Williams: I Was "Aggressively Misunderstood" on Suicide Bombers --8/14/2006
2. Wallace & Ahmadinejad: Some Tough Questions, Some Apple-Polishing
3. Olbermann: Conspiracy in Criticizing Dems on Lamont Before Plot
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams declared Friday morning that he had "been aggressively misunderstood" -- presumably by blogs, such as the MRC's NewsBusters, as well as CyberAlert -- for comments he made during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's Hardball when he seemed to equate elite U.S. soldiers, seamen and civilian first responders with terrorist suicide bombers: "The willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too." Friday's CyberAlert, however, had hardly "aggressively misunderstood" Williams since it suggested: "It's hard to believe Williams buys what he said, so I'll chalk it up to a bungled attempt to praise members of the American military for the bravery they display in being willing to die to protect others -- not that Williams really thinks they are the same as terrorists who mass murder innocents through suicide bombings."
Matching my theory, Williams contended Friday, in his "Last Word" entry for the Daily Nightly blog, posted at about 10:30am EDT: "I was criticizing the view, expressed by some, that as long as we are fighting the 'suicide bomber mentality' we can never get the upper hand, because, as this belief goes, 'we aren't willing to give our lives the way they are.' Of course we are. The difference is: the folks willing to die for OUR country do so in the act of protecting and defending it -- NOT killing civilians by detonating an explosive and killing innocent people."
NewsBusters contributor Mark Finkelstein was tipped by a NewsBusters reader to the clarification/accusation from Williams and posted an item about it on Friday: newsbusters.org
Finkelstein's Thursday night NewsBusters posting had simply quoted Williams and made clear the possibility Williams misspoke: " "Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News surely intended to praise the heroism and selflessness of our various service people. But he employed at best an awkward, at worst an inappropriate and offensive manner of doing it." See: newsbusters.org
The Friday CyberAlert included Real and Windows Media video, as well as MP3 audio, of the exchange in question between Williams and Chris Matthews: www.mediaresearch.org
No, our soldiers and seamen may be willing to kill enemy operatives and bravely willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save others, but they do not commit suicide by blowing themselves up in order to murder innocent civilians.
It's hard to believe Williams buys what he said, so I'll chalk it up to a bungled attempt to praise members of the American military for the bravery they display in being willing to die to protect others -- not that Williams really thinks they are the same as terrorists who mass murder innocents through suicide bombings. His reference to how "first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out," also raises doubt about his soldier-terrorist comparison since first responders certainly aren't known for killing.
Mark Finkelstein, a blogger on the MRC's NewsBusters, learned on Free Republic about the Williams comment and posted an item Thursday night on NewsBusters -- for which I supplied audio/video. That will be added to the posted version of this CyberAlert, but in the meantime, to watch the Real or Windows Media video, or MP3 audio, go to: newsbusters.org
[Video also now online with posted version of Friday's CyberAlert, as linked at top of this excerpt]
The exchange from the interview at the top of the live 7pm EDT edition of the August 10 Hardball, with Matthews outside the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (probably really in the parking lot for NBC-owned WRC-TV which is next door), and Williams standing outside near Heathrow Airport close to London:
Chris Matthews: "In our first edition of Hardball tonight we had a Senator on, former Senator John Edwards on, who said that once these people in the east, in the Islamic world, get to know us personally, understand our character -- our good character as he said -- they wouldn't hate us so much, they wouldn't want to commit suicide to hurt us. But here we have maybe 25, 24 people who've lived in London and England and the free world for all these years that become citizens, subjects of the Crown, and yet, after having gotten to know us, they want to kill themselves to hurt us. Isn't that an even deeper conundrum here than the chemicals being used in these attacks?"
Williams: "And that, Chris, that last aspect, the willingness to take one's own life -- I always tell people, you know, there are guys on our team like that, too. They're called Army Rangers and Navy Seals and the Special Forces folks and the first responders on 9/11 who went into those buildings knowing, by the way, they weren't going to come out. So we have players like that on our team. "But to the center of your question, it goes to ideology. Can you reverse the clock here? We now know this is the conflict of our generation. Who would have thought it would take this shape? Who would have thought it would be against an enemy we can't always see? And who would have thought the new target would be a stainless steel tube flying, as you put it, at 39,000 feet full of innocent people?"
END of Reprint of previous CyberAlert article
The Friday "Daily Nightly" posting in full from Williams:
Comments I made during a live interview with Chris Matthews last night have been aggressively misunderstood in the hours since. Here was my point: people always say that our country will be at a disadvantage as long as the "other side" is willing to take their own life for the cause. I was making the point that if that's some kind of litmus test for bravery...or belief in the cause, we have those guys, too. People who fight for us, people who protect us -- know full well that the American cause is worth dying for -- as are our freedoms. People are dying for the U.S. side every day. Laying their lives on the line. And I give thanks for them every day. I was not at all equating the 'other' cause with what Americans stand for. I was criticizing the view, expressed by some, that as long as we are fighting the "suicide bomber mentality" we can never get the upper hand, because, as this belief goes, "we aren't willing to give our lives the way they are." Of course we are. The difference is: the folks willing to die for OUR country do so in the act of protecting and defending it -- NOT killing civilians by detonating an explosive and killing innocent people.
I hope that clears it up.
END of Reprint of the August 11 "Last Word" blog entry from Williams.
That posting is online on Williams' page: dailynightly.msnbc.com
CBS's Mike Wallace came out of retirement to spend a half-hour of network air time with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Sunday's 60 Minutes, and some of his questions were tough, about Hezbollah violence and Holocaust denial and the Iranian leader's desire to wipe Israel off the map. Most surprisingly, he suggested the Iranians were providing explosives to the Iraqi insurgents (something the American news media doesn't usually highlight), and ended by suggesting there were reports of Iran having 52,000 trained suicide bombers to launch against American and British targets in case they are attacked.
While it was measurably tougher than Dan Rather's embarrassing 2003 sit-down with Saddam Hussein, CBS did air moments of Wallace kissing up to Ahmadinejad. "I couldn't be happier with the privilege of sitting down with the President of Iran," he wallowed at one point, as Ahmadinejad claimed Wallace was getting angry.
At another, when Ahmadinejad was passed a note to fix his khaki coat, Wallace dipped lowest in servility: "I think you look just fine...Let me assure you. You look your best," he said. CBS may believe these comments are necessary to keep the interviewee buttered up enough that he finishes the interview. But it doesn't do their own reputation any favors to show their apple-polishing interludes in their salivating desire for access, and ratings. His lamest question: "What do you do for leisure?"
[This item is adopted from a Sunday night posting by Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
At one point, in an exchange CBS decided to highlight in a preview aired on Friday's CBS Evening News, Wallace pressed Ahmadinejad to denounce President Bush. When the Iranian replied, "What do you think I should think about the gentlemen? How should I think about him?", Wallace goaded him: "Come on. Come on. You're perfectly capable of handling that question if you have the courage to answer it." Ahmadinejad soon provided an answer:
Sometimes, he sounded like a Democratic politician as he claimed President Bush's "approval rating is dropping every day," and "hatred vis-a-vis the President is increasing every day around the world." He even said of the Bush team (and the U.S. government in general): "They want to build an empire."
Wallace's questions were tough enough for Ahmadinejad to accuse him of being an Israeli mouthpiece when he suggested Hezbollah was doing violence to Israelis: "Are you a representative of the Zionist regime or are you a journalist?" Wallace replied, "I am a journalist." Ahmadinejad shot back: "This is not journalism, sir."
Wallace also asked about Bush leading a "so-called free world," a characterization which Ahmadinejad endorsed. "What do you think of George Bush -- as a man, and as commander-in-chief of the so-called free world?" Ahmadinejad replied happily, "Well, the 'so-called' says everything."
Some of the Iranian leader's answers were ridiculous: He claimed "the time of the Bomb is past," and it was now time for dialogue and cultural exchanges. (There, he sounded like a Soviet spokesman for detente.) At another, he claimed the U.S wants to "monopolize energy resources in the world" so they can order the world around and also "line their pockets." (Here, he sounded like an American or European leftist.) He said Iran opposed oppression: We are opposed to oppression. We support whoever is victimized and oppressed, even the oppressed people of the U.S."
CBSNews.com has posted a semi-accurate transcript and video: www.cbsnews.com
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has a history of pushing conspiracy theories questioning whether the Bush administration has politically timed terror alerts or the release of terrorism-related stories for political advantage. Since the time line of the current terror plot story was controlled by the British, one might expect Olbermann to take a break from his fascination with such ideas. But, true to form, on Thursday night the Countdown host still found a way to insert an anti-Bush conspiracy theory into the story, as he questioned whether some of the Bush administration's recent criticism of Democrats for ousting pro-Iraq War Senator Joe Lieberman had been timed to exploit the terror story that would soon break.
For a look at some of Olbermann's past theories, check the October 13, 2005 CyberAlert, "Olbermann: Conspiracy of Terror Alerts to Cover Bush's Bad Days," at: www.mediaresearch.org
Olbermann referred to "unbridled rhetoric" against Democrats and the "specter of an administration that has seemingly played politics with past terror alerts." Olbermann plugged his segment on the topic with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter: "And could it just be coincidence that the President finds out about this plot, then his Vice President and the Republican chairman start slamming Democrats for being soft on terror, then the public is informed about the plot? Could it really be just coincidence?"
Alter contended that the administration was using the terror news as "Hamburger Helper for the red meat that they want to throw out politically" as they were "exploiting it politically." He also lamented sometimes thinking "the motto these folks have is 'The only thing we have to use is fear itself.'"
After Olbermann summarized the day's terror plot news during the show's teaser, he conveyed skepticism as he mentioned past mistakes by British authorities: "But intelligence sources say the supposed plotters only began looking at flight schedules last week. The source is the British, the same people who missed both subway bombings in London last year, then shot a purported terrorist wearing a suicide bomb vest and running from police, only it turned out he was a 27-year-old electrician wearing an ordinary shirt and walking."
Ignoring the administration's history of attacking Democrats over the war on terror at critical election times, which is consistent with doing so right after a primary dominated by anti-war Democrats, Olbermann wondered if the "unbridled rhetoric about the Democrats" was inspired by the administration's inside knowledge that a terror plot story was about to break, and claimed the administration had a history of "playing politics" with terror alerts: "His press secretary said Mr. Bush knew of the British investigation as early as Sunday. Did his Vice President know? His party national committee chair? Does that explain the unbridled rhetoric about the Democrats in the Connecticut Senate primary vote?...And Jonathan Alter on the specter of an administration that has seemingly played politics with past terror alerts, and how much of this we can all believe."
Olbermann later plugged the segment: "And could it just be coincidence that the President finds out about this plot, then his Vice President and the Republican chairman start slamming Democrats for being soft on terror, then the public is informed about the plot. Could it really be just coincidence? That ahead on Countdown."
The Countdown host introduced the segment by trying to invent a contradiction in President Bush's public statements regarding the danger of terrorism at home as the MSNBC host ridiculously claimed that Bush had last year "made it very clear that we are safe here at home thanks to his war in Iraq." The statement in question made no such claim.
Olbermann opened the segment: "If you have any trouble following your government's position on terror and your safety, let's clear it all up right now in our third story on the Countdown. A year ago on July 4th, the President made it very clear that we are safe here at home thanks to his war in Iraq."
During the interview with Alter, Olbermann referred to his past conspiracy theories questioning whether the Bush administration has politically timed terror alerts or the release of terrorism-related stories for political advantage: "There have been a lot of terror threats, warnings, events that have come in the wake of bad political news for the administration. We chronicled them here. They might be coincidences, they might not. There is such a thing as the logical fallacy. But this is the first time I've ever heard of an anti-conspiracy conspiracy theory, that the revelation of this purported plot could not be politically timed because the administration would have really benefitted had this plot been revealed Monday or Tuesday before the voters went to the polls in the primary in Connecticut. I gather you don't buy the anti-conspiracy conspiracy theory."
During his response, Alter accused the administration of "exploiting" the terror story they knew was about to break, calling the news a "sort of Hamburger Helper for the red meat that they want to throw out politically." After arguing that the anti-war result of the Democratic primary may benefit Republicans, Alter continued: "I think the British were controlling the timing of these arrests, and it's really important not to get into this sort of crouch where you say everything that involves terrorism is political. You can hold two seemingly contradictory ideas in your head at once, Keith. One is that, you know, they use this kind of news as sort of a Hamburger Helper for the red meat that they want to throw out politically. In that sense, they're exploiting it politically, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're timing this politically."
Olbermann then brought up the possibility that the Bush administration has exaggerated past terror threats to "scare its own people unnecessarily," prompting Alter to coin the phrase "The only thing we have to use is fear itself." After listing out other terror plot stories from the past, Olbermann continued: "Is there a point at which most people start doubting the idea that no government would ever dream of scaring its own people unnecessarily?"
Alter responded: "Well, you know, you mentioned by FDR book. I mean, I sometimes think the motto these folks have is 'The only thing we have to use is fear itself.'"
Olbermann ended the show wondering how much the media should scrutinize the government during such events: "What about the role of the media in authenticating that for which we have only the word of two governments and no other evidence of our own?"
Alter praised Olbermann's scrutiny, but warned against being "cynical": "I think at a certain level the media always has to give the government in this kind of case the benefit of the doubt at first, then go back and ask a lot of hard questions, which you've started quite appropriately to do here tonight. But to assume from the get go that the government is lying about security matters, I think, would be an excessively cynical posture so that the key thing for the media is to perform that accountability function. ..."
For an even more extensive transcript, go to Brad's NewsBusters posting linked at the top of this item.
-- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire