2. CBS's Smith: Shouldn't Bush Officials Face 'Recrimination'?
3. Chris Matthews Demands: How Do We Prosecute Bush and Cheney?
4. ABC's Moran Draws Comparison Between Middle East Torture and U.S.
5. Matt Lauer Marvels At 'Captivating' Photos of Obama
6. CBS Early Show Hosts Excited by Obama Paper Dolls
7. Olbermann: 'Reagan's Dead and He Was a Lousy President'
8. Biden's Approval Lower than Cheney's in 2001, Obama Below Reagan
Instead of providing any suggestion President Barack Obama's hectoring of credit card company executives, with the not-so-subtle threat of further regulation, is an improper strong-arm tactic, the network evening newscasts on Thursday night hailed Obama's efforts to "protect consumers" -- in stories each complete with a sympathetic victim of jacked-up interest rates, but barely any time, if any, for a view contrary to Obama's.
ABC's Charles Gibson teased: "Tonight, tough talk. A stern warning from the President to credit card executives. If you don't protect the consumers, the government will." CBS's Katie Couric fretted about the impact of "the credit card fees, penalties, and rising interest rates" which led the President to tell "the credit card companies: enough." Reporter Anthony Mason began: "Clean up your act. That was President Obama's message to credit card issuers today." NBC anchor Brian Williams trumpeted how Obama has come to the rescue: "Today the President admonished the credit card companies and came down on the side of consumers."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
CBS's Mason provided no downside to Obama's rhetoric nor the perspective of the credit card companies, while ABC's Jake Tapper and NBC's Lisa Myers squeezed in a few words with a different take.
Tapper, who noted "some attendees told ABC News they thought today's meeting was more political theater than substance," added: "The industry believes, for the most part, they are doing what they need to survive in a recession, as Americans wrack up more debt than ever before and are having trouble paying their bills." Myers reported, "The banks insist that the increases are justified, that their costs and risks are going up," and: "Banks have warned that new consumer protections could backfire, raising costs and limiting the availability of credit."
For a flavor of how the media framed Obama's lecturing of credit card companies, a look at the teases and how the anchors led their newscasts on Thursday, April 23:
# ABC's World News:
Gibson's tease: "Tonight, tough talk. A stern warning from the President to credit card executives. If you don't protect the consumers, the government will."
Gibson led: "Good evening. President Obama summoned executives of the largest credit card companies to the White House today, telling them, in essence, change the way you do business or the government will make you change. The numbers involving credit cards are staggering. Americans carry nearly a trillion dollars of debt on their charge cards. That's an average of over $7,000 for every household with an unpaid balance. And the interest rates they owe have soared to an average above fourteen-and-a-half percent. So, Jake Tapper reports on today's meeting from the White House. Jake?"
Katie Couric's tease: "Tonight, the President takes credit card companies to task, telling them:
Couric opened: "Good evening, everyone. The recession and unemployment, the housing crisis, and just plain overspending have millions of Americans caught in a credit card crunch, drowning in plastic debt. Consider this: The average household owes more than $10,000, more than four-and-a-half percent of credit card accounts are delinquent. Then come the credit card fees, penalties, and rising interest rates. Today, Anthony Mason reports, the President told the credit card companies: enough."
While discussing the possible prosecution of Bush administration officials over interrogation methods used against terror suspects, on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith asked Senator John McCain: "You fought a long battle with the [Bush] White House over this issue, said they ought to follow the Army manual, which the -- the White House refused to...Why do you feel so strongly that those who helped create this policy should not face some sort of recrimination?" McCain explained his opposition to what he called a "witch hunt": "Because I think, Harry, if you legal -- if you criminalize legal advice, which is basically what they're going to do, then it has a terribly chilling effect on any kind of advice and counsel that the president might receive...this is going to turn into a witch hunt."
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Smith followed up by wondering: "...were the legal experts, were the people from the Justice Department who made these findings, did they find -- did they make the decisions they made because they -- these were the decisions the leadership -- that the White House wanted made?" McCain replied: "There's no evidence that I have seen that indicates that they didn't give their most candid advice. And, look, in banana republics they prosecute people for actions they didn't agree with under previous administrations... to go back on a witch hunt that could last for a year or so, frankly, is going to be bad for the country, bad for future presidents -- precedents that may be set by this, and certainly nonproductive in trying to pursue the challenges we face."
On Wednesday, Smith implied that the Bush administration's use of tough interrogation tactics led to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal: "Is there a line? Do you see that there is a lining run -- that goes from 2002 to Abu Ghraib to the hundreds of times waterboards were used in these cases of these few CIA cases?"
An overly eager Chris Matthews, on Wednesday night's Hardball, actually raised the prospect of prosecuting George W. Bush and Dick Cheney over the CIA interrogation memos as he pressed Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: "But how do we do it? Under what law do we go after them?" To which even the liberal Schultz initially balked, as she tried to rein in Matthews: "Well I think we need not to get ahead of ourselves Chris." However Schultz, after Matthews' continued to push, relented and gave the MSNBC host a response more to his liking as she warned: "There is no one that is above the law in the United States of America."
Of course if Matthews really wanted to pursue all of those who approved of waterboarding that list would also have to include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to a December 9, 2007 Washington Post story, Pelosi along with other Democrats, in September 2002, were given "a virtual tour" of the "CIA's overseas detention sites," shown interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, "But on that day, no objections were raised."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: Newsbusters]
The following exchange aired on the April 22 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well if it turns out that those who drew the lines and said it was okay to use waterboarding and other coercive techniques, violated the law, and those people who did so include the Vice President and the President what do we do? You say we might consider prosecuting them. But how do we do it? Under what law do we go after them? Under international law? Under U.S. law what do we hit 'em for? If we do it?
As the segment ended, Moran drew a comparison, "Brian, that is a shocking investigation on so many levels, especially as our own country is engaged in a wrenching debate on torture." Now, whatever one thinks of waterboarding, sleep depravation and putting an insect in with someone afraid of bugs, such tactics certainly don't equal this barbaric act, described by Ross: "The tape ends with what appears to be attempted murder. The victim is left semi-conscious as Sheik Issa drives over him back and forth with his Mercedes SUV."
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Hat tip: Steve Allen of the conservative Lickskillet comic strip: conservativehq.com
A partial April 23 transcript follows:
TERRY MORAN: If a picture speaks a thousand words then the video you're about to see, uncovered in an exclusive Nightline investigation, tells a long and dark story. A member of a royal family abusing his power in a violent and despicable way. And for now, this real-life tale ends without a resolution. Our Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross has the report. Brian?
Introducing a segment, on Thursday's Today show, featuring Time magazine's photos of the President from his first 100 days, NBC's Matt Lauer, over a shot of Obama in Oval Office, marveled that the stills were "captivating." In an ensuing segment Lauer's colleague, Meredith Vieira asked the easily impressed Time photographer Callie Shell how Obama was "handling" the job, to which Shell cooed: "I think he does very well," and "He reads each night, at least 10 letters from 10 different people...and he answers them, usually the next day."
[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following is Matt Lauer's tease and then the full segment as it was aired on the April 23 Today show:
MATT LAUER: And when we come back and still to come, candid and captivating images of President Obama as he approaches his first 100 days in office.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Next Wednesday will mark President Obama's First 100 days in office and photographers with Time magazine have been following the President every step of the way. Callie Shell is one of them, and she is here to share one of Time's exclusive photos. Good morning to you, Callie.
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen made an important news announcement: "Well, the latest Obama paper dolls are out and we have got them right here to check them out." Chen went on to explain that the collectible books of paper cut outs of Barack and Michelle Obama: "...came out when -- during the whole campaign...And then now this is the inaugural." Chen later asked: "Do we think that this looks like Barack and Michelle?" Co-host Maggie Rodriguez responded: "Absolutely not. Not even a little bit." Early Show medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton was also on set, and chimed in: "No, he [Obama] looks so much better in person."
Rodriguez then added: "Not even a little bit, it's not their faces. Those are not their faces." Chen explained: "It's more Michelle than -- it's not Barack's face, but it's more Michelle. Because I think they have her eyebrows down." After a detailed discussion of the dolls' likeness to the Obamas, co-host Harry Smith proudly exclaimed: "Well, I'm very excited to get my collectible campaign edition, so."
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Chen then turned back to Ashton and asked: "Did you ever play with paper dolls, Jennifer, when you were little?" Ashton replied: "I didn't. But, you know, I have a friend now, an adult friend, who has a six-foot cut-out of President Obama in her living room. And every time I walk in there I think it's really him." Rodriguez wondered: "Um, why?" Ashton explained: "She's a big fan."
Earlier in the show, Smith discussed the availability of 'Plan B' birth control pills to 17-year-olds over-the-counter with Ashton, who remarked: "In a country that has one of the largest teenage pregnancy rates in the western world, we need to do everything we can to attack that issue, so that's on the good end. I say why stop at 17? It's only -- not only 17-year-olds who get pregnant, so it possibly should be opened up to teenagers of all ages who need it."
On Wednesday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann responded to an Ohio Republican quoting Ronald Reagan by mocking Reagan as "dead," and calling him a "lousy President." After reading a quote from Warren, County, Ohio commissioner Mike Kilburn proclaiming his intention not to use any of the federal stimulus money on his county, as he quoted Reagan's famous line that "government is the problem," Olbermann shot back: "Uh, Commissioner Kilburn, Reagan's dead and he was a lousy President."
The MSNBC host also slammed moderate Democratic Senator Ben Nelson as the day's "Worst Person in the World" because the Nebraska Democrat dared to lump him and fellow liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in with conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, as Nelson charged that both conservative and liberal talk show hosts spread misinformation to their audience.
Olbermann, who has a history of repeating incorrect or distorted information on his show, and who also once depicted an image of Rush Limbaugh as a target of gunfire, charged that Limbaugh "supports racism and encourages violence," and that FNC's Glenn Beck "makes up stuff," as the MSNBC host indignantly complained: "Thanks for the opportunity to tell you you don't know what the hell you're talking about. I am fed up with this equating of what we do here to circus performers like Limbaugh and the Fox crowd. We don't make up stuff like Beck does, we don't stalk people like O'Reilly does, we don't support racism and encourage violence like Limbaugh does, we don't recite talking points like Hannity does."
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Referring to his recent criticism -- from the left -- of President Obama for announcing his administration would not try to prosecute CIA interrogators who used waterboarding against terrorists, Olbermann claimed that his show does not really have a left-wing slant: "Rachel caught you out to lunch on the stimulus, and she called you on it, and I slammed a Democratic President last week. We believe first, Senator, in right and wrong over here, not right and left. Let me know when you start believing in something besides re-election."
From the April 22 "Worst Person in the World" segment:
KEITH OLBERMANN: But first, time for Countdown's number two story, "Worst Persons in the World." The bronze goes to Mike Kilburn, county commissioner of Warren County, Ohio. You remember Warren County? Part of the still unexplained terror threat lockdown on election night 2004. The commissioners there are rejecting $373,000 in stimulus money for three new buses and vans meant to get the county's rural residents to health care and educational opportunities. Kilburn said, "I'll let Warren County go broke before taking any of Obama's filthy money. I'm tired of paying for people who don't have. As Reagan said, government is not the answer, it's the problem." Uh, Commissioner Kilburn, Reagan's dead and he was a lousy President.
CNN's Lou Dobbs on Thursday night highlighted how a new poll discovered Vice President Joe Biden is presently "less popular than Vice President Cheney was in July of 2001." Indeed, a survey of 1,500 conducted for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to assess where President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Biden stand with the public as the administration's 100-day mark approaches, determined: "Only about half of Americans (51%) say they have a favorable impression of Joe Biden -- comparable to the 55% who felt favorably toward Al Gore in April 1993 and lower than the 58% favorability rating Dick Cheney received in July 2001."
Dobbs also pointed out how President Barack Obama, at 63 percent approval, is at "the same percentage as President Carter at this stage of his presidency. But President Reagan was even more popular than either of them: 67 percent."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Pew's rundown of its poll released on April 23: people-press.org
Dobbs relayed on the Thursday, April 23 Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN:
As the President approaches his first one hundred days in office, new indications today that his approval ratings are high, but not as high as some other Presidents, as some political analysts have been suggesting. A Pew Research Center survey showing President Obama has an approval rating of 63 percent. That is, as it turns out, the same percentage as President Carter at this stage of his presidency. But President Reagan was even more popular than either of them: 67 percent.
Meanwhile Pew Research showing Vice President Joe Biden is less popular than Vice President Cheney was in July of 2001. Vice President Biden, with an approval rating of just 51 percent, to Vice President Cheney's 58 percent.
-- Brent Baker