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Peter's Back from Vacation, Liberal as Ever, Attacking on Iraq --9/3/2003


1. Peter's Back from Vacation, Liberal as Ever, Attacking on Iraq
Peter's back. After taking most of the summer off, Peter Jennings returned Tuesday night to his World News Tonight anchor chair and delivered a liberal line-up as only he could. He teased the September 2 broadcast: "On World News Tonight, an influential voice in Iraq says the U.S. must leave, and there's been another car bombing. We'll take 'A Closer Look' tonight at how Iraq is going to dominate business in the Congress this fall: So may priorities and too little money. The Democratic presidential race: John Kerry attacks the President today. He says the American people have been misled about Iraq..." Plus, now that former Army Secretary Thomas White is critical of the Bush team, Jennings treated him as a wise sage on Iraq.

2. ABC & CNN Skip Kerry's Distortion About Only "Threatening" Force
After ABC's Peter Jennings focused on how John Kerry "says the American people have been misled about Iraq," Dan Harris proceeded to trumpet: "With an aircraft carrier as the backdrop, the unmistakable message of Senator John Kerry's announcement today was that, as the only Democrat who is a decorated war hero, he is best-suited to take on a popular wartime President." But in emphasizing how Kerry "was very tough on President Bush" on "the situation in Iraq," Harris, like CNN's Candy Crowley, skipped over how Kerry re-wrote history in claiming that he only voted to "threaten" Saddam Hussein. FNC's Carl Cameron, however, picked up on what he kindly described as Kerry's "questionable claim."

3. Kerry's Repeal of Bush Tax Cuts Doesn't Go Far Enough for Sawyer
John Kerry appeared on all three broadcast network morning shows on Tuesday, and all three noted his struggling performance in the polls, but only ABC's Diane Sawyer suggested his repeal of the Bush tax cuts is far too incomplete: "But if you only repeal those above $200,000 [a year], we calculate that it comes to some $40 billion against a potential $470 billion deficit. What does it gain?" But Sawyer did not follow up when Kerry said he'd use his tax cut repeal for more health care subsidies, as if that wouldn't increase the dreaded deficit. But she found time to ask him to name his favorite movie, car and dessert.

4. Olbermann Denigrates FNC as Bunch of McCarthyistic "Demagogues"
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who once said that Ken Starr reminded him of the Nazi Heinrich Himmler, on Tuesday night, during a session with left-wing ranter Al Franken, denigrated the Fox News Channel as a bunch of "demagogues." Recalling how past demagogues like Joe McCarthy have "self-destructed," Olbermann raised the unsuccessful lawsuit against Franken for using the "fair and balanced" phrase and queried Franken: "Did you get some kind of comfort from this laughable lawsuit that maybe the latest set of demagogues are starting to fray at the edges and maybe headed towards self-destruction?"

5. "Top 10 Things Overheard at President Bush's Labor Day Barbecue"
Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard at President Bush's Labor Day Barbecue."


Peter's Back from Vacation, Liberal as
Ever, Attacking on Iraq

ABC's Peter Jennings Peter's back. After taking most of the summer off, Peter Jennings returned Tuesday night to his World News Tonight anchor chair and delivered a liberal line-up as only he could. He teased the September 2 broadcast: "On World News Tonight, an influential voice in Iraq says the U.S. must leave, and there's been another car bombing. We'll take 'A Closer Look' tonight at how Iraq is going to dominate business in the Congress this fall: So may priorities and too little money. The Democratic presidential race: John Kerry attacks the President today. He says the American people have been misled about Iraq..."

Before getting to Kerry (details in item #2 below), Jim Sciutto in Iraq, in a story on a car bombing, gave just a sentence to how the brother of the cleric killed last week now opposes the U.S. presence, Martha Raddatz looked at how "the number of American dead in this war already exceeds the number killed in the first Persian Gulf War. The number of wounded in action now more than twice as high," Jennings suddenly found wiseness in former Army Secretary Thomas White, who was tainted by the Enron mess, as Jennings highlighted how in a new book White "describes the Bush administration's post-war efforts in Iraq as totally inadequate."

Later in the show, Jennings made an incomprehensible point. For the "A Closer Look" segment, John Cochran fretted over how the cost of the Iraq war is impinging on the ability to pay for a new prescription drug entitlement program. Following Cochran, Jennings went to Terry Moran at the White House who concluded that Bush promised to create the new entitlement, but "the budget is just a mess." Jennings then uttered this sequence of words:
"Okay, Terry. Terry Moran at the White House. It may not be long before someone begins to invoke the phrases used about his father's economic policy on this issue, but it's one we'll come back to on an almost daily basis."

Huh?

