Melanie Morgan Bites

Melanie Morgan was her usual sweet self on a recent PBS Newshour program. She was such a darling, in fact, that Newshour viewers arose en masse and demanded never to see her again. A selection:

Soltz vs. Morgan on the NewsHour

“The NewsHour” is where I go to get away from screaming heads. Melanie Morgan was a disgrace to the program. Who in the world thought she would be a rational voice to counter Jon Soltz of

Herb Reeves, Greenville, SC

To have included Melanie Morgan to discuss the Iraq mess was a distinct dilution of the integrity that I believe PBS generally represents. Her qualifications to speak are questionable and her interruptive manner not in keeping with your standards.

Landisville, PA

The May 8 “debate” between Jon Soltz of and Melanie Morgan of Move America Forward was one of the worst such segments I’ve seen on NewsHour in awhile. I turn to NewsHour to escape the shouting heads pervasive on the 24-hour news networks. Between Soltz’s offensive insistence that he represents “the troops” (when in fact, many of the troops vehemently disagree with his views), and Morgan’s insistence that the Democrats don’t want victory (merely because they want to fund it only six months at a time), and their nasty and disrespectful attitudes toward each other and the viewers, I was sickened by the whole display. If I wanted red herrings, straw men, ad hominems, and other such nonsense I wouldn’t be watching NewsHour.

Chris Nandor, Arlington, WA

I’m disturbed by the NewsHour’s new low; providing a television platform for an extreme right-wing attack demagogue, spewing abuse and jingoistic vitriol. Of course I’m referring to Melanie Morgan’s demeaning and disparaging ad hominem attacks on your other guest, along with a slanderous impugning of the patriotism and motives of any and all non-like-minded folks.

Jerry Swingle, Durango, CO

The yelling, interrupting and repeated rudeness by the talk show woman is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me from watching other news/talk shows, and the nastiness that I don’t expect to see on Lehrer. I don’t really blame her, since rudeness and yelling is the shtick of talk show hosts and maybe she’d never seen Lehrer and didn’t realize it was out of place there. A good rule of thumb would be not to invite talk show hosts from either side for these discussions.

Dick Homan, Green Valley, AZ

Please let The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer know that some viewers were aghast at tonight’s broadcast when Judy Woodruff let Melanie Morgan of Move Forward America repeatedly interrupt Judy and the other interviewee. Rudeness and a lack of civility are characteristic of some other so-called news programs, but not The NewsHour! We finally pushed the mute button on our remote.

Carolyn Fox, Mount Angel, OR

This evening (May 8 ) The NewsHour carried a piece that purported to be an interview of two grassroots organizations on the course of the Iraq war. On the Bush side was “Move America Forward.” The spokesperson sounded much more like a Republican front organization than a genuine grassroots one. There is nobody with an impressive resume on their web page. I would hope that PBS would check the funding and principles before putting someone like that on the air.

Ben Ansbacher, Burlington, NC

Lehrer’s NewsHour tonight was kinduv the last straw for me. Allowing Melanie Morgan to yell and block out the words of her opposite number was unforgivably rude, but she was not reprimanded; the camera swung to her, as though this were a contest show. For a long time the effort to “give both sides” has allowed similarly rude people a forum to promote minority, sometimes extreme, views. Please stop it!

ER W, Oberlin, OH

The NewsHour Responds

Last night the NewsHour attempted to help our viewers understand why the members of Congress are having so much difficulty arriving at a decision regarding the way forward in Iraq. We believe the intensity of the pressure being exerted on Democrats and Republicans by the “wings” of their respective parties is having an impact on those who are looking for some sort of compromise position. We decided to let representatives of those wings explain their positions, hoping they would participate in a dialogue with us and each other. As our guests demonstrated, however, that was a forlorn hope and the result was a lot of heat, but very little light.

Since neither guest was in the studio with Judy Woodruff, there wasn’t much she could do to prevent them from interrupting one another, short of saying — as she did at least three times — “please let him/her finish his/her point”. The NewsHour style is to ask pointed questions politely; we expect our guests to subscribe to the same rules. Since the program is produced live, we can’t do much to eliminate rude guests from your television screen once the segment has begun; what we can do is guarantee you will never see that person on our program again.

Linda Winslow
Executive Producer
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer

Now, without further ado, here’s the segment itself for your viewing pleasure. Part I:

And Part II:

Morgan says she represents Move America Forward, which you can see from their web site is a mature and serious organization.

Bush: What Question?

Think Progress has transcript and video of President Bush refusing to answer a direct question about whether he ordered the night visit to John Ashcroft’s hospital room. Then he then dredged up a mass of old and mostly debunked talking points (e.g., that Congress was “fully briefed”) to defend the blatantly unconstitutional program.

Just look to see how pathetic it is.


Back in those happy days in the 90s, if Clinton had refused to answer a question like this a shitstorm would’ve erupted. Ted Koppel would’ve put up a “17 days and still no answer” clock. Tweety would have had 37 blond conservative lawyers on every night to demand “accountability.” etc… etc…

See also Digby.

Glenn Greenwald:

James Comey’s testimony amounts to a statement that — even according to the administration’s own loyal DOJ officials — the President ordered still-unknown spying on Americans, and engaged in that spying for a full two-and-a-half-years, that was so blatantly and shockingly illegal that they were all ready to resign over it. And the President’s Attorney General then lied to ensure that this episode remain concealed. Mere one-day calls for a Congressional investigation are woefully inadequate here.

There is clear and definitive evidence of deliberate lawbreaking. In addition to Congressional investigations, there is simply no excuse for anything other than the immediate commencement of a criminal investigation by a Special Prosecutor. And the administration ought to be pressured every day to account for what it did here. This is not a one-day or one-week fleeting scandal. These revelations amount to the most transparent and deliberate crimes — felonies — by our top government officials, not with regard to private and personal matters but with regard to how our government spies on us.

We’ve gone way past asking if Bush has done anything illegal enough to deserve impeachment. Seems to me we’ve got a whole smorgasbord of criminal activities to choose from. However, even if we could get a vote of impeachment in the House, it would be a waste of time if we can’t get a conviction in the Senate. And that requires a two-thirds vote. That would be about 16 more votes than there are Democrats in the Senate. And we can kiss off Lieberman. We aren’t there yet.

And then, of course, there’s the Cheney problem.

This morning I wrote that too many people were focusing on what Alberto Gonzales did wrong instead of the fact that Gonzo doesn’t sneeze until Bush tells him too.

Fred Hiatt’s editorial in today’s Washington Post is a little stronger than yesterday’s, which focused almost exclusively on Gonzales. Hiatt seems to be waking up to the reality that some seriously screwed up shit is going on in the White House. But he’s still not acknowledging that Alberto Gonazles and Andy Card wouldn’t have made the night ride to John Ashcroft’s hospital unless they knew the Boss wanted it done.

Christopher Dodd and other Dem senators want a vote of no confidence in Gonzales from the Senate. Apparently a number of Republicans might go along with this. I don’t disagree, but I don’t think the Senate can force Gonzales out. I’m not sure that, by itself, it would have any effect. I don’t think the Senate can order Gonzales to resign. However, anything that further isolates Bush from everyone else in Washington, including Republicans, is a step in the right direction.

[Update: I just heard Wolfowitz finally resigned from the World Bank. About time. Andrea Mitchell is on MSNBC right now saying that the White House was forced to go along. I may have more to say about this later.]

What You See

If the page looks odd — well, more odd than usual — and the blog posts are aligning flush right instead of flush left, please note that the code was corrected last night. Try refreshing the page, or if that doesn’t work clear old Internet files out of your browser. The display problem should correct itself.

Exposing the Invisible Man

Something is missing from this editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post. See if you can spot what the something is (emphasis added):

The episode involved a 2004 nighttime visit to the hospital room of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, and Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff. Only the broadest outlines of this visit were previously known: that Mr. Comey, who was acting as attorney general during Mr. Ashcroft’s illness, had refused to recertify the legality of the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program; that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card had tried to do an end-run around Mr. Comey; that Mr. Ashcroft had rebuffed them. …

… That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.

What’s missing? Here’s a hint …

The missing element is not entirely unmentioned in the editorial. But WaPo does give one the impression that this element was just a bit player in the episode.

Likewise, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel blames Gonzales for attempting a end run around Mr. Comey, not to mention the Constitution. Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press reports,

Citing dramatic testimony a day earlier that revealed that Gonzales, then the White House legal counsel, tried to undermine the department he now leads, Hagel demanded the attorney general’s resignation.

“The American people deserve an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question,” Hagel, R-Neb., said in a statement. “Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead.”

But later in the same article Kellman writes,

President Bush continued to stand by his longtime friend and adviser. Asked about Hagel’s comment on Gonzales’ moral authority, press secretary Tony Snow replied: “We disagree, and the president supports the attorney general.”

Your darn tootin’ he is. As long as he stays in his job, Gonzo will continue to disgrace himself in front of Congress and the nation. And he will do it cheerfully. He’ll do whatever it takes to protect the Invisible Man.

Does anyone in Washington, including Chuck Hagel, really believe Gonzales was not acting under orders? That the night visit to John Ashcroft’s hospital room was entirely his idea? Or Andy Card’s? Please. Let’s see how this sounds, Chuck —

    The American people deserve an attorney general a president, the chief law enforcement officer executive of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales President Bush can no longer meet does not meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead.

Now, is that so hard?

But President Bush is never the one in charge when anything bad happens, you know. He’s only in charge when there’s some glory in it. Or, at least, he is credited with being in charge. For example, on September 11, after finally breaking himself away from The Pet Goat, the President and his entourage boarded Air Force One to go … somewhere. As the crisis unfolded, and NORAD and the airlines and the FAA flapped about like headless chickens, and as mid-level managers made decisions because no one else was, Air Force One flew in circles over Florida while the President and the Vice President argued by phone over where the bleeping plane should land.

But because the entire nation managed not to dissolve into a puddle that day, President Bush coasted through the next four years wearing the mantle of Glorious Leader. He wore it until Katrina blew it off him. He thinks he’s still wearing it, I suspect.

This pattern continues. When he can appear before a backdrop of cheering men and women in uniform, he is the resolute and all-powerful Commander in Chief. Hard choices to make in Iraq? Um, go talk to the generals on the ground about that.

Although there are exceptions, too much of the “mainstream media” and politicians in Washington — including Democrats — are pointing fingers at Alberto Gonzales. But the truth of the matter is that’s Gonzo’s job. He’s there to deflect the blame, to play the fool, to stonewall — whatever it takes to keep those fingers from pointing at Bush.

Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon,

Loyalty has always been the alpha and omega of George W. Bush’s presidency. But all the forms of allegiance that have bound together his administration — political, ideological and personal — are being shredded, leaving only blind loyalty. Bush has surrounded himself with loyalists, who fervently pledged their fealty, enforced the loyalty of others and sought to make loyal converts. Now Bush’s long downfall is descending into a series of revenge tragedies in which the characters are helpless against the furies of their misplaced loyalties and betrayals. The stage is being strewn with hacked corpses — on Monday, former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty; imminently, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz; tomorrow, whoever remains trapped on the ghost ship of state. As the individual tragedies unfold, Bush’s royal robes unravel.

I think the boy king has been buck naked for some time, but let’s go on …

Loyalty to Bush is the ultimate royal principle of the imperial presidency. The ruler must be unquestioned and those around him unquestioning. Allegiance to Bush’s idea of himself as the “war president,” “the decider” and “the commander guy” is paramount. But the notion that the ruler is loyal to those loyal to him is no longer necessarily true. While he must be beheld as the absolute incarnation of kingly virtue, his sense of obligation to those paying homage has become perilously relative.

Those who feel compelled to tell the truth rather than stick to the cover story are cast in the dust, like McNulty. Those Bush defends as an extension of his authority but who become too expensive become expendable, like Wolfowitz. And those who exist solely as Bush’s creations and whose survival is crucial to his own are shielded, like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In other words, as long as the nation is yakking about what Alberto Gonzales did, and not about what Bush did, Gonzo’s got a job.

Blumenthal suggests that this episode has a lot to do with why John Ashcroft didn’t stay in the Attorney General position after Bush’s “re-election,” leaving the position open to be filled by the purest of Bush flunkies. I suspect he’s right about that.

For a similar perspective, check out what Howard Fineman said on Tuesday night’s “Coundtown..” If you want to skip the background, Howard’s bit starts at about about 3:50.

Bush is famous for his “loyalty,” but if you pay close attention, you see that Bush is “loyal” only as far as it suits him. When it comes to saving his own political hide, just about everyone (but him) is expendable. But at the rate he’s going, Bush is going to run out of flunkies before there’s a shortage of buses to throw them under.