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Journalists on Sunday Shows Hail Leaker for Exposing Prisons --4/24/2006


1. Journalists on Sunday Shows Hail Leaker for Exposing Prisons
Far from condemning a CIA officials damaging leak of classified information about ongoing efforts to prevent terrorism, on the Sunday morning interview shows, three panelists -- a former network White House correspondent, a newspaper and radio veteran and a current network anchor -- hailed Mary McCarthy, the CIA staffer fired last week for telling the Washington Post's Dana Priest about secret prisons in Eastern Europe. ABC's Sam Donaldson heralded the revelations as "a victory for the American people" and compared her actions to those sitting at lunch counters in the 1960s, NPR's Juan Williams trumpeted her "right to speak" and her "act of conscience" and CBS's Bob Schieffer characterized the prisons as what "scares" him and claimed the "CIA fired an agent" just "for hanging out" with a reporter.

2. Bob Schieffer Denounces "Dubious First" Firing of Leaker
At least one leading mainstream journalists isn't too happy about the revelation Friday that on Thursday the CIA fired an official who admitted being the leaker of top secret information about CIA prisons overseas used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. Bob Schieffer didn't withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that "it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission" and he described the firing as "a first -- a dubious first, to be sure." Citing the Washington Post story on the then-secret prisons and the New York Times article disclosing terrorist surveillance efforts, both of which won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, NPR's Nina Totenberg declared on Inside Washington that nefarious Bush administration practices justified the decision to reward the two newspapers.

3. More False "Record" Oil Prices, ABC Pushes "Windfall Profits Tax"
As they did all week, on Friday night the three broadcast network evening newscasts again hyperventilated over the "record" high price for a barrel of oil, though adjusted for inflation, the only competent way to measure any price over time, current $75 per barrel oil is $12 short of the real record high set in January of 1981. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas falsely cited how "a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today," erroneously claiming that "records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever." Previewing This Week, George Stephanopoulos cued up Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: "So do we need a windfall profits tax?" CBS's Bob Schieffer announced that "we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high." Over on the NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Lester Holt had as little regard for accuracy as had Brian Williams the rest of the week. "Pain at the pump," Holt teased, "Yet another record high for oil."

4. Olbermann Showcases "Bush Worst President" Rolling Stone Article
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged left-wing historian Sean Wilentz's Rolling Stone magazine cover story which argued that George W. Bush may be the worst President ever, citing the opinions of over 400 historians. As he introduced his interview with Wilentz, Director of the American Studies program and Princeton University, Olbermann sympathetically referred to the recently fired CIA employee who leaked classified information on the agency's use of secret prisons in Europe in the War on Terrorism, calling her a "whistleblower," and asked the question: "President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?" Olbermann listed several of Wilentz's attacks against Bush without challenging their validity and managed to work in another reference to Orwell as he ended the interview mocking the administration's use of the term "pre-9/11 thinking," charging that Bush would accuse Wilentz and the other historians of being "guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said."

5. WashPost's Milbank: Red Chinese Dictator Suffers "Indignities"
Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" columns on page 2 of the Washington Post often provide not just Milbank's trademark snark, but some interesting first-person observations on the political scene. Friday's offering on the state visit of communist China dictator Hu Jintao seemed to feel Hu's pain. Every perceived slight was magnified. The screaming Chinese woman protester screamed on and on, but Milbank even found "indignity" in the Vice President's choice of eyewear: "The protocol-obsessed Chinese leader suffered a day full of indignities -- some intentional, others just careless. The visit began with a slight when the official announcer said the band would play the 'national anthem of the Republic of China' -- the official name of Taiwan. It continued when Vice President Cheney donned sunglasses for the ceremony, and again when Hu, attempting to leave the stage via the wrong staircase, was yanked back by his jacket. Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child."


Journalists on Sunday Shows Hail Leaker
for Exposing Prisons

Far from condemning a CIA officials damaging leak of classified information about ongoing efforts to prevent terrorism, on the Sunday morning interview shows, three panelists -- a former network White House correspondent, a newspaper and radio veteran and a current network anchor -- hailed Mary McCarthy, the CIA staffer fired last week for telling the Washington Post's Dana Priest about secret prisons in Eastern Europe. ABC's Sam Donaldson heralded the revelations as "a victory for the American people" and compared her actions to those sitting at lunch counters in the 1960s, NPR's Juan Williams trumpeted her "right to speak" and her "act of conscience" and CBS's Bob Schieffer characterized the prisons as what "scares" him and claimed the "CIA fired an agent" just "for hanging out" with a reporter.

