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Panic Over Possible Pardon, ABC Contrasts Libby to Cocaine Dealer --7/5/2007


1. Panic Over Possible Pardon, ABC Contrasts Libby to Cocaine Dealer
Broadcast network anchors and reporters on Tuesday night seemed to be in a near panic over the possibility President Bush might yet pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, while ABC's Martha Raddatz illustrated special treatment for Libby by highlighting a man sentenced to 20 years for selling cocaine, whose commutation request Bush rejected, and Martha Stewart who served five months for violations similar to Libby's. With "Libby PARDON?" on screen, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams warned that Bush is "not ruling out the possibility of a full pardon." Bush remarked on Tuesday that "as to the future, I'm, you know, rule nothing in and nothing out." CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric made that her hook, citing "a lot more fireworks today...sparked by what the President said he may or may not do in the future." Bill Plante began: "A day after he commuted Lewis Libby's prison sentence, President Bush raised the ante by leaving the door open to an eventual pardon." ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: "Angry reaction to President Bush sparing Scooter Libby jail time while the President doesn't rule out granting Libby a full pardon."

2. Olbermann Calls on Bush and Cheney to Resign, Congress to Impeach
On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his latest "Special Comment" to demand President Bush and Vice President Cheney resign because of the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, contending that President Bush is only President of a "rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party." Olbermann further accused Cheney of being "without conscience" and compared the two to a "ventriloquist" and "dummy." After calling on Congress to "pressure, negotiate, impeach," Olbermann concluded: "Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9, 1974. Resign. And give us someone, anyone, about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, 'I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job.' Good night and good luck."

3. Vieira Plugs NBC's Al Gore-athon for the Earth with Singer Nutini
NBC invited aboard singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini to perform on Tuesday's Today show, but Meredith Vieira didn't let the artist get away without using his spot, in Saturday's Live Earth concert, as an excuse to plug NBC Universal's sweeping coverage of the Al Gore musical marathon which she trumpeted as "a worldwide event to save the planet." After Nutini gushed about how "Al Gore, himself, has been, for 16 years, been fighting to, to be heard. And for this to be made, in such and an event like this to happen," Vieira enthused: "And hopefully this will affect people and impact on people's desire to, to help save the environment." Vieira helpfully informed viewers: "We want to remind the audience, too, that you can see all the concerts this Saturday, July 7th, on the networks of NBC Universal at 8/7 Central....We're also gonna have live coverage from the U.S. concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, all right here on NBC."


Panic Over Possible Pardon, ABC Contrasts
Libby to Cocaine Dealer

Broadcast network anchors and reporters on Tuesday night seemed to be in a near panic over the possibility President Bush might yet pardon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, while ABC's Martha Raddatz illustrated special treatment for Libby by highlighting a man sentenced to 20 years for selling cocaine, whose commutation request Bush rejected, and Martha Stewart who served five months for violations similar to Libby's. With "Libby PARDON?" on screen, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams warned that Bush is "not ruling out the possibility of a full pardon." Bush remarked on Tuesday that "as to the future, I'm, you know, rule nothing in and nothing out." CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric made that her hook, citing "a lot more fireworks today...sparked by what the President said he may or may not do in the future." Bill Plante began: "A day after he commuted Lewis Libby's prison sentence, President Bush raised the ante by leaving the door open to an eventual pardon."

ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: "Angry reaction to President Bush sparing Scooter Libby jail time while the President doesn't rule out granting Libby a full pardon." Martha Raddatz reported: "Mr. Bush took it one step further today, saying a full pardon for Libby is not off the table." After running a clip of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow maintaining "you do not engage in these acts for symbolic or political reasons," Raddatz charged: "But that is going to be a hard accusation to shake. At the very least, Libby went to the front of the line. There are currently close to 2,000 commutation requests pending. More than 4,000 have already been denied. During his nearly seven years in office, President Bush has granted only four commutations, including Libby." She proceeded to highlight how "former Kansas City Royals slugger Willie Mays Aikens, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1994 for selling two ounces of crack," but "Aikens' request to have his sentence commuted was turned down by President Bush."

