Roberts Tosses Softballs to Michelle Obama; Hostile to Laura Bush --3/16/2009
2. USA Today's Al Neuharth Blames Iraq for Economic Downturn
3. ABC's 20/20 Features Stossel's 'Bailouts and Bull'
4. Campaign Video Look Back: Liberal Media Bias Ballad
5. Flashback: Actor Ron Silver, RIP, Stands Up for American Values
Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts conducted a two part, almost 11 minute interview with Michelle Obama which aired on Friday that avoided tough questions and consisted almost entirely of softballs. This included reading e-mails from the audience, such as "What does she [the First Lady] do for relaxation in the evening, away from the public?" and also "...How can she stay so positive about the economy?"
This is quite a contrast to some of the queries Laura Bush had to deal with when she was First Lady. On October 22, 2007, the very same Roberts quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Mrs. Bush: "Desmond Tutu went even farther, saying the generosity of Americans, that's what we should export instead of our bombs." She also informed Mrs. Bush of the assertion by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that America "should export hope instead of fear." See an October 23, 2007 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The 2007 interview with the President's wife was part of a trip that Roberts took with Mrs. Bush to the Middle East. The First Lady was on a tour through the area to promote breast cancer awareness. In a follow up interview with a Middle East woman who had suffered from the affliction, Roberts skeptically asked: "Does it help with Mrs. Bush and the United States coming here?...Or is it seen as, 'Okay, the Americans are, again, trying to force something on us?'"
Roberts showed no such skepticism with the issue that Mrs. Obama is currently championing: more government support for military members and their families. Speaking of an event in North Carolina, the ABC host enthused: "The First Lady was greeted by Fort Bragg like a rock star."
Now, certainly, helping military families is a laudable goal. But, even on this issue, there are actual tough questions that Roberts could have asked. For instance, CNN reported the following on March 10:
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.
Currently, veterans' private insurance is charged only when they receive health care from the VA for medical issues that are not related to service injuries, like getting the flu.
Considering that Mrs. Obama says she wants to make military families a top priority, wouldn't this be a relevant issue to bring up? The only query that was vaguely challenging was when Roberts speculated: "Your husband has really had to hit the ground running with all the issues that are facing our country right now. One criticism has been, too much, too fast."
Another example of the difference between the questions to Democratic and Republican first ladies occurred on the November 30, 2005 GMA. Reporter Jessica Yellin exploited a segment supposedly on White House Christmas cards to grill Laura Bush. She quizzed, "Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?" See A December 1, 2005 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
Certainly, Michelle Obama received no such hard hitting challenges from Good Morning America.
A transcript of the first GMA segment, which aired at 7:02am on March 13, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: But, we do begin with our exclusive interview with Michelle Obama. Her first television interview since becoming first lady. Now, a recent poll shows 69 percent of Americans view her favorably, which may have something to do with her ambitious agenda that she set for herself. From promoting healthy food to advocating for working parents to, perhaps, her top priority, supporting military families. And that is what she wanted to talk about. We were there yesterday, as he made her first major trip as first lady, to visit with military families at Fort Bragg, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The first lady was greeted by Fort Bragg like a rock star. The military men and women tangibly excited by her visit.
The current "money mess" is "primarily because we've spent or authorized more money on the Iraq war (its sixth anniversary is next Thursday) than we're putting into the stimulus program," USA Today founder Al Neuharth contended in his weekly "Plain Talk" column on Friday. While "many Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans in Congress gave Bush" the authority to go to war in Iraq, "by contrast, the votes on President Obama's recovery or stimulus plan to clean up the mess that Congress helped create with the Iraq misadventure" were not so bi-partisan.
After citing how 246 Democrats House Democrats, but zero Republicans, and 56 Democratic Senators, but only three Republicans, voted for the "stimulus" package, Neuharth scolded Republicans: "Both parties got us into this mess, but only one is trying to get us out of it."
The Heritage Foundation's James Carafano, in one of two "other views on Iraq and stimulus" printed below Neuharth's column, corrected Neuharth's finger-pointing: "We averaged 8% of our GDP on defense over a decades-long Cold War and never faced an economic downturn like this. Today all defense spending, including Iraq, is only 4% of GDP. Blaming the Pentagon for the recession is just bad math."
In the second "other view" far-left Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio agreed with Neuharth's assessment.
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Saturday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An excerpt from "Money mess created by six years of Iraq," Neuharth's column in the Friday, March 13 USA Today:
Much is being written and said about the new stimulus law (officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009). Not enough of us explain or realize why we're in this money mess.
It's primarily because we've spent or authorized more money on the Iraq war (its sixth anniversary is next Thursday) than we're putting into the stimulus program. Comparison:
- The Iraq war $864 billion.
- The stimulus program $787 billion.
Sure, greedy bankers, covetous Wall Streeters, irresponsible buyers of homes and cars they couldn't afford all contributed to this recession. But if we hadn't blown that huge bundle in Iraq, we could have handled our problems here at home more easily....
Many Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans in Congress gave Bush that blank check. Votes on the Iraq resolution:
- House of Representatives: Yes, 215 Republicans, 81 Democrats.
- Senate: Yes, 48 Republicans, 29 Democrats.
By contrast, the votes on President Obama's recovery or stimulus plan to clean up the mess that Congress helped create with the Iraq misadventure:
- House: 246 Democrats, 0 Republicans.
- Senate: 56 Democrats, 3 Republicans.
Both parties got us into this mess, but only one is trying to get us out of it. As a political independent, I understand that. No matter your party affiliation or inclination, you should, too.
For the column in full: blogs.usatoday.com
Now for something completely different, or at least something pretty rare on network TV. ABC's John Stossel paired up with Drew Carey and the libertarian Reason TV for Friday's 20/20 special headlined "Bailouts and Bull," on the limits and unintended consequences of government involvement in the economy and in our lives.
While Stossel is known for his skepticism of big government solutions, most journalists at the big networks have been accepting of the premises of President Obama's interventionist approach, not challenging his assertions the way President Bush's economic policies were frequently challenged.
Stossel tackled the idea that all economists support Obama's government-spending-as-stimulus policies, liberal claims that the American Dream is now out of reach for most workers, and the idea that a fence along the Mexican border will really stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Friday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For Friday's Good Morning America, Stossel previewed the segment on Obama's promise to put every small child into a pre-kindergarten program, universal pre-K. He showed a clip of a creepy ad put together by advocates showing four-year olds thanking those fighting on behalf of more government spending, with one little boy exclaiming "I love you."
Stossel talked to a panel of parents, including one pre-school teacher who lambasted the proposed program as "a scam" and "a flagrant waste of money."
Another angry mom said it was arrogant of the government to declare kids better off in pre-K than at home: "Parents are being told that we're not capable of facilitating our child's learning. And that's bull****!"
Stossel told Good Morning America's Chris Cuomo that he agreed with the parents: "It's a waste of money and a government conceit that they can parent better than we can." How many employees of ABC News do you think agree with that?
Given journalists' pretense that their job is to be skeptical and confront those in power, it's actually rather incredible how few reporters besides Stossel ever challenge the notion that big government creates solutions. More often, you get reporters challenging government to do even more to supposedly help solve problems, without ever acknowledging the consequences of ever-expanding government.
Here's a transcript of the Good Morning America segment, that aired at about 8:07am on Friday:
ANCHOR CHRIS CUOMO: It's been a big week here on '€˜GMA' for a lot of reasons, and it is time to tackle the big issues facing American democracy in the months ahead: How do we fix our schools? How do we get our economy back on track? I'm glad to say 20/20's John Stossel has been thinking about these exact questions, and joins us now with a special report. Good to see you, John.
CLIP OF AD FOR PRE-K:
KID #1: Thank you
STOSSEL: Advocates run ads like this.
CLIP OF AD:
KID #5 Thank you to all advocates.
LEVY: This whole thing, it's a scam. It's like some kind of a spin that they want everybody to believe.
In the 45-minute production, which will re-run several times over the next week or so, Pelosi showed a snippet of Hank Williams Jr. singing these lyrics at a McCain-Palin rally in Ft. Wayne, Indiana: "The left wing liberal media have always been a real close-knit family. But most of the American people don't believe them anyway, you see."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Saturday night, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Amongst the signs Pelosi showed from the campaign trail: "Stop the Liberal Media Bias" and "CNN is Bad News." Plus, this on the back of a T-shirt: "Mainstream Media: Public Enemy #1."
When the documentary first aired in mid-February, the Washington Post's Michael Leahy reported those House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's daughter selected to showcase sounded: "[L]ike yahoos, often goaded, always reduced to soundbites and caricatures. All the conventions of the smirking, winking, belittling political documentary are abided by in this film. An inordinate number of the yahoos wear T-shirts and weird caps. There is the obligatory NASCAR tailgating scene with the requisite Confederate flags and some white guys saying they'll never vote for any black man." See: www.washingtonpost.com
HBO's page for the documentary: www.hbo.com
Schedule when it will air again: www.hbo.com
Web site for Hank Williams Jr: www.hankjr.com
Actor Ron Silver, who passed away Sunday at age 62 in New York City after a battle against esophageal cancer, "did a political about-face from loyal Democrat to Republican activist after the Sept. 11 attacks," the AP's obituary noted. Indeed, back in February of 2003 he was a guest on FNC's Beltway Boys where he denounced Europe's anti-Americanism and rejected the notion that President George W. Bush turned Europe against the U.S.
A reprint of an item in the Tuesday February 11, 2003 CyberAlert:
Not all Hollywood celebrities are ungrateful, anti-American lefties. Prompted by a Wall Street Journal mention a couple of weeks ago about how actor Ron Silver denounced the head of the European parliament for his anti-American attitude, FNC's Beltway Boys brought Silver aboard their Saturday show.
Silver, who plays liberal campaign strategist "Bruno Gianelli" on NBC's The West Wing, made clear he does not agree with the politics of the show's "President Bartlet," Martin Sheen. Silver told Beltway Boys co-hosts Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke that European "criticisms are logically incoherent...they hold inconsistent views that we're utterly materialistic, and then we're insufferably religious. We're boring conformists, and then we're reckless individualists. We're racists, but then we're too politically correct." When Kondracke suggested it's a problem caused by George W. Bush since Europeans liked Bill Clinton, Silver refused to accept the premise.
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory noticed the interview segment on the February 8 program and checked the tape against the transcript.
Barnes segued into a discussion with Silver about anti-Americanism by recalling how last month in "Switzerland, for the International Economic Conference there, you had a run in with the head of the European parliament who accused or at least suggested that the U.S. has become an imperialist power in the world, and you responded rather aggressively to him. Tell us about that incident, and also about the level of anti-Americanism that you discovered there."
Silver recounted: "Yeah, that dinner was a culmination of events over the past several days where the subtext of almost every fora was anti-Americanism. It was very visceral, it was very intense, and to my way of thinking and some other people, it was very incoherent logically, and I'll get to that in a moment. But at that dinner, the EU had a dinner that night about the 'new Europe,' and they were being very self-congratulatory about their values, and implicitly they were suggesting that America was an imperial country, trying to impose their values on the rest of the world, which I don't think is a bad idea by the way, I kind of think our values are fairy universal and might be helpful. But we got, it was a question and answer period, and I think it was with Pat Cox, who was the President of the European parliament, and I asked him a question, and it got a little heated. What the Journal article left out is after that dinner, Pat and I went out and we had a jolly time drinking the night away."
Kondracke soon pressed Silver: "I take it though that you judge from the entire experience that elite opinion in Europe is hostile to the United States. And I just wonder whether there is something that George Bush could have done coming on as President, because Bill Clinton didn't seem to have this problem."
Silver disagreed: "No, I don't think George Bush could have done anything. I think he's doing exactly the right thing, and I think it's genetic. It's written into the genetic code, the hostility toward America. I'm not an analyst, and perhaps a therapist would be better equipped to talk about it. But it's something going on that is so interesting, because their criticisms are logically incoherent, and they're very self-defeating, and I think it provides some sort of psychological comfort for them. But they hold inconsistent views that we're utterly materialistic, and then we're insufferably religious. We're boring conformists, and then we're reckless individualists. We're racists, but then we're too politically correct. It goes on and on and on."
Silver added: "I kind of link Rumsfeld's 'old Europe versus the new Europe,' and we saw it in the last two weeks, with France and Germany, who were not with us on June 6, 1944, I don't know why we expect them to be with us today."
Barnes: "Well they aren't."
Silver: "But a lot of other European unions you know, signed that letter and have come on board."
Asked why Hollywood is so anti-war, Silver suggested: "My opinion is that the entertainment community along with other advocates -- human rights organizations, religious organizations, are always on the front lines to protest repression, but they're always usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they catalogue repeatedly, and I find that inconsistent as well."
Kondracke: "So was there, what was the tension like on the set of The West Wing, you and Martin J. Sheen?"
Silver: "Well we've kind of avoided politics, I mean Marty has his politics, I have my politics. I do like the fact that he is committed, I disagree strongly and vehemently with his views about most things. But I like the involvement, I think it's a civic duty to be involved and I'm glad he raises his voice."
Silver's Internet Movie Database page: us.imdb.com
The AP obituary: news.yahoo.com
-- Brent Baker