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NBC's "Random" Views: U.S. Warmongering or Committing Terrorism --3/21/2006


1. NBC's "Random" Views: U.S. Warmongering or Committing Terrorism
Monday's Today delivered what co-host Katie Couric described as "a random sampling" of public views on Iraq, but NBC's "random sampling" featured just three people, with two of those characterizing the U.S. as warmongering or as guilty of committing terrorism. A woman holding a protest sign, "We Are for Peace from the USA," declared: "There were no weapons of mass destruction. Too many people are dying daily around the world because of this lie!" In a second soundbite, she complained: "I'm so disappointed in our country at this time." A man on the street charged: "It's about America going and becoming terrorists themselves."

2. On War's 3rd Anniversary, ABC Allows Hope But NBC All Negative
Asked to provide an assessment of how life is for ordinary Iraqis on the third anniversary of the start of the war, on Monday's ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News, Dan Harris and Richard Engel provided different pictures. ABC's Harris conveyed more bad than good, but acknowledged some hope expressed by an Iraqi family. NBC's Engel, however, stuck exclusively to the negative. "Iraqis today show a range of complex, competing emotions," Harris relayed as he profiled a family in which "the question of whether Iraq is better off three years later provokes debate" with the 15-year-old daughter pleased that "toppling the regime made Iraq free." Harris concluded with how the family expresses "the same, seemingly contradictory emotions, so common in Iraq today. They sometimes miss the days of Saddam, but don't want him back. They want the Americans to get out, but just not yet." A more dire Engel began with how "since the U.S. invasion, there has not been a single day without mortar fire, car bombings, or IED attacks. This is not the world Afrah wanted to bring her daughter into." He concluded with how one man told him that "when he leaves his house in the morning...he tells his family he might not see them again." Engel proceeded to tell anchor Campbell Brown about how "my closest Iraqi friend" thinks "his country is now lost."

3. CNN's Schneider on Feingold's Censure Move: Why Not Impeachment?
To paraphrase that famous George Santayana phrase, perhaps political reporters who highlight liberal efforts to embarrass the President on Friday are destined to find those same moves inadequate on Monday. Having awarded, on the March 17 Situation Room, liberal Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold with the "Political Play of the Week" for his motion to censure President Bush, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, during Monday's 4pm hour, cited the Doonesbury comic strip for support after he wondered why the Senator isn't proposing impeachment: "The philosopher George Santayana wrote those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But sometimes that happens with those who remember the past all too well. Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush raises a question. If he believes the President broke the law, why isn't the Senator proposing impeachment?"

4. ABC's Boston Legal Airs Anti-Bush Tirade that Raises McCarthy Era
Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today." She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts." In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "Now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't." Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."

5. Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney Won't Resign"
Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney Won't Resign."


NBC's "Random" Views: U.S. Warmongering
or Committing Terrorism

Monday's Today delivered what co-host Katie Couric described as "a random sampling" of public views on Iraq, but NBC's "random sampling" featured just three people, with two of those characterizing the U.S. as warmongering or as guilty of committing terrorism. A woman holding a protest sign, "We Are for Peace from the USA," declared: "There were no weapons of mass destruction. Too many people are dying daily around the world because of this lie!" In a second soundbite, she complained: "I'm so disappointed in our country at this time." A man on the street charged: "It's about America going and becoming terrorists themselves."

Couric broke away to her "random" sampling in the midst of a relatively balanced panel discussion, in the 7am half hour of the March 20 show, with, as Couric described them: "Wendy Sherman was a top foreign policy adviser for the Clinton administration. Dan Senor served as a senior adviser for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. General Barry McCaffrey is an NBC News analyst. He commanded the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during the first Gulf War and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Richard Jadick was awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery in Iraq."

Couric, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, had opened the broadcast: "Good morning. The war in Iraq three years later. Saddam is gone but has it been worth the cost in lives and in dollars? This morning a hard look at the successes and the failures."

As he subsequently did on the NBC Nightly News (see item #2 below), Richard Engel checked in with an all negative look at the situation in Iraq: "Good morning Katie. Many Iraqis today are doing just that, asking themselves are they better off now after three years of war and chaos and most of the Iraqis we spoke to said they don't think so..."

After Engel, Couric turned to her panel and she noted how "in a recent poll of Iraqi citizens, more than 60 percent said they remain optimistic about their future." Setting up the "random" views, however, she recited how "the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 57 percent of American people surveyed were less confident there will be a successful conclusion in Iraq. Before we finish on where we go from here and how to get, convince the American people to stay the course, if in fact that is necessary, we did a random sampling of people's views on the, on the war. Let's take a listen and then we'll finish up."
Man#1: "I support the Commander-In-Chief and I would like to see the mission go through as smooth as possible with as many, the least amount of lives lost as possible."
Woman#1, holding protest sign, "We Are for Peace from the USA": "There were no weapons of mass destruction. Too many people are dying daily around the world because of this lie!"
Man#1: "I'm going to make sure that the men that are over there who are my brothers as Americans that I'm going to support them."
Man#2: "We are all here asked to support our troops but really it's not about that. It's, it's about America going and becoming terrorists themselves."
Woman#1: "I'm so disappointed in our country at this time."
Couric: "A random sampling. So to finish things up, the, the million dollar question, where do we go from here? And how can this be brought to a logical and appropriate conclusion?"...

On War's 3rd Anniversary, ABC Allows
Hope But NBC All Negative

Asked to provide an assessment of how life is for ordinary Iraqis on the third anniversary of the start of the war, on Monday's ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News, Dan Harris and Richard Engel provided different pictures. ABC's Harris conveyed more bad than good, but acknowledged some hope expressed by an Iraqi family. NBC's Engel, however, stuck exclusively to the negative. "Iraqis today show a range of complex, competing emotions," Harris relayed as he profiled a family in which "the question of whether Iraq is better off three years later provokes debate" with the 15-year-old daughter pleased that "toppling the regime made Iraq free." After relating how a man in a long gas line maintained such a line "never would have happened under Saddam," Harris pressed him: "Would you really rather have Saddam back, or long gas lines? 'We don't want Saddam. But we need a better economy and more security.'" Harris concluded with how the family expresses "the same, seemingly contradictory emotions, so common in Iraq today. They sometimes miss the days of Saddam, but don't want him back. They want the Americans to get out, but just not yet."

A more dire Engel began with how "since the U.S. invasion, there has not been a single day without mortar fire, car bombings, or IED attacks. This is not the world Afrah wanted to bring her daughter into." Engel highlighted how callers to a radio show "complain about kidnapings, police death squads and murders between Sunnis and Shiites." He concluded with how one man told him that "when he leaves his house in the morning...he tells his family he might not see them again." Engel proceeded to tell anchor Campbell Brown about how "my closest Iraqi friend" thinks "his country is now lost."

[This item was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

ABC's World News Tonight devoted its entire air time to the third anniversary of the war, while CBS and ABC dedicated their first four stories to the subject.

Dan Harris began his March 20 World News Tonight piece, from Iraq, in which he narrated what Iraqi's told him:
"After invasion and elections, new freedoms and new terrors, Iraqis today show a range of complex, competing emotions. Three years ago, the Methboub family rode out the invasion in this small, spare apartment. Today, the question of whether Iraq is better off three years later provokes debate. Amal, who's 15, says toppling the regime made Iraq free. Her mother says 'I wish the war never happened.' We first met Karima Methboub before Iraq's elections. She told us then she would risk her life to vote. Now, with politicians still fighting over forming a government, she says she's disappointed. 'They haven't changed the situation at all.'
"The situation for many here has worsened. Since the war, millions of Iraqis no longer have drinkable water. In Baghdad, there's electricity for fewer than eight hours a day, compared to 18 before. And in a country with so much oil, today there are unfathomably long gas lines.
Harris to a man in gas line: "Why did you bring all your children? 'I thought the gas station workers would feel bad for me and put in the front of the line. But my plan failed.' Right here [Harris sitting on car hood] where we are, we're about a half mile, maybe a mile, away from the actual gas station. Sometimes, people wait on line for 4 hours, sometimes 12 hours. Sometimes they even camp out overnight. [Harris sitting in a car with a man] Do you think it was a good idea that the Americans came? 'No,' says Omar, a college student. 'And the best sign of that is this line, which never would have happened under Saddam.' Would you really rather have Saddam back, or long gas lines? 'We don't want Saddam. But we need a better economy and more security.'
"Security is the biggest issue for Iraqis, including the Methboub family. Amal only leaves the apartment to go to school. Days ago, a bomb killed three of Karima's friends. Before the war, fear in Iraq came from one source: Saddam Hussein. Iraqis wouldn't dare say anything critical to a reporter. Usually falling back on pro-Saddam chants [video]. Now, Iraqis are clamming up for a different reason -- fear of angering any number of violent groups. We recently met a woman who was there when Saddam's statue was pulled down. Three years later, she would only tell us how touching that moment was, if we covered her face.
Harris concluded: "Since the war, the Methboub family has known good times, including the marriage of a daughter. However, they express the same, seemingly contradictory emotions, so common in Iraq today. They sometimes miss the days of Saddam, but don't want him back. They want the Americans to get out, but just not yet. Dan Harris, ABC News, Baghdad."

From Iraq, Richard Engel, over video of fires in the aftermath of explosions, opened his March 20 NBC Nightly News piece:
"Few Iraqis imagined that three years after the war began, Iraq would still look like this. Since the U.S. invasion, there has not been a single day without mortar fire, car bombings, or IED attacks. This is not the world Afrah wanted to bring her daughter into [video of mother with baby]. Miriam is only 20 minutes old. Yet already her mother is worried about her future. Afrah is a Shiite. Her husband Khalil, a Sunni. The couple was so optimistic after the fall of Baghdad, they married two months later. Today Khalil says he worries every car could have a bomb. And with a curfew in place from 8 till dawn, he doesn't know what he'll do if Miriam gets sick at night and needs a doctor. 'I don't want to have any more children,' Khalil says. 'Things are getting worse and worse.' Fears about the future is something Ahmed Rukabi hears about all the time. After Saddam fell, Rukabi returned from Europe to set up Radio Dijla, Iraq's first free radio station. Now his callers complain about kidnapings, police death squads and murders between Sunnis and Shiites."
Rukabi: "Anyone could be a target. A hairdresser is a target in Iraq today. The garbage collector in the street is a target. The butchers are targets."
Engel, over video of men dragging palm trees into the street: "Every day just before dark the palm trees come out in al-Amieriya and this Sunni neighborhood turns into a fortress. Residents have long been proud of their palms that for generations supplied them with dates. Now they're checkpoints, to keep out insurgents and rogue militias. Residents say they have no other choice. 'The Police don't come here,' he says. At 8pm across Baghdad, in a Shiite neighborhood, Ahmed Saadi is a one-man patrol. Armed, watching his house, signaling to neighbors if any unknown people are around. Inside, Ahmed has set up a hiding place. 'I've put blankets and ammunition in here,' he says. 'And I can escape with this ladder.'
[Over video of amusement rides] "This amusement park is almost the only place where children can escape. [video of smiling people] And even their parents seem to forget where they are. But only for a moment. One Iraqi man who had two young daughters with him at that amusement park told us that like many people here, when he leaves his house in the morning, Campbell, he tells his family he might not see them again. Campbell?"

Anchor Campbell Brown: "And Richard, you've been there a long time. You have a lot of Iraqi friends and colleagues. Are they telling you the same thing?"
Engel: "Unfortunately they are. I was struck by one particular story, I was told by perhaps my closest Iraqi friend. He was with me throughout the period of the war. We were there together, in the square, when the statue of Saddam was being pulled down. He just thought this was the greatest thing in the world. A young university student who thought he had an incredible future ahead of him. Last week in Sadr City he was standing on line waiting to donate blood when a stranger came in, someone from outside the neighborhood, and local militias who were patrolling the streets were suspicious of this person, wrestled him to the ground and realized he was wearing a suicide belt. Then they executed him right in front of him. He thinks his country is now lost."

CNN's Schneider on Feingold's Censure
Move: Why Not Impeachment?

To paraphrase that famous George Santayana phrase, perhaps political reporters who highlight liberal efforts to embarrass the President on Friday are destined to find those same moves inadequate on Monday. Having awarded, on the March 17 Situation Room, liberal Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold with the "Political Play of the Week" for his motion to censure President Bush, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider, during Monday's 4pm hour, cited the Doonesbury comic strip for support after he wondered why the Senator isn't proposing impeachment: "The philosopher George Santayana wrote those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But sometimes that happens with those who remember the past all too well. Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush raises a question. If he believes the President broke the law, why isn't the Senator proposing impeachment?"

For details about Schneider's Friday praise for Feingold, check the March 20 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

[This item, by the MRC's Megan McCormack, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To offer your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Schneider then highlighted four panels from the March 19 Doonesbury, Gary Trudeau's left-wing cartoon strip:
"Democrats have not forgotten what the Republican Congress did to President Clinton. Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury cartoon shows a college instructor asking students to consider the case of two Presidents. Quote, 'The first President initiates a bloody, costly unending war on false premises and approves covert policies of illegal detentions, kangaroo courts, extraordinary renditions, torture, and warrant-less wiretapping of thousands of Americans. The second President lies about hooking up with an intern. Question, which one should be impeached?'"

ABC's Boston Legal Airs Anti-Bush Tirade
that Raises McCarthy Era

Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today."


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She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts." In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't."

Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."

Check the posted version of this item for a couple of video and audio clips, where the MRC's Michael Gibbons should have them up within an hour of this e-mail being sent: www.mediaresearch.org

Boston Legal, created and produced by David Kelley, is set at the imaginary Boston law firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt were the Crane is "Denny Crane," played by William Shatner. ABC's page for the series: abc.go.com

The Internet Movie Database's page for the show: www.imdb.com

ABC's bio page for Spader: abc.go.com

IMDb's page for Spader: www.imdb.com

Boston Legal wasn't the only prime time drama last week to work in some left-wing political advocacy from a leading character. As recounted in the March 17 CyberAlert:
On the March 16 ER, a leading character on the NBC drama set in a Chicago hospital, declared in reference to her husband being deployed to Iraq: "My duty is to be a good doctor and to be a good wife, not to be brainwashed into falling in line with some pseudo-patriotic delusion." The blast from "Dr. Neela Rasgotra," played by Parminder Nagra, came at the end of a scene of a gathering of spouses of deployed soldiers. 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?"

For more, including video, go to: www.mediaresearch.org

Now, the relevant scenes from the March 14 Boston Legal.

# "Melissa Hughes," a secretary at the law firm, in a jail cell explaining why her grandfather, who fought in WWI, wouldn't want her to pay taxes: "He was such a proud American and I just start thinking how embarrassed he would be by what's happening today."
Lawyer "Alan Shore": "What's happening?"
Hughes: "Us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep. It makes me weep."
Shore: "Melissa, you need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts."

# In court, Hughes testifies about how she was "embarrassed" by the "whole weapons of mass destruction thing. Maybe we lied, maybe we made a mistake, but either way, as goofs go, to start a war? Hello?"
Shore: "It seems as though you oppose the war."
Hughes: "Actually, I don't. If the government had said, 'we need to do anything to get rid of Saddam,' I would've said, 'let's roll.' And if we had apologized after making such a humongous gaffe with the whole weapons thingy, I'm sure I could've accepted that, too. But instead, we were so arrogant. It was embarrassing."
Shore: "Yes. Anything else?"
Hughes: "Torture. Our military tortured prisoners. Aren't we supposed to be the country that stands for human rights? I mean, doesn't it just make you want to hide?...And spying. Okay, we spy on our own citizens now? All this to fight terrorists because they're a threat to freedom as we know it? I mean, talk about burning down the barn to kill the rats. Am I the only one embarrassed by this?"
Prosecutor: "What about the military, Ms. Hughes? Have our soldiers embarrassed you?"
Hughes: "I have always been as proud of our troops as I am grateful."
Prosecutor: "Now I believe you said that you're actually for the war. I guess you'd be for winning it."
Hughes: "Of course."
Prosecutor: "Well, what chance do you think we'd have of victory if people started not paying their taxes?"
Hughes: "Not good."
Prosecutor: "But I guess if you're ashamed enough to be an American, it's okay-"
Shore, jumping up: "She never said she was 'ashamed' to be. She said she was 'embarrassed' as, a distinction often missed by those who confuse dissent for disloyalty."

# Shore's closing statement consumed almost exactly five minutes, a very long time in TV time. Here's virtually all of it, saving space by skipping some of his banter with the judge:
"When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up. They didn't. Then, when the Abu Ghraib torture thing surfaced, and it was revealed that our government participated in rendition -- a practice where we kidnap people, and turn them over to regimes who specialize in torture -- I was sure then that the American people would be heard from. We stood mute.
"Then came the news that we jailed thousands of so-called terrorist suspects. Locked them up without the right to a trial, or even the right to confront their accusers. Certainly, we would never stand for that. We did. And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't.
"In fact, if the people of this country have spoken, the message is: We're okay with it all -- torture, warrant-less search and seizures, illegal wiretappings, prison without a fair trial, or any trial, war on false pretenses. We as a citizenry are apparently not offended."
"There are no demonstrations on college campuses. In fact, there's no clear indication that young people even seem to notice. Well, Melissa Hughes noticed. Now you might think, instead of withholding her taxes, she could've protested the old-fashioned way -- made a placard and demonstrated at a presidential or vice presidential appearance. But we've lost the right to that as well. The Secret Service can now declare 'free speech zones,' to contain, control and, in effect, criminalize protest. Stop for a second and try to fathom that. At a presidential rally, parade or appearance, if you have on a supportive T-shirt, you can be there. If you're wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed.
"This in the United States of America! This in the United states of America! Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarrassed?"...

"And what I'm most sick and tired of, is how every time somebody disagrees with how the government is running things, he or she is labeled 'Un-American.'"...

"I object to government abusing its power to squash the constitutional freedoms of its citizenry. And God forbid, anybody challenge it, they're smeared as being a heretic. Melissa Hughes is an American. Melissa Hughes is an American."...

"Last night, I went to bed with a book. Not as much fun as a 29 year old, but the book contained a speech by Adlai Stevenson. The year was 1952. He said, 'the tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live,' and 'fear breeds repression.' Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism.


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"Stevenson also remarked, 'it's far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.' I know we are all afraid, but the Bill of Rights, we have to live up to that. We simply must. That's all Melissa Hughes was trying to say. She was speaking for you. I would ask you now to go back to that room and speak for her."

Again, check the posted version for two video clips.

Letterman's "Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney
Won't Resign"

From the March 20 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney Won't Resign." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Trying to fix up Condi Rice with his daughter

9. Turns out when you shoot somebody, if you're not vice president, you gotta do time

8. Bush leaves at two every day and then it's margaritas and Fritos

7. Set the solitare high score on his office computer

6. Wants to see if he can help Bush get his approval rating under ten

5. Too hard to give up Vice Presidential Discount at D.C. area Sam Goody stores

4. Wants to stay on the job until every country in the world hates us

3. Extra-zappy White House defibrillators

2. Undisclosed location has foosball and whores

1. Why quit when things are going so well?

-- Brent Baker