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September 28, 2007

Dan Abrams, Master Of Journalism

Now we know Dan Abrams, general manager of MSNBC, demanded that David Shuster apologize for getting his facts wrong in an exchange with Rep. Marsha Blackburn on the MoveOn Petraeus ad, when Shuster turned out to be right.

So how did Abrams become general manager in the first place? Clearly GE executives liked the job he was doing previously as host of The Abrams Report—for instance, his impressive performance in this December 12, 2002 interview with Mike Farrell. (I learned about this from Jeff Cohen's book Cable News Confidential.)

As you'll see, it's no surprise GE decided to elevate Abrams to a key decision-making position. He knows how to get the job done.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST: On the agenda tonight: a new report that Iraq may have given Islamic terrorists nerve gas. If so, could that change a lot of minds about war? We'll ask policymakers, and a even Hollywood star who is leading the anti-war effort, whether this could change everything...

[The story Abrams referred to had been on the Washington Post's front page the day before, and was completely untrue.]

Some of Hollywood's biggest names are urging restraint in the standoff with Iraq. This week, they signed a letter addressed to President Bush asking him to tone down the rhetoric and urged him to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict instead of using military action.

The letter reads, in part: "War talk in Washington is alarming and unnecessary. The valid U.S. and U.N. objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war."

But does Iraq's reported sale or gift of chemical weapons to an Islamic extremist group change all of that?

Joining me now is one of the people who signed that letter, a former "M.A.S.H." star, as well as NBC's "Providence," Mike Farrell...

What do you make of this? This new report indicates to me that this, if true, is a very, very serious issue that might warrant a war with Iraq.

FARRELL: Sure. Let me, if I might, ask you to back up just a bit. "If true," you said.

ABRAMS: Right.

FARRELL: What if it's not true?

ABRAMS: Well, let's start...


FARRELL: No, let's start with the history.

You know and the American people should know that this administration has hired a public relations firm to sell its case on war -- for war on Iraq. If this leak that is, as Secretary Korb simply just pointed out inferentially, if this leak done in the way it is, which doesn't really tie them to it, but may propose the proposition, so that you and others can raise it on television and ratchet up again people's fears, if this report is not true, what does it mean?

And what does it mean to those of us in America who feel that perhaps this administration, as has been called the most secretive in U.S. history, is simply trying to gull us into approving an action that goes against the very principles upon which our democracy is based?

ABRAMS: OK. Now let's go to my question, which is, if it is true, does that change your position? And my concern has always been that this letter was premature, meaning that, right now, what we have seen is the president go to the U.N., get a 15-0 resolution, hasn't attacked Iraq, hasn't gone in unilaterally, maybe doing this as a strategic move to make it clear that the U.S. is serious. If this is true, then would that make you reevaluate and say to yourself: Maybe we were hasty?

FARRELL: Sure. Let me respond to your preamble before I respond to the question.

The president's going to the U.N., as you well know, or I assume you know, was done reluctantly. It was done at the urging of Secretary Powell, against the wishes of most of the hawks in the administration.

ABRAMS: It was done, though. It was done. Who cares why? It was done...Now answer my question, which is, if it's true.

FARRELL: Yes, but you have also -- forgive me -- you have loaded the question with any number of principles leading up to it.

ABRAMS: Forget about the principles. Just answer the...

FARRELL: No, I am not going to forget about the principles. I will answer the question if you will shut up and let me...But let's be fair. The administration has been acting -- the media, forgive me, has been acting as a megaphone for the administration throughout this process.

ABRAMS: You know, that's...How much media are you actually watching on this? Are you really watching a lot of...

FARRELL: When you emblazon your own show with "Showdown With Iraq" or "Countdown on Iraq" and all this other stuff...what is the message that is sent, do you suppose, to the American people?

ABRAMS: The message that is sent is that there has been a U.N. resolution that has given Saddam Hussein a certain amount of time to respond. Saddam Hussein had a timeframe. He had to respond..

Let me bring in Lawrence Korb...Lawrence Korb is someone who you all have cited, because, as I pointed out before, he has been reluctant.

Are you as cynical as Mr. Farrell about the administration, basically suggesting that any possible al Qaeda connection, etcetera, simply would be false?

KORB: Well, I think one has to be cynical about the way that they have released information. For the longest time, they kept trumpeting this idea that there was this meeting in Prague. That turned out not to be true.

And there's the point I made earlier. If in fact this is true, they need to come forward, tell us, not have leaks, unnamed sources, without White House permission. On "60 minutes" last Sunday, they showed that they leaked a story to the paper. Then, all the members then went on television and cited that as a source.

ABRAMS: I agree with you both when it comes to how information is released. The question is, if it is true, it is scary.

FARRELL: Well, yes.

ABRAMS: And that is much more important to me than how it's being released...

FARRELL: Is it important to you that the administration has lied in the past and that we have indications that they're continuing to try and gull us into believing that they are telling the truth?

ABRAMS: I don't know about that.

FARRELL: Well, they have.

Posted at September 28, 2007 05:16 PM | TrackBack

Why can't I get my own television news network to fuck around with? Oh, I remember why now: I'm not a stupid Republican-toe-sucking anvilhead.

