2. Clift: Bush Team "Took Their Damn Time" in "Laggard Response"
3. Best Jobs Numbers Since 1999, But CBS and NBC Stress Negative
NBC's Today on Monday morning devoted a 7am half hour segment to a Newsweek Web story about how the U.S. is supposedly considering a "Salvador Option" for Iraq, what Newsweek and NBC's Katie Couric dubbed "death squads" to hunt down terrorists. Couric proposed to retired Army General Wayne Downing: "Is this a clear sign though that U.S. forces are losing the war with these insurgents?" Couric tried to impugn the policy idea by tarring it with what supposedly occurred in El Salvador in the 1980s: "In El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?" Downing rejected her premise: "This has nothing to do with El Salvador."
Couric set up the January 10 Today segment, as taken down by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "On Close Up this morning, a possible new approach in Iraq. Newsweek magazine is reporting this week that the Pentagon is considering using a controversial secret strategy to battle insurgents there, the same one the Reagan administration used to fight leftist guerillas in El Salvador in the early eighties. Retired General Wayne Downing is an NBC News military analyst. General Downing good morning."
With "Iraqi Death Squads?" as the on-screen heading throughout the session, Couric posed these questions:
-- "So officials at the Pentagon are now discussing a possible option calling it, 'The Salvador Option,' according to Newsweek magazine. What does this mean and General Downing how significant is this in your view?"
-- Couric: "But is this going to be used more or in greater numbers? According to Newsweek they're going to, the, the U.S. Special Forces will train specially chosen Kurdish forces and Shiite militia men. So does this signal a, I guess, an escalation of this technique at least?"
-- "But is this a, I'm sorry General Downing is this a clear sign though that U.S. forces are losing the war with these insurgents? That they are even more difficult to, to deal with than once imagined?"
-- "One last question, we don't have much time General Downing, but in El Salvador many innocent civilians were killed when these kind of tactics were employed. Are you concerned about that or the possibility this will increase anti-American sentiment in the general Iraqi population?"
For the Saturday-posted Newsweek Web site article, "'The Salvador Option': The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq" by Michael Hirsh and John Barry, go to: www.msnbc.msn.com 
Newsweek illustrated its story with one of the most incendiary incidents used by the left to discredit the Reagan administration's subsequent support for the government of El Salvador. The caption for the photo featured by Newsweek: "Nuns pray over the bodies of four American sisters killed by the military in El Salvador in 1980."
Two weeks after the tsunami, but in the first McLaughlin Group taped since it occurred, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift declared that "you cannot defend the administration's laggard response" and argued "the administration was basically out to lunch. They were on holiday and they didn't see U.S. strategic interests really threatened and they just took their damn time."
Clift opined on the McLaughlin Group shown over the weekend:
Emphasizing the negative. The unemployment numbers released on Friday exhibited a gain of 157,000 jobs in December for a total of 2.2 million jobs during the year, the best showing since 1999. ABC's World News Tonight didn't mention the good news while CBS and NBC stressed the negative. CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts noted that the 2.2 million new jobs were "about 400,000 short of what the White House predicted a year ago" and, on the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams pointed out how "Wall Street wasn't impressed. The Dow was down almost 19 points. NASDAQ was down as well."
Neither network reported how the much-predicted job losses during the Bush years have now been nearly eliminated. Washington Post reporters Nell Henderson and Amy Joyce noted in their January 8 story:
After 47 months of unemployment data, Bush is just 122,000 jobs short now of breaking even with the report for January due in early February. And as Saturday's New York Times story noted, that "job creation grew at a stronger pace than originally estimated in October and November; the Labor Department, with further information from companies, increased its estimate for those two months by 34,000 jobs."
The short item read by John Roberts on the January 7 CBS Evening News: "About the U.S. economy now, President Bush applauded today's jobs report. It shows unemployment holding steady last month at 5.4 percent as the economy created 157,000 jobs. For all of 2004, it's 2.2 million new jobs, the best showing in five years. It's about 400,000 short of what the White House predicted a year ago, though."
On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams announced: "And there is news on the American economy tonight, specifically the jobs report for the month of December. Employers added 157,000 workers to their payrolls last month. The unemployment rate, by the way, held steady at 5.4 percent. December's payroll additions bring the total number of jobs added for the year now to 2.2 million. That's the best showing in five years. President Bush called all this a very positive set of numbers, but Wall Street wasn't impressed. The Dow was down almost 19 points. NASDAQ was down as well. And for this first week of the new year, stocks lost ground overall. The Dow was off 179 points. NASDAQ was down almost 87. That's about four percent."