Morning Shows Pound Bush, Bolster Clarke and Ignore Clinton --3/26/2004
2. Reporters Praise Clarke: "Undermines Whole Bush Administration"
3. CBS Notes Clarke Never Objected to Bush in 22 Hours of Testimony
4. Banfield, Who Fretted About Pro-War Coverage, Let Go by MSNBC
Clinton let off the hook by the morning shows. "Dramatic testimony at the 9-11 hearing," CBS's Hannah Storm teased at the top of Thursday's Early Show before she led with Richard Clarke's anti-Bush push: "Former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke said the Bush administration largely ignored the threat from al-Qaeda before September 11th." Storm's colleague, Harry Smith, soon used an interview session with former CIA Director James Woolsey to expound on how the Clinton administration's devotion to kill Osama bin Laden was dropped by the incoming Bush team while, over on NBC's Today, Matt Lauer pressed his guests to agree with Clarke's case and integrity.
Smith relayed the contentions of former National Security advisor Sandy Berger who appeared at Wednesday's hearing of the 9-11 commission: "Listening to the Clinton administration people, they said they understood the gravity of the terrorism threat because of the numerous attacks against different American targets. In the transfer of power, listening to Clarke yesterday he said the Bush administration understood it was important but not urgent."
Over on Today, interviewing Democratic-affiliated commission member Jamie Gorelick and Republican-affiliated member John Lehman, Lauer pressed Lehman about Bush failures but not Gorelick about Clinton's failed record. Lauer asked: "The New York Times has an editorial this morning Miss Gorelick and it says this, quote, 'The real impression gleaned from the hearings is not that the Bush administration was indifferent to the threat of terror but that its officials had trouble fully understanding it.' Would you agree with that?"
Lauer soon channeled Clarke: "Let me ask you about Richard Clarke, Mr. Lehman. Here he testified yesterday and said quote, 'No higher priority in the Clinton administration than combating terrorists,' while the Bush administration made it quote, 'an important issue but not an urgent issue.'"
Recalling how Lehman suggested that Clarke was just trying to sell a book, Lauer demanded: "Do you, do you really think though, given the, the gravity of the, of this issue that he would play fast and loose with the truth when it comes to national security?"
Now, a rundown of the questions posed on the March 25 morning shows on CBS and NBC:
Following Storm's slanted tease quoted above and a story from Bill Plante on the hearings, Smith set up a session with James Woolsey, Clinton's CIA Director (1993-1995):
Smith's questions, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
-- Smith: "From watching over the past two days, it's been so interesting just to try to wade through all of this information and one of the things I want to concentrate on first is according to the Clinton administration officials it was clear to them they wanted Osama bin Laden dead. Now, they started tracking him, the CIA started tracking him in a serious way back in 1996. Do you think there was a disconnect between the Clinton administration and the CIA?"
-- Smith: "Listening to the Clinton administration people, they said they understood the gravity of the terrorism threat because of the numerous attacks against different American targets. In the transfer of power, listening to Clarke yesterday he said the Bush administration understood it was important but not urgent. How did that ring to you?"
Woolsey suggested that Bush's Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, "effectively refuted Clarke on that."
-- Smith: "Just very quickly. Is this an exercise in futility or are we going to really learn something out of all of this?"
Matt Lauer introduced his guests on Today: "On Close Up this morning, 9-11 and the 9-11 commission. As we've reported two days of somewhat heated testimony wrapped up on Wednesday. So what questions still need to be answered. Democrat Jamie Gorelick and Republican John Lehman are members of the commission. Good morning to both of you."
The MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed that Lauer didn't ask anything about the Clinton administration's record:
-- Lauer: "So Miss Gorelick let me start with you. From what I understand you were the only commission member who was able to see all of the intelligence briefings between President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet and although the content of those briefings is classified you've commented in general terms saying what you saw would quote, 'set your hair on fire.' So in the last couple of days did the public get even the tip of the iceberg of what you learned from those briefings?"
-- Lauer: "The New York Times has an editorial this morning Miss Gorelick and it says this, quote, 'The real impression gleaned from the hearings is not that the Bush administration was indifferent to the threat of terror but that its officials had trouble fully understanding it.' Would you agree with that?"
-- Lauer: "Mr. Lehman do we have more questions or answers right now?"
-- Lauer: "Let me ask you about Richard Clarke, Mr. Lehman. Here he testified yesterday and said quote, 'No higher priority in the Clinton administration than combating terrorists,' while the Bush administration made it quote, 'an important issue but not an urgent issue.' He went on to say that, 'although I continued to say it was an urgent problem I don't think it was ever treated that way by the Bush administration.' Does the commission's investigation, in your opinion, back up that conclusion?"
-- Lauer: "Ms. Gorelick, CIA Director George Tenet testified of a quote, 'systemic failure.' 'That the predominant focus and threat of the reporting took us overseas.' Meaning we thought the attack was going to come from overseas. So are you confident now that if another attack was in the planning that, that systemic failure has been, would not, would be eliminated? Would not take place again?"
-- Lauer: "Let me ask you this about Richard Clarke's credibility. I know Mr. Lehman you were tough on him, you seem to say there are two stories going on here. What he wrote and said back in 2001 and 2002 and what he's now written in his book. I think you said, 'that this is kind of aggressive book selling.' Do you, do you really think though, given the, the gravity of the, of this issue that he would play fast and loose with the truth when it comes to national security?"
-- Lauer, after displaying a partisan tilt in his questioning, had the gall to inquire: "Ms. Gorelick let me end with you. There, there had been so much talk about how this was non-partisan, there would be no bickering. I have to say after watching a lot of, of this commission hearing yesterday there was a lot of partisan politics at play. Were you disappointed by that?"
Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff and Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank are in awe of Dick Clarke. On Wednesday's Hardball on MSNBC, Isikoff described Clarke's testimony as "highly effective" and maintained that though "there was a rather furious effort by the White House and some of the Republican commissioners to dent his credibility," it didn't work: "I don't think they succeeded. And I thought the apology that he began with was, was actually a brilliant stroke."
Milbank decided: "His critique is devastating. He said essentially that September 11th could have been prevented, that President Bush did not care about terrorism before September 11th and didn't do the right things after September 11th. This undermines the whole Bush administration."
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught the comments made on the March 24 Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Matthews: "Welcome back to Hardball. Michael Isikoff is an investigator reporter for Newsweek and Dana Milbank is a White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Gentlemen, you first, Michael, what's the biggest development today? Was it the apology for the United States government for 9-11 by Richard Clarke?"
A bit later, Matthews proposed: "But here we have this guy testifying, Richard Clarke, who's pretty focused in what he is trying to do here. He's trying to impeach the efforts overall of the U.S. government and the attempts by the politicians leading our government to really try to do a serious job by saying, 'Hey, look, I thought of this.'"
CBS News catches up and finds eight more hours of Richard Clarke contradicting himself. As noted in the March 25 CyberAlert, on the broadcast network and CNN evening newscasts on Wednesday night, ABC's Terry Moran uniquely observed how "several commission members pointed out that Clarke had never expressed his criticisms [of Bush] to them in 14 hours of private testimony." On Thursday night, in a story CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts set up by highlighting "claims by former counter-terrorism aide Richard Clarke that the administration has bungled the war on terror," Bill Plante concluded by pointing out how "one Republican source close to the 9-11 commission complained that in 22 hours of private interviews Clarke never once voiced the objections that he raised in his book."
Roberts introduced Plante's March 25 story, on President Bush's retort to Clarke, by explaining how Bush traveled to New Hampshire "to talk about jobs and the economy, but as Bill Plante reports, the subject quickly turned again to claims by former counter-terrorism aide Richard Clarke that the administration has bungled the war on terror."
Plante ran through Bush's comments and how MoveOn.org has produced a new anti-Bush ad that features Clarke. CBS displayed a the part of the ad showing these words beneath a photo of Bush: "He ignored terrorism for months."
Plante then concluded: "Maybe it was inevitable, but the investigation into the 9-11 tragedy is now a political issue. To the White House, Richard Clarke is an opportunist trying to hock his book. One Republican source close to the 9-11 commission complained that in 22 hours of private interviews Clarke never once voiced the objections that he raised in his book."
A point you'd think Lesley Stahl could have made a some point during her 26-plus minutes promoting Clarke's book last Sunday.
NBC has decided to let go Ashleigh Banfield, the host of a series of MSNBC shows over the years who occasionally popped up on NBC News, Friday's New York Daily News reported. The paper's Lloyd Grove recalled how she once wore on air, though she covered it with a jacket, a T-shirt which sported the phrase "Starf--r."
During her four years or so with MSNBC, Banfield, who became famous for her live reports from Ground Zero on September 11th when she was covered in soot, hailed the passage of mandated family leave as "great news," denounced Dr. Laura Schlessinger, expressed her excitement over a conference call amongst some liberal politicians, lauded the Taliban's "savvy" for supposedly inviting Jesse Jackson to negotiate for them, gushed about how "I'd be fascinated by anything Osama bin Laden would have to say" and complained that Iraq war coverage was not negative enough and so "it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again -- to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor."
An excerpt from Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove's March 26 "Lowdown" column:
Onetime cable television star Ashleigh Banfield -- a publicity magnet even before she achieved celebrity in the aftermath of 9/11 -- is out at NBC News.
The 36-year-old former rock singer -- once a fashion icon for her blond tresses and her ever-present on-air glasses, but whose career took a slide after she dyed her hair dark brown -- joined the network's MSNBC outlet four years ago, and has been working without a contract since late January.
"Regrettably, we were unable to agree on a new assignment for her," an NBC News spokeswoman told me yesterday. "We thank her for her hard work and wish her well."
The native Canadian was a controversial figure at NBC, where detractors spread rumors of diva-like behavior and sniped at her supposed journalistic deficiencies.
Banfield didn't try to butter up colleagues and supervisors, and instead cast herself as an enemy of the Establishment. She once showed up for anchor duties at MSNBC's Secaucus studios in New Jersey sporting a T-shirt that shouted, in garish glitter: "Starf--r."
But on camera, the message was discreetly concealed by a conservative jacket....
END of Excerpt
For the New York Daily News item in full: www.nydailynews.com
Some highlights from Banfield's MSNBC years:
# From the September 17, 2002 CyberAlert. On her September 24 show, Ashleigh Banfield on Location, Banfield plugged: "Coming up, California Governor Gray Davis signs a bill into law, and it is great if you're a new mom and a new dad and looking to get a little time off with your new little kid. But it is lousy if you're a business owner. Why should the businesses have to pay for your time off with your new kids? Find out how it all works and why it's happened, families first."
Some quotes from the MRC's Notable Quotables, from oldest to newest:
# Lashing Dr. Laura
# Ashleigh and Al's First Date?
# Inviting Jesse Reveals "Savvy"
# Eager For Bin Laden Interview
# Too Much American Courage...
*** John Kerry's 1971 appearance on ABC's Dick Cavett Show to be re-played Sunday night on C-SPAN's Road to the White House. C-SPAN's summary of the content of this weekend's edition:
The 90-minute Road to the White House will run three times on Sunday night. By time zone:
-- Brent Baker