Stephanopoulos: Obama's Trip a Test He 'Passed Pretty Easily' --4/8/2009
2. NYT Trumpets Obama in Democrat-Heavy Poll, Skips Upbeat Iraq Take
3. Boston Globe's DC Chief: Obama Reflects 'Devotion He Inspires'
4. CNN Bemoans Hostility to Islam, Obama Must 'Educate' Americans
5. ABC's Weir Goes Easy on Religion and Palin-Bashing 'Family Guy'
6. ABC's Robin Roberts Hits Speaker Pelosi from the Left on Guns
7. On Today, NBC's Okwu Hails Obama as 'Hugger-in-Chief'
Assessing President Barrack Obama's overseas trip, ABC's George Stephanopoulos proposed it was "a real test for the President" and, no surprise, decided "he passed it pretty easily" since "he was confident, he had a sense of command in his personal and his public diplomacy, forged strong relationships with his European counterparts..." Furthermore, Stephanopoulos admired Obama's "strong" unannounced visit to troops in Iraq, touting how the President "capped off" his travels "with this critical visit to the troops. When you've got American troops fighting on two fronts, you have to end that visit with a strong visit with the troops, and he did."
Asked by anchor Charles Gibson to list some minuses, Stephanopoulos acknowledged "good feelings with your allies don't guarantee agreement," citing Obama's inability to secure help in Afghanistan and with North Korea, but the host of ABC's This Week wrapped up with how the White House is pleased with the trip -- as if it were possible they wouldn't be: "They feel this trip went exactly as they planned. They couldn't be happier. Now they're going to come back home and focus again on the economy."
Hard to imagine how they could be any happier with the media's reverential coverage.
As Stephanopoulos oozed over how Obama "forged strong relationships with his European counterparts," ABC displayed on screen the same photo of Obama, arm-in-arm with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which ABC showcased on Saturday's World News -- an image anchor David Muir insisted demonstrated how "other heads of state are seemingly trying to get close to the head of the class, or the cool kid in the class, if you will, President Obama." Stephanopoulos echoed: "The President's stagecraft on this trip and his star power have really held up all through his trip to Europe."
For more, see the April 6 CyberAlert item, "Obama's Week Through ABC's Prism: 'Cool Kid in the Class,'" at: www.mrc.org
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The Gibson-Stephanopoulos exchange on the Tuesday, April 7 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: George, the President has now had his first week as President on the international stage. So, let's do a little summing up. Overall, the pluses from this trip?
There was lots of bad news for the GOP in the newest CBS News/New York Times poll, the results of which were trumpeted in Tuesday's lead story slot by Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee: "Poll Finds New Optimism on Economy Since Inauguration." The story came with a large front-page graph showing how people think "the country is going in the right direction." But are the numbers tilted unfairly toward the Democrats? Are there really 67% more Democrats out there than Republicans, as the poll's demographic breakdown indicates?
The poll contained a sliver of good news for Republicans that didn't make Nagourney's story: Twelve percent of respondents now think Iraq is going very well, a historic high for that stat. Another 50% say its going "somewhat well," 23% say somewhat badly, and only 7% say very badly. Seven percent is the lowest that last figure has been since the first question was first asked in a CBS-only poll in May 2003.
[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
Monday's CBS Evening News highlighted how the poll pegged Obama's approval at 66 percent, the highest ever in that survey the CBSNews.com online posting touted: "Obama Approval Hits New High -- 66%." Reporter Chip Reid showcased more positive poll results for Obama's trip, as "67 percent of Americans believe the President will return to the U.S. with the respect of world leaders." More on CBS's coverage in the April 7 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
An excerpt from the April 7 New York Times article:
Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country in the 11 weeks since President Obama was inaugurated, suggesting that he is enjoying some success in his critical task of rebuilding the nation's confidence, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
These sometimes turbulent weeks -- marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House -- do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.
By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.
