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Is FNL Merely a Conduit for Administration Propaganda?

Reported by Nancy - February 7, 2005 -

This morning (2/7) on FNL there was a segment that offered a nice example of how to be a propaganda tool of the Bush administration.

At 11:06am (all times ET) Brigitte Quinn noted that Bush sent his '06 budget proposal to Congress to intro a report from Wendell Goler. Goler said that Bush claims his budget ensures that taxpayers' "money will be spent wisely or not at all", adding "but you won't get many Democrats to agree to that." Goler noted that there are lots of cuts but still a huge deficit & that DOD spending is up 4% (not including ongoing operations in Afghanistan & Iraq). He also showed a clip of Cheney's appearance on Fox News Sunday. Goler said that Dems say deep cuts in domestic spending are needed only because of Bush's tax cuts, but that Bush wants to eliminate "duplicate or ineffective" programs. He predicted there will be some "pinching pennies" in the budget process.

At 11:19am, after showing another clip of Cheney from "Fox News Sunday", Quinn interviewed strategists Matthew Dowd (GOP) & Anna Greenberg (Dem). Dowd's & Greenberg's remarks were what you might expect, with Dowd flogging the GOP talking points (e.g., calling Bush's proposals "reform" [comment: the word "reform" implies that something's wrong & needs to be fixed], trying to put Bush's proposed budget "in context" by noting that Bush is proposing cuts of 0.7%, not 7% & saying the question is "not if we should cut but what we should cut.") & Greenberg countering only moderately well (e.g., saying that the young are "not myopic" about Social Security & they understand the risks of "stock market bubbles", citing a new AARP poll to support her assertion). Quinn's questions were softballs for Dowd (e.g., asking if it helps to have Cheney doing PR) or switched topics when Greenberg started to make a point (e.g., when Greenberg used a variant of the GOP catchphrase "the American people", saying the proposed budget was a shock to "the American public", Quinn tried to defuse that by saying that "various demographics" are affected differently by what Bush proposed).

There was some obligatory Dem-bashing -- Dowd claimed that the Dem approach to Social Security is "don't worry, be happy" & that they're offering no alternative "to fix the system."

The interview had theoretically been about the Bush budget proposal, but FNL found itself with time on its hands. Quinn noted that "we're expecting tape momentarily from the White House" but that she'd keep talking with these guests & wanted to "shift gears" while we wait. She asked Dowd if we might "be seeing a new era" for peace in the Middle East. She was referring to Rice's visit to Israel but Dowd dragged in elections in Afghanistan & Iraq as well as the recent Palestinian election, all of which he claimed "people in the media & on the left" said would "never happen" & which he futher claimed would "make this country safer from terrorism." Greenberg said it's "always encouraging" to try diplomacy but noted that the Bush administration had disengaged from diplomacy & acted unilaterally. Quinn asked Dowd "Did they disengage?" [comment: her tone & body language said "no way"] & Dowd laughed, & dismissively said "Of course not" then dragged in the inevitable Clinton-bashing & reference to 9/11 ("we found out on 9/11" how well Clinton's policy of engagement worked). Dowd said there's a difference between having to "get permission" & doing what you know is the best thing to do. Quinn picked up that cue, asking Greenberg if Kerry "talk[ed] too much about getting help" to which Greenberg replied no, & "we're paying a very big price for acting alone". There was a little more blather but viewers could see that Quinn was distracted, & shortly thereafter she announced that they were "outta time."

At 11:29am, FNL went to tape of Bush making a few statements & taking a few questions. FNL played the tape for 6 minutes.

Comment: If the Bush comments were on tape, what was so urgent about showing it just then? For that matter, since it was simply a photo op & PR effort, why show it at all? Since when does "tape from the White House" equal "news"?

NOTE TO READERS: The topic is FNL's coverage of the Bush budget proposal, with emphasis on this particular interview. Comments that are off-topic will be deleted.