Saturday, April 30, 2005

Woodruff Plans to Leave CNN ... And Liberals Should Be Cheering

Veteran journalist Judy Woodruff, anchor of CNN's Inside Politics, announced today that she will retire when her contract expires in June.

CNN President Jon Klein told the Hollywood Reporter that he offered Woodruff a new contract, but she had made her decision before negotiations had even begun. Instead, Woodruff told the Associated Press that she will be a consultant and occasional CNN contributor.

"She is in the top tier of political journalists," Klein told the Reporter, and apparently he sees Woodruff's pending departure as such a loss to the network that he may pull the plug on Inside Politics, much as he did recently to another CNN mainstay, the blusterfest you may know as Crossfire.

Frankly, I won't miss Woodruff, who like many television talking heads, seemed to equate "inside" with "ability to repeat spin." And the truth is, conservatives are better organized and better able to spread their spin, especially to the likes of Woodruff.

But wait, conservatives say. Doesn't Woodruff work for CNN, the "Clinton News Network?" I can almost hear the screams of "liberal media bias."

But, as JABBS and other similar blogs show time and time again, "liberal media bias" is a conservative-driven myth, shouted from the rafters again and again to leave the likes of Woodruff quaking in their boots. The next time someone tells you about liberal media bias, offer a copy of Time with Ann Coulter on the cover and a glowing story inside, or the copy of the Washington Post with the front-page puff piece about Trent Lott.

And the next time someone tells you Judy Woodruff is a liberal working for a liberal news network, remind them of some of the things she has said over the years.

***

Here are a few examples* of Woodruff's "top tier" reporting:

STORY #1: In March, 2004, Woodruff interviews the conservatives favorite Democrat, Zell Miller of Georgia.

WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Let’s talk about fiscal issues…Aren’t there questions, I guess I’m asking, for both of these candidates about how they would fill out?

MILLER: Well, that’s what we’ll sort out during this campaign. That’s why we have campaigns. I know this, though, that John Kerry has voted to increase taxes 350 times since he’s been in the United States Senate. That to me looks pretty much like a tax-increase.

WOODRUFF: Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, endorsing President Bush.

THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is a tax-and-spend Massacusetts liberal.

THE TRUTH: The "350 tax increases" line was widely criticized as soon as it was first used by President Bush in a March 20, 2004, speech. Woodruff's former colleague, Brooks Jackson, wrote on factcheck.org: "Kerry has not voted 350 times for tax increases, something Bush campaign officials have falsely accused Kerry of on several occasions. On close examination, the Bush campaign’s list of Kerry’s votes for “higher taxes” is padded. It includes votes Kerry cast to leave taxes unchanged (when Republicans proposed cuts), and even votes in favor of alternative Democratic tax cuts."

By the time Miller gave his interview, six days after Bush's speech, the "350 tax increases" claim had been thoroughly vetted. A better journalist -- especially one with "top tier" political insight -- would have corrected the falsehood.

STORY #2: During the Democratic National Convention, Woodruff interviews 1972 nominee George McGovern.

WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Senator, when you ran for president, you mentioned 32 years ago, the Republicans were criticizing you and the party of being too liberal. They’re still accusing the Democratic Party of being too liberal. Are they going to be able to get away with that argument this year?

MCGOVERN: I don't think so. John Kerry is a moderate liberal. He's not way out in either right field or left field.

WOODRUFF: Well, they say he's got the most liberal record in the U.S. Senate.

THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is the Senate's top liberal.

THE TRUTH: Kerry was ranked most liberal for calendar year 2003 by National Journal, but for his career, the newsletter ranked Kerry 11th. The newspaper's editors noted that Kerry's ranking was out of character because, as a presidential candidate, he had missed many votes. But conservatives -- from Vice President Cheney to any number of pundits -- ignored that in order to repeatedly take the information out of context throughout the presidential campaign. You would expect that from Sean Hannity, but Woodruff should have known better.

STORY #3: The House of Representatives sought to alter rules in order to allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to retain his leadership position if indicted by a Texas grand jury on political corruption charges.

WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: "As some House Republicans tell it, their vote today to change party rules was not just about protecting Tom DeLay. They say it was about taking power away from a Democratic prosecutor who they believe may be eager to indict their majority leader." (11/04)
THE SPIN POINT: Travis County (Texas) District Attorney Ronnie Earle is "prone to partisan witch hunts," and bringing down DeLay is the latest example.

THE TRUTH: Earle is an elected Democrat. But according to the El Paso Times, 11 of the 15 politicans he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats. This shouldn't be a secret to "top tier" reporters like Woodruff, unless she is listening too closely to conservative spin points.

STORY #4: Matt Drudge reported that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), then on the verge of his presidential campaign, spends $150 to get his hair cut.

WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: "Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode. His office says the senator does not pay $150 to get his hair cut, as claimed by Matt Drudge on the Internet. The Boston Herald quotes a source as saying that Kerry pays more like $75 to get what some have called the best hair in the Senate. The Drudge Report, which we’ve not yet confirmed, says Kerry’s do is the work of a stylist at the chic Cristophe salon. And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles. Clinton learned then what Kerry may know now. Even hair can be a cutting issue when you are or want to be president." (12/02)

THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is a liberal elitist.

THE TRUTH: Like so many of Drudge's "scoops," this story was false, the main reason CNN couldn't confirm it. Yet this non-story was worth re-telling on Inside Politics? This is television "news" at its worst.

STORY #5: Trent Lott makes racially insensitive comments at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, which ultimately lead to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader.

WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Disccusing Thurmond's candidacy as a Dixiecrat, she said: "Back in 1948, Thurmond was known to make statements such as this one. Quote: 'All the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches' — end quote." (12/02)

THE TRUTH: For reasons unknown, Woodruff sanitized Thurmond's statement, which was: "Ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the n*gger race into our theaters, into our swimming polls, into our homes and into our churches."

Showing such courtesy to Thurmond (R-S.C.) seems unnecesary, and certainly runs counter to the charge of "liberal media bias."

***

And there are other cases when Woodruff was less than "top tier." She was among the parade of journalists who, back in 2000, claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore had said he "invented the Internet." What makes it particularly bad in Woodruff's case was that Gore made his comments -- strangled and manipulated by conservatives -- to Woodruff's CNN colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

Woodruff herself had mentioned the Gore comment just a few days after it was made, at which time she and colleague Bruce Morton recited other conservative spin points about Gore -- that he lied when he said he learned farm chores from his father, that he lied when he said he was the model of Erich Segal's book Love Story -- even though neither Gore statement was, in fact, wrong.

***

Conservatives will point and say Woodruff is a liberal. After all, she works for the "Clinton News Network." And maybe Woodruff isn't as apt to repeat conservative spin points as the folks over at Fox News, or even the blustermouths like MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

But for someone who CNN considered "top tier," who was supposed to know the ins and outs of Washington politics, Woodruff should have done a better job avoiding blatant conservative spin.


* With thanks to the archives of mediamatters.org and dailyhowler.com

Friday, April 29, 2005

Journalism Organizations Ask Rumsfeld To Reverse Restrictions Placed on Journalists

A handful of journalism organizations wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on April 27 asking him to rescind restrictions placed on reporters covering the court martial trial of Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Akbar is accused of killing two fellow officers while stationed in Kuwait.

According to the organizations, reporters were required to sign an "agreement" before gaining access to the proceedings. Reporter Jeff Schogol of the Easton (Pa.) Express-Times wrote on April 17: "I had to agree to 14 such ground rules, including: I can't talk to any soldiers or civilians on the base without permission. I can be searched at any time. I can't ask the legal adviser provided to the media to speculate on how evidence or testimony might affect the trial's outcome. I have to be escorted everywhere I go on Fort Bragg. When I go to the men's room, my military escort waits patiently outside. Breaking the rules means I will no longer cover the court martial."

The "agreement" is one of a recent series of incidents in which the military has imposed restrictions on reporter access, leading some journalists to speculate whether the military is using the need for "homeland security" as an excuse to limit reporters' First Amendment rights.
***

In its letter to Rumsfeld, the organizations cited a handful of court cases dating to 1977 that upheld the military press' first amendment rights to cover court martials without restrictions. Also, the Manual for Courts-Martial United States recognizes the need for open court-martial proceedings. The manual allows for restrictions in extreme situations, but restrictions can be imposed "only after finding no reasonable alternative will safeguard that interest and after providing for a narrow closure based on specific findings that can be reviewed on appeal. "

"The purported 'agreement' does not meet that test," the organizations wrote Rumsfeld. "No public hearing was held, no showing was made and no judicial findings were rendered to justify press restrictions of any sort. We therefore implore you to immediately renounce the constraints this document places on the press, so that we are not forced to bring this issue to a court's attention. "

Eugene Fidell, a lawyer who specializes in military law, told the Express-Times he has never heard of restrictions against talking to soldiers. "That strikes me as crazy," he said.

Fidell represented the Denver Post in its lawsuit after the government threw the newspaper out of the trial for several soldiers accused of killing an Iraqi general. The reporters were ultimately allowed back into the courtroom.

Fidell told the Express-Times that Fort Bragg is a "garden variety" base, not Guantanamo Bay, and thus the rule against talking to soldiers and civilians without permission "seems like overkill and security concerns run amok."

***

The Fort Bragg "agreement" is the latest incident under Rumsfeld's leadership in which reporters' First Amendment rights were limited.

