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Diane Sawyer Frets: Obama 'Caved-In' to Cheney & 'Political Right' --5/15/2009


1. Diane Sawyer Frets: Obama 'Caved-In' to Cheney & 'Political Right'
Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer worried on Thursday that Barack Obama backtracked "on his pledge to release pictures of U.S. soldiers allegedly torturing terror suspects," framing the story by fretting that this might be a "cave-in to Dick Cheney and the political right." Later in the show, former Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on the program to put the best possible spin on the Obama administration's decision to appeal a court decision ordering pictures of alleged abuse released. Talking to co-host Robin Roberts, he offered talking points that could have come straight from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

2. CBS's Early Show Ignores Obama Reversal on Abuse Photos
While both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today on Thursday covered President Obama's decision to block the public release of photos depicting prisoner abuse under U.S. custody, CBS's Early Show failed to make any mention of the dramatic reversal by the White House.

3. MSNBC's O'Donnell Grills Opponent of Obama's Notre Dame Address
Instead of performing as an anchor, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell became a liberal sparring partner to the Cardinal Newman Society's Patrick Reilly on the network's Thursday afternoon programming over President Obama's upcoming commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. Invoking her Catholic upbringing, she used the common left-wing tactic to equate the Church's unequivocal teaching against abortion with its skepticism of the death penalty, and asked if former Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan shouldn't have addressed prior commencements for their support of capital punishment. O'Donnell also inquired as to why Reilly was "advocating a Catholic Church that advocates division."

4. Chrysler Closes 789 Dealerships, ABC, CBS & NBC Show Same Dealer
File under: "Insular world of the news media." Chrysler announced plans to eliminate 789 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealerships across the nation, yet on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all showcased the very same upset Long Island dealer, Jim Anderer of Island Jeep in Lindenhurst, New York, while two other dealers also on the closing list were each featured on two of the three evening newscasts. ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News both ran soundbites from Stanley Balzekas of Chicago's Balzekas Motor Sales; CBS and the NBC Nightly News gave airtime to Howard Sellz of Big Valley Dodge in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. But only Anderer earned the triple play on the broadcast networks.


Diane Sawyer Frets: Obama 'Caved-In'
to Cheney & 'Political Right'

Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer worried on Thursday that Barack Obama backtracked "on his pledge to release pictures of U.S. soldiers allegedly torturing terror suspects," framing the story by fretting that this might be a "cave-in to Dick Cheney and the political right."

Later in the show, former Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on the program to put the best possible spin on the Obama administration's decision to appeal a court decision ordering pictures of alleged abuse released. Talking to co-host Robin Roberts, he offered talking points that could have come straight from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Stephanopoulos generously theorized, "So, by appealing this case right now, even if the White House doesn't win down the line, they bought themselves some time. And the President has shown he's on the side of the troops." At no point did Sawyer, who teased the segment, Roberts or Stephanopoulos talk about the pressure the political left put on Obama to release the photos. Speaking of Dick Cheney, the This Week anchor did allow that the former Vice President's opposition against releasing the pictures "is starting to get some traction."

Prior to the Stephanopoulos piece, reporter Jake Tapper did manage to highlight the fury on the left, mentioning "disappointed liberal activists." He also featured a quote from ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh, who complained, "It [refusal to release the photos] only confirms that the Obama administration's promise of transparency and accountability is essentially meaningless."

A transcript of the May 14 Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:

7am tease
DIANE SAWYER: Presidential reversal. President Obama backtracks on his pledge to release pictures of U.S. soldiers allegedly torturing terror suspects. Did he cave-in to Dick Cheney and the political right?

7:07am
ROBIN ROBERTS: We're going to get the bottom line now. We're joined by chief Washington correspondent and host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. Good to see you, George, this morning.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Robin.
ABC GRAPHIC: Obama's Photo Flap: President Faces Criticism
ROBERTS: Let's pick up on what Jake was saying. Because, just over a week ago, they had agreed to release the photos. And now, the administration is saying no. What more is behind the reversal?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, those commanders on the ground. Commanders Petraeus, McKiernan, Odierno in Iraq. All coming in and saying, if you were to do this, you are going to hurt our troops. And it's a perilous time. We're at this period now where we trying to move troops out of the cities in Iraq. The violence has gone up. We're about to face a new offensive in Afghanistan right now. Elections in Afghanistan, as well. A very dangerous time. So, by appealing this case right now, even if the White House doesn't win down the line, they bought themselves some time. And the President has shown he's on the side of the troops.
ROBERTS: Now, the timing of this, some folks are saying that he's given in a bit to former vice president Dick Cheney, who has been very vocal about the administration, not making us as safe as the previous administration. Let's take a look a bit at what Cheney said.
DICK CHENEY: Bottom line is, we successfully defended the nation for seven and a half years, against a follow-up attack to 9/11. That was a remarkable achievement. Nobody would have thought that was possible. But it was. I believe it was possible because of the policies we had in place, which they're now dismantling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He is everywhere. There's no question about that. And Dick Cheney isn't the most popular messenger. But his argument is starting to get some traction. And you're seeing the President move more toward siding with the military on this thicket of issues. I would expect, for example, today, very likely today, the President will approve reinstituting the military commissions to try detainees coming out of Guantanamo and other prisons. That is something he criticized during the campaign. Now, it looks like he's instituting it.
ROBERTS: Of course, the President has a great deal on his plate, including Justice Souter, his retirement. And wanting to have somebody in place by the time the Senate goes on recess in August. Any short list any more names that you're hearing, George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What we're getting now is the President would like to lay out the nominee probably in the week between Memorial Day and the first week of June, when he goes off to Europe. They're vetting a handful of candidate. Although, the White House is taking great glee, saying not all of the candidates are out there. It still looks like the top three candidates are Elaine Kagan, the solicitor general, Sonia Sotomayor, who is a federal appeals court judge in New York, Puerto Rican background, Diane Wood, another appeals court judge out of Chicago. Some of the new names being talked about right now. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. A woman named Teresa Roseborough out of Met Life. She used to clerk for Justice Stevens. And the Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano. But, as I said, the White House is taking great glee in saying there's some secrets out there none of you know about.

CBS's Early Show Ignores Obama Reversal
on Abuse Photos

While both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today on Thursday covered President Obama's decision to block the public release of photos depicting prisoner abuse under U.S. custody, CBS's Early Show failed to make any mention of the dramatic reversal by the White House.

On Wednesday, CBS senior White House correspondent Bill Plante asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President's decision and he later reported the story on the CBS Evening News, explaining: "The ACLU, which sued for release of the pictures, said the President's decision flies in the face of his promise of transparent government." A clip of Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU was played: "So if you accept the administration's logic, you'd really have to give the government wholesale censorship power and that's not something that we can accept and it's not something that the courts have accepted." Plante concluded: "Candidate Obama pushed for full disclosure. President Obama has decided that there are times when transparency is a tough call." However, when Plante was on the Early Show on Thursday, to discuss speculation of the President's Supreme Court pick, the topic never came up.

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

When the initial decision to release the photos was announced last month, the Early Show not only reported on it, but co-host Russ Mitchell even suggested the Bush administration was to blame for the abuse: "Soon we will see more pictures of U.S. personnel allegedly abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photos, like these from Abu Ghraib, are being released next month, following a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The group says it is proof that prisoner abuse was widespread. And high-profile Bush administration officials are being linked to those interrogation techniques." Strange that Mitchell did not feel it necessary to report on Obama blocking the release of the photos and ACLU criticism of that decision.

MSNBC's O'Donnell Grills Opponent of
Obama's Notre Dame Address

Instead of performing as an anchor, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell became a liberal sparring partner to the Cardinal Newman Society's Patrick Reilly on the network's Thursday afternoon programming over President Obama's upcoming commencement address at the University of Notre Dame. Invoking her Catholic upbringing, she used the common left-wing tactic to equate the Church's unequivocal teaching against abortion with its skepticism of the death penalty, and asked if former Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan shouldn't have addressed prior commencements for their support of capital punishment. O'Donnell also inquired as to why Reilly was "advocating a Catholic Church that advocates division."

Before introducing Reilly, the MSNBC anchor began the segment, which started 20 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour, by reading recent poll numbers from Quinnipiac University which found that 60% of Catholic voters answered negatively when asked if Notre Dame should disinvite President Obama. She then turned to her guest and asked: "What's your point? Why are you organizing this protest?" Reilly answered: "The protest has nothing to do with the president in particular. This is a concern that Catholics have had for decades now, that many of our Catholic institutions have lost a sense of Catholic identity, and Catholics are drawing a line in the sand, saying that the Catholic University of Notre Dame ought to be choosing those who it honors based on its Catholic principles and values."

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

O'Donnell followed up by asking her abortion/death penalty question: "So would you agree that -- that President George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan, because they supported the death penalty, should not have been honored at Notre Dame?" The Catholic leader replied, "No, I wouldn't have a problem with a Catholic university that -- that made that judgment."

The anchor responded with some astonishment: "Whoa, whoa, whoa -- so it's okay to give Presidents who support the death penalty a degree, but it's not okay to give a President who support abortion rights" When Reilly answered yes, O'Donnell asked for an explanation: "Why? What's the difference?...I grew up Catholic. The death penalty is death and abortion is death. What's the difference?"

Reilly clarified what the Catholic Church's teaching on the two issues were: "There's -- there's a distinction between intrinsic evil, which is always and everywhere wrong [as in the case of abortion] -- in case of the death penalty, in the case of the war, there are certain principles that need to be applied to decisions, but there can be some disagreement on when those are applied and it becomes much more difficult."

O'Donnell continued by inquiring if Reilly's view was a "minority view" among American Catholics, given the poll numbers on the topic of President Obama's commencement address, and throwing the "division" card about the Church's moral teachings:

O'DONNELL: Is it possible, given the poll numbers that are out, that show that 60% of Catholics in this country think that President Obama should -- be out there, that your view is a minority view?
REILLY: It's possible. There are a minority of Catholics who are faithful practicing Catholics who attend Mass regularly. However, there are other polls. There was the Rasmussen poll that showed that Catholics, 60% to 25% opposed the honor and the reason is-
O'DONNELL: You know, we don't use the Rasmussen poll at NBC.
REILLY: Well, that's a shame. But the reason is, because they ask the question in the context of explaining to respondents that the bishops had instituted a policy banning this type of honor under that -- in that context.
O'DONNELL: Let must just ask you a general question, because you care about the Catholic Church-
REILLY: Right-
O'DONNELL: That's clear. That's why you spend a lot of your time doing this. The Catholic Church is shrinking -- it's shrinking in America. There are less people who feel like they can be part of the Catholic Church. Why then continue -- advocating a Catholic Church that advocates division, and saying-
REILLY: No.
O'DONNELL: No, you're not part of us, we shouldn't honor some types of people, and preaching sort of an exclusion [sic] rather than an inclusionary method?
REILLY: That's absolutely not what happening.
O'DONNELL: Or encouraging debate?
REILLY: In fact, we're encouraging unity-
O'DONNELL: I mean, we're not making President Obama a priest-
REILLY: No.
O'DONNELL: He's speaking at a university.
REILLY: That's right. He's speaking and he's receiving an honor from the university. He's being honored by a major Catholic university.
O'DONNELL: So why should Notre Dame even allow-
REILLY: Can I answer the question?
O'DONNELL: If you're a student and you're pro-choice-
REILLY: Yeah.
O'DONNELL: Should you even go to Notre Dame? Should Notre Dame accept pro-choice students?
REILLY: I think, under the current circumstances, they would be quite welcome at Notre Dame. However -- and any student should be able to attend a Catholic university. But the university, as Catholic, and its official policies and actions ought to be compliant with Catholic teaching.
O'DONNELL: All right. Well, Patrick Reilly, thank you. I should point out that we have heard from, of course, the president of Notre Dame, who says that they generally give this award to presidents -- a honorary degree. They've invited all presidents to speak there. It's not a political statement, in their words -- it is -- or endorsement.
REILLY: It's not a political issue at all-
O'DONNELL: Yeah.
REILLY: It's a Catholic issue.
O'DONNELL: Patrick Reilly, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

The question that comes to mind in the aftermath of this segment: is Norah O'Donnell a journalist or a liberal pundit?

Chrysler Closes 789 Dealerships, ABC,
CBS & NBC Show Same Dealer

File under: "Insular world of the news media."

Chrysler announced plans to eliminate 789 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealerships across the nation, yet on Thursday night ABC, CBS and NBC all showcased the very same upset Long Island dealer, Jim Anderer of Island Jeep in Lindenhurst, New York, while two other dealers also on the closing list were each featured on two of the three evening newscasts.

ABC's World News and the CBS Evening News both ran soundbites from Stanley Balzekas of Chicago's Balzekas Motor Sales; CBS and the NBC Nightly News gave airtime to Howard Sellz of Big Valley Dodge in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles.

But only Anderer, who must have had a busy day in front of film crews from the national and local media, earned the triple play on the broadcast networks. Following a piece from Chris Bury in Chicago, ABC's World News ran a "1st Person" segment with Anderer railing against Chrysler. The CBS Evening News put two bites from Anderer in a piece narrated from Atlanta by Mark Strassmann and NBC slid a clip of Anderer into a Nightly News story from Lee Cowan in Los Angeles.

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Balzekas Motor Sales: www.balzekas.com

Big Valley Dodge: www.bigvalleydodge.com

Island Jeep: www.islandjeep.com

-- Brent Baker