On ABC's This Week, Donaldson asserted: "Remember the great American saying, 'disobedience to tyranny is disobedience to God.' In this case it was something that clearly I think most Americans would agree is not what we want to do, secret prisons, the right of detention not being open to public scrutiny. I mean, I think exposing something like that does not hurt us. It helps us." Former Washington Post reporter Juan Williams, now with NPR, contended on Fox News Sunday that since "she's an American citizen, she has a right to speak out." Confronted by host Chris Wallace, "You don't really believe that there's any justification for what she did. You don't really?", Williams proclaimed: "Yes, I do....If she felt that this was a violation of our principles as a country and was untenable in terms of her conscience working for the U.S. government, why shouldn't she act?" Schieffer maintained in his end of the show commentary on Face the Nation that "it's not the leakers, it's what they're leaking that scares me. After all, why should a democracy be operating secret prisons? If the government hadn't told us they exist, can we ever be sure who might wind up inside them? Isn't finding out stuff like that what reporters are supposed to do?"

[This item was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

On Friday's CBS Evening News Schieffer had denounced the firing as a "dubious first." For more about that, and for links to more about the Priest story which won a Pulitzer Prize, see item #2 below.

Some highlights from the discussions, on the Sunday, April 23 Sunday shows, about the leak case.

# ABC's This Week:

George Stephanopoulos: "Sam, let me ask you, is this prosecution or this termination, a victory for national security or a defeat for government accountability?"
Sam Donaldson: "To the extent that the American people are learning something about that the American people don't think is America, don't think is what we're trying to export around the world the way we live, it is a victory for the American people. I'm not running for office."
Stephanopoulos: "The termination?"
Donaldson: "No, not the termination."
Stephanopoulos: "You mean the leak."
Donaldson: "The fact that there was a leak. The termination, I guess you have to go along with Senator Kerry. If someone broke the law, I don't think you can just say, oh, that's okay."
Cokie Roberts: "How can you tell a CIA person that they can leak?"
Donaldson: "But on the other hand, it's like the early days in the '60s in the south. People broke the law. They sat in at lunch counters."
Roberts: "That's fine but they took the consequences."
Donaldson: "But they did it for a purpose."
Stephanopoulos: "They praised the action, but also accepted the punishment."
Roberts: "That's right and you have to take the consequences and if, in fact, there was no internal way to object to these policies and we don't know, that's the allegation of her friends, that there was no internal way to object, if that was the case, she then did the honorable thing from her perspective which was to go and find a way to make the policies known so they could be objected to but then she does have to take the consequences. We can't have as a matter of policy, CIA agents leaking classified information."
Will: "She didn't do the honorable thing in that she did it surreptitiously and got caught. You cite the civil rights movement. That was civil disobedience, the adjective modifies the noun for a purpose. Disobedience is civil when it is public and when you invite and take the consequences. She did not."
....
Donaldson: "Remember the great American saying, 'disobedience to tyranny is disobedience to God.' In this case it was something that clearly I think most Americans would agree is not what we want to do, secret prisons, the right of detention not being open to public scrutiny. I mean, I think exposing something like that does not hurt us. It helps us."
Will: "Before she contributed her $7,000 to the Kerry campaign, she took a contract not to do what she seems to have done."


