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The 2,110th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
11:55am EST, Wednesday December 21, 2005 (Vol. Ten; No. 223)

 
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1. Cafferty: "If You Listen Carefully, You Can Hear...Impeachment"
CNN on Tuesday afternoon gave credibility to the ruminations from a few hardcore leftists that President Bush should be impeached over authorizing, without prior court approval, eavesdropping on people within U.S. borders communicating with those abroad who have ties to al-Qaeda. Both Jack Cafferty and anchor Wolf Blitzer raised the subject during the 4pm EST hour of The Situation Room. Cafferty's question of the hour: "Do you think it's an impeachable offense for the President to authorize domestic spying without a warrant?" He set that up by insisting that "if you listen carefully, you can hear the word impeachment." He asserted that "two congressional Democrats are using it, and they're not the only ones," referring to how "Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to legal experts yesterday asking if they think the President's wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant is a quote, 'impeachable offense,' unquote." Cafferty cited the claims of John Dean and touted how Newsweek's Jonathan Alter "says that similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974."

2. MSNBC's Countdown Also Circulates Bush Impeachment Possibility
Tuesday night on MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann's substitute host Alison Stewart featured an interview with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer discussing the possibility of impeaching President Bush over the current NSA spying controversy. Quoting a recent statement by former Nixon White House counsel John Dean that Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense," Stewart interviewed Boxer about her inquiries into impeachment without a rebuttal from any conservative guest. Instead, Stewart followed up with an appearance by Newsweek correspondent Richard Wolffe. Citing a column by "my pal," Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Stewart raised the charge that "the only reason that the President did not want the NSA program to become public knowledge was because it was embarrassing and it would make trouble, not because it threatens national security."

3. Jonathan Alter: "Snoopgate" Leaker a "Patriot," Bush "a Dictator"
In a "Web-exclusive commentary" posted Monday night on a Newsweek page buried inside MSNBC.com, the magazine's Jonathan Alter charged that, in what he dubbed "Snoopgate," we are "seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator." The all-knowing Alter insisted that President Bush's "comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious." Alter alleged that "rather than the leaking being a 'shameful act,' it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab." In Alter's world, Bush wanted the New York Times to suppress the story "because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker." Looking to the future, Alter predicted that "if the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974."

4. After Full Story on Bush's Low Approval, ABC's GMA Buries Rebound
As one might have suspected, ABC's Good Morning America did not grant nearly the same amount of coverage to President Bush's improving poll numbers in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, as they did to his declining ratings over a month ago when the program unfavorably compared Bush's low approval numbers to LBJ's during the Vietnam war. The new ABC poll, which shows Bush's approval rating rising eight points to 47 percent, was hidden in a two-sentence story read Tuesday by news anchor Robin Roberts shortly before 7:15am. In contrast, an earlier ABC News poll showing Bush's approval rating down to 39 percent merited a full report from national correspondent Claire Shipman on November 4. In that story, Shipman declared that while the 39 percent rating was "grim," the noteworthy story from the poll was "the White House hemorrhaging on those issues of trust and credibility." Shipman reported that "just 40 percent call President Bush honest and trustworthy," which she deemed "extremely bad news." But on Tuesday, GMA failed to point out how Bush's trust and credibility level had rebounded to 49 percent.

5. Embedded Journalist Learns Troops in Iraq "Don't Trust Reporters"
"Dozens of GIs and Marines I've spoken with allow as how they just don't trust reporters," Dennis Anderson, Editor of Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, Calif, who was twice embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq, disclosed in a Saturday Editor & Publisher posting.


 

Cafferty: "If You Listen Carefully, You
Can Hear...Impeachment"

     CNN on Tuesday afternoon gave credibility to the ruminations from a few hardcore leftists that President Bush should be impeached over authorizing, without prior court approval, eavesdropping on people within U.S. borders communicating with those abroad who have ties to al-Qaeda. Both Jack Cafferty and anchor Wolf Blitzer raised the subject during the 4pm EST hour of The Situation Room. Cafferty's question of the hour: "Do you think it's an impeachable offense for the President to authorize domestic spying without a warrant?" He set that up by insisting that "if you listen carefully, you can hear the word impeachment." He asserted that "two congressional Democrats are using it, and they're not the only ones," referring to how "Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to legal experts yesterday asking if they think the President's wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant is a quote, 'impeachable offense,' unquote." Cafferty cited the claims of John Dean and touted how Newsweek's Jonathan Alter "says that similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974."

     See item #3 below for more on Alter's rant.

     Sandwiched between Cafferty's question and his reading of e-mail replies, Blitzer set up a live interview with Boxer on Capitol Hill: "Some Democrats now are raising the possibility that Mr. Bush's authorization of the plan may be an actual impeachable offense. Joining us now, one of the staunchest critics, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Precisely, Senator Boxer, where do you stand on this very sensitive issue of impeachment?" Blitzer did, however, soon move on to challenging Democratic spin on the "domestic spying" matter.

     [This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

     The MRC's Megan McCormack caught CNN's interest in highlighting impeachment calls and she provided a transcript:

     At about 4:12pm EST on The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty, from Manhattan, raised the subject as he explained his question of the hour:
     "If you listen carefully, you can hear the word impeachment. Two congressional Democrats are using it, and they're not the only ones. Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to legal exerts yesterday asking if they think the President's wiretapping of phone calls without a warrant is a quote, 'impeachable offense,' unquote. Boxer was on a radio show over the weekend with Nixon's former White House counsel John Dean. According to her, Dean said that Mr. Bush is the first president to admit to an impeachable offense. A Democratic representative from Georgia, John Lewis said in a radio interview, the President should be impeached if he broke the law. And Jonathan Alter points out in a piece in Newsweek magazine that if the Democrats get control of the House and Senate next year, impeachment is a possibility. He says that similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974. But according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, top Senate Republicans consider even the talk of impeachment to be irresponsible and Democrats like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry say it's not time to talk about impeachment yet. So here's the question: 'Do you think it's an impeachable offense for the President to authorize domestic spying without a warrant?' You can e-mail us at Caffertyfile@cnn.com or you can go to CNN.com/cafferty file."
     Wolf Blitzer, in DC, predicted: "You're going to get a lot of good e-mail on this, both sides and maybe some other sides as well, Jack. Thanks very much."

     Then at about 4:35pm EST, Blitzer introduced Boxer:

     "We'll go back now to the unfolding controversy here in Washington over the President's plan to eavesdrop on terror suspects without court warrants. Some Democrats now are raising the possibility that Mr. Bush's authorization of the plan may be an actual impeachable offense. Joining us now, one of the staunchest critics, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Precisely, Senator Boxer, where do you stand on this very sensitive issue of impeachment?"
     Senator Barbara Boxer, from Capitol Hill: "Well, I stand on this ground. I was at an event with John Dean and if your, I think your viewers remember him, or at least they've read about him, he was, of course, the White House counsel when Richard Nixon faced impeachment hearings and, of course, he resigned before them, had to do with abuse of power. And we were both asked about this question of surveillance on American citizens without a warrant. And I was very cautious in what I said. I said, look, it's worrisome to me. I don't see where he has the right in the court, in the law to do this. And I called for hearings and I said it was great that Arlen Specter said we would have hearings. John Dean said it was the first time he had heard a president admit to an impeachable offense. And it, it took me back because I think he certainly is one of the most knowledgeable people on executive abuse of power. So what I did was, I took his statement, I got permission from him to use it and I sent it off to four scholars, constitutional scholars, to see what they think, and I'm calling for hearings on this."
     Blitzer: "So you're not ready at this point to say that he should be impeached."
     Boxer: "Oh, no, but I do have tremendous respect for John Dean on this question, and he felt very strongly. The other thing I've done is, I've spoken, for example, to Senator Joe Biden who wrote the very law that is supposed to be followed here. He's very, very concerned. You know, all this talk by the President and the Vice President, oh, we don't have time to go to a court. There's emergencies here. Well, I'm sure it's true, but that's why our law allows a president to go right away and apply for those warrants retroactively within 72 hours. There is no excuse why they can't subject themselves to checks and balances in behalf of the American people to protect us, of course, from any threat, but also to protect our liberties and our freedoms."

     Blitzer moved on to some challenges to Democratic spin:
     "The Democratic minority leaders in the Senate and the House, as well as the ranking Democrats on the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate, were all informed by the White House, specifically by Vice President Cheney, about what was going on. Do you feel they were negligent in not reacting more vocally or aggressively, behind the scenes, under a classified nature to try to stop this?"
     Boxer: "Well, that's the point. They did. If you, if you, saw today where Jay Rockefeller, one of the people who was, quote unquote, €˜informed' was very concerned about this. And happily, I am so happy he did this, he caught the Vice President in another, if I might say, untruth. The Vice President said, oh, no one said a word about this, everyone, you know, essentially agreed. Jay Rockefeller wrote a letter, in his own handwriting, cause he was prohibited from telling anyone about this. He wrote a letter to the Vice President and put it in a safe in the Intelligence, Senate Intelligence Committee room and brought it out, where he's telling the Vice President in this letter, I have serious concerns about this. I'm very worried about this. So that's another fact, you know, that just is not in evidence that the people agreed with, that they didn't."
     Blitzer: "On that point, Senator Roberts of Kansas, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee disputes that point. He says that Rockefeller, who was the vice chairman, he said, 'I have never heard any objection from him about this valuable program.' Roberts goes on to say, 'now when it appears to be politically advantageous, Senator Rockefeller has chosen to release his two and a half year old letter. Forgive me if I find this to be inconsistent and a bit disingenuous.' So he's, he's challenging Senator Rockefeller."
     Boxer: "Well, let me just say, well, that is just tragic, because if Senator Rockefeller had come out with this before, he could have been kicked out of the United States Senate. This was highly classified-"
     Blitzer: "But he could spoken with Senator Roberts about it."
     Boxer: "Well, no, you don't talk to anyone about it."
     Blitzer: "But Roberts was, Roberts was informed also. So was-"
     Boxer: "Wolf, Wolf, let's get to the facts here. You know, if, if, if Senator Roberts has a problem with Senator Rockefeller, fine. But the bottom line is Dick Cheney said everyone who was briefed just went along with this. They were told. No one complained. That is a falsehood, on its face. It's absolutely a falsehood. And then the President, last year in April of '05, talks and it looked to me like it was off-the-cuff, reassures the American people, don't worry. When we spy on you, we always get a warrant. So, you know, this is a very serious situation here. And the facts will speak for themselves. You know, the greatest thing about America is the truth always comes out. And especially when there's lots of people who are after the truth. Lots of people are after the truth, and I think we will find out exactly why they couldn't take time to get a check and balance on their work, go to the court. Again, the court has a history of always granting these warrants, except in the most unusual circumstances. They even had a way to do it retroactively and yet they didn't do that."

     Just before the end of the hour, Cafferty returned with the replies:
     "Question of the hour is this: 'Do you think it's an impeachable offense, impeachable, for the President to authorize domestic spying without a warrant?' Tom in Washington, Virginia, writes, 'Yes, I do think that unauthorized wiretaps are an impeachable offense as Nixon proved. Mr. Bush's contemptible administration believes that a frightened populace is more easily malleable, so they forever wave the bloody shirt of 9/11 to justify doing, well, just about anything they want. And if you disagree, then you're helping the terrorists win. But when was the divine right of kings reinstated? Did I miss a meeting somewhere?' Zach in Chevy Chase, Maryland, 'While the authorization of the spying itself might not be an impeachable offense, it is certainly unconstitutional as it skips the check and balance of judicial review. Whether or not you trust Bush now to only spy on terrorists is irrelevant. If this surveillance is found to be legal, any future president can spy on Americans for any purpose without any oversight.' Michael in Redwood City, 'It's certainly more of an impeachable offense than was Bill Clinton's affair with Monica. George learned from Bill's experience though and avoided the perjury trap by admitting his transgression up front, and then challenging us to do something about it. He probably won't be impeached, too many Republicans in Congress for that, but history won't be kind to him either.' Joe in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 'Absolutely not. The constitution grants no right to privacy. The courts have. Why don't we just hand over the entire playbook to the terrorists? The mainstream media seems to every time a covert procedure could gain an advantage.' Palm in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Pam, rather, 'Does this mean Watergate was not a crime?' And Lance in Madison, Wisconsin, 'I'd love to chime in on your question today, but I believe my e-mails are being tapped, so I'll refrain from answering.'"
     Blitzer quipped: "Maybe Lance knows something we don't know, thanks very much, Jack."

 

MSNBC's Countdown Also Circulates Bush
Impeachment Possibility

     Tuesday night on MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann's substitute host Alison Stewart featured an interview with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer discussing the possibility of impeaching President Bush over the current NSA spying controversy. Quoting a recent statement by former Nixon White House counsel John Dean that Bush is "the first President to admit to an impeachable offense," Stewart interviewed Boxer about her inquiries into impeachment without a rebuttal from any conservative guest. Instead, Stewart followed up with an appearance by Newsweek correspondent Richard Wolffe. Citing a column by "my pal," Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Stewart raised the charge that "the only reason that the President did not want the NSA program to become public knowledge was because it was embarrassing and it would make trouble, not because it threatens national security."

     Stewart plugged the Boxer segment in the opening teaser, conveying that "most on the left are critical of Mr. Bush and what he did. And now they are doing something about it." She then opened the show: "It's the first mention of impeachment since the President acknowledged authorizing the NSA to spy on certain Americans without a warrant. Senator Barbara Boxer of California advancing the 'I' word after former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said that the President, in admitting he authorized the NSA spy program, Mr. Bush became, quote, 'the first President to admit to an impeachable offense,' end quote."

     [This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your views, go to: newsbusters.org ]

     After relaying Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller's criticism of the program and White House press secretary Scott McClellan's defense of it, Stewart proceeded to play a pre-recorded interview with Boxer which gave the Democratic Senator a forum to make her case against the President, after which Stewart set up her interview with Wolffe. Stewart raised Alter's assertions about the President's motivations for lobbying the New York Times not to print the story as being about the "appearance of illegality." Stewart later asked Wolffe: "Jonathan Alter wrote in a Newsweek commentary that the only reason that the President did not want the NSA program to become public knowledge was because it was embarrassing and it would make trouble, not because it threatens national security. Does this fall into any pattern in this White House for dealing with sticky situations?"

     For Alter's online rant: www.msnbc.msn.com

     Wolffe agreed, "Well, it sure does," and expressed his belief that "I'd agree to some extent with Jon Alter in saying that this is more of a political problem than it is about national security in the end because...al-Qaeda and Bin Laden himself are fully aware that this government and the United States, in general, eavesdrops on communications." Wolffe concluded that "national security, it's not the problem here. It's politics and the law."

     A complete transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday December 20 Countdown:

     Alison Stewart, in opening teaser: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? I spy: At least the administration does. While some on the right are defending the President's position, most on the left are critical of Mr. Bush and what he did. And now they are doing something about it. Senator Barbara Boxer is asking about impeachment. And she is our guest tonight."

     Stewart, opening the show: "And good evening. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. It's the first mention of impeachment since the President acknowledged authorizing the NSA to spy on certain Americans without a warrant. Senator Barbara Boxer of California advancing the 'I' word after former Nixon White House counsel John Dean said that the President, in admitting he authorized the NSA spy program, Mr. Bush became, quote, 'the first President to admit to an impeachable offense,' end quote. Our fifth story on the Countdown, Senator Boxer is now calling for a, quote, 'full airing of this matter by the Senate.' My interview with her in just a moment. This was just the latest salvo in the surveillance situation. Democratic Representative John Lewis also called for the President to be impeached of it turns out that he broke the law."

     After covering Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller's criticism of the President's use of the NSA program and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's defense of it, Stewart continued:
     "The administration standing by its position that the program is perfectly legal. As I mentioned earlier, John Dean disagrees. And now Senator Barbara Boxer has written to four presidential scholars for their opinion on this impeachment issue. I spoke with her earlier this evening."

