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Networks Ignore Unprecedented Use of Filibuster to Block Estrada --9/5/2003


1. Networks Ignore Unprecedented Use of Filibuster to Block Estrada
Democrats employed the unprecedented tactic of using a filibuster threat in order to block President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to a DC federal appeals court slot, but you wouldn't know that from the ABC, CBS and NBC stories on Thursday night after Estrada withdrew his nomination which also failed to point out how he had the support of the majority of Senators -- just not the 60 votes required for cloture. CNN's Aaron Brown and Jonathan Karl, however, made both points.

2. Rather Asks Sanchez to Name Media Inaccuracies in Iraq Coverage
Kudos to Dan Rather for asking Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American forces in Iraq, to name "the biggest mistake or inaccuracy that the press in general is making about the situation here?" And he prompted Sanchez: "Give me one example of a success that you think is being under-reported." The questions came, however, only after Rather pursued the usual line about whether the Iraq is becoming a "'quagmire' out of the Vietnam era." Later, Rather gave air time to scarf-covered, U.S. soldier-killing terrorists to denounce Americans.

3. "Sympathy Soured as Bush Declared a Vague 'War on Terror'"
As September 11th approached last year, Reuters ran a caption, beneath a photo of Ground Zero, which declared that "human rights around the world have been a casualty of the U.S. 'war on terror' since September 11." Now this week, just days before another September 11 anniversary, Reuters has distributed a photo caption which argued: "The suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 produced a remarkable outpouring of sympathy for America, but sympathy soured as Bush declared a vague 'war on terror' that he took to Afghanistan and then, far more controversially, to Iraq."

4. ABC & NBC Feature White's Blasts at Bush, Ignore His Enron Ties
ABC and NBC led off their morning show interview segments Thursday with their newest oracle, former Army Secretary Tom White, who has a new book denouncing the Bush military strategy in Iraq. Last year they only cared about his ties to Enron, but on Thursday neither network made any mention that White had been the subject of heated congressional hearings (which they covered) last July on White's background as a former Enron official who cashed out millions of dollars in stock shortly before Enron's collapse.

5. Weekend TV: Limbaugh on FNC, Showtime Movie on Bush on 9/11
Weekend TV viewing alert: Rush Limbaugh will be on Cal Thomas's Saturday night FNC show and Showtime on Sunday night will premiere its "docudrama" about President Bush and his top advisers in the days after 9/11.

6. Letterman's "Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger Debate Conditions"
Letterman's "Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger Debate Conditions."


Networks Ignore Unprecedented Use of
Filibuster to Block Estrada

Democrats employed the unprecedented tactic of using a filibuster threat in order to block President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to a DC federal appeals court slot, but you wouldn't know that from the ABC, CBS and NBC stories on Thursday night after Estrada withdrew his nomination which also failed to point out how he had the support of the majority of Senators -- just not the 60 votes required for cloture. CNN's Aaron Brown and Jonathan Karl, however, made both points.

While ABC's Peter Jennings did note how "the minority Democrats in the Senate used the power of the filibuster to wear him down," he didn't point out the unprecedented nature of the tactic and ABC's Kate Snow proceeded to frame her story around how "Estrada fell victim to an intensely partisan struggle" -- as if both parties were equally culpable.

The CBS Evening News held its coverage to a very brief item read by anchor John Roberts.

More on the ABC, NBC and CNN coverage on September 4:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Jennings set up the story: "There was another big moment today in the ideological war over who should serve on the nation's courts. This round went to the Democrats when the President's choice for the Washington, DC circuit court, Miguel Estrada, withdrew his nomination. It was a fight that lasted 28 months. The minority Democrats in the Senate used the power of the filibuster to wear him down."

Reporter Kate Snow ran soundbites from Senators on both sides attacking the other before concluding: "Democrats say President Bush could end the gridlock by choosing more moderate judges, but Bush allies say it's Congress that needs to change the way it treats judicial nominees."

-- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Tom Brokaw introduced a story by David Gregory which did not mention the filibuster or majority support: "Back in Washington tonight, the bitter ending to a struggle over one of President Bush's nominees for a key federal judgship. Miguel Estrada withdrew his candidacy today after Democrats blocked his nomination for months. Democrats said Estrada's refusal to state his view on important issues, such as abortion rights, made him unacceptable. Republicans said the Democrats were playing a shameful game of race politics."

-- CNN's NewsNight made both points after anchor Aaron Brown scolded both parties as equally shameful: "Article II of the Constitution gives the President the power to appoint judges with the advice and consent of the Senate. Safe to say these days, at least, reality differs. When Bill Clinton was the President, Senate Republicans delayed action on dozens of his judicial nominees. They always claim they did so for good and important reasons. Turnabout is fair play, goes the old saying, and the Democrats are now the ones invoking those good and important reasons for refusing to confirm this President's appointments. In the long run this sort of thing probably isn't very good for the democracy. It certainly wasn't good for Miguel Estrada who, after two years of waiting, withdrew his name for an important Appeals Court seat today."

Jonathan Karl pointed out how "Estrada had the support of more than half the Senate, but with a rarely used procedural move Democrats blocked his nomination from coming to a vote." Brown drew him out: "Essentially what happens is the Democrats threaten to filibuster and they have enough votes to keep it going?"
Karl confirmed: "Exactly. There were more than 50 votes here to confirm Miguel Estrada. If there was a straight up or down vote he would have been confirmed, would have been confirmed a long time ago but Democrats had enough votes to sustain a filibuster so they never got a chance to have a full vote on this."

The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows have never shown any interest in the tactics used to block Estrada's nomination. As a Media Reality Check by the MRC's Tim Graham outlined in Match, to that point neither ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News had ever run a story on Estrada's plight and the NBC Nightly News had aired just one story. For details, see: www.mrc.org

Rather Asks Sanchez to Name Media Inaccuracies in Iraq Coverage

Kudos to Dan Rather for asking Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of American forces in Iraq, "What is, in your judgment, the biggest mistake or inaccuracy that the press in general is making about the situation here?" And he prompted Sanchez: "Give me one example of a success that you think is being under-reported."

The questions came during excerpts from Rather's interview with Sanchez, conducted in Baghdad where Rather is spending the week, which was aired on Thursday's CBS Evening News. The questions came only after Rather pursued the usual line about whether the Iraq situation is a "tar baby" or "quick sand" or a "'quagmire' out of the Vietnam era."

Later, Rather gave air time to scarf-covered, U.S. soldier-killing terrorists to denounce Americans. Rather set up that segment: "In spite of what General Ricardo Sanchez told me, that living conditions and security are improving rapidly in Iraq, there are some Iraqis -- no one can say how many -- who remain willing to use violence to end the U.S. occupation."

Rather introduced the Sanchez interview on the September 4 CBS Evening News, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In a press conference today, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of American forces in Iraq, echoed Rumsfeld's call for more international troops only. In a CBS News interview later, I asked him to clarify exactly what his position on troop requirements is."

Rather to Sanchez: "True, it may or may not be, is a belief beginning to take traction that you're stretched too thin, that you know it's politically incorrect to ask for more troops. I'm gonna ask you directly, is that true?"

Sanchez, of course, denied the suggestion and Rather then inquired: "Is it still fair to describe it as a guerilla war?"

Rather's next question: "A woman in South Carolina is quoted today as saying, 'We've got a tar baby on our hands.' Others have used the word 'quick sand' and 'quagmire' out of the Vietnam era. I'm gonna give you an opportunity to respond to those very serious concerns among Americans who support what you're doing here, support our troops."
Sanchez: "Well, I think America needs to be told very clearly by, first of all, me as a military leader, and then by our press, that we're not in a quagmire. The progress is unbelievable. We just have to make sure that American, that the American public realizes that and understands their sons and daughters are making a tremendous contribution to the peace and stability and the democratic future of Iraq."

Rather then arrived at an unusual interest for journalists, good news in Iraq: "What is, in your judgment, the biggest mistake or inaccuracy that the press in general is making about the situation here?"
Sanchez: "I'll be very candid with you. It's the fact that the press does not focus at all on the successes of our great American soldiers and sailors, airmen and marines that are operating here in this country."
Rather: "Give me one example of a success that you think is being under-reported."
Sanchez: "Sir, I could give you a hundred." [laughs]
Rather: "I'm asking for one."
Sanchez: "Let me, let me, the Najaf bombing that just occurred at the Ali Mosque. This was a success in that the Iraqi security forces handled the aftermath of that bombing on their own. That message is not in America. Independent elections were being conducted at the village level to provincial level. That's not being reported."

I hope the next time Sanchez is asked that question he can come up with a more convincing response.

Several minutes later on the program Rather returned with an "exclusive" platform for some terrorists who are killing Sanchez's men. Rather asserted: "In spite of what General Ricardo Sanchez told me, that living conditions and security are improving rapidly in Iraq, there are some Iraqis -- no one can say how many -- who remain willing to use violence to end the U.S. occupation. What you're going to see and hear next is disturbing, even infuriating, but perhaps important. It's a look at men who say they have attacked Americans. There's no way to confirm their claims, but certainly they appear willing to kill and to die to get Americans out of here. These are the eyes of hatred -- of men who say they will do anything it takes to kill Americans and drive them out of Iraq."

CBS then played a tape narrated by Rather over video of several men with their heads completely obscured by scarfs.

Unidentified man, through translator: "We must launch a jihad against the Americans. We have to drive them out."
Rather: "They call themselves 'Islamic Free Iraq' and brandish their weapons to show their determination. But these men say they are neither Islamic fundamentalists nor Saddam loyalists. They say they hated Saddam as they now hate the U.S."
Unidentified man: "America is doing exactly what Saddam did to this country. Saddam and his family looted and destroyed. Americans are doing the same thing."
Rather: "They say they are simply ordinary Iraqis, men with wives and children, determined to fight the American occupation. They took responsibility for attacks against Americans, such as this, but wouldn't say which ones or how many."
Unidentified man: "We hit their vehicle and set it on fire and injured two of them, and I think one of them was killed. We will continue to kill them."
Rather: "It is impossible to say exactly who these men were, but they were clearly not dirt-poor zealots. Pictures that we shot with a hidden camera revealed men living in a middle class neighborhood in comfortable homes with their wives and children."
Unidentified man: "When the Americans came, we thought we will be happier, more comfortable. But we found nothing of the kind, so we live under the same conditions as we did under Saddam. There's looting, no security, and we are hungry."
Rather: "Theirs is a familiar refrain among many on the streets of Baghdad. The difference is that these men say they are willing to back up their complaints with violence."
Unidentified man: "We choose the place, and whenever we see them we attack them."
Rather: "The group we met on two occasions was small, although they claim to be part of a web of loosely affiliated groups totaling hundreds of members, all with the same common enemy. The pictures for this report were shot by long-time French photojournalist Laura Hine. As a measure of how ruthless these people are, they told her that if she had lied to them and it turned out she was an American, they would track here down and kill her."

For CBS's online version of the story, with pictures of the terrorists: www.cbsnews.com

"Sympathy Soured as Bush Declared a Vague
'War on Terror'"

As September 11th approached last year, Reuters ran a caption, beneath a photo of Ground Zero, which declared that "human rights around the world have been a casualty of the U.S. 'war on terror' since September 11." Now this week, just days before anther September 11 anniversary, Reuters has distributed a photo caption which argued: "The suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 produced a remarkable outpouring of sympathy for America, but sympathy soured as Bush declared a vague 'war on terror' that he took to Afghanistan and then, far more controversially, to Iraq."

On September 3, 2002, over a picture of Ground Zero taken in March, a Reuters caption posted by Yahoo read: "Recovery and debris removal work continues at the site of the World Trade Center known as 'ground zero' in New York, March 25, 2002. Human rights around the world have been a casualty of the U.S. 'war on terror' since September 11. REUTERS/Peter Morgan."

For more on that and a matching accompanying news story, refer back to the September 10, 2002 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

This week, in his "Best of the Web" e-mail for OpinionJournal.com (www.opinionjournal.com), James Taranto highlighted another loaded Reuters caption.

