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Intel "Manipulated by Hawks," So War "Under False Pretenses?" --5/28/2003


1. Intel "Manipulated by Hawks," So War "Under False Pretenses?"
ABC's Charles Gibson on Monday morning asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers if, since we haven't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he's not worried we "might...have gone to war under false pretenses?" The next morning on NBC's Today, Katie Couric cued up Democratic Senator Joe Biden to take a swipe at those in favor of going to war: "How concerning is that to you that somehow information, intelligence information might have been manipulated by hawks within the Bush administration?"

2. Time Champions Robert Byrd as "Overnight Internet Sensation"
Under the laudatory headline of "Lionized in Winter," this week's Time magazine championed Bush-bashing Democratic Senator Robert Byrd as an "overnight Internet sensation" and "the new Paul Wellstone" for his floor speeches attacking the Bush administration as "reckless and arrogant." But in 1996 Time greeted new House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton, a vociferous Clinton critic, with a headline which denigrated him as a "zealot."

3. NYT: "Willie Horton" Republicans Rough Up "Softball" Democrats
In back-to-back front page looks on Sunday and Monday at the status of the Republican and Democratic parties, New York Times reporter Adam Clymer painted Republicans as ruthless operators who "have built their strength in the South by appealing to white resentment of civil rights policies" and by deploying "hard-hitting campaign advertisements" with demagogic messages. But Democrats are a put-upon party led by people who are just too soft. Clymer lamented how "Democrats these days" supposedly "lack the killer instinct that it takes to sell blunt, demagogic messages."

4. Brian Williams Waxes Over "a Tanned, Slim and Fit Bill Clinton"
Brian Williams ended his nightly CNBC newscast on Tuesday night by highlighting a shot from Bill Clinton, who "we haven't heard from in a good long time," at George W. Bush's 2000 campaign theme of "compassionate conservatism." Digging out C-SPAN video of "a tanned, slim and fit Bill Clinton free associating on politics" last week in front of a college class, Williams quoted how Clinton castigated the theme as "a code phrase" which meant to the swing voter, "I will give you what you like about them, the Democrats -- compassion, and a good economy -- and I'll give you something else besides: a tax cut and a small government."

5. Stephanopoulos Drives This Week to Lowest Ratings Since 1987
The New York Times has confirmed the ratings slide for This Week as Jim Rutenberg reported that after a season under George Stephanopoulos, "for the first time since 1987, ABC finished in third place for the season among the Sunday morning news programs."

6. Bryant Gumbel on President Bush: "Don't Get Me Started!"
You may not be able to see Bryant Gumbel every morning anymore, but he doesn't seem to have lost any of his contempt for conservatives or George W. Bush. Last week on HBO's Real Sports, when Bob Costas suggested that some are thinking about the possibility of making Bush the Commissioner of Major League Baseball when he leaves the presidency, an aghast Gumbel sniffed: "Don't get me started!"


Correction: A May 23 CyberAlert item on an ABC story about the tax cut quoted what Mark Garay of "Deloitte & Douche" said in a soundbite. That's an accounting firm, not a manufacturer of feminine hygiene products, so it should have read Deloitte & Touche. Another item in the same CyberAlert credited David Nyhan with documenting, in a Spinsanity.org article, how "New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has spawned an anti-Bush media myth repeated by MSNBC and CNN." The article was written by Brendan Nyhan, not David Nyhan.


Intel "Manipulated by Hawks," So War
"Under False Pretenses?"

ABC's Charles Gibson on Monday morning asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers if, since we haven't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he's not worried we "might...have gone to war under false pretenses?" The next morning on NBC's Today, Katie Couric cued up Democratic Senator Joe Biden to take a swipe at those in favor of going to war: "How concerning is that to you that somehow information, intelligence information might have been manipulated by hawks within the Bush administration?"

Couric followed up by wondering if he thought "the same" propaganda manipulation "might be happening right now with Iran?"

