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February 3, 2006
On the February 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity quoted a CBS poll that showed "77 percent of the people watching [the State of the Union address] liked his [President Bush's] agenda." In doing so, Hannity touted poll results that CBS' own Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer warned his audience may not be reliable. Hannity ignored warnings by Schieffer and others that -- as Media Matters for America noted -- such after-speech polls offer a highly skewed indication of the public's view of the speech because those who listen or watch the speech, by and large, support the president already.
Hannity was quoting a question on the poll that actually read, "Did our [CBS'] viewers tonight approve of President Bush's proposals?" Seventy-seven percent of those polled responded that they did approve. But before reading the poll's results, Schieffer warned CBS viewers that the poll "does not necessarily reflect the feelings of the country because, traditionally, we found out, in recent years, more Republicans watch when a Republican makes the speech. More Democrats watch when a Democrat makes the speech."
Beyond the accuracy of such polls, other commentators suggest that whatever boost in overall ratings a president receives after delivering a State of the Union message, the uptick is usually short-lived. Previous snap polls show that a president experiences a temporary bump on even the most controversial issues. After the 2005 State of the Union address, a CBS News snap poll showed Bush enjoying a 12-percent boost in his Social Security proposal (from 44 percent to 56 percent), and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll put approval of his Social Security plan as high as 66 percent. By the next week, the Gallup poll had approval for Bush's Social Security plan back in the mid-40s. On Iraq, the CBS snap poll saw a nearly 20-point jump in approval of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq (47 percent to 64 percent). Yet, by the end of February 2005, CBS News polls witnessed Bush falling back to 45 percent.
Snap polling can also show nearly extraordinary leaps in popularity. In January 2002, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 62 percent of Americans already felt the nation was headed in the right direction. Nonetheless, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll (subscription required) conducted after Bush's January 29, 2002, State of the Union address found that 90 percent of the people who watched the speech said they thought Bush's policies would help move the United States in the right direction.
From the February 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: There seems to be just contempt for him [President Bush] -- you know -- waking up and getting out of bed and being the president. I think the president, very wisely, last night [during the State of the Union address] just stuck to his guns, and what he believes in, and made his case; and that CBS poll shows that 77 percent of people watching liked his agenda.
From CBS's January 31 coverage of Bush's State of the Union address:
SCHIEFFER: We want to give you some idea now how the president's speech went over with people watching at home. CBS News, with the help of a company called Knowledge Networks, chose, at random, 700 adults who told us they planned to watch the address tonight. We gave them WebTV so they could get on to the Internet and answer our questions about the speech.
Now, remember, this does not necessarily reflect the feelings of the country because, traditionally, we found out, in recent years, more Republicans watch when a Republican makes the speech. More Democrats watch when a Democrat makes the speech.
But, here, were the questions: Did our viewers tonight approve of President Bush's proposals? Seventy-seven percent approved; 23 percent did not. We asked them what affect the president's proposals would have on their lives: Fifty-nine percent said they would make their lives better; 9 percent said worse; 33 percent said the proposals would have no effect on them. On some issues, our survey shows the impact of the speech tonight. Fifty-two percent say the war in Iraq has been worth the cost. Just last week, just 45 percent of the same group thought so. And finally, here is a disappointment. When asked if President Bush will be able to accomplish his goals -- this will be a disappointment to the president, I should say -- 32 percent said yes, only -- and 68 percent -- 8 percent -- said no. They did not think he would be able to accomplish his goals.
On the February 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, congressional correspondent Brian Wilson falsely reported that legislation enacting nearly $40 billion in budget cuts, from programs including federal student loans and Medicaid, "passed along party lines." In fact, 13 Republicans joined all 200 Democrats and independent Rep. Bernie Sanders (VT) in voting against the measure. Wilson also uncritically reported that "Republicans hail it [the budget bill] as the first step to restoring fiscal discipline," without noting that Democrats -- and some Republicans -- believe the Republican-sponsored tax cuts will wipe out any impact the budget cuts would have had on the federal deficit.
Democratic critics of the budget cuts have noted that the projected loss in revenue from Republican legislation to permanently extend tax cuts on capital gains and dividends -- which passed the House on December 8 by a vote of 234-197 -- would outweigh the savings from the budget cuts. Several Republicans have issued similar statements. For example, a February 2 New York Times article noted that, although Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) voted in favor of the budget cuts after opposing the extension of the tax cuts, he said: "We can't keep cutting taxes and cutting revenues, while cutting programs to protect the most vulnerable in society." Reporting that the Senate began reconciling House and Senate versions of the tax cut legislation, The Washington Post reported on February 2 that Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH) also shares Democratic concerns about the budget cuts in light of the tax cuts:
"I do not know how anyone can say with a straight face that when we voted to cut spending in December to help achieve deficit reductions, we can now turn around a short while later to provide tax cuts that exceed or cancel out the reduction in spending," Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said yesterday, as the Senate took up a procedural motion that would allow tax-cut negotiations to begin. "We cannot afford these tax cuts."
From the February 1 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
WILSON: Acting majority leader Roy Blunt of Missouri is thought to have the lead [in the race for House Majority Leader] but hasn't been able to seal the deal with the necessary 117 votes.
But Blunt did ram through final passage of a $39 billion package of budget cuts late this afternoon, a sign that he has the ability to hold House Republicans together. This legislation, passed along party lines, now goes to the president's desk. Republicans hail it as the first step to restoring fiscal discipline. This was supposed to have been passed late last year, but the Senate imposed last-minute changes just before the holiday break.
On February 1, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh called Friends of the Earth international climate campaigner Catherine Pearce a "B-I-itch" after watching her in a CNN appearance criticizing proposals President Bush made during his January 31 State of the Union address.
Appearing in a segment on the alternative energy proposals included in Bush's address on the February 1 edition of CNN's Your World Today, Pearce stated:
PEARCE: This kind of language that the president has been talking about really represents nothing new. He's been talking about the potential for technologies, talking about investment into research and development into these technologies for some considerable time now.
Responding to Pearce's criticisms, Limbaugh said: "[T]hey've got some B-I-itch from the -- let me just say it. I mean, just looking at her, she's a B-I-itch. She's from the Friends of the Earth." Referring to Bush's proposal to "fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass," Limbaugh added: "My gosh, he's just offered you switchgrass. You people ought to be having multiple orgasms."
From the February 1 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Last State of the Union, Bush talked about the hydrogen car. We're all scratching our heads. I think I figured it out, though. He's just putting this stuff in there to, you know, to ameliorate the -- everybody in the audience. Gotta give everybody something in a State of the Union address, even the environmentalist wackos. So last night, he starts talking about a new fuel to power our cars called switchgrass. It's a combination of grass and wood chips. Not long after that, by the way, if this ever comes to pass, grass will go on the endangered species list and will -- well, that's a good -- do we have more grass or do we have more oil? What are the odds we're going to run out of grass before we run out of oil?
Anyway, so I'm watching CNN International here during the break at the top of hour, and they've got some B-I-itch from the -- let me just say it. I mean, just looking at her, she's a B-I-itch. She's from the Friends of the Earth. "This is typical of George Bush. It has nothing -- has nothing new. We have nothing." My gosh, he's just offered you switchgrass. You people ought to be having multiple orgasms. It was a hydrogen car last year; switchgrass cars this year. "Bush did nothing new. Said nothing new. Didn't offer anything new."
On the January 31 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly accused CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour of harboring a "rooting interest" in the Iraq war being a disaster. Although Amanpour did say that she thought the Iraq war "has basically turned out to be a disaster" and was a "terrible situation," she said nothing to support O'Reilly's assertion that she desires the war to turn out badly.
