Hardball Panel Predicts 'Nasty' & 'Vicious' GOP Attacks on Obama --2/28/2008
2. NY Times Condemns Using Obama's Middle Name, But Paper Does It
3. CNN Panel Denies There's Sympathy for Obama in MSM
4. ABC's Snow Enthuses Over Tough, Smart Chelsea Clinton
5. Gotcha! Russert's Russia Questions Exposes NBC's Trivial Approach
6. Buckley Hailed, But NBC Chastises Him on McCarthy, Race & AIDS
7. CBSer Uses WFB Passing to Rue 'Limbaugh-ization of Conservatism'
Like an offensive-line blocking for their quarterback, Chris Matthews and the rest of Wednesday night's Hardball panel game-planned to protect Barack Obama from what they saw as the coming "vicious" and "nasty" attacks from Republican sack artists in the fall. Matthews, along with NBC's Norah O'Donnell and Newsweek's Howard Fineman, continued to gripe about conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham's emphasis of Barack Obama's middle name of Hussein as Matthews worried: "Is this gonna be a vicious, almost ethnic fight, going after the guy because of his heritage, his name and saying, He's gonna sell us out.' Is that what's coming?"
To which O'Donnell fearfully replied: "I think, unfortunately, that's gonna be one of the dirty storylines of this campaign." Fineman then predicted of the GOP general campaign tactics: "It's gonna be nasty and vicious."
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Wednesday evening, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchanges occurred on the February 27 edition of Hardball on MSNBC:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: His vulnerability is as follows. This guy Cunningham, this character, this radio talk show, unfortunately he has the name Bill Cunningham, which is a nice name, unfortunately he has it. He attacks him the other day by saying his name is Hussein. He's trying to play off him as some sort of enemy of America, an Islamic terrorist, whatever he's trying to imply by the, there's millions of people in this world named Hussein, a lot of them on our side. And he's making it sound like that's his, "I caught him. He's got a middle name Hussein, I figured this thing out." Rush Limbaugh is playing this game of saying, "What's wrong with bringing up his middle name?" What's wrong with playing that name? And now we got the head of the Tennessee Republican Party going after him again, on that front. Is this gonna be a vicious, almost ethnic fight, going after the guy because of his heritage, his name and saying, "He's gonna sell us out." Is that what's coming?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK: Two things. First of all John McCain promised not to do this kind of thing, McCain himself.
To read more about Matthews and other reporters' furor over Cunningham's remarks, see the February 27 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
The New York Times jumped on a talk radio host for saying Barack Obama's middle name three times -- but the Times' own columnists, Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, have used it as well. Reporter Michael Luo defended Barack Obama against an Ohio-based conservative talk radio host who had the audacity to utter Obama's middle name in Wednesday's "Host Disparages Obama, and McCain Quickly Apologizes."
[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
An excerpt from the February 27 article:
Senator John McCain apologized Tuesday after a conservative radio host who helped introduce him before a rally used Senator Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, three times, while disparaging him.
Bill Cunningham, who is host of "The Big Show with Bill Cunningham," a local program here that is also syndicated nationally, was one of several people who revved up the crowd before Mr. McCain's appearance at a theater here.
Mr. Cunningham lambasted the national news media, drawing cheers from the audience, as being soft in their coverage of Mr. Obama compared to the Republican presidential candidates, declaring they should "peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama."
He went on to say, "At one point, the media will quit taking sides in this thing and start covering Barack Hussein Obama."
Mr. Obama's middle name, which is Muslim in origin, comes from his late father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Kenyan. Mr. Cunningham, like some other conservative commentators, uses it frequently when referring to Mr. Obama, apparently to draw attention to his ancestry. Mr. Obama has been dogged by whispered rumors that he is a Muslim; he is a Christian.
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.nytimes.com
So is the phrase "Barack Hussein Obama" forbidden in the Times, since it is apparently terribly offensive? Not exactly. Several of the paper's columnists (the print equivalent of talk show host Cunningham) have used it.
Maureen Dowd has used it twice, albeit in attempts at parallelism and a smoothly balanced sentence to contrast with someone else who traditionally goes by three names.
# From September 5, 2007: "Barack Hussein Obama squinted into the New Hampshire sun to read a new speech on his teleprompter Monday and turned into William Jennings Bryan."
# And December 13, 2006: "Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama both straddle two worlds, trying to profit from both."
# So did columnist Frank Rich, in a widely-read column from last Sunday: "The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash."
Three CNN talking heads -- The Situation Room's Jack Cafferty, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and chief national correspondent John King -- all denied that the mainstream media have a "double standard for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton," as The Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer put it. Cafferty was the most adamant denier of the charge. "No, it's a vast left-wing conspiracy, Wolf. We all got together in the media and said okay, let's all decide collectively to beat up on Hillary and be nice to Barack Obama. That's nonsense."