# Fox News Sunday:

Juan Williams: "....Here you have his opponents making a political leak very much intended to say that the administration's policy is off-base and taking us down the path of secret prisons that violate our principles as Americans. So you come to the idea that she was trying to defeat this administration because she felt what their activities were doing was hurting the American -- hurting America both at home and abroad in terms of our ideals. Porter Goss says it hurt us for our relationships-"
Chris Wallace: "And she was elected by whom?"
Williams: "She wasn't elected by anybody. But she's an American citizen. She has a right to speak out."
Bill Kristol: "She does not have to right. She does not have a right."
Williams: "Oh, she's not a citizen?"
Kristol: "She does not have a right to speak out. When you join -- when I went to work in the U.S. government, I signed forms saying I would not release classified information. If I had released information like this, I would have been fired. I should have been fired. Let me tell you something, the Clinton administration would have fired her if this had happened. This is an outrageous leak of national security information."
Williams: "She can take a risk, but you're telling me you've never leaked information? Of corse you have."
Kristol: "Come on."
Williams: "People leak every day in this town."
Brit Hume: "Juan, there's an important distinction between disclosing information which the government has not chosen to put out yet or may never and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. That's not to say that all information that is classified should be. However, there are people who are authorized to declassify information and then authorize its release and there are people who are not. This woman palpably was not such a person. In addition, she signed, as Bill pointed out, a statement when she joined the agency in which she swore that she would not do that. So she was honor-bound not to do it. The law restricts the ability to which someone can do that, and she went ahead and did it. Juan, that is manifestly not speaking out. That is not an exercise simply of first amendment rights. This was a violation of her oath and her responsibility."
Williams: "Let me quickly respond. Brit, she took a risk. She was very aware of what she had signed. She is now bearing the costs of having broken that and so in that sense-"
Wallace: "So this is an act of conscience?"
Williams: "I do believe it-"
Wallace: "If it's an act of conscience, why did she do it surreptitiously?"
Williams: "What?"
Wallace: "Why did she do it surreptitiously?"
Williams: "She did it because she wanted to get word out."
....
Wallace: "You don't really believe that there's any justification for what she did. You don't really?"
Williams: "Yes, I do. What are you talking about? The United States should not be engaged, I mean you can have the argument about what we need to do to combat terrorism. But the establishment of secret prisons, and if she felt that this was a violation of our principles as a country and was untenable in terms of her conscience working for the U.S. government, why shouldn't she act?"


# CBS's Face the Nation:

Bob Schieffer: "Finally, at my age, nothing much surprises me, but my jaw dropped when I read the FBI has been trying to go through the files of dead columnist Jack Anderson to see if he had any classified documents. Now mind you, Anderson was 83 when he died and did virtually no work for 15 years because of Parkinson's, but the FBI has been pressing his family to get at those files. The family has said no. Dare I state the obvious: that with Osama Bin Laden still on the loose, maybe there are more important things for the FBI to do than that.
"And it happened the same week the CIA fired an agent for hanging out with Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, who just won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing the CIA is operating a secret prison system. The Justice Department will decide whether to bring charges. Almost every day now brings news of yet another leak investigation. But it's not the leakers, it's what they're leaking that scares me. After all, why should a democracy be operating secret prisons? If the government hadn't told us they exist, can we ever be sure who might wind up inside them? Isn't finding out stuff like that what reporters are supposed to do?
"As for rifling through Jack Anderson's files, surely that will founder in its own silliness now that it's been exposed. But you do have to wonder what some government zealot will try next, maybe re-opening the hunt for the killer rabbit that once attacked Jimmy Carter's canoe? No one has seen the beast since Mr. Carter fought it off with an oar. Might still be out there. Dangerous if it still has teeth."

Bob Schieffer Denounces "Dubious First"
Firing of Leaker

At least one leading mainstream journalists isn't too happy about the revelation Friday that on Thursday the CIA fired an official who admitted being the leaker of top secret information about CIA prisons overseas used to hold al-Qaeda suspects. Bob Schieffer didn't withhold his personal opinion from his newscast as he introduced a CBS Evening News story by asserting that "it is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission" and he described the firing as "a first -- a dubious first, to be sure."

Citing the Washington Post story on the then-secret prisons and the New York Times article disclosing terrorist surveillance efforts, both of which won Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, NPR's Nina Totenberg declared on Inside Washington that nefarious Bush administration practices justified the decision to reward the two newspapers: "It's a good thing that they won for those intelligence stories because the Bush administration is investigating now and is threatening to subpoena and conceivably jail those reporters. So I think it's important that those stories be rewarded as something important to have done."

