Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Real news vs. NBC's Today's fluff

FOR MONTHS, the Bush administration has pleaded with a growing legion of war skeptics -- including more and more Republicans -- to give the troop surge time to work. Progress would be apparent by September, when the administration was required to report back to Congress, the White House promised.
September has arrived. As Congress returns to work today, its most urgent mission is to take a hard look at the Bush administration's rationale for keeping 160,000 American troops in Iraq.

The above is from the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial "The battle of September." And staying with editorials, Wally's mother notes the Palm Beach Post's "Bush fights Iraq reality with another PR war:"

It's evident that the talking points haven't changed much since President Bush's first secret trip to Iraq during Thanksgiving in 2003. In fact, the quotes above are from that trip. The president made the same basic points during his second trip in June of last year and again during his secret trip on Labor Day.
In linking the Iraq War to the 9/11 terrorists and pressing for time to "succeed" -- however that might be defined -- the president stuck to the same core messages as those in the planned $15 million ad campaign by Freedom's Watch, a group made up mostly of unnamed contributors and fronted by former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. Those spots, like the president's visits, make shameless use of U.S. troops as props.
Like the president's latest trip, the ad push is calculated to win Mr. Bush's failed policies just enough support to prevent Congress from forcing a troop withdrawal, and comes just before Gen. David Petraeus delivers a key assessment of the war in Iraq. That report will come during the week that marks the sixth anniversary of 9/11, a date that Congress set and the White House will be happy to exploit.

This is the deadline the White House gave when Congress was considering symbolic resolutions for withdrawal. Wait for David! Wait for David! They cried. It's September. Kara notes Mark Silva's "September tally: Iraq fails in most benchmarks" (Baltimore Sun):

And so it is September, one senator noted, the time when Congress called on the Bush administration to report on progress made toward 18 benchmarks which lawmakers set when they reluctantly authorized continuing funding for the war in Iraq this year.
And most of them have not been met, the General Accountability Office is reporting this week, with Comptroller General David Walker noting in his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that violence in Iraq remains high and, while some military progress has been made: “Clearly, the least progress has been made on the political front.’’
“This is obviously crunch time, an important time for the country, for Iraq, for our soldiers, for the American people and for the interests that are at stake here,’’ said hearing chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), at the committee’s session. “September has been much talked about, much waited and now it's here.’’

In the US, Congress is back in session and the signal towards cowardice has already went out -- see Cedric's "So that's what 'bi-partisan' really means" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! WHEN THE PEOPLE GET SCREWED IT'S 'BI-PARTISAN'." In Iraq, the Parliament has also finished their month long vacation. Raheem Salman and Tina Susman's "Parliament reconvense in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times) tells you some of what happened (or didn't) yesterday:

A day after President Bush made an unannounced visit to Iraq, the latest by U.S. officials pressing Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to hasten political progress, none of the bills seen as crucial to driving national reconciliation came up for discussion.
One lawmaker suggested, half jokingly, that the red curtains in the chamber be replaced with a more calming hue to keep tempers from flaring.At least one other legislator said he was insulted that Bush had bypassed the capital Monday and limited his visit to a U.S. air base in Anbar province.
"I want to mention my reservation and abhorrence as the meeting was held in an American base in a country having sovereignty," said Abdul Kareem Enizi, a member of Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents flew to see Bush in Anbar, where a decision by Sunni Muslim tribal sheiks to stop supporting Sunni insurgents has greatly reduced violence.

Now what's the biggest story this week? Iraq. Katie Couric is anchoring the CBS Evening News from Iraq. The usual losers came forward to boo and hiss last week before anything was even aired. Let's note this from Phil Rosenthal's "Couric reports are not the last word on Iraq" (Chicago Tribune):

"In the week prior to what may be one of the most important reports of the decade, which could determine our policy in Iraq and the Middle East and our presence here [in Iraq] for years and years to come, the idea that you give people an advance look at all the issues in the week coming up, it's absurd that people don't see the news value in that," said executive producer Rick Kaplan, one of the three CBS News personnel traveling with Couric."In stories of this magnitude it is so rational and right to give Americans a chance to get up to speed and to understand the issues," Kaplan said. "It's journalism 101. Next week you're going to have hearings, press conferences and sound bites. ... Well, you know what? The story is in Iraq."

Disclosure, I know Kaplan (also Couric). Kaplan's statements about where the story is are exactly right. But try to find it on Today where Matt Lauer's already bored America with whispers about a 'threat' in Germany that no one knows a damn thing about (especially not his looney studio guest) then Meredith (wearing all white -- after Labor Day -- which makes her look as wide as a barn -- one that says "sir" a lot to guests -- apparently she's attempting to be Marci to Matt's Peppermint Patti) got all giggly and cute over Larry Craig's sex scandal. Over ten minutes into the show, as they switch to Steve Fossett Missing! and not one damn word on Iraq. There's still no tossing to a news reader for the headlines. Does Larry Craig's "I'm out, I'm back in!" nonsense qualifies as national news? Didn't that topic get exhausted last week? Is it anything to lead with? A millionaire gone missing is going to effect food on your table how? It's not. After a 'report' on Fossett do we really need Matt Lauer to get testimony from Richard Branson (of Virgin)? No. This isn't news. The missing millionaire replaces the missing young, White woman? (Don't worry, they're saving that for the second hour -- that's not a joke, that story will be in the second hour.) This is crap and as Ava and I noted in "TV: The Soggy Katrina retrospectives" Sunday:

Everyone wants to pump up their ratings, no question. But CBS News' reason for picking Iraq was the feedback they have consistently received for the last three months. And if the Water Cooler Set wanted to knock around CBS News, we found it strange that in a week where Harry led Monday's Early Show trumpeting the 'good news' about the housing scandal -- houses are getting cheaper! -- the focus was yet again on Katie Couric.

That is what happened. In the face of a national financial tragedy, last week, on Monday, Harry led with the 'news' that Houses Are Cheaper! Delivered with a wide grin. But Couric's the target yet again?

Over at Today, Meredith's off mike as she turns her head to mumble something about the missing millionair, "If anyone could survive . . . [off mike] it's Steve Fossett." Meredith attempting to be Walter Cronkite . . . on a missing persons story. At 17 minutes in, the headlines finally come. The lead headline? Barbie's Dream House recalled! It has lead paint! Hard hitting news. Then, after Australia, News reader Natalie turns to Iraq and notes one death announcement from the US military (only one, see next entry, there are two announcements) and gets the day wrong declaring the service members died today. That's going to be called out when by the Water Cooler Set or, for that matter, our alleged independent media critics? Now the US military announces four deaths today (the service members died yesterday) and Natalie's only aware of three of them and thinks the deaths took place today. That's really sad. What's even sadder is Barbie's Dream House is more important to Today -- in the alleged news headlines -- than the deaths of US troops.

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