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Schieffer: To Save America's Honor, Guantanamo Must Be Closed --5/31/2005


1. Schieffer: To Save America's Honor, Guantanamo Must Be Closed
Recalling how John McCain's "code of honor" is what "separated him from his captors" in communist North Vietnam, on Sunday's Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer casually referred to how he "thought about that as yet another tale of torture and abuse came out about the POW camp we are running at Guantanamo Bay." Schieffer then proceeded to endorse New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's recommendation that "the prison ought to be shut down because the stories about it are so inflaming the Arab world." Schieffer presumed the worst about the uncorroborated charges related to detainee treatment, most of which fall far short of qualifying as "torture." Schieffer asked: "I wondered if the greater danger is the impact Guantanamo is having on us. Do we want our children to believe this is how we are?" Characterizing the U.S. as no better than our enemies, Schieffer concluded: "As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, let us remember first what it is that separates us from those who would take away our freedom," the code "John McCain's dad taught his kid."
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2. Kurtz: Conservative Hypocrisy in Not Denouncing Koppel's 'Fallen'
At the very end of Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, who hosts the program, suggested hypocrisy on the part of conservatives who last year charged Ted Koppel with having a political agenda when he read the names on Nightline of those killed in Iraq, but Koppel's plan to read a new set of names on Memorial Day night "hasn't caused much of a stir." Kurtz pointed out that "Sinclair Broadcasting, which boycotted a similar Nightline last year, is now applauding the move." Kurtz proposed that "this flip-flop could be because this isn't the first time, or because Koppel is leaving ABC, or because so many more Americans now have been tragically killed in Iraq. Or maybe," Kurtz cynically suggested, "it's just that the presidential campaign is over." But Kurtz missed a very key difference: Last year Koppel aired his "The Fallen" show ostensibly tied to the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war, and which skipped those killed in Afghanistan, 13 months into the war, yet just the day before the one-year anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. This year's list was read on Memorial Day, an appropriate occasion.

3. AP and ABC Note Law & Order Slam at DeLay, But Skip Racist Angle
On Friday, the AP and ABC's World News Tonight caught up with the controversy over how, on an episode of NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent aired Wednesday night, in the midst of investigating the murders of two judges, a detective suggested: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt." But the AP and ABC, in tying the barb to DeLay's criticism of judges in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, ignored the racist connotation of the scene since at the time in the plot of the show a black judge had just been murdered and the detectives considered a white supremacist to be their prime suspect. ABC's Jake Tapper spun the slam into a positive for DeLay by highlighting how "some political observers say" DeLay's criticism of NBC over the slur, "is smart strategy by DeLay, going after the so-called liberal media, a favorite target of conservatives." Tapper concluded that "DeLay's comments about judges have troubled even some fellow conservatives. By taking a swipe at DeLay, Hollywood may actually be helping him."

4. Networks Resist Calling Filibuster of Bolton a Filibuster
After the cheerleading reception last week from news outlets on the deal moderates in both parties made to circumvent an end to judicial filibusters, the failed cloture vote -- in other words, a filibuster -- of UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton was called anything but a filibuster on Friday morning. NBC managed to let a Republican use the F-word in one of three news updates while ABC's Good Morning America avoided the term and CBS's Early Show couldn't even manage a few seconds for any Bolton update.

5. PBS's Now Again Pounds a Conservative and Cues Up a Liberal
The Friday night PBS show Now featured another balanced palette of guests on May 20: conservative Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America, and liberal columnist Molly Ivins. But the interviews were very different. LaRue was interviewed via satellite and labeled as part of a "sprawling coalition of conservative groups who are taking no prisoners" to get Bush judges confirmed, while Brancaccio traveled to Texas to interview Ivins in person and described her simply as a "syndicated columnist," brought on as expert about the "naked power plays" of the "posse" of Team Bush. Then there were the questions. Host David Brancaccio pasted LaRue with big-picture questions about separation of church and state and whether she opposes it, but Brancaccio casually cued Ivins into discussing the "activist" judging of Bush nominee Priscilla Owen, and prompted her to express horror at religious right leader James Dobson. Both interviews had the same subtext: Christian conservatives pose a danger to democracy.


