GMA's Roberts to Hillary: Health Care Plan 'Ahead of Its Time' --3/27/2007
2. NY Times Editors' Note: Woman Featured as Iraq Vet Never in Iraq
3. Newsweek's 'Conventional Wisdom' Offers Three Thumbs Up for Dems
4. Are Immigrants 'Victims' When They Fail to Pay the Mortgage?
5. Newspaper Casts Doubts on Obama's Life Story; TV Nets Ignore It
6. Rosie: Captured Brits a Contrived 'Gulf of Tonkin' for War w/Iran
On Monday's Good Morning America, co-anchor Robin Roberts hosted a fawning town hall meeting live from Des Moines with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. During the opening segment, which encompassed much of the program's first half hour, Roberts didn't bother challenging the New York Senator and, instead, asked her softball questions. She even told the former Fist Lady that "many people" felt her 1993 universal health care proposal was "ahead of its time." This led to a question by an audience member who, in '93, just happened to have been on the Clinton's universal health care task force. After which, Roberts wrapped up the segment by relaying one of Clinton's talking points: "We spent twice as much in this country on health care than any other country in the world."
[This item is adapted from a Monday posting, by Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog: newsbusters.org ]
Robin Roberts proposed: "What you said then in, in '93, many people felt it was just, in some ways, ahead of its, ahead of its time. Somebody that was there, and want to ask you what is different now, between what happened then, and he is Dr. Steve Eckstat. He is, he works at the free clinic of Iowa. Doctor?"
At one point, Eckstat could be seen reading his rather lengthy "question." (See picture which will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert and scroll down for a transcript of Clinton's long reply.)
During a tease for the segment at the top of the 7am hour, Roberts offered a sympathetic spin on Clinton's health care program:
Hillary Clinton: "Good morning. I'm delighted to be back here. It's going to be fun. We'll have a good discussion here today."
(In a follow-up NewsBusters posting, Scott Whitlock reported that Good Morning America devoted over 26 minutes of its two hour time slot on Monday to a fawning town hall meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton. Even more incredible is the fact that GMA host and event moderator Robin Roberts allowed Clinton to talk uninterrupted or unchallenged for almost 18 of those 26 minutes. During some of these long soliquies, the former First Lady repeatedly plugged her campaign website. ABC promises that future town hall meetings will include other presidential candidates, including, one assumes, Republicans. Will Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback be allowed to give what amounts to a campaign speech? See: newsbusters.org )
The first part of the town hall meeting, which aired at 7:08am on March 26, featured Roberts asking such tough queries as whether it was unfair for liberals to attack Hillary's support of the war. The ABC host also failed to press the Senator on what seemed like contradictions. At one point Clinton noted her support for the House bill to remove U.S. troops by summer of 2008 and then admitted that, as President, she would leave some troops in Iraq:
Robin Roberts: "We are back here in Des Moines for our town hall meetings. And with us this morning is Senator Hillary Clinton. The presidential candidates we're bringing to you. And the campaign trail right into your living rooms, as we love to say. And the main topics today , health care and veterans care. First of all, again, Senator Clinton, thank you very much for your time this morning. And I know how, already, you've been wanting to mingle with the people here and how important that is to you. We want to get to their questions on health care and that's why they've come, but you've agreed also to answer some questions dealing with the news. Because, today, the Senate takes up their Iraq vote, the Iraq bill. We saw on Friday, the House-"
A few minutes later, Roberts set up the question by Dr. Steve Eckstat, a former member of her '93 universal health care task force.
Roberts: "What you said then in, in '€˜93, many people felt it was just, in some ways, ahead of its, ahead of its time. Somebody that was there, and want to ask you what is different now, between what happened then, and he is Dr. Steve Eckstat. He is, he works at the free clinic of Iowa. Doctor?"
In a lengthy, five paragraph "editors' note" published on Sunday, the New York Times conceded that Amorita Randall, one of the woman featured prominently in the March 18 New York Times Magazine cover story, "The Women's War" about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the alleged sexual abuse of female soldiers in Iraq, in fact did not serve in Iraq as the story contended. Sara Corbett had written in the article which featured a page-and-a-half-sized picture of Randall on a sofa: "Her experience in Iraq, she said, included one notable combat incident, in which her Humvee was hit by an I.E.D., killing the soldier who was driving and leaving her with a brain injury." Earlier, Corbett relayed how "'saying something was looked down upon,' says Amorita Randall, who served in Iraq in 2004 with the Navy, explaining why she did not report what she says was a rape by a petty officer at a naval base on Guam shortly before she was deployed to Iraq."