Trista Tallton, a military affairs reporter based in Wilmington, N.C., told the Express-Times: "Homeland security for me has opened this black hole about what we're getting access to in the future because it's so easy to say it's a matter of national security, homeland security, and you're not going to get access to it."

She said she found similar restrictions when she covered the court martial of a Marine accused of accidentally killing several people when his plane clipped the wires of a cable car in Italy.
And for an upcoming court martial of a Marine accused of killing two Iraqis, Tallton said the military wants to put the media in a satellite viewing room instead of the courtroom.

***

In addition to Military Reporters & Editors, the other journalism organizations supporting the letter to Rumsfeld are: The Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, Associated Press Managing Editors, American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Post Ombudsman Agrees With Critics of Lott Story

Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler responded this week to widespread criticism of a recent front-page story on Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS).

While not a mea culpa, Getler agreed with many charges lodged by critics of the April 14 story, Lott Puts 'Little Bump' Behind Him, which told of Lott's efforts to resuscitate his power base after a racially divisive statement in 2002 led to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader.

Criticism of the April 14 story was led by liberal media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). (JABBS' take on the Post story can be found here.)

Getler wrote that two main criticisms were reasonable:

1) Lott's long history of racially divisive actions and statements went unmentioned.
2) No detractors were quoted.

"The article was long enough to have dealt with some of the omissions," Getler wrote.

Getler also admitted it was "strange" to place the article on page one, and that the headline was "potentially misleading because it made it seem as though the Post was saying that Lott had put his 'little bump' behind him."

Various members of the Post staff, including Getler and reporter Shailagh Murray, received more than 700 e-mails and telephone messages, the bulk of those sparked by a FAIR alert.

"The alert told people to write to me ... (a)nd so they did," Getler wrote. "(E)ven though such campaigns are annoying, and frequently partisan, it doesn't mean that the points raised are not legitimate challenges."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Daily Show Scores Again, Exposing Laughable "Journalism" From CNN

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart once again hit the nail on the head, simultaneously showing how easily conservative "facts" are given equal billing by the mainstream media, while exposing CNN anchors Kyra Phillips and Carole Lin as nothing more than pretty faces, seemingly incapable of moderating a topical debate.

An April 26 segment narrated by host Jon Stewart, "Gaywatch," centered on a Texas law passed this month that bars same-sex couples from adopting foster children.

Here is an unofficial transcript:

STEWART: The state House of Representatives in Texas recently passed a bill forbidding gay people from adopting foster children. The measure was drafted by State Rep. Robert Talton.

TALTON: We do not believe that homosexuals or bisexuals, uh, should be raising our children.

STEWART: Yeah, he's right. You know, those foster children ought to be raised by their biological abusive or otherwise unfit birth parents. You now, the reason they were taken away from them in the first place.

Of course, since homosexuals are sneaky about their lifestyle, the law also allows state officials to investigate whether suspect foster parents are telling the truth about their sexual orientation.

(BOOING FROM STUDIO AUDIENCE)

Yeah, you know what's interesting? I'm not (expletive) making this up?

This would be done through a series of trick questions on the screening applications, such as:

GRAPHIC: 32. At first I was afraid, I was ________. A) Petrified B) Don't know.

As one supporter of the bill told CNN, this law is based in science.

CATHY ADAMS (Texas Eagle Forum): We also have got to look at research that does show that children in same-sex coupled homes are eleven times more likely to be abused sexually. And I think that that is not an issue that can be ignored. It is a proven fact, and that was a research study done in the state of Illinois.

STEWART: Wow. Hard to argue with that. You know, uh, but Kyra Phillips of CNN still gave opponent Randall Ellis a chance to respond.

ELLIS (Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby): Well, I certainly haven't seen that research. I've certainly never heard anything like that. No child health care professional that I have ever spoken to, no one who has access to any of the credible research being done on these issues, has ever mentioned anything close to that.

STEWART: Actually, you know he's right. The study that she mentioned is based on teh work of one knucklehead who did a Nexis search on the Internet to compile a scientific research (sic). It's a specious claim, and no doubt Kyra Phillips will cut through the spin and point out the facts.

PHILLIPS: It's an interesting debate. A good debate. Thank you both very much.

STEWART: Really? Good debate? Cause it kind of seemed like the one woman was lying, kind of. Kind of making (expletive) up, you now what I'm saying? Co-anchor Carole Lin, you going to let her get away with that?

LIN: I have some opinions about that story. You and I are going to share them during the commercial break.

PHILLIPS: We'll be talking about it, that's for sure.

STEWART: Why don't you call them on their (expletive) on the air? You're an anchor, for (expletive) sake!

***

Now, before any conservatives think that I take Jon Stewart's word for granted, I did some research -- the same sort of research that CNN should have done before Phillips began conducting her point/counterpoint.

Sure enough, a simple Google search will find the "study," conducted by Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Colorado-based Family Research Institute, which appeared in the March issue of Psychological Reports. And regardless of your feelings on same-sex couples adopting foster children, you may want to know who Dr. Paul Cameron is, and how his "study" came to appear in Psychological Reports. (Again, these questions were easy to research on the Internet).

-- Paul Cameron was dropped from membership of the American Psychological Association in 1983. In 1985, the American Sociological Association adopted a resolution which asserted that "Dr. Paul Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism."

Cameron has been peddling claims about homosexuals and molestation for two decades. Dr. Gregory M. Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, has written extensively about Cameron's dubious "research."

HEREK: Cameron's claims hinge on the incorrect assumption that all male-male molestations are committed by homosexuals. Moreover, a careful reading of Cameron's paper reveals several false statements about the literature he claimed to have reviewed.

For example, he cited the Groth and Birnbaum (1978) study mentioned previously as evidencing a 3:2 ratio of "heterosexual" (i.e., female victim) to "homosexual" (i.e., male victim) molestations, and he noted that "54% of all the molestations in this study were performed by bisexual or homosexual practitioners" (p. 1231). However, Groth and Birnbaum reported that none of the men in their sample had an exclusively homosexual adult sexual orientation, and that none of the 22 bisexual men were more attracted to adult males than to adult females. The "54%" statistic reported by Cameron doesn't appear anywhere in the Groth and Birnbaum (1978) article, nor does Cameron explain its derivation.

It also is noteworthy that, although Cameron assumed that the perpetrators of male-male molestations were all homosexual, he assumed that not all male-female molestations were committed by heterosexuals. He incorporated a "bisexual correction" into his data manipulations to increase further his estimate of the risk posed to children by homosexual/bisexual men.

***

In the case of the Illinois "study," Cameron claimed that 34% of molestations of Illinois foster children were done by homosexuals, vs. 3% by heterosexuals.

Cameron apparently used a Freedom of Information Act request of state records to assist his research, but how that led him to make his claims is unclear. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Children and Family Services said the agency does not track the sexual orientation of prospective foster or adoptive parents. Instead, it tracks whether prospective parents are married or single.

***

But if Cameron's claims are so dubious, why would Psychological Reports print them?

Turns out, Psychological Reports is one of two "vanity publications" produced by Ammons Scientific Journals. Like a vanity book publisher, Ammons will publish just about any work, if the author is willing to pay -- in this case, a reported $27.50 per printed page.

***

So a dubious "study" about homosexuality and molestation is printed in March in a vanity publication, and after the Texas law is passed, CNN hosts a point/counterpoint on the topic.

Did CNN really think that the study would go unmentioned?

And even after realizing she was woefully unprepared, wouldn't it be Phillips' responsiblity to react to Ellis' charge that the cited study was not "credible," and ask a follow-up question? Doesn't CNN have a responsbility to viewers to sort out the facts? Or should viewers assume that pretty faces like Philips and Lin -- anchors on a major news network -- lack a fundamental understanding of how to be journalists?

***

A few weeks back, this site and others wrote extensively about how conservatives were able to introduce an "alternate universe" of facts on the Terri Schiavo tragedy. But those dubious claims were generally made on conservative shows, such as MSNBC's Scarborough Country and Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.

Maybe you can expect such "facts" to be presented on such partisan shows. But CNN -- often lambasted by conservatives as the "Clinton News Network" -- shouldn't so readily accept conservative spin.

The shame of it is that The Daily Show has become the most significant player to showcase how inept the mainstream media has become in preventing the "alternate universe of facts" from pervading the news.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Does He Repeat GOP Slurs? (Part V)

Conservatives look at Chris Matthews' resume and call him a "liberal," ignoring what the television talking head actually says day after day.

JABBS has featured several items on how misleading the conservatives' claim is:

Part I -- Matthews buys into conservative spin by conveniently forgetting facts.
Part II -- Matthews distorts facts to vouch for GOP strength.
Part III -- Matthews re-tells history using conservative spin.
Part IV -- Matthews relies on conservative myths.

And now ...

Part V -- Matthews repeats conservative slurs.

In the April 24 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, Matthews said this of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY):

MATTHEWS: But does anyone think that Hillary will have a pro -- you say she'll have a problem reconciling her current move to the center with her past image as sort of a Madame Defarge of the left?

If you don't know the reference, Madame Defarge is a villainous character in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, described by bookrags.com as a "cruel, vengeance-seeking agent of the (French) revolution ... (who) spends her days knitting a 'register' of names of people she has marked for death."

Does Hillary Clinton have that image? Perhaps among the fringe right -- the ones who believe she murdered Clinton White House attorney Vince Foster and/or Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

So what would cause Matthews to link Clinton with that character?

