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Olbermann: Subway Alert to Distract from Rove, Bush Like McCarthy --10/7/2005


1. Olbermann: Subway Alert to Distract from Rove, Bush Like McCarthy
Another terror alert, another chance for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to question whether it's politically motivated. Talking about the terror threat to the New York City subway system, a supposed threat revealed by local officials, Olbermann nonetheless suggested it was announced in order to distract from news that Karl Rove would make another grand jury appearance: "Stop what you're thinking. It's just an amazing coincidence. The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt. Just a coincidence." Olbermann claimed that "we've cobbled together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that, on which, whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country. How could the coincidence be so consistent?" Craig Crawford agreed that "it is a pattern" and complained that "those of us who bring it up get accused of treason." Olbermann also asked if Bush's speech on terrorism "risks sounding like Joe McCarthy on communist infiltration?"

2. ABC Delivers Unusual Story-Ending Spin from the Right (on Miers)
On Wednesday's World News Tonight, ABC's Dan Harris highlighted conservative criticism of the selection of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, but delivered something unusual in network TV news -- story-concluding spin from a conservative perspective. Harris wrapped up his October 5 piece: "The faith angle is tricky for the President. He's argued Miers won't change twenty years down the line. But twenty years ago, before she was born again, she was a Democrat. Which raises the question: If she's changed once, can't she change again?" Earlier, he had relayed criticism from the right, such as former Bush 43 speechwriter David Frum's observation which encapsulated why so many conservatives are disappointed: "If you put someone like Harriet Miers in that room with someone as brilliant and charming as Stephen Breyer, she's never going to win any arguments with him."

3. Sutherland Tears Up: "Shameful" What U.S. Is "Doing to Our World"
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, on Tuesday night, quoted and played some video from a September BBC interview with actor Donald Sutherland, including a tearful rant against President Bush and American conservatives: "We have children. How dare we take their legacy from them? How dare we? It's shameful what we are doing to our world." Scarborough read how Sutherland, who plays the villainous Republican Speaker of the House on ABC's Commander in Chief, charged that Bush and GOP leaders "only care about profit. They will destroy our lives. And so it's something you have to care about if you're passionate about the lives of our children because we've stolen their future." I tracked down the BBC's September 27 posting of a 25-minute RealPlayer video of the interview aired on the September 16 HARDtalk Extra and when asked about "mean-spiritedness" in U.S. politics, Sutherland bemoaned the censoring of Kanye West from NBC's re-play of the fundraising concert, as well as how, after the Dixie Chicks were critical of President Bush, a radio chain supposedly "organizes a purchase of all of their CDs and then has tractors running over them in Detroit. I mean, we're back in burning books in, wherever, in Germany."


Olbermann: Subway Alert to Distract from
Rove, Bush Like McCarthy

Another terror alert, another chance for MSNBC's Keith Olbermann to question whether it's politically motivated. Talking about the terror threat to the New York City subway system, a supposed threat revealed by local officials, Olbermann nonetheless suggested it was announced in order to distract from news that Karl Rove would make another grand jury appearance: "Stop what you're thinking. It's just an amazing coincidence. The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt. Just a coincidence." Olbermann claimed that "we've cobbled together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that, on which, whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country. How could the coincidence be so consistent?" Craig Crawford agreed that "it is a pattern" and complained that "those of us who bring it up get accused of treason."

When Olbermann wondered to MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlman whether "somebody could really be playing domestic politics with terror," Kohlman shot down the theory, explaining that "I'm not sure it's generated of national politics" because "it's really coming from New York" and the "federal agencies that you would think would be spouting off President Bush's policy like the Department of Homeland Security are the ones that are pouring water on it."

In fact, Olbermann himself had even conveyed this information five times during the show, one example of which came during a plug at about 8:15pm EDT when he said of the terror alert, "New York acted on it. Washington seems to be downplaying it. Is there a threat or does somebody just want us to think there is?" So, according to Olbermann himself, the White House has actually been negating the authenticity of the terror threat, yet he still speculates that the terror alert was politically timed to benefit the White House. Are we to believe the Bush administration has someone planted in New York City's government to call terror alerts whenever Karl Rove gets into trouble?

Besides, the White House had an interest in earning as much publicity as possible, without distraction, for President Bush's speech on terrorism.

Speaking of Bush's speech, talking with Crawford, Olbermann mocked it, saying the President was "returning to the theme of scaring the bejesus out of anybody who will listen," and ridiculously raised a comparison with McCarthyism: "If a prominent politician takes any issue and seems to be using it as a last line of personal political defense, does history, does our history not teach us and supposedly, the politician, that he risks trivializing the issue, that he risks sounding like Joe McCarthy on communist infiltration?"

[This item is modified from an early Friday posting, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog. For his version where you can post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Below is a transcript of the relevant parts of the October 6 Countdown:

Keith Olbermann, at about 8:07pm EDT: "Remarkably enough, Karl Rove's possible legal problems were book-ended today by two pieces of terror news. Before, came a presidential speech on the war on terror. After, came a supposed terrorist threat to New York's subway system. Stop what you're thinking. It's just an amazing coincidence. The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt. Just a coincidence. The threat in a moment. First, the speech that preceded it by hours. Mr. Bush returning to the theme of scaring the bejesus out of anybody who will listen, offering what was called a major speech on the war on terror, comparing the conflict to the fight against fascism and communism, comparing Osama bin Laden to both Hitler and Pol Pot. Perhaps making up for lost time, more than four years after the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden now back in the cross hairs as White House public enemy number one."

Olbermann played clips of Bush mentioning Osama bin Laden in his speech and clips of criticism from Nancy Pelosi, and then read a short item on Republican Senators siding against Bush in passing a bill to put limits on interrogation of detainees before proceeding to the story of the terror alert in New York City.

Olbermann: "But wait, this just in. Chatter pulling ahead of clatter down at the wire today with a late-day word of a bomb threat against the New York City subway system. That news breaking at 5:17 p.m. Eastern time, the start of rush hour. Law enforcement officials saying that the threat is, quote, 'specific to place, time and method.' And, as we mentioned, the method is bombing. Nobody would mention the time, though it inevitably leaked out: Second week of October. Instead, though, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announcing plans to flood the transit system with police officers, step up bag searches that were put into place after July's London bombings. The FBI man in New York saying much of the alleged planning has been interrupted by the authorities. A White House official, though, tells NBC News that it had previously discussed the so-called threat with the Department of Homeland Security, and that it has, quoting the White House official, 'doubtful credibility.' Overall message to New York's strap hangers: Be afraid, but not too much because we stepped in on this, but remember, be afraid anyway. Timing, coincidence."

Olbermann: "We'll take up some of the terror-specific elements in a moment with Evan Kohlman. First, back to the big picture, the President's speech included. Let's call in Craig Crawford, MSNBC analyst and author of Attack the Messenger. Good evening, Craig."
Craig Crawford: "Hi, there. You sounding a bit skeptical tonight."
Olbermann: "Yeah, and I'm going to raise this question as skeptically and bluntly as I can. It's not a question that doubts the existence of terror, nor the threat of terrorism. But we've cobbled together in the last couple of hours a list of at least 13 occasions that, on which, whenever there has been news that significantly impacted the White House negatively, there has been some sudden credible terror threat somewhere in this country. How could the coincidence be so consistent?"
Crawford: "It's a, it is a pattern. One of the most memorable was just after the Democratic Convention in the 2004 election when they talked about the threat to New York and even the World Bank, and it turned out that was based on intelligence that was three years old, even before 9/11. There is a pattern here, and I think it's difficult sometimes to take it at face value. But in these moments when it looks like a crisis, those of us who bring it up get accused of treason. That's what Howard Dean was accused of when he raised that after the Democratic Convention scare alert."
Olbermann: "About that, that was, I think, by the way, number 12 on the list. About the speech, and again, not to question the existence of terrorism, but if a prominent politician takes any issue and seems to be using it as a last line of personal political defense, does history, does our history not teach us and supposedly, the politician, that he risks trivializing the issue, that he risks sounding like Joe McCarthy on communist infiltration?"
Crawford: "The President has given this speech so many times now. It was a bit stronger in his assertion that we will stay the course until the bitter end, until we get victory. It was a very forceful speech. But in many ways, he just turned up the volume on a broken record."

Olbermann: But, Craig, as much as the speech, these speeches, this repeated speech might seem like white noise, there was something today that I don't recall hearing the President say before, that the terrorists' goal was no longer what he said it usually has been in the past, which is 'destroying our freedom,' but that their goal was to rally people in the Middle East to overthrow secular governments in the Middle East, which is what the international terrorism analysts have been saying since 2001. Did he just get the memo or did somebody say that would sell better here? Where did that replace, or how did that replace the old line today?"
Crawford: "I sense some test marketing out there on what arguments are working and what doesn't work. I think the toughest argument he tried to make in this speech is connecting the war in Iraq to the overall war on terror. I think a lot of people aren't buying that so much. The strongest argument is Iraq's such a mess, we can't leave, we can't leave the mess there, the chaos that would ensue in a civil war. And he's trying to make the connection that that would lead to more terror. I think the real problem with leaving, if he were really straight up and honest with the American people is that we can't afford chaos in a region where we get our oil supply. That was not so much mentioned in the speech."

At about 8:14 pm EDT, after asking a question about Republican Senator Rick Santorum's take on the President's speech, and before a commercial break, Olbermann said: "Back to the New York City subway threat. There is a threat, isn't there? Yes, says New York. Uhhhh, not so much, says Washington...."

In the midst of an ad break, Olbermann delivered a plug: "Security heightened on New York's subways, but the threat level was not raised. Authorities have known for days. They only said something today as rush hour began. New York acted on it. Washington seems to be downplaying it. Is there a threat or does somebody just want us to think there is? Countdown continues."

Olbermann, returning from the commercial break: "Terrorist threats are beginning to take on the aura of prophets who predict the end of the world. What are literally doomsayers can tell you when, where, and even how, only we don't send police into the streets every time one of them shoots off his bazoo. Our fourth story in the Countdown, an additional problem about the latest supposed threat to the New York City subway system. Counter-terrorism authorities in the federal government do not seem to find it as credible as the local ones in New York do. The U.S. official telling NBC News the source of the threat is the same one who provided the FBI and the military with information that led to the capture of a terror suspect in Baghdad last night. The source spoke of men being sent to New York to leave bombs in the subway, maybe in briefcases, maybe in baby carriages, during the second week of October. As other figures in Washington have told NBC News, the source has apparently given some accurate information in the past and some inaccurate. And there are reasons, they say, to doubt this new information. Evan Kohlman is the founder of GlobalTerrorAlert.com and an MSNBC analyst. Good evening to you, sir."
Evan Kohlman, MSNBC terrorism analyst: "Good evening."
Olbermann: "I have to read this. It just has crossed on the Associated Press wire. The doubts in Washington about this, while the FBI man is in New York talking about interrupting some plan or getting some people who might be involved in it out of the way, he was talking as if they had actually reduced a tangible threat. Then he said it was totally uncorroborated. Now, the Washington sources who had said that the threat was, at best, exaggerated, there's now a quote attributed to a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, a man named Russ Knock, who said, 'The intelligence community has concluded the information, this information, to be of doubtful credibility. We shared this information early on with state and local authorities in New York.' It's beginning to sound like one loud scream of gibberish."
Kohlman: "Well, I mean, it's not something we haven't heard before. We've seen this kind of infighting before between federal agencies over the value of terrorist captures, over the threats to various different targets inside of the United States. In this case, I'm not really that surprised. New York has one of the most important counter-terrorism programs in the country. It is independent in some ways of the federal government, and they do consider New Yorkers to be very important, and they consider New York to be a primary target, and they treat New York as a primary target. So everything, whether it even has the ring of truth, is taken very seriously. I think what happened here is there was an overabundance of caution. And I can't necessarily blame New York authorities for that. But are you asking, 'Is this a credible terrorist threat?' No, it doesn't look like there's a credible terrorist threat against the subway system. Is it good to be alert and aware? Well, that's a different story. It probably benefits us to be alert and aware because even if there's not a real plot from Iraqi insurgents going on right now, that doesn't mean that it couldn't happen in the future."
Olbermann: "The coincidence factor, which is more of a political thing than a terrorism issue, but as we mentioned here, a quick hour or so of research has produced a list of 13 reasonable occasions in which events that have been politically disadvantageous to the current administration have been occurring simultaneously, or followed quickly upon with something related to terrorism on a big scale. And I'm just, in your opinion, from your perspective on the counter-terrorism threat, can coincidences like that in that volume really be coincidences? Or do we have to look at the prospect that somebody could really be playing domestic politics with terror?"
Kohlman: "Well, I would concede to you that there are those that play domestic politics with terror. And we even had an incidence of that last week. Unfortunately, I mean, I just disagree with the administration when they say they arrested the number two most important al-Qaeda official in Iraq. I don't believe that they did. He was an important guy. He wasn't number two. However, this particular piece of terror-related news, this threat against the subway system, I'm not sure it's generated of national politics. The reason being, of the source. It's really coming from New York. And the federal agencies that you would think would be spouting off President Bush's policy like the Department of Homeland Security are the ones that are pouring water on it. So it doesn't appear that this news item is being generated from D.C. It appears it's being generated right here from New York by individuals that I think are really more concerned with what would happen if New Yorkers woke up one day in the midst of a major terrorist attack and turned around and said, 'Why is it that, five years after 9/11, that the New York FBI and New York Police Department are still unable to protect us?' I think that's really the concern here, not generic political motives. But, again, that's always a concern, and it's something you have to pay attention to."
Olbermann: "But does it worry you in the larger definition of what your expertise is, that there is the terror that is caused by people intentionally trying to take jet liners and crash them into huge sky scrapers and then there is the terror that is created by people who are on their way into the subway at 5:17 in the afternoon and told, 'Oh, by the way, we might have, there might have been a terrorist threat, and we're not sure, and we think we stopped it,' but totally contradictory and self-conflicting information that is broadcast nationally so it becomes a national story, it becomes the lead story in the national news. Is there not a kind of terror created by the response to terror when it's handled this way?"
Kohlman: "Well, I think really, this should be taken as a bit of a warning sign. It should be taken as a warning sign that this chaos that we're watching right now is symptomatic of a lack of progress being made by federal and state counter-terrorism authorities in terms of identifying al-Qaeda cells, in term of identifying what's a real al-Qaeda threat and what's not. Right now, we're still kind of babes lost in the wilderness really. It's amazing how little is really understood about what's going on, and that's why plots like this, that are really only semi-credible if at all credible, are being trumped up into what you've seen on television today."

ABC Delivers Unusual Story-Ending Spin
from the Right (on Miers)

On Wednesday's World News Tonight, ABC's Dan Harris highlighted conservative criticism of the selection of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, but delivered something unusual in network TV news -- story-concluding spin from a conservative perspective. Harris wrapped up his October 5 piece: "The faith angle is tricky for the President. He's argued Miers won't change twenty years down the line. But twenty years ago, before she was born again, she was a Democrat. Which raises the question: If she's changed once, can't she change again?" Earlier, he had relayed criticism from the right, such as former Bush 43 speechwriter David Frum's observation which encapsulated why so many conservatives are disappointed: "If you put someone like Harriet Miers in that room with someone as brilliant and charming as Stephen Breyer, she's never going to win any arguments with him."

(Wednesday's NBC Nightly News ran a full story of Miers' day on Capitol Hill visiting Senators and conservative opposition to her, but the CBS Evening News limited its coverage to a brief item read by anchor Bob Schieffer.)

[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post a comment: newsbusters.org ]

Full transcript of the October 5 World News Tonight story. Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: "The opposition to President Bush's nominee for Supreme Court justice, Harriet Miers, took on new intensity today. Once again, most of the criticism is coming from Republicans. Some powerful Senators said today they do not believe that Miers is the best person for the job. Here's ABC's Dan Harris."

Dan Harris: "Harriet Miers today picked up some conservative supporters: Republican Senator John Cornyn, the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee. But other conservatives today mounted an attack on Miers' qualifications for the Supreme Court. Columnist George Will [text on screen]: 'There is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence.'"
Senator Trent Lott on Tuesday's Hardball on MSNBC: "There are a lot more people -- men, women and minorities -- that are more qualified, in my opinion, by their experience than she is."
David Frum, American Enterprise Institute [and a former 43 speechwriter]: "If you put someone like Harriet Miers in that room with someone as brilliant and charming as Stephen Breyer, she's never going to win any arguments with him."
Harris: "The President has said Miers was rated as one of the nation's top lawyers."
President Bush at Tuesday's Rose Garden press conference: "Not just one year, but consistently rated that way and as one of the top hundred lawyers."
Harris caught some dissembling from Bush: "In fact, the President was referring to three National Law Journal lists that rank Miers among the most influential and powerful lawyers, each time citing her close relationship with George W. Bush. To convince reluctant conservatives that Miers is right for the job, White House allies are emphasizing her faith. Long-time friend, Texas Supreme Court justice Nathan Hecht, attends this evangelical church [shot of Valley View Christian Church] with Miers."
Nathan Hecht: "It's a very important part of her life. It's a real priority for her."
Harris: "For many Christian conservatives, that is not enough."
Genevieve Wood, Center for a Just Society: "It's one thing to have people say it. It's another thing to be able to verify it by seeing someone's track record and Harriet Miers is missing that."
Harris concluded: "The faith angle is tricky for the President. He's argued Miers won't change twenty years down the line. But twenty years ago [old photo of her on screen], before she was born again, she was a Democrat. Which raises the question: If she's changed once, can't she change again?"

Sutherland Tears Up: "Shameful" What
U.S. Is "Doing to Our World"

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, on Tuesday night, quoted and played some video from a September BBC interview with actor Donald Sutherland, including a tearful rant against President Bush and American conservatives: "We have children. How dare we take their legacy from them? How dare we? It's shameful what we are doing to our world."


Text of clip + audio archive
Video: Real | Windows Media
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Scarborough read how Sutherland, who plays the villainous Republican Speaker of the House on ABC's Commander in Chief, charged that Bush and GOP leaders "only care about profit. They will destroy our lives. And so it's something you have to care about if you're passionate about the lives of our children because we've stolen their future." I tracked down the BBC's September 27 posting of a 25-minute RealPlayer video of the interview aired on the September 16 HARDtalk Extra and when asked about "mean-spiritedness" in U.S. politics, Sutherland bemoaned the censoring of Kanye West from NBC's re-play of the fundraising concert, as well as how, after the Dixie Chicks were critical of President Bush, a radio chain supposedly "organizes a purchase of all of their CDs and then has tractors running over them in Detroit. I mean, we're back in burning books in, wherever, in Germany."

[This item was posted, with video, Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments and/or to watch a video clip, in either RealPlayer or Windows Media formats, of Scarborough's presentation: newsbusters.org ]

The September 29 CyberAlert examined Sutherland's role on ABC's Commander in Chief: ABC's new Commander in Chief drama, which debuted Tuesday night, clearly intends to make the conservative Republican "House Speaker Nathan Templeton," played by Donald Sutherland, the foil on the show revolving around Geena Davis as "President Mackenzie Allen." On the debut, Republican "President Teddy Roosevelt Bridges" dies of an aneurysm, but before he does so he asks VP Allen, an independent with more liberal views, to resign so the Speaker can become President since he "shares my vision." Allen plans to do so, enraging her chief aide who declares of Templeton: "This guy makes Genghis Khan look like Mahatma Gandhi." And he warns that a Templeton presidency would mean "the return of book-burning, creationism in the classroom, invading every third world country." See: www.mediaresearch.org

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth caught the October 4 Scarborough Country item on MSNBC about Sutherland:

Joe Scarborough: "Let's move on now to actor Donald Sutherland. He's busy. Not only is he playing the Republican villain -- and of course the Republican is a villain on the ABC show Commander in Chief. He's also spending his free time lashing out at the Bush administration. During a recent appearance on the BBC, Sutherland called the current president vile, inadequate, a liar. But that's not all. He went on to say this, quote, '€˜They only care about profit. They will destroy our lives. And so it's something you have to care about if you're passionate about the lives of our children because we've stolen their future.' And then, feeling emotional, Sutherland broke down in tears. Take a look."
Donald Sutherland, via BBC's posted RealPlayer video: "We have children. How dare we take their legacy from them? How dare we? It's shameful."

Apparently it doesn't take much to upset Sutherland.

In playing the video myself, I learned that Sutherland finished off that "it's shameful" sentence with, "what we are doing to our world."

Sutherland also preceded the quote Scarborough read aloud: "They do not care about Iraqi people, they do not care about the families of dead soldiers."

-- Brent Baker