Networks Jump on "Anonymous" Book Author's Critique of Iraq War --6/24/2004
2. Gibson & Couric Tougher Than Rather on Bill Clinton, But...
3. Clinton Complains About Media, But Starr, Dole, Reagan Got Worse
4. "Top Ten Things Overheard in Line at the Clinton Book Signing"
An "anonymous" CIA officer who was demoted from the position of leading the tracking of Osama bin Laden, lashed out in a new book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism, at both the administrations of Presidents Clinton and Bush. But in jumping on the book's criticism of going to war in Iraq, the networks on Wednesday night concentrated their stories on his attacks on the policies pursued by President Bush. Only NBC's Andrea Mitchell gave a sentence to his criticism of how the Clinton administration didn't take seriously the hunt for Osama bin Laden and only CNN's David Ensor, in outlining what U.S. policies the author says bother bin Laden, such as demanding low oil prices, noted that he suggested something which is an anathema to liberals: Drilling in ANWR.
The Wednesday New York Times featured an article about the book, which is not scheduled for release until August 1, and then the publisher, a company called Brassey's Inc, apparently made the author available, in silhouette, for interviews with all the networks. During the 5pm EDT Wolf Blitzer Reports, CNN treated David Ensor's session with the unnamed man as breaking news.
"Book by C.I.A. Officer Says U.S. Is Losing Fight Against," read the June 23 New York Times headline over the article by reporter Douglas Jehl. See: www.nytimes.com
On ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted how "a new book about the inner workings of U.S. intelligence is getting some attention. It is written by a member of the CIA and it is extremely critical of how the Clinton and Bush administrations tried to fight terrorism." But that was the first and last mention of Clinton by ABC since reporter Jake Tapper concentrated on how "he calls the war in Iraq 'an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat.' The war played into bin Laden's hands, he writes, by fostering further hatred of America." Tapper, however, gave equal time to Bush defenders.
CBS focused on the anonymous author's ominous prediction of a worse attack on U.S. soil and on the CBS Evening News reporter David Martin didn't air any contrary views as he noted how "he says the invasion and occupation of Iraq has only made it easier for bin Laden to recruit more followers who see the U.S. as an aggressive, infidel power."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw intoned: "He says the U.S. is fighting the wrong war in the wrong place." Andrea Mitchell echoed that, relaying how "this active 22-year CIA veteran says the CIA is losing the war on terror in part because of the war in Iraq, what he calls a dream come true for bin Laden." But, unlike ABC and CBS, she pointed out how "after hearing his secret testimony, the 9/11 Commission said his early warnings about bin Laden, beginning in January of 1996, were not taken seriously."
Mitchell also outlined how the author is, to an extent, coming at Bush from the right: "In a new book, Imperial Hubris, bound to stir controversy, the anonymous author says the U.S. is fighting the wrong war against terrorists instead of against a new form of radical Islam. He even says, quote, 'Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes.'" Mitchell challenged him: "What do you say to those who say that your call for a war against Muslim people is really only going to make the situation worse?"
This morning, Thursday, CBS and NBC re-ran their stories from the night before with NBC's Today following up with an interview with Washington Post editor Steve Coll about "Anonymous." ABC's Good Morning America, however, the MRC's Jessica Anderson informed me, didn't mention the book.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas intoned: "A new book about the inner workings of U.S. intelligence is getting some attention. It is written by a member of the CIA and it is extremely critical of how the Clinton and Bush administrations tried to fight terrorism. It is very unusual for someone in the intelligence community to issue this kind of indictment."
Jake Tapper began: "'Anonymous' is a senior CIA official who was once in charge of tracking down Osama bin Laden. His new book, Imperial Hubris, is an indictment of how the U.S. is fighting the war on terror. Still an employee of the CIA, he was only allowed to write the book, and speak to ABC News, anonymously."
For the online version of Tapper's piece, with a picture of the man with his face blacked out: abcnews.go.com
-- CBS Evening News. Following a report on the swearing in of an Ambassador to Iraq, Dan Rather segued: "The dangers Ambassador Negroponte may face in accomplishing those tasks are reflected in a new book by a ranking active CIA officer who criticizes U.S. strategy in the war on terror and is making some dire predictions. The book is called Imperial Hubris. CBS national security correspondent David Martin spoke with the author."
Martin began: "The book, still three weeks away from publication, offers a spies-eye's view of the war on terror and it is a stark picture."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw reported: "And in this country, a career CIA officer who cannot reveal his identity is making some bold and controversial claims in a new book about his specialty, which is fighting terrorism. He says the U.S. is fighting the wrong war in the wrong place. NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, has more on this anonymous insider's perspective."
Mitchell opened her story, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "For three years, he led the CIA's war against Osama bin Laden."
For the full text of Mitchell's interview with "Anonymous" and a picture of him in silhouette: www.msnbc.msn.com
-- CNN's NewsNight. Aaron Brown opened his newscast: "A short page tonight for the program is very full. Our lead tonight deals in a fundamental way with the nature of terrorism itself and the conflicting views on why it exists. The President says often that the enemy here hates us because we love freedom and, while that is simple and easy to understand, we suspect even he knows it is far more complicated than that. There are reasons they hate us, and hate us they do, and it is almost certainly true we have spent too little time trying to understand that.
Ensor summarized: "Aaron, the book is written by Mr. Anonymous. He won't give his name and the interview today with us was in silhouette but he says that the West, that the United States is losing the war on terrorism. He says it's underestimated Osama bin Laden and he says that the reason this war is going on is not because they hate us for our freedom, as you mentioned, but because they hate our policies."
Setting up the subsequent story, Brown announced: "We begin with the premise that nearly everything done by two Presidents in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism has been wrong, more so since 9/11, especially so with Iraq. Coming from the radical fringe, the message might be simpler to dismiss but that's not where it comes from. It is the central theme of a book written by a top professional within the CIA, cleared by his bosses and soon appearing in stores, which is raising eyebrows and hackles, not to mention some very chilling possibilities."
Ensor explained: "In the book, Anonymous says President Bush and the west have seriously underestimated Osama bin Laden and al- Qaeda."
Brown asked: "And the right things to protect this country would be, in his view?"
Amazon.com's page for Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism: www.amazon.com
ABC's Charlie Gibson and NBC's Katie Couric were a lot tougher with Bill Clinton in their taped interviews played back on Wednesday morning than was Dan Rather on 60 Minutes, though both saw their roles more as cuing up Clinton to comment on various subjects than challenging his answers. On Good Morning America, Gibson wanted to know "why didn't you just come out and tell the truth?" about Monica Lewinsky, but he also suggested, "you could have said, 'It's none of your damn business, it demeans the presidency, and I'm not going to do that in public.'" Referring to Clinton's claim of having dark demons, Gibson wondered: "Is the parallel life, in Bill Clinton's case, in any way a fatal flaw of Shakespearean dimensions?"
Both shows aired segments in their 7am and 8am half hours and while by the second segment Gibson moved on to prompting Clinton to talk about his wife's potential presidential candidacy and to play political prognosticator about this year's election, Couric, after empathizing about how "you write, sort of a heartbreaking story, about not getting an Easter egg because you were too heavy to kind of chase after it," got back to Clinton's record, even if she stuck in a dig at Bush too: "Do you wish you had responded more aggressively to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in which 17 sailors were killed? Some people feel that the inaction by your administration and the Bush administration somehow emboldened al-Qaeda." (In another part of the interview aired on Thursday's Today, Couric asked him about Hillary's future and this year's presidential race.)
In the first part aired on Wednesday, Couric did oddly maintain: "Many people have remarked how open and candid you've been in the book."
Most entertaining were Clinton's bizarre claims, such as about the "they" behind Ken Starr: "After 1968 they thought there would never be another Democratic President. They thought the only reason Jimmy Carter was elected is 'cause of Watergate. And they really believed when I won it interrupted the natural order of things."
Below are the questions posed in the interviews taped on Tuesday, June 22, in what looked to be a fancy hotel room, and aired Wednesday morning, June 23, as taken down by the MRC's Jessica Anderson and Geoff Dickens:
# ABC's Good Morning America.
7am half hour segment:
Gibson: "As everyone no doubt knows by now, President Clinton's autobiography 'My Life,' all 957 pages of it, is in bookstores right now. We showed you some people lining up almost as if it was a rock star about to appear yesterday to get a first copy. Some early sales figures suggest that the former President's book is even beating his wife's bestselling memoir. The former President himself is using the personal touch to pump up sales of the book, which covers his life, from birth nearly 58 years ago in Arkansas until he left office. So when we sat down yesterday to talk, I began by asking about the scandal that threatened to end his presidency."
-- "Those who were out to get you, the right-wing conspiracy as Mrs. Clinton has called it, in the end, though, didn't you just hand them the sword?"
-- Gibson: "But in January of '98, why didn't you just come out and tell the truth?...When you go back now and see that soundbite, which people have seen, everybody, hundreds of times, when you're wagging the finger."
-- "You write about parallel lives and you define them as an external life that takes its natural course -- in your case, happy and quite successful -- and an internal life where secrets are hidden -- 'it's dark down there,' as you write. Is the parallel life, in Bill Clinton's case, in any way a fatal flaw of Shakespearean dimensions?"
Gibson's agenda during 8am segment:
-- "Let me talk politics for a minute, a subject you know well. Does Senator Clinton want to be President?...You think she will run someday?"
