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Two Out Of Five Ain't Bad -- for FNL

Reported by Nancy - February 11, 2005 -

Today (2/11) FNL followed its usual pattern: incessant harping but very little useful info on 2-3 topics (Rumsfeld in Iraq! mass suicide plot! Texas Baby Murders!), along with a few interviews that pretend to offer "in-depth analysis" of "hard news" but in reality are just excuses to reiterate GOP talking points & bash the usual suspects. Of the 5 interview segments that weren't pure fluff, only 2 provided viewers with useful information.

Here's the short version: Rumsfeld in Iraq; House approves bill about IDs; Lynne Stewart convicted & Gonzales is pleased; "shadowy enviromental extremist group ELF" may have been involved in arson; mass suicide plot; North Korea; Coast Guard chopper rescues sick woman on cruise ship; weather report; OR suicide pact; prison riot; new Zarahiri audiotape; billboard from Hollywood; MJackson; mass murder plot; ALERT - "heavy rain roaring into" SoCal; mass suicide plot; Ward Churchill has another speaking enegagement - "maybe he'll explain why he was hanging out with Muammar Qaddafi"; Reagan speeches; Rumsfeld in Iraq; 23 killed in Baghdad; HHS Secy Mike Levitt sworn in by Andy Card; Arthur Miller died; Camilla Parker Bowles & Prince Charles (video); mass suicide pact; MJackson; Texas Baby Murders; Ward Churchill; Arthur Miller; mass suicide pact; Reagan; "lavish lovenests" for Valentine's Day; mass suicide plot; North Korea; Rumsfeld in Iraq; Reagan; Hollywood billboard; mass suicide pact; winter storms; "dream weekend for happy couples"; "world's most luxurious lovenests"; bizzarre Valentine's Day plot; Rumsfeld ("secretary of surprise) in Iraq; Clinton "trying to energize" the Dem party; Arthur Miller died; rain out west; Rumsfeld in Iraq; North Korea; OR suicide pact; more claims against Bill Cosby; MJackson; Arthur Miller; rain in SoCal - flash flood watch; VT first big snowstorm of year; power outages across ME; NC snow; weather report; Rumsfeld in Iraq; mass suicide on Valentine's Day; BClinton's message for Dems; Iraqi army; mass suicide plot; Pope John Paul II out of the hospital; Prince Charles & Camilla Parker-Bowles; mass suicide plot; Clinton's "blunt message" for Dem Party; surprise wedding; North Korea; Rumsfeld in Iraq; bombs in Iraq; riot at prison in Argentina; Arthur Miller; BClinton tells Dems to "fight like the devil"; Edwards says his wife is "doing well".

There: you just learned about as much as you would have if you had watched FNL for 2 solid hours.

So what did FNL actually spend time on? Surprise, surprise: bashing the usual suspects. These 5 interview segments in particular are worth noting:

At 11:14am (all times ET) following a clip of BClinton ("we need to brand ourselves better") & noting that "failed presidential contender" HDean will likely be the new DNC chair while GOPs say "bring it on" (& laughing about it), Brigitte Quinn interviewed Byron York (National Review) & David Corn (The Nation). Corn fell for the old distraction trick: when York claimed that GOPs are hoping Dems don't change on issues like abortion & Quinn noted that HClinton seemed to be talking "a little different" on abortion & being "more moderate", Corn attempted to "explain" HClinton's statement rather than pointing out that it was the same thing she's been saying for years (Kirsten Powers got it right in a later interview, see below) or trying to turn the talk back to the alleged topic, which was Dean as chair of the DNC. Once they had wasted a couple of minutes on HClinton & abortion, Quinn showed some Fox polls (e.g., "is Bush in touch with the country?" yes = 52%; 63% approve public refs to god & religion) & they were off on a new tangent: whether politicians should quote the Bible, with Quinn contributing opinions like "some Democrats seem" to feel they need to "talk more about values" & York contributing opinions like Dems are "groping for a position." Corn tried (again) to explain how Dems should "bring values into the conversation" instead of

Comment: Note that the poll results Quinn chose to mention didn't include that the latest FOX News poll has some pretty bad news for Bush (as noted by newshound Ellen).

At 11:21am Quinn said that a new Al Qaeda tape claims that the Iraq election was "rigged" because it was held under foreign occupation, then interviewed Eric Margolies (author, "War at the Top of the World"). Quinn asked did Al Qaeda "already lose their impact" & Margolies said there's nothing "bloodcurdling" or "inflammatory" on this tape. Quinn asked if the message was "to go after US economic interests" & Margolies pointed out that this has been one of Al Qaeda's aims all along. Quinn said that "Iraq is [a] big front in the War On Terror" & asked if the violence has subsided there [comment: despite a previous report from John Cookson, who said the number of attacks was down but the numbers of Iraqis killed was up]. Margolies pointed out that Al Qaeda "never had a loud voice in Iraq before the war" & suggested that Iraqi insurgents are motivated more by natiolaism. Quinn asked if this tape revealed "any more information" about where OBL & Zawahiri might be & Margolies said "none whatsoever" but it does show that "they're not cut off entirely from the outside world". Quinn plugged Margolies' book again at the end of the interview.

Comment: Too bad Margolies didn't challenge Quinn's assertion that Iraq is part of the WOT.

At 12:35pm, Patti Ann Browne interview Peter Elkind (author of "The Death Shift") about Jeannine Jones, who is up for parole again. Jones was convicted of 1 count of injury to a child (who recovered) & 1 count of giving a paralyzing drug to a 15mo infant (who died). She is "suspected" of killing more children, & Fox described this case in typical tabloid fashion as the "Texas Baby Murders!" [comment: the exclamation point was in tone]. Browne said that Jones had "killed 23 babies" & Elkind corrected her by pointing out that she was convicted for only one death, although a public health epidemiologic investigation estimated there may have been 15 total. Elkind said that Jones probably suffers from "Munchausen by proxy" syndrome. Browne asked "would it be safe" to let her out on parole & Elkind said his last contact with Jones was about 20 years ago, at the time of her conviction, so he's "not familiar" with her current circumstances, condition or behavior. Browne noted that some families who suspected that Jones might have killed their child tried to have the bodies exhumed & Elkind commented that the one murder conviction that was obtained was supported by forensic testing done in Sweden because the technology was not then available in the US.

Comment: Can you say "Old Europe"? Can you say "Let's cut govt funding for scientific research?" Can you say "What was the point of this interview?"

At 12:14pm, noting that "some critics" say the Iraqi army is not ready, Browne interviewed Sen Carl Levin (D-MI). Browne asked how the training is going & Levin said "very slowly." He noted that the number 136,000 that's being bandied about is the number of Iraqis who are being *paid*, not the number who've been *trained*. Levin estimated that "only about 6,000" troops now in the Iraqi army are fully trained & equipped. Browne asked if there were a "timetable" to reduce US troop levels & Levin said no, that the US military is doing troop rotation, not troop reduction. Levin said that before we can talk about bringing US troops home, "First we have to be honest with ourselves" & noted that there's been a "lot of exaggeration from this administration." Browne brought up the incident where a US reservist confronted Rumsfeld about lack of armor & equipment, & asked whether Rumsfeld has "been able to improve his image with the troops". Levin said "I can't claim to know what they feel about their leadership" but noted that their morale is high, which is a "testament to their professionalism." Browne asked what approach Levin would recommend with North Korea. Levin said the multilateral talks are "not enough" & that "we should not be afraid to talk to them," either directly or bilaterally. He also recommended that "we ought to lower our own rhetoric" because "that tone accomplishes little for us."

Comment: Note Browne's question about Rumsfeld improving his image. Who cares about his damned image (besides Rumsfeld & Fox)? Wouldn't it be more important to discuss whether Rumsfeld has improved the quality & quantity of supplies & equipment our troops are getting? Levin got in some good points, & offered viewers some hard info (I think the fact that the "136,000" Iraqi troops are simply the number being paid is vital to know) but I wonder if an interview lasting just over 3 mins won't get lost in the "suicide plot/baby murder" maelstrom. Still, this was by far the best of the bunch.

At 12:31pm, Browne said that BClinton tells Dems to "fight like the devil" & Megyn Kendall reported that HDean "has no opponents" for DNC chair. She showed a clip of Sen John Edwards speaking to the Dem winter meeting at the DC Hilton & added that BClinton "urges his party to adopt more centrist tactics," that Dean says Dems "need to be the party of reform" & that the meeting has been a "nonstop lovefest" for outgoing DNC chair TMcAuliffe. Kendall also noted that Edwards said his wife is doing well

Immediately following Kendall's report, at 12:33pm, Browne asked "should Democrats listen to Clinton?" & interviewed 2 "political strategists", Brad Blakeman (GOP) & Kirsten Powers (Dem). Browne noted that "some" GOPs say Dems are very clear, but "Americans don't agree" with them. Powers said that "everybody agrees" that Dems need to be "more competitve on the ground" & need to "start connecting with voters" & "communicating in language that makes more sense." Browne mentioned a poll that showed many thought Kerry was a weak candidate & asked Blakeman whether it was "policy or personality" that decided the 2004 election. Blakeman said "both," blathered on a bit & then tried to make a lame comparison, saying it's "ironic" that Iraqis can hold free elections but Dems "can't even find a chair for their own party." [Comment: would someone please explain the concept of irony to Blakeman?] That finally got Powers angry, but instead of pointing out that Blakeman was simply dead wrong, that the Dems are in the process of picking a new chair, she reacted by saying that Blakeman shouldn't talk about democracy because every time Dems disagree with the Bush admin they're "called obstructionists" but "it's called democracy." Browne offered the opinion that HClinton is "trying to sound more moderate" & Powers got it right, replying that HClinton is "saying things she's always believed," & that this is "not a new message." Browne interrupted Powers to ask Blakeman about Dean saying he hates GOPs, & Blakeman went off on a bash-Dean tear, saying he "screams for attention" & he's "out there bashing the President" & "just being against everything." Blakeman then claimed that GOPs "win elections with good candidates & good policies" & Brown ended the interview, saying we "have to leave it there."

Comment: Powers & Blakeman are often paired for interviews on FNL. Powers can be *very* effective (see, for example, her appearance on FNL during the RNC) but I wish she would be better prepared for the tactics Blakeman uses against her time & again.

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (FNL coverage of any of the topics above). O/T comments here will be deleted.