March 10, 2006


On the March 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews claimed that a recently reported data-mining initiative led by Harold Ickes -- an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) -- is "just like we saw the NSA [National Security Agency] doing" in conjunction with President Bush's controversial warrantless domestic eavesdropping program. But while the data mining conducted by the NSA reportedly includes retrieving data from e-mail messages and transcripts of phone calls to and from Americans -- obtained without warrants, in apparent violation of the law -- the initiative run by Ickes, according to news reports, relies on the same commercially and publicly available information that Republicans have used for years in their data operations. Matthews made no mention of these Republican operations.

Matthews cited a Washington Post article as his source of information on the Ickes data initiative but failed to note its description of the Ickes effort -- a private venture called Data Warehouse -- as an effort to counter Republican voter database operations, which have helped the GOP achieve an advantage in get-out-the-vote efforts. The Post article did not assert any resemblance between the nascent Data Warehouse program and the data mining conducted in conjunction with Bush's NSA program.

Matthews also cited the Ickes venture as evidence that "the people around Hillary know she's not popular with the country" and said the program is "a recognition she [Clinton] won't win big" if she runs for president in 2008. Matthews offered no evidence to back his claim, and numerous public opinion polls show a consistent plurality -- and often a majority -- of Americans holding favorable opinions of Clinton.

During a roundtable discussion of the upcoming 2008 presidential race, Matthews stated:

MATTHEWS: According to The Washington Post, the Democratic insiders with Hillary Clinton -- aide Harold Ickes is at the helm.


They've put together the information they need to win this election, they're out there with data mining, just like we saw the NSA doing, digging up information, finding out who might like to vote Democrat, who is pro-choice or whatever on whatever issue, anti-war, and put together enough information to find voters and win the election against whoever the Republicans run.

The initiative the Post described is distinctly different from the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program. Ickes's Data Warehouse, apparently a conscious effort on the part of some Democrats to mimic Republican get-out-the-vote success, will reportedly use information from publicly and commercially available sources. By contrast, the Bush administration has engaged in the surveillance of U.S. persons, without warrants, in apparent contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Data mining is a process in which computers are used to discover patterns and correlations in pre-existing data, to make sense of large quantities of information. In a political context, data mining can be used to identify potential financial donors or to identify individuals who might be receptive to a candidate's message. As The Washington Post reported March 8:

The pressure on Democrats to begin more aggressive "data mining" in the hunt for votes began after the 2002 midterm elections and intensified after the 2004 presidential contest, when the GOP harnessed data technology to powerful effect.

In 2002, for the first time in recent memory, Republicans ran better get-out-the-vote programs than Democrats. When well done, such drives typically raise a candidate's Election Day performance by two to four percentage points. Democrats have become increasingly fearful that the GOP is capitalizing on high-speed computers and the growing volume of data available from government files and consumer marketing firms -- as well as the party's own surveys -- to better target potential supporters.

The Republican database has allowed the party and its candidates to tailor messages to individual voters and households, using information about the kind of magazines they receive, whether they own guns, the churches they attend, their incomes, their charitable contributions and their voting histories.

This makes it possible to specifically address the issues of voters who, in the case of many GOP supporters, may oppose abortion, support gun rights or be angry about government use of eminent domain to take private property. A personalized pitch can be made during door-knocking, through direct mail and e-mail, and via phone banks.

In addition to the Post article Matthews spoke of, two guests on Matthews's Hardball panel also noted that the Democratic data program will emulate the Republican program. New York Times reporter Anne E. Kornblut stated that "the Republican Party, the RNC, has a machine like this [the Ickes effort] already in existence. It's why they won in 2004." Similarly, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson stated that Clinton, who is advised by Ickes, is "putting together a machine like the Republicans have."

Matthews also asserted:

MATTHEWS: I think the people around Hillary know she's not popular with the country. If she wins, she'll win with like 48 percent, in a squeaker, because the other guy blew it.

They know it's going to come down to a few hundred thousand votes. They're going to identify those key undecided voters. They're going to try to turn it on a very close election. This particular vote by voting [sic] attempt and data mining is a recognition she won't win big, they've got to squeak it.

But numerous polls show that a majority or at least a plurality of Americans view Clinton favorably. In a March 2-5 ABC News/Washington Post poll of adults nationwide, with a +/- 3 percent margin of error, 52 percent of respondents said they had a "favorable" impression of Clinton, compared with 46 percent who said they held an "unfavorable" impression of her. Similarly, in a February 16-19 Diageo/Hotline poll of registered voters, with a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error, 52 percent of respondents said they held a "favorable" opinion of Clinton, compared with 41 percent who said they held an "unfavorable" opinion of her.

From the March 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which featured radio host and columnist Michael Smerconish, Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens, Robinson, and Kornblut:

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about the Democrats. Hillary Clinton has raised her head here. According to The Washington Post, the Democratic insiders with Hillary Clinton aide Harold Ickes at the helm. They're out there, they don't apparently trust Howard Dean.

They've put together the information they need to win this election, they're out there with data mining, just like we saw the NSA doing, digging up information, finding out who might like to vote Democrat, who is pro-choice or whatever on whatever issue, anti-war, and put together enough information to find voters and win the election against whoever the Republicans run.

Michael, what's Hillary up to?


HITCHENS: I read the piece this morning and I thought, what's it reminding of? And it suddenly hit me, it's Dick Morris again. There was a time, if you remember, when the Democratic Party, congressionally and elsewhere, thought it was running the party and in fact, Mr. Clinton and his wife, with a small cabal in the White House, arranged by Dick Morris, were doing all the fundraising, all the polling, all the work. For part of the time, Dick Morris was the president during the impeachment.

KORNBLUT: I would say that's the fault of the RNC, though. I mean, the Republican Party, the RNC, has a machine like this, already in existence. It's why they won in 2004.

HITCHENS: Well the Democrats have penis envy for that and have had for a long time.

MATTHEWS: I'm talking about Hillary Clinton. Is Hillary Clinton grabbing the party control?

ROBINSON: Well I think she's trying to. I mean, you know, she's in a position to make the attempt, and I think, you know, she's putting together a machine like the Republicans have. You have to have the data, you have to analyze it and slice it and dice it and understand it.

In the final analysis, you have to make people want to vote for you, and I think the one vulnerability here is the idea that Hillary Clinton will kind of contort herself into any position that kind of maximizes her votes.

MATTHEWS: In other words, they want to find out where people stand so she can stand there.

ROBINSON: Exactly.

SMERCONISH: But everybody already stands on Hillary. In other words, there are no undecided voters relative to Hillary Clinton. You're either for or you're against her.


MATTHEWS: I think the people around Hillary know she's not popular with the country. If she wins, she'll win with like 48 percent, in a squeaker, because the other guy blew it.

They know it's going to come down to a few hundred thousand votes. They're going to identify those key undecided voters. They're going to try to turn it on a very close election. This particular vote by voting [sic] attempt and data mining is a recognition she won't win big, they've got to squeak it.

Categories: News

During the March 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto interviewed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) regarding the recent decision by Dubai Ports World, the company owned by the government of Dubai, to transfer management of U.S. ports to an American company. During the interview, Cavuto not only failed to ask DeLay any questions about his indictment by a Texas grand jury on charges of money laundering, he did not even mention the indictment.

In September 2005, DeLay was indicted on charges of conspiracy and money-laundering involving alleged illegal corporate contributions into Texas state elections. Because the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives bar members who are accused of criminal activity from assuming leadership positions, DeLay was forced to step down as House majority leader. The indictment centered on DeLay's involvement in raising money for Republican candidates for Texas legislature seats in 2002. Texas Republicans gained control of the state House that year for the first time in 130 years, paving the way for a redrawing of the congressional district map in Texas that altered district demographics in ways favorable to Republicans. Texas Republicans subsequently gained five U.S. House seats in the 2004 election. In December 2005, a judge dismissed the conspiracy charge but upheld more serious charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Soon after, DeLay announced he would not seek to regain his post as House majority leader.

From the March 9 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: Well, the Dubai port deal collapsing under the enormous weight of all this intense opposition -- even some of the president's closest allies were against the deal, including my next guest, Republican Congressman Tom DeLay, who joins us now. Congressman, you never liked this. How do you feel now?

DeLAY: Well, I feel very good. I think it's a win-win situation, Neil. I think the president will still be able to carry on his relationship with Dubai and UAE, because he stood up for what he thought was a good deal. And I think the American people win by answering this problem that I have always had, and that's foreign governments owning corporations and coming in and -- and competing with American corporations, what I think is unfairly. I don't mind foreign investment, as long as it participates in the market. But the whole notion of the deep pockets of a government owning a corporation, and, of course, the biggest issue being national security which we all had real questions about, I think it's all taken care of now. That's what good government is.

CAVUTO: Were there any -- any divisions, sir, with the president? I mean, did you, in either conversations with the president, get the feeling that he was being, I don't know, felt like Custer?


DeLAY: No, no. This president stays focused, I got to tell you. His leadership style and his management style is very good. Yeah, there was breakdown. These -- this decision probably should have -- not probably -- should have gone higher, with Cabinet secretaries making the final decision, rather than underlings. It was -- it was a botched mess. But the president understood it, got it right quickly, started working with people. And this solution looks like it's a very good solution.

CAVUTO: I -- I guess there's a different spin on it, Congressman, and that is that the president really never did get it. He was pushing for this deal, earlier threatened a veto. Then, of course, there was this 45-day stay, if you will, but that he was going to stick to his guns, even though he had only lately come to those guns.

DeLAY: Well, he --

CAVUTO: What do you make of that?

DeLAY: He thinks the deal is a good deal. He -- he thinks -- and he still stands by that. We disagreed with him. I -- I think he also understood that we probably need to look again, with an -- with an emphasis on national security, I mean, answer questions like, yes, now, this Dubai company, owned by the Dubai government, will have easier access to visas to come into the United States to so-called work for their -- for their company. How does that play out? How do the visas come? I mean, those kinds of questions are very important, as it relates to keeping -- holding security in our ports and keeping the American people safe. So -- I -- but I think all this now is being answered. And -- and it's the way a problem should be worked out and a solution found.

CAVUTO: Very quickly, sir: If you were majority leader at the time all of this broke, would this have gotten to be such a tempest?


DeLAY: Oh, I don't know about that. I mean, who knows. I don't -- I -- I think everybody understood the problem. And, thank goodness, they found a solution.

CAVUTO: All right, Tom DeLay, great having you again. Congratulations on your primary win. We will see what happens in November.

DeLAY: Thank you, Neil.

CAVUTO: All right, Tom DeLay in Washington.

Categories: News

In his March 10 "Best of the Web Today" column, Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto falsely claimed that Media Matters for America "cheered" Rep. John P. Murtha's (D-PA) call for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq but also "denied that he had done any such thing." Media Matters neither endorsed nor condemned Murtha's proposal, nor did we deny Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Instead, Media Matters corrected those in the media -- such as Taranto -- who falsely claimed that Murtha called for an "immediate withdrawal," or who falsely referred to Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) one-sentence resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces as the "Murtha amendment."

Hunter's proposal, which stated simply -- "Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately" -- was defeated in the House 403-3 and was described in news reports as a "political trap" that was "aimed at embarrassing war critics." Murtha's November 17, 2005, proposal -- House Joint Resolution 73 -- called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." Murtha's resolution was never voted upon. As The Washington Post reported on November 19, 2005, "Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) drafted a simpler resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops, saying it was a fair interpretation of Murtha's intent."

From Taranto's March 10 "Best of the Web" column:

"Rep. John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran who has denounced the war in Iraq, was named a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Thursday," the Associated Press reports. The award is given out by the JFK presidential library:

Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, was recognized "for the difficult and courageous decision of conscience he made in November 2005, when he reversed his support for the Iraq war and called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the conflict," the foundation said in a statement.

What's weird is that when Murtha proposed withdrawal, many of those who cheered him on denied that he had done any such thing. Here, for instance, is a item denouncing us:

Taranto also falsely referred to a previous proposal (House Resolution 571) for immediate withdrawal as Rep. John P. "Murtha's" (D-PA). The proposal that Taranto labeled as "Murtha's" was, in fact, a one-sentence Republican proposal sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that news reports described as a "political trap" that was "aimed at embarrassing war critics." As Media Matters for America has documented, Taranto has also falsely attributed this position to Murtha in the past.

Granted, Murtha doesn't run MediaMatters, but if he's so courageous, why are his backers so eager to distance him from his own views?

Taranto linked to this Media Matters item, which was correcting him -- for the second time -- for referring to Hunter's proposal as "Murtha's." Taranto has yet to acknowledge these errors. Nothing in the portion of the item Taranto quoted indicates that Media Matters "denied" Murtha called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Categories: News

A March 10 news article (subscription required) by Wall Street Journal staff reporters Greg Hitt and Sarah Ellison suggested that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) paved the way for Senate Republicans to oppose President Bush's push for the completion of a deal that would have permitted Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates -- to take over port operations in six U.S. cities. However, while Frist initially expressed concern over the deal and stated that he would introduce legislation to delay it pending a "more thorough review" of its effects on national security, he later shifted his position and aligned himself with supporters of the deal, distancing himself from strong opponents of the deal in both parties.

Hitt and Ellison wrote that, following the outcry over the deal, Frist "jumped directly into the fray -- on the side of slowing down the deal." They noted that his pledge to introduce legislation "ensur[ing] that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review," was "a signal to other Republicans that it not only was acceptable to oppose the port deal but also perhaps politically wise to do so."

However, Hitt and Ellison did not mention that Frist significantly shifted positions following that statement, after DPW agreed to an additional 45-day review by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS).

On February 26, Frist issued a press release announcing his support for the additional review. He also called upon the Senate to "await the outcome of that work before deciding on any legislative steps related to the DP World deal." The next day, The New York Times reported that Frist said he was "satisfied that the issue was now being handled properly." On February 28, the Times wrote that Frist "is now leaning toward supporting" the deal, saying that meetings with the administration along with the company's agreement to submit to an additional review had "answered many of his concerns." The Times noted that Frist's shift in position aligned him more closely with Sen. John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a staunch defender of the deal, than with other Senate Republicans who remained critical of the deal.

From the March 10 edition of The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

As it happened, Mr. Frist, the top Senate Republican, had embarked on a fact-finding tour to study port security and immigration issues. He was arriving at the big port in Long Beach, Calif., and knew he'd be asked about the Dubai deal.

Mr. Frist, an avid BlackBerry user, had been peppered with concerns by his staff, lawmakers and constituents for several days, and aides said he felt he needed to jump out in front of the issue if he had any hope of ultimately controlling it. So he jumped directly into the fray -- on the side of slowing down the deal.

"The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter," Mr. Frist said. "If the administration cannot delay this process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review."

