Trumpeting Lack of "Smoking Gun" to Justify Iraq War -- 01/10/2003 CyberAlert
Blaming Bush for Making North Korea Feel Threatened
GMA's Expert on Bush Tax Plan a Big Democratic Donor
CBS's America Under Bush: Depression- Era Food Lines
NBC's New Political Drama by a Liberal Debuts
Iraq is the party obligated, under the UN resolution, to demonstrate that it has rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. The burden is not on the U.S. or the UN inspectors to find fresh proof of improper weapons within Iraq, but on Thursday night ABC and NBC pounced on the announcement by chief UN inspector Hans Blix that his team had yet to locate "a smoking gun."
ABC's Peter Jennings launched World News Tonight by trumpeting "problems for the Bush administration if it really wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein militarily," specifically the lack of a smoking gun and how Tony Blair is showing reluctance to go to war.
"The UN weapons inspectors say there is no smoking gun so far," Tom Brokaw announced at the top of the January 9 NBC Nightly News. Interviewing Secretary of State Colin Powell, Brokaw wanted to know: "Are you going to be able to provide the intelligence that could produce a smoking gun?" Brokaw pressed: "Don't you have to have irrefutable evidence, what people in the country are calling a photo, a smoking gun of some kind before you can go to war against Saddam Hussein and expect international cooperation?"
Jennings teased at the top of his show: "On World News Tonight, the UN weapons inspectors say they found no evidence that Iraq has forbidden weapons. The Bush administration's closest ally begins to have its doubts about attacking Iraq."
Over the screen graphic, "UN weapons inspectors find no 'smoking guns,'" Jennings began the newscast: "Good evening everyone. We're going to begin with problems for the Bush administration if it really wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein militarily. United Nations weapons inspectors have said today they are not finding evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. And the administration's most loyal supporter for military action, the British Prime Minister, says Mr. Bush should not rush things."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, over a "No Smoking Gun" graphic, Brokaw began: "Good evening. If the United States goes to war against Iraq will it first have to produce a smoking gun, hard evidence of Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction? Tonight the UN weapons inspectors say there is no smoking gun so far. But they'd like more cooperation from Saddam."
In a subsequent excerpt from an interview with Powell, Brokaw pressed the need for a "smoking gun" to be found: "We now know that the United States is providing additional intelligence to the inspectors. Are you going to be able to provide the intelligence that could produce a smoking gun between now and January 27th?"
Powell replied that "because he says so far there is no smoking gun does not mean there is not one there," Brokaw countered: "But practically speaking, Mr. Secretary, and remembering your old military hat, don't you have to have irrefutable evidence, what people in the country are calling a photo, a smoking gun of some kind before you can go to war against Saddam Hussein and expect international cooperation?"
Powell wouldn't give in to Brokaw and maintained that if the "international community" sees Hussein not cooperating he will be considered in violation.
A bit later NBC went to Jim Avila with a piece from Beecher, Illinois where he found most people, four of the five from whom he played soundbites, opposed to any military action against Iraq. Avila concluded: "A nation unconvinced, deeply split, many still waiting for stronger evidence Saddam is a direct immediate threat."
When an adviser to South Korea's new left-wing President argued that to address North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons "they have to not feel threatened by any country," CBS News reporter Barry Petersen suggested the real culprit, saying "or George Bush." The adviser responded: "You said it, I didn't." And on Thursday's Today, Katie Couric passed along how "many people" see North Korea as more dangerous than Iraq since if "Saddam Hussein is developing them and North Korea has them this seems like a scarier situation."
During a piece on the January 7 CBS Evening News, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Barry Petersen looked at how the South Koreans view U.S. policy toward North Korea:
Thursday morning, January 9, on Today, Couric interviewed former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg. After suggested "some of the difficulties perhaps stem back from President Bush's reference to North Korea as part of the 'axis of evil,'" she highlighted an argument of those opposed to Bush's Iraq policy, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed. Couric proposed:
Not an unreasonable point, but it's also an illustration of what can happen once an outlaw regime obtains nuclear weapons and so an argument for taking Saddam Hussein out before he gets any nuclear missiles.
Another expert a broadcast network turned to for a critical evaluation of the Bush tax cut proposal turns out to be an active donor to liberal Democratic candidates. Mellody Hobson, personal finance expert for ABC's Good Morning America, has contributed over $40,000 to Democrats in recent years, but a piddling $1,250 to Republicans, a search on OpenSecrets.org discovered.
On the January 6 Good Morning America, Hobson found opposition to Bush's plan from a millionaire: "Critics of the President's plan say it favors the rich. A person with a million-dollar income will get an estimated $24,000 in savings. Even wealthy investors like Bill Bartholomay, Chairman of the Atlanta Braves, are uneasy." Hobson, who is President of the Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management, suggested the Bush rhetoric does not match reality: "Everyone could use a little extra money in their pocket, but when you calculate how Bush's proposed tax plan will affect different American households, the math is very different."
Before getting to the millionaire, Hobson focused on a $50,000 family who "welcome the tax cuts," but "they worry what it'll cost in the long run." For more, see the January 7 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20030107.asp#2
A Monday CBS Evening News story supported the liberal premise that Bush's tax cut helps the rich while abandoning the poor by featuring expert comment from a CPA who declared that "when you go to the lower brackets, there is no savings," and: "If you went to summarize this tax proposal as we see it today, the winners are the wealthy." But that accountant, the MRC's Rich Noyes learned, is a financial supporter of a liberal Democratic Congressman and the DNC. For details, see the CyberAlert item that Rush Limbaugh highlighted on his radio show on Thursday: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2003/cyb20030108.asp#4
Rich then set his sights on Hobson and determined she's a very active donor to liberal Democrats and to Democrats in general. A search of OpenSecrets.org, a Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, revealed 67 contributions to federal political campaigns by Mellody Hobson, the President of Ariel Capital Management and for the past couple of years, ABC's financial consultant. Just two of those 67 contributions went to Republicans: $1,000 to North Carolina Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole on June 28, 2002, and $250 to then-U.S. Representative Bob Ehrlich of Maryland back on October 22, 1999. (Ehrlich was elected Governor of Maryland in November).
The remaining 65 contributions, totaling $40,800, went to a variety of Democratic candidates, state committees, federally-registered PACs and the Democratic National Committee, including:
-- $1,000 to then-New Jersey Senator Bob Torricelli on March 13, 2002
For a picture of Hobson:
The site for her company: http://www.arielmutualfunds.com/
For the Web version of January 6 GMA story, with a retort from Ari Fleischer which did not appear in the version that aired:
George W. Bush's America as seen by CBS News: Bread lines, reminiscent of the Depression-era, made up of average Americans with jobs. Over video of a long line in Marietta, Ohio, on the January 8 60 Minutes II, Scott Pelley ominously intoned: "The lines we found looked like they'd been taken from the pages of the Great Depression. It's not just the unemployed, we found plenty of people working full-time but still not able to earn enough to keep hunger out the house. If you think you have a good idea of who's hungry in America today, come join the line. You'd never guess who you'd meet there."
While Pelley never uttered the name George W. Bush once during his 12 minute piece, the implication came through. Pelley noted, for instance, how "since 1999, the number of people getting emergency food aid in Ohio alone has grown from 2 million to 4.5 million." Pelley contended in relaying the view of a groups which wants more government spending: "Nationwide, the problem is not just in rural scenes like this. The U.S. Conference of Mayors says the need for emergency food aid in major cities jumped 19 percent last year alone."
Pelley's emotions over facts style of reporting included this line: "Pre-schoolers come here with their parents and play in boxes as empty as the day's want-ads."
Pelley asked, "When you look at this line, what do you see?" And answered the question himself: "You know what I see? Some pretty average looking Americans." When Pelley suggested "a lot of people in this country would be surprised to see this line, surprised to see a food line in America again," a local Ohio food bank operator declared in a comment which ended the story: "Oh yeah, we've gone backwards. This is what I heard from my mom and dad. This is what it was during the Depression era. That, you know, people stood in line to get government commodities. We haven't come very far, have we?"
Though Pelley highlighted some heartbreaking cases, he refrained from examining the poor personal decisions which led his victim families to their plight. All the families he looked at receive food stamps.
Pelley began his report, which was brought to my attention by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
Over video of a long line Pelley explained: "This is the head of a food line forming outside Marietta, Ohio. We're going to show you the end but that will take a while. The people in front came at dawn. Sometimes the food runs out before the line does. So it's best to get in early.
Pelley asked a woman: "Why do you have to come here?"
After showcasing a veteran of World War II and the Great Depression, Pelley turned to Bob Garbo, head of the local affiliate of America's Second Harvest. He opined: "This is going in my mind backwards, I mean this is, we're doing things that we did before food stamps, before we had various programs. And quite frankly it's a little bit hard to watch sometimes."
Pelley soon profiled his first victim: "The issue is the working poor. Forty percent of the families in these lines have one parent working. Rick Payne is working full time in one of those big home improvement stores. But he's supporting a wife and four kids on $7.50 an hour. When we sat down with Payne, his wife Alexis and 12-year-old, Brandon, they had $17 to their name."
On a 40 hour a week basis over 50 weeks $7.50 an hour would total, by my calculation, $15,000 a year. Plus, as Pelley noted, the Paynes get $300 a month in food stamps. Yet at the end of the month they live on potato soup. Sounds to me like really bad money management.
Trying to generate viewer sympathy, Pelley asserted: "Almost half the people fed by these lines are kids. The Agriculture Department figures one out of six children in America faces hunger. That's more than 12 million kids. Nationwide wide children have the highest poverty rate. Pre-schoolers come here with their parents and play in boxes as empty as the day's want-ads."
Pelley talked with kids who wanted food and then profiled a woman who said she must mix milk with water to make it last for her baby, though she gets both welfare and food stamps.
Pelley conceded: "Most of the people in line don't look like they're starving. We noticed some were even overweight. But hunger in America isn't starvation, it's malnutrition -- children too hungry to concentrate in school, the pain of skipped meals. There may be some in line who are taking unfair advantage of a free food program even if they have to wait for hours. But it's also true that many in these lines are new to hunger: losing jobs or getting hit with medical bills, for example, just months or weeks ago.
On to his third victim family, Pelley highlighted a woman whose marriage broke up and the kids now only can eat at school, but the 12-year-old brings some food home. The family supposedly can't eat, yet Pelley reported they get $700 a month in welfare and food stamps.
Garbo compared the situation to the fear of terrorism: "I'll tell you in all honesty I sense a fear. It's a fear. We talk about terror nowadays. The terror is fear. And if you really get to visit with families who are really up against it, there's a fear."
Back to the Payne family, they figured out you can work more than just one job and now make some money for cleaning their church each Sunday. But, and in the TV world of victims there is always a but, the father teared-up as he related how he cannot afford to pay his son the promised $5 a week for helping with the church clean-up.
Pelley wrapped up his anecdotal piece with this exchange between himself and Garbo: "When you look at this line, what do you see?"
If true, that would be quite an indictment of the billions spend in the war on poverty, but Pelley didn't broach that liberal failure.
As for how the Bush era has brought us full circle to Hoover, remember that the GDP is growing at a healthy rate, inflation, which most ravages the poor, is at a historically low level, unemployment is at barely 6 percent, well below where it stood in 1980, and the full welfare state is humming and sending out checks and food stamps to all of the poor.
For the Web-posted version of Pelley's story:
For a picture and bio of
O'Donnell, who played "President Bartlet's" father The West Wing, was once Chief-of-Staff for the Senate Finance Committee under Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
In a November 10 Inside Politics piece, CNN's Bill Schneider talked to the two lead actors while they were filming one day on Capitol Hill. He asked actress Audra McDonald, who plays the Senator's Press Secretary: "Anyone in the press in your head as you play this role? Or in Congress or -- do you have any models?"
Talking to the actor who plays Senator Sterling, Josh Brolin, the son of Barbra Streisand's husband James Brolin, Schneider wondered: "When you play this role, do you have any politicians or political figures at all in mind?"
For more on the show, see an excerpt from Roll Call in the November 12 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20021112.asp#3
Here's how the NBC Web site describes the show, which will air Fridays at 8pm EST/PST, 7pm CST/MST:
NBC's page for the program: http://www.nbc.com/Mister_Sterling/
Liberals may not be able to win at the ballot box as much as they like and have to endure a George Bush presidency and a Bill Frist-led Senate, but now with two political shows produced by liberal Democrats, NBC gives them a fantasy world in which they can dream of what might be. -- Brent Baker