2. ABC's John Berman Whines About Obama Having to Defend Himself
3. Mitchell Gushes Over Michelle Obama, Frets She's 'Caricatured'
4. CBS's Lara Logan: U.S. 'Facing Strategic Defeat' in Afghanistan
5. NYT: Iraq Oil Riches to 'Reward the Cronies and Allies' of U.S.
6. Tom Brokaw Brings Strong Liberal Tilt to Meet the Press
After leading Tuesday's Special Report with how "last year the administration reported satisfactory progress on only about eight of 18 benchmarks" while this year, in a report disclosed Tuesday, the administration determined "there has been satisfactory progress on 15 of the 18," FNC's Brit Hume doubted "word of this progress is going to get through" to the public as he predicted: "I suspect that this broadcast tonight -- and maybe some others on this channel -- are the only ones who are going to make a headline out of this. This is not going to be a big story elsewhere."
Indeed, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned Iraq while on ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson read a short update about "increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan" since "in the month of June there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month." CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 was also silent Tuesday night about the benchmarks.
Hume observed that "when it first hit the wires, the wire story lead about it was all about how much trouble the next President is going to have with the slow pace of the Iraqi government. Only down in the story did one find out that this new report on the benchmarks has come out reporting a dramatic change from a year ago."
That matches an AP story posted on Yahoo. Though headlined "New Iraq report: 15 of 18 benchmarks satisfactory," Washington, DC-based reporter Anne Flaherty began:
No matter who is elected president in November, his foreign policy team will have to deal with one of the most frustrating realities in Iraq: the slow pace with which the government in Baghdad operates.
Iraq's political and military success is considered vital to U.S. interests, whether troops stay or go. And while the Iraqi government has made measurable progress in recent months, the pace at which it's done so has been achingly slow.
The White House sees the progress in a particularly positive light, declaring in a new assessment to Congress that Iraq's efforts on 15 of 18 benchmarks are "satisfactory" -- almost twice of what it determined to be the case a year ago. The May 2008 report card, obtained by the Associated Press, determines that only two of the benchmarks -- enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues -- are unsatisfactory....
END of Excerpt
AP dispatch in full: news.yahoo.com
For the Wednesday, July 2 Washington Post article on page A-08, "U.S. Embassy Cites Progress in Iraq: Most Congressionally Set Benchmarks Met, Report Finds," go to: www.washingtonpost.com
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The short item from Charles Gibson on the July 1 World News: "Overseas, news today about the increasing dangers for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as the Taliban grows more powerful there. In the month of June, there were 28 American fatalities in Afghanistan, just one less than died in Iraq last month. That despite the fact that there are almost five times as many U.S. troops in Iraq."
The assessment of the benchmarks broke late Tuesday afternoon, so there's a chance others will catch up on Wednesday, particularly ABC's World News which was the only broadcast network evening newscast to notice benchmark achievements back in January and February.
The Thursday, February 14 CyberAlert posting, "ABC Uniquely Lists 'Crucial' New Laws Passed by Iraq's Parliament," recounted:
Unlike the Wednesday CBS and NBC evening newscasts, ABC's World News highlighted a favorable development in Iraqi political progress as anchor Charles Gibson gave 20 seconds to: "Overseas, in Iraq, a breakthrough for the country's government that has been so often criticized. Iraq's parliament approved three contentious, but crucial, new laws long sought by Washington. The laws set a budget for 2008, grant amnesty to thousands of detainees and define the relationship between the central government and the provinces."
A month ago, on January 14, Gibson was also the only broadcast network evening newscast anchor to cite how "Iraqi lawmakers have put their differences aside and agreed to allow some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to take government jobs. It's a key benchmark sought by the United States."
The CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News on Wednesday night both found time to report on how Secretary of Defense Robert Gates broke his arm in a fall on ice and how, for the first time, a Beagle (named "Uno") won "Best in Show" at the Westminster Dog Show. Gibson, who broadcast from Philadelphia, the site of the dog show, managed to note the development in Iraq as well as Uno's win....
For the previous CyberAlert article: www.mediaresearch.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide a transcript of the relevant portions of the Tuesday, July 1 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC:
BRIT HUME: Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. The White House is giving Congress a new indication of how far Iraq's leaders have come in hitting performance standards established by the U.S. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier has the story.
BRET BAIER: In a new nine-page progress report obtained by Fox, U.S. officials in Iraq assessed that 15 of the 18 original political, security and economic benchmarks set for the Iraqi government are satisfactory, while two are unsatisfactory, and one has a split result. The May 2008 report card has almost twice the number of satisfactory marks than the assessment one year ago when the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were grilled by Congress over the '07 report card that showed eight unsatisfactory marks, eight satisfactory marks, and two benchmarks that could not be determined.
From the panel segment later in the hour:
HUME: Here is what U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, had to say about the political situation with the Iraq government just a day or two ago: Quote, "We've seen that through a string of legislation through much better budget execution a dramatic improvement over just a year ago. I'm increasingly confident that we are in a climate, now, where Iraqis are going to be able to progressively build their country, not just in security terms, but in political and economic as well."
MARA LIASSON: I think the big question is going to be how fast are we going to leave? I think both a President McCain and a President Obama are going to bring down the troop levels a certain amount. The question is how fast, and the question for Obama-
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think you're right. I saw a media report that the number of reports on Iraq in the last year is down on network news has been down, I think, by about 90 percent, as the news has been improving. The progress is absolutely undeniable on the military and political front, which is why the only people who are denying it are really on the fringes. But this obsession with the benchmarks, I think, is really quite remarkable. It's a Democratic obsession which reflects an American obsession with legalism, parchment and paper and laws. Look at the two benchmarks that the administration says are as yet unmet. Legislation to disarm the militias. Militias are not disarmed by legislation. They are disarmed by an army, and the Iraqi army has evicted the Moqtada al-Sadr Mahdi Army out of Basra, taken over Amara, taken over Sadr City, battling guerillas in Mosul. This is actually happening on the ground.
ABC correspondent John Berman used a report on Tuesday's Good Morning America to whine about the fact that Barack Obama has had to defend himself against serious charges. He opened the segment by commenting on a series of speeches the Democrat is giving that tout patriotism and lamented: "Well, you would think a man elected to the U.S. Senate, who is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, would not feel a need to defend his love for America."
Berman's colleague, GMA co-host Robin Roberts, interviewed Obama surrogate General Wesley Clark and actually grilled him about his assertion that John McCain's Vietnam-era military service isn't a credential to be President. However, she credulously accepted the attempts by the Democratic nominee to disavow himself from the attack: "The McCain and Obama camps are divided on most things but they have agreed on one, that the comment by retired General Wesley Clark was out of line."
On June 24, however, Roberts discussed remarks made by Charlie Black, an aide to Senator McCain, in which Black claimed that a terrorist attack would help the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. In this instance, she was far more cynical. Roberts speculated: "Almost immediately, we had apologies from McCain and Charlie Black, but is this the kind of thing that a campaign puts out there on purpose and then retracts?" See the June 25, 2008 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Reporter Berman also completely accepted the fact that Obama had nothing to do with the attacks by his surrogate. The correspondent parroted, "...The Obama campaign has completely disavowed Clark's comments." So, apparently, cynicism is only warranted when a Republican plays the political game of "good cop/bad cop."
And as far as Berman's shock that Obama has to face such tough questions, has the reporter forgotten that this is the same candidate who admitted to being "friendly" with a former member of a domestic terrorist group? See an April 17, 2008 CyberAlert item for more: www.mrc.org
Or that Obama's ex-pastor is a man who raged against the U.S. and urged God to "damn" America? Isn't it reasonable for Americans, especially given the limited amount of time voters have had to get to know the Illinois Senator, to force the presidential contender to answer these hardball queries?
During his piece, Berman repeated talking points from Obama's speech on patriotism. The ABC reporter helpfully recounted that "Barack Obama wants you to know three things: One, he loves America." He then touted the fact that Obama "doesn't want to fight about [patriotism]," but "...He will fight about it if he has to."
ABC's graphic continued the "Obama as victim" theme. It read: "Patriot Games: Love of Country in Question."