That declaration -- from a leading Republican, an ally of President Bush and a likely presidential contender in 2008 -- was a signal to other Republicans that it not only was acceptable to oppose the port deal but also perhaps politically wise to do so.

The political and media focus instantly grew more intense. House Speaker Dennis Hastert [R-IL] soon echoed Mr. Frist's complaints. Then Mr. Bush, on his way back from a speech in Colorado, met with reporters traveling on Air Force One and vowed to veto any legislation intended to reverse the deal. The president was digging in against top members of his own party. The hardening positions on both sides made it hard to find a face-saving compromise.

From the February 27 edition of The New York Times:

In a statement on Sunday evening, the Treasury Department, which oversees the review process, said it ''welcomed'' the company's decision. It cited the fact that the deal was ''restructured'' as a reason for looking at it a second time. But in fact, very little has changed in the structure of the deal, as the company's own executives acknowledged on Friday.

The announcement by the company created an opening for Republican leaders, who had sharply criticized the White House as paying insufficient attention to the deal. The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, John W. Warner of Virginia, said they were satisfied that the issue was now being handled properly.

''We cannot mess this deal up,'' said Mr. Warner, who spent hours with executives from the company over the weekend. He emerged to praise them on the quality of their port operations and said on the NBC program ''Meet the Press,'' ''We as the United States are dependent on countries like the U.A.E., Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, all of them there, to give us the support to fight this war on terrorism.''

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Frist said he would recommend that the Senate await the outcome of the more extensive review before deciding on any legislative action.

From the February 28 edition of The New York Times:

The tough questioning at the Senate session illustrated that deep reservations remained among lawmakers despite the agreement to conduct the new review.

However, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader and an early critic of the deal, is now leaning toward supporting it. In comments over the past few days, Mr. Frist has said private briefings by the administration on its rationale for backing the ports deal, combined with the agreement for the review, have answered many of his concerns.

The change in position, criticized by some Democrats, left Mr. Frist more in line with senior Republican senators like John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who intensified his defense of Dubai on Monday and emphasized its strategic military value to the United States.

''It is the only port in the region that we can dock our major supercarriers,'' Mr. Warner said on the Senate floor. ''In addition, their airfields are supporting the ongoing operations that we have in Afghanistan and Iraq.''

Other administration officials and lawmakers also highlighted Dubai's participation in an aggressive American security screening program and its role in new efforts to halt the financing of global terrorism.

Categories: News

On the March 10 broadcast of NBC's Today, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell -- in an apparent reference to a bill offered by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) that would block the acquisition of control over six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- falsely said that the bill would "stop Arab ownership" of U.S. port facilities. In fact, Schumer has proposed legislation that would prevent any company owned or controlled by a "foreign government that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan" from controlling U.S. port facilities. The legislation does not target "Arab ownership" of U.S. shipping terminals, as O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell mentioned the legislation in the context of reporting a decision announced March 9 by DPW, a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that it would divest itself of its leases to terminals at six U.S. ports. NBC aired video footage from a press conference at which Schumer and several other Senate Democrats pressed for a vote on Schumer's legislation. As the footage aired, O'Donnell stated that "[s]ome lawmakers say new legislation to stop Arab ownership may still be needed." O'Donnell's statement was followed by a video clip of Schumer speaking at the press conference, then by a video clip of Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, who stated that he was "very dismayed by the emotional responses that some people have put on the table here in the United States that really comes down to Arab- and Muslim-bashing."

From the March 10 broadcast of NBC's Today:

O'DONNELL: The way out came in a three-sentence statement from the Arab-owned company and read on the Senate floor saying that to preserve its strong relationship with the U.S. it will find an American company to take over management of six U.S. ports. Some lawmakers say new legislation to stop Arab ownership may still be needed.

SCHUMER [video clip]: We need to make sure that all U.S. operations are totally removed from the United Arab Emirates and Dubai Ports World control.

O'DONNELL: Visiting Capitol Hill, the top military commander in Iraq defended the UAE as a vital partner.

ABIZAID [video clip]: I'm very dismayed by the emotional responses that some people have put on the table here in the United States that really comes [sic] down to Arab- and Muslim-bashing that was totally unnecessary.

But contrary to O'Donnell's report, Schumer's legislation does not specifically target "Arab ownership" of U.S. port facilities. The legislation states:

In the interest of national security, effective immediately, notwithstanding any other provision of law and any prior action or decision by or on behalf of the President, no company, wholly owned or controlled by any foreign government that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule between 1996-2001, may own, lease, operate, or manage real property or facilities at a United States port.

As United Press International noted on October 20, 2003: "Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with the United Arab Emirates, were the only countries that recognized and aided Afghanistan's Taliban regime." Privately owned companies from these three countries would not be affected by Schumer's legislation, nor would companies run by governments from nations -- Arab or otherwise -- that did not recognize the Taliban.

Categories: News

Following Dubai Ports World's (DPW) March 9 announcement that it would divest its leases to terminals at six U.S. ports, news outlets and media figures depicted Republicans as having neutralized the issue of port security. In other cases, they portrayed the Democratic opposition to the state-owned Arab firm's acquisition of the ports as purely political. But such characterizations take a narrow view of the political issues involved in the controversy, entirely ignoring differences between the two parties' broader records on this issue. Indeed, congressional Democrats have in recent years repeatedly stressed the need for greater port security and have urged Congress and the administration to act on the issue, as Media Matters for America has noted. By contrast, Republicans have regularly resisted Democratic efforts to secure U.S. ports

Since the Bush administration's approval of the DPW deal became public on February 11 and both parties declared their opposition, the media have often cast Democrats as "Johnny-come-lately's" to the issue of port security. The characterization ignores congressional Democrats' substantial track record of promoting port security. Lawmakers such as Sens. Charles Schumer (NY), Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY), Bill Nelson (FL), Patty Murray (WA), Robert Byrd (WV), Ernest Hollings (SC), Rep. Jane Harman (CA) and Gov. Jon Corzine (NJ) have all put forward legislation to bolster port security.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have regularly defeated these efforts to secure U.S. ports, as the Senate Democratic Policy Committee documented. In fact, many of the Senate Republicans who opposed the DPW port deal -- including Sens. Rick Santorum (PA), George Allen (VA), Susan Collins (ME), Norm Coleman (MN) and Lindsey Graham (SC), among others -- have continually voted against previous Democratic attempts to strengthen port security.

Despite this stark contrast in the two parties' records on port security, several news outlets responded to DPW's March 9 announcement by asserting that Republicans, in their opposition to the deal, appeared to have neutralized any benefit the Democrats might have stood to receive from the controversy. For example, in a March 10 article on how the port controversy exacerbated the divide between President Bush and the GOP-led Congress, Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker wrote that it was doubtful the Democrats would be able to reap any political benefit from "that issue," given that Republicans were "every bit as vocal as their opponents in standing against the port deal":

The port deal has provided ammunition to Democrats who have begun making the case more broadly that Bush is in over his head. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) yesterday called the port situation a "case study in the administration's incompetence," and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) said the administration "was clearly asleep at the switch" and "bungled the oversight of this deal."

But it's not clear whether Democrats will be able to turn that issue to their benefit in the fall. Republicans on Capitol Hill were every bit as vocal as their opponents in standing against the port deal, making it harder to draw a clear distinction come campaign time. By turning against Bush, some GOP strategists believe Republican leaders may have saved themselves a worse fate.

Viewed narrowly, Baker might be right that congressional Republicans were as vociferous on the DPW issue as Democrats. But viewed more broadly, the issue of port security -- the central issue raised by critics of the DPW deal -- is one in which Democrats and Republicans have vastly different records. Baker's article entirely ignored these differences.