Turns out, Matthews wasn't being all that original. And guess what? Conservative pundits were responsible for the previous times Clinton was referred to as Madame Defarge.

As reported by mediamatters.org:

-- Right-wing pundit and columnist Robert Novak, on the June 29, 2004 edition of CNN's Crossfire, which he co-hosts: "For a while, I thought that Hillary Rodham Clinton was actually trying to be nice. What disappointing behavior that would be for Madame Defarge."

-- Right-wing pundit and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan, on the Feb. 4, 2005 edition of the syndicated McLaughlin Group: "(S)he's smart enough to know that the Madame Defarge image has got to go. "

-- Right-wing pundit and MSNBC host Monica Crowley, during a Feb. 13, 2005 interview with conservative website NewsMax.com: "I guess we won't be booking her anytime soon. Maybe she doesn't like being called Madame DeFarge on this program."

It makes me wonder whether Matthews was just repeating what he heard around the MSNBC water-cooler when he used his "Madame Defarge" line. Sort of a conservative spin version of Six Degrees of Separation, if you ask me.

Monday, April 25, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

"Current Senate rules require 60 votes to close debate on a confirmation, allowing Democrats to thwart the action by mustering 41 votes. Republicans want to lower the threshold for closing debate on all nominations to a simple majority. Democrats call this the nuclear option, while Republicans call this a constitutional option."

-- New York Times, April 22

"What it basically -- it's called the nuclear option."

-- Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Nov. 14, 2004, on Fox News Sunday.

"If we continue to see obstruction where one out of three of the president's nominees to fill vacancies in the circuit court are being obstructed, then action would be taken. One of those is the nuclear option."

-- Frist, Nov. 16, 2004, on National Public Radio.

"(Sen. Frist) will in fact impose the nuclear option."

-- Rev. Jerry Falwell, Feb. 16, on CNN's Crossfire.

"Changing the Senate’s rules on judicial filibustering was first addressed in 2003, during the successful Democratic filibuster against Miguel Estrada, whom Bush had nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with 'nuclear option,' and the term stuck."

-- New Yorker magazine, March 7.

***

And who cares, anyway?

Well, the conservatives do. This is classic Frank Luntz -- try to sell the American people your idea by using sunny, pleasing phrasing. In the old days -- the days when reporters nationwide tried to emulate Woodward and Bernstein -- politicians would have to go directly to the people with this kind of etymological spin.

But now we live in a world where conservative pundits can repeat "alternate facts" and "alternate histories" as if they are true. When they do so enough, eventually this alternate universe makes its way into the mainstream media, who feel compelled to provide "fair and balanced" coverage, lest they be labeled "liberal."

Is it any surprise then that the "liberal" New York Times ran conservative spin as fact?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Washington Post Soft-Pedals Lott's Racially Divisive Comments

Conservative pundits scream from the rafters about "liberal media bias," pointing to the New York Times and the Washington Post as if to suggest all those newspapers do is providing a cheering section for Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

But as has been shown on JABBS and blogs of a similar vein, those newspapers are as likely as most of their competitors to offer conservative spin in their political news stories, whether it's the Times' Elisabeth Bumiller weekly love letter to President Bush (you may know it as the "White House Letter") or the regular trashing of Al Gore by the Post's Ceci Connolly.

Conservative pundits want you to think the "liberal" press is immune to conservative spin, so they don't talk about stories -- or journalists -- who don't fit the bill. They won't talk about how Maureen Dowd of the Times, a "liberal," changed a statement by John Kerry about NASCAR to make him sound aloof in one of her columns. They don't talk about how the Times' Judith Miller repeated the Bush administration's pre-war script on Iraq, to the point where the Times ultimately had to write a half-page apology for its lack of balanced reporting. Such things don't fit in with the theme of "liberal media bias," so they are ignored.

The latest example of that "liberal" media -- the one the conservatives don't want to talk about -- came in the April 14 edition of the Post, in which reporter Shailagh Murray wrote an uncritical feature on former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), in which he soft-pedaled controversial 2002 comments at a 100th birthday party for former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

MURRAY: Trent Lott is reminiscing with supporters at the Rocky Creek Catfish Cottage, recalling the goat barbecues and Jaycee meetings that marked his first House campaign 33 years ago. But the senator draws the biggest whoops when he mentions the "little bump in the road" he hit in December 2002, when his return to the position of Senate majority leader was scuttled by what some saw as nostalgic words about segregation.

Some saw? How about just about everyone saw, including President Bush, who said Lott's comments "do not reflect the spirit of our country," and many of Lott's Republican Congressional colleagues.

Let's review what Lott said in 2002: "I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Barely two weeks after the racially divisive remarks, Lott stepped down as majority leader.

MURRAY: All Washington thought he was finished. "But they don't know us as Mississippians," Lott chortles as heads nod around the dining room. "You get back up on it and you ride again."

***

If you're not familiar with Thurmond's 1948 run as a Dixiecrat, know that Thurmond supported segregation and opposed anti-lynching legislation. At his party's convention, Thurmond said: "Ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the n*gger race into our theaters, into our swimming polls, into our homes and into our churches."

***

But the Post's front-page article on Lott wants to soft-pedal history. While admitting that Lott's demise as majority leader was "self-inflicted," Murray gives Lott room to spin the reasoning behind his questionable comments.

MURRAY: Lott insisted he was just trying to flatter the old man, but once the line received widespread media attention it triggered a national furor.

Ah yes, it's the media's fault. Only a conservative spinner would rationalize what happened as: If only no one had recorded Lott's comments ...

MURRAY: Lott apologized repeatedly for his remarks; appeared on Black Entertainment Television to swear allegiance to civil rights, including affirmative action; and called colleagues to explain and apologize. But nothing worked.

Poor Trent. One questionable statement revealed by the media, and in spite of apologies to anyone who would listen, "nothing worked."

But was this really an isolated instance of a racially insensitive remark? If you read Murray's flattering front-page story in the Post, you'd have to say yes. But in fact, it was another Post reporter, Thomas Edsell, who revealed in a December 1998 article that Lott praised the Council of Conservative Citizens back in 1992 for standing "for the right principles and the right philosophy." Lott also appeared at political rallies sponsored by the CCC in 1991 and 1995, and a CCC newsletter from 1997 shows a smiling Trent Lott meeting in his Washington office with top CCC officials.

What is the CCC? The direct organizational successor of the Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s, and an ally of the Ku Klux Klan.

In other words, for the bulk of Lott's Senate career -- he was first elected in 1988 -- he has done or said things that most people would consider racially divisive.

But Murray doesn't want to dwell on that past, instead writing at length about how Lott has rebounded to remain a major player, both within his party and the broader Washington political world. Murray even lays out a set of circumstances that would allow Lott to emerge as majority whip next year.

"But they don't know us as Mississippians," Lott chortled. And why shouldn't he? Conservative pundits will continue to scream about how the Post is Exhibit A in its case that "liberal media bias" exists. They'll ignore Murray's uncritical feature.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bush Changes Mind, Again, On Use Of Propaganda

During a Q&A session following an April 14 speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, President Bush offered his third opinion on his administration's use of propaganda.

You may recall that in January, the administration was on the defensive. Word had leaked that it had paid conservative "journalists" to advocate its policies. Media critics questioned its favoritism toward a Texas GOP operative, Jeff Gannon (aka J.D. Guckert), who had been posing as journalist at press conferences. And it had been harshly criticized by the GAO and others for sending "video news releases" to local television stations, which featured fake reporters and were not clearly identified as government-produced.

BUSH STATEMENT #!: "There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press," Bush said during a January press conference. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

Fair enough. But before long, Bush had changed his mind. In March -- backed by an "ok" from his legal team -- we received:

BUSH STATEMENT #2: "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy. And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling."

Amazingly, Bush was suggesting that propaganda created by the government was not "advocacy" -- as if his administration would pay a journalist or create a video news release to oppose the administration. Americans haven't seen the English language so tortured since President Clinton sought a definition of the word "is."

Which brings us to his April 14 comments, and:

BUSH STATEMENT #3: "Yes, it's deceptive to the American people if it's not disclosed. And I -- first of all, in reviewing this issue have been told this has gone on for quite a while. It makes -- that doesn't excuse the behavior here, but nevertheless it has been, in that it's a legal -- it's legal for -- to use these video news clips. But it's incumbent upon people who use them to say, this news clip was produced by the federal government. Armstrong Williams -- it was wrong what happened there in the Education Department. But, no, I think there needs to be full disclosure about the sourcing of the video news clip in order to make sure that people don't think their taxpayer's money is being used to -- in wrong fashion."

Two points:

-- While the video news releases (VNR) dates back to the Reagan Administration, they have never been used on the scale of the Bush administration. From 2001 to 2004, the Bush administration spent $250 million on VNRs, compared with the $128 million the Clinton administration spent from 2001 to 2004. But, a 2004 GAO report, while criticizing the Bush (and Reagan) administrations for failing to identify its VNRs as government-produced, it did not offer a similar criticism of the Clinton administration's VNRs.

For example, a separate GAO report on deceptive mail (fake sweepstakes, chain letters, etc.) noted a 1994 Federal Trade Commision VNR sent to news stations regarding "how consumers could identify whether elderly relatives were having problems in handling mailed material from organizations." There is no suggestion the VNR was not clearly labeled as produced by the Clinton administration. Another GAO report cites a 1993 VNR on the need for adult immunization, part of a broader public relations strategy coordinated by the Department of Health and Human Services. Again, there is no suggestion the VNR was not clearly identified as government-produced.

-- Let me highlight a point Bush made twice in his comments:

1) But it's incumbent upon people who use them to say, this news clip was produced by the federal government.

2) I think there needs to be full disclosure about the sourcing of the video news clip in order to make sure that people don't think their taxpayer's money is being used to -- in wrong fashion."

In other words, don't blame the Bush administration for failing to clearly label its propaganda. It's not their fault. They aren't taking any responsibility for confusion.

No, the Bush administration wants the media critics and the GAO to blame local television station producers if they fail to disclose that they use government-produced propaganda.

What does Bush really think about propaganda? Who knows. But as this story continues to percolate -- there's a congressional investigation under way regarding the payments to conservative "journalists" -- don't be surprised if the conservative punditry follows Bush's lead.

Because if you're looking for a way to spin this mess, clearly it's easier to blame anonymous television news producers than to blame Bush.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

In USA Today, Prof Complains About "Me-Tooism," Then Commits It

In an April 19 op-ed piece in USA Today, Rutgers University professor Ross Baker complained about Democratic "me-tooism" -- what he called the desire of some Democrats to "emulate Republicans in everything but name."

Then, ironically, he emulated some Republicans, repeating a well-worn myththat former Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey was prevented from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he opposes abortion rights.

In the piece, "Soul-Searching within the Democratic Party," Baker writes: Democratic me-tooism can be seen in the efforts by some Democrats to seek out pro-life candidates such as Bob Casey Jr., son of the late governor of Pennsylvania, who was snubbed at the 1992 Democratic convention for his pro-life views."

As reported on JABBS and elsewhere, Casey was denied a speech at the 1992 convention because he refused to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. At least eight speakers who opposed abortion rights spoke at that convention, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, and Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL). The same has held true at subsequent conventions, in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Baker isn't some faux Democrat. He served on the staffs of Senators Walter F. Mondale (D-MN), Birch Bayh (D-IN), and Frank Church (D-UT), and more recently, he was a senior advisor to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

But he isn't doing the party any favors by repeating 13-year-old conservative myths.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Daily Show Reveals Luntz For The Master Manipulator He Is

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewed Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz for an April 19 piece on "town hall meetings" featuring President Bush discussing his Social Security privatization plan.

But clearly, the point of "correspondent" Samantha Bee's piece was to expose Luntz as a master manipulator. And Bee succeeds beautifully.

Skip over the jokes Bee inserts, and all kidding aside, Luntz's insights were just a little bit scary.

Here's an unofficial transcript of the piece, "Hall of Same":

BEE (voiceover images of President Bush at town hall meetings): As he barnstorms across the country to sell his Social Security reforms, President Bush has introduced an exciting innovation: the fake town hall.

In these stirring non-debates, pre-screened citizens are free to voice their president's opinions. And pepper him with the toughest of compliments.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN AT TOWN HALL MEETING: I'm very happy to have you as a president. (Applause)

BEE (voice over): So why is a fake town hall so much better for our democracy?

LUNTZ (speaking to Bee, identified as "Conservative Image Consultant"): A real town hall can be very dangerous if it gets out of control. A town hall that gets out of control, a town hall where the speaker cannot command the respect and the control of the audience, can look very bad on television.

BEE (voiceover images of Luntz on news programs): And let's understand imagery. For many years, the Republican Party has relied on his expertise as a pollster and strategist to hone their message.

LUNTZ (on Fox News Channel): There is such a thing as "security moms."

BEE (voiceover): From renaming the estate tax the "death tax," to hleping label relaxed emissions standards the "clear skies initiative," Luntz has made a brilliant career spraying perfume on dog turds.

BEE (to Luntz): What's a really important features (sic) of a fake town hall?

LUNTZ: To me, the most important component of a successful town hall is the visual. It's the backdrop.

BEE (voiceover): And at a fake town hall, that backdrop includes the people.

LUNTZ (to Bee, while they watch video of a town hall meeting): There he's got an African-American, he's got an Asian, there's your female he's got. It's one of everybody. It's almost like the rainbow, uh, wedding line.

BEE (voiceover): Wow, what and incredibly representative sampling ... of Democrats.

Another vital component: language.

LUNTZ (to Bee): When you want to communicate, even the sounds of the words matter. And the ideal is to use words that begin with the same letter.

BEE (voiceover images of town hall meeting): For example, this banner reads "Strengthening Social Security." That's a big improvement over the original text: "Creating Vast Opportunities For Wall Street To Generate Enormous Commissions Without Addressing The Actual Problem."

BEE (to Luntz): I'm going to read you some words. Help me warm these up a bit.

LUNTZ: O.K.

BEE: Drilling for oil.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Responsible Exploration for Energy."

BEE: Logging.

LUNTZ: I would say: "Healthy Forests."

BEE: Manipulation.

LUNTZ: Explanation and education.

BEE: Orwellian.

LUNTZ: ...

***

Luntz didn't have an immediate answer for Bee on that one.

Media critics and others have long marveled at Luntz's skills, while at the same time targeting lazy "journalists" -- such as the folks at MSNBC -- who offered Luntz as an objective source on various topics, and even allowing Luntz to run on-air focus groups to discuss issues during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Luntz is paid very well to give his Republican clients ways to talk about political topics in sunny, pleasing ways. In effect, his job is to manipulate the language so his Republican clients can manipulate public opinion.

Is it Orwellian? Some critics would say yes. Calling something the opposite of what it is -- such as the "Clean Skies Initiative" -- seems to fit the bill. And Luntz is a master at creating such sunny, pleasing terminology.

Do the Democrats have similar folks at their disposal? Conservatives could toss out several names, I'm sure. But no one has been able to get a political party to speak with one voice, the way Luntz has with the GOP. Luntz has published a manifesto on what words Republican politicians should and should not say (you can download it here.)

No one working for the Democrats can make such a claim.

So when you hear President Bush use a term to explain a policy -- and then hear the same term used non-stop by conservative politicians and pundits alike -- remember the Daily Show piece. Think twice, and do some independent research, because those who mindlessly accept those sunny, pleasing words are simply being manipulated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

... And "Wonkette" Repeats the Gore Myth, Too

Isn't Wonkette, the blog persona of Ana Marie Cox, supposed to be a liberal?

I remember she was the hand-picked "new media" choice of Tom Brokaw during the 2004 election season, representing the left side of the aisle. She's a regular on the pundit circuit, called upon to offer a humorous (read: immature) look at politics, placed opposite a conservative.

So why is Wonkette repeating conservative myths as fact?

From an April 4 post, written by contributor Greg Beato:

BEATO: Al Gore invented the Internet once; now he's doing it again! Only this time, he's inventing the Internet on television. Old news, you say? True enough. In fact, when Gore first announced his cable news network for young 'uns, we think we were still in the demo. Today, however, the new network gets a new name. It's gonna be called Current, which is the boring, clunky way to say Now! (Nice one, Al!) And it's gonna be just like the Internet. User-created content. Super-short content. Stuff about music, videogames...wait a second, we're halfway through the press release, and we haven't seen any mention of porn. Al Gore has re-invented the Internet, on TV, minus the porn? Why?

Oh yes, very witty. About as witty as Washington Post television writer Lisa de Moraes, who offered similar humor (minus the Gore "invented the Internet" reference on April 5.

Maybe de Moraes was "inspired" by the Wonkette post.

(Beato's resume includes being the editor of soundbitten.com, and a regular contributor to Suck and Spin. Does that qualify him as a liberal? I don't know).

***

A lot of bloggers are inspired by Wonkette. Do a technorati.com search, and you can find lots of conservative bloggers quoting from this particular Wonkette post -- a way to poke fun at Gore, for something he never said. (See the above link for the history of "invented the Internet.")

In other words, Wonkette didn't live up to its "liberal" credentials.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Does He Rely On Conservative Myths? (Part IV)

Conservative look at Chris Matthews' resume and insist he's a "liberal."

But the rest of us know better.

We've mentioned before how Matthews loves to repeat old conservative myths about former Vice President Al Gore . And Matthews, if nothing else, is consistent.

From the April 17 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show*:

MATTHEWS (4/17/05): Before we go to break, Al Gore may have been the Thomas Edison of the Internet, but George W. Bush is the first president with an iPod. Here now is a sampling of the presidential playlist.

Oh, how clever.

To read the sad history of this conservative myth, check out the JABBS archive .

Unfortunately, there is no answer as to why Matthews refuses to research facts before he opens his mouth. Matthews claims he has to "fact-check every night, because we don‘t have a corrections page" on his shows.

But that's just another myth, as factual as the one that says Gore once said he "invented the Internet."


* Thanks to dailyhowler.com

Is There a Bigger Bush Propagandist Than Elisabeth Bumiller?

Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" is a joke. Week in and week out, Bumiller pens Bush propaganda in the New York (not Washington) Times.

Her latest puff piece , in this morning's New York (not Washington) Times, discusses the president's love of baseball. And she doesn't even mention how, as an owner of the Texas Rangers, Bush once traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox. Even that bit of bad press is too much for Bumiller.

Lots of folks complained last year that it was unfair for Bumiller to pen these love notes, while no similar column was devoted to John Kerry. How might the campaign have been altered if readers had greater access to Kerry's personality, on a weekly basis? Maybe not all that much. But under the heading of "fair and balanced," it would have been nice to find out.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Pentagon Offers Propaganda Channel to Cable, Satellite Users

Did you know the Defense Department operates a 24-hour television "news" network?

The Pentagon Channel was launched last year, available to 2.6 million troops on 136 military bases worldwide. It was originally designed as a closed-circuit station, but as of February, when it became a 24-hour network, the Bush administration began promoting it to cable and satellite users.

Cost to taxpayers: $6 million per year.

***

EchoStar's Dish Network carries the station, as do 10 cable providers, including Time Warner Cable (for its digital cable subscribers). Public channels in several states, primarily in the Southeast -- local community channels, for example -- air shows as part of their broadcast days. The Defense Department estimates 11.6 million Americans now have access to the channel. Additionally, Sirius Satellite Radio offers an overnight feed of the network's programming.

"There's nothing wrong with the military bringing this onto the base," Robert Snyder, director of Rutgers University-Newark's journalism and media studies program, told the St. Petersburg (FL) Times last month. "But broadcasting Pentagon programs on a public access cable channel is basically going to be the equivalent of a public relations channel intruding into the public sphere. They shouldn't be broadcast and published out into the general world as if they were an independent source of journalism."

According to a network press release, the channel's "CNN-like" programming includes:

-- Shows like "Around The Services," a daily half-hour program featuring military news from top Defense officials and military services around the world.

-- One-minute news updates called "Pentagon Channel Reports" air at the top of each hour.

-- A daily program called "Freedom Journal Iraq," focusing on military missions, operations and U.S. military forces in Iraq.

-- A program called "Studio Five" airs weekly interviews from top Defense leadership.

-- The channel runs programs specific to each branch of service. For the Sea Services, the channel features shows like "Navy and Marine Corps News" and "Your Corps," a show produced monthly at Quantico Marine Corps Base that features the men and women of the Marine Corps.

***

This isn't the only effort to bring military propaganda to a television near you.

The military also offers the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service, a unit of 40 reporters and producers designed to produce "news" stories highlighting the accomplishments of military members. The reports are then sent to the members' hometown television stations.

"We're the 'good news' people," Larry W. Gilliam, the unit's deputy director, told the New York Times.

According to the Times, the unit produced 50 "news" stories last year that were broadcast 236 times in all, reaching 41 million households in the United States.

The news service makes it easy for local stations to run its segments unedited. Reporters, for example, are never identified by their military titles. "We know if we put a rank on there they're not going to put it on their air," Gilliam told the Times.

Sadly, few stations acknowledge the military's role in the segments. "Just tune in and you'll see a minute-and-a-half news piece and it looks just like they went out and did the story," Gilliam told the Times.

Friday, April 15, 2005

FCC, Democrats Fight Bush's Approved Use of Propaganda

From freepress.net:

The Federal Communications Commission and Congress are now taking steps to stop news fraud.

Last night, the FCC instructed all newscasters to fully disclose the origin of "video news releases" (VNRs) aired on their programs. The FCC took this action as a direct response to the more than 40,000 Free Press activists who signed our petition last month.

This morning, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) announced that he will call a Senate hearing next week on VNRs. Also, Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA) announced their intention to introduce legislation to stop the government from putting out VNRs without clearly displaying their source.

***

The moves come less than a month after two administration officials said in memos that it was ok for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/04/bush-adminstration-oks-continued-use.html).

The memos prompted President Bush to say at a March 16 news conference: "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK."

Although the Bush administration has suggested that the taxpayer-financed propaganda pieces are clearly labeled as government-produced, local news directors have contradicted this, saying that they wrongly believed the news stories were produced by legitimate free-lance journalists. More than 40 news stations have used the releases.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Does He Repeat GOP Myths? (Part III)

Chris Matthews, on the April 13 edition of Hardball, said exactly the right thing:

MATTHEWS: Let me tell you my job. It‘s not only to elicit opinion from people that don‘t want to give it. It‘s to fact-check every night, because we don‘t have a corrections page here at Hardball. Every time someone says something on this show that I believe to be factually incorrect, in a matter of seconds, sometimes, within a minute or two, I have got to find the information through my ear or whatever and correct it. ... Because, otherwise, people assume, since I sat here and let somebody say something, it must be true.

If only it were true.

***

On the April 8 edition of Hardball, Matthews' fact-checkers must have had the night off.

Matthews, speaking with Catholic Archbishop John F. Foley, repeated the conservative myth that former Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey was prevented from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because he opposes abortion rights.

According to mediamatters.org, Matthews has repeated this story on at least five occasions. I guess the fact-checkers didn't get the information into Matthews' ear on those nights, either.

Casey was denied a speech at the convention because he refused to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. At least eight speakers who opposed abortion rights spoke at that convention, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL). The same has held true at subsequent conventions, in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

But Matthews, the great fact-checker that he is, allowed the conservative spin of the 1992 Casey non-speech to prevail.

MATTHEWS: Right, but Catholics, in state after state with the exception of Pennsylvania, elect pro-choice senators. Those states which are most heavily Catholic have the most predictably pro-choice senators. And that's not to say Catholics believe in abortion -- they don't. They don't like it. But if you look at the numbers, they tend to vote for senators, whether it's Hillary Clinton (D-NY) or it's Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who are pro-choice.

FOLEY: Maybe that's one reason why I'm so proud to be from Pennsylvania. And this time the Democrats are nominating a pro-life candidate. Which is ...

MATTHEWS: Right, but that's the exception in the country.

FOLEY: ... a type of mini-conversion on the part of the Democratic Party. The same Democratic Party that wouldn't permit Governor Casey, the father of the person who is being nominated now for senator, to speak at the convention in New York. I thought that was a disgrace.

MATTHEWS: Certainly I do, too. I've said it many times.

***

Matthews didn't "let somebody say something," without correcting it. He agreed with it, and admitted he's "said it many times."

Conservatives insist that Matthews is a liberal. But would a liberal propagate conservative myths? I doubt it. But according to Matthews own words, if he allows something to be said without speaking up, he must believe it to be factually correct.

In other words, Matthews is willing to allow conservative spin to replace the facts.

And this is not an isolated case. Matthews chastised Al Gore for "inventing the Internet" -- a phrase he never said, which Matthews could have found out by doing some basic research before opening his mouth (the original interview is available on CNN's web site.) A simple Lexis-Nexis search would have allowed Matthews to avoid repeating the conservative myth that Gore exaggerated when he admitted that he was the role model for the main character in Erich Segal's famed book, "Love Story" (the original interview with the Nashville Tennessean is accessible). And more recently, Matthews could have "fact-checked" Dick Cheney's statement, during the vice presidential debate last year, that he'd never before met John Edwards. A day after the debate, when video had been produced proving that the Cheney line was pure drivel, Matthews still was calling the vice president's debate performance "powerful."

Try to find examples of Matthews repeating liberal "myths" about the GOP. It'll take a long time to find even one. When it comes to shooting down liberal myths, Matthews knows how to play hardball.

Conservatives don't want to admit this -- Matthews once worked for Tip O'Neill, they'll remind you as they scream "liberal media bias." But the facts speak otherwise.

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Did He Distort Facts To Support GOP? (Part II)

Conservatives insist that Chris Matthews is a liberal. After all, he used to work for Tip O'Neill.

But would a liberal knowingly distort the facts to make a point that favors Republicans?

On the April 10 edition of the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, that's exactly what happened. A graphic on the screen showed Catholic support for three presidents -- Kennedy, Reagan and Bush -- to which Matthews said:

MATTHEWS: Republicans in America are shoring up the faithful into a phalanx of political power -- real power -- and it's working. Take a look at Catholics. They backed John F. Kennedy, of course, by huge margins. But Ronald Reagan got almost half of the Catholic vote in 1980, and George W. Bush got a majority, 52 percent, last year.

If there were only three presidential elections since 1960, maybe Matthews' argument would make sense. Reagan received 49% of the Catholic vote in 1980 and Bush received 52% of the Catholic vote in 2004 -- both amounts nearly doubling the percentage of the Catholic vote Richard Nixon received back in 1960, when he ran against a Catholic, John F. Kennedy.

But of course, there have been more than three presidential elections since 1960, and if Matthews had actually shown viewers the results of each of those elections, it would be clear that Republicans aren't gaining Catholic support.

Take a look at the elections from 1980 to 2004:

1980: Reagan receives 49% of the Catholic vote (plurality in a three-man race).
1984: Reagan receives 54% of the Catholic vote.
1988: George H.W. Bush receives 52% of the Catholic vote.
1992: Bill Clinton receives 45% of the Catholic vote (plurality in a three-man race).
1996: Clinton receives 52% of the Catholic vote.
2000: Al Gore receives 50% of the Catholic vote.
2004: George W. Bush receives 52% of the Catholic vote.

In other words, in each case, Catholics favored the candidate who received the most popular votes -- the winner in each case but 2000. And, in truth, this trend goes back to 1972, with Catholics favoring Nixon that year, and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Hardly the trend that Matthews suggested.

***

Why distort the facts?

Here's a theory. I'm guessing that Matthews, an Irish Catholic, was a fan of the Kennedys in the 1960s. He was just shy of 18 when JFK was assassinated, and just a year out of Holy Cross when brother Bobby was gunned down. And yes, he did work for Democrats from 1971 to 1987, including four years as a Carter speechwriter and six years as a top aide to O'Neill.

