2. CBS's Smith Champions Obama in Glowing One-on-One from Iowa
3. Early Show Rips Limbaugh: 'Sexism Hits the Campaign Trail'
4. Moyers (!) Asks Olbermann: 'Should Journalists Take Sides?'
5. Late Night Re-Runs Drone On, But 'NewsBusted' All New This Week
6. Christmas Gift Idea: Bozell's New Book on the Media and Hillary
Correction: The December 18 CyberAlert quoted Meredith Vieira, referring back to Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel's desire that this year's "Person of the Year" return to the "core idea of choosing one individual who makes a difference," as asking him: "Core winds with Gore. And a lot of people think Al Gore is going to be the choice." The word "winds" should have been "rhymes," which makes a lot more sense. For that item: www.mrc.org 
Viewers of ABC's World News on Tuesday night learned of good news in the Pentagon's latest quarterly report on conditions in Iraq, but the positive developments went unnoted on CBS while NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, AP and McClatchy all stressed the negatives in the status report. ABC anchor Charles Gibson pointed out that "in the past, these reports have offered a brutally negative assessment" but the new one "shows real progress, across the board. On security, the report says weekly IED attacks have dropped 68 percent since June. The number of U.S. troop deaths from IEDs fell to the lowest level since January 2006." Gibson proceeded to cite lower inflation and a boost in electricity production.
Wednesday's New York Times turned that into: "Pentagon Says Services in Iraq Are Stagnant." USA Today headlined an AP dispatch in Wednesday's edition, "Pentagon: Transition to Iraqi security forces lags." The Washington Post's story: "Iran Continues to Support Shiite Militias in Iraq, Pentagon Says." The Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers, which infamously headlined an October story, "As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel the Pinch," headlined a Tuesday story: "Despite drop in violence, Pentagon finds little long-term progress in Iraq." The Los Angeles Times provided an exception to the downbeat spin with an article which echoed what ABC stressed: "Pentagon reports security gains in Iraq."
(That October McClatchy headline won the "Quote of the Year" in the MRC's "Best Notable Quotables of 2007: The Twentieth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting" -- now online with about 45 video clips: www.mrc.org  )
Jim Miklaszewski gave the Pentagon report a sentence on the NBC Nightly News as he noted that "the Pentagon's quarterly report on Iraq, released today, warned that any progress" on political reconciliation "remains slow."
[This item was posted early Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org  ]
PDF of the December 18 DOD report: www.defenselink.mil 
Past quarterly reports: www.defenselink.mil 
ABC has consistently stood apart over the past few months in being willing to report improvements in Iraq. The MRC's study on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast coverage from September through November, "Good News = Less News on Iraq War," discovered: "Of the three evening newscasts, ABC's World News was the first to take serious note of the improving situation (back on October 1), and has offered the most stories (9 field reports, 7 from Iraq) detailing the progress." Full study findings: www.mrc.org 
Indeed, on Friday, Gibson uniquely noticed the lack of any violence in Baghdad that day and used it as a hook for a look at life returning to normal. Gibson set up the December 14 story:
McCarthy began: "The children are coming back to school -- one of the strongest signs yet that this tortured city is getting safer..." [full transcript below]
Gibson's short item, about the new Pentagon report, on the December 18 World News: "The Pentagon, today, issued its quarterly report on the situation in Iraq. In the past, these reports have offered a brutally negative assessment. But today, it shows real progress, across the board. On security, the report says weekly IED attacks have dropped 68 percent since June. The number of U.S. troop deaths from IEDs fell to the lowest level since January 2006. On the economy, the report claims Iraqi inflation through October of this year stands at 4.2 percent. That's down from nearly 53 percent last year. Electricity production is up 14 percent over last year. The report also points to some achievements by the Iraqi parliament, but it says the key national reconciliation laws need to be passed to solidify gains."
The headlines and leads from the print publications cited above:
# New York Times, December 19 article:
Pentagon Says Services in Iraq Are Stagnant
By MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON -- Despite a significant reduction in violence in Iraq over the past three months, the Iraqi government has made little headway in improving the delivery of electricity, health care and other essential services, a new Pentagon report said Tuesday.
The report is the latest of the Pentagon's quarterly assessments on progress in Iraq and offers the Bush administration's most comprehensive assessment of security and economic trends there.
As expected, the report chronicled a substantial decline in attacks on Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces and American troops '€" a reduction to numbers not seen since the summer of 2005, according to the Pentagon.
But the assessment also indicated that the Iraqi government has been slow to take advantage of that downturn in violence by taking the political and economic steps to cement the security gains....
For the New York Times story in full: www.nytimes.com 
Pentagon: Transition to Iraqi security forces lags
By Lolita C. Baldor The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- As violence continues to decline in much of Iraq, efforts to shift responsibility to the Iraqi security forces are still lagging, dogged by corruption, administrative shortfalls and sectarian divides, according to a Pentagon report.
The Defense Department's quarterly report on progress in Iraq said that while the size and capabilities of the Iraqi army and police forces have grown, many are still dependent on the United States and coalition nations for logistics and training.
A key problem, it said, is the Iraqis' "inability to adequately forecast life-support requirements and to promptly take action when contracts are expiring." The report covers the three-month period from September through November...
For USA Today's publication of the AP article: www.usatoday.com 
Iran Continues to Support Shiite Militias in Iraq, Pentagon Says
By Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, December 19, 2007; A14
A new Pentagon report has concluded that Iran continues to provide money, training and weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, although U.S. commanders previously stated that attacks using lethal bombs linked to Iran have fallen in recent months.
"There has been no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi'a militias in Iraq," said the report, released yesterday.
"Tehran's support for Shi'a militant groups who attack Coalition and Iraq forces remains a significant impediment to progress," it said, adding that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps provides "many of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups."
The report also said that security gains in Iraq have been uneven in regions with fewer U.S. troops, and that political progress by Iraq's national government is the critical factor in sustaining those gains. The quarterly report, required by Congress, covers September through November.
U.S. commanders have voiced the concern that the security gains, aided by the deployment of nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq this year, might be squandered if the Iraqi government continues to move slowly on political reconciliation, a point underscored in yesterday's report...
For the entire Washington Post story: www.washingtonpost.com 
Despite drop in violence, Pentagon finds little long-term progress in Iraq
By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Despite significant security gains in much of Iraq, nothing has changed within Iraq's political leadership to guarantee sustainable peace, a Pentagon report released Tuesday found.
The congressionally mandated quarterly report suggests that the drop in violence won't hold unless Iraq's central government passes key legislation, improves the way it manages its security forces and finds a way to reconcile the country's competing sects. It said none of those steps has been taken.
"Although security gains, local accommodation and progress against the flow of foreign fighters and lethal aid into Iraq have had a substantial effect, more needs to be done to foster national, 'top-down' reconciliation to sustain the gains," the report said.
The Pentagon report is the latest assessment circulating in Washington as officials ponder whether the strategy of increasing U.S. troop strength this year by 30,000 can be called a victory or whether the drop in violence is a lull that will break once the United States returns to last year's troop levels....
For the McClatchy article in full: www.mcclatchydc.com 
Pentagon reports security gains in Iraq Its latest study is the first to note broad reductions in violence in multiple categories. But it warns that progress could easily be reversed.
By Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON -- Security in Iraq has improved consistently and dramatically in nearly every major category over the last three months, the most sustained period of such gains in nearly two years, according to the first Pentagon report to attempt to quantify recent progress in detail.
However, the report also makes it clear that progress could easily be lost unless improvements are made quickly in Iraq's economy and its unreliable central government, and it illustrates how dependent the advances are on restraint by still-active militant groups....
For the LA Times report in full: www.latimes.com 
CHARLES GIBSON: Overseas, this has been a remarkable day in Iraq. Our Baghdad bureau says there were no reports of any major outbreaks of violence anywhere in the country today. This is the first time we can recall that happening since the insurgency began. The improving conditions are having visible effects. Communities that had been under siege are coming alive again. Our Terry McCarthy in Baghdad found many examples.