Appearing on the March 10 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert similarly depicted Republicans as having disposed of the port deal as an issue for this year's congressional election:

KATIE COURIC (co-host): But eight months is a long time, Tim. Can the Democrats really continue to use this as a hot button issue? Do you think this really has legs?

RUSSERT: They will use it as a metaphor for incompetence. And what the Republicans and the Democrats say to me is that when they go out in the field and -- and poll and say, "What do you think of your congressman?" -- when they ask about a Republican congressman, they say three things: Iraq, corruption, and the ports. They have now taken care of the port deal. Corruption -- they may fine tune some legislation. Iraq is out of their control. Those three issues are front and center confronting this president and this Republican Congress.

Other news outlets singled out specific Democrats' opposition to the deal as motivated by political opportunism. A March 10 New York Post editorial questioned whether Schumer and Clinton would "show the same concern" over the broader issue of port security:

Those who worked so feverishly to block the Dubai ports deal have won.

Now let's see whether those same pols who were fulminating over foreign ownership -- Chuck Schumer? Hillary Clinton? -- show the same concern over the reality of what passes for port security.

But as noted above, both Schumer and Clinton have previously supported efforts to strengthen port security. In 2005, Clinton co-sponsored a successful amendment that provided $150 million for port security grants. She also co-sponsored a 2005 amendment to provide an additional $450 million for such grants. In 2004, Schumer proposed an amendment to provide $70 million for research and development to stop nuclear materials from entering U.S. ports.

Nonetheless, a March 10 Washington Times editorial characterized Schumer as a "new supposed convert to national security":

As a vignette, this episode nicely captures what we've come to observe about Mr. Schumer. In a Congress where lawmakers regularly do just about anything to get attention, he stands out for his singular capacity for self-promotion.

This new supposed convert to national security is an embarrassment. His actions discredit people who see genuine security problems with handing ports-management contracts over to a government-owned company from Dubai.

Further, on the March 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity asserted that Schumer and Clinton's opposition to the port deal "was never about homeland security or national security," but rather "about scoring some political advantage":

HANNITY: But it's interesting -- if you listen to, for example, Harry Reid and Schumer and Hillary Clinton, and the rest of them, they are still -- even though it's gone away as an issue -- well, they're still demanding a vote. Does that not prove that, for them, this was never about homeland security or national security; this was about, and always continues to be about, scoring some political advantage?

Categories: News

On the March 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly stated: "You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do." O'Reilly made the remark during a discussion of Iran's recent threat to cause "harm and pain" to the U.S. if it pursues sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council because of Iran's developing nuclear program.

As Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly recently declared that "it's just a matter of time ... before we have to bomb" Iran.

From the March 8 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: And let's do the No-Spin News. In Vienna, Iran has threatened the U.S.A. with, quote, "harm and pain" for its role in trying to get the United Nations to discipline Iran over the nuke issue. OK. It's the usual saber-rattling. You know, we'll hurt you, we'll do this, that, and the other thing. Now, what Iran is doing is they perceive that America is weakened because of the conflict in Iraq and the division at home, OK? So they're saying, "Hey, we'll just push the envelope as far as we can push it and see what happens. So we think that Bush is a damaged president, his approval ratings are low, Iraq is chaos -- we're helping that out, by the way." Iran is helping Iraq to be in chaos by allowing the terrorists to go through that country and arming them and teaching them how to make bombs and all of that.

You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do, just go in and remove the government, because this is a terrorist state. But we can't do that, and now, the U.S.A. is basically has to take this kind of rhetoric. I mean, there's nothing else we can do but go to the United Nations and say to the Security Council, "Look, you can't let these people have nuclear weapons. If you do, there's going to be a war." So it's between war and sanctions.

Categories: News

In a March 10 editorial on the reported demise of the deal that would have let Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- assume control of terminal operations at six major U.S. ports, The Washington Post adopted the Bush administration's false suggestion that there is no difference between DPW and Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), the British company that controlled the ports, which DPW purchased. The Post, like the Bush administration, suggested that criticism of the deal was based on DPW's Arab ownership and was therefore discriminatory. In fact, there is a key difference as a matter of law between DPW and P&O: DPW is a state-owned company, whereas P&O was not, prior to its acquisition by DPW.

On March 9, DPW announced it would divest its leases to terminals at six U.S. ports after the House Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly to block the deal. As The New York Times reported on March 10: "The action averted a showdown with Congress that Mr. Bush was all but certain to lose, as signaled on Wednesday by a 62-to-2 vote of the House Appropriations Committee to reject the transfer, because it allowed the sale of some terminal operations to an Arab state company."

According to the March 10 Washington Post editorial:

No one should underestimate the potential damage. Any government in a Muslim-majority country will have to ask itself: Why take the risk of friendship? If governments find no good answer to that question, the fight against radical Islamic terrorism will suffer. Meanwhile, Arab investors may think twice before putting their money in a country where their companies risk expropriation. With the price of oil so high, Arabs are rapidly becoming a major supplier of foreign capital. This isn't a good moment for Americans to discourage foreign investment, given the nation's dependence on foreign capital (see: Congress, drunken spending by). Nor will the message -- that foreign ownership was unobjectionable when it was British but intolerable when it was Arab -- do much to advance U.S. efforts to promote equitable investment rules for its own companies abroad.

This language strongly echoes comments President Bush made at a February 28 press briefing: "[W]hat kind of signal does it send throughout the world if it's okay for a British company to manage the ports, but not a company ... from the Arab world."

As Media Matters for America noted, critics of the deal have argued that the administration ignored a federal law governing the transfer of American assets to foreign, government-owned companies. Enacted in 1988, the Exon-Florio provision established the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), the interagency panel that oversees all foreign acquisitions of American assets. As amended by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993, the law requires an additional 45-day review if "the acquirer is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government" and the acquisition "could result in control of a person engaged in interstate commerce in the U.S. that could affect the national security of the U.S."

In its initial 30-day review of the deal, CFIUS determined that it did not raise national security concerns. But critics of the deal have noted that the UAE does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Also, they have cited a discovery by U.S. investigators that more than $120,000 was funneled through UAE bank accounts to the 9-11 hijackers, and the 9-11 Commission's finding that the UAE "ignored American pressure to clamp down on terror financing until after the attacks." These critics contend that because DPW is controlled by a member state of a country with what is arguably a "mixed" record on terrorism, CFIUS' review of the transfer was not in accordance with the law.

Categories: News

On March 9, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann interviewed "Mike from Orlando," the man who called into the March 2 edition of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio program and was threatened by O'Reilly with "a little visit" from "Fox security" simply for mentioning Olbermann's name on the air. Olbermann aired a recording of a voicemail "Mike" received from a man identifying himself as "Tony" from "Fox News security," and "Mike" explained that he is not the only person to have called into O'Reilly's radio program and subsequently been contacted by "Tony."

From the March 9 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: Erich Maria Remarque will forgive me, I hope, but it is all quiet on the Bill O'Reilly front. Quiet, too quiet. Our No. 2 story on the Countdown: haven't heard a word from Ted Baxter since the last Thursday [March 2], when, chillingly, he revealed that he really believed he could summon local police to pay a visit to callers to his radio program who disagreed with him or said bad words, like my name. Of course, if he's been quiet, others like [talk show radio host] Howard Stern and [talk show radio host] Al Franken have not been -- that, and one of the callers who actually got an O'Reilly-ordered phone call from Fox security in a moment. First, a refresher; though we can't be certain how much of the call actually got on the air. This was what was posted on Bill O'Reilly's website.

[begin audio clip]

O'REILLY: Orlando, Florida -- Mike, go.

CALLER: Hey, Bill, I appreciate you taking my call.


CALLER: I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith Olbermann's show --

O'REILLY: There you go. Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we have this -- we have your phone numbers, by the way. So, if you're listening, Mike, we have your phone number, and we're going to turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little visit.

E.D. HILL (co-host): Maybe Mike is from the mothership.

O'REILLY: No, maybe Mike is going to get in big trouble, because we are not going to play around. When you call us, ladies and gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number. And if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that, Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you will be held accountable. Fair?

HILL: That's fair.

O'REILLY: So, just, all you guys who do this kind of a thing -- you know, I know some shock jocks, whatever, you will be held accountable. Believe it. We'll be right back.

[end audio clip]

OLBERMANN: And they'll hit you real hard. The caller insists he used no foul language, but the host used the dump button to cut him off. By the way, their entire exchange was later scrubbed from the website. Last Friday, we addressed Mr. O'Reilly's notion that the caller was doing something illegal, or something constituting harassment. He was not. We explored the possibility that when Fox security calls callers, that that itself could amount to harassment. And it might. As mentioned, there has been some talk about this elsewhere. From the Denver newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, TV writer Dusty Saunders expressed amazement that talk radio is being used to threaten talk radio callers.

"My first thought," he wrote, "was that the former Denver broadcaster, O'Reilly, had his tongue tucked firmly in his cheek, particularly in regard to Fox security and calling local authorities. But a self-deprecating sense of humor is not one of O'Reilly's strong points," end quote. Then there was the one-two radio punch. First Howard Stern on Tuesday [March 7], from his broadcast on Sirius Satellite Radio, besides getting a good laugh from the references to Fox security, Mr. Stern had this to say.

STERN [clip]: I think O'Reilly's getting crazy. The fact of the matter is, you are allowed to call into a radio show and say whatever you want. The radio show is soliciting for phone calls. That's the idea of the show. Just because the host doesn't like what the caller is saying, you can't alert the authorities. You can't contact authorities when you have a call-in show.

OLBERMANN: And my friend, Al Franken, on Air America, who got wind of O'Reilly's threat, and has experienced them of his own, during yesterday's broadcast, he aired his Fox security recruitment promo.

[begin audio clip]

VOICEOVER: Join the proud, the few, join Fox security. Boys, we just got a phone number from O'Reilly. Let's roll!

[doorbell rings]


VOICEOVER: O'Reilly and Fox say hello.

[sound effects: punching and body hitting floor]

VOICEOVER: Join Fox security and be part of the No. 1 security team in cable news. You'll learn how to pat down [former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright. You'll learn how to stretch [Fox News host] Greta Van Susteren's face to the breaking point. And most importantly, you'll learn how to trace a phone number to its source.

[doorbell rings]

FRANKEN: Oh, hi.

VOICEOVER: Fox security: fair --

[sound effects: punching and body hitting floor]

FRANKEN: Oh, my God! Stop! Oh, please!

VOICEOVER: -- and balanced.

[end audio clip]

OLBERMANN: And then there is the real Fox News security, which, as the big giant head himself promised, would be calling Mike from Orlando. Last Friday, it actually happened. Fox News security left this message on his answering machine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE [audio clip]: My name is Tony [name & phone number deleted], from Fox News security. I was wondering if you could give me a phone call? I'd appreciate it. So long. See you.

OLBERMANN: He did not swear there, by the way. We bleeped his last name and his phone number for his own protection. And speaking of his own protection, joining me now is so-called Mike from Orlando whose name is actually Mick, we're withholding his last name to protect his identity. And obviously, that's not bad lighting, we're obscuring that picture deliberately. Good evening to you, sir.

"MICK": Hi, Keith, how are you doing?

OLBERMANN: Tell us what you -- what you said on that call to Mr. O'Reilly that we never got a chance to hear.

"MICK": Well, what I said was: "Hey, Bill, thanks for taking my call. I like to listen to you in the afternoons because Keith Olbermann has the best show at 8 o'clock. Why are you always smearing him?"

OLBERMANN: That was it. There was no swearing? There was no --

"MICK": Nothing.

OLBERMANN: Wow. And why did you -- why did you call?

"MICK": Well, there's a -- you may or may not be aware of it. There's actually a petition up on Bill O'Reilly's website trying to get you fired.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, we heard a little something about that.

"MICK": There's' a website, it's, that has basically said that both sides should be heard. And if Bill O'Reilly wants to try and get you kicked off the air, well, then I think we have the right to call Bill O'Reilly and say that that's not a very good idea, because we like you.

OLBERMANN: Well, thank you for that. What do you do for a living, by the way? Can you tell us that without giving away too much of your identity?

"MICK": Well, I can say hi to my students at Fairview and leave it at that.

OLBERMANN: So, you're a teacher at some school somewhere in America.

"MICK": Something like that.

OLBERMANN: The Fox News security guy who left you a message, did you call him back?

"MICK": No, I didn't, actually. He called on Friday evening [March 3], and I was actually out. And I missed your segment Friday evening as well, and I actually did not even hear about this until Sunday [March 5], when my wife alerted me that there was actually a voicemail message for me.

OLBERMANN: But you know of others who have been called by someone identifying themselves as Fox News security?

"MICK": Correct. The, there were several people -- we decided that we were going to call Bill O'Reilly's show, and we all agreed we were going to be polite, nice, but just voice our opinion, that we disagreed with what he was saying, what he was trying to do. And another caller did manage to get through. She did say your name on the air and she said, 15 minutes later, her cell phone rang. She was actually in the car with her daughter, and it was the gentleman who identified himself on my answering machine; and he was with Fox security. And she actually was reduced to tears, she was so concerned. Her daughter was in the car.

OLBERMANN: I've had a lot of perverse fun with this, but honestly, even if that were, I don't know, [talk show radio host] Rachel Maddow, or another liberal on the air threatening callers, it makes me shiver for the democracy. Mick, alias Mike from Orlando, thanks for putting yourself at such great personal risk from the -- also now from the Fox security video squad by joining us here tonight.

"MICK": All right. Thanks, Keith. Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. Stay safe.


C-SPAN's Q&A will feature an interview with Olbermann that will air on March 12. Excerpts of the interview, in which Olbermann discusses his relationship to O'Reilly, can be read on the TVNewser weblog of

Categories: News

On March 9, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh characterized congressional opposition to the proposed transfer of operational control of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World -- a company owned by the government of Dubai -- as "a lynch mob." Discussing bipartisan efforts to block the deal, which had been approved by the Bush administration, Limbaugh said: "It is just a lynch mob, and the Democrats and the Republicans are in a race here to see who can be more opposed to the port deal. The best and the fastest." He added, "And in this contest, the Republicans have won, and they're sitting there beating their chests like a bunch of Tarzans."

From the March 9 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I am not kidding. Outsource Congress. They've gone from playing politics, and then they go to panic. Then they go to a stampede. Now it's a lynch mob. It is just a lynch mob, and the Democrats and the Republicans are in a race here to see who can be more opposed to the port deal. The best and the fastest. And in this contest, the Republicans have won, and they're sitting there beating their chests like a bunch of Tarzans. And everybody's watching this.

Categories: News

In a March 10 Washington Post article, staff writer Peter Baker wrote the following: "A senior White House official, speaking not for attribution in order to discuss political strategy, expressed relief that on the biggest policy issues -- Iraq above all -- most congressional Republicans still back [President] Bush."

Baker gave no indication of how "express[ing] relief" constitutes "discuss[ing] political strategy." Nor did he say why a White House official required -- or deserved -- anonymity in order to say something positive about his boss.

Categories: News

A March 9 Wall Street Journal editorial described a recent agreement between GOP Senate Intelligence Committee members and the Bush administration concerning its warrantless domestic surveillance program as a "White House mugging by Republicans." Under the proposed legislation, the administration would be required to subject the program to occasional scrutiny by House and Senate subcommittees and, in cases of extended warrantless eavesdropping, explain to Congress why the surveillance should be exempt from judicial review. Far from a "mugging," however, the agreement essentially legitimizes the controversial program, which currently operates in apparent violation of the law.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) requires a warrant for all domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept the international communications of U.S. residents without seeking FISA warrants. Since the program became public in December 2005, the president has argued that he derives authority to circumvent FISA from two sources: the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001. But lawmakers from both parties, as well as officials within the Bush Justice Department, have criticized this legal argument as unsound.

On March 7, all eight Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committees voted down a Democratic proposal to launch a full investigation into the NSA program. That same day, Republican committee members announced that they had reached an agreement with the White House to carve out legislation allowing the warrantless surveillance to continue under the law. As detailed by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), one of the lead authors of the legislation, the proposed measure would allow the NSA to conduct domestic eavesdropping for up to 45 days without a warrant. (FISA allows warrantless surveillance for up to 72 hours under exigent circumstances.) Under the proposal, if the administration seeks to conduct this surveillance for a period longer than 45 days, they can then request a warrant from the FISA court, assuming they possess enough evidence to satisfy FISA's probable cause standard. If they do not seek a FISA warrant -- presumably because they cannot meet the probable cause standard - the administration must explain to Congress why the continued warrantless surveillance is nonetheless "in the national security interest."

Unlike the FISA court, which has the power to deny a warrant -- if the administration chooses to seek one -- the legislation would apparently not give Congress the authority to shut down any specific surveillance. As Media Matters for America noted, when asked by a reporter "what leverage" Congress would have over administration decisions to continue warrantless surveillance after 45 days, DeWine responded, "[I]t's the same leverage we have in any other type of oversight." He noted that Congress would have the "power of the purse" and the power to "change legislation ... de-authorizing the program, altering the program."

In its March 9 editorial, "President Gulliver," the Journal responded by describing this development as a "White House mugging by Republicans":

Less explicable is this week's White House mugging by Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee over warrantless wiretaps of al Qaeda by the National Security Agency. On this one, Republicans were winning, the polls showed public support, and everyone outside the fever swamps had dropped their "impeachment" fantasies.

Nonetheless, a couple of GOP Senators forced the White House into conceding more Congressional oversight of wartime intelligence programs. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska vowed to join Democrats in voting for a full-scale Senate probe of the NSA wiretaps unless President Gulliver bent to their wishes. Such a vote would have humiliated their Chairman, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, at a minimum. But it would also have risked exposing intelligence sources and methods in a way that could have made the wiretap program less effective, if not entirely worthless.

In contrast to the Journal's characterization, however, the White House -- the purported victim of this so-called "mugging" -- responded to the proposal by calling it "generally sound" and expressing support for "legislation that would further codify the president's authority," as a March 8 New York Times article reported:

A spokeswoman for the White House, Dana Perino, called the Republican senators' proposal "a generally sound approach."

"We're eager to work with Congress on legislation that would further codify the president's authority," Ms. Perino said. "We remain committed to our principle, that we will not do anything that undermines the program's capabilities or the president's authority."

Moreover, in their coverage of the agreement, news outlets and legal experts have characterized it as favorable to the administration. A March 9 New York Times article reported experts' claim that the proposal provides "legislative sanction" for the warrantless domestic surveillance authorized by the president. The Times editorial page similarly criticized the proposed GOP legislation.

Categories: News

During the "All-Star panel" segment of the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes asserted that former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX) is "vulnerable to attack as a carpetbagger" in his race against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) in Texas' 22nd Congressional District. It is true that, as Barnes noted, Lampson "used to represent a different district" and "moved into" the 22nd to run against DeLay. But in attacking Lampson, Barnes ignored the highly relevant fact that Lampson previously represented nearly one-fifth of what is now DeLay's district. In 2003, a controversial Texas redistricting plan spearheaded by DeLay moved more than 100,000 largely Democratic voters out of Lampson's district and into DeLay's; as a result, Lampson was defeated in the 2004 election. In addition, Barnes asserted that the 22nd District is a "working-class district, suburban-middle-class and working-class district that's very, very Republican." In fact, according to figures from the 2000 census, the current 22nd District has the second-highest median household income in the state.

DeLay, who won the Republican primary for the seat on March 7, will face Lampson in the general election.

From the March 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BARNES: I mean, this is a suburban Houston, Texas, district. I mean, who do you think lives there? Pointy-headed intellectuals from Ivy League colleges? No. There's a bunch of -- it's a working-class district, suburban middle-class and working-class district that's very, very Republican, you know? Mega-churches, the whole bit. And 62 percent is pretty good. Now, the Democrat who has moved into the district, Nick Lampson, used to represent a different district in Texas. And he's vulnerable to attack as a carpetbagger. And I'm sure that's occurred to the campaign. The Republicans, yeah. So I think DeLay looks a lot better than he did just a couple of days ago.

From 1997 to 2005, Lampson -- then living in Beaumont, Texas -- represented Texas' 9th Congressional District, which was immediately east of the 22nd District. The 2003 redistricting plan pushed by DeLay moved several Democratic-leaning areas -- including parts of Galveston County -- out of the 9th District and into DeLay's 22nd District. Lampson was left with a heavily Republican district (renamed the 2nd District) and was defeated in the 2004 election.

In 2005, Lampson moved into the adjacent 22nd District to challenge DeLay. As Dallas Morning News columnist Todd J. Gillman noted on October 16, 2005: "Mr. Lampson already enjoys a toehold in the district. He represented nearly a fifth of the electorate during his four House terms."

Lampson's campaign biography says that as a child, he spent "a great deal of time" working on his grandparents' farms in Stafford, Texas -- much of which is in the 22nd District:

Nick has a long family history in Texas's 22nd congressional district. His grandparents came to this country from Italy and settled in Stafford, Texas nearly 100 years ago, where they had farms and were founding members of their church. Nick's parents grew up, met and married in Fort Bend County, and the Lampson children spent a great deal of time on their grandparents' farms working the fields and learning what it meant to be part of a community larger than themselves.

In addition, Barnes asserted that the 22nd District is a "working-class district, suburban-middle-class and working-class district that's very, very Republican." In fact, according to figures from the 2000 census, DeLay's largely Republican district had a median household income of $57,932 in 1999 -- the second highest in the state and more than $18,000 above the statewide median household income of $39,927. Nationwide, the median household income was $41,994. (The median household income in Sugar Land -- where DeLay lives -- was $81,767.)

Categories: News

On the March 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews praised conservative Philadelphia-based radio host Michael Smerconish, declaring: "You talk to a huge audience on the East Coast, Michael. I've listened to you, all my family listens to you." Despite Smerconish's controversial statements, he has appeared on Hardball four times in recent weeks. Smerconish has returned the favor, allowing Matthews air time on the March 3 broadcast of The Michael Smerconish Morning Show, during which Matthews criticized the "one-sided, to some extent liberal propaganda" of the film Good Night, and Good Luck, which Matthews suggested presented a "revisionist history" of McCarthyism. But as Smerconish has continued to appear on Hardball, neither he nor Matthews has mentioned that Matthews's brother Jim, who is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, appeared at a political event in Pennsylvania that Smerconish moderated.

According to a letter by the Young America political action committee (PAC):

The Young America PAC is proud to be a co-sponsor of the Philadelphia Young Republican's event featuring the 2006 Republican Candidates for Pennsylvania Governor, on Tuesday January 17th.

The event will take place at the Crystal Tea Room from 6:30 - 9 pm. Each of the candidates will be given an opportunity to speak, with Michael Smerconish serving as moderator. Jim Matthews, Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, will also be in attendance.

Matthews has mentioned his brother's candidacy on Hardball. On the February 13 edition of the program, Matthews aired a clip of Jim Matthews accepting the Republican endorsement for lieutenant governor, and declared: "a special nod to my brother Jim Matthews, my little brother, my younger brother, who this weekend won the Republican endorsement for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania."

Smerconish is a major presence in Philadelphia's talk radio market. He is also a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and a frequent guest host for Bill O'Reilly on Westwood One's nationally syndicated The Radio Factor; he also recently served as guest host on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Smerconish has notably argued that the government needs to encourage racial profiling to enhance the nation's security, especially at airports. As Media Matters for America has documented, in commenting on a September 19, 2005, incident involving the FBI's detention and questioning of five Muslim men who were observed praying near the stadium's main air duct during a New York Giants football game, Smerconish stated: "I just think that's [the men's public praying] wrong. I just think they're playing a game of, you know, mind blank with the audience. And that they should know better four years removed from September 11."

Further, as Media Matters has also noted, in November 2005, guest-hosting on The Radio Factor, Smerconish interviewed Soo Kim Abboud, author of Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers -- and How You Can Too (Penguin, 2005). Smerconish asserted that "if everyone follows Dr. Abboud's prescription ... you're going to have women who will leave the home and now get a great-paying job, because you will have gotten them well educated." He continued, "But then they're not going to be around to instill these lessons in their kids. In other words, it occurs to me that perhaps you've provided a prescription to bring this great success to an end."

Smerconish has appeared four times on Hardball in recent weeks: February 21, February 27, March 6, and March 8.

From the March 8 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. This coming weekend, Hardball heads down to Memphis, Tennessee, for the first major showdown of Republican presidential wannabes. Let's see where they stand right now. In a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani leads the pack among Republicans with 33 percent. He may or may not run, followed by [Arizona Sen.] John McCain at 28 percent. [Virginia Sen.] George Allen takes a distant third, followed by [Senate Majority Leader] Bill Frist [TN], and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

You talk to a huge audience on the East Coast, Michael. I've listened to you, all my family listens to you. Who has the hot hand in this early going to replace the president?

Categories: News

Fox News host Brit Hume continued to tout the Associated Press' misleading March 3 "clarification" of a previous article about a pre-Katrina presidential briefing as justification for President Bush's claim -- debunked even at the time -- that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." The president made that claim to co-host Diane Sawyer on the September 1, 2005, edition of ABC's Good Morning America, two days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Hume referenced the AP clarification for a second consecutive day on March 6, citing it on Fox News' Special Report to declare that "experts merely warned the president that the levees could be overtopped," not breached. But Hume did not report that Bush had been warned by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the morning of August 29, 2005, that Katrina could cause levee breaching as well as overtopping, and omitted other facts undermining Bush's claim that he did not think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.

Hume referred to the March 1 Associated Press report and subsequent March 3 clarification that highlighted videotaped discussions involving Bush and other officials -- including Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center -- on hurricane preparations. The original report noted, contrary to Bush's claim that the levee breaches were completely unanticipated, that "the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility -- and Bush was worried too."

AP's clarification, as Media Matters for America has documented, echoed the latest version of the Bush administration's explanation of why the AP video did not contradict Bush's claim about not anticipating a breach of the levees. It noted, "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking." However, the AP clarification made no reference to other evidence indicating that, Bush's claim two days later to the contrary notwithstanding, numerous members of his administration were well aware of the threat of a breach.

According to a January 26 New Orleans Times-Picayune article, in the early morning of August 29, 2005, just before Katrina made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security warned the White House that, based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) July 2004 "Hurricane Pam" planning exercise, Katrina could cause levee breaching as well as overtopping. The exercise modeled the impact of a direct hit on New Orleans by a Category 3 hurricane -- one with weaker winds than Katrina. In the exercise, authorities anticipated that such a storm would cause a surge that would overtop the levees, drowning New Orleans in 20 feet of water.

As reported in a March 2 New York Times article, then-Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael D. Brown stated at an August 29, 2005, midday videoconference that "he had spoken with President Bush twice in the morning and that the president was asking about reports that the levees had been breached." Additionally, in the videotaped discussion, while Mayfield did not specifically warn that the levees might be breached, he is shown clearly warning attendees of the catastrophic damage that ultimately resulted: "I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that is obviously a very, very grave concern." He further cautioned, "I'm sure [Katrina] will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done."

The debate over whether Bush was ever warned of actual "breaches" in the levee system or whether he was only warned of "overtopping" represents something of a change in the Bush administration's explanation for Bush's statement, made on the September 1 broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America, that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

As Media Matters has documented, the administration initially explained Bush's September 1 statement on September 4, when Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. After host Tim Russert asked Chertoff how the president could "be so wrong, be so misinformed," Chertoff suggested that Bush had been referring to newspaper reports the morning after the storm that New Orleans had "dodged a bullet" because the eye of the storm had passed to the east of the city. But in fact, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted (here, here, and here), more than 12 hours before the appearance of those headlines in print, a post on the weblog of the Times-Picayune -- dated August 29, 2 p.m. CT -- reported, "City Hall confirmed a breach of the levee along the 17th Street Canal at Bellaire Drive, allowing water to spill into Lakeview." This initial report on the Times-Picayune weblog was followed throughout the afternoon and evening of August 29 by reports of other levee breaks and massive flooding.

Further, the AP overstated the distinction between "topping" and "breeching" of levees; preliminary engineering findings from the National Science Foundation, Louisiana State University, and the American Society of Civil Engineers stated that erosion from overtopping in fact caused many of the levee breaches.

From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And now the most fascinating two minutes in television, the latest from the political "Grapevine." The AP continues today to insist that footage it put out from a White House briefing on Hurricane Katrina was confidential video, despite the fact that the relevant events depicted on the tape were open to the press and transcripts of the event were released to reporters and members of Congress.

But the AP is backing off its original report, which suggested that the tape caught President Bush in a lie. Seizing on that story, Democrats claimed the tape directly contradicted the president's claim that, quote, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees in New Orleans."

But in what it called a clarification Friday, the AP notes that experts merely warned the president that the levees could be overtopped, not that they might be breached.

Categories: News

During an interview on the March 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Focus on Family founder James C. Dobson accused Harper's Magazine of "say[ing] the most crazy things" for reporting that Dobson is "in favor of people who want to execute abortionists." The May 30, 2005, Harper's article, to which Dobson is apparently referring, reported that Dobson "has backed political candidates who called for the execution of abortion providers." But Dobson's suggestion that the Harper's assertion is false is itself false: Dobson has in fact endorsed at least two political candidates, Randall Terry and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who have expressed support for the execution of "abortionists."

The Harper's article, written by Chris Hedges and titled "Soldiers of Christ II: Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters," featured a brief biography of Dobson, whom Hedges describes as "perhaps the most powerful figure in the Dominionist movement." While profiling Dobson, Hedges wrote:

He calls for a constitutional amendment to permit prayer in the public schools. He sponsors a group called "Love Won Out," which holds monthly conferences around the country for those "suffering" from same-sex attraction. He likens the proponents of gay marriage to the Nazis, has backed political candidates who called for the execution of abortion providers, defines embryonic stem-cell research as "state-funded cannibalism," and urges Christian parents to pull their children out of public-school systems.

In response, Dobson pointed to Hedges's article as evidence that "secular progressives" are becoming "more and more angry," and "are determined to lash out at those of us who are most visible in that area." Dobson continued, stating, "Harper's Magazine actually said that I am in favor of people who want to execute abortionists. I mean, they just say the most crazy things."

But in endorsing the political campaigns of Coburn and Terry, Dobson endorsed candidates who support the execution of "abortionists." In 2004, Dobson endorsed Coburn in his bid for Oklahoma's open Senate seat. Coburn told the Associated Press on July 10, 2004, "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life." In announcing his endorsement, Dobson called Coburn the "single best leader I have ever worked with on the critical moral and family issues that have been at the heart of my own work." Coburn won the election.

In 1998, Dobson endorsed the failed candidacy of Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and the Society for Truth and Justice, for New York's 26th Congressional District seat. Terry has repeatedly called for the "salvation or the death" of Dr. Warren Hern, director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Colorado. A February 2, 1992, report on CBS' 60 Minutes showed Terry and his followers praying outside the clinic. On the video, Terry stated: "But pray that this family will either be converted to God or that calamity will strike him." The New York Times reported on August 14, 1993, that "[i]n his radio appearances, Mr. Terry said of Dr. Hern: 'I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed.' " Another 60 Minutes segment, airing on August 7, 1994, showed Terry again entreating his followers "to pray for either the salvation or the death" of Hern.

According to a September 28, 1998, profile of Terry in The Nation by David Corn, during a campaign speech, Terry reportedly stated, "When I or people like me are running the country, [abortion providers] better flee because we will find you, we will try you, and we will execute you." Corn noted that Terry "has received the official blessing of James Dobson ... who does not usually endorse candidates." According to a May 14, 1998, Roll Call report by Norah O'Donnell, Dobson "endorsed half a dozen firebrand Republicans" in the 1998 elections, including Terry, and "provided Terry with a 30-second radio endorsement." Terry lost in the Republican primary. He is currently running for a seat in the Florida state Senate.

From the March 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: I have never seen the level of hatred coming at -- you know, basically, there is some from the traditionalists to the secular progressives. There is some; we have to be honest. But, overwhelmingly, the hatred coming from the SP's [secular progressives] to the -- to people like you and me, who they perceive to be enemies, I've never seen anything like it.

DOBSON: Well, my interpretation of that is that they are losing, generally, throughout the culture, and they're getting more and more angry all the time. I mean, they obviously have somebody different in the White House than they wanted, and leadership in the House, and leadership in the Senate. And now, the Supreme Court's changing. The culture is shifting, I believe, to the right. And -- and they are more and more angry, and they are determined to lash out at those of us who are most visible in that area. Harper's Magazine actually said that I am in favor of people who want to execute abortionists. I mean, they just say the most crazy things.

Categories: News

The Los Angeles Times editorial page claimed that President Bush has publicly opposed a South Dakota law banning all abortions except in cases in which a woman's life is threatened by a pregnancy. Similarly, MSNBC host Chris Matthews claimed that Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "keep saying it isn't the time to make changes in the law" to outlaw abortion. But, contrary to the Times' assertion, White House press secretary Scott McClellan refused to state Bush's position on the South Dakota law. And belying Matthews's claim that McCain "keep[s] saying it isn't the time to make changes in the law," McCain, through a spokesman, said that the senator "would have signed" the South Dakota bill but added that McCain "would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included" -- without explaining how he could do both.

In a March 8 editorial, the Los Angeles Times stated that "Bush publicly disagrees with the South Dakota law, saying he favors abortion rights in cases of rape or incest (although not necessarily to protect a woman's health)." But at a March 7 White House press briefing, McClellan repeatedly declined to say whether Bush supported the South Dakota law, characterizing the law as "a state matter." From the press briefing:

REPORTER: So, again -- now it's going to wend its way through the courts. Will the administration weigh in, in the appeals process that is going to inevitably --

McCLELLAN: Again, this is a state -- this is a state law.

REPORTER: No, but it's going to become a federal matter --

McCLELLAN: It's a state matter.


REPORTER: He is opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and incest --

McCLELLAN: Les, look at the president --

REPORTER: Isn't that true, Scott? That's what you said.

McCLELLAN: Les, let me respond. Look at the president's record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. That is a very strong record. His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state legislatures, when they pass laws, those are state matters.

At a February 27 press briefing, McClellan also declined to say whether Bush supported the South Dakota bill, but stated Bush's opposition to abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to a woman's health. From the press briefing:

REPORTER: The state legislature of South Dakota has just passed a new law which allows abortion in case of threat to the mother's life but denies it to all ages in cases of rape and incest. My first question: Does the president believe that rape and incest victims should be denied the right to an abortion?

McCLELLAN: The president believes we ought to be working to build a culture of life in America. And we have taken practical, common-sense steps to help reduce the number of abortions in America. It is a strong record that is based on building a culture of life, and the president has made very clear that he is pro-life with three exceptions.

On the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews stated that "President Bush and John McCain, two leaders of the Republican party, keep saying it isn't the time to make changes in the law" to outlaw abortion. In making the assertion about McCain, Matthews ignored a statement by a McCain spokesman, quoted by The National Journal's weblog The Hotline (subscription required), that if McCain were the South Dakota governor, he " 'would have signed the [South Dakota] legislation, but would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included.' " While McCain's spokesman's statement is inconclusive in that it contains two assertions that, without more detail, make little sense together (the spokesman did not say that McCain would sign only if he secured the desired amendments, merely that he would sign -- and he would seek to amend -- the bill) McCain did take a position on a highly controversial and restrictive bill that was different from what Matthews claimed McCain "keep[s] saying."

From the March 8 Los Angeles Times editorial:

Bush publicly disagrees with the South Dakota law, saying he favors abortion rights in cases of rape or incest (although not necessarily to protect a woman's health). But his recent Supreme Court appointments have certainly made opponents of abortion rights more audacious, if not more hopeful. At this point, it's unlikely that he or his party will be able to distance themselves from this mangled bit of lawmaking -- disastrous in both its intent and its potential political fallout.

From the March 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which featured Family Research Council president Tony Perkins:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the politics. I know you're concerned about the moral issue here, Tony, but the political issue -- it seems to me that all these years since `73, the conservatives, the pro-life people, have benefited from the fact that the courts have intervened and said you have the right to an abortion, so therefore a person could be voting Republican and not worry about abortion, because it's basically off the table. Bringing it back on the table, is that good for the Republican Party and conservatives?

PERKINS: I think it's good for those policymakers who want to actually make policy.

MATTHEWS: President Bush and John McCain, two leaders of the Republican Party, keep saying it isn't the time to make changes in the law like that. We have to have the country's heart ready for it. It isn't right to outlaw it now.

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A federal judge ordered the CIA on Friday to turn over classified intelligence briefings to Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide to use in the aide’s perjury trial.
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Interior Secretary Gale Norton is resigning after serving more than five years as the Bush administration's point person on the environment and natural resources, the department said Friday.
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