But at some point, Matthews began to drift right. It might have been because, like his boss O'Neill, he was fond of Reagan, and respected "The Gipper," both as a man and as a politician. In recent years, Matthews has almost exclusively praised Reagan. It was pretty clear that Matthews didn't respect Clinton, at least the latter years of his presidency, and he certainly has made his distaste of Hillary Clinton clear.

Isn't it possible that Matthews has gradually moved right of center over the past 15-20 years? And, given his regular criticism of the uninspiring candidacies of Gore and John Kerry -- he has found himself more and more allying himself with Republicans?

Maybe this rightward tilt has affected his ability to separate his own personal beliefs from simple factual analysis.

How else can one explain Matthews' incorrectly declaring that Republicans have been "shoring up" the Catholic vote? Honestly, viewers can only draw one of three conclusions -- either Matthews is:

-- Putting wishful thinking ahead of the facts.
-- Accepting GOP spin as fact.
-- Too stupid to do basic research before opening his mouth.

With any of the three, it's clear that Matthews is anything but a liberal broadcaster.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Conservatives Insist Matthews is a "Liberal." So Why Does He Buy Into GOP Spin? (Part I)

Conservatives insist that Chris Matthews is a liberal. After all, he used to work for Tip O'Neill.

But as has been shown on JABBS and elsewhere, Matthews often skews his MSNBC Hardball and NBC Chris Matthews Show panels to the right (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/01/matthews-again-skews-hardball-panel-to.html and http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/08/matthews-doesnt-play-hardball-and-he.html). And on many issues, he lazily repeats GOP spin (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/10/day-after-veep-debate-chris-matthews.html and http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/09/if-chris-matthews-is-liberal-then-ann.html), although some media critics have suggested that Matthews' inability to discern GOP spin is because he is ill-prepared when he conducts interviews.

As I've said before, at best, Matthews is a "Fox Democrat," but more likely, he's a guy who once was a Reagan Democrat, and has gradually drifted right. Matthews has praised Trent Lott and John McCain to their faces and lazily repeated spin on Al Gore. He's shown his distaste for a number of Demcorats, most notably John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, while offering kind words for President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Even if a viewer were to believe that in his heart of hearts, Matthews still sees himself as a Democrat, it's pretty clear that he aligns himself with many of the Republican personalities. Some have suggested this is because Matthews is positioning himself to move to Fox News, while others have suggested he is trying to increase his ratings among conservative viewers.

But whatever the excuse, the proof is in his broadcasts. Matthews doesn't spin for the left. He does spin for the right.

For a recent example, consider the April 10 edition of the Chris Matthews Show, in which Matthews heaped praise on to Bush, and in the process offered some ripe GOP spin.

Covering Bush's trip to Rome for the Pope's funeral, Matthews said*:

MATTHEWS: Let me talk about coming over here. What I was struck by was the way in which everyone knows that the president — and I — by the way, he was wonderful in coming over here. I think — and we all agree, we've been over here this week — his presence was wonderful coming over, and the first lady was great and, and bringing the two former presidents. He did it just the right way. But it seemed to me odd that the part — one party seemed to almost monopolize the event. It seemed like a Republican visit. Didn't it, Chris [Jansing]?

Later, Matthews offered this:

MATTHEWS: I go back to my point: I think the Republicans made a pronounced appearance here, a wonderful visit by the president.

But, why did it seem like a "Republican visit"? Because Bush had only invited one Democrat, former president Bill Clinton. Another former president, Democrat Jimmy Carter, had made it known that he wanted to attend as well, but Bush chose to bring Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice instead. In fact, stories about Carter's wishes being denied made the news.

So the official delegation consisted of four Republicans and one Democrat. And there's nothing wrong with that. Bush had the right to fill his five-man delegation any way he wanted.

Matthews knows all that, yet he conveniently forgets the facts in order to praise Bush for creating what "seemed like a Republican visit." And his panel -- NBC's Chris Jansing and David Gregory and the BBC's Gavin Hewitt -- didn't contradict anything Matthews said.

If Chris Matthews a liberal? The proof is in his broadcasts. Matthews doesn't spin for the left. He does spin for the right.


* With thanks to dailyhowler.com for the transcript

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Compassionate Conservative" Bush Found Time For Schiavo, But Not For Minnesota Shooting Victims

President Bush calls himself a "compassionate conservative," or at least he does when it's convenient, and usually when there are votes at stake.

He cut short a vacation in Crawford, Texas -- the first time in his four-plus years as president -- to fly to Washington on March 19 and act in favor of Terri Schiavo's parents.

But when it came time for him a few days later to act presidential after the deadly March 22 shootings at a high school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota -- to show his "pro-life" attributes -- Bush was quiet for four days.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was also silent in the days following the shootings by 16-year-old Jeff Weise, which killed 10, including himself. (To be fair, Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Patrick Ragsdale and Ruben Barrales, assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs, attended funeral services.)

***

Bush's response to the Red Lake shootings sharply contrasts with President Clinton's reaction to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which 15 died.

Clinton spoke to reporters the night of the shootings, offering condolences tot he families, but also saying: "after a little time has passed, we need to have a candid assessment about what more we can do to try to prevent these things from happening." In his weekly radio address four days later, Clinton called for new gun control initiatives, more federal funding for school safety and efforts by the entertainment industry to reduce the marketing of violent video games and movies to young people.

(Bush, it should be noted, has cut funding for a $180 million program launched by the Clinton administration to place more police officers in schools, reducing spending to just $5 million. Bush's most recent budget unsuccessfully sought to eliminate a $437 million program that provides grants to states to fund school anti-violence and anti-drug programs, and replace it with an $85 million school safety grant program.)

In fact, some are comparing Bush's early response to the Red Lake shootings to his widely criticize initial response to the December tsunami that cut through 11 Asian countries (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2004/12/eleven-countries-suffer-their-911.html). The administration initially pledged a meager $35 million of relief, then boosted that to $350 million a few days later, and ultimately included $950 million of spending in the administration's $82 billion "emergency spending" defense bill ( http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/02/82-billion-emergency-spending-bill.html).

***

Criticism of Bush's initial silence on Red Lake came from several corners:

"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian and local community leader. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences."

"I hope that he would say something," said Victoria Graves, a cultural educator at Red Lake Elementary School on the reservation. "It's important that there's acknowledgment of the tragedy. It's important he sees the tribes are out here. We need help."

"He has not been real visible in Indian country," said former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."

***

So why was Bush's reaction to Red Lake so different than his response to the congressional efforts to restore Terri Schiavo's feeding tube? Why didn't our "compassionate conservative" president treat each issue with equal leadership?

Some critics put it this way: Conservative Christians pressed Bush to intervene on behalf of Schiavo's parents, while the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment groups generally look to minimize the relevance of a political response to bloodbaths like Red Lake.

"The bottom line is the gun lobby is too important a constituency to the Republican Party for them to do anything," Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, a group that advocates gun control, told the Los Angeles Times. "The sad reality is if Terri Schiavo had been shot, the administration would not have lifted a finger to help her."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Halliburton Tries Advertising Campaign To Lobby Support

Call it coincidence, but embattled government contractor Halliburton announced a new advertising campaign on the same day a lawsuit was filed by the daughter of an employee killed in 2004.

The print and television campaign features employees relating why they are proud to work for Halliburton. "The campaign is focused on the thousands of Halliburton employees who every day go places no one else will go and do things no one else can do," said Chairman Dave Lesar.

If you watched the Sunday talk shows on April 10, you might have seen the ads, featuring happy talk like this:

Halliburton employee Jay Patterson: "I helped move containerized housing units into the camps, helped hook up running water, power and sewage so that the soldiers could have a decent place to come back to at the end of the day. We got 80,000 troops out of the sand in three months. It was awesome. No other company could have done that."

***

Ask yourself who Halliburton is targeting with the new ads? Sure, some viewers may want to do something "awesome" and send off a resume. But the broader audience: Washington politicians and their friends.

It's a page right out of the Bush administration playbook. Look over here, Halliburton is saying. Don't listen to the liberals ruining our good name.

But liberals aren't leading the charge against Halliburton.

***

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Halliburton complained that the purpose of widespread criticism of the company was to embarrass former CEO and current U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and to sweep Democrat John Kerry into office.

But, according to the very useful website hallburtonwatch.org, its the Bush Administration leading the charge against Halliburton, with multiple criminal investigations under way:

Consider this chronology:

May, 2003: Following an investigation, Halliburton admits having paid 2.4 millions of dollars in bribes to a Nigerian official in return for tax breaks.

December, 2003: The Defense Contract Audit Agency confirms in a preliminary audit that Halliburton and a Kuwaiti firm, Altamnia, had overcharged the U.S. government by at least $61 million through Sept. 2003 for the cost of gasoline imported into Iraq.

January, 2004: Following an investigation, Halliburton admits two of its employees accepted a $6 million bribe in exchange for awarding Army subcontracts to a Kuwaiti-based company involved in rebuilding Iraq. Halliburton fires the employees.

February, 2004: After a routine audit, the Pentagon reports that Halliburton would repay the government for overcharges estimated at $27.4 million for meals served to American troops at five military bases in Iraq and Kuwait last year.

