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Poll: Media Elite to Left of Public on Iraq and War on Terrorism --11/22/2005


1. Poll: Media Elite to Left of Public on Iraq and War on Terrorism
The news media elite are to the left of the public in several policy areas related to the war on terrorism, a poll "of opinion leaders and the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations," found. While 56 percent of the public believes "efforts to establish a stable democracy" in Iraq will succeed, 63 percent of the news media elite think it will fail; a plurality of 48 percent of the public think going to war in Iraq was correct, but 71 percent of the news media elite consider it a bad decision; the public is split evenly at 44 percent on whether the Iraq war has helped or hurt the war on terrorism, but an overwhelming 68 percent of the news media elite say it has hurt; and 46 percent of the public believe torture of terrorist suspects is often or sometimes "justified," 78 percent of the news media elite contend it is "rarely" or "never" justified. Plus, news media elite approval of Bush's job performance -- at a lowly 21 percent -- is half that of the public's.

2. Media Hype Imaginary Spending "Cuts" Hurting "Poor" and "Farmers"
Journalists remain unable to tell the difference between a slight reduction in increased spending and an actual spending cut. A budget bill, passed by the House very early Friday morning, the Cato Institute estimated, will provide for $7.75 trillion in entitlement spending over five years instead of $7.8 trillion, a mere 0.6 percent difference as the bill overall would reduce planned ever-rising federal spending over the next five years by a piddling one-third of one percent. Yet reporters saw disaster ahead. "The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers," the Washington Post ominously warned. On Friday's Today, Ann Curry asserted: "During the night the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts by two votes. Opponents say the cuts will hurt the poor." CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer echoed the Post's spin about "cuts in programs for the poor, for farmers and students." The NBC Nightly News devoted a whole story to the "cuts" and how "Democrats charged Republicans with taking from the poor to give more tax cuts to the rich," but Chip Reid at least noted that "Republicans also say the bill doesn't really cut spending, it just slows the rate of spending growth."

3. GMA to Bush: If You Can't Open the Door, You Can't Win in Iraq
Monday's Good Morning America found symbolism in President Bush's encounter with a locked door when attempting to leave a press conference in China over the weekend. In the opening tease at 7:00am, co-host Charlie Gibson announced over video of Bush trying to open the locked doors: "No way out. President Bush tries the wrong door on his trip to Asia and has fun for the cameras. But the big question now: Does he have an exit strategy for Iraq?" Later, Jessica Yellin, reporting from Mongolia, couldn't let the door incident go: "The moment seemed to symbolize Mr. Bush's dilemma throughout this Asia trip. Halfway around the world he's been unable to escape a domestic squabble over Iraq and whether it's unpatriotic to question the war."

4. "Top 10 Thoughts Going Through George Bush's Mind at This Moment"
Letterman's "Top Ten Thoughts Going Through George W. Bush's Mind at This Moment" -- Bush in China blocked by a locked door.


Poll: Media Elite to Left of Public on
Iraq and War on Terrorism

The news media elite are to the left of the public in several policy areas related to the war on terrorism, a poll "of opinion leaders and the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations," found. While 56 percent of the public believes "efforts to establish a stable democracy" in Iraq will succeed, 63 percent of the news media elite think it will fail; a plurality of 48 percent of the public think going to war in Iraq was correct, but 71 percent of the news media elite consider it a bad decision; the public is split evenly at 44 percent on whether the Iraq war has helped or hurt the war on terrorism, but an overwhelming 68 percent of the news media elite say it has hurt; and 46 percent of the public believe torture of terrorist suspects is often or sometimes "justified," 78 percent of the news media elite contend it is "rarely" or "never" justified. Plus, news media elite approval of Bush's job performance -- at a lowly 21 percent -- is half that of the public's.

The "America's Place in the World" survey conducted in September and October, and released Thursday, compared public views to those in eight elite groups: Foreign Affairs, Security, State and Local Government, Academic and Think Tank Leaders, Religious, Scientists and Engineers, Military and the News Media.

For the "News Media" sample the poll covered "people from all types of media: newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Various editors (editors, editors of the editorial page, managing editors) and D.C. bureau chiefs were selected from: the top daily newspapers (based on circulation); additional newspapers selected to round out the geographic representation of the sample; news services; and different types of magazines including news, literary, political, and entertainment and cultural magazines.
"For the television sample, people such as D.C. bureau chiefs, news directors or news editors, anchors, news executives, and executive producers were selected from television networks, chains and news services.
"The radio sample included news directors and/or D.C. bureau chiefs at several top radio stations.
"Top columnists listed in the Leadership Directories' News Media Yellow Book and Bacon's Media source were also selected as part of the media subsample."