Now, a bit more on the death and injury rate in Iraq. Jennings introduced the Raddatz piece: "ABC News has learned that President Bush is going to ask the United Nations for help with security in Iraq. The administration will soon begin to circulate a resolution in the Security Council proposing an expanded international force. Details and reaction about that again tomorrow. The U.S. certainly needs help. As ABC's Martha Raddatz reports tonight, the violence in Iraq is now pretty much everywhere."

Raddatz explained: "The number of American dead in this war already exceeds the number killed in the first Persian Gulf War. The number of wounded in action now more than twice as high. More than 1100 troops have been injured in hostile action in this war, many seriously. In August, on average, 10 American troops were wounded every day. A security report just released by a British company says that many of the attacks are not being reported at all by the forces involved, in a possible effort to downplay the dangers. In one incident, two people, working for the U.S.-led civilian administration in Baghdad, were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt in broad daylight leaving a restaurant."
Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution: "If we don't start to see an improvement in the overall situation by some time in the fall, I believe it very much is worrisome because then it suggests this resistance has a much deeper base than we first thought."

Raddatz moved on to the proposed UN resolution language before Jennings followed up: "One other note about Iraq: The former Secretary of the Army, Thomas White, who was forced to resign in May, describes the Bush administration's post-war efforts in Iraq as totally inadequate. In a new book, Mr. White writes that in formulating the plan for Iraq, the administration ignored the harsh realities on the ground."

As for the rate at which U.S. soldiers are getting killed in Iraq, last week FNC's Brit Hume pointed out how "U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California."

In the "Grapevine" segment on the August 26 Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume reported: "Two hundred and seventy seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7, including illness and accidents, each day."

I got the Hume text from FNC's next-day posting of the Grapevine items: www.foxnews.com

ABC & CNN Skip Kerry's Distortion About
Only "Threatening" Force

After, as noted in item #1 above, ABC's Peter Jennings plugged at the top of Tuesday's World News Tonight how "John Kerry attacks the President today. He says the American people have been misled about Iraq," Dan Harris proceeded to trumpet: "With an aircraft carrier as the backdrop, the unmistakable message of Senator John Kerry's announcement today was that, as the only Democrat who is a decorated war hero, he is best-suited to take on a popular wartime President."

But in emphasizing how Kerry "was very tough on President Bush" on "the situation in Iraq," Harris, like CNN's Candy Crowley and CBS's David Axelrod, skipped over how Kerry re-wrote history in claiming that he only voted to "threaten" Saddam Hussein. FNC's Carl Cameron, however, picked up on what he kindly described as a "questionable claim." On Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume, Cameron played this clip from Kerry in Charleston: "I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations. I believe that was right, but it was wrong to rush to war."
Cameron then observed: "Several rival campaigns quickly accused Kerry of trying to re-write history, noting that the Iraq resolution did not merely 'threaten' force, as Kerry claims, but clearly authorized President Bush to use it."

Later Tuesday night on CNN's NewsNight, Candy Crowley led into the very same Kerry soundbite by noting that in reaction to Howard Dean's success, for Kerry it's "time for Plan B, synthesizing Kerry's yes vote on the war with the anti-war voters at the core of his party." But she failed to point out the inaccuracy of Kerry's "threaten" claim.

Over on the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod didn't run the Kerry soundbite and concentrated on Kerry's battle with dean. The NBC Nightly News stressed Kerry's attack on Bush's Iraq policy as Tom Brokaw, who like Jennings returned to the NBC Nightly News for the first time since the first week of July, read this short item:
"Massachusetts Senator John Kerry officially entered the race for the Democratic nomination today with a blistering attack on the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Kerry is a Vietnam war hero, who against the backdrop of the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown, said quote, 'George Bush's vision of America does not live up to the America I enlisted in the Navy to defend.' Kerry was seen as the early frontrunner for his party's nomination, but he has struggled in recent weeks as former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's candidacy has taken off."

Now, the September 2 World News Tonight story in full, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth. Peter Jennings announced:
"Iraq, as you may have noticed, has become a major issue in the race for the presidency. That was clear in South Carolina today as a leading Democratic candidate officially launched his candidacy. Senator John Kerry's been traveling around the country for months, but he used today's platform to unleash some of his sharpest attacks yet on the President and do what he can to advance his own candidacy. ABC's Dan Harris was there."

