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Topic: 60 Minutes

“60 Minutes” Liberal Bias on Display Again

As I wrote earlier, the headline coming out of the dueling interviews of President Obama and Mitt Romney on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last night was the president’s assertion that he wasn’t going to be diverted from defending the interests of the American people by any “noise” coming from Israel about Iran. This was a clear statement that the administration didn’t have the honesty to admit that its Iran policies have failed and that a course correction was needed. But the show’s producers weren’t content with merely contrasting the president’s position with that of Romney, who strongly criticized Obama for his decision to distance the U.S. from Israel. Instead, seeking to capitalize on the increasing tension between the two countries, they dug up an interview with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan out of their archive.

Dagan is a bitter critic of Netanyahu, and in the piece first broadcast in March he disparaged the prime minister’s sense of urgency about the threat from Iran, claiming more covert operations as well as efforts to promote regime change in Tehran would be smarter than a direct attack on its nuclear facilities. While Dagan is someone whose views on the subject deserve a hearing, the re-rerun of his interview is problematic for several reasons. As I first wrote after the original broadcast back in March, Dagan has personal motives for his public vendetta against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that are not referred to in the segment. But the real problem is that as shaky as Dagan’s case was in March, it is barely relevant today.

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As I wrote earlier, the headline coming out of the dueling interviews of President Obama and Mitt Romney on CBS’s “60 Minutes” last night was the president’s assertion that he wasn’t going to be diverted from defending the interests of the American people by any “noise” coming from Israel about Iran. This was a clear statement that the administration didn’t have the honesty to admit that its Iran policies have failed and that a course correction was needed. But the show’s producers weren’t content with merely contrasting the president’s position with that of Romney, who strongly criticized Obama for his decision to distance the U.S. from Israel. Instead, seeking to capitalize on the increasing tension between the two countries, they dug up an interview with former Mossad chief Meir Dagan out of their archive.

Dagan is a bitter critic of Netanyahu, and in the piece first broadcast in March he disparaged the prime minister’s sense of urgency about the threat from Iran, claiming more covert operations as well as efforts to promote regime change in Tehran would be smarter than a direct attack on its nuclear facilities. While Dagan is someone whose views on the subject deserve a hearing, the re-rerun of his interview is problematic for several reasons. As I first wrote after the original broadcast back in March, Dagan has personal motives for his public vendetta against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that are not referred to in the segment. But the real problem is that as shaky as Dagan’s case was in March, it is barely relevant today.

The release of the latest reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s progress in the last year makes his belief that Israel has “more time” than Netanyahu believed then sound foolish. So, too, does the fact that another round of Western diplomacy with Iran flopped in the intervening months. But the network ran the interview anyway, juxtaposed with those of Obama and Romney in order to make the president look wise and the prime minister and Romney look foolish.

As I wrote in March:

Those who are promoting Dagan as a counterpoint to Netanyahu should remember a few key facts about his unprecedented public advocacy on the Iran issue that are not well known in the United States. Far from being an entirely dispassionate intelligence professional, Dagan’s anger at Netanyahu and Barak stems in no small part from the fact that the pair are the ones responsible for his being fired from his job. This happened after a series of intelligence failures–the most public of which was the disastrous hit on a Hamas official in Dubai.

Second, though interviewer Leslie Stahl focuses her attention on Dagan’s opposition to a strike on Iran now, the subtext to his position is that he spent much of his time at the head of the Mossad working on efforts to spike the ayatollah’s nuclear ambition. Under his leadership, Israeli intelligence concentrated much of its resources on covert activities whose purpose was to slow or stop progress toward an Iranian bomb. Although he says he considers the Iranian regime “rational” (though he added “not exactly our [idea of] rational”), that doesn’t mean he thinks containing a nuclear Iran (something President Obama has now specifically rejected) is a good idea.

Instead, as one might expect from a veteran spook, Dagan wants more emphasis on covert activities and other efforts that are aimed at an even more ambitious project than a mere surgical taking out of Iran’s nuclear facilities: regime change. In the sense that a democratic Iran, or at least one not ruled by Islamist fanatics, would be much safer for Israel and the rest of the world, he is, of course, right. But to say his opinions on this subject are somehow more realistic than the less grandiose intentions of Netanyahu and Barak, who only wish to make sure Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei doesn’t get his hands on a nuke, is obviously a stretch.

The question of how much time Israel has before it is too late to do anything about an Iranian nuclear weapon is not unimportant. Dagan is clearly of the opinion the situation is not yet critical. But, as he was careful to point out to Stahl, “I never said a lot of time. [There is] more time.”

Whatever news value the Dagan interview had six months ago has vanished in the intervening time. The Iranians have proven even more conclusively in this time that cyber attacks on their system have failed. The IAEA report that showed that the Iranians have doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium and stored them underground makes the time factor critical. An argument for further delay is tantamount to a concession that Iran will go nuclear and that there is nothing Israel or the West can do about it. As for his hopes for regime change, the idea that the Israelis could ever get President Obama to buy into that idea is comical. The real “noise” here is coming from CBS and Dagan, not Netanyahu.

The only point in running the Dagan interview alongside the Obama/Romney segments was to bolster the president and make Romney’s support of Netanyahu look craven. This is hardly the first time the show has tipped its hand, but the conspicuous nature of this decision ought to embarrass anyone associated with the network. Anyone wishing to argue that “60 Minutes” is not a principal organ of the mainstream liberal media’s partisan agenda is being disingenuous.

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Obama Blocks Out Israeli “Noise” on Iran

In separate interviews broadcast last night on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Obama and Mitt Romney aired their differences on a host of issues. While much of the exchange consisted of the usual talking points on the economy from the two candidates, perhaps the most significant statement uttered (the complete transcript can be read here) was when the president was asked about the calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to state specific red lines about Iran’s nuclear threat that would trigger U.S. action:

When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.

While the second half of that answer sought to paper over the differences between his administration and Israel, there can be no doubt about the import of the first half. It was not only a clear statement from the president that he will not allow himself to be influenced by Netanyahu’s sense of urgency about Iran, but a not-so-subtle attempt to play the “Israel Lobby” card by asserting that he would do “what’s right for the American people.” The implication of this is that what’s good for America is not what’s good for Israel and if Netanyahu doesn’t like it, he can lump it.

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In separate interviews broadcast last night on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Obama and Mitt Romney aired their differences on a host of issues. While much of the exchange consisted of the usual talking points on the economy from the two candidates, perhaps the most significant statement uttered (the complete transcript can be read here) was when the president was asked about the calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to state specific red lines about Iran’s nuclear threat that would trigger U.S. action:

When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there. Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They’re one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.

While the second half of that answer sought to paper over the differences between his administration and Israel, there can be no doubt about the import of the first half. It was not only a clear statement from the president that he will not allow himself to be influenced by Netanyahu’s sense of urgency about Iran, but a not-so-subtle attempt to play the “Israel Lobby” card by asserting that he would do “what’s right for the American people.” The implication of this is that what’s good for America is not what’s good for Israel and if Netanyahu doesn’t like it, he can lump it.

Of course, even the closest of allies do have separate interests. But on Iran, as even the president has admitted, there is no real difference since a bomb in the hands of the ayatollahs is a threat to both the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan” as the Islamist regime’s leadership refers to the United States and Israel.

The issue at hand is not Obama standing up for the American people against “the noise” coming from Israel but whether the president is actually defending those interests by a policy of failed diplomacy combined with belated and ineffective sanctions that no serious person believes can convince Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

While Netanyahu’s statements have been interpreted as an attempt to intervene in American politics, the difference between the two countries centers on the administration’s refusal to concede that its policies have failed. For four years, Obama has tried a strategy of “engagement” and endless negotiations with Iran that flopped badly. The Iranians have used these years to get closer to their nuclear goal.

As the most recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency showed, the Iranians have doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium and stored them in underground bunkers that may be invulnerable to air attack. That means that more rounds of futile negotiations in which Iran’s representative can stall the West are likely to mean it will be too late to use force even if the president ever really decides that the game is up.

By refusing to meet with Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly in New York this month (though he will make time to chat with Whoopi Goldberg and the other yentas on “The View” while there), Obama is sending a pointed message to the Israelis that he will kick the can down the road on Iran for as long as he likes. The implication is that once re-elected, it is entirely likely that he will reverse course on containment of a nuclear Iran.

While most observers are blaming the trouble on Netanyahu, the problem remains Obama’s feckless Iran policy. More to the point, if the president considers the plea of Israel’s prime minister to get serious about Iran mere “noise” that is attempting to divert him from defending American interests while he is running for re-election, it isn’t hard to imagine how hostile he will be to the Jewish state during a second term.

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Who’s Really Persecuting Christians?

Last month CBS’s “60 Minutes” show earned itself some justified criticism for a biased report about the treatment of Palestinian Christians by Israel. As Alana noted then, the premise of the piece — that routine security precautions on the part of Israeli forces has led to a decline in the Christian population in the West Bank — was preposterous. Why would Israeli measures cause Christian numbers to diminish but not affect the rapidly growing Muslim population? Only a determination to blame Israel for everything could have led the “60 Minutes” team to avoid the obvious explanation: the rise of militant Islam in traditional Christian strongholds that has gradually forced many Christians to flee the country. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where the rights of the Christian minority — which is growing — are respected.

But the pushback against this calumny requires more background than just a fact check about the West Bank. The Gatestone Institute has published an important online monthly report about Muslim persecution of Christians throughout Asia and Africa and it makes for frightening reading. Even a brief summary of the litany of horrors being visited upon Christians by Muslims puts the ridiculous accusations against Israel in perspective.

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Last month CBS’s “60 Minutes” show earned itself some justified criticism for a biased report about the treatment of Palestinian Christians by Israel. As Alana noted then, the premise of the piece — that routine security precautions on the part of Israeli forces has led to a decline in the Christian population in the West Bank — was preposterous. Why would Israeli measures cause Christian numbers to diminish but not affect the rapidly growing Muslim population? Only a determination to blame Israel for everything could have led the “60 Minutes” team to avoid the obvious explanation: the rise of militant Islam in traditional Christian strongholds that has gradually forced many Christians to flee the country. Israel remains the only country in the Middle East where the rights of the Christian minority — which is growing — are respected.

But the pushback against this calumny requires more background than just a fact check about the West Bank. The Gatestone Institute has published an important online monthly report about Muslim persecution of Christians throughout Asia and Africa and it makes for frightening reading. Even a brief summary of the litany of horrors being visited upon Christians by Muslims puts the ridiculous accusations against Israel in perspective.

* Attacks on churches took place in Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan and Tunisia.

* Christians were threatened with death and imprisonment for “blasphemy” and apostasy in Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan. At the same time, Muslim terrorists have threatened Christian pastors in the Philippines.

* In a separate category called “dhimmitude,” the report discusses the “general abuse, debasement, and suppression of non-Muslims as tolerated citizens.” Such incidents were recorded in Egypt, India, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

The widespread scope of incidents of persecution throughout the Muslim world ought to alarm Christians in the West. But for some reason, it doesn’t. The Palestinians, whose goal is to eradicate the one Jewish state in the world, seem to generate more sympathy in Europe and America than the embattled Christians of the Third World.

All this took place in April of this year alone.

Those who purport to care about human rights undermine their already shaky credibility when they ignore the far greater instances of abuse of Christians by Arabs and Muslims while supporting the delegitimization of the one democracy in the Middle East as well as the one nation in the region that protects Christians.

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Backlash Over “60 Minutes” Israel Report

“60 Minutes” is getting a lot of pushback for its recent “expose” blaming Israel’s presence in the West Bank for the dwindling population of Christian Palestinians in the area. The piece smacks of the sort of journalism in which the facts are assembled to fit some pre-conceived “fresh” storyline (Muslim extremists persecuting Christian Arabs? Dog bites man. Israel persecuting Christian Arabs – now that’s a story!)

The premise of the “60 Minutes” piece is that Israel’s wall and checkpoints – security measures to prevent terrorism – are a real hassle for Palestinian Christians when they travel to Jerusalem to pray or visit family. There are waiting lines, permit requests, unaccommodating government administrators. It’s basically a bureaucratic nightmare. And that, according to “60 Minutes,” is why the Palestinian Christian population in the West Bank has decreased by two-thirds since 1964 (just ignore that annoying detail about Israel’s security fence being built in 2003).

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“60 Minutes” is getting a lot of pushback for its recent “expose” blaming Israel’s presence in the West Bank for the dwindling population of Christian Palestinians in the area. The piece smacks of the sort of journalism in which the facts are assembled to fit some pre-conceived “fresh” storyline (Muslim extremists persecuting Christian Arabs? Dog bites man. Israel persecuting Christian Arabs – now that’s a story!)

The premise of the “60 Minutes” piece is that Israel’s wall and checkpoints – security measures to prevent terrorism – are a real hassle for Palestinian Christians when they travel to Jerusalem to pray or visit family. There are waiting lines, permit requests, unaccommodating government administrators. It’s basically a bureaucratic nightmare. And that, according to “60 Minutes,” is why the Palestinian Christian population in the West Bank has decreased by two-thirds since 1964 (just ignore that annoying detail about Israel’s security fence being built in 2003).

Others have already written good takedowns of the story (see: Adam Kredo, Jen RubinMarc Tracy). There seems to be three basic contradictions that “60 Minutes” avoids:

  1. Palestinian Christians are fleeing the West Bank, but the Palestinian Muslim population is growing. Why is that? If Israel’s irksome presence were the chief driving factor for the migration, wouldn’t both populations be leaving the area at roughly the same rate?
  1. Christian communities are dwindling in size across the Muslim world.
  1. The Christian population inside Israel is growing.

Maybe the Palestinian Christians are fleeing because they’re fed up with the red tape and bleak economic prospects. Or, maybe their population is decreasing because they are trying to escape an increasingly extreme Islamic leadership in the West Bank that enforces strict religious laws while failing to protect Christians from intimidation and violence.

As Honest Reporting notes, Palestinian Christians have blamed Muslim persecution for their migration in numerous media reports. But they’ve mainly done so anonymously, out of fear of reprisal.

Did reporter Bob Simon ask any Palestinian Christians whether the rising influence of Hamas in the West Bank is contributing to the exodus? If so, why were the answers excluded from the final story? And if not, why did he neglect to ask such a basic and essential question?

The problem with Simon’s story isn’t just that he portrays Israel in an unfair light. It’s that he could have used the firepower of “60 Minutes” to do difficult reporting on the real persecution of Palestinian Christians, who mainly speak anonymously about their plight with the press. Instead, he decided to talk to the same anti-Israel activists who will gladly sit down with any reporter. It was a disappointing show, and a lazy one at that.

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RE: Newsweek Squeak

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

John, I wanted to follow up on your post on Newsweek by linking to this interview between Jon Meacham and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show [it can be found here and here]. During it, Meacham says this:

I do not believe that Newsweek is the only catcher in the rye between democracy and ignorance, but I think we’re one of them. And I don’t think there are that many on the edge of that cliff.

Ah, no.

For years I had subscribed to Newsweek, though I dropped the subscription last year, when I thought the magazine took a dive for the worst. I found the “new” Newsweek to be horrible in layout and in many (though certainly not all) of the writers it regularly featured. Jacob Weisberg and Jonathan Alter are not vital to the success of the American Republic. Trust me.

Regardless of your views about the quality of Newsweek, though, the notion that it is one of the “few catchers in the rye between democracy and ignorance” is risible. It was a liberal-leaning newsmagazine that mirrored almost perfectly the conventional wisdom of the political class. It was not, and never has been, indispensible, close to indispensible, or marginally indispensible. In fact, American democracy and American public discourse will not be one bit worse off when it disappears from the scene.

My three children will do fine growing up in a world without Newsweek.

Meacham also insisted that Newsweek has been “one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world.” It actually has not been that.

Newsweek represented a point of view that was philosophically liberal. In some years it did that better than in other years. But it was not a “common denominator” for us, as much as Meacham wishes it were. And I, for one, believe the “fragmented” media world we live in is far superior to the one that came before it. The consensus that existed among journalists when their profession was dominated by Time and Newsweek, by ABC, NBC, and CBS, by the New York Times and the Washington Post, was stupefying. The narratives were virtually all the same because the worldviews of reporters were almost all the same. What we had were a “herd of independent minds” trying to tell us how to think, which stories were worthy of our attention, and how to process those stories.

Today we live in a far more interesting, variegated, and informed world. There are now genuine clashes of ideas — and facts can now be checked in a way they never were in the past. (See Dan Rather’s and CBS’s reliance on bogus documents for a “60 Minutes” report charging that President Bush received favorable treatment in the National Guard, something that two decades ago could have cost Bush the presidency instead of Rather his job.)

It isn’t a perfect world by any means. And I’m not in favor of a world in which there are only commentators, only bloggers, only opinion-makers. We still need newspapers and news organizations that report and break news. For example, the New York Times, whatever its drawbacks, still provides excellent coverage of international affairs. During the Iraq war reporters like John Burns, Dexter Filkins, and Michael Gordon provided outstanding coverage.

We still need journalists reporting on oil wells that explode and leak, British elections being held, wars being fought, genocide unfolding, riots occurring in Greece, and all the rest. The good news is that we live in a world that features both “hard news” and informed commentary, to a degree we have never had before.

In that respect, what we have today is a vast improvement over the past. It also means that the truth and reality of the world in which we live has a better chance of being apprehended by the American citizenry.

I can understand on a personal and a professional level why Jon Meacham is shattered by what has happened to his magazine. But it is a tragedy for Newsweek, not for America — and not for American journalism.

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