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MSNBC's Unger Ludicrously Claims Gore a Victim of "Swift-Boating" --5/31/2006


1. MSNBC's Unger Ludicrously Claims Gore a Victim of "Swift-Boating"
Citing one comment from a meteorologist quoted on the ninth page (78th paragraph) of a Washington Post Magazine story, remarks by an unnamed "pundit" and an unidentified "Fox News analyst," as well as a gentle TV ad campaign with the hardly threatening tag line of "Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life," fill-in MSNBC host Brian Unger ludicrously devoted a segment of Tuesday's Countdown to the "Swift-Boating of Al Gore." Unger gushed about how "Gore wants to do something admirable like save the planet" and then fretted: "And what do critics call him? Hitler. The 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore already in full swing." Unger maintained that Gore's "wake-up call on climate change" has led "to some unfortunate analogies" including, "in true Swift Boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank." That "campaign-style attack ad" doesn't even mention Gore's name and it attacks no one, a reality that became obvious when Unger played it.

2. CBS Notes Public Unaware of Good Economic News -- Which CBS Skips
In reporting on President Bush's nomination of Henry Paulson as his new Secretary of the Treasury, CBS's Jim Axelrod on Tuesday night suggested that "the administration needs a salesman," citing how "no matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the President's handling of the economy." But might not part of the problem lie in lack of media attention to the booming economy? For instance, Axelrod's citation of the 5.3 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, the fastest rate in two-and-a-half years, was the first on the CBS Evening News which ignored it when the number was announced last Thursday.

3. WashPost Insists Clinton No Liberal, She's "Not Easily Defined"
Reporters like to think of themselves as brave truth-tellers who can cut through the rhetoric and evasive maneuvering of politicians. But sometimes, they sound like they're trying to assist politicians in their evasive maneuvering. Exhibit A is Tuesday's front-page Hillary article in the Washington Post. It was headlined "Clinton Is a Politician Not Easily Defined: Senator's Platform Remains Unclear." Reporter Dan Balz began by insisting that "Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characterization." Take a Republican as conservative as Hillary is liberal -- say, Sen. Rick Santorum -- and imagine how liberals would fall down laughing if you characterized Santorum as "not easily defined."


MSNBC's Unger Ludicrously Claims Gore
a Victim of "Swift-Boating"

Citing one comment from a meteorologist quoted on the ninth page (78th paragraph) of a Washington Post Magazine story, remarks by an unnamed "pundit" and an unidentified "Fox News analyst," as well as a gentle TV ad campaign with the hardly threatening tag line of "Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life," fill-in MSNBC host Brian Unger ludicrously devoted a segment of Tuesday's Countdown to the "Swift-Boating of Al Gore." Unger gushed about how "Gore wants to do something admirable like save the planet" and then fretted: "And what do critics call him? Hitler. The 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore already in full swing."

Unger maintained that Gore's "wake-up call on climate change" has led "to some unfortunate analogies" and he then cited how meteorologist Bill Gray charged: "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews." Unger added: "Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Josef Goebbels' films about Nazi Germany, the Fox News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true Swift Boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank." That "campaign-style attack ad" doesn't even mention Gore's name and it attacks no one, a reality that became obvious when Unger played it.

Ironically, Unger complained that when Gore "launches his campaign to save the world from global warming, his critics decide to ignore the science and attack Al Gore." But the ad deals only with science and Unger ignored science since the lengthy Washington Post Magazine story from which he quoted Gray was all about global warming skeptics, yet he didn't utter a syllable about their facts.

Leading into Gray's Hitler quote, Unger falsely charged: "Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal." If he'd bothered to read the article, he would have seen much of it was devoted to Gray's undermining of Gore's claims about the weather and the climate.

Later, Unger charged that conservatives are "scared" of Gore and he rued to a New York Daily News reporter that "the 'Swift-Boating' of John Kerry helped secure four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that would suggest that it won't work this time?"

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

Unger's "Swift-Boating" characterization presumes, of course, that there was some unfairness with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's ads against John Kerry. It appears the term may soon replace "the Willie Horton of..." as the media's favorite pejorative to discredit any criticism by conservatives of a liberal.