A transcript of the John Berman piece, which aired at 7:02am, follows. A partial transcript of Roberts questions to Clark are also included:
ABC graphic: Patriot Games: Love of Country in Question
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, you would think a man elected to the U.S. Senate, who is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, would not feel a need to defend his love for America. But Barack Obama has devoted this week to what his campaign calls enduring American values, patriotism and later today, faith. Barack Obama wants you to know three things: One, he loves America.
BERMAN: McCain was a prisoner of war for five and a half years after he was shot down and the Obama campaign has completely disavowed Clark's comments. If Obama wants to put the patriotism issue in the past another issue he might like see fade away? Bill Clinton. The two men finally spoke by telephone for 20 minutes. The Obama camp says it's excited to have Clinton campaign for them and there are reports they might even have dinner soon. Diane, Robin?
ROBIN ROBERTS: And as you know, the McCain and Obama camps are divided on most things but they have agreed on one, that the comment by retired General Wesley Clark was out of line, a comment he is not backing down from. General Clark joins us now live from Little Rock, Arkansas, for a morning exclusive. General, thank you very much for joining us.
ROBERTS: Understand what you're saying, general, but someone who's had the experience that Senator McCain has had, if you're commander in chief and you're sending soldiers into war, having that kind of experience, isn't it better than having no experience at all in the military?
ROBERTS: General Clark, do you feel like you owe Senator McCain an apology?
ROBERTS: General, you have thought to be on the short list to be Senator Obama's running mate. Do you feel that you deserve to still be on that list?
During the 1 PM hour of Monday's MSNBC News Live, host Andrea Mitchell interviewed Susan Page, USA Today's Washington Bureau Chief, about the newspaper's interview with Michelle Obama. During their discussion of Obama, Mitchell marveled over her qualities and worried that she's being mischaracterized: "She's Princeton, she's Harvard, she's so smart and so beautiful and, you know, a mom and a wife and a partner and yet people get caricatured."
Page followed up with even more gushing: "She's an imposing woman both physically and intellectually. And Americans, I think the task for her is harder than for Cindy McCain because we have a good sense of John McCain, he's been around for decades in Washington and in the public eye, the national eye. That's not true for Barack Obama and it's not true for Michelle Obama so people look perhaps at small things and make big things out of it because they don't know very much about her. That's one thing interviews like this, I think, try to address."
The interview with Jill Lawrence about "keeping fit, her wardrobe and other details of daily life," in the June 30 USA Today: www.usatoday.com
[This item, by MRC intern Lyndsi Thomas, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The transcript of the June 30 segment on MSNBC:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Michelle Obama says she does not want to distract from her husband's campaign. She instead wants to be part of the solution. This in an exclusive interview with USA Today. Barack Obama's wife says that one of her biggest balancing acts is keeping the focus on the campaign while staying true to who she is. Here with us now is Susan Page, USA Today's Washington Bureau Chief. Susan, really interesting, that she would even do this interview. What did you think was the most important thing about it?
On Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to foreign correspondent Lara Logan about the situation in Afghanistan and she declared a failure: "So seven years later we have more troops in the country than we have ever had. And yet no one is admitting the fact that we are facing strategic defeat in a country that wanted us there. Unlike Iraq, they actually wanted us there." Smith introduced the segment by proclaiming: "U.S. officials say attempts to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban are failing. And for the second straight month in June, militants killed more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq." During the segment, Smith displayed his foreign policy credentials in reference to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border: "I've been reading lightly about these tribal areas. I was there about 20 years ago. I described it to a friend of mine, it's like the Star Wars bar. You can't trust anyone there. You don't know who's loyal to who." So Afghans and Pakistanis are like strange-looking aliens?
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Later, Smith asked Logan: "Are there enough U.S. troops, are there enough NATO troops to fight this fight?" After Logan replied: "No, there aren't enough of either troops," Smith followed up by asking: "Now here's the other question. There may not be enough troops. Is there anything close to a coherent strategy to fight both of these elements?" To that question, Logan remarked: "No. And there hasn't been for some time."
