Skip to main content
U.S. Edition
Search
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

Are Journalists Quietly Rejoicing Over Democratic Takeover of Congress?; Did Media Scapegoat Rumsfeld?

Aired November 12, 2006 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice over): Covering a thumpin'. Are journalists quietly rejoicing over the Democratic takeover of Congress they kept predicting, and will they cover Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid as aggressively as they once scrutinized Newt Gingrich?

CBS's Gloria Borger, ABC's Martha Raddatz, and CNN's Candy Crowley join our discussion.

Goodness gracious, he's out. Donald Rumsfeld dumped at the Pentagon days after President Bush vowed to keep his defense secretary. Did the media make Rummy a scapegoat for an unpopular war? And how will they treat his successor?

Plus, how bloggers and video Web sites transformed the midterm campaign. And three rookie anchors make their election night debut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES, where today we turn our critical lens on the challenge for the media now that Democrats have seized control of Capitol Hill and how they will cover the Pentagon now that Don Rumsfeld has been sent packing.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Well, the media drumbeat said a big Democratic wave was coming. Now the question is, what kind of scrutiny will Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid get when they take over the House and Senate? With President Bush's party out of power on the Hill for the first time in a dozen years, journalists kept asking if he had gotten the message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TERENCE HUNT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: A solid majority of Americans said yesterday that they wanted some American troops, if not all, withdrawn from Iraq. Did you hear that call and will you heed it?

KEN HERMAN, COX NEWS: You said you were surprised, you didn't see it coming, you were disappointed in the outcome. Does that indicate that after six years in the Oval Office, you're out of touch with America for something like this kind of wave to come and you not expect it? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi has called you "incompetent," a "liar," "the emperor with no clothes," and as recently as yesterday, "dangerous." How will you work with someone who has such little respect for your leadership and who is third in line to the presidency?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about how journalists are covering this new political landscape, in New York, CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley. And here in Washington, Martha Raddatz. She's White House correspondent for ABC News. And Gloria Borger, CBS News national political correspondent and a contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report."

Well, Gloria, it sure sounded at that news conference like a lot of cocky reporters were saying, you lost big time, Mr. President. Did you get the message? Are you out of touch?

GLORIA BORGER, CBS NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly what they were saying because they had to ask him that question directly. It was a repudiation of him in many ways, and his Iraq policy in particular. And I think when you get an opportunity to ask the president that question directly, you ought to be asking it.

KURTZ: Martha Raddatz, Nancy Pelosi didn't use the word "liar," as Suzanne Malveaux said, but she said a lot of other very unflattering things about President Bush. But were some of you White House correspondents trying to start fights already between Bush and these new Democratic leaders one day after the election?

MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, we didn't start the fight. Listen to the things they've been saying over the past months, over the past years. The president hasn't exactly been flattering to Nancy Pelosi, either. Both of them have said some very, very harsh things in the past few weeks.

We had to ask the president those questions that day. We have to ask Nancy Pelosi the same kind of questions, and the rhetoric and how are they going to calm that down. How are they really going join together to get something happening?

KURTZ: We'll come back to that in a moment.

Candy Crowley, let's face it, journalists were bored with one- party rule and they hope the Democrats conduct plenty of investigations in Congress and issue subpoenas so that they can feast on the conflict.

True or false? True?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know -- I mean, you know, yes, in some ways. And here's why: because journalists love a story.

So I don't think it's -- you know, that gives the implication that we're rooting for something one way or the other. I think what journalists root for is a good story. You know, something that gets the adrenaline pumping. And so, you know, yes, in the sense that we want a good story, no in the sense that we want to see somebody or other brought down.

KURTZ: Right. I wasn't suggesting journalists were taking sides, so much as they were happy to hold the coats of the two sides while they go at it.

Now, one of the really remarkable things that the Bush news conference concerned, Don Rumsfeld. Six days before the election, President Bush sat down with reporters for The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg. We see a shot of it there. And here's part of that transcript.

AP, talking about Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld: "You see them staying with you until the end?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do.

REUTERS: S you're expecting Rumsfeld, Secretary Rumsfeld, to stay on for the rest of your time here?

BUSH: Yes, I am.

Well, at the news conference the president had changed his tune.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My answer is, you know, they're going stay on. And the reason was I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of the campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Gloria Borger, did the president essentially admit that he lied to the press?

BORGER: Yes. I think he was trying to be a little too clever by half, trying to say, look, I had never offered anybody the job until after the election, so maybe I was literally telling you the truth. But it was very clear, they had made a decision not to do anything with Rumsfeld until after the election.

By the way, lots of Republicans were mad about that because they thought they could have gained...

KURTZ: Why do it then? Why not do it early?

BORGER: Yes.

KURTZ: But the White House officials admitted, Martha Raddatz, that the president had had several discussions with Donald Rumsfeld about moving on well before the election. So was that answer that he gave the wire service reporters at the very least misleading?

RADDATZ: Absolutely. I mean, I thought it was extraordinary. And I know the White House and the president will say, well, I couldn't -- I couldn't give you the true answer.

You know what? There are a lot of ways to get around this. There really are.

And sure, reporters have been looking at this question for a long time, but in a way, that might have muted it a little bit. If he'd said something like, you know, he has been a great defense secretary or, you know...

KURTZ: I have full confidence in him.

RADDATZ: ... as a good American, whatever, but I feel completely misled by this. And, you know, you always hear from various administrations, look, the only time you can ever do something like this is for national security.

This wasn't national security. This was politics. And it was also politics the day after election, when they announced Don Rumsfeld would be leaving. So I don't buy that argument at all.

KURTZ: We're not trying to inject politics.

Did you feel misled as well?

BORGER: Yes, I did. I -- you know, plain and simple, I think the president was maneuvering to try and figure out a way to get rid of Don Rumsfeld while he was telling people he was going to be there for the rest of the administration.

RADDATZ: Howie, I thought one of the best questions of the press conference was when someone stood up and said, "Well, how do you feel about Vice President Cheney? Because you also lumped him together with Don Rumsfeld."

I mean, when do we know we're not being misled? When do we know they're not telling the truth now?

KURTZ: As far as we know, Cheney is sticking around.

Candy Crowley, Bush has been more accessible to the press this year. He's held more news conferences than he did when he was at 80 percent in the polls. So now that he's lost control, his party has lost control of both houses of Congress, do you expect him to engage more with the press, even to court the press because he's no longer -- because he's in a weakened political position?

CROWLEY: I do because it's a microphone. I mean, you know, before, the president has not had to struggle for center stage. He's not had to grab the microphone from anyone.

Now that he has Democrats who are determined to lead and show their leadership, he's going have to compete with that. And one of the best ways to compete with that, obviously, is to seek out the press and to seek out the platform.

I think, frankly, that's what he was doing when he announced the day after the election that Don Rumsfeld was going. Here was all this Democratic cheer and, boy, we're going do this and do that and the other thing, and then right in the middle of it the president drops this bomb, and the attention, you know, swerves back to him. So I expect that we will see a good deal more of him.

KURTZ: And one of the things that did, there was a change in the storyline. Instead of all of the stories the next day being analyzing the Democratic victory, it was a lot about the changing of the guard at the Pentagon.

BORGER: Oh, yes.

RADDATZ: Oh, yes. That definitely changed the storyline. And look, I've done something already, and forget about that loss. Let's talk about going forward.

BORGER: And the new nominee, Bob Gates, is somebody that he knew that lots of Democrats would approve of, too.

KURTZ: Interesting.

Well, now the president still has a pretty big megaphone despite having opposition -- Congress in opposition hands. But I think we'll be seeing a lot more television time and television invitations for the likes of Senator Harry Reid and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, in fact, sat down with all the network anchors the day after the election results.

Let's take a look at some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: What does "drain the swamp" mean?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) MINORITY LEADER: Drain the swamp means to turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history.

KATIE COURIC, "CBS EVENING NEWS": You will be the first woman speaker of the House and the highest-ranking woman in the United States government.

What does that mean to you?

PELOSI: It's pretty exciting, I have to say. I'm just so excited that a Democrat will be speaker of the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to use that mother of five voice a lot to keep Congress in order?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: For the moment at least, Gloria Borger, is Nancy Pelosi getting pretty soft treatment from the media?

BORGER: Honeymoon, you think? Yes.

I think -- I think it will remain a honeymoon for a while. I think the Democrats are quite excited not only to take over the House, but to see Nancy Pelosi there. She's worked very hard for it. But I think the real challenge for Nancy Pelosi is to see if she can really be bipartisan.

She's got a -- she's got a caucus that's going to be like hurting cats. She's got a lot of conservative Democrats that...

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: And what's the challenge for the journalists covering her? I mean, she's a good story because there's never been a woman in that job. But...

BORGER: The challenge -- the challenge for us is to see how she manages her caucus, and honestly how she deals with the Republican minority right now.

KURTZ: And on that point, Martha Raddatz, with Democrats running both houses, is it the responsibility of journalists to now hold them accountable for producing results, or will we just enjoy the partisan fireworks if there's a lot of that between the Hill and the White House?

RADDATZ: Oh, I think obviously you have to hold them accountable. And you have to go back to what they said before the midterm elections, and you have to follow them each and every day afterwards.

And I think Gloria's exactly right. There will be this minor little honeymoon period, the whole female, first female speaker of the House. That will go away...

BORGER: Been there, done that.

RADDATZ: ... really quickly. That will go away, yes. Congratulations, now let's move on.

KURTZ: Because when they were a minority party, I mean, they could basically take all of the potshots in the world and they weren't responsible for anything because they couldn't even bring legislation to the floor.

RADDATZ: I mean -- yes, right. I mean, it's like Iraq policy. OK, now let's see what you're going to do about this. You've been talking about it for a long time.

And I'm sure the Republicans are waiting to see that as well. And that will keep them at bay for a bit.

KURTZ: But Candy Crowley, is Nancy Pelosi ever going to get the kind of tough press scrutiny that, for example, Newt Gingrich received when he became speaker in 1995?

CROWLEY: I think so. I mean, I think if only because everybody is sort of aware of that.

I mean, I think there will be tough scrutiny. I mean, look, everybody's right. You know, she's a grandmother, she's, you know, the most powerful woman in Washington. She's risen higher than anyone else.

So that takes a while to kind of get out of the cycle. Everybody has to do that story.

And also, we're not into Democratic rule yet. That happens in January. So I would think long about February you're going to begin to see tough scrutiny, because I think it's incumbent upon us and I think everybody knows that.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get a break here.

When we come back, a look at all of those election night coverage and all those predictions, including one by Karl Rove. We've got the tape.

And later, Wolf Blitzer interviews White House chief of staff Josh Bolten on "LATE EDITION". That's 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

And at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, John Roberts hosts a special "This Week at War" from Baghdad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Welcome back.

As the midterm campaign raced toward the finish line, journalists became increasingly bold in saying the Democrats would probably take the House and maybe even the Senate. White House officials, for their part, insisted the GOP could hang on. And as we hear in this interview late last month with NPR's Robert Siegel, presidential adviser Karl Rove could be rather aggressive about it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KARL ROVE, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I'm looking at all of the same polls that you're looking at.

ROBERT SIEGEL, NPR: No, you're not. No, you're not.

ROVE: No I'm not...

SIEGEL: I'm looking at 68 polls a week. You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally, but that do not impact the outcome...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KURTZ: Candy Crowley, did journalists believe Karl Rove and George W. Bush when they insisted, despite all the polls, including those 68 polls, that Republicans would somehow hang on? Or did they think that this was just spin?

CROWLEY: I'll tell you, they've been so successful in the past you kept thinking, "What do they know that I don't know?" So I think you left open the possibility because, you know, basically Karl Rove has been pretty good at counting votes.

So, I mean, you know, again, however, when you were out there and you were in the field, you thought, "Ooh, this is a pretty strong push on the Democratic side." So you had a feeling you might be wrong, but you wanted to leave open that possibility because they'd been so good at it in the last three elections.

KURTZ: I wondered whether journalists were going too far in sort of signaling, hinting, predicting that the Democrats were going to have this huge night, because you never know who's going to turn out. But I guess they knew something.

BORGER: Yes. I -- well, I think we did once we saw some of those exit polls, although on election night -- although you have to be very careful when you look at those. But Howie, we're so used to getting spun on both sides. And, of course, you did have...

KURTZ: That we've become numb?

BORGER: That we have -- we're sort of -- we understand we're being spun.

RADDATZ: Cautious.

BORGER: Cautious, yes. And the GOP has this -- you know, this great get-out-the-vote operation. And so you knew that Democrats had the intensity, but Republicans can really get out the vote. And the question was whether they could match up.

But you can't make a difference in an eight-point race with a get-out-the-vote effort. You can make a one or two-point difference.

RADDATZ: And I think the Republicans were -- I think all of us were surprised they took the Senate. I mean, that -- that was a true stunner, I think, no matter...

KURTZ: Do you think that when Rove and company and Republican Party officials said they thought they could possibly even hold the House that they really believed it, or engaged in wishful thinking, or they didn't want to demoralize their troops?

RADDATZ: Yes. I mean, certainly, they didn't want to demoralize their troops.

I think they thought they would lose the House. I think they knew that all along. And it's sort of interesting, those last couple of days with the president.

I mean, the president is Mr. body language, and those last few days, especially the very last night, the very last rally -- and I'm sure he was tired -- but that rally I sort of sensed. I thought he didn't seem quite out there as he usually is with the big chest.

KURTZ: Gloria Borger, you are sitting there live on election night. You've seen the exit polls. There were some problems with the exit polls. Once again they skewed a little bit too Democratic.

How do you figure out how far you can go when describing what looks to be a Democratic victory before all the votes were in?

BORGER: Well, we have some really smart pollsters sitting with us on election night who can extrapolate from that information. Even though, say, a poll might have been heavily weighted towards women or Democratic women, you can take a look at the margins in each category and start extrapolating from that.

They're a lot smarter than I am, but they were sitting there right with me. So no matter, you know, what the numbers actually said, you could start seeing that there was honestly a trend developing. But you have to be careful, because the exit polls have been wrong in the past, most notably in the last presidential election.

So I think we -- we all could say there seems to be -- seems to be shaping up to be a good night for the Democrats, but you couldn't say absolutely.

KURTZ: Right. In 2004, the exit polls showed Kerry substantially ahead...

BORGER: Yes.

KURTZ: ... and that influenced I think the tone of a lot of the chatter on the air.

Candy Crowley, same question to you. How do you make decisions about how far you can go on election night?

CROWLEY: Well, again, we had pollsters around going, "Listen, this is the first wave, the first wave of polls is notably skewed." But the margins were big enough that you knew, you know, no matter how skewed they were, that this was probably going to be a Democratic night.

But we felt that prior to that. So I didn't think, you know, saying look, all signs point to a Democratic night. We knew that from public polls.

So I don't it influenced -- I mean, had there been a big Republican wave, that would have been harder to hide, I think, in some ways. But it sort of was going the way we thought it was going from public polls, plus the fact we were cautioned so much by our pollsters saying, "Look, you've got understand that these aren't accurate, that these are the first wave as opposed to what comes in later."

KURTZ: Right., RADDATZ: And there were a few stunning moments that evening. I mean, I remember Charlie Gibson a couple of times with McCaskill and then Jim Webb. I mean, there were moments that we were all very surprised about.

I remember Charlie just saying, "Whoa, I just read that a second time. That's amazing."

KURTZ: This must have been fairly late in the night...

RADDATZ: Yes.

KURTZ: ... because both of those races in Missouri...

(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: Right. Right.

KURTZ: A too close to call category.

RADDATZ: Yes, the early -- yes.

KURTZ: I see.

Now, I was quite struck the day after the election as commentators on both the left and the right sifted through the results by something that Rush Limbaugh said to his radio audience on the air.

Let's take a listen to that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I feel liberated, and I'm going to -- I'm just going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Gloria Borger, is that what commentators do? They carry water for people who -- just because it's their team?

BORGER: Well, I certainly can't speak for Rush Limbaugh, but I -- but I -- you know, with friends like that, if you're sitting at the White House I'm sure they appreciated that comment -- not.

KURTZ: But the question I have is, when we hear people who are self-identified liberal or conservative commentators, are we hearing what they truly believe, or are they telling their comments to help the Republicans or the Democrats?

RADDATZ: Let's do an administration here. You're going to have to ask Rush Limbaugh.

BORGER: Yes.

RADDATZ: I mean, you know, there's certainly an argument...

KURTZ: I'm asking a broader question.

RADDATZ: Yes, there's certainly an argument that...

KURTZ: Are you skeptical?

RADDATZ: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, I'm -- but, you know, that's part of my job, I guess.

KURTZ: Are you (INAUDIBLE) skeptical?

BORGER: Yes, but they're -- you know, they're rooting, and they're trying -- and the closer you get to an election, the more Rush Limbaugh clearly wanted to help the Republican Party, but what he was saying was it was tough.

KURTZ: Although the one things notable about this election was a number of conservative radio hosts and even some conservative bloggers who broke with the administration and said that they wouldn't mind if the Republicans lost, the Republicans deserved to lose because in their opinion the GOP had departed from conservative principles.

That's all of the time we have for this segment.

Candy Crowley, in New York, thanks very much for joining us.

Gloria Borger, thanks as well.

Coming up next, why "60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley was a trailblazer on more than just the racial front.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: As you know, Ed Bradley of "60 Minutes" fame died this week at the age of 65. As you know, he had a remarkable career. As you may know, he won 19 Emmys. But what you may not know is how he inspired millions of young people, such as the time he was doing a story on Vietnamese boat people and he stepped out of his journalistic role to help.

And that made an impression on a future CBS correspondent named Byron Pitts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BYRON PITTS, CBS NEWS: I remember the first time I saw Ed on TV in the water with those women and children. That story hit me the same way it probably hit a lot of African-American children in the 1970s. Wow, there's someone on TV who looks like me.

KURTZ (voice over): What you may not know is that he covered the Vietnam War and was badly wounded in Cambodia. Bradley was CBS' first black correspondent, and he drew increasingly high-profile assignments...

ED BRADLEY, CBS NEWS: Ed Bradley, CBS News, the White House.

KURTZ: ... until in 1981 he joined one of the most popular shows on television.

BRADLEY: I'm Ed Bradley.

KURTZ: One week he could be a dogged investigative reporter.

BRADLEY: But wait a minute, you've got a hospital where there's a riot that takes place, where someone is killed, and where a child psychiatrist is convicted of molesting his patients, and you don't know anything about it?

KURTZ: The next, he was chatting up celebrities.

BRADLEY: So, listen, can I go out to Vegas with you?

GEORGE BURNS, ENTERTAINER: Sure. We'll play together.

KURTZ: And who looked better going one-on-one with Michael Jordan?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: He was Mr. Cool. He was the coolest person I ever met.

KURTZ: Bradley had style. One of the first men who dared to wear an earring. And even as he battled leukemia, he kept working, producing an exclusive interview just three weeks ago with the accused lacrosse players in the Duke rape case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Even in the Oprah age, he remained private about his private life. Ed Bradley spoke through his journalism. "60 Minutes" is airing an hour-long tribute tonight.

Coming up in the second half hour of RELIABLE SOURCES, Don Rumsfeld and the press. Did the media turn the outgoing Pentagon chief into a symbol of an unpopular war?

And the campaign that raged online. How blogs and YouTube have had a huge impact.

Plus, a trio of new faces on election night. Brian, Charlie and Katie call their first races from the anchor desk.

That's all ahead after a check of the hour's top stories from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

This was the campaign when bloggers really came of age. They broke stories about the campaign, posted video from the campaign, and in some cases hired themselves out to political candidates. Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos even appeared in an ad for Connecticut Democrat Ned Lamont.

They also made primetime on Tuesday when about 30 bloggers got together at CNN's invitation to party and blog about election night.

Joining us now to talk about the impact on the 2006 elections and what lies ahead, in New York, veteran magazine and newspaper editor Ed Jarvis, who blogs at buzzmachine.com. And here in Washington, Mike Krempasky, co-founder of the Web site redstate.com and a vice president at Edelman Public Relations.

Jeff Jarvis, bloggers were more involved than ever in 2006. Have they matured as a political force?

JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: Yes, I think so. And I think in ways that are probably more ingrained than we even know.

Part of it is just that reporters read blogs. I think bloggers probably have an influence in what stories are -- keep getting hotter and hotter. Iraq, perhaps. I think the left-wing blogs really went after Iraq and stayed on it hard, and I think that might have actually had an influence.

KURTZ: I read at least 20 or 25 a day.

Mike Krempasky, did you see more energy and maybe organization this time among liberal bloggers who not only helped Ned Lamont in Connecticut, but maybe contributed to the Democratic victory than on your side, the conservative side?

MIKE KREMPASKY, REDSTATE.COM: Oh, I think there's no doubt. And I think that accurately reflects the differences in the basis of the two parties. Blogs are really a representation of the most -- whether you want to call them engaged or extreme -- elements of both sides, and clearly Republicans and conservatives were less excited about their candidates than I think Democrats and liberals were about beating Republicans.

KURTZ: So were you somewhat disillusioned with the state of the GOP?

KREMPASKY: Well, sure. I think that, you know, as a conservative, there's a lot not to like. And unfortunately, just being slightly better or marginally better than the other side doesn't always necessarily translate to a victory.

KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, a number of bloggers signed on with various candidates, particularly candidates who are going to probably run for president in 2008. There was a Salon blogger who signed up with Hillary Clinton. There was a guy from Ankle Biting Pundits -- I love that title -- who now works or worked for John McCain.

So, when bloggers do that, haven't they sort of become part of the political establishment and forfeited their independence?

JARVIS: Well, the lines are not clear anymore, Howie, at all. There's a line between -- is a blog journalism? Is it advocacy? Is it work-for-hire in politics?

Some of these bloggers can do any or all three. And the problem becomes you don't necessarily know which is which.

Are you there for the cause? Are you there to report the news? Or are you there to work for the winner? And the problem is some bloggers try to do all three. I think that's where the problem comes in, is you can't be all three.

KURTZ: How about at redstate.com?

KREMPASKY: Well, I don't think it's a problem to be all three. I think it's a good thing to be open about what you believe.

Blogs are not inherently a persuasive medium. And everyone who says different doesn't read enough blogs.

They are really good at activating and arming the faithful. And if it's a cause that you share with your readers, then you can be more effective at that. But I don't think most people look at blogs for some objective...

KURTZ: No. Nobody thinks they're objective. But when you say they can be all three, if I'm reading a blog post on some conservative Web site, let's say, by somebody who is working for or has worked for a political party or a political candidate, then why shouldn't I believe that that person is really just giving me the party line as opposed to what they really think?

KREMPASKY: Well, there's no doubt that, you know, knowing that is how you inform yourself in reading these people, whether it's folks working for Democratic congressional candidates or Republican presidential candidates. But really, when it comes down to it, it's an inherently sort of trust but verify medium.

That's why we link to everything. That's why we share all of our sources. We can look and see, is this an accurate take on what they're trying to tell me?

KURTZ: And Jeff Jarvis, you don't seem terribly concerned about the fact that these lines either don't exist or are blurry between active participation in politics and advocacy and sounding off and being smart on the Web.

JARVIS: No, because I think that the issue is, as Mike said, is transparency. And when you're not transparent it's a big problem.

But the truth is, Howie, that journalism is more advocacy than we've ever admitted in this country. Journalists choose what stories to cover and choose what causes to go after as an active advocacy.

I think the real line here is, when you work for a candidate and get paid by a candidate, that's an important line to cross, and you've got to be very, very transparent about that, or else people won't know that you're not so much for the cause as the person. KURTZ: Well, but hold on. I mean, certainly journalists have opinions, and certainly by choosing what to write about, what to play up, what to put on the front page, they help frame an issue in a campaign or in any other time. But they don't see themselves as advocates. They're not -- they're trying to be fair to both sides, whereas bloggers, the more partisan ones, make no bones about the fact that they are partisans of one side or the other.

JARVIS: By advocate, I don't necessarily mean you're backing a candidate, though that's an issue, too. I think it means that you are seeing a cause.

When you decide to go after and tackle the cause of poverty, you're an advocate. Journalists are advocates, and they just don't admit it. And that's part of the problem, is they may not see themselves as advocates, but the audience certainly does.

KURTZ: This really became, Mike Krempasky, the YouTube campaign. Not just the "Macaca" incident with George Allen, which we've now all seen thousands of times and which was replayed on various Web sites, but there was another incident where Allen's aides tackled a heckler and brought him down to the ground. And that got replayed and was seen a couple hundred thousand times.

So, is this phenomenon moving power away from journalists and politicians to the Web?

KREMPASKY: Absolutely. I mean, look, in the TiVo generation, you can select what you don't want to see on your television. At the same time, YouTube and other forums like that give you more opportunity to seek out what you do want to see.

And I think that the heckler tackle incident is a really interesting one because, you know, that was a professional political activist who planned that, by all accounts, and by his own account. And specifically did it to get on camera and then to circulate it online.

It was really effective. And, you know, despite the political difference, you have to admire that, at least at some level.

KURTZ: Jeff Jarvis, you're a big advocate of, you know, citizens becoming journalists, or at least becoming information and video- gatherers. So, are we really seeing that happening with YouTube? And what's the fallout for the mainstream media?

JARVIS: Well, I think the fallout, first, for politicians is that all life is now on the record. And anyone can record what you're doing any time, and it can be spread around the world.

I think the next fallout is that the speed of the snark has changed radically. It used to be you had days to try to deal with the spin of something. Now you better deal with it immediately, whether you're Allen and "Macaca" or, for that matter, to be fair here, John Kerry and the supposed joke. If you don't react immediately, it's spread all around the Web and people already have their reactions and they've already re-mixed it and already rethought it. By the time it gets to the evening news, we already know it.

KURTZ: The speed of the snark has changed dramatically.

Do you agree with that?

KREMPASKY: I absolutely do.

KURTZ: And so that -- that means that what journalists say, whether it's on the evening news or the next morning's papers, which now seem, you know, an eternity after the original event, is a lot less important?

KREMPASKY: I think that's true. I think that people are reacting, and that that first impression has become so important, because if something becomes immediately interesting it gets shared everywhere.

KURTZ: Well, you guys are powerful.

Jeff Jarvis, as a former newspaper man, I do want to ask you this question about the newspaper industry.

This week, as you know, we had two high-profile firings. Dean Baquet, the editor of the "Los Angeles Times," ousted by the parent company, Tribune, because he refused to make further budget cuts at the "L.A. Times" from a staff of about 940 to down to around 800.

And Amanda Bennett was the editor of "The Philadelphia Inquirer" -- we see the pictures there. She was fired by the new owner of that paper, and he now says that he's going to cut the staff of "The Inquirer" by as much as 30 percent.

I know you think newspapers are mired in the past, but how can these firings and these mass layoffs be good for journalism?

JARVIS: Well, Howie, "The New York Times" recently said that the newspaper industry is in free-fall. This is a time when desperate, smart change is needed.

What I hear from too many American newsrooms is editorial (INAUDIBLE) and newsroom protectionism. We've got to protect the past.

What I don't see is enough invention (ph) of the future. And you have to admit to start off with that there's a lot of waste in American journalism. We don't need 15,000 journalists at the conventions where nothing happens and we can watch it on CNN and C- SPAN anyway.

(CROSSTALK)

KURTZ: I completely agree with that, and some papers are overstaffed and need to be leaner and meaner. But when you're talk about a 30 percent cut, you're getting into the guts of what newspapers do.

JARVIS: But why don't we decide what the gut of a newspaper is, Howie. That's the problem. We haven't boiled down newspapers to their essence.

We have stock tables and waste money on TV listings and waste money on other things -- and on egos and prizes. I don't think we've come down to say what is the real value of a newspaper. And that may not take a thousand people in a newsroom. The real value of a newspaper is good reporting, investigation, watchdogging of what goes on.

KURTZ: All right.

JARVIS: And we don't need to have all of this extra foam on the latte.

KURTZ: You're never going to get ego out of this business. I'll tell you that.

All right. Talking about the old media and the new media, Jeff Jarvis, Mike Krempasky, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up next, Don Rumsfeld out at the Pentagon. How did his relationship with the press go so sour? Two veteran defense correspondents join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Welcome back.

His fate was debated for years, but just when it looked like Donald Rumsfeld would never leave the Pentagon, President Bush sent him packing the day after the GOP wipeout on Election Day.

The man tapped to replace him is Robert Gates, who ran the CIA for Bush's father. The move will bring to a close the storied tenure of a defense secretary whose testy confrontations with journalists became must-see TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the whole premise of your question probably lacks substance in fact.

I think the premise of your question is, as I have tried to suggest gracefully, imperfect.

That characterization is so far from the mark, that I am shocked, sort of.

I would say that that article probably takes the award for world- class thumb sucker of this year.

I find almost every day I see all kinds of mythology repeated in the press, day after day of things that never happened.

That is just false.

Wait just a minute! Just a minute.

That is false. Every time a security benchmark has been laid down, the Iraqis have failed to meet it. Wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Joining us now here in Washington, Pamela Hess, Pentagon correspondent for United Press International. And Thomas Ricks, Pentagon correspondent for "The Washington Post" and author of the book "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq."

Tom Ricks, I think he was talking about one of your stories in one of those clips. Rumsfeld just seemed to relish sticking it to the press. Did that create a lot of tension between the two sides?

THOMAS RICKS, "WASHINGTON POST": I think it did. But surprisingly, in the briefing room there was kind of a nice give and take, I think, that some reporters, especially CNN's Jamie McIntyre, kind of thrived on. Jamie seemed to enjoy it, but also used it well. But I actually think you've got a good substitute host there if you ever go on vacation.

KURTZ: All right. He does seem to be a press critic, among other things.

Pam Hess, how much did Don Rumsfeld's combative style influence his coverage? I mean, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC was on the air the other day saying that he liked to humiliate people.

I don't know if you agree with that or not.

PAMELA HESS, UPI: He certainly enjoyed it. But I think that those of us in the room didn't really take it personality. We understood that this was his theater, that he was speaking to a lot more than just us. And it created an atmosphere that I think gave us the feeling that we could say whatever we wanted to say. We didn't have to start everything "With all due respect, sir."

KURTZ: This was his theater and you were the extras?

HESS: I think so, yes. We were the Greek chorus in this tragedy that has turned out to be the story of Don Rumsfeld.

KURTZ: But you didn't feel like you were being used as a foil?

HESS: Oh, we absolutely were. But the quotes that we got out of that and the information that we got out of that, I mean, there's no better cabinet secretary to cover. He said what he thought. He was absolutely unrepentant. And that is great fun for a journalist to be there.

KURTZ: Were there a lot of leaks at the Pentagon, Tom Ricks, because people under Secretary Rumsfeld were unhappy with his bruising style?

RICKS: Yes. There are two types of classic leaks.

One is the formal Washington leak, where they call you up and say, "Hey, Tom, we want to give you a background (ph) briefing." You don't get a lot of those anymore.

What you get is the genuine movie style leaks where somebody is angry enough, so he says, "Damn it, I've tried and I've tried. I'm going the media on this because this is not right."

KURTZ: Did journalists who, like you, who have been to Iraq increasingly have the feeling that what Don Rumsfeld was saying about that war increasingly didn't match the reality?

HESS: Yes. And actually, I was thinking about this this morning. I was downtown last year, and I had just returned from a long trip, nine weeks in Iraq, and his motorcade drove by and stopped and picked me up and took me to the Pentagon. And on the way in...

KURTZ: How regularly did that happen?

HESS: That was just a one-time thing. But on the way in we chatted a little bit about Iraq. And as I was able to launch into, "Here's what I saw for nine weeks," he was really -- I was shocked by how uninterested he was in what I had to say.

He already had his mind made up. Don Rumsfeld has a real sense of history, and I think that it's a great thing as it makes him very steadfast, but it also blinds him to the day-to-day things that he probably needed to shift.

KURTZ: Was it fair for the press to kind of turn Rumsfeld into a symbol of this unpopular war? Or did he really turn himself into a symbol?

RICKS: I think he turned himself into a symbol. There's a terrific piece in this week's "New Yorker" by Jeffrey Goldberg about a confrontation between Rumsfeld's old friend Kenneth Adelman and Rumsfeld, in which Adelman is saying, "You're losing in Iraq." And Rumsfeld didn't want to hear -- interrupted and said, "Excuse me," interrupting.

I mean, here's the great interrupter. And Adelman says he was fired as head of the Defense Policy Board a few weeks ago simply because Rumsfeld didn't want to hear it.

KURTZ: And what about the question I raised with Pam about the -- that journalists, as the war went on, as the war seemingly got worse, as U.S. casualties grow, and as journalists went by themselves to see it -- you've written a book on this -- had a very different picture of how that conflict was going, compared to the picture presented from the podium by Donald Rumsfeld?

RICKS: Yes. The interesting thing is the U.S. government consistently has been between six months and a year behind the reality on the ground in Iraq. The media I think were much better at it. When people ask me, "Did the media tell the truth about Iraq?," I say, "No, it was much worse than the media said."

KURTZ: Much worse?

RICKS: Yes.

KURTZ: Why is that?

RICKS: Well, as I've had officers in the Pentagon say to me, "Tom, you know your book 'Fiasco'? A little bit too optimistic."

KURTZ: Too optimistic. Well, certainly the title wasn't optimistic.

Now, before the election, as before we knew the Democrats would take control of both houses of Congress, there was just a media drumbeat about why was Rumsfeld still at the Pentagon.

Let's take a look at some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With regard to Iraq, this administration needs a new look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you saying Rumsfeld should go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you should look at the Pentagon and at least have a new Iraq czar or someone else...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Rumsfeld go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably? I think so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rumsfeld should probably go, said the editor of "The National Review."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN: "Donald Rumsfeld must go." That is a quote from an editorial in this week's Military Times newspapers. They didn't even mention that he's also an obnoxious jerk and a war criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Later that evening, Cafferty expressed some regret for those comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAFFERTY: At one point I referred to Rumsfeld as a "war criminal," and I stepped over the line. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: Kim Hess, this whole media drumbeat, should Rummy go, why is he still there, does it miss the fact that you don't change Iraq policy tomorrow, even with a new secretary?

HESS: It does, but I do think that this is necessary -- a necessary catharsis in the real therapeutic sense, which is there has to be a breakdown so that there can be a revitalization and a change. And I think that throwing Rumsfeld overboard, as poignant as it was actually for those of us watching it -- because there's this great man brought low by his own flaws -- probably has to happen just psychologically for the nation, so that people can say, OK, something is going change. Because so much of this war is really convincing the nation that it's going well or that it can be improved. And I think as long as Rumsfeld is at the top, people are going to have a hard time latching on that anything can change.

KURTZ: After they Afghanistan war, the press kind of treated Rumsfeld like a rock star for a while.

Do you agree with Pam's analysis about a great man brought low?

RICKS: He's a man of great talent, great energy, great vigor. I think where he went wrong in Iraq was the summer of 2003, when all those characteristics could have really helped us adjust and recognize the insurgency.

And instead, he kind of froze and said there is no war, there is no insurgence. In a hierarchical system like the military, when the top guy freezes the whole system freezes. That's when we lost the initiative in Iraq, that's when things started going wrong. And he was never able to catch up with that and say, wait a second, I got it wrong, fellas.

HESS: If I can say this, the reason that I think he was a rock star was really 9/11, because Bush was flying around hiding, Cheney was in hiding, and Rumsfeld was the only evidence at the Pentagon that the federal government was still functioning. And I think people really rallied around him for that.

KURTZ: Now, turning to the president's nominee to succeed Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, there's an emerging storyline because of Gates and because of Jim Baker, who heads this bipartisan study commission in Iraq, and others who worked for Bush 41's administration that they are kind of riding to the rescue -- in fact, "Newsweek's" cover -- if we could put it up there -- talks about "Father Knows Best." There's the headline.

Is that storyline just an easy, cheap Oedipal way for the press to characterize what's going on, or is there something to it?

RICKS: Well, just because it's easy and cheap doesn't mean it's wrong. I think that the story of this week was "make room for daddy and daddy's friends." And the resurgence of kind of a pragmatic process-oriented approach to Iraq. Hey, we tried the neoconservative fantasy. It didn't work. Let's try plan B.

Plan B is, OK, let's get serious about addressing Iraq as a tragedy. I think where the Iraq Study Group is coming from is saying there are no good answers left, what's the least bad option?

KURTZ: The neoconservative fantasy being that Iraq would be easy to do and there would be no great difficulties after the initial invasion.

RICKS: And that once you transformed Iraq it into a democracy it would become a beacon of change that would result in the whole Middle East changing. They called it draining the swamp.

KURTZ: Robert Gates has some controversy in the past, including some role in the Iran Contra scandal. Will he get a lot of media scrutiny coming into this job, or does he kind of get to come in with a clean slate?

HESS: No, he's going to get a lot of scrutiny, I think, going into the nomination. What's going to be difficult for us at the Pentagon is feeling him out at these press briefings. I think what you're going to see is everyone being a lot more polite than we've been with Rumsfeld and trying to feel him out first.

KURTZ: Well, if that's true, then they won't get on television as often. Polite briefings? Boy.

HESS: Yes.

KURTZ: Pam Hess, Tom Ricks, thanks very much for an enlightening discussion.

We appreciate it.

Just ahead, Katie, Brian and Charlie make their election night debuts. We'll give you a scorecard, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KURTZ: Control of Congress wasn't the only thing at stake on election night. With three new network anchors in the chair, it was a big-time battle for viewers, as well as voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ (voice over): NBC fielded an all-star lineup that practically exuded confidence. How do you top Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, who anchored election nights for two decades, and Tim Russert, who blew off the fancy computers in favor of the white board he made famous during the 2000 election?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: What about the great Tip O'Neill quote, "All politics is local?" They've gone and nationalized the Iraq issue on a series of local elections. TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Well, all politics is local, except when the country's at war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News...

KURTZ: At ABC, Charlie Gibson was joined by George Stephanopoulos, who knows something about Congress changing hands since he was in the Clinton White House when the Democrats lost the House and Senate. Gibson, who covered the House for eight years, was a relaxed presence with a light touch, such as his reaction when Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse knocked off Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.

CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS: I'm sort of amused that we will have a White House in the Senate.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Good point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From CBS News...

KURTZ: The surprise of the night was Katie Couric, who, with Bob Schieffer and Gloria Borger, delivered a fast-paced and chatty program, and had this to say about whether Joe Lieberman, who won as an Independent, would make the Democrats grovel for his support...

KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: Apparently his mother has said she will not allow him to vote with the Republicans. So if he's a mama's boy, I guess there's no contest, right?

KURTZ: But Schieffer stole the show when Congressman Don Sherwood, whose 29-year-old girlfriend accused him of mistreatment, lost his seat.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Well, I mean, I always thought that hypocrisy was the number one political crime, but I'm beginning to think now choking your mistress may top -- may top hypocrisy as the number one political crime.

KURTZ: All the networks were cautious, but at six minutes to 11:00, NBC broke from the pack with the big call of the night.

WILLIAMS: We can now confirm our projection that Democrats will control the House of Representatives 231-204.

KURTZ: When the votes, ratings were tallied, ABC won by more than two million viewers, in part of because of some fancy footwork. While the others went on at 10:00, Gibson and company took to the air at 9:30, directly after the smash hit "Dancing With the Stars."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KURTZ: Nothing like a strong lead-in to sweep viewers off their feet.

Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

CNN U.S.
CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
Search
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines