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Couric Badgers Palin on Pakistan; Had Cued Up Biden on Economy

By Media Research Center
September 30, 2008

On Monday night's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric announced her day "on the campaign trail with Governor Palin" won't air until Tuesday, but CBS still made room for an excerpt of her time Monday in Ohio with Sarah Palin and John McCain in which Couric repeatedly pressed the two about an overheard comment Palin made Saturday about Pakistan, badgering them with five follow-ups before moving on to Palin's "reaction" to criticism of her answers during her previous Couric session. But a week-and-half-ago, when Couric's day on the campaign trail story with Joe Biden was delayed by news on the financial front, CBS ran video of Couric cuing up Biden on what he and Obama would do to resolve the crisis followed by one challenging question with no follow-up.

     At a Philadelphia restaurant on Saturday a man demanded: "So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?" Palin answered: "If that's what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should." Couric decided: "That's almost the exact position Barack Obama has taken and that you, Senator McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Governor Palin, are you two on the same page on this?" Couric pounded away: "Is that something you shouldn't say out loud?" and "Are you sorry you said it Governor?" When McCain called it a "gotcha soundbite," Couric retorted: "It wasn't a 'gotcha.'"

     CBSNews.com post on what Palin said at the crowded restaurant: www.cbsnews.com

     Couric turned to Palin: "What did you learn from that experience?" Palin: "That this is all about 'gotcha' journalism."

     [This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Monday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

     Back on Thursday, September 18, the day Couric spent a day in Ohio with Biden the CBS Evening News aired a far-friendlier excerpt tied to news of the day:

     KATIE COURIC: Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, spent the day in this all important swing state, first visiting the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, then talking to union members in Akron. After that speech, I rode with on the bus from Akron to Youngstown and asked him what three things an Obama administration would do right now to calm the panicky financial markets.
     JOE BIDEN: If you're President right this minute, one, explain to the American people what's happened, why we're in this trouble. They don't know. President hasn't said anything, to the best of my knowledge. People got to know what is it, why are you doing what you -- how did this get here and what are you going to do about it?
     Secondly, immediately implement a transparency that says that every one of those companies we're giving -- those outfits that we're giving help to bail out, the solidify the markets say, "And, by the way, here's the deal, we get to look at your books. Don't tell me we're going to lend you the money and me not know exactly, exactly what you own and what you have."
     And the third thing I would do is demonstrate to the American people that you're really going to begin to invest. Stop the things that caused the problem, these profligate tax cuts that are raising the deficit, causing us to borrow money from China, to pay for oil from Saudi Arabia. Go out there and tell them you're immediately going to do something about the housing crisis.
     COURIC: You talk about tax cuts, and there's been quite a brouhaha about your comment that paying higher taxes for those making $250,000 a year and over is the patriotic thing to do. Your vice presidential rival, Sarah Palin, Governor Palin, said: "To the rest of America, that's not patriotism. Raising taxes is about killing jobs and hurting small businesses and making things worse."
     BIDEN: How many small businessmen are making $1,400,000 a year average in the top one percent? Give me a break. I remind my friend John McCain what he said. When Bush called for war and tax cuts he said, quote: "It is immoral, immoral to take a nation to war and not have anybody pay for it." I am so sick and tired of this phoniness. The truth of the matter is that we are in trouble, and the people who do not need a new tax cut should be willing, as patriotic Americans, to understand the way to get this economy back up on their feet is to give middle-class taxpayers a break. We take the tax cut they're getting and we give it to the middle class.
     COURIC: Tomorrow I'll have a lot more as I bring you a day in the life of Joe Biden out on the campaign trail.

     Couric spent Monday, September 29 with Palin and McCain in Columbus, Ohio. The excerpt aired by the CBS Evening News before the day on the trail piece scheduled to run on Tuesday:

     KATIE COURIC: John McCain and Sarah Palin were here in Columbus today for a campaign rally. And in their first joint interview, I asked them about a statement Governor Palin made on Saturday which didn't seem to square with her running mate's position on Pakistan.
     COURIC, TO PALIN: Over the weekend, Governor Palin, you said the U.S. should absolutely launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan to, quote, "stop the terrorists from coming any further in." Now, that's almost the exact position Barack Obama has taken and that you, Senator McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Governor Palin, are you two on the same page on this?
     SARAH PALIN: We had a great discussion with President Zardari as we talked about what it is that America can and should be doing together to make sure that the terrorists do not cross borders and do not ultimately put themselves in a position of attacking America again or her allies. And we will do what we have to do to secure the United States of America and her allies.
     COURIC: Is that something you shouldn't say out loud, Senator McCain?
     JOHN MCCAIN: Of course not. But, look, I understand this day and age, "gotcha" journalism. [to Palin] Is that a pizza place? In a conversation with someone who you didn't hear the question very well, you don't know the context of the conversation, grab a phrase. Governor Palin and I agree that you don't announce that you're going to attack another country-
     COURIC TO PALIN: Are you sorry you said it Governor?
     McCAIN: Wait a minute. Before you say, "is she sorry she said it," this was a "gotcha" soundbite that, look she in a conversation-
     COURIC: It wasn't a "gotcha." She was talking to a voter.
     McCAIN: No, she was in a conversation with a group of people and talking back and forth. And I'll let Governor Palin speak for herself.
     PALIN: In fact, you're absolutely right on. In the context, this was a voter, a constituent, hollering out a question from across an area asking, "What are you gonna do about Pakistan? You better have an answer to Pakistan." I said we're gonna do what we have to do to protect the United States of America.
     COURIC: You were pretty specific about what you wanted to do, cross-border-
     PALIN: Well, as Senator McCain is suggesting here, also, never would our administration get out there and show our cards to terrorists, in this case, to enemies and let them know what the game plan was, not when that could ultimately adversely affect a plan to keep America secure.
     COURIC: What did you learn from that experience?
     PALIN: That this is all about "gotcha" journalism. A lot of it is. But that's okay, too.
     COURIC: Governor Palin, since our last interview, you've gotten a lot of flak. Some Republicans have said you're not prepared; you're not ready for prime-time. People have questioned your readiness since that interview. And I'm curious to hear your reaction.
     PALIN: Well, not only am I ready, but willing and able to serve as Vice President with Senator McCain if Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them, ready with my executive experience as a city mayor and manager, as a Governor, as a commissioner, a regulator of oil and gas.
     McCAIN: This is not the first time that I've seen a Governor being questioned by some quote, "expert." I remember that Ronald Reagan was a "cowboy." President Clinton was a Governor of a very small state that had "no experience" either. In fact, I remember how easy it was gonna be for Bush I to defeat him. I still recall, whoops, that one. But the point is, I've seen underestimation before. I'm very proud of the excitement that Governor Palin has ignited with our party and around this country. It is a level of excitement and enthusiasm, frankly, that I haven't seen before. And I'd like to attribute it to me. But the fact is that she has done incredible job and I'm so proud of the work that she's doing.
     COURIC: Tomorrow: On the campaign trail with Governor Palin.

     The day on the trail with Biden story didn't air until Monday, September 22, as recounted in a September 23 CyberAlert item and it is this story to which I will be comparing and contrasting Couric's Tuesday, September 30 piece on Palin:

Couric Has Cushy Chat with Biden, Will She Be as Warm with Palin?

If Katie Couric is to be consistent and treat Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom Couric is scheduled to interview this week [ended up as one last week, another today/Monday], as gently as she did Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden in her day with him Thursday in Ohio which became a story on the Monday night CBS Evening News, she will (Couric quotes from the Biden story in the parentheses):

- Not apply any ideological label: ("We decided to take a closer look at the 65-year-old Senator from Delaware.")

- Hail her outspokenness: ("You say what's on your mind and I think people appreciate that.")

- Ignore obvious factual/historical flubs: (Biden: "When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television...") FDR was not in office at the time of the 1929 crash and his "fireside chats" were on the radio.

- Relay as reality positive campaign spin about her attributes: ("Relating to the fears of the average American is one of Biden's strong suits.")

- Cue up campaign rally attendees to praise her: ("What was it about what he said that really resonated with you in particular?" Answers: "I think he expressed what most working Americans feel at the moment. He seems to relate to our pain." and "I want him in office because I believe he will do things for women.")

- Empathize with the challenge she faces at the upcoming debate: ("Are you worried you're going to have to pull your punches a bit because of her gender and you don't want to seem like you're bullying her? It's a different dynamic when it's a male/female thing, isn't it?")

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