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Obnoxious Questions to Bush: Terrorism on Rise, Renditioning... --4/29/2005


1. Obnoxious Questions to Bush: Terrorism on Rise, Renditioning...
The most obnoxious questions at President Bush's Thursday night news conference: In asking about how Bush's energy bill would lower energy prices, CBS's John Roberts falsely cited "the current record price of oil," when the current $51 a barrel price would need to rise substantially to $90 to set an inflation-adjusted record high; ABC's Terry Moran demanded to know: "If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?"; Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times referred to the "poisonous partisan atmosphere" and pressed Bush: "Do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?"; and CBS's Mark Knoller raised the media's favorite obsession and made it personal: "How would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who brought terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?"

2. CNN Reads Aloud Viewer-Proposed Questions from Left for Bush
In the afternoon before President Bush's news conference, CNN anchors read a series of suggested questions submitted by CNN viewers -- virtually all of which came from the left. Shortly before 3:30pm EDT, Kyra Phillips and Miles O'Brien read the questions which they had earlier solicited. Amongst them: "Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance. How does this reconcile with your 'culture of life?'" and whether Bush is "embarrassed that, as the leader of the world's only superpower, he has been unable to even locate Osama bin Laden?'" O'Brien called that a "good question." Plus, in reference to Tom DeLay, "Why when your own favorability is an all-time low would you choose to embrace the one politician that is allegedly so unethical?"

3. CBS News Treats as Scandalous "Big Oil's Profit Windfall"
ExxonMobil's good financial fortune outraged CBS on Thursday night. Anthony Mason sarcastically teased his story: "The oil companies report record profits. So that's where all your gas money's going." With "Profit Windfall" and "Pumped-Up Profits" on screen, Mason proceeded to rue the "record profit" for ExxonMobil as he recounted how "earnings at the country's largest oil company soared 44 percent in the first quarter. Its drilling business made a $5 billion profit." As if there's something wrong with that. Mason at least allowed an expert in a soundbite to point out how the company is putting a lot of money into expensive exploration. CNN's NewsNight aired a similarly-themed story which they dubbed on-screen: "Your Pain, Their Gain."

4. "Top 10 Thoughts Going Through Pres. Bush's Mind at This Moment"
Prompted by a picture of President Bush holding hands Tuesday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Letterman's "Top Ten Thoughts Going Through President Bush's Mind at This Moment."


Obnoxious Questions to Bush: Terrorism
on Rise, Renditioning...

The most obnoxious questions at President Bush's Thursday night news conference: In asking about how Bush's energy bill would lower energy prices, CBS's John Roberts falsely cited "the current record price of oil," when the current $51 a barrel price would need to rise substantially to $90 to set an inflation-adjusted record high; ABC's Terry Moran demanded to know: "If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?"; Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times referred to the "poisonous partisan atmosphere" and pressed Bush: "Do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?"; and CBS's Mark Knoller raised the media's favorite obsession and made it personal: "How would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who brought terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?"

A month ago, Moran stepped up to pose the question about "renditioning." At a March 16 news conference, Moran pressed Bush: "Mister President, can you explain why you've approved of and expanded the practice of what's called rendition of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people in custody?" Bush explained that in a post-9/11 world we must protect the U.S. from attack and he asserted that the nations promise not to use torture. Moran followed up: "As Commander-in-Chief, what is it that Uzbekistan can do in interrogating an individual that the United States can't do?"

Initially, neither CBS or Fox planned to carry Bush's 8:30pm EDT press conference and NBC was in doubt about giving up time on the first night of the May "sweeps" period. But after the White House moved the start time back to 8pm EDT, CBS, Fox and NBC decided to dump their first prime time hour programming for Bush. CBS and NBC, however, cut out at about 8:56pm EDT, about five minutes before Bush wrapped up, to go to entertainment programming at 9 (one-hour delayed Survivor on CBS, The Apprentice on NBC) after three minutes or so of analysis. Fox stayed with Bush until seconds before 9pm when the network went to The Simple Life: Interns.

ABC dumped its planned movie, Sweet Home Alabama, and turned over the entire evening to the news division which stayed with post-news conference analysis until 9:30pm EDT followed by a Prime Time Thursday mini-edition for 30 minutes and the regularly-scheduled edition at 10pm. PBS also stayed with Bush until he finished, as did CNN, FNC and MSNBC.
In Friday's Washington Post, Lisa de Moraes provides a recounting of the White House-network negotiations on carrying the news conference live and how CBS didn't decide to do so until 6pm EDT after even Fox decided to run it: www.washingtonpost.com

The questions cited above, in full, as posed during the news conference in the White House's East Room:

-- John Roberts, CBS News: "Good evening, Mr. President. Several times we've asked you or your aides what you could do about the high price of gasoline, and very often the answer has come back, Congress needs to pass the energy bill. Can you explain for us how, if it were passed, soon after it were introduced, the energy bill would have an effect on the current record price of oil that we're seeing out there?"

