ABC Tries to Discredit Evidence in Bush’s Iraq Speech; Media Skips Inconvenient Finding of Skewed
NY Times Poll; Friedman Claims Bush Team “Bought and Paid by Big Oil”; Letterman Aboard Bush’s Effort to Oust Hussein
1) ABC, CBS and NBC decided not to interrupt prime time in the east on Monday night to carry President Bush’s speech outlining the reasons behind his Iraq policy. On Tuesday night, only the CBS Evening News ran excerpts while the NBC Nightly News ignored the speech completely. But ABC did worse than not inform viewers of what Bush said. World News Tonight tried to discredit Bush’s rationale by quibbling over a few of his claims as ABC ran a “Reality Check” undermining Bush’s “hard to verify” assertions.
2) CBS, MSNBC and the New York Times emphasized how a new CBS News/New York Times poll found that 70 percent want politicians to talk more about the economy than war with Iraq. But that was just the first of a split question posed to half of those polled. Fifty percent of the other half of those surveyed said they thought terrorism should be “the higher priority for the nation right now” over the 35 percent who said the economy. Dick Morris showed how the pollsters skewed the questions to get the desired responses.
3) The Bush administration is “bought and paid by Big Oil in America,” New York Times foreign policy correspondent Tom Friedman declared in an interview with Rolling Stone. Friedman denounced oil executives as “bad, bad guys -- because of what they are doing in fighting the science of global warming.” Friedman predicted that “Bush’s ranch is going to look like a moonscape in ten years” and scolded Bush for not trying to reduce global warming: “The fact that we haven’t done a thing...shame on us, and shame on our leaders. And Bush will answer to history for that.”
4) David Letterman is aboard President Bush’s effort to rid the world of Saddam Hussein. On Tuesday’s Late Show, Letterman proposed to Senator John McCain: “We have a malignancy here. And in most cases if it’s a desperate kind of cancer it’s excised, it’s removed, it’s taken out. So what is the problem? Let’s get the guy and why are we kind of horsing around?”
ABC, CBS and NBC decided not to interrupt prime time in the Eastern and Central time zones on Monday night to carry President Bush’s speech in Cincinnati outlining the reason behind his Iraq policy. Those tuning into the ABC or NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday night to find out what he said would have been disappointed. Only the CBS Evening News ran excerpts, clips totaling 53 seconds, while the NBC Nightly News ignored the speech completely. (NBC ran a series of soundbites from Senators and Congressmen on both sides.)
But ABC did worse than not inform viewers of what Bush said. After World News Tonight anchor Charles Gibson acknowledged how “President Bush’s speech last night on Iraq laid out a very extensive argument for going to war,” ABC suppressed that “extensive argument” and, instead, quibbled over a few of the claims Bush made as ABC ran a “Reality Check” undermining Bush’s “hard to verify” assertions. In doing so, ABC played two six-second long soundbites from Bush.
Reporter Martha Raddatz stressed the lack of solid proof that Saddam Hussein knew a certain al-Qaeda operative was in Iraq and that a re-built nuclear facility was being used to develop a nuclear weapon before ending her story with a cheap shot. Citing how Bush “says Iraq could use what are called 'unmanned aerial vehicles’ to disperse chemical and biological weapons,” Raddatz dismissed the threat: “The administration is not saying how the Iraqis would get the UAVs to the United States, but Charlie they are not capable of flying that great a distance.”
Bush simply said Iraq could use such planes to “target” the United States, which could mean U.S. targets overseas. And why couldn’t Iraqi terrorists get the parts to Canada, Mexico or the U.S. and then assemble them here?
ABC followed Raddatz’s mocking of Bush’s concerns with a piece from David Wright in Baghdad who relayed rote responses from Iraqi citizens. One girl in school insisted: “I have the trust for my leader, President Saddam Hussein. I am sure he will protect us.” Her teacher praised Hussein’s wisdom: “As our President put it, he put it very beautifully...”
(Tuesday morning all three networks aired stories on Bush’s speech with Good Morning America playing soundbites totaling 46 seconds.)
On the October 8 CBS Evening News Dan Rather contrasted Hussein’s claims with Bush’s: “In Baghdad today Saddam Hussein again denied he has weapons of mass destruction and said the only reason the United States has for attacking Iraq is to force the Iraqi people to grovel. But in his speech last night in Cincinnati, President Bush carefully laid out his arguments for a decisive showdown soon with Saddam.”
CBS then played 53 seconds worth of Bush’s speech by running four soundbites in a row from it:
“Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary; confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. [edit jump] If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. [edit jump] Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. [edit jump] Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.”
Next, reporter John Roberts cautioned: “As Congress opened its debate on today it received a chilling new warning that Saddam Hussein could lash out against the United Sates in frightening fashion if he feels his back is against the wall. It was CIA Director George Tenet who raised the alarm in a newly declassified letter provided to Congress warning, while Saddam 'for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist acts with conventional or chemical or biological weapons,' he would probably 'become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action' if he believes a military strike is inevitable. The declaration gave some lawmakers second thoughts about going to war, but others saw no reason to trust Saddam to behave.”
ABC displayed much less concern for Hussein’s threat as Charles Gibson introduced World News Tonight’s look at Bush speech:
“Congress began debating a resolution today that would authorize the President to use force against Iraq. President Bush’s speech last night on Iraq laid out a very extensive argument for going to war. In making the case, he relied on some information that’s been around for a number of years. But he also presented some new evidence, much of it hard to verify. We have tried. With a Reality Check, here’s ABC’s Martha
Raddatz began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: “The President made a very specific claim about an al-Qaeda leader who he said had recently taken refuge in Iraq.”
George W. Bush in his Cincinnati speech: “These include one very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year.”
Raddatz countered: “Intelligence officials tell ABC News that the man in question is Abu Moussab Zarqawi, an operational commander for al-Qaeda. But officials say there is no hard evidence that the Iraqi government knew that Zarqawi was in Baghdad for treatment, and that he has since left the country. After the speech, the White House released these surveillance images and said they show nuclear facilities bombed in 1998 being rebuilt. Today experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are studying the images but say they offer little proof of anything.”
Melissa Fleming, International Atomic Energy Agency: “Satellite photographs do not see through roofs, unfortunately, and that means to us, quite clearly, we have to go back with our inspectors.”
Raddatz: “Finally, the President says Iraq could use what are called 'unmanned aerial vehicles’ to disperse chemical and biological weapons.”
Bush: “We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.”
Raddatz dismissively concluded: “The administration is not saying how the Iraqis would get the UAVs to the United States, but Charlie they are not capable of flying that great a distance.”
Up next, ABC got the Iraqi “man on the street” reaction even though Iraqis are not free to speak. Gibson announced: “The Iraqi government said today President Bush’s speech was a misleading attempt to justify what it called an illegitimate attack. Ordinary Iraqis are used to all the war talk. As ABC’s David Wright reports from Baghdad tonight, many of them seem remarkably unfazed by it.”
Wright began from Iraq: “Tonight on the English language broadcast of Iraqi state TV, there was a brief item about U.S. warplanes spotted in the no-fly zone.”
Iraq-TV Anchor: “Our brave anti-aircraft forces confronted their enemies obliging them to retreat.”
Wright: “But President Bush’s speech was never mentioned. Only a privileged few here could watch it.”
Mohammed Muthafer, Iraqi National Assembly: “He’s only talking and talking and talking. But there is no evidence. And when we ask him to send inspection committees, he put obstacles on their way.”
Wright relayed the views of a supposedly typical Iraqis even after admitting those he talked to were aware of the nearby government official: “Ordinary Iraqis are well aware the U.S. is threatening to attack Saddam Hussein, but many see this as just another chapter in a dispute that dates back to the Gulf War. People here are concerned about the possibility of war, but there’s not a sense of panic on the streets. As one person said, if they stockpiled supplies every time there was a threat of war, they’d never be out of the shops. An advanced English class at one of Baghdad’s main universities. Some students seem all too conscious of the government official never far from our side.”
Nonetheless, Wright decided to showcase the comments delivered in fear. A teenage girl insisted: “I have the trust for my leader, President Saddam Hussein. I am sure he will protect us.”
Wright: “They all hope it won’t come to war. The teacher remembers the last war all too well.”
Teacher: “Even if it happens, we’ve gone through that, and really, as our President put it, he put it very beautifully, he said, 'We did not vaporize.’ Okay, we are not going to vaporize if it happened for the second time.”
Wright concluded: “'In Shallah,’ she quickly adds, 'God willing.’ David Wright, ABC News, Baghdad.”
To read Bush’s October 7 speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center which NBC Nightly News ignored and ABC’s World News Tonight tried to discredit, go to:
CBS, MSNBC and the New York Times on Monday emphasized how a new CBS News/New York Times poll found that 70 percent want politicians to talk more about the economy than war with Iraq. But that was just the first of a split question posed to half of those polled. Fifty percent of the other half of those surveyed said they thought terrorism should be “the higher priority for the nation right now” over the 35 percent who said the economy.
“A new CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight finds that Americans still have plenty of questions about going after Saddam,” John Roberts declared on Monday’s CBS Evening News as recounted in the October 8 CyberAlert. Roberts then highlighted a particular poll finding: “Most notably, why are the President and Congress spending so much time on it? 70 percent of people say they want to hear more about the economy than war.”
MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield was so excited about that answer captured by a competitor’s poll that she highlighted it on her show on Monday night, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed. On the October 7 Ashleigh Banfield on Location, during an interview with Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, Banfield trumpeted:
"And let me get you to weigh in on some of the things, Senator Landrieu, that the people across America have been talking about because this is an election year....With respect to that particular issue and a recent poll that's come out by CBS and the New York Times, the question that was asked of Americans is, 'Would you like to hear candidates talk more about the possibility of war with Iraq or improving the economy?' And 70 percent of the respondents surprisingly said economy. Only 17 percent said Iraq and 13 percent said both. Senator Landrieu, do you think this is going to sit well with a lot of your constituents as you end up going to the polls in a few weeks?"
Indeed, when asked, “Regardless of how you intend to vote in November, which would you like to hear the candidates talk more about, the possibility of war with Iraq or improving the U.S. economy?”, 70 percent replied “economy” and only 17 percent said
“war with Iraq” while 13 answered “both.”
But, as an attentive CyberAlert reader alerted me, a check of the full poll rundown reveals that question, #17, was the first under the heading of: “SPLIT HALF -- ASK EITHER QUESTION 17 OR 18.” So, only half of those polled got that question. The other half heard this one:
“Which of these should be the higher priority for the nation right now -- the economy and jobs, or terrorism and national security?”
To that, 50 percent said “terrorism,” 35 percent replied “economy,” 13 answered “both” and the pollsters put 3 percent under don’t know.
For all the questions and answers to the poll:
So, as with all polls, the results are influenced by how the questions are written. In this case, the skew of the New York Times questions was so slanted that even ABC News acknowledged the tilt. MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey observed that “The Note” on the ABCNews.com Web site, compiled by the ABC News political unit of Mark Halperin, Elizabeth Wilner and Marc Ambinder, plugged a New York Post column by Dick Morris which illustrated how the form of the questions impacted the answers.
The October 8 edition of “The Note” noted: “Although we object to his misuse of the term 'push poll,’ and we are courting danger by even suggesting the following point, we do think that Dick Morris raises some interesting (and, maybe, accurate) points in questioning the wording of yesterday's New York Times/CBS News poll. Read it for yourself and see if you agree.”
“The Note” is online at:
So, taking ABC’s advice, here’s an excerpt from the column by Morris in the October 8 New York Post, a column first brought to my attention by MRC colleague Kevin Kauffman. Morris, as you may recall, was a political strategy adviser to President Clinton and to Trent Lott who makes frequent appearances on the Fox News Channel. The excerpt of his column:
“Public Says Bush Needs To Pay Heed To Weak Economy," blared yesterday's New York Times. Based on a telephone survey last week of 564 registered voters, the article claimed a majority of American voters believed that the President is spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting domestic problems.
But take a close look at the poll: The phrasing of the questions is so slanted and biased that it amounts to journalistic "push polling" -- the use of "objective" polling to generate a predetermined result, and so vindicate a specific point of view....
Slant No. 1: The Times poll asks voters if they would "be more likely to vote for a congressional candidate because of their positions on the economy or foreign policy."
The use of "foreign policy" throws the results way off and allows the Times to report that voters want more focus on the economy by 57 percent to 25 percent. But on Sept. 8-9 Fox News asked 900 voters a similar question -- comparing not economy vs. foreign policy, but economy vs. national security . The results: an even split, with the economy pulling 32 percent and national security 31 percent. What a difference a word makes!
Slant No. 2: The Times then asked what voters would "like to hear the candidates talk more about, the possibility of war with Iraq or improving the economy." It got the expected outcome: 70 percent for the economy, 17 percent for Iraq. But that phrasing surely masks the impatience of voters who favor war with Iraq but are tired of the endless talk about it....
Slant No. 3: The poll found voters approving of military action against Iraq by 67 percent to 27 percent. But the Times then tried to undermine this finding by asking if voters would still back military action if there were "substantial American military casualties" (support drops to 54 percent) or "substantial Iraqi civilian casualties" (support drops to 49 percent).
So where is the question on how support would change if military action is quick and painless, as in the 1991 war?...
A truly impartial poll would have included a number of questions the Times omits, such as:...
-- Do you think that U.N. inspections will be effective in stopping Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction?
-- Do you approve or disapprove of the attitude of the Democratic Party toward a possible invasion of Iraq?
For decades, responsible journalists refused even to cover public-opinion polls. Then, in a turnaround, they began to conduct them and treat their findings as hard news. Now the process has come full circle: Journalists appear to be using polls to generate the conclusions they want and to validate their own pre-existing theses and hypotheses....
END of Excerpt
For the column in full:
The Bush administration is “bought and paid by Big Oil in America,” New York Times foreign policy correspondent and former reporter Thomas Friedman declared in an interview with Rolling Stone, adding: “They are going to do nothing that will in any way go against the demands and interests of the big oil companies.”
Referring to oil company executives, Friedman disclosed his anger at any who dare question the liberal mantra on how industrialization is causing global warming: “I think this is a real group of bad guys, considering that they have funded all the anti-global-warming propaganda out there in the world. And Bush is just not going to go against guys like that. They are bad, bad guys -- because of what they are doing in fighting the science of global warming.”
Friedman predicted that because of global warming “Bush’s ranch is going to look like a moonscape in ten years if these trends continue.” Scolding Bush for not trying to reduce global warming, Friedman charged: “The fact that we haven’t done a thing -- I mean, not a thing -- shame on us, and shame on our leaders. And Bush will answer to history for that.”
Though he urged a “Manhattan Project” to achieve independence from Saudi oil, he didn’t mention the oil available in the U.S. in such places as Alaska and instead stressed conservation as he boasted of buying a hybrid gas/electric Toyota
The interview in the October 17 Rolling Stone, conducted by Assistant Managing Editor Will Dana, is not online and the magazine is not in Nexis, so MRC analyst Patrick Gregory typed in the portion of the interview in which Friedman, who also praises Bush’s anti-terrorism efforts, espoused left-wing thinking on the environment and energy policy:
Rolling Stone: “Some people on the left have said that the war on terrorism is actually about making sure the Middle East keeps pumping oil on our terms. In your book, you refer to 'Mr. Bush and his oil-industry paymasters.’ What do you mean?” [Friedman’s book, Longitudes and Attitudes, is made up of columns published after 9-11]
Friedman: “I think these guys are bought and paid by Big Oil in America, and they are going to do nothing that will in any way go against the demands and interests of the big oil companies. I mean, let’s face it. ExxonMobil -- I think this is a real group of bad guys, considering that they have funded all the anti-global-warming propaganda out there in the world. And Bush is just not going to go against guys like that. They are bad, bad guys -- because of what they are doing in fighting the science of global warming. The Bush people are these big, 'we hunt, we fish’ kinds of guys. What kind of planet do they think is going to be left for hunting and fishing? History is not going to treat them kindly on that score. I mean, Bush’s ranch is going to look like a moonscape in ten years if these trends continue. And the indifference to it enrages me. We’re going to look back at these as the years the locusts ate everything. It’s in our power to deal with global warming, and it’s directly related to so many bad things that are happening out there. The fact that we haven’t done a thing -- I mean, not a thing -- shame on us, and shame on our leaders. And Bush will answer to history for that.”
Rolling Stone: “But we have done nothing to lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”
Friedman: “The column I wrote last year that got the greatest reaction was when I called for a Manhattan Project for energy conservation and independence. And even if energy independence is an illusion, as a goal it would have been a great, great objective. My wife and I -- our first act post-9/11 was to buy a Toyota Prius, which gets fifty miles to the gallon. I am just not going to continue to run my life where, through the car I drive, I am creating a transfer payment of my dollars to the government of Saudi Arabia that are then passed on to some radical sheik in a Wahabi mosque. I’m sorry. If buying our little Prius will help take money away from those guys, that’s a good thing for me.”
Rolling Stone: “The Bush administration has all this rhetoric about asking more from people. But it doesn’t seem like it really wants to ask anything from us as citizens.”
Friedman: “A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day. He said, 'You know, you look at the Bush guys. Their whole philosophy is: We’re at war -- let’s party! We’re at war -- lower taxes. We’re at war -- don’t conserve anything! We’re at war -- go shopping! Have they called on the administration, or the public, to do anything hard?’ These guys, of all people, are putting up steel tariffs? I mean, at least you could count on them to be good, decent, cruel Republicans and put the steel workers out of their misery. But no -- they even gave in to them.”
On that last one, Friedman did accurately nail Bush for putting politics ahead of rationale free market economic policy espoused by conservatives.
David Letterman is aboard President Bush’s effort to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and baffled at why anyone is opposed to ousting the dictator.
On Tuesday’s Late Show on CBS, Letterman proposed to Senator John McCain: “If you look at this medically, to me it seems like this is cancer. We have a malignancy here. And in most cases if
it’s a desperate kind of cancer it’s excised, it’s removed, it’s taken out. So what is the problem? Let’s get the guy and why are we kind of horsing around?”
That prompted the audience to applaud. When the clapping died down, Letterman continued: “That’s probably a naive reactionary view, but what about it?”
McCain agreed with Letterman’s reasoning: “I don’t think there is anything naive about it at all...”
That exchange with McCain is the “Big Show Highlight” now on the Late Show’s Web page in RealPlayer format:
Tonight it will be replaced by a new clip and moved to the archive:
No wonder Letterman didn’t end up at ABC. His view of Saddam Hussein isn’t an attitude much appreciated by ABC News.
-- Brent Baker
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