Woodward Provides Positive Take on Bush, Nets Focus Elsewhere --4/20/2004
2. NY Times Picks Up False Claim PDB Referred to "Lower Manhattan"
3. It Takes Death Threats to Get ABC to Mention Gorelick Memo
4. Parting Shot at Bush, Leave "Liberating Iraq to Someone Else"
On Monday's Nightline, ABC's Terry Moran related how the White House likes Bob Woodward's new book since "it portrays a President who's deeply engaged, who is challenging his subordinates, who is very concerned about Iraqi civilians and most importantly politically for the administration, a President who did not distort the pre-war intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, but who was given this intelligence from the CIA."
But those aren't the parts of the book which interested the networks earlier in the day as all led with the supposedly controversial and "explosive" revelations in Plan of Attack, from how Saudi Arabia's Ambassador allegedly promised lower oil prices to benefit Bush's re-election to how Bush "diverted" funds from Afghanistan to Iraq war planning. Indeed, Chris Bury opened the very Nightline on which Moran spoke by touting how the program would focus on, as it did, "the secret path to war: oil, politics and faith."
In the morning, ABC's Good Morning America ran a story on Woodward's book, CBS's The Early Show ran excerpts from Sunday's 60 Minutes interview with him and NBC's Today ran the first of a two-day interview with Woodward. In the evening, the networks all featured multiple stories tied to the Woodward book and he appeared for the full hour on CNN's Larry King Live, which will have him back on again on Friday night.
"Explosive new allegations against President Bush: Manipulating gas prices and military money," Dan Rather breathlessly announced at the top of the April 19 CBS Evening News.
Reporter John Roberts began: "The book taps a rich well of previously unrevealed facts about the Iraq War: That President Bush first asked for battle plans just two months after the 9/11 attacks..." As Roberts spoke, however, under a photo of Bush at his desk in the Oval Office, CBS displayed this inaccurate text: "Bush asks for battle plans 2 months before 9/11"
After running through the charges about diverted money and how Secretary of State Colin Powell was out of the loop, and denials about each, Roberts concluded with a self-fulfilling prophecy: "The book kicks off what some Republicans say looks like yet another miserable week for White House officials, off-message, on the defensive, struggling to explain themselves instead of leading on the issues."
If so, it's another bad week caused by the news media's news judgments.
Over on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Tom Brokaw opened his newscast: "Good evening. It is a new week, but the news out of Iraq is no better tonight, and Bob Woodward's book on the decisions leading to war continues to stir Washington, the power and gossip stew. Who knew what and when? Who's in? Who's out? And what are the consequences? But the real issues remain on the ground in Iraq where a fragile standoff is under way in one city while a Spanish troop withdrawal is causing consternation in the White House, and causing boasting from one of America's high-profile Iraqi critics. We're going to begin tonight in Baghdad with NBC's Richard Engel."
Setting up a subsequent piece on Woodward's book, Brokaw asserted: "Also tonight, we have more disclosures in Plan of Attack, that new book by journalist Bob Woodward depicting, among other things, a family feud within the Bush administration in which Secretary of State Powell is portrayed as having clear misgivings about a war in Iraq, and the White House all but froze him out of the decision-making process. Today, for the first time, Secretary Powell acknowledged that yes, he has cooperated with Woodward for the book. Here's NBC's chief White House correspondent, Andrea Mitchell."
In a second story, David Gregory looked at officials rebutting the charge of $700 million being re-directed from Afghanistan to Iraq and that Saudi Ambassador Bandar assured the White House of lower oil prices to help Bush get re-elected.
Leading off ABC's newscast, Peter Jennings announced: "On World News Tonight, the Bush administration has a busy day dealing with a book about how the President prepared for war in Iraq."
With "Under Fire" on screen, Jennings set up the lead story from George Stephanopoulos who focused on Powell as out of the loop and how Saudi Arabia was depicted as "trying to get the President re-elected." Stephanopoulos warned: "With gas prices so high, the most explosive charge politically is Woodward's claim that Saudi Prince Bandar promised President Bush that Saudi Arabia would lower oil prices by election day 2004."
But after featuring a clip of John Kerry denouncing the Bush-Saudi deal and allowing White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett to say that Bush simply asked Bandar to hold prices steady during the war, Stephanopoulos scrutinized Woodward's claim: "In an interview today, Woodward couldn't say exactly when Bandar made his pledge and wouldn't use the word 'deal,' but he stands by his story."
Quite a leap of faith.
Up next, Jonathan Karl zeroed in on how Powell is portrayed as so "marginalized" that he's not even asked about going to war.
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann saw comparison's to Watergate. On Countdown, he recalled how exactly 31 years ago Woodward "took a huge chunk out of the presidency of Richard Nixon" and "on this April 19th, Woodward is back, his reporting now in book form, perhaps taking a huge chunk out of the presidency of George W. Bush."
Olbermann teased his show: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The White versus Bob Woodward, the second wave of revelations from his book: That the President redirected $700 million from the war in Afghanistan to planning the war in Iraq two years ago, that a Saudi prince saw the war plans before Secretary of State Powell did, that Powell was Woodward's primary source."
Olbermann then delivered this lengthy summary of what he saw as relevant from Woodward's book, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
Later, on CNN's 10pm EDT NewsNight, Aaron Brown set up a session with Wall Street Journal reporter John Harwood and Leslie Gelb, President emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, by intoning: "It would be tempting to dismiss much of what is revealed in Bob Woodward's new book as just inside-the-beltway new gossip, if it didn't involve things like declaring war, hundreds of millions in government dollars just inner motivations of the some of the world's most powerful people. At this level, it is not gossip. It is foreign affairs. It is history."
A few minutes earlier on NewsNight CNN's John King pointed out, as did David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News, how the Bush campaign site lists Woodward's book in its list of "recommended reading." Indeed, its first in a list which also features the books by Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, Lynne Cheney, John Podhoretz, David Frum and Sean Hannity. See: www.georgewbush.com
On the very day that Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler scolded his paper for distorting the content of the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), by saying that it warned of how terrorists had cased a building "in Lower Manhattan," when the PDB said no such thing, a fresh New York Times story conveyed the same distortion about how the PDB warned of an attack in "Lower Manhattan."
The April 19 CyberAlert reported: Focusing on how the Washington Post a week earlier had led a story with a very misleading reference to how "President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan," when the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) in question made no reference to "Lower Manhattan," Post Ombudsman Michael Getler conceded on Sunday that since the wording falsely suggested that Bush was warned about an attack in the area of the World Trade Center, "readers who believe this introductory paragraph was, or could be seen as, misleading and conveying a political bias make a fair point, in my view."
In fact, the PDB referred to "recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York," and while there are federal buildings in Lower Manhattan, there are federal buildings all over New York City and New York state.
For an excerpt from Getler's piece: www.mediaresearch.org
Clay Waters, Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch.org page, caught the fresh Times recitation of the same distortion. An excerpt from his April 19 posting:
A Sunday front-page story by David Johnston and Jim Dwyer provided more examples of failed pre-9/11 intelligence, but features an erroneous claim about the famous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing memo that makes the terrorist threat warning sound more specific than it actually was.
They wrote: "The memorandum, declassified on April 10 by the White House at the commission's request, included some ominous information. It said that Qaeda operatives had been in the United States for years, might be planning an attack in the United States and could be focusing on a building in Lower Manhattan as a target."
But the actual PDB says nothing about "Lower Manhattan." It mentions only "recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York," which casts a rather wider geographic net...
END of Excerpt
For the New York Times story by Johnston and Dwyer: www.nytimes.com
For the latest on bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org
Only when 9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick supposedly became the victim of right-wing hate did ABC's World News Tonight bother to get around to informing its viewers of her 1995 memo, as Deputy Attorney General, mandating that the CIA not share with the FBI information about terrorists. At last Tuesday's 9-11 Commission hearing, Attorney General John Ashcroft declassified Gorelick's memo in which she herself conceded the guidelines she was imposing "go beyond what is legally required." But that night, World News Tonight ignored the revelation and focused instead on complaints Ashcroft didn't care about terrorism.
World News Tonight didn't catch up on Wednesday night. Or Thursday night. Or Friday night. But on Saturday night, the show finally got to the Gorelick memo, though only in the context of how she's received death threats because of it (apparently from wacky people who get their news from someplace other that ABC), but reporter Linda Douglass ignored how Gorelick admitted her guidelines went beyond what the law required and Douglass spent more time defending the guidelines than explaining them.
A full rundown of the April 17 ABC story below, but first two other items related to coverage of Gorelick's memo: Al Hunt, a journalist who normally celebrates the release of secret government information, denounced Ashcroft for "Joe McCarthy-type" tactics in revealing the memo, and while National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appeared on three Sunday shows, only Fox News Sunday raised with her Gorelick's chutzpah in quizzing her about the "wall of separation."
-- Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN: "The CIA came out as a loser in this week's hearing, but the real loser was John Ashcroft, with that Joe McCarthy-type appearance this week. He was the only witness, Mark, who refused to give the committee his testimony ahead of time. And then he -- for weeks, he's refused to release classified documents at the committee's request. And then he tried to spring this so-called Gorelick document, and he lied about its meaning and its contents. As Slade Gorton, Republican member of the committee, pointed out, this so-called wall began with the Reagan administration and court decisions. Moreover, if General Ashcroft thought that Jamie Gorelick had done something bad by executive fiat, why in eight months did he not undo it by executive fiat?"
-- Condoleezza Rice appeared on CBS's Face the Nation, ABC's This Week and Fox News Sunday, but only Fox's Chris Wallace reminded her of what Gorelick asked her Rice at the hearing on April 8: "The FBI doesn't work the way it should, and it doesn't communicate with the intelligence communities. Now, you have said to us that your policy review was meant to be comprehensive. And yet there is nothing in it about the vast domestic landscape that we were all warned needed so much attention. Can you give me the answer to the question why?"
Wallace wondered: "When commission member Jaime Gorelick was questioning you about that, did you know that when she was the Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration, that she had issued an order that, in fact, helped build the so-called wall even higher?"
-- Now, the full text of the April 17 World News Tonight/Saturday story on ABC, in which the show finally mentioned the Gorelick memo, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth
Anchor Bob Woodruff: "One of the members of the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has received death threats. They were directed at Jamie Gorelick, who was deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. Here's ABC's Linda Douglass."
Douglass began: "September 11th commissioner Jamie Gorelick has received an avalanche of hate-filled e-mail, much of it laced with obscenities."
Gorelick obviously is not to blame for 9-11 and any threats against her are disgusting, but the media's lack of interest in her conflict of interest is curious. It seems that only FNC is continuing to track the story, with Ashcroft discussing it Monday night on Hannity & Colmes, a preview of which was featured on Special Report with Brit Hume.
For Ashcroft's prepared statement at the hearing in full, as posted by the AP: wid.ap.org
As posted by National Review: www.nationalreview.com
-- April 14: Media Avoidance of Holding Clinton's Justice Department Accountable, part 1 of 2. During his appearance Tuesday before the 9-11 Commission, Attorney General John Ashcroft pointed out how the Clinton Justice Department, in a 1995 memorandum written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, now a member of the commission, imposed a systemic impediment to fighting terrorism by going beyond what the law required to bar the CIA from sharing information with the FBI about terror suspects inside the United States. The ABC, CBS and CNN evening newscasts on Tuesday all failed to mention the Gorelick memo as the networks chose instead to stress accusations about Ashcroft's supposed lack of interest in terrorism in the few months before September 11, 2001. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 14: Media Avoidance of Holding Clinton's Justice Department Accountable, part 2 of 2. In the morning, as in the evening, the networks focused on making John Ashcroft culpable over any attention to the roles of Jamie Gorelick or Janet Reno, who was set to also appear at the Tuesday hearing. Gorelick, the author of the 1995 memo which established barriers to the CIA informing the FBI of terrorists inside the U.S., appeared on Tuesday's Good Morning America. But Charles Gibson didn't ask her a thing about Reno's policies or her record. No, he cued her up to castigate Ashcroft: "There are reports that John Ashcroft, who will testify today, the Attorney General, is harshly criticized in the draft reports from the commission for inattention to terrorism and terrorist threats in the summer of 2001. True?" She agreed. www.mediaresearch.org
-- April 15: Attorney General John Ashcroft's revelation, at the 9-11 Commission hearing on Tuesday, that commission member Jamie Gorelick, as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, was the author of a 1995 memo which imposed a systemic impediment to fighting terrorism by going beyond what the law required to bar the CIA from sharing information with the FBI about terror suspects inside the United States, got some limited attention Wednesday after largely being ignored in Tuesday coverage. CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports and NewsNight did raise Gorelick's role, as did CBS's Early Show, but ABC did all it could to ignore it and/or discredit the charge. Diane Sawyer treated charges against Ashcroft as the big news of the day and didn't utter Gorelick's name when she raised Ashcroft's charge against Gorelick. On Nightline, Michel Martin undercut Ashcroft's point by couching it as "partisan." See: www.mediaresearch.org
Nice parting shot at President Bush. On Friday's Nightline, David Wright concluded a story by remarking about how the family of a soldier taken hostage in Iraq "must be wishing the President had left the job of liberating Iraq to someone else."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed that this was how Wright concluded an April 16 Nightline update on the situation in Iraq:
-- Brent Baker