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NBC Sees "Extreme" & "Hardline" Gay Marriage View Only on Right --11/20/2003


1. NBC Sees "Extreme" & "Hardline" Gay Marriage View Only on Right
By nearly two-to-one, 59 percent to 32 percent, Americans oppose gay marriage, but on Wednesday night NBC's Jim Avila portrayed Republicans and conservatives as the ones who could turn off voters on the issue. He saw the "extreme" and "hardline" position on as the right against gay marriage, not on the left for it. "Swing voters," Avila warned, "are often turned off by extreme rhetoric" and he found a couple turned off by Republican "hardline rhetoric." Avila charged that "this year's trap for the Bush campaign, say political consultants, could be pushing too hard." Yet the Pew poll found that "strong opposition to the idea of gay marriage is the plurality position."

2. CNN's Cooper Contends Mass. Justices Not "Radically Leftist"
The Massachusetts Supreme Court can't be all that left-wing since it's majority Republican, CNN's Anderson Cooper argued on Tuesday night without consideration for how the Bay State's three most recent Republican Governors, Bill Weld, Paul Celluci and Jane Swift, were hardly conservatives and hardly had a deep pool of conservative judges in place from the Dukakis years from which to choose. Cooper contended that "of the six out of the seven members of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts who ruled this way, they were appointed in the last 12 years by Republican Governors. There's only one of those judges who's actually a Democratic appointee. So it doesn't seem to be a case of radically leftist judges making rulings."

3. Couric Gushes Over Rubin's Record, Blames Tax Cuts for Deficit
During a Wednesday segment with Robert Rubin to plug his new book, Today co-host Katie Couric gushed about how "the economy was thriving when you were Treasury Secretary and during the, the Clinton administration it was even called Rubin-nomics for awhile there." Ignoring the role of soaring spending, Couric blamed the rising deficit solely on tax cuts: "The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which you have been an outspoken critic of, P.S., have taken effect. We've gone from what was a projected 10-year surplus of over $5 trillion to a projected 10-year deficit of over $5 trillion."

4. Observers Note Media Suppression of Osama-Saddam Connections
Most of the media are suppressing the revelation, in a Weekly Standard story by Stephen Hayes released over the weekend, of a lengthy list compiled by the Defense Department of information gathered by various intelligence agencies about 13 years of connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to mention it while CNN and the New York Times have only cited it briefly in opinion columns or segments, not news stories, and though the Washington Post has reported on it, the paper has devoted nine times more words to a probe of the leak of the memo than to the powerful contents of it. FNC's Brit Hume highlighted the lack of media interest after Slate's Jack Shafer documented it. Shafer suggested that "the mainstream press is too invested in its consensus finding that Saddam and Osama never teamed up."

5. Letterman's "Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About England"
Letterman's "Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About England."


NBC Sees "Extreme" & "Hardline" Gay Marriage
View Only on Right

NBC's Jim Avila By nearly two-to-one, 59 percent to 32 percent, Americans oppose gay marriage, with the opposition crossing racial and geographic boundaries, but on Wednesday night NBC's Jim Avila portrayed Republicans and conservatives as the ones who could turn off voters on the issue. He saw the "extreme" and "hardline" position on as the right against gay marriage, not on the left for it. "Swing voters," Avila warned, "are often turned off by extreme rhetoric. Florida's David and Laura Mead are independents who normally lean right, but reject single-issue, hardline rhetoric."

Avila, who avoided the term "liberal" but twice tagged "conservatives," cautioned that "this year's trap for the Bush campaign, say political consultants, could be pushing too hard. The constitutional amendment against gay marriage, legislation the President has avoided, but House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is ready to push."

While a just-released poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, did find little support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Avila didn't cite that finding as he relayed how Pew determined "Republican voters overwhelmingly against gay marriage -- nearly 80 percent oppose -- while Democrats are split down the middle: 48 percent opposed, 46 percent favor."

In a story on Tuesday night, Avila had noted the 59 to 32 percent overall opposition to gay marriage. But on both nights, Avila failed to note a finding which undermined his premise as far more of those opposed than for it are passionate in their position. Pew reported: "Strong opposition to the idea of gay marriage is the plurality position. Among those who oppose the idea, nearly six-in-ten say they feel strongly about it (35 percent of the total population express this view.) Among those who favor gay marriage, fewer than three-in-ten say they strongly support the proposal (9 percent of the total.)"

While opposition is highest in those living in rural areas (against by 69 to 22 percent), the majority of those in suburbs (54 to 38 percent against) and urban area (52 to 36 percent against) also oppose gay marriage. And "there is little racial divide over gay marriage. Both whites and blacks oppose gay marriage by roughly two-to-one -- most Hispanics also oppose the idea, but by a smaller margin (51 percent to 36 percent)."

Pew also discovered that "granting some legal rights to gay couples is somewhat more acceptable than gay marriage, though most Americans (51 percent) oppose that idea."

For Pew's findings in their October poll: people-press.org

From Miami, Avila opened his November 19 NBC Nightly News story by blaming conservatives for stirring up the issue, not liberal activists who pushed a court case:
"Gay marriage, America's new cultural divide, fueling backlash from conservative groups like Focus on the Family, already fundraising to stop the quote, 'devastating and potentially fatal blow to the traditional family.' Concerned Women of America, e-mailing talking points." [Actually, its real name is Concerned Women for America]
Sandy Rios, Concerned Women of America: "This will galvanize. In fact, we're already seeing unity like we've never seem before."
Avila: "New poll numbers show Republican voters overwhelmingly against gay marriage -- nearly 80 percent oppose -- while Democrats are split down the middle: 48 percent opposed, 46 percent favor.
[On screen: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Republicans against 78 to 15 percent, Democrats against 48 to 46 percent]
"Gay marriage now the motivating factor and litmus test for conservatives like Andy and Judy Nearpass [sp a guess] who warn Democrats:"
Andy: "The issue of gay marriage could very well determine who I vote for."
Avila: "But this hot-button issue is not just dangerous for Democrats. Swing voters, who frequently decide close elections, are often turned off by extreme rhetoric. Florida's David and Laura Mead are independents who normally lean right, but reject single-issue, hardline rhetoric."
David: "As a voter, I tune off, literally, when I hear that stuff."
Avila: "Republican consultants say it's all about finesse."
Whit Ayers, Republican pollster: "The challenge for Republicans lies in their tone rather than in their position."
Avila, over video of Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican convention: "Warning against the harsh cultural war speeches that backfired in 1992. This year's trap for the Bush campaign, say political consultants, could be pushing too hard. The constitutional amendment against gay marriage, legislation the President has avoided, but House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is ready to push."
Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO): "There's a clear and present danger to marriage in our country today because of what four judges in Massachusetts did."
Avila concluded, over video of what appeared to be gays and lesbians cheering inside a church: "The cultural issue of the year -- divisive, passionate and filled with pitfalls for both political parties."

But Avila expended a lot more energy on the pitfalls for conservatives and Republicans.

CNN's Cooper Contends Mass. Justices
Not "Radically Leftist"

The Massachusetts Supreme Court can't be all that left-wing since it's majority Republican, CNN's Anderson Cooper argued on Tuesday night without consideration for how the Bay State's three most recent Republican Governors, Bill Weld, Paul Celluci and Jane Swift, were hardly conservatives and hardly had a deep pool of conservative judges in place from the Dukakis years from which to choose.

Cooper contended that "of the six out of the seven members of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts who ruled this way, they were appointed in the last 12 years by Republican Governors. There's only one of those judges who's actually a Democratic appointee. So it doesn't seem to be a case of radically leftist judges making rulings."

In fact, the ruling was 4 to 3.

Cooper's contention came during a November 18 interview segment on Anderson Cooper 360 with Court TV's Lisa Bloom, a supporter of that court's ruling on same sex marriage, and talk show host and CNN contributor Michael Smerconish, an opponent of the ruling.

MRC analyst Jen Shepherd provided this rundown of the session: Cooper suggested to Smerconish that the legislature would easily repeal the ruling by constitutional amendment: "But Michael, it seems very unlikely that the legislature is actually going to allow same-sex marriages in the state of Massachusetts."

Smerconish dismissed Cooper's analysis: "Well, Anderson, it is Massachusetts. I mean, we're talking about the only state in the country to go for McGovern. We're talking about the place that returns Ted Kennedy to the United States Senate every six years. I don't put anything past, you know, the folks of Massachusetts. I don't think this would have happened in any other state in the United States. And we're coming close, but it's still not."

Bloom interrupted, recalling Vermont's highest court mandating similar legislation a few years ago, saying, "It happened in Vermont."

Jumping in, Cooper countered Smerconish and cited the majority Republican affiliation of the court's members: "Well, you know, Michael, it's interesting you say that, but of the six out of the seven members of the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts who ruled this way, they were appointed in the last 12 years by Republican governors. There's only one of those judges who's actually a Democratic appointee. So it doesn't seem to be a case of radically leftist judges making rulings."

Smerconish corrected Cooper's simplistic characterization, insisting the issue is one of judicial activism, not partisan affiliation: "I disagree with you, Anderson. And I think this is a case where the court has taken on the role of the legislature. I mean, it's not the function of the court to set a law like this in motion. If Massachusetts wants to sanction gay marriages, then the legislature in Massachusetts ought to do that. But the legislature in Massachusetts hasn't done that yet."

For a picture and bio for Michael Smerconish: www.mastalk.com

Couric Gushes Over Rubin's Record, Blames
Tax Cuts for Deficit

During a Wednesday segment with Robert Rubin to plug his new book, Today co-host Katie Couric gushed about how "the economy was thriving when you were Treasury Secretary and during the, the Clinton administration it was even called Rubin-nomics for awhile there." Ignoring the role of soaring spending, Couric blamed the rising deficit solely on tax cuts: "The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which you have been an outspoken critic of, P.S., have taken effect. We've gone from what was a projected 10-year surplus of over $5 trillion to a projected 10-year deficit of over $5 trillion." Though she acknowledged the present GDP boom, she did not credit the tax cuts for it.

The November 12 Washington Post reported how "federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels."

The Heritage Foundation calculated that "defense and 9-11 related spending account for less than half of all spending increases since 2001," with 11 percent of it going to 9/11 response, 34 percent for defense, and a massive 55 percent for other spending. For Heritage's November 13 report by Brian Riedl, "Most New Spending Since 2001 Unrelated to the War on Terrorism": www.heritage.org

Couric introduced her November 19 session with Rubin, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens: "It was the largest economic expansion in U.S. history. By January 2001 more than 20 million new jobs had been created, the federal budget was balanced and the unemployment rate was at its lowest in 30 years. Robert Rubin was one of the key players in the Clinton administration. First as an economic adviser, then as Treasury Secretary for four-an-a-half years. His new book is called, In An Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington. Secretary Rubin, do I still call you Secretary, I guess?"

Couric asked him to describe what's in his book and noted how "you start off with the whole crisis in Mexico because that happened shortly after you were sworn in as Treasury Secretary." She wondered: "How did that shape you and what kind of input did you have on how the Clinton administration intervened, intervened in that crisis?"

Couric soon recalled: "The economy was thriving when you were Treasury Secretary and during the, the Clinton administration it was even called Rubin-nomics for awhile there, right?"

Couric reminisced: "Since then the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which you have been an outspoken critic of, P.S., have taken effect. We've gone from what was a projected 10-year surplus of over $5 trillion to a projected 10-year deficit of over $5 trillion. You know it seems like there are two schools of thought, Bob, about this. Some people who say this is a serious, serious problem that means terrible trouble ahead and other people who say, 'Oh a large deficit, it's just part of the way things work.'"
Rubin: "Oh I think, Katie, if you talk to mainstream economists, and I do a fair bit of that, I think there's a close to unanimous view that short term deficits to stimulate the economy when the economy is in difficult condition, temporary short term deficits make sense. And that's what I think we should have done in this situation. But that the long term deficits of the magnitude that we've created have become a very serious threat to our, our long term economic well-being. These didn't have to, it did not have to exist. You could have created any level of short term stimulus you wanted without putting in place measures that created the kinds of long term deficits that those two tax cuts created. And I don't think that there's any question, Katie, that they are a serious long term problem for our country."
Couric: "Well what does it mean for the future in concrete terms?"

Couric, however, did acknowledge the present rebound, though she didn't credit it to the tax cuts: "But do you, do you need to give credit where credit is due though? Last quarter a huge jump in gross domestic product, rose 7.2 percent. A number not seen since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. And for three straight months the economy has added jobs, albeit, not that many. Are we on the brink of an economic recovery? Most people seem to be saying that things are definitely looking up?"