On the May 26 Memorial Day Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Gibson asked Myers: "General, we went to war in recent months in Iraq, and one of the primary goals, if not the primary goal in that war, was to stop Saddam Hussein from using or from disseminating weapons of mass destruction. It's now a month after that war ended and we haven't found any. Does that trouble you?"

Gibson followed up: "So it doesn't worry you that we might -- might, because the search is still on -- have gone to war under false pretenses?"

Tuesday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Couric asked Biden about whether going after Iran should be "the next logical step in the world-wide war against terrorism. Or, in your view, is it overreaching?"

Couric soon steered the conversation toward Iraq: "Meanwhile, let me ask you about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. I know that you've said you thought intelligence reports were hyped to drum up popular support for the war. How concerning is that to you that somehow information, intelligence information might have been manipulated by hawks within the Bush administration?"
Biden replied: "Well let me be clear. I do think and always have thought and believe we will find weapons of mass destruction. I have never believed that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons or were real close to having nuclear weapons nor do I believe there was a major collusion between the al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The part that I thought was hyped verbally was this notion there was this connection. The average person thought al-Qaeda was operating a major way out of Iraq. And secondly they thought, I believe the way it was put out, they were, they thought they were on the verge of getting nuclear weapons. That was the hype. They do have chemical and biological weapons. We will find them in my view. It does concern me but that's what presidents and administrations tend to do when they are about to take an action that initially is not particularly popular. Remember when we went into Kuwait which we were justified in going into Kuwait to rescue Kuwait there was lingering opposition. And what happened was you, we heard all this talk about the royal family's children being raped and infants being, you know, mutilated and so I think that's just a tendency that happens before we go in to, to a war that, that is not, on its face, popular. I think it's a mistake."
Couric suggested fresh manipulation: "But in closing are you worried, we only, we only have a few seconds left. In closing are you worried the same thing might be happening right now with Iran?"
Biden: "Yes."

Time Champions Robert Byrd as "Overnight
Internet Sensation"

Under the laudatory headline of "Lionized in Winter," this week's Time magazine championed Bush-bashing Democratic Senator Robert Byrd as an "overnight Internet sensation" and "the new Paul Wellstone" for his floor speeches attacking the Bush administration as "reckless and arrogant." But in 1996 Time greeted new House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton, a vociferous Clinton critic, with a headline which denigrated him as a "zealot."

The MRC's Tim Graham wrote up this item about the article which betrayed the world in which Time writers live, a world in which the cranky Democrat is celebrated.

Time's Matt Cooper, a former writer for the liberal New Republic and the husband of Clinton spin artist Mandy Grunwald, raved in the June 2 issue that "due to his fierce opposition to the Iraq war, Byrd at 85 has become an Internet icon with a rash of young and liberal admirers, which is ironic given that Byrd fought civil rights in the '60s and, as is often noted, briefly joined the Ku Klux Klan. Once known as a hawk ('I was the last man out of Vietnam,' he says), Byrd has become the Senate's new Paul Wellstone."

Cooper found that "the Byrd renaissance began" after a February 12 speech that denounced the Bush team as "reckless and arrogant" and attacked Democrats for being "ominously, dreadfully silent." Bush-bashers were delighted: "Byrd's words lit up the Internet. Wes Boyd, the head of MoveOn.org, a liberal group that opposed the war, received 15 copies of the speech from fellow activists in 72 hours after it was delivered....Just last week Byrd drew another Internet throng, declaring that Bush had lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and would get caught: 'This house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.'" Time underscored the point by putting that quote in bold under its Byrd photo accompanying the article in the magazine.

Time did not give readers more than these speech McNuggets, which obscured why anti-war radicals enjoyed them so much. In the February 12 speech, Byrd raised every doom-laden scenario about what could happen during the Iraq war: massive nuclear proliferation, retaliation against Israel followed by an Israeli nuclear response, disruption of the world oil supply leading to a "worldwide recession." He called the war policy an "extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle." Byrd didn't have to get any of these forecasts right to be celebrated as an Internet sensation.

