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Today's Idea of Balanced Guests: James Carville and Paul Begala? --9/27/2006


1. Today's Idea of Balanced Guests: James Carville and Paul Begala?
Viewers of this Tuesday's Today expecting a balanced panel discussing Bill Clinton's outburst at Fox News were greeted with James Carville debating Paul Begala. Meredith Vieira, for the most part, sat back as Carville and Begala pumped up Clinton, rallied the Democratic base and attacked everything from the administration's war on terror to Condoleezza Rice, to Fox News. There was no Michael Smerconish or any other vaguely right-of-center counterpart to make points against Clinton's outburst. Vieira did at least challenge the Clinton duo a few times, but she also proposed: "Do you think, in a way, Clinton was giving this party a backbone saying, 'When you're accused of not being tough on terror ya gotta speak up.'"

2. CNN's Cafferty Again Derides Fox News Channel as 'F-Word Network'
On Tuesday, for at least the second time this year, CNN's Jack Cafferty derided the Fox News Channel as "the F-word network." In his "Cafferty File" segment on The Situation Room, he alluded to collusion in regards to an interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the New York Post editorial board. After being introduced by host Wolf Blitzer in the 4pm EDT hour, Cafferty observed: "The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same guy that owns the F-word network, the Fox News Channel, right?"

3. CNN: Are Falling Gas Prices a Conspiracy Between Big Oil and GOP?
For the third time in less then a month, CNN has aired a report investigating the connection between falling gas prices and the GOP's fortunes in the looming fall election. This time, on Monday's American Morning, reporter Ali Velshi looked into the conspiracy theory that oil companies are trying to help Republicans by dropping prices. Co-Anchor Soledad O'Brien teased the report: "Ahead this morning, is there a conspiracy behind the drop in gas prices? Bloggers say there is something fishy going on." Velshi gave credibility to the theory: "Are lower gas prices a Republican plot? This blogger wonders if Republicans are trying to soften voters, who have spent the last year angry about high prices." He even asked: "Could President Bush have had anything to do with plummeting gas prices?" Velshi doubted the conspiracy idea, but then offered up: "Maybe the oil companies realize that the Democrats coming in, it's going to be bad for them, because the Democrats have pretty much said to the oil companies, we're going to pile the taxes on if we, we take over in November."

4. Taranto Knocks AP's 'Invidious Equivalence' of 9/11 v War Deaths
Calling it an "invidious equivalence," James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com offered a "glib," "obvious" and "really important" response to a Friday AP dispatch about how "U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history." AP reporter Calvin Woodward went on to assert that the Iraq war reflects a "rich man's war, poor man's fight."

5. Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Hugo Chavez Is Nuts"
Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Hugo Chavez Is Nuts."


Today's Idea of Balanced Guests: James
Carville and Paul Begala?

Viewers of this Tuesday's Today expecting a balanced panel discussing Bill Clinton's outburst at Fox News were greeted with James Carville debating Paul Begala. Meredith Vieira, for the most part, sat back as Carville and Begala pumped up Clinton, rallied the Democratic base and attacked everything from the administration's war on terror to Condoleezza Rice, to Fox News. There was no Michael Smerconish or any other vaguely right-of-center counterpart to make points against Clinton's outburst.

Vieira did at least challenge the Clinton duo a few times. She asked: "But James even he admitted, even he admitted that he did not do enough when asked. He said he did not do enough but he tried, as he put it." And: "In any way do you think that Clinton speaking out so forcefully could backfire and that people would say that it just represents how little the Democrats have done?"

But she also proposed: "Do you think, in a way, Clinton was giving this party a backbone saying, 'When you're accused of not being tough on terror ya gotta speak up.'"

[This item is adopted from a Tuesday afternoon posting by Geoffrey Dickens on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following is a transcript of the entire September 26 segment:

Meredith Vieira: "Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala worked closely with former President Clinton, their book, Take It Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory is now out in paperback and updated with new material. Good morning to both of you gentlemen. I want to start with you James."
James Carville: "Alright."
Vieira: "You know Clinton very well, you've seen his temper up close. What set him off in this interview was when Chris Wallace said and he's actually, he was taking this question from the emails he's, he had received from viewers. He said, so many viewers had asked him to ask Clinton, 'why didn't you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?' After that the finger-wagging started and the pointing and the accusations, accusations of a conservative hit job. So was this an example of genuine outrage on the part of the President? Had Wallace, maybe struck a chord with him, hit a nerve with him? Or was it pure calculation? Or maybe a combination of all three?"
Carville: "Well first of all it was, it was the first. And it was not in a vacuum that we had the Disney fiction where they had made up facts and you know, from some Rush Limbaugh guy and tried to send it out to schoolchildren. So we weren't very happy about that as you can imagine. And the President wasn't really happy about that. Secondly he had been at it for a long time. He raised $7 billion. The interview was supposed to be, the first half was supposed to be-"
Vieira: "About the Initiative."
Carville: "-about the Clinton Global Initiative. You know what and Democrats are just tired of it. And he is, was sick of the double standard. We're sick of the fact that, that, that the media always asks one thing, they'll never ask the Bush administration another. And you know what? I'm glad he did it. And I think he made a very good point. And I think people around the country are saying, 'We don't have to live under this regime any more, where there's a blatant double-standard.' And I feel very good about it."
Vieira: "But James even he admitted, even he admitted that he did not do enough when asked. He said he did not do enough but he tried, as he put it, but-"
Carville: "He, he was saying, right, and he gave his answer. And everything that the President said was factual. Not one assertion of fact has been challenged."
Vieira: "Well-"
Carville: "Secretary Rice says, 'we did more,' but Fox in 34 different interviews had never asked a senior Republican why didn't they try to get Bin Laden? That's a very fair question. They can't answer the question. And the public, the public wants to have a fair debate. They don't want this thing where you blame Clinton for everything but ya scared to ask Bush."
Vieira: "But not everybody agrees that what he said was fact, that's-"
Carville: "Who?"
Vieira: "Condoleezza Rice for example. She, she responded, wait a second, let me get this out, to the charge that the Bush administration did nothing to stop Bin Laden prior to 9/11. And she said, quote, 'The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false. I think the 9/11 Commission understood that what we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years.' And even more damaging than that is Michael Scheuer who led the CIA's hunt for Bin Laden under Clinton. He said Clinton was responsible for not getting Bin Laden. That there were 10 chances to kill or capture Bin Laden before 9/11. So Paul how much bluster, how much fact?"
Paul Begala: "Well here are the facts on the Bush record versus the Clinton record. We know that the CIA came to the President on August 6, President's daily briefing and they said, Bin Laden has a plan to attack America. And according to Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who's written a book, the President told that briefer, 'Okay you've covered your rear end.' Cleaned it up a little for morning television. My wife and kids are watching. We know that. We know that Dick Cheney was ordered to chair a task force on terrorism as soon as they took office. The task force never met with Cheney until after 9/11. We know that the Bush administration had a plan handed to them by the Clinton administration, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism czar, handed this plan to Condoleezza Rice. She put it on a shelf until September 11th."
Vieira: "But even your wife, James, said on television last night, Mary Matalin, there was no plan."
Carville: "Well of course there was."
Begala: "She's wrong."
Carville: "Well she's wrong. Condoleezza Rice, my wife didn't, and what did Condoleezza Rice tell the Congress under oath?"
Begala: "She testified to the 9/11 commission that retaliating for the Cole bombing, which was the question that set him off with, Chris Wallace asked the President, would have been a bad idea. That's what she said, 'A bad idea.' Now Dr. Rice has appeared 23 times on Fox News Sunday and they never asked her why it would be a bad idea to counterattack against the terrorists who attacked us."
Vieira: "Why would Clinton appear on this? First time he's appeared on Fox News Sunday and even his own spokesperson said he felt that Chris Wallace had an agenda, that Fox News has an agenda."
Carville: "Oh come on! You think it? Ahhh noo, noo!"
Begala: "Breaking news here?"
Vieira: "No, wait, wait so why would he appear?"
Carville: "Fox News has an agenda?"
Vieira: "Exactly. So why would he, why would-"
Carville: "Are you really asking me a serious question?"
Vieira: "I am asking you a serious question."
Carville: "Fox News, are you asking me if Fox News has an agenda?"
Vieira: "No, no, no. I'm saying what the spokesperson said that, 'we believe that they have an agenda. We knew that going in.' Okay so why would he go in?"
Carville: "Because it was-"
Vieira: "That's the question. Was there politics here? Was he thinking, 'I'm gonna set the record straight.'"
Carville: "But you know what? Can I answer it?"
Vieira: "Absolutely."
Carville: "Rupert Murdoch, who's the head of Fox News was at the Clinton Global Initiative. This was a deal that raised $7 billion. Bill Clinton is the most popular, probably relevant human being on the Earth today. So in this, in this he says, 'Okay they're coming up, I will do this.' Do, does everybody know, is, is there a serious person out there that doesn't say Fox News has an agenda? So they come right out the shoot and you know what I feel so liberated that he did this."
Vieira: "In what way James?
Carville: "And, and, and, and he made and by the way, not a single, Condoleezza Rice didn't have a fact. She just said, I think, she said she didn't want to retaliate for the Cole. We know there was a plan over at, and, and, and they said, well in her answer, and they asked, 'well we were at least as good as the Clinton administration.' No you weren't. The Clinton administration was much more aggressive."
Vieira: "You said, you said you felt liberated. I want to ask you because you guys have argued for a long time, I mean you've been hard on your own party-"
Begala: "Yes."
Vieira: "-saying, 'you need to get a backbone.' Do you think, in a way, Clinton was giving this party a backbone saying, 'When you're accused of not being tough on terror ya gotta speak up.'"
Carville: "Right. You're right."
Begala: "And good Dr. Clinton gave us a spinal transplant on Sunday. You know the, the, for years-"
Vieira: "Will a transplant take place effectively when you have only 42 days to the midterm election?"
Carville: "I don't know."
Begala: "Well we, that's enough time."
Vieira: "Yeah?"
Begala: "Yes. But finally what, what Democrats have needed for a long time, they should've done this in the '02 elections, they should've done it in the '04 elections, is stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. George W. Bush has not kept you safe, America. He has not fought a successful war against terror and al Qaeda is growing, re-grouping, re-training, re-arming and they're coming back to get us because of the failed policies of George Bush. That's finally, instead Democrats have been cowering saying, 'Oh okay he's good on terrorism.' Well that's the biggest issue. If you concede that, you concede the election."
Vieira: "In any way do you think that Clinton speaking out so forcefully could backfire and that people would say that it just represents how little the Democrats have done?"
Carville: "I don't think, I don't think it'll backfire at all. I think people are sitting there saying, here's a guy raising $7 billion. As the facts keep coming out. We have the Disney fiction. If, if he was so bad why did they have to make up movies? Why can't they just give us the factual thing? Of course they can't do that. And, and I think that and President Clinton will say, 'Sure, I, there were some things if I could do them all over I would do differently.' Who would not do that? That's a very human, very honest thing to say. But when you're under this circumstance where you have this, this double standard that has been applied in this country for so long and Democrats are tired of it. In, in everywhere I was in, I was in Miami. I flew up on Sunday, people were stopping me, 'You tell President Clinton thank God.' I spoke to him and I say, 'Mr. President people all over the country are, are, are saying this. And, look did he, was he two degrees too hot or something? Maybe so. But you know what? It got everybody's attention and now Condoleezza Rice has not gone on any shows where she knows that she's not gonna be asked this now is she? Has she? She hasn't been asked before but new game, new day America."
Vieira: "You like liberation don't ya?"
Carville: "I like liberation."
Vieira: "James Carville, Paul Begala, thank you so much."

CNN's Cafferty Again Derides Fox News
Channel as 'F-Word Network'

On Tuesday, for at least the second time this year, CNN's Jack Cafferty derided the Fox News Channel as "the F-word network." In his "Cafferty File" segment on The Situation Room, he alluded to collusion in regards to an interview Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the New York Post editorial board. After being introduced by host Wolf Blitzer in the 4pm EDT hour, this exchange occurred:

Cafferty: "How you doing, Wolf? You mentioned Condoleezza Rice met with the editorial board of the New York Post today, right?"
Blitzer: "Right."
Cafferty: "Yeah, the New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the same guy that owns the F-word network, the Fox News Channel, right?"
Blitzer: "Right."
Cafferty: "Just wanted to connect those dots for our viewers."
Blitzer: "Good."

[This item is adopted from a Tuesday afternoon posting, by Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

This isn't the first time that Cafferty has used a vaguely profane term to describe the Fox News Channel. After FNC's Brit Hume interviewed Vice President Cheney in February, Cafferty took the cheap shot at FNC. CyberAlert recounted at the time: Admitting he hadn't seen the interview, at about 4:15pm EST Wednesday on CNN's The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty charged that "it didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the Vice President to wander over there to the F-word network for a sit-down with Brit Hume. I mean, that's a little like Bonnie interviewing Clyde, ain't it?" Cafferty soon called FNC a "safe haven" for Dick Cheney and predicted "he's not going to get any high hard ones from anybody at the F-word network." See: www.mrc.org


Cafferty outlined his question for his 4pm EDT segment on the September 26 show, based on a bleak description of the situation in Afghanistan:
"Support in the United States for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low. A new CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation shows that only 50 percent of Americans support the war in Afghanistan. 48 percent oppose it. At the beginning of that war in 2001, 90 percent, Nine out of ten Americans, supported our efforts in Afghanistan. And as recently as 2003, two-thirds of Americans backed the operation. Part of the reason for the decline in support may be because Afghanistan is beginning to look more and more like Iraq. Just today, 17 people died in an attack in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber. The Taliban making a comeback in many parts of the country. There is a report today that in some places in Afghanistan, women are once again required to wear a burqa when appearing in public. That's progress. And Afghanistan's opium cultivation is up 59 percent this year over a year ago, contributing mightily to the world's heroin problem. So here is the question: 'Why is support for the war in Afghanistan declining? Among Americans?'E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.Com. Or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Wolf?"

CNN: Are Falling Gas Prices a Conspiracy
Between Big Oil and GOP?

For the third time in less then a month, CNN has aired a report investigating the connection between falling gas prices and the GOP's fortunes in the looming fall election. This time, on Monday's American Morning, reporter Ali Velshi looked into the conspiracy theory that oil companies are trying to help Republicans by dropping prices. Co-Anchor Soledad O'Brien teased the report: "Ahead this morning, is there a conspiracy behind the drop in gas prices? Bloggers say there is something fishy going on." Velshi gave credibility to the theory: "Are lower gas prices a Republican plot? This blogger wonders if Republicans are trying to soften voters, who have spent the last year angry about high prices." He even asked: "Could President Bush have had anything to do with plummeting gas prices?" Velshi doubted the conspiracy idea, but then offered up: "Maybe the oil companies realize that the Democrats coming in, it's going to be bad for them, because the Democrats have pretty much said to the oil companies, we're going to pile the taxes on if we, we take over in November."

[This item is adopted from a Monday afternoon posting, by Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

At 8:24am EDT, the program's other anchor, Miles O'Brien, introduced the September 25 segment and joined in the theorizing: "Well, the national average is now $2.38 for unleaded regular. One month ago, it was $2.87. A year ago, it was $2.79. The price is supposed to go even lower as we head toward the election. Hmm."

In fairness to American Morning and CNN, in the next sentence, Mr. O'Brien referred to bloggers who believe this as "the grassy knoll group." That led Velshi to quickly attempt to place some distance between himself and the conspiracy theorists:
"I'm not necessarily one of those."
Miles O'Brien:: "I'm not saying you are."
Velshi: "All right-"
O'Brien: "But they're out there."

And in fact, the report did feature an oil industry representative to knock down the argument. But reporter Velshi did entertain and seriously consider the conspiracy allegations of left wing bloggers:
"Cheaper gas -- finally. But why? Well, the legendary summer driving season is over. No hurricanes have damaged Gulf Coast rigs and refineries. But with a little more than six weeks to the mid-term elections, the blogs are buzzing with other theories. Are lower gas prices a Republican plot? This blogger wonders if Republicans are trying to soften voters, who have spent the last year angry about high prices. [Reads from Web sites] 'I predict it will work, by the way. The Republicans will retain control of Congress.' 'Those Republicans need all the help they can get, and big oil is doing the best they can to assist.'"

A representative of the oil industry was brought on to briefly refute the conspiracy. After that, Velshi returned to wondering if maybe, just maybe, the President could be involved:
"Back in July, both crude oil and gasoline hit their highest recorded prices. Gas was averaging about $3 a gallon. By mid-September, oil had dropped about $15 a barrel, so gas should have dropped about $0.45 a gallon. It actually dropped $0.50 a gallon, and it's dropped more since then. Could President Bush have had anything to do with plummeting gas prices? We asked Professor Akshay Rao, who studies pricing strategies."
Professor Rao, of the University of Minnesota, downplayed the theory, but didn't dismiss it all together. In fact, he posited another hypothesis in its place:
"Surely, if he picked up the phone and made, you know, five or 10 strategic phone calls, he might be able to influence prices to some degree. But, you know, I -- I think that it's a fairly farfetched theory."
Velshi: "What's more conceivable, according to Rao, is that the energy industry cut prices without any prompting from Washington. That's because they're worried that if the Democrats win, they'll follow up on threats to tax the energy industry more heavily."

At the close of the segment, Velshi and co-anchor Miles O'Brien, seemed to settle on this middle ground theory:

Velshi: "Now, whether they actually did it or didn't do it is an interesting question. I don't think it's -- they could do it. The oil companies -- this doesn't -- there doesn't need to be any conspiracy here. So, for the conspiracy theorists, they can have that put to bed. Maybe the oil companies realize that the Democrats coming in, it's going to be bad for them, because the Democrats have pretty much said to the oil companies, we're going to pile the taxes on if we, we take over in November."
O'Brien: "Which is why there'll be no e-mails saying this. It just-"
Velshi: "No smoking gun."
O'Brien: "-if it is happening, it just happens organically, shall we say?"

In other words, we may not endorse all the bloggers theories, but there has to be some sort of conspiring between the GOP and "Big Oil." CNN certainly seems infatuated with giving air time to this topic. Ten days ago, Bill Schneider discussed the subject in a report for The Situation Room. At the end of August, Jack Cafferty came right out and repeated the claims of the liberal bloggers:
"You know, if you were a real cynic, you could also wonder if the oil companies might not be pulling the price of gas down to help the Republicans get re-elected in the midterm elections a couple of months away."

For more, check the August 31 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

As stated earlier, Miles O'Brien began the story by referring to people who believe in these theories as "the grassy knoll group." After three stories inside of a month, it might be fair to wonder, does CNN belong in that club too?

Taranto Knocks AP's 'Invidious Equivalence'
of 9/11 v War Deaths

Calling it an "invidious equivalence," James Taranto of OpinionJournal.com offered a "glib," "obvious" and "really important" response to a Friday AP dispatch about how "U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history." AP reporter Calvin Woodward went on to assert that the Iraq war reflects a "rich man's war, poor man's fight."

Taranto's item in his September 25 "Best of the Web" e-mailed report:

An Invidious Equivalence

You had to know this was coming. From the Associated Press Friday:

"Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next. Add casualties from chasing terrorists elsewhere in the world, and the total has passed the Sept. 11 figure.

"The latest milestone for a country at war comes without commemoration. It also may well come without the precision of knowing who is the 2,973rd man or woman of arms to die in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just when it happens. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"Not for the first time, war that was started to answer death has resulted in at least as much death for the country that was first attacked, quite apart from the higher numbers of enemy and civilians killed."

We have three points to make, one glib, one obvious and one really important.

Glib: Why are they counting the deaths in Iraq, which, as we keep hearing, had nothing to do with 9/11?

Obvious: Were there any news stories noting the "milestone" of World War II deaths surpassing those at Pearl Harbor?

Really important: This comparison is an insult to the servicemen who've made the ultimate sacrifice. They volunteered to do a dangerous job, knowing that it might cost them their lives. They deserve to be remembered as heroes, not victims like the civilians who were murdered on 9/11.

END of Excerpt

For that edition of Taranto's daily rundown: www.opinionjournal.com

The archive page for "Best of the Web" postings: www.opinionjournal.com

On Yahoo, the September 22 story by Calvin Woodward, of the AP's Washington, DC bureau, was headlined: "War price on U.S. lives equal to 9/11." Beyond the opening of the article quoted by Taranto, Woodward went on assert that the Iraq war reflects a "rich man's war, poor man's fight." From the last paragraphs of the story:

....A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time.

Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34 percent have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17 percent from the highest income level.

That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.

Eye-for-an-eye vengeance was not the sole motivator for what happened after the 2001 attacks any more than Pearl Harbor alone was responsible for all that followed. But Pearl Harbor caught the U.S. in the middle of mobilization, debate, rising tensions with looming enemies and a European war already in progress. Historians doubt anyone paid much attention to sad milestones once America threw itself into the fight.

In contrast, the United States had no imminent war intentions against anyone on Sept. 10, 2001. One bloody day later, it did.

END of Excerpt

For the AP story in full: news.yahoo.com

Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Hugo Chavez
Is Nuts"

From this week's "Late Show Newsletter" distributed by e-mail on Monday, "an exclusive un-aired Top Ten" list that didn't make it onto the air last week: "Top Ten Signs Hugo Chavez Is Nuts." Late Show with David Letterman home page: www.cbs.com

10. Concludes tense negotiations by dramatically asking, "Deal or no deal?"

9. Said Bush left behind smell of sulphur, when the smell is actually Old Spice and Milwaukee's Best

8. Opens every speech with a rousing, "Meeeeoooow!"

7. On flight over, watched all of Larry the Cable Guy movie

6. Son-of-a-bitch is eating tainted spinach like it's M&Ms

5. Told Geico he wasn't interested in saving 15% on car insurance

4. Despite security warnings, brought hair gel with him on airplane

3. 20-minute speech attacking Bush -- 30-minute speech praising Ventriloquist Week on the Late Show

2. Referred to his home country only as "Funkytown"

1. For some reason, called Bush the devil instead of Cheney

-- Brent Baker