The March 25 editors' note concluded with strong suggestions of mental issues surrounding Randall: "It is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did. Since the article appeared, Ms. Randall herself has questioned another member of her unit, who told Ms. Randall that she was not deployed to Iraq. If The Times had learned these facts before publication, it would not have included Ms. Randall in the article."
In fact, as FNC's Brit Hume pointed out in his Monday "Grapevine" segment: "The Navy says it warned the magazine that Amorita Randall may not have ever been in Iraq, before the story was printed, a warning the Times disputes it got. The Navy says it established that the woman had never been in Iraq on March 12 -- that six days before the story's release. The Times could have pulled the magazine, which had been printed, or at least put a correction in the news section of the paper. Or it could have changed the online version of the article. It did none of those things. Instead readers had to wait until yesterday -- a full week after the story came out -- to learn the truth."
This wasn't the first embarrassing mess-up in the past year by the New York Times Magazine. Clay Waters of the MRC's TimesWatch recalled on Monday how in January "a pro-abortion story from El Salvador," run last April, "backfired when one of its main scary anecdotes about the harsh anti-abortion laws in that country turned out to be absolutely false." For more, go to: www.timeswatch.org
Clay also pointed out how the Marine Corps Times chided the paper for insufficient fact-checking on the Randall case:
The Navy, while expressing sympathy to a woman it believes is suffering from stress, is annoyed that the Times did so little to check the woman's story. A Times fact checker contacted Navy headquarters only three days before the magazine's deadline. That, said Capt. Tom Van Leunen, deputy chief of information for the Navy, did not provide enough time to confirm Randall's account of service in Iraq. Nonetheless, Van Leunen said, by deadline the Navy had provided enough information to the Times 'to seriously question whether she'd been in Iraq.'
Aaron Rectica, who runs the magazine's research desk, disputes that. He said that by deadline, the Navy had not given the Times any reason to disbelieve Randall's claim of service in Iraq. Rectica said the Navy only told the paper that Randall's commanders believed she'd been in Iraq but that no one in the unit had been in combat.
END of Excerpt
An excerpt from the portion of the March 18 "The Women's War" article which dealt with Randall, reporting which clearly shows that writer Sara Corbett and/or Times editors recognized doubts about Randall's veracity, but plowed ahead nonetheless:
Unaware of the actual numbers, many of the women I talked to seemed, in any event, to have soaked up a larger message about the male-dominated military culture. "Saying something was looked down upon," says Amorita Randall, who served in Iraq in 2004 with the Navy, explaining why she did not report what she says was a rape by a petty officer at a naval base on Guam shortly before she was deployed to Iraq. "I don't know how to explain it. You just don't expect anything to be done about it anyway, so why even try?"...
Amorita Randall lives across the state from Christensen, in a small town outside of Grand Junction. She is 27, a former naval construction worker who served in Iraq in 2004. Over the course of several phone conversations before visiting her in January, I grew accustomed to the way Randall coexisted with her memories. Mostly she inched up to them. On days she was feeling stable, she would want to talk, calling me up and abruptly jumping into stories about her six years in the Navy, describing how she was raped twice -- the second rape supposedly taking place just a matter of weeks before she arrived in Iraq. Her experience in Iraq, she said, included one notable combat incident, in which her Humvee was hit by an I.E.D., killing the soldier who was driving and leaving her with a brain injury. "I don't remember all of it," she told me when I met her in the sparsely furnished apartment she shares with her fiance?. "I don't know if I passed out or what, but it was pretty gruesome."
According to the Navy, however, no after-action report exists to back up Randall's claims of combat exposure or injury. A Navy spokesman reports that her commander says that his unit was never involved in combat during her tour. And yet, while we were discussing the supposed I.E.D. attack, Randall appeared to recall it in exacting detail -- the smells, the sounds, the impact of the explosion. As she spoke, her body seemed to seize up; her speech became slurred as she slipped into a flashback. It was difficult to know what had traumatized Randall: whether she had in fact been in combat or whether she was reacting to some more generalized recollection of powerlessness.
Either way, the effects seemed to be crippling. She lost at least one job and was, like a number of the women I spoke to, living on monthly disability payments from the V.A. Her fiance, an earnest construction worker named Greg Lund, at one point discovered her hidden in a closet in the apartment they share, curled in the fetal position, appearing frozen. "It scared the hell out of me," he said. "I'm like, am I in over my head here?" On another occasion, shopping with Randall at Lowe's, he had to pull her away from a Hispanic man she mistook for an Iraqi. "She was going to attack him," Lund said. "She was calling him 'the enemy' and stuff like that." The biggest tragedy for her was that her daughter, Anne, who is 4, was taken from her custody by the Colorado child-welfare authorities after she was found playing in the road unsupervised one day last June. At the time, Randall and her daughter were living with another family in a halfway house. Randall was inside folding laundry, believing -- she said -- that Anne was being watched by older children in the other family.