But no matter how many commutations or pardons Bush grants, you could always find another sympathetic case of injustice.

[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the July 3 World News story on ABC:

CHARLES GIBSON: Now, to today's noisy fallout from President Bush's decision to commute the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The fact that Libby's conviction for lying in the CIA leak investigation stands, while he is spared from serving any prison time, didn't seem to satisfy anyone, except, perhaps, the President himself. Or at least that's what it sounded like in Washington today. Our chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, is there. Martha?

MARTHA RADDATZ: Charlie, the President was unapologetic today, despite criticism from all sides. Mr. Bush took it one step further today, saying a full pardon for Libby is not off the table.
GEORGE W. BUSH: As to the future, I'm, you know, rule nothing in and nothing out.
RADDATZ: But the reaction has been immediate and intense. The Democratic National Committee posted a Web ad slamming the President.
AUDIO OF BUSH, in clip of ad: I expect every member of this administration to stay well within the boundaries that define legal and ethical conduct.
RADDATZ: The President's conservative base was not happy either, Demanding a full pardon.
TONY SNOW: The point of this is that you do not engage in these acts for symbolic or political reasons.
RADDATZ: But that is going to be a hard accusation to shake. At the very least, Libby went to the front of the line. There are currently close to 2,000 commutation requests pending. More than 4,000 have already been denied. During his nearly seven years in office, President Bush has granted only four commutations including Libby.
MARGARET LOVE, Attorney: The thing that I hope most is that this will encourage him to grant some pardons and commutations to ordinary people.
RADDATZ: Margaret Love's client, former Kansas City Royals slugger Willie Mays Aikens, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1994 for selling two ounces of crack.
WILLIE MAYS AIKENS, Former Kansas City Royals first baseman (2003 video from ESPN): For the crime that I committed, I believe that I, you know, I've done enough time. It's time for me to go home.
RADDATZ: Aikens' request to have his sentence commuted was turned down by President Bush. He has another request pending. And there is, of course, the case of Martha Stewart. Like Libby, she was convicted of perjury and obstruction charges. She served five months in jail. But the White House insists that Scooter Libby has already suffered enough. Charlie.

Olbermann Calls on Bush and Cheney to
Resign, Congress to Impeach

On Tuesday's Countdown, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann used his latest "Special Comment" to demand President Bush and Vice President Cheney resign because of the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, contending that President Bush is only President of a "rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party." Olbermann further accused Cheney of being "without conscience" and compared the two to a "ventriloquist" and "dummy." After calling on Congress to "pressure, negotiate, impeach," Olbermann concluded: "Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9, 1974. Resign. And give us someone, anyone, about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, 'I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job.' Good night and good luck."

(MSNBC was so proud of Olbermann's ten-minute rant that they re-ran it, in full, at least once during the day on Wednesday, July 4. I caught it at 10:30am EDT. -- Brent Baker)

[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Olbermann opened his lengthy rant by reciting John Wayne's words about wishing well of President Kennedy even though he had voted for Nixon. The Countdown host soon moved to argue that Bush is unworthy of that sentiment as he accused the President of "stabbing this nation in the back." Olbermann: "George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and sharpened it to razor-sharp points and stabbed this nation in the back with it."

Regarding Bush's decision to commute Libby's prison sentence, Olbermann accused the President of merely representing the "rabid" corner of his party: "In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party."

Olbermann listed several accusations against the President, including "lying this country into war," "fabricating" a "false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11," "causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons and sisters and daughters and friends and neighbors," "subverting the Constitution," "creating the very terror you claim to have fought," and "handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience."

The MSNBC host compared Bush and Cheney to a "ventriloquist" and "dummy" as he referred to the Libby commutation as "crossing the Rubicon." Olbermann: "You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is now irrelevant. But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant."

Olbermann tied in the July 4th holiday for its celebration of America standing up to its king, as he called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, whom he tagged as "perilous to our democracy." Olbermann: "We of this time -- and our leaders in Congress, of both parties -- must now live up to those standards which echo through our history -- pressure, negotiate, impeach -- get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our democracy, away from its helm."