Harris began from Charleston: "With an aircraft carrier as the backdrop, the unmistakable message of Senator John Kerry's announcement today was that, as the only Democrat who is a decorated war hero, he is best-suited to take on a popular wartime President. He was very tough on President Bush, from the situation in Iraq-"
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) Clip #1: "Being flown to an aircraft carrier and saying, 'Mission accomplished,' doesn't end a war."
Kerry Clip #2: "If I am President of the United States, our beloved country will never go to war because we want to, we will go to war because we have to."
Harris: "-to the economy."
Kerry: "George Bush's only economic plan is lavish tax breaks for those at the top."
Harris: "If elected, Kerry promised to institute universal health care, cut the deficit in half in his first four years, and only appoint judges to the Supreme Court who support abortion rights. But before Kerry can go up against Mr. Bush, he has to beat this man: Howard Dean. The former Governor of Vermont is now leading in the polls and in fundraising, in part, by appealing to liberals with his strong anti-war stance. Kerry, who initially voted in Congress to authorize the war, has, of late, sharpened his criticism, in part, because of pressure on his left from Howard Dean."
Kerry: "It is time to return to the United Nations not with the arrogance of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, but with genuine respect."
Harris concluded: "Today, as Kerry reunited with his former crewmates from his two tours of duty in Vietnam, he was showcasing a story many Americans may well find compelling. But in presidential politics, it's been said that biography is not always destiny. Dan Harris, ABC News, Charleston, South Carolina."

Kerry's Repeal of Bush Tax Cuts Doesn't
Go Far Enough for Sawyer

Democratic presidential contender John Kerry appeared on all three broadcast network morning shows on Tuesday, and all three noted his struggling performance in the polls, but only ABC's Diane Sawyer suggested his repeal of the Bush tax cuts is far too incomplete: "But if you only repeal those above $200,000 [a year], we calculate that it comes to some $40 billion against a potential $470 billion deficit. What does it gain?" But Sawyer did not follow up when Kerry said he'd use his tax cut repeal for more health care subsidies, as if that wouldn't increase the dreaded deficit. But she found time to ask him to name his favorite movie, car and dessert.

[Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, submitted this article for CyberAlert.]

All the networks harped on polls that do not look good for the Kerry campaign, especially the latest Zogby poll showing him behind Howard Dean by 21 percent in New Hampshire. (MRC analysts Brian Boyd, Geoffrey Dickens and Jessica Anderson took down the questions posed.)

On CBS's Early Show of September 2, co-host Harry Smith even touted a CBS national poll showing Kerry tied with Al Sharpton at five percent. (Joe Lieberman led with 14 percent.) His questions were very short. For example: "Because some of your Democratic challengers say that they want all of those tax cuts rolled back. Do you want them all rolled back or just the ones for the wealthiest?" Smith even asked about double-talk: Well, let me ask you about that because you voted with the President to go to war in Iraq. You've been critical though of what's been happening in that country since then. Can you have it both ways?"

On NBC's Today, Katie Couric asked about his backdrop: "I know that it's dark there right now but we should note that behind you, Senator Kerry, in South Carolina is the USS Yorktown which is an aircraft carrier that served both in World War II and in Vietnam. Throughout your campaign you've emphasized your experience in Vietnam. Why do you think that's so important to the American people?"

There was no talk of cynical positioning to build up a pro-defense image. While Kerry wasn't risking life and limb to get the symbolic photo op in front of an aircraft carrier, in May Couric's co-host Matt Lauer suggested that President Bush's aircraft carrier landing was a case of "symbolism overshadowing safety." See the May 2 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

Over on ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer focused Kerry on his leading opponent: "I want to turn to somebody else in this race, Governor Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont. As we know, he's surging ahead, 21 percent ahead according to a recent poll in New Hampshire, the crucial first primary state, expected to surge in fundraising. He said about you, 'I still don't know what he stands for to this day.' And he said he's absolutely clear, repeal the Bush tax cuts, period, and yet you say just repeal those on people over $200,000, which doesn't amount to much money." When Kerry protested, Sawyer retorted: "But if you only repeal those above $200,000, we calculate that it comes to some $40 billion against a potential $470 billion deficit. What does it gain?"
Kerry argued: "No, not if you go back to the 2001 taxes, Diane, and also the inheritance tax. We actually get almost $100 billion, a little shy of $100 billion. That will pay for my health care plan, which incidentally is a stronger health care plan than Governor Dean's."

Sawyer did not follow up when Kerry said he'd use his tax-cut repeal for more health-care subsidies...and just leave the deficit huge. Instead, rushed for time, she moved on to fluff, or "our lightning round, to let people get to know you a little bit on a lighter front." Sawyer prompted him to name his "favorite movie" ("Giant or Casablanca"), "dream car" ("1960s-era Stingray Corvette"), and "favorite dessert" ("Oh, chocolate cake, chocolate fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate something").

Olbermann Denigrates FNC as Bunch of
McCarthyistic "Demagogues"

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who once said that Ken Starr reminded him of the Nazi Heinrich Himmler, on Tuesday night, during a session with left-wing ranter Al Franken, denigrated the Fox News Channel as a bunch of "demagogues." Recalling how past demagogues like Joe McCarthy have "self-destructed," Olbermann raised the unsuccessful lawsuit against Franken for using the "fair and balanced" phrase and queried Franken: "Did you get some kind of comfort from this laughable lawsuit that maybe the latest set of demagogues are starting to fray at the edges and maybe headed towards self-destruction?"

Olbermann wrapped up the September 2 Countdown segment by gleefully holding up a mock T-shirt with "FAUX NEWS" in the a design matching the actual Fox News Channel logo, and below the graphic this play on FNC's "we report, you decide" slogan: "We Distort. You Comply."

(Not enough people watch MSNBC for anyone to bother to make T-shirts mocking it.)

Olbermann set up the segment with Franken, author of the new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, which MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught:
"Back with the Countdown, and the number two story on it, and joining us now is a veteran of three overseas tours with the USO, a frequent speaker before conservative corporations, and a man whose latest book of political analysis has become America's best-selling work of non-fiction thanks mostly to the efforts of the Fox News Channel. And if that introduction doesn't show you how a little truth and a little selectivity can mislead somebody, Al Franken, I don't know what could."

Olbermann's first question: "I must ask you the same question that I asked your attorney, Floyd Abrams, when he was on with me on the Today show. Are you disappointed that Fox's lawsuit against your book was dismissed so quickly so you couldn't get even more free publicity from them?" Franken talked about how the lawsuit was literally, not figuratively laughed out of court.

Olbermann impugned FNC: "And that's something else besides simply a court victory to have it, as you say, literally as opposed to figuratively. On the same score, I was thinking as I read the book about the long history of political demagoguery in this country on the right and on the left, and it occurs to me that every one of the demagogues, or every set of demagogues, from like Aaron Byrd [?] or Father Coughlin to Joe McCarthy, have at some point self-destructed. Did you get some kind of comfort from this laughable lawsuit that maybe the latest set of demagogues are starting to fray at the edges and maybe headed towards self-destruction?"

Olbermann soon opined: "We have a plug we need to get in, by the way. If you want to read part of Al's book, the introduction, in fact, is posted on our MSNBC Web site. It is a tremendous introduction, mentions Samuel Tilden, the one and only Ann Coulter -- we hope, the one and only Ann Coulter -- hot Asian teens, and God -- in fact, it mentions God 28 times, in fact. We counted. And we have one thing, if you want to look at the monitor, we have something for you for coming on the program, a lovely parting gift from our friends at agitproperties, who were also sued by Fox News because they printed this T-shirt reading 'Faux News,'so we've never given out a thank you present to a gift, but for you, Al Franken, we wanted to, we're going to send you-"
Franken quipped: "Well, how did that suit go?"
Olbermann: "They're still in court, apparently. But we may have -- just show it again, we'll give them a little bit more free publicity. There we go. And they also have one about 'O'Reilly Youth.' We can send you one of those, too. Al, thanks very much for your time, congratulations, and may the next book get same kind of out-of-the-blue bolt-of-lightning kind of publicity from some other moron."

Olbermann should be able to identify demagogues. In a previous stint with MSNBC Olbermann opined that "the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler" and wondered that if Starr continued to pursue President Clinton, "would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"

As host of the Big Show with Keith Olbermann in the very same time slot as Countdown with Keith Olbermann (8pm EDT) on the very same network on August 18, 1998, Olbermann "asked" then-Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief James Warren shortly after President Clinton's non-apology apology speech:
"Can Ken Starr ignore the apparent breadth of the sympathetic response to the President's speech? Facially, it finally dawned on me that the person Ken Starr has reminded me of facially all this time was Heinrich Himmler, including the glasses. If he now pursues the President of the United States, who, however flawed his apology was, came out and invoked God, family, his daughter, a political conspiracy and everything but the kitchen sink, would not there be some sort of comparison to a persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"

That won the "I'm a Compassionate Liberal But I Wish You Were All Dead Award (for media hatred of conservatives)" in the MRC's very first DisHonors Awards. To watch a RealPlayer clip of it: www.mrc.org

"Top 10 Things Overheard at President
Bush's Labor Day Barbecue"

From the September 1 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard at President Bush's Labor Day Barbecue." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. "After 35 days of vacation, I think I've earned a day off"

9. "Secret Service! Cheney's headed for the pork ribs!"

8. "It's true that we haven't found any relish yet, but we believe it exists and we will continue to search for it"

7. "What a great idea to use Camp X-ray detainees as waiters"

6. "Check out my hilarious 'Commander-N-Chef' apron!"

5. "These hot dogs are so good, they make me want to invade Frankfurt!"

4. "I still can't believe that moron's President"

3. "Who made this potato salad -- Chemical Ali?"

2. "A toast to all the American taxpayers who paid for this spread"

1. "Laura, honey, am I on fire again?"

Tonight, Wednesday night, on the Late Show with David Letterman: Retired Army General Tommy Franks, who led the war in Iraq.

-- Brent Baker