There were days when Randall couldn't remember things, telling me her mind felt fuzzy. Accordingly, when she broached a subject that was difficult, her speech would slow down markedly and sometimes stop altogether. "Nothing is ever clear," she explained. "Sometimes I'll just have feelings. Sometimes I'll have pictures. Sometimes it'll be both." Her confusion could be both literal and moral. She blamed herself, in part, for the rapes, saying she felt peer pressure to drink heavily in the Navy, which made her more vulnerable.
Randall's life story was a sad one, though according to the V.A. psychologists I spoke with, it was not atypical. Growing up in Florida, she said, she was physically and sexually abused by two relatives - a condition that has been shown to make a woman more prone to suffer assault as an adult. Eventually she landed in foster care. She told me she joined the Navy at 20 precisely because she was raised in an environment where "girls were worthless." The stability and merit structure of the military appealed to her. Stationed in Mississippi in early 2002, Randall said, she was raped one night in her barracks after being at a bar with a group of servicemen. The details are unclear to her, but Randall says she believes that someone drugged her drink.
A couple of months later, she discovered she was pregnant. In November 2002, she gave birth to her daughter. Less than a year later, Randall's unit was deployed to the war, stopping first for several months on Guam. She put Anne in the care of a cousin in Florida. The second rape happened after another night of drinking. "I couldn't fight him off," Randall says. "I remember there were other guys in the room too. Somebody told me they took pictures of it and put them on the Internet." Randall says she has blocked out most of the details of the second rape -- something else experts say is a common self-protective measure taken by the brain in response to violent trauma -- and that she left for Iraq "in a daze."
Given her low self-esteem and her tendency, as a trauma victim, to suffer from fractured memory, someone like Randall would make an admittedly poor witness in court. Randall claims that after returning from war, she told her commanders about the second rape but says she was told "not to make such a big deal about it." (The Navy says it knows of no internal records indicating that she had reported a sexual assault.) Since her daughter was removed from her custody last summer, she had been going for weekly hourlong therapy sessions with a civilian social worker, paid for by the V.A. She was also taking parenting classes at a social-services agency and petitioning to have the child returned to her care. Overall, she was feeling optimistic that through therapy, her PTSD was beginning slowly to subside. But she also felt it was a case of too little, too late, saying that before losing her daughter, she was receiving what for many women is considered to be a standard course of mental-health treatment in a V.A. system strapped for resources - a 60-minute counseling session held every month. Randall shrugged, describing it. ''We never got very far with anything,'' she said, "The guy would just ask me, 'So, how are you doing?' And I'd look at him and say, 'Well ? I guess I'm fine.'"...
END of Excerpt
That is but a small section of the lengthy 12,000-word story. For it in full: www.nytimes.com
The cover article in The Times Magazine on March 18 reported on women who served in Iraq, the sexual abuse that some of them endured and the struggle for all of them to reclaim their prewar lives. One of the servicewomen, Amorita Randall, a former naval construction worker, told The Times that she was in combat in Iraq in 2004 and that in one incident an explosive device blew up a Humvee she was riding in, killing the driver and leaving her with a brain injury. She also said she was raped twice while she was in the Navy.
On March 6, three days before the article went to press, a Times researcher contacted the Navy to confirm Ms. Randall's account. There was preliminary back and forth but no detailed reply until hours before the deadline. At that time, a Navy spokesman confirmed to the researcher that Ms. Randall had won a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal with Marine Corps insignia, which was designated for those who served in a combat area, including Iraq, or in direct support of troops deployed in one. But the spokesman said there was no report of the Humvee incident or a record of Ms. Randall's having suffered an injury in Iraq. The spokesman also said that Ms. Randall's commander, who served in Iraq, remembered her but said that her unit was never involved in combat while it was in Iraq. Both of these statements from the Navy were included in the article. The article also reported that the Navy had no record of a sexual-assault report involving Ms. Randall.
After The Times researcher spoke with the Navy, the reporter called Ms. Randall to ask about the discrepancies. She stood by her account.
On March 12, three days after the article had gone to press, the Navy called The Times to say that it had found that Ms. Randall had never received imminent-danger pay or a combat-zone tax exemption, indicating that she was never in Iraq. Only part of her unit was sent there; Ms. Randall served with another part of it in Guam. The Navy also said that Ms. Randall was given the medal with the insignia because of a clerical error.
Based on the information that came to light after the article was printed, it is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did. Since the article appeared, Ms. Randall herself has questioned another member of her unit, who told Ms. Randall that she was not deployed to Iraq. If The Times had learned these facts before publication, it would not have included Ms. Randall in the article.
That's online at: www.nytimes.com
There is no more consistent stack of baloney in the national media than Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" manufacturers claiming they represent what all of Washington is thinking -- instead of the liberal fraction of Washington. This week's edition (called the "Executive Privilege Edition") began with a typical down arrow for President Bush: "Conditions for aides to meet Congress: No oath or transcripts. Sounds like one of Cheney's covert ops." They compare Bush to Nixon, but not to Bill Clinton, who also tried to block congressional and special-prosecutor investigations with executive privilege claims. But there were three "Up" arrows for Democrats: The Edwardses, Nancy Pelosi for her "antiwar" victory and Al Gore: "Oscar-worthy Gore-acle is a green Beltway idol."
[This item, by Tim Graham, was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
From the April 2 edition of the magazine:
# The Edwardses [Up]. America sees a highly functional political family for a change. We're rooting for you, Elizabeth.
# Pelosi [Up]. Finally wrangles an antiwar vote in House. Will get vetoed, but that's why Dems won.
# Gore [Up]. Old: Ozone Man booted from D.C. a loser. New: Oscar-worthy Gore-acle is a green Beltway idol.
It really would be more honest for Newsweek to call it "Newsweek Consensus Watch." Or "What We Say to Each Other Over Lunch."
For the April 2 "Conventional Wisdom" online: www.msnbc.msn.com
The top right-hand corner of Monday's Washington Post front page sounded like the return of Hurricane Katrina: "Foreclosure Wave Bears Down on Immigrants." Reporter Kirstin Downey began: "Immigrants are emerging as among the first victims of a growing wave of home foreclosures in the Washington area as mortgage lending problems multiply locally and across the country." But the "victims of a wave" line failed to ask the question: at what point are people who make bad financial decisions responsible for their own fate? The heart-breaking individual stories Downey told could have been avoided if the struggling homeowners had stared harder at the numbers.
[This item in adapted from a posting by Tim Graham on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For the Washington Post article: www.washingtonpost.com
Back to the March 26 front page story, Nahid Azimi, a supermarket cashier making $2,400 a month "found herself strapped into a no-down-payment loan with payments of $3,800 a month." That's a bad situation. But Downey's language (she "found herself" in a bad loan, as if she was blindfolded and walked through a maze) doesn't suggest she has any personal responsibility, even though Azimi's quotes show that clearly she wants to do the right thing.
Another sad story of the Santos family getting stuck with trying to pay for two houses on a $60,000 income shows out the Washington-area real-estate market has flattened. They could have waited until one house was sold before buying a second, but to the Post, they're still "victims" of an impersonal "wave." The headline inside the paper as the story continued was "With Low Pay and Job Losses, Immigrants Among First Foreclosure Victims."
These stories were used to illustrate a liberal point, that "laissez-faire regulatory policies" are the cause. Allen Fishbein, a spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America, was brought in to declare: "The regulators should have been more concerned about protecting consumers than about protecting financial institutions." But at what point is the consumer responsible for stepping into water over their head?
There's been no shortage of flattering network stories about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. "You are the equivalent of a rock star in politics," NBC Today co-host Meredith Vieira told Obama in October. "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon," ABC's Terry Moran gushed on Nightline a few weeks later.
"Barack Obama, with his fairy tale family, has personal charisma to spare," ABC's Claire Shipman enthused in January. "He does draw on something deeply good about this country. And we will have to see whether he can really deliver," MSNBC's Chris Matthews announced on Hardball in February.
This weekend, the Chicago Tribune published a long investigative story about Obama's youth, discovering that the story of his own life that Obama presented in his memoir is sometimes at odds with the facts. "Several of his oft-recited stories may not have happened in the way he has recounted them," the Tribune's Kirsten Scharnberg and Kim Barker reported in Sunday's article, "The not-so-simple story of Barack Obama's youth."
[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The Tribune reporters retraced the years young "Barry Obama" spent in Hawaii and Indonesia, and found several discrepancies in Obama's autobiographical accounts. But Sunday's World News on ABC never mentioned the Tribune's discoveries (the CBS Evening News was pre-empted by college basketball, while east coast editions of NBC Nightly News were pre-empted by golf), nor were they mentioned on Monday's ABC, CBS or NBC morning shows -- nor Monday night either.
