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CyberAlert -- 11/09/2001 -- ABC's Down Spin on War Poll

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ABC's Down Spin on War Poll; CNN Guest Called Story "Garbage"; MSNBC Chief: "Patriotism Police"; Clinton: U.S. Not Blameless

1) The new ABC News poll discovered an 89 percent approval level for the President with 90 percent backing the military action in Afghanistan. But introducing Bush before his Thursday night address, ABC's Peter Jennings emphasized how polls have suggested "some declining confidence in the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and on the war front."

2) "Garbage." That's how retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, during an appearance on CNN, described a story by CNN's own Bob Franken on how the Taliban are proving to be a tough foe two weeks after a military leader said they had been "eviscerated."

3) MSNBC President Erik Sorenson doesn't think much of those who dare to criticize MSNBC's war coverage. He whined that "any misstep...can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down." He arrogantly asked: "Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?"

4) Contrasting stories from Quetta, Pakistan. Agence France-Presse: "The Taliban are slaughtering Afghans who try to flee the country, gunning them down in cold blood." The Washington Post: Afghan refugees "said sympathies toward the Taliban remain strong in part because of perceptions among many Afghans that the U.S. bombing campaign has hurt civilians."

5) "Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless" for the terrorism, Bill Clinton asserted in a Wednesday speech. Though his blame America too remarks were cited in Thursday's Washington Times, they have received little notice elsewhere, other than the Fox News Channel. CNN.com and AP stories skipped over that portion of his remarks as CNN highlighted how Clinton "received a rock star's welcome."

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Thrown Out of the Taliban."


1

ABC's latest poll discovered that, two months after the terrorist attacks, support for President Bush and the war effort remain extraordinarily high with an 89 percent approval level for the President and 90 percent backing military action in Afghanistan. But introducing President Bush before his Thursday night address, ABC's Peter Jennings chose to emphasize how polls have suggested "some declining confidence in the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and on the war front."

At 8pm EST, Jennings announced on ABC just before Bush's address from Atlanta: "This is an interesting and challenging moment for the President because in recent public opinion polls it's suggested that he's having some difficulty managing public expectation about the war against terrorism. At home, some declining confidence in the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts and on the war front. In the last couple of weeks the number of people who believe that the government is doing everything it reasonable can to prevent terrorist attacks, has gone down by about 12 points -- from 68 percent in mid-October to 56 percent now."

ABC had stressed the same dour poll numbers earlier in the day on Good Morning America, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noticed. During a discussion previewing Bush's then-upcoming speech ABC showcased only two poll results: "Is the U.S. doing all it can to deter terrorism?" (68% on October 15, 56% on November 7) and "Confidence that terrorism can be prevented?" (66% on September 11, 52% on November 7).

George Stephanopoulos explained: "He's going to talk about the war, but then hone in on homeland defense, and he has to do this because he still has very strong support in the country and there's a very strong support in the war effort, but our recent polls show there's actually been a drop in the people's confidence in the government's ability to handle these attacks and a drop of about 10 or 12 points in people's belief that the government is doing all it can to protect the homeland, so he's going to focus on that tonight."

Those numbers are accurate, but ABC's spin contrasted with how the Washington Post played the same survey. "In Poll, Most Americans Back Bush," announced the headline over the November 8 story by Richard Morin and Claudia Deane. They led their piece:
"Overwhelming majorities of Americans continue to back President Bush and the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, doubts are growing about an expanded Afghan conflict and the government's efforts to deal with terrorism at home, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
"As Bush prepares to address the country tonight on homeland security, his overall job approval rating stands at 89 percent, unchanged in the past month. Nine out of 10 Americans support the U.S. military action in Afghanistan, also unchanged in recent weeks."

To read the entire story, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57995-2001Nov7.html

Some of the specific results of the Washington Post/ABC News poll:

-- "Do you support or oppose the U.S. military action in Afghanistan?" Support, 90 to 9 percent.

-- "Do you think the U.S. military action in Afghanistan is going very well, fairly well, not too well or not well at all?" Very well or fairly well, 85 to 12 percent over not too well or not well at all.

-- "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the job Bush and his administration are doing in terms of giving the public reliable information on the military campaign in Afghanistan?" Satisfied over dissatisfied, by 84 to 14 percent.

Now that's a number ABC News definitely does not want to publicize after all the media complaining about lack of information from the Pentagon.

And it matches what Dennis Miller complained about on Tuesday's Tonight Show when he recalled how reporters "always say that during this war it's the public's need to know about our ground forces being in there." He rejected the notion: "I'm sitting at home and I'm always exasperating. And you never have the chance to say it, I don't think many of us have a chance to say it and I want to say it to you tonight. We don't want to know! Okay? They're young boys, it's scary enough leave 'em alone!" For more on Miller's appearance and for a RealPlayer clip, go to:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011107.asp#7

For the complete poll results, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data110701.htm

(While we're on Bush's Thursday night address, my reaction tone how neither CBS and NBC carried it, as quoted in an AP story by David Bauder: "We would applaud ABC for putting its responsibility as a news network ahead of sweeps month shows, realizing at a time of war that airing the comments of the President are more important than whether prime-time begins at 8pm or 8:25," said Brent Baker, Vice President of the conservative Media Research Center." Make that 8:38pm EST when ABC joined Whose Line Is It Anyway? in progress, a show not nearly as popular as CBS's Survivor or NBC's Friends. As Lisa de Moraes pointed out in Friday's Washington Post, by putting on an ad-free news special, ABC got their low-rated time period pulled from the ratings.)

2

Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth gave CNN a surprise on Wednesday night when he lashed out at a story by CNN's Bob Franken on how Pentagon video does not show civilian casualties and how the Taliban are proving to be a tough foe two weeks after a military leader insisted they had been "eviscerated." Appearing just after Franken's story aired, Hackworth called it "garbage," MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed.

The criticism occurred on CNN's new 10pm EST show, repeated at 1am EST, NewsNight with Aaron Brown. From the Pentagon, Bob Franken reported on November 7:
"One month into this new war in Afghanistan, it's almost exclusively a war fought from above Afghanistan. This is how the Pentagon likes to tell the bombing story: through the lens of the airplane nose cameras. But the nose cameras do not show the other part of the bombing story: the misses, the unintended civilian casualties that U.S. officials say are few and regrettable. The Taliban have tried to exploit the casualties by conducting media tours. Still, the barrage against Taliban troop positions grows more intense daily, two weeks after these memorable words."
Lt. General Gregory Newbold: "I really do. I think, as I say, the combat power of the Taliban has been eviscerated."
Franken: "Pentagon officials wish the word 'eviscerated' had never escaped that general's lips. Rather than being gutted, Taliban forces are still holding their ground. Al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden are still presumed to be hiding in the country's vast web of caves. So-called 'bunker buster' bombs have failed to make much of a dent. Air power has limitations.
General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: "There are certain formations on the ground that dropping bombs on them has some effect, but not the final effect that you need."
Franken: "So far, as the Pentagon will say, the extent of the U.S. ground operations has been one commando attack and several special operations forces patrols, working with Northern Alliance troops, spotting targets for the bombers. But there are enough forces in the area for a much larger presence on the ground. One month in, there are few reported casualties. But if there is an expanded ground assault, the risks would be much higher. The test of resolve back home much tougher, in the months ahead. Bob Franken, CNN, the Pentagon."

Anchor Aaron Brown then went to Hackworth for comment on the status of the war effort, but Hackworth was more interested in taking on CNN's story, though he was a bit off on Franken's name:
"Well, I think before the American people -- in spite of guys like Mr. Franklin -- when you read that report and listen to it, it really is discouraging, when the American people slice into their turkey on Turkey Day, we will see the Taliban no longer in business. And that will not be the end of round one. Then it will be, for the next six months or even year, mopping up the Taliban. This is a 30-round fight. We haven't even got in the middle of round one. It's not World War II. It's not Korea. It's not Vietnam, Desert Storm or a General Clark Serbian war -- a little bit of each. But it's an absolutely different kind of war. And that's what the American people must understand. Not that garbage we heard from Franklin."

File that under taking advantage of an opportunity.

3

Erik Sorenson, the President of MSNBC, doesn't think much of conservatives who dare to criticize MSNBC's war coverage as he whined that "any misstep...can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down." He arrogantly insisted: "We don't want to have to wonder if we are saluting properly. Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?"

Sorenson's comment was quoted in the Wednesday New York Times article that cited the MRC and which was excerpted in the November 7 CyberAlert. I had noted that the link to the full piece titled, "Network Coverage a Target of Fire From Conservatives," required registration, but "it's worth accessing the story just to read the bizarre quote from Erik Sorenson, the President of MSNBC, complaining about the 'patriotism police.'"

Here's the relevant paragraph in full: "'Any misstep and you can get into trouble with these guys and have the Patriotism Police hunt you down,' said Erik Sorenson, President of MSNBC. 'These are hard jobs. Just getting the facts straight is monumentally difficult. We don't want to have to wonder if we are saluting properly. Was I supposed to use the three-fingered salute today?'"

To read the whole New York Times article by reporters Jim Rutenberg and Bill Carter, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/07/politics/07MEDI.html

For the excerpt in the November 7 CyberAlert, go to: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011107.asp#6

Maybe we could form a "CyberAlert Patriotism Police Corps" to really infuriate Sorenson.

4

Dateline, Quetta: "The Taliban are slaughtering Afghans who try to flee the country, gunning them down in cold blood." Dateline, Quetta: Afghan refugees "said sympathies toward the Taliban remain strong in part because of perceptions among many Afghans that the U.S. bombing campaign has hurt civilians as well as military and terrorist targets."

FNC's Brit Hume highlighted the contrast in the two stories filed the same day from Quetta. The first came from an Agence France-Presse report, noted by James Taranto in his "Best of the Web" column on OpionionJournal.com, the second from the front page of the Washington Post.

An excerpt from the November 7 French story, which began:

QUETTA, Pakistan: The Taliban are slaughtering Afghans who try to flee the country, gunning them down in cold blood, refugees who have made it to Pakistan say.

On the outskirts of this south-western Pakistan town, near the Afghan border, thousands of "invisible" refugees exist in abject poverty.

They have fled because of the bombing of Afghanistan and a severe drought. But more than anything, they have fled to avoid persecution by the ruling Islamic militia.

Of a dozen Afghans interviewed, all had tales of random killings, human rights abuses and persecution.

Some told of mass murders.

Ovr Mohd, 65, fled to the hills from Bamiyan to avoid the rampaging Taliban. When he returned he said he found his three sons shot dead.

Mohd said they were targeted because they were ethnic Hazaras, whose sympathies lie with the opposition Northern Alliance.

"When we decided to leave Afghanistan we saw the Taliban attacking people who were fleeing. People were gathering on the road to leave and they were shot. We have seen this," he said.

"I saw 50 people in front of me who were killed. They were women, children and men," Mohd added, claiming the killings happened a month ago.

"I hate the Taliban for doing this."...

END Excerpt

For the entire Agence France-Presse dispatch as published in English in an Australian newspaper.

"Support Deepens For the Taliban, Refugees Report" read the headline over the front page story in the November 8 Washington Post. The subhead: "U.S. Errors Fuel Sympathy."

An excerpt from the top of the story by Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran:

QUETTA, Pakistan, Nov. 7 -- Afghans who have entered Pakistan in recent days say that a month of U.S. airstrikes has failed to diminish popular support in central and southern Afghanistan for the ruling Taliban militia, which they say continues to exert a firm grip over the civilian population despite a heavy loss of military equipment.

The arriving Afghans, interviewed in Quetta, near the Afghan border, said sympathies toward the Taliban remain strong in part because of perceptions among many Afghans that the U.S. bombing campaign has hurt civilians as well as military and terrorist targets. Those views appear to have been stoked by U.S. bombing errors, compounded by an aggressive Taliban propaganda campaign casting the conflict as an American attack on Islam.

"The Americans said they would only target Osama bin Laden's bases," said Abdul Mohammed, a shop owner who lives in the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban's stronghold. "But now they are killing ordinary Afghan people, so people think that the Afghan people are America's enemy, not just the Taliban and bin Laden."...

END excerpt

For the Washington Post story in full, go to:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58791-2001Nov7.html

5

Former President Bill Clinton asserted in a speech delivered on Wednesday afternoon that "those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless" for the anger which foments terrorism. But his 'blame America too' comments, though they were highlighted in Thursday's Washington Times, have received little notice elsewhere, other than the Fox News Channel, while CNN.com and AP stories on the speech skipped over his remarks critical of past Christian and U.S. government policies. CNN asserted Clinton "received a rock star's welcome."

An excerpt from the beginning of Washington Times reporter Joseph Curl's November 8 story on Clinton's address at Georgetown University:

Bill Clinton, the former President, said yesterday that terror has existed in America for hundreds of years and the nation is "paying a price today" for its past of slavery and for looking "the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed."

"Here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery, and slaves quite frequently were killed even though they were innocent," said Mr. Clinton in a speech to nearly 1,000 students at Georgetown University's ornate Gaston Hall.

"This country once looked the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human. "And we are still paying a price today," said Mr. Clinton, who was invited to address the students by the university's School of Foreign Service....

Mr. Clinton said the international terrorism that has only just reached the United States dates back thousands of years. "In the first Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem, they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it and proceeded to kill every woman and child who was a Muslim on the Temple Mount. I can tell you that story is still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it."...

END of Excerpt

For the entire Washington Times story, go to: http://www.washtimes.com/national/20011108-470100.htm

After hearing that, AP reporter Laurie Kellman wrote a story headlined: "Clinton Encourages Islam Debate." To read her report: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011107/us/attacks_clinton_1.html

On CNN.com, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, Brad Wright wrote: "Former President Bill Clinton told foreign service students at Georgetown University Wednesday the world is in a 'struggle for the soul of the 21st century' and called for a great debate with the Muslim world over its values versus the values of the West.
"The former president returned to his alma mater in typical Clinton style. He received a rock star's welcome from the crowd of about 400 even though his arrival was more than a half-hour late..."

For the CNN.com story in full, go to:
http://www.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/11/07/clinton.speech/index.html

Clinton spoke at about 2pm EST on Wednesday, but neither CNN or FNC carried him live and C-SPAN has yet to show his speech. CNN, FNC and MSNBC were all airing John Ashcroft and President Bush making an announcement about money laundering, but MSNBC joined Clinton in progress as soon as that event ended. At about 2:07pm EST they showed Clinton live for about four minutes, but didn't catch his blame American heritage first portion.

The MRC analyst staff did not see any coverage on cable or broadcast Wednesday night or Thursday morning and I didn't see anything on Thursday night anywhere except on FNC, which raised Clinton's comments at least during Special Report with Brit Hume and Hannity & Colmes.

Hume showed clips of Clinton during his panel segment on his November 8 show: "Former President Clinton was in town yesterday and he made a speech at Georgetown University where he attended college. And he talked about the roots and the history of terrorism, and he made the point that terrorism had been around and had a long history, and then he added this:"
Bill Clinton at Georgetown University: "Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless."
Hume noted: "Well, Fred, that would include me, that would include you, heaven knows how many of the rest of us it would include. He then went on to cite as examples of what the people of European lineage had done, the atrocities, the original atrocities, the famous atrocities at the Temple Mount that was during the Crusades. Then he went on and started talking about America, and this is what he said:"
Clinton: "Here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery. And slaves quite frequently were killed even though they were innocent. This country once looked the other way when significant numbers of native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human, and we are still paying the price today."
Hume asked, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Now, I think we've put that in a reasonable context -- I mean, we're not going to listen to the whole speech -- but how do you take that? Fred?"
Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard humorously replied: "I think former President Clinton must have an enormous struggle every day. I mean, there are things he knows he shouldn't say, but he loses the struggle, and then he says them. You know, he tells Paul McCartney's girlfriend, as he did the other day that, you know, I'm better prepared than President Bush is to handle this whole terrorist threat, suggesting that he'd be doing a better job, a la Mark Green, you know, he said he'd do a better job than Giuliani, and now this. I mean, this is, it's either liberal guilt, which I didn't know he suffered from that much as President."
Hume: "Or any guilt at all."
Barnes: "Or any guilt at all, yeah, for that matter. I mean, I don't know what he's up to. I mean, I don't feel any guilt. I'm certainly from a European background. My ancestors were abolitionists, for what it's worth, but even if they weren't, I wouldn't bear any guilt for that. I mean, what in the world is he talking about? Why would he, I don't understand why he wants to join the 'we don't come to this with clean hands' school. I mean, that's ridiculous."
Hume: "Is that how you took it, Mara?"
Mara Liasson of NPR cautioned: "You know, I would have like to have known where was he going with that, and what does that have to do with terrorism? And is he equating the two? Now, it's certainly true that many atrocities have been conducted in the name of religions all over the world, and certainly Christianity is not immune from that, but I'm just wondering if he's trying to make some kind of moral equivalence-"
Barnes: "That's exactly what he was trying to do."
Hume: "What strikes me is he says, 'Those of us who come from various European lineages are not blameless.' He's not talking about our ancestors. Ceci, do you think he may have mis-spoken there and he meant to say, 'Our forbears are not blameless.'"
Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly: 'It's hard to say. I mean, it appeared from that clip that he had some point and some thought out sequence there, but it's not clear to me, sort of, what either the larger message was or how he's trying to apply it to this circumstance."
Liasson: "I did see him give a speech at the Kennedy Center not long ago where he did talk about terrorism and some of the, what we do about the breeding grounds for terrorists, and he talked about how we need more education and more democracy in the Middle East and even for our friends-"
Hume: "He talked about that. Yes, he talked about that. He said we got to pay to educate people in those poor countries."
Liasson expressed some agreement with Clinton: "And also even for our friends who this might make uncomfortable, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it's something that we have to do. So I think that, you know, when he talks about this, he does have a kind of global view, and some of the things he says are right on point-"
Barnes jumped in: "No, they aren't. No, they aren't. That stuff about poverty and education over there. Look, the terrorists were educated people, they were from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the people that flew those planes into the World Trade Center. Clinton's all wrong about that. He's all wrong about this. And I think he's doing exactly-"
Liasson: "Democracy in the Arab world would help."
Barnes: "Well, democracy would help. But he's doing exactly what you were suggesting. I mean, you look at what he said, and he's implying a moral equivalence between us and Osama bin Laden and his terrorists, and that's, well, it's incorrect, but it's also a ridiculous thing for him to say."
Ceci Connolly: "Maybe he just wants back in the spotlight."
Barnes: "He got it."
Hume concluded: "He got a little bit of it anyway."

Yes, only a "little bit" so far since most of the media are ignoring what many found so disturbing in Clinton's remarks.

[Web update: To read a transcript of Bill Clinton's November 7 remarks, or to view them via RealPlayer or Windows Media Player, access this Georgetown University page:
http://www.georgetown.edu/admin/publicaffairs/protocol_events/events/clinton_110701.htm]

6

From the November 7 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things That Will Get You Thrown Out of the Taliban." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Lighting up in a smoke-free cave
9. On enlightening journey to Mecca, suggesting you go see "K-Pax"
8. Questioning strategy of battling Stealth bombers with a stick
7. Overdrawing your checking account at Talibank
6. Nominating Al Gore for membership because he has a beard
5. After President Bush speech, remarking, "You know, the guy has some valid points about us being completely insane"
4. Shaving your beard just to see if the Gillette Mach 3 with patented comfort edges really does give you the cleanest, smoothest shave possible
3. Parking your camel in the Supreme Leader's space
2. Calling Osama Bin Laden by his real first name, "Earl"
1. Mailing Anthrax without proper postage

#8 has the benefit of being based on reality.-- Brent Baker


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