion if you were in Congress?"
-- Gibson, after Dean said he only would if the tax cut for people like Ken Lay was eliminated: "Absent tax cuts would you vote against it?"
-- "Do you agree with Senator Kennedy that the, that the reasons for going to war were a fraud made up in Texas?"
-- "Interesting you said in a, in a rally in Copley Square in Boston this week you said, 'democracy itself is at stake in this election' and then you said, 'the extreme right wing has shown nothing but contempt for democracy.' Do you think that the extreme right wing is in control of this administration and do you think it shows contempt for democracy?"
-- "And you think, you think this administration, I'm using your words, shows contempt for democracy?"
-- "Let me turn to the Wesley Clark phenomenon, new man in the race, some people thought you were the front runner, all of a sudden he's the front runner. How do you explain that phenomenon and do you think he is the front runner?"
-- "He says he may have voted for Nixon, voted for Reagan, does that disqualify him as-"
-- " Do you think the Clinton's are behind his candidacy?" Dean: No.
-- "Just a couple of quick things, we've been asking candidates some sort of frivolous questions, but interesting at showing perhaps their character. Your favorite movie?" Dean: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
-- Gibson: "Favorite book?"
-- "Favorite car?"
Dean answered that the Toyota Prius, a hyprid, is the politically correct answer, but that he prefers the "Chevy Blazer." That's an evil SUV, but neither Dean nor Gibson pointed that out as the interview ended with the question about Dean's favorite car.
GMA poses the same three questions -- about favorite movie, book and car -- to every presidential candidate, yet every time the candidates seem taken aback by the questions and unprepared to answer. Don't they ever watch their competitors being interviewed or scan Hotline?
Three reporters in Iraq see a disconnect between the bleak media portrayals of Iraq and the better reality. A day after Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall condemned the media's excessive negativism in covering Iraq, Time magazine's Brian Bennett, MSNBC's Bob Arnot and FNC's Molly Henneberg backed him up on how media reports don't match the improving reality of the situation, but CNN's Nic Robertson and CBS's Kimberly Dozier contended it's just as bad as they portray it.
Plus, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann agreed there's a "lack of media attention about the success stories about what those Americans in harm's way are accomplishing."
As recounted in the September 23 CyberAlert, in a September 22 op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, U.S. Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia, who just returned from a trip to Iraq, asserted: "I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded....Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with 'the rest of the story,' the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy."
For an excerpt of Marshall's piece and link to the full op-ed: www.mediaresearch.org
For a picture and bio of Henneberg: www.foxnews.com
Tuesday's USA Today featured a "Media Mix" story by Peter Johnson about how reporters in Iraq assess coverage. Johnson relayed how Time magazine's Brian Bennett found that when he "visited the USA a few weeks ago he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn't mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media." MSNBC's Bob Arnot told Johnson: "I contrast some of the infectious enthusiasm I see here with what I see on TV, and I say, 'Oh, my God, am I in the same country?'"
But, "CNN correspondent Nic Robertson has a much different take and describes the U.S.-led coalition as tight-lipped. If anything, he says, the picture is bleaker than reported by the coalition, and there is widespread resistance to the United States and its allies." And, "CBS' Kimberly Dozier is increasingly pessimistic. She has made an effort to find some 'good news' stories, sensing that her supervisors and viewers are tiring of 'bash the Americans' reports. That said, 'each time you come back here, it feels more dangerous,' she says."
Maybe one of those distraught supervisors is Dan Rather himself. Last Friday night, Rather set up a Dozier story on how, as Rather put it, "ordinary Iraqis are faced with an extraordinary surge of crime, banditry and thuggery from carjacking and robbery to kidnaping and murder" resulting "in a population fearful, frustrated, angry and heavily armed." But after Dozier's dire piece, Rather conceded that the report he just aired had distorted the situation: "A reminder that television sometimes has trouble with perspective, so you may want to note that in some areas of Iraq, things are peaceful." For details: www.mediaresearch.org
An excerpt from Johnson's September 23 USA Today "Life" section story:
Is the cup half full or half empty in Iraq?
Just as opinions about the war and its aftermath vary widely, reporters in Baghdad disagree about what it's like in Iraq these days.
Although some paint a picture of recovery, with U.S. armed forces making progress in getting the country going again, others sketch a bleaker scene, in which bombings, ambushes and looting are the rule, not the exception.