[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your take, go to: newsbusters.org ]

CBS's story didn't name the CIA staff member and neither did ABC's World News Tonight which held itself to a short item read by the anchor. Friday afternoon on MSNBC, and on the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell identified the fired CIA employee as Mary McCarthy of the CIA's Inspector General's office. MSNBC.com's story, by Robert Windrem and Mitchell, reported:

In a rare occurrence, the CIA fired an officer who acknowledged giving classified information to a reporter, NBC News learned Friday.

The officer flunked a polygraph exam before being fired on Thursday and is now under investigation by the Justice Department, NBC has learned.

Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA's inspector general's office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

The leak pertained to stories on the CIA's rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well....

END of Excerpt

For the MSNBC.com posting in full: www.msnbc.msn.com

(Saturday's New York Times reported: "Public records show that Ms. McCarthy contributed $2,000 in 2004 to the presidential campaign of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee." See: www.nytimes.com )

That Priest story was a November 2 front page article, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons: Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11." See this Post page for a collection of Priest's 2005 stories for which she won the Pultizer "for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret 'black site' prisons and other controversial features of the government's counterterrorism campaign": www.washingtonpost.com

For her infamous November 2 article: www.washingtonpost.com

My April 18 CyberAlert item, "Pulitzer Prizes Award Journalists Who Undermined Anti-Terrorism Programs," provided a rundown of the honoring of Priest and New York Times reporter James Risen, as well as of Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan for her shots at conservatives: www.mrc.org

Schieffer introduced the April 21 CBS Evening News story:
"It is no secret that the current administration does not like its people hanging out with news reporters without permission. But the administration took that concern to a new level today and scored a first -- a dubious first, to be sure -- but a first. Jim Stewart has more on that."

Later, on Inside Washington aired at 8:30pm EDT on Washington, DC's PBS affiliate, WETA-TV channel 26 (and which re-airs at 7pm Saturday on Washington's cable NewsChannel 8 and again at 10am Sunday on Washington's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV channel 7 where it was taped Friday afternoon), NPR's Nina Totenberg argued:
"It's a lucky thing that the New York Times and the Washington Post -- not a lucky, it's a good thing that they won for those intelligence stories because the Bush administration is investigating now and is threatening to subpoena and conceivably jail those reporters. So I think it's important that those stories be rewarded as something important to have done...."
"One of the things that a civilized and democratic society is supposed to do is have a system of checks and balances. And this administration did not allow that system of checks and balances to exist. Congress didn't know about this stuff by in large, it didn't approve of this stuff by in large. And the administration has not tried to institute any sort of mechanisms, legal, any legal mechanisms to put, have anybody from outside check them."
Fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist, retorted: "In the NSA case, that's simply not so. There were eight top leaders in the Congress who knew about the program. To say that Congress was not informed is simply wrong."

More False "Record" Oil Prices, ABC Pushes
"Windfall Profits Tax"

As they did all week, on Friday night the three broadcast network evening newscasts again hyperventilated over the "record" high price for a barrel of oil, though adjusted for inflation, the only competent way to measure any price over time, current $75 per barrel oil is $12 short of the real record high set in January of 1981. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas falsely cited how "a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today," erroneously claiming that "records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever." CBS's Bob Schieffer announced that "we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high." Over on the NBC Nightly News, fill-in anchor Lester Holt had as little regard for accuracy as had Brian Williams the rest of the week. "Pain at the pump," Holt teased, "Yet another record high for oil."

Friday's World News Tonight also featured a preview of a session with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger taped to air on Sunday's This Week. Vargas passed along how the liberal Republican "warned that price-gouging on oil and gas will not be tolerated. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos he would not rule out taxing oil companies on their enormous profits." In the brief excerpt then shown, Stephanopoulos cued up Schwarzenegger: "So do we need a windfall profits tax?"

[This item was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An April 20 CyberAlert item, "Networks Falsely Cite 'Record High' Price for Barrel of Oil," recounted erroneous reporting aired on Wednesday night and relayed how some print outlets have noted reality in stories about "record high" prices. In the April 18 USA Today, for instance, reporter James Healey acknowledged: "The Monday high is not a record if inflation is taken into account. That peak is the equivalent of $86.99 in today's dollars, set when oil was $38.85 a barrel in January 1981, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration." See: www.usatoday.com

Check the Energy Information Administration's historic table with inflation-adjusted prices for a barrel of oil: www.eia.doe.gov

For the April 20 CyberAlert article: www.mrc.org

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth gathered quotes for how the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts led on Friday night, April 21:

# ABC's World News Tonight:

Elizabeth Vargas, in opening teaser: "I'm Elizabeth Vargas. Tonight, a week of skyrocketing oil prices ends with another record today, and now gasoline shortages."

