On Special Report, Jeffrey Birnbaum baselessly asserted that "if you compare Americans' view of the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism this Fourth of July compared to last Fourth of July, the president and his policies are in a much better position." However, polling shows otherwise.
In their recent coverage of three major national security developments, various media outlets have portrayed the events as "victories" for President Bush and Republicans or losses for Democrats, with little or no discussion of how these events could be seen as bad for the White House and the GOP.
In a Washington Post article, staff writers Dan Balz and Richard Morin cited the results of a misleading poll question to assert that a majority of Americans "oppose a deadline for getting out of Iraq." But the poll set up a false dichotomy between two Republican talking points -- that proponents of withdrawing troops from Iraq only wish to do so "in order to avoid further casualties," and that "pull[ing] out would only encourage the anti-government insurgents."
On Hardball, Chris Matthews left unchallenged White House communications director Nicolle Wallace's claim that "there is no way" The New York Times could discuss "terrorists already knowing about" a Treasury Department finance-tracking program reported by the Times and other newspapers "unless they're talking to terrorists." In fact, the Treasury Department's efforts to track terrorist finances by obtaining international banking records were already a matter of public knowledge prior to the publication of the Times article.
As numerous Bush administration officials, congressional Republicans, and conservative media figures continue to attack The New York Times and other newspapers for their decision to publicly disclose the Treasury Department bank-tracking program, major U.S. newspapers' editorial boards have largely remained silent on the issue. According to a Media Matters for America review, 15 newspapers -- not including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which also initially reported the program -- have so far editorialized either in support of the papers' decision to run the story or against the criticism they received for doing so.
A Wall Street Journal editorial twisted logic by attacking The New York Times for publishing a June 23 article on a Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions while simultaneously defending the Journal's own contemporaneous article on the Treasury Department program. In fact, there appears to be no relevant basis for differentiating between the two reports.
Focus on the Family's James Dobson accused "prominent Democrats" such as Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) of "implying we ought to cut and run" from Iraq, then compared Democrats' strategy for Iraq to "the last helicopter," referring to the helicopter evacuation of U.S. embassy employees from South Vietnam in 1975.
A Media Matters analysis of the media coverage of the Iraq war debate shows that the favored Republican talking points on Iraq have gone largely unchallenged in the media and have even been adopted as truths by some media outlets and figures.
On Countdown, Keith Olbermann honored Brent Bozell and Glenn Beck with first and third-place honors, respectively, in his nightly "Worst Person" award segment: Bozell for repeating the Republican assertion that a recently declassified report found there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion, and Beck for comparing The New York Times' report on a Treasury Department program designed to track terrorists' international financial transactions to condoning the genocide committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
An article in The Washington Post reported the claim that the June 23 report by The New York Times on a Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions "undermined a highly successful counter-terrorism program and alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trails." But the article at no point mentioned the numerous instances in which administration officials have publicly touted their efforts to track terrorist finances. Nor did it note reports that terrorists were increasingly using alternate means of transferring money to elude detection.
A Washington Post article noted that President Bush has recently begun "[s]harpen[ing] his attack[s]" on Democrats by alleging that "some Democrats want to surrender" in Iraq, but did not mention the reported pullout plan for Iraq drafted by Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
Numerous conservative commentators joined the Bush administration in arguing that, in detailing a secret Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions, a June 23 New York Times article tipped off terrorists to the U.S. government's ability to track their financial activities -- some going so far as to accuse the newspaper of treason. But the Times report was hardly the first indication of U.S. efforts to monitor terrorists' financial transactions: President Bush himself repeatedly touted the government's capability to track and shut down terrorists' international financial networks.
On Fox News' Special Report, attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. made the baseless claim that The New York Times' justification for publishing an article on a Bush administration program designed to monitor international financial transactions would also justify a decision to print details of a hypothetical imminent attack on Osama bin Laden. But Supreme Court precedent suggests that, in contrast with the information published by The Times, the publication of such information about bin Laden not only could likely be punishable after the fact, but also might be blocked by a court in the first place.
In his syndicated column, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III claimed that "[t]he hardened historical narrative" on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq "needs to be amended" because of the assertion by Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Peter Hoekstra that a recently declassified report found there were WMDs in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion. Bozell ignored conclusive declarations by intelligence officials that the degraded chemical munitions hyped by Santorum and Hoekstra were not, in fact, in the category of "weapons of mass destruction."