NBC Focuses on Bush's Bad Polls Yet Ignores Popular Bush Policies --3/17/2006
2. Barnes: Stuck on Daily Diet of Explosions, Media Miss Progress
3. Olbermann Mocks Bush Preemptive War Doctrine, America as "Empire"
4. Mike Wallace: Mr. Fairness or Another CBS Liberal? (Pick B)
5. Wallace: Journalist First, American Second (with Vintage Video)
6. ER: Iraq Supporters "Brainwashed" by "Pseudo-Patriotic Delusion"
A day after leading with how a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put President Bush's approval at a low 37 percent, Thursday's NBC Nightly News again emphasized the negative for Bush and ignored how its own survey found public support for Bush policies which the media have derided, such as majority support for the NSA wiretapping program, the Patriot Act and making Bush's tax cuts permanent. From the White House, David Gregory asserted that "they're clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the President's eroding support in the country." Gregory suggested that "at his lowest level yet in the polls, the President is left to wonder: Which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency." Ironically, Gregory relayed how "Republican leaders have said they're worried that the President's strengths, like tax cuts or tough anti-terror measures, have been overlooked." Indeed they have been by Gregory and NBC News. While Tim Russert on Wednesday night gave a sentence to how "voters still say they prefer Republicans to manage the war in Iraq and to deal with homeland security," like with the terrorist surveillance issue, neither NBC Nightly News nor Today have yet to mention how 56 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent."
For a rundown of NBC March 15 coverage of its poll, see the March 16 CyberAlert item, "NBC Hypes Repetitive Low Bush Approval, Skips Intercept Approval": www.mediaresearch.org
The overlooked poll numbers, as posted in a PDF on the Wall Street Journal Web site: online.wsj.com
-- 52 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "using wiretaps to listen to telephone calls between suspected terrorists in other countries and American citizens in the United States without getting a court order to do so," compared to 46 percent or "strongly" or "somewhat" oppose.
-- 75 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "promoting the USA Patriot Act, which gives the government greater ability to spy on and prosecute suspected terrorists."
-- 56 percent "strongly" or "somewhat" support "making the tax cuts of the past few years permanent."
A transcript of the March 16 NBC Nightly News story, for which the MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video:
Brian Williams, referring to the major operation in Iraq and the White House's new national security policy directive: "Everything we've covered so far here this evening can, of course, have a considerable impact on President Bush's political fortunes. Our chief White House correspondent David Gregory with us tonight from the White House, and, David, what are they saying there?"
David Gregory, with "Low Point?" on screen: "Well, they're clearly shaken, as you might understand, politically, by the President's eroding support in the country, Brian. And, yet, I think what we've reported on in the last few minutes underscores the point that, for now at least, the President is sticking to his guns, militarily and philosophically. They may be worried about losing time here, but for now, as one advisor said, the President wants to keep chipping away at the issues that are creating so much opposition. At his lowest level yet in the polls, the President is left to wonder: Which way is up? Iraq, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, has enveloped the Bush presidency."
Citing a Thursday column from Baghdad by David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Fred Barnes, during the panel segment on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, scolded the news media for delivering a "daily diet" of news about explosions while missing progress on the political front. Ignatius began his column: "There has been so much bad news out of Iraq lately that you have to pinch yourself when good things seem to be happening. But there are unmistakable signs here this week that Iraq's political leaders are taking the first tentative steps toward forming a broad government of national unity that could reverse the country's downward slide." He concluded: "Pessimism isn't necessarily the right bet for Iraq."
