Europeans "Fearful" of Bush the "Rambo-Like Cowboy"; Rather Pushed "What Did Bush Know"; Rather Relayed False Story Impugning Ashcroft; Lauer Assumed Conservatives Intolerant; CNN's Health Care Expert: Actress Laura Dern
1) ABC and NBC trumpeted anti-Bush attitudes in Europe. ABC's Terry Moran stressed that "is exceptional since Berlin has hailed and cheered so many American presidents in the past" as a "lot
of...ordinary Europeans are fearful of Mr. Bush's leadership." NBC's Campbell Brown marveled at how "even the German media" is "portraying Bush as a Rambo-like cowboy." The problem: Going it
"alone" by "rejecting the Kyoto environmental treaty."
2) Dan Rather again insisted upon again raising the "what did Bush know" theme: "There are a lot more questions...about who, including to a certain extent President Bush, knew about what
terror threats were happening before 9/11." Bob Schieffer relayed how one "congressional source" told him that budget documents show "the administration was actually shifting its priorities away from the war on terrorism in the months before this attack happened."
3) Dan Rather falsely impugned John
Ashcroft, passing along on Imus in the Morning the vile claim that the fact that the Attorney General was "inexplicably" using private aircraft last year proves
he feared a terrorist hijacking, but didn't tell the public. An hour later, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski informed Imus that Ashcroft's private plane use had nothing to do with terrorism and was prompted by personal threats on his life.
4) NBC's Matt Lauer feared that Lynne Cheney's children's book on American history would convey a biased view and would not be "inclusive." He asked: "Is this a conservative's view of American
history?" And when she explained that the section on God featured a drawing with several different types of houses of worship, he seemed surprised that a conservative would not be intolerant: "So
5) CNN's health care expert: Actress Laura
Dern, star of a liberal-crusading movie about the evils of "unregulated" HMOs, set to air on Showtime. Judy Woodruff posed a series of softball
questions as she treated Dern as a health care expert: "What do you believe the solution is here?" Even Dern's claim that people are being "killed" by HMOs did not faze Woodruff. But Woodruff was much tougher with an HMO representative.
Anti-Bush protests and feelings in Europe were emphasized Wednesday night by ABC and NBC. "There is a lot of anger here," ABC's Terry Moran relayed on World News Tonight. From Berlin,
Moran stressed how that "is exceptional since Berlin has hailed and cheered so many American presidents in the past. The people on the streets today and a lot of Europeans, ordinary Europeans, are fearful of Mr. Bush's leadership in the war."
Suggesting somehow that the German media are a circumspect and conservative arbiter, NBC's Campbell Brown marveled at how "even the German media" is "portraying Bush as a Rambo-like cowboy intent on going after Saddam Hussein with or without Europe's support." Without bothering to mention how no European nation (other than Romania) has itself agreed to the Kyoto treaty, Brown passed along how "tensions remain in other areas where Europe believes Bush has opted to go it alone. His rejecting the Kyoto environmental treaty..."
The CBS Evening News held itself to this short item read by Dan Rather: "President Bush is spending the night in Germany, the first stop on a six-day four-nation tour of Europe. The President
arrived today in Berlin. He meets tomorrow with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and addresses the German parliament. Also in Berlin for the President's visit are thousands of mostly young protesters who scuffled today with German riot police."
-- On the May 22 World News Tonight, Jennings announced:
"President Bush is overseas this evening. Mr. Bush was just off the plane in Germany today when he ran into stiff opposition on several issues from government and from the public. Thousands
of people demonstrated for a second day in Berlin, most of them unhappy about Mr. Bush's foreign policy. ABC's Terry Moran is in Berlin tonight. Terry, the President runs into angry and anxious
Moran asserted, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "He does, Peter. There is a lot of anger here, and it is focused directly on Mr. Bush, which in this once divided city is exceptional since Berlin has hailed and cheered so many American presidents in the past. The people on the streets today and a lot of Europeans, ordinary Europeans, are fearful of Mr. Bush's leadership in the war. For his part, the President says about the protests essentially, 'Bring'em on.' He says that while protesters may disagree with what he says, he speaks his mind clearly and he's a man of principle."
Jennings suggested: "A man of principle not necessarily on steel and tariffs as far as the Europeans are concerned."
