Our Weekday Hosts
Peter B. Collins
Active forum topics
Media Matters for America
Latest Media Matters for America items
Last update2 days 10 hours ago
February 14, 2006
CNN's Bash ignored earlier CNN reporting and said that Armstrong's story on Cheney shooting agreed with McClellan's
On the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN White House correspondent Dana Bash uncritically reported the White House's claim that Katharine Armstrong, the host of Vice President Dick Cheney's February 11 hunting party, went to the press to report Cheney's shooting accident only after conferring with Cheney, a claim that directly contradicted what CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux had reported earlier. During CNN's coverage of the White House's daily press briefing on February 13, Malveaux questioned White House press secretary Scott McClellan over what she said was Armstrong's assertion that "she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." Malveaux then asked, "How do you square that with your account that they were coordinating?" McClellan, in response, insisted that his version of events was correct and offered no explanation for the discrepancy. But Bash's report omitted the controversy entirely and, despite Malveaux's questions at the press briefing, asserted that McClellan's version -- that Cheney and Armstrong met and decided that she should speak to the press -- agreed with "what we [at CNN] heard and are still hearing from Katharine Armstrong" and with what "we are hearing from the vice president's office yesterday."
As Media Matters for America previously noted, at the February 13 press conference, Malveaux told McClellan that CNN had spoken to Armstrong, and that Armstrong "said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press."
Yet Bash failed to note the discrepancy between what Malveaux said Armstrong had said on the one hand -- that the vice president was unaware she was going to the press -- and the White House's claim -- that Armstrong conferred with the vice president before going to the press -- on the other. Malveaux, by contrast, did ask McClellan about the discrepancy.
From CNN's coverage of the February 13 White House press briefing:
McCLELLAN: Suzanne, go ahead.
MALVEAUX: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening [February 12]. She said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the vice president's office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account that they were coordinating?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.
MALVEAUX: So, you're saying that she is lying? That her -- that her statement is not correct?
McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.
MALVEAUX: Well, we did check with her. So, you're saying that's not correct?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.
From the February 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: The White House press secretary Scott McClellan was pummeled with questions today about how and when details of the shooting were made public. Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dana Bash. She has details. Dana?
BASH: Hi, Wolf. Well, I was here when the news broke, and I can tell you this was a controversial issue from the start. Exactly how the information got out and why it took about 24 hours for that to happen. Now, essentially what happened here at the White House, today, is what you described. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did -- pummeled is a good word -- got pummeled with those questions today, and his answers were very much in line with what we are hearing from the vice president's office yesterday, and also what we heard and are still hearing from Katharine Armstrong. She is the private citizen of the owners -- one of the owners of the ranch that Mr. Cheney was shooting at, and also was the person that was in charge of getting this information out. That was agreed to by the vice president and Mrs. Armstrong on Sunday morning. The big question, one of many questions is, why didn't this information get out to the public on Saturday night? The answer that they're giving now is simply that they didn't talk about it. Their focus was on getting Mr. Harry Whittington, the man who Mr. Cheney shot with a bird shot from about 30 yards away, getting him medical treatment. But I can tell you, Wolf, that today, if you watch the White House briefing, which is very contentious, carefully, you heard Mr. McClellan, Scott McClellan, make it clear that he would have handled this differently.
McCLELLAN [clip]: I did not know who was involved in that hunting accident. It wasn't until very early Sunday morning that I found out that the vice president was involved in this accident, and of course, in a position like mine, I was urging that that information be made available as quickly as possible, and the vice president's office was working to get that information out.
BASH: Now, we also have a little bit more information, Wolf, about how the president and his staff were informed. It was actually Andy Card, the president's chief of staff, that first got word, and he initially, just as you heard Scott McClellan say, just heard that there was a hunting accident -- not exactly what happened -- that Mr. Cheney actually shot a man accidentally. That information was not confirmed to the president until about 8:00 on Saturday night; and again, that information not getting out to the public until Sunday morning. Along the lines of what Scott McClellan was saying, he was asked whether they've learned any lessons, and he did make clear, make a point to say that when the president was in an accident, for example, in Scotland last year, they told the press. They had a traveling press corps with them -- it was a little bit different -- but they told them right away to try to get the information out. I talked earlier today with Alan Simpson, who is a long-time friend of Dick Cheney, and he put it this way. He said: "He's always been tight-lipped with the media. He's never been expansive with the media." He says they didn't like it 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and they don't like it today. Wolf.
BLITZER: Dana Bash at the White House. Thanks very much.
American Family Association opened its airwaves to advocate for executing gays, adulterers, abortion doctors
Far-right Christian author and American Vision president Gary DeMar was the guest on the February 2 broadcast of Today's Issues, a program of American Family Radio, a network of nearly 200 radio stations owned by the conservative American Family Association (AFA). DeMar denounced "the continual assault on all things religion and, in particular, Christian," and AFA president Tim Wildmon praised him as "one of the best writers out there in the Christian community and thinkers." In the past, DeMar has advocated the installation of a theocratic government in the United States in which homosexuals, adulterers, and abortion doctors would be executed.
Wildmon invited to DeMar to discuss "the assault on God in our popular culture." DeMar responded by criticizing two television shows on NBC with allegedly "anti-Christian" themes:
DeMAR: Well, of course, as you know, on television we saw the -- what is it The Book of Daniel that was on there? And I understand that there's gonna be something on Will & Grace. I've never seen Will & Grace, but I guess Britney Spears is gonna be on there, and she's doing some cooking show called "Cruci-fixins."
WILDMON: Yeah, that's right, Gary. Of course, The Book of Daniel is an NBC television program, extremely sacrilegious and anti-Christian, and now NBC has announced that an episode of Will & Grace over in April, I think, will feature Britney Spears the pop star --
DeMAR: I think it's pretty much around Good Friday.
WILDMON: Yeah, the day before Good Friday. And she's supposed to play the part of a conservative Christian. Of course, that's the show featuring a homosexual character. And the name of her show is gonna be "Cruci-fixin's," if you can believe how sacrilegious a network can be. "Cruci-fixin's." It's supposed -- you're supposed to laugh at that because it's a play on the word "crucifixion" obviously.
DeMAR: Right. And of course, we've seen with [the film] Brokeback Mountain and so forth, just this continual assault on things religious and, most specifically, Christian. I know the ADL [Jewish advocacy group, the Anti-Defamation League] has come out against, you know, prayers that mention Jesus' name in a city -- in Florida, and I know here just in Marietta [Georgia], they've done the same with, you know, no mention of any specific god in these prayers. I mean, I don't know who in the world they're praying to. And there's a video out that's making the rounds on the Internet: The God Who Wasn't There. So there's just a daily assault on everything mostly related to Christianity across the board, and Christians need to be prepared for these assaults, especially with their children as they go off to school and, of course, to college, and as they get further and further away from the home. We as Christians need to be vigilant in answering these rather ridiculous objections to the things of Christ.
NBC canceled The Book of Daniel January 25 after four episodes aired; AFA founder and chairman Donald E. Wildmon said, "This shows the average American that he doesn't have to simply sit back and take the trash being offered on TV, but he can get involved and fight back with his pocketbook." NBC claimed that the purported Will & Grace storyline of Spears serving as a Christian conservative hosting a cooking show called "Cruci-fixin's" came from "a press release mistakenly issued by the network," and that "neither a script nor story line for the episode in question has been written." The God Who Wasn't There is a film that, according to a Newsweek article, "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed."
Later in the broadcast, co-host Jeff Shambley told DeMar, "I should mention that I personally appreciate your work. The three-work set God and Government [American Vision, 1990] and Reformation to Colonization [American Vision, 1997] is used in our home school. And I know your work has blessed millions of people."
Tim Wildmon echoed Shambley's praise of DeMar, declaring, "Well, one of the best writers out there in the Christian community and thinkers is Gary DeMar."
DeMar is a leading promoter of an extremist theology called Christian Reconstructionism, also known as Theocratic Dominionism, which, according to journalist and author Frederick Clarkson, "argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life -- such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely 'social' or 'moral' issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion."
In his essay, "Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence," Clarkson stated that under a Christian Reconstructionist government, "[w]omen would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality."
As Americans United for Separation of Church and State documented, DeMar wrote in his book, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Principles for Government (Dominion Press, 1987): "The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality back into the closet." DeMar added: "The long term goal [is] the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty."
DeMar further articulated his views during an exchange on an Atlanta radio show in 1991 with liberal Christian activist Skipp Porteous and host Paul Gonzalez:
DeMAR: The definition of Christian Reconstruction is simply this: The Bible applies to every facet of life. That means not just the judicial aspects of life, such as civil government, church government, but business, economics -- every facet of society. The Bible has something to say about each area. For example, on homosexuals: We do not believe that homosexuals ought to be executed. The Bible doesn't say that homosexuals ought to be executed. What it says is this: If two men lie together like man and woman, they are to be put to death.
PORTEOUS: What the hell do you think that is?
DeMAR: Well, wait a minute. If a guy comes up to me and he says, "I'm a homosexual," that doesn't mean he's to be executed. If you understand the Scriptures, it says very clearly: If a man comes up to you and says, "I've murdered somebody," that doesn't mean that person ought to be executed.
GONZALES: Oh, so what you are saying, Gary, is, if you catch homosexuals in the act, then the Bible says to execute them.
DeMAR: The Bible lays forth the severest penalty, which would be capital punishment for two men who publicly engage in sodomy.
DeMar continued by stating his nominal support for the death penalty for adulterers and abortion doctors:
GONZALES: If, indeed, the Reconstructionist movement ever made it in America, would you advocate these biblical principles being carried out: the execution of the adulterer, the abortionist, and the homosexual?
DeMAR: I'm saying that they could be implemented, yes.
In September 2005, DeMar spoke at a symposium at The Chalcedon Foundation, a Reconstructionist think tank. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) called the symposium "a preview of a planned speaking tour of Reconstructionism's leading voices ... that will be traveling to non-Reconstructionist fundamentalist Christian churches around the country beginning this winter as part of the Chalcedon Foundation's missionary effort to 'convert' already conservative congregations to full-blown Reconstructionism."
DeMar's Marietta, Georgia-based think-tank and advocacy group, American Vision, which the SPLC lists as a hate group, claims to be "Equipping and Empowering Christians to Restore America's Biblical Foundation." In 2001, President Bush was expected to re-nominate former American Vision board member and longtime anti-union activist J. Robert Brame III to the National Labor Relations Board; Brame was forced to withdraw from consideration after media reports documented American Vision's advocacy of a right-wing Christian Reconstructionist theocracy.
On February 11, CNN became the most recent news outlet -- following Fox News, The Washington Times editorial page, and the Associated Press -- to adopt the White House's terminology for its warrantless domestic surveillance program. In a report on CNN Live Saturday, correspondent Brian Todd referred to it as the "terrorist surveillance program" without noting that the term is one promoted by the Bush administration to cast the program in a way most likely to secure the public's support.
Further, in a February 13 article, the AP again used the term without qualification; and in his February 10 column, Washington Times columnist Greg Pierce referred to the "government's 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. He said of the NSA's activities, "It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program." The White House's first use of the term, however, came on January 22 when its press office released a backgrounder on the NSA program, in which the label appeared 10 times in reference to the domestic eavesdropping. The term appears to have originated on December 22 with the right-wing news website NewsMax.com, as Media Matters for America has noted.
On the February 11 edition of CNN Live Saturday, Todd used the term as he wrapped up a report on a recent lawsuit filed by intelligence expert James Bamford in an effort to halt the NSA's unwarranted eavesdropping:
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a current NSA spokesman said the terrorist surveillance program is highly classified and discussing it would compromise its effectiveness. He also would not comment on James Bamford's litigation. We also contacted the major telecom companies to ask them about their level of cooperation with the NSA. Neither AT&T, Sprint, nor Verizon would comment.
In previous instances when CNN reporters have used the term "terrorist surveillance program," they have indicated to viewers that it is a label promoted by the administration. For example, on the February 6 edition of CNN's American Morning, national security correspondent David Ensor referred to the "domestic surveillance program, which the administration calls the terrorist surveillance program." On the January 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, White House correspondent Dana Bash noted the new "label that the White House is using for this program, calling it the terrorist surveillance program." On the January 24 edition of The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer even remarked that the new term represented "smart strategy":
BLITZER: It's no longer domestic spying, warrantless surveillance. Its official new name is the terrorist surveillance program. Pretty smart strategy. Who could oppose a terrorist surveillance program?
From AP staff writer Jeff Douglas's February 13 article, "Bond: Attention is hurting surveillance effort":
The terrorist surveillance program could be destroyed if investigations and discussion by the media continue, Sen. Kit Bond said Monday.
The Missouri Republican and Senate Intelligence Committee member said he felt it was time to speak out before more details of the National Security Agency's program are released, potentially compromising it.
From Pierce's February 10 "Inside Politics" column:
President Bush's campaign to convince Americans that the government's terrorist surveillance program is essential to national security has had an effect: Last month, people disapproved, 56 percent to 42 percent. Now it's basically tied.
CNN's Jonathan Klein: Bennett "had explained himself very clearly and well" on controversial remarks
In a February 13 New York Times article on Jonathan Klein's "small victories" since becoming president of CNN's domestic operations 14 months ago, Klein asserted that recent CNN hire Bill Bennett -- who is also a radio host and former Reagan administration secretary of education -- "had explained himself clearly and very well" regarding his September 2005 comments, in which Bennett said that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." As Media Matters for America has noted, on the January 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room -- his first appearance since being hired by CNN -- Bennett defended himself by falsely claiming that the topic "was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."
As quoted in the Times article, Klein also described Bennett as "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."
The controversy began on September 28, 2005, when Bennett told a caller on his radio show that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett added it "would be ... a morally reprehensible thing to do," but nonetheless insisted "your crime would go down." In the initial defense of his remarks, Bennett claimed that his comments were taken out of context and that they were based on a 1999 Slate.com online discussion between Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer. Media Matters reported that, at the time, in the Slate discussion that Bennett cited, Levitt had actually said the opposite of what Bennett claimed: "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable." In addition, Levitt specifically rebutted Bennett's claim that his remarks stemmed from Levitt's work. In a September 30, 2005, response, Levitt said: "Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that [co-author Stephen J.] Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics."
During the January 26 appearance, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer asked Bennett about his controversial comment. Bennett reiterated the same defense; though speaking more generally, he said that "this [controversial scenario on race, crime, and abortion] was a hypothetical, obviously, that was a matter that had been under discussion in articles and newspapers and in some discussions of books."
From the February 13 article in The New York Times:
Among the reasons some CNN staff members had puzzled over the hiring of Mr. Bennett were his incendiary comments, on his radio show last fall, that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Mr. Bennett had also characterized such a proposal as "impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible." Mr. Klein said last week that Mr. Bennett, in responding to the controversy, "had explained himself very clearly and well," and was "a guy who has some very evolved thoughts and is not afraid to express them."
On February 13, MSNBC issued a correction of a falsehood previously documented by Media Matters for America. As Media Matters noted, on the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt falsely claimed that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In fact, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations (here and here) shows that the lobbyist made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.
During the 3:00 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC's February 13 Post-Olympics Show, anchor Amy Robach stated:
ROBACH: We want to correct some information we broadcast in a story on Friday concerning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. We stated that Senator Reid has collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff over a period of nearly three years. Now, we should have said that, according to The Washington Post, the money in question came from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners, and clients -- not from Abramoff directly. MSNBC regrets that error.
On CBS, NY Times' Bumiller repeatedly questioned Dean about GOP depiction of Sen. Clinton as "angry"
On the February 12 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller repeatedly pressed Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean to respond to Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman's recent description of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as "angry." While Dean refused to comment directly on this characterization, he indicated that he agreed with Clinton's recent public criticisms of the Bush administration, to which Mehlman had responded by accusing Clinton of having "a lot of anger." But following this answer, Bumiller again asked Dean about the RNC chairman's comments, saying, "Let me just try to get you to talk about Mrs. Clinton." After he again refused to comment, she asked, "Do you think she's too angry? Do you agree with Mr. Mehlman?" Meanwhile, others in the media have said in recent days that the Clinton remarks Mehlman cited were, in the words of Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, not "particularly angry or outside the box" and that Mehlman's comments represent what Klein agreed was a "purposeful gender attack."
On the January 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Mehlman said that Clinton "seems to have a lot of anger" and claimed that this trait might prevent her from being elected to the White House if she were to run for president in 2008. According to a February 6 Associated Press article:
Mehlman cited the New York senator's remarks on Martin Luther King Day in which she called the Bush administration "one of the worst" in history and compared the Republican-controlled House to a plantation where opposing voices are silenced.
"I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates. And whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger," Mehlman told ABC's "This Week."
Bumiller joined host Bob Schieffer in questioning Dean on the February 12 edition of Face the Nation. At no point in the interview did she air or quote the Clinton remarks cited by Mehlman during his This Week appearance:
BUMILLER: Mr. Dean, let me ask you about Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican Party, said last week that Hillary Clinton was angry and -- too angry, and that Americans will not elect an angry candidate. What do you say to that?
DEAN: Well, first of all, I generally don't talk about 2008 because I have to be the referee in that race, and if I say anything about one of them, I've got to say something --
BUMILLER: Wait, we're just talking about what Mr. Mehlman said. We're not talking --
DEAN: I'm going to get to that in a minute.
DEAN: So I'm going to leave the question of Senator Clinton's remarks aside. If I recall, Senator Clinton said something to the effect that this was the worst presidency we've seen. Now, the facts are that they've bungled the response to Katrina, and they -- and there's more evidence now the president misled the nation about that as well, because this week we see evidence that, in fact, as he told the American people, he -- the opposite of what he told the American people -- he did, in fact, know how bad it was because the White House was told the night before. He misled the American people about Iraq.
BUMILLER: But let me just --
DEAN: He misled the American people about the cost of the drug benefits for seniors and made a mess of that --
BUMILLER: Let me -- -- let me just --
DEAN: What has this president done right?
BUMILLER: -- try to get you to talk about Mrs. Clinton. What -- how do you react to --
DEAN: Well, I'm not going to talk about Senator Clinton. She's running for re-election in --
BUMILLER: Do you think she's too angry? Do you agree with Mr. Mehlman?
DEAN: She -- I said I'm not going to talk about the 2008 race. What I do agree is that Senator Clinton has said a number of things about the president which are true and which Mr. Mehlman finds inconvenient because the president's list of accomplishments is incredibly short.
That same morning, on the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews aired Mehlman's comments on This Week, as well as some examples of Clinton's recent criticisms of the Bush administration, and asked a panel of journalists to comment on the story. None of them endorsed the RNC chair's characterization as legitimate. Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker drew a parallel between Mehlman's description of Clinton and the earlier characterizations of her as First Lady:
MATTHEWS: But Cynthia, the question on the table now: Have the Republicans tried or succeeded at putting her in a box?
TUCKER: Not yet, but they're certainly going to continue this strategy. You know, Chris, I remember when she was first lady, she was caricatured as being cold, distant and aloof. Now, all of a sudden, she's got an anger management problem. But this would be the difficulty that any woman who ran for president would find. If you're a woman, if you're tough, if you're strong, if you're ever angry, you get caricatured as being -- rhymes with itchy.
Klein agreed that Mehlman's comments represented a "purposeful gender attack" on Clinton. Moreover, he said that her recent criticisms of Bush were not "particularly angry or outside the box":
MATTHEWS: Is this a -- I get the point. Is this a purposeful gender attack on her --
TUCKER: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely.
MATTHEWS: -- that you wouldn't do against a man. OK, Joe -- Joe?
KLEIN: Oh, sure. First of all, none of the things she said were either particularly angry or outside the box. [Former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich [R-GA] used to talk about the liberal plantation in Congress all the time.
MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell compared Mehlman's treatment of Clinton with the Republican's attacks on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during the 2000 presidential primaries and on Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during the 2004 presidential campaign:
O'DONNELL: Are the Republicans trying to exploit and make this image early on that she's angry? Absolutely. That's part of the strategy. The Democrats say, "Not going to be as easy as what you did with John Kerry, because most people already have an opinion of Senator Hillary Clinton." They've already formed that opinion. However, this is not new. The Republicans did this with John McCain in South Carolina -- the Bushes did this. They said -- there was this silent campaign that went around. Remember, "He's got a temper, you know. Is this really the guy you want?" Kerry, he was the flip-flopper. He's the guy on the, you know, on the --
MATTHEWS: Norah, who do you know who doesn't have a temper? I keep trying to find this person. I have one --
KLEIN: You know, there's a simple answer --
O'DONNELL: But this is so important. This is so important because electing presidents is about their policy. But a lot of it, people have said, is about personality. And the Bushes have made a strategy out of making it a lot about personality to obscure some of the policies.
Further, on the same program in which New York Times columnist David Brooks said that the Democratic Party has "the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline," Brooks also said that Clinton's remarks were "objectively not angry":
BROOKS: But there is one other issue with Hillary. To me, her problem is not anger. I agree with Joe that what she said is objectively not angry. It's trust.
In a February 13 New York Times article, reporter Neil A. Lewis noted that Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), appearing on the February 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, criticized the Bush administration for allegedly authorizing the leaking of classified information. Lewis failed to note, however, that Sen. George Allen (R-VA) also criticized the administration's leaking of classified information on the same program -- indeed, during the same segment.
Lewis's article dealt with the February 9 revelation from special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- currently under indictment for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements related to Fitzgerald's investigation into the 2003 leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity -- testified that his superiors authorized him to leak classified information to the press to bolster support for the Iraq war.
In his article, Lewis noted:
The disclosure of portions of the intelligence estimate before it was declassified -- even if it did not deal with Ms. Wilson [Plame] -- produced other criticism. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, described more precisely than did Mr. Dean the nature of last week's news reports in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"I think it's inappropriate. I think it's wrong," Mr. Reed said. He added that the disclosure of the intelligence report should be part of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation.
Lewis failed to report, however, that immediately after Reed made these comments, Allen joined in criticizing the leaks. From the February 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (host): Well, there doesn't seem to be any legal issue here. The issue seems to be more of kind of a political issue as to how you feel about the possibility that the vice president, because he would seem to be the obvious superior who was authorizing Scooter Libby, was telling him to release information which, as far as we know, was at that point still classified.
ALLEN: I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch, or some underling in some bureaucracy.
Word first spread that Vice President Dick Cheney had accidentally shot one of his hunting partners on February 12, nearly 24 hours after the incident occurred, when Katharine Armstrong -- the host of Cheney's hunting party -- passed the story on to her local newspaper, Texas' Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In a February 13 article, National Review White House correspondent Byron York wrote that Armstrong "said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper." But when a spokeswoman for Cheney responded to the article by saying that, in fact, Armstrong and Cheney discussed specifically how the news would be disclosed to the public, York printed the White House response as an "author's note" at the bottom of the article, with no explanation for the discrepancy in Armstrong's and Cheney's reported accounts.
From York's article on National Review Online:
Katharine Armstrong said she did not coordinate with the vice president's office before calling the Corpus Christi paper. If Armstrong had not made the call, it is not clear when, if ever, the vice president's office would have told the public about the incident. Asked what would have happened if the accident had happened another way -- if, for example, [Harry] Whittington [the Texas attorney that Cheney shot] had accidentally shot the vice president -- the administration source told NRO that it would have been handled in a similar fashion. "The priorities would have remained the same -- first medical care, then law enforcement alert," the source said. Still, in the case of Saturday's shooting, those matters were taken care of on Saturday, and the press was still not notified until after Katharine Armstrong made the decision to call her local paper.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After this story appeared, Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride called NRO to say that Cheney and Katharine Armstrong did discuss telling the public about the incident. "The vice president was on the Armstrong ranch, and they were talking directly," McBride said. "The vice president and Mrs. Armstrong agreed that the media should be notified, and Mrs. Armstrong called her local paper."
The "author's note" raises the question of how the discrepancy occurred, which York gave no indication of trying to answer. There are at least three possibilities: (1) York misrepresented what Armstrong told him; (2) Armstrong did not tell the truth; or (3) the White House did not tell the truth.
York's description of Armstrong's account was similar to a report by CNN. During coverage of a February 13 White House press briefing, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux noted that Armstrong "told CNN that she did not believe that the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press." But Malveaux pressed White House press secretary Scott McClellan to explain the discrepancy between Armstrong's account and the Bush administration's line:
MALVEAUX: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening [February 12] and she said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press. She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account, that --
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.
MALVEAUX: Are you saying that she's lying? That her --
McCLELLAN: No. You ought to check with her.
MALVEAUX: We did check with her. So you're saying that's not correct?
McCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.
On the February 12 edition of ABC's This Week, Washington Post columnist George F. Will called President Bush's controversial warrantless domestic spying program "a winner politically" because "[t]here's no question the country says, 'You're listening in? We don't care.'" However, polling shows that, depending on the wording of the poll question, a strong minority of the public or even a majority opposes the program.
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken February 7-8 with a margin of error of +/-3 percent found that 54 percent think the president should "have the power" to "monitor electronic communications of suspected terrorists" without a warrant even if one end of the call is in the United States, while only 40 percent say the president should not have that power. But when the polls don't ask about presidential powers and instead focus on this specific program, the results are mixed. A February 6-8 Associated Press/Ipsos poll with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent found that a 50-percent majority think the president should "be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and Internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists." Similarly, a January 26-29 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percent shows that while 51 percent approve of the administration's "approach" to wiretaps, 53 percent said that the administration should nonetheless be required to obtain a court order to conduct such electronic surveillance.
From the February 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (host): OK, but then let me ask just one more question on this since you raised it. If you -- if you are right about the substance of this -- and clearly, now that we've been talking about the program for two months, if the terrorists didn't know beforehand, they certainly know now that they're gonna be monitored -- do you believe the administration will just hold the line all year long, even against these other Republicans, in order to have the issue?
WILL: Yes, for two reasons. Obduracy is their political philosophy. They simply are not going to give an inch on anything. It may be a weak person's idea of strength, but it's their idea. Second, it's a winner politically.
DAVID GERGEN (former presidential adviser): Exactly.
WILL: There's no question the country says, "You're listening in? We don't care."
During Fox News' coverage of a February 13 White House press conference in which press secretary Scott McClellan was repeatedly asked about the administration's initial failure to inform the public of the incident in which Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot one of his hunting partners, Fox News political analyst and Washington Times White House correspondent Bill Sammon called the issue "a little bit of a tempest in a teapot." Sammon also remarked that "the press smells a little blood in the water."
From the February 13 edition of Fox News Live:
BILL HEMMER (anchor): But the rub from the White House press corps seems to be, "Why did you allow a local reporter and a local newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas, to inform the country of this news [the hunting accident] as opposed to having it come from the White House or the Vice President's Office?" Nina Easton is still with me, and so, too, is Bill Sammon. Is Scott McClellan explaining this, Bill, or are they digging a deeper hole?
SAMMON: Well, we're witnessing what we call over here at the White House press corps a feeding frenzy. We treat ourselves to one of these every month or so. I think it's a little bit of a tempest in a teapot. However, having said that, I do think that the White House is trying to have it both ways. In other words, they're saying, "Look, it wasn't a really serious accident, the guy had a couple things of bird shot in him and, you know, this happens all the time in Texas." On the other hand, they're saying, "Well, we had to devote so much time to his medical treatment that it took us 20 hours to make it public." And you can't have it both ways. And you know, the bottom line is this was probably a dumb call. You pick up the phone. You say, "Look, let's get a statement out, let's get this behind us," and you avoid the kind of feeding frenzy we're seeing here today. And so, yeah, I think the press is -- smells a little blood in the water.
Two days after an Associated Press report ignored crucial details that undermine a purported link between Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a February 11 AP follow-up article misrepresented new evidence, which the AP suggested provides further confirmation of such a link but, in fact, casts additional doubt on whether such a link exists. This new evidence was a statement released by Ronald Platt, the Abramoff aide whose meetings with Reid provided the basis for the AP's original story.
As Media Matters for America has documented, a February 9 AP article suggested that Reid coordinated with Abramoff to sabotage proposed legislation that would have raised the national minimum wage -- which included a provision addressing the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory represented by Abramoff -- without mentioning that Reid was a co-sponsor of that legislation and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of its passage. In response to the AP report, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall contacted Platt, the Abramoff aide with whom Reid met to discuss the minimum wage bill, about whether Reid had taken any action against the bill following their meeting. Platt responded, "I'm sure he didn't." Platt also said that the AP never contacted him for the article, despite identifying him as the Abramoff aide who met with Reid about the minimum wage bill and subsequently donated $1,000 to Reid's re-election campaign. The February 11 AP article responded: "The AP contacted Platt's new lobbying firm in late December  seeking to interview him about the billing records and was referred to Greenberg Traurig," the firm for which Platt and Abramoff worked at the time of Platt's meetings with Reid.
Platt sent a similar account of his interactions with Reid to the AP via an emailed statement (which is apparently reprinted here) that resulted in the AP's February 11 follow-up article. But not only did the February 11 article again ignore that Reid apparently never took the position that would have benefited Abramoff's clients, it continued to push the supposed Abramoff-Reid link by focusing on Platt's statement as confirmation that he had met with Reid. The headline AP put on the article read: "Lobbyist Confirms Talks With Reid's Office."
The February 11 article did note that "Platt sought to minimize the extent of his lobbying of Reid's office on behalf of Abramoff." But even then, the AP began by suggesting that Platt believes the billing records of his meetings with Reid -- and not the February 9 AP article that sought to read into those records -- overstated Platt's efforts to lobby Reid on the minimum wage bill:
One of Jack Abramoff's ex-colleagues [Platt] confirms he contacted Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's office on behalf of the influential lobbyist but says he does not believe Abramoff's billing records accurately reflect the extent of his work.
In fact, Platt wrote in his press release that the billing records reported by the AP were "fraudulent," and that in any event, the AP article "distorts the context of my 'contacts,' with Senator Reid's staff":
This statement responds to the article dated, February 9, 2006, by John Solomon of the AP attempting to create a link between Jack Abramoff and Senator Harry Reid (D. Nev.).
The allegations and implications in Mr. Solomon's story are false, which he would have understood had he bothered to contact me prior to publication. Rather than discuss these issues with me, Mr. Solomon apparently relied on Jack Abramoff's billing records to his clients that have already been legally determined to be fraudulent. Though I do not have access to these bills, I believe that the references in the AP story to my time are inaccurate.
Moreover, Mr. Solomon's article distorts the context of my "contacts," with Senator Reid's staff. These contacts were incidental, insofar as I simply bumped into Reid staffers at Democratic Party functions or occurred [sic] incidental to discussions regarding my clients, not Abramoff's. Any contacts that I may have had in regards to Abramoff's tribal clients would have been similarly incidental. In addition, I have no recollection of ever discussing contributions or fundraising issues with Senator Reid, [Reid chief of staff] Susan McCue or [Reid's Senate counsel] Jim Ryan as implied by Mr. Solomon's story.
When Abramoff first arrived at Greenberg Traurig, I did a new colleague a favor by simply asking Reid staffers about when the minimum wage legislation affecting the Mariana Islands would be voted upon by the Senate. I communicated this to Abramoff. At no time, did I ever lobby or advocate on this issue or for this Abramoff client. The reason for this is quite simple. Senator Reid, throughout his public career, has been a strong advocate of a fair and decent minimum wage for all Americans. I was fully aware of his strong support for and sponsorship of Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy's (D-MA) bill to ensure that the Marianas Islands would not be exempted from the minimum wage laws applicable to all other American citizens. Therefore, at no time did I ever discuss the substance of this issue with Senator Reid or his office. Nor did I ever ask that the bill be delayed. I only asked about the timing of when the bill would come to the Senate floor. This inquiry was routine.
Mr. Solomon's story also seems to cast suspicion on my contributions to Senator Reid's campaigns. Again, this is a gross distortion. I have been supporting and contributing to Harry Reid for over twenty years. My support and contributions are based solely on my belief that he is an exemplary public official whose values and ideals I share.
As Marshall summarized, the February 11 AP article "portray[ed] a blackeye for their original story as a further confirmation of their story":
After he spoke to me, Platt released a statement restating the gist of what he told me.
So what does the AP do with the information? They run a story with the lede that the Abramoff lobbyist confirms the meetings with Harry Reid. In other words, they portray a blackeye for their original story as a further confirmation of their story.
Now, yes, he did 'confirm' the meetings. But the fact that he had made contact with Reid's office was never seriously in dispute by anyone. They note that the lobbyist in question says the billing records overstate the nature of the work. Even this isn't quite accurate. It's more that he's saying the AP's characterization overstates the nature of the work. But let's set that aside, because whatever the nature of his lobbying was, it doesn't address the key issue.
Nowhere in the new article can the AP writers bring themselves to note that Reid never adopted Abramoff's clients' position on the issue. So whatever quids Abramoff's folks were offering up, Reid never gave them a quo. From start to finish he was the co-sponsor of the bill Abramoff's clients wanted to defeat.
That's key information -- arguably, the central piece of information in the whole case. But the AP keeps pressing their misleading narrative while omitting this key point.
During the February 12 edition of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews described a recent flap between Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), currently in his first term, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a fourth-term senator first elected in 1986, as "the new kid on the block versus Mr. Straight Talk." The latter was a reference to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign slogan, Straight Talk America, and his Straight Talk Express campaign bus. Matthews then described what he called "the big fight in Washington":
First, John McCain calls out freshman Senator Barack Obama as a double-crosser. Obama acts innocent, saying he's puzzled by McCain's assault. Washington is stunned at the sight of a real go-at-it in broad daylight. "You talking to me?" But the next day, it's all sweetness and light.
Matthews's verdict? "Well, the fight's over, but I give it to McCain."
The dispute apparently began when Obama released a February 2 letter addressed to McCain endorsing the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, lobbying reform legislation introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on January 18. In the letter, Obama said he hoped the bill could be the basis for a "bipartisan solution" to lobbying reform, explaining that he believed the Democratic plan to craft the legislation via the normal committee process would be preferable to McCain's plan for "creating a task force to further study and discuss" lobby reform. In his reply, McCain called Obama's letter "self-interested partisan posturing," claiming that Obama had been "disingenuous" in his earlier conversations with McCain.
As Media Matters for America has already noted, Matthews appeared to take McCain's side in the dustup earlier in the week when he interviewed the Arizona senator during the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Hardball. During the show, it was Matthews, not McCain, who referred to Obama as a "double-crosser," asking McCain, "Did he welsh on the deal? Did he double-cross you by going partisan after promising to go bipartisan with you, senator?" During that same segment, Matthews also praised McCain's letter as "brilliantly angry."
Since his correspondence with McCain began and ended, Obama has not appeared on either of Matthews's television programs.
From the February 12 edition of NBC's The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Before we go to break, however, the big fight in Washington, fortunately, this week, wasn't about East and West, it was the new kid on the block versus Mr. Straight Talk. First, John McCain calls out freshman Senator Barack Obama as a double-crosser. Obama acts innocent, saying he's puzzled by McCain's assault. Washington is stunned at the sight of a real go-at-it in broad daylight. "You talking to me?" But the next day, it's all sweetness and light. Well, the fight's over, but I give it to McCain.
During a discussion on how Republicans would "handle" a 2008 presidential bid by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), New York Times columnist David Brooks stated, "[T]he weakness of the Democratic Party, they've got the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline." Later in the conversation, after Brooks said, "It's true for both parties, you've got [the weblog] Daily Kos on the left, you've got Pat Dobson [sic] on the right," Matthews asked Brooks, "Which party has more nuts by your count?" Brooks responded, "Objectively, the Democratic Party." Brooks made his comments on the February 12 edition of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show, during a discussion that included host Chris Matthews and Time columnist Joe Klein.
From the February 12 edition of NBC's syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Shrill Hill? It's only 2006, and already Republicans are telegraphing their punch. How are they going to handle Hillary Clinton? We're seeing it.
BROOKS: Well I think whoever the Democratic candidate -- that is the weakness of the Democratic Party, they've got the blogs and the netroots, who are semi-nuts and who insist on a Stalinist line of discipline.
MATTHEWS: You know what -- I just love objectivity. But go ahead -- fair enough --
BROOKS: That is objectively true -- I did the psychoanalytic test.
KLEIN: As opposed to the gun advocates in, in, whoever --
BROOKS: Yeah, It's true for both parties: You've got Daily Kos on the left; you've got Pat Dobson [sic] on the right.
MATTHEWS: Which party has more nuts by your count?
BROOKS: Objectively, the Democratic Party.
Henninger baselessly asserted that public disclosure of spying program made it ineffective; news reports indicate it already was
In his February 10 column, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger baselessly asserted that the public disclosure of President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program had made it ineffective. Henninger wrote that the program "was going to work, and help lessen the chance of another atrocity in our America, only if it stayed secret" (italics in original). He added: "Now it is public, and its utility is about zero." Henninger's assertion accepts as fact two assumptions, one rebutted by news reports and the other highly dubious. First, the assertion presumes that the warrantless domestic spying program was effective prior to its exposure. News reports, however, indicate that even before its revelation by The New York Times in mid-December 2005, "nearly all" of the people whose calls were monitored under the National Security Agency (NSA) program were, in the words of a February 5 Washington Post article, later "dismissed ... as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat." Second, by stating that the program's public disclosure rendered it ineffective, Henninger is accepting the administration's suggestion that the program's disclosure tipped off terrorists to something they hadn't already suspected. A February 6 exchange between Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the surveillance program highlights the absurdity of that claim.
News articles suggest that the program has been ineffective. According to The Washington Post:
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.
Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.
In addition, a January 17 New York Times article reported that, according to "current and former [FBI] officials," "virtually all" of the tips provided by the NSA to the FBI "led to dead ends or innocent Americans."
An exchange between Biden and Gonzales at the Judiciary Committee hearing on the surveillance program demonstrates the dubiousness of Henninger's other assumption: that the program's disclosure was somehow news to terrorists. Biden told Gonzales that this argument "seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaeda folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls." Gonzales responded that while "it is true you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance," the program's disclosure still damaged its usefulness because, Gonzales said, "if [the terrorists are] not reminded about it all the time, in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget. ... [Y]ou're amazed at some of the communications that exist. And so, when you keep sticking it in their face that we're involved in some kind of surveillance, even if it's unclear in these stories, it can't help but make a difference." Biden responded that he hoped that was the case, because if the terrorists "[a]re that stupid and naive ... we're much better off if that's the case." Biden, however, stated that he "got the impression from the work I've done in this area that they are pretty darn sophisticated."
As Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observed in a December 20, 2005, Washington Times column, if public disclosure has rendered the program ineffective, why has Bush said that he will continue it?:
The president maintained that, "As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA's surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping?
From Henninger's February 10 Wall Street Journal column, titled "Can We Talk?":
At the Judiciary Committee hearings Monday, Sen. [Patrick] Leahy [D-VT] announced: "Mr. Attorney General, in America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States." Got it. But here's the bottom line on the surveillance program. It was going to work, and help lessen the chance of another atrocity in our America, only if it stayed secret. The odds of it staying secret would diminish as its existence spread through the Congress and judicial system. Now it is public, and its utility is about zero. What's left is the legal issue of whether it violated [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA. We can only look forward to the answer.
On the February 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, claimed that the issue of taxes helps Republicans politically. However, the most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, which was cited during the program's "Political Grapevine" segment and during its newscast, indicates that a plurality of voters believes that Democrats "would do a better job" on the issue of taxes.
During a debate on how terrorism has helped Republicans politically, Barnes said, "When the issue is taxes, [it] helps Republicans." But a February 7-8 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll (with a margin of error of +/-3 percent) found that 43 percent of voters believed that Democrats "would do a better job" on the issue of taxes, as opposed to 38 percent for Republicans. Guest host Chris Wallace and Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle both mentioned the poll on the show, although neither cited the question regarding taxes.
Other polls have yielded similar results. A February 1-5 Pew Research Center poll that asked which party would do a better job on the issue of taxes found that 46 percent picked Democrats, while 35 percent chose Republicans. The margin of error was +/-3 percent. And a January 22-25 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll with a +/-3-percent margin of error found that 43 percent of Americans said Democrats would do "a better job of handling taxes" than the president, while just 34 percent favored President Bush.
From the February 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: In the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, people were asked if the president should have the power to authorize electronic surveillance without warrants. Fifty-four percent said yes. Only 40 percent said no.
WALLACE: And now, some fresh pickings from the "Political Grapevine." A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll matching up potential candidates for the 2008 presidential election has Republicans coming out on top.
BARNES: Look, Republicans both think that the war on terror is the most important thing that the government has to do now, and they also realize it's helpful for them politically. I mean, it's always been, Chris. I mean, think of domestic issues. When the issue is taxes, helps Republicans. When the issue is health care, helps Democrats. Now when the issue is terror and the terrorist threat against America, it helps Republicans.
A February 10 Washington Post article by staff writer Jim VandeHei falsely characterized those who "argue that [President] Bush is breaking the law by spying on people in the United States without a warrant and without congressional or judicial oversight" as simply "some Democrats." In fact, many prominent Republicans -- including Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others -- have sharply disagreed with the administration's legal justifications for the warrantless domestic surveillance program and have criticized the administration for flouting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
In addition, a January 5 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that "the Administration's legal justification, as presented in the [December 22] summary analysis from the [Justice Department's] Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests."
Media Matters for America has previously documented Republicans and conservatives who have criticized or raised questions about the surveillance program, which is administered by the National Security Agency (NSA). Some more recent examples of Republicans and conservatives who have disagreed with or criticized the administration's legal justification for the program:
GRAHAM: Now, can I get to the FISA statute in two minutes here? And Mr. -- I hope we do have another round, because this is very important. I'm not here to accuse anyone of breaking the law; I want to create law that will help people fighting the war know what they can and can't do.
The FISA statute, if you look at the legislative language, they made a conscious decision back in 1978 to resolve this two-lane debate. There's two lanes you can go down as commander in chief. You can act with the Congress and you can have inherent authority as commander in chief. The FISA statute said basically this is the exclusive means to conduct foreign surveillance where American citizens are involved, and the Congress, seems to me, gave you a one- lane highway, not a two-lane highway. They took the inherent-authority argument, they thought about it, they debated it, and they passed a statute, if you look at the legislative language, saying this shall be the exclusive means. And it's different than 1401.
So I guess what I'm saying, Mr. Attorney General, if I buy our argument about FISA, I can't think of a reason you wouldn't have the ability, if you chose to, to set aside the statute on torture if you believed it impeded the war effort.
TIM RUSSERT (host): The administration says that they didn't need to, that they already had authority from Congress when, back in October 2002, Congress voted an authorization to go to war against Iraq, and this is part of that war.
SPECTER: I believe that contention is very strained and unrealistic. The authorization for the use of force doesn't say anything about electronic surveillance, issue was never raised with the Congress. And there is a specific statute on the books, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which says flatly that you can't undertake that kind of surveillance without a court order.
RUSSERT: When President Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act into law, he had a presidential signing statement, and in that signing statement he said this, quote, "It clarifies the executive's authority to gather foreign intelligence by electric surveillance in the United States," suggesting that any inherent powers in Article 2 of the Constitution, or other -- other legislation, that this, this FISA law, was central and now would be controlling. Do you agree with that?
SPECTER: Well, I think that it's a very powerful statement when the president -- Carter at the time -- signed it, and said that that was the way electronic surveillance ought to be conducted, and only with a warrant. And that was a presidential concession as to who had the authority. Congress exercised it by passing the law, and the President submitted to it.
Now, there is an involved question here, Tim, which we're going to get into in some depth, as to whether the president's powers under Article 2, his inherent powers, supercede a statute. If a statute is inconsistent with the Constitution, the Constitution governs and the constitutional powers predominate. But here you have the president signing on and saying this is it, and that's why I've been so skeptical of the program, because it is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but that's not the end of the discussion. There's a lot more to follow, and we won't be able to cover it all here this evening -- today, this morning, but we're going to have a hearing tomorrow and some more hearings after that because of the importance of this issue and because of its complexity and depth.
HAGEL: I don't believe from what I've heard -- but I'm going to give the administration an opportunity to explain it -- that he [President Bush] has the authority now to do what he's doing. Now, maybe he can convince me otherwise, but. that's OK, not yet. But that's OK. If he needs more authority, he just can't unilaterally decide that that 1978 law is out of date and he will be the guardian of America and he will violate that law. He needs to come back, work with us, work with the courts if he has to and we will do what we need to do to protect the civil liberties of this country and the national security of this country.
In sum, we remain as unpersuaded by the DOJ's 42-page attempt to find authority for the NSA spying program as we were of its initial five-page version. The DOJ's more extended discussion only reaffirms our initial conclusion [in a previous January 9 letter], because it makes clear that to find this program statutorily authorized would require rewriting not only clear and specific federal legislation, but major aspects of constitutional doctrine. Accordingly, we continue to believe that the administration has failed to offer any plausible legal justification for the NSA program.
As Stuart Benjamin, another law professor at Duke University, wrote on the weblog The Volokh Conspiracy, Bradley's signature on the letter appears to show that even proponents of expansive executive power believe the president has gone too far in the NSA case:
Second, and more obviously significant, is the fact that Curt Bradley, along with Jack Goldsmith, has written articles that have (to oversimplify matters greatly) articulated A) a broader vision of executive authority than most other academics would adopt, and B) a particularly broad construction of the September 18, 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force statute on which the Administration attempts to rely. Jack Goldsmith probably feels constrained from joining the debate (given that he was at OLC [Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel] for some of the period in question), but Bradley's joining of the letter criticizing the government's position seems quite significant. Bradley and Goldsmith considered the AUMF at great length and put forward a quite expansive interpretation of it. If Bradley nonetheless doesn't think that it provides a legal justification for the Administration's wiretapping, that tells us something -- and a good bit more than the fact that he's not on the political left.
Goldsmith, as a February 6 article in Newsweek noted, headed the OLC from October 2003 to around June 2004. The Newsweek article reported, "Within the executive branch, including the Pentagon and CIA, the OLC acts as a kind of mini Supreme Court. Its carefully worded opinions are regarded as binding precedent -- final say on what the president and all his agencies can and cannot legally do."
From the February 10 Washington Post article, titled "Cheney says NSA spying should be an election issue":
Its unclear whether the GOP strategy will work, however.
In a new Associated Press poll, about half of those surveyed favored the wiretap program. In the same poll last month, 56 percent opposed it. White House officials privately argue that President Bush's greatest political strength is the same one that helped Republicans in the last two elections: fighting terrorism.
In recent weeks, Bush has shifted his public focus away from Iraq and trained it on winning public support for the program. Some Democrats argue that Bush is breaking the law by spying on people in the United States without a warrant and without congressional or judicial oversight. Bush contends that the Constitution and the 2001 congressional war resolution give him the authority to take such steps to track down terrorism suspects.
"Some in Washington are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat and to back away from the business at hand," Cheney said. "That mind-set may be comforting, but it is dangerous."
CLIPS: Limbaugh sub host claimed Obama-McCain incident shows "how Democrats treat African-Americans" officeholders: "[T]hey get put back on the plantation"
Filling in for host Rush Limbaugh on the February 8 edition of the nationally syndicated The Rush Limbaugh Show, radio host and former San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock stated that the recent dispute between Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over what they had agreed on regarding a bipartisan approach to lobbying reform shows "how Democrats treat African-Americans who happen to be officeholders in their party." He then added: "[T]hey get put back on the plantation." During Hedgecock's conversation with a caller about the dispute, Hedgecock asserted that the incident involving an exchange of letters between Obama and McCain illustrated that Obama was getting "yanked back into line" by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). On January 18, Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) unveiled their lobby reform legislation, titled the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
The dispute reportedly began when Obama released a February 2 letter endorsing the Honest Leadership Act, which he said he hoped could be considered as the basis for a "bipartisan solution" that was preferable to McCain's call for "creating a task force to further study and discuss" lobby reform and said that he supported allowing the legislation to be shaped via the normal committee process (which is controlled by Republicans). In his reply, McCain called Obama's suggestions "self-interested partisan posturing," claiming that Obama had displayed "disingenuousness" in his earlier conversations with McCain. In his discussion about the exchange, Hedgecock, who also hosts his own radio show on San Diego's radio station KOGO, asserted that Obama's initial letter and subsequent correspondence with McCain about the reform was "at the instance [sic] of [Democratic leader] Harry Reid" and was "going back on his promise" to work with Republicans on the matter.
From the February 9 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
CALLER: Thank you, Roger. I was just curious about your comments earlier about the whole Obama-McCain situation. I was just wondering why you omitted Obama's retort letter to McCain, which basically said, "What the hell are you talking about?" in poli-speak, and also the fact that McCain and Obama have made amends on this whole altercation.
HEDGECOCK: Well, I don't know whether they made amends. I was looking at the -- Hardball, last night, and, I guess [host] Chris Matthews was going into this whole thing, and McCain said that he was moving on. I don't know whether that means they've made amends. Here's the crux of the thing: Obama, at the instance [sic] of Harry Reid, instead of going bipartisan with McCain's thing, wanted to come up and support the -- the Democrat proposal, which is a nine-member congressional ethics commission, which would have the authority to keep this in the front page of The New York Times until at least election day on the culture of corruption charges against Republicans only.
McCain said, "Look, this thing is broader than that; covers both parties; needs to be attacked on a systemic basis; and we've got to work on a bipartisan basis to do it." Obama had promised him he would do it. He went back on his promise, and as far as I'm concerned -- let's get back to the thrust of my comment. What this shows us is how Democrats treat African-Americans who happen to be officeholders in their party. They toe the party line. They get yanked back into line. They get, you know, they get put back on the plantation, [caller].
CALLER: I'd have to object to that, quite honestly. I mean, granted, Obama's a Democrat, and he's going to side more with the Democrat Party line than the Republican line. But, if you look at his voting record --
HEDGECOCK: No, in this case that's not what happened. No, no, no, no, no, no, [caller]. Don't mischaracterize it. What happened was, after promising to do a bipartisan effort on ethics, he was yanked back by Harry Reid to the purely partisan position -- Democrats only, we're going to define ethics. We're going to make it a campaign issue. And he yanked -- and he yanked himself back to that partisan position after promising a bipartisan approach with McCain. McCain called him on it, and that's the fact.
Milbank, Matthews falsely suggested that only Democrats and "poor Republicans like Bob Barr" question the legality of NSA program
On the February 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank agreed that on the issue of President Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program, the American public tends to "rally around" the argument that Bush is simply doing what is necessary to protect the country, rather than agree with the objections of Democrats and "poor Republicans like [former Rep.] Bob Barr [R-GA]" regarding the legality of the program. "[P]eople aren't making these fine distinctions," Milbank said. Matthews agreed, saying, "[P]eople would rather be protected in their bodies and souls, rather than potentially against a possible infringement of their civil liberties." But in depicting the debate over the controversial National Security Agency (NSA) program as clearly tilted in Bush's favor, Milbank and Matthews ignored both the results of a poll that they themselves cited showing Americans evenly divided on the issue and Milbank's own reporting, which has recently shown a significant level of concern about the program among prominent Republicans.
Milbank appeared on Hardball to discuss Bush's disclosure of an Al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles purportedly foiled by U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Answering questions about whether the NSA program helped prevent the L.A. plot, Milbank said, "[A]s a political matter, it doesn't matter."
From the February 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MILBANK: You know, when members of Congress -- if they were to put something out, it would be a leak of classified information. When the president does it, he's just declassifying it. So, it's something they felt they didn't need to do before. It's something they want to do to boost the -- his ratings on this -- the NSA surveillance program. Now, this wasn't necessarily related to that surveillance program.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me tell you something more. NBC is reporting that -- I've got a hot note on it -- that it -- not only is it not necessarily related, it's unrelated. That domestic spying had nothing to do with catching this plot in the action.
MILBANK: But, Chris, as a political matter, it doesn't matter. There was an [Associated Press] AP poll out today that showed the program is now supported by nearly half of the public, 48 percent, up from 42 percent earlier.
The fact is, people aren't making these fine distinctions; and whether it's the Democrats or whether it's some poor Republicans like Bob Barr at CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] today trying to make the case that, wait a second, think about the Constitution, the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA law, this and that. The president says, "Look, I'm protecting you," and people want to rally around that, and this helps regardless of whether it's related or not.
MATTHEWS: I think that's been pretty clear. I don't want to say I know the future but it's clear that people would rather be protected in their bodies and souls, rather than potentially against a possible infringement of their civil liberties.
The first call on you is to stay alive, and a lot of people would say these guys may go over the top once in a while, but I want to be protected by a tough guy, not by a civil libertarian. That hasn't changed. Remember how [former President] George [H.W.] Bush Sr. ran against [former Democratic presidential candidate] Mike Dukakis [in 1988] and said he was a card-carrying member of the [American Civil Liberties Union] ACLU. Everybody knew what that meant.
While the AP/Ipsos poll Milbank cited indeed showed an increase in the number of Americans who now believe the government should be able to monitor "phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists ... without a warrant" over the number of Americans who had a month earlier, it nonetheless found that public opinion appears evenly split on the issue: 48 percent approve of the program, while 50 percent disapprove. The data hardly warrant Matthews's and Milbank's claims that "people aren't making these fine distinctions" regarding the program's legality and that "people would rather be protected in their bodies and souls." In fact, half of the public is apparently concerned with those "distinctions."
Moreover, Milbank's characterization of those objecting to the program as Democrats and "some poor Republicans like Bob Barr" is undermined by two of his own Post columns published in recent days. In his February 9 "Washington Sketch" column, for example, Milbank used the following words to describe the growing Republican opposition to the Bush administration program on Capitol Hill:
Who's afraid of the Big Bad Bush?
[N]ot Rep. Heather A. Wilson. The New Mexico Republican, in a tough reelection fight, defied the White House by demanding briefings on the administration's warrantless surveillance program and calling for legislation on it. "The checks and balances in our system of government are very important," she told reporters.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) pronounced himself "a bit amused" by Vice President Cheney's concession that he'd be "willing to listen" to Congress about the surveillance program. "He's got a very skewed misunderstanding of the Constitution," Hagel told The Washington Post's Charles Babington. "It doesn't work that way. The Congress is a co-equal branch of government. ... So, to arrogantly say, 'We're willing to listen to them,' that's not good enough."
In his February 7 column on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's February 6 testimony on the surveillance program before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Milbank noted that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) raised concerns about the lack of a "check and balance" on the NSA program:
A trio of Republicans on the committee vied to serve as Gonzales's chief defender. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) used his questioning time to attack those "people who are wildly saying that the president is violating the law." Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and John Cornyn (Tex.) joined the sister of a Sept. 11 victim at a news conference outside the hearing room.
But other Republicans were skeptical. "In all honesty, Mr. Attorney General," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) advised, the "argument that you're making is very dangerous." He warned that, eventually, "there is no check and balance."
Further, while Milbank highlighted Barr's comments at the CPAC conference regarding the warrantless surveillance program, he made no mention of the fact that Graham raised concerns about the domestic spying at the same event. According to a February 10 New York Times article, Graham not only criticized the NSA program, but noted that "many conservatives like himself were troubled" by it:
Some conservatives were scornful of White House efforts to allow at least some illegal immigrants to work legally in this country, and some challenged the legality of Mr. Bush's surveillance program, saying that it was an abuse of presidential power and that Mr. Bush should come to the Congress and ask for authority to allow it.
''Think hard down the road to a future administration not occupied by the people we have now,'' said Bob Barr, a former congressman from Georgia. ''We have to keep that precedent in mind: That gauntlet, if we throw it down, will be taken up by someone in the future that we really don't like and be used against us.''
Mr. Graham said many conservatives like himself were troubled by the administration's arguments for its program to eavesdrop on communications. ''The inherent power argument, if you take it to the natural conclusion, there is no role for Congress in a time of war,'' he said.
As Media Matters for America has noted, numerous other prominent Republicans and conservatives have expressed serious concerns about the NSA program, including Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), John Sununu (R-NH), Sam Brownback (R-KA), Bruce Fein, former deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
During the February 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Dobbs reported on an Associated Press article published that day that he said demonstrated "the huge influence of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Congress" by showing that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had written "at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff." But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the February 9 AP article by staff writers John Solomon and Sharon Theimer left out important details of two incidents that purportedly link Reid to Abramoff -- details that undermine Dobbs' assertion that it demonstrates any influence Abramoff had with Reid.
The AP article suggested that Reid coordinated with Abramoff to sabotage proposed legislation that would have raised the minimum wage in the Northern Mariana Islands -- a U.S. territory represented by Abramoff -- without noting that, in fact, Reid was a co-sponsor of that legislation and spoke on the Senate floor in favor of its passage. The Northern Marianas minimum wage provision was part of a broader bill to raise the U.S. minimum wage. The article mentions Abramoff associate Ronald Platt several times, describing him as a member of the "Democratic team" at Abramoff's firm, and quotes Reid spokesman Jim Manley saying that Reid met regularly with Platt to discuss policy issues. But while the story notes that Reid met with Platt in June 2001 to discuss the minimum wage bill, and reports that Platt "began billing for routine contacts and meetings with Reid's staff" in March 2001, it did not quote Platt at any point. Further, blogger Joshua Micah Marshall reported Platt's assertion that the AP reporters did not even attempt to contact him for the article.
Marshall also asked Platt whether Reid had taken any action against the minimum wage bill following their meeting, to which Platt responded, "I'm sure he didn't." According to Platt, the purpose of his contacts was to see what information he could get about the timing and status of the legislation. Reid's position on the minimum wage issue was well known and there would have been no point trying to get his help blocking it. That's what Platt says. "I didn't ask Reid to intervene," said Platt. "I wouldn't have asked him to intervene. I don't think anyone else would have asked. And I'm sure he didn't." At no point during the AP story were readers informed about Platt's contention that the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss Reid's position on the legislation.
The AP also failed to note what subsequent action Reid took on the legislation; in fact, Reid spoke in support of the bill's passage in a May 6, 2002, speech on the Senate floor:
REID: The Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase the Federal minimum wage by $1.50 over 2 years. We are not asking it be kept up with inflation from when it was first established. About 80,000 Nevadans and about 9 million Americans would get a raise up to $6.65 during the next 2 years. This modest proposal would bring the real value of the minimum wage within a penny of the value it had in the 1980s.
The AP story also noted that Reid opposed legislation to approve a Michigan casino for a Native American tribe that would have rivaled a casino owned by a tribe represented by Abramoff. But the article omitted the fact that Reid said at the time that he opposed the legislation because it would create a "very dangerous precedent" for the spread of off-reservation gambling -- something Reid had opposed for nearly a decade. The AP further noted that Reid deemed the bill "fundamentally flawed" but neglected to mention why Reid said he reached that conclusion:
Reid went to the Senate floor to oppose fellow Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's effort to win congressional approval for a Michigan casino for the Bay Mills Indians, which would have rivaled one already operating by the Saginaw Chippewa represented by Abramoff.
"The legislation is fundamentally flawed," Reid argued, successfully leading the opposition to Stabenow's proposal.
In fact, Reid said the legislation was flawed because it would allow the Bay Mills tribe to build an off-reservation casino "under the guise of settling a land claim." From the November 19, 2002, Congressional Record:
REID: [A]llowing a tribe to settle a land claim and receive trust land hundreds of miles from their reservation for the express purpose of establishing a gaming facility sets a very dangerous precedent.
This pursuit of off-reservation gaming operations should continue to follow the procedures outlined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, Public Law 100-497, which authorizes tribal gaming operations on off-reservation ''after-acquired lands'' where the land to be acquired has no relationship to the land upon which the claim was based.
Let me say that the first gaming compact ever approved with an Indian tribe in the history of the country was done in Nevada. So it is not as if Nevada is here opposing this request. The first compact ever approved in the country was in Nevada. That is still an ongoing operation and a very successful one.
The proposed casino would be located just north of Detroit on a major link to Ontario that is in the lower corner of the lower peninsula. Bay Mills is located in the upper peninsula. The legislation is fundamentally flawed because it allows Bay Mills to establish gaming facilities under the guise of settling a land claim.
The land claim is simply -- and everybody knows this -- an excuse to take land into trust for off-reservation gaming. I object.
This position was entirely consistent with Reid's longtime opposition to off-reservation gambling. As early as 1998, Reid supported the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which generally prohibited Indian gaming on non-tribal lands. He proposed separate legislation in 1993 "prohibit[ing] states from opening gaming operations on off-reservation land" [AP, 5/28/93].
From the February 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: And a new report tonight, apparently demonstrating the huge influence of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, according to The Associated Press. Senator Reid reportedly collected nearly $70,000 from groups associated with Abramoff. Abramoff himself has pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery charges. He is now helping federal prosecutors investigate lawmakers and their staffs. Tonight, Senator Reid's office said he did not write the letters to Indian tribes on behalf of Abramoff and Senator Reid has never taken contributions from Abramoff.
On the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt falsely claimed that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions" from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, a Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of Abramoff's donations shows that Abramoff made contributions only to Republicans, not Democrats.
The $68,000 figure that Witt cited, in fact, refers to contributions Reid received from Abramoff partners and clients, but not Abramoff himself.
From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the February 10 edition of MSNBC Live:
WITT: Now, records show that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid had closer ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff than initially thought. The documents show Reid wrote at least four letters to Indian tribes represented by Abramoff, and his staff was in close contact with the lobbyist's office. Reid collected nearly $68,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff over three years. Reid has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Help Needy Monterey Families and Children
Children's Services International is a unique and wonderful local non-profit that serves homeless and low-income families and children throughout Monterey County. csichildcare.org
Call to participate 3-6pm PT:
Center for American Progress
Prog. Dems of America
Democracy for America
Daily Kos Blog
The Nation Editors' Picks
The Nation's Weblogs
NY Times Political Reports
MSNBC Political Reports
Log in or create account
Click here: Log in or create account.