On the networks' Sunday morning chat shows, the only mention of Obama came from NBC's Tim Russert, who asked ex-Senator Bill Bradley, "Do you think Barack Obama is someone who has tapped into idealism in our country?" Would the networks' similarly skip over such detailed reporting if it cast doubts on a Republican candidate's credibility?
Here's some of the key paragraphs of Sunday's Tribune story:
More than 40 interviews with former classmates, teachers, friends and neighbors in his childhood homes of Hawaii and Indonesia, as well as a review of public records, show the arc of Obama's personal journey took him to places and situations far removed from the experience of most Americans.
At the same time, several of his oft-recited stories may not have happened in the way he has recounted them. Some seem to make Obama look better in the retelling, others appear to exaggerate his outward struggles over issues of race, or simply skim over some of the most painful, private moments of his life.
The handful of black students who attended Punahou School in Hawaii, for instance, say they struggled mightily with issues of race and racism there. But absent from those discussions, they say, was another student then known as Barry Obama.
In his best-selling autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," Obama describes having heated conversations about racism with another black student, "Ray." The real Ray, Keith Kakugawa, is half black and half Japanese. In an interview with the Tribune on Saturday, Kakugawa said he always considered himself mixed race, like so many of his friends in Hawaii, and was not an angry young black man.
He said he does recall long, soulful talks with the young Obama and that his friend confided his longing and loneliness. But those talks, Kakugawa said, were not about race. "Not even close," he said, adding that Obama was dealing with "some inner turmoil" in those days.
"But it wasn't a race thing," he said. "Barry's biggest struggles then were missing his parents. His biggest struggles were his feelings of abandonment. The idea that his biggest struggle was race is [bull]."
Then there's the copy of Life magazine that Obama presents as his racial awakening at age 9. In it, he wrote, was an article and two accompanying photographs of an African-American man physically and mentally scarred by his efforts to lighten his skin. In fact, the Life article and the photographs don't exist, say the magazine's own historians.
Some of these discrepancies are typical of childhood memories -- fuzzy in specifics, warped by age, shaped by writerly license. Others almost certainly illustrate how carefully the young man guarded the secret of his loneliness from even those who knew him best. And the accounts bear out much of Obama's self-portrait as someone deeply affected by his father's abandonment yet able to thrive in greatly disparate worlds.
Still, the story of his early years highlights how politics and autobiography are similar creatures: Each is shaped to serve a purpose.
In its reissue after he gave the keynote address at the Democratic convention in 2004, "Dreams from My Father" joined a long tradition of political memoirs that candidates have used to introduce themselves to the American people.
From his earliest moments on the national political stage, Obama has presented himself as having two unique qualifications: a fresh political face and an ability to bridge the gap between Americans of different races, faiths and circumstances. Among his supporters, his likability and credibility have only been boosted by his stories of being an outsider trying to fight his way in.
As much as he may have felt like an outsider at times, Obama rarely seemed to show it. Throughout his youth, as depicted in his first book, he always found ways to meld into even the most uninviting of communities. He learned to adapt to unfamiliar territory. And he frequently made peace -- even allies -- with the very people who angered him most.
Yet even Obama has acknowledged the limits of memoir. In a new introduction to the reissued edition of "Dreams," he noted that the dangers of writing an autobiography included "the temptation to color events in ways favorable to the writer...[and] selective lapses of memory."
He added: "I can't say that I've avoided all, or any, of these hazards successfully."
END of Excerpt
For the March 25 article in full: www.chicagotribune.com
On Monday's The View on ABC, Rosie O'Donnell discussed the Iranian seizure of British sailors and O'Donnell adopted the Iranian view of the location of the British sailors as she implied that this may be a hoax to provide the President with an excuse to go to war: "But interesting with the British sailors, there were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin, Google it. Okay." O'Donnell soon repeated her suggestion: "They went into the water by mistake right at a time when British and American, you know, they're two, they're pretty much our biggest ally and we're considering whether or not we should go into war with Iran."
O'Donnell may have missed the news that not only do the United States and Britain insist they were not in Iranian waters, but Iraq and France do as well. Veteran journalist Barbara Walters did not bother to correct O'Donnell.
[This item is adapted from a posting by Justin McCarthy on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For those not well versed on the Vietnam War, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was an allegation of North Vietnamese aggression on U.S. warships that led the United States into a long bloody conflict with North Vietnam. It was later revealed that the President Lyndon B. Johnson was unsure the event occurred. Was O'Donnell suggesting that captured British sailors is nothing more than a hoax to provoke a war with Iran?
The relevant portion of the March 26 show:
O'Donnell: "But interesting with the British sailors, there were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin, Google it. Okay."
-- Brent Baker