Schieffer: To Save America's Honor, Guantanamo
Must Be Closed

Recalling how John McCain's "code of honor" is what "separated him from his captors" in communist North Vietnam, on Sunday's Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer casually referred to how he "thought about that as yet another tale of torture and abuse came out about the POW camp we are running at Guantanamo Bay." Schieffer then proceeded to endorse New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's recommendation that "the prison ought to be shut down because the stories about it are so inflaming the Arab world."
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Text of clip + audio archive

" Schieffer presumed the worst about the uncorroborated charges related to detainee treatment, most of which fall far short of qualifying as "torture." Schieffer asked: "I wondered if the greater danger is the impact Guantanamo is having on us. Do we want our children to believe this is how we are?" Characterizing the U.S. as no better than our enemies, Schieffer concluded: "As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, let us remember first what it is that separates us from those who would take away our freedom," the code "John McCain's dad taught his kid."

In his Friday column, "Just Shut It Down," Friedman, from London, framed the anti-U.S. media in Britain and Germany as the best guide to U.S. policy:
"If you want to appreciate how corrosive Guantanamo has become for America's standing abroad, don't read the Arab press. Don't read the Pakistani press. Don't read the Afghan press. Hop over here to London or go online and just read the British press! See what our closest allies are saying about Gitmo. And when you get done with that, read the Australian press and the Canadian press and the German press."

Friedman insisted that stories of abuse at Guantanamo are "inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the world and providing recruitment energy on the Internet for those who would do us ill." He charged: "Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty."

Maybe we should shut down the media instead which spread such anti-American hatred.

And how would closing Guantanamo achieve anything? Wouldn't the America-hating media -- at home and abroad -- simply publicize prisoner-complaints at whatever facility replaces Guantanamo?

For Friedman's May 27 column in full: www.nytimes.com

In the last segment of the May 29 Face the Nation, Schieffer, who also anchors the CBS Evening News, delivered this commentary:
"Finally today, the other night I went to a screening of Faith of Our Fathers, the new movie about John McCain's five-year ordeal in a North Vietnamese prison that airs on A&E tomorrow night. It flashes back to McCain's high school days, when the principal reported bad grades to McCain's father, whose only question was not about grades but whether his son had violated the school honor code. Had he lied or cheated? When told that he had not, his father said, 'Well, call me if he does that.'
"McCain says that code of honor drilled into him by his father and the Naval Academy is why he was able to survive the torture and the inhumanity of his prison captors. He couldn't let his father down. That code of honor was the center of his life and it gave him strength -- what separated him from his captors.
"I thought about that as yet another tale of torture and abuse came out about the POW camp we are running at Guantanamo Bay. Columnist Tom Friedman said the prison ought to be shut down because the stories about it are so inflaming the Arab world they're making the war on terrorism more dangerous for our American soldiers to fight. But as I watched the McCain movie, I wondered if the greater danger is the impact Guantanamo is having on us. Do we want our children to believe this is how we are? Is this the code of honor we are passing on to the next generation?
"As we reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, let us remember first what it is that separates us from those who would take away our freedom: What John McCain's dad taught his kid, what we should be teaching ours."

Kurtz: Conservative Hypocrisy in Not
Denouncing Koppel's 'Fallen'

Howard Kurtz At the very end of Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, who hosts the program, suggested hypocrisy on the part of conservatives who last year charged Ted Koppel with having a political agenda when he read the names on Nightline of those killed in Iraq, but Koppel's plan to read a new set up names on Memorial Day night "hasn't caused much of a stir." Kurtz pointed out that "Sinclair Broadcasting, which boycotted a similar Nightline last year, is now applauding the move." Kurtz proposed that "this flip-flop could be because this isn't the first time, or because Koppel is leaving ABC, or because so many more Americans now have been tragically killed in Iraq. Or maybe," Kurtz cynically suggested, "it's just that the presidential campaign is over." But Kurtz missed a very key difference: Last year Koppel aired his "The Fallen" show ostensibly tied to the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war, and which skipped those killed in Afghanistan, 13 months into the war, yet just the day before the one-year anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. This year's list was read on Memorial Day, an appropriate occasion.

