Written 329 pm Feb 11, 1991 by greenbase in cdpmideast.media PUNDIT WATCH #3 Weekly Analys
Written 3:29 pm Feb 11, 1991 by greenbase in cdp:mideast.media
PUNDIT WATCH #3
Weekly Analysis of News Coverage of the War
by Greenpeace USA
"It's deja vu all over again," said one of the Twentieth Century's
best-loved pundits, Yogi Berra. It might be an appropriate line for the
re-emergence of many of the same men who lied to us about Vietnam. The role
of the Military Pundits is, ironically, to help us sort out the truth in the
nation's first live, Clean Enough for the Whole Family War.
In Pundit Watch 3, we've examined ten retired soldiers who have been
recalled to active punditry for TV analysis. Also, we've prepared an
inventory of Nightline's guest list since the start of the war, and explored
the style-versus-substance debate over TV and newspaper coverage.
McLAUGHLIN GROUP SUFFERS 20% LOSS OF PREDICTION MAKING CAPACITY:
"We should be chastened by now since we haven't been right about anything
at all," said Jack Germond on 2/8, capturing the essence of the McLaughlin
Group's allure in a single sentence. "There's clearly massive disinformation
going on," added Morton Kondracke, without referring to any particular panel
member. The ground war should commence in "6 weeks," said Morton, "But they
may go in one week." Fred Barnes averred that air war will continue for five
or six weeks. Germond said that ground war was "two weeks away," and Father
McLaughlin pronounced ground war "necessary," and pinned its advent down to
"a short period of time" in the future. Eleanor Clift, filling in during Pat
Buchanan's second consecutive absence, set the date for "two or three more
weeks." This week's highlight was Kondracke's enlightened reference to
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria as "Our Arabs."
"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly
in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes .... (Chemical
weapons represent) the application of Western science to modern warfare. We
cannot in any circumstance acquiesce in the non-utilization of any weapons
which are available to procure a speedy termination of the disorder which
prevails on the frontier." Response of Winston Churchill, then in Britain's
War Office, 1919, when asked by the RAF for permission to use chemical
weapons "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment." (Alexander Cockburn,
2/18 The Nation).
MR BLACKWELL'S TEN BEST-ARMED LIST:
An inventory of the most ubiquitous Uniformed War Pundits.
Maj. James Blackwell (USA Ret.) is a former Lockheed exec and current
fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank
whose far-rightward slant led to a split with its Georgetown University
sponsors a few years back. Blackwell was omnipresent during CNN's first days
of coverage. He told the Washington Post (1/22), out of deference to Mrs.
Blackwell, that the first night of Allied bombing was "the second most
exciting night of my life!" Normally meek on the air and considerably
younger than his fellow uniformed Pundits, Blackwell lost his cool during an
exchange with quasi-dissident defense analyst Pierre Sprey. Blackwell called
Sprey's criticism of the quality of US weapons a "criminal attempt" to
undermine the morale of US field personnel during a heated exchange on CNN
(1/28). Anchor Bernard Shaw restored decorum by cutting Sprey off during his
reply in order to go to a commercial.
Anthony Cordesman: His day jobs as Nixon-era DOD official and as staffer
for former POW and current S & L suspect Senator John McCain are rarely
mentioned. According to the Senator's office, Cordesman officially quit
McCain's staff on January 15. With fellow ABC Consultant William Crowe
(below), Cordesman has become a regular troupe member of "Nightline."
Lt. Gen William Odom (NBC) has gone from the Puzzle Palace to Prime Time. A
desk veteran of many conflicts, the former Director of the National Security
Agency was also an NSC staffer for Jimmy Carter. Odom joined Crowe in
cautioning against rushing into war, perhaps because it's been an awfully
long time since he's seen one.
Col. David Hackworth (USA Ret.): A Newsweek cover described him as
Vietnam's "Most Decorated Soldier." He may be the Persian Gulf's Most
Erroneous Journalist. Newsweek 1/21 (the issue hit the streets on 1/14):
"Taking out Saddam Hussein's Army ... will not be a quick, massive, and
decisive fight. My own estimate is ... a best case scenario suggests victory
within 30 days." CNN, 1/16: "This will be known as the six-minute war." CNN
Larry King, 1/21: The war will end in "eleven days." Newsweek 1/28: "I would
not be surprised if (Iraqi troops) were to cut and run before the war's
ground phase begins sometime in February." Newsweek 2/4: "We are not looking
at a long war here, but you don't knock over a million man army in days.".
Gen. George Crist (USMC Ret.), gives CBS's nightly Sermon at the Map. "My
purpose is to comment on the war and give my best unbiased advice. I am
retired. So I don't have any vested interests." (Reuters, 1/29) What Crist
does offer viewers, however, is morbid enthusiasm for the war.
General Michael Dugan (USAF Ret.): His pre-war leaks on US tactics won him
early retirement from the Air Force. Many regard Dugan as the most
informative member of the Pundits of Foreign Wars, as he was a planner of
current US strategy. But does that mean that CBS pays him to discuss things
he can't reveal? Dugan's reported day rate ($1500) will pay him in 67 days
what the Air Force paid him for a full year as its Chief of Staff.
Adm. William Crowe (USN Ret.), Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair cautioned
against the war,but is now providing play-by-play for ABC. Like Dugan, the
recently-retired Crowe undoubtedly has first-hand war information which he
can't reveal to his audience.
Maj. Gen. Bernard Trainor (USMC Ret.) pulled war duty in Korea, Vietnam,
and the New York Times. Paid consultant for ABC, he recently left the Times
to become a scholar at Harvard. The Times dispatched him to the Middle East
to cover the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-80's.
Col. Bill Taylor (USA, Ret.): VP for International Security Programs at
CSIS. He mysteriously vanished from CNN after the first week of the war,
and was widely believed to be the first Pundit casualty of the
three-week-old war. He re-emerged on a lower rung of the Pundit food chain,
at Washington's WRC-TV.
Col. Harry Summers (USA Ret.): Blustery in his NBC appearances, Summers
actually has a daughter serving in Saudi Arabia, making his real-world links
to the war closer than any other pundit save for Dugan. Summers was a
bellicose pre-war columnist whose work regularly appears -- and fits well
into -- the Commentary section of Rev. Moon's Washington Times, as well as
the Army Times, Navy Times, and Air Force Times.
Gen. Russell Daugherty (USAF Ret.). The former SAC Commander made an early
appearance on Nightline, but has been little seen since. He's a former chair
of the Air Force Association, a booster club of ex-airmen. Gen. Dugan is
also an AFA member.
CSIS is winning the on-the-air war, cashing in not only with Blackwell and
Taylor, but others, like civilian pundit Edward Luttwak, who predicted that
a ground war would be unnecessary in a 1/19 Washington Post op-ed.
OUR PUNDIT ALLIES OVERSEAS: "Not since the Falklands War have so many
retired generals and admirals and military strategists been in such demand,
enlisted for special TV broadcasts and called up as armchair strategists for
the newspapers." William Tuohy, LA Times 2/5, on the state of War Punditry
on British TV.
NIGHTLINE GUEST LIST
The progressive media monitoring group FAIR released a study in 1989
criticizing ABC's Nightline for its one-dimensional guest list. Analyzing
five years of Nightline guests, FAIR documented a strong bias toward white,
male, and conservative guests. 92% of Nightline's in-studio guests were
white, 90% were male, and the top four most frequent guests -- Henry
Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Elliott Abrams, and Jerry Falwell -- were
How diverse are Nightline's viewpoints since the January 15 deadline?
Here's an inventory of the show's interview segment guests since then, with
titles as listed on Nightline's transcripts. Multiple appearances by each
guest are indicated:
Jan. 15: "U.N. Deadline is Midnight Tonight:" Former Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chair and current ABC News consultant Adm. William Crowe (USN Ret.); Gen.
Bernard Trainor (USA Ret.) Anthony Cordesman, ABC Consultant and aide to
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ); Brookings Institute Middle East analyst Judith
Jan. 16: "War Against Iraq Begins:" Trainor (2); Gen. Russell Daugherty
(USAF Ret.); Cordesman (2); ABC News correspondents Dean Reynolds in
Jerusalem and Pierre Salinger in London.
Jan. 17: "US Air Attacks continue; Iraqi Missiles Hit Israel:" Israeli
Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; All-Time Nightline Appearance
King Henry Kissinger; ITN Camerman Sebastian Rich in Amman; ABC's
Conservative Archpundit George Will; Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-NY); CSIS Senior
Fellow Edward Luttwak.
Jan. 18: "Third Day of War; More Iraqi Missiles Land:" Brookings
Institution military analyst Joshua Epstein; Adm. Crowe (2); ABC Pentagon
correspondent Bob Zelnick; ABC correspondent Chris Wallace in Tel Aviv;
Israeli Health Minister Ehud Olmert (introduced by Ted Koppel as "an old
friend") in Jerusalem. ABC cameraman Fabrice Moussus and freelance
journalist Michael Kelly from Amman. War opponents Rev. Joan Brown Campbell
of the National Council of Churches and Alex Molnar of the Military Families
Support Network were joined by George Weigel of the conservative, pro-war
Ethics and Public Policy Center. (The last segment, on war dissent, was cut
short by a special report on Scud missiles launched at Israel. Before the
break, Mr. Molnar and Mr. Weigel answered one question; Rev. Campbell, two.)
Jan. 21: "Iraqis show POWs on TV; Air War Continues:" Iraqi Ambassador to
Japan, Rashid al-Riefi; Journalist and former Naval Air Intelligence Officer
Scott Shuger (who had appeared on Nightline in December as an expert on
homelessness); former Vietnam POW Cmdr. Everett Alvarez (USN); Jean-Paul
Failet, Red Cross delegation chief at the UN; Andrew Whitley of Middle East
Watch, a human rights organization; DePaul U. International Law Professor
Cherif Bassiouni; CBC Reporter Eric Rankin in Amman.
Jan. 22: "First Israeli Scud Fatalities; Oil Fires in Kuwait:" Israel's US
Ambassador Zalman Shoval; Jordanian Engineer Sharif Said; Jordanian lawyer
Sharif Ali Zu'bi; Prof. Fred Singer, a frequent critic of Global Warming
theories; and Carl Sagan, a proponent of such theories; Forrest Sawyer of
Jan. 23: "'Progress,' Says Pentagon; Press Restrictions:" Bob Zelnick (2);
Cordesman (3); Leonard Specter, Nuclear Proliferation expert at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace; Defense writer Stephen Zaloga; Pentagon
spokesman Pete Williams; Barry Zorthian, Vietnam War-era spokesman for the
US Embassy in Saigon; Carter-era State Department spokesman Hodding Carter;
ABC's Forrest Sawyer (2); journalist David Halberstam; New York Times
reporter Malcolm Browne.
Jan. 24: "Expanding War Goals; Problems in Egypt:" Congressmen Lee Hamilton
(D-IN) and Newt Ginrich (R-GA); commentator Pat Buchanan; Egyptian
opposition party member and journalist Mohamed Sid-Ahmed; Los Angeles Times
reporter David Lamb.
Jan. 25: "US Security; Scud Hits; Saddam Spills Oil:" FBI Director William
Sessions; former Energy Department Security Chief Edward Badolato; Israeli
Defense Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai; journalist Lamis Andoni;
Jordan's royal science advisor, Abdullah Toukan.
Jan. 28: "Iraq's War Machine State; US-USSR Chill; Palestinians Caught in
Crisis Again:" Georgetown U. Military Analyst Michael Dunn; Defense
consultant Abraham Wagner; Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitaly Churkin;
Presidential Speechwriter Roger Porter; (The Palestinian report featured no
Jan. 29: "Bush's State of the Union, 1991:" Benjamin Netanyahu (2); ABC
White House Correspondent Brit Hume; New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb;
University of Virginia Iranian expert Prof. R.K. Ramazani; former Education
Secretary and drug czar William Bennett; House Majority Whip William Gray
Jan. 30: "Who Starts the Ground War?" Forrest Sawyer (3); David Halberstam
(2); "Armed Forces Journal International" editor Ben Schemmer.
Jan. 31: "Khafji; Women in the Gulf; British Journalist Freed:" Forrest
Sawyer (4); Brig. Gen. Patricia Foote, (USA Ret.); British journalist Bruce
Cheesman, held captive for over a week by Iraqi troops.
Feb. 1: "LA Airline Crash/Gulf War Update:" The Gulf segment of the show
included Forrest Sawyer (5); ITN reporter Brent Sadler in Baghdad.
Feb. 4: "Iran Peace Plan/Why Not Assassinate Saddam Hussein?" Iranian
Deputy UN Ambassador Javad Zarif; former State Dept. Legal Advisor and
retired Federal Judge Abraham Sofaer; Harvard Law School Professor Abram
Chayes; Rev. Forrest Church, the son of the late CIA critic Senator Frank
Feb. 5: "A Family Divided Over War:" This Oprah-esque show featured AWOL
Reservist Stephanie Atkinson and her pro-war father, Steve.
Feb. 6: "Doing Business with Saddam:" Former Commerce Undersecretary Paul
Freedenberg; former Defense Undersecretary Stephen Bryen.
Feb. 7: "Four Iraqis who Walked out of the Minefields:" Isabel Ellson,
reporter for the British daily The Independent; Edward Barnes, Life Magazine
Feb. 8: "Domestic Terrorism:" US Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador
Morris Busby; Clinical Psychologist James Turner.
WAR AS PRIME-TIME ENTERTAINMENT: Has TV made Newspapers Irrelevant?
As viewers slowly began to realize that TV's mile-wide coverage of the war
was only inches deep, daily newspapers have garnered some after-the-fact
prestige. But TV cornered the market on early war coverage in a way which
played to, if not created, America's early-war euphoria. Since the 1960
Nixon-Kennedy debate, TV's influence over public opinion has been
preeminent, and its dominance is still growing. Recent readership surveys
offer more troubling news for print journalism: The number of young adults
and minorities who read and rely on newspapers is declining steadily. The
inevitable question is a troubling one for American journalism: Has TV's
see-it-now technical prowess moved newspapers one step closer to being
irrelevant to public opinion?
Time Correspondent Richard Zoglin (2/11) reported a telling statement from
LA Times reporter Kim Murphy in Saudi Arabia: "A friend took a picture of
me..g notes in front of a TV set. That's what being a war correspondent has
A poll by Murphy's employer, Times-Mirror, reported "By a margin of 75% to
7%, the public thinks television reporters are digging harder to get the
news than newspaper reporters." 73% said that "newspaper accounts pretty
much cover the same ground (as TV), while 23% say they have been given a
better understanding of what they have seen on TV."
Journalists on both sides of the print/broadcast fence downplay the
disparity in influence between the two media. "I don't think it's changed
the equation, but it has emphasized areas where the print press is not
competitive with TV," said former Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Bill
But many consider TV's dominance to be a victory of style over substance.
"I've never seen so much news and so little information in my life," said
Danny Schecter, producer of "South Africa Now!" and a former producer at
ABC's "20/20." "The quote that stays with me is the person who told me his
mind is being carpet bombed by CNN. As a TV professional I never thought I
could be shocked and amazed by anything. I am shocked and amazed by the
degree to which the networks can be a transmission belt for Pentagon
"CNN has become the 'newspaper of record,'" said Michael Schiffer of New
York University's Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, referring to
the New York Times's traditional title. Removed from the "deadline every
minute" pressure of broadcast and wire journalism, dailies have eluded much
of TV's tendency to stereotype war opponents. Bonnie Garvin of the National
Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, told of fielding a call from an NBC
Today Show staffer requesting an interview with the show's notion of a
cooked-to-order war opponent. Garvin recounted the Today staffer's request:
"'We're tired of the experts. We'd like a working person like a stockbroker.
Someone who might have voted for George Bush, but is now against the war.'"
A three-person panel did appear on the 2/7 Today show, with a war-supporting
stockbroker, a lukewarm war-opposing schoolteacher, and an undecided
white-collar professional. On the other TV extreme was ABC, which turned in
a stereotype-free, four-and-a-half minute piece on war opponents on its 2/7
Less subsceptible to the video spoon-feeding of "Nintendo War" images,
print journalists have also been more tenacious in challenging the company
line. The Washington Post's Al Kamen waded through the controversy over the
bombing of a building which the Iraqis claim was an infant formula plant,
and which the Allies claim was a biological weapons facility (2/8). While
Kamen gave some weight to both sides of the story, he uncovered strong
third-party evidence that the Iraqis may have the more truthful version.
Pro-war media critics have used the controversy to lob shells at CNN's Peter
Arnett, who originated the story on an Iraqi guided and censored trip to the
building's wreckage. Senator Allan Simpson (R-WY) labelled Arnett an "Iraqi
sympathizer" on 2/7. An editorial in the 2/8 Washington Post slammed
Simpson, contrasting his "sleazy" attack on Arnett with Simpson's own
friendly visit to Saddam as part of a Senate delegation last year.
Dailies have also far surpassed TV in their acknowledgment that life goes
on in the rest of the world. Network news, with its rigid 22-minute format
and necessarily limited attention span, has crowded its worldview into a few
minutes at the tail end of the nightly news. CNN, with its all-day format,
and NBC, which has moved to an hour-long weeknight newscast, have provided
Zoglin's Time article provided some encouraging news for dailies in their
battle to hold their ground against TV's pervasiveness. The story reported
sales increases of ten to twenty thousand papers a day at the Washington
Post and Philadelphia Inquirer. Also, a New York Times spokesperson told PW
that the paper peaked at 82,000 extra sales on 1/18, but has since returned
to pre-war sales levels.
Kovach, who is now Curator of Harvard's Nieman Foundation, speculated that
the war may have a positive impact on newspapers' hard news coverage: "The
trend has been away from hard news in recent years. There's a feeling that
hard news is not a sellable commodity. (News from the war) may have caused
some news owners to stop and think about that trend. The war makes clear
THEOLOGICAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Israel is being very Christian. It's
turning the other cheek." Jewish biblical scholar Eugene Borowitz, 2/4 USA
"The political decision has been made to keep cameras out of Dover Air
Force Base, .... where the bodies of US service personnel ... are returned.
This political decision was made to keep the war popular, keep the people
happy, and keep the decision to make war looking good. The press should have
screamed their heads off about this act of political censorship. They
mumbled, then rolled over." Former Congressman Otis Pike, Minneapolis Star
Reports surfaced this week raising hope that Bob Simon and three CBS News
colleagues were alive, and could soon be released by their suspected Iraqi
captors. Before their disappearance nearly three weeks ago, Simon took part
in this dialogue during a Nightline set-up piece (1/23): S/Sgt Christopher
Grey, USMC Public Affairs Officer: "If the media .... aren't moving with us,
.... they may get lost somewhere out in the desert. Bob Simon: I don't buy
that. We have talked to many company and battalion commanders who have told
us that they have been ordered not to accept journalists who show up on
BUT IS SHE ELIGIBLE FOR MEDALS? "For the first time in my life, I am taking
part in a war. Thanks to CNN's fantastic television coverage, I feel really
involved." Letter to 2/11 Time Magazine from Eva Svensson, Goteborg, Sweden
BIG LEAGUE SPIN CONTROL: Persian Gulf "Talking points are faxed (by the
White House) almost every day to party leaders, business executives and
religious figures friendly to the Administration. 'Don't forget to mention
these points,' one memo instructed, 'whether it is at a cocktail party or a
board meeting.'" (Newsweek, 2/11)
Psychologists, both amateur and amateurish, have endeavored to probe Saddam
Hussein's mind since the war began. The 1/22 CBS "48 Hours" program cited a
researcher who attributed the Persian Gulf war to Saddam's fate at the hands
of his brutal father. But the most inventive approach of all came from an
examination not of Saddam's mind, but of his eyelids:
"Saddam Hussein clearly intended to project the image of a strong and
unflappable leader during his televised interview on CNN last week. But his
eyes may have betrayed him by sending an altogether different message. Close
watchers of the interview could not help noticing that the Iraqi leader was
blinking at a frantic pace (as often as 40 times a minute, vs. 20 to 25
during a TV interview last June.) John Molloy, a consultant who trains
salespeople to handle stress, says Saddam's fluttering eyelids may be a sign
of mental breakdown." (Time Magazine, 2/11).
A team of Pundit Watch researchers took this as a challenge to put the
sanity of many American leaders to the eyelid test.
Random observations revealed the following results:
SUBJECT VENUE BLINKS PER COMMENTS
George Bush 2/6 Speech, 34.4 5 1/2 Blinks Calmer
New York than Saddam
George Bush 10/88 debate, 38.2 Dukakis pushes VP 1.8
Wake Forest blinks away from
Univ., NC breakdown level
Mike Dukakis 10/88 debate 71.3 What's he hiding
beneath that calm
Conservative Christian 124.0 (!) The next Freddy
Activist/former Broadcasting Krueger?
Reagan official Network, 2/6
Televangelist CBN, 2/6 96.3 Contributions down
D. James Kennedy due to War?
Conservative CBN, 2/6 7.3 Eyelids Glued Open
Jimmy Carter Press conference 35.0 Showed impacts of the
6/79 era's National Malaise
Dan Quayle Speech, 2/6 20.4 One heartbeat and
many blinks away
Lloyd Bentsen Senate hearing, 44.9 He's no Dan Quayle
Peter Bahouth Speech at anti- 20.0 Very Normal; Has
Exec. Dir. of war rally, 1/26 Hiring and firing
Greenpeace Power over PW staff
The San Francisco Examiner has imparted its own version of the American Way
to columnist Warren Hinckle. The paper killed a 1/17 column by Hinckle which
criticized the war. According to the SF Bay Guardian, which published the
banned column in its 1/30 edition, the Examiner "suggested that Hinckle take
a three-month unpaid leave." Instead, Hinckle and Bob Callahan will go to
press with "War News," a weekly that will provide an outlet for stifled
anti-war voices. Their phone is 415-441-1930.
DataTimes is an online database vendor holding the largest collection of
U.S. daily newspapers. In its Winter Customer Newsletter, DataTimes ran an
inventory of newspaper mentions of George Bush in association with the major
topics of 1990:
Topic Number of articles
George Bush and economy 43,538
George Bush and budget 27,091
George Bush and Iraq 26,800
George Bush and drugs 14,733
George Bush and education 11,970
George Bush and environment 8,142
George Bush and broccoli 990
PUNDIT WATCH 3 was written by Andrew Davis and Peter Dykstra
NEXT WEEK: Civilian Pundits; War and Advertising.
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