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February 7, 2006
Russert selectively cited new NBC poll to back up assertion that Americans, despite concerns, agree with Bush on domestic spying
On the February 5 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert selectively cited the results of a January 30 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on Americans' views on President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program as a preface to asking his panel whether "the president has turned the corner on that issue." Russert reported the results of one question that showed a slight majority approving of the program, but ignored the next two questions in the poll, which produced contradictory results. Russert had previously cited the results of one of those questions in earlier appearances on NBC and MSNBC to discuss the poll, but the question he left unreported in those appearances and on Meet the Press was the question that more directly contradicted the finding that a majority approved of the domestic surveillance program.
Russert cited the poll's finding (question 23) -- that 51 percent approved of the "domestic wiretap program sponsored by the president," while 46 percent disapproved, -- in order to ask Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein, "[H]as the president turned the corner on that [issue]?" That question actually asked about whether people approved of Bush's "approach" on the issue of "using wiretaps to listen to telephone calls between suspected terrorists in other countries and American citizens in the United States without getting a court order to do so."
In previous appearances on the January 30 editions of NBC's Nightly News and MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, and on the January 31 edition of NBC's Today, Russert reported that same poll finding to assert that Americans, while divided, slightly approved of "Bush's approach" in ordering the warrantless wiretaps. In those reports, Russert also noted the poll's finding (question 25) that a slight majority of Americans are concerned about the possible invasion of privacy: 56 percent said they were either "extremely concerned" (31 percent) or "somewhat concerned" (25 percent) that "the Bush administration's use of these kinds of wiretaps could be misused to violate people's privacy." On the February 5 broadcast of Meet the Press, however, Russert did not note the poll's findings on this question.
Russert said that the first question indicated that a "slight majority" agreed with the "president's view" of the wiretapping issue. During his Nightly News report, Russert said that this question "is the president's view, in effect. Should there be wiretaps without a court order?" After reporting the results, he said, "That's the president's position in favor." On Hardball, Russert said that the question indicated that "a majority believe with the president that you can, in fact, wiretap without a warrant." And on Today, Russert said that "a slight majority do support the president's view" that the wiretapping program is a "terrorism issue" as opposed to a "civil liberities" issue.
However, in all four of these reports addressing the poll, Russert omitted any mention of another related question from the poll (question 24), which found that 53 percent of Americans agreed that the Bush administration "should be required to get a court order before wiretapping"; while 41 percent disagreed. The finding from question 24 appears to contradict the finding in question 23, which Russert reported in each appearance. Indeed, in contrast with Russert's suggestion, The Wall Street Journal -- which co-sponsored the poll with NBC -- reported in a January 31 news article that the poll's results showed that Americans' opinion on the warrantless domestic spying is "mixed":
On the controversy over warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency, opinion is mixed. A narrow 51% majority says it approves of the Bush administration's approach to wiretapping international calls by suspected terrorists abroad and inside the U.S. But when asked whether the administration should obtain court orders for those wiretaps, the result is reversed, with 53% saying court orders should be required. Some 79% of Democrats, 58% of independents, and 27% of Republicans describe themselves as "extremely" or "quite" concerned that warrantless wiretaps "could be misused to violate people's privacy."
From February 5 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: Gentlemen, let me show you the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on domestic wiretap program [sic] sponsored by the president. Fifty-one approve, 46 disapprove. Ron Brownstein, has the president turned the corner on that?
BROWNSTEIN: I think, as the issue is now defined, the polls have been very consistent from the beginning. That's one of about five or six polls that have shown a narrow plurality or majority supporting it. And I don't think the Judiciary Committee hearing, at least as it's structured, is likely to change that. If the debate is over whether the president has this authority or not, I think that the evidence is, from the polling, slightly more Americans say yes then no. What might change it is evidence about how the program was actually implemented and used and whether it caught more Americans in its net than the administration has suggested, as suggested in a story by The Washington Post today. Those are the kind of questions that might move public opinion, I think, more than what the Judiciary Committee is likely to debate.
From January 30 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): And, Tim, two issues have been hot domestically: domestic eavesdropping of late and the lobbying scandal in Washington. Where are they playing politically?
RUSSERT: Here's lobbying, Brian. Which party is more influenced by special interests? Twenty-two percent of Americans say the Democrats; 36 percent say, no, it's the Republicans; and 33 percent, a third of Americans, say both parties equally. Then --
WILLIAMS: Tim --
RUSSERT: Yeah, we're talking about eavesdropping, Brian. It's very important. This is the president's position, in effect. Should there be wiretaps without court order? Fifty-one percent approve; 46 percent disapprove. That's the president's position in favor. But what about concerns? Fifty-six percent say they have concerns about wiretaps without warrants, 43 percent say they're not concerned. Brian, it's quite striking. Both those issues, lobbying and wiretapping, big in Washington debates, but on a list of priorities for America, on the bottom. And when asked whether they think that lobbying reform, if enacted by Congress, would change things, 65 percent of the American people say "wouldn't change things very much."
WILLIAMS: Tim, thanks, as always. A fresh polling numbers out tonight. Tim Russert in our NBC News Washington bureau.
From the January 30 (7 p.m. ET) edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): Who's winning this big fight here in Washington over domestic spying?
RUSSERT: Well, it's pretty interesting. We have asked people about spying issues, and a majority believe with the president that you can, in fact, wiretap without a warrant. However, when you ask the second question -- are you concerned by that policy? -- 56 percent say they are concerned by it. So the president has a slight majority supporting his policy. But there's a lot of tentativeness underneath the surface that if, in fact, something goes wrong or they learn more information, those numbers could swing.
From the January 31 broadcast of NBC's Today:
KATIE COURIC (co-host): Let's talk about the poll and, specifically, his approval rating, Tim. Thirty-nine percent approve of the job the president is doing; 54 percent disapprove. Put that in context for us, and is it true that the White House believes he has something like a 52 approval rate ceiling?
RUSSERT: Yeah, it's quite interesting. They realize that the two presidential races he was in he didn't pass that mark, and so it's impossible in their minds for any president to achieve the kind of levels that presidents in history did, of 60, 70 percent, or this president did after September 11th. But Katie, the administration and the White House believed they had made some progress. They were hoping that by now they'd be in the 40s or mid-40s with approval rating. Thirty-nine's a low number, and 54 disapproval is a very high number. They realize there's a long way to go in order to recapture the favorable rating and popularity the president once had.
COURIC: Why do you think the numbers haven't budged, Tim? As we know, last week the administration went on an all-out sort of counteroffensive to talk about domestic spying or terrorist surveillance, depending [on] who you're asking in terms of the name for that policy. I know that when asked about wiretaps without court orders, 51 percent approve, 46 percent disapproved. As I recall, it was pretty evenly split before this campaign embarked by the White House. So is -- should we conclude that wasn't particularly successful?
RUSSERT: Well, the president thinks that they gained a few points on that by making it a terrorism issue rather than a civil liberties issue. And a slight majority do support the president's view on that. But, Katie, the very next question -- are you concerned there could be abuses? -- 56 percent say that. And so, I think we're going to come down to on this issue is the courts. If the courts rule in favor of the president, he'll probably be OK on this issue politically. If they rule against him, if there is a suggestion that he broke the law, that could become a very lethal issue for the Democrats.
On the February 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, guest host Jim Angle falsely claimed that Democrats initially objected to the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program because they opposed eavesdropping on people believed to be tied to terrorist activity, but made a "shift in strategy" to question the program's legality after recognizing that such surveillance "is a good thing to do." Charles Krauthammer went further, falsely suggesting that Democrats' criticism of the program over "a narrow issue of the legality" constituted a "wholesale retreat" that occurred after Democrats recognized that "opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner." In fact, no leading Democrat has called for the administration to stop monitoring Al Qaeda communications. Rather, Democrats, as well as some Republicans and prominent conservatives, have been consistent in their criticism of the Bush administration for bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which provides a mechanism by which the administration can obtain court orders to engage in surveillance of U.S. residents.
The characterizations put forth by Angle and Krauthammer of the Democrats' initial response to the spy program echo a distortion of the Democratic position by White House senior adviser Karl Rove. As Media Matters for America documented, Rove falsely claimed that "some important Democrats clearly disagree" with the proposition that "if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why."
From the February 3 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: All right, one quick last question -- quick question for you, Charles. The -- the fact is, Democrats -- some of whom initially protested this -- are now saying this is a great idea. This is a good thing to do. But, they question the legal authority to do it without warrants. That seems to be a little bit of a shift in strategy.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's more than a shift. It was a wholesale retreat. It was a rout on that issue. Democrats understood, within a week, that opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner. So, as a result, it's a narrow issue of the legality, and, I think, on the politics, the Democrats are going to lose.
