Transcript: 'FOX News Watch,' Sept. 26, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," September 26, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: On "FOX News Watch," our military chief in Afghanistan needs more troops to finish the job. But the commander-in- chief may be balking.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're not going to make a decision about any further troop deployments.


SCOTT: Should the press press the issue?

He's here. He's there. He's been everywhere this week. And the media have not missed a step. But is it time for the Obama-thon to end?

Some outrage when an elementary school makes young students sing praises for the president.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so upset that my child is being use this way.


SCOTT: Did the mainstream media ignore the controversy?

And just when you thought you've heard it all.


MCKENZIE PHILLIPS, ACTRESS: I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father.


SCOTT: On the panel this week, Patricia Murphy, a columnist for Politics Daily; conservative columnist, S.E. Cupp; Jim Pinkerton, fellow at the New America Foundation; and Kirsten Powers, FOX News analyst and New York Post columnist.

I'm Jon Scott. "FOX News Watch" is on right now.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: I said we should be going into Afghanistan. That where bin Laden is. That's the central front on terrorism. And it's slipping back because we haven't stayed focused on it. We need to send some troops there not in Iraq.

SCOTT: That was candidate Obama on the campaign trail in 2008, but he was saying something completely different last Sunday.


OBAMA: Until I'm satisfied that we've got the right strategy, I'm not going to be sending some young man or woman over there beyond what we already have.


SCOTT: Here is what The Washington Post said on Monday morning, in a piece written by none other than Bob Woodward, "McChrystal, more forces or mission failure." That was quickly followed by more headlines in all these newspapers about Afghanistan this week. On Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, "Pentagon delays troop call"; Wednesday, the New York Times, "Obama considers strategy shift in Afghan war."

It all got started, really, Jim, with that Washington Post piece, which was based on what was supposed to be a classified assessment of the war by the general in charge, General McChrystal. I just got to wondering, would The Post have published that in World War II, for instance?


JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I don't think so. That'd be my guess. Look, this is the stuff of the highest possible drama, since we're talking about historical parallels, like World War II, when McClatchy and the long-war journal report that McChrystal says he'll resign if he doesn't get the surge. This takes us back to other incidents between presidents and generals like Jimmy Carter and General Singlob (ph) and President Truman and General Macarthur. We are at the highest stakes here.

SCOTT: It's hard to tell sometimes though, Kirsten, who is leaking for what purpose. This was leaked, probably from within the Pentagon. Was it somebody who wanted this stuff to get out there?

KIRSTEN POWERS, FOX NEWS ANALYST & NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST: That's exactly what I was just thinking. You have to consider that. And I think that it would seem to me it's probably leaked by somebody who wants to put pressure on Obama, probably wants to put it out there. And I think people would tend to side with the general, tend it side with the military, and they know that Obama's balking, so they think, I'll leak this, and it will put pressure on them.

SCOTT: Let's take a look how the Afghan War troop-level numbers have changed just within the last year. If you go back to 2007, we had approximately 27,000 forces in Afghanistan. Flash forward to September, 2009, under the Obama administration, we're up to 68,000 troops. And General McChrystal, apparently, wants 30 to $40,000 — 30 to 40,000 more troops.

S.E., no more important question for a nation, really, than committing its forces to war.


SCOTT: Have the media given the Afghan War the kind of coverage it deserves?

CUPP: I think so, but I think all of this recent, sort of turn on a dime too, is the Afghan War really necessary now? Which happened in a matter of weeks. I think really shows how easily led mainstream media is. You know, this hesitancy on the part of Obama and this leaked document really telegraphed to the mainstream press, maybe we should abandon the war now very quickly. And so, I think that the coverage is good, but I think that they're focusing on, do we send more troops, do we not send more troops? That's not really the right question.

SCOTT: July and August, very bloody months, or at least the bloodiest of this war so far, and yet, compared with Vietnam, relatively small in number. The enemy, you know, clearly knows that Americans read newspapers and they don't like to see troop losses rise.

PATRICIA MURPHY, COLUMNIST, POLITICS DAILY: Well, and that's the whole point of a counter-insurgency is to drive your enemies, to withdraw their troops, withdraw their effort. We actually — a man named David Winn, who has been in Afghanistan for many, many weeks, he just got back and he complained about the media coverage, saying the question isn't, to S.E.'s points, the question isn't more troops or less troops, it's not a political question. It's a strategic question, we fighting counter-insurgency, are we fighting counterterrorism. General McChrystal thinks one thing and President Obama thinks another thing. That is a major problem, a strategic mismatch right now. So this is a very complicated problem.

Americans frankly don't pay a lot of attention to it. If Americans aren't paying attention, the media is not really going to push it out there. so I think this debate has gotten American's attention, it's political, it's interesting, but this has been a mainly strategic mismatch for a long time.

SCOTT: We have to take break. But first, lots of extras available to you on our Web site, including some of the spirited discussions that erupt in here during our breaks. You can hear them after the show at

We'll be back in two minutes to talk about the president and his media blitz.

ANNOUNCER: A week long Obama-thon comes to answered.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's been on everything, but the Food channel.


ANNOUNCER: Has the news media given the president too much for too little?

Then the world's leaders and jokers converge on the U.N. as the New York press go to town. All next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: The Obama TV blitz started with the Sunday talk shows, appearing on five networks, but not FOX.


Then on Monday, looking for a different audience, he stopped by "The Late Show with David Letterman" for a few laughs. Letterman scored his best ratings in four years with the president in the chair. Tuesday, Mr. Obama took a serious note and joined former President Bill Clinton to kick off the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative. On Wednesday, he was off to the United Nations for the speech in front of the General Assembly where he addressed global leaders and tackled issues like climate change. On Thursday, the president then headed the Security Council as chairman, delivering a stern speech to that group about nuclear proliferation. And then, off to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit to focus on world economic issues.

Some see it as a week-long Obama-thon, the news media in step with the president's every move. Is it too much?

Well, every president has been covered this way, Patricia. But some think it's been obsessive and excessive, maybe, with this president?

MURPHY: Well, each of these events individually were important. You can't not cover the G-20, you can't not cover the...

SCOTT: Can't not go on David Letterman.


MURPHY: You can't not go on Letterman, my god. And Letterman had his highest ratings in four years. To the point of him being overexposed, the five Sunday shows, everybody is not watching five Sunday shows. I think the media is sensitive to it because they're going to watch all five of them. Maybe they're bitter about it. But he's talking so much because he wants to get his poll numbers up on health care. It's not how often he's saying it. It's what he's saying. People are not buying what he's selling right now. And the instinct of the White House is to keep repeating it, make sure more people hear it. And they're convinced people don't know what they think, instead of disagreeing with what he thinks.

SCOTT: Kirsten, it is a bully pulpit. Where is the antithesis to the bully pulpit? I mean, where is...

POWERS: Oh, you think they won't be turning down interviews with Obama.


SCOTT: No, I just wonder, where is the opposing point of view?

POWERS: Well, I think if you're the media and have an opportunity to interview the president, you're always going to take it.

SCOTT: And he knows that.

POWERS: Yeah. I don't think that people are going to say no to it. In terms of the overexposure thing, I don't buy that so much. I know that people are asked that in a poll and they might say, yes, he's overexposed because they know he's on a lot of things. What's the alternative, to leave the vacuum for his opponents to step into and say something? I think he has to get out there and make his case.

MURPHY: And all the shows did have Republicans right after. They had John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. He was answered, I'm not sure everybody stayed around to watch them.

SCOTT: S.E., there was a Wall Street Journal poll, NBC News poll this week that said 54 percent of Americans, the exact language was 54 percent think they're seeing the right amount of the president. Those of us in the media, who have three sets in our office or whatever and watch Mr. Obama all day long, we may be sick of them. But it sounds like the people aren't.

CUPP: Well, that's one poll. Frankly, it's not helping his numbers. Independents, he's losing Independents on Afghanistan and he's not able to sell the health care reform as quickly as he wanted. And frankly, it just doesn't look very presidential. Going on Letterman doesn't look presidential, it looks a little schlocky. The biggest distinction that the right can make and the opposition can make is that the right is trying to lead and he's trying to sell.

And to your point, Patricia, it's not working.

MURPHY: Of course, no one went on Letterman more than John McCain.


POWERS: True, except the time he canceled.

MURPHY: True, it didn't work.

PINKERTON: Karl Rove made a good point in the Journal this week. He said, listen, if you're going to go on the shows, have something to say.

MURPHY: That's true. I agree.

PINKERTON: Otherwise, you have George Stephanopoulos pulling out the dictionary and saying define tax. And that was pretty good.

SCOTT: That was not one of the great moments...

PINKERTON: That shows — in case you ever wonder if there is still a pipeline between Hillary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos. There was your proof.


What was fun watching Obama on the shows was how many times he would use the word "rude." I think it was Mediaite (ph) counted up the number of times he said, "This is a rude thing, rude thing," as part of his talking points. And it's fun just to watch his mind work in terms of saying, cable news is like the World Wrestling Federation.


He's got a sense of the true dynamic of the media.


SCOTT: Well, are the media his enablers?

MURPHY: Well, again, no. I actually don't think so. Every time you see a story about Afghanistan, for example, you see a poll that says, by the way, Americans don't want to be in there much longer. When they booked him on the Sunday shows, they booked Mitch McConnell after him and John Boehner and Lindsey Graham, they all came out to pick apart everything he said.

And to your point, George Stephanopoulos, that was a low moment in sports for Obama to define Merriam Webster tax, what is a tax and what isn't.

POWERS: I do think they've enabled him a little bit in the sense that he's gotten an easy ride for so long that I think he didn't appreciate the opposition. Take health care, for example, had he had not been given an easy ride, they may have been more prepared for this.

SCOTT: I can't remember, maybe one of you can, but I can't remember a day when George W. Bush was on five Sunday morning talk shows.

PINKERTON: I can't remember when Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC was slapping down Tim Carney for how dare you slap down our president. There's still some of that where, why wouldn't the school children want to sing a song praising Hugo Chavez Obama? That's natural.


SCOTT: There's another one of those discussions about to erupt in here.


We have to take a break. But first, if you have a story about media bias, e-mail us at

We'll be back to talk about coverage of crazy world leaders at the United Nations.

ANNOUNCER: Media coverage of top topics at the U.N. ...


OBAMA: The danger posed by climate change cannot be denied.


ANNOUNCER: Loses out to coverage of the crazies.

And celebrities and their secrets. Do we really need to know? Details next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: The U.N. General Assembly was in session this week in New York City with world leaders coming together to focus on serious topics. But along with the serious, came the silly, which, of course, drew the media's attention, case in point, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Of course, the late night comedians also took note of the nuttiness.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Now, Gadhafi's speech is crazy. It went over 90 minutes. I think he was supposed to speak for 15 minutes. He went on for 90 minutes and, as usual, all over the place, take a look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to work toward peace by understanding each other. For example, this Chinese restaurant menu said free eggroll with order. But when my food arrived, there was no eggroll.


SCOTT: That led to a flurry of front-page covers in the New York papers. The Daily News called them madmen; Newsday, "Still crazy after all these years."

Jim, here the body is supposed to solve the world's problems, the media focused on nut cases.

PINKERTON: Nut cases who, in the case of Gadhafi, have the blood of 270 people at the Lockerbie Pan Am 103 explosion 23 years ago. In a perfect world, the guy would be in jail.

SCOTT: Yeah.

I mean, how was he covered, as a world statesman or as a clown or as the guy who ordered the shoot down — the blowing up of Pan Am 103?

MURPHY: Talk about enablers, the media put him on front of the papers. For New York papers, this was a story made to order, that you have a tent and Donald Trump and people kicking him out of New Jersey. This was just a made-to-order local news story. And cable news story, there was a lot of important things happening at the U.N. And if you wanted today know about it you really had to read the BBC. There was no good coverage of it.

SCOTT: Speaking of reading things, I read this quote from an Associated Press interview with Ahmadinejad. I couldn't believe the characterization. "Ahmadinejad remained soft spoken and almost completely still in his chair as he politely fielded questions on a wide range of controversies, rankling Iran's relationship with the West. He would occasionally nod or offer a small smile, particularly when he appeared pleased with a point he had made, but the Iranian leader never gestured or raised his voice." That from an article by Robert Burns and Ann Guerin in the Associated Press on September 23rd.

I mean, they portray this guy like he's Santa Claus.

POWERS: He's lovely.

SCOTT: Yeah.

POWERS: Yeah, I think — I don't have so much trouble with it except for what's left out, I should say, in contrast to his usual insane ramblings and weird accusations. You know, they're not — if, in fact, he was behaving this way, then report it that way, but point out that he's normally a sort of unpredictable kind of crazy man.

SCOTT: Do you think that's guys are crazy like foxes? Do they understand the American media and the kind of treatment they're going to get when they get on the U.N. podium?

CUPP: Sure, I think they're putting on a good show because they know we're going to give them exactly what they want, which is 70 cameras trained intently on their every word, and coverage in the — you know, on the front pages of every newspaper. But frankly, it's giving propaganda the megaphone. January time you broadcast what these guys, these lunatics have to say, it's legitimizing their lunatic beliefs.

SCOTT: I couldn't believe it, you know, Gadhafi covered up the show that I normally do on FOX News channel in the middle of the day and I'm madly e-mailing the bosses saying, get off of it. This guy is on three cable networks right now. We're killing the audience. The ratings for that lunatic were higher than they are on a normal day.

PINKERTON: Well, no offense to you, Jon.


PINKERTON: And I mean, the point is, let's face it on a TV news show you kind of know what you're going to get. When it's live, who knows what Gadhafi is going to do on the podium there. Literally, you have to watch to see what he'll do next.

SCOTT: Yeah.

CUPP: Yeah, but the big story was Obama's humiliating apologia to the U.N. It didn't get covered because you have these wackos out there really saying crazy things.

SCOTT: Speaking of whackos, some of the latest deep, dark celebrity secrets have also been getting plenty of media attention. Comedian Rosie O'Donnell spilled the beans recently and confessed she used to break her bones on purpose as a child to feel that she had value as a person. Figure that out. Then in a new book, actress, Anne Heche, reveals that she was sexually abused by her father when she was a child. Following up on that same shocking theme — oh, this a good one — former teen star actress, McKenzie Phillips, appeared on Oprah on Wednesday and dropped a bombshell of her own, revealing a consensual, incestuous, long-term relationship with her father, John Phillips, one of the lead members of the '60s rock band The Mama's and The Papas.

Is there — the look on your face says it all.


Is nothing sacred anymore? I mean, will anything go in the media these days?

MURPHY: Yes, anything will go. Anything about — if it gets ratings, if it gets eyeballs and if people leave the TV's on, if they click on it, it's on the front pages. And that's the direction the media is going. Get used to it. Sorry.

SCOTT: The ick factor was all over the place.

One more break.

A bunch of school children in New Jersey were supposed to do this, praise the president in song. Some parents, not so happy about it. So where is the coverage? We'll be back in two minutes.


SCOTT: Our final topic today, an issue brought to life through a YouTube video, showing young school children singing a song.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, now, everybody let's sing it together, on the count of three.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I like that.




SCOTT: Jim is ready to sing along.


Elementary school students there in New Jersey singing the praises of President Obama. Now that video is raising concerns about partisan politics, moved into the classroom, and student privacy, especially from some of the parents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that it was reminiscent of 1930's Germany and the indoctrination of children to worship Herr Leader.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're using this to further their own agenda and it really offends me that they're using my child to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I found out it was my school, and my son, both of us were just in complete shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked that the children would be reciting it in the way that they were and being fed the words, especially in light of it's a politician. And I think that political views should be kept at home.


SCOTT: All right, have you heard about this story? It didn't get a whole lot of attention from the mainstream media. But one article on the CBS News web site hinted, the concern is only coming from conservatives.


POWERS: That is really sad if the concern is only coming from conservatives. I think that this is the type of thing that everybody should be concerned about it. I think liberals would be screaming if it was George Bush they were singing to.


CUPP: MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell, this was her defense, "Well, he is the president." That is a really flimsy defense.

PINKERTON: All those future ACORN members.


SCOTT: Conservative media...

MURPHY: OK, the lyric's, not the best. But there has to be a space for children in the country to talk about the president and not get compared to 1930s Germany.

PINKERTON: Could they sing the national anthem?

MURPHY: It's just that — come on.

SCOTT: Maybe they should use the postage-stamp rule, only dead presidents.


That's a wrap on "FOX News Watch" this week. Thanks to our panelists.

We'll see you next week.

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