In fact, adjusted for inflation, current $51 a barrel oil will have to exceed $90 to set a record.

-- Terry Moran, ABC News: "Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?"

Bush: "Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action. And we're relentless. We, the -- America and our coalition partners. We understand the stakes, and they're very high because there are people still out there that would like to do harm to the American people. But our strategy is to stay on the offense, is to keep the pressure on these people, is to cut off their money and to share intelligence and to find them where they hide. And we are making good progress. The al Qaeda network that attacked the United States has been severely diminished. We are slowly but surely dismantling that organization.
"In the long run, Terry -- like I said earlier -- the way to defeat terror, though, is to spread freedom and democracy. It's really the only way in the long-term. In the short-term, we'll use our troops and assets and agents to find these people and to protect America. But in the long-term, we must defeat the hopelessness that allows them to recruit by spreading freedom and democracy. But we're making progress."
Moran: "So in the near-term you think there will be more attacks and more people dying?"
Bush: "I'm not going to predict that. In the near-term I can only tell you one thing: we will stay on the offense; we'll be relentless; we'll be smart about how we go after the terrorists; we'll use our friends and allies to go after the terrorists; we will find them where they hide and bring them to justice."

-- Ed Chen, Los Angeles Times: "Sir, you've talked all around the country about the poisonous partisan atmosphere here in Washington. I wonder why do you think that is? And do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?"

CBS's Mark Knoller -- Mark Knoller, CBS News: "Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who brought terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?"
Bush: "Now that's a hypothetical, Mark. We operate within the law and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people.
"But let me say something: the United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way. And we will do so within the law, and we will do so in honoring our commitment not to torture people. And we expect the countries where we send somebody to, not to torture, as well. But you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We -- we still at war.
"One of my -- I've said this before to you, I'm going to say it again, one of my concerns after September the 11th is the farther away we got from September the 11th, the more relaxed we would all become and assume that there wasn't an enemy out there ready to hit us. And I just can't let the American people -- I'm not going to let them down by assuming that the enemy is not going to hit us again. We're going to do everything we can to protect us. And we've got guidelines. We've got law. But you bet, Mark, we're going to find people before they harm us."

For the White House's transcript of the news conference: www.whitehouse.gov

CNN Reads Aloud Viewer-Proposed Questions
from Left for Bush

In the afternoon before President Bush's news conference, CNN anchors read a series of suggested questions submitted by CNN viewers -- virtually all of which came from the left. Shortly before 3:30pm EDT, Kyra Phillips and Miles O'Brien read the questions which they had earlier solicited. Amongst them: "Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance. How does this reconcile with your 'culture of life?'" and whether Bush is "embarrassed that, as the leader of the world's only superpower, he has been unable to even locate Osama bin Laden?'" O'Brien called that a "good question." Plus, in reference to Tom DeLay, "Why when your own favorability is an all-time low would you choose to embrace the one politician that is allegedly so unethical?"

The MRC's Ken Shepherd caught the question-reading which aired at 3:24pm EDT on CNN's Live From. As the question, submitted on CNN.com, were read, the camera zoomed in on the text as displayed on a computer screen.
Miles O'Brien: "Okay, let's imagine for a moment it's time now, LIVE FROM viewers, to imagine yourself-"
Kyra Phillips: "At the press conference."
O'Brien: "-as a White House correspondent. Tonight, 8:30 p.m., you stand up and say, "Mr. President, blah, blah, blah. Doug in Pocatello in Idaho, if he had that opportunity, would say, '€˜Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance. How does this reconcile with your 'culture of life'?"
Phillips: "We asked a lot of to you e-mail us and ask -- tell us what you would want to ask the President."
O'Brien: "There we go."
Phillips: "Henry in Pearland, Texas. I've actually been there, believe it or not: '€˜President Bush, my grandson has spent 16 months in Iraq and is due to be discharged in March 2006. Why must he return to Iraq and have his tour of duty extended? This is a travesty!'"
O'Brien: "Alright. Good pointed question from Henry. Steven, Williamstown, Massachusetts: "America appears more divided than ever. What are you doing that -- and what have you done to heal those divisions? With respect,' he says."
Phillips: "And Celia in Lawrence, Kansas: '€˜Isn't Medicare/Medicaid rather than Social Security in more immediate funding difficulty? And what are you doing, or going to do, rather, to remedy that?"
O'Brien: "Good question, Celia. That would really get him. All right. Dale in Walla Walla River, '€˜I would ask the president if he's embarrassed that, as the leader of the world's only superpower, he has been unable to even locate Osama bin Laden.' Good question."
Phillips: "'€˜Why when your own favorability is an all-time low would you choose to embrace the one politician that is allegedly so unethical' -- course talking about Tom DeLay -- '€˜that the majority of House members in your own party no longer are willing to protect him?'"
O'Brien: "And here's a really important one. Jamie in Devon, Pennsylvania wants to know, '€˜How on earth did My Sharona end up on your iPod, Mister President?' And finally, the question we have been telling you about all throughout the afternoon, from Dennis in Grand Haven, Michigan."
Phillips: "'€˜Like to know more about those exploding toads that I heard about on CNN. If we had that technology, maybe we can use it to control fanatical countries that don't kiss our, dot, dot, dot, dot.'"
O'Brien: "Thank you, e-mailers, all. And I hope that some of the Washington correspondents have been listening, watching, taking notes. And perhaps, the exploding toad question will come up tonight."

CBS News Treats as Scandalous "Big Oil's
Profit Windfall"

ExxonMobil's good financial fortune outraged CBS on Thursday night. Anthony Mason sarcastically teased his story: "The oil companies report record profits. So that's where all your gas money's going." With "Profit Windfall" and "Pumped-Up Profits" on screen, Mason proceeded to rue the "record profit" for ExxonMobil as he recounted how "earnings at the country's largest oil company soared 44 percent in the first quarter. Its drilling business made a $5 billion profit." As if there's something wrong with that. Mason at least allowed an expert in a soundbite to point out how the company is putting a lot of money into expensive exploration. CNN's NewsNight aired a similarly-themed story which they dubbed on-screen: "Your Pain, Their Gain."

With "Profit Windfall" as the graphic next to him, anchor Bob Schieffer intoned on the April 28 CBS Evening News: "On the CBS '€˜Money Watch' tonight, another big loss on Wall Street. The Dow fell 128 points, the NASDAQ 26. The market was rattled by the latest report on the U.S. economy. It shows that economic growth slowed in the first quarter of this year to 3.1 percent. That is down from 3.8 at the end of last year. One reason for the slowdown is high energy prices, which have Americans spending more at the pump and less at the store. That is bad for business, unless, of course, you're in the oil business. Anthony Mason now on big oil's profit windfall."

Mason began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "As you watch those prices soar at the pump, you might wonder where the money's going. The answer from ExxonMobil today: Earnings at the country's largest oil company soared 44 percent in the first quarter. Its drilling business made a $5 billion profit. How much money is ExxonMobil going to make this year? David Talbot is an energy analyst with John S. Herold."
David Talbot, John S. Herold, Inc.: "Something between $25 billion and $30 billion-"
Mason: "In profits?"
Talbot: "-is the likely profit number for ExxonMobil through the year, yes."
Mason: "That would be a record profit for an American company. Over the years, Exxon executives have been touchy when questioned about their good fortune."
Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil CEO, April 23, 2001: "Back when crude oil was ten dollars, gasoline was less than $1 a gallon, and our earnings were less than $2 billion a quarter, I don't recall seeing CBS in the room."
Mason: "Look at it this way: ExxonMobil makes $3 million every hour. The company now has $30 billion just sitting in the bank. So what's it going to do with all that money?"
Harry Quarls, Booz-Allen Hamilton: "That's everybody's good guess, right?"
Mason: "Energy analyst Harry Quarls' best guess:"
Quarls: "It's going mostly to find new reserves, which are more difficult to find and more expensive to find."
Mason: "David Talbot says Exxon is pouring a small fortune into a project called the 'Blackbeard Prospect' off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico."
Talbot: "That well is seeking to go down to depths of almost six miles. That well may cost up to almost $100 million and will take almost a year to drill."
Mason concluded: "But with oil at more than $50 a barrel, it's an investment Exxon can afford because right now it's almost impossible not to make money in the oil business. Anthony Mason, CBS News, New York."

"Top 10 Thoughts Going Through Pres.
Bush's Mind at This Moment"

From the April 28 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by a picture of President Bush holding hands Tuesday with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the "Top Ten Thoughts Going Through President Bush's Mind at This Moment." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

For a look at the photo Letterman showed of Bush holding hands Tuesday in Crawford with the Saudi, scroll down the page at: community-2.webtv.net
10. "Wow, his hands are as soft as Rumsfeld's."

9. "This is more action than I get from Laura."

8. "Thank God there are no cameras around."

7. "Should I invite him back to the house to watch 'Will And Grace'?"

6. "I knew this would happen if I started drinking again."

5. "If this will lower oil prices, I'll do anything."

4. "Now Prince Charles is gonna ask why I wouldn't hold his hand."

3. "I wonder if this will help me get re-elected in 2008?"

2. "What we need is a constitutional amendment to ban this."

1. "I'm officially the gayest President since Lincoln."

-- Brent Baker