LA Times, WSJ reported revised estimated cost of drug plan without noting earlier, lower projections
News articles in the February 3 editions of the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that revised 10-year cost estimates of President Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan were less than earlier projected -- $678 billion, as opposed to $737 billion estimated in August 2005. The new estimates were announced by Medicare administrator Mark McClellan during his February 2 testimony before the Senate Committee on Aging. In fact, while the new cost estimates were less than the August 2005 projections, they were far greater than the figures the administration put forward when it was trying to persuade Congress and the public to approve the bill: In advance of the November 2003 vote to approve the plan, Medicare provided Congress with an estimate of $400 billion; subsequently, the agency's chief actuary disclosed in March 2004 that the Medicare administrator ordered him to withhold his actual budget projections of between $500 and $600 billion from Congress.
As staff writer Robert Pear of The New York Times reported on March 25, 2004, Medicare actuary Richard S. Foster testified before Congress that the agency's then-administrator, Thomas A. Scully, threatened to fire him if he divulged Medicare's own estimate of the program's cost to Congress.
On June 6, 2003, Scully had testified before the Senate Finance Committee about the proposed drug plan using the $400 billion estimate. In addition, Tommy Thompson, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided the same estimate to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on February 12, 2003.
Moreover, while the estimates represent a drop from the administration's most recent cost estimates -- which HHS credited to competition among the plan's providers, as Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum, author of the Political Animal weblog, observed -- the revised HHS estimate McClellan released on February 2 in a report entitled "The Secretary's One Month Progress Report on the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit" was issued just one month after the prescription drug plan went into effect. Drum also noted that the revised estimate reflecting the 10-percent "savings" is still significantly higher than both the estimate initially provided to Congress and the actual projections Foster developed before the plan's approval. He continued: "So take this news with a great big shaker of salt."
From the February 3 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
The White House has promoted the drug benefit as a historic accomplishment and the most significant improvement to Medicare since its establishment in 1965. Spokesman Trent Duffy said Thursday that President Bush remained committed to the program, even though Bush didn't mention it in his State of the Union message this week.
Separately, the Medicare agency released estimates indicating that the drug benefit would cost less than expected: $678 billion over the next 10 years instead of the $737 billion projected last year. The average monthly premium for seniors this year is expected to be about $25, or 22% less than the $32 estimated in August.
McClellan said the main reason for the lower estimates was "robust competition" among the private insurers offering coverage. Other data released by the government suggested another factor might be at work: The previously rapid rate of increase in drug costs has slowed dramatically in the last two years because of a shift to generic medicines and other reasons.
From the February 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal:
Medicare officials say the program's new drug benefit will cost less than expected this year, as beneficiaries gravitate to plans with lower premiums.
The average premium for beneficiaries this year is about $25 a month, down from about $32 as estimated in August. The government also will see savings, said Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The reason for the reduction: Health insurers are offering lower premiums than expected, and beneficiaries, Dr. McClellan said, "are choosing the plans that offer them the best deal."
Last year, Medicare actuaries projected that the drug benefit would cost taxpayers $737 billion over 10 years. That figure, updated after beneficiaries began enrolling in drug plans, now is $678 billion. Under the new estimates, the 2006 cost of the benefit dropped to $30.5 billion from $38.1 billion.
From the March 25, 2004, edition of The New York Times:
The chief Medicare actuary, Richard S. Foster, told Congress on Wednesday that last June he provided the White House with data indicating that prescription drug legislation would cost 25 percent to 50 percent more than the Bush administration's public estimates. That information did not make its way to Congress for six more months.
Mr. Foster said he had shared his cost estimates with Doug Badger, the president's special assistant for health policy, and with James C. Capretta, associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. But he said that Thomas A. Scully, who was then administrator of the Medicare program, directed him to withhold the information from Congress, citing orders from the White House in one instance.
In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Foster said he had struggled to preserve the independence and integrity of his office. It was his first public appearance since a furor erupted over his assertions that Mr. Scully threatened to fire him if he disclosed his cost estimates to Congress during debate on the Medicare bill. The law, signed by President Bush in December, adds drug benefits to Medicare and significantly increases federal payments to private health insurers.
Mr. Foster said he had been told to withhold information from lawmakers of both parties. Moreover, he said, Mr. Scully stated that he was "acting under direct White House orders" in telling the actuary not to respond to a request from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California. Mr. Thomas was a principal architect of the Medicare bill.
Federal law says the chief actuary shall follow "professional standards of actuarial independence" and can be removed from his job "only for cause." But Mr. Foster testified that a lawyer at the department had told him that Mr. Scully had the legal right to prohibit the actuary from sharing information with Congress.
President Bush was urging Congress to create a drug benefit under Medicare, but said the legislation could not cost more than $400 billion over 10 years, and Congress accepted that ceiling.
The shape of the legislation was continually changing, but Mr. Foster said, "The range of our estimates was $500 billion to $600 billion all the way through the process," from June to November.
In their public statements, administration officials cited lower figures. "We are spending $400 billion," Mr. Scully said in a letter to The New York Times published on Nov. 20.
CLIPS: Matthews, responding to assessment that Giulani is "very strong in South Carolina": "Music to my ears. Because I think that too"
On the February 5 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews responded to syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker's assessment that prospective Republican presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani "has a big following in the South" and is "very strong in South Carolina" by saying, "Music to my ears. Because I think that too." Parker was responding to a question from Matthews, who declared that Parker "judge[s] a person by their genuineness. Are they really what they say?" and asked, "Can Rudy sell in this religious environment in the South?"
From the February 5 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Kathleen, it's incredible. You -- I've said on this show many a time -- that you judge a person by their genuineness. Are they really what they say? Can Rudy sell in this religious environment in the South?
PARKER: I think he can. Rudy has a big following in the South. He's very strong in South Carolina, for instance. And I've got --
MATTHEWS: Music to my ears. Because I think that too.
PARKER: And I've got something to tell you that's news to me too. I just learned this -- that abortion, the pro-life position, is no longer the litmus test, in South Carolina at least --
MATTHEWS: What is?
PARKER: -- it used to get the crowds -- it's national security.
MATTHEWS: And he's got that.
PARKER: Yes, and he's got it in spades.
On the February 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle repeated the discredited claim that the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic surveillance program, secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001, led to the arrest of Al Qaeda accomplice Iyman Faris. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Faris pleaded guilty in 2003 to plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. But contrary to Angle's suggestion, a January 17 New York Times report indicated that information gleaned from the warrantless NSA eavesdropping program did not play "a significant role" in Faris's capture.
Angle echoed administration officials, Los Angeles Times columnist Max Boot, and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who all cited the Faris case as evidence that the warrantless surveillance program had saved lives. From Boot's January 18 column:
And although the government has occasionally blundered, it has also used its enhanced post-9-11 powers to keep us safe. The National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps, which have generated so much controversy, helped catch, among others, a naturalized American citizen named Iyman Faris who pleaded guilty to being part of an Al Qaeda plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge.
But as Media Matters for America has noted, Angle's assertion that the NSA program led to Faris's arrest is contradicted by several press reports, including a January 17 New York Times article. That article cited "officials with direct knowledge of the Faris case" who disputed that "N.S.A. information played a significant role":
By the administration's account, the N.S.A. eavesdropping helped lead investigators to Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver and friend of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is believed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Faris spoke of toppling the Brooklyn Bridge by taking a torch to its suspension cables, but concluded that it would not work. He is now serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison.
But as in the London fertilizer bomb case, some officials with direct knowledge of the Faris case dispute that the N.S.A. information played a significant role.
Did the National Security Agency's controversial eavesdropping program really help to detect terrorists or avert their plots? Administration officials have suggested to media outlets like The New York Times -- which broke the story -- that the spying played a role in at least two well-publicized investigations, one in the United Kingdom and one involving a plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.
But before the NSA's warrantless spying program became public, government spokesmen had previously cited other intelligence and legal tactics as having led to major progress in the same investigations. In the Brooklyn Bridge case, officials indicated that the questioning of a captured Al Qaeda leader had led to investigative breakthroughs in Ohio.
Further, a CNN.com article on Faris's guilty plea reported that in early 2003, Faris called off his plot to use gas cutters to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge because it was "unlikely to succeed."
