2. Timing and Content of Friday Document Release Displeases Media
3. CNN's Schneider Awards "Play of Week" to Dems for AWOL Charge
4. Nets Promote Burkett's Charges Without Noting Animosity to Bush
5. Margaret Carlson Salutes 41's "Courage" to Raise Taxes
On Sunday's Face the Nation, at the start of a segment on President Bush's National Guard duty, CBS's Bob Schieffer said he was "surprised, frankly," that the Guard story "has gone on as long as it has." As if he had no control over the subject matters addressed on his own show.
But neither Schieffer, nor his guests on the topic, Time's Karen Tumulty and Boston Globe reporter Walter Robinson, went so far as Meet the Press panelist Roger Simon of U.S. News who remarked that, as opposed to Bush taking the nation to war, "nobody died when Bill Clinton lied."
Simon was responding to host Tim Russert who had pointed out how the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found Bush is seen as "honest and trustworthy" by just 52 percent and on weapons of mass destruction, asked "Did the President exaggerate the evidence?", 54 percent responded yes, 42 percent no. Russert asked: "How much of an issue is this credibility, as Time magazine called 'a potential gap,' going to play in the 2004 race?"
Simon replied: "I think it's going to be huge. We've had Presidents who have lied to the American people. Our last President lied on a number of occasions to the American people, but nobody died when Bill Clinton lied. If, as these polls reflect, a majority of the American people think the President either lied or exaggerated about the weapons of mass destruction and sent young men and women off to war to fight and to die based on those lies and exaggerations, they're likely to be a little unforgiving, I think, in November."
Maybe, but the Washington Post/ABC News poll didn't show that. Even of those who believed Bush "exaggerated" the evidence, only a minority, 39 percent, think he lied. And when asked, "Regardless of whether or not it exaggerated the evidence, do you think the George W. Bush administration honestly believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or not?," 68 percent said "honestly believed" compared to just 27 percent who answered "did not honestly believe."
For the Washington Post's rundown of this poll released on Thursday: www.washingtonpost.com
The White House's Friday afternoon release of additional records about President Bush's National Guard years didn't quiet the media which simply found more "unanswered questions" and, after a week spent demanding the release of more records, complained about the late Friday timing.
"Tonight the President's National Guard files are released amid continuing questions about his Vietnam-era service record," intoned Dan Rather in teasing the top story on Friday's CBS Evening News before John Roberts contended that there are "still some gaps the White House has yet to fill in." ABC and NBC also led with the document release.
ABC's Peter Jennings whined to Terry Moran at the White House: "Terry, I have to note first that it comes very late on a Friday evening." NBC anchor Brian Williams opened the NBC Nightly News: "There's a long tradition in Washington of releasing any potentially sensitive information late on a Friday afternoon for the often-ignored Saturday papers and as Americans head into the weekend..."
A bit later, on MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann complained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "If you've ever seen the NBC drama series, The West Wing, you know what Friday afternoon is. It's take-out-the-trash day. The best time of the week for the White House to admit to the embarrassments, acknowledge the unpleasant, and distribute stuff so that it will get the least amount of newspaper and network TV attention. Our number three story in the Countdown, it is take-out-the-trash day, and on top of the pile, the President's complete air National Guard record, as he promised Sunday on Meet the Press."
Two hours later, on CNN's NewsNight, Suzanne Malveaux compared the Bush White House tactic to the ones employed during the Clinton years as she previewed her upcoming story: "Document dumps like this one, of course, were so common in the Clinton administration. Reporters used to refer to it as Friday night follies. This certainly counts as one of those nights, the administration certainly hoping that they're going to put questions about President Bush's military record to rest."
Malveaux began her subsequent piece by again equating the late Friday document release with Clinton tactics: "President Bush said to his staff put it all out and, with that, his entire military file from 1968 to 1973 was released Friday night." Former Clinton aide Joel Johnson asserted: "It's a time-honored White House tactic. It's Friday night, time to take out the garbage. What you're trying to accomplish is one bad ugly story on a Saturday rather than seven, eight, nine stories the following week."
If only that would work as well for Bush as it did for Clinton.
On the print side, the Washington Post remained dissatisfied. "Many Gaps in Bush's Guard Records," declared the Saturday front page story by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen. The subhead: "Released Papers Do Not Document Ala. Service." See: www.washingtonpost.com
Over on ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday, Geoff Morrell maintained that the document release on Friday "does not answer the fundamental question that has been dogging Mr. Bush: Did he report for duty in the Alabama National Guard between May and October 1972?"
Morrell, however, caught up with a finding in the ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Thursday which World News Tonight did not mention before or after Guard-related stories on Thursday or Friday night: "Most Americans don't seem to care. A recent ABC News poll shows two-thirds believe questions about Mr. Bush's military service during the Vietnam war are not a legitimate issue." Morrell concluded: "Which may be why top Democratic Party officials now seen to be backing off allegations President Bush was AWOL in 1972 and are instead questioning his credibility today."
Look for the media to follow the lead of the Democrats. Some already have. See Seigenthaler three paragraphs above and item #1 above.
On Friday night, ABC's Terry Moran wasn't as unimpressed as Morrell was a day later. Moran explained on the February 13 World News Tonight that he didn't "see anything very remarkable in them at this point" and observed that though there had been speculation about what Bush's medical records might reveal, they "were perfectly ordinary."
CBS and NBC on Friday weren't so satisfied. Dan Rather led the CBS Evening News: "Good evening. For days now, President Bush has been trying to deflect or stop questions about whether he did or did not fulfill his military service commitment to the National Guard during the Vietnam War. He released some documents to try to prove he did, but the questions continued, so the President is now going a step further, hoping to take this election-year issue off the boards once and for all. CBS News White House correspondent John Roberts has details. John?"
Roberts began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Dan, it was the President himself who late today ordered the release of his entire military service record, an attempt by the White House to finally put this controversy to rest. The records, some 400 pages worth, detail the President's request to be transferred to Alabama -- first to a Reserve unit in May of 1972, then when that request was denied, to another Alabama unit in September. In another, the President is stripped of his flying status in September of 1972. In another, the President acknowledges that he may be called to active duty to make up for unsatisfactory participation, then is called up in May of 1973 to fill in a flurry of dates to achieve honorable discharge. But officials say the records prove the President was where he said he was when he said he was.
On the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory also contradicted Calhoun and pointed how how many others do not remember ever seeing Bush: "Today John Calhoun, who was an officer with the Alabama air National Guard, says he remembers a young George Bush back in the summer of 1972 doing administrative duty on weekends."
CNN's Bill Schneider on Friday night awarded Democrats for their hounding of President Bush on charges that he was AWOL during a period of time in the early 1970s while serving in the Air National Guard, trumpeting how "the Democrats now have standing to play the military card and make it the 'Political Play of the Week.'" [The MRC's Ken Shepherd submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
After detailing how service or lack thereof in Vietnam has failed to stick as an issue in previous campaigns, Schneider argued how the recycled (and now disproved) charges that President Bush was AWOL during his service in the Alabama Air National Guard is now working: "The issue may work this time not just because the Democrats have a war hero but because the Republicans have a war, an increasingly unpopular war and a President with a growing credibility problem coming out of that war."
Schneider concluded Friday's installment of his "Political Play of the Week" feature on Inside Politics by proclaiming that being on two sides of an issue is beneficial: "John Kerry was on both sides of the issue that split the Vietnam generation. He was a war hero and an anti-war hero. In this campaign, for once, it's not the Democrats who have to feel defensive about the Sixties."
Schneider began his February 13 piece: "What did you do during the war, daddy? For politicians of the Vietnam generation, it's the issue that won't go away. But it also doesn't seem to matter. Dan Quayle confronted the question in 1988 when he was named to the GOP ticket."
On Friday morning, as they had done on Thursday night, network stories and interview segments continued to feature book author James Moore and former Texas National Guard Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett, without bothering to note how Moore's book has a definite anti-Bush agenda on the Iraq war, how a Friday Boston Globe story undermined Burkett's claim that he witnessed efforts to "cleanse" Bush's National Guard records and how Burkett is a member of a left-wing group, Veterans for Peace, and last year wrote a disgruntled screed blaming George W. Bush for his health problems.
As reported in the February 13 CyberAlert, CBS's John Roberts devoted nearly an entire story on Thursday night to how "in a six-year-old letter to Texas lawmakers obtained by CBS News, and in the new book, Bush's War for Reelection, former Guard officer Bill Burkett claims that in 1997, Guard commanders purged Mr. Bush's records to 'make sure nothing will embarrass the Governor during his re-election campaign or if he runs for President.'" Roberts failed to note that the author is a left-wing Bush-basher whose book sets out to prove the illegitimacy of the Bush presidency and Iraq war.
Burkett also appeared Thursday night on MSNBC's Hardball and together with Moore on CNN's Paula Zhan Now.
For more about the CBS story and Moore's agenda: www.mediaresearch.org
The Moore/Burkett duo were also showcased Friday morning on CNN's American Morning, where they were interviewed by Bill Hemmer, and Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. In addition, stories on CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today featured Burkett's allegation.
In none of these venues was Burkett's political agenda recounted and only NBC's Today, only after giving a full airing to Burkett's claim, noted how the Boston Globe found a witness who contradicts him. "Doubts raised on Bush accuser: Key witness disputes charge by Guard retiree that files were purged," read the Friday morning Boston Globe headline over a story which did not attract network interest. An excerpt from the February 13 article by Michael Rezendes:
For at least six years, a retired Texas National Guard officer has maintained that President Bush's record as a member of the Guard was purged of potentially embarrassing material at the behest of high-ranking Bush aides laying the groundwork for Bush's 2000 run for the presidency.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who has been pressing his charges in the national news media this week, says he even heard one high-ranking officer issue a 1997 order to sanitize the Bush file, and later saw another officer poring over the records and discovered that some had been discarded.
But a key witness to some of the events described by Burkett has told the Globe that the central elements of his story are false.
George O. Conn, a former chief warrant officer with the Guard and a friend of Burkett's, is the person whom Burkett says led him to the room where the Bush records were being vetted. But Conn says he never saw anyone combing through the Bush file or discarding records.
"I have no recall of that," Conn said. "I have no recall of that whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada."
Conn's recollection also undercuts another of Burkett's central allegations: that he overheard Bush's onetime chief of staff, Joe M. Allbaugh, telling a Texas Guard general to make sure there were no embarrassments in the Bush record.
Burkett says he told Conn, over dinner that same night, what he had overheard. But Conn says that, although Burkett told him he worried that the Bush record would be sanitized, he never mentioned overhearing the conversation between Allbaugh and General Daniel James III.
Burkett's allegations about the Bush records come as the White House is attempting to answer mounting questions about whether Bush fulfilled his obligations as a member of the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. Burkett's allegations also will be a major focus of a book on Bush to be published next month.
But the book's author, James Moore, a former Houston TV news correspondent, concedes he never interviewed some of the key players who could have verified Burkett's charges, including Conn and retired National Guard Colonel John Scribner -- the officer Burkett says he saw removing items from the Bush file....
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.boston.com
Indeed, in a letter posted by Veteran for Peace, Burkett ranted (an excerpt):
....In January of 1998 and what seems like a full lifetime ago, I was stricken by a deadly case of meningoencephalitis. I was returning from a short duty trip to Panama as a team chief to inspect the hand over of Ft. Clayton to the Panamanians. I had been 'loaned' from the senior staff and state planning officer of the Texas National Guard to the Department of the Army for a series of these special projects after angering George W. Bush by refusing to falsify readiness information and reports; confronting a fraudulent funding scheme which kept 'ghost' soldiers on the books for additional funding, and refusing to alter official personnel records [of George W. Bush].
George W. Bush and his lieutenants were mad. They ordered that I not be accessed to emergency medical care services, healthcare benefits I earned by my official duty; and I was withheld from medical care for 154 days before I was withdrawn from Texas responsibility by the Department of the Army, by order of the White House....
I know GW Bush and his inner circle very well. As I said, a UN vote would not stop GW Bush from attacking Iraq. Nor will anything else. And weapons of mass destruction will be discovered in great quantities; but the entire affair will stink to high heavens because it will be as staged as the White House press conference you just viewed. The human death toll will publicly not be mentioned, yet in truth, it will far exceed 120,000....
Now I feel sickness that today another massive group of people, held worthless by this anointed king, will be trampled upon like grapes. But their blood will not be rendered into wine. It will be spilled into the sands of this desert or another, or on the streets of Washington, or in the halls of the US Congress, or in the courts....
We must now revert to the history of Europe to discern what to do. We must study the nemesis of France and how Napoleon was felled before understanding the damage a tyrant does to a nation and society. We must examine the ruthless and dictatorial rise of yet another of the three small men -- one whose name is not spoken out of fear of reprisal, but his name was Adolf.
END of Excerpt
The author identification at the end of the piece made clear how Burkett holds a grudge:
That's all online at: www.veteransforpeace.org
Nonetheless, the February 12 USA Today featured a story based on Burkett's claims, "Ex-officer: Bush file's details caused concern." See: www.usatoday.com
Norah O'Donnell proclaimed on NBC's Today: "As the White House has yet to release the President's complete military record, there are new questions about whether or not officials close to Mr. Bush tried to remove files that could embarrass him. The allegation is that when Mr. Bush was governor, preparing for a run for President, his advisors tried to scrub clean Mr. Bush's military files."
Then why give such air time to his charges?
Over on Friday's Early Show on CBS, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, Julie Chen touted how "there are new questions about the President's time in the National Guard, including allegations that someone tried to doctor the books."
After noting the White House's release the day before of dental records to show Bush was in Alabama, Bill Plante gave air time to Burkett: "In another development, a former officer in the Texas Air National Guard claims that in 1997 he overheard a request to the Guard from Governor Bush's staff to review Mr. Bush's service file to quote 'make sure nothing will embarrass the governor.'"
CNN's Bill Hemmer, on Friday's American Morning, the MRC's Ken Shepherd observed, did not raise the Globe story and allowed Moore and Burkett to proclaim their independence.
Hemmer: "Mr. Moore, and to Mr. Burkett, would you classify yourselves as Democrats or Republicans?"
Compare that to Burkett's Veterans for Peace diatribe quoted earlier in this CyberAlert item.
Time magazine's Margaret Carlson saluted the courage of President Bush -- the "courage" President George H. W. Bush to raise taxes, that is.
After a Capital Gang "Classic" flashback to its March 7, 1992 show reacting to then-President Bush saying it was a mistake to raise taxes, Carlson opined on Saturday's edition of the CNN show:
# My ending line in Friday's CyberAlert noted how on Thursday's Tonight Show Dennis Kucinich had won a date with actress "Meg Tilly." That would be "Jennifer" Tilly.
-- Brent Baker