Some of the findings for the public versus the news media elite:

# "Efforts to establish a stable democracy:"
Will succeed:
Public 56%
Media: 33%

Will fail:
Public: 37%
News media: 63%

# "Decision to take military action" Public:
Public: "right decision" 48%, "wrong decision" 45%
News media: "right decision" 28%, "wrong decision" 71%

# "Iraq's impact on war on terrorism" Public:
Public: "helped" 44%, "hurt" 44%
News media: "helped" 22%, "hurt" 68%

# "Is torture of terrorist suspects justified?" Combining "often" and "sometimes," vs. "rarely" and "never"
Public: 46% yes, 49% no
News media: 21% yes, 78% no

# "Restrictions on student visas" Public:
Public: "worth it to prevent terrorism" 71%, "loses too many good students" 20%
News media: "worth it to prevent terrorism" 39%, "loses too many good students" 56%

# "Reducing illegal immigration" News Media:
News Media: 17% "top priority," 69% "some priority" (86%)
General Public 51% "top priority," 39% "some priority" (90%)

# Bush job approval:
August 2001:
Public: 51%
News media: 40%

October 2005:
Public: 40%
News media: 21%


For the survey results in full: people-press.org

Media Hype Imaginary Spending "Cuts"
Hurting "Poor" and "Farmers"

Journalists remain unable to tell the difference between a slight reduction in increased spending and an actual spending cut. A budget bill, passed by the House very early Friday morning, the Cato Institute estimated, will provide for $7.75 trillion in entitlement spending over five years instead of $7.8 trillion, a mere 0.6 percent difference as the bill overall would reduce planned ever-rising federal spending over the next five years by a piddling one-third of one percent. Yet reporters saw disaster ahead. "The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers," the Washington Post ominously warned. On Friday's Today, Ann Curry asserted: "During the night the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts by two votes. Opponents say the cuts will hurt the poor." CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer echoed the Post's spin about "cuts in programs for the poor, for farmers and students." The NBC Nightly News devoted a whole story to the "cuts" and how "Democrats charged Republicans with taking from the poor to give more tax cuts to the rich," but Chip Reid at least noted that "Republicans also say the bill doesn't really cut spending, it just slows the rate of spending growth."

But it's not just what Republicans "say," it's a fact and one that undermined the premise of Reid's story.

Reporters Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray began their front page Friday, November 18 Washington Post story:
"The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers, handing Republican leaders a hard-fought victory after weeks of resistance in GOP ranks.
"The plan, which would save the government just under $50 billion, passed 217 to 215, with 14 Republicans joining all House Democrats in opposition. Just last week, Republican leaders were forced to pull the bill from consideration after it became clear they lacked the votes for passage...."

To read the story in full: www.washingtonpost.com

Reacting to that sloppy reporting, the Cato Institute on Friday posted this item:

House Approves Budget 'Cuts'

"The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers, handing Republican leaders a hard-fought victory after weeks of resistance in GOP ranks," The Washington Post reports.

Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute, comments: "Only by the pretzel logic of Washington can this bill be considered a 'cut.' Here's what's really going to happen: Spending will still grow, but only slightly slower. Instead of spending a total of $7.8 trillion in entitlement programs over the next five years, the GOP proposes to spend $7.75 trillion. That's a total difference of 0.6 percent. This is not starving the beast. This isn't even a tummy rumble.

"And because this is a five-year endeavor, it requires discipline by Congress to keep these savings intact during the entire five-year period. If they change course at any time during that period, the savings evaporate. If there's anything the Republicans have proven over the past five years it's that they have real commitment problems when it comes to spending restraint."

In "The Grand Old Spending Party: How Republicans Became Big Spenders," Slivinski writes: "The Republican spending binge has been assisted by a budget-writing process on Capitol Hill that stacks the deck in favor of ever-growing government. Changing how the budget process works in Congress could reverse the adverse incentives of the appropriations process and give more power to those who want to restrain government spending.

"The current system reinforces the ridiculous notion, for instance, that a 2 percent increase in spending can be called a 'cut' if the expected baseline budget increase was 3 percent. Zero-based budgeting would assume that every government program starts the year with zero taxpayer money and must justify its budget request from the bottom up. It would also make it difficult for politicians hostile to spending cuts to use budget rules as a way to demonize publicly those who want to tame the federal budget."

END of Cato's item online at: www.cato.org

On Saturday, in a story headlined "Republicans in House Pass $50 Billion in Budget Cuts," Weisman at least noted that "the $50 billion in cuts represents one-third of a percent of the $14.3 trillion the government would spend over the next five years."

On Friday's Today, during the 7am news update, Ann Curry related: "During the night the House passed $50 billion in budget cuts by two votes. Opponents say the cuts will hurt the poor. The Senate, meantime passed a tax cut bill that will prevent about 14 million families from paying higher taxes through the alternative minimum tax."
That night, CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer asserted: "The administration's troubles are also having an impact on the budget battle in Congress. Working past midnight, the Republican-controlled House barely passed a $600 billion spending bill that would make some cuts in programs for the poor, for farmers and students. A few hours earlier, House Republicans suffered a rare defeat as they failed to pass a bill that had drastic cuts in health and education."

The November 18 NBC Nightly News dedicated a full story to the supposed "cuts." With "Budget Cuts" in a graphic beside his head, Brian Williams announced, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"The war in Iraq isn't the only thing Congress has been fighting about in the last 24 hours. There's also budget cuts. Republicans accuse Democrats of overspending, and Democrats charged Republicans with taking from the poor to give more tax cuts to the rich. Here is NBC's Chip Reid."

Chip Reid began: "In the House of Representatives late last night, the debate at times sounded more like a brawl."
Rep. George Miller (D-CA): "No, the House isn't out of order, you're out of order!"
Reid: "Just before 2 a.m., Republicans squeaked out a victory-"
Speaker's chair: "The yeas are 217, the no's are 215."
Reid: "-on a bill to reduce spending by $50 billion, including about $10 billion from Medicaid, and nearly $1 billion from food stamps, affecting 220,000 low-income Americans. Quite a turnaround, Democrats say, from the days after Hurricane Katrina when scenes of deep poverty shocked many Americans, including President Bush."
George W. Bush: "We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action."
Reid: "Democrats interpreted that as a new war on poverty, but say the Republican Congress has instead declared war on the poor. Even worse, they say, Republicans now want to pass almost $60 billion in tax cuts that Democrats say would primarily benefit the rich."
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA): "Take Medicaid from the poor, $10 billion, and put it in the rich stocking."
Reid: "But Republicans say budget cuts are essential to pay for the more than $60 billion spent so far to recover from Hurricane Katrina. They accuse Democrats of being irresponsible."
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA): "That's the party of spending. They won't come forward with any savings."
Reid: "Republicans also say the bill doesn't really cut spending, it just slows the rate of spending growth. The Senate has its own very different version of spending cuts. The two houses will try to work out their differences next month, after a long Thanksgiving recess. Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol."

GMA to Bush: If You Can't Open the Door,
You Can't Win in Iraq

Monday's Good Morning America found symbolism in President Bush's encounter with a locked door when attempting to leave a press conference in China over the weekend. In the opening tease at 7:00am, co-host Charlie Gibson announced over video of Bush trying to open the locked doors: "No way out. President Bush tries the wrong door on his trip to Asia and has fun for the cameras. But the big question now: Does he have an exit strategy for Iraq?"

Later, Jessica Yellin, reporting from Mongolia, couldn't let the door incident go: "This wraps up a trip that saw no major accomplishments for the U.S. on key issues, but that did produce a classic and symbolic video moment. It happened as Mr. Bush attempted to make his exit after a press conference in China, only there was no way out for the Commander in Chief."
President Bush: "I was trying to escape. It didn't work."
Yellin: "The moment seemed to symbolize Mr. Bush's dilemma throughout this Asia trip. Halfway around the world he's been unable to escape a domestic squabble over Iraq and whether it's unpatriotic to question the war."

[This item, by the MRC's Brian Boyd, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog. To offer your comments on it, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Full transcript of Yellin's piece:

News reader Robin Roberts: "President Bush returning home this morning after making little headway during his trip to Asia. And he'll return to a growing battle over the war in Iraq. ABC's Jessica Yellin is with the President in Mongolia."
Jessica Yellin: "Good morning, Robin. President Bush is now headed home after a final stop in Mongolia. He became the first U.S. president ever to visit this country. This wraps up a trip that saw no major accomplishments for the U.S. on key issues, but that did produce a classic and symbolic video moment. It happened as Mr. Bush attempted to make his exit after a press conference in China, only there was no way out for the Commander in Chief."
President Bush: "I was trying to escape. It didn't work."
Yellin: "The moment seemed to symbolize Mr. Bush's dilemma throughout this Asia trip. Halfway around the world he's been unable to escape a domestic squabble over Iraq and whether it's unpatriotic to question the war."
President Bush: "I heard somebody say, 'Well, maybe so and so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought."
Yellin: "The President came all the way to Mongolia to get a friendly audience on the war and he thanked this sparsely populated country for contributing 120 troops to the effort. Now, the President returns home from Asia with no major deals on security or trade, but White House officials say they never expected new agreements from this trip. It would seem they set expectations low and met them. Next, the President heads to Crawford for Thanksgiving. It will be his first time back at his vacation home since Hurricane Katrina cut his summer break short."

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

From the November 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Thoughts Going Through George W. Bush's Mind at This Moment" -- Bush in China blocked by a locked door. Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. "Damn, Al-Qaeda"

9. "Am I that hungover?"

8. "Wish I'd thought of an exit strategy"

7. "It was easier to get out of the National Guard"

6. "Hey, at least I didn't throw up like daddy"

5. "I just heard Oprah's going on Letterman"

4. "I know how to solve this problem -- tax cuts for the rich"

3. "I hope this doesn't hurt my chances of getting re-elected"

2. "I need another five week vacation"

1. "Talk to Condi about invading China"

-- Brent Baker