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Totenberg Advises Democrats to Hit GOP on Tax Cuts for the Rich --10/24/2005


1. Totenberg Advises Democrats to Hit GOP on Tax Cuts for the Rich
When, on this past weekend's Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents -- "you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition" -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: "And you've got the tax cuts!" She soon offered her recommendation on how Democrats should campaign: "One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States,' the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that."

2. CBS Paints Longtime DeLay Critic, Who Calls Him a "Hog," as Fresh
On Friday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Lee Cowan filed a story on Congressman Tom DeLay's appearance in a Texas courtroom, which on some counts was balanced, but which glaringly highlighted a Republican critic of Tom DeLay who referred to him as a "hog." Although Fort Bend Star publisher Beverly Carter has been a longtime critic of DeLay who even endorsed his opponent in last year's election, Cowan simply referred to her as a "Republican precinct chairwoman," thus giving her credibility as if she were simply a typical local Republican leader.

3. Franken Jokes About Execution for Treason of Rove, Libby & Bush
"And so basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed" because "outing a CIA agent is treason," left-wing author and radio talk show host Al Franken asserted Friday night, to audience laughter, on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman. Franken qualified his hard-edged satire: "Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed it looks like." Franken later suggested that President Bush is at risk of receiving the same punishment, since Karl Rove likely told him what he did, but he added a caveat: "I think, by the way, that we should never ever, ever, ever execute a sitting President." with audio/video

4. Spike Lee: "Not Far-Fetched" to Say Levees Deliberately Destroyed
Declaring "it's not far-fetched," movie director Spike Lee affirmed on Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, that he believes Louis Farakhan's allegation that a levee was destroyed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to flood the nearly all-black ninth ward. Lee contended that "a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save another neighborhood and flood another 'hood, flood another neighborhood." ABC News reporter Michel Martin chimed in with how "anybody with any knowledge of history can understand why a lot of people can feel this way, that that's a reasonable theory." But she went on to dismiss the theory, prompting Lee to demand: "Presidents have been assassinated. So why is that so far-fetched?" To hearty applause from the Los Angeles audience, Lee asked: "Do you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don't think that was rigged?" Lee argued: "If they can rig an election, they can do anything!" Lee soon got into a heated exchange with MSNBC's Tucker Carlson as he raised the "Tuskegee experiment" as proof the U.S. government is capable of any abuse of blacks. Lee made similar allegations on CNN back on October 11. with audio/video


Totenberg Advises Democrats to Hit GOP
on Tax Cuts for the Rich

When, on this past weekend's Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents -- "you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition" -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: "And you've got the tax cuts!" She soon offered her recommendation on how Democrats should campaign: "One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States,' the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that."

[This item was posted early Sunday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To add your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Totenberg's been on a crusade. On the same show last month, as detailed in a September 26 CyberAlert posting (see: www.mrc.org ), she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks, to pay for Katrina recovery, as small change and suggested that "if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." A week earlier, she asserted that President Bush's New Orleans speech "would have been a great opportunity to say, 'look, I'm for tax cuts, but we need a Katrina tax, we need to really pay, to do this and to pay for it.'" See the September 19 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

And two weeks before that, as recounted with a video clip in the September 6 CyberAlert, Totenberg blamed tax cuts for the levee breakage: "For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us." Check: www.mrc.org

I caught Totenberg's latest outburst on the Friday night airing of Inside Washington on WETA-TV channel 26, Washington, DC's PBS affiliate. The program is taped at ABC's Washington, DC affiliate, WJLA-TV, channel 7 (actually in Arlington, Virginia), where it airs Sunday morning at 10am after This Week. It also runs Saturday nights at 7pm on NewsChannel 8, the local all-news cable channel owned by the ABC affiliate.

The exchange:

Gordon Peterson: "If you're running against a Republican in a vulnerable district, you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition."
Nina Totenberg, over Peterson: "And you've got the tax cuts!"
John Harwood, political editor of the Wall Street Journal: "And I do think the whole issue of having a positive agenda is somewhat over-rated in politics. A lot of politics is in reaction to how bad the person you're running against is. But Democrats do believe that by the middle of next year they've got to come up with a few bumper sticker points that they can run on and they probably will."
Peterson: "What's your platform? 'We're not the other guys.'"
Totenberg: "Well that's one of the things. One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States, the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that."
Harwood pointed out: "It didn't work so well for Democrats in '04 though."
Totenberg: "That's '04. I think-"

At that point she was cut off by panelist Colby King, a Washington Post editorial writer and columnist.

CBS Paints Longtime DeLay Critic, Who
Calls Him a "Hog," as Fresh

On Friday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Lee Cowan filed a story on Congressman Tom DeLay's appearance in a Texas courtroom, which on some counts was balanced, but which glaringly highlighted a Republican critic of Tom DeLay who referred to him as a "hog." Although Fort Bend Star publisher Beverly Carter has been a longtime critic of DeLay who even endorsed his opponent in last year's election, Cowan simply referred to her as a "Republican precinct chairwoman," thus giving her credibility as if she were simply a typical local Republican leader.

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org ]

The story began with Cowan relaying DeLay's criticisms of Judge Bob Perkins for links to the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, followed by a soundbite of DeLay accusing prosecutor Ronnie Earle of abusing his power. Cowan then proceeded to highlight "some Republicans who aren't buying it" and showed a couple of soundbites from Carter without conveying her anti-DeLay history to provide context. Notably, according to an article in the New York Times that ran on April 17 of this year, Carter admitted to having "got crosswise" with DeLay eight years earlier over his involvement in a local election for sheriff. Cowan did at least provide some balance by next highlighting a woman who "runs a neighborhood program for foster children that DeLay and his wife started years ago" and noted that he is "still plenty popular" in the district. Still, the failure to properly identify Carter gave an impression of greater Republican division in the district than perhaps really exists.

(NewsBusters contributor Noel Sheppard reported:

The problem is that Carter has been an outspoken foe of DeLay's for quite some time. John Judis of the New Republic wrote of this in May: "Beverly 'B.K.' Carter, grandmother and longtime editor of The Fort Bend Star, a weekly she publishes out of a strip mall in Stafford, Texas, holds up her a newly acquired t-shirt. It has a picture of Tom DeLay, Carter's U.S. representative, and says, 'the best Congressman money can buy.' She chuckles at the shirt but then frowns at the thought of the man it depicts. 'Every year he has done things that were questionable.'" See: www.tnr.com
In fact, Carter supported DeLay's Democratic opponent, Richard Morrison, in last November's elections. As she stated in an op-ed from the paper that she is editor of: "It won't kill you....Come on, It really won't hurt too much. I promise that parts of your body will not fall off. That's right! You, too, can vote for Democrat Richard Morrison to replace that scoundrel Tom DeLay." See: www.fortbendstar.com
For Sheppard's posting: newsbusters.org )


A complete transcript of the Friday October 21 story, anchored by Bob Schieffer:

Schieffer: "Tom DeLay has stepped aside as the House Republican Leader at least until charges that he violated campaign finance laws are decided, but that could take a while. Today, he went into a Texas court and managed to bring the whole proceeding to a dead stop. Lee Cowan now with our 'Inside Story.'"

Lee Cowan: "At times, it was hard to tell whether the Congressman's first court appearance was a criminal proceeding or a political debate. Within minutes, DeLay's attorney had the judge defending his ties to the Democratic party and liberal organizations like MoveOn.org."
Dick DeGuerin, attorney of Tom DeLay: "-to which you have contributed, was selling T-shirts with Mr. DeLay's mug shot on it to raise money."
Judge Bob Perkins, Travis County Texas District Court: "Well, let me just say I haven't ever seen that T-shirt, number one. Number two, I haven't bought it. Number three, the last time that I-"
Cowan: "It was Tom DeLay's latest claim that behind his indictment on conspiracy and money laundering charges is nothing but politics, and tweaked prosecutor Ronnie Earle when he asked for a new judge."
Ronnie Earle, Prosecutor: "And I think that's absurd."
Cowan: "DeLay left the courthouse to go to the Texas Statehouse, where he launched another blistering attack on Earle, who he named eight times in a four-minute statement."
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX): "The only reason I had to be in that courtroom today was because Ronnie Earle has abused his prosecutorial power."
Cowan: "That's been his defense all along, and some Republicans aren't buying it."
Beverly Carter, Republican Precinct Chairwoman: "I've not heard of any Republicans that are supporting Tom at this point. Win, lose or draw, whether he's guilty or not guilty, they've kind of had it with him."
Cowan: "And that's coming from a Republican precinct chairwoman in his home district."
Carter: "Pigs get fatter, but hogs get slaughtered, and Tom's been a hog."
Cowan: "Don't mistake that for lack of support. He's still plenty popular here. Margaret Gow runs a neighborhood program for foster children that DeLay and his wife started years ago."
Margaret Gow, Tom DeLay supporter: "He's very low-key about it in that he's doing it for the right reasons, and he knows that."
Cowan: "What he also knows is he's the first majority leader in history to ever be indicted, so no matter how big the smile on the mug shot, no matter how confident he appears in court, the prosecution may have already dealt a serious blow before the Congressman can even enter a plea. Lee Cowan, CBS News, Austin."

Franken Jokes About Execution for Treason
of Rove, Libby & Bush

"And so basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed" because "outing a CIA agent is treason," left-wing author and radio talk show host Al Franken asserted Friday night, to audience laughter, on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman. Franken qualified his hard-edged satire: "Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed it looks like."


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Franken later suggested that President Bush is at risk of receiving the same punishment, since Karl Rove likely told him what he did, but he added a caveat: "I think, by the way, that we should never ever, ever, ever execute a sitting President."

[This item was posted late Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. The node features video clips, in both RealPlayer and Windows Media formats, of the two exchanges quoted below. Go to: newsbusters.org ]

Joining the interview as Franken, who came aboard the October 21 program to plug his new book, The Truth (with jokes), delivered his explanation of the Valerie Plame case:

David Letterman: "The feeling was that this report made the administration's decision to go to war look bad-"
Al Franken: "Right. So they wanted to smear the guy who came back with the report, and so they out his wife and said she sent him there. This is essentially, you know, George H.W. Bush, the President's father, was the head of the CIA and he has said that outing a CIA agent is treason."
Letterman: "It is treason, yes."
Franken: "And so basically, what it looks like is going to happen is that Libby and Karl Rove are going to be executed."
[audience laughter over Letterman's response]
Letterman, in mock indignation: "What? What! Really?"
Franken cautioned: "Yeah. And I don't know how I feel about it because I'm basically against the death penalty, but they are going to be executed it looks like."

A bit later:

Letterman quipped: "The real crime is that there's an adult man walking around in the current administration named Scooter. I mean, we can agree on that, right?" [Audience laughter]
Franken combined the liberal spin on the case with some humor: "That, but sooner or later he'll be executed, so that, and you worry about because the President at some, he said right away when Novak outed the CIA agent, Plame, said 'I want to get to the bottom of this.' Well now Karl Rove is his right-hand man. Did he ask Karl? Did Karl lie to him? If so, we know he should have fired Karl by now so that, and did Karl tell the truth to him? In that case the President -- and I think, by the way, that we should never ever, ever, ever execute a sitting President." [Audience laughter]
Letterman: "It makes us look bad around the world, I think."
Franken, in jest: "It would. It would be heartbreaking, I think, and I think that we should have a constitutional amendment."
Letterman: "I see, yeah. Have we ever come close in the history to executing a seated President?"
Franken: "No, this will be the closest."
Letterman: "This will be the closest, yeah."
Franken: "Unless we get that amendment passed now."

Amazon's page for Franken's new book: www.amazon.com

Spike Lee: "Not Far-Fetched" to Say Levees
Deliberately Destroyed

Declaring "it's not far-fetched," movie director Spike Lee affirmed on Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, that he believes Louis Farakhan's allegation that a levee was destroyed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in order to flood the nearly all-black ninth ward. Lee contended that "a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save another neighborhood and flood another 'hood, flood another neighborhood."



Video

ABC News reporter Michel Martin chimed in with how "anybody with any knowledge of history can understand why a lot of people can feel this way, that that's a reasonable theory." But she went on to dismiss the theory, prompting Lee to demand: "Presidents have been assassinated. So why is that so far-fetched?" To hearty applause from the Los Angeles audience, Lee asked: "Do you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don't think that was rigged?" Lee argued: "If they can rig an election, they can do anything!" Lee soon got into a heated exchange with MSNBC's Tucker Carlson as he raised the "Tuskegee experiment" as proof the U.S. government is capable of any abuse of blacks. Lee made similar allegations on CNN back on October 11.

[This item was posted early Monday morning, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To watch a video clip, in either RealPlayer or Windows Media formats, or to post a comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

From about 45 minutes into Maher's live 11pm EDT show on October 21 produced at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, with panelists Tucker Carlson, Michel Martin and Spike Lee:

Bill Maher: "You did make a movie called Get on the Bus, which was about the Million Man March which was, I can't believe it, ten years ago, and this past Saturday Lewis Farakhan did a kind of reunion of the Million Man March. I don't think we got a million people this time. But he was saying, last Saturday in Washington, that he thinks that the federal government, there was a conspiracy to actually blow up those levees so that they would flood the poor black districts in New Orleans. I have to tell you, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I don't believe it. But when you see some of the things that have gone on in this country."
Spike Lee: "Exactly. It's not far-fetched. And also I would like to say it's not necessarily blow it up. But, the residents of that ward, they believe it, there was a Hurricane Betsy in '65, the same that happened where a choice had to be made, one neighborhood got to save another neighborhood and flood another 'hood, flood another neighborhood. Look, we're in LA-"
Maher: "That's been done before."
Lee: "We're in LA, and there's an emergency situation, we called from Beverly Hills, we call from Compton. Which one the cops coming to first?"
Maher: "Right. But that's different than pro-actively blowing up a levee to flood one neighborhood. I'm not saying it's not possible."
Michel Martin: "That would require a conspiracy. I mean, look, we can all understand, anybody with any knowledge of history can understand why a lot of people can feel this way, that that's a reasonable theory. But it would also require a conspiracy at three levels of government -- the local, the state, and the federal. It would require no white residents-"
Lee: "Presidents have been assassinated. So why is that so far-fetched?"
Martin: "Because it would require, because it would require no white person in the government to have a moral compass. It would require no black person to have a spine and I think that's a very hard case to make."
Lee: "Let me ask you a question: Do you think that election in 2000 was fair? You don't think that was rigged?" [audience applause]
Martin: "It's not a question of not being fair, it's a question of-"
Lee: "If they can rig an election, they can do anything!"
Carlson: "I was in New Orleans right after the hurricane in the ninth ward. And while I didn't hear anybody say the levee was blown up by the federal government, I did interview a bunch of people who were stuck there who said they believed this was part of the conspiracy to rid New Orleans of black people. They honestly believed that. I didn't argue with them, I just listened to what they said and I felt bad for them. So as you sit here -- who is someone who is rich and has option -- and are watched by people who are poor and have no options, it seems to me it's your responsibility, your obligation to tell them the truth and you know the truth, which is the federal government did not blow up the levees so don't feed the paranoia and the crazies."
Lee: "First of all, how's that feeding the paranoia?"
Carlson: "Because you're saying it's entirely possible when you know perfectly well it's not possible."
Lee: "How's it not possible?"
Carlson: "The federal government blew up the levees? A, there's zero evidence, b, it's difficult to blow up a levee, c, there were news cameras all around and nobody saw it. I mean, let's be real here."
Lee: "Because nobody saw, because nobody saw means, can it happen? Let me ask you a question: With the history of this country, you ever heard of 'Tuskegee experiment'? Answer! Answer!"
Carlson: "I'm not going to sit here for your history lesson. I want to know what-"
Lee: "Explain to the audience what the Tuskegee experiment was."
Carlson: "I'm not even going to get into that."
Lee: "Why not?"
Carlson: "I'll tell you why: Because you're making a serious allegation-"

The conversation deteriorated further with the panelists talking over one another, thus making a transcript difficult.

Back on October 13, Washington Times "Inside Politics" columnist Greg Pierce picked up on comments Spike made during an 11am EDT hour appearance on CNN two days earlier following a story about the wild beliefs of some of those in New Orleans, from how the federal government blew up the levees to how al-Qaeda was behind it. Pierce reported:

Filmmaker Spike Lee thinks the federal government might have destroyed a levee to drive black people out of New Orleans while saving the white sections of the city after Hurricane Katrina. But it's not clear he will push that notion in a documentary he will make for HBO.

Mr. Lee, in an interview Tuesday on CNN, said the documentary will be called "When the Levee Broke."

When asked about the levee conspiracy theory, which apparently has gained credence among some New Orleans blacks, Mr. Lee said that "it's not too far-fetched to think that, look, we got a bunch of poor black people here. We got to save these other neighborhoods. What we got to do, dump this in this ward, boom. I believe it."

And when interviewer Daryn Kagan asked whether Mr. Lee really believed that theory, the director replied: "I don't put anything past the United States government."

But when asked whether he intended to prove that in his documentary, Mr. Lee said: "Well, no, no, no, no, no."

However, later in the interview, Mr. Lee said: "And I think that it's a shame what happened, and I don't care how many times Mr. Bush goes to the Gulf or spends a night in a hotel, there's still a lot of grief. And, you know, I don't find it too far-fetched that they try to displace all the black people out of New Orleans."

END of Excerpt

For Pierce's weekly compilation of political items: www.washingtontimes.com

The Internet Movie Database's page for Spike Lee: www.imdb.com

-- Brent Baker