"NBC Nightly News" is the highest-rated daily news show in the morning or evening. In mid-August, the show had been ranked No. 1 for 100 straight weeks, pulling an average of 7.7 million viewers. This makes Brian Williams the king of the TV-news hill. To be sure, it's obviously a smaller hill than the Walter Cronkite era, but in political terms, Williams, like Cronkite, is E.F. Hutton. His newscast can set the tone across the rest of the "news" media.
But all that royalty evaporates in the presence of President Barack Obama. The contrast between Williams roaring like a lion against Obama's Republican challengers at the Reagan Library on Sept. 7, and then bowing gently like a lamb at the White House two days later was jaw dropping.
In California, Williams blasted Gov. Rick Perry with this question: "Texas ranks last among those who have completed high school, there are only eight other states with more living in poverty, no other state has more working at or below the minimum wage. So is that the kind of answer all Americans are looking for?"
Later, Williams went at Perry again: "As you know, your state ranks among the worst in the country in high school graduation rates, as we established. Yet, you recently signed a budget cut for billions in education funding, you pushed for greater cuts than were in the budget that the legislature passed. You've said that education is a top priority, but explain cutting it the way you did, please?"
But Williams' absolute worst moment arrived when he lost all sense of objectivity and fairness on the death penalty issue. "Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?"
Williams didn't just hammer Perry, he also repeatedly pounded Ron Paul like a haughty Swedish socialist to defend his libertarian views. He even lectured Rick Santorum that as a "devout Catholic," he was supposed to care for the poor, so "where do the poor come in, where do they place in this party, on this stage?"
Then Brian Williams went back to Washington, D.C.
Less than 72 hours later, Williams was calmly asking Obama to assess the 10th anniversary of 9/11 like he was father of the country. He also asked Obama what it's like for the president and his wife to walk through Section 60 of Arlington Cemetery, where the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan rest.
This would be unexceptional on such a solemn occasion...if NBC had done that for George W. Bush on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Guess what? They didn't. Matt Lauer secured a Bush interview in 2006 and fought him throughout the entire thing, first on Iraq, and then on Iran.
For example, Lauer began: "In recent speeches, you and Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld have seemed to indicate that people who are critics of your policy in Iraq are in some ways trying to appease terrorists. Do you know of any Democrats that, in your opinion, are trying to or would like to appease terrorists?"
In the last few weeks, Obama has jetted around the country insisting that the Republicans aren't willing to put the good of the country ahead of their need to win politically. He's going from city to city questioning their patriotism. But Brian Williams and all his fellow servants in the hope and change brigade have no problem with that, and don't ask about it.
Instead — and this is where the jaws should drop —Williams chose to inquire about why the Republicans couldn't be statesmen like Obama on the debt-ceiling debate. Ask yourself on which planet does Williams think the following kind of question to Obama matches the way he "moderated" the GOP debate:
"All of this, of course, is if you get what you want in a highly toxic atmosphere, and it sure looked to me from the outside like you went into the debt-ceiling fight thinking, 'Surely they will do the statesmanlike thing. Surely they won't go there.' And it seemed to me as if Speaker Boehner was coming to you, saying, 'Look, if it were up to me we would do this, but I've got this membership problem.' And they went there, and now that marks our politics."
Move over, Jay Carney. Obama is auditioning press secretaries on the most popular nightly newscast in America.
Let's turn that hopelessly obsequious softball around on Williams. The viewer, after watching Williams swinging a baseball bat at Republican heads on MSNBC, could say, "Surely, Brian will do the hard-hitting fair-and-balanced anchorman thing. Surely, he won't go there, prostrate at Obama's feet. But he went there, and now that marks our journalism."
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. To find out more about Brent Bozell III, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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- Brian Williams
- Brian Williams