Angle claimed that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) "noted the NSA program prevented the bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge, prompting a moment of agreement with Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) about saving lives." But while Angle provided a clip only of Roberts's reference to the Brooklyn Bridge and Levin's response, a review of the transcript just before that exchange indicates that Levin may have been agreeing to a different assertion. In fact, it is unclear from the fuller transcript what Leven was agreeing to -- whether he agreed that it is difficult to estimate the number of lives that may have been saved by the program or whether he was agreeing that the NSA program substantially affected the Brooklyn Bridge plot.
From the February 2 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, which included testimony by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence and former director of the NSA:
LEVIN: You gave us the estimate that -- the vice president estimated that thousands of lives have been saved by this program. General, I just want to know: Can you estimate the number of lives that have been saved by this program?
HAYDEN: I cannot personally estimate the number of lives. Again, senator, as I said, this is about proving a negative. I think I mentioned in another form that if somebody had kicked in -- on Muhammad Atta's door in Maryland in July of 2001, it would still be very difficult to estimate.
LEVIN: I agree with you, but yet the vice president did that in public, and apparently there's no way to support that estimate that I know of or you know of, and my time is up.
ROBERTS: I think that Senator [Christopher S.] Bond [R-MO] is next. I think as to the number of lives have been saved it might have been -- how many were on the Brooklyn Bridge if it had blown up, or for that matter other threats that --
LEVIN: I agree with you.
From the February 2 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: Senator Levin, a Democrat of Michigan, suggested there is no evidence to back up comments by the vice president that the NSA program has prevented attacks and saved lives. General Hayden said you can't know in advance how many people might be saved by stopping an attack. Chairman Roberts noted the NSA program prevented the bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge, prompting a moment of agreement with Senator Levin about saving lives.
[begin video clip]
ROBERTS: How many people were on the Brooklyn Bridge if it had blown up, or, for that matter, other threats that --
LEVIN: I agree with you.
[end video clip]
Wash. Times editorial page joins White House and Fox News in adopting "terrorist surveillance program" term
Following Fox News' lead, a February 2 Washington Times editorial on President Bush's State of the Union address adopted the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program, dubbing it the "terrorist surveillance program." Bush first used the term 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.
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.
In his January 23 speech, Bush said of the NSA's activities, "It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program." He and other administration officials have since used the term in numerous speeches and interviews. While most news outlets noting the moniker have placed it in quotes or disclosed it is a term the Bush administration has promoted, Fox News began to use it on January 25, without qualification, in its news reports and commentary. In a February 2 editorial headlined "The president's address," The Washington Times editorial page furthered this trend:
Mr. Bush was at his best in making the case for renewal of the Patriot Act and in rebutting the critics of his terrorist surveillance program to intercept the communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives to and from the United States: "If there are people inside our country who are talking about al Qaeda, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."
While the Times has written six other editorials on the domestic eavesdropping since the public disclosure of the NSA program on December 16, this represents the first in which the term "terrorist surveillance program" has appeared. Previously, the editorial page has referred to it as the "NSA surveillance program," the "wiretap program," "President Bush's warrantless domestic wiretaps," and "President Bush's National Security Agency wiretaps."
On the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann again awarded Fox News host Bill O'Reilly third-place honors during his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment, this time in recognition of O'Reilly's January 31 assertion -- documented by Media Matters for America here -- that CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has a "rooting interest" in the Iraq war being a disaster.
OLBERMANN: Number three: it's Ted Baxter again, this time because CNN's Christiane Amanpour said: "Iraq has basically turned out to be a disaster." O'Reilly says of Ms. Amanpour: "You can draw by that that she has a rooting interest in it being a disaster." Well -- well, no, you can't, not if you use human logic. Besides which, he wouldn't really take a swipe at CNN after saying, quote, "CNN, for example, usually competes with class, not bitterness."
As Media Matters noted, Olbermann previously criticized O'Reilly for claiming NBC took "cheap shots" at Fox News Network. Olbermann mocked O'Reilly's contention that the competition between Fox News and CNN plays out with "class, not bitterness," noting that "Fox News compared CNN's Paula Zahn to an outhouse and a dead muskrat."
AP, NY Times, ABC reports on GOP effort to cast Boehner as break from corruption scandals ignored tobacco PAC controversy
In reports on Republican efforts to present new House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH) as a clean break from GOP corruption scandals that threaten to impact the midterm elections, the Associated Press, The New York Times, and ABC's World News Tonight ignored criticism Boehner received for passing out checks from a tobacco industry group on the House floor moments before a key tobacco vote, as well as other ethical questions raised by Boehner's record. The Times article omitted reference to the incident, despite the paper's having described it as a "memorable moment" in a January 18 article. The AP had also flagged the incident in articles on January 11 and January 14. Both outlets mentioned the incident in secondary articles on February 3, but not in the main articles about the House leadership election, which purported to document GOP efforts to put the ethics scandals behind them.
In a February 3 article, Associated Press staff writer Jesse J. Holland omitted any reference to the tobacco political action committee checks, a highly publicized incident over which Boehner ultimately apologized. Similarly, a February 3 New York Times front-page article by reporter Carl Hulse ignored the tobacco controversy while reporting that Boehner's ascension occurred "as Republicans, worried about a corruption scandal and their own tarnished image, tried to distance themselves from the tenure of Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX)." A second Times article by reporter Adam Nagourney also ignored the tobacco checks incident, even while noting Republican strategist Rich Galen's assertion that Boehner's main opponent for majority leader, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), was hurt by being "married to a tobacco lobbyist." In a February 2 report on World News Tonight, anchor Elizabeth Vargas ignored Boehner's advocacy for the tobacco industry while reporting that Boehner "campaigned as a reformer amid congressional nervousness over a lobbying scandal."
The omissions by the AP and the Times come despite prior reports by both outlets on Boehner's majority leader bid that noted the tobacco industry checks, with a January 18 Times article even noting that the incident was "a memorable moment in 1996 that Mr. Boehner now says he regrets." A January 11 AP report noted that Boehner "admitted he distributed a tobacco political action committee's campaign checks on the House floor, but said at the time he would never do it again," while a January 14 AP article similarly reported that "Boehner was forced to apologize in the mid-1990s for distributing checks from tobacco companies to his colleagues as they worked on the House floor."
Moreover, similar reports about Boehner's February 2 ascension by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NBC, and CBS -- as well as secondary reports by the AP and The New York Times -- noted Boehner's tobacco PAC controversy, while a report by The Wall Street Journal provided additional details of ethics concerns involving Boehner:
According to Public Citizen, a liberal public-interest group, Mr. Boehner has accepted $150,000 in free trips from the private sector since 2000, more than all but six other members of Congress. At the same time, two dozen of his former staffers have spun through Washington's revolving door to become lobbyists.
Mr. Boehner, like Reps. Blunt and DeLay, also brings his own baggage from the Washington lobbying community. The single biggest contributor to his political action committee is student-loan provider Sallie Mae, a company with a huge stake in issues before Mr. Boehner's Education Committee. Sallie Mae, the largest of the private student-loan providers, wants to retain the generous federal subsidies it receives for its loans and make competing loans from the government more expensive by preserving various fees. Sallie Mae has contributed $122,500 to Mr. Boehner's PAC, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Of his own ties to Washington's K Street lobbying row, Mr. Boehner said lobbyists "appreciate dealing with someone who they know who they are. There's nothing improper or unethical about my relationship with those who lobby."
Among those closest to him is Bruce Gates, a tax lobbyist with Washington Council Ernst & Young and head of Mr. Boehner's Freedom Project PAC. Mr. Gates, whose wife once worked for Mr. Boehner, is a lobbyist for several clients, including Delta Airlines, that have business before the education and workforce committee.
In the 2004 presidential-election cycle, Mr. Boehner contributed $770,000 to the re-election campaigns of his colleagues, up from $540,000 in the 2000 presidential cycle. Those campaign donations were key to Mr. Boehner's victory yesterday. Four of five of his early supporters in his campaign for majority leader received donations from him. In December, Mr. Boehner's PAC distributed $180,000 to House Republicans.
Two of Mr. Boehner's lobbyist friends throw a late-night party for him every four years at the Republican National Convention. The parties, known as Mr. Boehner's "Best Little Warehouse" parties, cost more than $100,000 and are paid for by U.S. corporations. The events are organized by Mr. Gates and lobbyist Henry Gandy.
Although he campaigned as a reformer, Boehner (pronounced BAY-ner) is no stranger to Washington. In the early 1990s, he was one of the zealous "Gang of Seven" that pushed to expose a check-kiting scandal in the House bank. But once in the leadership, he avidly cultivated ties to the K Street lobbying community. He made headlines for handing out checks from tobacco interests to colleagues on the House floor.
Boehner has had his share of taint. He handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor in 1995 while lawmakers were weighing tobacco subsidies. In 2004, he allowed Sallie Mae to throw him a fundraiser while the student lending outfit was lobbying his committee. And he is a frequent flier on trips paid for by special interests.
Rep. John A. Boehner, with his ever-present cigarette, seems like a throwback to the days of Capitol Hill's smoke-filled rooms.
He is hip-deep in political contributions from an industry he oversees. He was once scolded for passing out campaign checks from tobacco interests on the House floor. He was booted from a leadership post eight years ago.
But with his election Thursday as the new House majority leader, the Ohio Republican has emerged -- phoenix-like -- as his party's agent of change in the post-Tom DeLay era.
Boehner received $32,500 from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Boehner says the contributions were legal and has declined to give them up, as about 100 of his colleagues have done with Abramoff-related donations. He also raised eyebrows in 1995 for distributing campaign checks from tobacco interests on the House floor -- something that has since been banned by Republican leaders.
REID: John Boehner, after all, is a longtime Washington insider with deep ties to some powerful lobbying interests. He once had to apologize for handing out checks from tobacco companies to his colleagues on the House floor. In the 1990s, he was a top deputy to Speaker Newt Gingrich.
BORGER: He may call himself a reformer but he is no stranger to K Street lobbyists. His political fund-raising committee has received over $30,000 from Jack Abramoff's tribal clients. And back in 1995 Boehner apologized for distributing campaign checks from the tobacco lobby on the House floor. [Rep.] Rahm Emanuel [D-IL], who runs the Democratic House Campaign Committee says Boehner's election today is just more of the same. Quote, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Once, in an episode he now says he regrets, Mr. Boehner was seen on the House floor passing out checks from the tobacco industry to his colleagues. More recently, he has been cool to efforts to tighten restrictions on lobbyists, but he did back a rules change that passed on Wednesday, barring former members who are lobbyists from using the House gym.
Elected in 1990, when Democrats had a stranglehold on the House, Boehner rose to fame assailing the excesses of the majority party as reports surfaced of bounced checks at the House bank. He was a member of the "Gang of Seven," the group of upstart Republicans who challenged the status quo.
But once in power after the 1994 elections, similar GOP foibles were on display. Boehner was forced to apologize in the mid-1990s for distributing checks from tobacco companies to his colleagues on the House floor.
In 1995, the Republican rank-and-file voted him chairman of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 position in the leadership. Boehner used that position to craft the GOP message and improve GOP ties to businesses and lobbyists. He often held weekly meetings with lobbyists at the Capitol.
February 3, 2006
The February 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room featured excerpts of an interview with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, conducted by CNN Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena, about the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. At no point in any of the excerpts shown, however, did Arena ask Gonzales about comments he made during his 2005 confirmation hearings, in which Gonzales, under oath, responded to a question from Sen. Russ Feingold (D WI) about whether the president could authorize warrantless domestic wiretaps by suggesting that Feingold had described a "hypothetical situation," despite the fact that the warrantless surveillance program had been in place since 2001 and that President Bush had reauthorized it numerous times. Arena apparently failed to question Gonzales on those responses, even though two days earlier she reported on a January 30 letter Feingold sent to Justice accusing Gonzales of misleading Congress.
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into the warrantless domestic surveillance program are scheduled to begin on February 6.
At Gonzales's confirmation hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales if the president has the authority to "to authorize warrantless searches of Americans' homes and wiretaps of their conversations in violation of the criminal and foreign intelligence surveillance statutes of this country." Gonzales responded by saying Feingold phrased his question "as sort of a hypothetical situation." In his January 30 letter to Gonzales, Feingold, a member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote: "I am particularly interested in asking about your misleading testimony at your confirmation hearing on January 6, 2005, when I specifically asked you if the President has the authority to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of statutory prohibitions. As the attached transcript shows, you initially tried to dismiss my question as 'hypothetical.' "
Arena reported on Gonzales's 2005 statements and Feingold's accusation on the January 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, hosted by Wolf Blitzer:
ARENA: Wolf, if the pre-show is any indication, next week's Senate Judiciary hearings on the NSA [National Security Agency] program could get very ugly. Senator Russ Feingold is accusing the attorney general of misleading Congress during his confirmation hearings last year, when he was asked about warrantless wiretaps.
ARENA: Justice Department officials say that there was nothing misleading about Gonzales's statement and that the president is on firm legal ground. Gonzales is scheduled to testify all day Monday, Wolf.
Nonetheless, at no point during any of the interview clips aired by CNN did Arena ask Gonzales about the comments he made at his 2005 hearing testimony.
From the February 2 edition of the Situation Room:
ARENA: Wolf, Senate Democrats are pushing the attorney general to turn over classified legal opinions on the president's domestic surveillance program in advance of his testimony before a Senate committee on Monday. If he continues to refuse, Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] says the documents should be subpoenaed. In an interview earlier today, the attorney general defended the administration's stance.
[begin video clip]
ARENA: Some members of Congress have said, well, look, there was initially some concern over this program, some inside debate within the Justice Department over this program. That could help them understand what the thinking was at the time, what limitations, if any, were set on this program. Wouldn't that be helpful?
GONZALES: I think, of course, people have a natural curiosity about the operations of the program and on our thinking and the deliberations that went into our analysis. But part of -- part of what we're trying to protect is the ability of lawyers within the department to have a very open and candid discussion, debate about some of these complicated legal issues that I've already outlined. We want to encourage that. People may -- lawyers -- I mean, this is our job, is to discuss difficult issues. And to disagree.
ARENA: We've heard two things from you: that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is still relevant in the war on terror. But I've also heard you say that it doesn't allow you to move quickly enough. Why not just change FISA?
GONZALES: It is clear that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act still remains very, very relevant. And these -- this is a very important tool on the war on terror. But the question whether or not FISA is effective or not is, quite frankly, irrelevant to the question of whether or not the president is acting lawfully. If the president is acting without any kind of legal authority, the fact that FISA is effective or not, quite frankly, doesn't make -- shouldn't make a difference. And if, in fact -- if we all assume or believe that the president is acting lawfully, then the president should -- as commander in chief, should choose which tool is the most effective, the tools under the terrorist surveillance program, the tools under FISA. The president should choose which tool is the most effective in protecting America.
ARENA: Can you tell us any more about how narrow the program is? You said that you would hope to be able to talk in more specific terms. Can you?
GONZALES: The physics are such that we have a great degree of confidence -- I don't know if certainty is the right word, but, certainly, a great degree of confidence that every call that's being surveilled, one end is outside the United States. And we also -- and the president has authorized surveillance with respect to only those calls where we have a reasonable basis, which is very similar to probable cause, a reasonable basis to believe that one person on the call is member of Al Qaeda or a member of a group affiliated with Al Qaeda. That determination is not made by local -- a local appointee.
ARENA: Either -- so, they have to belong to a terrorist group? It's not somebody who is linked to a terrorist group?
GONZALES: It can't be just any terrorist group. It can't be a member of Hezbollah, for example. We are talking about someone who is a member of Al Qaeda or someone how has worked -- a member of a group that is working in concert or assisting or helping al Qaeda, assisting in part of the Al Qaeda effort to destroy the United States.
[end video clip]
ARENA: Now, the attorney general wouldn't get any more specific about the NSA program, arguing that the people who most want to know the operational details are terrorists.
Hume again cherry-picked for the "Grapevine," attacked DCCC chair Emanuel by selectively quoting columnist
During the "Grapevine" segment of the February 2 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume selectively cited a February 2 Chicago Sun-Times column by Lynn Sweet to attack Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) on his relationship to his former campaign treasurer, William Singer. Drawing on Sweet's Sun-Times piece, Hume reported that Emanuel "has made ethics a central issue in 2006," but "quietly switched campaign treasurers last month, dropping a longtime friend [Singer] who was also a federally registered lobbyist." Hume then noted that Singer had been Emanuel's treasurer since 2002, continuing, "[T]he Chicago Sun-Times reports that he's [Singer] officially lobbied Emanuel on at least one occasion since then. A spokesman for the congressman says with ethics issues heating up in the House, Singer was replaced for, quote, obvious reasons." What Hume left out is that in the only example cited in Sweet's column of Singer lobbying Emanuel while serving as Emanuel's treasurer, Sweet also noted that "Emanuel voted against Singer's position."
From Sweet's February 2 Chicago Sun-Times column:
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the boss of the House Democratic political operation who is making ethics a centerpiece issue in the November elections, last month quietly switched campaign treasurers -- from a federal lobbyist who has for a long time served in that role to someone else.
Emanuel's move comes as GOP leaders who control Congress are seriously considering a crackdown on ethics rules in the wake of an unfolding GOP scandal triggered by the conviction of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kathleen Connery, Emanuel's government spokesman, said the treasurer, William Singer, a lawyer and a lobbyist, has been replaced. Asked why, Connery replied, "It's obvious.''
The obvious, I surmise, is this: Emanuel saw the need to get his own ethics house in order. Singer is a former Chicago alderman whose friendship with Emanuel predates his election to Congress. Singer is also a fund-raiser for Senate Democrats.
With the ethics issue heating up, Singer told me he stepped down because "I respect him and want to help him and the best way to do that is not to serve in a meaningless job as treasurer.'' Singer said he will continue to raise money for Emanuel, one of the most prolific fund-raisers in Washington.
I wrote about Singer's connection to Emanuel's campaign Jan. 3, 2002, when Emanuel was first running for his seat.
In Washington, Singer represents United Airlines, mainly on pension issues and Verizon on telecommunication legislation.
Emanuel sits on the Ways and Means Committee, which handles many pension matters. Singer lobbied him on one issue and Emanuel voted against Singer's position.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: And now the most engaging two minutes in television, the latest from the political "Grapevine."
HUME: Illinois Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who has made ethics a central issue in 2006, quietly switched campaign treasurers last month, dropping a longtime friend who was also a federally registered lobbyist. William Singer, a former Chicago alderman and one of Washington's most prolific Democratic fund-raisers, has been Emanuel's treasurer since his first campaign in 2002. And the Chicago Sun-Times reports that he's officially lobbied Emanuel on at least one occasion since then. A spokesman for the congressman says with ethics issues heating up in the House, Singer was replaced for, quote, obvious reasons.
CNN's Ensor suggested Rockefeller was disingenuous in criticism of administration briefings on domestic spying program
In a report on the Senate Intelligence Committee's February 2 hearing on national security threats, CNN national security correspondent David Ensor aired a clip of Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the committee, criticizing the Bush administration's apparent failure to fully inform Congress about its warrantless domestic surveillance program. Ensor then said, "[I]n fact, Rockefeller was one of the few who were briefed," suggesting that Rockefeller's criticism at the hearing was disingenuous. Notably absent from Ensor's report was any indication that after learning of the surveillance program in July 2003, Rockefeller wrote a letter -- by hand, to prevent the potential disclosure of classified information to his staff -- to Vice President Dick Cheney that expressed strong reservations over "the activities we discussed" and concern over Congress' ability to exercise oversight and his own ability to evaluate the program.
From the February 2 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
ENSOR: The spy chiefs faced a barrage of pointed questions from Intelligence Committee Democrats angered by the president's National Security Agency domestic [NSA] surveillance program and the fact that most of them were never briefed about it.
ROCKEFELLER [video clip]: This rationale for withholding information from Congress is flat-out unacceptable and nothing more than political smoke.
ENSOR: But, in fact, Rockefeller was one of the few who were briefed. Director of Nation Intelligence John Negroponte stressed that the NSA carefully reviews and minimizes any information collected on Americans.
Ensor's suggestion that Rockefeller was hiding the fact that he was one of the few lawmakers who were briefed ignores what actually happened. Ensor made no mention of a letter dated July 17, 2003 -- the day of his classified briefing -- in which Rockefeller expressed concerns not only about President Bush's authorization of the NSA to eavesdrop on the international communications of U.S. residents, but also about the amount of information disclosed in the briefing. In a handwritten letter to Cheney, Rockefeller wrote:
Clearly, the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues. As you know, I am neither a technician, nor an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.
Without more information and the ability to draw on independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received.
Rockefeller is not the only senator briefed on the program who has criticized the Bush administration's repeated claim that Congress had adequate information about the NSA program. For example, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said there were "omissions of consequence" in the briefings he received in 2002 and 2004, according to an article in the January 9 issue of Newsweek:
"The presentation was quite different from what is now being reported in the press. I would argue that there were omissions of consequence." At his briefing in the White House Situation Room, Daschle was forbidden to take notes, bring staff or speak with anyone about what he had been told. "You're so disadvantaged," Daschle says. "They know so much more than you do. You don't even know what questions to ask."
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, have also said that they did not receive a complete accounting of the program. And former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time the program was created, has claimed that he was never informed "that the program would involve eavesdropping on American citizens," as The New York Times reported on December 21.
CLIPS: Matthews on Gergen's reference to Boehner tobacco check incident: "Wow. ... Everybody else ... forgives and forgets, but not Gergen."
On the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews reacted in apparent surprise to former presidential adviser David Gergen's reference to a widely reported incident from newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) past -- which MSNBC had reported earlier that day. When Gergen stated that Boehner "is the guy who ... was giving out tobacco checks at one point, in the 1990s, on the floor of the House of Representatives," Matthews responded: "Wow." He then added, "I like the way Gergen operates. He puts that shiv in really good. I like that. Everybody else ... forgives and forgets, but not Gergen."
As The Hill reported on July 25, 2003, Boehner drew criticism in 1995 for "distribut[ing] checks from a tobacco political action committee on the House floor before a key vote on a tobacco issue."
But Gergen was not the only one to point out the tobacco checks incident, in the wake of Boehner's election to the majority leader position. Matthews's own cable channel had reported on it earlier on February 2. As Media Matters for America previously noted, during MSNBC's 3 p.m. ET hour coverage of Boehner's election, reporter Mike Viqueira stated:
VIQUEIRA: It's really a question of how much of a reform candidate Boehner really is. That's how he was portrayed in early days here in Congress. He was seen as a reformer. Then he did get into some problems, passing out checks from lobbyists on the House floor. He since apologized for that.
Additionally, a Media Matters search* of the Lexis-Nexis database revealed February 2 news articles describing the incident on MSNBC parent company NBC's Nightly News, on CBS' Evening News, and on NPR's All Things Considered. The same search, unrestricted by date, returned a total of 183 hits, beginning May 10, 1996.
Gergen made his comments in response to Matthews's assertion that Boehner "has no connection to the history of the [Republican] leadership." Gergen described Boehner as "a [former Speaker of the House] Newt Gingrich [R-GA] ally" who "really did well ... during the Newt Gingrich years." A February 3 Washington Post article by Dana Milbank described Boehner as "a fallen Newt Gingrich lieutenant" who "lost his position as chairman of the House Republican Conference as his patron, Gingrich, fell from the speakership" in 1998. The same article also reported: "Though long a Gingrich acolyte, Boehner was suspected of having a role in the failed 1997 GOP coup against him."
From the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which also featured Chuck Todd, editor-in-chief of The Hotline, National Journal's weblog:
MATTHEWS: David, what do you make of the decapitation, the coup d'état on Capitol Hill today, that Republicans having gotten rid of [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-TX], now got rid of his guy, [former acting House Majority Leader] Roy Blunt [R-MO]? They've got a new man out there, John Boehner, who has no connection -- who has no connection to the history of the leadership?
GERGEN: Well, he does not, Chris, but I don't think it solves their reform image problem. They clearly -- they clearly dropped Blunt because they thought he was too close to DeLay, and they're looking ahead to the elections, and as Chuck will tell you, you know, this is going to be a big issue in the fall for the Democrats.
So, they wanted to get away from it, but they didn't go all the way to a reformer. In John Boehner, they got another Republican, a Newt Gingrich ally. You know, Boehner really did well with Newt Gingrich -- during the Newt Gingrich years, he fell from grace, and now, he's back.
He's well-liked on Capitol Hill. He's also has a reputation of being a little too close to the lobbyists, even though he was against earmarks, he is the guy who -- he's apologized for it now -- but he's the guy who was giving out tobacco checks at one point, in the 1990s, on the floor of the House of Representatives.
TODD: Yes, no, he's - David's right. He's --
MATTHEWS: I like the way Gergen operates. He puts that shiv in really good. I like that. Everybody else forgets -- forgives and forgets, but not Gergen.
CLIPS: Limbaugh: "The last place you want to be is between a liberal who gets herself pregnant and a morning-after pill"
Commenting on a Massachusetts lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart over its refusal to stock emergency contraception pills, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners on February 2 that "the most dangerous place you can be is between a liberal woman and her morning-after pill," later repeating that "[t]he last place you want to be is between a liberal who gets herself pregnant and a morning-after pill." After reading portions of a February 2 Associated Press article detailing the lawsuit, Limbaugh said, "I think these babes ought to first prove that they've had sex with a man," explaining, "I mean, that's in Boston." He added: "For crying out loud, let's make them prove that they've first had sex with a man, and then we'll talk about stocking the morning-after pill at Wal-Mart."
From the February 2 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Wal-Mart has been sued for not selling something this time. For not selling something. You know, the most dangerous place you can be is between a liberal woman and her morning-after pill. I mean, you don't -- that's a more dangerous place to be than between [Sen.] Chuck Schumer [D-NY] and a television camera. You don't want, you -- when a liberal woman gets pregnant, you do not want to be anywhere near her morning-after pill.
LIMBAUGH: Three Massachusetts women -- ha-ha-ha. Gotta be quick here, folks. Three Massachusetts women backed by pro-abortion groups sued Wal-Mart yesterday, saying that the retail giant violated a state regulation by failing to stock emergency contraception pills in its pharmacies. The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court -- this is in Boston -- seeks a court order compelling the company to stock the so-called "morning-after pill" in its 44 Wal-Marts and four Sam's Club stores in -- would you people make up your minds? You either want to put these stores out of business and get rid of them, or you want them to sell what you want. I'm telling -- Snerdley, you probably know this. The last place you want to be is between a liberal who gets herself pregnant and a morning-after pill. You wouldn't know about that from experience? Well, I'm just -- I think these babes ought to first prove that they've had sex with a man. You know, that -- I mean, that's in Boston. For crying out loud, let's make them prove that they've first had sex with a man, and then we'll talk about stocking the morning-after pill at Wal-Mart. But I'm telling -- absolutely insane. They want to put this outfit out of business, and now they want to storm the place for their morning-after pills. Folks, don't get between a liberal and her morning-after pill. Just do not do it.
O'Reilly again denied he endorsed Al Qaeda attack on San Francisco; urged viewer to "stay away from the far-left websites"
On the February 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly again denied that he had endorsed an Al Qaeda attack on San Francisco. As Media Matters for America has noted, however, O'Reilly did, in fact, invite Al Qaeda to "blow up" Coit Tower, a San Francisco landmark, in response to a successful San Francisco ballot measure that called on public colleges and high schools to ban military recruiting on campus. On the November 8, 2005, edition of his radio program, O'Reilly said:
O'REILLY: Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. ... And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
During his February 1 show, after reading aloud a viewer's letter that referred to O'Reilly's remarks, O'Reilly replied: "Wrong, sir. I gave Al Qaeda your address. That's just a jest." He then added: "But here's some serious advice: Stay away from the far-left web sites. They do not make you look smart."
On the November 14, 2005, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that his comments had been "satirical," although in playing an audio clip while defending them, he omitted his remarks that "if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it" and "You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." On the December 5 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, he misrepresented his remarks and the controversy that followed them, claiming that "San Francisco pinheads wanted me to be fired because I criticized their anti-military vote" and omitting mention of his endorsement of a terrorist attack on the city.
In the "Talking Points Memo" segment of the February 1 O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly again focused on San Francisco, when he decried the ballot measure on military recruiting, Mayor Gavin Newsom's 2004 decision to let the city issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and a petition calling for the impeachment of President Bush presented to the city Board of Supervisors at its January 31 meeting. O'Reilly said he "deplore[d] the actions of Congresswoman [Lynn] Woolsey [D-CA] and Congresswoman Barbara Lee [D-CA]" -- both of whom represent districts in the San Francisco Bay area -- for, he suggested, facilitating the attendance of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan at Bush's January 31 State of the Union address. Woolsey had invited Sheehan to the speech as her guest, but O'Reilly asserted that "both [Woolsey and Lee were] in on the Sheehan episode." Before the speech began, Sheehan was arrested and removed from the Capitol building for wearing a T-shirt that stated: "2,245 Dead. How many more?" O'Reilly asserted that "the San Francisco area ... is now actively undermining the war on terror and indeed, the law itself," and went on to add: "It's clear the City by the Bay has uncoupled itself from the rest of the USA and is bent on establishing a quasi-far-left nation within city limits." Concluding his statement about Woolsey and Lee, O'Reilly declared, "There is a good chance that California Congresswoman Woolsey and Lee intentionally tried to sabotage the State of the Union address in order to embarrass the country. Now, that kind of destructive action may be acceptable in San Francisco, but it shouldn't be in the rest of the country."
From the February 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Today, charges against Ms. Sheehan were dropped, but she says she's suing. Now, "Talking Points" deplores the actions of Congresswoman Woolsey and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who were both in on the Sheehan episode. These lawmakers should be investigated by the House and reprimanded if the evidence dictates. Cindy Sheehan is, of course, a militant bent on embarrassing the president. If she had not been confronted by police, anything could have happened during the speech. This is simply unacceptable. Miss Sheehan and the congresswomen are entitled to protest anything they want in the appropriate place, but this was a setup, pure and simple.
Both Lee and Woolsey represent the San Francisco area, which has become increasingly radicalized and is now actively undermining the war on terror and indeed, the law itself.
San Francisco voters by a 60-40 margin told the military it's not welcome to recruit in city schools. The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, married scores of homosexuals in violation of state law. He only stopped when the California Supreme Court demanded it. And next week, the San Francisco board of supervisors will discuss a call for the impeachment of President Bush.
"Talking Points" could go on and on. It's clear the City by the Bay has uncoupled itself from the rest of the USA and is bent on establishing a quasi-far-left nation within city limits. Now, it's actually interesting to watch this process, but it's also disturbing in the middle of a terror war. There is a good chance that California Congresswoman Woolsey and Lee intentionally tried to sabotage the State of the Union address in order to embarrass the country. Now, that kind of destructive action may be acceptable in San Francisco, but it shouldn't be in the rest of the country. And that's the memo.
O'REILLY: And finally tonight, the mail. A virtual potpourri this evening.
Anthony Memisovski, Malmo, Sweden: "O'Reilly, why do you slander Cindy Sheehan for comparing the Iraqi insurgents to freedom fighters? You called for an Al Qaeda attack on San Francisco."
O'REILLY: Wrong, sir. I gave Al Qaeda your address. That's just a jest. But here's some serious advice: Stay away from the far-left websites. They do not make you look smart.
During the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Christian Coalition founder and 700 Club host Pat Robertson reiterated his call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
When co-host Alan Colmes asked Robertson, "[I]f he [Chavez] were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?" Robertson answered, "I think South America would." When Colmes later pressed Robertson, asking, "Do you want him [Chavez] taken out?" Robertson retorted, "Not now, but one day, one day, one day." Earlier, Colmes had asked, "Should Chavez be assassinated?" Robertson explained that "one day," Chavez will "be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf [of Mexico] isn't going to be [Hurricane] Katrina, it's going to be his nukes." Co-host Sean Hannity agreed that "the world would be better off without him where he [Chavez] is, because he is a danger to the United States."
Earlier that day, on the February 2 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Robertson addressed his original August 22, 2005, appeal, in which he had said: "We have the ability to take him [Chavez] out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." During the interview, co-host Robin Roberts asked Robertson to explain his comments on Chavez, his condemnation of the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania -- who voted a school board out of office after it imposed an intelligent design curriculum -- and his statements regarding former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, in which he suggested that Sharon's stroke was the result of Sharon's policy, which he claimed was "dividing God's land." Robertson replied:
I'm very passionate about certain things, and unfortunately, my passion maybe runs ahead of me. And in the context of what I'm saying, it isn't quite as strong as it sounds, but I am passionate about certain things and it's not politically correct at all.
From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
COLMES: Should Chavez be assassinated?
ROBERTSON: Well, one day he's going to be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across the Gulf isn't going to be Katrina, it's going to be his nukes.
COLMES: Would you feel better going back to the original comment that if he were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?
ROBERTSON: I think South America would. He is -- he is -- got hit squads. He's a very dangerous man.
COLMES: So, you're not taking back the comment. You believe assassination of Hugo Chavez would be in the best interests of the world.
ROBERTSON: Well, rather than going to war. One day, we're going to have to go to war, I'm afraid, if he continues his policy, you know. But, I don't know. I wrote him a letter. I apologized to him.
COLMES: But, wait a minute. If you say you apologized to him, what you just said seems to contravene that, because you just now said --
ROBERTSON: I know. I know.
COLMES: -- you think it'd be better if he be assassinated.
ROBERTSON: Alan, the whole thing we've got to deal with is that, one day, if he continues his course of trying to mobilize Marxist powers in South America, it's going to be a clear --
COLMES: He's very popular with his country.
ROBERTSON: Well, yes and no. But he does --
HANNITY: He's building up weapons against the United States, isn't he?
COLMES: He's extremely popular. Eighty-percent of his country --
ROBERTSON: He's also calling for the destruction of George Bush. He calls him a war criminal.
COLMES: Do you want him taken out?
ROBERTSON: Not now, but one day, one day, one day. My premise is, and I think as -- you know, until that comment came out, everybody thought Chavez [added link] was a fellow having to do with table grapes in California. Now --
HANNITY: I think one thing we could say is, the world would be better off without him where he is, because he is a danger to the United States.
ROBERTSON: Extreme danger.
O'Reilly condemned higher gas taxes to reduce consumption as "social engineering," then called for higher vehicle taxes to reduce consumption
On the January 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly decried tax increases on gasoline as "secular progressive, social engineering crazy stuff" and declared that "we don't need any more taxes on anything" -- but he then endorsed a tax on the sale of gas-guzzling vehicles.
Apparently referring to The New York Times' editorial board's advocacy of a gasoline tax, O'Reilly stated that the Times wants to "raise tax on oil a buck" to force people to conserve and to get "more money flowing into the federal government, so the federal government can make -- you know, do this secular progressive, social engineering crazy stuff that The New York Times is committed to." Then he declared that in order to conserve energy "we" need "to tell Detroit, 30 miles per gallon. Any vehicle that doesn't get it, then we're going to tax that vehicle through the roof -- 25 percent surcharge tax on any vehicle that doesn't get 30 miles to the gallon."
The federal government currently levies a "gas guzzler tax" of between $1,000 and $7,000 on cars whose combined (city and highway) fuel economy is less than 22.5 miles per gallon.
From the January 30 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: And, you know, The New York Times, their solution is, well, let's raise tax on oil a buck. So, therefore, overnight, your $2.50 a gallon [gasoline] becomes $3.50 a gallon. The New York Times thinks this is swell because that would drive down consumption. Then you'd be forced to conserve, forced not to buy as much. Well, fine, but every other product in the United States rises in price because everything else is dependent on oil. It takes oil to get the product into the store, to get the plane in the air. And that would lead to an enormous recession. New York Times has no clue, of course, because all they want is more money flowing into the federal government, so the federal government can make -- you know, do this secular progressive, social engineering crazy stuff that The New York Times is committed to.
Anyway, we don't need any more taxes on anything. What we need to do is get alternative energy. The way to do that is to tell Detroit, 30 miles per gallon. Any vehicle that doesn't get it, then we're going to tax that vehicle through the roof -- 25 percent surcharge tax on any vehicle that doesn't get 30 miles to the gallon. Guess what? Most vehicles will be getting 30 miles to the gallon. That's what the government should do. One example.
CNN's Henry covered Boehner ascension without noting controversy over PAC check distribution on House floor
In his first several reports on Rep. John A. Boehner's (R-OH) election as new House majority leader, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry omitted any specific reference to Boehner's history of ethics concerns, even while emphasizing those of the man Boehner defeated, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). Unlike MSNBC did in their coverage, for example, Henry did not mention that Boehner drew broad criticism for distributing checks from a tobacco industry group on the House floor moments before a key tobacco vote. Instead, during his reports on the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From ..., Henry suggested that Boehner could satisfy "a lot of Republican rank-and-file [who] want change because of the lobbying scandals." Later, CNN.com issued a headline announcing the result of the leadership vote, labeling Boehner the "reform candidate," although it was subsequently replaced with an alternative headline.
Before Boehner's victory was announced, Henry described Blunt as "the status quo candidate, because he was so close" to indicted former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Henry then purported to identify why Boehner might win: "As you know, there's a shakeup going on here, a lot of Republican rank-and-file want change because of the lobbying scandals, so they might just get that."
After announcing the results of the vote, Henry reiterated that Blunt was the "status quo" candidate at a time when there is "a lot of nervousness" among Republicans as the scandal involving disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff has "kept breaking and breaking." Abramoff pleaded guilty on January 3 to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion. On January 4, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and wire fraud in a second, unrelated case. Later, noting that Boehner's "relationships with lobbyists" will be a "source of controversy," Henry nonetheless repeated Boehner's contention that "he has not been in the sort of ethical hot water that we have seen Tom DeLay and others get into."
Later that day, a headline on the front page of CNN.com -- later changed -- labeled Boehner the "reform candidate," linking to an article that similarly depicted Boehner as a clean break from the ethics concerns plaguing DeLay and Blunt:
He [Boehner] had offered himself as a reform candidate to succeed Tom DeLay, who faces money-laundering charges in his home state of Texas.
Boehner's ascension comes as other Republicans have raised concerns about an extensive influence-peddling probe involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
DeLay announced January 7 that he would not try to reclaim the House majority leader post, although he said he will seek re-election in his Houston area district in November. DeLay also has ties to Abramoff.
The race for majority leader appeared to turn on the desire for members to present a fresh face to the public and distance themselves from Washington's K Street, or lobbyist, community.
Blunt was a part of DeLay's leadership team and has ties to K Street.
But like Blunt, Boehner has faced several significant ethics issues, among them:
VIQUEIRA: It's really a question of how much of a reform candidate Boehner really is. That's how he was portrayed in early days here in Congress. He was seen as a reformer. Then he did get into some problems, passing out checks from lobbyists on the House floor. He since apologized for that.
From the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From ... :
HENRY: The problem for Roy Blunt is he thought he had this in the bag. He clearly did not. He may be seen as the status quo candidate because he was so close to Tom DeLay. As you know, there's a shake-up going on here, a lot of Republican rank-and-file want change because of the lobbying scandals, so they might just get that.
HENRY: This is a clear sign that Republican rank-and-file members were very concerned, in this midterm election year, that Roy Blunt was going to be too close to Tom DeLay, too close to the status quo. He was the acting majority leader after DeLay stepped aside after being indicted twice down in Texas. This is a very interesting sign, John Boehner of Ohio, not Roy Blunt, the new majority leader.
HENRY: But then the Abramoff scandal kept breaking and breaking, and that one could be a more wide-ranging, widespread investigation, obviously, for Republicans than this narrow investigation [of DeLay] down in Texas. And so, you're right to point to that, Kyra [Phillips, Live From... host]. That really, as Jack Abramoff cut that plea deal, just became more and more apparent. Tom DeLay has not gotten a sign that he is in any legal jeopardy there, but there is a lot of political jeopardy for him in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. Some of his former staffers -- some of his former staffers have been implicated in that scandal, so it became clear DeLay had to step aside permanently. A lot of nervousness. We're hearing that the results are about 122-109, as I understand, John Boehner over Roy Blunt. And again, Roy Blunt just was seen as someone who was status quo. He was already a member of this leadership team.
A February 1 New York Daily News article by staff writer James Gordon Meek reported that in a recent letter to defense attorneys for former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor in the CIA leak case, wrote that numerous White House emails from 2003 are missing from White House computer archives. A Media Matters for America survey of coverage following the publication of Meek's article found that major news outlets have -- with only a few exceptions -- ignored this story.
On October 28, 2005, a grand jury indicted Libby on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the FBI. Made public as part of a recent court filing, Fitzgerald's letter was sent in response to requests by Libby's legal team that the prosecutor turn over a large number of documents pertaining to the defendant. At the end of the letter, in which Fitzgerald refused the request, he wrote:
We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed. In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.
Media Matters examined cable and network news coverage on February 1 (from 4 p.m. to midnight ET) and February 2 (from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and also looked at newspaper and wire coverage on February 1 and 2 for mentions of the letter, following the publication of Meek's article. This survey found that only CNN, the Associated Press, and The New York Sun have devoted any substantial coverage to Fitzgerald's revelation.
On the February 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena reported that "Fitzgerald admits that some of the e-mails from the president's and vice president's offices were destroyed." Immediately following her report, host Wolf Blitzer discussed the story with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin:
BLITZER: Potentially, Jeff, how significant or insignificant is this development?
TOOBIN: Well, I think you have to say it raises questions. Why were these documents destroyed outside the normal course? Who knew about it? Who ordered it? What kind of documents were there? All these questions may have entirely innocent answers, but we don't know what any of the answers are at this point.
BLITZER: Because when I hear a story like this, it hearkens back -- I mean, I just remember, of course, some of those missing tapes during Watergate and the Nixon White House that evidence may have been destroyed, and this may be totally, totally overreaching. There may be a simple explanation. But the fact that the prosecutor writes this letter saying what happened to this -- these e-mails, that raises certain questions.
TOOBIN: And certainly the Iran-Contra affair was based almost entirely on electronic messages -- so-called prof notes -- sent between Oliver North and colleagues. They have been crucial evidence in all White House investigations. What happened to them? A lot of things get destroyed in the normal course of business. Why were the normal procedures not followed? As you point out, could be completely innocent. But, we just don't know.
BLITZER: How normal is it for e-mail to be destroyed in the normal course of business over at the White House? A question I don't have the answer to, but presumably, the special prosecutor is going to be looking into that question right now.
The "normal procedures" for preserving White House communications referred to by Blitzer and Toobin were detailed in an April 7, 2000, Christian Science Monitor article:
[W]henever a White House staffer clicks "send," a message reminds them that a copy of their missive is being sent to records management.
When it comes to saving e-mails, the White House is held to a higher standard than the private sector, and even Congress.
Companies that have a policy of saving e-mails usually do so only for three to six months, according to records-management consultants. Many companies consider them the same as phone calls, and don't archive them unless they are equal in weight to a written communication.
But the White House is different. It saves its records for posterity. After President Clinton vacates his office next January, at least 30 million stored e-mails will be deposited with the National Archives, an unfathomable mountain of data ranging from "how about lunch?" to speech drafts, to perhaps more juicy communications.
Late in the day on February 1, the AP published an article by staff writer Pete Yost headlined "Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost." In the article, Yost included the response of Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy: "Bottom line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but this is highly irregular and invites suspicion."
A February 2 article (subscription required) by New York Sun staff writer Josh Gerstein also noted experts' concerns regarding Fitzgerald's letter:
"It seems pretty surprising that there would be a failure to preserve records when this issue was litigated in the 1980s and 90s," an attorney for a non-profit group that gathers declassified government records, the National Security Archive, Meredith Fuchs, told The New York Sun. "It's particularly surprising given that there are investigations going on about things that could have happened within the Office of the Vice President or the Office of the President."
The missing e-mails could be relevant to a series of ongoing inquiries, including the criminal probe into influence peddling by a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
"Entities are under an obligation to preserve their emails if there is an anticipation of litigation," Ms. Fuchs said.
In 2000, the Clinton White House became embroiled in debate over a failure to preserve some of its e-mails. The Justice Department investigated and a House committee held a hearing on the issue, as did a federal judge considering a lawsuit brought by a conservative legal group, Judicial Watch.
"If they didn't take the steps necessary to prevent that happening again, then somebody needs to be held accountable," the group's president, Thomas Fitton said yesterday. "Certainly, that's intriguing."
Further, on the February 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends First, anchor Lauren Green briefly mentioned the story in a news update:
GREEN: The special investigator in the CIA leak case says there may be a problem with White House emails. Patrick Fitzgerald says an archiving problem may have lost some records from 2003. That's the year someone exposed the identity of [former covert CIA operative] Valerie Plame. The vice president's former chief of staff Lewis Libby is already facing federal charges in the case.
The missing e-mails were also noted by WashingtonPost.com columnist Dan Froomkin in his February 2 "White House Briefing" column.
While most news outlets have entirely ignored Fitzgerald's letter, several did so despite devoting substantial coverage to related developments in the Libby case. For example, on the February 1 edition of MSNBC's The Abrams Report, host Dan Abrams discussed a recent court filing by Libby's defense team with two former government lawyers. But during the seven-minute segment, Abrams made no mention of Fitzgerald's letter, which was attached to that same filing.
CNN's Phillips drew distinction between "anti-war" Sheehan and "staunch advocate for the troops" Young
On the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From..., host Kyra Phillips characterized Cindy Sheehan as an "anti-war activist" while casting Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL), as a "staunch advocate for the troops." Both women were removed from the visitor's gallery of the House of Representatives prior to the start of President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with political messages. Sheehan's shirt listed the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq at that point -- 2,245 -- along with the question "How many more?" Young's shirt read: "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."
Philips did not say how Sheehan's status as an "anti-war activist" or how the message on her shirt differentiated her from a "staunch advocate for the troops" such as Young.
Media Matters for America previously noted other media outlets characterizing Sheehan's shirt as "the opposite" of Young's, and describing Young's message as "more patriotic" than Sheehan's.
From the 2 p.m. ET hour of the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From...:
PHILLIPS: Uh, never mind. The great Capitol Hill garment crisis turns out to be a tempest in a T-shirt. Here are the players, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and staunch advocate for the troops Beverly Young, wearing the shirts that got them both bounced from the State of the Union on Monday. Capitol Police chief Terrance Gainer cops to the double blunder, saying his officers were operating under outdated guidance. Turns out political T-shirts aren't unlawful in chambers unless the wearer tries to call attention to the message. Now both women have gotten plenty of attention.
Limbaugh attacked Democrats for remaining seated when Bush touted decline in abortions -- but Republicans sat, too
On February 1, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeatedly criticized Democrats for failing to give President Bush a standing ovation following a segment of the State of the Union address in which Bush touted long-term declines in abortions and teen pregnancies. Despite the fact that Republicans also remained seated in response to that line, Limbaugh insisted that "the feminists are not going to put up with the Democrats standing up and cheering that number" and that "abortion is the sacrament to the religion of feminism." In addition, Limbaugh baselessly asserted that "Democrats can't bring themselves to applaud the fact that there are even fewer abortions taking place and that teen pregnancy's down." In fact, footage of the speech reviewed by Media Matters for America shows Democrats as well as Republicans applauding this line.
From Bush's January 31 State of the Union address:
BUSH: In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row. [applause]
After playing an audio clip of this segment of Bush's speech, Limbaugh told listeners, "The Democrats sat on their rear ends." Limbaugh added: "But they couldn't even -- because abortion is the sacrament to the religion of feminism, and the feminists are not going to put up with the Democrats standing up and cheering that number." Later in the show, Limbaugh told a caller that the Democrats were "sitting down during a discussion of cultural improvements like fewer abortions [and] fewer teen pregnancies. They sit down on that."
Limbaugh did not inform viewers, however, that Republicans also remained seated in response to Bush's statement on the decline in abortions and teen pregnancy. The video feed used by the major networks clearly shows prominent Republicans -- including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) -- remaining seated while applauding. The camera then zoomed out, revealing a room full of seated Republicans. Democrats were not visible in the shot.
Limbaugh's assertion that "Democrats can't bring themselves to applaud the fact that there are even fewer abortions taking place and that teen pregnancy's down" also appears to be incorrect. Although the video feed used by the major networks does not show how Democrats responded to Bush's statement, C-SPAN used a different camera angle in which a number of applauding Democrats are clearly visible in the foreground. (However, most of the Democrats who attended the speech are not visible in this shot.)
From the February 1 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: America stands and cheers; Democrats sit down. This is another -- this just nailed them, folks. Democrats can't bring themselves to applaud the fact that there are even fewer abortions taking place and that teen pregnancy's down. I mean, if there was an objective media anywhere -- even a media concerned about the plight of the Democrats rather than focused on what they hope to convince people is wrong with Bush -- when the president of the United States, because even the, you know, certain members of the pro-abortion crowd love to say, "Well, we're not really pro-abortion. We're just for freedom, civil liberties, the rights of the mother, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah." And they go out of their way -- "We're not" -- even Hillary said, "Abortion: we don't want it to happen, but we can't stand in the way." So here's a chance. OK, abortions are going down in America. That's something to cheer. No, not to the Democrats.
BUSH [audio clip]: America has become a more hopeful nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.
LIMBAUGH: The Democrats sat on their rear ends. They didn't -- I mean, folks, I mean, occasionally, well, [Sen.] Ben Nelson [D] would stand up now and then, from Nebraska. There'd be a couple of them like a jack-in-the-box, stand up real quick and then sit right back down. But they couldn't even -- because abortion is the sacrament to the religion of feminism, and the feminists are not going to put up with the Democrats standing up and cheering that number.
LIMBAUGH: They have become my parodies. They're, they're not going to realize they goofed up. They're, they're sitting around all day thinking they scored big home runs last night with these antics of theirs -- of sitting down during a discussion of victory -- of sitting down during a discussion of freedom -- of sitting down during a discussion of cultural improvements like fewer abortions, fewer teen pregnancies. They sit down on that.
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