-- "Handicap this one for me, 2004. Can John Kerry win and how?"
-- "In '92, your people famously kept saying 'it's the economy, stupid,' and a lot of people think that's really where elections do turn. Arguably, George Bush might have a good case there, or if it turns on Iraq, and the polls show support for him slipping strongly there, he might be in some trouble. Which do you think will be the predominant issue?"
-- "Is it Kerry's to win or is this an election, in some nature, between George Bush and not George Bush, because he does also excite real passions in people, for and against."
-- "Final question. It is presumptive to ask an author to sum up a 950-page book in one question, but if you were a journalist and you had your book in your hand, what would be the lead?"
# NBC's Today.
7am half hour segment:
Couric: "On Close Up this morning President Bill Clinton. He's off on a nationwide media blitz selling copies of his highly anticipated autobiography, My Life. Fans at his book signings are turning out in massive numbers but perhaps foremost on people's minds isn't Clinton policy but the continuing controversy over his personal life. You well know, President Clinton, that a lot of people are gonna turn to the index and look up under L, for Lewinsky. Does that bother you that, that, that's the first thing they're gonna be interested in, many people?"
-- Couric: "I have to ask you, do you feel sorry for Monica Lewinsky? She was a young woman, what, 22-years-old and I feel like in many ways her life has been irreparably damaged and she's a real victim."
-- Couric: "Many people have remarked how open and candid you've been in the book. And I'm sure it was quite painful to relive that episode in your life and of course the other person in this whole thing was your wife, Senator Hillary Clinton. And I guess many people don't understand, Mr. President, how you allowed her to go on national television? How you sort of hung her out to dry while she defended you that January morning on the Today show. And I know you write in the book that you were ashamed watching the interview."
-- Couric: "You said before you wrote this book that this wasn't about settling scores but you are pretty angry at Ken Starr. You call his tactics, 'cheap and sleazy.'"
Couric set up the 8am half hour segment: "Now part two of my interview with former President Bill Clinton. It's no secret that Bill Clinton had a hardscrabbled childhood but what you might not know is that the former President also struggled with his self-image and fitting in....But a kid that didn't have a lot of self-confidence, wasn't particularly popular or liked by the girls. You write, sort of a heartbreaking story, about not getting an Easter egg because you were too heavy to kind of chase after it."
-- "But how did all these things, I mean, feeling sort of different and frankly unattractive, affect your view of yourself and do you ever still feel like that fat band boy?"
-- "Let's fast forward a few years to the presidency. When asked about your greatest accomplishment you said the conventional wisdom would be the economy. But I'm not as interested in the conventional wisdom as I am in your own perspective."
-- "What was your biggest disappointment?"
-- "One of your biggest disappointments, I understand, Mr. President is the fact that you did not kill or capture Osama Bin Laden."
-- "Did you sense during the course of your administration that Osama Bin Laden would change the world in a very bad way."
-- "Do you wish you had responded more aggressively to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in which 17 sailors were killed? Some people feel that the inaction by your administration and the Bush administration somehow emboldened al-Qaeda."
In his just-published memoir My Life, and in related publicity interviews, former President Bill Clinton has castigated the media for supposedly punishing him with negative coverage while adversaries such as Ken Starr got a free ride. But the Washington, D.C.-based research group Clinton cited as proving he received mostly bad press published research showing that Starr, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, the first President George Bush and President Ronald Reagan all received tougher coverage than did Clinton. Starr earned 87 percent negative coverage and in the 1984 campaign 91 percent of Reagan's coverage was negative.
[The MRC's Rich Noyes, a veteran of CMPA, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
In his current round of interviews, the former President has been using the media to scold the media: "Kenneth Starr would not be allowed to be a prosecutor against me as a defendant in any decent court in the land," Clinton griped on BBC's Panorama on Tuesday night. He lumped BBC interviewer David Dimbleby in with the rest of the press: "One of the reasons he got away with it is because people like you only ask people like me the questions. You gave him a complete free ride."
It's a point Clinton frequently raised in his book. On page 619, for example, he cited the work of the non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) as proving his contention that the media were overly negative. Writing about the run-up to the 1994 midterm elections (which ended with Republicans winning both the House and Senate), Clinton insisted his administration had a good record but the media's negativity had deluded voters. An excerpt:
"We were in trouble heading into the last six weeks of the election, for a variety of reasons: many people hadn't felt the economic improvements yet; no one believed the deficit was coming down; most people were unaware of the legislative victories and didn't know or didn't care about the foreign policy progress; the Republicans and their media and interest group allies had constantly and effectively attacked me as a wild-eyed liberal who wanted to tax them into the poorhouse and take their doctors and guns away; and the general press coverage was overwhelmingly negative.