     Stewart, in pre-recorded segment: "And Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you so much for joining us."
     Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA): "Nice to be with you."
     Stewart: "Now, what specifically did you ask these presidential scholars to consider, and have you heard back from any of them?"
     Boxer: "I sent the presidential scholars a quote from John Dean, who was the White House counsel during Watergate and, in my belief, is probably the ultimate expert on what an abuse of power by a President means. And he said very clearly at a forum that I was with him on Sunday, he said at this forum, that he said that President Bush was the first President he knew to admit to an impeachable offense. I was taken aback. I mean, I knew this was serious, spying on our own citizens without a warrant, but, you know, I was amazed to hear him say that. I asked if I could quote him. He said absolutely. He has since confirmed it. And I have asked these scholars to get back to me. But in the meantime, there's lots of other things that we need to do, which is to hold hearings on this. I think it's very important. It's, to me, more important than the Supreme Court justice hearing. That can wait. Sandra Day O'Connor is willing to sit on the bench as long as it takes. This is a question of the rights, liberties and freedoms of the American people being abused, and clearly so."
     Stewart: "Now, aside from raising the specter of impeachment and getting some news coverage with this letter, what is it you really want to accomplish here?"
     Boxer: "Well, I did not raise the specter of impeachment. John Dean did. And I think anyone who is alive and with a pulse knows that when Richard Nixon's former White House counsel says this is an impeachable offense, you ought to get some information. If I were to not to do that, I don't think I deserve to be in the U.S. Senate. So what I'm hoping to do is to definitely let people know that this is very serious. Plus we have added to this the fact that the President in April of '04, two years after this program started, went out of his way to tell the American people in a speech, 'Don't worry, we always get a warrant from a judge to check us.' We also have a situation where the Vice President said he never heard a word of dissent from any member of Congress. Today, we saw a handwritten letter written by Senator Jay Rockefeller, who was the Democratic ranking member on intelligence, the actual vice chair of the committee, saying he was very, very concerned about this program. And lastly, you have the President saying, 'Look, we can't sit around and wait for a court. There are emergencies.' Well, I read the law today. And under the FISA law which controls this, there's a separate section that Joe Biden wrote, he wrote the whole law, that says in emergency you can go ahead and spy on an American citizen. It just, you need 72 hours to go back and get the approval from a judge. So there's many troubling things about this."
     Stewart later asked: "Now, Senator, why wouldn't this fall under what the administration is saying, 'the use of necessary force,' that the Constitution allows the government to listen in on telephone calls during wartime?"
     Boxer: "Yes, it does, and they have to go back and get the agreement of a FISA court. And here's the thing: They just don't want to be bothered because I think they think no one is wiser than they. They don't want to have any check on what they do. They are, at this point, unchecked. And this is not what our founders, you know, wanted for this country. They wanted to have a government of, by, and for the people, and to protect all of us from overreaching. If Barbara Boxer overreaches, the President has a veto. If President Bush overreaches, there's a FISA court. That's what's built into our Constitution, and it's been revered by all of us, and to see it being disregarded is outrageous, especially since the excuses they're giving just don't hold up."
     Stewart: "And, Senator, I know we're running out of time, but I do want to ask you this one last question. In the White House press briefing today, Scott McClellan said Congress was fully briefed on this program. Were you?"
     Boxer: "Absolutely not. We know that only a few people were told about it. They objected. And their objections were just thrown in the ash can, and that's the truth. I should say the trash can."
     Stewart: "Senator Barbara Boxer, thanks so much for spending some time with us."
     Boxer: "Thanks a lot."
     Stewart: "And we will follow up on Senator Boxer's assertions in just a moment, but consider the appearance of illegality. One of the reasons, according to Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, that President Bush personally intervened to try and stop the NSA story from ever becoming public earlier this month. According to the report, back on December 6, President Bush called the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger, and the executive editor, Bill Keller, called them to the Oval Office and personally asked them not to run the story. After holding it a year, the New York Times ran the story ten days later."

     After covering the President's failure to improve his poll numbers despite recent efforts, Stewart continued:
     "At this point, let's bring in Newsweek White House correspondent Richard Wolffe. And, Richard, let's take a look at just those three stories we reported on. Barbara Boxer writing to scholars to see if the President has done something impeachable, wrangling over the legality of this NSA story and less than stellar poll numbers. Okay, is that a fair snapshot of what's going on with the President or is it a press pile-on? What do you think?"
     Richard Wolffe, Newsweek: "Well, you know, the end of this year was supposed to be, as the White House wanted it, to be a Bush comeback story, and, you know, there are some wrinkles in that comeback. Obviously, the polls have not picked up in the way they would have wanted to. There was supposed to be a surge in those polls, and this NSA story, while it's obscure and rather technical, it certainly complicated this whole presentation of the President as being the tough commander-in-chief who will do anything. You know, there are limits to what people expect of a President in a time of war."
     Stewart: "Well, your colleague, and full disclosure, my pal, Jonathan Alter wrote in a Newsweek commentary that the only reason that the President did not want the NSA program to become public knowledge was because it was embarrassing and it would make trouble, not because it threatens national security. Does this fall into any pattern in this White House for dealing with sticky situations?"
     Wolffe: "Well, sure it does. You know, the President likes playing the national security card, and frankly, you could see it in his press conference. He has gotten, in some ways, he's got the Democrats where he wants them to be because he can say that you're playing with the security of the nation, and it's all about politics, but, you know, I'd agree to some extent with Jon Alter in saying that this is more of a political problem than it is about national security in the end because, as the President pointed out himself, al-Qaeda and Bin Laden himself are fully aware that this government and the United States in general eavesdrops on communications. The question is can they do it without a court warrant or not. And, frankly, for al-Qaeda, that's irrelevant, so national security, it's not the problem here. It's politics and the law."
     Stewart: "All right. When I spoke to Senator Boxer earlier, she referred to a presidential speech from April of 2004 when he said this:"
     George W. Bush: "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires a, a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
     Stewart: "Now the White House says the President was talking specifically about the Patriot Act in that instance. Now, is that explanation going to fly?"
     Wolffe: "Well, it flies in the sense that, look, this was a highly-classified program, and he wasn't about to declassify material in the middle of a presidential campaign, but it's embarrassing. It adds to the political problems he faces, so it doesn't fly politically. But, you know, if he was guarding secrets, then there is some justification for him."

 

Jonathan Alter: "Snoopgate" Leaker a
"Patriot," Bush "a Dictator"

     In a "Web-exclusive commentary" posted Monday night on a Newsweek page buried inside MSNBC.com, the magazine's Jonathan Alter charged that, in what he dubbed "Snoopgate," we are "seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator." The all-knowing Alter insisted that President Bush's "comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious." Alter alleged that "rather than the leaking being a 'shameful act,' it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab." In Alter's world, Bush wanted the New York Times to suppress the story "because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker." Looking to the future, Alter predicted that "if the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974."
     An excerpt from "Bush's Snoopgate," Alter's rant posted on December 19: Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate -- he made it seem as if those who didn't agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda -- but it will not work. We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War....

The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists -- in fact, all American Muslims, period -- have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that "the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy." But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a "shameful act," it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story -- which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year -- because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had "legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force." But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force" in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism....

This will all play out eventually in congressional committees and in the United States Supreme Court. If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974.

In the meantime, it is unlikely that Bush will echo President Kennedy in 1961. After JFK managed to tone down a New York Times story by Tad Szulc on the Bay of Pigs invasion, he confided to Times editor Turner Catledge that he wished the paper had printed the whole story because it might have spared him such a stunning defeat in Cuba.

This time, the president knew publication would cause him great embarrassment and trouble for the rest of his presidency. It was for that reason -- and less out of genuine concern about national security -- that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story.

     END of Excerpt

     For Alter's diatribe in full:
    www.msnbc.msn.com

 

After Full Story on Bush's Low Approval,
ABC's GMA Buries Rebound

     As one might have suspected, ABC's Good Morning America did not grant nearly the same amount of coverage to President Bush's improving poll numbers in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, as they did to his declining ratings over a month ago when the program unfavorably compared Bush's low approval numbers to LBJ's during the Vietnam war. The new ABC poll, which shows Bush's approval rating rising eight points to 47 percent, was hidden in a two-sentence story read Tuesday by news anchor Robin Roberts shortly before 7:15am. In contrast, an earlier ABC News poll showing Bush's approval rating down to 39 percent merited a full report from national correspondent Claire Shipman on November 4. In that story, Shipman declared that while the 39 percent rating was "grim," the noteworthy story from the poll was "the White House hemorrhaging on those issues of trust and credibility." Shipman reported that "just 40 percent call President Bush honest and trustworthy," which she deemed "extremely bad news." But on Tuesday, GMA failed to point out how Bush's trust and credibility level had rebounded to 49 percent.

     The ABCNews.com posting of the latest survey results: abcnews.go.com

     [This item, by the MRC's Megan McCormack, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To add your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

     Robin Roberts delivered this short item on the December 20 GMA: "The President's latest efforts to shore up support for the war in Iraq may be working. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Mr. Bush's approval rating at 47 percent, the highest in six months."

     As recounted in the November 8 CyberAlert, Shipman had compared Bush's low approval ratings with Lyndon Johnson's during Vietnam, with side-by-side pictures of the two Presidents. A full transcript of her November 4 GMA story:

     Diane Sawyer: "Some headlines are setting off a fire alarm in Washington this morning. Because, as we said, there is a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that has the President with his worst overall job approval rating ever--60 percent disapproving, which is the highest disapproval rate for any president since the first President Bush was voted out of office. But, here is something brand new. An issue the President thought he could always count on is starting to crack and senior national correspondent Claire Shipman is in Washington with that, Claire."
     Claire Shipman: "Diane, a 39 percent approval rating is grim, but the real headline from this new poll is that the White House is hemorrhaging on those issues of trust and credibility. And for a White House, as you mention, that made its name on the issue of trust, it's coming back to haunt them in a big way. The opinion of his presidency is moving from bad to worse. His credentials for honesty, morals and leadership under broad fire. For the first time less than half of those polled, just 40 percent, call President Bush honest and trustworthy. Extremely bad news for a man who fought his way into the White House on the very issue of trust."
     President George W. Bush, 2000 convention: "If you give me your trust, I will honor it."
     David Frum: "This is an administration that is embattled and Americans are worried and unhappy and they express that by casting doubt about, on almost everything the administration does."
     Shipman: "And this mean season is trickling down, leaving many inside the White House feeling bruised and vulnerable."
     David Gregory: "You were wrong, weren't you?"
     Scott McClellan: "Again, David-"
     Shipman: "Like Press Secretary Scott McClellan who was assured by Rove and Libby they were not involved in the leak case and who then repeated those assurances to the press."
     Terry Moran: "Your credibility has been damaged by this."
     Shipman: "The poll points to a number of reasons for the damaging credibility slide. The CIA leak case involving the President's top men, 7 in 10 Americans call it serious. Iraq, nearly three years in and 2,000 dead. Skepticism reigns. Fifty-five percent of Americans think President Bush misled the public. Katrina, only a minority of Americans now see President Bush as a strong leader. Gas prices, his disapproval on the economy is the worst since his father's. But the best overall comparison may be between two wartime Presidents. President Bush's drop in approval ratings mirrors none so closely as Lyndon Johnson's as he became further enmeshed in Vietnam. And we're hearing something unusual these days from this normally tight lipped, loyal White House. The sound of grumbling. Some of it about the role of Karl Rove, the President's top strategist, whether his departure might in fact help staunch this devastating loss of trust."

 

Embedded Journalist Learns Troops in
Iraq "Don't Trust Reporters"

     "Dozens of GIs and Marines I've spoken with allow as how they just don't trust reporters," Dennis Anderson, Editor of Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, Calif, who was twice embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq, disclosed in a Saturday Editor & Publisher posting.

     Greg Sheffield of NewsBusters caught Anderson's article and on Tuesday posted a blog item on it: newsbusters.org

     An excerpt from the top of Anderson's December 17 posting:

Not that reporters are particularly trusted anyway, but as a class of people having a high and visible participation in the war in Iraq, dozens of GIs and Marines I've spoken with allow as how they just don't trust reporters.

There was Staff Sgt. Cory Blackwell of Lancaster, recently headed for his second tour in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division, nicknamed the "Ivy Division" and "The Regulars."

Blackwell, 27, is a professional soldier. He holds the customary glum view of professional news gatherers in the Iraq war.

"We tried to stay away from them," he said. "You had the feeling that whatever you might be doing, they wanted to catch you at something on tape. That would make their career."

Blackwell related that when the camera crews showed up, some helpful GI in his squad would give directions -- directing the crew to the location of a nearby unit. "We'd just say, 'Hey, go down the street there with second squad...it's gonna be awesome.'"

When the news crew scurried off on the decoy tip, they were out of the high and tight hair of the unit that sent them packing.

Funny with reporters: If there's a good one on the ground, the word gets around. It's similar to how it goes with your congressional representative. People may believe Congress is doing a lousy job, but they like their own congressman who they keep sending back, time after time.

That, in a way, is how it is with the embedded corps of reporters....

     END of Excerpt

     For the piece in full: www.editorandpublisher.com


     # Merry Christmas. This may be the last CyberAlert until next week, though, if there's no regular CyberAlert, on Thursday and Friday I will distribute CyberAlert Specials, with items from our Web sites, to e-mail subscribers.

-- Brent Baker

 


 


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