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February 14, 2006
During Fox News' coverage of a February 13 White House press conference in which press secretary Scott McClellan was repeatedly asked about the administration's initial failure to inform the public of the incident in which Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot one of his hunting partners, Fox News political analyst and Washington Times White House correspondent Bill Sammon called the issue "a little bit of a tempest in a teapot." Sammon also remarked that "the press smells a little blood in the water."
From the February 13 edition of Fox News Live:
BILL HEMMER (anchor): But the rub from the White House press corps seems to be, "Why did you allow a local reporter and a local newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas, to inform the country of this news [the hunting accident] as opposed to having it come from the White House or the Vice President's Office?" Nina Easton is still with me, and so, too, is Bill Sammon. Is Scott McClellan explaining this, Bill, or are they digging a deeper hole?
SAMMON: Well, we're witnessing what we call over here at the White House press corps a feeding frenzy. We treat ourselves to one of these every month or so. I think it's a little bit of a tempest in a teapot. However, having said that, I do think that the White House is trying to have it both ways. In other words, they're saying, "Look, it wasn't a really serious accident, the guy had a couple things of bird shot in him and, you know, this happens all the time in Texas." On the other hand, they're saying, "Well, we had to devote so much time to his medical treatment that it took us 20 hours to make it public." And you can't have it both ways. And you know, the bottom line is this was probably a dumb call. You pick up the phone. You say, "Look, let's get a statement out, let's get this behind us," and you avoid the kind of feeding frenzy we're seeing here today. And so, yeah, I think the press is -- smells a little blood in the water.
Two days after an Associated Press report ignored crucial details that undermine a purported link between Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a February 11 AP follow-up article misrepresented new evidence, which the AP suggested provides further confirmation of such a link but, in fact, casts additional doubt on whether such a link exists. This new evidence was a statement released by Ronald Platt, the Abramoff aide whose meetings with Reid provided the basis for the AP's original story.
As Media Matters for America has documented, a February 9 AP article suggested that Reid coordinated with Abramoff to sabotage proposed legislation that would have raised the national minimum wage -- which included a provision addressing the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory represented by Abramoff -- without mentioning that Reid was a co-sponsor of that legislation and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of its passage. In response to the AP report, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall contacted Platt, the Abramoff aide with whom Reid met to discuss the minimum wage bill, about whether Reid had taken any action against the bill following their meeting. Platt responded, "I'm sure he didn't." Platt also said that the AP never contacted him for the article, despite identifying him as the Abramoff aide who met with Reid about the minimum wage bill and subsequently donated $1,000 to Reid's re-election campaign. The February 11 AP article responded: "The AP contacted Platt's new lobbying firm in late December  seeking to interview him about the billing records and was referred to Greenberg Traurig," the firm for which Platt and Abramoff worked at the time of Platt's meetings with Reid.
Platt sent a similar account of his interactions with Reid to the AP via an emailed statement (which is apparently reprinted here) that resulted in the AP's February 11 follow-up article. But not only did the February 11 article again ignore that Reid apparently never took the position that would have benefited Abramoff's clients, it continued to push the supposed Abramoff-Reid link by focusing on Platt's statement as confirmation that he had met with Reid. The headline AP put on the article read: "Lobbyist Confirms Talks With Reid's Office."
The February 11 article did note that "Platt sought to minimize the extent of his lobbying of Reid's office on behalf of Abramoff." But even then, the AP began by suggesting that Platt believes the billing records of his meetings with Reid -- and not the February 9 AP article that sought to read into those records -- overstated Platt's efforts to lobby Reid on the minimum wage bill:
One of Jack Abramoff's ex-colleagues [Platt] confirms he contacted Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's office on behalf of the influential lobbyist but says he does not believe Abramoff's billing records accurately reflect the extent of his work.
In fact, Platt wrote in his press release that the billing records reported by the AP were "fraudulent," and that in any event, the AP article "distorts the context of my 'contacts,' with Senator Reid's staff":
This statement responds to the article dated, February 9, 2006, by John Solomon of the AP attempting to create a link between Jack Abramoff and Senator Harry Reid (D. Nev.).
The allegations and implications in Mr. Solomon's story are false, which he would have understood had he bothered to contact me prior to publication. Rather than discuss these issues with me, Mr. Solomon apparently relied on Jack Abramoff's billing records to his clients that have already been legally determined to be fraudulent. Though I do not have access to these bills, I believe that the references in the AP story to my time are inaccurate.
Moreover, Mr. Solomon's article distorts the context of my "contacts," with Senator Reid's staff. These contacts were incidental, insofar as I simply bumped into Reid staffers at Democratic Party functions or occurred [sic] incidental to discussions regarding my clients, not Abramoff's. Any contacts that I may have had in regards to Abramoff's tribal clients would have been similarly incidental. In addition, I have no recollection of ever discussing contributions or fundraising issues with Senator Reid, [Reid chief of staff] Susan McCue or [Reid's Senate counsel] Jim Ryan as implied by Mr. Solomon's story.
When Abramoff first arrived at Greenberg Traurig, I did a new colleague a favor by simply asking Reid staffers about when the minimum wage legislation affecting the Mariana Islands would be voted upon by the Senate. I communicated this to Abramoff. At no time, did I ever lobby or advocate on this issue or for this Abramoff client. The reason for this is quite simple. Senator Reid, throughout his public career, has been a strong advocate of a fair and decent minimum wage for all Americans. I was fully aware of his strong support for and sponsorship of Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy's (D-MA) bill to ensure that the Marianas Islands would not be exempted from the minimum wage laws applicable to all other American citizens. Therefore, at no time did I ever discuss the substance of this issue with Senator Reid or his office. Nor did I ever ask that the bill be delayed. I only asked about the timing of when the bill would come to the Senate floor. This inquiry was routine.
Mr. Solomon's story also seems to cast suspicion on my contributions to Senator Reid's campaigns. Again, this is a gross distortion. I have been supporting and contributing to Harry Reid for over twenty years. My support and contributions are based solely on my belief that he is an exemplary public official whose values and ideals I share.
As Marshall summarized, the February 11 AP article "portray[ed] a blackeye for their original story as a further confirmation of their story":
After he spoke to me, Platt released a statement restating the gist of what he told me.
So what does the AP do with the information? They run a story with the lede that the Abramoff lobbyist confirms the meetings with Harry Reid. In other words, they portray a blackeye for their original story as a further confirmation of their story.
Now, yes, he did 'confirm' the meetings. But the fact that he had made contact with Reid's office was never seriously in dispute by anyone. They note that the lobbyist in question says the billing records overstate the nature of the work. Even this isn't quite accurate. It's more that he's saying the AP's characterization overstates the nature of the work. But let's set that aside, because whatever the nature of his lobbying was, it doesn't address the key issue.
Nowhere in the new article can the AP writers bring themselves to note that Reid never adopted Abramoff's clients' position on the issue. So whatever quids Abramoff's folks were offering up, Reid never gave them a quo. From start to finish he was the co-sponsor of the bill Abramoff's clients wanted to defeat.
That's key information -- arguably, the central piece of information in the whole case. But the AP keeps pressing their misleading narrative while omitting this key point.
During the February 12 edition of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews described a recent flap between Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), currently in his first term, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a fourth-term senator first elected in 1986, as "the new kid on the block versus Mr. Straight Talk." The latter was a reference to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign slogan, Straight Talk America, and his Straight Talk Express campaign bus. Matthews then described what he called "the big fight in Washington":
First, John McCain calls out freshman Senator Barack Obama as a double-crosser. Obama acts innocent, saying he's puzzled by McCain's assault. Washington is stunned at the sight of a real go-at-it in broad daylight. "You talking to me?" But the next day, it's all sweetness and light.
Matthews's verdict? "Well, the fight's over, but I give it to McCain."
The dispute apparently began when Obama released a February 2 letter addressed to McCain endorsing the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, lobbying reform legislation introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on January 18. In the letter, Obama said he hoped the bill could be the basis for a "bipartisan solution" to lobbying reform, explaining that he believed the Democratic plan to craft the legislation via the normal committee process would be preferable to McCain's plan for "creating a task force to further study and discuss" lobby reform. In his reply, McCain called Obama's letter "self-interested partisan posturing," claiming that Obama had been "disingenuous" in his earlier conversations with McCain.
As Media Matters for America has already noted, Matthews appeared to take McCain's side in the dustup earlier in the week when he interviewed the Arizona senator during the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball. During the show, it was Matthews, not McCain, who referred to Obama as a "double-crosser," asking McCain, "Did he welsh on the deal? Did he double-cross you by going partisan after promising to go bipartisan with you, senator?" During that same segment, Matthews also praised McCain's letter as "brilliantly angry."
Since his correspondence with McCain began and ended, Obama has not appeared on either of Matthews's television programs.
From the February 12 edition of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Before we go to break, however, the big fight in Washington, fortunately, this week, wasn't about East and West, it was the new kid on the block versus Mr. Straight Talk. First, John McCain calls out freshman Senator Barack Obama as a double-crosser. Obama acts innocent, saying he's puzzled by McCain's assault. Washington is stunned at the sight of a real go-at-it in broad daylight. "You talking to me?" But the next day, it's all sweetness and light. Well, the fight's over, but I give it to McCain.
During a discussion on how Republicans would "handle" a 2008 presidential bid by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), New York Times columnist David Brooks stated, "[T]he weakness of the Democratic Party, they've got the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline." Later in the conversation, after Brooks said, "It's true for both parties, you've got [the weblog] Daily Kos on the left, you've got Pat Dobson [sic] on the right," Matthews asked Brooks, "Which party has more nuts by your count?" Brooks responded, "Objectively, the Democratic Party." Brooks made his comments on the February 12 edition of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, during a discussion that included host Chris Matthews and Time columnist Joe Klein.
From the February 12 edition of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Shrill Hill? It's only 2006, and already Republicans are telegraphing their punch. How are they going to handle Hillary Clinton? We're seeing it.
BROOKS: Well I think whoever the Democratic candidate -- that is the weakness of the Democratic Party, they've got the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline.
MATTHEWS: You know what -- I just love objectivity. But go ahead -- fair enough --
BROOKS: That is objectively true -- I did the psychoanalytic test.
KLEIN: As opposed to the gun advocates in, in, whoever --
BROOKS: Yeah, It's true for both parties: You've got Daily Kos on the left; you've got Pat Dobson [sic] on the right.
MATTHEWS: Which party has more nuts by your count?
BROOKS: Objectively, the Democratic Party.
Henninger baselessly asserted that public disclosure of spying program made it ineffective; news reports indicate it already was
In his February 10 column, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger baselessly asserted that the public disclosure of President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program had made it ineffective. Henninger wrote that the program "was going to work, and help lessen the chance of another atrocity in our America, only if it stayed secret" (italics in original). He added: "Now it is public, and its utility is about zero." Henninger's assertion accepts as fact two assumptions, one rebutted by news reports and the other highly dubious. First, the assertion presumes that the warrantless domestic spying program was effective prior to its exposure. News reports, however, indicate that even before its revelation by The New York Times in mid-December 2005, "nearly all" of the people whose calls were monitored under the National Security Agency (NSA) program were, in the words of a February 5 Washington Post article, later "dismissed ... as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat." Second, by stating that the program's public disclosure rendered it ineffective, Henninger is accepting the administration's suggestion that the program's disclosure tipped off terrorists to something they hadn't already suspected. A February 6 exchange between Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the surveillance program highlights the absurdity of that claim.
News articles suggest that the program has been ineffective. According to The Washington Post:
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.
Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.
In addition, a January 17 New York Times article reported that, according to "current and former [FBI] officials," "virtually all" of the tips provided by the NSA to the FBI "led to dead ends or innocent Americans."
An exchange between Biden and Gonzales at the Judiciary Committee hearing on the surveillance program demonstrates the dubiousness of Henninger's other assumption: that the program's disclosure was somehow news to terrorists. Biden told Gonzales that this argument "seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaeda folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls." Gonzales responded that while "it is true you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance," the program's disclosure still damaged its usefulness because, Gonzales said, "if [the terrorists are] not reminded about it all the time, in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget. ... [Y]ou're amazed at some of the communications that exist. And so, when you keep sticking it in their face that we're involved in some kind of surveillance, even if it's unclear in these stories, it can't help but make a difference." Biden responded that he hoped that was the case, because if the terrorists "[a]re that stupid and naive ... we're much better off if that's the case." Biden, however, stated that he "got the impression from the work I've done in this area that they are pretty darn sophisticated."
As Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observed in a December 20, 2005, Washington Times column, if public disclosure has rendered the program ineffective, why has Bush said that he will continue it?:
The president maintained that, "As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA's surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping?
From Henninger's February 10 Wall Street Journal column, titled "Can We Talk?":
At the Judiciary Committee hearings Monday, Sen. [Patrick] Leahy [D-VT] announced: "Mr. Attorney General, in America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States." Got it. But here's the bottom line on the surveillance program. It was going to work, and help lessen the chance of another atrocity in our America, only if it stayed secret. The odds of it staying secret would diminish as its existence spread through the Congress and judicial system. Now it is public, and its utility is about zero. What's left is the legal issue of whether it violated [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA. We can only look forward to the answer.
On the February 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, claimed that the issue of taxes helps Republicans politically. However, the most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, which was cited during the program's "Political Grapevine" segment and during its newscast, indicates that a plurality of voters believes that Democrats "would do a better job" on the issue of taxes.
During a debate on how terrorism has helped Republicans politically, Barnes said, "When the issue is taxes, [it] helps Republicans." But a February 7-8 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll (with a margin of error of +/-3 percent) found that 43 percent of voters believed that Democrats "would do a better job" on the issue of taxes, as opposed to 38 percent for Republicans. Guest host Chris Wallace and Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle both mentioned the poll on the show, although neither cited the question regarding taxes.
Other polls have yielded similar results. A February 1-5 Pew Research Center poll that asked which party would do a better job on the issue of taxes found that 46 percent picked Democrats, while 35 percent chose Republicans. The margin of error was +/-3 percent. And a January 22-25 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll with a +/-3-percent margin of error found that 43 percent of Americans said Democrats would do "a better job of handling taxes" than the president, while just 34 percent favored President Bush.
From the February 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: In the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, people were asked if the president should have the power to authorize electronic surveillance without warrants. Fifty-four percent said yes. Only 40 percent said no.
WALLACE: And now, some fresh pickings from the "Political Grapevine." A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll matching up potential candidates for the 2008 presidential election has Republicans coming out on top.
BARNES: Look, Republicans both think that the war on terror is the most important thing that the government has to do now, and they also realize it's helpful for them politically. I mean, it's always been, Chris. I mean, think of domestic issues. When the issue is taxes, helps Republicans. When the issue is health care, helps Democrats. Now when the issue is terror and the terrorist threat against America, it helps Republicans.
A February 10 Washington Post article by staff writer Jim VandeHei falsely characterized those who "argue that [President] Bush is breaking the law by spying on people in the United States without a warrant and without congressional or judicial oversight" as simply "some Democrats." In fact, many prominent Republicans -- including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others -- have sharply disagreed with the administration's legal justifications for the warrantless domestic surveillance program and have criticized the administration for flouting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
In addition, a January 5 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that "the Administration's legal justification, as presented in the [December 22] summary analysis from the [Justice Department's] Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests."
Media Matters for America has previously documented Republicans and conservatives who have criticized or raised questions about the surveillance program, which is administered by the National Security Agency (NSA). Some more recent examples of Republicans and conservatives who have disagreed with or criticized the administration's legal justification for the program:
GRAHAM: Now, can I get to the FISA statute in two minutes here? And Mr. -- I hope we do have another round, because this is very important. I'm not here to accuse anyone of breaking the law; I want to create law that will help people fighting the war know what they can and can't do.
The FISA statute, if you look at the legislative language, they made a conscious decision back in 1978 to resolve this two-lane debate. There's two lanes you can go down as commander in chief. You can act with the Congress and you can have inherent authority as commander in chief. The FISA statute said basically this is the exclusive means to conduct foreign surveillance where American citizens are involved, and the Congress, seems to me, gave you a one- lane highway, not a two-lane highway. They took the inherent-authority argument, they thought about it, they debated it, and they passed a statute, if you look at the legislative language, saying this shall be the exclusive means. And it's different than 1401.
So I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Attorney General, if I buy our argument about FISA, I can't think of a reason you wouldn't have the ability, if you chose to, to set aside the statute on torture if you believed it impeded the war effort.
TIM RUSSERT (host): The administration says that they didn't need to, that they already had authority from Congress when, back in October 2002, Congress voted an authorization to go to war against Iraq, and this is part of that war.
SPECTER: I believe that contention is very strained and unrealistic. The authorization for the use of force doesn't say anything about electronic surveillance, issue was never raised with the Congress. And there is a specific statute on the books, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which says flatly that you can't undertake that kind of surveillance without a court order.
RUSSERT: When President Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act into law, he had a presidential signing statement, and in that signing statement he said this, quote, "It clarifies the executive's authority to gather foreign intelligence by electric surveillance in the United States," suggesting that any inherent powers in Article 2 of the Constitution, or other -- other legislation, that this, this FISA law, was central and now would be controlling. Do you agree with that?
SPECTER: Well, I think that it's a very powerful statement when the president -- Carter at the time -- signed it, and said that that was the way electronic surveillance ought to be conducted, and only with a warrant. And that was a presidential concession as to who had the authority. Congress exercised it by passing the law, and the President submitted to it.
Now, there is an involved question here, Tim, which we're going to get into in some depth, as to whether the president's powers under Article 2, his inherent powers, supercede a statute. If a statute is inconsistent with the Constitution, the Constitution governs and the constitutional powers predominate. But here you have the president signing on and saying this is it, and that's why I've been so skeptical of the program, because it is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but that's not the end of the discussion. There's a lot more to follow, and we won't be able to cover it all here this evening -- today, this morning, but we're going to have a hearing tomorrow and some more hearings after that because of the importance of this issue and because of its complexity and depth.
HAGEL: I don't believe from what I've heard -- but I'm going to give the administration an opportunity to explain it -- that he [President Bush] has the authority now to do what he's doing. Now, maybe he can convince me otherwise, but. that's OK, not yet. But that's OK. If he needs more authority, he just can't unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law. He needs to come back, work with us, work with the courts if he has to and we will do what we need to do to protect the civil liberties of this country and the national security of this country.
In sum, we remain as unpersuaded by the DOJ's 42-page attempt to find authority for the NSA spying program as we were of its initial five-page version. The DOJ's more extended discussion only reaffirms our initial conclusion [in a previous January 9 letter], because it makes clear that to find this program statutorily authorized would require rewriting not only clear and specific federal legislation, but major aspects of constitutional doctrine. Accordingly, we continue to believe that the administration has failed to offer any plausible legal justification for the NSA program.
As Stuart Benjamin, another law professor at Duke University, wrote on the weblog The Volokh Conspiracy, Bradley's signature on the letter appears to show that even proponents of expansive executive power believe the president has gone too far in the NSA case:
Second, and more obviously significant, is the fact that Curt Bradley, along with Jack Goldsmith, has written articles that have (to oversimplify matters greatly) articulated A) a broader vision of executive authority than most other academics would adopt, and B) a particularly broad construction of the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force statute on which the Administration attempts to rely. Jack Goldsmith probably feels constrained from joining the debate (given that he was at OLC [Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel] for some of the period in question), but Bradley's joining of the letter criticizing the government's position seems quite significant. Bradley and Goldsmith considered the AUMF at great length and put forward a quite expansive interpretation of it. If Bradley nonetheless doesn't think that it provides a legal justification for the Administration's wiretapping, that tells us something -- and a good bit more than the fact that he's not on the political left.
Goldsmith, as a February 6 article in Newsweek noted, headed the OLC from October 2003 to around June 2004. The Newsweek article reported, "Within the executive branch, including the Pentagon and CIA, the OLC acts as a kind of mini Supreme Court. Its carefully worded opinions are regarded as binding precedent -- final say on what the president and all his agencies can and cannot legally do."
