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To Rumsfeld's Amusement, Stephanopoulos Probes "Biggest Mistake" --3/21/2005


1. To Rumsfeld's Amusement, Stephanopoulos Probes "Biggest Mistake"
Can't resist going to the negative. On Sunday's This Week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos reminded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld how on Friday he had predicted that an accurate history of the Iraq war would someday be written. Stephanopoulos then asked: "When it is written what would it cite as the biggest mistake in prosecuting the war?" Rumsfeld mused: "Isn't that wonderful? That's the question that everyone wants to know. Not what are the biggest successes." Stephanopoulos retorted: "You just laid them out. That's why I'm asking about mistakes." But Rumsfeld's previous answer came in response to another negatively oriented question from Stephanopoulos who had raised how a poll found that more think the war has made the U.S. "weaker in the world."

2. Jennings Hails Wisdom of George Kennan's Criticism from the Left
Peter Jennings paid special tribute to the late George Kennan on Friday night, empathizing with his criticism, from the left, of U.S. foreign policy and naivete of the public. After crediting Kennan with the "containment" policy which "was the cornerstone of U.S. policy until the Soviet Union collapsed 44 years later," Jennings relayed how "Kennan came to regret the policy. Everyone lost, he said, the Cold War cost too much in military expenditure. And he thought the U.S. became too aggressive." Then Jennings sounded as if was quoting himself: "Kennan said in later years that if the U.S. developed a respect for the culture of other countries, we would understand why they did what they did and would be less likely to go to war. George Kennan, an inspiration to three generations of American diplomats and politicians." And, it sounds, to at least one network news anchor.

3. ABC Rails Against Congressional "Interference" in Schiavo Case
There may be a split amongst conservatives over whether congressional action to allow a federal court to have jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case is wise, but ABC's World News Tonight on Friday approached the subject purely from the left, attributing nefarious and illegitimate motives to conservatives. "We're going to begin tonight with the extraordinary last-minute attempt by members of the Congress to interfere, or to intervene, in the case of Terri Schiavo," Peter Jennings announced before relaying how "the Florida judge...didn't think much of the interference." Linda Douglass highlighted GOP talking points about how "this is a great political issue...this is a tough issue for Democrats." Jennings next stressed how few people showed up to protest outside of the hospice center and Jeffrey Kofman fretted that while before the Florida legislature "there are huge issues -- hurricane recovery, education -- and yet almost a quarter of the legislative calendar has been devoted to Terri Schiavo." Reporter Jake Tapper devoted a whole piece to how "members of Congress made claims contradicting experts in medicine and bio-ethics." He concluded with this blast: "Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week."

4. Media Laud Liberal Book on Supreme Court, Skip Conservative One
A conservative bestseller on the Supreme Court hasn't yet earned any mainstream media reviews or interviews, but a little-bought liberal book by Mark Tushnet, A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law, has received mainstream media attention, the Washington Post noted in a Sunday story on how the conservative media has publicized Mark Levin's book, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, which reached #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. Charles Lane pointed out: "A Court Divided came out a week before Men in Black; it has been reviewed, mostly favorably, in the Los Angeles Times, The Post and the New Republic. Tushnet has been interviewed on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation."


To Rumsfeld's Amusement, Stephanopoulos
Probes "Biggest Mistake"

ABC's This Week Can't resist going to the negative. On Sunday's This Week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos reminded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld how on Friday he had predicted that an accurate history of the Iraq war would someday be written. Stephanopoulos then asked: "When it is written what would it cite as the biggest mistake in prosecuting the war?" Rumsfeld mused: "Isn't that wonderful? That's the question that everyone wants to know. Not what are the biggest successes." Stephanopoulos retorted: "You just laid them out. That's why I'm asking about mistakes." But Rumsfeld's previous answer came in response to another negatively oriented question from Stephanopoulos who had raised how a poll found that more think the war has made the U.S. "weaker in the world."