It is not unusual for new presidents to enjoy a period of public support. Still, the durability of Mr. Obama's support contrasts with that of some of his predecessors at the same point in their terms. It is also striking at a time when anxiety has gripped households across the country and Mr. Obama has alternately sought to rally Americans' spirits and warn against economic collapse as he seeks Congressional support for his programs.
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.nytimes.com
The demographic breakdown of poll respondents at the end of the poll show a huge gap between the parties:
The secret "weighting" ingredients used by the Times and CBS somehow managed to double the lead of Democratic respondents from the raw 8.5 points to a yawning 16 points. The traditional gap for CBS-NYT polls is around nine points in favor of the Democrats.
Another indication of possible over-sampling of Democrats: Among respondents who voted, Obama won their presidential vote by a massive 18 percentage points over John McCain, 43%-25%. The actual popular vote result was 53%-46% in favor of Obama, only a seven-point win.
Digging into the actual questions from the poll, one notices the Times and CBS resurrected a left-wing question it hasn't asked in a poll since July 2002:
36. Do you think big business has too much influence, too little influence, or the right amount of influence on the Republican party?
37. Do you think big business has too much influence, too little influence, or the right amount of influence on the Democratic party?
More black-and-white left-wingery:
42. Do you think Barack Obama cares more about protecting the interests of ordinary working people or cares more about protecting the interests of large corporations?
What about capitalists who think that large corporations are more often than not beneficial to the interests of working people (for one thing, they provide jobs)? The poll doesn't offer that as a choice -- you're either for the people or for "the man."
The poll contained a sliver of good news for Republicans that didn't make Nagourney's story:
64. "How would you say things are going for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq? Would you say things are going very well, somewhat well, somewhat badly, or very badly?"
Twelve percent of respondents now think Iraq is going very well, a historic high for that stat. Another 50% say its going "somewhat well," 23% say somewhat badly, and only 7% say very badly. Seven percent is the lowest that last figure has been since the first question was first asked in a CBS-only poll in May 2003.
For the latest instances of bias in the New York Times, check TimesWatch: www.timeswatch.org
"The New York Times Co. is threatening to shut down the Boston Globe and deprive the world of its hard-hitting brand of journalism," James Taranto sarcastically noted in his Tuesday "Best of the Web Today" for the Wall Street Journal's online "Opinion Journal" page, mockingly citing "an example of what would be lost is a column by Peter S. Canellos, the paper's Washington bureau chief, titled 'In a Stroke of Brilliance, Obama Defies Easy Caricature.'"
Taranto's April 7 compilation: online.wsj.com
Unlike recent Presidents, Canellos contended in his weekly "National Perspectives" column in the Globe's news pages, "Obama, so far, seems to occupy a place in the popular culture beyond humor. Ridicule doesn't touch him. His personality defies easy categorization." Even the "few running gags to emerge from the Obama administration -- aides not paying their taxes, Treasury officials rewarding fat-cats" -- rebounds to Obama's benefit, Canellos argued, as he effused: "The only one that pertains to the President himself is the straight-faced devotion he inspires. Obama may not actually be perfect, but so many poor souls out there think he is."
An observation about the press corps?
"He's come off, at times, as a bit pompous and humorless," Canellos acknowledged before again turning a criticism of Obama into a positive: "[T]hat perception really hasn't taken hold. There was a point in the primary election campaign when Obama's opponents tried to call attention to his aloofness, but as president he has actually leveraged that same dignity-bordering-on-vanity to reinforce the idea that he stands apart from the detested politics as usual."
Pouring on the admiration, Canellos trumpeted: "The president's genius so far has been in casting his program as a pragmatic response to current emergencies and longer-term threats. His calm, serious manner, magnified by his intelligence and command over the issues, reinforces the perception of a diligent public servant at work."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Canellos is the editor of 'Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,' a Simon & Schuster book based on a glowing Globe series on Kennedy. (The screen shot to be posted with this CyberAlert is from an interview about it on the March 21 edition of CNN's The Situation Room.) The Weekly Standard's Philip Terzian ridiculed the book's premise in a March 30 review:
Last Lion purports to be a serious account of Kennedy's career, and his impact on American history. This would have been easier to accomplish if the Globe writers had undertaken an objective assessment of their subject, but that is not the intent here. The point of Last Lion is to transform Kennedy's undistinguished tenure in the Senate, and his thwarted ambition in national politics, into a kind of virtual triumph. To be sure, to pull it off would require the narrative skills of a gymnast -- to twist the facts to shape the thesis -- and the Globe writers are only newspapermen....
Instead of recognizing that Kennedy's political future perished with Mary Jo Kopechne, and that's that, Last Lion argues that the death of his presidential ambitions "liberated" Kennedy to dominate the Senate -- and by inference, his times.
This is complete nonsense. Kennedy's rear-guard warfare against a resurgent conservatism in the 1980s and '90s -- most notably his personal assault on Judge Robert Bork -- was purely reactionary. There is no major legislation, certainly nothing resembling a political philosophy, associated with Kennedy's name. And for all his passion in repeating Theodore Sorensen's sonorous prose, his most famous pronouncement is his incoherent response to Roger Mudd's innocuous question, "Why do you want to be president?"
END of Excerpt
For the entire review: www.weeklystandard.com
An excerpt from the April 7 Canellos column:
WASHINGTON - Within a few months of a new presidency, most Americans usually have a line on their chief's personality -- a sense of his colorful foibles, annoying habits, and potential vulnerabilities.
Bill Clinton, who received a haircut on an idling Air Force One while other planes were waiting, was self-indulgent. George W. Bush, who was in the gym on a workday when a man fired a gun near the White House gates, was lazy in a frat-boyish way....
While these caricatures dominated late-night comedy, they provided -- to a surprising degree -- a road map to their future struggles. Personality was prologue for many presidents.
Clinton went on to tell lies. George W. Bush failed to think through his policies. "Tricky Dick" Nixon engaged in a real-world conspiracy. And Ronald Reagan, whose genial, grandfatherly manner could be reassuring, failed to pay enough attention to his aides' machinations in what became the Iran-contra scandal.
So what's Barack Obama's line? There isn't one yet, and that by itself could become his line.
Obama, so far, seems to occupy a place in the popular culture beyond humor. Ridicule doesn't touch him. His personality defies easy categorization.
Of the few running gags to emerge from the Obama administration -- aides not paying their taxes, Treasury officials rewarding fat-cats -- the only one that pertains to the president himself is the straight-faced devotion he inspires. Obama may not actually be perfect, but so many poor souls out there think he is.
Otherwise, Obama has successfully avoided the kind of pratfalls that loom large on TV and crystallize perceptions.
Once, he got caught making an unpleasant joke comparing his bad bowling skills to the Special Olympics. But he quickly apologized and no one believes that he's habitually insensitive.
He's come off, at times, as a bit pompous and humorless -- but that perception really hasn't taken hold. There was a point in the primary election campaign when Obama's opponents tried to call attention to his aloofness, but as president he has actually leveraged that same dignity-bordering-on-vanity to reinforce the idea that he stands apart from the detested politics as usual....
The president's genius so far has been in casting his program as a pragmatic response to current emergencies and longer-term threats. His calm, serious manner, magnified by his intelligence and command over the issues, reinforces the perception of a diligent public servant at work....
END of Excerpt
For the complete column: www.boston.com
CNN latched onto two separate poll results on Monday that indicated about half of Americans view the Islamic world negatively or don't trust Muslim allies as much as other allies, and indicated that President Obama and others in authority need to be "educators" for the public about Islam. The network brought up the polls' results on seven different occasions on Monday.
During the 8 am Eastern hour of American Morning, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour first brought up a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll which found that 55 percent of Americans "concede that they lack a good basic understanding of Islam" and that 48 percent "hold an unfavorable opinion of Islam." After she read these results, substitute anchor Carol Costello responded: "I think the difference is that many Americans see Islam as an ideology instead of a religion, and maybe, President Obama has to kind of -- kind of put a definition on it from the American standpoint in Turkey."
[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For ABC's full poll results, see their April 5 item, "Most Back Outreach to Muslim Nations, But Suspicion & Unfamiliarity Persist," at: abcnews.go.com
Later, near the end of the noon hour of the Newsroom program, Amanpour appeared again, this time with anchor Tony Harris. He asked the correspondent to "talk us through some recent polling in The Washington Post that suggests that the president is going to have to play the role of educator-in-chief when it comes to explaining Islam to many in America, even as he works for better relations with the Islamic world." Amanpour first answered that President Obama was "trying to smooth...over and correct" the "terrible rupture" between the U.S. and the Islamic world over the past eight years.
After repeating the two poll results she read on the earlier program, she continued: "So there is an enormous amount of work to be done, and I don't think actually it's just the president. I think it's really schools, it's media, it's the whole sort of public sphere of public debate. And to that end, we here at CNN have a two-hour documentary coming up. My next documentary is, in fact, on the next generation of Muslim youth."
It should be noted that the last time that Amanpour had a multi-hour documentary on religion, she sympathized with Muslim "fundamentalists" in the U.S., while comparing Christian conservatives to the Taliban.
For more on Amanpour's documentary, which was entitled "God's Warriors," see Matthew Balan's August 24, 2007 item on NewsBusters.org, "On CNN, Muslim 'Warrior' Gets Sympathetic Treatment, Christians Are 'Totalitarian,'" at: newsbusters.org
Over four hours later, at the bottom half of 5 pm Eastern hour of The Situation Room, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley introduced some of CNN's own poll results on a related question, which asked "Americans if they think the U.S. should trust Muslim allies as much as other allies. The country's split -- 51 percent said yes, 48 percent said no." Anchor Wolf Blitzer would go on to ask The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes about this result an hour later during a panel discussion.
During a segment on the No Bias, No Bull program nearly two hours later, anchor Roland Martin condescendingly asked the Reverend Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, about this specific poll number: "Al, this poll is pretty interesting -- 48 percent of the people not trusting our Muslim allies. Is this because we're, frankly, fighting two wars in Muslim countries, or is it a matter of, frankly, Americans having no clue about Muslims and then just operating off of ignorance and their own views, and not facts?"
Anchor Anderson Cooper would bring up CNN's poll number one more time. Twenty-five minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour of his Anderson Cooper 360 program, he asked senior political analyst David Gergen for his take on it. Gergen sort of brushed it aside as the latest scare: "Well, we've heard so much anti-Muslim talk for so long since 9/11, it's not -- that's not unnatural. You know, polls in the past showed a lot of anti-China sentiment. There was a time when there was a huge amount of anti-Soviet sentiment in this country. It -- I think, actually, the Muslim world is doing better than I would have expected in that -- in that poll."
ABC reporter Bill Weir didn't exactly grill Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane when he interviewed him for Nightline's ongoing "Seriously Funny" segment on Monday. The journalist failed to bring up some of the most egregious examples of MacFarlane's cartoon vulgarity, including a March 8 episode that featured bestiality jokes, a gay-hating Jesus Christ and an 11-way gay orgy. See a March 13 column by Brent Bozell for details: www.mediaresearch.org
Instead, Weir only vaguely alluded to such instances and asserted: "But, like those other cartoons, his shows raise the most ire with religious and parental watchdog groups. If there is a taboo line, chances are MacFarlane has leaped over it." He did read off a list of topics the show has skewered and then wondered: "Where is the line for you? Is there a line or is that the point?" Once again, however, Weir had no specifics to follow-up. Did he ask about the October 19, 2008 episode in which the program's baby character, Stewie Griffin dressed up as a Nazi and wore a McCain/Palin button? No. MacFarlane, a Barack Obama supporter and liberal Democrat, wasn't forced to talk about that particular low blow. See an October 19 NewsBusters posting for more: newsbusters.org
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
At one point, after MacFarlane admitted that Family Guy is in terrible taste, Weir simply laughed and mildly added, "They [conservative groups] make the argument it's -- with an animated show a kid going to stop the remote." More often, however, he simply allowed MacFarlane to ruminate, uninterrupted about the minor restrictions the show does operate under, such as not being able to say "Jesus Christ" as an expletive. He elaborated:
SETH MACFARLANE: If they said to me you can have one phrase that you can use that's not allowed on TV as an expletive, it would be Jesus Christ. Because I'm from New England, people go, "Oh Jesus Christ." You know, it's, it's just how people talk. And that's the most frustrating for me is that there are times when Peter has to say damn it and it just doesn't have the extra punch, as, you know, the New England guy shouting "God damn it," you know?