TERRY MCCARTHY: The children are coming back to school -- one of the strongest signs yet that this tortured city is getting safer. The situation, says teacher Alaa Jumma, is much better than before, when parents held their children at home out of fear. The statistics are often repeated '€" civilian killings down 65 percent since June, car bombs down by half. What influences behavior, however, are the everyday experiences people talk about. In Kadhimiya market, a staunch Shiite stronghold, we meet Uma Bir (sp?), a Sunni. Six months ago, Shiite militias were mortaring her neighborhood. Now, she says she feels safe coming here. And besides, the selection is better in this market.
In an especially glowing interview with Barack Obama on Tuesday's Early Show on CBS, co-host Harry Smith lobbed softball after softball at the Illinois Senator. Smith and Obama got along so well that they actually finished each other's sentences. When Smith raised Afghanistan, "And it seems now that Afghanistan-" Obama then interjected: "Is deteriorating rapidly, which is one of the reasons I objected to this war in Iraq in the first place." Not only did Smith tee up such ideal questions for the Democratic candidate, but he also praised Obama's ability to reach across the ideological divide in Iowa: "Up in the northwest part of the state, the politics are conservative, but for a candidate locked in a tight race, every potential voter needs to be reached." At that moment in the segment there was footage of a woman in this "conservative" part of the state hugging Obama and saying: "We will caucus for Obama."
[This item is adapted from a Tuesday posting, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org  ]
Smith, who in an October 15 interview with Obama called the Senator a "rock star," used almost poetic language as he described being on the campaign trail in Iowa with the candidate: "Endless miles of snow-covered prairie roll by. Just like yesterday and not too different from tomorrow...It feels surreal talking global affairs on a custom charter bus rolling through Iowa farm country. But to get to Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the road Obama must take."
[Read the October 17 CyberAlert on "Rock Star" Obama here: www.mrc.org  ]
In addition, Smith described how Obama has persevered, despite attacks from the Clinton campaign: "In the final sprint to the Iowa caucuses, Obama harbors no illusions. Politics is a full-contact sport...Just days after one Clinton surrogate brought up Obama's past drug use, another, ex-Senator Bob Kerrey, was quoted playing up Obama's Muslim lineage, even though Obama is a Christian...Do you get a sense that there are some in your party who are trying to say it's not your turn?"
And Smith's final question to Obama was truly hard-hitting: "Do you feel guilty now, doing what you're doing, being away from your family so much?"
Here is the full transcript of the December 18 segment:
HARRY SMITH: We were in Iowa, of course, all day yesterday. Chicago is where Hillary Clinton is going to be later today because she's got to raise some more money for her campaign. But it's all about how many times you get out to see the voters. There's an interesting little graphic in this morning's New York Times. It says -- it tells you how many times the different candidates have been in Iowa and made appearances there since June. Mitt Romney, 108 different campaign appearances. Mike Huckabee, 105. John McCain, 37. Now, for the Democrats, John Edwards, who's practically been living there the last four years, 179 different campaign appearances since June. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 99, and Barack Obama, 113. Appearances do matter.
Tuesday's Early Show on CBS led with co-host Julie Chen exclaiming: "Sexism hits the campaign trail as Rush Limbaugh asks if voters want to stare at an aging woman as President." This harsh accusation was in reference to comments made by Limbaugh during his radio show on December 17, in which he simply wondered, in commenting on a photo that showed wrinkles on Clinton's face: "Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she's getting older because it'll impact poll numbers, it'll impact perceptions."
Despite the top of the show hype, the Early Show did not do a full segment on the story, but did feature a news brief at the start of the 8:00am hour by news reader Meg Oliver: "And now a story that's expected to reverberate throughout the day. The question of sexism in politics. It's of particular interest in Campaign 2008, where a woman has a good chance of becoming a major party nominee. Radio commentator Rush Limbaugh yesterday had some thoughts after seeing this picture of Hillary Clinton posted on the internet. Limbaugh believes Americans are addicted to physical perfection and wonders if this country is ready to watch a woman age in the Oval Office...Limbaugh also says, as people age, no matter who they are, America loses interest."
[This item, by Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org  ]
Call it a meeting of the Bush-bashing minds. Longtime PBS host Bill Moyers invited on MSNBC host Keith Olbermann for Friday's edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. The strangest moment came as Moyers, with quite a bit of chutzpah, suggested that in a polarized country, it might be distasteful for journalists to favor one side. Moyers must have been playing devil's advocate, because he's been every bit as vituperative against Bush and conservatives as Olbermann.
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org  ]
The worries about polarization and contributing to "a nation of screechers" came up twice on the December 14 program:
BILL MOYERS: It seems to me that this country has become two choirs, each side listening to, only to its own preachers. If -- should journalists take sides when everybody else is polarized?
Later, Moyers decided to read viewer mail to Olbermann, and the former sports anchor couldn't help but joke about his biases:
BILL MOYERS: Quote, "I have long had mixed feelings about Keith Olbermann. While it's nice to have a cable anchor how doesn't obsequiously parrot Republican National Committee talking points, I struggle with the fear that angry histrionics on both sides create more of the ugly polarization that paralyzes our institutions and prevents Americans finding common ground. How does Mr. Olbermann differentiate his ad hominem attacks from those we see on the other side?" What do you say to Jesse?
At least at that moment Olbermann was admitting he was vociferously anti-Bush. Minutes earlier, the two suggested that conservatives might be mistaken to think Keith had a liberal tilt:
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I noticed when you a sportscaster you never took sides between the teams on the field. But a lot of people think you've taken sides now. They think you've taken sides with the progressive or liberal story.
The strike by writers continues, but the MRC's twice-a-week NewsBusted comedy show is not on strike. Two new episodes were posted last week, another on Tuesday and we'll have a fresh one Friday. So while Leno, Stewart, Letterman, O'Brien, Ferguson, Kimmel and Colbert are all still in re-runs because of the strike by the Writers Guild of America, the MRC's NewsBusted comedy video show -- with jokes about politics, Hollywood and media bias -- is fresh again this week. Topics in the latest episode now at the top of the MRC's NewsBusters blog: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bob Schieffer, illegal immigration and Alex Trebek.
Check out the latest two-and-a-half-minute comedy show now at the top of the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org 
And enjoy the archive of past shows: www.youtube.com 
MRC President Brent Bozell's new book on the news media and Hillary Clinton: The Perfect Holiday Gift for Your Favorite Conservative.
This Christmas, give your favorite conservative, Mom, Dad, friend or colleague, something you know they will love. Give them Whitewash: What the Media Won't Tell You about Hillary Clinton but Conservatives Will, by the Media Research Center's own L. Brent Bozell and Tim Graham.
Whitewash Gets Glowing Reviews!
# Sean Hannity, ABC Radio talk show host and co-host of FNC's Hannity & Colmes: "This is the defining book that needed to be written on Hillary Clinton, and anybody who votes in 2008 needs to examine this thoroughly."
# R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator calls Whitewash "one of the most important books I have read about the Clintons' relationship with the press, and I myself have contributed a number of books to this field."
# Phil Brennan of Newsmax writes: "With this invaluable expose, Brent Bozell has broken through the soft curtain the media has kept between Hillary Clinton and the American people."
# Amazon.com Readers Give Whitewash Four Stars!
"If only millions would read this Book!" R. D. Capetto
"Thoughtful, well-written, provocative. Read it and then make up your mind." D. C. Carrad
"A great fast read...." J. Schlatter
So don't wait: Order the perfect gift for your favorite conservative today! Proceeds go to the Media Research Center.
Or, to order from Barnes & Noble: search.barnesandnoble.com 
-- Brent Baker