Nets Ignored Clinton Firing 93 U.S. Attorneys, Fret Over Bush's 8 --3/14/2007
2. Hume Chastises Media for Failing to Point Out Clinton's Firings
3. CBS Legal Expert Cites Democratic Donors In Swipes at AG Gonzales
4. Nightline on Bush in Guatemala: 'Some Say He's Angered the Gods'
5. Ex-PBS Anchor: Christian Fundamentalists Match Islamic Radicals
6. "Top Ten Other New York Times Allegations Against Al Gore"
The broadcast network evening newscasts, which didn't care in 1993 about the Clinton administration's decision to ask for the resignation of all 93 U.S. attorneys, went apoplectic Tuesday night in leading with the "controversy," fed by the media, over the Bush administration for replacing eight U.S. attorneys in late 2006 -- nearly two years after rejecting the idea of following the Clinton policy of replacing all the attorneys. Anchor Charles Gibson promised that ABC would "look at all the angles tonight," but he skipped the Clinton comparison. Gibson teased: "New controversy at the White House after a string of U.S. attorneys is fired under questionable circumstances. There are calls for the Attorney General to resign."
CBS's Katie Couric declared that "the uproar is growing tonight over the firing of eight federal prosecutors by the Justice Department" and fill-in NBC anchor Campbell Brown teased: "The Attorney General and the firestorm tonight over the controversial dismissal of several federal prosecutors. Was it political punishment?" Brown soon asserted that "it's a story that has been brewing for weeks and it exploded today" -- an explosion fueled by the news media.
ABC's World News, the CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News on March 13 led with and ran multiple stories on the controversy, which were clearly propelled, in part, by attacks by Senate Democrats who demanded the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. But Justice Department clumsiness, which provided hooks for those Democratic attacks, does not absolve the news media of the responsibility for putting the replacement of U.S. attorneys into greater context for viewers so they would understand how Bush's predecessor removed every one (actually all but one as Brit Hume explained, see #2 below) so that Clinton, as is being charged in the current case, could replace them with attorneys more favorable to the administration's agenda.
[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC watchers, cable viewers got a hint of context as Steve Centanni, on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, pointed out how "the White House acknowledged there were talks in 2005, just after the President won his second term, about terminating all 93 U.S. attorneys just as President Clinton unceremoniously did 1993 after he won the White House." The point made it onto CNN's The Situation Room -- barely -- thanks to guest Terry Jeffries who raised it during the 4pm EDT hour of the program.
(Tuesday's Good Morning America ran a full story from Pierre Thomas framed around the Democratic attacks on Bush and Gonzales, with analysis from George Stephanopoulos. For a details, including a transcript of the story by Thomas, check Scott Whitlock's NewsBusters posting: newsbusters.org )
Last week, on the same day as the Libby verdict, Katie Couric introduced a full March 6 CBS Evening News story by Sharyl Attkisson, who failed to remind viewers of Clinton's wholesale firings: "Another big story in Washington tonight also involves federal prosecutors, or at least former prosecutors. Eight U.S. attorneys were axed by the Bush administration last year, and some Democrats say the firings were politically motivated. Today some of those ex-prosecutors told Congress about the pressure they felt from top Republicans."
Back in 1993, the networks weren't so interested in Clinton's maneuver. The April 1993 edition of the MRC's MediaWatch newsletter recounted:
Attorney General Janet Reno fired all 93 U.S. attorneys, a very unusual practice. Republicans charged the Clintonites made the move to take U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens off the House Post Office investigation of Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski. The network response: ABC and CBS never mentioned it. CNN's World News and NBC Nightly News provided brief mentions, with only NBC noting the Rosty angle. Only NBC's Garrick Utley kept the old outrage, declaring in a March 27 "Final Thoughts" comment: "Every new President likes to say 'Under me, it's not going to be politics as usual.' At the Justice Department, it looks as if it still is."
