Appearance Alert
MRC's Bozell to appear on Fox News' 'The Kelly File' at 9:40pm ET

Nets Tout Iraq Withdrawal Pushed by 4 U.S. Reps, But Skip Durbin --6/17/2005


1. Nets Tout Iraq Withdrawal Pushed by 4 U.S. Reps, But Skip Durbin
ABC and CBS led Thursday night with how four backbench Members of Congress held a press conference to publicize their resolution calling for a draw down of troops in Iraq by October of 2006, but neither network uttered a word about Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's outlandish comparison of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags" or Pol Pot. Only NBC reported Durbin's comparison, but that brief item aired only after Kelly O'Donnell touted the vision of "North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, who today alongside two Democrats and a fellow Republican, proposed what many Americans, weary of the violence in Iraq, appear increasingly eager to see, a withdrawal date for U.S. troops." On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced: "We start tonight with the Bush administration and the growing discontent over the war in Iraq. On Capitol Hill today, a resolution was introduced that would require U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Iraq a year from this fall. The resolution was sponsored by a small, bipartisan group of Congressmen, but it is a first."

2. Morning Shows Ignore Durbin, Today Hits Frist But Cues Up Clinton
Senators Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton made the rounds of the morning shows Thursday to publicize their bill on medical privacy guidelines for hospitals, but none of the ABC, CBS or NBC interviewers took advantage of the opportunity to bring up Dick Durbin's allegation (see item #1 above). On CBS, Julie Chen highlighted how "Republican Congressman Walter Jones once supported the war but today he'll join a group of lawmakers calling for a firm date to withdraw U.S. forces." NBC's Matt Lauer posed a tough question to Frist about how the Terri Schiavo autopsy disproved his claim that "'she does respond,' end quote. Were you wrong in your diagnosis?" But he then cued up Clinton with how Senator Leahy says Guantanamo should be closed and asked: "Does Guantanamo serve a purpose or is it a black-eye for the United States?"


Nets Tout Iraq Withdrawal Pushed by 4
U.S. Reps, But Skip Durbin

ABC and CBS led Thursday night with how four backbench Members of Congress held a press conference to publicize their resolution calling for a draw down of troops in Iraq by October of 2006, but neither network uttered a word about Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's outlandish comparison of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags" or Pol Pot. Only NBC reported Durbin's comparison, but that brief item aired only after Kelly O'Donnell touted the vision of "North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, who today alongside two Democrats and a fellow Republican, proposed what many Americans, weary of the violence in Iraq, appear increasingly eager to see, a withdrawal date for U.S. troops." On ABC, anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced: "We start tonight with the Bush administration and the growing discontent over the war in Iraq. On Capitol Hill today, a resolution was introduced that would require U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Iraq a year from this fall. The resolution was sponsored by a small, bipartisan group of Congressmen, but it is a first."

On the CBS Evening News, after anchor Bob Schieffer led with "Bad numbers: The President's job approval rating is dropping as support for the war and his handling of Social Security continues to fade," John Roberts trumpeted: "In the most serious split over the President's Iraq policy, two Republican House members today joined with Democrats urging President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq in October of 2006."

Both ABC and NBC put "Exit Strategy" on screen and used the phrase in setting up their stories.

Friday's New York Times devoted a 900-word article, "Small Bipartisan Group in House Presses for Iraq Exit Strategy," to the press conference held by House Republican Walter Jones and the usually ignored left-wing libertarian, Ron Paul of Texas, along with far-left Democrats Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. See: www.nytimes.com

But the Friday Times provided only an un-bylined, 175-word item on Durbin, "Apology Demanded for Remark on U.S.," the first mention in paper this week of Durbin's remarks. See: www.nytimes.com

The Friday Washington Post held Durbin to a six paragraph item on page A-11, "Durbin Defends Guantanamo Comments." See: www.washingtonpost.com

But the paper dedicated a long article to an anti-Bush hearing held by a bunch of House Democrats and heralded Jones on the front of the "Style" section: "Rep. Jones. Resolving to Follow His Heart: Rising Iraq Toll Moves Republican to Call for Pullout." See: www.washingtonpost.com

MSNBC's Countdown on Thursday night, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, focused on anti-war advocates to the exclusion of Durbin. Fill-in host Alex Witt teased the broadcast: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Iraq: Getting out, and just exactly how we got in. A bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to force the White House to set a timetable to get our troops home. Meantime, a Democratic effort to get answers out of the President on the infamous Downing Street Memo."

