Most See Intel Criticism as Political Game, But Media Obsessed --7/31/2003
2. Reporters Focus on Tax Cuts, Ignore Bush's Soaring Spending
3. LA Times Reporter: Is Recall "Legitimate, Democratic Exercise?"
4. "Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor is Harboring Saddam Hussein"
The majority of the public believes Democrats are "playing politics" in their attacks on President Bush over pre-war intelligence claims, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll discovered. Nonetheless, reporters at the presidential news conference on Wednesday repeatedly pressed the issue and ABC, CBS and NBC led their evening newscasts with it, providing further evidence of how the agenda of liberal Democrats matches the media's agenda.
Tim Russert came aboard Wednesday's NBC Nightly News to recite some fresh poll results, including how 30 percent consider Democratic criticism of Bush on intelligence claims to be "legitimate criticism," compared to 56 percent who see it as "playing politics."
Despite public rejection of the media's obsession with 16 words in the State of the Union address, the broadcast network evening newscasts still considered that the top news of the day. "On World News Tonight," ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased, "President Bush says he takes responsibility for the mistake in his State of the Union speech."
New ABC News White House reporter Kate Snow, fresh from CNN where she praised the wonders which communist dictator Fidel Castro has bestowed upon the Cuban people, filled in the details: "For the first time, the President said he takes full responsibility for that statement he made in January's State of the Union, suggesting Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Africa."
Snow's question in full, as posed at the 10:30am press conference held outdoors in the Rose Garden: "Mr. President, you often speak about the need for accountability in many areas. I wonder then, why is Dr. Condoleezza Rice not being held accountable for the statement that your own White House has acknowledged was a mistake in your State of the Union Address regarding Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium. And also do you take personal responsibility for that inaccuracy?"
(See the end of this item for more on Snow's soft spot for Castro.)
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced at the top of the program: "Before leaving Washington to spend a month in the Texas heat at his beloved Western White House, the President knew he would first have to take some heat on the issues that have been swirling around the Bush White House. And so today, at his first formal news conference since the start of the war, he took responsibility for that discredited portion of his State of the Union speech and then some."
Campbell Brown checked in from the White House and first noted: "Many of the questions centered on the President's credibility. He was pressed on whether he had used exaggerated, or even non-existent evidence, to justify war in Iraq."
(Brown's question at the presidential news conference: "Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaeda were a key part to your justification for war, yet your own intelligence report, the NIE, defined it as quote 'low confidence that Saddam would give weapons to al-Qaeda.' Were those links exaggerated to justify war, or can you finally offer us some definitive evidence that Saddam was working with al Qaeda terrorists?")
Soon, Russert ran through fresh polling numbers from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. It found Bush's approval at 56 percent versus 38 percent disapproval, down from 71 to 23 percent in April. By a wide 66 to 28 percent, the public approves of "Bush's war on terror." On the question, "Should U.S. have taken military action in Iraq?", yes responded an overwhelming 69 percent compared to 27 percent who said no.
"Did Bush Exaggerate Iraq Threat?" read the NBC on-screen graphic. "Accurate information: 48 percent, exaggerated threat: 47 percent." But, is "Democratic criticism legitimate?" 30 percent called it "legitimate criticism," but 56 percent labeled it "playing politics."
Russert's assessment of those last two findings: "They believe the substance, but they don't like the politics."
For more on the poll: www.msnbc.com
The CBS Evening News was the most-obsessed with the 16 words. Dan Rather led the broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. President Bush said today for the first time that he is personally responsible for making a now-discredited claim in his State of the Union Address, the claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain nuclear materials from Africa. That claim was one of the reasons the President gave at the time for going to war against Iraq. The President today explained the reasons differently during an hour-long news conference at the White House. CBS's John Roberts is there. John?"
Roberts began: "Dan, the daily attacks against U.S. soldiers aside, President Bush today declared America is making progress in Iraq. He pointed to the deaths of Saddam's sons as evidence of that, though he admits Saddam himself remains a huge question mark."
The full text of the question posed by Roberts: "It's impossible to deny that the world is a better place, and the region certainly a better place, without Saddam Hussein. But there's a sense here in this country, and a feeling around the world that the U.S. has lost credibility by building the case for Iraq upon sometimes flimsy or, some people have complained, nonexistent evidence. I'm just wondering sir, why did you choose to take the world to war in that way?"
The "world"? I thought Bush was leading a unilateral effort.
And as promised above, a look back at new ABC News White House correspondent Kate Snow's affection for Fidel Castro's generosity toward the Cuban people, as expressed last year on CNN when she traveled to the communist nation to cover Jimmy Carter's visit:
-- May 13, 2002 CyberAlert: Castro's wonderful "safety net." From Havana on Saturday, CNN's Kate Snow expressed awe at how youngsters get "incredible training" in athletics which leads to "all kinds of" Olympic medals. She oozed with envy over "how every Cuban has a family doctor. You cannot go without health care here because there's a system set up, a safety net, where, if you live in a neighborhood, you're covered by somebody." She even marveled at how some have DirecTV and "get more channels than I get at my home."
For more and a still shot of Snow in Cuba: www.mediaresearch.org
At Wednesday's press presidential conference, the Washington press corps once again displayed its hostility to Bush's tax cuts, describing them as ineffective in stimulating the economy and blaming them for soaring deficits, questions which match overall reporting on the subject. And in the only question about spending, a reporter pressed Bush about the lack of follow-through in one spending promise.
As reporters fret about the lack of enough spending and blame the tax cuts for increasing the deficit, they continue to overlook another factor in causing the deficit: The out of control spending hikes pushed for and approved by the Bush administration.
In a piece Monday on National Review Online creatively titled, "The Mother of All Big Spenders: Bush spends like Carter and panders like Clinton," Veronique de Rugy and Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute charged that "George W. Bush is the most gratuitous big spender to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter." They detailed how under President Bush "non-defense discretionary spending will have skyrocketed by almost 28 percent. Government agencies that Republicans were calling to be abolished less than ten years ago, such as education and labor, have enjoyed jaw-dropping spending increases under Bush of 70 percent and 65 percent respectively."
But, naturally, no reporter asked Bush about spending too much.
Here are the tax cut and spending questions posed at the July 30 press conference in the Rose Garden at 10:30am, as tracked down by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd:
-- Richard Keil, Bloomberg News: "As you said just a few moments ago and say frequently in your speeches, the deficit was caused variously by the war, by recession, by corporate scandals, the 9/11 attacks. But just a couple of weeks ago on July 15th, the Office of Management and Budget put out a report saying that without the tax cuts that Congress passed, the budget would be back in surplus by 2008, but with those tax cuts factored in, we have deficits that year, and further years out, of at least $200 billion, to use the phrase 'as far as the eye can see.' Aren't tax cuts in part responsible for the deficits and does that fact concern you? Are we now in a period where we have deficits as far as the eye can see?"
-- Carl Cannon, formerly of the Baltimore Sun and now with National Journal: "I want to ask you about something else in your State of the Union. You spoke and got great applause from both sides of the aisle about a new initiative in Africa for AIDS. You mentioned the figure $15 billion over three years. When the AIDS community and some of the activists got into the budget, they said when they saw your budget, they said it was really a little less than that. And these conversations have gone back and forth, and they said, really more like $10 billion in new money. And then somebody told me it was really more like $400 million for the first year. I want to ask you here, in the Rose Garden, will you reiterate that $15 billion figure and make sure, personally, that it's really delivered to Africa?"
For a transcript of the press conference: www.whitehouse.gov
The Bush administration's newly released budget projections reveal an anticipated budget deficit of $455 billion for the current fiscal year, up another $151 billion since February. Supporters and critics of the administration are tripping over themselves to blame the deficit on tax cuts, the war, and a slow economy. But the fact is we have mounting deficits because George W. Bush is the most gratuitous big spender to occupy the White House since Jimmy Carter....
The new estimates show that, under Bush, total outlays will have risen $408 billion in just three years to $2.272 trillion: an enormous increase in federal spending of 22 percent....
[N]ational defense is far from being responsible for all of the spending increases. According to the new numbers, defense spending will have risen by about 34 percent since Bush came into office. But, at the same time, non-defense discretionary spending will have skyrocketed by almost 28 percent. Government agencies that Republicans were calling to be abolished less than ten years ago, such as education and labor, have enjoyed jaw-dropping spending increases under Bush of 70 percent and 65 percent respectively.
Now, most rational people would cut back on their spending if they knew their income was going to be reduced in the near future. Any smart company would look to cut costs should the business climate take a turn for the worse. But the administration has been free-spending into the face of a recessionary economy from day one without making any serious attempt to reduce costs....
That the nation's budgetary situation continues to deteriorate is because the administration's fiscal policy has been decidedly more about politics than policy. Even the tax cuts, which happened to be good policy, were still political in nature considering their appeal to the Republican's conservative base. At the same time, the politicos running the Bush reelection machine have consistently tried to placate or silence the liberals and special interests by throwing money at their every whim and desire. In mathematical terms, the administration calculates that satiated conservatives plus silenced liberals equals reelection.
How else can one explain the administration publishing a glossy report criticizing farm programs and then proceeding to sign a farm bill that expands those same programs? How else can one explain the administration acknowledging that entitlements are going to bankrupt the nation if left unreformed yet pushing the largest historical expansion in Medicare one year before the election? Such blatant political maneuvering can only be described as Clintonian.
But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton. After all, in inflation-adjusted terms, Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. More importantly, after his first three years in office, non-defense discretionary spending actually went down by 0.7 percent. This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of 15.6 percent and a 20.8 percent explosion in non-defense discretionary spending.
Sadly, the Bush administration has consistently sacrificed sound policy to the god of political expediency....
END of Excerpt
For the piece in its entirety, as posted by Cato: www.cato.org
And as posted by National Review Online: www.nationalreview.com
Loaded question of the day: At Wednesday's presidential press conference, Los Angeles Times White House reporter Ed Chen asked President Bush about the effort to recall California Governor Gray Davis. Chen described Bush as "someone who came into office under extraordinarily partisan circumstances," as if not all elections are partisan, and then demanded to know: "Do you view this recall, which was funded almost entirely by one wealthy Republican who would like to be Governor, as a legitimate, democratic exercise?"
Of course, if hundreds of thousands of citizens were not enthused enough to wait in lines to sign the petitions, it wouldn't have mattered how much money one wealthy guy put in to hire petition-takers.
Chen's "question," in the form of a polemic, in full: "I'd like to ask you about the recall campaign. Since you're not only the leader of this country, but as someone who came into office under extraordinarily partisan circumstances, do you view this recall, which was funded almost entirely by one wealthy Republican who would like to be Governor, as a legitimate, democratic exercise? And do you have a candidate in this fight, since one of the potential successors is somebody you've backed before?"
From the July 30 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor is Harboring Saddam Hussein." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. A lot of "Sorry about the deaths of your monstrous, sadistic sons" bouquets being delivered
9. His garage door used to be white; now it's white with a giant mural of Saddam Hussein
8. Mailman mistakenly puts "Deposed Dictator Monthly" in your box
7. He asks, "When are we having the Baath party -- I mean, the block party?"
6. You hear his television blaring "Queer Eye for the Fallen Dictator Guy"
5. The hourly deliveries of hummus
4. The Kurdish family across the street have really been on edge lately
3. He's in the yard chopping wood to build a beret rack
2. His last houseguest: Haitian dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier
1. Floating in his swimming pool: an inflatable goat
-- Brent Baker