2. Tom Brokaw's Bad Joke About Why Terror Alert Upgraded
3. Clift Blames U.S. for Not Upholding Promises to North Korea
4. Oliphant: Clinton Would Attack North Korea Militarily
5. Dustin Hoffman: Manipulative Bush Going to War for Oil
6. CNN's Aaron Brown Challenges Gore Vidal on Iraq
7. Evan Thomas: "A Serious War President...Would Increase Taxes"
8. Unemployment Moves 0.3%: "Large" When Up, "Slight" When Down
9. New York
Times: "Worst Hiring Slump"; Oh, Never Mind
10. ABC Skips Unemployment Drop, CBS: "Not as Good as it Looks"
11. "Top Ten Messages Left on Colin Powell's Answering Machine"
>>> "Are the Media Liberal? Round III," the final installment of the NRO debate between MRC President Brent Bozell and Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, is now online:
Peter Jennings' language on Friday night betrayed how he seems to view the Bush administration as unreasonable and out of step on Iraq. Jennings fretted about how, "just as the Iraqis appear to be making some concessions, the U.S. thinks it has growing support for war." Jennings also remarked that we'll soon learn if Iraq better follows the UN resolution "and if that means anything to the Bush administration."
Concluding the show, Jennings lamented how the debate over going to war is proceeding "somewhat more timidly in this country" than overseas so, Jennings promised to seek it out: "We'll be on the road next week in the Northwest and the Southwest listening hard to what people say."
Now those quotes is somewhat fuller form from the February 7 World News Tonight.
Jennings introduced one story: "Now to the Bush administration's campaign against Iraq. Just as the Iraqis appear to be making some concessions, the U.S. thinks it has growing support for war."
Jennings ended the program with a preview of the upcoming week: "Finally this evening, some notes about things to keep an eye on. The UN weapons inspectors go back to Baghdad this weekend. They have not been happy with Iraqi cooperation so far. We'll see if the Iraqis do any better and if that means anything to the Bush administration."
Jennings also promised: "The debate about whether war is the right solution goes on. Though somewhat more timidly in this country, people argue, than in other places. We'll be on the road next week in the Northwest and the Southwest listening hard to what people say. It is not good to end the week with a new terrorist threat from the Attorney General, but so it goes."
I don't think the Attorney General threatened anyone, but we know what Jennings meant.
Tom Brokaw's bad joke. On Friday's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, the NBC News anchor joked that the Bush administration raised the terror alert level to orange for "high" and are advising American to not congregate in large groups "because they may be trying to discourage anti-war protests." But no one in the audience got the joke or laughed.
Appearing on the February 7 edition of the late-night NBC program taped just a few floors away from the Nightly News studio, Brokaw speculated on the meaning of the alert upgrade:
When his line was greeted with silence, Brokaw quickly added: "That's a joke, obviously."
Not so obvious to O'Brien's audience. Maybe Brokaw should stick to the news and avoid trying to be a comedian.
The U.S. just as dishonest as the North Koreans? Newsweek's Eleanor Clift applied Clintonian logic on McLaughlin Group over the weekend as she argued that because North Korea switched from plutonium to uranium, they violated "the spirit of the framework, but not the technicality" while the U.S. "didn't deliver on our end either," so, she argued, "all the fault's not on their side."
Clift contended about North Korea: "This may be a technicality, but they did mothball their plutonium program. And what they did was start up a parallel program with uranium, which violates the spirit of the framework, but not the technicality. And for the U.S. end, we didn't deliver on our end either which was to move towards diplomatic relations and to provide them with light-water reactors. And we didn't do that either so, you know, I'm not necessarily defending them but all the fault's not on their side."
Clift may have inadvertently stumbled into a criticism of Clinton policy since those promises to North Korea were made by and not kept by the Clinton administration.
President Clinton would have been tougher on North Korea than the Bush team and have ordered a military attack if the North Koreans did on his watch what they have done recently, Boston Globe Washington columnist Tom Oliphant insisted on Friday's Imus in the Morning. Oliphant asserted: "There is no doubt in my mind, Don, none at all that Clinton would have attacked North Korea if they had moved so much as one of those fuel rods to the factory or the plant where they could be reprocessed."