Amanpour made her comment during the January 30 edition of CNN's Larry King Live while discussing how the injuries sustained by ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt in a January 29 bombing in Iraq impacted journalists' attempts to be objective while reporting on the Iraq war:
AMANPOUR: And I cannot tell you how awful I feel for Bob and Doug and for their families, their wives, their children who have to put up with them going away and waiting for them just like our families do when we come back. But, as [former CNN correspondent] Peter Arnett said and I think that the others have said, that, number one, it's our responsibility. Number two, if we don't do it, who does it? We have had so -- we have to have an independent eye on these conflicts. The war in Iraq has basically turned out to be a disaster and journalists have paid for it, paid for the privilege of witnessing and reporting that and so have many, many other people who have been there. And I think that's terribly, terribly difficult for us and unfortunately, for some reason which I can't fathom, the kind of awful thing that's going on there now on a daily basis has almost become humdrum. So, when something happens to people that we identify, like Bob and like Doug, we wake up again and realize that, no, this is not acceptable what's going on there and it's a terrible situation.
From a discussion with University of North Carolina associate professor Napoleon Byars on the January 31 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: No, I know that. But look, you have to look at it, professor -- and I'm sure you know this because you do this every day -- in the sense of how she's now perceived in her coverage on CNN. I mean, she's declared herself to say it's a disaster. So, you can draw by that that she has a rooting interest in it being thus.
Without actually viewing polls on impeachment, Blankley "would guess that something less than 10 percent" of Americans would support impeachment
Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley admitted in his February 2 Washington Times column that he had not viewed polls on public support for the impeachment of President Bush, but nonetheless suggested that "something less than 10 percent of the American voting public would look forward to seeing the last two years of the Bush presidency consumed with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress trying to impeach the president during a time of war." In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, two recent Zogby International polls have found that a majority of Americans think Congress should consider impeaching Bush either "[i]f President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq" (November 2005, 53 percent); or ""[i]f President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge" (January 16, 2006, 51.7 percent).
And while a more recent survey found less support than the Zogby polls indicated for impeachment, it nonetheless found that a percentage almost four times greater than the one cited by Blankley would consider evidence of lawbreaking by Bush in his domestic spying program to be "an impeachable offense." The January 22-25 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll (page 18) found that "[i]f a congressional investigation finds that George W. Bush broke the law when he authorized government agencies to use electronic surveillance to monitor American citizens without a court warrant," 39 percent of Americans would consider that "an impeachable offense," while 52 percent would not. According to the same poll, 57 percent of Americans (including 54 percent of independents) said that Congress should "hold hearings to investigate the legality of George W. Bush's authorization of electronic surveillance to monitor American citizens without a court warrant."
From Blankley's February 2 column:
But not satisfied to be a head-in-the-sand, reflexively negative opposition party, an increasing number of Democrats and their supporters in the leftish fever swamps have started calling for President Bush's impeachment.
While I haven't seen any polls yet on the subject, I would guess that something less than 10 percent of the American voting public would look forward to seeing the last two years of the Bush presidency consumed with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress trying to impeach the president during a time of war.
Somehow the Democratic Party -- for 180 years the most electorally successful political party on the planet -- has now almost completely mutated into a party too loathsome to be seen in public, and too nihilistic to be trusted with control of even a single branch of government.
A February 1 Associated Press report described the message displayed on a T-shirt worn by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan to President Bush's State of the Union speech as "just the opposite" of one worn by Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL), while a February 2 Baltimore Sun article described Young's message as "more patriotic" than Sheehan's. Young's shirt read: "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom," while Sheehan's listed the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq at that point -- 2,245 -- along with the question "How many more?" Neither AP nor the Sun explained how decrying the deaths of more than 2,000 American service members indicated a lack of support for the troops or lack of patriotism.
Separately, on the live "Up to the Minute" news report during the February 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, anchor Colette Cassidy described Sheehan as an "anti-war protester" without describing the message on her shirt, but specifically noted that Young had worn a sweater "in support of U.S. troops," with a clear emphasis on the word "support."
None of the stories noted that Sheehan's son, U.S. Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, was killed in action on April 4, 2004, while serving in Iraq. The AP subsequently revised its report, deleting the "just the opposite" description.
Both women were removed from the visitor's gallery of the House of Representatives prior to the start of Bush's speech. Capitol Police, who arrested Sheehan but not Young, apologized the next day for removing both women, according to the reports.
From the February 1 Associated Press report by Laurie Kellman:
Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.
"The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.
"The policy and procedures were too vague," he added. "The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine."
Sheehan's T-shirt alluded to the number of soldiers killed in Iraq: "2245 Dead. How many more?" Capitol Police charged her with a misdemeanor for violating the District of Columbia's code against unlawful or disruptive conduct on any part of the Capitol grounds, a law enforcement official said. She was released from custody and flew home Wednesday to Los Angeles.
Young's shirt had just the opposite message: "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."
The two women appeared to have offended tradition if not the law, according to several law enforcement and congressional officials. By custom, the annual address is to be a dignified affair in which the president reports on the state of the nation. Guests in the gallery who wear shirts deemed political in nature have, in past years, been asked to change or cover them up.
From the February 2 Baltimore Sun article:
Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, ejected from the State of the Union address Tuesday night for wearing slogan-bearing T-shirts, are off the hook with Capitol police -- but not with the manners police.
Sheehan's T-shirt said: "2245 Dead. How many more?" Young's was emblazoned with a more patriotic statement: "Support the Troops - Defending Our Freedom."
From MSNBC's "Up to the Minute" news report during the February 1 edition of Hardball with Chris Matthews:
CASSIDY: And a Capitol police official tells MSNBC News, quote, "we screwed up" in arresting anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan over the T-shirt she wore to the State of the Union address. The official also says the wife of Congressman Bill Young should not have been asked to leave either because she wore a sweater in support of U.S. troops. The official says neither woman violated any rules or laws.
Couric falsely claimed Democrats "really applauded" only the failure of Bush's Social Security proposal at SOTU
On the February 1 broadcast of NBC's Today, co-host Katie Couric falsely claimed that during most of President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, the "Democrats sat on their hands," and "[t]he only moment [they] really applauded was when the president talked about his failed plan to reform Social Security." But as video footage from the State of the Union address shows, Democrats "really applauded" at other times during the speech as well, giving standing ovations when Bush began the address by eulogizing Coretta Scott King, when he recognized the family of Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay -- who was killed in Iraq -- when he called for bipartisan support for the "war on terror," and when he asked Congress "to put aside partisan politics and work together" in resolving the financial challenges facing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.
From the February 1 broadcast of NBC's Today, which featured co-host Matt Lauer:
COURIC: And welcome to Today on this Wednesday morning, everyone. I'm Katie Couric.
LAUER: And I'm Matt Lauer. We're all a little bleary-eyed this morning --
LAUER: -- because we stayed up for the speech and the analysis afterwards. The president faced a divided Congress during his State of the Union Address last night, and he took on a lot of issues that clearly had people butting heads.
COURIC: Well, you could see it, if you just watched the scene, Matt. I mean, the chamber erupted in applause 60 times, but during most of those times, Democrats sat on their hands. The only moment the Democrats really applauded was when the president talked about his failed plan to reform Social Security. We'll have a complete wrap-up of the speech, and as we mentioned, we'll talk with Senator John Kerry [D-MA], as well as NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.
From President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address:
BUSH: Today, our nation lost a beloved, graceful, courageous woman who called America to its founding ideals and carried on a noble dream. Tonight, we are comforted by the hope of a glad reunion with the husband who was taken so long ago, and we are grateful for the good life of Coretta Scott King.
BUSH: Staff Sergeant Dan Clay's wife, Lisa, and his mom and dad, Sara Jo and Bud, are with us this evening. Welcome.
BUSH: Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy -- a war that will be fought by presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress. And tonight, I ask for yours. Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.
BUSH: So, tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions. We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved.
