Burden on Cindy McCain Over Michelle Obama's Lack of U.S. Pride --2/20/2008
2. Too Conservative for CNN: McCain Pounded for No Tax Hike Pledge
3. NBC's Matt Lauer Raises Notion of GOP 'Swift Boating' Obama
4. Bill Clinton Still Victim of Paula Jones and Clinton-Haters
5. Olbermann: 'Deep Affection' for Clintons, Bush 'Worst Person'
6. NYT: Castro Provided 'Universal Health Care' & 'Free Education'
7. ABC's Diane Sawyer Hails Castro as 'Dashing' and 'Rock Star'
Michelle Obama proclaimed that "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country," but instead of putting the burden on the Obama campaign to defend her admission of a lack of pride in her nation, NBC on Tuesday night framed its coverage around Cindy McCain's "rhetoric" in issuing a "political jab" over the remark and concern over whether that "was a knock at Michelle Obama?" But at least NBC highlighted the comment from Monday. ABC's World News didn't utter a word about it while CBS's Jim Axelrod pointed out how the Obama "campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot."
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up the story: "For the Republicans, the rhetoric today was also largely about words. And today it involved the wife of the frontrunner, Cindy McCain." Kelly O'Donnell relayed how "the most memorable political jab of the day did not come" from John McCain but from Cindy McCain who declared "I'm proud of my country." O'Donnell treated that as an attack which required justification: "Asked directly if this was a knock at Michelle Obama, John McCain steered clear."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
From the February 19 CBS Evening News story, picking up after more charges over plagiarism by Barack Obama:
JIM AXELROD: It's Michelle Obama's words that may give her husband's opponents an even sharper line of attack.
AXELROD: Michelle Obama's words -- the campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot. They understand that those words could be a problem down the road, Ohio and Texas two weeks from today, and then later on April 22nd in Pennsylvania.
Next, anchor Harry Smith discussed the campaign with Bob Schieffer and Jeff Greenfield, and wrapped up with this exchange:
HARRY SMITH: The Michelle Obama dust-up, does it have legs? Will it last?
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, February 19 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: For the Republicans, the rhetoric today was also largely about words. And today it involved the wife of the frontrunner, Cindy McCain. Here is NBC's Kelly O'Donnell with that. Kelly, good evening.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Brian. And today, John McCain made a point to talk about things beyond this race. He commented on Fidel Castro and the Pakistan elections. So, yes, the most memorable political jab of the day did not come from him. John McCain's Milwaukee event hit all of the usual notes.
Well, that didn't take long. On CNN Monday night, John McCain was treated like any other conservative Republican, as correspondents and a tilted panel of ex-Clinton officials painted him as irresponsible for opposing a supposedly necessary increase in taxes. In a "Keeping Them Honest" segment on Anderson Cooper 360, reporter Tom Foreman wondered if McCain "can keep that promise" of "no new taxes," before asserting: "Some economists say not."
But Foreman's sole economist was Robert Greenstein of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a longstanding proponent of higher taxes. Foreman provided no "liberal" tag nor gave any hint of Greenstein's agenda, as the latter argued that "the problems in the future are so large that it's pretty unthinkable we could close those deficits either by just cutting programs or just raising taxes." CBPP's home page: www.cbpp.org
Foreman's piece quoted two liberals -- Greenstein and Democratic strategist Peter Fenn (who was oddly used as an authority on budgets and taxes) -- but just one Republican, consultant Rich Galen. And Foreman himself sought to discredit McCain's "no new taxes" stance by ticking off some of the "costs hammering the budget: the war, a half-trillion dollars so far, by some estimates; that economic stimulus plan, $168 billion; soaring entitlements for baby boomers; interest on the national debt. All that with no new taxes?"
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Then in the panel discussion that followed Foreman's piece, conservative Bay Buchanan was outnumbered by two ex-staffers to President Bill Clinton: CNN regular David Gergen and Keith Boykin, now the editor of The Daily Voice, which bills itself as "black America's daily news source." See: www.thedailyvoice.com
Anchor Anderson Cooper at one point pitched a softball to the liberal Boykin, asking about McCain, "Do you believe this is a responsible pledge." Boykin gleefully pounced, "Absolutely irresponsible."