But on Thursday night's Larry King Live on CNN, Clinton himself didn't advocate any attack: "The President and the administration have said they want to handle it diplomatically. But I think you have to be firm in public and absolutely brutal in private. You cannot let them become a nuclear arsenal, because the pressure on them to sell these bombs will be overwhelming. They have no other way to make money."
Indeed, but the Clinton administration's 1994 deal didn't stop North Korea.
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught the admiration of Clinton's toughness from Oliphant, a former Washington political reporter and current Globe columnist, on the February 7 Imus in the Morning carried by MSNBC:
The very liberal Oliphant, who is married to CBS News correspondent Susan Spencer, is no fan of President Bush's policies. Check out the headlines over some of his recent columns: "Bush fudging the ruinous costs of war"
For Oliphant's columns: http://www.boston.com/globe/columns/oliphant/
You may have seen Oliphant over the years on such shows as Inside Washington or CBS's Early Show. For a bio with photo:
Add actor Dustin Hoffman to the list of celebrities denouncing President Bush for his Iraq policy and arguing it's all about oil. After winning a lifetime achievement honor last week at the Empire Film Awards in London, the British news service Ananova quoted Hoffman as accusing the Bush administration of "manipulating the grief of the country" after the events of September 11 and charging that "this war is about what most wars are about: hegemony, money, power and oil."
In his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com (www.OpinionJournal.com/best), James Taranto on Friday highlighted the story in Ananova, a British service which provides news to mobile phone users. An excerpt of the February 6 Ananova story:
....He spoke out after receiving a lifetime achievement accolade at the Empire Film Awards in London.
"For me as an American, the most painful aspect of this is that I believe that administration has taken the events of 9/11 and has manipulated the grief of the country and I think that's reprehensible," he said.
"I don't think, like many of us, that the reasons we have been given for going to war are the honest reasons.
"If they are saying it's about the fact they have biological weapons and might have nuclear weapons and that gives us the liberty to pre-empt and strike because we think they might hit us, then what prevents Pakistan from attacking India, what prevents India from attacking Pakistan, what prevents us from going into North Korea?
"I believe -- though I may wrong because I am no expert -- that this war is about what most wars are about: hegemony, money, power and oil".
Hoffman pointed out that the U.S. had once funded Saddam Hussein's regime even as he killed tens of thousands of Kurds. He added that he believed all politicians were incapable of telling the truth.
"If I was asked what is the most important aspect of being a politician, I would say getting re-elected. And when that's the goal, then all bets are off with the truth."
END of Excerpt
Quite a tribute to democracy: Only liars win. Then again, as I assume Hoffman supported Bill Clinton, he should know.
For the Ananova story in full: http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_747771.html
I couldn't find any story elsewhere about Hoffman's comments.
The Empire Awards are online at: http://www.empireonline.co.uk/awards2003/
The site features an mp3 audio clip, lasting 30 minutes, of Hoffman's acceptance remarks during the February 5 ceremony. But other than a derogatory reference to "the suits that are trying to get us into a war," his acceptance comments did not go political. So, he apparently made the remarks quoted by Ananova at another time. But since I spent 30 minutes listening to the audio, I'll provide the address for it, though you should be warned that it is riddled with profanity as well as oral sex jokes: http://www.empireonline.co.uk/awards2003/winners/lifetime.asp
For a rundown of Hoffman's film credits, see his Internet Movie Database page: http://us.imdb.com/Name?Hoffman,+Dustin
For more on celebrities who have denounced an Iraq war, see the MRC's "Celebrities on Politics and War" page:
A rare chance to offer kudos to CNN's Aaron Brown. On Thursday's NewsNight Brown challenged far-left author Gore Vidal to explain why liberals oppose liberating Iraq: "Why is it not in fact a great liberal position to take that the people of Iraq live in an incredibly oppressive state, under an incredibly vicious dictator, and that, in fact, the great liberal position would be, in the interest of their human rights, to liberate them?"