Kurtz asserted on the May 29 Reliable Sources: "Tomorrow, on Memorial Day, Ted Koppel will devote all of Nightline to reading the names of Americans killed in Iraq. And unlike last time, it hasn't caused much of a stir. In fact, Sinclair Broadcasting, which boycotted a similar Nightline last year, is now applauding the move. Now, this flip-flop could be because this isn't the first time, or because Koppel is leaving ABC, or because so many more Americans now have been tragically killed in Iraq. Or maybe it's just that the presidential campaign is over."

At the top of Monday's 42-minute-long Nightline, which NBA basketball delayed by 10 minutes in the Eastern and Central time zones, Koppel noted last year's controversy, again denied any political agenda but conceded not including the names of those killed in Afghanistan was a mistake and pointed out that he read those names a month later.

Following last year's format for those killed in Iraq, Koppel's enunciation this year of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 13 months was accompanied by side-by-side pictures, two at a time, of those named.

Highlights from two 2004 CyberAlert items:

-- Saturday, May 1 CyberAlert: At the conclusion of Friday's controversial 35-minute Nightline devoted to Ted Koppel announcing, over matching pictures, the names of servicemen killed in Iraq over the past 13 months, he contended that "the reading tonight of those 721 names was neither intended to provoke opposition to the war, nor was it meant as an endorsement." Koppel acknowledged, however, that "some of you doubt that" and "are convinced that I am opposed to the war." He insisted: "I'm not."
But he did offer a personal opinion which seemed to integrate the liberal criticism of the Bush administration for not asking for sacrifices, such as raising taxes: "I am opposed to sustaining the illusion that war can be waged by the sacrifice of a few without burdening the rest of us in any way. I oppose the notion that to be at war is to forfeit the right to question, criticize or debate our leaders' policies."

For more about that show, check: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Tuesday, June 1 CyberAlert on the Nightline aired the Friday night of the Memorial Day weekend: Ted Koppel on Friday night caught up with the servicemen killed in the war on terror outside of Iraq, names he ignored during his Friday, April 30 "The Fallen" edition of Nightline in which he dedicated his entire program to the names and pictures of those killed in Iraq. Koppel told viewers that "since this is Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to pay our respects to those whom we did not honor a few weeks back." He ended the May 28 Nightline by taking four minutes to read the list of names of those killed beyond Iraq, "from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan," as the names, along with their rank and age, scrolled over near-silent video of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery. But while Nightline had shown photos of all those killed in Iraq, on Friday those killed elsewhere did not get a picture. See: www.mediaresearch.org

For the ABCNews.com posting about this year's "The Fallen" edition of Nightline: abcnews.go.com

AP and ABC Note Law & Order Slam at DeLay,
But Skip Racist Angle

DeLay Law & Order On Friday, the AP and ABC's World News Tonight caught up with the controversy over how, on an episode of NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent aired Wednesday night, in the midst of investigating the murders of two judges, a detective suggested: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt." But the AP and ABC, in tying the barb to DeLay's criticism of judges in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, ignored the racist connotation of the scene since at the time in the plot of the show a black judge had just been murdered and the detectives considered a white supremacist to be their prime suspect. ABC's Jake Tapper spun the slam into a positive for DeLay by highlighting how "some political observers say" DeLay's criticism of NBC over the slur, "is smart strategy by DeLay, going after the so-called liberal media, a favorite target of conservatives." Tapper concluded that "DeLay's comments about judges have troubled even some fellow conservatives. By taking a swipe at DeLay, Hollywood may actually be helping him."

The May 26 CyberAlert recounted: The season finale of NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which aired Wednesday night, portrayed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as a hero to white supremacist gun nuts suspected of murdering two judges, one of them black, and who had expressed the view that the white woman judge who was murdered was a "race traitor" who raised her family in the "Zionist enclave of Riverdale." When the ballistics on the bullet which killed the black judge showed it was fired by the same rifle which was used to kill the white judge, New York City Police Department "Detective Alexandra Eames" suggested to her fellow detectives and an Assistant District Attorney: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt." Another detective then presented evidence the shooter came from the West, prompting Eames to point out: "Home of a lot of white supremacist groups."