For his part, Gergen argued that McCain was falling into the same "trap" that ensnared the first President Bush after his "no new taxes" pledge in the 1988 campaign: "I'm surprised that he's taken this pledge, because it was a trap for George H.W. Bush when he said, read my lips. And I think this will become a trap for John McCain, should he become President."
Back in 1988, liberals ridiculed Bush's pledge as unrealistic and pandering to the right-wing. But to conservatives, Bush's error was not his "no new taxes" pledge, but his failure to abide by it during budget negotiations two years later.
Here's the transcript of Foreman's "Keeping Them Honest" segment, that appeared at about 10:13pm EST during Monday's (February 18) Anderson Cooper 360:
ANDERSON COOPER: One pillar of modern conservatism is tax-cutting, or, at the very least, promising to. The first President Bush did, but he had a tough time sticking to it. Now Senator McCain is talking the same talk. We wanted to know, can voters reasonably expect him to walk the walk? "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN: In the presidential horse race, it is an attractive and risky gamble, and John McCain is placing his bet.
Even though the general election campaign has yet to begin, some in the media seem pretty anxious to start condemning Republicans for dirty tricks. In an interview with Barack Obama shown Tuesday morning on Today, Matt Lauer asked the Democratic frontrunner: "Have you stopped to think what the Obama version of Swift Boating might be in this campaign cycle if you get to the general election? What they did to John Kerry, what's that version going to be with Barack Obama?"
Just last week, CNN's Wolf Blitzer raised the prospect of Republicans going "Willie Horton" against Obama. On the February 12 Situation Room, Blitzer asked black conservative radio host Larry Elder: "How worried are you, and you're obviously sympathetic to the Republicans, that if Barack Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination, that there could be elements of racism that come up from the other side?...I'm talking about the Willie Horton kind of commercials, the ads that could be used against potentially against Barack Obama." For details, check the February 13 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
Tuesday's Today was the second time an NBC star suggested Obama may be a victim of nefarious Republican "swift boating" tactics. The October 31 CyberAlert, "NBC's Williams Suggests Obama Likely to Be 'Swift-Boating' Victim," recounted:
During Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC, NBC anchor Brian Williams posed a question to Barack Obama which managed to simultaneously impugn Republicans as executors of disreputable campaign practices and portray Obama as a likely victim of it -- all based on Mitt Romney flubbing Obama's name and memories of the Bush campaign's attacks on John McCain in 2000.
Explaining that his question would be "about religion and misinformation," Williams, who co-moderated the debate with Tim Russert, raised how Romney "misspoke twice on the same day, confusing your name with that of Osama bin Laden," as if, apparently, that was some sort of effort to suggest Obama is Muslim. Williams proceeded to highlight how "your party is fond of talking about potential swift boating," before he got to his charged political point in the form of a question: "Are you fearful of what happened to John McCain, for example in South Carolina a few years back, confusion on the basis of things like names and religion?"
For the previous CyberAlert in full: www.mediaresearch.org
But on Tuesday's Today Obama, at least, had the presence of mind to remind Lauer that Democrats were capable of some pretty rough tactics as well: "First of all, I've had to go up against the Clinton machine. It's not as if they're playing tiddlywinks, right?"
The MRC's Geoffrey Dickens took down the taped exchange, which aired at about 7:10am ET on the February 19 Today. Obama and Lauer talked to each other on Monday evening just before an Obama campaign event in Ohio:
LAUER: Have you stopped to think about what the Obama version of "Swift Boating" might be in this campaign cycle, if you get to the general election? What they did to John Kerry-
In the 8:30 half hour of Tuesday's Today show, NBC's Matt Lauer interviewed Washington lawyer Robert Bennett on his new book In The Ring. Lauer began by noting Bennett's been in all manner of Washington scandals. But Lauer and Bennett chose to hone in on just one: Paula Jones. Lauer didn't suggest there was anything wrong with what Jones said Bill Clinton did at a Little Rock hotel room, in dropping his pants and asking her, a stranger and a state employee, to kiss his penis. Instead, as usual, the Jones case was defined as a "vehicle" for "Clinton haters," the "hunting of a president." Clinton was not the predator, Jones was, as Lauer prompted: "You say allowing that case to go forward against Bill Clinton was, was the equivalent of hunting a President. Why do you say that?" Bennett answered: "Well, well it was. What happened is Paula Jones' case became a vehicle by which the Clinton haters were trying to shut up his message and defeat his election in 1996."
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
It was one thing to treat the case the way that pro-Clinton reporters handled it in 1994 or 1996, when the full details weren't litigated. But after all this time, is NBC living in a time warp? Lauer made no mention of what actually happened with the Jones case he allegedly handled brilliantly. Bennett delayed the case for so many years that Jones lawyers were able to find Monica Lewinsky, which led to Clinton lying under oath and getting impeached. Clinton also settled in the Jones case for more than $850,000, a clear admission of guilt in cash, if not in public repentance. Lauer and Bennett built on the idea that putting off a sex-harassment lawsuit wasn't obnoxiously sexist, but was in fact, statesmanlike:
LAUER: Your strategy in that case, Bob, in 1994 as that thing came to a head with Bill Clinton and Paula Jones was delay, delay, delay, correct?
The February 19 interview began with the idea that Bennett had a right to scold the rest of Washington about character assassination:
BENNETT: Well, because this is where we are, in a 24/7 environment. Things get out there very, very quickly. You know, there's a wonderful saying about a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on. And these high-profile clients are as concerned about their reputations as they are about the fear of going to jail.
Lauer, the same embarrassingly supine pro-Clinton journalist who suggested to Hillary Clinton in the infamous Vast Right Wing Conspiracy interview in 1998 that the Lewinsky claims could be "the worst and most damaging smear of the 20th century," ignored Bennett's mean-spirited statements at that time, as the Washington Post reported:
For the January 28, 1998 Washington Post article: www.washingtonpost.com
The lawyer's blunt-force analogy -- suggesting that Clinton's accuser would not survive an examination of her sexual history -- was widely viewed in political circles as a serious gaffe, another misstep in a series that Bennett's critics claim he has committed in the case. After howls of protest from women's groups and a legion of newspaper editorialists, the president's lawyer quickly retreated.
Mean town, indeed, Mr. Bennett.
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann admitted to feeling a "deep personal affection" for Bill and Hillary Clinton during a segment with The Washington Post's Dana Milbank as the two discussed the Clinton campaign's return to negative campaigning against Barack Obama. Expressing discomfort at having to observe that the Clintons "sound angry," Olbermann declared his feelings for the Clintons in his second question to Milbank: "I am loathe to use this next phrase, to even put it in words. I mean, I have deep personal affection for both of the Clintons. I don't think that's some awful revelation, and I don't think that's awful.... They sound angry. Are they angry? Are they angry at Obama, at the media, at the voters?"
By contrast, on Thursday's show, not only did Olbermann call President Bush a "fascist" who was engaging in "a form of terrorism against his own people" to gain political support, but on the Monday February 18 show, Olbermann named Bush "Worst Person in the World" in response to quotes, run Saturday in the conservative Washington Times, by analysts from the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute who questioned Bush's claims of urgency in extending the Protect America Act.
(For a rundown of Olbermann's February 14 rant, see the February 15 CyberAlert item, "Olbermann Accuses 'Fascist' Bush of Engaging in 'Terrorism,'" online at: www.mrc.org )
As Olbermann named Bush "Worst Person," he labeled Brookings and Cato both as "conservative" think tanks, although the ideological leaning of Brookings is viewed by some as "liberal," while Cato would best be described as "libertarian" rather than strictly "conservative." Olbermann also edited the article's opening sentence to make it appear the reporter, Sean Lengell, was voicing agreement with the contention that the law's expiration would "have little effect on national security despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders," although the full sentence shows Lengell was describing the views of his sources rather than his own views.
Lengell's first line was: "Many intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders."
The February 16 Washington Times story: www.washingtontimes.com
Olbermann edited the line as he began his attack on President Bush: "Just how much Mr. Bush has been lying about the expiration of the so-called Protect America Act was not really clear until a newspaper article was printed on Saturday morning. It began with this from the writer: '...today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.'"
Although the article did seem to lean more toward favoring those who disputed the Bush administration, Lengell did include some of the arguments used by Republicans favoring the law's extension.
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Monday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Also of note, on the Friday, February 15 show, about 20 minutes after proclaiming his affection for the Clintons, during a regular segment called "Bushed!" in which the MSNBC host attacks President Bush for, in the words of Olbermann, "the administration's 50 other scandals," he jokingly compared Bush's record on civil rights to that of Genghis Khan.
Below is a transcript of the relevant portions of MSNBC's Countdown show from Friday, February 15 and Monday, February 18:
# Olbermann's first two questions to Milbank from the Friday, February 15 Countdown:
"All right, let's start in Tyler, Texas, this afternoon, and that quote from Bill Clinton, slightly more contextualized in a fuller version: 'People who want something fresh and new and they find it inspiring that we might elect a President who literally was not part of any of the good things that happened or any of the bad things that were stopped before,' and he's referencing the 1990s. I thought that the former President had essentially declared he wished he had campaigned a little differently last month. This would not be differently. This would be the same."
# Olbermann from the show's regular "Bushed!" segment from the Friday, February 15 Countdown:
But first: The headlines breaking in the administration's 50 other scandals: "Bushed!"
Number three: "Detainee-Gate." Another reasonable demand causing the administration to threaten to hold its breath until it turns blue. The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. wants the President to justify why more than 180 detainees at Gitmo are classified as enemy combatants. The administration has now gone to the Supreme Court to argue that just answering that question would create a serious threat to national security.
Number two: "Bush in the Bush-Gate." That trip to Africa he threatened to cancel and about which the President has made such a big deal. Monday, the White House cut at least $193 million in U.S. funding to U.N. peacekeeping forces in Africa. "We've got a firm heartfelt commitment to the continent of Africa," Mr. Bush told the BBC. Yeah, no money, but a heartfelt commitment.
And number one: "1984-Gate." Attorney General John Ashcroft now says in a speech to Missouri Republicans that President Bush is among the most respectful of all leaders ever in terms of respecting the civil rights of individuals. Well, if you do the math here, there had been millions of, quote, "leaders", quote, "ever". So, if Mr. Bush ranks, say, number 94,227, that would make him, you know, top 10 percent, right ahead of Genghis Khan.
# Relevant portion of Olbermann's "Worst Person" segment from the Monday, February 18 Countdown:
Our winner, speaking of whom, the President of the United States. Just how much Mr. Bush has been lying about the expiration of the so-called Protect America Act was not really clear until a newspaper article was printed on Saturday morning. It began with this from the writer: "...today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders."
Then, there was this quote from a think tank: "There's no reason to think our nation will be in any more danger in 2008 than it was in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, or 2006."
And then, another quote from another think tankster who, quote, "also said he was 'somewhat bewildered by the apocalyptic rhetoric' of the White House."
The last quote was from Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution. The previous think tanker was Timothy Lee at the conservative Cato Institute. And the article itself barely restraining the mystification at the President's calumny, cynicism about his fear tactics, even its anger at the naked manipulation of the public. The article was entitled, "Analysts Say FISA Will Suffice." It was not printed in The Washington Post. It was not printed in The Nation. It was printed in as conservative a newspaper as exists in this country: The Washington Times. Where even they understand what we mean when we say, George W. Bush, today's "Worst Person in the World."
The "charismatic" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's shock retirement for health reasons was covered on the New York Times Web site Tuesday morning in a piece by James McKinley Jr., writing from Mexico City, which also ran in Wednesday's newspaper. In "Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuba's President," McKinley touted some of Castro's supposed accomplishments: "His record has been a mix of great social achievements, but a dismal economic performance that has mired most Cubans in poverty. He succeeded in establishing universal health care, providing free education through college and largely rooting out racism."
President Castro? Was there nothing stronger in the NYT thesaurus?
By contrast, when right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet died in December 2006, the headline that greeted him was: "Augusto Pinochet, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies at 91." See: www.nytimes.com
[This item, by the MRC's Clay Waters, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
After running through the details of Fidel's handover of power to brother Raul Castro, McKinley did an obituary-style review of Castro's dictatorship. Good of the Times to actually use the word "totalitarian" to describe Castro's regime, but is there a such thing as a "non-totalitarian brand of communism"? And how many times do we have to hear that Castro is "charismatic"? (In this story, twice.)
An excerpt from McKinley's story:
The charismatic Cuban leader seized power in January 1959 after waging a guerrilla war against the then-dictator Fulgencio Batista, promising to restore the Cuban constitution and hold elections.
But he soon turned his back on those democratic ideals, embraced a totalitarian brand of communism and allied the island with the Soviet Union. He brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, when he allowed Russia to build missile launching sites just 90 miles off the American shores. He weathered an American-backed invasion and used Cuban troops to stir up revolutions in Africa and Latin America.
Those actions earned him the permanent enmity of Washington and led the United States to impose decades of economic sanctions that Mr. Castro and his followers maintain have crippled Cuba's economy and have kept their socialist experiment from succeeding completely.
The sanctions also proved handy to Mr. Castro politically. He cast every problem Cuba faced as part of a larger struggle against the United States and blamed the abject poverty of the island on the "imperialists" to the north.
For good or ill, Mr. Castro is without a doubt the most important leader to emerge from Latin America since the wars of independence of the early 19th century, not only reshaping Cuban society but providing inspiration for leftists across Latin America and in other parts of the world.
His record has been a mix of great social achievements, but a dismal economic performance that has mired most Cubans in poverty. He succeeded in establishing universal health care, providing free education through college and largely rooting out racism.
END of Excerpt
For the February 19 Web posting/February 20 newspaper article in full: www.nytimes.com
Would that be education or indoctrination?
Castro's policies toward homosexuals should nullify any claims of him being a civil rights hero among liberals. See: www.pinktriangle.org.uk
As for Cuba's vaunted "universal health care" (typically the last stand of defense of the regime among hard-core American leftists, along with the country's fictional high literacy rate), this report (www.nationalcenter.org ) punctures some myths about the system. Reporter Anthony DePalma, on the trail of pro-Cuban claims made in leftist Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko," addressed the myths of Cuban health care in a story from May 2007, quoting a doctor who had practiced medicine in Cuba: "But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients 'have to bring their own food, soap, sheets -- they have to bring everything.'" See: http://www.timeswatch.org/articles/2007/20070527204028.aspx
Now, she did add that many people overlooked the "ferocity of his communism, even as he bankrupted his country and history passed him by." But over the course of five segments, GMA managed to completely ignore Castro's record of firing squads, jailing dissidents, imprisoning AIDS patients and other crimes. Instead, Sawyer found time to romantically state, "The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by ten different U.S. presidents to bring him down..." Note the use of the term "political leader" rather than dictator.
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
During one segment in the 7am hour on reaction to Castro's resignation in Miami, ABC reporter Jeffrey Kofman twice chose to denigrate Cuban refugees. He noted that in 2006, the city's "so-called Cuban exiles" celebrated when Cuba's dictator temporarily stepped aside. In a follow-up report later in the show, Kofman discussed how "the so-called Cuban exiles" had hoped for a transition to democracy after Castro. The ABC journalist didn't bother to explain what he meant by the phrase "so-called."
GMA also retrieved file footage from an old Sawyer interview with Castro. In the clip, Sawyer offered up softball questions such as "Do you believe there's a heaven or a hell?" and "If you were inventing heaven, what would you make you sure you had there?" She followed that up by prompting, "I guess George Bush or Ronald Reagan wouldn't go to heaven then." Sawyer cheerfully summed up Castro's legacy by asserting, "One half a century from a man who once said history may have derided him, but at least he stood for something."
Finally, Robin Roberts spoke with ABC News consultant Wayne Smith about Castro and communism. She described Smith simply as a former "top U.S. diplomat in Cuba" without ever mentioning his work for Democratic Presidents such as John Kennedy and for Jimmy Carter as the Chief of U.S. Interest Section to Cuba (equivalent to an embassy where diplomatic relations are nonexistent.) In light of such liberal credentials, his attack on the Bush administration for its unwillingness "to deal with the Cuban government" seems more explainable. Smith also delivered leftist platitudes such as saying of Cuba: "Let's begin a dialogue. We have differences. We have disagreements. But how do you address them unless you talk?"
A transcript of the first two segments, which aired at 7:02am on February 19:
SAWYER: But we have big news.
ROBIN ROBERTS: We do. We want to get right to the news of Cuban President Fidel Castro resigning after nearly 50 years in power. Now, aside from monarchs, he is the world's longest ruling head of state. So, why is he stepping down now? ABC's Jeffery Kofman joins us live from Miami's little Havana. Jeffery?
JEFFREY KOFMAN: Good morning, Robin. Well, this is momentous day for the 11.2 million people of Cuba and for more than a million Cuban Americans, most of them in here in Miami. But it's safe to say that this is not the way the people here hoped that Castro's rule would end. After almost half a century in power, Fidel Castro made the announcement online overnight saying, "I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of president of the state council and commander in chief." That means for the first time since 1959, Fidel Castro won't be running Cuba. The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by ten different U.S. presidents to bring him down, including a disastrous CIA-backed invasion in 1961 and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962. In the summer of 2006, the fervently anti-Castro community of so-called Cuban exiles here in Miami erupted in celebration with word that he was temporarily stepping aside because of failing health. Since then, a frail Castro has been seen sporadically on video, in meetings with leftist world leaders but he has not been seen in public. Which is why in Havana today it is life as usual. Mark Frank is a journalist who lives in Havana.
MARK FRANK: I think the Cuban people slowly but surely have come to accept that Fidel Castro needs to retire, that he is no longer the man he was and that it's time to move on.
KOFMAN: Taking over from Fidel Castro is his younger brother Raul, who has been second in command for the last 49 years and acting president since his brother's illness. The transition of power will be ratified at a meeting of the Cuban National Assembly this Sunday. Now, in many ways this is the worst possible scenario for the Cuban exiles who have waited so long for Castro's rule to end because a peaceful transition to another communist leader, this time-- In this case, Raul Castro, means that a dramatic democratic transition is a long way off in Cuba. Diane?
DIANE SAWYER: All right. Thanks to you, Jeffery. Well, what about this man? Take a look at this picture. [Picture appears onscreen of a young Castro.] Fidel Castro, in fact was a lawyer, the son of a privileged land owner who landed on the shores of his native island and routed the dictator. He has survived assassination attempts, invasion, the collapse of communist rule in Russia and in eastern Europe and through it all maintained his iron-tight control over 11 million people in part with just the force of his personality on the island the size of New Jersey. From a tiny island, a larger than life personality. 1956, a rag-tag group of guerrillas led by Fidel Castro surprised the world after living in the hills of Cuba, eating bugs to survive with 40 comrades taking power and establishing a communist state 90 miles from America's shore.
FIDEL CASTRO [file footage]: We want to salute to the people of the United States.
SAWYER: Castro knew life is a stage and played the part of the dashing revolutionary, coming to New York, getting rock star treatment. It took time for everyone to grasp the ferocity of his communism, even as he bankrupted his country and history passed him by. Once, I asked him about what would happen to him in an afterlife. [file footage of old interview with Castro] Do you believe there's a heaven or a hell?
CASTRO [Through translator]: But the conclusion I have is that hell cannot exist and that heaven would be a surprise for all of us.
SAWYER: If you were inventing heaven, what would you make you sure you had there?
CASTRO: I would build a socialist society.
SAWYER: I guess George Bush and Ronald Reagan wouldn't go to heaven then.
CASTRO: Perhaps they could get used to it, you know?
SAWYER: One half a century from a man who once said history may have derided him, but at least he stood for something.
CASTRO: I do not feel tired. But I neither have the energy or the strength I had when I started this struggle.
SAWYER: Are you saying then, if you do win and you outlast the embargo, that at that point, if Cuba begins to thrive economically, that you would like to step down?
CASTRO: Partly so, yes. More or less so. I could be more accurate. One is not free to do what one would like to. I am not here because it is my pleasure to do this job. Now, I'm just a soldier in the front line and in the most difficult time of the battle. Then I would be a coward.
SAWYER: And again, he could not and would not budge, no matter how much the world said it's time to move on. He would not budge from his old ideas.
# For dozens of examples of journalists hailing Castro's achievements, check the MRC's Special Report, with many video clips, "Fidel's Flatterers: The U.S. Media's Decades of Cheering Castro's Communism," online at: www.mrc.org
-- Brent Baker