When Vidal answered with historic mumbo-jumbo about John Quincy Adams, Brown followed up, scolding him: "Don't answer it historically."
CNN invited Vidal aboard the February 6 NewsNight to plug his new book, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta." MRC analyst Ken Shepherd checked the tape against the transcript.
Brown began by asking: "Do you really think that it is as simple as a war about oil?" Vidal confirmed his theory and ranted on for a bit, but Brown soon inquired:
"If Bush is a serious war President he would increase taxes," Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas declared on Inside Washington over the weekend.
Thomas denounced Bush's effort to cut taxes and argued: "If Bush is a serious war President he would increase taxes. This is a time for sacrifices. This is a real war and we need money to pay for it."
I guess cutting spending elsewhere in the budget is out of the question.
Underwhelming consistency on unemployment, example one. When the unemployment rate rose by three-tenths of a percent from 5.7 to 6 percent for November, the Washington Post headline trumpeted how the "size of increase surprises analysts" and the story highlighted how "few if any expected so large a jump." But two months later, when the unemployment rate fell by the exact same three-tenths of a percent back to 5.7 percent again, the Post headlined its story: "Unemployment Down Slightly to 5.7% in January."
A comparison of the December 7 and February 8 Post stories:
-- Front page of the December 7 Business section, "Jobless Rate Rose to 6% in November; Size of Increase Surprises Analysts," by John M. Berry. An excerpt:
The nation's jobless rate unexpectedly rose last month, to 6 percent, matching April's figure as the highest rate in eight years, the Labor Department reported yesterday.
With economic growth crawling along, many analysts had expected a small increase from October's 5.7 percent unemployment rate, but few if any expected so large a jump. The number of workers looking for a job but unable to find one rose to 8.5 million, up 300,000 from the month before. An additional 4.3 million people said they would like a job but have not been looking for one. "Six percent unemployment is a cold, hard slap in the face," said Bill Cheney, chief economist for John Hancock Financial Services in Boston. "It's a shock when reality sharply reasserts itself, and we have to acknowledge that we aren't generating new jobs for all the people entering the workforce."...
The economy has lost 1.5 million jobs since January 2001, when the Bush administration took office....
END of Excerpt
-- Front page of the February 8 Business section, "Unemployment Down Slightly to 5.7% in January; Quirks Make Job Count Misleading."
An excerpt from the top of the story by reporters Neil Irwin and Kirstin Downey:
The nation's unemployment rate in January dropped to 5.7 percent from 6 percent, but economists cautioned that businesses still aren't hiring aggressively.
"The job market is stabilizing, but it is too early to say the job market is improving or we are getting out of this soft patch onto firmer ground," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist of Wells Fargo & Co.
The Labor Department reported that employers added 143,000 jobs in January, the most since November 2000, but that seemed to be the result of seasonal statistical quirks rather than new hiring. Still, economists considered the report to be good news about the state of the economy.
"Employment is basically flat, which is a better picture than we thought we were seeing a month ago," said David A. Wyss, chief economist of Standard & Poor's.
When employment dropped sharply in November and December, some worried that the economy was shifting back into recession after growing modestly in 2002. Yesterday's report helped ease those fears, even if it gave little evidence of job growth. For December and January, employment was essentially unchanged....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full:
Underwhelming consistency on unemployment, example two. February 6 New York Times headline: "U.S. Economy in Worst Hiring Slump in 20 Years." February 8 New York Times headline: "Job Market Shows a Rise in January." Subhead: "Unemployment Dips to 5.7%, but Analysts Remain Wary."
The only thing consistent about the Thursday and Saturday stories: Both were penned by Times reporter David Leonhardt.
He began his more dour February 6 story:
The economy has fallen into its worst hiring slump in almost 20 years, and many business executives say they remain unsure when it will end.