[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The three, along with Blitzer, had a discussion on Tuesday's The Situation Room at the bottom of the 6pm Eastern hour in response to a report by Howard Kurtz which was played immediately before the segment. Kurtz, commenting on the Clinton campaign's charge that "media are giving her [Clinton] a hard time and Barack Obama a free pass," proposed that it was "hard to deny that Senator Obama has gotten largely upbeat coverage from the time he first flirted with running for president." After playing various clips such as the now-famous Saturday Night Live sketch which portrayed the media as being "totally in the tank for Obama" and Chris Matthews' "thrill going up my leg" comment, Kurtz concluded that "[t]here are signs that Obama is starting to draw a bit more critical scrutiny now that he's the Democratic front-runner. But it will take a lot more of that to change the Saturday Night Live image of a pro-Obama press corps."
The first to respond to Kurtz's hypothesis was Cafferty, who went into one of his extended populist-tinged rants, all the while denying that the media have it in for Hillary Clinton.
WOLF BLITZER: Jack, what do you think? Is there a double standard? Is Hillary Clinton sort of getting tough coverage and he's getting a free ride?
Blitzer then asked Borger for her take, who placed the blame squarely on Hillary Clinton herself for her apparent media problem.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, blame the media. Don't blame the candidate. Don't blame the campaign. Blame the media. And Hillary Clinton herself said look, I've been vetted. Well, she's continuing to get vetted in the way she performs as a candidate. Is Barack Obama new on the scene? Of course. Has Hillary Clinton been around for a couple of decades? Do voters think they know her? Does the press think that it knows her? Of course. But is she getting [un]favorable treatment because of some mystical quality that Barack Obama exudes? No. It's her campaign and it's the candidate.
After Blitzer played a clip of a Hillary Clinton interview where she claimed she was "misunderstood," it was King's turn for a take on the issue. King brought up Clinton's "more public" record, her connection to her husband Bill Clinton, and concluded by agreeing with Kurtz, that Obama will now receive more scrutiny, particularly because of the upcoming Tony Rezko trial.
JOHN KING: Well, look, her record is much more public than Barack Obama's record because Hillary Clinton has been in Washington throughout her husband's presidency -- eight years of that, plus her time in the Senate. So it is easier to go back and look at the Hillary health care controversy, to look at her sparring with what she calls the vast right-wing conspiracy over the years. And, yes, she does get the baggage of Bill Clinton's presidency attached to her. Is that fair? It's not my call to make, but it is a reality and a political reality. She benefits from Bill Clinton's, well, likeability in Democratic politics and she is criticized sometimes from it. I think, in the long run, this all balances out. The Rezko trial begins next week in Chicago. Senator Obama will get some scrutiny because of that. But it has been a constant complaint from her campaign, Wolf. Without a doubt, they believe there has been a double standard and they complain about it on a daily basis.
Even with the evidence squarely placed in front of them by Kurtz, these three journalists pretty much brushed aside the theory of a pro-Obama mainstream media.
According to Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts, Chelsea Clinton is so impressive, she just might be able mount a comeback for her presidential candidate-mother. On Wednesday's program, Roberts gushed over the first daughter and asserted, "[Hillary Clinton is] leaning more and more on Chelsea, who has taken on a new role as Clinton's biggest campaigner and, some say, her last, best hope for a comeback."
GMA reporter Kate Snow, who filed a segment on the topic, has a long history of rhapsodizing over the entire Clinton family. She marveled at Chelsea for being "there with a smile and hug" and also acting as "her mother's fiercest defender." Using fawning language, Snow commented, "Gone is the shy girl with frizzy hair and braces....Now she's spouting policy details, standing her ground against hecklers." It was only slightly more than a month ago that Snow narrated another piece about Chelsea's impressive campaigning. On January 18, she expounded on the "spotlight" shy Clinton. The ABC journalist claimed then, "To be honest, [Chelsea] doesn't like cameras much...She doesn't want to be in the spotlight." For more, see a January 21 CyberAlert posting: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:09am on February 27:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Going to go back to the debate for a moment. Because, you couldn't help but notice at the end of the debate that, once again, by Hillary Clinton's side, was her daughter. With pressure mounting on Senator Clinton, she's leaning more and more on Chelsea, who has taken on a new role as Clinton's biggest campaigner and, some say, her last, best hope for a comeback. Well, today, Chelsea celebrates her 28th birthday and she'll do it on the campaign trail. Kate Snow has been spending some time with her recently.
