2. Morning Shows Focus on Bush's 8 Months Over Clinton's 8 Years
3. CBS's Stahl Cites Only Clinton's Laudatory Efforts on Terrorism
4. Same CBS Reporter Describes Iraqis as "Optimistic" & "Terrified"
5. ABC Notes How FBI Documents Show Kerry Claims Are "Inaccurate"
6. "Top Ten Ways Dennis Kucinich Can Still Be the Next President"
The broadcast network newscasts on Monday night ran through the Bush White House's retort to the attacks on it from Richard Clarke about President Bush's supposed lack of interest, pre-9/11, in fighting terrorism and poor job of doing it since 9/11. But they still led with Clarke's charges, treating them as fully credible, while only ABC's Terry Moran passed along how "there is a deep sense of betrayal in the West Wing tonight." All also ignored Clinton's record, an eight-year period of time when Clarke oversaw that administration's anti-terrorism efforts. But FNC's Brit Hume on Monday night, and this week's edition of Newsweek, conveyed how Clarke earlier criticized the Clinton team for its missed opportunities to take on al-Qaeda.
In previewing the 9/11 commission hearings this week, CNN's David Ensor, on Monday's NewsNight, conveyed a common-sense assessment that doesn't match the media's enthusiastic embrace of Clarke's attacks on the Bush team: "It may be a rough week and clearly there are lessons to be learned but, for what it's worth, several career officials say they do not believe that either Mr. Bush or Mr. Clinton can really be held responsible for what 19 terrorists were able to do on September 11, 2001."
Monday's evening show coverage followed stories Saturday and Sunday night on ABC's World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News. (CBS probably covered it too on Sunday night before the big 60 Minutes two-parter with Clarke, but NCAA basketball bumped the CBS Evening News in the Eastern and Central time zones on Sunday night.)
-- ABC's Charles Gibson, anchoring World News Tonight, set up the first of the broadcast's two March 22 stories:
As Gibson spoke, ABC placed on screen:
Pierre Thomas ran through Clarke's charges and how on the morning shows National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice fired back. Next, Terry Moran provided the White House response and he emphasized its ferocity: "It was unprecedented. Never before has this White House launched such a ferocious and personal attack against a domestic critic..."
Moran included soundbites from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and from Vice President Dick Cheney's appearance on Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Following a clip of David Gergen talking about how the White House is trying to limit the political damage, Moran concluded: "So it's political, but it's also personal. There is a deep sense of betrayal in the West Wing tonight over these charges and that explains, in part, the fierceness of these attacks on Mr. Clarke."
-- CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts intoned: "The Bush administration launched a counter-offensive against a former White House insider who claims far more could and should have been done about al-Qaeda before September 1th. The charges are made by Richard Clarke in a new book published by Simon and Shuster, which like CBS is owned by Viacom. Clarke's accusations were detailed in an interview last night on 60 Minutes."
Bill Plante began with Clarke' case: "In a scathing indictment, former White House counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke accuses the President of ignoring the threat from al-Qaeda until after 9/11 and then linking the terrorist group to Iraq without evidence."
-- The NBC Nightly News led with Clarke, unlike ABC and CBS which began with the Israeli killing of the Hamas leader. Tom Brokaw announced: "President Bush has made the war on terror the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, referring to himself as a 'War President.' But now, Richard Clarke, a terrorism expert who served in the Bush White House, has written a scathing critique of the President's actions, or lack of them, before and after 9/11. And those charges have touched off a separate war, a political firefight in which the White House is attacking from all angles. As NBC's David Gregory reports from the White House tonight, Clarke's credibility, integrity and motives are under assault."
Gregory ran through Clarke's charges and how the White House is "in full crisis mode" to respond, before he concluded:
On Saturday's NBC Nightly News, however, in a story prompted by Clarke's charges, reporter Rosalind Jordan squeezed in a mention of the Clinton years: "Several top Clinton administration officials will also testify, but Clarke says their record wasn't perfect. Even after the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, Clarke said no one wanted to admit al-Qaeda did it."
-- This week's Newsweek story previewing the commission hearings cited Clarke's criticisms of Bush, but also raised Clinton shortcomings. "Storm Warnings" read the headline in the March 29 edition by a big photo of Bush and Clinton standing side-by-side. The subhead: "Bin Laden was a threat, but Clinton never pushed it and Bush seemed more interested in Saddam. What went wrong."
Reporter Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas relayed Clarke's attacks on Bush, but they also gave space, unlike the networks, to questions about Clinton's performance:
For the March 29 Newsweek story in full: www.msnbc.msn.com
Links to Amazon's pages for the three books cited in this CyberAlert item:
# For, Against All Enemies: Inside the White House's War on Terror -- What Really Happened, by Richard Clarke, see: www.amazon.com
Forgetting all about what the Clinton administration did or didn't do for eight years to fight terrorism, ABC's Good Morning America concentrated their Monday sessions with Dick Clarke and Condoleezza Rice on the Bush record over eight months. Clarke oversaw counter-terrorism policy during the Clinton years. CBS and NBC didn't have Clarke, but pounded at Rice over Clarke's charges against President Bush.
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson's questions to Clarke, as taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
Gibson set up the March 22 in-studio session: "We're going to turn to our exclusive live interview with President Bush's former top terrorism advisor Richard Clarke. His new book is called 'Against All Enemies: Inside America's War On Terror.' Clarke resigned last March and became an ABC News consultant and he joins us now. Dick, good to have you back with us."
# "Let me start right on September 11th, 2001. You knew from the get-go it was al-Qaeda?...So you deal with the exigencies of the day on September 11th. You come in September 12th, ready to plot what response we take to al-Qaeda. Let me talk about the response that you got from top administration officials. On that day, what did the President say to you?"
# "Did he ask about any other nations other than Iraq?"
# "And were his questions more about Iraq than about al-Qaeda?"
# "And the reaction that you got that day from the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, from his assistant, Paul Wolfowitz?"
# "But the administration has made the point that their response immediately was to go into Afghanistan."
# "You write in the book, 'No doubt that the United States could have brought true stability to Afghanistan with a larger force, could have made the return of the Taliban and the terrorists virtually impossible. Instead, the larger force was held back for Iraq.'...Do you think we could have eliminated or rendered ineffective al-Qaeda at that point?"
# "You said the President on the 12th didn't ask about al-Qaeda, but did ask about Iraq. In all the period of time after that, was there any evidence presented to the President, any evidence at all that Iraq was linked to 9/11?"
# Gibson: "You point out in the book that 70 percent of the people in this country believe that Iraq in some way was behind the attack on 9/11. Did the administration ever lie to the public about Iraqi responsibility?"
# "You write, 'The administration squandered the opportunity to eliminate al-Qaeda and instead strengthened our enemies by going off on a completely unnecessary tangent, the invasion of Iraq.' The war in Iraq completely unnecessary?"
# "But Dick, is the world not safer with Saddam Hussein gone and the Iraqi regime changed?"
# "So it is strengthened, Iraqi, the Iraqi invasion and the Iraqi war has strengthened the terrorist movement?"
# "You're about to testify before the commission investigating what happened before 9/11. What will you say to them? Did the administration, in your mind, ignore warnings that this was to come?"
# "But the administration says, look, you were the guy who was in charge of countering terrorism, and the warnings you were giving to them only involved overseas possibilities."
# "The Department of Homeland Security, has it made it safer?"
# "And the other question, and it's already coming from the White House, Dick Clarke has a political agenda here, he is out to defeat George W. Bush, the timing of this is no coincidence, the election just beginning."
# "Gibson: "But you say at the beginning of the book you don't like people who leave the government and immediately write books criticizing the government they served, and yet that's exactly what you've done."
Gibson with Rice:
# "Let me give you a chance to respond generally to what Dick Clarke just said."
# "A number of things he said. Number one, that he never had a chance until very late to brief you fully on what the problems were with al-Qaeda, nor the President, that basically all through the period up to September 11th that this administration underestimated al-Qaeda."
# "Let me get to the presidential meeting that Dick Clarke on September 12th, when the President asked him to go back and check whether this was Iraq's doing 9/11, didn't ask about al-Qaeda, didn't ask about any other nation, fixated on Iraq. You were at that meeting, right? Is he correct in his depiction of that meeting?"
# "But [Bush] didn't ask about al-Qaeda? Didn't ask about any other nation? Only wanted to know about Iraq."
-- CBS's The Early Show. Harry Smith's questions to Rice, as taken down by the MRC's Brian Boyd:
# "Richard Clarke asserts that in January 2001, he wrote a memo to you urgently requesting a cabinet level meeting to deal with a pending al Qaeda attack. Do you recall that request?"
# "The impression that we get though from Mr. Clarke is when he finally gets a meeting, not the meeting he wanted, one he got in April with number two's, including Paul Wolfowitz, was that the concerns in that meeting were more about Iraq than about al Qaeda."
# "Alright. There are other things in the news I want to talk to you about this morning including the attack this morning that killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas. Did the United States give the green light for Israel to carry out this attack?"
# "Would you call this attack provocative?"
# "Let's ask another question that the 9/11 commission is going to be meeting this week. Secretary of State Powell is going to testify, Secretary Rumsfeld. You have chosen not to testify. Can you tell us why?"
# "Coming back to Richard Clarke and his book and his interview last night on 60 Minutes, one of the things that he says is that even after 9/11 the President kept trying to press for a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. And that even when Dick Clarke went to the President and said there is none, he said the President basically turned back to him and said that's not the right answer. Can you respond to that?"
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer announced at the top of the broadcast: "Good morning. America in the crosshairs. The militant group Hamas vows revenge against the U.S. after Israel kills its founder overnight. And war of words. The administration's former terror czar slams the President's efforts against Al Qaeda."
Lauer's questions to Rice, after he started by asking her to comment on the Yassin killing:
# "Okay let me move on then to what's been happening in regards to Dick Clarke's book, Richard Clarke was the former counter terrorism expert for both the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. He's written a book that has not very flattering things to say about President Bush and his focus on Al Qaeda. What is the White House response so far?"
# "Mr. Clarke makes a lot, a lot of points and accusations. He says that by doing nothing on Al Qaeda before 9/11 and, and the way that President Bush has treated Al Qaeda after 9/11 that he's actually made us less safe than we were prior to him taking office. He goes on to say that the President was completely focused on Iraq as opposed to Al Qaeda in the days after 9/11. Let me play you a portion of what he said on 60 Minutes last night."
# "The, the 9/11 commission meets tomorrow. You've, you've met with the members privately over the last several weeks. You've refused, at the moment, to testify in public citing the separation of powers and you're following tradition here. I certainly agree to that. But 9/11 was an extraordinary and unique event in our nation's history. Might it not require, Dr. Rice, some extraordinary and unique actions on your part setting aside tradition?"
In a subsequent Today interview, Ann Curry did at least raise Clinton's record with Wesley Clark: "But you also just now heard Condoleezza Rice imply that, perhaps, blame should be shared that the Bush, that the Clinton administration had Al Qaeda attacks on with, the USS Cole and also with the bombing of the U.S. embassies. Both under its watch. You were NATO commander during that time. The question has to be asked based on the defense that we've heard from the White House. Should the Clinton administration, should the Clinton administration, should the Democrats take some responsibility for not having done more sooner about Al Qaeda?"
Sunday's 60 Minutes devoted two 13-minute segments, totaling just over 26 minutes, to Dick Clarke's charges against the Bush administration over ignoring the terrorist threat, but though Clarke oversaw the Clinton administration's counter-terrorism policy for eight years, Lesley Stahl didn't mention Clinton until nearly ten minutes into the first segment, and that was a laudatory recollection of how the Clinton team prevented some millennium attacks. Stahl only alluded to the Clinton years once more in the 26 minutes, but on Monday's Fox and Friends, FNC analyst and international businessman Monsoor Ijaz delved in to a subject skipped over by CBS, how Clarke himself had blocked efforts, pushed by the Abu Dabi royal family, to capture Osama bin Laden.
About 9:40 into the first 60 Minutes segment, after relating Clarke's claim of heightened chatter in June of 2001, Lesley Stahl recalled: "The last time the CIA had picked up a similar level of intelligence chatter was back in December, 1999, when Clarke was the terrorism czar in the Clinton White House. Clarke says President Clinton ordered his Cabinet to go to battle stations-- meaning, they were on high alert, holding meetings nearly every day. That, Clarke says, helped thwart a major attack on Los Angeles International Airport, when this al Qaeda operative was stopped at the border with Canada, driving a car full of explosives. Clarke harshly criticizes President Bush for not going to battle stations when the CIA warned him of a comparable threat in the months before 9/11."
Three minutes later Stahl made another allusion to the Clinton years: "When Clarke got his meeting on September 4th, he proposed a plan to bomb al Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan and to kill Osama bin Laden. It's the same plan he had tried to persuade the Clinton administration to adopt to no avail."
The next morning on FNC's Fox and Friends, Monsoor Ijaz suggested Clarke's record is not so perfect. Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked on the March 22 show: "60 Minutes had Richard Clarke on. He was head of counter-terrorism for four Presidents. He is now saying the President and his War on Terror, terrible."
For a picture of Ijaz: www.vitrade.com
WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee talk show host Charles Sykes caught an illuminating instance of how a CBS News reporter extolled in an interview the "optimism" of the Iraqi people who have a "tangible feeling of freedom," are confidently marching "toward democracy" and don't feel scared by the violence since it really impacts few of them in their daily lives, to only moments later assert in a CBS Radio newscast: "Iraqis are terrified of coalition soldiers, terrified of crime and terrified of more attacks."
Sykes has posted on his Web page RealPlayer clips of the conflicting assessments made on Friday, March 19. Both are one-year evaluations from CBS Radio reporter Charles D'Agata, first with WTMJ morning news anchor John Belmont and then in an hourly CBS Radio newscast. For the links: www.wtmj.com
CBS and ABC on Monday night ran full stories on how the FBI trailed anti-war activist John Kerry in the early 1970s, but only ABC's Dan Harris pointed out what CBS's Byron Pitts missed, how the FBI "documents do show that some of Kerry's recent statements about his anti-war activism are inaccurate."
Both March 22 stories were prompted by an article in that day's Los Angeles Times about the FBI documents obtained a few yeas ago by a book author.
Harris explained on World News Tonight: "While the FBI ultimately concluded that Kerry had no link to any violent activity, these documents do show that some of Kerry's recent statements about his anti-war activism are inaccurate. Two weeks ago Kerry was asked about Al Hubbard, [picture from Meet the Press] an activist with whom he had appeared on national TV in April 1971. Shortly after that appearance Hubbard was exposed for having lied about his service record."
"FBI Shadowed Kerry During Activist Era," read the headline over the March 22 Los Angeles Times story. The subhead: "Records show agents and informants found no evidence of illegal activity. The extent of monitoring in the 1970s troubles the candidate." For the article by reporter John M. Glionna: www.latimes.com
From the March 22 Late Show with David Letterman, as presented by Dennis Kucinich on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater, the "Top Ten Ways Dennis Kucinich Can Still Be the Next President of the United States." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Keep doing what I'm doing -- I'm winning, right?
9. Constitution is amended stating Presidents must be 35 or older, a natural-born citizen and named "Dennis."
8. Act like a boob so people will perceive me as more presidential.
7. You want crazy campaign promises -- fine! If I'm elected, everybody gets a million bucks.
6. Enter and win next "American Idol."
5. Announce your running mate will be a plate of fudge -- people love fudge.
4. Just wait till I unleash my new campaign slogan: "Kucizzle in the hizzle!"
3. According to the order of presidential succession, if George W. Bush were to resign today, along with Dick Cheney and about 300 other people, the presidency passes to a Congressman from Ohio.
2. Get the governors of every state to rig the election.
1. I'm praying for a sex scandal.
Al Franken is scheduled to appear tonight, Tuesday, on the Late Show with David Letterman.
-- Brent Baker