Unger and/or his MSNBC producers got the quote by Bill Gray, a professor emeritus at Colorado State University, from a Sunday Washington Post Magazine cover story, "What Global Warming?" The subhead: "Inside the Minds of Climate Change Skeptics." Before getting to Gray, however, reporter Joel Achenbach noted Gore's use of Hitler, a tactic ignored by Unger:
"Somehow Hitler keeps popping into the discussion. Gore draws a parallel between fighting global warming and fighting the Nazis. Novelist Michael Crichton, in State of Fear, ends with an appendix comparing the theory of global warming to the theory of eugenics -- the belief, prominently promoted by Nazis, that the gene pool of the human species was degenerating due to higher reproductive rates of 'inferior' people. Both, he contends, are examples of junk science, supported by intellectual elites who will later conveniently forget they signed on to such craziness.
"And Gray has no governor on his rhetoric. At one point during our meeting in Colorado he blurts out, 'Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.'"

For the Post story in full: www.washingtonpost.com

In fact, during the 2004 campaign, Gore "Swift-Boated" the Bush administration: "The administration works closely with a network of 'rapid response' digital brownshirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops.'"

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the May 30 Countdown on MSNBC. Fill-in host Brian Unger, in opening teaser:
"The war of the world: What do Nazis have to do with Al Gore or global warming? What's up with attack ads against a guy that's not running for anything?"
Clip of ad: "Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life."
Unger: "Inside the 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore."

Unger at 8:12pm EDT, before a commercial break:
"And Al Gore wants to do something admirable like save the planet. And what do critics call him? Hitler. The 'Swift Boating' of Al Gore already in full swing. You are watching Countdown on MSNBC."

Unger at 8:28pm before another ad break:
"Ah, but can this man match wits with Al Gore? The former VP relaunches his campaign to save the world from global warming. His critics decide to ignore the science and attack Al Gore."

Just past 8:30pm EDT, Unger arrived at his third story of the Countdown, "Swift-Boating: The Sequel":
"Third Reich analogies are the nuclear bombs of oratory, rhetorical or literary devices. They obliterate any logic or reason within miles, and the hurler of the Hitler bomb almost always looks worse than the intended recipient of the blast. Seinfeld's 'Soup Nazi' episode gets the only waiver. The latest target of the Hitler comparison, Al Gore and his global warming film. And anyone who has a beef with it should probably base their criticism on the science, and not the mindset of old Adolf.
"In our third story on the Countdown, the 'Swift-Boating' of Al Gore. The former Vice President's wake-up call on climate change leading to some unfortunate analogies and a debate that seems lacking in substance. The documentary itself, An Inconvenient Truth, making an impressive debut at the box office raking in an average of just over $70,000 per screen over the holiday weekend. The number one film, X-Men III, averaging less than half of that. As a result, the counterattacks beginning in earnest. Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal. Quote [text on screen], 'Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.' Which doesn't even make sense. Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Josef Goebbels' films about Nazi Germany [The MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked down Unger's left-wing source for the "pundit" quote, this Think Progress blog item on a representative of the National Center for Policy Analysis: thinkprogress.org the Fox News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true Swift Boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank that is funded largely by the energy industry."

Viewers then saw a TV ad, in its entirety, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, with matching outdoor scenes on screen:
"There's something in these pictures you can't see. It's essential to life. We breathe it out, plants breathe it in. It comes from animal life, the oceans, the earth and the fuels we find in it. It's called carbon dioxide, CO2. The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love. Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then? Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life."

That's a "campaign-style attack ad"? (Unger played the "Energy" ad, one of two TV spots produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has posted them in Windows Media and Quick Time formats: streams.cei.org )

Unger resumed:
"Time now to suspend this lesson on photosynthesis for a closer look at the politics involved here with the White House correspondent for the New York Daily News, Ken Bazinet. Thank you for joining us."

Unger's questions to Bazinet:

-- "For five years now, Al Gore has been, you know, little more than a political punch line at times. Why go to all this trouble of attacking him now? I mean, are conservatives legitimately scared of a Gore comeback here?"

-- "It feels, though, that this is a personal attack. The politics of global warming has, of course, you know, the science has long been in dispute. Is this more personal?"

-- "The 'Swift-Boating' of John Kerry helped secure four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that would suggest that it won't work this time?"

-- "Big box office does not mean a film like this will have any real lasting impact at the ballot box, Fahrenheit 9/11 being a recent example of that. Is it too soon to be hailing the success of An Inconvenient Truth?"

-- "Ken Bazinet, thank you very much for joining us. There is so much to fear in the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence, if it is correct, and global warming goes unchecked, fiercer hurricanes, floods and droughts among them, but until then, a more immediate sign that global warming may be taking its toll, and it's going to make you itch. Our correspondent is Kevin Corke."

Viewers then saw a silly story, which ran earlier on Today, from Kevin Corke who began:
"Painful, itchy, impossible to scratch. One touch of poison ivy's dreaded leaves can leave you with a bad case of the summertime blues and a new study just out suggests poison ivy is a growing problem, literally. Researchers theorize that carbon dioxide from cars, clear cutting even cattle is leading to a greenhouse effect with poison plants reaping bigger harvests, producing three times the chemical that makes your skin itch..."

CBS Notes Public Unaware of Good Economic
News -- Which CBS Skips

In reporting on President Bush's nomination of Henry Paulson as his new Secretary of the Treasury, CBS's Jim Axelrod on Tuesday night suggested that "the administration needs a salesman," citing how "no matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the President's handling of the economy." But might not part of the problem lie in lack of media attention to the booming economy? For instance, Axelrod's citation of the 5.3 percent GDP growth in the first quarter, the fastest rate in two-and-a-half years, was the first on the CBS Evening News which ignored it when the number was announced last Thursday.

Earlier is in his story, Axelrod snidely marveled at why anyone would want to join the declining Bush administration: "Leaving a job that paid him $38.3 million last year in salary, stock, and options, to take one that pays 175 grand, and to join the last two and a half years of a struggling administration, the question isn't why the White House would want him, but why he would want the job?"

On Thursday, May 25, the day the Commerce Department announced the impressive 5.3 percent GDP number, the CBS Evening News led with the Enron verdicts, followed by more on the overplayed stolen VA data and online selling of personal data, then the Haditha Marines killing innocent Iraqis incident, Jim Axelrod on the Capitol Hill fight over the FBI's search of the office of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson and how President Bush sequestered the documents, the Pope in Poland and, finally, people who use RVs to travel. The only mention of the economy came in a bumper on that day's jump in the NASDAQ and the Dow Jones Industrial average.

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

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the May 30 CBS Evening News story:

Anchor Bob Schieffer: "There was another big sell-off on Wall Street today. The Dow fell 184 points, the NASDAQ lost 45. And if you want to know why, just connect the dots: Higher oil prices have led to a drop in consumer confidence in the economy, and Wall Street is worried that that will lead to a drop in spending. All this on a day when President Bush decided to shake up his economic team. From the White House now, here is Jim Axelrod."

Jim Axelrod began: "Washington's worst-kept secret is now a matter of fact. The President wants a new Treasury Secretary. John Snow is out, and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson is the man Mr. Bush wants in."
George W. Bush in Rose Garden Tuesday announcing naming of Paulson: "The American economy is powerful, productive and prosperous, and I look forward to working with Hank Paulson to keep it that way."
Axelrod: "Paulson, the top man at arguably Wall Street's most prestigious firm, now becomes the chief salesman for the U.S. economy."
Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury nominee: "It is truly a marvel, but we cannot take it for granted. We must take steps to maintain our competitive edge in the world."
Axelrod: "Leaving a job that paid him $38.3 million last year in salary, stock, and options, to take one that pays 175 grand, and to join the last two and a half years of a struggling administration, the question isn't why the White House would want him, but why he would want the job?"
Tony Snow, at press briefing: "It's stimulating, it's important, it's exciting, and it's unlike any kind of job that you'll ever have for the rest of your life."
Axelrod, with numbers beside him on screen: "The administration needs a salesman. No matter how much they trumpet 5.3 percent economic growth in the first quarter, 5.2 million more jobs since August 2003, or unemployment down to 4.7 percent, there's another number to contend with. In the most recent [May 16-17] CBS News poll, just 34 percent approved of the President's handling of the economy. And the market didn't exactly present Paulson with a parting gift. The Dow plunged today. Even so, former Bush Commerce Secretary, Don Evans, says Paulson will play well on both Wall Street and Main Street in the long run."
Donald Evans, former Commerce Secretary: "He knows what we need to do here in America to remain competitive when it comes to attracting capital, which leads to investment, which leads to more jobs in America."
Axelrod: "Paulson's a huge supporter of environmental causes, and by huge, I mean he donated $100 million in Goldman Sachs stock to a family foundation dedicated to conservation. He also believes global warming is a threat, and that could put him at odds with some members of the Bush administration."