To see for yourself, check the text posted by Byrd's office: byrd.senate.gov

The "house of cards" speech on May 21 included Byrd spitting on the notion of American liberation of Iraq:
"What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are 'liberators.' The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but 'liberation' implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of 'liberation,' we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years."

You can read that at: byrd.senate.gov

Cooper acknowledged that Byrd's become a conservative target as well as a liberal hero, but concluded by burnishing Byrd's reputation as a man growing from pompous and flaky to a guardian of our democratic system:
"While Beltway types often dismiss Byrd as a fossil, his anachronistic style is bracing, especially at a time when the Republican-led Senate is considering revamping the filibuster rules to smooth the path of Bush's judicial nominees. Like anyone who has seen Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Byrd knows the filibuster can be used for good and for ill and is better left alone. 'It may irritate us. It may irk us, but it's stood the test of time,' Byrd declares. He could well be talking about himself."

For Cooper's article in full: www.time.com

Presidential critics have not always been so honored in Time. In the December 6, 1996 Time, Clinton-opposing U.S. Representative Dan Burton's ascension to the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee was greeted with the headline: "In the House a Zealot Talks Softly." Writer James Carney began: "The President's chief inquisitor (Torquemada, call your office) on such issues as the Democratic fundraising scandal will be a man who has never pretended to be impartial."

NYT: "Willie Horton" Republicans Rough
Up "Softball" Democrats

In back-to-back front page looks on Sunday and Monday at the status of the Republican and Democratic parties, New York Times reporter Adam Clymer painted Republicans as ruthless operators who "have built their strength in the South by appealing to white resentment of civil rights policies, and sometimes by discouraging voting by blacks" as they employ "hard-hitting campaign advertisements," such as Willie Horton and "the suggestion that Senator Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, was unconcerned about national security."

But Democrats to Clymer, Clay Waters noted in a piece posted on the MRC's TimesWatch.org cite, are a put-upon party led by people who are just too soft and sophisticated. Clymer lamented how "Democrats these days" supposedly "lack the killer instinct that it takes to sell blunt, demagogic messages."

Tell that to Robert Byrd.

A reprint of the TimesWatch.org article by Clay posted on Tuesday:

"Willie Horton" Republicans Rough Up "Softball" Democrats

The Times ran two front-page stories by Washington reporter Adam Clymer over the Memorial Day holiday, focusing on the state of the two major political parties.

Clymer took on the Republicans on Sunday. In "Buoyed by Resurgence, G.O.P. Strives for an Era of Dominance," Clymer wrote: "Another reason to take Republican aspirations seriously is that Republicans live by the adage of the satirist Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley, 'Politics ain't beanbag.' They have built their strength in the South by appealing to white resentment of civil rights policies, and sometimes by discouraging voting by blacks, as they did last year in Louisiana's Senate runoff, which the Democratic incumbent, Mary L. Landrieu, won anyway by a margin of four percentage points."

Clymer cited no evidence to support his claim, and in any case blacks were far from discouraged from voting -- Landrieu won due to high black turnout. (Landrieu's campaign also benefited from spreading a thinly sourced allegation that Bush planned to flood the United States with cheap sugar from Mexico at the cost of Louisiana's sugar industry, a tactic Clymer could have easily assailed as nativist if done by Republicans.)

Clymer continued: "When it comes to hard-hitting campaign advertisements, [Republicans] have used everything from Willie Horton's image to the suggestion that Senator Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, was unconcerned about national security."

Of course, it was future Vice President Al Gore, not then Vice President George Bush, who first brought up the issue of Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis' furlough program for violent criminals during the 1988 Democratic primaries. Clymer also failed to mention that the Veterans of Foreign Wars (who should know) endorsed Rep. Saxby Chambliss over Sen. Cleland in the Georgia Senate race.

On Monday it was the Democrats' turn, and Clymer pictured the Democrats as a put-upon party: "Democrats Seek a Stronger Focus, and Money" provided self-serving excuses for why the party isn't winning: Republicans are portrayed as ruthless, while Democrats are just too soft and sophisticated. "Democrats these days lack the killer instinct that it takes to sell blunt, demagogic messages," Clymer wrote. "As Bob Shrum, a prominent consultant for 30 years, said: 'It's probably a weakness that we're not real haters. We don't have a sense that it's a holy crusade. We don't have a sense that it's Armageddon.' Or, as Mr. Gore's former campaign manger, [Gore campaign chief Donna] Brazile put it: 'They play hardball. We play softball.'"

As reported in the Nov. 20, 2000 MRC CyberAlert, this is the same "softball" Donna Brazile who during the post-election described 2000 Florida voting: "In disproportionately black areas, people faced dogs, guns and were required to have three forms of ID."

For the rest of Clymer's May 25 story on the Republican Party: www.nytimes.com

For the rest of Clymer's May 26 story on the Democratic Party: www.nytimes.com

END Reprint from TimesWatch.org

For the latest on the bias in the New York Times, check the MRC's new Web site dedicated to the newspaper: www.timeswatch.org

Brian Williams Waxes Over "a Tanned,
Slim and Fit Bill Clinton"

Brian Williams ended his nightly CNBC newscast on Tuesday night by highlighting a shot from Bill Clinton, who "we haven't heard from in a good long time," at George W. Bush's 2000 campaign theme on "compassionate conservatism." Digging out C-SPAN video of "a tanned, slim and fit Bill Clinton free associating on politics" last week in front of a college class, Williams quoted how Clinton castigated the theme as "a code phrase" which meant to the swing voter, "I will give you what you like about them, the Democrats -- compassion, and a good economy -- and I'll give you something else besides: a tax cut and a small government."

At the end of the May 27 The News with Brian Williams on CNBC, Williams announced, as observed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Our last word tonight comes from someone we haven't heard from in a good long time, and to the great relief of a lot of Republicans. They topped off the Clinton Library in Arkansas last week, so it was time for a visit and a free-wheeling Q&A session with its namesake, the former President, who dropped by a poli sci class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which happened to be studying the Clinton presidency. Those who saw it saw a tanned, slim and fit Bill Clinton free associating on politics, and one item, in particular, caught our attention."

Over C-SPAN video of Clinton, but no audio, Williams read from what Clinton opined: "Here is Bill Clinton's words on George W. Bush's campaign slogan, 'compassionate conservative,' which Bush, of course, used to great effect against Clinton's former Vice President Al Gore. The President said to the students, and I will quote: 'So President Bush is in a battle with Gore, right, and he's got to get enough of the undecided votes to win. So he says I'm a compassionate conservative. What does that mean? That's a code phrase. It means to the swing voter, I will give you what you like about them, the Democrats -- compassion, and a good economy -- and I'll give you something else besides: a tax cut and a small government. Wouldn't you like the same results you got from them plus a tax cut and a smaller government? It was a brilliant political move. It was the only theory on which Bush could prevail with the swing voter. Brilliant. And we didn't have the right countermessage until the last six days,' end of quote. Bill Clinton before the University of Arkansas in Little Rock."

What happened in the last six days?

Stephanopoulos Drives This Week to Lowest
Ratings Since 1987

ABC's George Stephanopoulos seems to be killing the This Week franchise he inherited, the May 16 CyberAlert noted in picking up on a DrudgeReport.com item about how on May 11 Stephanopoulos "pulled the lowest ratings in the history of ABC's This Week on Sunday, barely attracting 2 million viewers."

On Monday, the New York Times confirmed the ratings slide under Stephanopoulos as Jim Rutenberg reported that after a season under Stephanopoulos, "for the first time since 1987, ABC finished in third place for the season among the Sunday morning news programs."

An excerpt from the May 26 Times story, "Stephanopoulos Slow to Win Sunday Viewers," which the MRC's Liz Swasey brought to my attention:

George Stephanopoulos last week completed his first regular season as the sole host of ABC's public affairs program "This Week," and the early returns on the Sunday morning popularity contest are not particularly encouraging for the network.

For the first time since 1987, ABC finished in third place for the season among the Sunday morning news programs, as "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" trailed both "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer on CBS and the first-place "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert on NBC. And although the ratings of all three programs declined compared with the previous season, ABC's drop was the steepest.

ABC's third-place finish had its competitors crowing, some not so privately, that Mr. Stephanopoulos might not be ABC News's great Sunday hope....

For the most part, Mr. Stephanopoulos's performance has quieted the critics. But it has not attracted new viewers. In fact, the audience for "This Week" fell 16 percent this season, to an average of 2.75 million people, from 3.27 million people during the 2001-2 television season. "Face the Nation's" audience fell to 2.9 million from 3.1 million, a 6 percent decline. And "Meet the Press" lost 1 percent of its audience, dropping to 4.71 million from 4.74 million people.

Increased viewership in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks played a role in the ratings declines this season. But [This Week Executive Producer John] Banner said the scheduling of "This Week" was adversely affected by ABC's new acquisition of National Basketball Association games, previously carried by NBC. In the past 20 weeks, for example, 11 programs were rescheduled or pre-empted in as many as 118 markets. "I'm confident that without sports impacting the program," Mr. Banner said, "This Week would be a solid No. 2."

But executives at CBS and NBC said that was more of an excuse than an explanation. "Face the Nation" was itself rescheduled in various markets by National Football League games and college basketball. And "Meet the Press" had to contend with disruptions because of N.B.A. games from the early 1990's through the last television season....

For his part, Mr. Stephanopoulos said, "My job is to be smart enough to master the things I can control with strong interviews and solid bookings, and wise enough to accept the things I can't control."

"Either way," he added, "I'm just thrilled to have the chance to go out there every Sunday."

END of Excerpt

For Rutenberg's story in its entirety: www.nytimes.com

Thrilled for as long as it lasts.

And to be fair to Stephanopoulos and ABC, getting bumped for sports (especially to very early morning timeslots in the West) is a factor and an underappreciated factor in Russert's rise which was helped, in part, by NBC's loss of NFL football a few years ago. That meant West Coast affiliates no longer had to air Meet the Press at 6 or 7am before 9am (or earlier for local shows) NFL pre-game programs or at 4:30 or 5pm after the games ended.

Bryant Gumbel on President Bush: "Don't
Get Me Started!"

You may not be able to see Bryant Gumbel every morning anymore, but he doesn't seem to have lost any of his contempt for conservatives or George W. Bush.

Bryant Gumbel Last week on HBO's Real Sports, a news magazine program about sports topics which Gumbel anchors once a month, when Bob Costas suggested that some are thinking about the possibility of making Bush the Commissioner of Major League Baseball when he leaves the presidency, an aghast Gumbel sniffed: "Don't get me started!"

The exchange occurred as the two did some q and a following a Costas profile of current Commissioner Bud Selig. Costas named some people inside baseball being looked at as possible successors, adding: "They'll be a lot of people from outside baseball interested. If you want to just throw a wild card into the deck, they'd have to tread water, at least until '09, if he were re-elected, but what about the former Rangers owner George Bush?"
Gumbel, reared back in his chair as if aghast at the idea, but he had to end the segment before saying too much: "Don't get me started! Bob, thanks very much."

The Real Sports Web page: www.hbo.com

This edition first aired on May 20 and has run several times since on HBO and HBO2, but I think it has completed its run.

At least now Gumbel's political pontificating is confined to a mere four words.

-- Brent Baker