This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," August 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "FOX News Watch," a top secret spy agency forced to divulge some of its secrets and the press pounces. So what did we do to get the terror suspects to talk? The administration wants another investigation. Is it good policy or politics? And are the media paying attention?
Bad news on the budget deficit. It is far bigger than anyone predicted. Did the White House try to sidestep that news with this new?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm reappointing to another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Plus, as a family and a nation mourn a political legend, how did the press handle the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy.
And the president tries to vacation. Did late-night comics let them get any rest?
On the panel this weekend, Jane Hall, of the American university; Andrea Tantaros, conservative columnist and FOXnews.com contributor; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New American Foundation; and Judy Miller, writer and FOX News contributor.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: No matter how you look at it, this is a very rough time for the CIA. And we've never needed them more than we need them now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: New York Congressman Peter King there reacting to the news this week that the Justice Department is planning to look into possible abuse of prisoners by CIA interrogators. That news came on Monday when long-secret CIA documents were also released.
This is how The New York Times played the news, "Investigation is ordered in CIA abuse charges." And the story was still front-page news in The Times on Friday, the paper led with this story, "Abuse issue puts the Justice Department and CIA at odds."
Jim, you saw the headlines. You have seen how it's been covered all week. The press pounced on the story. Whose side are they on?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I think Eric Holder is on his way to a profile-in-courage treatment here.
SCOTT: You're saying he won the argument within the administration.
PINKERTON: He won the argument in administration and he won the all-important New York Times straw poll, which said we are for him.
But there's three stories here. There's a story that has Washington fixated, which is Eric Holder versus Leon Panetta and the CIA and investigations and so on. then there's the larger story ripping across the country which is the fate of these CIA agents and contractors, these grunts in the war on terror, who are about to get in the neck. The other story which is what Al Qaeda is doing. They're sitting there laughing in a cave somewhere saying America is about to destroy itself and we're going to sit and watch.
SCOTT: Judy, you worked at The Times, and you also cover national security. Is the press coverage focusing on the national security implications of the CIA thing or is it all about politics?
JUDITH MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's about both. It's legitimately about both, because the director of the CIA is a very important factor, or should be, in Washington. The dissing of him says a great deal about this administration, and the president's attitude towards that institution which, on one hand, he says he needs and respects, and gives a guarantee that no one who followed the law will be prosecuted, and the next day, does something like this, which is viewed, especially by the Republicans, as undercutting the agency and Leon Panetta. So it is a fascinating story politically and substantively.
SCOTT: Have reporters made the point that this is been done before by the inspector general of the CIA?
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I don't think so.
The New York Times story on Friday pointed out that they were investigated before, that no charges were filed. There's been a real lack of history and perspective. The L.A. Times had a good piece in which they talked about how — Cheney is out there saying this proves he was right, but the report also doesn't really say that. So I think reporters need to give you the perspective. I think unfortunately you now have a situation where most Americans are going to go, wait a minute, they are dissing the CIA guy. They're undercutting him.
Eric Holder had a flattering piece in Newsweek, which Panetta's people at the CIA read as, here come indictments, here comes something against us. That's regrettable.
SCOTT: Do the press pick favorites, Andrea? She just mentioned Dick Cheney. Is the fact that — well, is the treatment that he's getting in the press, does it suggest that many in the media are still eager to punch back him after the Bush administration?
ANDREA TANTAROS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. That's the entire point of this investigation. Ultimately, they want Cheney's head. They would love to have nothing more than to have Cheney and Rumsfeld hauled in and interrogated.
Look, I think this is bad politics and bad policy. You know, going from declaring a war on terror to now war on the CIA, Obama will lose this one. I think every president deserves a vacation.
They deserve a vacation, but this is not the week to take it. He has lost control of the message on the CIA. He's lost control of the deficit, which we'll get in later. He's lost control the health care debate. And this story, right now, is their going to lose this one.
HALL: But wait a minute.
MILLER: You think the president wants responsibility for this? Every time he is asked about it, he says he knows this is Eric Holder's decision.
HALL: They're not going to tell you the people who wrote the memos that said this was OK. This is going to be like Private Lynndie England. We're going to get the people at the bottom, who thought they were doing the right thing.
PINKERTON: Exactly. Jane is exactly right. As a great president, who is man enough to take responsibility for things, Harry Truman said, "The buck stops here. If my attorney general does it, it's as good as me doing it."
MILLER: That's right. That's right.
TANTAROS: But they're not playing up the national security implications. The media is ignoring what this means from a national security perspective.
MILLER: No, I don't think they have been ignoring it, but they don't point out often enough that a special prosecutor is in charge of this, which means that really, neither the president nor even Eric Holder are going to be really responsible for the outcome. Because it is the special prosecutor's decision on whether or not these grunts are going to be prosecuted.
It's really kind of a denial of a pushing away of responsibility to placate the left wing of the party. And I don't think we've seen that point made quite well enough.
SCOTT: It does seem the president could've said to Eric Holder, I don't want this investigation to go forward, and that would've ended it, right?
HALL: I don't know. To be fair to Eric Holder, he has said the facts, what he's read, and these facts have led him to think that we need to have an investigation. We shouldn't be as reporters in the business of saying Obama should or shouldn't. And...
TANTAROS: But the media has not covered what Eric Holder has said previously in April, that he does not believe that people who are doing their job, trying to protect Americans should be prosecuted. They also haven't really covered what the administration has said in the past, but this is a total about-face.
MILLER: The president has said that and I think the media have pointed that out, Andrea. T hey really have.
What we don't know — we really need more facts about this. We need facts about this. We need facts about Cheney's claim, for example. Did this work, didn't this work? I think we still need a 9/11 commission.
PINKERTON: Speaking of facts, Dick Cheney, well known for his commitment to open government and full disclosure...
... has demanded that every piece of data come out on this, because he knows — because I agree with Andrea — the Republicans will win this fight.
SCOTT: Time for a break.
We have lots of extras for you on our Web site, including some of the spirited discussions erupting in here during our breaks, and you know what is about to happen. Some of the things you don't see on TV, catch them on our Web site after the show: FOXNews.com/foxnewswatch.
We will be back in two minutes to talk about the economy, and this.
ANNOUNCER: A deficit of $9 trillion. How did the liberal media try to spin the bad news? Plus, how did the press pay tribute to Ted Kennedy? All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEW ANCHOR: Good evening. We start off tonight with numbers, huge numbers, virtually impossible to grasp. The White House said today the deficit this year is going to balloon to a record $1.6 trillion. That is trillion, with a "T," dollars. That's more than triple last year's deficit.
KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. The president's vacation in the sun was interrupted today by a cloud of bad economic news and a forecast of more to come from both the White House and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, that's how ABC and CBS led their evening news broadcasts Tuesday night, focusing on the bad news about the deficit. But here was the other big economic story of the day. President Obama taking out time from his vacation to do a little business, announcing he will nominate Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, for a second term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined he would be part of a team's possible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage and his creativity, that's exactly what he has helped to achieve. And that is why I am reappointing him to another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, Andrea, the president was on vacation but came out to make this announcement about Bernanke on the same day we got the bad deficit numbers. Any coincidence there?
TANTAROS: Hmm. Can anybody say "distraction?"
I think they did this to try to change the narrative that day. I think it was very unsuccessful. The media really extensively covered this news. Obama did not — I think he really sought to try to change the story, put, you know, Bernanke as the headline and I don't think it worked. I think you even saw from all spectrums of the media, them covering that this is really bad for the president.
SCOTT: Well, it may have blunted some of the blow?
HALL: It might have. But Bernanke's reappointment, $9 trillion, you know, I mean it is going to be three quarters of the debt?
Most of us — I took economics and I was trying to remember about putting the peddle up and the peddle down. He has a huge number of problems. A lot of people I read say the stimulus package did probably help us avert a possible depression, but no we're in that situation where the debt is so mind-boggling that to argue for health care is a case that's very hard for the president to make.
PINKERTON: If a picture is worth 1000 words, then a moving graphic, like ABC had of America drowning in an ocean of red ink, is worth one million words. I think the Obama people have got a serious problem on their hands.
I wrote for U.S. News in June that they shot their wad on spending and bailouts and that's why they'll never get health care through.
SCOTT: Is the press doing a good job, do you think, in making this — Charlie Gibson, you just heard him say, it's incomprehensible, the $9 trillions of debt. Is the media doing a good job?
MILLER: I think they are. Every indication we have, every poll that we have seen shows that this deficit is really registering with the American people. It is making it very hard for the president to get his health care package, whatever it is.
But in addition to that, people, like Floyd Norris, at The New York Times, my old paper, has done an excellent job of pointing out the tax consequences, which is unless Congress now intervened with this deficit, we're going to have a situation in which Obama will not be able to make good on his promise not to raise taxes. Because we're going back to an old tax system which will enhance the deficit and mean that middle-class people will wind up paying more money. So I think there's a lot of good economic reporting being done.
SCOTT: Jane, you teach journalism. The fact that Mr. Obama trots out Mr. Bernanke for re-appointment on that day, is that trying to manage the message?
HALL: Absolutely. Andrea is right, it is an attempt at distraction. I think, to be fair, the media should also be pointing out we have been on this debt bender for quite some time. But it is not going to work, I don't think, for the Obama people to say we didn't start this. He has this huge plate of problems. And I think we could have better reporting about the tax cuts and the spending cuts and what do we do and what can we do. There's harm either way. It's kind of frightening when you know enough about it to be frightened.
PINKERTON: But strictly speaking, if you triple the deficit, as the Obama people did, relative to Bush, that would seem to indicate that the debt and deficit are more Obama's fault than Bush's.
SCOTT: What about that? Are the media, are they tagging this Obama administration with the deficit numbers and some of the other things he says, hey, we inherited all this. Their predictions are now that unemployment will get to 10 percent.
MILLER: I think the media are pointing out that he inherited a bad situation, which is now getting worse because of the consequences, the implications of some of his spending policies and the stimulus and all the things we've talked about on the show. But I think that some reporters are pointing out that things like $100 billion a year fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are also adding to the deficit. You've got a lot of good solid reporting on this. I think the message is getting through. I mean, why is he having such a tough time with health care?
TANTAROS: I agree. Independents, you look at the polling, Independents care seemingly the most about the deficit. That's why they're opposed to this. They really seem to respond to the economic imperative. When Obama came out and said that, they said, no way, we don't have the money. I think that's a big part of why they're losing.
HALL: I think, that Obama is not getting enough credit for perhaps our having averted a financial collapse with some of the $786 gazillion dollars, you know, that they put out for that. I don't think he is getting credit because people are scared. They're feeling a pinch. They are scared about jobs. We may have a recovery that is, in some way, not feeling like a recovery. I wouldn't want to be trying to figure this out.
SCOTT: It's time for another break.
But first if you come across a story that you think shows media bias, e-mail us, NewsWatch@FOXNews.com .
We'll be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: The liberal mind, Ted Kennedy, dies at 77. How was the Senator remembered by the media?
That's next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD KENNEDY, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS: As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together, we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat. But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy delivering his last big political speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 in Denver. In an eerie coincidence, he died exactly one year later on Tuesday night at the age of 77.
Since learning the sad news, people of the world have mourned. The media have paid tribute to the late Senator. Here are just some of the hundreds of headlines we saw this week — "The one and only" from The Boston Herald; "A family's legacy," said USA Today; "Last of the dynasty," wrote Newsday; and The Washington Post, "End of American epoch."
I guess, Judy, the question is: Do those headlines capture some of the nuance behind this guy?
MILLER: I think we have seen an amazing amount of reporting. Things I did not know, such as one of the things that Senator Kennedy, this great liberal, wanted to do — and he was truly this torch bearer for liberalism — was watch every episode of "24."
And he did that. I think we have learned a lot about the man. And you know, the first time after we learned about his fatal illness, there was almost no mention of Mary Joe Kopechne. And this time, we have had a balanced assessment of Senator Kennedy and his legacy. The congressional legacy is extraordinary. And now I think Politics Daily pointed out that many of the liberal causes, such as Don't Ask Don't Tell, have a sponsor. And they are stranded issues because no one wants to pick them up.
Jim, let me get your reaction to something columnist, Vern Gay, wrote in Newsweek. He wrote, "After the assassination of JFK, virtually launched modern television news." He said, "Finally, the death of the fourth brother," meaning Teddy Kennedy, he said, "This was almost another day at the office for the TV news trade."
PINKERTON: That's a little casual, I would say, but certainly the Teddy Kennedy story invariably went back to John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. And that footage is moving. I was actually born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was there when President Kennedy was shot in 1963, not in Dallas, in Massachusetts. It was an unbelievable emotional wave, that even a five year old could figure out what was going and how powerful it was. I think the media are legitimately tapping into the opportunity to talk about the history of the last 50 years for this country as well as Teddy Kennedy himself.
SCOTT: We heard a lot about the liberal lion this week. Was there enough work done to go beyond the cliches to make him more than a paper figure, I guess?
HALL: I think so. I think a lot of stories pointed out that it was really only after he was unable to explain to Roger Mudd why he wanted to be president, in an infamous interview, and after the Mary Joe Kopechne — what happened there. It was only after that that he had no presidential ambition and he concentrated on the Senate.
We talk a lot about narrative. The narrative of the Kennedy family is an extraordinary political story. Rose Kennedy herself is an extraordinary story. They are star-crossed. A terrible tragedy. I think people have also have pointed out that he was able to reach across — Orrin Hatch was a very close friend of his. I think there is a mournfulness about, why can't we do that more today.
SCOTT: Andrea, speak to that. He had a lot of Republican friends. A lot of people were surprised to hear that.
TANTAROS: Yes, that's right. And I think that absolutely came out in the end. But there's another story being told, if you look in the media. Just right after he — his passing, the left came out, Nancy Pelosi and Chris Dodd, and they started to tie this in with health care push. We need to do this for him. And I really think that is using the death card. It was very disingenuous. And Barack Obama knows it himself.
SCOTT: You're getting a finger way from Judy. Whenever I see the finger waving, I know...
TANTAROS: Is not smart. Think about it. If they do put his name on this bill, Kennedy care, and it doesn't pass, what does that say?
HALL: Come on...
TANTAROS: Oh, come on.
MILLER: It's beyond that. It's the beyond that. The president himself, President Obama, said he did not want to do that with health. That is not what he wants to do.
TANTAROS: Because he knows it is not a good strategy.
TANTAROS: Look, it's a liberal bill. That's why it is not getting any support and no winning over the American people.
So putting the liberal lion's face on it is not going to help put that...
SCOTT: Let's focus on the coverage of it.
PINKERTON: They've been saying, they tried a similar approach in 2002 with Paul Wellstone when he died tragically just before the election. And that became a media circus. The funeral was televised. All they did was bash him up...
HALL: Oh, that is a myth of the right, Jim.
PINKERTON: No, it's true.
HALL: One speech.
PINKERTON: Norm Coleman, the Republican, won the election two weeks later.
HALL: That was because people picked out one of about eight eulogies and replayed it. The right is running with this, as cynically as you are saying the left is running with it.
PINKERTON: That's a function of media coverage. And I've got to say, if the media had been more alert to Kennedy after Chappaquiddick, he would've ended up like Gary Condit.
SCOTT: And I have to say, we have to take one more break.
When we come back...
ANNOUNCER: The president was on vacation and the late-night comics get to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": President Obama took five books with him on vacation. Of course, President Bush always too books on his vacation, but four of them were back-up copies of "Good Night Moon."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: President Obama took his family to Martha's Vineyard for a vacation this week. The demands of his job interfered with some of the family plans, but still he is out playing a bit of golf, playing some tennis, presumably tackling a hefty reading list, and otherwise doing what most Americans do when they hit the beach for vacation. But that didn't stop the late-night comedians from making a few jokes about the trip.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": President Obama, our president, is taking his summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard this week. It was a good time for the president to slip out of town. The deficit is supposed to be a lot higher than people expected. The swine flu, as you know, is getting ready to kill us all.
And Regis is having a birthday party today, which means fires and possibly looting in New York.
O'BRIEN: The White House is denying rumors — is denying rumors that President Obama has plans to play a round of golf with Tiger Woods. They're saying it's not going to happen. Although, Obama is planning to ask Tiger Woods if the government can borrow $300 trillion.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT": They developed a special cocktail to commemorate Obama's visit to Martha's Vineyard. It's the Obamarita.
It's the truth, the Obamarita. They did the same thing when Bill Clinton would vacation there. The cocktail — it was the screwdriver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Eww! We'll try to post the recipe on our Web site if we can find it.
That's going to be a wrap on "News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Andrea Tantaros and Judy Miller.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching. Keep it right here on FOX News Channel. And we will see you again next week for another edition of "FOX News Watch".
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