Moran: "No, not on that issue. The European governments are enraged about that, and their fury has caught the administration by surprise. Administration officials expected the Europeans essentially to litigate the steel dispute. Instead they are going to retaliate very quickly, and it looks like they're on the verge of a trade war."
Jennings: "And listening to the Europeans, Terry, they are also upset about what the President may do with the Iraqis?"
Moran: "Well, that is the focus of much of the protest and will be the focus of much of the discussions. There is no question that the Europeans right now are in no mood and would not support, at least the mass of the European public, polls show, would not support U.S. action to topple Saddam Hussein, which Mr. Bush continues to make clear he intends one way or another to do."
-- Campbell Brown began her NBC Nightly News piece:
"Thousands take to the streets in Berlin today, a mostly peaceful protest denouncing the President they believe is looking for war. Even the German media portraying Bush as a Rambo-like
cowboy intent on going after Saddam Hussein with or without Europe's support. For the President's arrival tonight, unprecedented security and a more gracious welcome. But the President's mission on this seven-day trip to build European support for the next phase of the war on terror some foreign
policy experts say is going to be a hard sell."
Philip Gordon, Brookings Institution: "It's not an exaggeration to say that in Europe there's actually greater concern about the U.S. provoking violence and a problem than there is about Saddam provoking violence and a problem."
Brown: "A big change from the months after September 11th when Europe rallied behind the President. The turning point, European leaders have complained, was his State of the Union speech and his pledge to take on Iran, Iraq and North Korea, the so-called 'Axis of Evil.' It's a battle Europe wants to wage through diplomacy, but tonight Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Iraq's efforts
to acquire weapons of mass destruction have to be stopped."
Colin Powell: "For that reason, it's important for us to stay in close consultation with Germans as to what we might be required to do both in a multilateral setting within the U.N. and other ways to deal with this regime."
Brown: "But between Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who shared coffee tonight, tensions remain in other areas where Europe believes Bush has opted to go it alone. His
rejecting the Kyoto environmental treaty, backing out of the treaty to establish an international criminal court, setting tariffs on steel imports to the U.S., and even the Mideast where the European perception is Bush is too aligned with Israel. After the President makes his case to Chancellor Schroeder privately tonight, he outlines his world view in a major speech before the German parliament tomorrow arguing America can't win the war on terror alone."
But we may have to.
While most of the media have realized they distorted coverage last week of the presidential intelligence briefing memo handed to CBS News, by politicizing it into a false "Bush knew"
motif, CBS's Dan Rather won't let go. Wednesday night he insisted upon again raising the "what did Bush know" theme: "There are a lot more questions to come about intelligence failures, about
opportunities missed, about who, including to a certain extent President Bush, knew about what terror threats were happening before 9/11 and what was and was not done."
Though conservatives point to years of undercutting of the intelligence agencies by liberals who voted for less funding and often painted the CIA as an evil and rogue agency, spending much
of the 1990s bizarrely suggesting, for instance, that it brought cocaine into Los Angeles, CBS's Bob Schieffer relayed how one "congressional source" told him that budget documents from last year show "the administration was actually shifting its priorities away from the war on terrorism in the months before this attack happened."
Rather introduced the May 22 CBS Evening News story: "There are a lot more questions to come about intelligence failures, about opportunities missed, about who, including to a certain extent President Bush, knew about what terror threats were happening before 9/11 and what was and was not done, what was and was not shared by the government with the public. A lot more questions, but who should be asking them? CBS's Bob Schieffer is on Capitol Hill tonight with the real deal on that. Bob?"
Schieffer provided an overview of the conflicting views about what type of investigation should be done. Schieffer then added:
"I've got here a stack of budget documents that were given to me tonight by a another congressional source. He says that they suggest the administration was actually shifting its priorities away from the war on terrorism in the months before this attack happened. That is only his opinion, of course, but it is the kind of broad question that Daschle says can only be investigated by
outside experts. Republicans say Daschle is just playing politics and what he's trying to do is drag this out to the congressional elections. Whether he has the votes to create a commission is not
clear yet, but with all sides now in full campaign mode, we're going to hear a lot more about this over the summer."
Before suggesting that the Bush administration has been issuing terrorist attack warnings in order to "change the subject" from what Bush knew pre-September 11, on MSNBC's Imus in the Morning on Wednesday CBS News anchor Dan Rather passed along the vile claim that the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft was "inexplicably" using private aircraft last year proves he feared a terrorist hijacking. An hour later, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski informed Imus that Ashcroft's private plane use had nothing to do with terrorism and was prompted by personal threats on his life.
"There are important questions that need to be asked, but again, until recently, I would say, until the last week, nobody was asking 'em," Rather intoned. Rather irresponsibly asserted that "just before September 11th" Ashcroft "started inexplicably taking private aircraft to places where normally the Attorney General wouldn't take private aircraft, you know, government planes. Well, that would indicate that somebody somewhere was getting pretty worried, but if you're going to share that with the Attorney General, you know, why wasn't it shared with the public at large?"
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson transcribed Rather's rant on the May 22 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC:
"You can certainly give a new President the benefit of every doubt about what he knew. The, you know, the New York Post had this big headline, 'Bush Knew.' Well, you know, knew what? However, increasingly there are important questions that need to be asked, but again, until recently, I would say, until the last week, nobody was asking 'em.
"For example, the Attorney General of the United States before, just before September 11th, started inexplicably taking private aircraft to places where normally the Attorney General wouldn't take private aircraft, you know, government planes. Well, that would indicate that somebody somewhere was getting pretty worried, but if you're going to share that with the Attorney General, you know, why wasn't it shared with the public at large?"
Rather argued that the terrorist threat warnings are just a way to distract people from Bush's embarrassment: "You know, I can believe that the President and the people around him were surprised and peeved, to say the least, that the information got out last week, with David Martin's report, that President Bush had been briefed about some things that in retrospect, after September
11th, would indicate that, well, maybe somebody should have done something, and I can also believe that as with every President, somebody is in the White House scratching their head saying, 'How can we change the subject?' Now, the subject has been changed, suddenly and very effectively, from how is it that the FBI and the CIA didn't move on the information they had, where was the President briefed about what and when? The subject's been changed from that to suddenly one administration official after another and each escalating it as a new set of warnings. Maybe these two things are not connected, but surely the people in the administration and others could forgive us for perhaps thinking, well, perhaps there's some connection here."
During the next hour Imus asked NBC's Jim Miklaszewski about the Ashcroft rumor which Rather had considered accurate. Miklaszewski also bought into it: "Well, there are reports, of course, that after there were these warnings that were not specific, apparently, about the possibility of airline hijackings that Attorney General John Ashcroft did take government planes to some locations, but other officials in the government say it's not unusual for somebody of Ashcroft's status to take government planes. The question here, of course, is did he have a heads up that the rest of the United States didn't have that kept him off civilian planes?"
Imus: "It sounds like he did."
Miklaszewski: "Well, you know, it does sound that way and I think it would behoove the Justice Department to step up and say, 'Look, here are the details about that,' and if it's not the case, to get it out there because it does look pretty bad."
But Miklaszewski soon corrected himself. Calling in 20 minutes later, just before 8:30am EDT, he told Imus: "Well, you told me to look into the John Ashcroft thing and why he was flying on government jets."
Imus: "Oh yeah, what is the answer?"
Miklaszewski: "Well, what happened, before he was sworn in, there was a personal threat assessment done by security agencies at Justice, and it was determined that since John Ashcroft is such a polarizing figure, that the threat assessment against him would be high, and that shortly after he was sworn in, he started taking government planes all the time -- it was recommended for his own
security. And that during the summer, apparently when this story was first reported, Justice Department officials report that there were actually some threats against Ashcroft's life and that it had nothing at all to do with any terrorist threat."
Imus: "As Dan Rather tried to imply on the program here about an hour ago, trying to take down poor John Ashcroft, suggesting that Ashcroft had information about all of us being in jeopardy and -- well, he did imply that, but I think--"
Miklaszewski: "Yeah, that was their point, that apparently there were some stories some months ago that implied that Ashcroft was, in fact, had in fact information that caused him to take government jets for his own security and he wasn't passing that information along to the rest of the American people, but Justice Department officials say that record has already been set straight, but of course, that kind of setting straight never gets as much play as the original accusations."
Remember this bit of irresponsible rumor-mongering by Rather in falsely impugned Ashcroft the next time he lectures about the need for accurate reporting and denounces Web news sources such as the Drudge Report.
