This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," February 28, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," President Obama has had a busy week, including his big speech to Congress. Is the media cheering him on?
MSNBC mocks a rising Republicans as others take whacks at the GOP piñata.
News on the Chandra Levy mystery. Raising concerns over how Congressman Gary Condit's role in the case was covered.
The Pentagon does an about-face on a controversial order.
Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi auditions for a new role, clapper in chief.
On the panel this week, Marisa Guthrie, programming editor for "Broadcasting and Cable" magazine; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and writer and FOX News contributor, Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.
SCOTT: President Obama's been very busy this week. Monday, meeting with governors on his plan to save America's banks. Then, addressing Congress for the first time Tuesday night to glowing media reviews, which produced headlines like these on Wednesday: "Yes, we will," from the Chicago Sun Times, The New York Daily News, "Hope he's right," and from Washington, D.C.'s Examiner, "I get it." Wednesday, the president announced and introduced former Washington State Governor Gary Locke as his third pick for commerce secretary. Thursday, reporting, quote, "good news" for his 2010 budget, which will set aside $634 billion for health care coverage. And Friday, Mr. Obama, at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, to announce an end to all combat operations in Iraq by August 31, 2010.
After that announcement yesterday, Judy, the president said we're getting out, the surge worked, the situation in Iraq very much improved. And the media pretty much quit covering it. How would you judge their reaction to his announcement?
JUDITH MILLER, WRITE & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think the announcement has taken place and it's going to take a while for people to understand what a couple of very shrewd commentators noticed, and that is that the president originally wanted 16 months to withdraw. The military wanted 23. And he settled on 19. So we've got the compromise there. The great compromiser here in Obama. Plus, a residual force of 50,000. I think that's playing well both in the military and the press.
SCOTT: I guess if everybody's a little unhappy, does that mean it's good policy?
JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: It does show that Obama, at least on issues, especially national security, has some sort of careful instinct. Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke are not the sort of lefties that is people were afraid that he might pick prior to the election.
But I think on domestic policy, it's a much different story. I think The New York Times had said, quote, "a bold plan for sweeping away the Reagan ideas." That kind of tells I guess a lot about Obama and also a lot about the Judy's former employers at The New York Times, what they really desperately wish for.
SCOTT: Well, the reviews, Cal, were very glowing generally in the media for his speech on Tuesday night. Did they miss anything?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Obama, here's what he's doing — this is going to be a big catch-up for the media. He's doing so much all at once. It's like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with all the glow on his face. It soon began to fade. He knows his popularity is probably never going to be higher. The Republican and conservatives will never be weaker. There's no opposition voice. Get it all done right now. The media are having a tough time keeping up with it all.
Some of the best reporting this week — I don't say this very often — goes to The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, all three of which have done excellent jobs describing what is in his financial proposals and how it could affect the economy and people making $250,000 a year, which are not all rich people by most people's definition.
SCOTT: And Vice President Biden is going to build a tent on the mountain top, is that right?
THOMAS: By the way, speaking of Vice President Biden, he made three gaffs and Obama made one. If this were a Republican or George Bush, they would have been mocked on late night comedy. They would have been on "The Daily Show," all of these things. But pretty much, they got a free pass on it.
SCOTT: Talking about the third time's a charm, Marisa, the president announced his third pick for commerce secretary. And the media all but ignored it.
MARISA GUTHRIE, PROGRAMMING EDITOR, BROADCASTING & CABLE: Well, it's the third one. This guy better be squeaky clean. I think the media - - we're all expecting that, by number three, they should get this thing right. And this confirmation will sail through. They've moved on. After Richardson and Judd Gregg, that's it.
SCOTT: In some circles, it was almost mocked, poor Gary Locke. It was not his fault that he was number three.
PINKERTON: True. But Michelle Malkin that covered then-Governor Locke when she was a reporter for the Seattle paper, did have stuff about his financial dealings, which are worth referring to. Although, I agree, the crush of news on the budget and such, that he probably will get ignored.
SCOTT: Let me ask you something, Cal. A lot of the people in the media were comparing President Obama after his speech Tuesday night — were comparing him to Ronald Reagan and the way that he carried himself when he was in office. I'd love to get your thoughts on that.
THOMAS: Certainly, in style, he was Reaganesque. But his substance, he was socialist. This is the problem with our Oprahfied media today. It's all about delivery, looks, and not about the substance.
MILLER: Come on, come on, Cal. The press was just mirroring the public reaction. Look at the polls on that...
THOMAS: Is that their job?
SCOTT: No. But they reflect it. They are people too and they reflect it.
PINKERTON: Did they reflect it or lead it? Part of the problem is nobody can understand these numbers. Andy Colar (ph), at the Politico newspaper web site, did an article on trying to visualize where all this money is and she quoted somebody saying that a trillion dollars would make it stack of dollar bills 689 miles high. Again, we're talking two or three trillion here on new spending and bonuses and stimuluses and so on. Who can get a grip on this?
GUTHRIE: That's an abstraction. Americans are dealing with the loss of their jobs and skyrocketing health care. So that's what they're focused on and they want some government help. The polls clearly show that. So this is what Obama delivered on Tuesday night.
THOMAS: If the media followed public opinion on approval ratings, they should have had for Reagan, for Gingrich and for the congressional Republicans. They weren't anything of the kind.
SCOTT: Time for a break. If you'd like to hear what we're talking about during the commercial break, check out our Web site, foxnews.com/foxnewswatch. We'll be chatting and be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: MSNBC mocks Governor Jindal and the press take potshots at GOP head Michael Steele. Is the Republican Party the new media's piñata? And did the Speaker of the House become a distraction at the president's big speech? All next, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY JINDAL, (R), GOVERNOR OF LOUISIANA: To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes, not to just put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead by empowering you, the American people, because we believe that Americans can do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That's Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal with the Republican response to President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night.
For those watching MSNBC that evening, this is what they heard as a lead-in to Jindal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: Chris, standby. Rachel, standby. We're getting that cue from Baton Rouge where Governor Jindal of Louisiana is set to deliver the Republican response to President Obama. It is entitled "Americans Can Do Anything."
Here's Governor Jindal.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Oh, my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That murmured phrase, the voice of MSNBC anchor, Chris Matthews, caught with an open mike. Matthews later apologized.
Here's how FOX News host and former Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, reacted to Matthew's slip this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS HOST & FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I'm in a different kind of competition. There are those other cable channels. There's the one that, just this week finally got religion. You know which one I'm talking about, the one we now call the, Oh-God channel, after Chris Matthews found there was a god and called him out right before Governor Jindal's speech the other night. (APPLAUSE). Some of us call that not-the-MSNBC but the MS-BS channel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, Jim. What about it, Mike Huckabee, your old boss when you were in politics? What do you think about his response? Was MSNBC really just trying to alienate conservatives?
PINKERTON: I think MSNBC has a clear branding strategy going to the left. Three hours a night, prime time, they have people pound away on Republicans, especially George Bush, which is I think is a mistake in ratings strategy to go after George W. Bush, who is out of office. I don't think the eyeballs are there for that. As the ratings — and Marisa knows better than anybody — the ratings show.
SCOTT: That may be borne out by that famous statement that Matthews made when he listened to an Obama speech during the campaign. You've got to hear it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama, my — I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Marisa, you cover broadcasting and cable. I mean, is that the feeling about MSNBC coverage and is it working for them?
GUTHRIE: Well, it is working for them in that their numbers are up compared to last year. But, I mean, it's obvious and transparent. These people are partisan. They got in trouble during the Republican convention for having them anchor so-called, straight news coverage. They said they were taking him off news coverage. and they didn't really take them off the news coverage. So, I mean, it's a game that no one is buying anymore. And I think, you know, come on, he knew his mike was open.
SCOTT: Judy, some people say that it actually helps some of these politicians like Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele and so forth when MSNBC and other media take shots at them.
MILLER: In a polarized environment, it's going to help to take a position with at least half the people watching you and listening to you or reading you. But the issue is the Republicans are making a bet. They've become what MSNBC originally called the party of no. Now, is that going to be a pejorative or a badge of honor? That depends very much on how Obama's programs play and whether or not they're effective.
THOMAS: Let me tell you why the media and liberal Democrats — but I repeat myself — hate Bobby Jindal. First of all, he's got a great personal story, immigrant parents. Came to America, made something out of himself without a big government program. Serious Roman Catholic and pro- life, Indian origin. Governor of the state that he's turning around because of the ethical problems they have there. They don't like it.
The New York Times went out of its way to go quote some conservatives who are critical of him, not Rush Limbaugh but some others. He could have delivered the speech better. but it was not a good maiden speech but he's got a lot of time.
SCOTT: What about that?
PINKERTON: Jindal never plays the victim card. and that's what they want him to do. His line — I admit he got clobbered in the reviews — but his line that Republican and Democrats, Republicans look for hope in different places. They look to the private sector, to faith. Democrats — this is him saying it — look to the government and so on. I think Republicans and conservatives will keep that dichotomy in mind.
SCOTT: Is that negative coverage going to hurt him?
MILLER: Don't you think Jindal was really speaking to his base, to the base of the Republican Party?
THOMAS: What's left of it!
MILLER: But this was not a kind of Republican speech, message. This was let me target the people who stood with us. I think Jindal, as a politician, is stronger than that when more popular than that. and he will overcome this little blip in the ratings.
SCOTT: Time for another break. We're going to be back in just a moment with this.
ANNOUNCER: A headline-making murder mystery involving a congressman and an intern takes a new twist. And did Nancy Pelosi have a severe case of ants in her pants Tuesday night? Details next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Former California Congressman Gary Condit, remember him? He's back in the news this week with word that an arrest could be coming any moment in the murder of former Washington intern, Chandra Levy. She worked in his office. With that news, criticism of how the media covered Condit's role in a case that transfixed the nation. Condit never formally charged as a suspect. But for some in the media, that fact did not stop the accusation. Here's how the National Inquirer put it in an August 7, 2001 edition, "Condit's wife attacked Chandra." And there were some others.
Marisa, you cover, again, broadcasting and cable. What's changed in the eight years since that case first transfixed the nation?
GUTHRIE: Nothing at all. It's gotten worse because now we have blogging and web sites like TMZ and Radar Online that have the octuplet mom and her mother fighting on camera. Look, Gary Condit was never a sympathetic figure. It's not like he didn't give the media a foothold to launch all of this.
SCOTT: He was not exactly a paragon of truth?
GUTHRIE: No. And he's not going to be out there demanding any apologies. He wants all this to go away. He was not — he's not a murder clearly, but he was morally culpable for exploiting a young woman. And he was not forth forthcoming. So the media could get on this ban wagon. Was the coverage over the top? Yes. But are we going to bemoan all this excessive media coverage? It sells. That's what people want.
SCOTT: What about it, Jim? He was driven from office because of all the negative publicity. Do you think he's owed an apology?
PINKERTON: No, I don't. I think he was incredibly unlucky that most people's love affairs don't end up with a girlfriend murdered by somebody else. It's a terrible tragedy. But as Lisa Defallow (ph), who covered the case, wrote in The Daily News, look, he stonewalled us, reporters, for 67 days on this. That could have been the difference of solving the crime eight years ago.
THOMAS: That's right. I agree with that.
SCOTT: All right, to another story now making news this week. After 18 years, the Pentagon announced on Thursday it will let military families decide whether or not to allow photographs of the flag-draped caskets of their loved ones. As he announced the decision, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "We should not presume to make the decision for the families. We should actually let them make it." What do you think about that?
MILLER: I think it has largely been accepted and applauded because it was, once again, a compromise decision between those who want to show every single coffin to demonstrate the horrible price that war requires of this country and those who wanted to protect the privacy. This is a really straight down the middle decision. And even Secretary Gates said, and this was widely covered in the media, that the Pentagon itself was divided by this very difficult issue. And I think that's right.
SCOTT: But those images of flag-draped coffins, so powerful, Marisa. There are some who say anti-war or other similar groups could exploit them.
GUTHRIE: Well, I mean, there are no political states anymore. We know when the war's ending. We're out of Iraq. Obama has said as much. So — and, also, I think they didn't really actually have to make a decision. They left the decision to the families. So all of the families must agree to allowing media in — all of the families on one transport must agree or there won't be any coffins shown. I don't think we're going to see very many. How are you going to get all this agreement? So they really kind of wiggled out of actually making a decision here.
SCOTT: Now for a segment we call caught in the web.
A journalistic felony. Fox News' John Gibson, a victim of an Internet attack from an NBC reporter in Baltimore. The weapon — a doctored video on youtube.com. John Sanders, a technology reporter for WBAL, spliced Gibson's musings about U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Holder's nation of cowards remarks. The hatchet job replaced key words making Gibson appear to say he would be discussing the attorney general and his, quote, "bright blue scrotum." Three words Gibson gave in an earlier description of an escaped zoo monkey. Well, Sanders put his outrageously doctored clip on YouTube and the Blogosphere erupted.
The so-called journalists at the Huffington Post, looking for any opportunity to try to embarrass FOX News, compounded the stupidity, putting the bogus clip on the web site. They couldn't find it was fake until eventually they had to apologize to Gibson and FOX News. So did the NBC station. It put out a statement saying the act occurred, "Without the prior knowledge or consent of anyone at WBAL-TV or Heart-Argyle Television. We do not condone such behavior."
As for Sanders, his illicit editing helped boost the nation's unemployment rate in February. WBAL Tersely says the former reporter is no longer working there.
We have to take one more break. When we come back...
ANNOUCER: The president gives a major speech as the speaker does her impression of a jack in the box. Did Pelosi's pop-ups upstage Mr. Obama? That's next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: As we mentioned earlier, President Obama gave his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. It was a very solemn occasion. He was interrupted by applause 61 times. Many of those interruptions seemed to come from the speaker of the house herself, or as some are calling her, pop-up Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, jumped to her feet to applaud the president 38 times.
Well, comedian Jon Stewart, as you might expect, took notice on his "Daily Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": The night's speech was no small task. Obama's challenge would be to convey to the American public the sobering realities of our current situation while maintaining an optimistic tone for the future, all while desperately, desperately, desperately trying not to turn around for a quick game of Whack a Mole. (LAUGHTER).
Interesting fact about Nancy Pelosi, she is one-eighth gopher on her father's side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Did Dennis Hastert ever pop up and down like that in the well of the house?
MILLER: I don't think so.
SCOTT: I don't think so either.
MILLER: But, hey, it's changed.
SCOTT: It has changed. And we can believe in it too.
That's all the time we have left this week. I want to thank our panelists, Marisa Guthrie, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Judith Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. Keep it here at FOX News channel. We'll be back next week with another edition of "FOX News Watch." And the "FOX Report" is up next.
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