During CNN's January 31 special post-State of the Union coverage, CNN political analyst and former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) accused Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine of falsely claiming, during the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address, that Republicans in Congress are cutting funding for student loans and have tried to cut Medicaid funds. Discussing Kaine's remarks with Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Paul Begala, Watts said, "They ought to send Governor Kaine to bed with no dinner for saying they're cutting student loans and cutting Medicaid funds. You know, that is not the case." Watts repeated the claim in a later discussion with Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), adding, "Rahm, we need to send you to that bed as well." In fact, bills already passed by the House and the Senate include $12.7 billion in spending cuts to student loan programs and approximately $7 billion in spending cuts to Medicaid.
In the Democratic response, Kaine stated that "the Republican leadership in Washington is actually cutting billions of dollars from the student loan programs that serve working families" and "has made efforts to cut Medicaid funds for our most vulnerable citizens."
On December 21, 2005, in a 51-50 vote, the Senate approved nearly $40 billion in budget cuts, including cuts of $12.7 billion to federal student loans and nearly $7 billion in Medicaid funding as part of the Republican-sponsored Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). Five Republicans and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords (VT) joined all 45 Democrats in voting "no" on the measure, forcing Vice President Dick Cheney to cast the tie-breaking vote. Senate Democrats forced small changes to the bill by using a procedural tactic known as the "Byrd rule" and sent it back to the House for a new vote . The House approved the new bill 216-214.
On January 27, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report studying the effects of the proposed budget cuts and found, as a January 30 New York Times article noted, that the proposed Medicaid budget cuts would mean that "[m]illions of low-income people would have to pay more for health care under a bill worked out by Congress, and some of them would forgo care or drop out of Medicaid because of the higher co-payments and premiums." According to the CBO: "In response to the new premiums, some beneficiaries would not apply for Medicaid, would leave the program or would become ineligible due to nonpayment. CBO estimates that about 45,000 enrollees would lose coverage in fiscal year 2010 and that 65,000 would lose coverage in fiscal year 2015 because of the imposition of premiums. About 60 percent of those losing coverage would be children."
The DRA would also cut funding for student loans by $12.7 billion, mainly by raising interest rates on college loans. According to a December 21, 2005, Boston Globe article, "[t]he bill would cut the amount of loan money guaranteed by the federal government, pushing up interest rates. It would also impose a[n] insurance fee on student loans." The Globe further noted: "Student borrowers would be forced to pay a fixed rate of 6.8 percent on loans, and parents would have an interest rate cap of 8.5 percent, up from 7.9 percent. Further, Pell Grants would remain capped at $4,050 per student per year, despite earlier promises by the Bush administration to raise the cap to $5,100." The National Education Association and several others have called the reductions the "largest cut [in student aid] in history."
From CNN's January 31 special post-State of the Union coverage featuring Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Paul Begala and J.C. Watts are here with us as well. Paul, what do you think of these numbers?
BEGALA: Well, I think that, if I were working at the White House, I wouldn't be as happy. You know, you need -- he's got to move it higher than that. And you're right. The people who are watching are going to tend to be people who are more favorably disposed to the president. And I think one of the ways he failed is that he's fallen into Washington jargon, which is surprising, because he did have this wonderful -- I'm from Texas -- this wonderful way of talking like a real person, a Texan. He talked about competitiveness. What is that? You know, people sitting at home just want to find a way to pay for their kids' college costs. And I contrast that with Tim Kaine, who said right away, "Look, they're going to be cutting student loans. Kids need that to go to college." He didn't talk about competitiveness. The president talked about isolationism -- whatever that is -- protectionism. These are Washington buzzwords. So I think he was very distant and out of touch with the real lives of real people.
BLITZER: Congressman Watts, J.C. Watts, former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, what do you think?
WATTS: Well, Wolf, I think they ought to send Governor Kaine to bed with no dinner for saying they're cutting student loans and cutting Medicaid funds. You know, that is not the case.
EMANUEL: Well, Wolf, first of all, as I just told you, the 9-11 Commission gave this president and Republican Congress a failing grade for what they've done. And as it relates to the security of the American people, we stand ready to work with this president to do that, but we're not going to just try to have an issue. What we want to do is, we want to make progress on that issue and work with the president and sit down. The question I have for them is, are they determined to have an issue or are they determined to work with having the security? And I'll tell you, on that speech tonight, I thought that speech was tired and I thought that speech said, "If you liked the last six, years we're going to give you two more years of that." And the Democrats are saying it's time for new priorities, to put the American people first and change the direction of this country. And the Congress -- and let me say this. Tomorrow morning, the first step, rather than embrace the future, this Congress, under the Republican leadership --
BLITZER: All right --
EMANUEL: -- is going to cut college assistance by $12.7 billion. That's not exactly what I would say would be investing in America's future.
BLITZER: J.C. Watts, what about that? Do the Democrats have a point?
WATTS: No, Wolf, they don't. You remember, I said we should send Governor Kaine to bed with no dinner for saying that we were cutting student loans. Rahm, we need to send you to that bed as well. That's just not the case.
February 1, 2006
Greenfield chided Rep. Wexler for rebutting SOTU address before Bush delivered it, ignoring White House advance release of speech excerpts
In covering President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield chided "one opposition congressman" -- presumably Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) -- for releasing a rebuttal of President Bush's address, Greenfield said, before Wexler could actually have seen the speech.
But, as it has in past years, the White House made excerpts of the speech available well before it was actually delivered, presumably so broadcast media would preview it and journalists, pundits, and politicians could begin to formulate their reactions to the speech in advance. In fact, during pre-speech coverage on Greenfield's own cable channel, CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash read a direct quote from the speech excerpts. A two-hour window between when the excerpts were first made available and when CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts -- during CBS' post-speech coverage -- said he first saw Wexler's statement presumably gave Wexler ample time to read the speech excerpts before issuing his response.
During the 9 p.m. hour of CNN's State of the Union coverage, Greenfield stated: "At least one opposition congressman has put out a scathing attack on the speech." Citing CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley's assertion that she received a copy of the document "about ... an hour ago," Greenfield stated: "In other words, there wasn't a chance in the world that this congressperson had seen the speech, but he condemned it as filled with empty rhetoric and failing to address our problems." Crowley's statement that the author of the document criticized President Bush for "fail[ing] to apologize for his, quote, 'cronyism,' 'corruption,' " makes it clear that she and Greenfield were referring to Wexler's rebuttal, which was headlined: "President Missed Opportunity to Apologize to the American Public for his Cronyism, Corruption and Incompetence."
The Washington Post posted the excerpts on its website at 5:15 p.m., leaving Wexler ample time to read them before issuing his rebuttal, which Roberts said he received "at quarter after seven [p.m.]" and Crowley -- at approximately 9:10 p.m. -- said she received "about ... an hour ago."
Roberts mentioned Wexler's press release during a segment in the 10 p.m. hour of CBS' State of the Union coverage, when Roberts purported to address the question, "Can the president get any bipartisanship this year?" As "early indications of that," he cited Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's rebuttal of Bush's speech, adding, "He's the Democratic flame-thrower-in-chief. You might expect that." Roberts then stated:
ROBERTS: But here's my favorite, Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida, issued a statement saying President Bush's speech tonight was filled with empty rhetoric. That crossed my desk at quarter after seven, Bob [Schieffer, CBS anchor], an hour and 45 minutes before the president started talking. So that might be an indication at how things are going to go for the rest of the year."
From the 9 p.m. hour of CNN's State of the Union coverage, hosted by Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn:
BLITZER: Paula, as we watch these people receive the president of the United States, it's one of those moments where, at least briefly, albeit for maybe only a few seconds, some of the bitterness that we've seen so available in Washington seems to go away.
ZAHN: And I think we were talking a little bit earlier where there aren't too many spontaneous moments here. Jeff was describing how perhaps some of the reps you see here with unassigned suits -- excuse me, seats, have been here for many, many hours trying to stake out a position on the aisles so they can actually get a handshake from the president or in some way have their picture taken on a wide shot with the president.