Over a composite photo of a man with a "Not in My Name" tattoo on his face with a rad slash through a missile image and a U.S. flag-bearing woman crying, the September 2 Reuters caption read, as posted by Yahoo:
"Changed views of the United States two years after the September 11 horrors may haunt Washington's quest for help in grappling with the bloody aftermath of the Iraq invasion. The suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 produced a remarkable outpouring of sympathy for America, but sympathy soured as Bush declared a vague 'war on terror' that he took to Afghanistan and then, far more controversially, to Iraq. In this composite photo, a woman cries as the Star Spangled Banner in played in central London on Sept. 13, 2001 (L), while a protester rallies against the U.S. backed war in Iraq (R) in this March, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty, Peter Macdiarmid."

See: story.news.yahoo.com

ABC & NBC Feature White's Blasts at Bush,
Ignore His Enron Ties

ABC and NBC led off their morning show interview segments Thursday with their newest oracle, former Army Secretary Tom White, who has a new book denouncing the Bush military strategy in Iraq. Last year they only cared about his ties to Enron, but on Thursday neither network made any mention that White has been the subject of heated congressional hearings (which they covered) last July on White's background as a former Enron official who cashed out millions of dollars in stock shortly before Enron's collapse.

[Tim Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, submitted this item for CyberAlert.]

On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host Charles Gibson opened, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Up front this morning, former Army Secretary Thomas White is taking on the White House for making a mess in Iraq. It's all in a new book that is sending some shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, and he joined us from Houston, Texas. General, you certainly don't mince words in talking about the administration's Iraq policy, and you say that policy 'threatens to turn a major military victory into a potential humanitarian, political and economic disaster.' What specific mistakes did the administration make?" All of Gibson's questions were rough on the Bush team, including: "Is it your feeling, then, that the lack of planning or poor planning is now costing lives?"

Over on NBC's Today, here's how Matt Lauer began the September 4 segment:
"On Close Up this morning security and reconstruction in Iraq. The Bush administration is now asking the UN for support and a new internal Pentagon report says the planning for post-war Iraq was insufficient. Thomas White was the Secretary of the Army during the height of the conflict. He's since resigned from that post and written a book called Reconstructing Eden, that takes the administration to task for what he calls, 'a totally inadequate post-war plan.' Secretary White, good morning to you. This new report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff comes out and basically it says the problems we're seeing in Iraq today are a result of poor planning going into the war. Senior military officials have told NBC's Jim Miklaszewski that about nine months were spent planning the war. 28 days were spent planning the peace. You were Secretary of the Army during that time, does that sound about right to you?"

A quick Nexis search shows White's role in Enron came up seven times on NBC last year, four times on ABC. On May 24, 2002, 20/20 aired a large piece on money troubles that featured White. Barbara Walters introduced it: "You could have huge money troubles, like the Enron executives, and yet continue to live in the grandest style. And that's enough to make John Stossel say 'Give Me a Break!'"

Stossel reported: "Thomas White, now Secretary of the Army, would get to keep this house. I don't know what it's worth, but the land alone cost $6 million." Stossel later added: "None of the Enron executives has said he plans to file for bankruptcy, and Thomas White hasn't even been officially accused of doing anything wrong. But it's curious that White and Ken Lay sold their homes in Colorado, but kept their homes in Texas and Florida...The Enron executives deny breaking laws, but the final insult is that even if they did break laws, by declaring bankruptcy, they'd still get to keep their big homes."

On July 18 last year, White testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, and ABC and NBC each covered the hearing that night. Both reports hyped questioning where White couldn't say how many millions he made from Enron. "White reportedly made $50 million at Enron," estimated ABC's Linda Douglass. "Public records show he made at least $31 million," reported NBC's Lisa Myers.

Myers also did a story for Today before the hearing. She concluded: "Politically today is lose-lose for the White House. Even if White holds his own, having Enron and the Bush administration in the same sentence will not help the President persuade investors he's the one to clean up the corporate mess."

It appears the networks are still interesting in constructing political "lose-lose" scenarios for this Republican White House.

Weekend TV: Limbaugh on FNC, Showtime
Movie on Bush on 9/11

Weekend TV viewing alert: Rush Limbaugh will be on Cal Thomas's Saturday night FNC show and Showtime on Sunday night will premiere its "docudrama" about President Bush in the days after 9/11.

-- Rush Limbaugh is scheduled to be a guest on FNC's After Hours with Cal Thomas at 11pm EDT on Saturday night, September 6. The half-hour show airs only once, so for non-EDT people, that will be 10pm CDT, 9pm MDT and 8pm PDT.

The Web page for After Hours with Cal Thomas: www.foxnews.com

-- On Sunday night, September 7, Showtime will premiere DC 9-11: Time of Crisis, what I understand will be a "docudrama" with a sympathetic take on President Bush and his top aides in the days after September 11, 2001. So, expect some derisive reviews in newspapers on Saturday and Sunday.

It stars, as George W. Bush, Timothy Bottoms, the same guy who played Bush in the mocking Comedy Central sit-com, That's My Bush.

The Showtime Web site page for the movie promises:
"Timothy Bottoms stars as President George W. Bush in this docudrama that traces the nine days after the terrorist attacks on America of September 11, 2001, a week and a half that challenged the government to devise a strategy for pursuing the perpetrators while tending to the wounds of a shattered nation. David Fonteno, Penny Johnson Jerald, Mary Gordon Murray, Lawrence Pressman, Scott Alan Smith and George Takei costar in this riveting original from writer Lionel Chetwynd (Varian's War) and producer Robert Halmi Sr. (The Lion in Winter)."

Nice to see George Takei, "Sulu" I believe from the Star Trek TV series, getting another gig -- playing Norm Mineta.

An excerpt from a press release with more details:

....DC 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS stars an ensemble cast, including: Timothy Bottoms as President George W. Bush, John Cunningham as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, David Fonteno as Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gregory Itzin as Attorney General John Ashcroft, Penny Johnson Jerald as National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Macht as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Mary Gordon Murray as First Lady Laura Bush, Lawrence Pressman as Vice President Dick Cheney, Scott Alan Smith as White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and George Takei as U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

The film is executive produced by Robert Halmi, Sr., produced by Lionel Chetwynd and co-produced by John Vasey. Chetwynd also wrote the film. DC 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS, a Lionel Chetwynd production, is directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.

DC 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS takes an inside look at the Bush Administration, beginning on the day of the attacks. The film follows the President on board Air Force One, at the White House and during his journey to Ground Zero. It culminates with Bush's now-famous national address nine days later.

The film recounts the tragic events from the moment Bush hears the news of the attacks to significant briefings with advisors, as well as the President's addresses to the nation from Barksdale Air Force Base and the White House. Chronicling national security meetings, which piece together evidence linking Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network, the film uncovers how Bush and his staff dealt with the volatile situation. In addition, DC 9/11: TIME OF CRISIS illustrates the Administration's strategy for responding both to the terrorists and the American people. Eschewing their own feelings and healing process, the President and his team instead tended to the needs of a wounded country.

END of Excerpt

Showtime lists these show times, all both EDT and PDT airings:

- Showtime East 09/07/03 8:00 PM
- Showtime Too East 09/08/03 9:30 PM
- Showtime Showcase East 09/10/03 5:30 PM
- Showtime Showcase East 09/10/03 5:05 AM
- Showtime East 09/11/03 9:00 PM

For Showtime's page on the "docudrama" with a link to a page of pictures of all of the characters (the actress playing Condoleezza Rice was made up to look remarkably like her, complete with properly placed freckles): www.sho.com

Letterman's "Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger
Debate Conditions"

From the September 4 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger Debate Conditions." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Questions may be answered in English, German, or a combination of both

9. Long breaks to allow screenwriters to craft candidates' responses

8. Debate ends when gasoline truck plows through wall and Arnold gets everyone out just before the whole place blows up

7. Candidates may use their time to show 90-second clip from "Terminator"

6. No tricky words like "budget" or "Sacramento"

5. Attire -- bathing suit and baby oil

4. Candidate receives standard 30-million dollar fee, plus 10 percent of box office gross

3. Moderator -- Lou Ferrigno

2. No questions that can't be answered "I'll be back"

1. Arnold must win

-- Brent Baker