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On Wednesday's edition of CBS' The Early Show, anchor Harry Smith discussed the primary election results from the state of Connecticut with Senator Joe Lieberman and political analyst Amy Walter. Harry took his standard, normal position - the left side.
So, Cindy Sheehan is back in Crawford, and the Associated Press is continuing to act as her publicity agents. They still haven't shown any inclination to address any comments of hers that might be controversial. They still treat her as the grieving mother of a marine, rather than a leftist peace activist.
The writers of The New York Times apparently think that every day's a good day to bash the Bush administration. And any hook will work, whether it's factually correct or not. Today's example comes from yesterday's Times, and Niall Ferguson. He's got a long piece about the burgeoning Federal debt.
The CBS Early Show this morning continued its tradition of "fair and balanced" reporting, as they addressed the interminable firestorm that has surrounded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, seemingly since he was first appointed 5 1/2 years ago. They addressed the Rumsfeld issue twice in the first hour, and both times the focus was on the critics and criticism. There were no defenders of Rumsfeld in evidence, save for short clips from the President and the SecDef himself, and their comments were immediately followed by critics explaining how they're lying.
The first segment was the "straight news" report from CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante. This segment did include short clips from Bush and Rumsfeld, but immediately followed by "balancing" their comments with those of critics.
The Associated Press is running a piece of video on which they're claiming exclusivity, of some of the FEMA preparation meetings prior to the landfall of Hurrican Katrina. They've also got video of the President speaking to FEMA, and then, later, speaking to ABC in the aftermath. They've chosen to portray the President as oblivious to what happened in New Orleans.
Vice-President Cheney spoke, last night, to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The AP has a snippet of his speech in their video stories this morning. The passage that they've got up includes the following from the Vice President, speaking on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.
The mainstream press absolutely refuses to cast the NSA terrorist surveillance program in anything other than a negative light. The latest example is this piece from Time Magazine. In addition to continued use of the adjective "domestic" when talking about international calls ("U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks about domestic wiretapping policies at Georgetown University"), the article focuses on AG Gonzales' expected testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary committee this coming week.
Specter's hearing, which is scheduled to last most of Monday, will focus on presidential powers in wartime and will examine whether Bush took legal shortcuts in implementing the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications involving suspected al-Qaeda members if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S. The program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and was exposed by the New York Times in December. Since then, lawmakers have complained that the administration's legal arguments are shaky, and have contended that briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees were inadequate or misleading.
Consider two different public figures, with different backgrounds, and different organizations, and associated in the public mind with different political parties. Neither speaks for the party that the public associates them with, and both are relatively marginal public figures.
The Boston Globe is not exactly breaking news on its front page this morning, running a story in which they found "legal specialists" who were willing to call the President a liar. This matches, of course, the general position of the Boston Globe on the Bush administration, so these specialists are credible and believable, and warrant front-page mention.
Legal specialists yesterday questioned the accuracy of President Bush's sweeping contentions about the legality of his domestic spying program, particularly his assertion in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that "previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have."
Well, we've now got the AP's analysis on the President's State Of The Union address tonight, and it is nothing if not predictable. Frankly, one wonders whether Ron Fournier even bothered to wait until the speech had started, never mind ended, before producing this news analysis.
The Washington Post has chosen to run on their opinion page this morning, in advance of tonight's State Of The Union Address, an apparent attempt at humor from someone named David Atkins. It's a mocking, snarky piece, that is, unfortunately for the Post, not close enough to reality to actually be funny. Written in the first person voice of President Bush, though strangely lacking in malaprop and grammatical errors, it purports to be a "fact-check" on things in the SOTU that aren't strictly accurate. Some of the "highlights" include:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has alerted me that the line, "No person is above the law" should instead be "One person is above the law." My comment that "we have carefully listened to critics of our domestic surveillance program" should have read "listened in on..."
On Monday, President Bush gave a speech and took questions at Kansas State University. It's been a couple of days, and the last wire stories on that have probably been written. So it's interesting to look and see what the Associated Press thought was newsworthy about the speech.
First, they ran a story from Jennifer Loven, which focused on the NSA's surveillance program.
I know how hard it is to write a headline that's accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three -- accurate, short and grabbing. I don't think 'domestic spying' makes it.
- General Michael Hayden, former NSA director, speaking to the National Press Club on January 23
On CBS, The Early Show opened this morning with a discussion of the NSA's electronic surveillance program on Al-Qaeda suspects that it continues to call "domestic spying." It was the first item teased at the open. Rene Syler:
Using the National Security Agency as a backdrop, President Bush today will once again defend his domestic spying program as vital to the war on terror.
Less than a minute later, as they introduced the various stories they'd be covering, it was mentioned again. Julie Chen:
As we noted, President Bush has been defending his covert program to spy on Americans, and we'll have the latest on that in just a moment.
It really is amusing, on occasion, to watch the mainstream press go after non-stories that could make the President look bad. The latest example comes from Time Magazine, all worked up about the fact that there are allegedly pictures showing President Bush with Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the center of a congressional lobbying scandal. And the AP has decided that Time's non-story is news.
Bush himself has said that he doesn't recall meeting Abramoff.
Both Washingtonian and Time magazines have reported the existence of about a half-dozen photos showing the two together, however.
The President met at the White House today with Iraqi victims of the regime of Saddam Hussein. After spending an hour or so with the victims, and families of victims, he allowed the press in for a couple of minutes. The AP decided that the most worthy piece of information on the day, the thing that belonged in the headline, was the fact that the President either mispronounced or stumbled on the word 'butcher.' They highlighted that fact in their headline, Bush Meets Victims of 'Butcherer' Saddam.
Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying that "a fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." Whether it's an actual Churchill quote or not, I'm not certain. I am certain, however, that it's an apt description of the Associated Press. They are, and have been, obsessed with the Bush administration's war on terrorism, and have repeatedly gone out of their way to drag in unrelated items to use as clubs against the Bush administration. I tire of writing that "the AP is at it again," but the AP is at it again.