NY Times, CBS and NBC Yearn for a Kerry-McCain "Dream Team" --5/17/2004
2. Concern Kerry "Has Failed to Capitalize on Bush's Vulnerability"
3. MSNBC Focuses on Iraqi-American "Offended" by President Bush
4. Jennings Touts "Enormous Anti-American Demonstration" in Cuba
5. U.S. Reporter Wants More Iraqis to Die So that Bush Will Lose
6. Hail Historic Same-Sex Mass. Marriage, Worry Right "in Jeopardy"
Correction: The May 14 CyberAlert pointed out how NBC's Matt Lauer failed to raise with Senator Ted Kennedy how he had charged: "We now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management -- U.S. management." CyberAlert stated that Kennedy made the remark on Tuesday, May 11. In fact, Kennedy said it, on the Senate floor, on Monday, May 10. (Update: Tim Russert, on Sunday's Meet the Pres, asked Senator Joe Biden if Kennedy's comment was appropriate.)
Yearning for a Kerry-McCain "Dream Team." Picking up on a Saturday front page story in the New York Times about how "some prominent Democrats are angling for" Senator John McCain "to run for Vice President alongside Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, creating a bipartisan ticket that they say would instantly transform the presidential race," the CBS Evening News and NBC's Meet the Press promoted the idea which Kerry backers see an beneficial to their candidate.
CBS put "Dream Team?" on screen next to head shots of John Kerry and McCain as anchor Thalia Assuras asked, "Many of Kerry's supporters believe the right running mate could give him an edge. Their idea of a dream teammate: Republican John McCain. A pipedream?"
The next morning, on Sunday's Meet the Press, after McCain told Tim Russert he has "categorically" ruled out joining a ticket with Kerry, an undeterred Russert pleaded with him: "Senator McCain, as an American, you can stay a Republican. You can be a loyal Republican. It would be a fusion or a unity ticket. Would you contemplate it in any way, shape, or form? Would you take Senator Kerry's phone call if you knew he was calling about it?"
Sunday's NBC Nightly News included a story about the Russert-McCain exchange.
Assuras introduced the May 15 CBS Evening News story: "Poll numbers released today show President Bush neck and neck with challenger Democratic Senator John Kerry. Now many of Kerry's supporters believe the right running mate could give him an edge. Their idea of a dream teammate: Republican John McCain. A pipedream? Here's Kelly Cobiella."
Cobiella began: "With the latest poll numbers showing Senator John Kerry in a virtual tie with President Bush, both sides are looking for an edge. Some in the Kerry camp are dreaming of a split ticket with Republican Senator John McCain as their candidate for Vice President."
The next day on NBC's Meet the Press, Russert raised the New York Times article with his guests, McCain and Senator Joe Biden:
For the May 15 front page New York Times article, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jodi Wilgoren, see: www.nytimes.com
When not promoting the idea of John McCain for John Kerry's VP, network reporters express disappointment at how Kerry is failing to capitalize on President Bush's troubles. On Friday's Good Morning America, Dan Harris painted Kerry as stuck in a bind: "On the one hand, when he proceeds carefully and cautiously, anxious Democrats sometimes accuse him of not showing leadership and not being aggressive enough against the President. On the other hand, when Kerry criticizes Mr. Bush for his handling of the crisis, as he did on Fox News last night, Republicans pounce."
On Saturday's CBS Evening News, anchor Thalia Assuras showed distress: "With the President under fire because of the situation in Iraq, there are questions about whether John Kerry has failed to capitalize on Mr. Bush's vulnerability." Reporter Byron Pitts, noting that Kerry has largely stuck to his weekly themes, such as health care, passed along how "his cautious line, Democrats fear, will cost Kerry, a missed opportunity to show the differences between himself and President George W. Bush."
He has the news media for that.
Friday on GMA, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed, Charles Gibson plugged an upcoming segment: "In politics this morning, President Bush's approval ratings, as you may have read, dropping to new lows. The question is, is John Kerry taking advantage of that? We'll get into that story ahead."
Dan Harris soon explained that since the release of the prisoner-abuser photos, "the Kerry campaign has had to make daily and delicate decisions. They are trying to strike a balance, they say, between speaking out on a major issue and risking being perceived as using that issue to their political advantage. The late night comedians have been having a field day with President Bush and the prisoner abuse scandal, but John Kerry certainly gets roughed up, too."
Though 70 percent in Warren County, Ohio voted for George W. Bush in 2000, MSNBC on Friday afternoon focused on a "a single voice," at a Bush rally, who "watched in silent opposition." That voice belonged to an Iraqi woman, Yasmine Allen, set to vote in the U.S. for the first time this year. MSNBC's Tom Llamas explained that when she "saw photos of Iraqi prisoners reportedly being mistreated by U.S. troops, this comment from the President offended her." The Bush comment: "Because we acted, torture chambers were closed." Allen charged: "That whole thing about, you know, closing the chambers of torture. Has he even watched the news the last few days? What is he talking about?" Llamas helpfully added that "despite President Bush's insistence that the war in Iraq will bring that same freedom to her former countrymen, Yasmine says the war is the very reason she'll vote to remove him from office."
"Iraqi Woman Set to Vote for First Time in U.S." read the on-screen graphic over the story aired multiple times on MSNBC during the day Friday, including, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked down, at 1:36pm EDT, 3:34pm EDT and, during Lester Holt Live, at 4:48pm EDT.
Anchor Contessa Brewer introduced the 4pm hour playing of the piece by promising that the story would provide an "insight into the key issue of Iraq" from a "first-time voter." Brewer asserted:
The Llamas piece began with a campaign clip of Bush in Ohio: "I'm here to say I need your help and want your help to lead this country for four more years."
If there isn't one yet, maybe Allen could head up a new group, Ungrateful Iraqi-Americans for Kerry.
Peter Jennings on Friday night claimed an anti-Bush march in Cuba, led by Fidel Castro, was "a reminder today of other tension in the world." Without any acknowledgment that participation was not voluntary, Jennings touted how it was "an enormous anti-American demonstration" with "a couple of hundred thousand people" protesting "new restrictions imposed by the Bush administration on money transfers and travel to Cuba." Jennings relayed how Castro "criticized the war in Iraq and said that President Bush was trying to impose what he, Mr. Castro, called 'world tyranny.'"
Earlier in the day on MSNBC, Chris Jansing highlighted how in Havana "hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest tighter U.S. embargos" and how Castro "defended Cuban socialism and called President Bush a fraud who wants to impose his tyranny on the world."
But neither Jennings nor Jansing showed, as did Bob Novak in awarding his "Outrage of the Week" Saturday night on CNN's Capital Gang, how the protesters carried signed with a picture of Bush altered to make him look like Adolph Hitler.
A two-paragraph AP dispatch in Saturday's New York Times noted how "posters bore swastikas and portrayed Mr. Bush in a Nazi uniform with a Hitler mustache." The brief story also relayed: "In an example of the worldwide fallout of the Iraqi prisoner scandal, organizers distributed signs printed with photos of abused Iraqis and the words, 'This would never happen in Cuba.'"
The CBS and NBC newscasts Friday night, as well as CNN's NewsNight, ignored the communist propaganda event.
On the May 14 World News Tonight, Jennings announced, over wide-angle video of a crowd walking on street by the ocean, followed by close-ups of people waving Cuban flags and of Castro walking at front of the crowd:
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed that on MSNBC's Lester Holt Live, at 4:51pm EDT, anchor Chris Jansing intoned over matching video:
Pool-side at a Baghdad hotel recently, Toby Harnden of London's Daily Telegraph recounted in the latest edition of The Spectator magazine, "I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials." Harnden related how she told him that "not only had she 'known' the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the 'evil' George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. 'Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.' Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing. She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go."
Harnden also disclosed that since the violence in Iraq prevents reporters from venturing very far beyond their hotels, "the dirty little secret is that the endless 'stand-ups' you see on your screens are based on no reporting at all."
An excerpt from Harnden's recollection of his disturbing conversation with a fellow journalist, which James Taranto highlighted Friday in his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com ( wwwopinionjournal.com ), as published in the May 15 edition of The Spectator, a British-based weekly:
....The other day, while taking a break by the Al-Hamra Hotel pool, fringed with the usual cast of tattooed defence contractors, I was accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.
She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off than they had been under Saddam and I was now -- there was no choice about this -- going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I'll spare you most of the details because you know the script -- no WMD, no 'imminent threat' (though the point was to deal with Saddam before such a threat could emerge), a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.
But then she came to the point. Not only had she 'known' the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the 'evil' George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. 'Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.' Startled by her candour, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing.
She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go. By this logic, I ventured, another September 11 on, say, September 11 would be perfect for pushing up John Kerry's poll numbers. 'Well, that's different -- that would be Americans,' she said, haltingly. 'I guess I'm a bit of an isolationist.' That's one way of putting it.
The moral degeneracy of these sentiments didn't really hit me until later when I dined at the home of Abu Salah, a father of six who took over as the Daily Telegraph's chief driver in Baghdad when his predecessor was killed a year ago. It was a -- sadly -- rare opportunity to speak to ordinary Iraqis in a social setting.
As the lights went out for the third time that evening, we discussed what life after Saddam was like. It was possible to talk freely now, said his sister Jenan, but the Americans had not yet brought either peace or democracy. Two months ago, the family had been forced to raise $40,000 for the release of her abducted brother-in-law.
She had decided not to apply for a job at the new American Embassy because of the dangers. 'My friend worked as a translator for the Coalition,' she said. 'One night her car was ambushed by the resistance and they killed her with a bullet to the head.' This week, a neighbour's three-year-old daughter had been kidnapped. All Jenan longed for was stability.
Iraq is so dangerous now that hardly any television journalists venture out of the Al-Hamra or the Palestine Hotel, where lager and post-barbecue spliffs help relieve the tension of being in a war zone. There are insurance problems and the brooding, ex-SAS bodyguards forbid any excursions. The dirty little secret is that the endless 'stand-ups' you see on your screens are based on no reporting at all. Those of us who work for newspapers grow our Shia beards or, in the case of the women and the occasional John Simpson wannabe, wear hijabs and trust in fate, our relative anonymity and the skill and bravery of Abu Salah and his kind to get us to Najaf and Fallujah without being summarily executed. But what we can accomplish is limited.
Into this journalistic vacuum it is all too easy for the prejudices of the press corps -- tourists looking through telescopes -- to flow more freely than ever and the resulting reports to be distorted and incomplete. After the horrifying videotape slaughter of Nick Berg, there will be even greater reluctance among Westerners to leave their fortified hotels and compounds....
END of Excerpt
For the piece in full: www.spectator.co.uk
Have a guess? I'd lean toward someone you don't see much or at all on TV.
And at which magazine are the "editors back on the East Coast...giggling...over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be."
The "east coast" is another clue, though it doesn't eliminate many news-oriented magazines.
So, we're looking for a female journalist who works for a magazine based on the East Coast.
E-mail your guesses, for both her name and the name of the magazine for which she toils, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In a future issue, I'll run the guesses I think have some plausibility.
Network anchors and reporters greeted Monday's legalization in Massachusetts of same-sex marriage by hailing, in the words of ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, how the state is "making history" with the "cultural and political milestone." NBC's Rehema Ellis warned Sunday night that the right to same-sex marriage "could be in jeopardy" due to the threat of a constitutional amendment to ban it. NBC anchor John Seigenthaler treated same-sex marriage as equivalent with civil rights on race as he plugged an upcoming story on the 50th anniversary of the school desegregation case: "When we come back, another battle over equal rights in the classroom half a century ago."
Monday's morning shows all showcased interviews with same-sex couple about to get married in the Bay State. ABC's Diane Sawyer giggled about "history being made" as she featured a lesbian couple.
On Sunday night, ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas led her broadcast: "On World News Tonight this Sunday: Same sex marriage crosses the threshold. Massachusetts prepares to make history as the first state to allow gays to legally wed."
She set up the lead story: "Good evening. Massachusetts is just hours away from making history as the first state in the union to legalize gay marriage..."
After Ron Claiborne profiled a lesbian couple set to marry on Monday Provincetown, Vargas led into a brief discussion, with ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin, by referring to same-sex marriage as "a major cultural and political milestone" on which both Bush and Kerry have been "curiously quiet."
Over on Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Seigenthaler plugged an upcoming story: "Still to come on NBC Nightly News this Sunday: History in Massachusetts. Tomorrow it will became the first state to allow same-sex marriages. But the controversy is not over."
Rehema Ellis focused on a lesbian couple who see a "civil rights breakthrough," but dark clouds are ahead, Ellis ominously intoned: "Last November, in a landmark decision, the state's highest court ruled same-sex couples have the right to wed. But that right could be in jeopardy. Some Massachusetts lawmakers want a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and replace it with civil unions."
Following the Ellis piece, Seigenthaler promoted a look back at the 1954 Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision: "When we come back, another battle over equal rights in the classroom half a century ago."
# Tonight on NBC's Vegas, one of the stars, who plays a security coordinator at a Las Vegas casino/resort, is called to active duty to go to Iraq.
-- Brent Baker