Posted by: shrimplate at September 28, 2007 06:01 PM

Why can't I get my own television news network to fuck around with? Oh, I remember why now: I'm not a stupid Republican-toe-sucking anvilhead.

Posted by: shrimplate at September 28, 2007 06:02 PM

Farrell is great. I had no idea.

Unflappable. Clear.

Why don't the good guys win?

Posted by: Emphyrio at September 28, 2007 06:13 PM

Farrell was great at the McGovern Conference in Mitchell, SD last year. Unfortunately, like that conference's namesake, Farrell will never get a bit of credit for having been right when it could have made a big difference.

Posted by: Guy in SD at September 28, 2007 06:25 PM

Hey, why can't we all play this game?

If it's true that George Bush is really an alien from Pluto, shouldn't he be removed from office?

If it's true that chocolate really makes you lose weight, shouldn't we all be eating more of it?

If it's true that pigs have wings, shouldn't we expect them to fly?

Arguing is so much more FUN when you don't let yourself get bothered by that icky "logic" stuff!

Posted by: lolly at September 28, 2007 06:26 PM

Maybe Keith needs to do a little commentary on his colleague Dan-0

Posted by: dweb at September 28, 2007 06:29 PM

I recall rumors involving Brewster Jennings, Valerie Plame, the American Turkish Council, Sibel Edmonds, and the prevention of salting WMD in Iraq with VX from Turkey. I've long thought that that WaPo article was 'part of the plan'.

Posted by: racrecir at September 28, 2007 06:34 PM

"Maybe Keith needs to do a little commentary on his colleague Dan-0"

Not just his colleague. HIS BOSS.

Posted by: mjshep at September 28, 2007 07:33 PM

I had completely forgotten about Saddam gifting biological wmd to his BFFs the terrorists. Wow, if only I had remembered sooner, I never ever ever would have voted for a democrat evah. It's all so clear to me now, The librul leftwingistan of Hollyweird hates me and my chillens and the future chillens of my chillens. Why, why, why did I ever fall for a logical, well reasoned, fact based argument of truth? Why did I evah doubt our dear leader and his dark lord, and their orcan minions? Hollywood made me do it! Why do libruls hate me?

Seriously, thanks for posting that, I had truly forgotten the Ferrell interview. Pass me a drink, or a bong, or a barf bucket.

Posted by: Dee Loralei at September 28, 2007 07:42 PM

If it's true that George Bush fucks goats, how do the goats feel?

Posted by: lambert strether at September 28, 2007 08:14 PM

Secrecy is one of the best ways to generate fear in the populace as secrecy leads to apprehension and fear in no uncertain terms, it’s been the hallmark of this administration. Great post.

Posted by: rob payne at September 28, 2007 08:29 PM

I had a good laugh this morning when I read David Brooks in the NYT.
These guys are like the Terminator meets Love Story.

They never stop, EVER, because being neo-con means never having to say you are sorry.

Posted by: busdrivermike at September 28, 2007 09:05 PM

It is its own axis of evil

Posted by: vox clamantis in red state at September 28, 2007 09:20 PM

It is its own axis of evil

Posted by: vox clamantis in red state at September 28, 2007 09:20 PM

Re the axis of evil: As every schoolchild can tell you, it takes one to know one. Whenever you hear any person arguing that the end justifies the means, do everything in your power to keep that person from having power over others. This country was once a republic. The Mayberry Machiavellis have succeeded in making it a banana republic.

Posted by: Lynn Lightfoot at September 28, 2007 09:51 PM

lambert strether: Probably much like Laura---frustrated.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 29, 2007 02:38 AM

I'm most amused by the "correction" appended at the top of the Washington Post article you linked.

oops! we got some minor, obscure details wrong! we'd better append a correction to those blaring factual errors, so we don't lose any credibility!

"Correction to This Article

A Dec. 12 article incorrectly reported that the United States possesses no more VX nerve agent. The Army destroyed the last of its VX stocks on Johnston Atoll in November 2000, but other stocks await destruction elsewhere.

Citing U.S. government officials, a Dec. 12 article misidentified as Asbat al-Ansar an al Qaeda-affiliated group in northern Iraq. The group is Ansar al-Islam."

it should just read:

Correction: This article, in its entirety, should be disregarded as unverified war propaganda. Please press "Back" in your web browser and clear your cache. Thank you.

Posted by: PathologyOfPower at September 29, 2007 03:31 AM

"Why don't the good guys win?"

Part of the reason is that many of the good guys and those who agree with the good guys are busy waiting for THAT OTHER GOOD GUY to take charge and "do something."

As long as enough of the "good guys" people lean toward being a follower, our current situation will continue.

One must feel empowered in one's self, eh?

Posted by: The Wendigo at September 29, 2007 12:39 PM

The good guys are also conducting constant purity tests on each other. So when that's done in 2050, then they can get to work.

Posted by: Dan Coyle at September 30, 2007 01:59 PM

Did Abrams apologize to Farrell?

Posted by: darrelplant at October 1, 2007 08:27 PM