Vargas began: "Good evening. It's been a remarkable week for oil and gasoline prices in the U.S. Records were set on four out of five days, and today the price for a barrel of crude topped $75 for the first time ever. That is a 24 percent increase over last month. Gasoline prices have also gone up to an average of $2.78 per gallon. The record prices have brought warnings against price gouging from the White House and a promise from Congress that it would investigate. And now, in some parts of the country, there are gas shortages. ABC's Lisa Stark begins our coverage in Washington."

After Stark's piece which recited complaints from Schwarzenegger, Vargas asserted: "The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, also warned that price-gouging on oil and gas will not be tolerated. He told ABC's George Stephanopoulos he would not rule out taxing oil companies on their enormous profits."
George Stephanopoulos: "Refiners have shown, I think, about a 53 percent increase in profits-"
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA): "Yeah, it's unbelievable."
Stephanopoulos: "-just since February."
Schwarzenegger: "Yeah, absolutely. I think that's outrageous. And believe me, I am all for profits."
Stephanopoulos: "So do we need a windfall profits tax?"
Schwarzenegger: "We have to look, first of all, at that reason, even though I am against taxes, but we have to look at all different possibilities and especially the gouging if there's any price-gouging."


# CBS Evening News:

Bob Schieffer, in opening teaser: "Good evening. I am Bob Schieffer. The price of crude oil went up again today, and the only question now is: Will it ever stop? We'll start there tonight and go on to these stories."

Schieffer led: "Well, we end the week as we began it, and that is not good news because we began this week by reporting that the price of crude oil had reached a record high. It is still going up. It broke the $70 barrier Monday, and since then it has risen nearly $5 a barrel. By tonight, the price was $75.17. No surprise then that the price of regular gasoline is up to a national average of $2.86 a gallon at the pump. Here's our business correspondent, Anthony Mason."


# NBC Nightly News:

Lester Holt, in opening teaser: "Pain at the pump: Yet another record high for oil. No end in sight for gas. What these sky-high prices could mean for consumers and the President."

Holt opened: "And good evening, everyone. Most of us frankly don't know how much oil is in a barrel of oil. But many of us are starting to track that barrel's skyrocketing cost, a misery index of sort, driving up the price and pain at the gas pump. Today a barrel of oil, 42 gallons, by the way, jumped $1.48 to close at another record, just over $75. So what does that mean to you? Well [over national map with cited cities highlighted], in Boston today, it means the average price of a gallon of regular gas, according to AAA, hit $2.82. Chicagoans are paying a dime more at $2.92. In New York City, that gallon costs $3.04. And in Los Angeles, the price is up to $3.07. We have two reports, beginning tonight with NBC's Anne Thompson, looking for rhyme, reason, and rationality at the pump. Anne, good evening."

Olbermann Showcases "Bush Worst President"
Rolling Stone Article

On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged left-wing historian Sean Wilentz's Rolling Stone magazine cover story which argued that George W. Bush may be the worst President ever, citing the opinions of over 400 historians. As he introduced his interview with Wilentz, Director of the American Studies program and Princeton University, Olbermann sympathetically referred to the recently fired CIA employee who leaked classified information on the agency's use of secret prisons in Europe in the War on Terrorism, calling her a "whistleblower," and asked the question: "President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"

While introducing the segment, Olbermann listed several of Wilentz's attacks against Bush without challenging their validity, including accusations of "fabricated evidence" of WMD, a "retro fiscal policy" of "massive tax cuts" for the wealthy that "racked up monstrous deficits," and a criticism citing an unnamed Republican strategist who claimed that the Republican Party is "the first religious party in U.S. history." Olbermann, who perennially makes comparisons between George Orwell's novel 1984 and the Bush administration, managed to work in yet another reference to Orwell as he ended the interview mocking the administration's use of the term "pre-9/11 thinking," charging that Bush would accuse Wilentz and the other historians of being "guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

For Rolling Stone's "The Worst President in History?" cover story, with a drawing on the cover of Bush wearing a dunce cap: www.rollingstone.com

For an April 21 CyberAlert article on how MSNBC's Chris Matthews last week dedicated a segment to the diatribe: www.mrc.org

Olbermann previewed the segment in the show's teaser: "Worst President ever: As Mr. Bush contemplates his page in history, a covey of historians predict that could easily be the chapter title."

