2. Couric Highlights Anti-Bush
NYT Editorial, But Not Corroboration
JAG Trumpets U.S. Goals in Iraq, Hack Denigrates Effort
In a moment reminiscent of Howard Dean, at a Democratic Party event in Tennessee on Sunday night, former Vice President Al Gore launched into guttural screaming in which he charged that President Bush "betrayed the country!" and "played on our fears!" But Gore's irrational and over the top outburst didn't faze CNN and CBS, which on Monday afternoon and night highlighted Gore's rant.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer played a clip of it for Bush aide Dan Bartlett, but when Bartlett started laughing Blitzer scolded him for not taking Gore seriously: "You're laughing. Why are you laughing? He's making a very serious allegation against the President." CBS's Byron Pitts seemed to admire Gore's rant as he set up a soundbite by observing: "Often criticized for being stiff when he was a candidate, he was anything but last night."
Morton Kondracke, however, on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, was appalled: "I think we can all really thank God that Al Gore was not elected President of the United States. I question whether this man is stable in a crisis. I mean, he's clearly out of control of his words..." Noting how Gore alleged that Bush has "betrayed the country," Kondracke, a columnist for Roll Call, referred to that as an instance of Gore "saying wild things" that are "beyond the bounds" and "irrational."
FNC showed this clip of Gore's gravelly-voiced, full volume scream: "He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! [edit jump] He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9-11 ever took place!"
On Monday, neither ABC's World News Tonight or NBC Nightly News showed Gore's bombast and neither did any of the broadcast network morning shows, though FNC's Fox and Friends crew had a good time with it.
The CBS Evening News on Monday, February 9, played it during a piece by Byron Pitts on the Democratic primary race. Pitts ran a clip of John Kerry declaring in front of a crowd: "Like father, like son: One term and you're done!" Pitts added: "At a dinner last night in Nashville, even former Vice President Gore was looking toward the fall campaign against President Bush. Often criticized for being stiff when he was a candidate, he was anything but last night."
A bit earlier, on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Blitzer raised Gore's tirade during an interview with Dan Bartlett, Bush's Communications Director, who appeared from the White House lawn. Blitzer squeezed in Gore: "One final question before I let you go, Dan. The former Vice President Al Gore, he was really angry in a speech in Tennessee yesterday, going after the President. Listen to what he said."
Earlier, on Inside Politics, CNN's Judy Woodruff described Gore's language as "harsh," but she treated it as a minor story: "Al Gore is denouncing President Bush once again and he's using increasingly harsh language to make his point. His latest remarks in an event last night in Tennessee question the President's rationale for removing Saddam Hussein."
Despite co-hosting Today from Burbank at 4am local time on Monday morning, Katie Couric managed to confront guest Mary Matalin with an anti-President Bush editorial from the other side of the country, in that morning's New York Times, critical of Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq. But neither Couric, nor anyone on Today, uttered a word about a front page article in the very same New York Times about how Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist inside Iraq, admitted that U.S. forces are winning as he reached out to top al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan to plead for assistance.
NBC Nightly News producers found that plea newsworthy enough to make it the lead story on Monday night, as Jim Miklaszewski noted that "Secretary of Stare Colin Powell said the document appears to back up the claims he made to the UN before that war, that Iraq was harboring a terrorist network led by Zarqawi." But still nothing about it on Tuesday's Today this morning.
At about 7:45am EST on Monday, which was 4:45am PST in California where Couric was stationed, Mary Matalin, a Bush-Cheney campaign adviser, and Joe Lockhart, former Press Secretary for President Clinton, came aboard from Washington, DC to review Bush's performance during his Meet the Press interview aired the day before.
Couric confronted Matalin at one point: "Mary, let me read an excerpt from the New York Times editorial from this morning: 'The President was doing far more yesterday than rolling out the administration's spin for the next campaign. He was demonstrating how he is likely to think if confronted with a similar crisis in the future. The fuzziness and inconsistency of his comments suggest he is still relying on his own moral absolutism, that is, that in a dangerous world the critical thing is to act decisively, and worry about connecting the dots later.' What's your response to that, Mary?"
Matalin, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, recognized the reality of Couric's very biased source: "Well, I'm glad you're using the New York Times as the authority for all things about George Bush. I don't need to respond to the New York Times, which is notoriously anti-Bush..."
For the February 9 New York Times editorial which Couric found so authoritative, "Mr. Bush's Version," go to: www.nytimes.com
"U.S. Says Files Seek Qaeda Aid in Iraq Conflict," announced the headline over the front page story which Couric ignored. An excerpt from the top of the dispatch from Dexter Filkins in Baghdad:
American officials here have obtained a detailed proposal that they conclude was written by an operative in Iraq to senior leaders of Al Qaeda, asking for help to wage a "sectarian war" in Iraq in the next months.
The Americans say they believe that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has long been under scrutiny by the United States for suspected ties to Al Qaeda, wrote the undated 17-page document. Mr. Zarqawi is believed to be operating here in Iraq....
The memo says extremists are failing to enlist support inside the country, and have been unable to scare the Americans into leaving. It even laments Iraq's lack of mountains in which to take refuge.
Yet mounting an attack on Iraq's Shiite majority could rescue the movement, according to the document. The aim, the document contends, is to prompt a counterattack against the Arab Sunni minority.
Such a "sectarian war" will rally the Sunni Arabs to the religious extremists, the document argues. It says a war against the Shiites must start soon - at "zero hour" - before the Americans hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis. That is scheduled for the end of June.
The American officials in Baghdad said they were confident the account was credible and said they had independently corroborated Mr. Zarqawi's authorship....
In the period before the war, Bush administration officials argued that Mr. Zarqawi constituted the main link between Al Qaeda and Mr. Hussein's government. Last February at the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said, "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants."
Around that time, the Americans believed that Mr. Zarqawi was holed up in the mountains at the Iranian border with Ansar al Islam, a group linked to Al Qaeda that is suspected of mounting attacks against American forces in Iraq.
Since the war ended, little evidence has emerged to support the allegation of a prewar Qaeda connection in Iraq. Last month, Mr. Powell conceded that the American government had found "no smoking gun" linking Mr. Hussein's government with Al Qaeda....
END of Excerpt
For the article in full: www.nytimes.com
CBS dramas on Friday and Saturday night delivered contrasting takes, in favor and against, U.S. intervention in Iraq. On Friday's JAG, in which the U.S. was hauled before the International Criminal Court, a soldier decides that after he saw how Saddam Hussein treated the Iraqi people he realized that he had an "obligation" to be there. The Secretary of the Navy proclaims in court that "ever since our founding America has been the symbol of hope for the world" and "when we fight we don't fight for land or oil or money or to impose our will. We take up arms against violent men who threaten our freedom and the freedom of others."
The next night on Hack, however, a show about a former Philadelphia cop turned taxi driver who solves crimes, his godson, who had just returned from duty in Iraq, turns violent and suicidal over memories of how he and some comrades killed an innocent family in Iraq. The taxi driver's neighbor/love interest charges: "Thank you Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Screwing up Iraqi lives and American lives." She lectured: "They're dying for somebody else's political agenda....This war is about money. We're not freeing a people, we're opening a new market. It's the same old story, the poor man fighting the rich man's war. People who can't afford to lose anything, losing all they have and rich people getting fatter and if you don't see that than you're just a big dumb Polish cab driver."
JAG revolves around cases dealt with by the Navy's Judge Advocate Corps of lawyers. On the February 6 episode, which involved a bit of a stretch, the International Criminal Court charges the U.S. with war crimes after soldiers under fire from a hospital in Iraq call in an air strike which kills several innocent civilians. In an effort to improve world opinion of the U.S. the White House decides to accept the court's jurisdiction and allow "Secretary of the Navy Sheffield" to face a trial with the show's two stars, "Navy Commander Harmon 'Harm' Rabb," played by David James Elliott, and "Marine Lt. Col. Sarah 'Mac' MacKenzie," played by Catherine Bell, as his defense counsel. A French guy, naturally, is put in the role of prosecutor in the court in The Hague.
Fast forwarding to the trial, an Iraqi woman, whose husband was killed by Hussein and whose son was killed by the U.S. bomb, lashes out in very emotional testimony: "Saddam took my husband and the Americans took my child. What is difference?"
But after the testimony of a very weaselly UN guy, one of the soldiers who was under fire takes the stand, leading to this exchange as taken down by MRC analyst Amanda Monson:
Navy Cmdr Harmon Rabb: "Lt. Morris, explain to the court why you called an air strike on the hospital?"
A bit later, in an office, the prosecutor offers: "Mr. Secretary you are still under the court's jurisdiction. However, I am prepared to make an offer. Change your plea to no contest, we'll drop our charges in return for reasonable reparations from the U.S. Thus we safeguard the integrity of the court and you avoid prison. Everyone wins."
The show then jumped to the courtroom as Secretary Sheffield is in mid-testimony: "Ever since our founding America has been the symbol of hope for the world and we remain so today. We accept our responsibility, which all civilized nations should, to fight against oppression and tyranny. But when we fight we don't fight for land or oil or money or to impose our will. We take up arms against violent men who threaten our freedom and the freedom of others."
This led to stunned silence from the prosecutor.
Judge: "Do you have any further questions Mr. Prosecutor?"
The judges rule Secretary Sheffield not guilty of "crimes against humanity," "war crimes" and "intentionally targeting civilians," but guilty of "destruction of civilian property," and thus ordered the U.S. to pay $20 million in reparations.
"Secretary Sheffield" was played by actor Dean Stockwell. His Internet Movie Database page does not have a photo, but if you saw him you'd recognize him from roles going back to the 1940s. His IMDB page: imdb.com
CBS's home page for JAG, which airs at 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST on Fridays: www.cbs.com
JAG is produced by Belisarius Productions, which is run by Donald P. Bellisario, whom I believe was the man behind Magnum PI.
The next night, in the same time slot, CBS's Hack delivered a plot which denigrated the U.S. effort in Iraq. David Morse plays "Mike Olshansky," whom the show's Web site describes as "an ex-cop turned taxi driver who seeks redemption for his professional and personal missteps by fighting for and righting the wrongs of others. Once a decorated police officer, Mike was kicked off the force for taking money from a crime scene. He now works as a cabbie to make ends meet, but his true calling is using his police know-how to help those in need."
In the February 7, episode he tries to rescue his twenty-something godson, "Chris," from a ledge where he is threatening suicide. Through a series of flashbacks, viewers see how Chris became increasingly antagonistic and violent toward his wife and four-year-old son, and is in turmoil over how his unit in Iraq fired into a house and killed an entire innocent Iraqi family, but inside he found, still alive, a four-year-old boy huddled by his dead mother.
In one flashback, Mike Olsanksky shared his concerns for Chris with a character on the show for whom CBS's Web page provides this description: "Also refreshing to Mike are the innate goodness and ever-positive outlook of his new thirty-something next-door neighbor, Liz Garza (Jacqueline Torres), an ex-nun who is embarking on a new life as a probation officer."
But she doesn't see much "innate goodness" in Bush or Cheney, and certainly isn't "ever-positive" in this exchange as the two sit down to dinner:
Mike Olshansky: "My godson, he just got back from Iraq. He's all screwed up."
CBS's Web page for Hack, which airs at 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST on Saturdays: www.cbs.com
CBS's page for star David Morse: www.cbs.com
The Internet Movie Database page for Jacqueline Torres is sans a photo, but it does list her as a veteran of a small role, playing "Sondra," on The West Wing: imdb.com
I'd advise sticking to JAG if you're home on a Friday night.
-- Brent Baker