For a complete rundown of the scene, what Delay wrote in a letter to NBC, the response from NBC and a snide Dick Wolf, producer of the series, responses published in Thursday night/Friday morning Reuters and Washington Post stories, as well as for both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player video of the scene, plus an MP3 audio clip, go to: www.mediaresearch.org
For the un-bylined Friday afternoon AP dispatch from Washington, DC, "DeLay Upset Over 'Law & Order' Line," see: news.yahoo.com

DeLay Law & Order The MRC's Brad Wilmouth caught the Friday ABC story, which World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas introduced: "Now, another clash between a conservative politician and the media. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is not happy about being mentioned on the hit TV show 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent.' In fact, he's calling it a slur. Here's ABC's Jake Tapper."
Tapper explained: "On Wednesday's episode, detectives investigated the murder of a judge."
District Attorney character: "An African-American judge, an appellate court judge, no less."
Detective: "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."
Tapper suggested: "This was an apparent reference to Congressman Tom DeLay's recent attacks against the judiciary, particularly during the Terri Schiavo controversy."
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, on March 31: "We will look at an arrogant, out of control, unaccountable judiciary."
Tapper: "DeLay immediately wrote to the President of NBC, 'This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies.' Other congressional conservatives agree."
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA): "I think middle America is sick and tired of Hollywood thrusting its anti-American, anti-middle class values on the viewing public over and over again."
Tapper: "Some political observers say this is smart strategy by DeLay, going after the so-called liberal media, a favorite target of conservatives."
Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute: "I have no doubt that this will be used for fund-raising as part of the larger approach that DeLay has taken, 'This is my enemies out to get me, no bigger enemy than the liberal media.'"
Tapper: "The creator of 'Law & Order,' Dick Wolf, seemed to enjoy the added publicity. Referring to recent ethics accusations against DeLay, Wolf congratulated DeLay for 'switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a television show.' DeLay's comments about judges have troubled even some fellow conservatives. By taking a swipe at DeLay, Hollywood may actually be helping him. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington."

Even if so, that doesn't excuse a network from having a fictional character portray a real-life politician as a hero to white supremacists suspected of going on a murder rampage against black judges and white judges who are "race traitors."

Networks Resist Calling Filibuster of
Bolton a Filibuster

After the cheerleading reception last week from news outlets on the deal moderates in both parties made to circumvent an end to judicial filibusters, the failed cloture vote -- in other words, a filibuster -- of UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton was called anything but a filibuster on Friday morning. NBC managed to let a Republican use the F-word in one of three news updates while ABC's Good Morning America avoided the term and CBS's Early Show couldn't even manage a few seconds for any Bolton update.

[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert]

Friday's Washington Post sought to avoid the word "filibuster" at the top of their front-page Bolton story. The headline read: "Democrats Extend Debate on Bolton," not "Democrats Filibuster Bolton" or even "Democrats Block Bolton." Reporter Charles Babington began: "Senate Democrats refused to end debate on John R. Bolton's nomination," waiting two and a half paragraphs to get to the F word.

The same pattern occurred on network TV. MRC analyst Jessica Barnes found ABC's Good Morning America aired one anchor brief from Bill Weir at 7am: "He is the man who can't get a vote. This morning John Bolton's nomination to UN ambassador hits another snag. Senate Democrats put off the vote, asked for the classified documents about Bolton from the White House. It will be at least two weeks before the nomination is considered again."

Over on NBC's Today, MRC's Ken Shepherd reported, NBC's Ann Curry had three anchor briefs on Bolton, starting at 7, none with any mention of filibusters: "John Bolton will have to wait until next month for a confirmation vote as UN ambassador. On Thursday, Democrats blocked Senate action on Bolton when a procedural vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to allow for a final vote. Now that won't happen until after the Memorial Day recess. Democrats hope the delay will force the White House to turn over more documents on Bolton."

At 8am, Ann Curry at least let a Republican use the F-word: "John Bolton will have to wait until at least next month to be confirmed as the next UN Ambassador. The Senate fell four votes short to force a final vote on Thursday. Democrats say that they will vote when the White House turns over more background files. But the Senate Majority Leader says quote, 'it quacks like a filibuster.'"

At 9am, Curry avoided the word again: "Senate Democrats have succeeded in putting off a vote on John Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador until next month. The delay was headed by Democrats holding out for more documents from the White House on Bolton. The vote fell four votes short of approving an up or down Senate vote on Bolton."

On CBS, the MRC's Megan McCormack noticed, The Early Show had no Bolton story, not even a brief one. They did do an interview with former Clinton aide Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution on the potential wounding in Iraq of terrorist chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but they also had enough time for full reports in the first hour on weekend travel, Michael Jackson, the missing Groene kids in Idaho, a murder suspect mounting a crane in Atlanta, the potential of Viagra to cause blindness, an aquarium that lets patrons swim with sharks, and the triumphant return to the firehouse of recent Survivor winner Tom Westman.

PBS's Now Again Pounds a Conservative
and Cues Up a Liberal

PBS Now The Friday night PBS show Now featured another balanced palette of guests on May 20: conservative Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America, and liberal columnist Molly Ivins. But the interviews were very different. LaRue was interviewed via satellite and labeled as part of a "sprawling coalition of conservative groups who are taking no prisoners" to get Bush judges confirmed, while Brancaccio traveled to Texas to interview Ivins in person and described her simply as a "syndicated columnist," brought on as expert about the "naked power plays" of the "posse" of Team Bush. Then there were the questions. Host David Brancaccio pasted LaRue with big-picture questions about separation of church and state and whether she opposes it, but Brancaccio casually cued Ivins into discussing the "activist" judging of Bush nominee Priscilla Owen, and prompted her to express horror at religious right leader James Dobson. Both interviews had the same subtext: Christian conservatives pose a danger to democracy.

[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]

(The May 11 CyberAlert recounted Brancaccio's liberal skew on the May 6 Now: Though on Friday's PBS show Now, new solo host David Brancaccio promised that the program would feature "two outspoken voices that span the political spectrum," the episode illustrated that the leftist tilt delivered by previous host Bill Moyers continues. Brancaccio repeatedly cued up Air America radio host Janeane Garofalo to spout her left wing points, even making some for her, but when his conservative guest, former Congressman Bob Barr -- who was brought aboard to express, unimpeded, his anti-Bush administration views on the Patriot Act -- defended Bush's judicial nominations whom Senate Democrats are blocking, Brancaccio pounced on him. Brancaccio suggested: "What about this crazy scenario? The Bush administration says: 'Okay let's end this stuff by proposing some more moderate names'?" When Barr assured him none of the nominees are "kooks," Brancaccio countered: "That's sort of a debate right there, there's plenty of Democrats who do think there are a few in the kook category." Brancaccio also challenged Barr from the left on same-sex marriage and being tougher on Clinton than DeLay. With Garofalo, Brancaccio helped her make her points about how conservatives distort reality: "Whatever you do, do not say -- do not say drilling for oil, you're supposed to say, 'responsible energy exploration.'" See: www.mediaresearch.org )

Brancaccio began the May 20 show by suggesting Republicans were "getting rid of the filibuster" as a sheer power grab: "Here's a startling comparison, but it may be one of the few things Republicans and Democrats might not argue with at this moment in history: getting rid of the filibuster so that only 51 votes instead of 60 are required in the Senate to pass key nominations would be like waking up to find there'd been a special election overnight and that Republicans had won nine extra votes in the United States Senate. The filibuster fight is about amassing the power to transform the country."

That was a good signal that Brancaccio doesn't know much about Republicans, not to mention math: with 55 Republicans in the Senate, putting aside judicial filibusters would gain them the equivalent of five votes, not nine. Republicans would argue that by suddenly adopting the strategy to require judges to have 60 votes for confirmation when they lost the majority in the 2002 elections, the Democrats had already "held a special election overnight" to amass power.

Brancaccio introduced his conservative guest with emphasis, as a take-no-prisonsers conservative: "Joining me is a woman who has a clear vision on this. Jan LaRue is the top lawyer for Concerned Women for America, one part of a sprawling coalition of conservative groups who are taking no prisoners in their efforts to get President Bush's nominees on to those federal benches." It was a traditional talking-head segment, with Brancaccio in New York and LaRue in a Washington TV studio. Brancaccio's questions:

-- "Jan, what's going on now has been described as a climax of a 30 year culture war. Is that hyperbole? Or is that how much is at stake here really?" LaRue said it's not hyperbole that we're in a culture war.

-- He then pasted LaRue with a set of questions about separation of church and state and whether she opposes it: "How far do you take this? Do you think that the traditional separation between church and state is a good thing or a bad thing?" After LaRue declared that she disagrees with the notion of separating God from the public square, Brancaccio visibly flinched on screen when she declared: "I think there is a true assault, by very extreme left wing people, who are very afraid of a mention of God in public, especially when it comes to a simple posting of the Ten Commandments on a courthouse wall."

-- Brancaccio kept up the idea that LaRue supported a budding theocracy: "So in my efforts here to understand, sort of, where your limits are on this, you wouldn't support a state that wanted to establish an official religion would you?" As LaRue stated the point that the original Constitution allowed states to have their own state religions, but that's "extremely unlikely" to happen today, the viewer might have wondered: When will he discuss the present Senate controversy? Keep waiting.

-- Brancaccio was on a church-and-state roll: "I don't wanna be flip. But the fact is, you know, I have my own copy of the Constitution. But I also pulled one off Google this morning, the text. And if you do a search function, a find, the word 'God' isn't in it. In the U.S. Constitution. It just comes up empty on that point. There is a legitimate debate about how much our Founding Fathers expected religion to be a part of our public life."
LaRue corrected the PBS host: "Actually, the Founders did go to the point of putting God in the Constitution. It ends by not just stating the date, it says in the year of our Lord."
Brancaccio conceded: "Jan, it's true. You got me there. If you actually look at the Constitution at the very end right before the signatures it says this thing is witnessed 'in the year of our Lord 1787.' Lord does appear there. But that's not exactly framing the construction of our new government in terms of making it a religious institution." LaRue explained the Declaration of Independence explicitly declares that man's rights are derived from a "Creator."

-- On the fifth question (four and a half minutes into the seven-minute segment), Brancaccio arrived at the present day, and suggested conservatives should compromise, employing the Democratic spin on the judicial battles: "The Bush administration's had a pretty good record getting its judicial nominees through Congress. There's been well over 200 that have gotten through. What we're talking about is really just a very small handful. But the overall record's very good. Why don't you compromise on the last couple?"' LaRue replied without a beat: "Why should we?" She said President Bush laid out his philosophy on judges and the people re-elected him and increased the Republican majority in the Senate.

-- Brancaccio implied LaRue and conservatives should be delighted with the current structure of Washington: "You'd think that Concerned Women for America would just be generally happier with the President they want in office, both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans, a pretty conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Guys like Rehnquist are no flaming liberals, you must admit. But you still sound aggrieved to me." LaRue smiled and replied: "Oh, we appreciate a lot that the President has done in advancing pro-life legislation. But I have to chuckle when you call this Supreme Court conservative. There are three conservatives on the court. There are four liberals. And there are a couple of centrists. But most of the time they're going the other way. This is not a conservative Supreme Court."

Now compare that session to Brancaccio's approach with Molly Ivins about seven minutes later, after that many minutes of Now exploring the speeches and decisions of Bush judicial nominee Janice Rogers Brown, plucking the quotes considered most inflammatory to liberals. (PBS played footage of Brown's 2003 confirmation hearings, with liberal Democrats questioning her most controversial statements, and Brown replying.)

Ivins was not described as liberal, or as an author of two anti-Bush books, Shrub and Bushwhacked. She was simply a columnist and an expert, as Brancaccio suggested, about the "naked power plays" of the "posse" of Team Bush: "The naked power plays in the U.S. Senate this week come as no surprise to anyone who knows their way around certain state capitals. The one in Texas comes to mind where White House political genius Karl Rove and others in President Bush's inner circle cut their professional teeth. Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins has been following this posse out of Texas since long before its members rode into Washington, and she joins us."

Sitting right next to Ivins (without explaining to viewers where they were), he began with a gush: "Well, Molly, it's great to meet you." Brancaccio's "questions" to Ivins:

-- He asked her to explain the big picture about Bush: "So Republican officials over in Texas were absolute geniuses. I mean, they've got both houses of the state house. They've got the governorship. They've got pretty much the state supreme court. Anything that you could tell us about the Texas experience that would help us to understand what is going on today in Washington, DC?" Ivins went quickly to theocracy, which must have delighted Brancaccio: "What you see developing in the political culture of Texas is a combination of theocracy and plutocracy. Very, very active Christian right concerned about social issues, and meanwhile, huge corporate special interests-- just squirreling away, digging new loopholes in the law."

-- Without suggesting she was unreasonably "aggrieved," Brancaccio cued her up to list what was bothering her: "This issue about the judicial nominees if you take a look at Washington now, what are some of the things that bother you the most that are being bandied about?" Ivins replied: "Oh, the claim that this is unprecedented. Never before in American history have people tried to filibuster judicial nominees. That's nonsense." Brancaccio didn't ask her for evidence Republicans are wrong. She went on to describe Priscilla Owen as standing out as an activist, even on the "solid-right wing, extremely corporate Supreme Court in Texas."

-- Brancaccio was still enjoying the church-and-state themes: "She's very in touch with her Christian faith and...What you're hearing from conservative voices is that they're tired of being ashamed of being Christians. They should be able to display and act on their faith like anyone acts on other parts of their humanity." That was the closest the PBS host came to an adversarial question, to which Ivins said she had no objection to Owen's faith, just her activism.

-- The PBS host then just added a question and a series of prompts as Ivins complained about Owen's "activist" decisions on abortion. "In what way?....Texas has a law that provides for that [parental consent]." As Ivins charged Owen with making the law up out of whole cloth, Brancaccio replied: "So that would fit the Molly Ivins definition of activist judge." She protested Republicans "have been saying activist judges are a total menace. And the first one they put up is a notorious activist."

-- Brancaccio then took up another dangerous conservative Christian, James Dobson: "They're not just complaining about the types of judges on the bench, but there's even talk in some conservative quarters about eliminating whole courts. The Los Angeles Times said they'd obtained a audio tape of the Reverend James Dobson, a very important conservative figure, and he was addressing a Protestant group. And the quote the L.A. Times had from him: 'Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court. They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them. Or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the Ninth Circuit doesn't exist anymore. And it's gone.'" Ivins was horrified: "I really think this is dangerous folly, that kind of talk."

-- That prompted another softball from Brancaccio: "What worries you about a statement like that?" Ivins answered: "Because it is a complete violation of the concept of checks and balances between three separate branches of government. The independence of the judiciary is one of the most important tenets of the American Constitution."

On Dobson, Brancaccio had cited a Los Angeles Times story on a secret taping of a conservative meeting by the left-wing group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, even though they had no mention of the leftists or made any fuss about the secret taping. See the April 22 story by Peter Wallsten here: www.smirkingchimp.com

Or at: www.proudliberal.thinkingpeace.com

Point of fact: Legal experts note Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states in part: "[T]he Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make." Section 1 states that Congress is the institution to "ordain" and "establish" the lower courts. The Constitution states Congress has jurisdiction over the structure of the federal court system. It might be wildly controversial to pursue, but that's the letter of the Constitution.

The interview ended with Ivins complaining that "one of the amusing things about public debate is the Right eternally casting themselves as victims. Poor, helpless things with no voice in the halls of power." Brancaccio added: "Well, I talked to people that actual feel discriminated against. They say because they're Christian-"

Ivins kept going: "Here are these people, they have all these executive power. They have all the legislative power. They're getting all the judicial power. Just as fast as they can. And sitting around whining about people of faith being discriminated against. It's silly."

Brancaccio observed: "But fostering this sense of victimhood works, to some extent."

Ivins reacted: "Yeah. The learned helplessness is actually, a terribly dangerous thing. It's just a political pretense. It's a ploy. And I'm sorry that there are people who feel that because they're Christians, they're discriminated against. But that strikes me as truly unlikely proposition. Because, perhaps, many people don't agree with your specific kind of Christianity certainly doesn't mean that you're being discriminated against. People are entitled to disagree, you know?"

Brancaccio had one more helpful note: "And the argument's been made that the Republican Party doesn't have a monopoly on faith." Ivins replied: "There are those of us who are Christians who believe that the politics of the right is actually un-Christian. It's not a hard position to hold."

For the full transcript of the May 20 edition of Now: www.pbs.org

As the credits rolled on this tilted show, PBS aired an advertisement for itself which asserted: "Who do you trust to tell all sides of a story? Who do you trust to let all voices be heard? Who do you trust to teach your children? Who do you trust to help make sense of it all? Americans trust PBS more than any other television network." That's from their own purchased poll from the Roper Public Affairs and Media polling firm. See the press release: www.pbs.org

-- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire