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MRC's Brent Bozell talks about media bias on FNC's The Kelly File, 9:30pm ET/PT Thursday

Obama So Enthralled Reporters They 'Needed to Go Through Detox' --1/14/2008


1. Obama So Enthralled Reporters They 'Needed to Go Through Detox'
Discussing NBC News reporter Lee Cowan's admission that "it's almost hard to remain objective" in covering Barack Obama, on Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN former CBS and PBS reporter Terence Smith agreed Obama is "absolutely" benefitting from "sympathetic" coverage and ex-Washington Post political editor John Harris revealed Post reporters "needed to go through detox" after coming back to the newsroom enthralled with the liberal Democratic presidential candidate. Recalling his days at the Post before helping to launch The Politico a year ago, Harris told ex-Post colleague and Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz: "Almost a couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back: 'Oh, he's so impressive, he's so charismatic,' and we're kind of like, 'Down Boy.'" Harris, however, held his journalistic colleagues accountable: "What Lee Cowan said is it's hard. Okay, it's hard. Do it. Detach yourself. Nobody cares about our opinions."

2. CNN Wonders If 'Racial Undercurrents' Will Stop Obama's Success
CNN's Carol Costello, on Friday's The Situation Room, speculated whether Barack Obama can continue to get whites to vote for him, or whether his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary points to "the undercurrent about race that exists in this country." Costello repeated a theory proposed by Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, that Hillary Clinton's victory could be partially attributed to "poor, uneducated whites who don't participate in polls and who often don't vote for blacks." She also pointed out the fact that there are nine female governors, but only one black governor in the United States; as well as the fact that there are 16 female senators, but Barack Obama is the only black in the Senate.

3. Olbermann Makes Thompson 'Worst Person' for '72 Virgins' Joke
Add Keith Olbermann to the list of MSNBC hosts offended by popular applause lines from Thursday's GOP debate on FNC. On Friday's Countdown, the same day that Hardball's Chris Matthews had earlier compared Mike Huckabee's words regarding the U.S. military defending itself from Iran to "talking like jihadists" (see #4 below), Olbermann named Fred Thompson "Worst Person in the World," contending that the GOP presidential candidate had "pulled another whopper" because the former Senator joked that Iranian military members on speed boats who harassed U.S. Navy warships came close to meeting "those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing." Olbermann further mocked Thompson by suggesting that his candidacy was just part of a "Candid Camera" stunt.

4. Matthews Sees 'Irresponsible' Huckabee 'Talking Like Jihadists'
On Friday's Hardball, during the show's regular "Big Number" segment, Chris Matthews went after Mike Huckabee for quipping during Thursday's FNC presidential debate that those who attack the American military should be prepared to see the "gates of hell," as the MSNBC host asked if we're all "learning to talk like jihadists now," and contended that Huckabee's comments earn him a "10" on the "irresponsibility scale." Notably, Huckabee's remark was very popular with "Republican-leaning" focus group participants as shown by pollster Frank Luntz Thursday night during FNC's post-debate coverage, as the former Arkansas governor's words scored around 90 percent in terms of approval. With the words "What the Huck?" displayed on screen, Matthews introduced a clip of Huckabee's statement as part of "the contest to see who can pound his chest the hardest."

5. Veteran CNN Journalist Likens U.S. Border Fence to Berlin Wall
Appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal on Friday morning, longtime CNN correspondent Charles Bierbauer, who's now the senior contributing editor to SCHotline.com, a South Carolina political news site, equated a proposed fence to deter illegal immigration from Mexico with the Berlin Wall that prevented Germans from fleeing East Germany's communist dictatorship during the Cold War. Oddly, Bierbauer claimed that the Berlin Wall "didn't work," even though tens of thousands raced past the checkpoints to West Berlin the moment the East German dictatorship opened the gates. Referring to proposals to build a U.S.-Mexico fence, Bierbauer argued: "I've seen walls around other countries, most notably East Germany and East Berlin, and they didn't work. In fact, they became symbols of oppression rather than anything positive."

6. On HBO Bill Maher Suggests GOP Stole NH Dem Primary for Hillary
Insisting he's "not a conspiracy theorist," Bill Maher, on the Friday night season debut of his HBO show, suggested that because Republicans prefer to run against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama they engineered her victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. Later on Real Time with Bill Maher, former ABC News reporter/anchor Catherine Crier claimed "you have to work really hard to find a truly liberal" politician and "Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama are not raging liberals." Maher opened the panel discussion, with Tony Snow, Crier and Mark Cuban, by observing how he found it "odd" that polls showed Obama ahead in New Hampshire, yet Clinton won, and "it does bother me that a private company runs the polling machines and that only they certainly seem to know what went on." A couple of minutes later, Maher noted that "in crime they always ask...'who profits?'" Looking at Snow, he then pondered: "Who profits from the Hillary victory? They don't want to run against Obama. Your party does not want to run against him. They want to run against Hillary Clinton and now they have a race with her in it." A bemused Snow called Maher's reasoning "totally wacko!" and "completely wacked" as Maher contended Republicans have thrown races before: "They did it to Ed Muskie."

7. 'Top Ten Things Overheard on George Bush's Trip to Middle East'
Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard on George W. Bush's Trip to the Middle East."


Obama So Enthralled Reporters They 'Needed
to Go Through Detox'

Discussing NBC News reporter Lee Cowan's admission that "it's almost hard to remain objective" in covering Barack Obama, on Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN former CBS and PBS reporter Terence Smith agreed Obama is "absolutely" benefitting from "sympathetic" coverage and ex-Washington Post political editor John Harris revealed Post reporters "needed to go through detox" after coming back to the newsroom enthralled with the liberal Democratic presidential candidate. Recalling his days at the Post before helping to launch The Politico a year ago, Harris told ex-Post colleague and Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz: "Almost a couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back: 'Oh, he's so impressive, he's so charismatic,' and we're kind of like, 'Down Boy.'" Harris, however, held his journalistic colleagues accountable: "What Lee Cowan said is it's hard. Okay, it's hard. Do it. Detach yourself. Nobody cares about our opinions."

Earlier, Kurtz noted how "Obama was riding a huge media wave out of Iowa. Comparisons to JFK. He is an inspiring speaker, a man who can heal racial divisions. Newsweek this week says '€˜Was he a media-created savior?' So, my question is, is he benefitting, at least at the margins, from sympathetic coverage?" Terence Smith, a former reporter for the New York Times, CBS News and PBS, where he covered the media for the NewsHousr, replied: "Oh, absolutely. I mean, he is a charismatic figure, there's no question about it....and so people are somewhat swept up in that."

[This item was posted late Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Friday's CyberAlert item, "Williams Calls Claim of Pro-Obama Bias 'Ridiculous,' But..." recounted:

Barely 24 hours after Brian Williams devoted a Monday NBC Nightly News story to a glowing look at Barack Obama in which Williams showed Obama the Newsweek with the Democratic candidate on the cover and wondered, "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way....Who does it make you think of? Is there a loved one?", Williams took to his blog to call "ridiculous" the suggestion, fueled by an NBC News reporter's admission "it's almost hard to remain objective" in covering Obama, that NBC has any "bias." But NBC and MSNBC have been actively promoting Obama's candidacy. Back in 2006, Today co-host Meredith Vieira called him "electrifying" and a "a rock star in politics" who has "touched people" and pushed him to run: "If your party says to you, 'We need you,' and, and there's already a drumbeat out there, will you respond?" Last summer, the Today show uniquely showcased a union's stunt with Obama playing a health care worker. Reporter Lee Cowan served up this softball: "What does it say about the state of our health care that you've got a 86-year-old man being taken care of by a 61-year-old woman and you put the two of them together and they probably don't have a living wage?"

Check that January 11 CyberAlert article for a rundown of many more examples of the infatuation with Obama displayed by NBC and MSNBC on-air staff: www.mrc.org

The relevant exchange on the January 13 Reliable Sources, picking up after Kurtz played MSNBC.com's Web video of Cowan, backstage at an Obama event in New Hampshire early last week, telling Brian Williams: "From a reporter's point of view it's almost hard to remain objective because it's infectious, the energy, I think. It sort of goes against your core to say that as a reporter..."

HOWARD KURTZ: Kate Snow, I give Lee Cowan credit for raising that issue. Is it hard to remain objective in the face of this Obama phenomenon?
KATE SNOW, ABC News: Well, you know, I don't cover Obama, full disclosure. I cover Clinton. And I've been to a couple of Obama events. And I will say the contrast between his events and hers is striking. I mean, his events -- he is like a rock star. You go to these events and the crowds are enormous, there's an energy in the room. And I have written about that on our Web site. I wrote a piece once comparing and contrasting just the style and this sort of presentation difference between the two of them, so I can see his point.
I mean, it's easy to kind of get swept up in that, but, you know, I think we're all -- we're trying to be good journalists here. We're trying to cover these stories with fairness. And, you know, we have to do due diligence and be just as critical, look at them with just as critical eye as we would at any candidate, no matter how large their crowds are.
KURTZ: Obama was riding a huge media wave out of Iowa. Comparisons to JFK. He is an inspiring speaker, a man who can heal racial divisions. Newsweek this week says "Was he a media-created savior?" So, my question is, is he benefitting, at least at the margins, from sympathetic coverage?
TERENCE SMITH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he is a charismatic figure, there's no question about it, as Kate suggests. And so people are somewhat swept up in that. There is a feel good emotion around the Obama campaign that -- as though it's bringing out the best in us, the very idea that an African-American could be treated equally, and well, and even be a promising candidate for president. So-
KURTZ: And I've heard some conservatives say that, people who ordinarily would not be a sympathetic to Democratic candidates.
SMITH: David Brooks has written to that effect. So people want to -- want this to work, and yet I hope and believe they are asking questions not about how he's saying things, but about what he's saying as well.
KURTZ: Hillary's been on the national stage for 16 years. Obama is a new and exciting, and, as Terry says, inspirational figure. To some degree, are journalists rooting for the Obama story?
JOHN HARRIS: It wouldn't surprise me that there's some of that. You know, even when we were colleagues, when I was at the Washington Post, Howie, this is when I first noticed this. Almost a couple years ago, you would send a reporter out with Obama, and it was like they needed to go through detox when they came back -- "Oh, he's so impressive, he's so charismatic," and we're kind of like, "Down Boy." And so-
KURTZ: You're going to talk reporters down?
HARRIS: I felt that I did. And I didn't quite get what they were saying. Like, well, what's so great about it? In any event, what Lee Cowan said, is it's hard. Okay, it's hard. Do it. Detach yourself. Nobody cares about our opinions.

The Politico's bio of Harris: www.politico.com

Terence Smith's Web site: www.terencefsmith.com

CNN Wonders If 'Racial Undercurrents'
Will Stop Obama's Success

CNN's Carol Costello, on Friday's The Situation Room, speculated whether Barack Obama can continue to get whites to vote for him, or whether his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary points to "the undercurrent about race that exists in this country."

Costello repeated a theory proposed by Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, that Hillary Clinton's victory could be partially attributed to "poor, uneducated whites who don't participate in polls and who often don't vote for blacks." She also pointed out the fact that there are nine female governors, but only one black governor in the United States; as well as the fact that there are 16 female senators, but Barack Obama is the only black in the Senate.

For a bit of historical perspective, Costello brought up the so-called "Bradley Effect," named after Tom Bradley, a black Democratic candidate for governor in California in 1982, who lost to white Republican George Deukmejian. In one of the soundbites from the report, Charles Ogletree, a black professor at Harvard Law School, named Harvey Gantt (the first black admitted to Clemson University who lost twice to Jesse Helms in senatorial elections) and Harold Ford, Jr., the former representative from Tennessee, as possible victims of the "Bradley Effect."

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

The full transcript of Carol Costello's report, which aired 28 minutes into the 5pm Eastern hour of Friday's The Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER: Is the U.S. ready for an African-American president? Senator Barack Obama's strong showing so far in this campaign has many saying absolutely yes. Others, though, say it's too soon to tell. Carol Costello has been looking into the story for us. You've been talking to a lot of people, supposedly knowledgeable, on this very sensitive subject. What are they telling you?

CAROL COSTELLO: Oh, it is a sensitive subject, isn't it? Most I talked with today say it is too soon to tell. Obama seems to have transcended race, but can he in the long run? Already, critics say Obama's opponents are trying to create this subtle narrative of racial division. They deny it, but it illustrates show hard it is in this country to take race out of the equation.
COSTELLO (voice-over): The Iowa caucus created all kinds of excitement surrounding Barack Obama. His win in a predemoninantly-white state, and a strong showing in another, seemingly proves it -- Obama can transcend race. It's something Obama has always believed could happen.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRAT, ILLINOIS: If I have your support, if I have your energy and involvement, and commitment and ideas, then I am here to tell you, yes we can, in '08.
COSTELLO: Maybe, but they are those who feel while Iowa and New Hampshire prove Obama can certainly get white votes, it doesn't mean he can continue the trend, that Obama's second-place finish in New Hampshire, despite polls that had him coming in first, illustrate the undercurrent about race that exists in this country. Andrew Kohut, in charge of Pew Research, has a theory. He says many of those inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire were poor, uneducated whites who don't participate in polls and who often don't vote for blacks.
ANDREW KOHUT, PRESIDENT, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: At least race should be considered, because we know that the kinds of people drawn to Mrs. Clinton are also the kinds of people who turn down surveys at pretty high rates. But we don't know much about whether the people who we don't get are like the people that we do get.
COSTELLO: Polls about race are notoriously difficult to analyze. Take this ABC/Washington POst poll conducted before the Iowa caucus. A whopping 88% of Americans said race would not matter in choosing a president. But pollsters say you have to take this result with a grain of salt. Few people are willing to tell a pollster they're racist. It reflects the 'Bradley Effect,' after Tom Bradley, a black man who ran for governor in California in 1982. Most polls showed him leading. But he lost to a white male candidate.
PROFESSOR CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Ask Tom Bradley when he ran for governor in California. Black man. Thought he could win. He didn't. Ask Harvey Gantt in North Carolina. Ask Harold Ford, Jr.
COSTELLO: And look at the stats. There is one black governor in the United States. They are nine women governors. They are 16 senators who are women, and one black man -- Barack Obama. Still, Barack Obama got plenty of votes in New Hampshire and Iowa, which are both 95% white. And you could say that trumps the polls. But there are many more people yet to vote, and racial undercurrents that are so hard to predict.
COSTELLO (on-camera): And let's face it: Obama has been genius at transcending not race, but racial issues. He's very careful to deliver a message that is not exclusionary. In other words, he's a member of the black community, but he doesn't vocalize racial grievances. So, so far, so good.
BLITZER: All right, let's see what's going on. Carol, thanks very much. A sensitive subject indeed.

Olbermann Makes Thompson 'Worst Person'
for '72 Virgins' Joke

Add Keith Olbermann to the list of MSNBC hosts offended by popular applause lines from Thursday's GOP debate on FNC. On Friday's Countdown, the same day that Hardball's Chris Matthews had earlier compared Mike Huckabee's words regarding the U.S. military defending itself from Iran to "talking like jihadists" (see #4 below), Olbermann named Fred Thompson "Worst Person in the World," contending that the GOP presidential candidate had "pulled another whopper" because the former Senator joked that Iranian military members on speed boats who harassed U.S. Navy warships came close to meeting "those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing." Olbermann further mocked Thompson by suggesting that his candidacy was just part of a "Candid Camera" stunt.

Because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is believed to have given assistance to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents, is technically not the same group associated with the "72 virgins" promise to suicide bombers, Olbermann used this as a rationale to impugn Thompson's intelligence. Referring to the U.S. Navy's interraction with the Iranian boats as a "supposed confrontation," Olbermann brought up a time when the former Senator mis-spoke in calling Russia the "Soviet Union." Olbermann: "Asked about the supposed confrontation between Iranian speed boats and three U.S. warships in the Gulf of Hormuz, Thompson, who last year said we couldn't count on the 'Soviet Union' to help us with Iran in the future, pulled another whopper."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

After imitating Thompson's voice to read the former Senator's quote about the "72 virgins," Olbermann, ignoring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's links to terrorism, continued: "As the crowd cheered and Thompson gave that look he used in The Hunt for Red October when he wanted to seem tough, somebody at the debate probably realized that it's terrorists and suicide bombers who have believed the crap about the 72 virgins, not the guys in the Iranian navy. Too bad the somebody wasn't Fred Thompson."

The Countdown host then quipped that Thompson would some day reveal that his run for the presidency has been part of a "Candid Camera" stunt: "With every week that goes by, the odds seem to grow that one night he's going to stop in the middle of a speech or a debate and suddenly shout at his supporters [imitating Thompson's voice]: 'Ha ha, I'm not really running. Smile, you're on candid camera.' Senator Fred 'Paying Attention is Overrated' Thompson, today's 'Worst Person in the World'!"

But during Thursday's post-debate coverage on FNC, pollster Frank Luntz informed viewers that his focus group of 28 "Republican-leaning voters" had a "very positive response" to Thompson "72 virgins" joke as the comment scored near 100 percent in terms of approval from group members.

Below is a complete transcript of Olbermann's comments from the Friday, January 11 Countdown show on MSNBC, followed by relevant comments by Luntz from Thursday's post-debate coverage on FNC:

# From the Friday, January 11 Countdown:

KEITH OLBERMANN: But our winner, Senator Fred Thompson. Asked about the supposed confrontation between Iranian speed boats and three U.S. warships in the Gulf of Hormuz, Thompson, who last year said we couldn't count on the "Soviet Union" to help us with Iran in the future, pulled another whopper. Quote [imitating Thompson's voice]: "I think one more step, and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing." As the crowd cheered and Thompson gave that look he used in The Hunt for Red October when he wanted to seem tough, somebody at the debate probably realized that it's terrorists and suicide bombers who have believed the crap about the 72 virgins, not the guys in the Iranian navy. Too bad the somebody wasn't Fred Thompson. With every week that goes by, the odds seem to grow that one night he's going to stop in the middle of a speech or a debate and suddenly shout at his supporters [imitating Thompson's voice]: "Ha ha, I'm not really running. Smile, you're on Candid Camera." Senator Fred 'Paying Attention is Overrated' Thompson, today's "Worst Person in the World"!


# From the Thursday, January 10 post-debate coverage on FNC:

FRANK LUNTZ: We sat down with 28 Republican-leaning voters, and we asked them to react on a second-by-second basis to the entire debate. There were two clips in particular that scored incredibly well, and I want to show our viewers them.

After discussing the reaction to Huckabee's comment about making those who attack the U.S. military know they could see the "gates of hell," Luntz moved to Thompson.

LUNTZ: But Mike Huckabee wasn't the only one who delivered a very positive response. Fred Thompson also had his humorous line when talking about Iran and Iraq. Let's take a look at how effective Fred Thompson was in the language of foreign policy.
FRED THOMPSON: I think I agree with the governor on that. You can't take the judgement like that out of the hands of the officers on the ground there. I think one more step, you know, and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing. [applause]

Matthews Sees 'Irresponsible' Huckabee
'Talking Like Jihadists'

On Friday's Hardball, during the show's regular "Big Number" segment, Chris Matthews went after Mike Huckabee for quipping during Thursday's FNC presidential debate that those who attack the American military should be prepared to see the "gates of hell," as the MSNBC host asked if we're all "learning to talk like jihadists now," and contended that Huckabee's comments earn him a "10" on the "irresponsibility scale." Notably, Huckabee's remark was very popular with "Republican-leaning" focus group participants as shown by pollster Frank Luntz Thursday night during FNC's post-debate coverage, as the former Arkansas governor's words scored around 90 percent in terms of approval.

With the words "What the Huck?" displayed on screen, Matthews introduced a clip of Huckabee's statement as part of "the contest to see who can pound his chest the hardest." After playing the former governor's words, Matthews shook his head while smirking and responded: "So let me get this straight: This man with no foreign policy experience thinks the best way to engage the world is by threatening the potential enemy with the 'gates of hell.' Are we all learning to talk like jihadists now?"

The MSNBC host went on to label the comment as the "height of irresponsibility" as he referred to an "irresponsibility scale." Matthews: "On an irreponsibility scale, from 1 to 10, Huckabee's threat is a 10, the height of irresponsibility."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Sunday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

By contrast, after Thursday's debate, Luntz appeared on FNC with a focus group of what he described as "Republican-leaning voters," and, referring to Huckabee's words as "one of the best lines of the evening," and the reaction as "one of the most positive responses that we've tested," Luntz recounted that the focus group participants scored the line very highly.

Below is a complete transcript of Matthews's comments from the Friday January 11 Hardball on MSNBC, followed by the relevant portion of FNC's post-debate coverage from Thursday January 10:

# From the Friday ,January 11 Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: In the contest to see who can pound his chest the hardest, today Mike Huckabee is the victor. Take a look.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I think we need to make it very clear -- not just to the Iranians, but to anybody -- that if you think you're going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle, be prepared first to put your sights on the American vessel, and then be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of hell, for that is exactly what you will see after that.
MATTHEWS: So let me get this straight: This man with no foreign policy experience thinks the best way to engage the world is by threatening the potential enemy with the "gates of hell." Are we all learning to talk like jihadists now? On an irreponsibility scale, from 1 to 10, Huckabee's threat is a 10, the height of irresponsibility. Tonight's big number. Well, that's what it is, tonight's big number.


# From the Thursday January 10 post-debate coverage on FNC:

FRANK LUNTZ: We sat down with 28 Republican-leaning voters, and we asked them to react on a second-by-second basis to the entire debate. There were two clips in particular that scored incredibly well, and I want to show our viewers them. First there was Mike Huckabee, and what's interesting is that foreign policy in this debate matters to South Carolina voters, and it matters a lot. Remember that the lines start at 50. The higher that you see the lines go, the more favorable the reaction. Watch how high the conservative, the orange line, and the blue moderate line, watch how high they climb when Mike Huckabee delivers one of the best lines of the evening about what should be done in Iran. Let's take a look.
MIKE HUCKABEE: I think we need to make it very clear -- not just to the Iranians, but to anybody -- that if you think you're going to engage the United States military, be prepared not simply to have a battle, be prepared first to put your sights on the American vessel, and then be prepared that the next thing you see will be the gates of hell, for that is exactly what you will see after that. [applause]
LUNTZ: Absolutely, absolutely amazing. One of the most positive responses that we've tested.

...

LUNTZ: But Mike Huckabee wasn't the only one who delivered a very positive response. Fred Thompson also had his humorous line when talking about Iran and Iraq. Let's take a look at how effective Fred Thompson was in the language of foreign policy.
FRED THOMPSON: I think I agree with the governor on that. You can't take the judgement like that out of the hands of the officers on the ground there. I think one more step, you know, and they would have been introduced to those virgins that they're looking forward to seeing. [applause]

Veteran CNN Journalist Likens U.S. Border
Fence to Berlin Wall

Appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal on Friday morning, longtime CNN correspondent Charles Bierbauer, who's now the senior contributing editor to SCHotline.com, a South Carolina political news site, equated a proposed fence to deter illegal immigration from Mexico with the Berlin Wall that prevented Germans from fleeing East Germany's communist dictatorship during the Cold War. Oddly, Bierbauer claimed that the Berlin Wall "didn't work," even though tens of thousands raced past the checkpoints to West Berlin the moment the East German dictatorship opened the gates. Referring to proposals to build a U.S.-Mexico fence, Bierbauer argued: "I've seen walls around other countries, most notably East Germany and East Berlin, and they didn't work. In fact, they became symbols of oppression rather than anything positive."

Bierbauer's site: schotline.com

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

Obviously, the fence along the southern U.S. border would not be a "symbol of oppression" to imprison Americans, but the sort of border control employed by every other nation on the planet.

Bierbauer also argued that "fences are only so good -- there are ways to get around fences, over, under and in other directions." So it's not 100% effective -- big deal. Welfare checks aren't 100% effective at lifting people out of poverty, government schools haven't achieved a 100% literacy rate, etc. But liberals aren't clamoring to shut down those programs because they can't possibly achieve a 100% success rate.

Here's the full exchange from the Friday, January 11 Washington Journal, at about 8:07am EST:

CALLER FROM DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA: I was wondering, you know, since John McCain has sort of got a re-birth on this illegal immigration thing and now he's all for the fence, border fence, and he's sort of heading up the illegal immigration thing now, I was wondering why he hasn't made a move to get that $3.2 billion reinstated for the fence? And it seems like that would really help his cause. I'll just wait for your comments. Thanks.
CHARLES BIERBAUER: Well, we heard most, if not all of the candidates, if they all got a chance to weigh in on it last night, on the immigration question, substantially saying that the first job is to secure the borders with whatever means available. In some cases the suggestion is it's building that fence from one end of the country to the other across the southern border. Fences are only so good -- there are ways to get around fences, over, under and in other directions.
But the question then goes beyond that as to what you do about the illegal immigrants who are already in the country, an estimated 12 million. I think we made this point earlier, that that's where the differences seem to be stronger. Whether it's McCain, whether it's Giuliani, whether it's Huckabee, they all seem to be saying we need to secure the border in some fashion. It could be a fence, but it could be a virtual fence as well -- Giuliani talks about other ways to secure it than simply building a fence, although he favors that as well.
It's a substantial cost. It's a mammoth project. I've seen walls around other countries, most notably East Germany and East Berlin, and they didn't work. In fact, they became symbols of oppression rather than anything positive.

On HBO Bill Maher Suggests GOP Stole
NH Dem Primary for Hillary

Insisting he's "not a conspiracy theorist," Bill Maher, on the Friday night season debut of his HBO show, suggested that because Republicans prefer to run against Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama they engineered her victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. Later on Real Time with Bill Maher, former ABC News reporter/anchor Catherine Crier claimed "you have to work really hard to find a truly liberal" politician and "Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama are not raging liberals."

Maher opened the panel discussion, with Tony Snow, Crier and Mark Cuban, by observing how he found it "odd" that polls showed Obama ahead in New Hampshire, yet Clinton won, and "it does bother me that a private company runs the polling machines and that only they certainly seem to know what went on." A couple of minutes later, Maher noted that "in crime they always ask...'who profits?'" Looking at Snow, he then pondered: "Who profits from the Hillary victory? They don't want to run against Obama. Your party does not want to run against him. They want to run against Hillary Clinton and now they have a race with her in it."

A bemused Snow called Maher's reasoning "totally wacko!" and "completely wacked" as Maher contended Republicans have thrown races before: "They did it to Ed Muskie."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Friday night -- with video -- on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

From the Friday, January 11 Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO produced in Los Angeles, first aired at 11 PM EST:

BILL MAHER: I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it does strike me odd that Barack Obama was up so much in New Hampshire one day before and that the exit polls, a lot of them say that people still voted for him as the winner. I'm not saying something was funny going on there, but it does bother me that a private company runs the polling machines and that only they certainly seem to know what went on....
I'm just saying, you know, in crime they always ask qui bono, 'who profits?' Who profits from the Hillary victory? They don't want to run against Obama. Your party does not want to run against him. They want to run against Hillary Clinton and now they have a race with her in it.
TONY SNOW, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, Republicans are throwing the election to Hillary Clinton?
MAHER: Well, they've done that before.
SNOW: Your hair's on fire. This is totally wacko!
MAHER: I'm not saying it's true.
SNOW: It's completely wacked!
MAHER: Woe, woe. They did it to Ed Muskie.
MARK CUBAN: Let's just say this: Nobody knows, right? Because who's in charge of the companies building the machines...

Crier, near the end of the hour after Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, had joined the panel:
"In this country, most politicians -- liberal and conservative, Democrat, Republican -- are in a relatively small box. I mean, you have to work really hard to find a truly liberal, and maybe not quite so hard right now to find somebody a little more adamant on the right. But Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama are not raging liberals."

HBO's page for Maher's show: www.hbo.com

'Top Ten Things Overheard on George Bush's
Trip to Middle East'

From the January 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Overheard on George W. Bush's Trip to the Middle East." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. "Where can I buy one of them flying carpets?"

9. "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, it's me, the guy who rammed democracy down your throats"

8. "Is the war over yet?"

7. "I know your name's Mahmoud, but I'm gonna call you 'Manny'"

6. "Gas up Air Force One -- W. wants to go to Reno"

5. "Tell Cheney he doesn't have to call me every time he has a heart attack"

4. "I wonder if Jackoway hammered out that interim agreement with Hamas"

3. "That's not a kitty, sir, it's a Sphinx"

2. "It's nice to finally put a face to the devastation I've created"

1. "My next stop -- the Middle West!"

-- Brent Baker