The exchange from the start of the interview on the March 20 This Week:

ABC's George Stephanopoulos Stephanopoulos: "Let me start out with a poll that ABC News did this week about the war in Iraq and America's views towards that and there were two findings that I wanted to ask you about. First, we asked Americans, 'was the war worth fighting' and they say, yes, 45 percent. But, no, 53 percent. And then we asked them, 'has the war made the U.S. stronger or weaker in the world?' Stronger, 28 percent. 41 percent think it's made the United States weaker in the world. What do you say to those Americans?"
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Rumsfeld: "Well, I haven't seen the poll. I've seen polls that say very much the opposite of that. I think that broadly the American people understand the value that has been achieved as a result of the global war on terror and the war in Afghanistan, as well as the war in Iraq. And it is two years now since that war was -- began, and we have 25 million Iraqis that are free. The economy is coming back. The dinar is strong. The schools are open. The hospitals are open. The Iraqi government, the political development is taking place. We have economic activity, political activity, constituent assembly met for the first time last week, had a successful election. The Iraqi security forces are increasingly taking responsibility. So we feel that a great deal of progress has been made, and it's due to the wonderful work of the men and women in uniform who have sacrificed so much and their families have supported them. We feel quite positive about what's taking place."
Stephanopoulos: "You had a town meeting at the Pentagon on Friday where you said that an accurate history of Operation Iraqi Freedom will one day be written. When it is written what would it cite as the biggest mistake in prosecuting the war?"
Rumsfeld: "Isn't that wonderful? That's the question that everyone wants to know. Not what are the biggest successes."
Stephanopoulos: "You just laid them out. That's why I'm asking about mistakes."
Rumsfeld: "They want to know what was the mistake? Well, the first thing I think I would say and the most important thing was had we been successful in getting the 4th Infantry Division to come in through Turkey in the north when our forces were coming up from the south out of Kuwait, I believe that a considerably smaller number of the Baathists and the regime elements would have escaped. More would have been captured or killed, and as a result, the insurgency would have been at a lesser intensity than it is today, and as a result of the fact that there is this insurgency, we've seen a -- oh, attacks on government officials, Iraqi officials. We've seen attacks on infrastructure and they've been successful in slowing economic progress and slowing political progress. They haven't stopped it and they're not going to win the people running around beheading people and the thought of their prevailing in this conflict is a terrible thought."

Jennings Hails Wisdom of George Kennan's
Criticism from the Left

ABC's World News Tonight Peter Jennings paid special tribute to the late George Kennan on Friday night, empathizing with his criticism, from the left, of U.S. foreign policy and naivete of the public. After crediting Kennan with the "containment" policy which "was the cornerstone of U.S. policy until the Soviet Union collapsed 44 years later," Jennings relayed how "Kennan came to regret the policy. Everyone lost, he said, the Cold War cost too much in military expenditure. And he thought the U.S. became too aggressive." Then Jennings sounded as if was quoting himself: "Kennan said in later years that if the U.S. developed a respect for the culture of other countries, we would understand why they did what they did and would be less likely to go to war. George Kennan, an inspiration to three generations of American diplomats and politicians." And, it sounds, to at least one network news anchor.

The CBS and NBC anchors on Friday night also paid tribute to Kennan, but didn't turn it into a lecture as did Jennings.

Bob Schieffer on the March 18 CBS Evening News: "The veteran U.S. diplomat and Pulitzer Prize-winning author George Kennan has died. Some people get to witness history, some get to write about it and some make it. Kennan got to do all three through much of the last half of the 20th century. After World War II, it was Kennan who said the way to defeat the Soviet Union was through containment, not by war. George Kennan died at his home in New Jersey. He was 101."

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams: "One of the towering figures of U.S. foreign policy has died. George F. Kennan quite literally had a hand in shaping the world after the second world war. While he was the author of 17 books and won two Pulitzer Prizes, his single most famous piece of writing was anonymous, at least at first, until the truth started trickling out that the real author of the article signed simply 'X' and advocating the containment of communism was George Kennan. Kennan, who was Princeton-educated, spoke eight languages. He was married for 74 years and was the father of four. George Kennan died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of 101."

On World News Tonight, Jennings trumpeted Kennan's wisdom:
"In other news today, one of the great men of American diplomacy has died. George Kennan was 101 when he died last night in his home in Princeton, New Jersey, where he taught at the university for years. No single diplomat has had a greater influence on American foreign policy. Kennan was referred to as the architect of the containment policy after World War II. The Soviet leader was Josef Stalin. Kennan served at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Kennan argued in a famous, long telegram to Washington, that the U.S. should control the spread of communism wherever and whenever the Soviets tried to expand their influence. If the U.S. stayed steady, communism would, in time, decline. It was the cornerstone of U.S. policy until the Soviet Union collapsed 44 years later."
George Kennan, in undated video of a congressional hearing: "I had the temerity to urge at that time, publicly, upon our government and our people, patience in the approach to Russian communism, being confident that there would be changes and thinking it likely that these changes would be ones that would make it easier for us to cope with it without inviting the catastrophe of another war."
Jennings: "Ambassador Kennan came to regret the policy. Everyone lost, he said, the Cold War cost too much in military expenditure. And he thought the U.S. became too aggressive. Kennan said in later years that if the U.S. developed a respect for the culture of other countries, we would understand why they did what they did and would be less likely to go to war. George Kennan, an inspiration to three generations of American diplomats and politicians."