Reporters agree on this much: Bad news -- not good -- sells.
"It's the nature of the business," Time's Brian Bennett says. "What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well."
The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. "There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized," he says.
But he also sees a city where restaurants are reopening daily, where women feel increasingly safe going out to shop, where more police means intersections aren't as clogged as they were this summer. "My neighbors are nice," he says. "My street is a pretty quiet place."
When Bennett visited the USA a few weeks ago, he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn't mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media.
"I'm not saying all is hunky-dory," Bennett says. "But in the States, people have a misperception of what's going on."
Which is why Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq, where electricity is being restored daily and people are getting back to work. "There's been a lot of improvement that I and my colleagues noticed when we came back here. People in the States just don't see it."
CNN correspondent Nic Robertson has a much different take and describes the U.S.-led coalition as tight-lipped. If anything, he says, the picture is bleaker than reported by the coalition, and there is widespread resistance to the United States and its allies.
"The coalition tends to brief us only on incidents where soldiers are wounded," Robertson says. "Many, many incidents (against coalition forces) go unreported."...
CBS' Kimberly Dozier is increasingly pessimistic. She has made an effort to find some "good news" stories, sensing that her supervisors and viewers are tiring of "bash the Americans" reports.
That said, "each time you come back here, it feels more dangerous," she says. "We travel everywhere with security. We refer to our hotel as the 'bat cave' because basically you do not go outside without a security guy, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a planned escape route."...
Though some areas in Iraq are peaceful, others are not. And because most news organizations have significantly cut back on staffing in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, they can't be everywhere at once.
So if a news organization has reporters traveling with troops that are attacked, that's the image that is sent back home.
And after any war, "it's usually chaotic for a year or two," MSNBC's Bob Arnot says. "I contrast some of the infectious enthusiasm I see here with what I see on TV, and I say, 'Oh, my God, am I in the same country?'"...
END of Excerpt
For the USA Today story in full: www.usatoday.com
Johnson reported that "Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq." We'll be waiting to see if any such story ever appears, but it would be a change of pace for Bennett. His recent stories have been about the hunt for Saddam and the killing of his two sons, but back in the May 26 issue he was co-author of a piece titled, "A Journey to the Dark Side of Baghdad: Two TIME reporters witness victims of the city's chaos firsthand." It began:
That's all you get for free on the Time Web site. To pay to read the whole article: www.time.com
On the September 23 Countdown, Olbermann opined:
Viewers then saw a look at how things are quiet and peaceful in the Sadr City area of Baghdad, formerly known as Saddam City -- a story which also aired on the NBC Nightly News.
The Hill newspaper, which covers Congress, on Tuesday ran a story about the assessment of the situation in Iraq as conveyed by members of the congressional delegation trip to Iraq which included Marshall: www.thehill.com
Likening Attorney General John Ashcroft to the Catholic murderer and torturer of Jews and other "heretics" in the Spanish Inquisition of the 1400s, in his latest column Walter Cronkite declared that "Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law." While the CBS News veteran qualified that he was "not accusing the Attorney General of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake," he sickly quipped, "at least I don't know of any such cases" before he further impugned Ashcroft: "One does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice."
Cronkite claimed: "Nothing so clearly evokes Torquemada's spirit as Ashcroft's penchant for overruling U.S. attorneys who have sought lesser penalties in capital cases."
And Cronkite fretted that "what makes this administration's legal bloodthirstiness particularly alarming is the almost religious zeal that seems to drive it."
An excerpt from Cronkite's weekly column as published in the September 22 Philadelphia Inquirer, a column highlighted on Monday by James Taranto in his "Best of the Web" e-mail for OpinionJournal.com (www.opinionjournal.com)
....Security and liberty, unfortunately, involve an inevitable trade-off: To increase security is to decrease liberty and vice versa. In the past, such trade-offs have been temporary - for the duration of the crisis of the moment. But today, we cannot see an end to the war on terrorism, and that forces us to decide how secure we have to be and how free we want to be....
In his two and a half years in office, Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Tom's de Torquemada, you might recall, was the 15th-century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics -- Muslims in particular.
Now, of course, I am not accusing the Attorney General of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice.
There was something almost medieval in the treatment of Muslim suspects in the aftermath of 9-11. Many were held incommunicado, without effective counsel and without ever being charged, not for days or weeks, but for months or longer, some under harsh conditions designed for the most dangerous criminals.
It was in the spirit of the Inquisition that the Justice Department announced recently that it would begin gathering data on judges who give sentences lighter than called for by legislative guidelines. Nothing so clearly evokes Torquemada's spirit as Ashcroft's penchant for overruling U.S. attorneys who have sought lesser penalties in capital cases. The Attorney General has done this at least 30 times in the two and a half years he has been in office....
The New York Times editorialized that the attorney general seems to want the death penalty used more often.
Ashcroft is not alone in this. His boss, while governor of Texas, seemed never to have met a death sentence he didn't like. The two of them represent a subdivision of the Republican Party known as the "social conservatives," who often have favored the use of government power to police moral issues they view as modern heresies, such as abortion, homosexuality and obscenity. They contrast with those Republicans who tend to resist such uses of federal power and can generally be counted on to defend individual rights.
What makes this administration's legal bloodthirstiness particularly alarming is the almost religious zeal that seems to drive it....
END of Excerpt
For Cronkite's column in full: www.philly.com
On the Web I found a few free access pages with colorful descriptions of the legacy and methods of the man Cronkite sees Ashcroft emulating, especially interesting in how the Inquisition targeted Jews, so was Cronkite trying to subtly raise anti-Semitism?
From Encyclopaedia Britannica:
"Inquisition: In Roman Catholicism, a papal judicial institution that combatted heresy and such things as alchemy, witchcraft, and sorcery and wielded considerable power in medieval and early modern times."
A posting by Drexel University offered a good historic summary. An excerpt:
The purpose of the Inquisition was to root out heresy, and for Torquemada this meant destroying the Marranos. The Inquisition published a set of guidelines so that Catholics could inform on their Marrano neighbors:
'If you see that your neighbors are wearing clean and fancy clothes on Saturdays, they are Jews.
'If they clean their houses on Fridays and light candles earlier than usual on that night, they are Jews.
'If they eat unleavened bread and begin their meal with celery and lettuce during Holy Week, they are Jews.
'If they say prayers facing a wall, bowing back and forth, they are Jews.'
The mildest penalty imposed on Marranos began with the forfeiture of their property, which proved to be a convenient fund-raising technique for the war against the Moors. This was followed by the public humiliation of being paraded through the streets wearing the sambenito, a sulfur-yellow shirt emblazoned with crosses that came only to the waist, leaving the lower body uncovered. They were then flogged at the church door....
The scale of punishments continued up to burning at the stake, which was performed as a public spectacle called an auto-da-fé ("act of faith"). If the condemned recanted and kissed the cross, they were mercifully garroted before the fire was set. If they recanted only, they were burned with a quick-burning seasoned wood. If not, they were burned with slow-burning green wood.
In 1490 Torquemada staged a famous show-trial, the LaGuardia trial. This involved eight Jews and conversos, who were accused of having crucified a Christian child. No victim was ever identified and no body was ever found; nevertheless all eight were convicted, on the strength of their confessions which were obtained through torture. They were burned at the stake.
Rumours about Jews committing ritual murder of Christian children have circulated around Europe for centuries and are known collectively as "the blood libel." While there is no evidence to support the blood libel, its opposite, the ritual murder of Jews by Christians, is well known. The Spanish Inquisition alone committed the ritual murder of about thirty thousand Jews....
END of Excerpt
For this report in full: www.mcs.drexel.edu
From the September 23 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Surprises in President Bush's Address to the United Nations." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. Admitted taking longer than expected to mismanage the rebuilding of Iraq
9. President Bush wearing "Kucinich in 2004" campaign button
8. Kept referring to the United Nations as the International House of Pancakes
7. He formally surrendered to North Korea
6. After a few remarks, turned it over to Dr. Phil who discussed weight loss
5. Labeling Jim Belushi as a member of the "Axis of Evil"
4. Usual smug smirk even smugger and smirkier
3. His opening act: Beyonce, with very special guest Jay-Z
2. "Speech" was nothing more than recipe for Laura's Quick 'N' Easy Chicken-Fried Steak
1. The part where he screamed, "Save us, Schwarzenegger!"
Scheduled to be a guest tonight (Wednesday) on the Late Show: Lynne Cheney.
-- Brent Baker