NBC's Matt Lauer feared that Lynne Cheney's children's book on American history would convey a biased view and would not be "inclusive." He asked: "Is this a conservative's view of American history?" And when she explained that the section on God featured a drawing with several different types of houses of worship, he seemed surprised that a conservative would not be intolerant: "So it's inclusive?"
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed Lauer's assumptions about conservatives in Lauer's May 21 interview with Second Lady Lynne Cheney, author of America: A Patriotic Primer.
Lauer set up the segment: "Lynne Cheney is not only the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney she's also a senior fellow at a conservative Washington think tank and a PhD with a lifelong devotion to American history. Now she's drawing on that background for her first children's book called, America: A Patriotic Primer."
Lauer worried: "I want to talk about some of the specific pages in a second. Is it a political book? I mean because you are a very well-known conservative thinker? Is this a conservative's view of American history?"
Later, Lauer seemed to assume a conservative could not be inclusive: "G is for God. Your illustrator said that, that was a very difficult page. How did you handle it?"
Cheney: "Well we drew a main street. It's first about the pilgrims, you know because the story of our country is about religious freedom. They came here seeking religious freedom. We have it today and that makes us a country where people are free to believe in any way they wish and, and think is right. But there's a picture of a main street on the page that has every kind of house of worship you can imagine."
Lauer: "So it's inclusive?"
Cheney: "That's right."
CNN's health care expert: Actress Laura Dern, star of a liberal-crusading movie, about the awfulness of "unregulated" HMOs and "the human cost of the health care industry's shift to managed
care," set to air this weekend on Showtime.
HMOs are hardly without fault, but a segment last week on CNN's Inside Politics was skewed in favor of those who see more government regulation as the answer to perceived problems as the show brought aboard an actress with an axe to grind and treated her as an expert while holding an HMO representative to a tougher standard.
Interviewing both Dern and the doctor on which her role is based, Inside Politics anchor Judy Woodruff posed a series of softball questions. She prompted the doctor to confirm the movie's accuracy. Then to Laura Dern, she queried: "Why did you do this movie?" Woodruff also treated Dern as a health care expert: "You said you had your own individual experience with the managed care industry. What do you believe the solution is here?" Then she again prompted the doctor: "What would you add to that, in terms of what solutions are needed?"
Even Dern's claim that people are being "killed" by HMOs did not raise an eyebrow with Woodruff who moved on to another puffball question.
But Woodruff didn't kiss-up so much to a representative of the HMO industry. Woodruff insisted that she deal with the specific case highlighted by the movie and Woodruff demanded: "Is there adequate separation between the corporate bottom line, the need to make a profit in these companies on the one hand, and on the other hand the interests of the patients?"
Woodruff set up the May 15 segment, based on the CNN transcript checked against the tape by MRC analyst Ken Shepherd: "Now, questions about Damaged Care. That is the title of a film that airs on a cable network Showtime later this month. Actress Laura Dern stars in the true life story of Dr. Linda Peeno, who became an advocate for patients who did not get adequate health care or insurance money. In the film, Dern's character takes on the HMOs."
CNN played a clip of Laura Dern as Linda Peeno testifying before a congressional-looking committee: "We have enough experience from history to demonstrate the consequences of secretive, unregulated systems that go awry. One can only wonder how much pain, suffering and death will we have before we have the courage to change our course."
Woodruff asked: "Laura Dern, why did you do this movie?"
Dern replied: "I have my own individual experience with the managed care industry, and the more I've learned and the more I've talked to others about this issue, the more I realize that we all do. Now having done the film I realized that there was really only one question to ask, which is, 'do we care?' And the managed care industry seems to answer with a resounding 'no' to date, saying we are managing money, not care for patients, and that's the travesty and that is why I wanted to be involved."
Woodruff turned to the real-life doctor: "Dr. Peeno, at one point in this film, you are playing the role of a doctor -- of someone working at an HMO who has to reject a patient's request for a heart transplant. The patient dies later. Is this tracking what happened in real life?"
Peeno, a former HMO medical director, confirmed: "Yes, it is, actually. I was a medical reviewer and the request came for a heart transplant, and of course all the pressure is to limit and deny expensive procedures, and a heart transplant is very expensive and so the pressure was placed upon me to figure out a way to not pay for it."
Woodruff refused to challenge her: "So is that, do you believe -- does the movie give, do you believe, an accurate portrayal overall of the HMO industry?"
Peeno agreed: "Yes, I mean, I think that we've evolved a managed care system that succeeds financially only to the extent that it limits and denies care rather than making care available appropriately, quality care especially...."
Woodruff prompted Dern: "Laura Dern, you mentioned earlier, you said you had your own individual experience with the managed care industry. What do you believe the solution is here?"
Dern asserted: "Well, clearly, as we've learned, the money is there, because the money is going toward bonuses, high salaries, and I think first of all, individuals need to be told when they're signing up and spending their hard-earned money every month, that at the end of the day when they need care, they may not receive it. And there may be someone 3,000 miles away who doesn't know about their specific circumstance who will be denying their care. And I think that of course Dr. Peeno can address how we can make changes in a new patient bill of rights to support better health care. And I just want to add too that the individuals who seemingly are in opposition of this, that there shouldn't be an argument. We should all be working together saying this is a systemic problem. People are being hurt and even killed. How do we make it better?"
Unfazed by Dern's claim that people are being "killed" by HMOs, Woodruff inquired: "Dr. Peeno, what would you add to that, in terms of what solutions are needed?"
Peeno advocated more government control: "I think we are going to need a fundamental change in the way in which we think about medical care, and we've got to get back to something that is patient-centered rather than profit-centered...."
Next, Woodruff offered "a competing view on HMOs and the overall health care debate" by interviewing Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of the American Association of Health Plans.
Woodruff told Ignagni: "Pretty much a sweeping indictment of the managed care industry here."
Ignagni replied with a pre-planned soundbite: "I was really thinking about how to respond to where we are right now, and I think the best way to put it as I was listening to Ms. Dern and Dr. Peeno is to the extent that JFK the movie told us about the Kennedy assassination, this movie tells us about health care in America..."
Ignagni added: "So I think we're talking about a hatchet job with a political agenda, and I think it's time to have a real debate. I do believe Ms. Dern is right in calling for a real debate, but I think the prescription is not to wipe the slate clean and go to a government-run system which seems to be the end game here for folks who are promoting this film."
Woodruff brought Ignagni back to the movie's agenda: "Well, this one instance that I asked Dr. Peeno about, and she says this is what happened and when she worked for a managed care company, when she had to, she said, deny the request for a heart transplant. The patient later died. Are you suggesting that there's information to suggest that's not what happened or-"
Ignagni jumped in: "Let me say I have not seen the movie, but I appreciate the question and I think that this really brings us back to the nub of the issue. We have a situation in this case, as I've been told and as I've understand it -- it was 1987. The employer involved did not provide experimental treatment, did not cover experimental treatment in its benefit package...."
After Ignagni insisted coverage reviews are done by experts, Woodruff fired back: "I think what patients want to know is, is there adequate separation between the corporate bottom line, the need to make a profit in these companies on the one hand, and on the other hand the interests of the patients?"
Ignagni suggested: "The editors of newspapers tell me what doesn't sell magazines or newspapers in fact are the millions of lives that we have saved every day..."
One doubts that Woodruff would ever treat an actor who played a journalist as an expert on the malfeasance of journalists.
From the Showtime Web site, the synopsis for their movie, Damaged Care:
"Dr. Linda Peeno (Laura Dern) has put her medical career on hold to raise her kids while her husband Doug (James LeGros) builds his OB-GYN practice, but now she's eager to return to work.
At first happy to land a job working for a lucrative HMO, Dr. Peeno soon discovers the dangerous, unethical side of the business. When she quits in order to speak out about the human cost of the health care industry's shift to managed care, she finds that she may be jeopardizing her future. Adam Arkin and Diane Ladd co-star in this fact-based drama."
Showtime's Web page for the movie:
Showtime lists these show times:
Showtime East: May 26 at 8pm
Showtime Too East: May 28 at 8pm
Showtime Too East: May 28 at 4:15pm
Showtime East: May 29 at 8pm
As far as I can make out from the very confusing Showtime schedule guide, Showtime East is matched by Showtime West, so all those times are both EDT and PDT. Those in CDT or MDT will have to calculate back from those times.
Oh, and back to the CNN promotional segment in the guise of a news interview: So much for the claim that corporate interests drive news agenda decisions. Viacom-owned Showtime, part of the Viacom/CBS/UPN/Infinity empire, is the major competitor to HBO which is owned by CNN parent AOL Time Warner.
-- Brent Baker
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