Witt opened: "Good evening, everyone. I'm Alex Witt, in for Keith Olbermann. Call it the 'coalition of the unwilling.' Republican lawmakers are now joining their Democratic counterparts to challenge the Bush administration on the war in Iraq. Our fifth story on the Countdown, how we got into the conflict and how we should get out of it, beginning tonight with an upsurge of violence against U.S. troops. This week alone, 10 Marines were killed in two separate attacks west of Baghdad when roadside bombs tore through their unarmored humvees. U.S. military leaders say the insurgency is changing its tactics, developing new techniques to make each attack even more deadly.
Walter Jones "Getting the troops out of harms way, the top order of business today for four members of the House -- two from the far left, two from the far right -- announcing they have introduced a resolution that would require the Bush administration to develop a plan by the end of the year to start bringing troops home no later than October of next year. The political implications of the resolution could be huge for the Bush administration as could the identity of one of the lawmakers behind it. He is Walter Jones, the Republican Congressman from North Carolina who, at the start of the war, came up with the idea of renaming french fries 'freedom fries,' all in order to get back at France for its opposition to military action. These days, he is just as passionate about making plans to bring the troops home."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) clip #1: "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion-"
Jones clip #2: "This approach gives the President the flexibility he needs to reduce our presence in a way that protects U.S. troops and allows Iraqis to defend their country. No one is talking about cutting and running."
Witt: "Now, whether this is merely a few renegade Republicans on the conservative fringe of the party or the beginning of a groundswell of support against the war in Iraq, is the difference between a nuisance and a serious problem for the White House. Here to help us figure out where things stand, MSNBC analyst and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan...."

On the Senate floor on Tuesday night, in remarks he stood by on Thursday evening, Durbin, the Senate's Assistant Minority Leader, had asserted:
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

The actions: "I quote from his report, 'On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves.'"

"But under Pol Pot's regime," FNC's Jim Angle pointed out on Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume, "1.5 million died in death camps; another 200,000 so-called 'enemies of the state' were executed. The Nazis killed 6 million Jews and forced hundreds of thousands into slave labor. And Stalin sent some 25 million to labor camps where many were worked to death. To many, any comparison between those horrors and what the U.S. military is doing is absurd."

Angle also noted: "A knowledgeable official familiar with this and other memos said the FBI agent made no such allegation, that his memo only described someone chained to the floor, and that anything beyond that is simply an interpretation. And several Republican Senators took to the floor late today to say there is no evidence of torture and that Durbin's comparisons to the Soviets, Pol Pot and the Nazis have no basis in fact or history."

Substitute NBC Nightly News anchor Campbell Brown, in a short item she read Thursday evening, painted the White House, not Durbin, as the aggressor:
"And the war of words over the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, continued today with the White House attacking a Democratic Senator for comparing interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay, which were contained in an FBI report, to those used by the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Khmer Rouge. Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls Senator Richard Durbin's remarks 'beyond belief,' and said U.S. soldiers go out of their way to treat prisoners humanely. Durbin said not only will he not apologize, but the administration should apologize for the situation at Guantanamo."

A June 16 Washington Times story by Rowan Scarborough provided a thorough rundown of Durbin's allegations and reaction to them: www.washingtontimes.com

Now, a complete look at the Thursday night, June 16, stories on Iraq policy aired on ABC, CBS and NBC, all from the MRC's Brad Wilmouth who corrected the closed-captioning against the video:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased: "On World News Tonight, looking for an exit strategy: New concerns about the course of the war in Iraq. The Secretary of State asks Americans to be patient."

Vargas opened: "Good evening. We start tonight with the Bush administration and the growing discontent over the war in Iraq. On Capitol Hill today, a resolution was introduced that would require U.S. troops to begin pulling out of Iraq a year from this fall. The resolution was sponsored by a small, bipartisan group of Congressmen, but it is a first. And it happens on the same day the administration admitted it must do a better job getting its message out on Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked for patience."
Condoleezza Rice at State Department: "This is hard, and I think that everybody knows that the American people have been asked to support a complex and difficult task. And it is work that requires that we, as Americans, reach down in ourselves and look for the kind of patience and generosity that we have exhibited in the past and understanding that democracy takes time."
Vargas: "The U.S. has been in Iraq for more than two years. So why is this discontent building now? First, we go to ABC's Linda Douglass on Capitol Hill."
Linda Douglass: "Republican Walter Jones is trying to ignite a movement that will bring American troops home from Iraq."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), at press conference: "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution."
Douglass: "Jones was once an ardent supporter of the war."
Jones: "Do we want to be there for 20 years? Or 30 years?"
Douglass: "He finally changed his position after attending the funeral of Marine Sergeant Michael Bitz, who did not live to see his infant twins."
Jones: "On the way back to my little town of Farmville, North Carolina, I was emotional for 72 miles."
Douglass saw a larger trend: "Jones is backed by a few liberal Democrats and one anti-war Republican, not exactly proof of a trend. But recent polls show public opinion is turning: 58 percent say the war was not worth fighting, a new high; 65 percent say the U.S. is bogged down, up 11 points since March [numbers on screen from ABC News/Washington Post poll]. Some House Democrats are emboldened by those numbers and have begun demanding an exit strategy."
Rep. James Moran (D-VA), on House floor: "What is the White House's strategy for success in Iraq?"
Douglass: "Republicans say those Democrats want to cut and run."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), on House floor: "Setting dates certain will sound more like a surrender strategy than an exit strategy."
Douglass: "At the Pentagon, a senior military official said a deadline for pullout is just what the insurgents want."
Lieutenant General James Conway, Joint Chiefs of Staff clip #1: "They know our history just like we study them. And they see where we have withdrawn previously in Vietnam, in Beirut, in Somalia, and nothing would make them happier, I suppose, than to think that there is a deadline out there-"
Conway Clip #2: "-they simply are able to wait us out."
Douglass: "But some supporters of the war say the administration must do more to explain the hard realities to the public."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), in hallway: "At every turn, we try to put the most optimistic case forward and worry about the worst case scenario in a secondary manner. We have not planned for a long, hard fight."
Douglass: "Republicans say the Jones resolution to withdraw from Iraq is going nowhere, Elizabeth. But it has sparked a debate up here about how and when the U.S. will leave Iraq."
Vargas: "Indeed, it has. Linda Douglass on Capitol Hill."

Indeed it has received publicity thanks to the news judgment of ABC News.

Next, Vargas turned to Terry Moran out the White House who explained how Bush intends to deliver a series of speeches to convince the public to stick with him on Iraq, and Vargas did raise the danger of announcing a pull-out date.

-- CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer teased: "Good evening. I am Bob Schieffer. Bad numbers: The President's job approval rating is dropping as support for the war and his handling of Social Security continues to fade."

With "2nd Term Troubles" in a graphic over his shoulder, Schieffer led by outlining the bad numbers in a new CBS News/New York Times poll:
"This is not shaping up as a summer the President may want to remember. The casualties just keep coming in in Iraq, his Social Security reforms are stalled on Capitol Hill, and gasoline prices are on the way up again -- all of which is reflected in a new CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight which will not make for happy reading at the White House.
"More than half the public now disapproves of the overall job the President is doing [51 to 42 percent]. And it gets worse from there. Only 39 percent approve of his handling of the economy; 39 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy. His handling of the war in Iraq gets the approval of only 37 percent, and his handling of Social Security gets the approval of only 25 percent. Only the campaign against terrorism gets the approval of more than half those questioned. As it always does, Congress began to feel the shift in public mood before the pollsters. Here's John Roberts at the White House."

Roberts began: "In the most serious split over the President's Iraq policy, two Republican House members today joined with Democrats urging President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq in October of 2006."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC): "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution."
Roberts: "The October date is no coincidence, one month before the midterm elections, clearly reflecting Republican angst that Iraq will be a factor at the polls next year. The White House today refused to even entertain the notion. The Pentagon insisted it would send the wrong message to the insurgents."
Lieutenant General James Conway, Joint Chiefs of Staff: "They see where we have withdrawn previously in Vietnam, in Beirut, in Somalia, and nothing would make them happier, I suppose, than to think that there is a deadline out there."
Roberts maintained: "But it is another crack in the once-iron grip President Bush held over Congress. His Social Security plan is stalled, his energy bill languishing, his nominee for UN ambassador uncertain. And he's threatened to veto two measures passed by the Republican-controlled House on stem cell research and limitations to the Patriot Act. Republicans admit the President's got problems."
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): "I think this is a President that, frankly, takes on big questions, big challenges. That's always going to generate controversy, but I think he'll get through it okay."
Roberts mocked Bush's PR strategy: "President Bush's solution? Not to change tack on Iraq or drop Social Security, like some Republicans want. Instead, he'll sharpen his focus and ramp up his sales pitch in the coming weeks, telling Americans why it's important to stay the course in Iraq, pressuring Congress to get some of his agenda passed by the August recess. But on the surface at least, it appears as though this sharper focus doesn't include anything that the President hasn't already been saying. And in a case of deja vu all over again, his new PR campaign on Iraq seems remarkably similar to one he launched almost two years ago, citing the progress in Iraq while at the same time reminding Americans that difficult times still lie ahead. Bob?"

Schieffer: "John, let's bring in Gloria Borger here just to talk about what's going on up on the Hill. Gloria, I must say, you have a Republican President, you have a Republican Congress, and yet everything seems to have come to a halt here. That is kind of unusual."
Gloria Borger, on Capitol Hill: "It is, but, you know, in the second term of a presidency, there always comes to a point when the President and his own party decide that they have to go their own ways. It's kind of inevitable. The President is thinking of legacy, the Republicans right now are thinking about those midterm elections, and our poll out tonight shows that Congress is at a dismal 33 percent approval rating. Republicans run the Congress, Bob, and they're a little nervous about that."
Schieffer: "John, what do they think at the White House? Is it just Iraq that is just sort of sucking the energy out of everything they're trying to do or is it something else?"
Roberts: "Well, they admit, Bob, that earlier this year they kind of let the Iraq message get away from them, and they do believe that a lot of Republicans are becoming very skittish about how the situation in Iraq is going to be reflected at the polls a year and five months from now, so the President is trying to give his party a little bit of cover. The way that they're putting it, Bob, is they say that every once in a while the American people want some context and perspective from the President on events unfolding. But I would say probably politically that he's got his back up against the wall and his shirt tails on fire, Bob."
Schieffer: "Gloria, I guess one thing we ought to mention here, the public in most of the polls I've seen lately doesn't think much more of the Congress than they do of the work the President's doing right now?"
Borger: "No, in fact, they think less of the Congress: 71 percent of the voters that we polled said that Congress does not share their priorities. That's a very rough number if you're a Republican. You want to go home; you want to talk about gasoline prices. You don't want to keep talking about the war in Iraq or judges or Social Security reform."

For the CBSNews.com rundown of the poll: www.cbsnews.com


-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Campbell Brown teased: "Exit strategy: With violence in Iraq getting worse, some members of Congress say America needs a timetable for bringing the troops home."

NBC led with the earthquakes in California and then Brown announced: "And now to the war in Iraq and the critical issue of support on the home front. The debate took a new turn on Capitol Hill today. Four members of the House -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- introduced a resolution to force President Bush to come up with a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Here's NBC's Kelly O'Donnell."

O'Donnell began: "The faces of fallen soldiers hang outside the congressional office of North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, who today alongside two Democrats and a fellow Republican, proposed what many Americans, weary of the violence in Iraq, appear increasingly eager to see, a withdrawal date for U.S. troops."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) at press conference: "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate."
O'Donnell: "That from a Congressman once so supportive of the war he coined the term 'freedom fries.' Today's measure calls for a plan that would see troops start to come home by October next year, right before the mid term election. Democrat Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii."
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) also at press conference: "We believe the troops have done everything that they can do from a military point of view."
O'Donnell: "But the White House flatly rejects setting any timetable."
Scott McClellan: "It would be absolutely the wrong message to send to set some sort of artificial timetable."
O'Donnell conceded the irrelevance of the Congressmen involved, but argued they accurately reflect a larger trend, as she touted the view of a liberal Republican: "The lawmakers behind today's resolution are considered extreme on both the right and left. Though not likely to pass, it does reflect a growing public impatience. This week, a Gallup poll found for the first time nearly six in ten [59 percent] surveyed believe at least some U.S. troops should leave Iraq. A frustrations some lawmakers like Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island say they hear from voters at home."
Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI): "Why are we there? And the President's saying we want to establish a democracy in the Middle East. Okay, what does that mean? And how's it going to spread?"
O'Donnell concluded: "For the first time, the White House says it hasn't been answering all those questions as fully because of a deliberate strategy to give the Iraqi government space to make its own decisions. But with public pressure rising, aides say President Bush will sharpen his focus on why American troops need to stay. Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, the White House."

Morning Shows Ignore Durbin, Today Hits
Frist But Cues Up Clinton

Senators Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton made the rounds of the morning shows Thursday to publicize their bill on medical privacy guidelines for hospitals, but none of the ABC, CBS or NBC interviewers took advantage of the opportunity to bring up Dick Durbin's allegation (see item #1 above). On CBS, Julie Chen highlighted how "Republican Congressman Walter Jones once supported the war but today he'll join a group of lawmakers calling for a firm date to withdraw U.S. forces." NBC's Matt Lauer posed a tough question to Frist about how the Terri Schiavo autopsy disproved his claim that "'she does respond,' end quote. Were you wrong in your diagnosis?" But he then cued up Clinton with how Senator Leahy says Guantanamo should be closed and asked: "Does Guantanamo serve a purpose or is it a black-eye for the United States?"

Before Frist and Clinton came aboard The Early Show, news reader Julie Chen, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, trumpeted:
"We want to get right to our top story this morning -- a bipartisan push to pull American forces out of Iraq. The latest US casualties are five Marines killed by a roadside bomb Wednesday. That brings the total of Americans killed in Iraq to more than 1,700. Republican Congressman Walter Jones once supported the war but today he'll join a group of lawmakers calling for a firm date to withdraw U.S. forces."
Rep. Walter Jones, on ABC's This Week four days earlier: "When you look at the number who have been killed and wounded, you look at the amount of money that we have spent in Iraq, $200 billion I believe it is. I think you have to, in my opinion, you get to a point to say 'Have we done enough?'"
Chen: "Support for the President's policy in Iraq continues to erode. A new Gallup poll finds six in ten Americans favor withdrawing some or all US troops."

Lauer's question on the June 16 Today to the two Senators who stood side-by-side with the Capitol dome behind them, as taken down by the MRC's Geoff Dickens:

- "This has a long name. It is the Health Information Technology and Quality Legislation. Basically you want to create a national database of health care information. Senator Frist let me start with you. Let's, let's take a specific here. If a guy named John Smith checks into a rural hospital somewhere in America how does the system help with his health care and the cost of that health care?"

- Lauer: "And Senator Clinton making that information available to all that wide range of people and this is a wide range of information immediately raises the possibility or the worry in some people's minds that, that the information might be misused or fall into the wrong hands."

- "Real quickly Senator Clinton the fact that you two are teaming up, powerful forces from both sides of the aisle does that guarantee this is gonna pass?"

- "Alright Senator First let me turn to you. The long awaited autopsy report on Terri Schiavo was released on Wednesday. It concluded that she was in a persistent vegetative state, suffered from severe and irreversible brain damage. Remember back in March the President rushed back to Washington from Texas, he signed that emergency legislation from Congress. You were on the floor of the Senate at that time not only as a senator but as a doctor and in talking about Ms. Schiavo you said, quoting you now, 'She does respond,' end quote. Were you wrong in your diagnosis?"

- "But when you stand on the floor and said, 'She does respond,' do you at all worry that you led some senators..."

- With "Close Guantanamo?" as the on-screen header: "Alright let me turn to another subject. Senator Clinton, Guantanamo Bay and the detention center there, center there. Patrick Leahy the Senator from Vermont, the Democrat, says, 'We should close that place down. It's an international embarrassment.' Do you think we're getting useful information out of the detainees there? Does Guantanamo serve a purpose or is it a black-eye for the United States?"

- "And Senator Frist do you think it's serving a purpose?"

- "Just 15 seconds left Senator Frist. John Bolton will he get a vote today or tomorrow? You said it would happen this week."

- "Senator Clinton you voting up or down?"


# CyberAlert countdown to the 2,000th edition: 5 to go.

-- Brent Baker