After interviewing former Nixon White House counsel John Dean about the recent firing of the CIA agent who leaked classified information about secret prisons in Europe, during which Olbermann drew comparisons between leaks in the Nixon and Bush administrations, he could not resist making further comparisons between Nixon and Bush. Olbermann read a brief item about student protesters at Stanford University who blocked President Bush's helicopter from landing, which he compared to Nixon's problems with student protesters, and then gave a plug for the Wilentz interview by relaying that some historians say Bush "might have passed the James Buchanans and the Richard Nixons to become the worst President ever."

As Olbermann introduced the segment, in light of the recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll that showed Bush with a 33 percent approval rating, the Countdown host took a shot at FNC's Brit Hume by recounting that a few months ago the FNC host declared that a CBS poll showing a low approval rating for Bush "wildly oversampled Democrats."

Olbermann continued his introduction by sympathetically calling the recently fired CIA employee a "whistleblower," as if she had exposed some great wrong: "Our fourth story in the Countdown, President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"

Olbermann then read a list of Wilentz's criticisms of the Bush administration, all from a left-wing point-of-view, without any analysis of their validity: "This is some of what he considers: That the 43rd President of the United States and his administration strained or even fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction not only to justify the war in Iraq, but to promote a Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare; claimed an unprecedented expansion of presidential power under the guise of war, many of the administration's scandals having flowed from that; rammed retro fiscal policies through Congress, massive tax cuts that may have benefitted only the wealthy, racked up monstrous deficits borrowing more money between 2001 and 2005 than all of the previous 42 presidents combined; and other domestic policies so strident and so dismissive of scientific knowledge that one former Republican strategist calls today's Republicans, quote, 'the first religious party in U.S. history.'"

During the interview, Olbermann only made a couple of gentle challenges to Wilentz's overall thesis, suggesting that a number of one-term Presidents deserve a lower ranking than Bush, and also pointing out the overwhelming dominance of academia by liberals: "Answer the obvious criticism of this survey of 415 or so historians who had already in 2004 pretty much said this is a losing proposition by a vote of 8-2, that, well, historians, academics tend to be liberal, there was a political motivation relative to the reelection campaign of 2004. Where does that, where does that fit in into this equation?"

Olbermann concluded the interview by working in his latest reference to George Orwell to mock President Bush: "Of course, [Bush] would turn around and say that you're guilty and the other historians are guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the April 21 Countdown show, including the entire interview with Wilentz:

Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Worst President ever: As Mr. Bush contemplates his page in history, a covey of historians predict that could easily be the chapter title."

After an interview with former Nixon counsel John Dean in which he compared the recent firing of a CIA agent for exposing classified information on secret prisons in Europe, and comparing this with Nixon's attempt to find out who linked the Pentagon Papers, Olbermann continued with another comparison to Nixon:

Olbermann: "Another page from President Nixon's administration coming to life tonight for President Bush in California, protesters at a college campus. After visiting with Governor Schwarzenegger, he was meant to go to a meeting at the Hoover Institution in Stanford before going to dinner at former Secretary of State George Shultz's house. But when Marine One arrived at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, protesters blocked the route. The helicopter circled while the President figured out what to do. He ended up giving up and moving the meeting to Mr. Shultz's house."

Olbermann, before commercial break: "And just when you think it couldn't get worse than a 33 percent approval rating for the President, historians are suggesting that history may decide that number is a little high."

Olbermann, during commercial break: "He has always countered criticism with the belief that history will prove him right, Yet, some presidential historians are already saying that President Bush might have passed the James Buchanans and the Richard Nixons to become the worst President ever. That's next. This is Countdown."

Olbermann, introducing the segment: "Less than two months ago, in the face of a CBS poll putting the President's approval rating at just 34 percent, Brit Hume of Fox News said, quote, 'There's good reason to be skeptical of this CBS poll. It's wildly over-sampled Democrats.' Then came yesterday's poll from Fox News, which marks the President's approval at 33 percent. There is a different kind of survey as well from way back in early 2004. Of 415 historians, 81 percent of them deemed the Bush administration to be a failure -- at that point. Our fourth story in the Countdown, President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst? That poll of historians just part of the evidence considered by fellow historian Sean Wilentz in Rolling Stone magazine. He will join us presently. This is some of what he considers: That the 43rd President of the United States and his administration strained or even fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction not only to justify the war in Iraq, but to promote a Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare; claimed an unprecedented expansion of presidential power under the guise of war, many of the administration's scandals having flowed from that; rammed retro fiscal policies through Congress, massive tax cuts that may have benefitted only the wealthy, racked up monstrous deficits borrowing more money between 2001 and 2005 than all of the previous 42 presidents combined, and other domestic policies so strident and so dismissive of scientific knowledge that one former Republican strategist calls today's Republicans, quote, 'the first religious party in U.S. history.' Also, since reliable polling began in the 1940's, the only other two-term President to drop to Mr. Bush's level was Richard Nixon in the throes of the Watergate disgrace. As promised, I'm joined now by the Director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, also author of The Rise of American Democracy, Sean Wilentz. Thanks for your time tonight, sir."
Sean Wilentz: "Keith, great to be here."
Olbermann: "That Rolling Stone cover, which I realize was somebody else's editorial choice, showing Mr. Bush as a dunce, but your estimation of him is far more nuanced. You talk about his simplistic ideology and unswerving adherence to that?"
Wilentz: "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think the cover actually is a bit over the top. My point was that Bush has very strong ideas, and that, in fact, has come back to haunt him. It's not that he's a bad student. It's that he has very strong ideas, that he had an opportunity to lead the country, and, in fact, blew that opportunity."
Olbermann: "I'm a student of presidential history, not the way you are. I'm literally the student in the equation, but it seems to me that missing in the historical equation of who might be the worst is the idea that a lot of the one-termers were so bad that they either never sought reelection or were easily defeated. Does this President stand up or down to comparisons to the one-termers like James Buchanan, who slept through the build-up to the Civil War, or Andrew Johnson who basically undid the few positives of the Civil War, or Herbert Hoover?"
Wilentz: "Right, well, I mean, unsuccessful presidents come in all shapes and sizes. It's true that some are so unsuccessful in their first term that they don't get reelected. But, you know, the case of Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon crushed his opponent in the 1972 election, and yet within two years he had the polling numbers that you talked about and was forced to resign. U.S. Grant was a two-term President who came a cropper in many ways. So that's not necessarily the measurement."
Olbermann: "It's clear, is it not, though, that no matter what else happens, he's had the greatest collapse of any President in history. He had virtually unanimous support from the nation after 9/11. That might have been fueled by post-traumatic stress disorder, but he still had it. And he still had most of it the month we invaded Iraq. And for years, he had successfully translated any opposition to him and his policies into unpatriotic behaviors. That's almost all gone now. Has he, in fact, fallen even further than Richard Nixon did, without the resignation?"
Wilentz: "Well, I mean, no one has ever been as high in the polls as he has and fallen as low as he did. I mean, Nixon never had a 90 percent approval rating as President Bush has had. So in just statistical terms, that's true. But there's more to it than that, Keith. I mean, the question is: Did the President end up governing the way that he said he would when he ran for President in 2000, when he said he'd be a uniter and not a divider, when he said he'd be a compassionate conservative. I think that there was a great deal of hope well before the attacks, the atrocities of September 11th that the President would govern the way that he said he would. I think that what has happened, and you see a fairly steady decline, there were a few upticks here and there, but what has happened is that the country has come to realize, despite the trauma, that they didn't really get what they thought they were going to be getting. They got a man who, a President who has ended up dividing the country more than he has united it, who has left leaving the country more acrimonious than when he began."
Olbermann: "Answer the obvious criticism of this survey of 415 or so historians who had already in 2004 pretty much said this is a losing proposition by a vote of 8-2, that, well, historians, academics tend to be liberal, there was a political motivation relative to the reelection campaign of 2004. Where does that, where does that fit in into this equation?"
Wilentz: "Yes, I say in the piece, historians generally, and academics generally tend to be more liberal than the rest of the population, far more liberal. But what struck me, and that's really what inspired me to write this piece, was the lopsided character of this poll. I mean, it wasn't just, you know, liberal historians not liking Bush. When you get 81 percent saying that the administration is a failure, when you get historians going back not to Ronald Reagan or even Richard Nixon, but well before Nixon, to find a President, previous President who ranked in their estimation as low as Bush did, that, that was striking to me. I mean, I wasn't prepared for that. I didn't imagine that would be the case. So I don't think it's simply about politics here. In fact, when you do these, when you see these presidential polls, or historians' polls, rather, about presidents, what's remarkable is how liberal organizations do them, conservative organizations do them. There's striking unanimity among historians about who are the successful presidents in our past and who are the unsuccessful presidents in our past. And what struck me about the poll two years ago was how lopsided it was. And given the fact that, you know, that poll was conducted before the Katrina debacle, before the Valerie Plame debacle, before the revelations about spying, domestic surveillance, I mean, I can't imagine those figures would be any better."
Olbermann: "Of course, he would turn around and say that you're guilty and the other historians are guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said. Sean Wilentz, I'm sorry, I'm out of time. The Director of the American Studies program at Princeton, University. Great thanks for your time. Sorry to have cut you off."
Wilentz: "Really a pleasure."

WashPost's Milbank: Red Chinese Dictator
Suffers "Indignities"

Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" columns on page 2 of the Washington Post often provide not just Milbank's trademark snark, but some interesting first-person observations on the political scene. Friday's offering on the state visit of communist China dictator Hu Jintao seemed to feel Hu's pain. Every perceived slight was magnified. The screaming Chinese woman protester screamed on and on, but Milbank even found "indignity" in the Vice President's choice of eyewear:
"The protocol-obsessed Chinese leader suffered a day full of indignities -- some intentional, others just careless. The visit began with a slight when the official announcer said the band would play the 'national anthem of the Republic of China' -- the official name of Taiwan. It continued when Vice President Cheney donned sunglasses for the ceremony, and again when Hu, attempting to leave the stage via the wrong staircase, was yanked back by his jacket. Hu looked down at his sleeve to see the president of the United States tugging at it as if redirecting an errant child."

For Milbank's April 21 treatise: www.washingtonpost.com

Post readers may think immediately of now Pulitzer-Prize-winning Post fashion critic Robin Givhan, who tried to elevate Cheney's wearing a parka on a cold day at Auschwitz into an international incident. Milbank's suggesting that Team Bush's welcoming of Hu is a bit chilly, which it was. But if it was cozier, they would be more appalling -- and no doubt, the Post would criticize that as well. It's obvious that the "indignities" of having your jacket tugged or being greeted with the affront of sunglasses are nothing compared to political executions, forced abortions, labor camps, and other daily indignities that Hu's dictatorship forces on the Chinese people.

[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

For a rundown of Givhan's rants, see this CyberAlert look at what won Pultizer Prizes for her and two others: www.mrc.org

Friday's CyberAlert item, "Nets Portray Protest and Taiwan Status Through Red China Prism," recounted: Though the Red Chinese regime was so embarrassed by a woman interrupting the White House welcoming ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao to denounce him, that it censored the incident from news coverage back in China, CBS on Thursday night framed coverage around worries about offending China over Taiwan and how some incident made the White House look bad while NBC focused on the "embarrassment" the protester caused to the Bush team. CBS's Bob Schieffer led with how "this was not the best day the White House ever had," citing how "a government announcer introduced China's national anthem by calling it the national anthem of the Republic of China." Schieffer adopted Red China's spin as he explained how Republic of China is "the formal name of the island of Taiwan," which "claims to be an independent nation, a claim that China fiercely disputes." ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas echoed Schieffer's concern about the announced name of the country. NBC's David Gregory declared that "this was considered to the President a major embarrassment" and fretted about how "the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event." See: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker