This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," September 5, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, HOST: On "FOX News Watch," with his approval rating dropping and support for his health care questionable, the president plans to take his message to Congress and the people in prime time. Is this his last chance? And is the press playing along?
Dick Cheney speaks his mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I have serious doubts about his policies, serious doubts especially about the extent of which he understands and is prepared to do what needs to be do to defend the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Then the media take their shots.
A political storm surrounds the British prime minister over the release of the Pan Am 103 terrorist. Was the press caught off guard?
Two American reports tell their tale of being caught in North Korea. But are there some details missing?
And ABC News makes news with a change in anchors. What can viewers expect?
An Internet hoax proves a point about what to trust when it comes to news.
On the panel this week, Judy Miller, writer and FOX News contributor; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow at the New America Foundation; and Michael Goodwin, writer and FOX News contributor.
I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And you may be seeing a theme. This is -- we're doing some stuff on health care. My quality health care. Health care. The ever-escalating cost of health care. Health care reform. The soaring costs of health care. The cost of health care. Health care reform. The urgent need for health reform. Health insurance reform. Health insurance reform. And health insurance reform.
I want to talk about health care just for a second. Basic health care. Keep their health care. Health care system. Health insurance reform. Health insurance reform. Health insurance reform. Health insurance reform. The need for health care reform. We've had a vigorous debate about health insurance reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Sound familiar? We've been hearing it for months. The president pushing hard to sell America on his health care or health insurance reform plan. How is it going? Looks like it's back firing. The latest New York Times/CBS News poll says the president's approval rating on health care has dropped six points since July, down to 40 percent. And more Americans, 47 percent, say they disapprove of the way he's been handling health care. More disapprove than approve of it.
Jim, what about the role on the media in this? Have they be helping the president or hurting it?
JIM PINKERTON, COLUMNIST & FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, I think they've tried to help, but I think the facts kept getting in the way. I mean, for example, just on Friday, CNS News Service reported that Cass Suntein, who is President Obama's choice to run an important part of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote a book last year calling for involuntary organ harvesting from hospital patients. And the book is called "Nudge." And again, the people are free to look it up and judge for themselves. But this is the kind of creepy undercurrent going through the Obama administration that the voters don't quite understand, but they suspect the worst, and are against it.
Well, Cal, we agreed during the campaign at least that the media were very much on then-candidate Obama's side. So what has happened to President Obama?
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Nothing and that's the problem, Jon, because there's a dignity and a prestige and a power that goes with the presidency that Barack Obama has not fully embraced. Nor has he been embraced by these factors. He's still behaving as if he were in a campaign mode. Go on television, make a speech, do a news conference, have an availability, exclusive interviews, and the force of my personality through the media will be able to persuade voters. It isn't working.
SCOTT: What are you expecting, Judy, from that speech?
JUDITH MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I'm not expecting anything except what we've been hearing again and again and again. I mean, I think there is a little bit all Obama, all the time, too much, too much. And as a factor here, Karen Tumulty said, on ABC, I wonder if the president doesn't think that the solution to everything is giving a speech. That's what people seem to be reacting to. Notice that the -- his polling numbers have gone up ever so slightly the week he's been at Martha's Vineyard. I think what it's saying a little more time around the barbecue perhaps.
SCOTT: And also, Michael, in trouble because of the speech he plans to give to school kids on Tuesday. What do you think of the coverage of that?
MICHAEL GOODWIN, COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The media was quick to jump on this. Just about everybody had a big story on it this -- late in the week as it became known. The White House had to back off. And the Education Department had to back off its plan to sort of get students involved. How can I help the president, how is the president...
SCOTT: That's one of the questions that's gone.
GOODWIN: That's bye-bye. I think the press caught on quickly here. I agree with the sense that the tide has turned. That the honeymoon really is over in terms of the president getting a free shot at the media. It still happens some places. But I think one of the things that changed is that the polls show that most people were tired of seeing the president on television. So, his vacation was a good time to duck, so lately, all we've seen is Joe Biden.
SCOTT: What struck me, Jim, is a lot of the complaints actually started with parents and did percolate into the media. I mean, it wasn't that a bunch of editorial writers, said, hey, the president is giving speeches to kids and asking for, you know, their input into his administration.
PINKERTON: The news was parents calling up schools and saying, we're not members of the media, we're not anything but parents, and we don't like the sense that we're getting Hugo Chavez-kind of propaganda pumped into our kids.
MILLER: But come on, Jim, calling the president a socialist, somebody equating him to Hitler, this is over the top. And I think the right also has just overreacted and that's turning people off.
PINKERTON: Well, hold on.
And, Judy, is your statement strictly speaking true?
It was Obama that backed down, not Rush Limbaugh?
MILLER: Back down to the moment. In a culture that measures everything by minute to minute polling, let's see where we are three months from now.
PINKERTON: Let's see where we are, if Obama, in the next -- the course of the presidency, tries to bring back the idea that students should serve him personally.
THOMAS: I think that was botched from the beginning and I think you're right on that. There have been a lot of video of the first President Bush, making a speech to the students. Nothing wrong with a president doing that. But the feeling was allowed to build, enhanced by some talk on cable television and talk radio and by a lot of Republicans and conservatives who want to continue to contribute to what they regard as Obama's demise, that somehow this was going to be a propaganda effort. That's what hurt him.
GOODWIN: But I think, for the president, if he cannot go out and make a speech and move the needle at all, I don't know what the plan B is in this administration.
SCOTT: Maybe the problem is what Judy said, they've heard too many speeches. That's all
Time for a break.
First, we have a lot of extras on the web site, including some of the animated discussions that erupt during our breaks. You can hear them after the show: FOXnews.com/foxnewswatch.
We'll be back in two minutes with this.
ANNOUNCER: Approval ratings up, approval ratings down. As he challenges Obama's political tactics, the press still takes shots of the former V.P. Is the press out of touch with America?
And two American journalists released from captivity in North Korea begin to tell their tales, but the details seemed fuzzy. All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: We have a track record now of eight years of defending the nation against any further mass casualty attacks from al-Qaeda. The approach of the Obama administration should be to come to those people who were involved in that policy and say how did you do it? What were the keys to keeping the country safe over that period of time? Instead, they're out there now threatening to disbar the lawyers who gave us the legal opinions, threatening contrary to what the president originally said, they were going to go out and investigate the CIA personnel who carried out those investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Former Vice President Dick Cheney there talking with FOX News Sunday host, Chris Wallace.
This interview did not escape notice at the White House. Here is what national security advisor, General Jim Jones, said in response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JIM JONES, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Obviously, the former vice president feels strongly about certain things. I don't know if it's a question of legacy. I was on active duty when these techniques were used. I was surprised and disappointed. I just think it comes down to the basics, our laws and our values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: All right, Judy, the former vice president obviously pushed back hard against some of the changes and some of the plans the Obama administration has in regard to national security. And yet, it seems like the more they talk about this, the more the former vice president's poll numbers go up and the president's poll numbers drop. I mean, are the media out of touch with the way the public cares about this?
MILLER: Well, I think you have the exact opposite of what's going on with President Obama, which is, people want to hear an opposing view that they don't consider a kind of crazy view. And Cheney, even though Rachel Maddow refers to him as Planet Cheney, Cheney does represent a lot of what people are worried about and thinking about. Now, we haven't had a terrorist attack. He highlights the continuing vulnerability of the Democratic administration on national issues. And every time Cheney raises it, I think it makes people think and that's what you're seeing.
SCOTT: So are the media out of touch?
PINKERTON: There's -- a strange thing happened on August 29th. That was the day, on the front page of The Washington Post, it was reported that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the master mind of 9/11, blah, blah, blah, having been waterboarded or EIT'd, whatever you want to say, has been singing like a canary ever since. He's been holding lectures on how to be a terrorist for the benefit of the CIA.
Now, what is The Washington Post doing printing that, that the pro-Cheney is lying and liberalism has never recovered?
GOODWIN: One of the things that interesting about the campaign, of course, John McCain was also opposed to these interrogation methods and so were Obama. They both referred to them as torture. And Bush and Cheney really didn't respond very much at all. Bush certainly chose to go silent over the last month of the administration. Cheney out there now giving the other side, pointing, as Judy said, to the fact that we have not been attacked, and you line it up with closing Gitmo, the plan to close Gitmo, maybe move some of the terror suspects to the United States civilian courts, and I do think that the public is coming around ahead of the press to recognizing that there's a real issue here that was not engaged in the campaign.
SCOTT: Yeah, Cal, because some members of the media took to referring to the former vice president as Darth Vader. So is his image somehow being rehabilitated in the media now?
THOMAS: I think it is. I think he's had an interesting strategy and the left does this, too. Hillary Clinton used to choose the shows she would go on, "Today" show, some of the other liberals, soft questions, her aides would say only these questions and not these questions. So Cheney has gone on FOX. He's talked to some other journalists who, one might be presume, might be a little more sympathetic than some on the left. I think he ought to step it up a notch. I think he ought to go on a show and be confronted, by Rachel Maddow, for example, by Matt Lauer, and have Cheney put them on their heels. I think that would ratchet up his approval level even bigger, because everybody hates the media.
SCOTT: I'm not sure what Judy thinks about that.
MILLER: I think he's saving that for his book tour.
He is promoting -- he's writing a book. We're going to hear a lot more about these subjects. And the administration's own statements are so contradictory on this issue. You know, it's almost as if when inbound in asks about Gitmo, they say, oh, we answered all those questions back in May. We don't want to talk about closing it anymore. And it's still on people's minds. I agree with Cal.
PINKERTON: I wouldn't be surprised if he did what Cal says. Maybe wait for the book.
But remember a few months ago when Obama was speaking and Cheney spoke at the exact same time. And Cheney won that battle. And he's winning this one, too.
GOODWIN: Don't forget, Obama set that confrontation up. Cheney's speech was scheduled in advance. Obama tried to cut him off at the pass, and it back fired.
PINKERTON: That's right.
SCOTT: And the former vice president did wait for the president to finish his remarks before he took to the podium.
Time for another break.
But first, if you come across a story you think shows media bias, e- mail us at FOXnews.com.
We will be back with this.
ANNOUNCER: Lee and Ling speak out about their ordeal in North Korea. Are there holes in their story?
Plus, a mainstream media outlet plans a Michael Jackson hoax proves to point out about the press. All next, on "News Watch."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There was no conspiracy, no cover up, no double dealing, no deal in oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to Colonel Ghadafi. We were absolutely clear throughout with the Libyans and everyone else that this was a decision for the Scottish government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denying that he made any kind of a deal to release the Lockerbie bomber in exchange for oil from Libya or anything else.
This decision seemed to come out of nowhere, caught a lot of people by surprise. and the reaction to it, the blowback, obviously, caught Gordon Brown by surprise.
Was the media doing a job in keeping an eye on this story?
MILLER: The U.K. media or the American media?
MILLER: This story is coming our way. Later this month, we are going to have the drama of the Colonel himself on the lawn in Inglewood, perhaps. But, look, they covered it and they absolutely pushed the government to release so many documents that the people are flooded with documents. The issue of what England got or, if anything, for the release of this man, is still a big question despite prodding, hard work by the media.
SCOTT: But should the press have been asking more questions before this guy got out?
PINKERTON: Oh, absolutely. This is a huge tragic situation here with this obvious scandal brewing on top of that. I can just say this. That if this had happened with a Republican administration in Washington, with all the cooperation there is naturally between the American and British governments, the media would be talking about resignations and indictments and impeachment.
THOMAS: That's right. Look, I was in the U.K. when this went down. And the British press, as Judy says, have been tremendous. They had pictures of a member of the royal family with Ghadafi's son. Nobody believes what Gordon Brown said. Of course, there was a deal, it involves oil and it involves back-room stuff. It's a total fabrication. And, yes, they should have been on this earlier. But at least they've given us a lot of after-the-fact information.
SCOTT: Michael seems to be nodding his head quickly in agreement. Just talked about the British press versus American. Have the American media been doing the job?
GOODWIN: No, I do think, in fact, right now, there's an opportunity. There are some questions about what did the United States tell the Brits leading up to the release of Megrahi? I suspect that although the president said publicly he found it highly objectionable, if that's the strongest language that he used in private with the Brits and even the Scots, then I would say that the American government didn't do all it could. And that will matter, because we may have the same situation here if some of the Gitmo people come into our civilian courts.
SCOTT: All right.
Some big news from ABC News this week. Charlie Gibson announced he's stepping down as the network's evening news anchor. Diane Sawyer taking his place at "World News Tonight," come January.
There was a media research center study, Cal. They put out a list this week of what they call liberal statements by Diane Sawyer, a pretty long list. Is the tone of that program going to change with her in the chair, do you think?
THOMAS: No, I don't think so. But Diane benefits from not being first. She's not going to get the kind of scrutiny that Katie Couric got. Plus, she doesn't inherit a chair that has the standing of a Walter Cronkite. So she benefits by being the second woman, tremendously, I think.
But, no, look, you can't get a job at that level unless you're a liberal. There's no conservative at that level. She's a very nice person. She has a lower voice, which I think will help a lot for her credibility. She's a friend of mine, and I like her.
PINERKTON: Diane Sawyer worked for Richard Nixon back in the early '70s, and she even went with him to San Clemente to help on his book and so on like that, and has been paying penance to the liberal establishment ever since. She is more liberal than liberal, because she has to make them forget she worked for Nixon.
SCOTT: Let's get the female viewpoint here.
MILLER: I think she's an amazingly talented, qualified journalist. She was a State Department correspondent, a hard news woman. She went, as Jim says, with the former President Nixon out to San Clemente when others abandoned him. She is a loyal person. She's very well-liked and well-respected. And she's inheriting a position, an anchorship, which is less important now than it was ten years ago or five years ago. And two women, how else could it happen? There is still enormous discrimination even in our business against women.
SCOTT: All right.
Let's move on to a story that made international headlines. Current TV reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are speaking out about their experience in North Korea. They were held there for five months. They received amnesty with the help of the U.S. government and returned home. The women admit they were briefly on North Korean soil.
Here is some of what they said in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times: "We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us. Producer Mitch Koss and our guide were able to outrun the border guards. We were not. We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil. But we were no match for the determined guards."
Michael, you spent a long time covering the new. What do you think about the story?
GOODWIN: I think, what's fascinating is they admitted -- that's the news of that piece, is that they actually had gone into North Korea.
SCOTT: And they knew they were there.
GOODWIN: That's right. They knowingly went into North Korea.
I think they owe the world an apology. They created a huge international incident. They had no business being there. It's sort of like hikers who go into the back woods and demand to be rescued when they didn't take the precautions. That was foolishness on their part. And they created an international incident.
SCOTT: They say it's too painful, Jim, to go into the details of what they...
PINKERTON: They're saving that for the movie.
Listen, Steven Michulan (ph), in the L.A. Weekly made a great point, and it says, just like Michael was saying, in doing what they did, they not only created an incident, but all the footage and video that they captured of people, their interview was on, those people are going to wind up in front of a firing squad, because now the North Koreans know who they are.
THOMAS: And there's a discrepancy too in those two pieces, because they said they, in their L.A. Times piece, they did their best to destroy all of those tapes, but in the L.A. Weekly piece, it said they didn't. And they were captured and that is what is being used against some of the people in China who helped the North Koreans escape.
SCOTT: As we look at the map, in their early account of what happened, they were saying that they were in sort of a disputed no-man's- land, that they didn't really know whether they were on North Korean soil or not. But in this account, they actually admit they went across the river and knew they were there.
MILLER: Right, they do. But they also suggested that they might have been lured into a trap, was what they wrote. Did the guy take them across to create a...
SCOTT: Do you have a problem with what they did?
MILLER: No. I think journalists take those risks all the time. It ended badly in this instance. And the two women were very inexperienced as journalists. Perhaps they shouldn't have been sent. But I think to blame them for what the North Koreans did is not fair. It's really the North Koreans who should be held accountable for what they did.
PINKERTON: So the Christians are about to be executed. That's just collateral damage.
MILLER: They said that they actually did -- never broadcast anyone, anyone.
PINKERTON: It didn't matter if they broadcast it. They had it in their cameras.
SCOTT: We have to get to one more break. When we come back, this...
ANNOUNCER: A media thriller or a dirty trick? The lesson behind a Michael Jackson hoax, next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Journalism may not be a science, but occasionally we also do experiments. This one comes from Cologne, Germany, where producers at the television network RTL created this video. Take a look.
See the white van there, just going behind that gate? It says "coroner" on the back. It pulls up in this -- what looks to be a parking garage, next to the doorway, and somebody hopped out the back. Could that be Michael Jackson? Yeah, kind of looks like Michael. Goes through the door and gets spirited away. And there's the shot of that "coroner" name on the back of the van again.
The video you just watched was posted by RTL on YouTube for a single day last week. It got almost one million hits during that time. The broadcaster has removed the video from YouTube, but it's still out there on other Web sites that picked it up and posted it.
Here is a reaction from an RTL spokeswoman. "We wanted to show how easily users can be manipulated on the Internet with hoax videos. Even though everybody knows by now that Jackson is dead. Unfortunately, many people believed it was true. Even though we tried to create the video in a way that every normal user can see right away that it is a fake."
Judy, I'm not sure they accomplished that. That was a professionally shot video done by a television network.
It looked like paparazzi video to me.
MILLER: It looked kind of like bad "Law and Order." At least they didn't have him breaking out into a space walk. But for some people, Michael Jackson will never die. There are a lot of people that want to believe anything, and video like this just plays into those hallucinations.
SCOTT: What do you think of that kind of thing, Jim?
PINKERTON: I looked at it closely. I thought it was Elvis.
SCOTT: Now there are people that tried to -- this is the case of the media trying to prove how gullible the public is.
THOMAS: Nothing's changed, Jon. Look, Orson Wells, "The War of the Worlds," the Martian invasion radio broadcast, people were in the streets screaming, "Run for your life." The gullible of people to believe anything is beyond belief. Look who we elected president.
PINKERTON: If you lie to them.
GOODWIN: But just the thing too, really what it's saying is that all the media lied, and got it wrong. Michael Jackson is really not dead. That people would believe that, I think is something of a comment on our trust with the public.
SCOTT: And here you've got this sort of new, although it's 40 years old, medium, the Internet that can beam this stuff into people's homes. It raises questions about the filters and the editing process.
PINKERTON: Again, I -- just to say it again, if you lie to people, some people might believe you. You shouldn't use your credibility that way.
SCOTT: All right, that is a wrap for "FOX News Watch" this week.
Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Michael Goodwin.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you back here next week.
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