Stephanopoulos: "For the Most Part," White House Hasn't Lied; Clift: Bush Credibility Hurt; Media Beast's "Phony" Scandal; Koppel's Rationality; CNN's Anti-Embargo Mantra
1) "For the most part, the White House has not lied here," George Stephanopoulos charged on Sunday's This Week in a discussion about the August 2001 intelligence briefing for the President. He's certainly an expert on White House lying. Last week Peter Jennings insisted Stephanopoulos has made a clean break from politics and "proved himself as a journalist."
2) Newsweek's Eleanor Clift gleefully declared on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend: "This is a big problem for the President. The luster is gone from him as a war President and as a leader. His credibility, his priorities are in question." Asked where his approval rating will stand in two weeks, Clift predicted a "precipitous drop, up to ten points."
3) "Phony" and "bogus." That's how Newsweek's Evan Thomas described the media firestorm last week over what warning President Bush supposedly got before 9/11. He suggested on Inside Washington: "The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here, that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it." NPR's Nina Totenberg conceded journalists were ahead of Democrats: "Nobody in the political establishment said
'what did they know and when did they know it?' That was us in the media."
4) Ted Koppel put the intelligence briefing in context as Chris Bury noted that Congress had the same information. And Koppel pressed Senator Dianne Feinstein about what she would have done if the FBI had used profiling to question Arab men who were taking flight lessons.
5) All the news that's fit to repeat? On Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow pointed out how news which the New York Times heralded on its front page on Saturday, about how the FBI has been aware for years that terrorists have attended flight schools, was reported by the Washington Post last September.
6) No mention of Gumbel's politics. In her 13 minute-long interview package with Bryant Gumbel for Friday's 20/20, ABC's Barbara Walters never uttered a word about his liberal political agenda.
7) To CNN's Kate Snow, the only thing standing between better relations with Cuba and the United States is not dictator Fidel Castro, but President Bush and Cuban exiles who refuse to agree with former President Carter's wish to end the embargo. She made the claim three times in Friday interviews. Given Bush's support of the embargo, she asked a Castro henchman, "is there any chance during the Bush presidency of improving the relations?"
8) As read by fighter pilots at Nellis Air Force Base, Letterman's "Top Ten Items on a Fighter Pilot's Checklist."
George Stephanopoulos, who spent years at the Clinton White House coordinating lies, on Sunday accused the Bush White House of not lying,
"for the most part," about the August 6, 2001 daily presidential intelligence briefing.
During the roundtable on This Week, Stephanopoulos charged: "They've been very careful with their words and I think, for the most part, the White House has not lied here. They're right when they say there was no specific threat as to time, place, location, all of that."
Sam Donaldson queried: "'For the most part' the White House 'has not lied'? Could you explain that?"
Stephanopoulos: "Well, there's been some mis-impressions I think over the course of the week, Sam. I think, for example, in Ari Fleischer's briefing on Thursday, when they were first talking about the memo they kept saying this was mostly about foreign sources, mostly about attacks that could occur overseas and then two days later we learn, well actually the paper was entitled 'Attacks in the United States.' Again, they didn't lie, but there was a
Well, Stephanopoulos is certainly an expert on leaving "mis-impressions" via Clintonian parsing of words.
Nonetheless, last week ABC anchor Peter Jennings assured Bill O'Reilly that Stephanopoulos, who is in line to soon become the sole host of This Week, has made a clean break from politics and "proved himself as a journalist."
In an interview on O'Reilly's radio show, which the MRC's Patrick Gregory caught when it was run on the May 15 O'Reilly Factor on FNC, Jennings insisted: "I am not much of a fan of people leaving government to come into journalism. And I do not like the revolving door between journalism and government anymore than you do. But if there's ever been a guy who's come out of an administration, who has made a cleaner break, and proved himself as a journalist than George Stephanopoulos, I don't know who it is."
That says more about Jennings than about
Recall that last year, on the July 24 Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer told Stephanopoulos: "You've been completely non-partisan in covering the news."
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift gleefully declared on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend: "This is a big problem for the President. The luster is gone from him as a war President and as a leader. His credibility, his priorities are in question." Asked where his approval rating will stand in two weeks, Clift predicted a "precipitous drop, up to ten points."
Before making her prediction, she saw light at the end of the tunnel for liberals as she hoped the public's attitude toward Bush would finally change: "The country has been almost reverential towards this President since 9/11. He's going to take care of us, he was surprised, just as you said, so that invincibility is gone and it's against the backdrop of an administration that behaves like you have no right to ask us any questions, just trust us..."
To end the program, host John McLaughlin pegged Bush's current approval level at 72 percent and asked each panelist to forecast where it will stand in two weeks, as of June 1. The predictions:
-- Michael Barone of U.S. News: "No statistically significant change."
-- Clift: "Precipitous drop, up to ten points."
-- Tony Blankley, columnist: "Up one to three or four points."
-- James Warren of the Chicago Tribune: "Down an uneventful six points."
-- McLaughlin: "His rating will be 68."
In a couple of weeks we'll know who was correct, or the least incorrect.
The media hullabaloo over how the August 6, 2001 presidential intelligence briefing contained a hijacking warning President Bush failed to heed, was "phony" and "bogus," Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas contended on Inside Washington. He suggested: "The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here, that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it." NPR's Nina Totenberg conceded journalists were ahead of Democrats in trying to create an aura of scandal: "Nobody in the political establishment said 'what did they know and when did they know it?' That was us in the media."
The remarkable admissions, which indict the integrity of the Washington press corps, occurred on Inside Washington, a panel show produced by the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate in Washington, DC, WUSA-TV, and which is syndicated nationally so it runs on many PBS stations.
Thomas declared: "This may be one of these phony-bogus stories out of which something good actually happens. The incredible alarm everybody has about how Bush should have known -- all of that is baloney. But, if it does have the impact, if all this publicity, has the impact of making the FBI change its culture to actually talk to other agencies and talk amongst themselves better, if it really is a shock to the FBI system, to make them do that, that would be a positive outcome."
Host Gordon Peterson, an anchor for WUSA-TV, was dumbstruck: "So the New York Times and the Washington Post are all falling for a fake and bogus story. Is that what you're saying?"
Thomas affirmed: "Yes, I think the media, that's exactly what I'm saying....It's not the Times and the Post so much. It's all of us. The media beast was so happy to have a scandal here, that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it."
Nina Totenberg blamed the Bush administration for the media's distortions: "Well that's because the media beast thinks, the media beast is starting to worry its given a pass for too long. But let me just say something, the Achilles heel of this administration is that it really is a secretive administration. Whether you're talking about DEA licenses for doctors that have been revoked or this sort of stuff..."
Totenberg soon conceded, however, that the media were ahead of Democrats in leading the charge: "Nobody in the political establishment said 'what did they know and when did they know it?' That was us in the media."
Thomas confirmed: "It was us."
Totenberg: "It really was us."
Those are remarkable admissions. On a story of such import, two veteran Washington reporters have charged that their colleagues put their personal interests and anger at the Bush administration ahead of accurate reporting.
For earlier CyberAlert coverage of the media-fueled controversy about one line in a memo:
Thursday's Nightline focused on the supposed warning received by the Bush team about hijackings being a potential threat, but instead of distorting the briefing, Ted Koppel put it in context as Chris Bury noted that Congress had the same information, but did nothing. And, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Koppel pressed Senator Dianne Feinstein about what she would have done if the FBI had used profiling to question Arab men who were taking flight lessons.
Koppel opened the May 16 Nightline:
"There may be no more dangerous weapon in the arsenal of politics than hindsight. Certainly in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was nothing but praise for the conduct and judgment of President Bush, although there was a minor flap about whether the President returned to Washington as quickly as he should have and a little bit of confusion over why he didn't, but fundamentally, he got high marks all around. And for several months, the 'bi' word here in Washington was bipartisanship. But as noted, hindsight inevitably offers critics a second bite at the apple. Today the White House spokesman and the President's national security advisor were trying to deal with the news that last summer, some significant time before those attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the President had received intelligence briefings that warned of potential hijackings linked to Osama bin Laden....
"At times like these, it can be difficult to remember that no one had ever deliberately flown a plane into a building before. It is easy to overlook the fact that reams of raw intelligence data inundate the FBI and CIA every day. What seems glaringly significant now could easily, and understandably, have been overlooked ten months ago. Still, Congress is stirring and the administration is twitching."
Chris Bury concluded his subsequent story: "For all the criticism coming out of Congress today, it's worth noting that senior members of the intelligence committees received briefings similar to the one the CIA gave President Bush last August, and no one here can remember any of them sounding the kind of alarm that might have foreshadowed or prevented what happened on September 11th."
Interviewing Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein about her criticism of lack of administration action last summer to potential terrorist threats, Koppel put her on the spot: "Senator, let me come to you. So you get word from one of your Arab-American constituents that the FBI is engaged in some major league profiling here. They have pulled the names of all kinds of Arabs who are engaged in the perfectly harmless pursuit of trying to get a pilot's license, or in some other way engaged in learning about airport procedure. What would you have done?"
All the news that's fit to repeat? On Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow pointed out how news which the New York Times heralded on its front page on Saturday was reported, using nearly identical language, by the Washington Post last September.
The May 18 New York Times story began: "The F.B.I. had been aware for several years that Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network were training pilots in the United States and elsewhere around the world, according to court records and interviews at flight schools and with federal law enforcement officials."
As Snow informed May 19 Fox News Sunday viewers, on September 23, 2001 the Washington Post reported: "Federal authorities have been aware for years that suspected terrorists with ties to Osama bin Laden were receiving flight training at schools in the United States and abroad, according to interviews and court testimony."
Which means President Bush was hardly made privy to information others have not had for years.
No mention of Gumbel's politics.
In her 13 minute-long interview package with Bryant Gumbel for Friday's 20/20, ABC's Barbara Walters never uttered a word about his liberal political agenda.
In Kate Snow's world, the only thing standing between better relations with Cuba and the United States is not entrenched dictator Fidel Castro's refusal to allow any personal liberties, but President Bush and Cuban exiles who refuse to agree with former President Carter's wish to end the embargo.
Check out the mantra she kept up during all three interviews she conducted which aired during the Friday, May 17, "Live from Havana" on CNN at 8pm EDT:
-- To Jimmy Carter in a taped interview: "With the Bush administration's stance clearly fairly strong on Cuba, do you worry that nothing will change in terms of the U.S.-Cuba relationship over the next three years? You've repeatedly said here that you hope that there's some change and that perhaps your visit contributes to that, but do you worry that that's not going to happen because of the current administration's policies?"
-- Live to Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban National Assembly, referring to Carter: "He clearly wants to see the United States lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba but also President Bush clearly does not want that. He's going to give a speech on Monday in Miami, in Little Havana over there, where it's expected that he will tighten this embargo. Is there any chance during the Bush presidency of improving the relations then?"
-- Live to Joe Garcia, of the Cuban American National Foundation, in Florida: "President Bush is expected, as you know, in Miami on Monday in your community to announce a tightening of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and yet there's a poll that's come out that shows that there seems to be anyway a movement away from wanting a tough embargo on Cuba among Cuban-Americans. It shows that the majority says that it should no longer be the principle tool of U.S. policy. Do you see that shift happening in the community there?"
Snow certainly hopes so.
At least now that Carter has left Cuba so too, we assume, has Snow. So no more of her stories fawning over Cuba's wonderful schools and free health care.
Previous CyberAlert items about Snow in Cuba:
-- Castro's wonderful "safety net." From Havana on Saturday, CNN's Kate Snow expressed awe at how youngsters get "incredible training" in athletics which leads to "all kinds of" Olympic medals. She oozed with envy over "how every Cuban has a family doctor. You cannot go without health care here because there's a system set up, a safety net, where, if you live in a neighborhood, you're covered by somebody." She even marveled at how some have DirecTV and "get more channels than I get at my home." For more:
-- On CNN's Monday night "Live from Havana," anchor Kate Snow fretted about the "hard line" views of President Bush and Cubans in Miami, as she hoped Jimmy Carter's visit might "moderate" the Cuban-Americans. She touted the "successes" of Cubans under Fidel Castro and she praised their schools and admired how "every Cuban has a primary care physician" who gets "to know their patients and even make house calls." And it's all free! "Everyone has access" to health care "and the concept of paying is completely foreign."
For the MRC's study by Rich Noyes, "Megaphone for a Dictator: CNN's Coverage of Castro's Cuba, 1997-2002," go to:
From the May 17 Late Show with David Letterman, as read by ten fighter pilots from the 57th Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base in Southern Nevada, the "Top Ten Items on a Fighter Pilot's Checklist." Late Show Web page:
10. "Shoo the raccoons out of the cockpit"
(Major Damon "Gump" Reynolds)
9. "Run system check on the onboard computer's Tetris game"
(Captain Craig "Bluto" Baker)
8. "Listen carefully to jet flight attendant's safety instructions"
(Major David "Redneck" Greene)
7. "Affix EZ Pass tag to the canopy with super-strong adhesive"
(Major Jeannie "Tally" Flynn)
6. "Make sure 'Top Gun' soundtrack is in CD player"
(Major Steve "Dawg" Kennel)
5. "Try to get upgraded to first class"
(Major Kirk "Krokus" Johnson)
4. "Set cockpit heads-up display to correct coordinates (just messing with ya -- I made that one up)"
(Major Sam "Spam" Milam)
3. "Flip through complimentary copy of 'Fighter Pilot' magazine"
(Major Jim "Yogi" McElhenney)
2. "Scrub off graffiti spray-painted on the aircraft by local punks"
(Major Drew "Baker" English)
1. "If it's a nice day then put the top down, dude"
(Captain Juras "Drag" Jansons)
> Tonight, Monday May 20, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: FNC's Bill O'Reilly. Scheduled Tuesday night on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman: ABC's Diane Sawyer.
-- Brent Baker
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