ABC Rails Against Congressional "Interference"
in Schiavo Case

ABC's Peter Jennings There may be a split amongst conservatives over whether congressional action to allow a federal court to have jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case represents a proper defense of a citizen's right to life or an abandonment of the conservative principle of state's rights in favor of grandstanding, but ABC's World News Tonight on Friday approached the subject purely from the left, attributing nefarious and illegitimate motives to conservatives without any mention of how virtually no Democrats had risen in opposition.

"We're going to begin tonight with the extraordinary last-minute attempt by members of the Congress to interfere, or to intervene, in the case of Terri Schiavo," Peter Jennings announced before relaying how "the Florida judge...didn't think much of the interference." Linda Douglass highlighted GOP talking points about how "this is a great political issue...this is a tough issue for Democrats." Jennings next stressed how few people showed up to protest outside of the hospice center and Jeffrey Kofman fretted that while before the Florida legislature "there are huge issues -- hurricane recovery, education -- and yet almost a quarter of the legislative calendar has been devoted to Terri Schiavo." Reporter Jake Tapper devoted a whole piece to how "members of Congress made claims contradicting experts in medicine and bio-ethics." He concluded with this blast: "Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week."

Weekend newscasts were dominated by the Schiavo case, with the cable networks providing live coverage of House action early Monday morning, but none that I saw was as skewed as the condescending approach delivered Friday night on ABC.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth checked the closed-captioning against the video to provide an accurate transcript of the series of stories on the March 18 World News Tonight.

Peter Jennings teased up top: "On World News Tonight, a judge in Florida says Congress has no business trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive. Today, her feeding tube was removed."

Jennings led: "Good evening, everyone. We're going to begin tonight with the extraordinary last-minute attempt by members of the Congress to interfere or to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, the young woman who has been in a vegetative state for seven years. The Florida courts have decided that Schiavo's husband does have the legal right to remove her feeding tube as of today. Not good enough for some members of the Congress. The man in that pickup truck [vide of pickup] flew from Washington to Florida this morning carrying a subpoena from a committee of the Congress for Schiavo and the workers who care for her. The Florida judge, as we hear on the telephone, didn't think much of the interference."
Audio of Judge Greer with text on screen: "I don't think legislative agencies or bodies have a business in a court proceeding. And accordingly, I'm going to deny your motion to intervene."
Jennings: "This afternoon, with the court's permission, Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed. But in the last 24 hours, there has been no denying members of the Congress. After seven years, members of the House and of the Senate have decided this is urgent. And so we go to our congressional correspondent first, ABC's Linda Douglass. Linda?

Linda Douglass checked in: "Well, Peter, despite the fact that the feeding tube now has been, as you say, disconnected, some Republicans are saying they're going to continue using their congressional power to try to have it reconnected. The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee is demanding that Terri Schiavo, her husband Michael, two doctors and the hospice administrator appear at a congressional hearing at Schiavo's bedside next week."
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader: "To friends, family, and millions of people praying around the world this Palm Sunday weekend, don't be afraid. Terri Schiavo will not be forsaken."
Douglass: "House Republican leaders are trying to keep Schiavo alive by ordering a congressional investigation into 'treatment options provided to incapacitated patients.' That is why the subpoenas demanded that Schiavo remain connected to the tube that provides nutrition and hydration so the committee could see it."
Tom Davis, House Government Reform Committee Chairman: "The purpose of the subpoenas is to preserve the evidence so that we can hold a proper hearing."
DeLay: "All I know is Terri is alive, and this judge in Florida wants to pull her feeding tube and let her starve for two weeks. That is barbaric."
Douglass: "The lawyer for Schiavo's husband was outraged."
George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney: "What we experienced today in the subpoena issued by the United States House of Representatives is nothing short of thuggery."
Douglass: "The subpoenas came from the one House committee that can issue subpoenas without consulting Democrats. Late last night, a small group of Republican leaders decided to act with no vote. Tom DeLay dismissed the notion that Schiavo's husband can decide her medical care."
DeLay: "In my opinion, the sanctity of life overshadows the sanctity of marriage."
Douglass: "ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican Senators explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them [text on screen], 'This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited,' and, 'This is a great political issue...this is a tough issue for Democrats.' Now, the House Republicans have gone to federal court to try to have Schiavo's feeding tube reconnected. The Senate may go to court, too, because some Senators say they also want to have the Schiavos at a hearing. And, Peter, this legal wrangling could continue because without the feeding tube Schiavo could still live for another two weeks or so."
Jennings: "Many thanks, Linda Douglass on Capitol Hill."

Jennings then lectured: "Just a couple of things about Ms. Schiavo's condition. She has been in this vegetative state for 15 years. It is her parents who want to keep her alive. They say she can be rehabilitated. They also say that she will now die a painful death, though there does not seem to be any support for that argument in the medical community. Some questions this evening for our correspondent in Florida, Jeffrey Kofman. Jeffrey, first of all, this case, as we all recognize, has generated a lot of noise. How many people actually showed up today to demonstrate to keep her connected to the feeding tubes?"
Jeffrey Kofman, outside the hospice center: "Far fewer than you might have expected, Peter. At peak, maybe 50, 60. And right now, 8 or 10 are here."
Jennings: "Congress is pretty tied up about this, as we've just said. What about the Florida legislature?"
Kofman: "Peter, there has been no other issue in Tallahassee for the last two weeks. And here in Florida, the regular session of the legislature is only nine weeks long. There are huge issues -- hurricane recovery, education -- and yet almost a quarter of the legislative calendar has been devoted to Terri Schiavo."
Jennings: "And is there anyone in the Florida system -- the governor, the courts, the legislature -- which can do anything about reversing the decision by the judge today?"
Kofman: "You know, that congressional committee that Linda was just talking about appealed to the Florida Supreme Court today, and they said no, it's not a federal issue, it's a state issue, it's had thorough hearing in the state courts, stay out of our jurisdiction. And the Florida legislature just isn't comfortable with this. They tried it in 2003. They passed a law on Terri Schiavo, it was struck down as unconstitutional. And they're just not comfortable doing it this time. And they don't have a lot of time. Terri Schiavo, as Linda pointed out, only has 10 to 14 days left."
Jennings: "Okay, thanks Jeffrey. Jeffrey Kofman in Florida."

Jennings moved on to the next story: "As we have reported, the judge who ruled that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube may be removed said today Congress had no reason to intervene. Mr. Schiavo told ABC News today the Congress isn't getting its facts straight. And his attorney said that Terri had become a pawn in a political football game. So why is the Congress involved? Here's ABC's Jake Tapper."
ABC's Jake Tapper Jake Tapper: "How serious was Congress really about trying to save this woman's life? Members of Congress made claims contradicting experts in medicine and bio-ethics."
Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL): "To order the withdrawal of food and water from somebody, it's never been done before, to my knowledge."
Prof. Bill Allen, University of Florida College of Medicine: "Feeding tubes have been removed in the United States for many years, and it's been a common practice. This has happened in many cases, probably a hundred thousand times in this country."
Roy Blunt, House Majority Whip: "It's clear from watching the tapes of Terri Schiavo that she interacts with people. She's aware of her surroundings. She attempts to communicate."
Allen: "It's not possible for lay people or even physicians, especially who aren't trained as neurologists, to look at a short segment of videotape and diagnose that somebody's not in a persistent vegetative state."
Tapper: "Is the Congress in step with the public on this one? Americans at large, asked if they would want to be kept alive in the condition Schiavo's doctors say she is in, overwhelmingly said they would not [87 to 8 percent]. And those identifying themselves as conservative evangelical Protestants agreed [82 to 14 percent]. Despite those numbers, Congress was flooded with e-mails and phone calls. The bill that the Senate passed was written so only Schiavo's parents could sue in federal court and stop today's action. Instead of adopting that bill, House Republicans faulted the Senate for not voting on their bill, which would have affected thousands of similar cases."
Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute: "If they really wanted to intervene and stop the removal of this feeding tube, they had the ability to do so."
Tapper concluded with his opinion: "Whatever your beliefs about this case, Terri Schiavo and her family deserved better than the way Congress worked this week. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington."