PDF of the poll numbers: www.cbsnews.com

WashPost Insists Clinton No Liberal,
She's "Not Easily Defined"

Reporters like to think of themselves as brave truth-tellers who can cut through the rhetoric and evasive maneuvering of politicians. But sometimes, they sound like they're trying to assist politicians in their evasive maneuvering. Exhibit A is Tuesday's front-page Hillary article in the Washington Post.

It was headlined "Clinton Is a Politician Not Easily Defined: Senator's Platform Remains Unclear." Reporter Dan Balz began by insisting that "Hillary Rodham Clinton has fashioned a political persona that generates intense passions but defies easy characterization." Take a Republican as conservative as Hillary is liberal -- say, Sen. Rick Santorum -- and imagine how liberals would fall down laughing if you characterized Santorum as "not easily defined." For the front page May 30 article: www.washingtonpost.com

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

Liberals would be right to suggest that such a portrayal would sound like a reporter in the tank, trying to make Santorum more appealing to moderate and independent voters. That would apply to Dan Balz. Notice how all Hillary's stands aren't real, but somehow just portrayals: "She is viewed as a hawk on Iraq and national security, stamped as a big-government Democrat for her work on health care in the 1990s, and depicted as seeking the middle ground on abortion." He claimed "she is still trying to demonstrate whether these [life experiences] have yielded a coherent government philosophy."

A look at her actual voting record unveils the reality. It's easily defined as liberal, even ultraliberal. Her American Conservative Union voting records for her first four years in the Senate were 12 percent conservative, 10 percent, 10 percent, and in 2004, zero percent. The same result came in the voting index used by the venerated liberal group Americans for Democratic Action, which gave Sen. Clinton a whopping 95 percent rating in each of her first four years. Despite a confusing speech or two, Hillary is especially hard-core on abortion and gay issues. In addition to Sen. Clinton's perfect 100 from ultraliberal NARAL Pro-Choice America, she earned a 100 for the first two years and an 88 percent score for the second two years from the gay-left lobbyists at the Human Rights Campaign.

After lamely arguing that she's centrist because many of her bills have at least one Republican co-sponsor [!], Balz acknowledged she is not exactly a Bush supporter: "But a Congressional Quarterly analysis found that she has voted with a majority of Democrats 95 percent of the time and has consistently recorded one of the highest percentages for opposing Bush on legislation of any of her potential 2008 Democratic rivals."

Overall, Balz and the Post editors seem to channel Hillary's latest campaign message: "[S]he made clear in a telephone interview on Friday that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduced to a slogan. 'I don't think like that,' she said. 'I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn't perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don't either.'"

Balz also relayed more spin from Hillary's aides and promoters:
"On balance, most of those around Clinton say her hard-to-pigeonhole profile is a political asset -- the product, they say, of a curious intellect, the absence of rigid ideology, an instinct for problem solving and a willingness to seek consensus even across party lines."

Why can't liberals be honest and just call themselves liberals? Easy. Because they lose when they do that. Balz cited one poll that underlined the political danger. Uh-oh:
"Although she has drawn criticism from the left for supporting the Iraq war, Clinton remains more popular among liberal Democrats than among moderate Democrats. Overall, 37 percent of Americans said she is too liberal, which is less than the 45 percent recorded for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) during the 2004 campaign and almost identical to perceptions of then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000."

So it would be politically advantageous to confuse voters about how liberal you are. That explains Hillary trying to make over her image like her 53rd hairdo. But The Washington Post looks like it's holding the blow dryer with this story.

-- Brent Baker