During Tuesday night's presidential debate on MSNBC, NBC's Tim Russert tried to test the Democratic candidates' basic knowledge of foreign policy, asking what they knew about the man who will almost certainly be elected President of Russia in Sunday's elections. After Hillary Clinton gave a general answer that kept referring to "Putin's handpicked successor," Russert pounced: "Do you know his name?"
But if the fact that Dmitry Medvedev will assume the Russian presidency is an important fact, Russert and his co-moderator, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, have utterly ignored it as journalists. A Nexis search shows just one reference to Medvedev on NBC, an April 14, 2007 story about Russia's giant energy company, Gazprom, of which Medvedev was chairman of the board. (The story aired on a weekend, when Lester Holt, not Brian Williams, was in the anchor chair.)
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Reporter Jim Maceda talked about Medvedev for exactly 13 seconds, as file footage of Medvedev speaking at what appears to be a shareholders meeting. (See photo at top of posted version of thie CyberAlert.)
MACEDA: "They call it Kremlin Inc., capitalism with Putin himself as the ultimate CEO. In this system, the line between strategic resources, oil and gas, and political power is not only blurred, it doesn't exist. Take Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom's chairman of the board and deputy prime minister. Many believe he's a front-runner to succeed Putin. It's as if Microsoft's Bill Gates were US secretary of commerce as well."
But over the past nine months, as Medvedev campaigned for the presidency, NBC has completely ignored him. So has ABC and CBS. Hillary could easily have said, "I don't know anything about him, including his name, because I get my news from you, Tim."
Assuming he wasn't engaged in a childish game of gotcha, the point of Russert's debate question is that our presidential candidates need to have some basic knowledge about the leaders of crucial nations like Russia. If so, then shouldn't NBC News spend at least a few minutes on the subject?
Russert may have thought he was exposing the candidates' lack of knowledge, but he also exposed the superficiality of NBC News.
ABC, CBS and NBC on Wednesday night delivered laudatory tributes to the late William F. Buckley, Jr., but while ABC's Charles Gibson, as well as Katie Couric and Richard Schlesinger on CBS, stuck to the positive and his many achievements as an editor, author and TV show host, NBC anchor Brian Williams couldn't resist including a political slap from the left on the day Buckley passed away at age 82: "Buckley paid dearly for some of his words: His defense of Senator Joe McCarthy, his early views on race and remarks he made about AIDS, saying those with AIDS should be tattooed to prevent its spread."
ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed how "Buckley loved debate. Loved to provoke. And love him or hate him, agree or disagree with him, no one could deny he was one of the country's finest minds....His message was, in essence, an intellectual war on big government. And a passion for the free market. Delivered with dazzling language and a bone-dry wit."
On the CBS Evening News, Katie Couric used a word -- "sesquipedalian" -- it's doubtful she's ever uttered before, as evidenced by how she tripped up pronouncing it: "It wasn't just what Buckley said but how he said it -- slouched in a chair, ears twitching, eyes popping, tongue wagging and that swess, sesquipedalian vocabulary. He loved long words."
CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger described Buckley as "an intellectual Godfather of the right wing" and "a renaissance man." The closest CBS got to anything negative was this soundbite from Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor of the left-wing The Nation magazine, but it was in the context of admiration: "We both had a respect for ideas as part of our politics. I think some of his ideas, many were koo-koo."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Williams had plenty of praise for Buckley as he introduced his February 27 NBC Nightly News look at Buckley's life: "William F. Buckley died today and it's safe to say this about him: If you ever saw him on television you'd remember it. When he spoke his face and his brain were pretty much equally active. He was equal parts passion and smarts. And he's being remembered tonight as the father of the modern day conservative political movement in the United States."
Later in the taped piece, however, Williams felt compelled to recall some of Buckley's views through a critical prism:
WILLIAMS: He hosted his TV show Firing Line longer than Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show. He founded National Review and was an early backer of Ronald Reagan.
Lumping Rush Limbaugh in with Michael Savage, CBS News Washington Producer Ward Sloane lamented in a Wednesday afternoon CBSNews.com "Couric & Co." blog entry how "it's sad that people like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage are today's mouthpieces for conservatism" when "Buckley was not a hate monger" like them. Sloane then contended:
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The preceding paragraph in Sloane's "Good night, Mr. Buckley," posted February 27: "In a way, it's sad that people like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage are today's mouthpieces for conservatism. What a far leap they are from the quick witted and smart Buckley. I think it's fair to say that even Buckley's ideological enemies admired him and respected him. That's because Buckley was not a hate monger; he was a serious-minded person who made reasoned and rational arguments for his cause. No apologies to Limbaugh, Savage or their listeners and adherents -- they are no substitute for Buckley's class and intellectualism."
The February 27 posting in full: www.cbsnews.com
-- Brent Baker