GREENFIELD: The other thing you should know -- Candy was the recipient of this. At least one opposition congressman has put out a scathing attack on the speech. When did you get it?
CROWLEY: I got it about, oh, an hour ago or so.
GREENFIELD: In other words, there wasn't a chance in the world that this congressperson had seen the speech, but he condemned it as filled with empty rhetoric and failing to address our problems.
CROWLEY: Right, the president, he said, failed to apologize for his, quote, "cronyism, corruption."
BLITZER: If they do that, the hometown newspaper is going to press, probably pretty soon.
From the 8 p.m. hour of CNN's The Situation Room:
BASH: So, Mr. Bush will try to battle the bad news coming at them nearly every day -- the bad news about Iraq, about Katrina, about high gas prices, and what aides will call -- are calling an upbeat speech. Even the president himself said he intends to be upbeat tonight.
But he'll also try to remind Americans of the threat of terrorism and say that, big picture, he does think Americans should continue to take a leadership role around the world. He will say -- quote -- "In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders."
Now, last year, you remember, of course, his big initiative was Social Security. Don't expect anything like that -- of course, which failed. Expect some small initiatives on things that they think people really care about.
From the 10 p.m. hour of CBS' State of the Union coverage:
ROBERTS: I just want to reflect back on something you were asking me about earlier. Can the president get any bipartisanship this year? We're getting early indications of that. Howard Dean said tonight President Bush's failed policies and waning credibility were on display for all Americans to see. He's the Democratic flame-thrower-in-chief. You might expect that. But here's my favorite, Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida, issued a statement saying President Bush's speech tonight was filled with empty rhetoric. That crossed my desk at quarter after seven, Bob, an hour and 45 minutes before the president started talking. So that might be an indication at how things are going to go for the rest of the year.
Responding to O'Reilly's attack on "unprofessional" NBC, Olbermann awarded Fox News host another "Worst Person" citation
After O'Reilly Factor host Bill O'Reilly blasted NBC Television Networks for taking "cheap shots" at his own Fox News network, MSNBC's Countdown host Keith Olbermann declared O'Reilly "Worst Person in the World," pointing to numerous instances in which he said Fox News engaged in the same kind of tactics O'Reilly decried.
During his January 30 broadcast, O'Reilly -- a frequent recipient of Olbermann's "Worst Person" awards -- accused his cable and broadcast news competitors at NBC Networks of violating "a code among most in TV news of respect and professional courtesy," but did not provide any specific examples. O'Reilly cited what he called NBC's "major problems" -- prime-time programming that he said is "dead last" among networks; the "ratings failures" of its cable shows -- and asserted, "That is no excuse for unprofessional behavior."
Breaking from his typical practice of singling out three people for his "Worst Person" awards, including two runners-up, Olbermann devoted the entire "Worst" segment to a detailed rebuttal of O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" segment from the January 30 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor. "As a public service, I'm going to read portions of his remarks and then translate them into what he's actually saying," Olbermann said.
In response to O'Reilly's claim that Fox "has good relationships with ABC News, CBS News, and generally CNN," Olbermann pointed out, "That's probably why Fox bought those billboards across the street from CNN headquarters taunting them about ratings, or issued that anonymous statement comparing CNN to the Titanic, or the one about Ted Turner losing his mind."
Responding to O'Reilly's characterization of the competition between Fox News and CNN as playing out with "class, not bitterness," Olbermann said, "Which is why we at Fox News compared CNN's Paula Zahn to an outhouse and a dead muskrat."
Finally, to O'Reilly's accusation that NBC engaged in "unprofessional behavior," Olbermann responded that O'Reilly's own purported "unprofessional behavior is with one of your women producers on the phone."
From the January 31 broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: And now, a little out of traditional sequence, Countdown's nominee for today's "Worst Person in the World:" And Bill O'Reilly is at it again -- the second time in four shows -- whining about cheap shots from MSNBC and NBC. This time, he opened his program with it, ostensibly starting with a patronizing update on the health of ABC's Doug Vogt and Bob Woodruff, whom he identified as 'Woodriss.' There was a lot of guff about the code among most in TV news of respect and professional courtesy, but most of what Mr. O'Reilly was saying was his typical obtuse shorthand of bullying and another word starting with bull. As a public service, I'm going to read portions of his remarks and then translate them into what he's actually saying. The bottom line is, as the oldest cliché goes, he can dish it out, but clearly, he cannot take it.
"Fox News has good relationships with ABC News, CBS News and generally CNN ..."
That's probably why Fox bought those billboards across the street from CNN headquarters taunting them about ratings, or issued that anonymous statement comparing CNN to the Titanic, or the one about Ted Turner losing his mind.
"... but 'Talking Points' is troubled by the behavior of NBC, which cheap shots Fox News on a regular basis and has been doing so for some time."
You know, I've got to confess. It never occurred to me before, but when we quote your own words back to you about how the Catholic Church was out to get Christmas, or how we should let Al Qaeda attack San Francisco, they must seem like cheap shots.
"It is only a few people doing this, but NBC president Robert Wright allows it to happen. Wright knows exactly what's going on, because he's been made aware of it."
Maybe he hasn't, Bill. Mr. Wright is the chairman, not the president, of NBC, so your postcard of complaint may have gone to the wrong office. And, by the way, let us leave our bosses out of this, Bill, or I'll have to call yours, and you know how much Satan hates to be disturbed while American Idol is on. By the way -- I ain't callin' Rupert Murdoch the devil, by the way.
"Now we understand that NBC has major problems. Its prime-time programming is dead last. Its cable operations are ratings failures ..."
In the cable ratings for the year 2005, USA Network, owned by NBC, finished three full places ahead of Fox News. And as to MSNBC, since February of 2005, our respective ratings tell a very interesting story. In what was described today by News Corp. as quote "the money demo," Countdown's ratings are up 34 percent, but O'Reilly's have shriveled by 21 percent. Bill's obviously among our new viewers.
"... but that is no excuse for unprofessional behavior ..."
"There is no question that the amazing success of Fox News has affected all TV news operations ..."
Like bird flu.
"... but CNN, for example, usually competes with class, not bitterness."
"Likewise we respect ABC and CBS for their work ethic and competitive zeal."
Especially since David Letterman kicked the crap out of me on CBS earlier this month.
"But there's something very wrong with NBC, and if it continues, 'Talking Points' will go into greater detail about the problems besetting that network."
Is this that code among most in TV news of respect and professional courtesy you mentioned, Bill, or do we get to that part later?
"We hope Robert Wright will right the situation, and believe he has the power to do it. But, perhaps, we're wrong about Wright."
Bill made a funny. Hee-heee.
"Maybe, he's out of the loop. Or maybe, he just doesn't care. Well, he should care. We'll let you know what happens."
This is Ted Baxter, WJM, good night, and good news.
Shortly after President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, NBC News Washington bureau chief and Meet the Press host Tim Russert suggested that the members of Congress who escorted the president into the House of Representatives chamber prior to the speech had all been briefed on his warrantless domestic surveillance program. But only three of the 20 lawmakers selected for the so-called "escort committee" received briefings on the controversial program prior to its public disclosure. What's more, members of Congress from both parties have challenged the adequacy of those briefings, with at least three saying that they were not informed of its full scope. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), for example, has said that he was never told by the adminstration that the NSA program would involve surveillance of U.S. citizens.
In the speech, Bush addressed the controversy surrounding his authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept the international communications of U.S. residents without warrants and repeated the false assertion that select lawmakers were fully briefed on the NSA's activities. "Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed," he said.
In his recap of the address, Russert noted this section of the speech and paraphrased Bush as saying, "[B]y the way, members of Congress, sitting right there, who escorted me in, they all knew about this."
But they did not all know about the program. The classified briefings on the domestic eavesdropping program provided by the administration were only granted to the so-called "Gang of Eight," which includes -- at any given time -- the top two Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate and on the House and Senate intelligence committees. Of the 20 lawmakers selected to make up the "escort committee," however, only three were at some point part of the "Gang of Eight" and are known to have received such briefings: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The following is a list* of the full escort committee, with asterisks beside those members who were apparently informed of the NSA program:
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Not only did Russert overstate the president's claim and leave viewers with the false impression that all of the above lawmakers had been informed of the secret NSA program, he failed to note the strong objections to Bush's actual claim. Indeed, there is ample evidence that those members of Congress briefed on the program were not adequately informed.
As Media Matters for America has noted, of the seven Democratic lawmakers known to have been briefed on the program between its authorization in 2001 and its public disclosure in 2005, three said they objected at the time and three more have said they weren't given adequate information about the NSA's activities. Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) have said they expressed concern at the time of their briefing. Daschle has further 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."
Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Reid have also said that they were not provided with a complete accounting of the program. And Graham, 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.
Further, Rockefeller, Graham, Reid, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) have all stated that they did not receive written reports from the White House on the surveillance operation, as required by the National Security Act of 1947.
Moreover, Russert could have noted that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a January 18 report, determined that the Bush administration's limited notification of Congress about the domestic surveillance program "appear[s] to be inconsistent with the law."
From MSNBC's coverage of the State of the Union address:
RUSSERT: The president suggested he wanted to reach across the aisle and do some things. And then a few pages later in the speech he talked about the domestic eavesdropping program and said, by the way, members of Congress, sitting right there, who escorted me in, they all knew about this.
HASTERT: The chair appoints the committee on the part of the House to escort the president into the chamber: the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Blunt, the gentlewoman from Ohio, Mrs. Pryce, the gentleman from California, Mr. Dreier, the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Pelosi, the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Hoyer, and the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Clyburn.
CHENEY: The president of the Senate, at the direction of that body, appoints the following senators as members of the committee on the part of the Senate to escort the President of the United States into the House chamber: the senator from Tennessee, Mr. Frist, the senator from Kentucky, Mr. McConnell, the senator from Pennslyvania, Mr. Santorum, the senator from Texas, Ms. Hutchinson, the senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, the senator from North Carolina, Mrs. Dole, the senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Specter, the senator from Nevada, Mr. Reid, the senator from Illinois, Mr. Durbin, the senator from Michigan, Ms. Stabenow, the senator from New York, Mr. Schumer, the senator from Illinois, Mr. Obama, the senator from Colorado, Mr. Salazar, and the senator from New Jersey, Mr. Menendez.
Milbank repeated as fact Bush's misleading explanation for 2004 comments denying conduct of warrantless wiretaps
On the January 31 edition of MSNBC'S Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank echoed President Bush's misleading explanation of a 2004 statement in which Bush said that "[a]ny time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires ... a court order" and that "[w]hen we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." Critics have pointed to the 2004 statement to accuse Bush of falsely suggesting that the administration would not conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant. Rather than address the actual words of Bush's 2004 statement, Milbank simply repeated Bush's own claim this year that his 2004 comments referred only to roving wiretaps authorized under the USA Patriot Act and did not constitute an acknowledgment -- in contradiction of what the Bush administration is now known to have been doing -- that the government must obtain a warrant for all domestic surveillance. Milbank asserted that while Bush's 2004 comments were "technically" true, they could nonetheless be "exploited politically," presumably a suggestion that those making an issue of the apparent contradiction between the 2004 comments and Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program would be doing so for political gain, and not because they believed that Bush had not been telling the truth.
But while Bush's 2004 statement was indeed made in the context of defending the Patriot Act's authorization of roving wiretaps for which warrants are obtained, the actual words he used encompassed all wiretapping activities -- not just those authorized under the Patriot Act. Bush said in 2004 -- without any qualification -- that a court order is required "[a]ny time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap." Bush added, again without qualification: "Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." At no point during his 2004 speech did Bush suggest that the requirement that the government get a warrant to undertake domestic surveillance applied only to roving wiretaps or other Patriot Act programs.
Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to carry out warrantless eavesdropping on the communications of U.S. residents -- an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Yet, at an April 20, 2004, "conversation on the USA Patriot Act" in Buffalo, New York -- after the warrantless eavesdropping program had been in effect for at least two years -- Bush stated:
BUSH: Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
At a January 1 press conference, a reporter asked Bush if he was "in any way misleading" when he stated in 2004 that wiretaps require warrants. Bush responded that he "was talking about roving wiretaps ... involved in the Patriot Act," which, he said, is "different from the NSA program":
QUESTION: In 2004, when you were doing an event about the Patriot Act, in your remarks you had said that any wiretapping required a court order, and that nothing had changed. Given that we now know you had prior approval for this NSA program, were you in any way misleading?
BUSH: I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the NSA program. The NSA program is a necessary program. I was elected to protect the American people from harm.
On Countdown, Olbermann played Bush's 2004 remarks, noting that the comments "would seem to be problematic for the president at this point." Without addressing Bush's actual statement, Milbank simply repeated Bush's misleading January 1 defense, without noting that he was doing so. Milbank insisted that "technically, what the president said there [in 2004] was true." He added that Bush "was not talking about these international wiretaps. He was talking about these roving wiretaps, which are domestic, under the Patriot Act. Now, so, technically, what he said may very well have been true."
Milbank then said that even though Bush's statement was "technically" true, "that does not mean that it could not be exploited politically, or that others wouldn't exploit it politically." He later noted that "[Sen.] Dick Durbin [D-IL] mentioned it, almost sort of off-handedly, the other day" -- a reference to a January 25 press conference in which Durbin correctly stated:
DURBIN: This is a quote from President Bush in April of 2004, as direct and clear as it could be. He said, in Buffalo, New York, "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." How could it be any clearer? The president stated the law, as of April 2004. And now, we are hearing from the administration that that isn't the law, that a court order isn't necessary, that somehow this president is above the law.
Milbank told Olbermann that Democrats are "not really pouncing on" Bush's 2004 comments, adding, "Maybe they do have some compunctions about saying, 'Well, it's technically not what he was talking about.' "
From the January 31 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: Let me play you a sound bite from a speech in Buffalo, April 20, 2004.
BUSH [video clip]: Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.
OLBERMANN: You know, that would seem to be problematic for the president at this point. Is that going to come up at some point in the speech, or in the week ahead, in politics in Washington?
MILBANK: Well, you'd think it would, and it might, in a different environment. Now, let's say, technically, what the president said there was true. He was not talking about these international wiretaps. He was talking about these roving wiretaps, which are domestic, under the Patriot Act. Now, so, technically, what he said may very well have been true. But that does not mean that it could not be exploited politically, or that others wouldn't exploit it politically. It remains to be seen how they do that.
OLBERMANN: Why aren't the Democrats, by the way, all wearing T-shirts that have a picture of the president's picture -- the president from Buffalo that day, and then it's emblazoned with the words, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so"? Why haven't they done that?
MILBANK: You know, it beats me. The -- Dick Durbin mentioned it, almost sort of off-handedly, the other day. They're not really pouncing on it. Maybe they do have some compunctions about saying, "Well, it's technically not what he was talking about." But if the Democrats have learned anything in politics, they should realize that you and I can get up and say, "Yes, that's incorrect." But in terms of forming a public impression, that doesn't fly at all. So they could clearly make hay out of a statement like that.
Following President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, during which he defended the administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program, various media figures described Bush's defense of domestic eavesdropping as "strong," "vigorous," and "fierce." But they failed to note the numerous inaccuracies Bush employed in justifying the program, whose legality has been challenged not just by Democrats but by Republicans and some prominent conservative legal scholars as well.
Bush's defense of warrantless domestic surveillance, from his State of the Union address:
BUSH: It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to Al Qaeda operatives overseas, but we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So, to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America. Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have, and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed. The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaeda, we want to know about it because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, nearly every argument Bush made in defense of the program is either false or misleading:
"We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to Al Qaeda operatives overseas, but we did not know about their plans until it was too late."
As Media Matters noted, it was apparently not for a lack of intelligence that Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, the two hijackers to whom Bush apparently referred, were not captured -- the government had information on the two men more than a year before the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Instead, bureaucratic entanglements and miscues by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as described by the 9-11 Commission and congressional investigators, allowed al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar to remain free.
"So, to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America."
The "statute" to which Bush apparently referred is Joint Resolution 23 -- Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -- which was passed by Congress in the days following the 9-11 attacks, authorized the president to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." The administration has often cited AUMF as legal justification for the surveillance program. A January 5 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that "the Administration asserts that a part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that punishes those who conduct "electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute" does not bar the [National Security Agency] NSA surveillance at issue because the AUMF is just such a statute." However, the CRS report also concluded that the AUMF did not repeal FISA's requirement to obtain a warrant when conducting domestic electronic surveillance:
Where Congress has passed a declaration of war, 50 U.S.C. § 1811 [FISA] authorizes the Attorney General to conduct electronic surveillance without a court order for fifteen calendar days following a declaration of war by Congress. This provision does not appear to apply to the AUMF, as that does not constitute a congressional declaration of war. Indeed, even 90 if the authorization were regarded as a declaration of war, the authority to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance under 50 U.S.C. § 1811 would only extend to a maximum of 15 days following its passage.
Overall, the CRS report further noted that the Bush administration's legal justification for the NSA program "conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments," as Media Matters noted.
Moreover, members of Bush's own Justice Department were unconvinced the program was constitutional. As Newsweek reported in its February 6 edition, a number of former Bush administration officials objected to vast expansions of executive authority to conduct the "war on terror," such as the NSA program.
Additionally, in 2002, the Justice Department refused to support a bill that would have lowered the threshold for obtaining a FISA warrant to conduct electronic surveillance of non-U.S. persons, contending that such a change might not be constitutional, as Media Matters noted. Specifically, the Justice Department wrote that the bill offered by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) to lower FISA standards might not "pass constitutional muster," even while Bush was -- and is -- authorizing surveillance wholly independent of FISA standards.
"Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have ..."
As Media Matters noted, conservative media figures have often pointed to the 1995 testimony of then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick before the House Intelligence Committee as proof that President Clinton asserted "the same authority" as Bush regarding warrantless surveillance. However, unlike electronic surveillance, the "physical searches" to which Gorelick referred were not restricted by FISA at the time of her 1994 testimony. Therefore, by asserting the authority to conduct physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes, the Clinton administration was not asserting that it did not have to comply with FISA. In October 1994, Congress passed legislation -- with Clinton's support -- to require FISA warrants for physical searches. Thereafter, the Clinton administration never argued that any "inherent authority" pre-empted FISA.
Additionally, the Think Progress weblog noted on December 20 that executive orders by Clinton and President Jimmy Carter regarding warrantless surveillance were merely explaining FISA's restrictions on the conduct of searches on "United States persons." Subsequent reports by NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell and The Washington Post also debunked the claim while noting that it was highlighted in the December 21 RNC press release.
"... and federal courts have approved the use of that authority."
As CRS wrote, and as Media Matters previously noted, no court has ruled on the sort of conduct in which the Bush administration has engaged -- authorizing the surveillance of communications involving people in the United States without obtaining a warrant, in apparent violation of FISA. According to the CRS report:
Court cases evaluating the legality of warrantless wiretaps for foreign intelligence purposes provide some support for the assertion that the President possesses inherent authority to conduct such surveillance. The Court of Review, the only appellate court to have addressed the issue since the passage of FISA, "took for granted" that the President has inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence electronic surveillance under his Article II powers, stating that, "assuming that was so, FISA could not encroach on that authority." However, much of the other lower courts' discussions of inherent presidential authority occurred prior to the enactment of FISA, and no court has ruled on the question of Congress's authority to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence information.
"Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed."
As Media Matters noted, of the seven Democratic lawmakers known to have been briefed about the program, three have said they objected at the time, and three more claim they were inadequately apprised of the program's nature and scope. On the December 16 broadcast of ABC's Nightline, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) claimed he was not informed of the program at all and maintains he was not told the warrantless eavesdropping program would be directed at U.S. citizens. A separate CRS report, released January 18, said that the Bush administration's limited notification of Congress about the domestic surveillance program "appear[s] to be inconsistent with the law."
"The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America."
A January 17 New York Times article cited "current and former officials" in challenging the effectiveness and utility of the program. According to the Times:
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month. But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans."
Following the warrantless domestic surveillance program's public disclosure in a December 16 Times article, administration officials and conservative commentators pointed to the arrest of Al Qaeda accomplice Iyman Faris as proof of the program's efficacy. Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen and an acquaintance of the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, plotted to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting its suspension cables with blowtorches. However, as Media Matters noted, the January 17 Times article indicated that information gleaned from the eavesdropping program did not play "a significant role" in Faris's capture.
Notwithstanding these numerous false or misleading assertions, CNN host Paula Zahn, CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield, CNN chief national correspondent John King, Fox News Washington bureau chief Brit Hume, Fox News host Chris Wallace, and CBS news contributor Gloria Borger all uncritically praised Bush's defense of the surveillance program during their post-speech coverage.
From CNN's post-speech coverage:
ZAHN: These certainly are things we've heard him talk about before, fiercely defending NSA wiretapping, but we also have to be honest that the Democrats, according to polls, have not given the American public a unified voice or any alternatives to really consider here.
GREENFIELD: Ten days ago, the president's political guru Karl Rove told a group of Republicans, "We're going to run this campaign essentially on national security in the midterms." They won the midterms in 2002 on that issue. I think they won the presidential election last time largely on it. And the strongest part of the president's speech was defending the controversial warrantless wiretaps, where he used the same kind of approach he's used in this field before: "I'm going to protect this country, I'm not going to let it sit back and wait to get hit again. We've protected the country from future terrorist attacks," and by implication, "My critics will not be as strong on this issue."
KING: There is the domestic surveillance program -- the president emphatically defending that tonight; hearings in Congress next week on that program. They think they will win that debate but it's a dicey one.
From Fox News' post-speech coverage:
HUME: He made a very strong defense, at least in his tone, of what he calls the "terrorist surveillance program." That, of course, that electronic intercept program engaged in by the National Security Agency, which intercepts telephone calls to and from Al Qaeda operatives and those believed to be Al Qaeda operatives -- inside -- from calls picking up conversations involving people inside the United States with people outside the United States believed associated with that terrorist organization.
WALLACE: And the thing that struck me about the speech tonight is the degree to which, particularly on foreign policy, he didn't give an inch. I mean, he talked about criticism of his policy on Iraq as retreat. There's been criticism, of course, of his policy on the NSA wiretapping, and he made it clear he thought he was particular -- completely within his legal rights and very much within his duty of protecting the country to continue that program. I thought it was -- there was no give whatsoever in the president, either at lunch or in his speech tonight when it came to foreign policy.
From CBS' post-speech coverage:
BORGER: I also believe, quite frankly, that the Democrats believe they have a pretty clear agenda lined out for themselves heading into the midterm elections, and that they want to distinguish themselves from George W. Bush, rather than joining themselves with the president. And I might also add that the president was very firm in his defense of those warrantless wiretaps performed by the National Security Agency. He did not back down one bit, nor did he back down in calling for renewal of the [USA] Patriot Act in March.
Similarly, The New York Times, in a February 1 article on the State of the Union address, reported Bush's remarks about the domestic surveillance program without noting any of Bush's inaccuracies, describing his defense of the program as "vigorous." According to the Times: "Mr. Bush continued his vigorous defense of his administration's secret program of eavesdropping without warrants and suggested that it could have caught some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, although he provided few details." By contrast, The Washington Post noted some of Bush's inaccuracies and misleading statements in a February 1 article:
In his State of the Union address last night, President Bush waded right in the middle of the debate over his warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, making a number of assertions that have been subject to intense debate.
For instance, Bush strongly suggested that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks could have been prevented if the phone calls of two hijackers had been monitored under the program. This echoes an assertion made earlier this year by Vice President Cheney.
But the Sept. 11 commission and congressional investigators said the government had compiled significant information on the two suspects before the attacks and that bureaucratic problems -- not a lack of information -- were the main reasons for the security breakdown. The FBI did not even know where the two suspects lived and missed numerous opportunities to track them down in the 20 months before the attacks.
Bush also asserted that "previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have." But the most recent example cited by the administration -- involving actions by President Bill Clinton -- is hotly disputed by Democrats who say the current and past situations are not comparable.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required the executive branch to get approval from a secret court before conducting wiretaps within the United States, was silent on warrantless physical searches of suspected spies or terrorists. So the Clinton administration asserted that it had the authority to conduct such "black bag" jobs, including searches of CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames's house, which turned up evidence of his spying for Russia.
Clinton later sought amendments to FISA that brought physical searches, as well as wiretaps, under the FISA framework. Bush has never sought such amendments, and he did not publicly acknowledge the program until it was revealed in news reports.
In other sections of his speech, Bush omitted context or made rhetorical claims that are open to question.
National Public Radio also provided a "Fact Check" of the State of the Union address on the February 1 broadcast of Morning Edition, in which it explained many of the problems with Bush's defense of the warrantless domestic surveillance program.
During Fox Broadcasting Co.'s January 31 special coverage of the State of the Union address, Fox News political contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) falsely accused Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) of taking money from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and asserted that this would compromise the ability of the Democrats to charge Republicans with a "culture of corruption."
Gingrich's claim regarding money he said "Reid took from Abramoff" has no apparent basis in fact. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations shows that Abramoff made contributions only to Repubicans, not Democrats.
From Fox Broadcasting Co.'s January 31 special coverage of the State of the Union address:
SHEPARD SMITH (host): Is that a case -- were you in charge of that party [the Democrats] -- you could make? The culture of corruption?
GINGRICH: Look, I think it is a good case for them to try to make. I think, frankly, with Reid's relationship to Abramoff, the amount of money Reid took from Abramoff, it's a little trickier case for them to make. But, you know, if you are the opposition party, you've got to try.
ABC's Gibson used polls renounced by ABC's polling director to speculate that Bush might get a "pretty good size boost" in polls due to SOTU
During ABC's post-State of the Union address coverage, Charles Gibson, co-host of ABC's Good Morning America, cited "polls done in eight of the last 11 years after the State of the Union (SOTU) address, [in which] at least 75 percent of the people who responded said they approved of what they heard" to justify his claim that "maybe [the president] will get a pretty good size boost in his polls from this speech." However, as ABC News polling director Gary Langer stated in the January 31 edition of ABC News' online political news summary The Note, such after-speech polls are a highly unreliable indicator of the entire country's view of the speech because those who listen or watch the speech, by and large, support the president already.
From the January 31 edition of ABC News' The Note, quoting Langer:
"Partisans watch these things; rather than torturing themselves, people who don't like the guy can just turn to another of their 100 channels. When we polled on the SOTU in 2003, we found that the president's approval rating among speech watchers was 70 percent, versus 47 percent among those who didn't watch. As we put it at the time: 'Simply put, people who don't like a particular president are considerably less apt to tune him in.'"
Langer further noted that, due to this built-in skew and the speech's typical content of mostly "poll-tested applause lines," ABC News "ha[s]n't done immediate post-SOTU reax [reaction] polls in years (pre-war 2003 was an exception) because ... they are so dreadfully predictable."
From ABC's January 31 post-State of the Union address coverage:
GIBSON: But it is a chance, as I mentioned earlier, for the president, really, to seize the initiative, to have the podium, to lay out his agenda. And I was interested to note that polls done in eight of the last 11 years after the State of the Union address, at least 75 percent of the people who responded said they approved of what they heard. So with the president's polls as low as they are, with the president reaching out and trying to find cooperation in Washington, maybe he will get a pretty good size boost in his polls from this speech.
Newsweek's Meacham attributed an "almost irrational hatred of George W. Bush" to Democratic "base," compared it to "hard right['s] ... irrational hatred of Bill Clinton"
Following MSNBC's January 31 coverage of the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address -- delivered by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) -- Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham referred to "the base" of the Democratic Party as "the people who have an almost irrational hatred of George W. Bush." After Kaine's speech, Hardball host Chris Matthews asked Meacham if Democrats are "afraid because of divisions within their own party over policy to make a clear statement" in opposition to Bush's Iraq policies. Meacham responded that "they're afraid because the people who get elected president, who are Democrats, are centrist governors." He added that "they have a very hard time ... keeping the left wing of their party happy, which is the base; and they're the very active people. They're the most vocal people. They're the people who have an almost irrational hatred of George W. Bush." Meacham equated this "almost irrational hatred" with "the way the hard right in the Republican Party had an irrational hatred of Bill Clinton." He added: "I mean some things never change."
From MSNBC's January 31 post-State of the Union coverage:
MATTHEWS: And here, the Democrats had a fellow come on tonight and say -- this is how strong he got -- "Are the president's policies the best way to win this war?" That's it. That was the criticism. Are they afraid to take on this president on his central, signature issue of the war in Iraq?
MEACHAM: Well, I hate to say it, but I do think that -- that response illuminates a good bit of the Democratic problem right now, which is that there is not been a powerfully articulated critique of this president. And there is a -- there's much to critique, obviously.
MATTHEWS: Are they afraid because of divisions within their own party over policy to make a clear statement?
MEACHAM: I think they're afraid because the people who get elected president, who are Democrats, are centrist governors. And I think that they have a very hard time playing to the -- keeping the left wing of their party happy, which is the base; and they're the very active people. They're the most vocal people. They're the people who have an almost irrational hatred of George W. Bush in the way the hard right in the Republican Party had an irrational hatred of Bill Clinton. I mean some things never change.
Immediately following President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, MSNBC host Chris Matthews praised the "strong statements" Bush made in defense of the administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and repeated without correction Bush's suggestion that, as Matthews phrased it, "we could have caught two of the Al Qaeda terrorists" involved on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "if we'd had access to this kind of surveillance ability." In fact, according to the 9-11 Commission, it was bureaucratic entanglements -- not a lack of intelligence -- that prevented law enforcement officials from capturing the two hijackers. Matthews also claimed the dispute over the surveillance program has been fought "between those Democratic and Republican aisles," even though a number of Republicans have criticized the program and called for congressional inquiries.
From MSNBC's coverage of the State of the Union address:
MATTHEWS: Well, that was an unapologetic defense of this administration's policies, a call to arms to continue those policies for the next three years. There is no lame duck in this president's speech. There's nothing but: "I'm gonna do what I've been doing, get used to it. Support me or fight me, but do it civilly." We saw the president tonight make a number of strong statements. One defending the war in Iraq, saying it's necessary to go after failed tyrannies, repressive states, because they're the states that harbor terrorists and attacked us on 9-11. He said much the same thing in defending the NSA [National Security Agency] surveillance program, which has been so controversial and fought over between those Democratic and Republican aisles now for weeks now. He said we could have caught two of the Al Qaeda terrorists, the hijackers of 9-11, itself, perhaps, if we'd had access to this kind of surveillance ability. He talked about them being on the telephone overseas to here in the United States as they prepared for the mass murder of 9-11 in 2001.
Bush, during his address, said:
BUSH: It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to Al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives and affiliates to and from America.
As Media Matters for America has noted, the September 11 Commission's report and congressional investigators have contradicted claims that 9-11 may have been prevented had the domestic surveillance program been in place prior to the attacks. Investigators have noted that the government had information on Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, the two hijackers to whom Bush apparently referred, more than a year before the attacks occurred, but miscues by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the months prior to the attacks prevented any action being taken against Alhazmi and Almihdhar. Further, as The Washington Post noted in a January 5 article, the NSA intercepted on September 10, 2001, two messages warning of the attacks but did not translate them from Arabic until September 12.
The January 5 Washington Post article laid out the various holes in this argument after Vice President Dick Cheney proffered it in defense of the surveillance program:
Even without the warrantless domestic spying program, however, the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies had important clues about the Sept. 11 plot and the hijackers before the attacks, according to media reports and findings by Congress and the commission.
For example, the NSA intercepted two electronic messages on Sept. 10, 2001, that warned of the attacks -- but the agency failed to translate them until Sept. 12. The Arabic-language messages said "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour," intelligence officials said.
U.S. intelligence sources have said that NSA analysts were unsure who was speaking on the intercepts but that they were considered a high enough priority for translation within two days.
Cheney's apparent reference to Alhazmi and Almihdhar is also incomplete, leaving out the fact that several government agencies had compiled significant information about the duo but had bungled efforts to track them.
According to the Sept. 11 commission's report, released in 2004, the NSA first identified Alhazmi and Almihdhar in December 1999, passing the information to the CIA but conducting no further research.
In 2000, the CIA failed to place Alhazmi and Almihdhar on a watch list despite their ties to a terrorist summit in Malaysia. The CIA also mishandled efforts to follow them after the summit and failed to share information about them with the FBI, including the crucial fact that both men had U.S. visas, the commission found.
By late August 2001, the FBI finally had information that Almihdhar had recently entered the United States. But the search for the suspected al Qaeda operative was treated as routine and assigned to a rookie agent, according to the commission report.
Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads Rand Corp.'s Washington office, said it is unclear what communications could have been intercepted if the FBI and other agencies did not know where Alhazmi and Almihdhar were.
Hoffman also said Cheney's comments ignore the breadth of the government failures before the attacks, which were due to structural problems rather than a single missed lead.
"It's not that legislation was lacking; it was a systemic failure," he said.
Furthermore, Matthews's claim that the debate over the program's legality is a partisan issue ignored the fact that Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and John E. Sununu (R-NH) have called for hearings about the program. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) agreed to hold hearings and said he was "skeptical" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's claims of the program's legality. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Larry Craig (R-ID), and Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-ID) have also expressed their concerns over the program, as Media Matters noted.
CNN's Zahn: "[Y]ou've got a lot of people out there saying ... if you vote for a Democrat, that basically you want to be bombed"
During CNN's live coverage preceding President Bush's January 31 State of the Union address, co-host Paula Zahn claimed "a lot of people out there" are saying that "if you vote for a Democrat, that basically you want to be bombed." Zahn also purported to identify a "perception" that Democrats are "reactive, not proactive, that they have no agenda of their own, and ... that basically the only thing they're good at is blasting the president."
From Zahn's exchange with Democratic strategist Paul Begala during a special edition of The Situation Room:
ZAHN: Paul, let's talk about some of the challenges Democrats have to challenge tonight. And one is the perception that they're reactive, not proactive, that they have no agenda of their own, and we heard it in a briefing today, that basically the only thing they're good at is blasting the president.
BEGALA: Well, I wish they were better at that. I'd be happy if that's all that they did. But -- well, they're getting better. I think they're doing a smart thing, though. [CNN congressional correspondent] Ed Henry just said that they had a whole week of what they call "pre-buttals," and I was talking to them up on the Hill, and they understand that they can't beat the president on the night of the State of the Union. They said "We're going to win the State of the Union before he ever gets up on the podium." So now they've had a week where they've said, "Here's our plan on energy independence, here's our plan on cleaning up corruption." And they know that the president will command the stage tonight. But I suspect after the speech, in addition to [Virginia Gov.] Tim Kaine doing his -- whatever he's going to say [in the Democratic response], they're going to go at the president's credibility. The new Washington Post poll says 53 percent of Americans say the president is not honest and trustworthy. OK, last midterm election, 71 [percent] said he was. Now, the majority of country doesn't think he tells the truth. That could be deadly.
ZAHN: But security is still going to be a huge issue in this country, and whether you like it or not, you've got a lot of people out there saying, if you're Republican, we're going to keep the country safe, you know, if you vote for a Democrat, that basically you want to be bombed.
Despite President Bush's approval ratings hovering in the low 40s and a January 29 ABC News/Washington Post poll showing a majority of the American people disapproving of his performance on nearly every major issue, ABC posted onscreen text reading "America's Agenda" beneath an image of Bush while anchor Elizabeth Vargas introduced ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos's preview of the 2006 State of the Union address on the January 31 edition of World News Tonight.
Attacking an economic proposal by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Rush Limbaugh, on the January 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, claimed the plan was intended to "rape" the United States. Limbaugh made the comment while discussing the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which took place from January 25 to 29 in Davos, Switzerland. The UNDP plan, which was unveiled at the international gathering, proposes new approaches to global problems that its authors claim would unlock some $7 trillion in wealth worldwide. The proposal is presented in The New Public Finance: Responding to Global Challenges (Oxford University Press, 2006), a book edited by Inge Kaul, special adviser to the UNDP's Office of Development Studies, and Pedro Conceição, acting director of the UNDP's Office of Development Studies.
While talking about the UNDP proposal, Limbaugh both quoted and paraphrased a January 30 article in The Independent, a London newspaper. According to Philip Thornton, The Independent's economic correspondent, the UNDP plan would "unlock" wealth through six economic schemes, including "[r]educing greenhouse gas emissions through pollution permit trading" and "cutting poor countries' borrowing costs by securing the debts against the income from stable parts of their economies." The article noted that the plan is contingent in part upon the United States changing its stance on the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that aims to reduce or limit net emissions of certain greenhouse gases. The United States, under the Clinton administration, signed the agreement, on which President Bush subsequently reneged. After asserting that "we don't have the same kinds of problems in this country that they're [forum attendees] all discussing and worried about in Davos," Limbaugh added: "When they [the UNDP offficials] say they wanna unlock $7 trillion of wealth; it means, 'How can we rape the U.S. for $7 trillion?' "
From the January 30 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: And, you know, the problems of the world created by that kind and those -- those variations of those forms of government, we don't have the same problems in this country that they're all discussing and worried about in Davos -- "It's tearing us up!" When they say they wanna unlock $7 trillion of wealth; it means, "How can we rape the U.S. for $7 trillion?"
This is a long story, and I'm not gonna -- I'm not gonna bore you with the whole thing. Let me just give you a couple of ideas that they propose. "The scheme, by the way, which is backed by the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was born out of a proposal by Gordon Brown through a larger scheme to double the total aid budget to $100 billion a year." Now, when it says here that this -- it's backed by the U.K., France, Italy, Spain -- that's -- it means it's backed by people from those countries who went to Davos.
"In an endorsement of the report, Mr. Brown said, 'This shows we can help equip people in countries for a new global economy that combines greater prosperity and fairness, both within and across nations.' " These guys think they can manage a global economy. They can't even manage an economy in a small, little, Podunk nation that's the total -- it -- most of its budget is the result of gifts, donations, contributions, aid, foreign aid, whatever you wanna call it. And these people now claim that they have the expertise to manage a global econ -- You don't manage an economy. You deregulate it and get outta the way, leaving no room for people like this to even have a job, which would be the best thing overall for most people in the world.
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