Olbermann concluded: "Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9, 1974. Resign. And give us someone, anyone, about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, 'I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job.' Good night and good luck."

MSNBC.com has posted a transcript, along with MSN Video of it: www.msnbc.msn.com

Below is a complete transcript, corrected against what aired, of Olbermann's "Special Comment" from the end of the Tuesday, July 3 Countdown on MSNBC:

Finally tonight, as promised, a "Special Comment" on what is, in everything but name, George Bush's pardon of Scooter Libby.

"I didn't vote for him," an American once said, "but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job." That, on this eve of the 4th of July, is the essence of this democracy, in 17 words. And that is what President Bush threw away yesterday in commuting the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The man who said those 17 words, improbably enough, was the actor John Wayne. And John Wayne, an ultra-conservative, said them when he learned of the hair's breadth election of John F. Kennedy instead of his personal favorite, Richard Nixon, in 1960. "I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job."

The sentiment was doubtlessly expressed earlier, but there's something especially appropriate about hearing it now in Wayne's voice: The crisp matter-of-fact acknowledgment that our form of government has survived, even though for nearly two centuries now, our Commander-in-Chief has also served, simultaneously, as the head of one political party and often the scourge of all others. We as citizens must, at some point, ignore a President's partisanship. Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world, but that merely we may function. But just as essential to the 17 words of John Wayne is an implicit trust, a sacred trust: That the President for whom so many did not vote, can in turn suspend his political self long enough, and for matters imperative enough, to conduct himself solely for the benefit of the entire Republic.

Our generation's willingness to state "we didn't vote for him, but he's our President, and we hope he does a good job," was tested in the crucible of history, and far earlier than most. And in circumstances far more tragic and threatening. And we did that with which history tasked us. We enveloped our President in 2001. And those who did not believe he should have been elected, indeed those who did not believe he had been elected, willingly lowered their voices and assented to the sacred oath of non-partisanship.

And George W. Bush took our assent, and re-configured it, and honed it, and sharpened it to razor-sharp points and stabbed this nation in the back with it. Were there any remaining lingering doubt otherwise, or any remaining lingering hope, it ended yesterday when Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of one of his own staffers. Did so even before the appeals process was complete; did so without as much as a courtesy consultation with the Department of Justice; did so despite what James Madison, at the Constitutional Convention, said about impeaching any President who pardoned or sheltered those who had committed crimes "advised by" that President; did so without the slightest concern that even the most detached of citizens must look at this chain of events and wonder to what degree was Mr. Libby told: "Break the law however you wish, the President will keep you out of prison"?

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental compact between yourself and the majority of this nation's citizens, the ones who did not cast votes for you. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States. In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party. And this is too important a time, sir, to have a Commander-in-Chief who puts party ahead of nation.

This has been, of course, the gathering legacy of this administration. Few of its decisions have escaped the stain of politics. The extraordinary Karl Rove has spoken of "a permanent Republican majority," as if such a thing, or a permanent Democratic majority, is not antithetical to that upon which rests our country, our history, our revolution, our freedoms. Yet our Democracy has survived shrewder men than Karl Rove. And it has survived the frequent stain of politics upon the fabric of government. But this administration, with ever-increasing insistence and almost theocratic zealotry, has turned that stain into a massive oil spill.

The protection of the environment is turned over to those of one political party, who will financially benefit from the rape of the environment. The protections of the Constitution are turned over to those of one political party, who believe those protections unnecessary and extravagant and quaint. The enforcement of the laws is turned over to those of one political party, who will swear beforehand that they will not enforce those laws. The choice between war and peace is turned over to those of one political party, who stand to gain vast wealth by ensuring that there is never peace, but only war.

And now, when just one cooked book gets corrected by an honest auditor, when just one trampling of the inherent and inviolable fairness of government is rejected by an impartial judge, when just one wild-eyed partisan is stopped by the figure of blind justice, this President decides that he, and not the law, must prevail.

I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war. I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people, a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. I accuse you of firing the generals who told you that the plans for Iraq were disastrously insufficient. I accuse you of causing in Iraq the needless deaths of 3,586 of our brothers and sons and sisters and daughters and friends and neighbors.