The employment decline has become even worse than it was at a comparable point in the so-called jobless recovery of the early 1990's, according to recently revised statistics from the Labor Department. The economy has lost more than two million jobs, a drop of 1.5 percent, since the most recent recession began in March 2001, as layoffs have continued despite the resumption of economic growth more than a year ago. The decline was 1.3 percent at the same point in the business cycle a decade ago.
About one million people appear to have dropped out of the labor force since last summer, neither working nor looking for a job, according to government figures.
The surge in discouraged workers is the most significant since the months immediately after the recession's start. This suggests that the pain of joblessness has worsened even though the official unemployment rate, which counts only people looking for work, held steady at 6 percent in December....
END of Excerpt
For the February 6 article in its entirety:
In his February 8 story, Leonhardt reported: "Employment in January grew by 143,000 jobs, the biggest monthly gain since 2000, the Labor Department said yesterday."
Underwhelming consistency on unemployment, example three. When the unemployment rate jumped 0.3 percent to 6 percent for November, ABC's World News Tonight pounced on the development, but when it fell back to 5.7 percent for January, Friday's show ignored the good news. Plus, CBS, NBC and CNBC dismissed the relevance of the plunge. CBS's Anthony Mason warned: "It's not as good as it looks."
-- ABC's World News Tonight, December 6. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced: "While the White House continues to say the economy is in fact recovering, today there was discouraging news. The nation's unemployment rate reached six percent last month, matching the highest rate of unemployment in eight years."
February 7 with Peter Jennings anchoring: No mention of the fall in the unemployment rate to 5.7 percent, exactly where it stood before November's jump up. Jennings did, however, find time for this item: "The Congress remains hopelessly deadlocked over the country's budget, which means it still has not released more than $30 billion intended to improve security across the country. The President has threatened to veto the entire budget if it is too large and House and Senate negotiators cannot agree on what to cut."
-- CBS Evening News. Yes, but. Dan Rather reported on Friday night: "Unemployment fell in January to 5.7 percent. That was a surprise and reason to call in CBS's Anthony Mason. Anthony, this looks like good news."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw asserted on Friday night: "The unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped three-tenths of a percent to 5.7 percent in January. Some 143,000 jobs were added to payrolls, but economists caution against reading too much good news in all of that because holiday hiring was way down in December and the government changed the way it calculated unemployment numbers, which accounts for some of the job gains in the retail sector."
-- CNBC's The News with Brian Williams. Substitute anchor Forrest Sawyer intoned: "There was actually some good news for the economy today. A new report showing the nation's unemployment rate fell last month, an estimated 143,000 jobs added nationwide. So what's happening in the job market? John Challenger is with us from Chicago. He's chief executive officer of the employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas."
Sawyer immediately went negative, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed. Sawyer picked up on the February 6 New York Times story cited in item #9 above: "I read this headline in the New York Times which said that unemployment is the worst that it is in 20 years and so on. Is that about how bad things are?"
Sawyer prompted Challenger: "So this little number that we're seeing today. Is that just a tick that doesn't necessarily mean anything about a trend?"
From the February 6 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Messages Left on Colin Powell's Answering Machine" after his presentation to the UN Security Council. The February 7 CyberAlert relayed #6. Now here's the entire list. Late Show Web site: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/
10. "It's the President. Didn't see the speech -- Regis was on 'The View'"
9. "Hey -- great answering machine message! Is that really Jack Nicholson?"
8. "Jacques Chirac calling about the attack on Iraq"
7. "I'm sorry. I have the wrong number. I was looking for former Baltimore Oriole Boog Powell"
6. "It's Osama. I surrender...just kidding. It's the President...give me a buzz"
5. "Dude, turn on CNN. There's someone who looks just like you"
4. "Bob Barker calling. Pre-empt 'The Price Is Right' one more time and I'll stab you"
3. "It's the bakery. Can you tell us again how to spell 'Condoleeza'?"
2. "Mr. Smith, this is Golden Touch Outcall Massage. Your credit card has expired"
1. "This is Saddam. How much for that Anthrax you held up yesterday?" -- CyberAlert, written by Brent Baker