Written 1024 am Feb 26, 1991 by greenbase in cdpmideast.media From Greenpeace USA PUNDIT W
Written 10:24 am Feb 26, 1991 by greenbase in cdp:mideast.media
From Greenpeace USA
PUNDIT WATCH #5
A weekly analysis of Persian Gulf Media Coverage.
This week, Pundit Watch provides you with a Map of the Pundits' Homes. On
this guided tour, the steering wheel always turns right, as pro-war,
conservative voices and faces have cornered the market on analyzing the news
on the weekend TV public affairs shows. With his McLaughlin chair, his
hosting of the "Capital Gang" show, and nightly appearances on "Crossfire,"
Pat Buchanan is guaranteed at least seven weekly pundit appearances. Others
like Morton Kondracke and Bob Novak both host and guest on discussion shows.
John McLaughlin hosts three such shows weekly. We've also provided a basic
list of these shows' sponsors. Also, we've looked into a few pre-August
media voices on Iraq, with a special focus on a 1987 piece title "Back Iraq"
from that breeding ground for pundits, the New Republic.
IF McLAUGHLIN PUT ON RERUNS, would anyone notice? The same old bluster
brought a few new faces this week,:ith Newsweek's Eleanor Clift and Rev.
Moon's Arnaud de Borchgrave joining regular pundits Barnes, Kondracke, and
Father McLaughlin. Mort Kondracke played J'accuse, declaring that "They're
stealing money from their citizens. The military and right wingers are
ascending." Of the many nations eligible for this quote, not least our own,
it was the USSR to which he was referring. Morton also labeled Gorbachev's
peace efforts a Commie plot, adding that Gorby was "trying to justify his
Nobel Peace Prize." Fred Barnes, auditioning for a new Capra film, predicted
"the biggest military parade you've ever seen in Washington." The group
offered newly-revised war-end predictions: McLaughlin, "one month for the
whole thing"; Kondracke, "two weeks"; Clift, "a month"; Barnes, "three or
four weeks"; de Borchgrave, "three weeks." Further dissection of the
McLaughlin panel follows in our talkshow review.
THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP: Principal sponsor/underwriter is GE. The show is
unique in that it runs on both commercial NBC-owned stations, and PBS
stations. Regular panelists are Jack Germond, a world-weary liberal
syndicated columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun; Fred Barnes, another
Sunpapers veteran and born-again Christian from the New Republic's stable of
pundits; Pat Buchanan, a White House Communications office vet from both the
Watergate and Iran-Contra eras; Morton Kondracke, a neocon TNR colleague of
Barnes; and McLaughlin, the ex-Jesuit priest and Nixon adviser who serves as
head towel boy in this ideological locker room.
WASHINGTON WEEK IN REVIEW: The brains run a bit larger on this PBS show;
Ford and its defense subsidiary, Ford Aerospace, are the major underwriters.
Moderator Paul Duke is so professorial he's been compared to a real-life
version of Mr. Peabody, the genius, time-traveling dog from the Bullwinkle
show. Regulars include Hedrick Smith, the New York Times reporter turned
author and PBS host; LA Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson; Richmond
Times- Dispatch reporter Charles McDowell, who on the 2/22 show had some
harsh words for Bush's new energy strategy; and semi-retired Baltimore Sun
Pentagon scribe Charles Corddry. Other recent panelists include Gloria
Borger of Newsweek; Tom Friedman of the NY Times; and Melissa Healy of the
LA Times Pentagon beat.
INSIDE WASHINGTON: SPONSORS: The re-named version of "Agronsky & Co.,"
Washington local news anchor Gordon Peterson replaced Martin Agronsky upon
his retirement as moderator a few years back.
"Inside Washington" is virtually the only panel show not dominated by the
same clique of right-wing pundits. Regulars include James Kilpatrick, whose
"60 Minutes" debates with Shana Alexander were the object of classic '70's
"Saturday Night Live" satire; Elizabeth Drew, whose comments on the show and
in her New Yorker columns have been some of the most lucid on the war to
date; Gun-toting columnist Carl Rowan, a Kennedy-era chief of the US
Information Agency, holds the mildewed liberalism chair on the show; Hugh
Sidey, who echoes his sycophantic Time columns on the Presidency on the
show; the Time piece on 2/11 read: "'Where was George?' Last week George was
there, the Commander in Chief who organized and launched one of this
century's most awesome military exercises. Whether it will finally work is
not the question here." Time's Strobe Talbott rounds out the panel. With
Drew and Rowan, Talbott offers a slightly left-of-center perspective. To his
credit, even Kilpatrick does not always follow a dogmatic conservative line.
"Inside Washington" is the most likely pundit repository to permit
occasional original thought. But the show's syndicators, Post- Newsweek TV,
reach far fewer markets than "McLaughlin." Subs include Tina Gulland, the
home team entry as the Washington Bureau Chief for Post-Newsweek TV. A
recent addition is the Washington Post's Juan Williams, who planted one foot
firmly in the anti-Peter Arnett camp a few weeks ago as a part of his
apparent rightward flight. The author of the "Eyes on the Prize" book on the
civil rights movement, Williams has also charged that contemporary civil
rights leaders who oppose the war are "out of step" -- despite polling
figures which show an even 50-50 split on war support in African American
communities. Williams also penned a bizarre Post op-ed on 2/?? which
contended that war protestors have no moral authority to claim their support
for soldiers shipped off to fight in the Gulf.
In Part 2 next week, we'll look at the interview shows: "Meet the Press,"
"Face the Nation," "This Week with David Brinkley," and CNN's "Newsmaker"
shows; as well as the Lesser Pundits: "Crossfire," "The Capital Gang,"
"American Interests," C-SPAN discussion shows, and Fox TV's puerile "Off the
EDITORIAL HINDSIGHT: Pundit Watch took a look back to 1987, during the Dog
Days of the Iran-Iraq war, to see how American editorialists were playing
the conflict. Here are a few excerpts of note:
New York Times 6/21/87: "Reflections on Reflagging: Should the United
States .... put American Flags on 11 Kuwaiti tankers and defend them against
Iranian attacks? The President, quick to describe the ships as American,
says yes, of course. Members of Congress say, not so fast; show us.
"They're right, for the reflagging question uncovers the underlying
issue. 'Reflagging' would destroy all pretense of American neutrality in
the Iran-Iraq war. The tilt toward Iraq might lead to direct hostilities
between the United States and Iran, or at least drive an even deeper wedge
between them for decades to come, perhaps even pushing Iran under the Soviet
The LA Times on reflagging tankers, 6/18/87: "The world, says Reagan,
would be in sorry shape if the oil that now passes through the gulf were
lost. Indeed it would be. ... The President further claims that if tzhe U.S.
doesn't move quickly to fill up the gulf with its warships, then, by God,
the Soviets will.
..."Kuwait, an ally of Iraq, wants 11 of its tankers put under the US
flag. To protect that flag, the Administration says that it must commit
more of the Navy. ... The arguments that (Reagan) makes for intervening in
the gulf are specious and unconvincing, while the commitment that he
proposes is shrouded with potentially perilous consequences. the fundamental
US interest is to be seen not in intervening in the gulf war but in helping
to bring it to an end in a way that would leave no victor free to lord it
over its neighbors. That is a task for multinational diplomacy and pressure,
not for battleships and bluster."
LA Times, 9/7/87: "Western military analysts have long puzzled over Iraq's
poor battlefield performance, -- notably its failure to take full advantage
of a considerable superiority in combat aircraft, artillery, and tanks. Iraq
prefers to limit itself largely to defensive action."
NY Times, 7/17/87: "Renewal of the ground war always offers a chance that
the Iraqi Army will suddenly collapse. But it hasn't yet."
Washington Post, 9/2/87: "(The Iraqis) are entrenched behind massive
fortifications, but they are on the defensive, and desperate to bring it to
Finally, there's the 4/27/87 issue of The New Republic, where we find an
essay engagingly entitled "Back Iraq," by Daniel Pipes and Laurie Mylroie.
Under the unavoidable subtitle "It's time for a U.S. 'tilt,'" they managed
to anticipate the recent crisis by more than three years. Sadly, they got
the name of the enemy wrong. Mylroie, her expertise established herein, is
the co-author with Judy Miller of the New York Times of a recent fast-buck
paperback titled: "Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf." Bear in mind
that the same New Republic that pleaded for aid to Saddam in 1987 was caught
in late 1990 doctoring a photo of the Iraqi leader to make his mustache
"IRANIAN TROOPS entrenched in southern Iraq threaten more than Basra,
Iraq's second largest city. They challenge the entire political order of the
Middle East. The fall of the existing regime in Iraq would enormously
enhance Iranian influence, endanger the supply of oil, threaten pro-American
regimes throughout the area, and upset the Arab-Israeli balance. ....
"And now we know that, for over a year, the United States was secretly
helping the wrong side. HAWK missiles sold to Iran blunted the effectiveness
of the Iraqi air force, Baghdad's most important offensive force. ...
"Ironically, helping Iraq militarily may offer the best way for
Washington to regain its position in Tehran. The American weapons that Iraq
could make good use of include remotely scatterable and anti-personnel
mines, and counterartillery radar. Indeed, Baghdad has already expressed an
interest in purchasing American arms, but Washington rejected both the
Iraqis' request for C-130 cargo aircraft and a Jordanian proposal to let the
Iraqis use King Hussein's U.S.-made counterartillery radar. ...
"The United States might also consider upgrading intelligence it is
supplying to Baghdad to balance the military damage done to Iraq by the
arms-for-hostage swap. We now know that the United States has been providing
Iraq with information on Iranian troop concentrations and damage assessments
of Iraqi attacks on Iranian targets. It's good this news is out; it gives
the Ayatollah pause.
"CURRENTLY the United States provides Iraq with commodity credits worth
$500 million annually. Repayment terms could be eased. Opening a line of
export-import credits was discussed early in 1986; the United States backed
down at the time, but should move forward now. Other economic steps (such as
reducing tariffs on Iraqi goods) should be explored as well. Such measures
would assert U.S. confidence in Iraq's political viability and its ability
to repay its debts after the war's end, and would encourage other
countries--especially Iraq's Arab allies and European creditors--to continue
financing Iraqi war efforts.
..."A MORE SERIOUS argument against a tilt toward Iraqis the danger that
a victorious Baghdad would itself turn against pro- American states in the
region--mainly Israel, but also Kuwait and other weak states in the Persian
Gulf region. Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq has a history of anti-Americanism,
anti-Zionism, support for terrorism, and friendliness toward the Soviet
"But the Iranian revolution and seven years of bloody and inconclusive
warfare have changed Iraq's view of its Arab neighbors, the United States,
and even Israel. Iraq restored relations with the United States in November
1984. Its leaders no longer consider the Palestinian issue their problem.
Iraq's allies since 1979 have been those states-- Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, and Morocco--most threatened by revolutionary upheaval, most
friendly to the United States, and most open to negotiations with Israel.
These allies have forced a degree of moderation on Iraq... Iraq is now the
de facto protector of the regional status quo.
... "The main point is to repair the damage done by the Reagan
administration's covert U.S. tilt toward Iran. If our tilt toward Iraq is
reciprocated, moreover, it could lay the basis for a fruitful relationship
in the longer term. ...
"Covering a war by pools must be something like phone sex.... It sounds
safe and easy, and with enough imagination you could get the job done. But
you instinctively know there is a better way." Cragg Hines of the Houston
Chronicle at the 2/20 Senate hearing on war press restrictions (Washington
"(The pool system is turning journalists into) "essentially unpaid
employees of the Department of Defense." (NY Times correspondent Malcolm
Browne, same hearing, quoted in NYT on 2/21).
IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT...... Newsweek's Rambo Cub Repo.\Y@M*Tavid
Hackworth slipped this line of sterling prose past the editors in the 2/25
edition: "I spent five days last week with an Egyptian Commando battalion
that was eyeball to bellybutton with the Iraqi Army in the center of No
TAKING SIDES ON PROTESTS: "500 Brave Cold to Support Gulf Policy," read
the 2/17 Washington Post headline. The Post's description of the previous
day's pro-war rally covered 1/3 page, and blamed the weather for a turnout
which organizers had predicted would be ten times as large. The following
page ran a 6-graf AP story, citing 300 anti-war demonstrators in
Kennebunkport, with no connection between attendance and Mother Nature. When
anti-war activists from over 200 colleges and high schools held a nationwide
day of protest on 2/21, the Post reported a range of local turnouts from 175
to 1,000. The headline? "On U.S. campuses, a Faint Anti-War Cry."
HIDDEN MEANINGS? During what Village Voice press critic Doug Ireland
called "The carefully Deaverish staging" of President Bush's 2/15 speech at
Raytheon's Patriot Missile plant, Bush appeared before a large homemade
banner with the word "Patriot" displayed vertically. NBC's newscast that
night opened with a Bush soundbite with the bottom half of the banner as a
backdrop. The picture consisted of Bush, plugging the war in front of the
G.E. ON THE BRAIN: The New Republic's Mickey Kaus is as upset as we are at
General Electric's advertising dominance on the weekend pundit shows, but
for a different reason: "Would anyone like to take up a collection to pay GE
to make some new commercials for the Sunday morning talk shows? ... It's not
that the current commercials are bad. it's just that most informed citizens
must by now be able to recite them word-for-word from memory." (TNR, 3/4)
FRONTLINE STEPS IN LINE: Normally one of the few intact vertebrae where
the PBS spine used to be, the weekly "Frontline" documentary series removed
a rerun of an Iran-Contra documentary from its March schedule. Executive
Producer David Fanning and program host Bill Moyers nixed the rebroadcast of
"High Crimes and Misdemeanors" because it raises "serious questions about
then-Vice President Bush's involvement and actions" in the guns-to-Iran
scandal. The two did not explain whether their primary motivation for self-
censorship was the war, or the fact that March is a PBS Pledge Month.
(Washington Post, Village Voice).
Pundit Watch #5 was written by Peter Dykstra and researched by Julie
Brenegar and Bob Lyons.
NEXT WEEK: Oil Spill Redux; More Civilian Pundits.
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