June, 2004: Separate criminal investigations are launched by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission into an alleged $180 million bribe paid by Halliburton and three other companies to the government of Nigeria.

June, 2004: The inspector general for the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority finds that the United States failed to adequately control over $9 billion in international aid, including Halliburton's hotel costs in Kuwait. Halliburton charged the government $2.85 million for hotel costs, even though cheaper housing arrangements were available.

July, 2004: Halliburton's KBR unit loses $18.6 million worth of government property in Iraq because of mismanagement, say government auditors.

August, 2004: The Defense Department launches investigation of Halliburton's billing system, which it calls "inadequate." Pentagon accountants say they are uncertain as to why Halliburton's KBR unit billed the government for $1.8 billion in work that was apparently never undertaken or completed. The $1.8 billion represents 43 percent of Halliburton's expenditures in the Middle East.

November, 2004: The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviews a senior Army contracting specialist over accusations that Halliburton's KBR subsidiary illegally received military contracts.

January, 2005: Halliburton's Cayman Islands subsidiary renews relationship with the Iranian government by signing a multi-year contract to develop trillions in cubic feet of natural gas. (Federal law forbids U.S. companies from doing business with Iran, but foreign subsidiaries are exempt.) Twenty days later, Halliburton issues a press release announcing it will end its operations in Iran after existing contracts come to an end. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is investigating the legality of Halliburton's dealings in Iran.

You probably won't be hearing about the various investigations in the Halliburtion ads.

***

And then there is the lawsuit, arising out of Halliburton's civilian-driven truck convoy of April 9, 2004 in Iraq, during which driver Tommy Hamill was taken hostage and six other drivers were killed by enemy insurgents.

The first lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., accuses Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root of luring employees to work in Iraq in 2003 with false claims that the jobs were safe. Other lawsuits are expected to be filed later this year.

The initial lawsuit was filed by April Johnson, daughter of late truck driver Tony Johnson. It alleges that Halliburton and its subsidiary deployed its civilian truck drivers into a hostile active war zone despite knowledge from intelligence sources that there existed a substantial certainty the civilian drivers, moving in U.S. military vehicles, would be ambushed by Iraqi insurgents and killed or seriously injured. The drivers were following orders from Halliburton to deliver fuel to Baghdad International Airport.

It also alleges that in December 2003, Halliburton, KBR, and Halliburton's Cayman Island subsidiary, Service Employee's International, Inc., recruited civilian employees from the U.S. to work in Iraq under assurances that the civilian workers would be placed in "100% safe" working conditions and engaged in peaceful rebuilding missions.

You probably won't be hearing about the lawsuits in the Halliburton ads, either.

Halliburton is saying Look over here! Hopefully, our government will know better.

Friday, April 08, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

A little trivia note:

Brian Darling, an aide to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who was outed as the author of the memo suggesting that Republicans use the Terri Schiavo tragedy for political gain, specifically against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in 2006, went to the University of Massachusetts.

Darling, who resigned April 6, has worked for the Alexander Strategy Group, a Washington-based lobbying firm with connections to embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). Among the former DeLay aides who are or were employees of Alexander Strategy Group was Tony Rudy.

Rudy, like Darling, was from the Class of 1989 at UMass (Darling, as I learned from Andrew Sullivan's website, apparently graduated from Salem State (MA) University in 1990).

I once knew them well, because I also went to UMass.

***

I knew Darling, Rudy, and their two conservative cohorts, W. Greg Rothman and W. Matthew Whiting, quite well. That foursome successfully filibustered UMass' student government for an entire school year, all to prevent the election of co-presidents, one of whom openly aligned himself with the U.S. Communist Party. (The official reason: the student government constitution didn't explicitly allow for co-presidents, a technically legal argument, but clearly they had other motives.) They also ran a derivative of the famed conservative college newspaper, The Dartmouth Review. Their version was known as The Minuteman.

Frankly, I was friendly with Darling way back when. We used to play wicked games of Cyberball in the Campus Center arcade. Rudy I knew more on a professional level -- he was a student government representative, and I was an editor with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Nice to see they've both moved on to, um, bigger and better things ...

***

Things might have been more innocent in those days. I remember arguing with Brian, Tony, and the Ws about all things Reagan -- gosh, I'm getting old -- but basically, I remember them as being fun, smart guys.

But still, looking back on the one huge filibuster, you can see the raw technique employed by many of our conservative leaders today. Isn't one of the main criticisms of Bushspeak that they say things that are technically correct, but incredibly misleading?

White House Website Skips Cheney Events Where Dissent Was Heard

Vice President Cheney has led a series of "Town Hall Meetings" over the past few weeks, part of the Bush Administration's broader effort to sell the country on Social Security privatization.

And if you were to go to whitehouse.gov, you'd find transcripts for Cheney's meetings on March 21 and 22, in Bakersfield, Calif., and Reno, Nev.

But try to find the transcripts for similar events on March 24, in Battle Creek, Mich., and Pittsburgh. They aren't available. Why? Some are saying it's because there was some dissent among the partisan and otherwise friendly attendees.

***

According to the Lansing State Journal, Cheney shared the stage in Battle Creek with Congressman Joe Schwarz (R-MI), who made it clear to those in attendance that on the issue of Social Security reform, he and the White House have "some disagreements on how we get there." According to the Journal, Schwarz told attendees that "he was not convinced that allowing personal retirement accounts will help solve the problem."

Uh-oh.

Things didn't get any better in Pittsburgh. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cheney had to field questions from at least two folks who were wary of the administration's privatization plan.

According to the newspaper: "Kim Miller, of Mt. Lebanon, said that she had been a federal employee and invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, 'and I didn't do well at all.' ... Another questioner, Barbara Bush, an AARP volunteer from the North Hills, pressed Cheney on the fund's solvency, arguing that the creation of private accounts would do nothing to solve that basic issue."

Uh-oh.

Did Cheney handle these questions easily? Reading the Post-Gazette, it's obvious that he did. Were there other questioners supporting the privatization plan? Sure. In the grand scheme of things, the meeting would have to be considered a pro-privatization event.

***

In Bakersfield and Reno, Cheney faced only friendly questions, and you can read them on whitehouse.gov in their entirety if you want to "educate" yourself on the virtues of privatization.

But whitehouse.gov wasn't interested in offering a dissenting Republican view in Battle Creek, or even the healthy Q&A that occurred in Pittsburgh.

It's a continuation of the broad effort to control information, to the point of pretending only one view point exists. That's hardly evidence of a thriving democracy.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Conservative Leaders Draw Line In Sand: Support DeLay ... Or Else

Quotes from the March 31 Washington Times:

"Tom DeLay is the chosen leader of his party in the House. He needs to be held accountable, and so should House Republicans, who have to choose between DeLay and decency."

-- Ellen Miller, deputy director of the Campaign for America's Future

Conservative leaders across the country are working now to make sure that any politician who hopes to have conservative support in the future had better be in the forefront as we attack those who attack Tom DeLay."

-- Morton Blackwell, RNC and American Conservative Union

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bush Adminstration OKs Continued Use of Propaganda

The Bush Administration's assault on a free press continues.

Two administration officials, Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in memos last month that it was ok for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

As Bradbury wrote, the administration did not view such pre-packaged stories as propaganda, as long as "there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint."

It's an amazing viewpoint. According to Bolten and Bradbury, a video news release produced by the government -- about a government initiative and prominently feature government officials -- is not advocating the government's viewpoint.

I'm sure journalists and media critics are holding their collective breath waiting for the administration to produce a story against a government initiative.

***

In January, as word spread that the government had paid conservative pundits to advocate Bush administration policy (http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/01/another-conservative-journalist-found.html and http://jabbs.blogspot.com/2005/01/third-conservative-journalist-found-on.html), President Bush took a position against the practice.

"We didn't know about this in the White House. There needs to be a nice independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press. All our Cabinet secretaries must realize that we will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

But it was just empty talk. After the memos from Bolten and Bradbury, the president -- backed by an "ok" from his legal team -- came out in favor of propaganda.

"There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy," Bush said in a March 16 press conference. "And I expect our agencies to adhere to that ruling."

Consider the statement. Our president, leader of the free world and one of history's strongest voices for the spread of freedom and democracy, okaying the use of propaganda, something our history books tell us is best associated with communist nations, such as China and the fomer Soviet Union.

As Comptroller General David M. Walker said: "This is more than a legal issue. It's also an ethical issue and involves important good government principles, namely the need for openness in connection with government activities and expenditures. We should not just be seeking to do what's arguably legal. We should be doing what's right."

***

How does Bush administration propaganda work?

Using taxpayer dollars, the government hires a public relations firm to create "video news releases" -- slickly packaged news stories that are sent to local news stations in target markets, often in "swing states." Topics include everything from "No Child Left Behind" to the Medicaid Act of 2003. Although the Bush administration has suggested that the news releases are clearly labeled as government-produced, local news directors have contradicted this, saying that they wrongly believed the news stories were produced by legitimate free-lance journalists. More than 40 news stations have used the releases.

Last spring, the GAO concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services illegally spent federal money on video news releases on the Medicaid Act.

Were the releases "advocacy of a particular viewpoint"? You decide:

The video news releases include:

-- Footage of President Bush, in the presence of Members of Congress and others, signing the Medicare Act into law.

-- A series of clips of seniors engaged in various leisure and health-related activities, including consulting with a pharmacist and being screened for blood pressure. The narration at this point suggest ways that seniors will benefit from the changes to the law.

-- Clips of Tommy Thompson, then the HHS Secretary, and Leslie Norwalk, Acting Deputy Administrator, making statements regarding changes to Medicare under the act.

-- Each piece ends with “In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting.” Karen Ryan, however, is not a reporter, but a public relations firm operator paid by the government.

Seems like "advocacy of a particular viewpoint" to me.

***

Were the local stations told that Karen Ryan was a public relations employee hired by the government? They say no.

Their anchors were given two "lead-ins" for the video news releases, which further suggest that Ryan was being presented as a reporter, not a government employee.

One lead-in went: “The Federal Government is launching a new, nationwide campaign to educate 41 million people with Medicare about improvements to Medicare. Karen Ryan explains.” The other went: "In December, President Bush signed into law the first ever prescription drug benefit for people with Medicare. There have been a lot of questions about the new Medicare act and its changes to Medicare. Karen Ryan helps sort through the details.”

Worse, when HHS spokesman Bill Pierce was interviewed last year about the video news releases by Columbia Journalism Review, he initially referred to Ryan as a "freelance journalist."

As blogger Jay Rosen of PressThink wrote: "There is no rational interpretation, professional ethic, or angle of vision in which the sentence, 'From Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting' looks like anything other than a simple lie."

But the Bush Administration -- and the president himself -- say that such lies are ok.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Washington (Not New York) Post Shows Unnecessary Contempt For Gore

Washington (not New York) Post television writer Lisa de Moraes couldn't have been more clear.

She wanted to ridicule Al Gore.

In her coverage of Gore's new cable television network, Current, de Moraes couldn't withhold her utter disdain, flicking off sarcastic one-liners at every turn.

Why? More on that later. First, check out her incredible wit at the former vice president's expense:

"Gore thinks he can lure young viewers to his new cable TV network by having them contribute their own videos," she wrote. "And it's a really chepa way to program a network."

"This voice-giving would be accomplished with a blend of interactivity and populism," she wrote. "Don't you wish you'd been there -- I know I do."

"Gore indicated his commitment to the Web model by wearing a charcoal-gray suit and no tie -- the official special-occasion uniform of dot-commers," she wrote.

"Videos ... eventually will comprise more than half of the programming," she wrote. "Where I come from that's called 'cheap labor.'"

Book her at your local comedy club, folks.

***

Why did de Moraes show such utter disdain for Gore? Because she's following a well-worn script our mainstream (or as conservatives say, "liberally biased") media loves to tell: "Gore is a kook."

The mainstream media has been peddling this story for years, most notably back in 1999, when it allowed Americans to think that Gore had claimed he had "invented the Internet." I know you think that Gore actually uttered those words, but as I will show you below, he never did. And other great "Gore is a kook" stories could also be debunked pretty easily, although the Washington (not New York) Post and the New York Times didn't seem to care. When it comes to covering Gore, from the clothes he wears (and why) to his powerful address critical of President Bush's Iraq strategy to his endorsement of Howard Dean (and why didn't he first call Joe Lieberman?), the mainstream media loves to tell the tale.

"Gore is a kook," is sort of like "The Curse of the Bambino." It's easy to tell, and pleasing (to some) to hear. Another thing they both have in common: They're both myths.

***

Let's go back to March, 1999, when the media decided that it would ignore the truth and peddle the conservative spin on Gore "inventing the Internet."

It all began with a March 9 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Note that Blitzer moves on without missing a beat.

BLITZER: I want to get to some of the substance of domestic and international issues in a minute, but let's just wrap up a little bit of the politics right now.

Why should Democrats, looking at the Democratic nomination process, support you instead of Bill Bradley, a friend of yours, a former colleague in the Senate? What do you have to bring to this that he doesn't necessarily bring to this process?

GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

During a quarter century of public service, including most of it long before I came into my current job, I have worked to try to improve the quality of life in our country and in our world. And what I've seen during that experience is an emerging future that's very exciting, about which I'm very optimistic, and toward which I want to lead.

BLITZER: On this political front, the polls currently see Governor George Bush of Texas and even Elizabeth Dole ahead of you in a hypothetical race nearly two years away from today. Why do you think that's the situation?

GORE: Well, what will decide the outcome of the presidential contest in the year 2000 will not be public opinion polls but the power of ideas, the quality of leadership, the compelling vision that I will offer for the American people and how they respond to it. It won't be decided by public opinion polls.

***

Blitzer didn't skip a beat during the interview. Why? Because it was well-established fact that within his role in Congress, Gore had championed transforming the Arpanet -- a government-only vehicle -- into the Internet, something the public could use. There are literally dozens of Internet experts who have been interviewed confirming this, and even Gore's colleagues, including the likes of Newt Gingrich, agreed that Gore was a leader on the issue.

The immediate reaction from the press was ho-hum, because what Gore actually said was factual. Was it the most articulate wording? No. But in a world where George W. Bush is our leader, the way the press was willing to go along with the conservative spin of Gore's statement is incomprehensible.

Let's look at the immediate reaction from the press*:

-- March 9: In its on-air promotions for the taped interview, CNN showed no sign of thinking that Gore had “made news” with his comment.

-- March 10: The Washington Post ran a full report about the Gore-Blitzer session. But the paper only discussed Gore’s remarks on U.S. relations with China.

-- March 10: Associated Press dispatches about Gore’s interview completely ignored his Internet comment.

-- March 10: Hotline ran extensive excerpts from the Q&A, but omitted the Internet remark altogether.

-- March 11: The Washington Times reviewed the interview in his “Inside Politics” column, but only mentioned what Gore had said about early campaign polling.

In other words, this wasn't news -- not even for the conservative Washington Times.

But then the conservatives pounced:

Rep. Dick Armey put out a press release on March 11 mocking Gore for claiming he created the Internet -- a subtle change to what Gore actually said. Rep. James Sensenbrenner also sent out a press release that day, titled “DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR: VICE PRESIDENT GORE TAKES CREDIT FOR CREATING THE INTERNET.” Sensenbrenner later that day was quoted by the AP: “Gore taking credit for creating the Internet certainly gives new meaning to the term ‘March madness.’” The AP story was headlined “Republicans pounce on Gore’s claim that he created the Internet.” -- the effort to take Gore's comments out of context had begun.

On March 12, AP quoted a press release from Republican National Chairman chairman Jim Nicholson. “Al Gore the father of the Internet?” he asked. Gore was “claim[ing] credit for other people’s successes.” On March 12, CNN's Lou Dobbs called Gore’s remarks “a case study tonight in delusions of grandeur,” and said Gore “apparently thinks he’s the Father of the Internet.”

Within a day, the "liberal media" was using conservative spin, rather than referring to Gore's actual words. This is particularly embarrasing for CNN's Dobbs, since the interview took place on his network.

A scandal was born, and the Washington press corps now began flooding the news wires with stories about Gore's comment -- except most of these were using the conservatives' spin phrasing of what Gore said, rather than Gore's original words.

USA Today used the phrase on March 15 (editorial headline: “Inventing the Internet”). Al Kamen used the phrase in his Washington Post column (he quoted a joke by a GOP spokesman). On March 16, Hardball’s Chris Matthews mocked Gore for saying he “invented the Internet.” On March 17, Judy Woodruff, hosting CNN’s Inside Politics, chided Gore as “inventor of the Internet.” The embellished phrase reached the Los Angeles Times on March 18; the Boston Globe on March 20; the AP on March 22.

-- This gets at the crux of what JABBS is about: lazy mainstream journalists accepting conservative spin as fact.

Also pushing the envelope was The Washington Times, which as I noted above initially ignored Gore's comment on the Internet, then ran four op-ed pieces and a policy editorial from 3/16 to 3/19 on how Gore claimed to "invent the Internet" -- the preferred conservative spin phrasing.

John McCaslin, March 16: [T]he Gore 2000 campaign…office has already gotten a taste of what it’s in for after Mr. Gore recently took credit for inventing the Internet.

Ralph Z. Hallow, March 16: Relaxed and ready to enjoy his second and better-prepared go at the GOP nomination, [Steve Forbes] joked in an interview yesterday about Vice President Al Gore’s claim of having invented the Internet.

Rowan Scarborough, March 16: “This one is going to stick,” said William Kristol, editor and publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard. ‘Al Gore. Inventor of the Internet.’”

Editorial, March 18: Mr. Gore has some explaining to do to parents. As everyone now knows, Mr. Gore invented the Internet, which means the vice president is responsible for making hard-core pornography available to elementary schoolchildren at the local library.

Robert Tyrell, March 19: Did you hear Trent Lott is claiming to have invented the paper clip? Some think he is making a joke at the expense of Al Gore’s megalomaniacal claims about inventing the Internet.

How well-entrenched did the conservative spin of Gore's interview become. Consider two stories from June 2000 about problems with the Gore presidential campaign:

USA Today, June 2, 2000: A couple of Gore gaffes, including his assertion that he “invented” the Internet, didn’t help.

Newsday, June 16, 2000: It was another gaffe in a series of missteps so far in Gore’s campaign—including…his widely mocked assertion that he “invented” the Internet.

***

Is it any surprise that de Moraes unnecessarily ridiculed Gore?

She was just following the lead of her colleagues, telling a well-worn tale -- a myth as valuable at "The Curse of the Bambino."


* With thanks to dailyhowler.com

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