"The Center for Media and Public Affairs issued a report saying that in my first sixteen months, there was an average of nearly five negative comments a night on the evening news programs, far more than the first President Bush had received in his first two years. The center's director, Robert Lichter, said I had the 'misfortune of being president at the dawning of an age that combines attack-dog journalism with tabloid news.' There were some exceptions, of course. Jacob Weisberg wrote that 'Bill Clinton has been more faithful to his word than any other chief executive in recent memory,' but that 'voters mistrust Clinton in part because the media keeps telling them not to trust him.'"
END of Excerpt from My Life.
The CMPA report that Clinton referred to, the July/August 1994 edition of the group's Media Monitor newsletter, did conclude that the early coverage of Clinton was more negative than the early coverage of the first President Bush. But CMPA issued a number of similar research reports showing Clinton faring better -- sometimes much better -- than his political adversaries:
# Clinton-Gore got better press than Bush-Quayle: In their August/September 1992 Media Monitor, CMPA found the three networks tilted in favor of the Democrats: "Since June, evaluations of Bush have run three to two negative, while assessments of Clinton have been balanced. The gap between their running mates is far greater. Three out of four sources have praised Al Gore, while two out of three have criticized Dan Quayle."
# The networks minimized Clinton's scandals: The same July/August 1994 report Clinton cited in his memoir also documented how, even in the wake of Whitewater and "Troopergate," the networks spent little time on scandal. "All told, scandal items have accounted for barely five percent of the administration's coverage -- only 240 out of 4,256 stories," CMPA reported.
# Newt Gingrich got really negative coverage: While Clinton claimed his media coverage was hostile in the months prior to the 1994 election, the November 1994 issue of MRC's MediaWatch picked up on a CMPA press release: "The Center for Media and Public Affairs found that in political stories on the networks between Labor Day and October 20, Gingrich drew 100 percent negative evaluations from reporters and talking heads." See: www.mrc.org
# In 1996, the networks were friendlier to Clinton than to Dole: "Incumbent presidents typically endure highly negative media coverage when they run for a second term," the November/December 1996 Media Monitor observed. "This year, however, Bill Clinton has enjoyed the best press of his presidency....Conversely, Bob Dole received his worst press of the year just after Labor Day."
# During the Lewinsky scandal, the networks were harsher on Starr: According to the September/October 1998 Media Monitor, while the President was the topic of more news stories, "the Independent Counsel received proportionately worse press than Mr. Clinton. The 136 evaluative sound bites directed toward Mr. Starr and his team of prosecutors ran seven to one negative (87%)."
# The March/April 2004 Media Monitor found that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry "had best press of any nominee we've ever tracked -- 81 percent positive," something to remember if Kerry ever writes a book complaining that he was treated poorly by the media.
# Reagan could only dream of Clinton's good press. In a press release posted on Wednesday, "Press Praised Reagan Only After Death," CMPA summarized their past findings. An excerpt:
....Reagan's Rocky Road: Sources on the network evening news were heavily critical of Ronald Reagan throughout his presidency. 85% of assessments of Reagan during Campaign 1980 were negative; 64% of evaluations during his administration's first year were negative; in Campaign 1984, 91% of his coverage was negative. Even after Election Day 1988 -- as a "lame duck" president -- 65% of all evaluations were critical of Reagan.
Worst Among Equals: No incoming administration since Reagan's has been criticized so heavily as much on the network newscasts. 64% of the evaluations in 1981 were negative, compared to 45% for George H. W. Bush, 62% for Bill Clinton and 61% for George W. Bush....
Rooting For Rivals: In 1984, 56% of evaluations of Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale were positive, while 91% of Reagan's coverage was negative. During their summits in 1987 and 1988, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev received far more positive coverage than Reagan. (1987: Reagan 47% positive evaluations, Gorbachev 79% positive; 1988: Reagan 46% positive, Gorbachev 76% positive)
END of Excerpt
For the June 23 press release in full: www.cmpa.com
Weisberg wrote that in the September 5, 1994 edition of New York magazine. For the NQ, see: www.mediaresearch.org
From the June 23 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard in Line at the Clinton Book Signing." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. I've never been to a book signing at hooters before
9. Hey Gore, bring up some more books from the basement
8. Mr. President, do you know that woman under the table?
7. Could you make it out to Gennifer with a 'G'?
6. Look, Ken Starr...nah, I'm just messin' with you
5. This long line is the result of a vast right-wing conspiracy
4. Those aren't secret service agents - - those are Hillary's people keeping an eye on him
3. He's a lot more Bubbaish in person
2. How come they're moving all the good-looking women to the front of the line?
1. I just pray he signs it with a pen
# Michael Moore is scheduled to appear Thursday night on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
-- Brent Baker