In fact, the ABC News/Washington Post, which Tapper characterized as posing a question about whether people "would want to be kept alive in the condition Schiavo's doctors say she is in," actually presented a fairly broad question which included the term "life support" which many probably interpreted to mean artificial breathing, a condition which does not match the Schiavo case. The question: "As you may know, a woman in Florida named Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her parents and her husband disagree on whether or not she should be kept on life support. In cases like this who do you think should have final say, (the parents) or (the spouse)?" Follow up: "If you were in this condition, would you want to be kept alive, or not?" See (a PDF): abcnews.go.com

Media Laud Liberal Book on Supreme Court,
Skip Conservative One

A conservative bestseller on the Supreme Court hasn't yet earned any mainstream media reviews or interviews, but a little-bought liberal book by Mark Tushnet, A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law, has received mainstream media attention, the Washington Post noted in a Sunday story on how the conservative media has publicized Mark Levin's book, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, which reached #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. Charles Lane pointed out: "A Court Divided came out a week before Men in Black; it has been reviewed, mostly favorably, in the Los Angeles Times, The Post and the New Republic. Tushnet has been interviewed on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation."

Amazon ranks Levin's book at #16, Tushnet's at #14,408. And journalists wonder why the public thinks they are out of touch.

An excerpt from Lane's March 20 article, "Conservative's Book on Supreme Court Is a Bestseller":

The Supreme Court is not often the stuff of bestsellers, but in recent weeks a conservative lawyer's full-throated attack on the court has been flying off the shelves, reaching as high as third place on the New York Times bestseller list.

The 288-page book, "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America," by Mark R. Levin, arrived amid expectations of a pitched battle in Washington over a replacement for ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. It argues that the court's decisions in favor of abortion rights, gay rights, economic regulation and affirmative action have created "de facto judicial tyranny" and an economy "lurching toward socialism."...

With endorsements for the book from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative media icons, Levin has also reached millions through appearances on radio and television, providing his audience with intellectual ammunition for the impending struggle over the court's future.

Yet this publishing phenomenon has gone almost completely unnoticed outside conservative circles....

"It's a classic case of a fired-up red-state America," said conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, who has had Levin on her show. "It's a classic case where the mainstream media misses the boat of a whole segment of society that has a big, big problem with the courts injecting themselves into matters that should be left up to the people."

"Men in Black" was the brainchild of executives at Eagle Publishing Inc., the corporate parent of Regnery Publishing....

In mid-2004, Eagle approached Levin, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan's attorney general, Edwin Meese III. Levin turned the book out in time for release Feb. 7.

"Our audience has been screaming for a book on the courts," said Jeff Carneal, president of Eagle Publishing....

Carneal said the initial press run for "Men in Black" was 80,000 -- a large number for a nonfiction book -- and that Eagle has ordered 85,000 more copies in response to the demand. Company officials estimate that half of all the books printed so far have sold. The list price is $27.95 per hardback copy.

"Men in Black" offers a conversational but uncompromising version of a familiar conservative legal critique: that "judicial activists" on the bench frequently toss aside black-letter law or constitutional text in favor of their own policy preferences....

"It's written in plain English and not for Harvard Yard," says Levin, who received a bachelor's degree at the age of 19 from Temple University and later graduated from law school at the same institution.

Levin says that he has done 150 to 200 interviews on talk radio, the vast majority on shows hosted by conservatives. He has appeared on Fox News -- but his book has not been reviewed in such major daily newspapers as the New York Times or The Washington Post.

Mark Tushnet, a liberal law professor at Georgetown University who clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, said he has watched the rise of Levin's book with some bemusement.

Tushnet's own book, "A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law," was aimed at "the educated general public," he said. It argues that the court is a relatively moderate institution and chides writers who "cheer or boo" the court's rulings depending on their own ideology.

"A Court Divided" came out a week before "Men in Black"; it has been reviewed, mostly favorably, in the Los Angeles Times, The Post and the New Republic. Tushnet has been interviewed on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" -- but not on conservative radio or television. Sales of "A Court Divided" have been respectable for a nonfiction book but still nowhere near "Men in Black's" numbers....

Asked about Tushnet's book at the reception for "Men in Black," Regnery's Carneal said he had not heard of it.

Tushnet said he has not read "Men in Black" and does not know anyone who has.

END of Excerpt

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

Amazon.com's page for Levin's book: www.amazon.com

For Tushnet's tome: www.amazon.com

-- Brent Baker