Barnes, Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard, observed, "Here's what struck me about it: David Ignatius reported about a lot of top level private meetings of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds of the number of meetings over, what, the last couple of weeks, I think. Where were the reporters? Why did David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, have to go over there and reveal that to us? I mean, the reporters ought to know about that. These are major figures politically in Iraq and we get nothing from them except word of explosions. From the other reporters -- that's the daily diet."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your take, go to: newsbusters.org ]
In the first segment of the March 16 panel segment on Special Report with Brit Hume, Morton Kondracke, of Roll Call, raised the column by Ignatius, who while not a wild liberal, is certainly no conservative:
An excerpt from the column by David Ignatius, "Steps Toward Unity in Iraq," as published in the March 16 Washington Post:
BAGHDAD -- There has been so much bad news out of Iraq lately that you have to pinch yourself when good things seem to be happening. But there are unmistakable signs here this week that Iraq's political leaders are taking the first tentative steps toward forming a broad government of national unity that could reverse the country's downward slide.
What has brought Iraq's political factions together is the crisis that followed the Feb. 22 bombing of the Samarra mosque, which raised the danger that Iraq might tumble into a full-scale civil war. The country's political leaders seemed to realize, as they stood at the brink, that they would either come together or Iraq would fall apart. So far they seem to be choosing unity -- or at least serious talks about unity.
The venue has been a series of meetings this week that have included all of the country's major political factions. This conclave was proposed a week ago by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. His idea was that the political leaders should all gather, in rural Iraq or perhaps at a Baghdad hotel, and keep meeting until they hammered out a new government....
Khalilzad told me in an interview in his office after Wednesday's session that the talks had produced tentative agreement on two basic points: First, the parties endorsed the idea of a unity government that would include all the major factions. Second, they agreed that this government should have a top-level "national security commission" that would include representatives of all the major political parties. Operating by consensus, this body would frame the broad outlines of policy, subject to the Iraqi constitution.
This week's dialogue broke the deadlock over the composition of the coalition....
The U.S. ambassador's upbeat account is believable because it is echoed by Iraqi political leaders. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's vice president and a representative of Hakim and his powerful Shiite party known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told me Wednesday: "We have a common understanding on major issues -- on the need for consensus and on a national security commission. What makes me confident is that I think we are building up a sense of understanding among different communities." He said the message of the new government must be: "No one is outside of the law, whether the Badr Organization [the Supreme Council's militia], the Mahdi Army or the insurgency."
One seeming obstacle to unity has been fear about the role of Iran. To finesse that issue, Hakim said he is urging Iran to talk with the United States about Iraq's political future. Khalilzad himself has been quietly exploring what he calls the "modalities" for such U.S.-Iran talks on Iraq.
One hint of the new spirit of accord (and also of the political jockeying taking place) emerged when I visited Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician who has allied himself over the past year with Sadr and with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari. With Chalabi Wednesday was Sheik Khalaf Elayan, one of the leaders of the biggest Sunni party. Chalabi seems to be seeking Sunni political allies, believing that they will be a crucial part of the next government. He also believes that Sunni tribal leaders such as Khalaf are working to stop the al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi....
END of Excerpt
For the Ignatius column in full: www.washingtonpost.com
On Thursday night's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann characterized the logic of the White House's newly released National Security Strategy as insane by comparing its architects to individuals who fail the sanity test: "Does the individual continue to take action A and continue to get result B, while insisting that next time he will get result Z?" Referring to the Bush administration as "the forces that got us into Iraq," Olbermann declared that they are "still expecting to get result Z." After reading from the strategy, the Countdown host snidely quipped, "Actually finding WMD, result Z, is apparently beside the point."
Olbermann, who routinely signs off his Countdown show on an anti-war note by recounting the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq "since the declaration of mission accomplished," teased Thursday's show by summarizing the Bush policy of preemptive war as: "We can start it in order to keep somebody else from starting it." While showing footage of the aftermath of a bombing in Iraq, he sarcastically added, "Well, after all, it has worked so well in Iraq." Notably, while Olbermann later interviewed Time magazine's Michael Duffy, someone thought it was a good idea to display the words "The Empire Strikes Back" at the bottom of the screen, presumably referring to America's airstrikes in Iraq, during their discussion.
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted early Friday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
The Countdown host opened the show: "Good evening. The simplest test of sanity, the initial screen for mis-perceived existence, the 'follow-my-finger' of psychology: Does the individual continue to take action A and continue to get result B, while insisting that next time he will get result Z? Our fifth story on the Countdown, the Bush Doctrine. Preemptive war or, if you prefer, preventive war, is back and better than ever tonight. While U.S. forces in Iraq launch a major new air assault, the forces that got us into Iraq have declared anew that they're still expecting to get result Z."
Olbermann also found time to challenge Scott McClellan's claim that the President did not personally order the current offensive of airstrikes in Iraq, while merely being briefed by commanders, a claim which Olbermann referred to as "further twists of logic." After showing a clip of an exchange between McClellan and NBC's David Gregory while they were discussing the topic, the Countdown host then brought aboard Michael Duffy of Time magazine for further discussion. During the entire interview with Duffy, the words "The Empire Strikes Back," presumably referring to America's airstrikes in Iraq, were displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Olbermann opened his interview with Duffy by wondering: "If this is a standard operating procedure, commanders in the field operating separately from the White House, does it still politically make the President look less than informed when the press secretary has to sort of tapdance around this question did the President know about this in advance?"
Duffy disagreed with Olbermann's fascination with this topic: "Well, I don't think so. I think Bush has always been, President Bush has always been pretty clear that he lets the commanders in the field do what they want. In fact, he's given those guys even more authority than they might have had in the previous administration. And he's kind of always been this way, so I don't really think this is a problem for them."
Returning to the subject of the newly released National Security Strategy, Olbermann again sought to discredit it by bringing up the failure to find WMD in Iraq: "To the updated version of the National Security Strategy document, giving no ground on the idea of preemptive war and claiming the logic of preemption is finding WMD before WMD can be used against us. Maybe I'm mis-remembering this, but I thought we did not find any WMD in Iraq. Does the White House address the logic of that?"
After steering the discussion toward what the report says about Iran and North Korea, Olbermann ended his interview seeking reassurance for "those who are worried by ... the idea of preventive or preemptive war": "Lastly, amid the handwringing here, for those who are worried by the restatement of this, of the idea of preventive or preemptive war, this document is not legally binding, is it? I mean, it doesn't come with additional freeze-dried military personnel, the ones who would be required to launch the preemptive actions while nearly all of the current personnel are still tied up in Iraq, right?"
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the March 16 Countdown show:
Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Preventive war, preemptive war: The Bush Doctrine of September 2002. 'We can start it in order to keep somebody else from starting it,' restated today as the official policy of this country. [shows aftermath of bombing in Iraq] Well, after all, it has worked so well in Iraq."
Olbermann: "Punctuating the policy: The biggest air assault in Iraq since mid-April 2003, and the President knew about it in advance, right?"
Olbermann: "Well, that certainly clears things up. In a moment, the military nuts and bolts of what the Pentagon is calling Operation Swarmer, with analyst Dan Goure. First, here to bring clarity to some of the political questions about today's developments, let's call in Time magazine assistant managing editor Michael Duffy. Thanks for joining us again, sir."
After discussing what the report had to say about Iran and North Korea, Olbermann asked his final question of the interview:
In acknowledging Mike Wallace's semi-retirement from 60 Minutes at the end of this season, CBS News President Sean McManus handed out a bouquet of praise: "Mike has completely embodied what good, tough, fair journalism should be over the course of his 60-plus years in the business." Is that true? Is he Mr. Fairness? No. To the MRC, the record shows that Wallace has been just another well-paid CBS partisan liberal, and more so recently, on the Iraq war. A sampler from the MRC's Notable Quotables.
For the CBS News "Public Eye" blog with the reaction from McManus, go to: www.cbsnews.com
# What? Wounded Vets Aren't Peaceniks Yet? "I was astonished: Almost all of them support the war, despite the fact that it's taken such a toll on them. We asked them flat out: Should we be there? And the ones that are the most severely hit believe yes, we should have been there. They are not angry at the President, they're not angry at the establishment. I promise you, you'll be astonished if you're up that late on Sunday night." -- CBS's Mike Wallace on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning February 10, 2006, where he was promoting his 60 Minutes story on four severely wounded veterans of the Iraq war.
# Bush Bleeped the Country Up.
# It's Cheney's Vietnam.
# Iraq, Not A Heroic War. "[During World War II] we knew what we were fighting for. We knew how important it was. We loved our country. We loved our Commander-in-Chief....This is not, in my estimation, a good war....I don't know how we got into a position where our present Commander-in-Chief and the people around him had the guts to take our kids and send them on what seems to be -- it sure is not a noble enterprise." -- CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace at a May 28, 2005 Smithsonian Institution "National World War II Reunion" event shown later that same day on C-SPAN.
# Who Told Bush To Be A Liberator?
# Don't Call Me A Sellout, I Voted for Nader. "[Rutgers University professor Benjamin] Barber charged that [CBS correspondent Mike] Wallace and his network news colleagues were little more than establishment spokesmen for grand entertainment empires, corporations that are easily co-opted by the powers that be. Wallace countered that 60 Minutes had done several pieces over the years that had caused advertisers to boycott the network. 'We don't cave in to commercial pressures,' he said. Later, perhaps needing to prove to the assembled that he was no establishment stooge, he revealed that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got his vote in the 2000 election. 'I'm basically an independent,' Wallace says to TV Guide." -- Item by Max Robins in the June 16-22, 2001 issue of TV Guide, recounting an exchange at a May 25 "Future of Journalism" forum in New York City.
# Yes, America Had A Tantrum. "There was a temper tantrum that did take place in the American electorate last November. No doubt about it. They were mad at the Democrats, they were mad at the President. They were frustrated because, there's all kinds of reasons to be frustrated, and talk radio -- in my estimation, I think the President is right about that -- focuses on that." -- 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace agreeing with the Peter Jennings radio commentary blaming the November election result on "a temper tantrum....a nation full of uncontrolled two-year-old rage." Interview with Arianna Huffington, CNBC's Talk Live, May 6, 1995.
# We're Just Objective Reporters, Not Commentators. "The fact of the matter is that everybody you're looking at here is a reporter, and the fellow in Moscow [Dan Rather] as well, and we report about other people. There's not a commentator on this stage, and that fellow in Moscow is not a commentator. So we simply don't do what you're saying." -- 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace defending a panel of CBS reporters against charges of liberal bias, especially on abortion coverage, on the May 18, 1990 Donahue.
# Nostalgia For Brutal Order. "Many Soviets viewing the current chaos and nationalist unrest under Gorbachev look back almost longingly to the era of brutal order under Stalin." -- Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, February 11, 1990.
# Mike's Inspirational Reading. "I read Mother Jones carefully and look forward to every issue. After all, stories that started out in Mother Jones have wound up on 60 Minutes." -- CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace as quoted in a 1989 subscription letter for the far-left magazine.
"Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?", moderator Charles Ogletree Jr. suggested. Without hesitating, Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher duty...you're a reporter." When Brent Scrowcroft, the then-future National Security Adviser, argued that "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second," Wallace was mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by [the imaginary] North Kosanese on American soldiers?"
[This item was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org, where it is accompanied by two videos, in both Real and Windows Media formats, as well as MP3 audio -- all of which will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert. But in the meantime, you can view the vintage videos at: newsbusters.org ]
These videos come from the recording in the MRC archive of the show as aired on Washington, DC's PBS affiliate, WETA-TV channel 26, on March 7, 1989. However, the show was taped at Harvard on October 31, 1987, and I presume first aired on PBS in the following months. The two-hour program, with at least ten panelists including then-Congressman Newt Gingrich, was part of PBS's Ethics in America series and carried the episode title, "Under Orders, Under Fire."
On the videos, please note they were rendered from 17-year-old VHS video recorded in EP and then transferred to DVD, so the sound is a bit muffled, though I did boost the volume a bit in the rendering. The video was processed at 100 kbps, which is less than half the 225 Real/256 Windows Media standard NewsBusters and the MRC normally employ, but this kept the file size reasonable and given the quality of the original the higher rate did not produce substantially improved video or audio quality.
Now, a reprint of an article I wrote about this PBS show, as published in the April, 1989 MediaWatch, a monthly newsletter then published by the MRC:
Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace Agree: Reporters First, Americans Second
In a future war involving U.S. soldiers what would a TV reporter do if he learned the enemy troops with which he was traveling were about to launch a surprise attack on an American unit? That's just the question Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree Jr, as moderator of PBS' Ethics in America series, posed to ABC anchor Peter Jennings and 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace. Both agreed getting ambush footage for the evening news would come before warning the U.S. troops.
For the March 7 installment on battlefield ethics Ogletree set up a theoretical war between the North Kosanese and the U.S.-supported South Kosanese. At first Jennings responded: "If I was with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans."
Wallace countered that other reporters, including himself, "would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover." Jennings' position bewildered Wallace: "I'm a little bit of a loss to understand why, because you are an American, you would not have covered that story."
"Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?" Ogletree asked. Without hesitating Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher duty...you're a reporter." This convinces Jennings, who concedes, "I think he's right too, I chickened out."
Ogletree turns to Brent Scrowcroft, now the National Security Adviser, who argues "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second." Wallace is mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by North Kosanese on American soldiers?" Retired General William Westmoreland then points out that "it would be repugnant to the American listening public to see on film an ambush of an American platoon by our national enemy."
A few minutes later Ogletree notes the "venomous reaction" from George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel. "I feel utter contempt. Two days later they're both walking off my hilltop, they're two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists, they're not Americans."
Wallace and Jennings agree, "it's a fair reaction." The discussion concludes as Connell says: "But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists."
END of Reprint
That article is posted online at: www.mrc.org
When one woman, whose husband would not be home for the impending birth of their child, proclaimed that "our loved ones are serving our country, and it's a small price to pay," Dr. Rasgotra replied: "I think it's a huge price to pay, especially under the circumstances." The woman wondered: "What circumstances?" Dr. Rasgotra explained: "Well, the way the whole thing's been handled, how we got into it, how it's been managed....I still haven't seen any weapons of mass destruction, have you?" As they all sat in a home's living room, Dr. Rasgotra pleaded with the group: "You can't tell me that you believe 100 percent in your heart that we should be in Iraq, can any of you?"
NBC's page for Nagra and her character: www.nbc.com
The Internet Movie Database's page for Nagra: www.imdb.com
[This item was posted Friday morning, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post a comment, or to play the video excerpt in either Real or Windows Media format, go to: newsbusters.org ]
This isn't the first time ER has taken shots at President Bush or the Iraq war. A November NewsBusters item by Rich Noyes recounted: "About three-fourths of the way through ER on NBC, a character giving a dinner table blessing began her prayer with rhetoric that could have been lifted from MoveOn.org's Web site: 'Thank you, Lord, for the blessings we are about to receive. Look over those now who cannot be with us, including the countrymen who fight to protect us in an overseas war founded on lies told to us by our government.'" For the video: newsbusters.org
Back in May of 2004, CyberAlert reported how on ER "two of the characters decided they could not name their baby 'George' because it was 'the name of the current occupant of the White House.' Later in the show, another of the characters was thrilled to hear from a liberal Bush-hating columnist: 'Molly Ivins gave a kick ass speech!'" See: www.mrc.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth took down the minute-and-a-half scene from near the very end of the March 16 episode. The dialogue occurs as those speaking at a social gathering, for those with spouses deployed overseas, get food from a buffet table and then sit down in a living room of a home:
Woman #1, referring to Dr. Rasgotra's doctor husband: "So how's Michael doing, back in the saddle again?"
That stunned the group into silence as the camera went to a wide shot of the group and then the show moved onto another scene.
-- Brent Baker