Franks Admits "Combat Over" His Idea, Koppel Takes Shots at Bush --8/4/2004
2. Lauer Illustrates Influence of
NYT, Cites It in Three Questions
3. Today Gives Robert Kennedy Time to Rant About Bush as Dangerous
4. Reporter Who Found Journalists Back Kerry Denies Coverage Bias
ABC's Ted Koppel plowed right through retired General Tommy Franks' admission that President Bush's May 2003 announcement that major combat was over was his idea, motivated by a desire to bring "closure" to troops and to convince nations which promised troop support as soon as combat was complete to provide those troops. But instead of exploring those rationale, Koppel fired at Franks with snooty statements about President Bush, such as, "you didn't suggest he put on a flight suit and sit backseat on a plane landing on an aircraft carrier, did you?" and "I assume, you didn't paint the banner that said 'mission accomplished,' either?"
Franks sat down with Koppel, for a taped interview for Monday's Nightline, as part of his media tour to promote his new book, American Soldier. The August 2 Nightline was pushed back by about 45 minutes, until after midnight in the EDT zone, by golf in ABC's prime time.
The MRC's Jessica Anderson caught this exchange from the very top of where Koppel began his interview:
Koppel: "I want to take you back to an anecdote you tell in your book in which you say, in effect, when the President ended up on the carrier out there saying that major combat was over, that was you? You did that?"
On Tuesday morning, Franks appeared on ABC's Good Morning America, but Diane Sawyer did not raise Franks' admission about declaring combat over.
Amazon.com's page for his book, American Soldier: www.amazon.com
Tonight's (Wednesday) Nightline will feature Bruce Springsteen and other musicians to promote the anti-Bush coalition of musicians, Vote for Change. The coalition, which plans to produce a series of fundraising concerts, also includes John Mellencamp, the Dave Matthews Band, Bonnie Raitt and the Dixie Chicks. (Members of the Dixie Chicks and Dave Matthews Band were on today's Today to publicize their efforts.)
Matt Lauer's one newspaper mind. Interviewing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, on Tuesday's Today, Lauer illustrated the influence the New York Times has on the New York City-based national media as he twice cited a Times news story, about how the intelligence which prompted the latest security alert was years old, and then demanded that Townsend respond to a Bush-bashing Times editorial which criticized Bush for not following a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to give full budget authority to the new intelligence coordinator.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens noted Lauer's fixation on that morning's New York Times.
Lauer's first question to Bloomberg, who was at the Statue of Liberty for its re-opening ceremony: "We're hearing in the New York Times this morning or reading in the New York Times this morning that some of the information that was used to conduct this or to elevate the terror threat level over this past weekend was three or perhaps four years old and that intelligence officials have no concrete evidence that a plot was still underway. Do you think, given that information, there might have been an overreaction in this city?"
Lauer soon jumped to Townsend at the White House: "Alright Mr. Mayor thank you very much, Mayor Bloomberg. Ms. Townsend let me turn to you. As we've said this information now in the New York Times this morning says that some of the information contained in the intelligence released over the weekend was three or four years old. Was there an urgent need to raise the terror alert warning?"
For his second question to Townsend, Lauer switched from the Times to the Times-like Howard Dean: "Let me read you something that Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, former presidential candidate for the Democratic Party said, quote, 'I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush he plays this trump card which is terrorism. His whole campaign is based on the notion, that I can keep you safe therefore at times of difficulty for America stick with me. Now comes Tom Ridge. It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics and I suspect there's some of both in it.' What's your reaction to that?"
A couple of questions later, Lauer was back to the New York Times and its editorial take on President Bush's decision to support a new intelligence coordinator position: "Here's how the New York Times editorial put it this morning, quote, 'He wanted to appear to be embracing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission,' he being the President, 'but he actually rejected the panel's most significant ideas. His intelligence director would be in the worst of all worlds: Cut out of the President's inner circle and lacking any real power.'"
For the August 3 New York Times story which so enthralled Lauer, "Reports That Led to Terror Alert Were Years Old, Officials Say," see: www.nytimes.com
For the editorial: www.nytimes.com
Tuesday's Today provided a forum for Robert Kennedy Jr. to promote his new book, Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy. NBC's Natalie Morales plugged how in it he "charges that the Bush administration has taken corporate cronyism to such unprecedented heights that it now threatens our health, our national security and even democracy as we know it." Morales did raise how on National Review Online Jonathan Adler had asserted that Kennedy's claims are "riddled with misstatements, gross exaggerations, and outright falsehoods, combined with repeated ad hominem attacks on administration officials," but after Kennedy insisted that "not a single inaccuracy has been pointed out," Morales cued him up: "So why aren't there stricter regulations now in place?" Kennedy then consumed the remainder of the interview with a multi-minute rant about how "a mining industry lobbyist from the coal industry has been put in charge of administering those, and he has sabotaged them all," and how in the Bush administration "criminals give money to a political candidate and then have the cases against them dropped."
Kennedy blamed Bush for how "one out of every six American women now has so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for permanent brain damage, cognitive impairment, mental retardation, liver disease, kidney disease and a grim inventory of other diseases."
(Kennedy argued in the book that the Bush administration's "corporate cronyism" is comparable to the "rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s," a contemptible comparison Sean Hannity pounded at him over on Tuesday's Hannity & Colmes on FNC.)
At the top of the 9am half hour on the August 3 Today, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed, substitute co-host Campbell Brown teased: "And also Matt, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has penned a powerful indictment of the Bush administration's environmental policies. It's called Crimes Against Nature but does he go too far? We'll talk with Robert Kennedy Jr. in just a few minutes."
Before an ad break, Brown plugged: "And up next a book out today by Robert Kennedy Jr. charges President Bush with crimes against our natural resources. The author makes his case ahead."
Fill-in news reader Natalie Morales handled the in-studio interview with Kennedy. She set it up: "With the presidential campaign in full swing the candidates' records are being scrutinized like never before and one key issue for many voters is the environment. In a new book, Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. charges that the Bush administration has taken corporate cronyism to such unprecedented heights that it now threatens our health, our national security and even democracy as we know it. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., good morning, thanks for being here."
The first question from Morales: "Well right in the book on page two in the intro you write that, 'I want to be very clear here. This is not a book about a Democrat attacking a Republican administration,' and though the sub-heading of the book in itself is 'How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy,' throughout the book is this continued theme, how do you then, therefore not want this to be perceived as a book about a Democrat attacking the Republican administration?"
Kennedy maintained that he's "bi-partisan as I approach the environment," but then charged that the Bush administration is trying to "literally eviscerate 30 years of environmental laws" with its "radical agenda."
Morales, who never tagged him as liberal, then hit him with criticism from a "conservative" source: "Well this book stems from an article of the same title that you wrote in, for the Rolling Stone in the November of 2003 and a lot of critics, of course, came out on that one. Jonathan Adler from the conservative publication the National Review wrote of this, of your essay at the time, 'It is riddled with misstatements, gross exaggerations and outright falsehoods combined with repeated ad-homonym attacks on administration officials. Crimes Against Nature paints a shocking, that is, shockingly inaccurate picture of Bush environmental policy.' How do you respond to that?"
Kennedy insisted that "not a single inaccuracy has been pointed out."
The third question from Morales was her last as Kennedy used it to launch a lengthy rant: "Let, one of the, you call the number one polluter is, is Big Coal in the book. You say, 'King Coal sends more greenhouse gases into the air and more mercury and acid rain onto our Earth and produces more lung-searing ozone and, or particles than any other industry.' So why aren't there stricter regulations now in place?"
An excerpt from Adler's December 3, 2003 National Review Online article, "Kennedy's Crimes Against Facts," about Kennedy's Rolling Stone piece which matches his book:
....The latest, and perhaps most egregious, example of anti-Bush environmental fear-mongering is an essay by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the December 11 Rolling Stone, "Crimes Against Nature." In it, Kennedy accuses Bush of "a ferocious three-year attack" on environmental protection involving "more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws." These policies "are already bearing fruit," Kennedy alleges, "diminishing standards of living for millions of Americans." In Kennedy's world, a phalanx of former corporate lobbyists conspires to "eviscerate the infrastructure of laws and regulations that protect the environment" and "eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year," all for narrow corporate gain. In Kennedy's world, the Bush administration's "corporate cronyism" is comparable to the "rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s." If reality bore any relation to Kennedy's fantasy, there would be reason for concern. Yet as with so many recent environmental-activist attacks on the Bush-administration environmental record, Kennedy's screed is more fantasy than fact....
Although Kennedy claims his article was "rigorously fact checked," it remains replete with errors. "Crimes Against Nature" paints a shocking -- that is, shockingly inaccurate -- picture of Bush environmental policy....
[M]any of Kennedy's crimes against fact are quite serious. Right off the bat, Kennedy charges that the Bush Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "excused" coal-burning power plants "from complying with the Clean Air Act." This is simply false. The administration revised federal regulations governing when older industrial facilities must install modern air-pollution equipment to allow for upgrades and repairs without increasing emissions above permitted levels. In practice, these changes will enable facilities to undertake efficiency improvements that in many cases, will produce a net decrease in polluting emissions. Yet even assuming these reforms to the "new source review" regulations effectively exempt power plants from the upgrade requirements, power plants, and other industrial facilities remain subject to numerous regulatory requirements under the Clean Air Act, including caps on emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides and provisions, controls to attain ambient air-quality standards, and mandates designed to prevent "upwind" facilities from causing air-pollution problems in "downwind" states, among others.
Kennedy claims the administration "redefine[d] carbon dioxide" to no longer be considered a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. Yet carbon dioxide has never been regulated as an air pollutant under federal law....
Kennedy accuses the administration of proposing to "remov[e] federal protections for most American wetlands and streams." Here again Kennedy is all wet....
Although Kennedy accuses the Bush administration of "more than 200 major rollbacks," he identifies few significant changes to environmental law. More often, Kennedy labels as a "rollback" the Bush administration's refusal to embrace Clinton initiatives, many of which had yet to take effect when Bush entered office. Kennedy claims Bush "weakened efficiency standards" for air conditioners because the Bush administration rejected a proposed Clinton regulation to tighten energy use requirements for new ACs by 30 percent. Yet the Bush administration went ahead and tightened AC efficiency standards nonetheless -- just not as much as the Clinton administration had proposed. Such a failure to adopt more stringent regulations can hardly be characterized a "major rollback."...
END of Excerpt
For Adler's piece in full: www.nationalreview.com
Kennedy responded with a letter to NRO which failed to point out any errors by Adler, a fact Adler noted out in his retort, but Kennedy did add his claims about mercury poisoning, the same charges he made on Today. Adler countered that allegation:
Twelve-to-one support for John Kerry over George W. Bush doesn't mean there's any media bias in favor of Kerry, John Tierney, the New York Times reporter who discovered the overwhelming slant of his colleagues when he coordinated a survey of journalists attending the Democratic convention last week, contended in a Tuesday night appearance on FNC's O'Reilly Factor. Tierney maintained that "most reporters are driven not by ideology" and he insisted: "I think the way it works in campaigns is that who's ever ahead in the campaign is the target because reporters don't want it to be an even race because that puts them out of work. And they want the best story, so they tend to go after the front-runner. Now, they always, of course, tend to go after who's ever in power, so they've been going after Bush now, but they went after Clinton, too."
As recounted in the August 2 CyberAlert, Tierney surveyed 153 journalists at a press party during the Democratic convention in Boston. "When asked who would be a better President," Tierney relayed in his Sunday [August 1] news section "Political Points" column of tidbits from the campaign trail, "the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1."
Tierney revealed to O'Reilly that he had some help with his noble effort: "We sent out six people with clipboards and surveys."
"What surprised me," Tierney told O'Reilly, "was that although the Washington correspondents I talked to narrowly favored covering President Kerry, in the rest of the country, and that was two-thirds of the sample, they favored Bush. So overall, journalists said they would prefer to cover President Bush next year than President Kerry."
But in his Sunday article, Tierney suggested that's not because they think Bush is a good President but because they believe the Bush team is fun to cover, probably because of what reporters see as missteps. Tierney wrote: "Why stick with the Bush administration? 'You can't ask for a richer cast of characters to cover,' one Washington correspondent said. 'Kerry will be a bore after these guys.'"
In addition to favoring Kerry's policies, as reflected in saying overwhelmingly that he'd make a "better President," the reporters polled also favored Kerry on a personal level, saying they'd prefer to spend time with him over Bush. Tierney recounted in his August 1 story: "With which presidential nominee, we asked, would you rather be stranded on a desert island? Mr. Kerry was the choice of both groups: 31 to 17 among the Washington journalists, and 51 to 39 among the others. 'Bush's religious streak,' one Florida correspondent said, 'would drive me nuts on a desert island.'"
For Tierney's piece in full online: www.nytimes.com
O'Reilly: "Now for the top story tonight: Can President Bush get a fair hearing in the media? New York Times columnist John Tierney conducted an informal survey about who journalists favored in the election. One hundred fifty-three media people answered anonymously, and overwhelmingly they favor John Kerry. Surprise! Mr. Tierney joins us now from Washington. Now, I admire the way you did this. You trapped these people at a party in Boston before the convention, these journalist types, right?"
To see what Tierney looks like, check the posted version of this item to which the MRC's Mez Djouadi will add a still shot from Tierney on The O'Reilly Factor.
-- Brent Baker