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That's online at: www.mediaresearch.org
"Washington Area to Lose 2 High-Profile Prosecutors; All U.S. Attorneys Told to Tender Resignations," read a front page story in the March 24, 1993 Washington Post. Two days later, in an article on page A-22, according to Nexis, "Clinton Defends Ousting U.S. Attorneys; GOP Steps Up Criticism of Attorney General's 'March Massacre,'" Dan Balz cited how then-Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos, who appeared on Tuesday's Good Morning America and World News to comment on the current controversy, defended Bill Clinton's decision:
President Clinton yesterday attempted to rebut Republican criticism of the administration's decision to seek resignations from all U.S. attorneys, saying what he was asking was routine and less political than piecemeal replacements.
"All those people are routinely replaced and I have not done anything differently," Clinton told reporters during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office. He called the decision more politically appropriate "than picking people out one by one."
But Republicans in Congress pressed their criticism of the decision, announced Tuesday by Attorney General Janet Reno, with Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) describing the decision as "Reno's March Massacre."
Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) urged the administration to allow Jay B. Stephens, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, to stay on the job until he completes his investigation of the House Post Office scandal and the role House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) may have played in it.
Stephens said Tuesday he was about a month away from "a critical decision with regard to resolution" of the probe....
Presidential spokesman George Stephanopoulos said it was not unusual for a president to ask for such resignations, although Republicans said presidents in the past have not asked for mass resignations, replacing them over a period of time as replacements were found.
Stephanopoulos said only those U.S. attorneys who are in the middle of trials will be allowed to continue working and said an interim appointee could capably pick up Stephens's investigation of the House Post Office scandal, with no serious disruption or political interference....
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For a flavor of Tuesday night, March 13 coverage on ABC, CBS and NBC, the leads on each:
# ABC's World News. Anchor Charles Gibson's tease: "Tonight: new controversy at the White House after a string of U.S. attorneys is fired under questionable circumstances. There are calls for the Attorney General to resign."
Gibson's opening: "The Attorney General of the United States is under fire. Alberto Gonzales is fending off charge that he carried out a purge, firing eight U.S. attorneys for political reasons on orders from the White House. Across the country there are 93 U.S. attorneys. They prosecute cases for the government. They can be hired and fired by the President. The accusation is these eight were fired because they refused to do the Bush administration's political bidding. We look at all the angles tonight, starting with Pierre Thomas at the Justice Department."
After Thomas, Gibson did a Q and A with Jan Crawford Greenburg and George Stephanopoulos about the situation, but Stephanopoulos, who stuck to assessing the status of Gonzales, did not mention his defense of Clinton's action.
Following Axelrod, CBS went to a second full story from Bob Orr on how a former U.S. attorney charged that Gonzales "has let politics infect the justice system" and then Couric conducted a brief Q and A with Axelrod and Orr over whether Gonzales will be fired. Couric also noted how Axelrod's younger brother worked for one of the fired prosecutors.
Brown opened: "Good evening. The Attorney General of the United States is under fire but vowing he will not resign. It's a story that has been brewing for weeks and it exploded today. The key issue, a decision by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to fire eight federal prosecutors and questions about whether that decision was politically motivated and driven by the White House. Attorney General Gonzales' top deputy has already resigned, but the President is standing by his man. We begin tonight with chief White House correspondent David Gregory."
Following a piece on Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace's remarks about homosexuals, Brown discussed both topics with Tim Russert.
Brit Hume led his Tuesday night Grapevine segment by scolding his media colleagues for how "news stories reporting that the Bush administration had considered firing all 93 U.S. attorneys across the country failed to mention that that is exactly what Bill Clinton did soon after taking office back in 1993." Hume explained how that was not noted, "even in passing, in front-page stories today in the New York Times and the Washington Post, or in the AP's story on the subject."
Earlier in the FNC newscast, reporter Steve Centanni pointed out how "the White House acknowledged there were talks in 2005, just after the President won his second term, about terminating all 93 U.S. attorneys just as President Clinton unceremoniously did 1993 after he won the White House."
[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Item #1 above outlines how the Tuesday broadcast network evening newscasts all failed to note the wholesale firings at the beginning of Bill Clinton's first term.
Hume's "Grapevine" item in full on the March 13 Special Report with Brit Hume:
The March 13 front page Washington Post story, "Firings Had Genesis in White House: Ex-Counsel Miers First Suggested Dismissing Prosecutors 2 Years Ago, Documents Show." See: www.washingtonpost.com
For more on the disparity between 1993 and 2007 coverage, read the latest column by MRC President Brent Bozell: newsbusters.org
CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen took Tuesday to the "Couric & Co." blog to blast Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as a Bush toadie, then turned to law scholars with a history of donating to liberal Democratic candidates to back up his claims. Cohen wished Gonzales "stood up to his hero" -- President Bush -- "on domestic surveillance, on Guantanamo Bay, on protecting good federal prosecutors -- instead of simply defending or justifying White House policies and practices."
We've indeed got trouble. Few attorneys general in recent history have been more beholden to their President than Gonzales is to President George W. Bush. In fact, two years ago, when asked by the Academy of Achievement to list his role models, Gonzales listed his mother, his father, and the President as the three people to whom he owed the most. This would be more charming if the Attorney General had during the past two years stood up to his hero -- on domestic surveillance, on Guantanamo Bay, on protecting good federal prosecutors -- instead of simply defending or justifying White House policies and practices.
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For Cohen's March 13 Couric & Co. blog: www.cbsnews.com
So, in essence, Cohen asserted that Gonzales has no independent thought on his own because Gonzales failed to act how Cohen thinks he should have. That is, Gonzales is at fault for doing his job: crafting and implementing the president's legal strategy for the war on terror.
Not content to leave his gripe with Gonzales as a matter of personal opinion, Cohen brought in two ostensibly politically neutral legal experts to lend credence to his attack on the attorney general's performance in office: Stanley Kutler of the University of Wisconsin and Stanley Katz of Princeton University.
Cohen was particularly enamored with Katz, quoting him as he closed his blog post:
"It is not fair to say that we all are agreed upon what the ideal Attorney General should be. But it is fair to say that Gonzales falls short of any ideal I can think of."
This from a guy who can name attorneys general in American history like the rest of us can name members of our family.
END of Excerpt
So what's the problem? Both Katz ($4,650) and Kutler ($4,950) are heavy donors to liberal Democrats.
According to OpenSecrets.org, Kutler has frequently contributed to the campaigns of liberal Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and gave $500 to the John Kerry campaign. Katz frequently gave money to liberal Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and former Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), as well as the Democratic National Committee.
On Monday's Nightline, the ABC program continued the media's fascination with the Mayan "spiritual leaders" who protested this week's visit to Guatemala by President Bush. According to anchor Cynthia McFadden, "some say he's angered the gods." While footage onscreen showed Uruguayan demonstrators (from a previous portion of the trip) burning an American flag, reporter Jessica Yellin noted that "many in the region don't care for Mr. Bush" and seriously reported on the President's "bad vibes."
From Guatemala City, Yellin maintained: "The spiritual leaders of the Guatemala's indigenous Mayan population are also worried about the President's bad vibes. They will perform a special cleansing ceremony to clear away the bad energy they say he left during his visit."
It didn't seem to occur to ABC that the protesters might not like America. While it may be hard for liberal reporters to resist covering a story about the evil spirts George Bush creates, burning an American flag is an insult to an entire country, not just one leader.
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog: newsbusters.org ]
The transcript of the segment, which aired on the March 12 Nightline:
Cynthia McFadden: "Tonight, President Bush is on his way to Mexico. On this Latin American tour, he's been met by protest every step of the way. But nowhere has he seen a response quite like the one he received in Guatemala, where some say he's angered the gods. ABC's Jessica Yellin sees a 'Sign of the Times.'"
Jessica Yellin: "Ever the 'ranchero,' President Bush loaded lettuce in Guatemala on day five of his Latin America goodwill tour. It's meant to show he cares. But many in the region don't care for Mr. Bush. [Onscreen: footage of protesters, including some who are burning an American flag.] Like these folks who gave him a chilly reception on his first stop in Brazil. On day two in Uruguay. And Columbia, and today, Guatemala. The protesters object to everything from the war in Iraq to the President's free trade and immigration policies. The hostility isn't just coming from the street protests. The spiritual leaders of the Guatemala's indigenous Mayan population are also worried about the President's bad vibes. They will perform a special cleansing ceremony to clear away the bad energy they say he left during his visit. Guatemala's president took Mr. And Mrs. Bush to one of the country's top tourist spots, Iximche, the ruins of an ancient city where they took in some Mayan culture, including traditional music and dancers wearing deer skins. There was also some sort of Mayan soccer game, and this famously athletic president couldn't help from jumping in. But indigenous leaders fumed saying their culture shouldn't be a tourist attraction. One Mayan said Mr. Bush was trampling on sacred ground. But none of the Bush bashing seemed to bother the President who focused on the friendly faces."
The March 13 CyberAlert item, "ABC and NBC Highlight the 'Evil Spirits' Bush Visit Will Bring," recounted:
The NBC and ABC morning shows on Monday found it newsworthy that President Bush's "evil spirits" would have to be removed from Mayan ruins he would visit in Guatemala. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, traveling with Bush, relayed on the Today show how "he plans to tour Mayan ruins here in Guatemala and we're told some local priests want to purify the site afterward with a kind of ritual they say will get rid of what they call 'bad spirits.'" Over on ABC's Good Morning America, news reader Chris Cuomo reported how "President Bush will also visit a sacred Mayan ruin today, making some protesters angry. They say President Bush will only bring, quote, 'evil spirits' to the site." He later related how Bush "will visit a sacred Mayan ruin, where some critics jab he is likely to leave behind, quote, 'evil spirits.' They say they are going to perform a spiritual cleansing there afterwards, just in case."
For more: www.mrc.org
Washington Post arts critic Philip Kennicott was enraptured in Tuesday's paper that an annual lecture sponsored by the federal-arts-subsidy lobby had evolved from "conservative curmudgeon" William Safire to a more traditional "bold and perhaps even controversial speech that included sustained criticism of religious fundamentalism." From who? Former PBS anchor Robert MacNeil, who used to be one-half of the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour.
Kennicott related how MacNeil "quickly turned his attention to what he called 'the swing to Puritanism' that 'gained energy when political consultants and lobbying organizations discovered the catnip (and the fundraising power) of pandering to those who could be persuaded that art is decadent, or immoral, or homosexual, and destructive of finer values.' And he argued that the importance of real creative freedom in the arts has never been more important, given this country's ideological battle with violent, fundamentalist Islam. He even went so far as to compare Islamic fundamentalism with Jewish and Christian fundamentalism. 'I am not for a moment suggesting that our fundamentalists harbor any violent intentions,' he said, 'but the initial psychology is similar to that which inspires Islamic reformers.'"
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday morning posting, by Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Here's a sign that the Washington Post and its cultural commissars aren't very interested in the concept of accuracy as much as they are in advocacy. Do Kennicott or MacNeil truly believe that "art" works like "Piss Christ" are not anti-Christian? Or Robert Mapplethorpe's photos with a bullwhip inserted in the anus are not accurately described as homosexual and decadent? That's not even approaching the idea that it's somehow accurate that Christians are crippled by a "psychology" not very far from terrorism.
Kennicott and MacNeil also fail to acknowledge that many people who opposed the National Endowment for the Arts when they subsidized the "avant-garde" and "transgressive" works of chocolate-smearing naked Karen Finley and her ilk were not religious at all, but considered these works to be government waste, pork-barrel spending for naked dime-store philosophers.
Kennicott began the March 13 "Style" section article with the pom-pom routine:
Last year when Americans for the Arts gathered here for their annual lobbying confab and the rah-rah speech to the faithful known as the Nancy Hanks Lecture, the guest of honor was William Safire, a self-described conservative curmudgeon. What a difference a year makes.
With congressional power shifted to the Democrats and star-studded hearings on the role of the arts in America scheduled for today, the chairs of the various subcommittees and caucuses that can send a little love in the arts' direction received lusty ovations. And the guest of honor was Robert MacNeil, the journalist, who gave a bold and perhaps even controversial speech that included sustained criticism of religious fundamentalism.
This beginning seems a little odd when you actually read the Safire speech from last year, which panders to the arts lobby, but I suppose fails to attack the "fundamentalist" hordes. See: ww3.artsusa.org
Late in the article, Kennicott slipped into his usual routine, lamenting how horrible America is and how slow we are to realize we are horrible. MacNeil's speech ended brilliantly, we're told:
And it all built to a peroration borrowed from John F. Kennedy, "We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient" -- with "omniscient" pronounced with voluptuous attention to all four syllables.
As catnip goes, this is pretty nippy for the arts crowd, who gave it a standing ovation.
There are a few problems, however. Despite MacNeil's connection of art, and artistic freedom, to the war of ideas behind the so-called war on terror, it's not exactly clear what art is supposed to do.
"I think art can be an important weapon in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism," MacNeil said. But how? And what kind of art?
While Kennicott quickly acknowledged you can't win over radical Muslims with dirty Mapplethorpe pictures, he then suggested the late Mapplethorpe was in his time somehow a force for America's moral reformation:
You can't win the war of ideas in the Clash of Civilizations with Robert Mapplethorpe photos, an obvious observation that the conservative scholar Dinesh D'Souza elaborated upon at book length in his scabrous attack on American liberals, "The Enemy at Home," which is subtitled "The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11." Unless, of course, you view art not as propaganda for your values, carefully packaged for foreign audiences, but rather as a form of moral reformation within your own society. Artistic freedom isn't important as an example to other people, it's essential as a goad to American conscience.
Kennicott ended by suggesting the "so-called" war on terror has ruined America's arts:
It was, perhaps, courageous of MacNeil to speak so bluntly, to an essentially liberal audience, about the threat he sees in fundamentalist Islam.
But there was something missing in this line of thinking: An acknowledgment of the extent to which the war on terror has corrupted American culture, so that we live mostly untroubled by the knowledge that we are a nation that tortures, imprisons people with little recourse to law or justice, and prosecutes optional and preemptive wars. MacNeil's defense of artistic freedom was stirring. But like the proverbial physician, we need to heal ourselves.
END of Excerpt
For Kennicott's March 13 "essay" in full: www.washingtonpost.com
From the March 13 Late Show with David Letterman, as inspired by a Tuesday New York Times article about how a set of "scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore's central points" in his An Inconvenient Truth movie "are exaggerated and erroneous," the "Top Ten Other New York Times Allegations Against Al Gore." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. In addition to "An Inconvenient Truth," wrote "Big Momma's House 2"
9. Tells attractive ladies they can fight global warming by sleeping with him
8. Against CO2 emissions, yet he insists on exhaling carbon dioxide
7. Ordered his vice presidential limousine stocked with Yoo-Hoo and caramels
6. Al Gore, Al Qaeda? Not a coincidence
5. In his Senate desk, carved "I like big girls"
4. He killed beloved winemaker Ernest Gallo
3. Global warming is his excuse for not wearing underpants
2. "Al" is short for "Alice"
1. Real reason polar bears are endangered -- he's eating them
For an analysis by Tim Graham on the MRC's TimesWatch site, "The Inconvenient Times," check: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker