NBC's 'Fact Check' on Palin's False Claims Not So Damning --9/18/2008
2. ABC Grills McCains on Abortion; Skipped Issue with Obamas
3. Roland Martin & Jeffrey Toobin: CNN's Resident Obama Spokesmen
4. Early Show Focuses on Palin 'Trooper-gate,' Leaves Out Key Facts
5. Limbaugh 'Inducer to Violence,' 'Sick' Palin 'Gutted' Sp Olympics
6. ABC's GMA Train Trip Finds Economic Misery and Desperation
7. NY Times Architecture Critic Blames Reagan for Bridge Collapse
Two weeks after Sarah Palin's convention speech "reporters are still fact-checking what they hear from her, as our own Savannah Guthrie does for us tonight," NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced Wednesday evening. But of Guthrie's five presumed misstatements by Palin, two were remarks made by Palin "aides," not Palin herself; one, the "Bridge to Nowhere," was already dissected eight days ago on the same newscast; and on another, how previous VP nominees have not met foreign leaders, Guthrie didn't disprove Palin's contention.
Up first, how Palin asserted "my job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas." Guthrie pounced: "She's wrong. Alaska accounts for only 3.5 percent of America's total energy production, 7.5 percent of oil and gas." Unmentioned by NBC: How the Alaska Resource Development Council's Web site has stated: "Alaska's oil and gas industry" accounts "for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production."
Moving on, Guthrie cited how "campaign aides told a few reporters" Palin had visited Iraq when she really only went to Kuwait and "an aide also said Palin visited Ireland," but only because "her plane stopped at the airport to refuel." Quoting how Palin said that "if you go back in history...many Vice Presidents" would also have answered they had not previously met a foreign leader, Guthrie countered: "But historians say the facts tell a different story." She ran a soundbite from one historian, Michael Beschloss, who limited his review to how "since Pearl Harbor every single vice presidential candidate of a major party has had some pretty serious exposure to foreign leaders, with the exception of Spiro Agnew." So, there was Agnew and all those pre-1944 were left unaddressed.
Finally, the media favorite: "Palin initially supported the bridge and killed it only after Congress pulled its backing."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On energy production in Alaska, FactCheck.org reported on September 12 what Palin relied upon for the apparently exaggerated percentage:
When we asked the McCain campaign where the 20 percent figure came from, we were referred to the Web site of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc, a group that says it promotes development of Alaska's natural resources. It states:
"Alaska's oil and gas industry has produced more than 16 billion barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production."
In a September 17 update, FactCheck.org added:
The Associated Press, in reporting on Palin's "inflated" energy claim, contacted the Alaska Resource Development Council and confirmed that its 20 percent figure is badly out of date. It quoted Carl Portman, the group's deputy director, as saying that the figure is an average for the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, which The AP noted was "long before Palin became governor at the end of 2006." Portman was quoted as saying his group "planned to update the site to make it more clear that the 20 percent figure is over a period of time."
And indeed, when we checked, the Web page had been changed to say that the state's oil and gas industry accounted "for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production (1980 - 2000). Currently, Alaska accounts for nearly 15% of U.S. production."
The FactCheck posting: www.factcheck.org
Alaska Resource Development Council's page: www.akrdc.org
Williams introduced the story: "Hard to believe she made her convention debut just two weeks ago today in St. Paul...."
Eight days ago, he set up a September 9 story with the identical phraseology: "Hard to believe, it was just six nights ago Sarah Palin introduced herself to the GOP convention..."
The September 10 CyberAlert item, "CBS & NBC React to Palin Bounce with Fact Checks to Discredit Her," recounted:
Brian Williams set up the NBC Nightly News piece: "Hard to believe, it was just six nights ago Sarah Palin introduced herself to the GOP convention and to the TV viewing nation with a speech that really made her a star while containing several memorable applause lines. It's how a lot of people came to know her, they remember those stories and Governor Palin repeated them on the stump. But how do they all match up against the truth? Our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers takes a closer look."
For that previous CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Wednesday, September 17 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Hard to believe she made her convention debut just two weeks ago today in St. Paul. Americans, after all, are still getting to know her. Reporters are still fact-checking what they hear from her, as our own Savannah Guthrie does for us tonight.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Her running mate has said she knows more about energy than anyone in America.
Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer on Wednesday grilled Cindy and John McCain about differences in the couple's position on abortion and the subject of overturning Roe V. Wade. And yet, when co-anchor Robin Roberts talked to Barack and Michelle Obama in May, she didn't raise the issue, instead wondering if the Illinois Senator would be prepared for all the negativity he would surely face as Democratic nominee.
In fact, on at least seven appearances in 2008, no GMA host asked Barack or Michelle Obama about abortion and that includes skipping issues such as the Senator's controversial opposition to a bill that would have offered protection to babies who survive botched abortions.
On Wednesday, Sawyer cited a CBS interview with Katie Couric in which Mrs. McCain stated her opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade. The journalist then interrogated: "And yet, Senator McCain you have indicated in previous interviews that you would like the repeal of Roe versus Wade so that the states can make their decisions. What's the difference in the two of your view of the issue?" Sawyer followed up: "But, Mrs. McCain, do you oppose the repeal of Roe versus Wade? Was that report correct?"
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Sawyer could argue that she was simply trying to get a clarification from the potential First Lady. But in a similar joint appearance by the Obamas, GMA reporters displayed no interest into delving into either the candidate or the spouse's position on abortion. During the May 19 interview, Roberts tossed softballs such as "What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?" She also sympathized with Michelle Obama's attitude towards political attacks: "I like how you said people make things up and things that you go, like, huh?" See a May 20, 2008 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
(Barack Obama appeared by himself on Monday's show this week. The issue wasn't discussed then either.)
In February, GMA reporter Deborah Roberts also skipped the issue of abortion and celebrated Michelle Obama as "the spouse of politics' newest star." During the February 4 piece, she enthused that the couple "genuinely believe that people want to move beyond that [negative attacks], talk about something else." See a February 4, 2008 NewsBusters posting for more: newsbusters.org
Going all the way back to January of this year, when the presidential primaries were in full swing and voters could have been educated as to the nuances of differences between Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton, GMA continued to ignore the issue of abortion while interviewing the Illinois senator.
On January 3, Sawyer focused instead on the issue of racism and wondered if, in Iowa, "people have shown they are willing to look beyond race in this country. Has that victory been won, whatever happens tonight?" See a January 3, 2008 NewsBusters posting for more: newsbusters.org
Later in the month, on January 23, Sawyer continued didn't mention this important social issue and plead for calm between Obama and his primary opponent: "We have heard a lot of people say they are exhausted by this charge, counter charge." See a January 24, 2008 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
Perhaps, since the militant abortion group NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) has given Barack Obama a 100 percent lifetime voting record for his time in the Senate, Good Morning America could ask him if his stance on the issue is in sync with the rest of the country. See NARAL page on Obama: www.prochoiceamerica.org
A transcript of the September 17 segment, which aired at 7:42am:
ROBIN ROBERTS: We are back in Gustavus, Ohio. It is our whistle-stop tour, day three. And good enough to join us, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his wife Cindy McCain. And it was cute when Diane asked you how many days left until -- you were quick, 48 days.
Two segments on CNN's Election Center program on Monday and Tuesday evenings which aimed to fact-check political ads by the McCain and Obama campaigns were followed by panel discussions in which contributor Roland Martin (on Monday) and senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin (on Tuesday) took active roles in denouncing the McCain ads as being filled with "lies" and "falsehoods." Martin accused McCain of "playing in the gutter" and repeating "constant lie after lie." The next day, Toobin stated that "John McCain has told outright falsehoods about Obama and sex education, about the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' about earmarks, about taxes, and the examples we cited in those Obama ads are not even close to the falsehoods that have been said about Obama by the McCain campaign."
[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Wednesday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
On Monday's program, correspondent Randi Kaye examined some of the McCain campaign's ads. During her report, she tried to clarify a claim made by a McCain ad which slammed Obama for a bill that would reportedly "teach sex education to kindergartners:" "Did Obama really want to teach sex education to kindergartners? Not exactly. The program in question was intended to teach kids how to avoid sexual predators, says the non-partisan group, FactCheck.org."
However, as CNN contributor Alex Castellanos pointed out in the panel discussion which followed Kaye's report, "the draft bill which Obama supported when you look at the actually legislation.... [i]t had strong provisions against sexual predators, but it also had the SIECUS standards in there, which were 5 to 8-year-olds should be, you know, talking about body parts, lifestyles, and what feels good, and a lot of Americans think that that's going too far. Now, you know, whether he intended it or not, that's what he voted for and that's fair game."
SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., was founded by Mary Calderone, a former medial director of Planned Parenthood, in 1964, and has teamed up with the ACLU to oppose abstinence education in public schools and advocates "comprehensive" sex education which includes advocacy of masturbation for teenagers and tolerance of homosexual practices.
For SIECUS's own history brief, see "Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States History": www.siecus.org
For an April 26, 2007 press release which announced SIECUS's coalition with the ACLU, along with an organization called Advocates for Youth, see "ACLU, Advocates for Youth, and SIECUS Say Government Funded Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Materials Violate Federal Law": www.advocatesforyouth.org
For SIECUS's advocacy of "comprehensive sexuality education," see the September 9, 2003 Fox News report by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, "CDC-Funded Sex Ed Programs Draw Fire": www.foxnews.com
After Castellanos mentioned this detail, which was omitted from Kaye's report, Martin went on the offensive against the McCain campaign:
MARTIN: The bottom line is when you lie, you lie....What John McCain is doing is doing exactly what he said he did not like in 2000, and what he is saying is I'm going to sell my soul in order to win. And at one point he said he would never do that. But he knows he is playing in the gutter, and you can sit and talk about, you know, one issue about four million. But look, when you lie to say she went to Ireland -- it was a refueling deal, it's called a lie, not a fudge. Going to Iraq -- lie. This whole issue of sex education -- lie. When you talk about any -- it's constant lie after lie. And when you get called on it -- and I'm telling you something, Karl Rove there is smart. I think the reason Karl Rove made the comment yesterday, because he sees how this tide is turning. He knows, and if all of a sudden, if more members of the media begin to say lie, lie, lie, lie, it can backfire on McCain -- very smart by him to try to send a message.
Martin continued to use the "lie" term as he sparred with Castellanos until the end of the segment. In a move of honesty, host Campbell Brown stated at the end of the segment that "just in case anyone was unclear on this, Obama -- Roland is supporting Obama now. Alex Castellanos, obviously, a McCain supporter."
On Tuesday's Election Center program, senior correspondent Joe Johns fact-checked some of the Obama campaign's recent ads and followed Kaye's lead in giving an overall neutral examination. After his report concluded and a commercial break, Brown turned to Toobin for his take: "Jeff, I've got to start with you here because -- start with you here because I know that you think John McCain's exaggerations, falsehoods, whatever you want to call it, are far more extreme than Obama's." The senior legal analyst replied:
TOOBIN: We do a lot of parity here at CNN, and we match things up, but there is no comparison. John McCain has told outright falsehoods about Obama and sex education, about the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' about earmarks, about taxes, and the examples we cited in those Obama ads are not even close to the falsehoods that have been said about Obama by the McCain campaign.
Later in the segment, former Mitt Romney presidential campaign spokesman Kevin Madden brought up the issue of the specifics in Obama's sex education proposals just as Castellanos had, after senior political analyst Gloria Borger repeated the claim that the "legislation was about teaching children to recognize sexual predators:"
MADDEN: Well, the first thing you have to remember about that charge is that I think it even came up during the Democrat primary, and secondly, Byron York had a very lengthy examination of that charge today in the National Review that documents entirely what is in that bill, and it would be troubling to a lot of Americans to see that Barack Obama supported that.
Toobin brushed off the charge in response: "It was a bi-partisan, non-controversial program."
For Byron York's look at the accuracy of the McCain campaign ads on Obama's sex education proposals, see the September 16, 2008 National Review Online article, "On Sex-Ed Ad, McCain Is Right," at: article.nationalreview.com
At the top of the 8am hour of Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on an ethics investigation into Sarah Palin's firing of an Alaska public safety official: "Sarah Palin and trooper-gate -- why the Alaska Governor makes an about-face on this issue and why it could haunt her on the campaign trail." Later, correspondent Chip Reid remarked: "Palin may be back here in Ohio campaigning, but she's still being hounded by the so-called trooper-gate controversy back in Alaska."
Reid went on to describe the case: "Last July, Palin fired Alaska's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. He says he was fired because he refused to fire Palin's former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, a state trooper who went through an ugly divorce with Palin's sister...At first, Palin said she welcomed the investigation, but now the McCain-Palin campaign claims it's being exploited by Democrats for political reasons and says it's now unlikely she will cooperate. And the campaign says Monegan's firing had nothing to do with Palin's brother-in-law." However, Reid never went further to explain that new email evidence corroborates Palin's reason for firing Monegan or to describe the political motivations of those leading the investigation.
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Meanwhile, at the beginning of the Wednesday 10am hour of FNC's America's Newsroom, co-anchor Megyn Kelly cited the new evidence: "...now we learn this morning that e-mails actually back up Palin's claim that Monegan was fired because of insubordination over budget issues and not having anything to do with that trooper issue." In a report that followed, correspondent Dan Springer explained: "Those e-mails are between the Palin budget director and her top cop, Walt Monegan. And they do seem to suggest that there were some problems brewing in this administration before Monegan was fired. Now the McCain-Palin camp is releasing those e-mails and making the case that Monegan was fired for insubordination, not because he refused to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law."
In addition to leaving out the newly released emails, the Early Show segment also failed to describe any of the allegations against trooper Mike Wooten. On America's Newsroom, Springer quoted McCain-Palin spokesperson Meg Stapleton: "This is a man who was out there, who has tasered his son, who's killed a moose illegally. Who's threatened to kill her father, who's abused her sister. She had the right to say, 'I have concerns about a guy who still patrols my neighborhood.'" Reid did quote Stapleton in his report, but only a brief statement regarding Monegan's firing.
Reid also failed to mention that one of the lead investigators in the case, Democratic State Senator Hollis French, remarked on the McCain campaign's vetting of Palin: "If they had done their job they never would have picked her...Now they may have to deal with an October surprise." See: a.abcnews.com
Reid concluded his report by proclaiming: "An investigation 4,000 miles away that could turn out to be a minor irritant or a serious challenge to Sarah Palin's reputation as a reformer."
Here is the full transcript of the September 17 Early Show segment in the 8am half-hour:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Sarah Palin and troopergate '€" why the Alaska governor makes an about-face on this issue and why it could haunt her on the campaign trail.
RUSS MITCHELL: There's new development in that investigation over whether vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin abused her power as governor of Alaska. Yesterday, the attorney general there said state employees will refuse to honor subpoenas in the case. CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid reports.
CHIP REID: After a few days home in Alaska, Governor Sarah Palin was back with John McCain in Ohio Tuesday, where they promised to clean up Wall Street and Washington.
Here is the full transcript of the America's Newsroom segment:
MEGYN KELLY: Well, new evidence emerging in this story involving Governor Sarah Palin and this state trooper in Alaska. Some refer to this as 'trooper-gate,' others say it's not any sort of 'gate.' Well, Palin, here's the deal, she fired this man shown here. He's the head of the state police, his name is Walt Monegan. And she said that this guy got fired because of budget concerns, not because he refused to fire the state trooper who was once married to Sarah Palin's sister, if you can follow that. In any event, now we learn this morning that e-mails actually back up Palin's claim that Monegan was fired because of insubordination over budget issues and not having anything to do with that trooper issue. Dan Springer live in Anchorage, Alaska to explain it all for us. Hi, Dan.
DAN SPRINGER: Yeah Megyn, it is an ongoing saga here in Anchorage. Those e-mails are between the Palin budget director and her top cop, Walt Monegan. And they do seem to suggest that there were some problems brewing in this administration before Monegan was fired. Now the McCain-Palin camp is releasing those e-mails and making the case that Monegan was fired for insubordination, not because he refused to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law. Palin has signaled this week through her campaign that she will not cooperate with the legislative investigation, after initially saying that she welcomed the scrutiny. But in the legal motion filed this week to the state personnel board, which is also investigating this is as an ethics complaint, Palin says she fired Monegan for going around her back, lobbying for pet projects that she had already vetoed. Publicly, Palin seemed very supportive of Monegan, praising him for his program fighting domestic violence, but McCain staffers say it was a different picture behind the scenes.
On Tuesday's Countdown show, Keith Olbermann referred to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly as "inducers to violence" as the MSNBC host, during the show's "Worst Person" segment, attacked conservative talk radio host Eddie Burke of Anchorage, Alaska, for making inflammatory remarks calling two women who organized a protest against Governor Palin "socialist, baby-killing maggots," and for giving out the womens' cell phone numbers to his audience leading the women to receive death threats. Olbermann suggested that Burke would fit in with Limbaugh or O'Reilly: "Mr. Burke, he got a paltry one-week suspension, and, no doubt, consideration to fill in some day for comedian Rush Limbaugh or Billow or some other of radio's inducers to violence."
And during the show's regular segment, "McCain in the Membrane," a recently added portion of the program whose purpose is, according to Olbermann, to cover "the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain," the MSNBC host charged that it was "sick" for Palin to tout herself as an advocate for special needs children after she had, in Olbermann's words, "gutted" funding for the Alaska Special Olympics. Olbermann ignored findings by FactCheck.org that, as Governor, Palin secured a substantial increase in state spending for special needs children in the education system: www.factcheck.org
[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Citing an article in Education Week in their analysis, FactCheck.org contended:
Palin signed legislation in March 2008 that would increase public school funding considerably, including special needs funding. In particular, it would increase spending for certain special needs students that Alaska calls "intensive needs" (students with high-cost special requirements) from $26,900 per student in 2008 to $73,840 per student in 2011. That almost triples the per-student spending in three fiscal years. Palin's original proposal, according to the Anchorage Daily News, would have increased funds slightly more, giving intensive needs students a $77,740 allotment by 2011.
The Education Week article quoted Carl Rose, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, as calling the increase in funding an "historic event."
Ironically, during the same show's "Worst Person" segment, Olbermann cited FactCheck.org to disprove G. Gordon Liddy's claim that Barack Obama cannot prove he was born in the United States. Olbermann: "The nonpartisan Web site, FactCheck.org, examined the birth certificate in person showing him born in Hawaii. They touched it, they photographed it, they analyzed it. It's the original. He was born in Hawaii."
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday, September 16, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: And as the Republican campaign descends into what one former McCain supporter today describes as "farce," Governor Palin again invokes special needs children while vetoing more than a quarter of a million dollars for the Special Olympics.
OLBERMANN, PLUGGING THE SEGMENT: -"McCain in the Membrane" and the would-be Vice President who gutted her own state's Special Olympics.
OLBERMANN: But first, our newest feature, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of Republican presidential nominee John McCain: "McCain in the Membrane." Twice now in two days -- in Colorado, then today at Vienna, Ohio -- Governor Palin has again invoked -- that is the polite term -- her status as the mother of a special needs child and the role of advocate she wants to play for special needs kids. Yesterday, she said, "Ever since I took the chief executive's job up north, I've pushed for more funding for students with special needs." Today the quote was, "I sought more funds for students with special needs."
OLBERMANN, DURING THE "WORST PERSON" SEGMENT: The runner-up, Eddie Burke if radio station KBYR in Anchorage, Alaska. There was a protest against Governor Palin there over the weekend, so naturally Burke called the two women who organized it, quote, "socialist, baby-killing maggots." Then he gave out their personal cell phone numbers and encouraged listeners to call them up and abuse them. The women got death threats. Mr. Burke, he got a paltry one-week suspension, and, no doubt, consideration to fill in some day for comedian Rush Limbaugh or Billow or some other of radio's inducers to violence.
This week Good Morning America has been touring America via train and finding economic misery and despair along the way. During the three special shows that have aired so far, which ABC has dubbed the "Whistle-Stop Tour '08," the program traveled to struggling towns in Massachusetts, Ohio and New York. On Monday, while talking with an elderly man who had lived through the Great Depression, co-host Sawyer described him as someone who had survived "another time of economic crisis." (As a comparison, a quarter of the population was unemployed during the Great Depression. Unemployment today stands at just over six percent.)
On Tuesday, co-host Robin Roberts mentioned the people of Rome, New York and their "tough times." "...Some of them are feeling hard times," she added. On Wednesday, near Gustavus, Ohio, Roberts reported from a small town that "is not booming." While visiting the "suffering town" of Niagara New York on Tuesday, Sawyer talked to parents at a high school hockey game and lamented, "There were moms up in the bleachers, who say they have to look across the river [to Canada] too and wonder about American leadership."
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Now, of course, some Americans are going through tough economic times, but the U.S. is not in a recession. (That requires to quarters of negative growth.) Further, where are the segments on American entrepreneurs and those actively living the American dream?
Instead, GMA repeatedly featured stories of extreme desperation and sadness. On Tuesday, an unidentified husband in New York told Roberts, "My mother called and asked when we are going to visit? We've had to put a visit aside. It's only a five hour drive. But just taking the time off from work and the fuel money, we just had to postpone it."
Paul Cantrell, the 89-year-old who Sawyer said remembered "another time of economic crisis," despondently told the host, "I owe a oil bill from last year. My taxes are not completely paid up. This never happened to me before. And I really don't know what I'm going to do about it. It's just not -- it's not the same life as I've always had."
Now, his pain and suffering is obviously real. But is this what GMA's train tour is going to exclusively focus on? Despair? At the very end of Wednesday's segment on "economic misery," Roberts proved that it is possible to highlight bright spots. Speaking of Eerie, Pennsylvania, she observed, "When those jobs disappeared, the city government shifted its focus from industry to tourism investing in promoting its sparkling late, a state park and a casino. Today, over four million people a year visit the Gem City." During this week long trip, it would be nice if GMA could devote full segments, not just asides, to such American success stories.
A transcript of one of the economic misery segments, which aired at 7:31am on September 16:
DIANE SAWYER: You know, we've been talking so much about the fact, all day yesterday, you and I kept hearing from people, their plea, just jobs for this area. Please, jobs for this area. They want to work. And here's a cautionary tale. If you look at the American side, used to be 100,000 people here about 50 years ago. And so many jobs from left, even since 2000. Look at the Canadian side. I thought I was in Brunei for a moment. What is the cautionary tale? Last night, when we got in, we went out to take a tour to give a tale of two cities.
The New York Times' architecture critic praised communist China's Olympic infrastructure and compared such "planning" unfavorably to the Reaganite U.S.: "This kind of bold government planning died long ago, of course, a victim of both the public's disillusionment with the large-scale Modernist planning strategies of the postwar era and the antigovernment campaigns of the Reagan years. The consequences were obvious as soon as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. And they have been reaffirmed many times since, with the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis and myriad accounts of our country's crumbling infrastructure."
[This item by Clay Waters was posted Monday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
On the front page of the Sunday Week in Review, Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's "Reflections: New Orleans and China" showed that he shared the same affliction as foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman -- gauging the success of the strong central power of Communist China by looking at its shining and efficient surface, without questioning its effect on the nation's unseen citizenry. For good measure, he even held Ronald Reagan as responsible for last year's deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse.
For Americans watching events unfold on television late last month, the arduous evacuation of New Orleans and the grandeur of the Olympic Games couldn't have made for a starker contrast.
However one feels about its other policies, the Chinese government is clearly not afraid to invest in the future of its cities. The array of architecture it created for the Beijing Olympics was only part of a mosaic of roads, bridges, tunnels, canals, subway lines and other projects that have transformed a medieval city of wood and brick into a modern metropolis overnight.
The phrase "Potemkin Village" apparently means nothing to architecture critics. And perhaps some re-prioritizing of that infrastructure spending would be in order, given the state of China's schools, hundreds of which collapsed during the recent earthquakes, resulting in grievous loss of young life.
And the Chinese government was able to "create" for the Olympics partly by bulldozing the homes of its citizens. The left-wing Guardian newspaper put the number at around 1.5 million displaced Chinese.
Ouroussoff then made an odious comparison:
Meanwhile, three full years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, much of the city remains a wasteland. As Hurricane Gustav raced toward the Gulf Coast, it became clear that the city's patchwork levee system could not guarantee the safety of its citizens. The evacuation of tens of thousands of residents was cheered as some sort of victory.
Who is to blame for New Orleans' plight? Ronald Reagan, of course. The critic had no room to discuss the incompetence of local officials or questions about what really caused the Minneapolis bridge collapse, simply stating:
Anyone who has watched the film "Chinatown" knows the story of William Mulholland's aqueduct, which transformed Los Angeles from a desert wasteland into a sunny paradise of trim lawns and orange groves. Less known is the story of modern New Orleans, which exists because of the system of canals, levees and pumps -- the largest in the world -- that were used to drain acres of marshland.
This kind of bold government planning died long ago, of course, a victim of both the public's disillusionment with the large-scale Modernist planning strategies of the postwar era and the anti-government campaigns of the Reagan years. The consequences were obvious as soon as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. And they have been reaffirmed many times since, with the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis and myriad accounts of our country's crumbling infrastructure.
Still, many Americans stubbornly regard any kind of large-scale public works project with suspicion. Three years ago, for example, the nonprofit Urban Land Institute unveiled a master plan for New Orleans that would have transformed large parts of the city into wetland areas. But the proposal, which was released as thousands of people were struggling to make their way back to the city, caused a public outcry and was immediately dropped. The institute compounded the problem by not including a workable proposal for how to house those dislocated by the plan.
For the September 14 piece: www.nytimes.com
-- Brent Baker