Here is the full transcript of the July 1 segment in the 7am half hour:
HARRY SMITH: There is breaking news overnight in Afghanistan. U.S.-led forces say they scored a big hit against militants late Monday, killing more than 30 near the border with Pakistan. Despite this, U.S. officials say attempts to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban are failing. And for the second straight month in June, militants killed more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Joining us is CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan. Good morning, good to have you with us. What is the biggest problem U.S. and NATO forces face over there in Afghanistan, in particular in trying to root out these al Qaeda forces and Taliban?
The lead economics reporter for the New York Times took a paranoid, Michael Moore-style perspective on news that Iraq will award oil contracts to Western companies. The front of the Sunday "Week in Review" section featured economics reporter Peter Goodman's "For Iraq's Oil Contracts, a Question of Motive." The paper's resident economic gloom-meister cast a suspicious left eye on American motives in Iraq, although the text box attributed those suspicions to convenient "critics": "Officially, Iraqis are in control. Critics suspect that Americans pull the strings."
Goodman snidely wrote about the "convenience" that Iraq holds a lot of oil: "As they surveyed facilities in the weeks after Saddam Hussein's government fell, American officials said they were merely advising Iraqis on how to increase production to finance the democratic nation being erected across desert sands that, conveniently, held the third-largest oil reserves on earth.
[This item is adapted from a posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
Goodman began with a survey of the situation from a paranoid perspective reminiscent of anti-war documentarian Michael Moore:
From the first days that American-led forces took control of Iraq, the conquering army took pains to broadcast that it was there to liberate the country, not occupy it, and certainly not to cart off its riches. Nowhere were such words more carefully dispensed than on the subject of Iraq's oil.
As they surveyed facilities in the weeks after Saddam Hussein's government fell, American officials said they were merely advising Iraqis on how to increase production to finance the democratic nation being erected across desert sands that, conveniently, held the third-largest oil reserves on earth.
Many critics of the invasion derided that characterization. In Arab countries and among some people in America, there was suspicion that the war was a naked grab for oil that would open Iraq to multinational energy giants. President Bush had roots in the Texas oil industry. Vice President Cheney had overseen Halliburton, the oil services company. Whatever else happened, such critics said, energy players with links to the White House would surely wind up with a nice piece of the spoils.
Behind those competing conceptions was a fundamental reality that forms the wallpaper for American engagement in the Middle East: oil, and its critical importance to the American economy, has for decades been a paramount interest of the United States in the region. Almost everything the United States has tried to do there -- propping up autocrats or seeking democracy, fighting terrorism or withstanding Soviet influence, or, in this case, toppling the dictator Saddam Hussein -- could affect the availability of oil for American markets and therefore entailed some calculation about it.
Today, the question hanging over Iraq is whether its natural endowment will be used to help create a sustainable new state, or will instead be managed in ways that reward the cronies and allies of the country whose army toppled Mr. Hussein. Or perhaps both at the same time.
That basic question was yanked back to the fore recently when word emerged from Baghdad, in a report in The New York Times, that the Iraqi oil ministry was close to awarding contracts to service its oil fields to some of the largest Western oil companies. While relatively small, these contracts could serve as a foot in the door for much more lucrative licenses to explore widely for Iraqi oil....
Russian and Chinese oil companies are among the alleged victims in Goodman's telling -- the same countries that tried through the UN Security Council to ease U.S.-sponsored sanctions against Hussein's Iraq:
Iraqi officials said the no-bid deals reflected nothing more than pragmatic stewardship. Iraq needs to get more oil out of the ground to finance reconstruction, they said, and the oil giants getting the contracts have the skill to make that happen.
But those most suspicious of the Bush administration's motives fixed on the contracts as validation. They accused the administration of pulling strings and shelving concerns about preserving Iraqi sovereignty, in favor of expedient deal-making in a time of exploding oil prices....
Five years later, the Iraqi oil ministry is about to hand out secretly negotiated contracts to a few companies that Saddam Hussein removed, while excluding firms from the countries that had better relations with the dictator.
In an interview last week, [Iraqi oil advisor Phillip] Carroll said he assumed critics would assert unsavory motives, but he said that missed the point.
"These companies are long familiar with Iraq and have wonderful technology and loads of money," he said. "The Iraqis could develop their own skills by learning from the international oil companies."
But energy experts argue that Iraq is one of the easier places on earth to summon oil from the ground, making the pedigree of the companies less significant....
END of Excerpt
For the June 29 piece in full: www.nytimes.com
In his first Sunday as interim host of Meet the Press, retired NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw suggested he would lean strongly to the left this year. He lamented the presence of "scurrilous things about Barack Obama out on the blogosphere." He asked a series of questions about "climate change," suggesting it's a "wise decision" to have a ban on new coal-driven power plants. His only Tim Russert-style block of text was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's denunciation of President Bush's "massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy." The only surprise was asking Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter if the Democratic platform would favor abortion again, noting Ritter was "anti-abortion." But as Ritter touted himself as a "great example" of his party's diversity on abortion, Brokaw ignored Ritter's liberal-pleasing record on abortion.
From Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Brokaw's first guests were Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado and Gov. Dave Freudenthal of Wyoming. Brokaw worried that the people of Wyoming might be swayed by scurrilous rumors about Obama: "There's been some scurrilous things about Barack Obama out on the blogosphere. When you announced your endorsement, did you hear any of that in Wyoming, or did you hear from bloggers who are not happy with him, either as a result of his political positions, they've attacked his name and even raised questions about his faith?"
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
It's a little odd for Brokaw to suggest it's beyond the pale to "even raise questions" about Obama's faith, considering the scandalous church Obama was attending, where his longtime minister declared America deserved 9/11 and that AIDS was a government conspiracy to exterminate black people. But Brokaw seemed very much in the media "mainstream" in expressing grave concern about Obama rumors on the Internet and betraying no real concern about scurrilous Internet smears against John McCain. Like most media stars, Brokaw suggested to viewers that all the smears and all the fiction in presidential politics are coming from the right. The left, apparently, never says or writes anything unfair or untrue.
But the most consistent thread in Brokaw's questioning was championing a government crackdown to stop "climate change." He asked the governors: "Jim Hansen, who's one of the leading climate scientists in the world working for NASA said just last week we have to have a moratorium on new coal-driven power plants in the country. Isn't that a wise decision, given what global climate change is doing to this country?"
He stayed on that track when he interviewed California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a session taped earlier in the week at the Reagan Library in California. After several hardballs about his unpopularity in the state, Brokaw asked about McCain junking his environmentalism: "You endorse Senator McCain as the presidential candidate, saying he was a crusader who had the best interests of the environment in mind. Now, he's in favor of offshore oil drilling and he wants to build 45 nuclear plants. Do you still stand by his record in that regard?"
His one Russert-style block of text was quoting from a favorite NBC source, columnist Thomas Friedman:
Let me ask you about something that Tom Friedman has written in the New York Times about President Bush and energy policy. It was entitled "Lead or Leave." He said that the president two years ago said we're addicted to oil. Now, he says, we have a "new Bush energy plan: `Get more addicted to'" it. It's "hard," according to Mr. Friedman, "to find" "words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is." Do you agree with him on that very harsh assessment of the President?
Brokaw also asked Schwarzenegger about California's economy, but swerved into an attack on wasteful SUV drivers: "But has California been on a binge that was just unrealistic? A lot of speculation about cashing in on the real estate market, buying the big SUVs to drive on the freeways, one passenger using all that energy?" If there's only "one passenger" in the car using all the energy, who's driving?
The only real surprise in the questioning was Brokaw's question about the abortion plank in the Democratic platform, a question that is historically ignored, even as the media have historically obsessed over the abortion plank in the Republican platform:
BROKAW: Governor Ritter, you're a practicing Catholic. You're anti-abortion. The abortion debate will come up at the Democratic Convention as well. Do you expect that there will be a plank that will be emphasizing pro-choice for the Democratic Party?
In fact, Ritter ran in 2006 on a pledge to restore taxpayers funding for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and within two months of taking office, pleased abortion lobbyists by signing a bill forcing Catholic hospitals to provide information on "emergency contraceptives" to rape victims.
-- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire