Was it David Gregory, or an SNL parody of a biased liberal MSMer? The topic on this morning's Today show was whether media coverage of Iraq has presented a distorted picture. Under the circumstances, you might have thought Gregory would have feigned some facsimile of fairness. But his very first question to James Carville advanced the theory that . . . President Bush is a liar.
Asked Gregory: "Is the problem for this president and top administration officials that the public doesn't believe what they say anymore?"
Like a top point guard, Laura Ingraham tenaciously fought through the Gregory-Carville double-team to make her case. She pointed out that NBC and the Today show expended huge resources to cover the Olympics and even to answer the question "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" She suggested that they devote some of the same resources to broadcast the Today show directly from Iraq, that they accompany troops, speak with US and Iraqi military personnel and with villagers and see the reality on the ground.
Instead, pointed out Ingraham, the MSM's approach is to stand on a balcony in the Green Zone, reporting on the latest IEDs, killings and reprisals. A timorous Gregory replied: "And you think Iraq is safe enough [to do what Laura proposed]?" Ingraham: "Yes. I was not on the hotel balcony. I was out with the U.S. military. It can be done in any part of the country." Laura attempted to continue, but Gregory cut her off: "I get the anti-network point."
When Carville launched into an extended guffaw at Laura's expense, Ingraham riposted, off camera: "It's not funny." Things got testy and contentiousness, as Carville, any pretense of Southern chivalry gone, used the hackneyed line on Laura: "excuse me for speaking while you're interrupting." When Gregory asked Carville what his advice to President Bush would be, Carville 'helpfully' suggested: "Talk about the consequences of failure." That's the American spirit: DNC/MSM-style.
Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle'. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: MRC's Geoff Dickens did a fuller transcript below:
So is America getting a fair picture of what's actually happening in Iraq. Our next two guests certainly aren't shy about sharing their own opinions. Democratic strategist James Carville is the author of Take It Back and Laura Ingraham is the host of the nationally syndicated Laura Ingraham Show. She was in Iraq last month to broadcast the first national radio show back here to the United States. Good morning to both of you."
[Graphic: "4th Year Of War, Can Bush Claim Victory?"]
[James Carville: "Morning, morning."
[Laura Ingraham: "Good morning David."
Gregory: "James let me start with you. You heard the, the questions the President was asked in Cleveland yesterday. Is the problem for this president and for top administration officials the public doesn't believe what they say anymore, that they feel they're disconnected from the reality of the war?"
Carville: "I'm not sure the public cares what they say anymore. I think that might be the lesson this weekend. I'm not totally prepared to go there but I think that, that the public is starting to shut down. I think they've formed an opinion of this war. They go out there and say things are going great. Former Prime Minister Allawi who was our favorite candidate in the election says, 'what are they talking about we are in the middle of a civil war?"
Gregory: "But how can you say the public doesn't care? The public expressed a view that they want troops out."
Carville: "Well I, well I think they care, I think they care about the war. I don't think they care what the administration says because they come out and it's the same thing. 'It's the press' fault. Oh things are going better in Tal Afar than you think.' And I don't think they, they, they think that they're sort of in touch with reality or that they're gonna change anything. That's, I mean the public is, no they care desperately about the war and what's going on."
Gregory: "Right. But Laura, Laura what's your take on this, because obviously the White House has made a determination that speaking about the war candidly as they can is what's important now and yet it's clear that the President's having a hard time being heard."
Ingraham: "Well here, here's what I think David. I think with all the resources of networks like NBC. The Today show spends all this money to send people to the Olympics, which is great, it was great programming. All this money for Where In The World Is Matt Lauer? Bring the Today show to Iraq. Bring the Today show to Tal Afar. Do the show from the 4th ID at Camp Victory and then when you talk to those soldiers on the ground, when you go out with the Iraqi military, when you talk to the villagers, when you see the children, then I want NBC to report on only the IEDs, only the killings, only, only the reprisals. When people are on the ground whether it's recently, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, whether it's recently..."
Gregory: "Okay but, but Laura let's be, hold on, let's be..."
Ingraham: "Let me finish David because you got, you guys are, no, no, let me finish, let me finish..."
Gregory: "Wait a minute Laura! Wait a second! If you want to be fair. First of all the Today show went to Iraq. Matt Lauer was there, he reported there."
Ingraham: "Did he do a show, did you do a show from Iraq?"
Gregory: "Okay and we, and we've got a bureau there so..."
Ingraham: "Yeah. David, David to do a show from Iraq means to talk to the Iraqi military to go out with the Iraqi military, to actually have a conversation with the people instead of reporting from hotel balconies about the latest IEDs going off. It is very difficult in Iraq. People are struggling..."
Gregory: "And you, and you think Iraq is safe enough to, have you been there long enough to venture outside the hotel balconies?!"
Ingraham: "David, yes I did. I wasn't in a hotel balcony I was out with the U.S. military and it can be done in any part of the country. It is dangerous in the Sunni triangle..."
Gregory: "So, so Lau-..."
Ingraham: "...but NBC and networks of the United States..."
Gregory: "...Okay hold, hold, Laura, Laura, I get, I get, I get the point. I get the, I get the anti-network point. James the argument is that the media simply..." [Carville laughs]
Ingraham: "It's not funny."
Gregory: "...doesn't get it. But, but Iyad Allawi who's the, the Prime Minister, former Prime Minister said there's a civil war."
Carville: "Right, right. I think he's the former Prime Minister, we'll just stipulate for the moment that he's on the ground. Okay? He's somebody on the ground."
Ingraham: "No he actually isn't, James."
Carville: "Excuse me Laura, excuse me for speaking while you were interrupting. Now we can stipulate he's on the ground. 72 percent of the American troops say they want to get out of there within a year. I assume that they're on the ground also. Alright? Morton Van Kreveld who is the foremost military historian in the world says this is the most foolish military operation since Caesar Augustus in 9 B.C. invaded Germany. I assume he knows what he's talking about. Now the truth of the matter is we're there. It's not the media's fault that we're there. It wasn't the media that said that we would be greeted as liberators. It wasn't the media that said it was in the last throes. It's the administration that's made this policy. Why don't they come to us instead of bashing the media and blaming everybody and say, 'Look we're gonna change our policy. We're gonna bring people together. This is what we're gonna do.' Because this, all this, 'it's all the fault of NBC that this,' there are 80 reporters have been killed over there."
Ingraham: "No, James, James, James that's a little trick. That's your little trick and it's..."
Gregory: "Let me, let me redirect this guys. Let me redirect this to, to get off the media point."
Ingraham, mocking: "Yeah let's, let's get off the media."
Gregory: "Laura, Laura let's talk about the fact that we're going into the fourth year of this war. If you were advising the President, if he wanted your advice on this. You walk into the Oval Office what do you tell him now about how to redirect this effort?"
Ingraham: "I don't, I don't. I think what we're doing now in Iraq is maybe finally the right thing. The Iraqi military is taking over more of the battle space. If James had spent more time in Iraq and less time talking about how the administration is a disaster on every level he'd have a different view, I promise you. James is a smart guy. If he were there he would see it. The Iraqi military is taking over the battle space. The Iraqi military is stepping up. The Iraqi people are starting businesses across the, across the country with all of the threats of reprisals and all of the difficulty. That stands for something. That should be celebrated and that should be covered. The IEDs, yeah, cover it, cover the bombs, cover the difficulty but give a broad picture of what's happening in that country. It's a disservice to our troops and it's a disservice to everything that this country's about."
Gregory: "James let me..."
Ingraham: "Standing with people who are being oppressed and being targeted. Zarqawi wants us to go into civil war there. He wants that."
Gregory: "Okay, alright. My, my specific question James is the President wants your advice. Year Four, he's down in the polls on Iraq. What do you tell him?"
Carville: "I would say what George Will said in an excellent column Sunday, said. Mr. President nobody, because there's not gonna be a blossoming democracy that's gonna be a beacon for the world or anything like that. It's certainly not in, in the next couple of years. Talk about the consequences of failure. A regional civil war. What it could mean? You know it's not working sir, you gotta change things, you got to, you got to, you know you got to consider, maybe partitioning the country at some point. They want to be, put heat on the Iraqis. Tell them that we're not there forever, you have to take more and more control of your own country."
Ingraham: "They are taking more control."
Carville: "But I think that, that's what they have to do. All of this press bashing and this, this is silliness. About 80 reporters have died over there. And is the coverage been perfect? No but the truth of the matter is, is that by the Iraqi's own estimation they're in the middle of a civil war. We shouldn't deny facts. We shouldn't attack messengers. We should deal with facts on the ground. That's what they've refused to do. That's what their allies refuse to do. It's all this flopping around, and it's the media's fault. It's all the same stuff."
Gregory: "Alright. Debate to, to be continued. James Carville, Laura Ingraham. Thanks very much for your views."