'Fox News Watch,' March 6, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," March 6, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," a Republican senator stands alone in his effort to stop a Congress he says has run amok.


SEN. JIM BUNNING, R-KY.: Why now? Well, why not now?


SCOTT: Then the liberal media attack.


DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC HOST: Is this the most heartless thing you've seen the Republicans do?


SCOTT: The president makes a final, final push on his health care goals.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We throw up our hands and walk away, it's a problem that will only grow worse. Nobody disputes that.


SCOTT: But if he fails, will the finger of blame point to the press?

Is he an unappreciated political genius or an unprincipled political operative who spins the Washington media every time he can?

The Boy Scouts turn 100. But NPR feels controversy needs to darken a century of good deeds.

Some liberal loud mouths at Peacock News go overboard on tea party patriots.

And his personal health care prescription is in. The doctor says he's smoking and drinking too much. Are the press and the stress too much for the prez?

On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

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


BUNNING: I support extending unemployment benefits, COBRA benefits, flood insurance, highway bill fix, doc fix, small business loans, distant network television for satellite viewers. If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate.


SCOTT: That was Senator Jim Bunning making his solo and ultimately unsuccessful stand against the deficit-increasing $10 billion spending bill, a stand which garnered the Kentucky Senator some intense backlash from the mainstream media.


JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": Talking about Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning's on-going effort to single-handedly (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the extension of unemployment benefits for 1.1 million of Americans.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANALYST: I bet you Senator Jim Bunning has some place warm to sleep tonight. But the Republican from Kentucky is almost single-handedly responsible for cutting a vital financial lifeline to more than a million down-and-out Americans.

RATIGAN: Is this the most heartless thing you've seen them do?

ABC CORRESPONDENT: And here in the Senate, that lone Senator who had held up unemployment benefits was finally forced to relent.

STEWART: Do you hear that unemployed people in the worst recession in history? No 30-day extension of benefits until we balance the entire federal government to Jim Bunning's liking.


SCOTT: Well, despite ending his stand, some were calling it a filibuster, and allowing a vote to move forward, the media continued to berate the senator.

All right, Ellis, I'll give you first chance to defend the liberal media here.


Because they were pretty vicious on this guy, as we just heard.

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Let me just say this. The backlash against Senator Bunning pretty much involves every single person in politics today. Remember, it wasn't the so-called liberal media that elbowed this guy aside and refused to support his fundraisers. That was his fellow Republicans in the Senate. He's an old coot. He's out of touch and he shouldn't take those kinds of positions if he can't handle a little criticism.


HENICAN: How about a little criticism.



JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Striking, as Scott Whitlock, at MRC, pointed out, ABC News devoted six times more coverage to trashing Bunning where Jonathan Karl, the reporter, who went all Jessie Waters on Senator Bunning, following him around in the Senate and trying to barge in the elevator, than they did on Chairman Rangel's, of the Ways and Means Committee, forced resignation in a scandal. So a two-day procedural thing was six times bigger news to ABC than a genuine corrupt scandal.

SCOTT: His reasoning, Cal, I mean, he was trying to bring attention to the failures of pay-as-you-go, but did the media pay attention.

THOMAS: This is exactly — right. This is exactly the position of the president of the United States, articulated a few days ago. We ought to have pay-go. You ought to pay for whatever you're going to spend. That's all he was saying. But the way the media treat this is very predictable. If you're against a Republican program or piece of legislation, you're trying to save the children and be helpful to the country. But if you're against a liberal Democrat program or proposal, you're evil and must be destroyed.


HENICAN: Thin skin.

MILLER: No, no, no. even The Philadelphia Inquirer I think had it absolutely right when they said, if you want to start balancing the budget, let's do it with the $435 million jet engine for a plane that the Air Force doesn't want.

THOMAS: I'm for that too.

MILLER: let's start by getting rid of a $1 million program to get rid of snakes in Guam. I mean, there's a lot of fat that could have been cut, not at the expense of 1.8 million Americans, who literally are not responsible for the fact that they're not employed.

PINKERTON: But Bunning didn't say — Bunning didn't say where he thought the cuts shouldn't come from. He just said the cuts should come. I mean, Cal had it exactly right.

MILLER: He had a proposal.

PINKERTON: If "pay-go" is the philosophy that the Democrats talk about when it doesn't matter, but when it's — they say on the out years we'll have pay-go. But in the here and now, they never want to do it.


PINKERTON: Frankly, we should give credit to one member of the mainstream media who did support Bunning, and that's Chris Matthews at MSNBC, who went out of his way in his little editorial at the end of his show to say that Bunning had a point.

HENICAN: Listen, the guy has every right to do it under the Senate rules. He did it. He did his best. But you know what, you can't take a position like that and expect everybody to love it. You know, if you're going to be as an aggressive and frankly as obnoxious as he was the past few days, people are going to yell at you and you can't come wah, wah, wah — Cal Thomas, wah, wah, wah.


MILLER: Dana Milbank suggested he was kind of 78-years-old and crazy.

THOMAS: Oh, ageism again.

MILLER: And screwball. It was the last pitch he had left, is what he said.

THOMAS: Let's see, how old is Charlie Rangel?

MILLER: Because, look, he's talking about being...

THOMAS: How old is Robert Byrd?

MILLER: ...being wrestled to the ground, he and his wife, at a political picnic, by little green men. I mean, you've got a problem here.


SCOTT: Along with Senator Bunning, the media keeping a watch over all the moving parts relating to health care, as the president noted on Wednesday.


OBAMA: I know there's been a fascination bordering on obsession in this media town about what passing health insurance reform would mean for the next election and the one after that. How will this play? What happened with the polls? I will leave it to others to sift through the politics, because that's not what this is about. That's not why we're here.


SCOTT: Judy, did the president just blame the media if his health care plan doesn't get passed?

MILLER: Yes, he's the idealistic leader in chief. He's going to elevate all and let all of his people, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, worry about his sinking popularity. I found that an interesting approach. Blame the media. Works most of the time.

SCOTT: So if this thing doesn't go through, are the mainstream media going to cheer? I mean, if it does through reconciliation, for instance?

HENICAN: I hope we'll cover it. We'll analyze it. We'll remind people that, you know what, we have a tradition of majority rule in this country.


PINKERTON: I think it's safe to say, they'll cheer. And the proof of where they're headed is Bart Stupak, who is a Democrat from Michigan, who is pro-life, said, look, I'll oppose it, if it doesn't have the right life language in it. And George Stephanopoulos said, that's a mutiny.


PINKERTON: As in what right does he have to represent his constituents in Michigan against the great Obama?

SCOTT: Time for a break.

But first, the conversation here in studio can get a bit heated during our breaks. If you want to hear what's said, go to our web site after the show, Foxnews.com/foxnewswatch.

Back in two minutes with a look at what the press is saying about the president's right-hand man or is that what he is?

ANNOUNCER: Forsaken political sage or mean-spirited, take-no- prisoners, wily White House whip? Has the D.C. press been spun by the ultimate spinner?


RATIGAN: So you're saying you accept racist...

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY LEADER: I'm not going to answer the questions.


ANNOUNCER: And MSNBC goes overboard on anti-tea party politics. Is it time to totally tune out? All next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: "A fearsome foursome," that title from Edward Luce of the Financial Times, writing about President Obama's trusted inner core. Senior advisors, David Axelrod and Valerie Garrett, Communications Chief Robert Gibbs and the current target of D.C. media chatter, chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, the chief of sabotage, as The Huffington Post labeled him. Mr. Emanuel has come under fire lately for the administration's failed efforts on a few fronts with some calls for his dismissal.

Then this from Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, "Obama's first year fell apart in large part because he didn't follow his chief of staff advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter."


"Where the president is airy and idealistic, Rahm is earthy and calculating."

Then this on Tuesday, the front page of the Washington Post, "Obama's enforcer may also be his voice of reason."

Judy, Dana Milbank said that the White House — or that Rahm Emanuel didn't write his Washington Post profile for him.


But it almost seemed like he could have.

MILLER: Absolutely. I mean, here you have basically two editorials masquerading as news stories. Now, Dana Milbank is — is — is a contributor, a commentator. But Jason Horowitz is not. He's a news person, and yet that was an endorsement of Rahm Emanuel. And this is Rahm Emanuel and his friends striking back against Les Gelb in The Daily Beast. Les Gelb is a centrist foreign policy guy who said Rahm Emanuel has to be replaced at chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel's forces got into motion and, voila, two stories in The Washington Post. Amazing piece of work by Rahm Emanuel. Not for nothing is he so highly regarded and feared on Capitol Hill.

SCOTT: You have been a columnist, Cal. Do you get calls from people saying, hey, I'd like you to write about so-and-so, something nice?

THOMAS: Well, sometimes. I got that from the Bush 41 administration, and I said, don't ever say that to me. And I wrote something critical. Think what Dana wrote, that Rahm Emanuel is the only person standing in the way of the president becoming Jimmy Carter. Focus on that for a minute. That's astounding. This from a media mogul who was part of a system that promoted this guy as a savior, as a messiah, as somebody who could part the waters. In one year, he's become Jimmy Carter.


SCOTT: It does seem, Ellis, that not everyone is necessarily impressed with the president's people.

HENICAN: Absolutely, true. If you're the chief of staff in the White House and everybody loves you, Jon, you're doing something wrong. I promise you that.

Judy, let's get some balance on this, too. I mean, that was a pretty flattering piece, no doubt about it.

But there have been dozens, Cal, dozens of hits on this guy over the last few weeks.

And I know that people who don't like him, we never mind those. We don't mind opinionizing when we agree with it.


PINKERTON: The Obama administration has had a fairly rocky year, shall we say. And the chief of staff normally gets a lot of the blame. There's not a lot of credit to distribute.

MILLER: Right. Exactly.

HENICAN: Exactly.

PINKERTON: But what was remarkable though, in addition, I agree with everything Judy said about the obvious pro-Emanuel bias in the Milbank and Horowitz pieces. But David Broder, who is probably the best known of any Washington pundits, says, look, this is obviously cooked up by the pro-Emanuel forces to prop him up. But they're doing it at the expense of the president. It's not often that a chief of staff gets to dump on his boss and still keep his job.

SCOTT: So illuminate how that works for our viewers. I mean, when somebody gets in trouble in Washington, the first thing you do is run to The Washington Post and try to plant positive stories?


MILLER: Absolutely.

THOMAS: Yes, yes.


MILLER: That's exactly what happens. And that happens in Washington. That's how Rahm Emanuel and others survive. So they understood once the criticism started. Somebody's got to be blamed. It would be too bad if it's the president, but it isn't going to be them. So they went immediately running to the press and you get a reinforced attitude of the president of somebody is kind of listening to the wrong people, hopeless, you know, dupe that he is. This is really not serving the president.

And, by the way, Les Gelb's real criticism of the group was that none is a national security or foreign policy person. Nobody in that room, in the inner circle, is giving the president the advice he needs on these critical issues.

THOMAS: It's true.

SCOTT: All right.

We have to take another break.

Up next, the media thrashed President Bush over his mission accomplished speech on that aircraft carrier in 2003. Is there now, seven years later, a change of heart?

ANNOUNCER: Newsweek finally calls victory in Iraq and gives President Bush some credit. Is the mainstream media following suit?

And NPR celebrates the Boy Scouts centennial, but then apologizes for not includes gays. Is that fair? Answers next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: President George W. Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier declaring the end of major combat operations in Iraq, May 1, 2003. I was there. The media used that event to pummel him over the war in Iraq.

Time magazine put the picture on its cover in October of that year, "Mission not accomplished." Now, this week, Newsweek used a similar picture of that day on its cover, this time, headlining it, "Victory in Iraq."

Is the mainstream media, Judy, finally warming to President Bush?

MILLER: Well, I wouldn't quite go that far.


I would say that several of them pointed out that when Vice President Biden took credit for the war in Iraq, as going to say, it was going to be one of his administration's great accomplishments, a couple of commentators did say, wait a minute, wasn't that the other guy? But, no, they're not warming.


THOMAS: That mission accomplished was premature in Time magazine, victory at last is premature in Iraq. Things are certainly going better. You've got this election Sunday. There's already terrorism in advance. So this isn't settled yet. I think the news magazines and the media ought to be a little careful about their judgments.

SCOTT: Dailybeast.com, Jim, did an article on the situation in Iraq. They called it a political miracle, and the entire article did not mention anything about President Bush. Does that surprise you?

PINKERTON: It actually does surprise me, because you'd think that they would be sensitive to criticism, like on this show, and say, look, let's throw in a nice word about Bush just to cover ourselves. But the real story is lack of interest. As Rich Noyes at MRC, pointed out, there hasn't been a question to the White House since June 26 on this whole topic.

SCOTT: Talk about, Ellis, there have been seven pro-Obama Newsweek covers in, let's see, the last year, I guess. And there's this one about President Bush, mission accomplished, that seems to give him the hint of success.

HENICAN: Well, let me say two things. Nobody's going to repeat mission accomplished. That was not some great P.R. thing, even in hindsight.


SCOTT: The White House says they were talking about the ship and its crew and...


HENICAN: I understand. I understand. But you know what, there was a really striking picture there. The other point that is worth remembering is, we love ex-presidents, by and large, more than we like presidents. And a lot of those faults do fade over the years. Give it 60 or 80 years, and maybe people will start feeling good about George W. Bush.


THOMAS: Feel that way about Nixon?


HENICAN: It's coming very slowly.

MILLER: It's coming back. It's coming back.


MILLER: How about Cheney?


SCOTT: Let's talk about — let's talk about this media controversy. One hundred years and counting, the Boy Scouts of America, celebrating a century of scouting this year. To mark the occasion, NPR ran a nice piece about the famous people and presidents who grew up in Scouting, citing the values they learned and still keep with them today. But the piece did not include anything about the group's policy that openly gay men and boys cannot be leaders and cannot be Scouts. Now, after a whole lot of pressure, NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepherd wrote, "The piece should have acknowledged the controversy with the Boy Scouts and gays in a world where there is growing acceptance and integration of gays in all aspects of society. Of course, there are positive aspects to Scouting that needed to be recognized and celebrated, but not at the expense of giving listeners a full picture."

Ellis, agree?

HENICAN: Yes. Speaking as a former Cub Scout, Troop 66, in New Orleans.


Listen, if you're going to do a comprehensive piece about the Scouts, it is one of the things that probably ought to be in there. It is only the biggest controversy that's affected the group in the last few decades, I guess.

THOMAS: Well, you know, there are no openly female leaders either. And I think convicted felons and...


THOMAS: And there's a whole — you know, we don't allow a lot of — and they don't allow men in the Girl Scouts. Come on, this is a political move.

PINKERTON: Look, I think Alicia Shepherd is a fair-minded ombuds- person for NPR. But it's a reminder of the world that she lives in, that an NPR listener habit where the only thing you can think that's important about the Boy Scouts is they're allegedly not gay friendly.


SCOTT: All right. Let' move on to an uncomfortable interview on MSNBC. Host Dylan Ratigan railing on tea party leader, Mark Williams, not letting the guest get any words in. Listen.


WILLIAMS: We have a woman here, on a local NBC affiliate who, after an anti-Semitic rant at Sax State, was promoted from reporter to anchor. Does that make NBC, does that make you an anti-Semitic organization?

RATIGAN: Mark? Hey, Mark? Hey, Mark, do I run NBC? Are you against...


WILLIAMS: The answer is, no, we don't embrace racism.

RATIGAN: Do you have any intention of answering my questions? Let me ask you a question, Mark, because I don't...

WILLIAMS: We don't embrace racism.

RATIGAN: ...want to continue with this. You're wasting valuable oxygen.

WILLIAMS: Now — now...

RATIGAN: Can we please cut off this man's microphone? He has no interest in answering my questions.


RATIGAN: Mark, a pleasure.

WILLIAMS: OK, see you.

RATIGAN: Actually, not really a pleasure. If was offensive. You're offensive. Your treatment of my show as a vehicle to spread your propaganda, ignore my questions, offensive.


SCOTT: All right, how is that kind of programming helpful to anyone, Judy?

MILLER: Well, I don't think we'd call that fair and balanced.


I mean, I just, you know, don't go on that show. That's all.

SCOTT: It's theatrics more than journalism.


PINKERTON: Well, I mean, look, Air America has disappeared and now it's been recreated at MSNBC.


THOMAS: Well, you know, one more reason not to watch MSNBC, not that you need anymore, because nobody is.


SCOTT: Ellis, we let you and the other liberals talk on this network.


HENICAN: And occasionally, I'm able to hold on.

Listen, Dylan violated one rule, which is, if you're going to attack somebody like that, you have to keep your calm. Frankly, he looked like the nuttier of the two. And he didn't come off right.

SCOTT: He sure did.

We have to take another break. And when we come back...

ANNOUNCER: The president gets his physical and all looks good, except for a few vices. Is the press watching? That's next, on "News Watch."



ACTOR FRED ARMISEN AS PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm just tired of getting my butt kicked from both sides on this.

ACTRESS MAYA RUDOLPH AS FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It'll be all right. Are you smoking cigarettes in there?




SCOTT: President Obama, getting a poke from comedians at funnyordie.com, after getting poked by his doctor for smoking and drinking too much. The first lady said, "It's understandable that he struggles with it. Do I want him to stop completely? Absolutely. And I will push him to do so, but it's a process."

And the White House Press Corps brought up the topic at the daily briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: More difficult because this has probably been the most stressful year he's ever had, I would assume?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRES SECRETARY: Yes, I can't imagine that helped. But, look, I think he — the doctor — obviously, you saw in the report, he, as I said, continues to chew the gum and continues to both work hard at it as well as struggle with it probably each and every day.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where does he bum smokes from?

GIBBS: I don't smoke, so I don't know the answer.


SCOTT: Smoke them if you got them.

That's a wrap on "News Watch" this week.

Thanks to Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. See you next week.

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