Bush Guilty of “Hurling Insults” at Castro; Warnings to “Distract” Attention?; NBC Exploited Kid’s Letter to Bush; Hezbollah Terrorist?; Gephardt’s Excuse: I Was Just Parroting Katie Couric
1) ABC’s Terry Moran claimed that President Bush “took a hard rhetorical line on Fidel Castro, hurling insults at the Cuban leader.” The insult? Apparently that Bush referred to Castro as “a
relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison.”
2) ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night raised claims that new Bush administration warnings about terrorist attacks are an effort to “distract” or “deflect” attention from controversy over what it knew and didn’t do before September 11th. Dan Rather asserted the new warnings come as intelligence agencies and President Bush “are facing new questions about possible missed opportunities to alert the public before the September 11th terror attacks.”
3) Peter Jennings again separated himself from the idea Hezbollah is terrorist as he noted it is a group “which the government calls a terrorist organization.”
4) Saturday’s Today showcased a seven-year-old who wrote a letter to President Bush which asked: “Did you know 9/11 was going to happen? If you did, why didn't you stop bin Laden?” The New York Times heralded the girl as “more...prescient than most people twice her age.” Today’s Soledad O’Brien exploited the girl for a political cause as she trumpeted the “beautiful, bright, smart seven year old girl who just three months ago decided she was going to ask the President a very important question.”
5) Media Reality Check. “Pushing a 'Phony, Bogus’ Anti-Bush Story; Newsweek Editor Reveals: 'The Media Beast Was So Happy...We All Jumped Up and Down.’” Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift claimed: “What we learned this week is the President is not entirely blameless.”
6) Dick Gephardt’s impugning of President Bush by using “what did he know and when did he know it” language was Katie Couric’s fault. Morton Kondracke reported Monday night on FNC that “the Gephardt people” are blaming his rhetoric on his simply mimicking what he heard Couric proclaim that morning on NBC’s Today.
President Bush “took a hard rhetorical line on Fidel Castro, hurling insults at the Cuban leader,” ABC’s Terry Moran claimed on Monday’s World News Tonight. The insult? Moran played a clip of Bush referring to Castro as “a relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison.”
Sounds pretty accurate.
Moran began his piece on Bush’s speech in Miami marking the 100th anniversary of Cuba’s independence:
“The President today took a hard rhetorical line on Fidel Castro hurling insults at the Cuban leader.”
George W. Bush: “-by a relic from another era who has turned a beautiful island into a prison.”
Moran: “And in Miami later Mr. Bush rallied Cuban Americans.”
Bush: “Viva Cuba libre!”
Moran proceeded to explain, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: “Aides admit the President’s approach is not a new policy, and there’s little chance Castro will respond to his initiative. Mr. Bush declared the U.S. would ease the trade and travel ban with Cuba if and only if the Castro regime undertook specific reforms including allowing opposition parties in the upcoming 2003 Cuban elections, releasing all political prisoners, and permitting independent trade unions.”
Bush: “Meaningful reform on Cuba’s part will be answered with a meaningful American response.”
Moran raised Democratic objections: “Mr. Bush stands in stark contrast to President Jimmy Carter who just returned from a trip to Cuba in which he called for an easing of the embargo. Many Democrats accused President Bush of lacking vision.”
Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Foreign Relations Committee): “The U.S. Congress and the American people are not frozen in the past. As it would appear, President Bush and Fidel Castro are. We are working for change, change in our policies.”
Moran: “Many Republicans, especially from farm states, are also pushing for change supporting legislation to provide federal financing for agricultural deals with Havana. Mr. Bush rejected that idea.”
Bush: “No, I will not allow our taxpayers’ money to go to enrich the Castro regime, and I’m willing to use my veto.”
Moran concluded by noting a political motivation for Bush’s approach: “Aides say today’s announcement was the culmination of a long-running policy review at the White House and reflects Mr. Bush’s deeply held concerns. But, Peter, there is also no question that taking a tough line on Cuba will help the President’s brother Jeb with Cuban Americans in his reelection effort, and tonight the President will raise $2 million from the Cuban American community towards that effort.”
To various degrees the three broadcast network evening shows on Monday night suggested new Bush administration warnings about terrorist attacks are motivated by an effort to “distract” or “deflect” attention from controversy over what it knew and didn’t do before September 11th.
The new warnings come, Dan Rather asserted, “as leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies, the FBI and in some cases President Bush, are facing new questions about possible missed opportunities to alert the public before the September 11th terror attacks.”
Brian Ross wrapped up a May 20 World News Tonight story on ABC about how FBI Director Robert Mueller said suicide bombing attacks, like those which occur in Israel, are “inevitable” in the U.S.: “Despite the public warnings of the FBI director today and the Vice President yesterday, the official threat status in the country remains as it has been since March when the administration announced its color code system. Yellow, Peter, which stands for a significant, but not high threat of a terror attack.”
That prompted anchor Peter Jennings to query: “Which leads me to a question I’ve heard several times today. Do we believe this is new and valid information, or, as some people have asked, is it the Bush administration trying to distract people’s attention from the fact that it’s been criticized severely in the last little while?”
Ross replied: “Well, it’s some of both. This is new information that the law enforcement officials we’re talking to say they have decided to put out much more than they ever have before in a public way, but it also has the benefit of distracting attention from the signals the administration so badly missed prior to September 11th.”
Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News: “Suddenly there’s a flurry of government warnings about more suicide attacks against this country and it people. They are vague about times and places, but the warnings are coming in waves now, and they come as leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies, the FBI and in some cases President Bush, are facing new questions about possible missed opportunities to alert the public before the September 11th terror attacks.”
On the NBC Nightly News, Lisa Myers led her story: “Democrats have toned down their public criticisms of the President, but not their private doubts. Today some Democrats suggested that new warnings of future terrorist attacks may be politically motivated, designed to change the subject and deflect attention from the President’s conduct prior to 9/11.”
Monday morning on Today, the MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Ann Curry asked Tim Russert: "Do you think at the same time the Bush administration is stepping forward with these new warnings, are they politically motivated so that the Bush administration seems even less likely that its, that its withholding information from the American people?"
Russert answered: "They are insisting, they are not quote, 'playing games.' That this is a dead serious effort to try to condition the country for, what they believe a, a terrorist attack. Not if but when, in the words of Vice President Cheney. Ann as these things are, unfold it's gonna be very, very clear that the FBI and the CIA do need to coordinate better between themselves. It's gonna be very clear that memos at the lower-level of those agencies must find their way to the upper-echelons and ultimately the President's desk. But it appears that any attempt to replay events pre-September 11th, 20/20 hindsight is being rejected politically by the American people as detrimental to George W. Bush."
Russert didn’t bite at Curry’s point, but in general the administration can’t win. Offer no warning and they are criticized. Provide a warning and they are criticized. And note that for all the claims that if people had been warned last summer about a hijacking threat fewer would have been on planes on September 11th, no one is fleeing high-rise apartment buildings despite the warning about a threat to them.
Peter Jennings again separated himself from the idea Hezbollah is terrorist as he noted it is a group “which the government calls a terrorist organization.”
On the May 20 World News Tonight, Jennings read this short item: “In North Carolina two men went on trial for smuggling cigarettes to allegedly help the group Hezbollah in Lebanon, which the government calls a terrorist organization. Their lawyer says it will be extremely hard to find an impartial jury.”
This wasn’t the first time Jennings has gone to great lengths to distance himself from the claim that Hezbollah is terrorist. On the March 27 World News Tonight, he treated the characterization of Hezbollah as terrorist as some kind of charge for which the Bush administration is out on a limb: “The Bush administration says Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.” Airing a piece of an interview with Hezbollah’s leader, Jennings relayed how he had assured him that “we are not terrorists.” Jennings cast no doubt on the claim as he proceeded to recount, without mentioning the role of Hezbollah, how “a man simply drove his truck to the front door” of the U.S. embassy “and blew himself up. Sixty-three people died. Later that year, the Marine barracks here were destroyed in much the same way, 241 Marines died.” For more:
Dear President Bush: “Did you know 9/11 was going to happen? If you did, why didn't you stop bin Laden? We forgive you if you did.”
Saturday’s Today showcased the seven-year-old author of that letter, a girl the New York Times on Friday had heralded as “more straightforward and prescient than most people twice her age.”
All for a letter she wrote three months ago but which her mother did not decide to send until a New York Times reporter called on Thursday.
Today co-host Soledad O’Brien set up the May 18 segment exploiting the girl for a political cause by, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed, trumpeting the “a beautiful, bright, smart seven-year-old girl who just three months ago decided she was going to ask the President a very important question. Her question was, did he know that 9/11 was going to happen? Plus, she also wanted to tell the President about her dad, who died in the World Trade Center attack. Rebecca's mom Maureen found the letter and they join us this morning. Rebecca and Maureen Raub, good morning to you both, I thank you for joining us. Rebecca, it is an honor to meet you. I thank you for coming in so early."
O'Brien asked Rebecca’s mother: "Maureen, let's begin with you. Your husband was a trader, 104th floor at Cantor Fitzgerald. Three months ago, you found this letter and you never mailed it off. Why not?"
Maureen Raub explained how she put it in pile months ago, but decided “this week” to send it after “a New York Times reporter called and asked about what was happening in the news and what we thought about it. And so I mentioned the letter and that’s how, that’s how this all came about.”
O'Brien turned to the little girl: "Rebecca, I want you to read part of your letter to me. In your letter, you start off by talking about your dad, but you also ask the President a question. Will you read your letter to me, that part that we highlighted?"
Rebecca read from her letter: "'Did you know 9/11 was going to happen? If you did, why didn't you stop bin Laden? We forgive you if you did. From, Rebecca Raub. Write, call, or visit us. Here's some things for you to look at.’"
O'Brien went back to the mother: "And you enclosed all the things that you had been collecting. Do you think that Rebecca was basically putting into writing, Maureen, what you had been talking about?"
Maureen denied talking that way in front of her daughter.
O'Brien let the girl talk a bit about how her father liked to play golf before pressing her mother about Bush’s actions: “Is it important to you to know what the administration knew or did and did not do at the time?"
Maureen Raub’s reply revealed she’s not as hostile to Bush as O’Brien probably hoped: "Yes, I certainly believe in full disclosure and I think that the public should be made aware of what they knew. I want to believe and trust that the President did not know the specifics of the event because I can't imagine that he would have let it happen knowing the specifics. I believe that he just thought it was going to be a traditional hijacking, not knowing when or where it would happen. He has children and family and friends who, I'm sure, fly commercial airlines and I know that he probably wouldn't want them to be at risk, and let's not forget that he was a target himself. The White House was a target, so I honestly don't believe that he knew the specifics and I trust that he did the best job that he did. This was very uncharted territory. It's never happened before. I'm sure Presidents in the past have also been given terrorist warnings like this."
Back to the kid, O'Brien wondered: "Your mom said, Rebecca, that you like to write. What else are you doing to keep your dad's memory alive."
Rebecca: "I like to draw pictures of him and have him in my dreams."
O'Brien: "I know you said that if the President did know something about 9/11 before it happened, that you would forgive him. What do you mean?"
Rebecca: "Um, like, if he was trying to stop it, if he was trying to stop it and he just couldn't, we would forgive him."
O'Brien was awed: "Maureen, do you ever look at your daughter -- she's a first grader, you're seven years old -- and think, how did I, how did we create such an incredible, loving, smart, forgiving little girl?"
O'Brien ended the segment with a request: "I know that you asked the President to come by and visit or write or call. Will you promise me that if he does come by to visit or he writes to you or he calls you that you'll come back on the show to tell us about it?"
Talk about exploiting a tragedy for political gain. NBC sure has no standing anymore to criticize Republican use of a photo of Bush talking on the phone.
++ See Rebecca Raub being exploited by NBC. By late morning EDT Tuesday, the MRC’s Mez Djouadi will have up a still shot of Rebecca and a RealPlayer clip of part of her exchange with O’Brien. Check the MRC home page:
Under the headline “Undisclosed Threats Trouble Kin,” the May 17 New York Times started with the girl’s letter. An excerpt from the piece by reporter Tina Kelley:
Rebecca Raub is more straightforward and prescient than most people twice, or even 10 times, her age, which is 7. Here is the letter she wrote in February to President Bush:
"Dear President Bush, My dad was lost in the World Trade Center. Every night at dinner we light a candle in memory of my dad. I hate war. I like pretend war, like in the Harry Potter and Red Wall books. I really loved my dad.
"Did you know 9/11 was going to happen? If you did, why didn't you stop bin Laden? We forgive you if you did."
Relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks had a variety of reactions yesterday to news that President Bush had been warned that followers of Osama bin Laden might hijack American planes. Mostly, their concerns centered on how the country could protect itself against future terrorist attacks, so others did not have to experience their grief.
Rebecca's mother, Maureen Raub, whose husband, William, was 38, said she had long assumed that high-ranking government officials had known of the dangers before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I'm sure there were always a lot of threats over the years to past presidents as well, and it was probably hard for him to determine whether this was legitimate or not," she said.
Mrs. Raub said politicians should share their knowledge of threats with citizens.
"Let the public decide if they want to go to work that day, on a day that there's a high threat of attack," she said.
Mrs. Raub plans to send Rebecca's letter today....
END of Excerpt
To read the entire story:
Media Reality Check. “Pushing a 'Phony, Bogus’ Anti-Bush Story; Newsweek Editor Reveals: 'The Media Beast Was So Happy...We All Jumped Up and Down.’”
Prompted by material in the May 20 CyberAlert, on Monday afternoon the MRC’s Rich Noyes produced a Media Reality Check which was distributed by fax.
He recalled, however, an Eleanor Clift quote from the McLaughlin Group which I had missed. Clift claimed: “What we learned this week is the President is not entirely blameless.”
To read the Media Reality Check online:
To view it as an Adobe Acrobat
The text of the May 20 Media Reality Check:
The liberal media are continuing to push the canard they developed last week that President Bush “knew” before September 11 about Osama bin Laden’s scheme to hijack jets as a way to make war against the United States -- equating a vague briefing about a possible hijacking with some of the worst scandals of the past two generations.
“Every President seems to struggle through a credibility gap at some stage, such as Richard Nixon with Watergate, Ronald Reagan with Iran-contra, and Bill Clinton with the Whitewater affair. What did he know, and when did he know it? Now it's George W. Bush's turn to answer Washington's favorite question,” Kenneth T. Walsh and Kevin Whitelaw declared in the May 27 edition of U.S. News & World Report.
Amid the media hype, there are some good questions about how effectively U.S. intelligence sifted through all of the real clues and phony leads last summer. But beginning with CNN’s Judy Woodruff -- who on Wednesday’s
NewsNight charged that “President Bush knew that al Qaeda was planning to hijack a U.S. airliner and he knew it before September the 11th” -- media bigwigs have oversimplified and exaggerated the story to put the blame on Bush:
-- On Thursday’s Good Morning America, ABC’s Charles Gibson promoted the cynical idea that Bush had faked his shocked reaction. The President’s vague August briefing, Gibson charged, “calls into question what happened when Andy Card, Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, that morning went and whispered in the President's ear, as the President was talking to a group of school students in Florida. Was the President really surprised?”
-- ABC, CBS and NBC each began their Thursday evening newscasts with the story, ratifying its importance: “On
World News Tonight, the White House admits President Bush knew before September that Osama bin Laden was plotting to hijack planes. Was there enough information to make a difference?” Peter Jennings rhetorically challenged.
-- In his book, Mobocracy, Matthew Robinson exposed the media’s practice of using quick and methodologically-suspect public opinion polls to reinforce the tone of their coverage. Sure enough, on Thursday evening’s
NewsNight, anchor Bill Hemmer showcased a CNN poll echoing the liberal media spin that Bush had mishandled the “warnings” he received: “This is only preliminary, it is still early on this story,” Hemmer cautioned, “but when asked, 'Did the Bush administration act on 9/11 warnings in the proper way,’ 41 percent said yes, 52 percent said no.”
-- Outgoing CBS Early Show host Bryant Gumbel on Friday echoed his brethren by quoting the media’s hoary scandal question: “In light of revelations that the White House had several terrorist warnings prior to the 9/11 attacks, top Democrats are demanding to know what the President knew and when he knew it.”
-- On Saturday’s McLaughlin Group,
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift shifted a portion of the responsibility from al Qaeda’s terrorists to the White House: “What we learned this week is the President is not entirely blameless” for the death and destruction on September 11.
-- On Sunday’s This Week, anchor-designate George Stephanopoulos wrapped an accusation in a compliment when he said the Bush White House has “been very careful with their words and, I think for the most part, the White House has not lied here.” For the most part?
Over the weekend, Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas, appearing on
Inside Washington, dismissed the media’s idea of a Bush scandal as “phony” and “bogus.” He contended that journalists were “so happy to have a scandal here that we jumped up and down and waved our arms and got all excited about it.” In other words, liberal journalists put their personal desire for a Bush scandal ahead of accurate reporting.
END of Reprint of Media Reality Check
Dick Gephardt’s impugning of President Bush by using “what did he know and when did he know it” language was Katie Couric’s fault. Morton Kondracke reported Monday night on FNC that “the Gephardt people” are blaming his rhetoric on him parroting what he heard Couric say that morning.
Indeed, Couric opened the May 16 Today: "Good morning. What did he know and when did he know it? The Bush administration admits the President was warned in an intelligence briefing last summer of the possibility that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network might hijack American planes, raising more questions about whether the attacks on America could have been prevented today, Thursday, May 16, 2002."
A few hours later, House Minority Leader Gephardt demanded, as quoted by the AP: “What we have to do now is find out what the President -- what the White House -- knew about the events leading up to the events of 9-11, when they knew it and, most importantly, what was done about it."
But three days later, on Fox News Sunday, he tried, as they say, to put the toothpaste back into the tube: “I never ever, ever thought that anybody, including the President, did anything up to September 11 other than their best.”
Noting Gephardt’s backtracking, on Monday’s Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Morton Kondracke of Roll Call disclosed:
“Interestingly, the Gephardt people are blaming his 'what did he know and when did he know it’ on Katie Couric, the Today show host who asked that question and then a couple of hours later, when Dick Gephardt was doing his dugout, he sort of spouted the same thing Katie Couric had said and, you know, he didn’t mean it! That’s what they’re saying. It’s all Katie Couric’s fault.”
A solid case of the news media setting the agenda, an agenda so far out of sync with the public that even liberal Democrats are blaming the elite media for sending them astray.
Kondracke’s story certainly seem to confirm what NPR’s Nina Totenberg observed over the weekend on Inside Washington as reported in the May 20 CyberAlert: “Nobody in the political establishment said 'what did they know and when did they know it?’ That was us in the media.” Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas confirmed: “It was us.”
Well, modify that to “nobody in the political establishment said 'what did they know and when did they know it?’ at any time before leading media figures employed the phrase to generate an aura of scandal.
-- Brent Baker
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