I accuse you of subverting the Constitution, not in some misguided but sincerely-motivated struggle to combat terrorists, but instead to stifle dissent. I accuse you of fomenting fear among your own people, of creating the very terror you claim to have fought. I accuse you of exploiting that unreasoning fear, the natural fear of your own people who just want to live their lives in peace, as a political tool to slander your critics and libel your opponents. I accuse you of handing part of this Republic over to a Vice President who is without conscience, and letting him run roughshod over it.

And I accuse you now, Mr. Bush, of giving, through that Vice President, carte blanche to Mr. Libby, to help defame Ambassador Joseph Wilson by any means necessary, to lie to grand juries and special counsel and before a court, in order to protect the mechanisms and the particulars of that defamation, with your guarantee that Libby would never see prison, and, in so doing, as Ambassador Wilson himself phrased it here last night, of you becoming an accessory to the obstruction of justice.

When President Nixon ordered the firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre on October 20, 1973, Mr. Cox initially responded tersely, and ominously. "Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men," he said, "is now for Congress, and ultimately, the American people."

President Nixon did not understand how he had crystallized the issue of Watergate for the American people. It had been, to that point, about the obscure meaning behind an attempt to break into a rival party's headquarters; and the labyrinthine effort to cover up that break-in and the related crimes. But in one night, Nixon transformed it. Watergate instantaneously became a simpler issue: a President overruling the inexorable march of the law of insisting, in a way that resonated viscerally with millions who had not previously understood, that he was the law. Not the Constitution. Not the Congress. Not the Courts. Just him.

Just, Mr. Bush, as you did yesterday. The twists and turns of Plamegate, your precise and intricate lies that sent us into this bottomless pit of Iraq; your lies upon the lies to discredit Joe Wilson; your lies upon the lies upon the lies to throw the sand at the referee of Prosecutor Fitzgerald's analogy. These are complex and often painful to follow, and too much, perhaps, for the average citizen. But when other citizens render a verdict against your man, Mr. Bush, and then you spit in the faces of those jurors and that judge and the judges who were yet to hear the appeal, the average citizen understands that, sir. It is the fixed ball game and the rigged casino and the pre-arranged lottery all rolled into one, and it stinks. And they know it.

Nixon's mistake, the last and most fatal of them, the firing of Archibald Cox, was enough to cost him the presidency. And in the end, even Richard Nixon could say he could not put this nation through an impeachment. It was far too late for it to matter then, but as the decades unfold, that single final gesture of nonpartisanship, of acknowledged responsibility not to self, not to party, not to "base," but to country, echoes loudly into history. Even Richard Nixon knew it was time to resign.

Would that you could say that, Mr. Bush. And that you could say it for Mr. Cheney. You both crossed the Rubicon yesterday. Which one of you chose the route no longer matters. Which is the ventriloquist, and which the dummy, is now irrelevant. But that you have twisted the machinery of government into nothing more than a tawdry machine of politics, is the only fact that remains relevant.

It is nearly July 4th, Mr. Bush, the commemoration of the moment we Americans decided that rather than live under a king who made up the laws, or erased them, or ignored them, or commuted the sentences of those rightly convicted under them, we would force our independence, and regain our sacred freedoms. We of this time -- and our leaders in Congress, of both parties -- must now live up to those standards which echo through our history -- pressure, negotiate, impeach -- get you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, two men who are now perilous to our democracy, away from its helm.

And for you, Mr. Bush, and for Mr. Cheney, there is a lesser task. You need merely to achieve a very low threshold indeed. Display just that iota of patriotism which Richard Nixon showed, on August 9, 1974. Resign. And give us someone, anyone, about whom all of us might yet be able to quote John Wayne, and say, "I didn't vote for him, but he's my President, and I hope he does a good job." Good night and good luck.

END of Transcript

Vieira Plugs NBC's Al Gore-athon for
the Earth with Singer Nutini

NBC invited aboard singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini to perform on Tuesday's Today show, but Meredith Vieira didn't let the artist get away without using his spot, in Saturday's Live Earth concert, as an excuse to plug NBC Universal's sweeping coverage of the Al Gore musical marathon which she trumpeted as "a worldwide event to save the planet." After Nutini gushed about how "Al Gore, himself, has been, for 16 years, been fighting to, to be heard. And for this to be made, in such and an event like this to happen," Vieira enthused: "And hopefully this will affect people and impact on people's desire to, to help save the environment." Vieira helpfully informed viewers: "We want to remind the audience, too, that you can see all the concerts this Saturday, July 7th, on the networks of NBC Universal at 8/7 Central....We're also gonna have live coverage from the U.S. concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, all right here on NBC."

[This item is adapted from a posting, by Geoffrey Dickens, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Before Nutini sang on the July 3 Today, he and Vieira discussed the importance of saving the Earth. Vieira set up the segment: "They are calling it a worldwide event to save the planet and this Saturday more than 100 musical acts will perform in eight cities across seven continents. The Live Earth concert series will bring attention to the issue of global warming. And among the performers, Scottish singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini."

The relevant portion of the discussion:

Vieira: "Well I know since you've been on this show, you've had no shortage, I don't think it's luck, I think you've earned it. Your album is doing great. 1.3 million copies sold, worldwide. Is that correct?"
[Paolo Nutini]
Vieira: "Yeah, yeah. But, I don't know, this has to be even more exciting to be part of this concert series. What does this mean to you?"
Paolo Nutini: "You know, it's the fact that it's concerning the Earth that we live on and hopefully, you know, maybe, me kids and stuff may live on in the future, you know? That's, that's important to me, obviously. And I wanted, you know, it's, but it's not a new concept, you know? I mean Al Gore, himself, has been, for 16 years, been fighting to, to be heard. And for this to be made, in such and an event like this to happen."
Vieira: "And hopefully this will affect people and impact on people's desire to, to help save the environment."
Nutini, rambling incoherently: "Well this brings everybody, watching the same thing and will put black and white, the changes they can make as a person, as a, you know, as maybe a small group and then as a, you know, a race and then, it's so..."
Vieira: "All we can do is try. Absolutely. And we want to remind the audience, too, that you can see all the concerts this Saturday, July 7th, on the networks of NBC Universal at 8/7 Central. And you can catch the highlights of performances from around the world. We're also gonna have live coverage from the U.S. concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, all right here on NBC."

The June 6 CyberAlert recounted:

In what will surely be one of the largest ever, if not the largest, in-kind contributions to a presidential campaign if Al Gore decides to run, NBC Universal announced late last week that its networks will devote an incredible 75 hours of time on Saturday, July 7 to showing Gore's "Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis."

In addition to the entirety of NBC's prime time that night hosted by Ann Curry of NBC News, CNBC will carry seven hours of coverage from 7pm to 2am EDT; Bravo will show the concerts around the world for 18 hours starting at 8am EDT; and both the Sundance channel and the Universal HD channel will showcase the concerts for 22 hours each beginning at 4am EDT. Rounding out the 75 hours, mun2 will run a two-hour show at 5pm EDT and Telemundo will air a one-hour special at 7pm EDT. And that's not counting how NBC's press release touted that "MSNBC will broadcast special coverage of this global concert event throughout the day with live reports from the concerts in New York and London."

Actually, NBC has changed the Bravo start time from 8 to 9am EDT, so the 18 hours of promotional coverage will last until 3am EDT Sunday morning.

For the June 6 CyberAlert item in full: www.mrc.org

The MRC on Monday distributed a press release, "NBC BOASTS OF UNPRECEDENTED CORPORATE GIFT TO AL GORE'S 'LIVE EARTH' CAMPAIGN," which is online at: www.mrc.org

Also on Monday, the MRC posted a Media Reality Check, researched by Geoffrey Dickens, with a look at the views of Ann Curry of NBC News, who will host the 8-11pm EDT/PDT prime time coverage on NBC of Gore's July 7 concerts. For "NBC's Queen of Green Hosts 'Live Earth': Today News Anchor Ann Curry Has History of Sappy Promotion of Celebrity Environmentalists," go to: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker