2. Sawyer Suggests Hussein's "Spectacular Move" Could Prevent War
3. Jennings Finds Public Dissent, Rues How Bush Ruining Alliance
4. Blitzer Says French Case "Compelling," But Guest Dissents
5. "Top Ten Valentine's Day Traditions in the Marine Corps"
ABC's Peter Jennings on Friday night, without skepticism, touted how the Iraqis made "another concession" as "Saddam Hussein issued a presidential decree banning the production or the importation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
Setting up a subsequent story, about how Americans and Frenchman are becoming "nasty" toward each other, Jennings proclaimed that the "the French government, more than any other, reflects the widespread feeling of much of the European public that Mr. Bush is in too much of a hurry to go to war." Reporter David Wright acknowledged that France "wouldn't be free had so many Americans not made such a sacrifice" during World War II, but he concluded that "it is precisely because they can remember war that they now fight so hard for peace."
Jennings also highlighted anti-war protests around the world.
Jennings opened the February 14 World News Tonight: "Good evening, everyone. The UN weapons inspectors have given their latest report on Iraq to the United Nations Security Council, and once again it brings into focus a lack of consensus on attacking Iraq. The Bush administration had hoped that the weapons inspectors would be very hard on Iraq today for not coming clean about weapons of mass destruction. It didn't work out precisely like that. And even with some of its allies, the administration did not have its best day."
CBS and NBC offered similar assessments at the top of their shows. CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather began: "The chief United Nation's arms inspector reported to the Security Council today on the progress of his work in Iraq. He offered little support for military action against Saddam Hussein, pressing instead for more inspections. So tonight the policy gap between the United States and other key Security Council members appears wider than ever. And the likelihood grows of a U.S.-led war without UN approval."
From Ankara, Turkey, Tom Brokaw started the NBC Nightly News: "Today, when the chief UN weapons inspectors made their report to the UN Security Council their message was mixed, but once again there was no smoking gun. And so the deep divisions between the United States and its most powerful critics played out for all to see." (Just after Hans Blix finished, however, NBC's Andrea Mitchell had declared a bit before 11am EST: "He did find what you could call a smoking gun, which is that one of the missiles, the al-Samoud missile...is longer than the range permitted, it is 113 miles rather than 90 miles.")
Back to ABC, after Martha Raddatz reported who said what at the UN on Friday, Jennings treated an Iraqi move as significant and described it as "another concession," as if Iraq is continually cooperating:
(From Baghdad on the CBS Evening News, Mark Phillips at least added a caveat: "He [Hussein] issued a decree, demanded long ago by the UN, and actually outlawed all weapons of mass destruction. It's a legal ban not likely to satisfy those who think he still has them.") Which would be everyone but Tariq Aziz and Peter Jennings.
Next on Friday's World News Tonight, Jennings set up a piece on relations between the French and Americans: "So as of now, the Bush administration does not expect to get France. The French government, more than any other, reflects the widespread feeling of much of the European public that Mr. Bush is in too much of a hurry to go to war. And in France, as well as here, this very old Franco-American relationship is taking a beating to the point where some Americans and some Frenchmen are being pretty nasty about each other. ABC's David Wright reports from France tonight."
Wright began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, over video of a model of the Statue of Liberty: "Beneath the Eiffel Tower, there is another familiar monument, a symbol of France's friendship and shared values with the U.S. That friendship seems troubled these days. The newspaper, Le Figaro, calls these the cold hours. The French are considerably more blunt."
Over matching video, Jennings then highlighted how "the war is not popular in parts of Asia. In Australia, more than 100,000 people demonstrated in the city of Melbourne against possible war with Iraq. There were also rallies today in Japan, and in the Philippines there was a series of anti-war marches planned for many parts of the world over the next several days."
CBS's David Martin, on Friday's CBS Evening News, also gave a sentence to the protests: "In Australia, which is sending troops to fight along side Americans, the city of Melbourne today saw one of the largest anti-war demonstrations since Vietnam when an estimated 100,00 people turned out to say American might does not make right."
ABC's Diane Sawyer was even more excited than Peter Jennings (see item #1 above) over Saddam Hussein's "presidential decree calling for the banning of weapons of mass destruction." Jumping on the "breaking news" at 8am EST on Friday's Good Morning America, she trumpeted rhetorically: "Is this the big chess move, the spectacular move that can change the momentum toward war?"
In follow-up stories, the MRC's Rich Noyes news observed, news reader Robin Roberts and reporter Martha Raddatz were less sanguine.
But earlier in the program, Dan Harris in Baghdad excitedly heralded the "extraordinary session" of the Iraqi "legislature" which was expected to lead to the "banning of all weapons of mass destruction." Harris asserted: "The Iraqi National Council, the legislature here, is going into an extraordinary session today. It is possible that the legislators will rush through a bill banning all weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- a gesture the inspectors have been demanding for some time now."
At another point on Friday's GMA, reporter Richard Gizbert admired Iraq's "smart propaganda move" in enlisting the Vatican in its effort to stop a war. After reporting on Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's meeting with the Pope, Gizbert argued:
Now back to Sawyer being excited over Saddam Hussein saying he will no longer import or produce chemical or biological weapons. At the top of the 8am EST hour, she announced: "We wanted to tell everybody about some breaking news out of Baghdad this morning, that Saddam Hussein has issued a presidential decree calling for the banning of weapons of mass destruction. Is this the big chess move, the spectacular move that can change the momentum toward war? Well, we'll find out later this morning because the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is going to give his report to the United Nations Security Council, and the United States will be reacting to everything that has happened this morning."
Minutes later news reader Robin Roberts showed some restraint as she referred to how the decree "supposedly bans weapons of mass destruction from Iraq." Martha Raddatz then predicted the U.S. response: "Well, I think the United States will not believe it. They have long pushed for Saddam Hussein to issue such a decree, and Saddam Hussein agreed with inspectors when they were last in Baghdad that Iraq would issue such a decree."
Before and after the presentation by UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to the UN Security Council on Friday morning, ABC's Peter Jennings kept stressing discord in the nation ("I must tell you I find people who wonder whether or not the Bush administration is in too much of a hurry") and fretted over post-war problems ("there hasn't been a lot of planning for the long haul" and those with "sons and daughters on the front lines... wonder whether or not the United States will be stuck in Iraq for a long time").
Though it is the defiance of the French which is making the UN impotent and allowing Saddam Hussein to flout UN resolutions, Jennings portrayed the Bush administration as the defiant party.
Jennings couldn't figure out what Blix said: "It will take a little bit of parsing as they say, a little bit of explaining to I think get precisely where he is." But CBS and NBC, immediately after Blix's address, highlighted what it took ABC News several minutes to get to: How Blix reported that an Iraqi missile was in violation of a UN resolution.
Dan Rather's headline: "Hans Blix said today that Iraq has failed to account for many proscribed weapons and must still explain what happened to suspected stocks of anthrax, VX gas and long-range missiles."
On NBC, Andrea Mitchell reported: "He did find what you could call a smoking gun, which is that one of the missiles, the al-Samoud missile, as we reported last night, is longer than the range permitted, it is 113 miles rather than 90 miles."
MRC analyst Patrick Gregory went through ABC's 10:15 to 11am EST coverage to document the skewed approach pursued by Jennings.
Before Blix started, Jennings informed George Stephanopoulos: "George, I've just come back from another of these road trips, and in the Pacific Northwest and in the Southwest, I must tell you I find people who wonder whether or not the Bush administration is in too much of a hurry -- not that they don't necessarily support a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein. What's the general climate this morning in Washington?"
Turning to Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria, Jennings raised another of his concerns: "Fareed Zakaria, listening to the testimony on Capitol Hill this week, it was not hard to get an impression there hasn't been a lot of planning for the long haul."
Jennings pursued his interest in post-war problems: "You find a great many people in the Arab world and a great many Americans, including many I met in the course of this week who have sons and daughters on the front lines who wonder whether or not the United States will be stuck in Iraq for a long time."
Talking with Terry Moran at the White House, Jennings painted President Bush, not France, as the impediment to allied unity: "Terry Moran, as you look at this from the distance at least of being on the road, and I think a lot of people got the impression this week that maybe the Bush administration doesn't mind if the Western alliance as we've known it in the post-war period breaks up. Some people are puzzled by that."
Jennings soon switched back to his other cause: "This is a huge debate in communities all over the country we find; it is a debate all over the world, and here this morning we are witness to the world's most important diplomatic body."
Following Blix, Jennings tried to summarize: "Hans Blix talking to the Security Council this morning giving his latest status report on the United Nations weapons inspectors' investigations in Iraq, and it will take a little bit of parsing as they say, a little bit of explaining to I think get precisely where he is. On the one hand it's better, on the one hand it could be better, on the one hand he argues for a little longer time. On the other hand he says it depends on the Security Council, it certainly depends on the United States which has not much interest in giving the weapons inspectors any time."
Finally, just before 12:30pm EST after Powell responded to Blix, Jennings flipped back again to how Bush is destroying the alliance: "What's happening here as Fareed points out, is an effort in the Security Council among allies, remember, for the most part, to go forward together and not rupture this or any other international body to which they all belong. And yet the Bush administration is determined to have its way on this. President Bush will speak to the nation in about an hour, between now and then you can check all of these speeches and the current state of play on a whole variety of issues at abcnews.com."
At about 1:20pm EST, ABC was the only broadcast network to carry President Bush's comments at the FBI.
> CBS and NBC after Blix:
Dan Rather asked CBS consultant Tim McCarthy: "The most important points and the significance of same from Hans Blix presentation, Tim."
After getting reactions from some CBS reporters, Rather wrapped up the CBS News Special Report, at just before noon EST, with an attitude far from what Jennings expressed:
On NBC, anchor Brian Williams went to Andrea Mitchell for reaction. Mitchell contended: "He did find what you could call a smoking gun, which is that one of the missiles, the al-Samoud missile, as we reported last night, is longer than the range permitted, it is 113 miles rather than 90 miles. But overall, he is saying that there has been an overall greater degree of cooperation. I thought he seemed to be straining, in fact, to put a positive gloss on his report today, and went so far as to challenge one of the questions that Colin Powell had raised in his presentation to the Security Council, when Colin Powell had shown a satellite photo of trucks that he believed were showing the movement of possible chemical munitions, he went so far today, Hans Blix did, to say that was probably routine movement of materials and not suspicious. So he tried, it seems to me, to undercut the U.S. argument to a great degree."
A guest expert on CNN put Wolf Blitzer in his place when Blitzer described the French case against force as "compelling." It was a "flat out wrong case," retorted former CIA official Ken Pollack who worked for the National Security Council during the Clinton years.
The MRC's Tim Graham caught the exchange which occurred at about 11:45am EST on Friday just after French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin spoke to the UN Security Council.
Blitzer told Pollack: "And the French Foreign Minister we just heard make a very compelling case against the use of force any time soon."
In his "Best of the Web" column on Friday posted on OpinionJournal.com, James Taranto dissected the French case. An excerpt:
...In November the Security Council passed Resolution 1441, which demanded that Saddam Hussein comply "immediately" with the 16 preceding resolutions, declared it his "final opportunity" to do so, and promised "serious consequences" if he failed to do so.
The French, in an expression of sheer contempt for the United Nations, are sticking to the position that 1441 doesn't mean what it says. Presented with ample evidence that Iraq has fallen short of the full compliance the U.N. demanded, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin made news excuses for delay: "The option of inspections has not been taken to the end." Never mind that Resolution 1441 plainly and repeatedly states that compliance must be "immediate." Instead of sticking to the letter and the spirit of 1441, the French ask us to take seriously such nonsense as an Iraqi "presidential decree" "banning" weapons of mass destruction. No wonder, as Daniel Henninger points out, Paris is now the laughingstock of the world...
END of Excerpt
That "nonsense" decree was taken quite seriously by ABC's Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer. See items numbers 1 and 2 above.
For the February 14 "Best of the Web" in full:
For Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial Page Editor Daniel Henninger's column, "Comic Relief: France liberates Poland from the grip of mockery," go to: http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/dhenninger/?id=110003068 
From the February 14 Late Show with David Letterman, as announced by ten members of the Military Police stationed at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, the "Top Ten Valentine's Day Traditions in the Marine Corps." Late Show Web page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/ 
10. "Instead of the usual cadence, we sing Johnny Mathis"
9. "Show someone you like her by helping her load her M-16"
8. "For one day, minesweepers are referred to as 'Be mine' sweepers"
7. "Going AWOL to see my girlfriend in Georgia...wait, disregard that"
6. "Eating candy message hearts that read 'I love you, maggot'"
5. "Forget to send flowers? Borrow a Harrier jet and deliver them yourself"
4. "Chocolate-covered strawberries"
3. "Every unit gets special-issue red, white and pink camouflage"
2. "Using high-tech surveillance and intelligence-gathering methods to identify secret admirers"
1. "Chocolates? Hell, we eat ammo"
-- CyberAlert written by Brent Baker