CNN Team Upset by Bush Tying 9/11 to Iraq, Gergen "Offended" --6/29/2005
2. Couric Sees Iraq "Unraveling" Thanks to "Tenacious Insurgents"
3. In Midst of Listing Problems in Iraq, ABC Notes Positive Trends
4. Gannett Editor Promises to Burn Flag If Burning Amendment Passes
He called them terrorists, you know, as if they're all associated and linked to the attacks here on 9/11." When Zahn asked if Bush "overreached with these multiple references to 9/11 when there has been absolutely no linkage established between the actions of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein on that horrible day?", Gergen said he was "offended by the regularity of coming back to 9/11" because "none of the terrorists were linked to Saddam, and, you know, there's been this myth for a long time that's just untrue that Saddam was somehow responsible for 9/11." But that wasn't Bush's point. He was just putting Iraq into the context of world threats post 9/11. On ABC, George Stephanopoulos also questioned Bush's linking of 9/11.
As for Gergen's charge that Bush "never once called them 'Iraqi insurgents,'" the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed that about six minutes into his address, Bush stated: "Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who've come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and others. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who want to restore the old order."
For the White House's posted text of the speech: www.whitehouse.gov
On ABC, after anchor Charles Gibson noted the "sober" tone of the speech, Stephanopoulos, who was with Gibson in Manhattan, asserted: "It was not a pep rally tonight. No applause as the President came out. No applause during the speech. He was making a case tonight. And Charlie, the case he was making tonight most of all was this war began on 9/11, not on the day that he invaded Iraq. Five times in the speech, the President mentions September 11th, making the point that Iraq has become the central front in the global war on terror. Now the irony, of course, is that the CIA said prior to the war there were no ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Just a couple of weeks ago the CIA says Iraq has become the number one training ground for al Qaeda."
On CNN, soon after Bush wrapped up, Paula Zahn, who along with Wolf Blitzer anchored from an outdoor rooftop location overlooking the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House, zeroed in on Bush's references to 9/11, playing a clip and then suggesting:
A few minutes later, Dana Bash, at the venue, echoed Zahn, but at least relayed the White House explanation: "But one thing that I wanted to note that Paula was talking about, which I certainly noted as well, the number of times Mr. Bush referenced September 11th, and we were talking to some of the President's senior aides here just before the speech asking that very question of whether or not, aren't they concerned that they're going to open themselves up to the same criticism that they had heard time and time again about trying to link these two, which aren't necessarily linkable, if you will. And one of the President's senior aides pointed out one quote in the President's speech where he quotes Osama bin Laden saying that this is the third world war, and it's raging, raging essentially in Iraq. Essentially, the President is trying to back up these calls and this assertion that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism by saying even Osama bin Laden says that. So that was the way the White House was trying to defend and even explain the way they characterize Iraq right now."
Wolf Blitzer, sitting beside Zahn, soon joined the parade: "Paula, it's really interesting, if this speech -- a little bit more than two years after the start of the war with 1,700 U.S. troops who are dead; 12,000, if not more, injured; $200 billion in expenditures; going into the war, the major focus was on words that the President didn't utter once during this speech, namely 'weapons of mass destruction.' We heard a lot of explanations of the connections to 9/11, the new world after 9/11. We heard no reference to the major argument that he made going into the war: weapons of mass destruction. Simply put, the U.S. has not found any weapons of mass destruction, and that's a fact that the administration, of course, lives with."
From Boston, David Gergen praised Bush's "logical presentation," but then lamented: "I do think it's going to leave many of his critics spluttering because they're going to be, I think, angered by the playing of the 9/11 trump card. You know, 9/11 has been his trump card all along since then, and he plays it in various political moments along the way, played it in the campaign. He's playing it again now. And you noticed that throughout the speech tonight he never once called them 'Iraqi insurgents,' as the media does. He called them terrorists, you know, as if they're all associated and linked to the attacks here on 9/11. And I do think you're right. The linkages were implicit, but they came so often. It's clear the White House is now going to its trump card again, recognizing many will say it's heavy-handed among his critics. But nonetheless, that's the way to keep the country behind us..."
Five minutes later, after an ad break, Zahn asked Senator Joe Biden about the topic which animated her: "The other thing David Gergen said, and this is a man, once again, who's worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations, that he thought the President very effectively played his trump card tonight, that trump card the issue of 9/11. And while he personally was insulted by the multiple references to 9/11 tonight, he thought that was effective. Your reaction to those references?"
Biden agreed that the "American people are a lot smarter than that."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared in-studio on ABC, NBC, and FNC Tuesday morning to preview President Bush's prime time speech. ABC's Charles Gibson highlighted three times an ABC poll number that 52 percent believed Bush intentionally misled Americans into war, and insisted that "speeches may not matter if people don't believe you." He skipped how a majority said the Iraq war has "has contributed to the long-term security of the United States" and, for the second straight morning, he brought up Cheney's "last throes" claim. NBC's Katie Couric seemed more interested in proving Iraq a failure than in figuring out a way to win as she wanted Rice to tell her "what must President Bush do tonight to convince Americans that this war will not go on indefinitely?" and she demanded: "Why aren't things, at least steps being laid out so a withdrawal of U.S. troops can begin?" She also described Iraq as "unraveling" and admired how "these very powerful, very tenacious insurgents to have control of the situation."
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted a draft of this article to CyberAlert.]
During the introduction to Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson underlined: "This morning, credibility gap. A new ABC News poll, why don't most Americans trust President Bush on Iraq? His high-stakes speech to the nation tonight and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins us in Times Square to make the case."
Later in the first half hour, Gibson added: "Well, now more on President Bush, set to deliver a major speech tonight on Iraq, trying to make his case at a time, as we said, when polls show America losing confidence in his handling of the situation in Iraq. So we turn now to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."
"Why Don't Americans Trust Bush?" ABC put on screen during Gibson's time with Rice.
Gibson's first question: "There's a new ABC News/Washington Post poll which indicates for the first time a majority of people say they believe the President intentionally misled this country on Iraq [on-screen graphic: "52% believe Bush Administration misled public on Iraq"], which suggests a credibility problem and says speeches may not matter if people don't believe you, and yet he makes an important speech tonight."
Gibson, the MRC's Jessica Barnes noticed, slapped back on his poll number: "But if polls show that he doesn't have credibility, do speeches matter?" Rice replied, "Whatever the polls say, this President has always lived by his convictions and his values, not by what he sees in polls. And he's going to go to the American people who elected him just six months ago and tell them again why it is important that we finish the job in Iraq."
Gibson hit the poll number a third time: "Fifty-two percent now say he misled this country in Iraq. Fifty-two percent say the war is going badly. Fifty-six percent disapprove of his handling of this. So what can he say to people that we haven't heard before?"
Rice: "Well, first of all, other polls show that Americans also understand that we need to finish the job. If you want to talk about polls, there are polls that show that Americans believe that we ought to finish the job."
Gibson found his favorite poll number despite the fact that the Washington Post didn't get to it until the tenth paragraph, inside the paper: "For the first time, a narrow majority -- 52 percent -- said the administration deliberately misled the public before the war, a nine-point increase in three months. Forty-eight percent said the administration told the public what it believed to be true at the time."
The June 28 Post story led with a different number. The headline: "Survey Finds Most Support Staying in Iraq: Public Skeptical About Gains Against Insurgents." The story by Richard Morin and Dan Balz began:
As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration's claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.
The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored -- a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away.
Amid broad skepticism about Bush's credibility and whether the war was worth the cost, there were some encouraging signs for the President. A narrow majority -- 52 percent -- believes that the war has contributed to the long-term security of the United States, a five-point increase from earlier this month."...
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: www.washingtonpost.com
Rice replied in part about the media picture again: "I know that when you see on your screens every morning suicide bombers, car bombers and of course the loss of American life which we mourn every single time-"
Couric tried to bring Rice's predecessor into the equation: "But your predecessor Colin Powell, as you well know, had a philosophy called the Powell Doctrine which was overwhelming force and an exit strategy. It seems to most Americans that there is absolutely no exit strategy here. Do you believe in the Powell Doctrine and if so why aren't things, at least steps being laid out so a withdrawal of U.S. troops can begin?"
When Rice suggested "The insurgents are very tough and they're very bloody and they can grab the headlines on any given day," Couric started using adjectives that sound like praise: "And it seems to me they're quite tenacious. According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the insurgency could last another 12 years. We heard Richard Myers say four to seven years. When you hear those numbers and that period of time I think most Americans say, 'Oh my goodness!' And they gasp because that seems like such an extended period of time for these very powerful, very tenacious insurgents to have control of the situation."
Rice objected to that notion: "Well, well I don't think that they'll have control of the situation for those numbers of years. I think that what was being noted there is that you can always have as we saw in, in New York, as we saw in Madrid someone who can get off a car bomb or someone who can wreak havoc against civilians."
# "At the same time do you think the Bush administration should take any responsibility for not fully comprehending or predicting the strength this insurgency would continue to display?"
# "But do you think there was enough post-war planning?"
# "Not only are Americans questioning the U.S. role currently in Iraq but they're questioning the decision to go there in the first place. According to an Associated Press poll 42 percent of respondents believe the right decision was made in going to war. 53 said it was a mistake. In retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight being 20/20 is there anything you believe, now, sitting where you're sitting that the administration should have done differently?"
After questions about Iran, North Korea, and her chances of running for President against Hillary Clinton in 2008, Couric returned to pessimism about U.S. foreign policy: "It must be very frustrating at times to see things unraveling so."
Again, Rice protested: "I don't think they're unraveling. I think we're seeing a great historic sweep where freedom is on the march. If you look at Lebanon or you look at Ukraine. I was just in the Middle East. People are hungry for freedom and I know as a student of history that when freedom is on the march America is more secure and that when freedom is in retreat America experiences the, the kind of experience that we had on September 11th."
In the midst of a Tuesday World News Tonight story on the problems facing Iraqis, ABC's David Kerley also pointed out benefits gained by Iraqis thanks to the U.S. removal of Saddam Hussein. Kerley showcased one family with "a computer, which their teenage daughter uses to chat online, and satellite TV, which the family often gathers around -- two things they were not allowed to own under Saddam." But, he added, "the electricity is unreliable" and "went out during our interview." Kerley noted, however, that "more electricity is being generated than before the war" and the problem is prosperity: "With the purchase of so many appliances -- TVs and air conditioners -- demand far outstrips the supply of electricity." He cited other successes: "Internet and telephone subscribers have doubled" and "more children are attending school."
Anchor Charles Gibson introduced the June 28 World News Tonight report: "We are constantly reminded how hard it is to get a true and accurate picture of what's actually happening in Iraq. However, one year after the U.S. handed over power, there are ways by which progress can be measured. And there are some very specific challenges. ABC's David Kerley tonight with a special report on where things stand in Iraq."
From Iraq, Kerley began, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "This may determine success or failure in Iraq. American forces training and working with the new Iraqi army. From one battalion a year ago to 37 today. Colonel Mohammed Fayek (sp?) is the kind of leader the Iraqi military is looking for."
The top editor at a newspaper owned by Gannett, which publishes USA Today, promised in a Sunday column to burn an American flag if the Senate passes an anti-flag burning amendment. Linda Grist Cunningham, Executive Editor of the Rockford Register Star in Illinois, pledged: "If the U.S. Senate follows its silly siblings in the House of Representatives and votes for a ban on burning the American flag, I'm going to burn one. It never occurred to me to burn a flag -- except in some flag-retiring ceremony -- but just the idea that Congress has nothing better to do than spend time on this nutty issue makes me want to burn one." She also displayed her disgust with critics of Senator Dick Durbin, complaining that people "with an ax to grind" took "a couple of lines out of context."
There are conservatives on both sides of the debate over whether flag-burning should be banned via a constitutional amendment, but I don't think any of the conservative opponents of such an amendment would burn a flag just out of pique for coming out on the losing side.
Mark Belling, the 3-6pm talk host on WISN in Milwaukee, alerted CyberAlert to Cunningham's June 26 column in which she addressed "a handful of odds and ends to clear the desk."
An excerpt from her thoughts on the flag and Durbin:
....# FLAG BURNING: If the U.S. Senate follows its silly siblings in the House of Representatives and votes for a ban on burning the American flag, I'm going to burn one. It never occurred to me to burn a flag -- except in some flag-retiring ceremony -- but just the idea that Congress has nothing better to do than spend time on this nutty issue makes me want to burn one.
I am assuming that if we ban burning, we'll also ban purses that look like flags, flags painted on cars, and flags tattooed on butts?
I'll exercise my First Amendment right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition my government for redress by burning the flag. I won't burn it on a day when the temperature is above 90 and the wind is more than 10 mph. (Isn't that what the rules were on leaf burning? Ought to apply to flags, too.)
I believe in what the American flag symbolizes. I do not believe in creating graven images, so to speak, that must be worshipped. Burning the flag, or tossing it into a trash can for that matter, as a protest against the government, isn't going to bring down the 'Murican Way of Life'.
# U.S. SEN. Dick Durbin has been taking it on the chin for a "foot-in-mouth" thing he did in a recent speech. Goes to show you what happens when someone with an ax to grind takes a couple of lines out of context and twists them for all they're worth....
Heavens, how I wish someone had flagged Durbin on that Nazi thing. Mention it and everyone goes nuts. Best to cut that whole line rather than stick it out there. The senator's message got lost in the fury that followed....
For Cunningham's piece in full: cf.rrstar.com
For a bio and picture of Cunningham, who oversees a newspaper with a respectable 75,000 daily circulation, and who lists the West Wing as her favorite television show: cf.rrstar.com
-- Brent Baker