And this comment from MacFarlane elicited only a laugh, but no shock: "You can't say Jesus Christ as an expletive, but if you say it, and you widen to him [Jesus], you know, in bed with a hooker and then it's fine." Weir simply followed up by querying, "Do you think under a, a Democratic administration you're gonna be able to get away with more?"
A partial transcript of the April 6 segment:
BILL WEIR: Then there are the animation purists who dismiss his work as crudely drawn and derivative. Some hate his tangents- [Brief Family Guy clip] -when a story line veers off into a meaningless chicken fight. The debate has even sparked a kind of cartoon war with other shows.
Interviewing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts challenged the Democratic politician from the left on guns. After bringing up the tragic shootings that occurred last week in New York and Pittsburgh, Roberts quizzed: "Under the Bush administration, you pretty much said the ball was in their court when it came to reinstating the [assault weapons] ban. Now, it's a Democratic President, a Democratic House. So, is the ball in your court where this is concerned?"
After noting that the shooter in Pennsylvania feared that President Obama would reinstate the assault weapons ban, Roberts wondered: "And how do you reconcile that with the work that you have to do in trying to stem these types of surges in gun purchases?"
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On another subject, co-host Diane Sawyer teased the Pelosi segment with an oddly phrased intro. She asserted, "And conservatives attack President Obama for reaching out to Muslims on his trip to Turkey." Now, many conservatives have accused the President of being too accommodating in his overseas trip, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has attacked Obama for showing weakness, but neither Sawyer, nor Roberts explained which conservative is slamming Obama for "reaching out to Muslims."
Roberts, to her credit, did challenge Speaker Pelosi with the words of Gingrich. She repeated, "Newt Gingrich said this about that [the missile launch in North Korea]. He said, quote, 'It was a vivid demonstration of weakness in foreign policy.' And he went on to say that the U.S. is under greater risk of attack under President Obama than President Bush. How do you respond to that?"
On a lighter note, Roberts closed the interview by promoting Pelosi's book, "Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters." She enthused: "It's been a bestseller." Currently, the book ranks 288,079 at Amazon and also made a splash in its first week in release for selling just 2,737 copies.
A transcript of the April 7 segment, which aired at 7:14:
Late on Tuesday's Today show, NBC's Michael Okwu declared hugging is all the rage now that President Obama, AKA "The Hugger-in-Chief," has replaced handshakes with hugs. Al Roker introduced the Okwu story as he pondered: "With the uncertain economy and shrinking 401(k)s we could all use a little hug, even President Obama, "The Hugger-in-Chief." Early in the piece Okwu threw it to NBC News presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who analyzed: "I would rank him, way at the top, in the pantheon of presidential huggers."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Ann Curry teased the story: "Coming up next, President Obama has been coined 'The Hugger-In-Chief,' but should we all embrace the greeting?"
Roker's tease: "Then a little bit later on, over on his overseas trip the President may have been all smiles and handshakes but he's beginning to be known as the 'Hugger-in-Chief,' in fact. We're gonna take a look at that and see what it all means. Ah, nothing, nothing wrong with a nice hug."
The eventual piece, in the 9:30 AM EDT half hour, was interrupted for the breaking news of President Obama's arrival in Iraq, but here's the portion of the story which aired on the April 7 Today show:
ROKER: With the uncertain economy and shrinking 401(k)s we could all use a little hug, even President Obama, "The Hugger-in-Chief." From the White House to the workplace handshakes are out, hugs are in. NBC's Michael Okwu explains.
-- Brent Baker