Observers Note Media Suppression of Osama-Saddam Connections

Most of the media are suppressing the revelation, in a Weekly Standard story by Stephen Hayes released over the weekend, of a lengthy list compiled by the Defense Department of information gathered by various intelligence agencies about 13 years of connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to mention it while CNN and the New York Times have only cited it briefly in opinion columns or segments, not news stories, and though the Washington Post has reported on it, the paper has devoted nine times more words to a probe of the leak of the memo than to the powerful contents of it.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who has jumped on anti-Bush administration leaks from the Senate Intelligence Committee, kept the memo off Sunday's This Week and on Imus in the Morning on MSNBC a few days later he was more upset by the leak than by the content.

FNC's Brit Hume FNC's Brit Hume, Wednesday night in the "Grapevine" segment on his Special Report with Brit Hume, highlighted the lack of media interest in the intelligence compilation which, if true, would undermine a major premise pushed by much of the media:
"Over the weekend the Weekly Standard published a quote 'top secret' U.S. government memo detailing more than a decade of intelligence indicating an operating relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The Pentagon has since confirmed the memo's authenticity, but the memo has been almost entirely overlooked by major media. The nation's leading news magazines have completely ignored it, USA Today has completely ignored it, the New York Times has yet to mention it on its news pages, though a column today did mention it, and the Washington Post got around to mentioning first on Sunday, dismissing it in the sixth paragraph of a much broader story."

Hume was picking up on a Tuesday "Press Box" posting on Slate.com by Jack Shafer, "Case Open: Why is the press avoiding the Weekly Standard's intelligence scoop?"

Shafer described how the Hayes piece "quotes extensively from a classified Oct. 27, 2003, 16-page memo written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee, which is investigating the administration's prewar intelligence claims, asked Feith to annotate his July 10 testimony, and his now-leaked memo indexes in 50 numbered points what the various alphabet intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA) had collected about a Saddam-Osama connection."

After recounting how only Rupert Murdoch outlets have pursued the story broken in the magazine he owns, such as the New York Post and FNC, Shafer suggested that "one possible explanation" for why most of the media have suppressed the disclosure "is that the mainstream press is too invested in its consensus finding that Saddam and Osama never teamed up and its almost theological view that Saddam and Osama couldn't possibly have ever hooked up because of secular/sacred differences. Holders of such rigid views tend to reject any new information that may disturb their cognitive equilibrium."

Shafer noted how a Tuesday Washington Post story by Walter Pincus, on an investigation being launched into the leak of the memo quoted by Hayes, featured "one anonymous 'former senior intelligence officer'" whom Pincus quoted as sniffing "that the memo is not an intelligence product but 'data points...among the millions of holdings of the intelligence agencies, many of which are simply not thought likely to be true.'"

Shafer guffawed: "Help me! Many a reporter has hitched a ride onto Page One with the leak of intelligence much rawer than the stuff in Feith's memo. You can bet the farm that if a mainstream publication had gotten the Feith memo first, it would have used it immediately -- perhaps as a hook to re-examine the ongoing war between the Pentagon and CIA about how to interpret intelligence. Likewise, you'd be wise to bet your wife's farm that had a similar memo arguing no Saddam-Osama connection been leaked to the press, it would have generated 100 times the news interest as the Hayes story."

Shafer scolded the press, though he noted that he remains unconvinced: "I write this not as a believer in the Saddam-Osama love child or as a non-believer. My mind remains open to argument and to data both raw and refined. Hayes' piece piques my curiosity, and it should pique yours. If it's true that Saddam and Osama's people danced together -- if just for an evening or two -- that undermines the liberal critique that Bush rashly folded Iraq into his 'war on terror.' And if it's true, isn't that a story? Or, conversely, if Feith's shards of information direct us to the conclusion that his people stacked the intel to justify a bogus war, isn't that a story, too? Where is the snooping, prying, nosy press that I've heard so much about?"

Where indeed.

For Shafer's November 18 piece in full: slate.msn.com

The November 17 CyberAlert reported how on Fox News Sunday the day before, Fred Barnes had challenged his journalistic colleagues to pick up the Hayes exclusive and observed: "I love the press's in particular selective use of intelligence, which they accuse the Bush administration of, the same people who will raise doubts about this intelligence are praising the CIA assessment of what's going on in Iraq right now."

Checking with the MRC staff, I learned that no one has seen a syllable on ABC, CBS or NBC about the Hayes story or DOD memo, though on Wednesday's Imus in the Morning on MSNBC, Don Imus asked ABC's George Stephanopoulos about it: "What do you know about this leaked memo from the Defense Department linking Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein?"
Stephanopoulos admitted he didn't know much: "You know, not a whole lot. You're talking about the one that was printed in the Weekly Standard."
Imus: "Yeah."
Stephanopoulos showed a sudden concern for a leak and focused on it and not the content: "And it had this appendix which showed various instances where Saddam Hussein may have been working with al-Qaeda. All I can tell you is what our military analyst, Tony Cordesman at ABC -- he's also at Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies -- said. He first of all said it was outrageous that it was leaked. I mean, we can complain about leaks all day long on both the Republican and Democratic side, but what he said was that, what was especially outrageous about it is that this, all these instances that were detailed are very, very raw intelligence that has been uncorroborated, so that it doesn't, it basically doesn't prove anything, other than some people may have tried to establish contacts. He says it doesn't advance it beyond what we've known before and, as I said, I trust him -- he's credible, he's non-partisan and he's been right more often than not."

Maybe ABC could let its viewers know about what it considers well-known already.

On CNN, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd has seen only one brief mention: Tucker Carlson noted the story during Monday's "Political Alert" on Crossfire.

Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch project (www.timeswatch.org ) reported no news story through Wednesday and only this reference in a Wednesday column by Bill Safire: "(The secret memo detailing 50 instances has gone relatively uncovered by major media because it surfaced in the current Weekly Standard, but is the subject of an automatic leak investigation -- yet another time-wasting mistake.)"
[Web Update: Five days after the Weekly Standard story broke, the New York Times, on Thursday, November 20, ran a story inside (page A14 of Washington edition, page A18 of New York edition) discounting the import of the Feith memo. For the story by Douglas Jejl, headlined "More Proof of Iraq-Qaeda Link, or Not?": www.nytimes.com]

FNC, the MRC's Amanda Monson noticed, has talked about it on Fox and Friends and run stories on Fox Report and Special Report with Brit Hume, in addition to discussion on prime time shows such as Hannity & Colmes and hourly news update mentions on Saturday when the Hayes story was first released.

Nighttime MSNBC shows, such as Scarborough Country and Buchanan & Press, which had Hayes on as a guest on Monday night, have also given air time to his scoop.

In a broader story headlined, "CIA Finds No Evidence Hussein Sought to Arm Terrorists," the Washington Post's Walter Pincus on Sunday gave 78 words to the DOD memo/Hayes story: "Yesterday, allegations of new evidence of connections between Iraq and al Qaeda contained in a classified annex attached to Feith's Oct. 27 letter to leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were published in the Weekly Standard. Feith had been asked to support his July 10 closed-door testimony about such connections. The classified annex summarized raw intelligence reports but did not analyze them or address their accuracy, according to a senior administration official familiar with the matter." See: www.washingtonpost.com

But on Tuesday, November 18, the Post devoted 729 words to a story by Pincus headlined: "CIA Seeks Probe of Iraq-Al Qaeda Memo Leak." See: www.washingtonpost.com

For an excerpt of Hayes' article, see the November 17 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

For the complete Hayes piece as published in the November 24 Weekly Standard magazine: weeklystandard.com

On Wednesday, the Weekly Standard posted an update from Hayes, "The Saddam-Osama Memo (cont.): A close examination of the Defense Department's latest statement," in which Hayes examined the DOD's efforts to discount the relevance of the memo. See: weeklystandard.com

Letterman's "Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About England"

From the November 19 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About England." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com

10. "Clocks are five hours fast"

9. "Everybody's speaking some crazy foreign language"

8. "Harry Potter won't return phone calls"

7. "So touchy about minor things...like going to war under false pretenses"

6. "They don't know where Saddam is either"

5. "Queen Elizabeth not half as funny as 'King of Queens'"

4. "Disappointed to learn 'Big Ben' is just a giant clock"

3. "Pack a gum costs 2 pounds -- who carries two pounds of money?!"

2. "I've been here for 36 hours and Prince Charles hasn't made a single move on me"

1. "Driving on the left reminds me of my drinking days"

# Wesley Clark is scheduled to be a guest tonight, Thursday, on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.

-- Brent Baker