From the February 10 Washington Post article, titled "Cheney says NSA spying should be an election issue":
Its unclear whether the GOP strategy will work, however.
In a new Associated Press poll, about half of those surveyed favored the wiretap program. In the same poll last month, 56 percent opposed it. White House officials privately argue that President Bush's greatest political strength is the same one that helped Republicans in the last two elections: fighting terrorism.
In recent weeks, Bush has shifted his public focus away from Iraq and trained it on winning public support for the program. Some Democrats argue that Bush is breaking the law by spying on people in the United States without a warrant and without congressional or judicial oversight. Bush contends that the Constitution and the 2001 congressional war resolution give him the authority to take such steps to track down terrorism suspects.
"Some in Washington are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat and to back away from the business at hand," Cheney said. "That mind-set may be comforting, but it is dangerous."
CLIPS: Limbaugh sub host claimed Obama-McCain incident shows "how Democrats treat African-Americans" officeholders: "[T]hey get put back on the plantation"
Filling in for host Rush Limbaugh on the February 8 edition of the nationally syndicated The Rush Limbaugh Show, radio host and former San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock stated that the recent dispute between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over what they had agreed on regarding a bipartisan approach to lobbying reform shows "how Democrats treat African-Americans who happen to be officeholders in their party." He then added: "[T]hey get put back on the plantation." During Hedgecock's conversation with a caller about the dispute, Hedgecock asserted that the incident involving an exchange of letters between Obama and McCain illustrated that Obama was getting "yanked back into line" by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). On January 18, Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled their lobby reform legislation, titled the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
The dispute reportedly began when Obama released a February 2 letter endorsing the Honest Leadership Act, which he said he hoped could be considered as the basis for a "bipartisan solution" that was preferable to McCain's call for "creating a task force to further study and discuss" lobby reform and said that he supported allowing the legislation to be shaped via the normal committee process (which is controlled by Republicans). In his reply, McCain called Obama's suggestions "self-interested partisan posturing," claiming that Obama had displayed "disingenuousness" in his earlier conversations with McCain. In his discussion about the exchange, Hedgecock, who also hosts his own radio show on San Diego's radio station KOGO, asserted that Obama's initial letter and subsequent correspondence with McCain about the reform was "at the instance [sic] of [Democratic leader] Harry Reid" and was "going back on his promise" to work with Republicans on the matter.
From the February 9 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
CALLER: Thank you, Roger. I was just curious about your comments earlier about the whole Obama-McCain situation. I was just wondering why you omitted Obama's retort letter to McCain, which basically said, "What the hell are you talking about?" in poli-speak, and also the fact that McCain and Obama have made amends on this whole altercation.
HEDGECOCK: Well, I don't know whether they made amends. I was looking at the -- Hardball, last night, and, I guess [host] Chris Matthews was going into this whole thing, and McCain said that he was moving on. I don't know whether that means they've made amends. Here's the crux of the thing: Obama, at the instance [sic] of Harry Reid, instead of going bipartisan with McCain's thing, wanted to come up and support the -- the Democrat proposal, which is a nine-member congressional ethics commission, which would have the authority to keep this in the front page of The New York Times until at least election day on the culture of corruption charges against Republicans only.
McCain said, "Look, this thing is broader than that; covers both parties; needs to be attacked on a systemic basis; and we've got to work on a bipartisan basis to do it." Obama had promised him he would do it. He went back on his promise, and as far as I'm concerned -- let's get back to the thrust of my comment. What this shows us is how Democrats treat African-Americans who happen to be officeholders in their party. They toe the party line. They get yanked back into line. They get, you know, they get put back on the plantation, [caller].
CALLER: I'd have to object to that, quite honestly. I mean, granted, Obama's a Democrat, and he's going to side more with the Democrat Party line than the Republican line. But, if you look at his voting record --
HEDGECOCK: No, in this case that's not what happened. No, no, no, no, no, no, [caller]. Don't mischaracterize it. What happened was, after promising to do a bipartisan effort on ethics, he was yanked back by Harry Reid to the purely partisan position -- Democrats only, we're going to define ethics. We're going to make it a campaign issue. And he yanked -- and he yanked himself back to that partisan position after promising a bipartisan approach with McCain. McCain called him on it, and that's the fact.
Milbank, Matthews falsely suggested that only Democrats and "poor Republicans like Bob Barr" question the legality of NSA program
On the February 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank agreed that on the issue of President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, the American public tends to "rally around" the argument that Bush is simply doing what is necessary to protect the country, rather than agree with the objections of Democrats and "poor Republicans like [former Rep.] Bob Barr [R-GA]" regarding the legality of the program. "[P]eople aren't making these fine distinctions," Milbank said. Matthews agreed, saying, "[P]eople would rather be protected in their bodies and souls, rather than potentially against a possible infringement of their civil liberties." But in depicting the debate over the controversial National Security Agency (NSA) program as clearly tilted in Bush's favor, Milbank and Matthews ignored both the results of a poll that they themselves cited showing Americans evenly divided on the issue and Milbank's own reporting, which has recently shown a significant level of concern about the program among prominent Republicans.
Milbank appeared on Hardball to discuss Bush's disclosure of an Al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles purportedly foiled by U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Answering questions about whether the NSA program helped prevent the L.A. plot, Milbank said, "[A]s a political matter, it doesn't matter."
From the February 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MILBANK: You know, when members of Congress -- if they were to put something out, it would be a leak of classified information. When the president does it, he's just declassifying it. So, it's something they felt they didn't need to do before. It's something they want to do to boost the -- his ratings on this -- the NSA surveillance program. Now, this wasn't necessarily related to that surveillance program.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you something more. NBC is reporting that -- I've got a hot note on it -- that it -- not only is it not necessarily related, it's unrelated. That domestic spying had nothing to do with catching this plot in the action.
MILBANK: But, Chris, as a political matter, it doesn't matter. There was an [Associated Press] AP poll out today that showed the program is now supported by nearly half of the public, 48 percent, up from 42 percent earlier.
The fact is, people aren't making these fine distinctions; and whether it's the Democrats or whether it's some poor Republicans like Bob Barr at CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] today trying to make the case that, wait a second, think about the Constitution, the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA law, this and that. The president says, "Look, I'm protecting you," and people want to rally around that, and this helps regardless of whether it's related or not.
MATTHEWS: I think that's been pretty clear. I don't want to say I know the future but it's clear that people would rather be protected in their bodies and souls, rather than potentially against a possible infringement of their civil liberties.
The first call on you is to stay alive, and a lot of people would say these guys may go over the top once in a while, but I want to be protected by a tough guy, not by a civil libertarian. That hasn't changed. Remember how [former President] George [H.W.] Bush Sr. ran against [former Democratic presidential candidate] Mike Dukakis [in 1988] and said he was a card-carrying member of the [American Civil Liberties Union] ACLU. Everybody knew what that meant.
While the AP/Ipsos poll Milbank cited indeed showed an increase in the number of Americans who now believe the government should be able to monitor "phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists ... without a warrant" over the number of Americans who had a month earlier, it nonetheless found that public opinion appears evenly split on the issue: 48 percent approve of the program, while 50 percent disapprove. The data hardly warrant Matthews's and Milbank's claims that "people aren't making these fine distinctions" regarding the program's legality and that "people would rather be protected in their bodies and souls." In fact, half of the public is apparently concerned with those "distinctions."
Moreover, Milbank's characterization of those objecting to the program as Democrats and "some poor Republicans like Bob Barr" is undermined by two of his own Post columns published in recent days. In his February 9 "Washington Sketch" column, for example, Milbank used the following words to describe the growing Republican opposition to the Bush administration program on Capitol Hill:
Who's afraid of the Big Bad Bush?
[N]ot Rep. Heather A. Wilson. The New Mexico Republican, in a tough reelection fight, defied the White House by demanding briefings on the administration's warrantless surveillance program and calling for legislation on it. "The checks and balances in our system of government are very important," she told reporters.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) pronounced himself "a bit amused" by Vice President Cheney's concession that he'd be "willing to listen" to Congress about the surveillance program. "He's got a very skewed misunderstanding of the Constitution," Hagel told The Washington Post's Charles Babington. "It doesn't work that way. The Congress is a co-equal branch of government. ... So, to arrogantly say, 'We're willing to listen to them,' that's not good enough."
In his February 7 column on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's February 6 testimony on the surveillance program before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Milbank noted that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) raised concerns about the lack of a "check and balance" on the NSA program:
A trio of Republicans on the committee vied to serve as Gonzales's chief defender. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) used his questioning time to attack those "people who are wildly saying that the president is violating the law." Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and John Cornyn (Tex.) joined the sister of a Sept. 11 victim at a news conference outside the hearing room.
But other Republicans were skeptical. "In all honesty, Mr. Attorney General," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) advised, the "argument that you're making is very dangerous." He warned that, eventually, "there is no check and balance."
Further, while Milbank highlighted Barr's comments at the CPAC conference regarding the warrantless surveillance program, he made no mention of the fact that Graham raised concerns about the domestic spying at the same event. According to a February 10 New York Times article, Graham not only criticized the NSA program, but noted that "many conservatives like himself were troubled" by it:
Some conservatives were scornful of White House efforts to allow at least some illegal immigrants to work legally in this country, and some challenged the legality of Mr. Bush's surveillance program, saying that it was an abuse of presidential power and that Mr. Bush should come to the Congress and ask for authority to allow it.
''Think hard down the road to a future administration not occupied by the people we have now,'' said Bob Barr, a former congressman from Georgia. ''We have to keep that precedent in mind: That gauntlet, if we throw it down, will be taken up by someone in the future that we really don't like and be used against us.''
Mr. Graham said many conservatives like himself were troubled by the administration's arguments for its program to eavesdrop on communications. ''The inherent power argument, if you take it to the natural conclusion, there is no role for Congress in a time of war,'' he said.
As Media Matters for America has noted, numerous other prominent Republicans and conservatives have expressed serious concerns about the NSA program, including Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), John Sununu (R-NH), Sam Brownback (R-KA), Bruce Fein, former deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
During the February 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Dobbs reported on an Associated Press article published that day that he said demonstrated "the huge influence of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Congress" by showing that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had written "at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff." But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the February 9 AP article by staff writers John Solomon and Sharon Theimer left out important details of two incidents that purportedly link Reid to Abramoff -- details that undermine Dobbs' assertion that it demonstrates any influence Abramoff had with Reid.
The AP article suggested that Reid coordinated with Abramoff to sabotage proposed legislation that would have raised the minimum wage in the Northern Mariana Islands -- a U.S. territory represented by Abramoff -- without noting that, in fact, Reid was a co-sponsor of that legislation and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of its passage. The Northern Marianas minimum wage provision was part of a broader bill to raise the U.S. minimum wage. The article mentions Abramoff associate Ronald Platt several times, describing him as a member of the "Democratic team" at Abramoff's firm, and quotes Reid spokesman Jim Manley saying that Reid met regularly with Platt to discuss policy issues. But while the story notes that Reid met with Platt in June 2001 to discuss the minimum wage bill, and reports that Platt "began billing for routine contacts and meetings with Reid's staff" in March 2001, it did not quote Platt at any point. Further, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall reported Platt's assertion that the AP reporters did not even attempt to contact him for the article.
Marshall also asked Platt whether Reid had taken any action against the minimum wage bill following their meeting, to which Platt responded, "I'm sure he didn't." According to Platt, the purpose of his contacts was to see what information he could get about the timing and status of the legislation. Reid's position on the minimum wage issue was well known and there would have been no point trying to get his help blocking it. That's what Platt says. "I didn't ask Reid to intervene," said Platt. "I wouldn't have asked him to intervene. I don't think anyone else would have asked. And I'm sure he didn't." At no point during the AP story were readers informed about Platt's contention that the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss Reid's position on the legislation.
The AP also failed to note what subsequent action Reid took on the legislation; in fact, Reid spoke in support of the bill's passage in a May 6, 2002, speech on the Senate floor:
REID: The Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase the Federal minimum wage by $1.50 over 2 years. We are not asking it be kept up with inflation from when it was first established. About 80,000 Nevadans and about 9 million Americans would get a raise up to $6.65 during the next 2 years. This modest proposal would bring the real value of the minimum wage within a penny of the value it had in the 1980s.
The AP story also noted that Reid opposed legislation to approve a Michigan casino for a Native American tribe that would have rivaled a casino owned by a tribe represented by Abramoff. But the article omitted the fact that Reid said at the time that he opposed the legislation because it would create a "very dangerous precedent" for the spread of off-reservation gambling -- something Reid had opposed for nearly a decade. The AP further noted that Reid deemed the bill "fundamentally flawed" but neglected to mention why Reid said he reached that conclusion:
Reid went to the Senate floor to oppose fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's effort to win congressional approval for a Michigan casino for the Bay Mills Indians, which would have rivaled one already operating by the Saginaw Chippewa represented by Abramoff.
"The legislation is fundamentally flawed," Reid argued, successfully leading the opposition to Stabenow's proposal.
In fact, Reid said the legislation was flawed because it would allow the Bay Mills tribe to build an off-reservation casino "under the guise of settling a land claim." From the November 19, 2002, Congressional Record:
REID: [A]llowing a tribe to settle a land claim and receive trust land hundreds of miles from their reservation for the express purpose of establishing a gaming facility sets a very dangerous precedent.
This pursuit of off-reservation gaming operations should continue to follow the procedures outlined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Public Law 100-497, which authorizes tribal gaming operations on off-reservation ''after-acquired lands'' where the land to be acquired has no relationship to the land upon which the claim was based.
Let me say that the first gaming compact ever approved with an Indian tribe in the history of the country was done in Nevada. So it is not as if Nevada is here opposing this request. The first compact ever approved in the country was in Nevada. That is still an ongoing operation and a very successful one.
The proposed casino would be located just north of Detroit on a major link to Ontario that is in the lower corner of the lower peninsula. Bay Mills is located in the upper peninsula. The legislation is fundamentally flawed because it allows Bay Mills to establish gaming facilities under the guise of settling a land claim.
The land claim is simply -- and everybody knows this -- an excuse to take land into trust for off-reservation gaming. I object.
This position was entirely consistent with Reid's longtime opposition to off-reservation gambling. As early as 1998, Reid supported the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which generally prohibited Indian gaming on non-tribal lands. He proposed separate legislation in 1993 "prohibit[ing] states from opening gaming operations on off-reservation land" [AP, 5/28/93].
From the February 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: And a new report tonight, apparently demonstrating the huge influence of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, according to The Associated Press. Senator Reid reportedly collected nearly $70,000 from groups associated with Abramoff. Abramoff himself has pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges. He is now helping federal prosecutors investigate lawmakers and their staffs. Tonight, Senator Reid's office said he did not write the letters to Indian tribes on behalf of Abramoff and Senator Reid has never taken contributions from Abramoff.
On the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt falsely claimed that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations shows that Abramoff made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.
The $68,000 figure that Witt cited, in fact, refers to contributions Reid received from Abramoff partners and clients, but not Abramoff himself.
From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live:
WITT: Now, records show that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid had closer ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff than initially thought. The documents show Reid wrote at least four letters to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, and his staff was in close contact with the lobbyist's office. Reid collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff over three years. Reid has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
February 9, 2006
On February 7, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh said he "kind of like[s]" a caller's statement that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "is the Donovan McNabb of the U.S. Senate." The exchange followed Limbaugh's discussion of the recent dispute between Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) over lobbying reform and was an apparent reference to Limbaugh's controversial comments about McNabb, who plays quarterback in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2003, Limbaugh resigned from his job as an ESPN commentator after saying about McNabb:
LIMBAUGH: Sorry to say this, I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.
Limbaugh frequently discusses the controversy surrounding his 2003 McNabb remarks -- most recently on his February 3 show.
On February 7, a caller told Limbaugh: "Barack Obama is the Donovan McNabb of the Senate. He's overrated, and he's going to get a free pass by the media. If you listen to him talk, nothing comes out of his mouth -- it's spin. He was on a show a couple of weeks ago. He just got back from Iraq. And they put this guy on a pedestal. He says nothing at the end of the day -- nothing at all. And he's the rising star."
Asked by Limbaugh, "Why do you think he's the rising star?," the caller responded: "Oh, they're putting him up because he's well spoken, he's well mannered, he gets in front of the camera, he has a presence, but he says nothing." The caller added: "He looks -- he's like a Bill Clinton, but just a different shade, that's all."
Limbaugh then stated: "I kind of like that analogy that he's the Donavan McNabb of the U.S. Senate ... in the sense that he is being propped up ... because they want to see him do well."
From the February 7 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
CALLER: Well, I -- my point was, Barack Obama is the Donovan McNabb of the Senate. He's overrated, and he's going to get a free pass by the media. If you listen to him talk, nothing comes out of his mouth -- it's spin. He was on a show a couple of weeks ago. He just got back from Iraq. And they put this guy on a pedestal. He says nothing at the end of the day -- nothing at all. And he's the rising star.
LIMBAUGH: Well, the reason --
CALLER: And --
LIMBAUGH: Why do you think he's the rising star?
CALLER: Oh, they're putting him up because he's well spoken, he's well mannered, he gets in front of the camera, he has a presence, but he says nothing. He looks -- he's like a Bill Clinton, but just a different shade, that's all. And you know, you were right about [Sen. Joe] Lieberman [D-CT]. In this Connecticut area, there's a groundswell now with some local senators and representatives in his district saying, "Based on his stance on the war, let's not re-elect Joe Lieberman." So, if you're a Democrat, you go against it, so now Lieberman is, by his own party in Connecticut -- the groundswell is starting. But they'll put him -- Barack Obama -- on a pedestal.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, well, I don't know. I kind of like that analogy that he is the Donavan McNabb of the U.S. Senate --
CALLER: Don't say too much about him, Rush.
LIMBAUGH: -- in the sense that he is being propped up. He's being --
CALLER: Oh, yeah.
LIMBAUGH: Yeah, because they want to see him do well. Well, they've already invested in -- I mean, you just heard [CNN senior political analyst] Bill Schneider. He's the star of the party. He's the star of the Democratic Party.
On the February 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, congressional correspondent Ed Henry and senior political analyst Bill Schneider reported on the dispute over lobbying reform between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) -- uncritically touting McCain's "years of work" on lobbying reform. Apparently purporting to read between the lines of a letter from McCain to Obama, Schneider said: "Who is this freshman pipsqueak to challenge McCain's years of work on his signature issue?" In a separate report, Henry stated: "McCain, who's long pushed reform, didn't take kindly to the lecture from a freshman [Obama]." Henry then played an audio clip of Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, who asserted that the dispute could allow McCain to "reassert his ownership of the ethics issue."
McCain does indeed have a history of pushing for lobbying related reforms in the Senate, but he also has a different history that was not mentioned by the CNN commentators, aspects of which would presumably be of interest to viewers considering Schneider, Henry, and Rothenberg's seemingly unanimous view of McCain's "ownership of the ethics issue."
McCain, who chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and has led its investigation into some of former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's activities, is perhaps best known for his sponsorship of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (often called McCain-Feingold) that banned "soft money" contributions to national political parties. In 1995, McCain sponsored a successful effort to amend Senate rules to bar senators from accepting gifts over $50 or privately funded travel to "recreational" events. McCain co-sponsored 1995 legislation to toughen disclosure requirements for congressional lobbyists. In 1996, McCain -- along with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) -- tried unsuccessfully to lengthen the one-year time period during which former congressional staffers are prohibited from lobbying their former bosses and committees, and former members of Congress are prohibited from lobbying their colleagues. A September 5, 1996, article in Roll Call quoted McCain as saying the bill would "stop the revolving door and restrict former staff and Members from lobbying the Hill until after a decent cooling-off period elapses."
But McCain's career also includes a number of activities rarely mentioned by those touting McCain's reformer credentials.
McCain steered his Abramoff investigation away from fellow lawmakers
As Media Matters for America noted -- and, earlier, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall had noted -- McCain's own Senate investigation into Abramoff's activities avoided any examination into the possible culpability of his fellow lawmakers. According to an article (subscription required) in the March 10, 2005, issue of Roll Call, McCain "assured his colleagues that his expanding investigation into the activities of a former GOP lobbyist [Abramoff] and a half-dozen of his tribal casino clients is not directed at revealing ethically questionable actions by Members of Congress." According to Roll Call:
McCain's comments to Republicans, made at the weekly lunch of the GOP's Steering Committee, came on the same day a trio of stories landed in Washington newspapers raising questions about the legislative actions taken by two GOP Senators and political donations to an interest group established in 1997 by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
Because of those stories - and several other news reports touching on Abramoff's relationship with Members - McCain said he wanted to let Senators know that he was not trying to air any of their dirty laundry.
His disclaimer came as two Senators involved in the latest round of Abramoff stories, Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and David Vitter (R-La.), said they welcomed any investigation and promised to help McCain in any way.
In addition, the Center for Responsive Politics has documented that McCain received $5,000 in campaign contributions from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians while Abramoff was the group's lobbyist. Although such contributions do not in themselves constitute wrongdoing, Media Matters has noted that Henry has previously highlighted tribal contributions made to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, while ignoring those made to McCain.
Senate Ethics Committee found McCain "exercised poor judgment" in Keating Five scandal
In 1990 and 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee investigated allegations that McCain -- along with four Democratic senators, together called the Keating Five -- had exerted improper influence when he met with federal bank regulators on behalf of developer Charles H. Keating Jr., a McCain campaign donor and the central figure in a $2 billion savings and loan failure. The committee ultimately exonerated McCain but found that he had "exercised poor judgment" in the scandal. As The New York Times explained in a November 21, 1999, article:
Senator McCain had taken $112,000 in Keating-related campaign donations, trips aboard Mr. Keating's corporate jet and family vacations at the executive's Bahamas hideaway. While legal, these gifts made his attendance at the meetings with federal regulators all the more questionable. (The other four senators had also taken large contributions from Mr. Keating, some of them far more than Mr. McCain.)
McCain's presidential campaign relied on lobbyist connections
During his campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, McCain relied heavily on the fundraising efforts of lobbyists connected with industries that McCain oversaw as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. On February 4, 2000, The Wall Street Journal reported that "the McCain campaign is crawling with lobbyists ... raising money for Mr. McCain's campaign, helping him formulate policies and representing well-heeled clients in Washington." The Journal added: "Of every $10 the McCain campaign raised last year, $1 came from the Washington area or from political action committees, a bigger ratio than that at the Bush, Gore or Bradley campaigns."
Though an April 28, 1999, Washington Post article noted that "McCain said in an interview ... that his public identification with the cause of campaign finance reform poses no conflict with the fund-raising assets of his chairmanship," the Post suggested that lobbyists saw no downside to supporting his presidential campaign: either McCain won, in which case he would be grateful for their support, or he continued as commerce committee chair, in which case he would be grateful for their support.
From the Post article:
To McCain's lobbyist backers, however, his chairmanship is the key to his appeal here under what one called "the Wilbur Mills rule" of presidential campaign giving.
Mills, the Ways and Means Committee chairman best known for his Tidal Basin dip with a stripper, waged a short-lived 1972 presidential campaign underwritten by lobbyists with business before him. Now, he's become Washington shorthand for the practice whereby "the highest-ranking member of Congress" running for president benefits -- whether front-runner, like Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) four years ago, or long shot, like McCain today.
"People like to give under the theory that no matter what happens, he's still chairman of the Commerce Committee," said J. Steven Hart, whose firm Williams & Jensen has represented clients such as Time Warner Inc. and Continental Airlines with interests before McCain's panel.
The Post article also described a $120,000 McCain fundraiser hosted by a number of industry lobbyists, including McCain's former legislative director, John W. Timmons:
Hart was one of more than a dozen Republican lobbyists who lent their names for a March 23  McCain fund-raiser at the downtown restaurant Red Sage. A dinner for the "host committee" followed the reception; the sea bass drew raves. Despite leaving early for a television appearance, McCain "talked to everybody and worked the room," said Mary E. McAuliffe, a former Commerce aide who is now head of Union Pacific's Washington office.
Among the lobbyist-hosts listed on the invitation was perhaps McCain's most prominent D.C. backer, former Reagan White House chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein, whose firm represents such Commerce-regulated businesses as United Airlines, Time Warner, Comsat, CSX and the National Cable Television Association.
Others hosting the event included John W. Timmons, McCain's former legislative director, now lobbying for Arizona-based America West Airlines; ex-representative Vin Weber (R-Minn.), a House GOP leadership insider who lobbies for Microsoft and other big-name clients; and Will Ball, president of the National Soft Drink Association. Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, now a major lobbyist, serves on Bush's exploratory committee but gave $1,000 to McCain as well.
In addition, the Post reported on a later fundraiser to be hosted by the business partner of McCain's campaign manager, also a telecommunications lobbyist:
Lobbyist Timothy P. McKone will host another McCain Washington fund-raiser, a May 11 dinner at the steakhouse Morton's of Chicago. A partner of McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, whose firm emphasizes telecommunications lobbying, McKone said the invitees are a cross-section of K Street.
The guest list "is not industry-specific," he said. "I've got a whole mix -- health care, banking, insurance. You name it." Response for the $500-a-person, $1,000-a-PAC event has been good, he said. "It's probably hard to find somebody in Washington who hasn't worked closely with McCain."
McCain received significant contributions from the telecommunications industry. According to the Post, "PACs that have given McCain the maximum $5,000 are tilted toward those run by Commerce-interested businesses -- transportation interests such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Federal Express, telecommunications companies such as Bell Atlantic, BellSouth and GTE, and casinos such as Mirage Resorts."
McCain used corporate jets while serving as Commerce chair
The February 7, 2000, edition of CNN's Inside Politics featured a report in which correspondent Bob Franken noted then-Gov. George W. Bush's charge that, in Franken's words, "McCain has a double standard, talking campaign finance reform, for instance, while accepting private jet transportation from corporations who do business before his Commerce Committee." McCain acknowledged using the jets, telling CNN: "We had almost no money when we were using the corporate jets. I could not get around from one place to another and meet my campaign schedule without it. Now we have a lot of money, thanks to the Internet and our successes, and we're able to charter a jet."
On the February 15, 2000, broadcast of CBS Evening News, anchor Dan Rather reported that according to Federal Election Commission records, McCain had accepted "35 flights from 13 companies." (Rather noted that despite Bush's criticism of McCain, Bush had accepted "79 flights on jets from 35 companies.")
McCain's staff has made use of "revolving door"
As noted in the April 28, 1999, Washington Post article, Timmons -- who served as McCain's legislative director and senior counsel to the Commerce Committee in the 1980s -- was working as a lobbyist for America West Airlines when he co-hosted a 1999 McCain fundraiser. According to a December 27, 1990, Business Wire article, Timmons was elected by the airline's board of directors to serve in "the newly created position of vice president of government affairs" and would be "responsible for establishing a Washington office and representing America West in the nation's capitol."
According to The Center for Public Integrity, by the end of 1999, Timmons had become a "top lobbyist" for AT&T -- a company whose interests were deeply tied to McCain's Commerce Committee work.
Similarly, a June 6, 2002, Washington Post article noted that "[i]n one of the neater recent revolving-door moves, Sonya D. Sotak left the office of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), where she was his legislative assistant for health care issues, to become a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America."
From the February 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
HENRY: John McCain was furious that after privately agreeing they'd work on a bipartisan ethics proposal, Barack Obama went public with a letter suggesting McCain was slow-walking it. McCain, who's long pushed reform, didn't take kindly to the lecture from a freshman.
In a letter to Obama, he accused him of "self-interested partisan posturing," "disingenuousness," and noted sarcastically, "I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." Obama insisted he was puzzled by McCain's reaction. "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem."
Political analysts say this is a twofer for McCain as he ponders another presidential run.
ROTHENBERG: He could reassert his ownership of the ethics issue, and, at the same time, score some points with Republicans by taking on Barack Obama, the golden boy of the Democratic Party.
SCHNEIDER: McCain felt betrayed. He fired a letter back at Obama.
McCAIN: Senator Obama said that he would work with us and then decided not to.
SCHNEIDER: It was the tone of McCain's letter that raised eyebrows. He accused Obama of "self-interested partisan posturing."
McCAIN: Straight talk. People don't like straight talk.
SCHNEIDER: Who is this freshman pipsqueak to challenge McCain's years of work on his signature issue? Maybe Democrats don't like the idea of a bipartisan taskforce because they want to use the issue to bash Republicans.
Obama professed to be puzzled by McCain's response. He said he always believed the Democratic bill should be the basis for a bipartisan solution. In other words, put down your saber.
Following Fox News' and The Washington Times editorial board's leads, a February 9 Associated Press article by staff writer Katherine Shrader adopted a variation of the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, referring to it as the "anti-terrorist surveillance program." Bush first used the term "terrorist surveillance program" publicly in a January 23 speech at Kansas State University in which he defended his authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications of U.S. residents without court warrants. Bush said of the NSA's activities, "It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program." The article also referred to the monitored communications as "terror-related," even though the vast majority of them have reportedly led to "dead ends or innocent Americans."
As Media Matters for America has noted, the term "terrorist surveillance program" appears to have originated with the right-wing news website NewsMax.com on December 22; operators of right-wing weblogs began to pick up the term on January 20, according to a timeline by the weblog Think Progress. On January 22, the White House press office released a backgrounder on the NSA program, in which the term appeared 10 times in reference to the domestic eavesdropping.
Beginning on January 25 (noted here and here) -- during a week that saw the administration go on the offensive to defend its practice of wiretapping U.S. residents without obtaining warrants -- Fox News began slipping the term "terrorist surveillance program," or a variation thereof, into its news reports and commentary to describe the National Security Agency's (NSA) program. Since then, Fox News reporters and anchors have continued to use the term "terrorist (or terror) surveillance program" in their reporting. A February 2 Washington Times editorial on President Bush's State of the Union address also adopted the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, as did several regional newspapers and editorial boards.
Reporting on the Bush administration's decision to brief full Congressional intelligence committees on the NSA spy program, Shrader used the term "anti-terrorist surveillance program" to describe the program:
At least one Democrat left saying he had a better understanding of legal and operational aspects of the anti-terrorist surveillance program. But he said he still had a number of questions.
The article also uncritically described the NSA program's intercepted communications as "terror-related." But, as a Media Matters previously noted, The Washington Post reported on February 5 that out of thousands of Americans whose communications have been monitored by the NSA without a court order, "fewer than 10" U.S. citizens or residents "aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well." The Post report followed a December 17, 2005, New York Times article, which noted that "virtually all" of the phone conversations monitored by the NSA have "led to dead ends or innocent Americans," according to "[m]ore than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials."
Most news outlets noting the moniker have placed it in quotes or disclosed it is a term the Bush administration has promoted. The AP article has been picked up by the websites of numerous news outlets, including CNN.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, ABCNews.com, the Jackson News-Tribune (Wyoming), Newsday, Forbes.com, The Oregonian, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Cincinnati Post.
700 Club concluded cartoons have "unified" Islam against "West," asked if West will defend "its civilization"
During the February 8 edition of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club, CBN News senior reporter Dale Hurd concluded a news report by claiming that controversial cartoons perceived as anti-Islamic "seem to have unified the Muslim world against the West," but that "[i]t remains to be seen whether they [the cartoons] will also unify the West in defense of its civilization."
But, contrary to Hurd's suggestion of the unanimity in the Muslim world, many of the religious leaders and government officials who represent the world's more than 1 billion Muslims have condemned the widespread rioting that followed publication of the cartoons. Muslim leaders including the chairman of Britain's Muslim Public Affairs Committee, America's Muslim Public Affairs Council, Germany's Central Council of Muslims [Agence France-Presse, 2/6/06], Azerbaijan's Board of Muslims of the Caucasus [BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 2/7/06], Lebanon's senior Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, scores of Muslim groups and community organizations in Ottawa and Montreal, leading imams in Kosovo [Agence France-Presse, 2/7/06], top Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and the international Organization of The Islamic Conference have all expressed displeasure with the cartoons but have nonetheless called for an end to the violence and urged protesters to employ peaceful means.
Officials from many governments have joined religious leaders in appeals for calm, including King Abdullah of Jordan, Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador, Prince Turki bin al-Faisal, a spokeswoman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Kuwait's parliament, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
From the February 8 edition of CBN's The 700 Club:
HURD: The cartoons seem to have unified the Muslim world against the West. It remains to be seen whether they will also unify the West in defense of its civilization.
A February 8 Washington Post article characterized a February 7 Senate vote to consider proposed asbestos legislation as "a setback for Democratic foes" of the bill. In fact, as the Post's coverage has previously noted, there is bipartisan opposition to the asbestos bill, as well as bipartisan support. The article, by staff writer Shailagh Murray, characterized the opposition as "Democratic foes" even though it noted in the next paragraph that the sole senator to vote against considering the asbestos bill was a Republican, James M. Inhofe (OK).
Asbestos, a material once commonly used in construction because of its strength and heat resistance, has been linked to serious types of cancer and lung diseases, prompting large lawsuits by workers exposed to asbestos who later got sick. One company, W.R. Grace & Co., was indicted a year ago for allegedly exposing the town of Libby, Montana, to asbestos through a mining operation there, then allegedly covering up the exposure. The current version of the asbestos bill would, according to a February 3 Post article, "remove damage claims of workers and others injured by exposure to asbestos from the courts, sending them instead to a privately financed $140 billion trust fund for adjudication and payment."
In contrast with Murray's description, previous coverage in the Post of the asbestos bill debate has reported the bipartisan character of opposition to the current asbestos legislation. A February 7 Associated Press article that the Post published on page A4 noted that "A coalition of companies and unions has begun a campaign against the measure, saying, among other things, that the fund would not support the number of claims made against it. Democrats and several Republican senators also worry that taxpayers might have to pay if claims drained the trust fund." A February 3 Post article reported that "some Republicans who voted for it [the bill] in committee said they would not support it on the floor without substantial changes," although their objections center on claims that those who do not deserve compensation will still receive it because the eligibility criteria to receive compensation are too broad and, also, that the bill will not stop all asbestos litigation.
In addition, a February 8 New York Times article noted that many Republicans oppose the bill as well, based on concerns about the bill's cost:
While the bill has gained the support of major business interests, it has come under attack from Democrats and Republicans.
Liberal Democrats and consumer groups, as well as trial lawyers, say the legislation would unfairly bail out corporations and restrict compensation to victims. Conservative Republicans say the trust would take too much money from industry and could require a federal bailout. As a result, lawmakers such as Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who heads the Budget Committee, are threatening to raise points of order against the bill on the ground that it violates the Senate budget rules. The budget committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, has said that asbestos claims could exceed contributions to the fund by $150 billion over 50 years.
From the February 8 Washington Post article, headlined "Asbestos Settlement Advances":
Legislation to settle tens of thousands of asbestos lawsuits cleared a major Senate hurdle yesterday, in a setback for Democratic foes and their trial lawyer allies, who are waging a feisty opposition.
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday that he would take steps to prevent the Senate from debating the bill and predicted that some Republicans would join him in the effort. But Reid reversed his position when it became clear he had little backing, and last night the Senate voted 98 to 1 to move forward, with Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) casting the lone negative vote.
Even with Reid strongly opposed to it, the bill has bipartisan support. It was co-authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and that panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.).
Opponents, including the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the AFL-CIO, numerous insurers and some companies, maintain that the fund is poorly constructed. They say it would provide unfair levels of compensation and is based on shaky cost analysis. "More needs to be done before the bill can fulfill its promise to provide fair and timely compensation," AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to senators.
But supporters, including asbestos companies and some unions and trial lawyers, contend the status quo is unsustainable. "I'm worried that men and women who have legitimate claims are running out of options," said Richard Scruggs, a Mississippi trial lawyer who has represented thousands of asbestos victims and supports the Specter-Leahy bill. "Many of my close friends are mad at me right now." But Scruggs added: "It's time to get this one over with."
Following civil rights leader Coretta Scott King's January 7 funeral, numerous media figures highlighted the purportedly "partisan" nature of the event, in some cases describing it as a "Democratic pep rally," a "Bush bashathon" and a "Democratic convention." The controversy stems primarily from tributes delivered by civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery and former President Jimmy Carter, which included a reference to prewar intelligence failures in Iraq and what many interpreted as Carter's reference to President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program. But many of those same media figures accusing speakers of politicizing the King funeral did not show the same aversion to the politicization of the 2004 death of a figure of a different political stripe: former President Ronald Reagan. Nor did they apparently think it worth noting that the Reagan funeral included no Democratic speakers, but a long roster of Republicans, including President Bush, who was running for re-election and was reportedly trying to attach himself to the Reagan legacy.
Held near Atlanta and attended by 15,000 people, King's funeral included speeches from four U.S. presidents -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Carter -- as well as numerous civil rights leaders and friends. In his speech, Carter mentioned that King and her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had been the subjects of "secret government wiretapping," which many interpreted as a veiled criticism of Bush's surveillance program:
CARTER: It was difficult for them personally, with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance.
Lowery's speech -- like Carter's -- included a passage that provoked controversy (and a prolonged standing ovation):
LOWERY: We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we know, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more, but no more for the poor.
In an interview that evening on MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson, Lowery responded to the uproar over his comments by explaining that they were intended as a tribute to King and "what she stood for":
LOWERY: My remarks were not about the president, nor about me. They were about Mrs. King and what she stood for and conversations we had had about war and the weapons of mass deception. ... And she was very much opposed to war and talking about her life in the context of civil rights and human rights and the movement.
I certainly didn't intend for it to be bad manners. I did intend for it to -- to call attention to the fact that Mrs. King spoke truth to power. And here was an opportunity to demonstrate how she spoke truth to power about this war and about all wars.
So, I'm comfortable with the fact that I was reflecting on Mrs. King's tenacity against war, her determination to witness against war and to speak truth to power.
Indeed, King was a lifelong peace activist whose anti-war views extended most recently to the war in Iraq. In early 2003, she spoke out against the Bush administration's plans to invade Iraq, noting in a Martin Luther King Day speech that her husband had "warned us that war was a poor chisel for carving out a peaceful tomorrow." Later that year, at a rally to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, she "condemned the war in Iraq," according to an August 24, 2003, Washington Post article.
Nonetheless, in the 24 hours after King's funeral, conservative commentators expressed outrage over Lowery's and Carter's comments, some even going as far as to claim that King herself would have disapproved:
These depictions of the funeral as inappropriately political have been further advanced by media figures' framing of the event:
Media didn't highlight political elements of Reagan funeral
While the media have devoted substantial coverage to Carter and Lowery's purported politicization of the King funeral, the June 11, 2004, funeral for Reagan did not provoke similar scrutiny, despite clear political overtones. For example, the media largely ignored the fact that no Democrats were invited to speak at either the funeral at the National Cathedral or at a ceremony held on Capitol Hill two days earlier. (President Clinton had even delivered a eulogy at former President Richard Nixon's funeral a decade earlier). According to a June 10, 2004, Washington Post article on the congressional ceremony:
No Democrats were asked to speak at last night's event, although Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said they would have been honored to do so. Republicans said the program was set by the Reagan family, following protocol for such events.
A June 12, 2004, Guardian article further noted that the funeral at the National Cathedral was "exactly as the Reagans had planned it":
The restrained solemnities, the high-powered assembly, was exactly as the Reagans had planned it. The Episcopalian service, which also included readings from Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, unfolded according to instructions drawn up by Reagan and his widow, Nancy, more than 20 years ago.
Soon after Reagan entered the White House, he approached Mr. [then Vice President George H.W.] Bush, to deliver a eulogy, and selected a reading for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who he appointed to the Supreme Court. No Democrats were asked to speak, but accommodation had been made for a serving US president.
The King funeral, by contrast, included speeches by two Republican presidents and two Democratic presidents, as noted above.
Further, during Reagan's funeral, Bush -- then in the midst of his re-election campaign -- took time in his eulogy to note that Reagan "was optimistic about the great promise of economic reform" and that when "he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name":
BUSH: He came to office with great hopes for America. And more than hopes. Like the president he had revered and once saw in person, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan matched an optimistic temperament with bold, persistent action.
President Reagan was optimistic about the great promise of economic reform, and he acted to restore the rewards and spirit of enterprise. He was optimistic that a strong America could advance the peace, and he acted to build the strength that mission required.
He was optimistic that liberty would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend liberty wherever it was threatened.
And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs. When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name.
There were no doubters in the prisons and gulags, where dissidents spread the news, tapping to each other in code what the American president had dared to say. There were no doubters in the shipyards and churches and secret labor meetings where brave men and women began to hear the creaking and rumbling of a collapsing empire. And there were no doubters among those who swung hammers at the hated wall that the first and hardest blow had been struck by President Ronald Reagan.
But the media figures who covered the funeral did not call into question the propriety of a Republican presidential candidate celebrating Reagan's economic and foreign policies in this setting. To the contrary, analysts such as CNN's Greenfield -- among those who have highlighted the purported politicization of the King funeral -- commended Bush for allaying suspicions that "he might in some subtle way want to link up to Ronald Reagan's politics or philosophy":
GREENFIELD: And you shouldn't ignore President George W. Bush, who actually chose to talk about the biography of the man more, I think, than the politics. That may have surprised some of us who thought that he might in some subtle way want to link up to Ronald Reagan's politics, or philosophy. The greatest line from Bush, I want to just mention: "His convictions were as strong and straight as the columns of this cathedral." Nice line.
Further, Limbaugh -- who accused the Democrats of "crash[ing] funerals ... to pick up votes" -- used the Reagan funeral to attack Bill and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). On the day of the National Cathedral event, web gossip Matt Drudge published a frame from C-SPAN's broadcast of the funeral in which the Clintons' eyes were closed, accompanied by the headline "CLINTONS REST EYES DURING REAGAN EULOGY." On his June 11 show, Limbaugh informed his audience that the Clintons had simultaneously fallen asleep during the funeral, as Media Matters for America noted.
Conservatives media figures supported politicization of Reagan's death
The same conservatives outraged over Carter and Lowery's remarks, as well as those media figures who questioned the propriety of the comments at the King funeral, found nothing to criticize in the politicization of Reagan's passing. In the days following Reagan's death on June 5, 2004, it was reported that Republican strategists intended to capitalize on parallels between Reagan and Bush in the hopes of bolstering his re-election campaign. The New York Times noted that Bush aides had claimed that Reagan "was the role model for this president, and ... talked of a campaign in which Mr. Reagan would be at least an inspirational presence." A Los Angeles Times article with the headline "Reagan nostalgia may aid Bush" cited Republican strategists as saying that "the nation's outpouring of nostalgia and respect for Reagan may have offered Bush an opportunity to improve his flagging popularity -- if he can find a way to don the mantle of his well-loved predecessor."
As this strategy began to manifest itself on Bush's campaign website and in attack ads against Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), prominent conservative media figures repeatedly used the coverage of Reagan's death to draw favorable comparisons between Reagan and Bush. For example, on the June 13, 2004, edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol argued that the "Bush doctrine is the son of the Reagan doctrine" and that Reagan, if alive, would vote for Bush:
KRISTOL: Who would Ronald Reagan vote for in this election, if we can be simple-minded about this?
JUAN WILLIAMS (National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News contributing political analyst): Who would he vote for?
KRISTOL: George W. Bush. That's who.
WILLIAMS: I don't think he would vote for someone who's involved in nation-building, put Americans at risk under questionable circumstances.
KRISTOL: Reagan would support Bush.
KRISTOL: The Bush doctrine is the son of the Reagan doctrine.
On the same show, Washington Times White House correspondent Bill Sammon highlighted the similarities between the two presidents and said he didn't "hear anybody comparing Kerry to Reagan":
SAMMON: Also reminds me that, you know, we look at so many similarities with Bush. I don't hear anybody comparing Kerry to Reagan, but I hear a lot of people comparing George W. Bush to Reagan. And you wonder whether 30 or 40 years from now, a lot of the disputes about whether it was a good idea to democratize the Middle East will fall away, and it'll seem obvious that, of course, we should have done so.
And on the June 10, 2004, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer noted that both Reagan and George W. Bush were "interested in the big ideas":
KRAUTHAMMER: And you know, what's important, I think, is that people understand that he was a large man with large ideas. He slipped a lot of the times. He had his difficulties, but in the end he was vindicated by history, if you get the big ideas right.
And I think there's a lot of application to President Bush, who also is interested in the big ideas in the war on terror, the war in Iraq, changing the economy, all of this.
Not only did conservatives repeatedly draw such parallels, they explicitly endorsed the politicization of Reagan's death. For example, on the June 13 edition of Fox News Sunday, Kristol conceded that "no one wants to politicize the death of a recent president," but said that the Bush campaign nonetheless "should":
KRISTOL: I think [Reagan] could have an impact if the Bush campaign has the nerve to make it have an impact. John Kerry said at the 1988 Democratic convention, speaking on behalf of his fellow Massachusetts liberal Democrat Michael Dukakis ... that the Reagan presidency was a period of "moral darkness". Now ... no one wants to politicize the death of a recent president. But you know what? The Bush campaign should. And they should, in my view, they should go up with an ad next week -- a very respectful ad about President Reagan and say: "We have a disagreement. George W. Bush was a Reaganite. John Kerry thought that the Reagan presidency was a period of 'moral darkness.' "
KRISTOL: And the president should say, at some point, someone should say this -- the president can't say this -- someone should say at the Republican convention, "Win one more for the Gipper. Win one more for the Gipper."
On the June 9, 2004, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Malkin and O'Reilly -- both of whom have expressed outrage over comments made at the King funeral -- agreed that Bush should play up his purported similarities with Reagan:
MALKIN: Of course, there's been a lot of sniping by The New York Times and a lot of liberal press that Bush is going to exploit this. They're talking about how Bush's campaign website now has a lot of Reagan quotes on it. Well, what do you expect the Republican president to do? What else do you expect him to do than to honor, you know, this major figure in American history?
O'REILLY: Sure. And I would do it, too, if I were President Bush, as long as it's done in the context of the man, and as long as it's done with dignity. I think Bush is a soul mate ideologically of Ronald Reagan. And why wouldn't he point that out, that Ronald Reagan was a controversial president, but history proved his policies to be correct? I would do the same thing.
Moreover, O'Reilly not only endorsed the politicization of Reagan's death, he used the president's passing to criticize groups with whom he -- O'Reilly -- disagreed. As Media Matters noted, on the June 7, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that "Reagan would have been appalled" by progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
From the February 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: When the Reverend Lowery mentioned no weapons of mass destruction, Jimmy Carter brought up surveillance and wiretapping, it was basically designed to stick it to George W. Bush and to embarrass the president, who had taken time out to celebrate the life of Coretta Scott King.
And if you don't see that that's inappropriate, there's nothing I can do to convince you. But the Democrats didn't benefit when they did this at Paul Wellstone's memorial, and you're not going to benefit by politicizing the death of a civil rights leader in the case of Coretta Scott King. And if you don't see that, I think you're missing why the Democrats are failing nationally.
From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Well, there you have it, Kate. What do you make of this day? Was this the Democratic convention or a funeral? What was it?
O`BEIRNE: Both were completely inappropriate. Just because politicians are present and they're present as former presidents, they're representing the country. President Bush explained he's there on behalf of all Americans.
It's not a convention or a campaign event, just because former presidents are there. It's a funeral. It's completely inappropriate for both Reverend Lowery to have made the remarks he did, and for former President Jimmy Carter to do what he did, which is a cheap, political shot. Liberals don't seem to be able to keep politics away from funerals.
O'BEIRNE: Whether or not people who tuned in, owing to this legacy, owing -- in order to on honor this woman who, as Oprah Winfrey said, "left an America far better than the America of her own childhood," if this is what they wanted to be witnessing and having the talking heads talk about, I think they're in for sort of a rude surprise. Jimmy Carter is so graceless. You know, there must be -- maybe he belongs in a minority protected class, a southerner with no graciousness.
From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: It reminds me so much of that [Sen. Paul] Wellstone [D-MN] funeral in 2002. Democrats out there maybe saying, Scarborough, you need to get over it. Let the Democrats attack the president. But doesn't that turn off millions and millions of Americans when you exploit a funeral to make partisan attacks?
CARLSON: Well, it's completely graceless. It's also rude as hell, by the way, since the president is sitting right there.
I mean, you know, these are people that -- many of the speakers are people who have pulpits, literally, in some cases, figuratively in all cases, where they can make their case against the president. And they have the right to do it, and I never begrudge them that. But a funeral is not the place to do that.
A funeral is a place to make transcendent points about the nature of life and death and to celebrate the person who has died. It's not the place to talk about the politics of the moment, and to do so, again, in a pretty graceless and heavy-handed way. I think it's a reflection, without drawing too large a point from this, that there are people in America for whom politics is the most important thing. And I think some of them spoke today. I don't think most Americans feel that way.
For the average American, politics is not the most important thing. And so, that's why most Americans don't go on political rants at funerals.
SCARBOROUGH: The bottom line is, again, I saw Coretta Scott King in speeches with President Bush. I saw her being very graceful. We all knew that she disagreed with George Bush on many issues, but she never behaved the way they behaved today at her funeral. It was unfortunate.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: And all of the sudden they're taking shots at the president of the United States. If you don't agree with the president, what about the sanctity of the office and your own administration? What about some common courtesy and respect?
E.D. HILL (co-host): Well, what about being in a church. When you're at a funeral -- you know [Fox News general assignment reporter] Kelly Wright, who's a minister, he just said -- shocked -- because you're using a pulpit instead of -- you know, a place of worship, a place of tribute to this woman's incredible life -- they're using the pulpit for politics.
DOOCY: Yesterday the funeral for Coretta Scott King turned into a "George Bush bashathon." Our question for you is "pulpit gor politics?" What this a tribute -- because she was a woman who stood for change and maybe these pointed remarks would get some change -- or do you find it troubling that they would pick this time?
From the February 8 edition of CNN's American Morning:
O'BRIEN: I don't know if you were looking at President Bush there during that. It seemed like he had a bit of a grimace there. Do these speakers need to go to eulogy school or something?
GREENFIELD: We're now in early February. The idea that this is going to have some political implication, you have to really be overcommitted to endless analysis, which some of us on cable news are to think that. I do, however, think that in a more subtle way, this actually rebounds to the credit of President Bush. I mean, he came to the funeral, changed his plans, made a gracious speech. And I think for people who are not politically committed -- I mean, if you don't like George Bush, this was fine. If you like George Bush, this was horrible. I think for a lot of people the idea is, do you really do this at a funeral?
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' DaySide:
GALLAGHER: I think it was one of the most despicable displays of ugly political partisanship that we have ever seen. Although it is nothing new for Democrats, who did this with Paul Wellstone's funeral as well. They seem to think that a memorial service is an opportunity to eviscerate Republicans and condemn this current administration. It was shocking, it was vile, it was so out of bounds.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: You know, I was thinking of President Bush and how he must have felt yesterday at that Coretta Scott King funeral. A lot of people were dumping on him, including a couple of former presidents.
LIMBAUGH: I will tell you how he felt, happy. These people are embarrassing themselves. These people, the Democratic Party, that funeral yesterday was -- it had everything -- it had everything in it. It had a Brokeback Mountain moment in it, when Bishop Eddie [Long] embraced Bush, or Bush embraced him, gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Then, you had a bunch of Wellstone memorial moments. I think -- do you remember the movie the Wedding Crashers? Two guys crash weddings to pick up dates. The Democratic Party crashes weddings -- or funerals. They are now the funeral crashers. And they are out there trying to pick up votes. And it's absurd, if they think behavior like that, disrespecting a sitting president while he is there.
LIMBAUGH: But I will tell you that I think Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr., if there was to be any anger from above looking down at that, it would be from them. That is a sacred event, a funeral to -- to memorialize and honor this woman.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BARNES: This was a six-hour funeral service to celebrate the life of Coretta Scott King, and it was mostly that, celebrating that life. But, you know, you had some people who were really cheap partisans, and this happens to be Jimmy Carter's style right now. He is a cheap partisan, very petty man, picking at George Bush.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Using Coretta Scott King's funeral to make political points. That is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." You know, when I die, I don't want my demise to be used as a political rally, and that's what happened yesterday to Coretta Scott King.
After Fox edited out applause following Lowery's remarks at King funeral, Kondracke expressed surprise at audience's muted reaction
The February 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume featured an edited video clip of civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery's address at the February 7 funeral of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, during which Lowery mentioned the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While Lowery's remarks were greeted with 23 seconds of applause and a standing ovation, the clip Fox News aired presented nine seconds of applause and little hint of the standing ovation -- and no indication that the clip had been doctored. The clip was aired during a segment in which guest host Chris Wallace asked his "Fox All-Star" panel to comment on Lowery's remarks. Fox's editing of the clip apparently had some effect on Wallace's own guest, Roll Call executive editor Morton M. Kondracke, who while apparently having formed one impression based on what he had heard about the crowd's response to the remarks, concluded from the curtailed video that "it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response."
After the clip aired, Kondracke stated:
KONDRACKE: What was interesting to me was, when I saw it -- and on this tape, the crowd did not go as wild as you -- as it sounded as though it did at the time and as various people have represented. I mean, I thought that the crowd basically treated President Bush very respectfully, and it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response to either Lowery or to President Carter. So I thought it -- on the whole -- it was a -- it was quite a dramatic and sensitive tribute to Mrs. King.
Media Matters for America previously noted that CNN similarly spliced out the majority of the applause following Lowery's "weapons of mass destruction" comment, also with no indication that it had done so.
Lowery's unedited comments, as broadcast live by Fox News on February 7:
LOWERY: We know, now, there were no weapons of mass destruction over there --
[23-second standing ovation]
LOWERY: -- but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
[begin video clip]
PRESIDENT BUSH: Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul.
JIMMY CARTER (former president): It was difficult for them, personally, with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping.
LOWERY: We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there --
LOWERY: -- but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here.
[end video clip]
WALLACE: Those were some of the comments at yesterday's six-hour long funeral for Coretta Scott King, and people are still talking about it today, including our panel.
KONDRACKE: What was interesting to me was, when I saw it -- and on this tape, the crowd did not go as wild as you -- as it sounded as though it did at the time and as various people have represented. I mean, I thought that the crowd basically treated President Bush very respectfully, and it wasn't exactly uproarious in its response to either Lowery or to President Carter. So, I thought it -- on the whole -- it was a -- it was quite a dramatic and sensitive tribute to Mrs. King.
New CNN host Beck rants: Jimmy Carter biggest "waste of skin"; "[a]t least evil is using" skin of Kim Jong Il
During the February 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Glenn Beck repeatedly referred to former President Jimmy Carter as a "waste of skin" during a rant that culminated in Beck's taking votes from his executive producer Steve "Stu" Burguiere and producer Dan Andros on whether Carter was a "bigger waste of skin" than singer Britney Spears.
Responding to Carter's eulogy during the February 7 funeral for civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, Beck said that former President Bill Clinton, who had "roll[ed] around on the bathroom floor with a fat intern and a cigar," looked "like the classy one" during the funeral.
Beck, a recent hire of CNN Headline News, concluded that Spears' "accomplishments" in bringing "the Catholic schoolgirl uniform" back into prominence made her less of a waste of skin than Carter. He also concluded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was not a bigger waste of skin because "[a]t least evil is using that skin."
As Media Matters for America previously noted, Beck referred to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan as a "pretty big prostitute," later amending, at the behest of Burguiere, that "tragedy pimp" would be "the most accurate description."
From the February 8 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
BECK: Is there a day that God ever says, "What was I thinking?" Here's what I mean: Do you think God ever says, "I could've used that skin making somebody of value, you know? I could have used that skin in such a -- just a better way." You know? And its not -- the reason why I bring this up is: Is there a bigger waste of skin than Jimmy Carter? Ya know, I don't mean to, you know, I don't mean to look the maker in the eyes and say, "Eh, kind of a waste," but I'm asking, do you think he ever thinks, "I don't know, man, I could've used that skin someplace else." You know? Who's the bigger waste of skin, can you name a bigger -- you know, and you could immediately go to people like Kim Jong Il. OK, there's a big waste of skin, but not really, because his skin's being utilized by evil. At least evil is using that skin. Who's using the skin of Jimmy Carter? What purpose does the skin of Jimmy Carter -- it's like an empty suit walking down the street.
I'm telling you, I think Jimmy Carter is the luckiest man on earth, because he's still walking around. And he was president of the short-term memory country, you know what I mean? Here we are, we have no long-term memory at all, we've got -- we're sitting here with short-term memory, we're like, "Hey, he was a president or something, wasn't he? Heh-heh-heh -- yeah, a peanut farmer, I remember that." You don't seem to remember anything -- here he is, a guy who's, you know, busting on us on Iraq, saying that we should negotiate with Hamas and listen to them and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. You know, maybe, Jimmy, we wouldn't be in this problem if, I don't know, you didn't have the helicopters burn in the middle of the desert. If you wouldn't have let the whole Islamic revolution thing happen in the first place. What do you say, James? Is there a bigger waste of skin than Jimmy Carter? Here's how much of a waste of skin this guy is. Bill Clinton -- a guy who had sex in the Oval Off -- not just sex, was down rolling around on the bathroom floor, not the Oval Office with the nice carpeting and curtains and stuff, rolling around on the bathroom floor with a fat intern and a cigar. OK, got that beautiful picture in your head? That -- standing next to Jimmy Carter giving one speech after another -- Bill Clinton looks like the classy one. How's that possible? That's what a waste of skin Jimmy Carter is -- Bill Clinton looks classy!
I'm trying to put a list together, you know, and the people that came to mind: Ben Affleck -- Ben Affleck, bigger waste of skin than Jimmy Carter? I gotta tell you, I -- I don't think so. I don't think I'd go to the Ben Affleck well. Pam Anderson -- there's a lotta skin. Sometimes more skin and sometimes less skin. I'm not sure how that works, ever expanding skin. Who's a bigger waste of skin -- Jimmy Carter or Pamela Anderson? I gotta go -- I gotta go with Jimmy Carter. Britney Spears. We're down to Britney Spears. Whew. Stu, I think I need -- Dan, I need a -- I need a vote, Britney Spears or Jimmy Carter? Bigger waste of skin.
ANDROS: I mean, I think Britney Spears has done a lot for this country, to be perfectly honest with you. She's -- she's brought back the Catholic schoolgirl uniform into prominence.
BECK: I gotta give it -- you're -- Jimmy Carter.
BURGUIERE: Britney, though, has, Glenn, just kind of devalued herself with this baby incident yesterday.
ANDROS: True, but look at her accomplishments --
BECK: But that -- look at her accomplishments. The Catholic schoolgirl outfit.
STU: Good point.
In a February 9 speech, President Bush disclosed details of what he described as a foiled Al Qaeda plot to fly a commercial plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles. Shortly after his speech concluded, Fox News aired numerous images from the 1996 film Independence Day (Twentieth Century Fox) showing the reported target of the attack -- the Library Tower, now known as the U.S. Bank Tower -- being destroyed by alien invaders.
On the February 9 edition of CNN Live Today, anchor Daryn Kagan also noted that the tower "was depicted as being blown up" in Independence Day, but, unlike Fox, CNN did not show movie images of the building being attacked.
From the February 9 edition of Fox News Live:
BRIGITTE QUINN (Anchor): And again, back to what the president was saying a little while ago, this morning, in his speech on the "war on terror." He talked about the U.S. Bank Tower -- otherwise known as the Library Tower. We've been showing you pictures of that throughout the morning. A little background on that building that was apparently the target of a second wave of attacks that was to have been perpetrated by Al Qaeda. There are some pictures; and that's one from the movie -- the 1996 movie Independence Day. You might remember that. It was the -- I guess the first building to be destroyed by the alien invaders in that movie, so, certainly a landmark. A couple of other factoids about it. The building was designed to withstand an earthquake; unclear how it would've withstood an attack by an airplane.
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