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Wednesday DAYBOOK: Bush Bombs on NBC, Tucker Carlson's Fake Olbermann E-mails, Stewart on Maddow, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses  plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com.  Check out my new book on one of most influential poltiical races ever here

BREAKFAST BLEND

Welcome words in NYT headline: "Bush Interview Is a Bust for NBC." Ratings-wise and journo-wise.... Bush on Today this morning claims deficits he ran up really weren't so bad.  Also Kanye West on tape sort of apologizes for his post-Katrina remark that Bush somehow said was "worst" moment of his presidency. 

Jon Stewart, after being criticized by Maddow, Olbermann and Maher on overly even-handed "sanity" rally—and gently pushing back Monday night—now will appear on Rachel's MSNBC show on Thursday. Should be great one.

Lawrence O'Donnell set a record last night—in debate with guest (Glenn Greenwald) he actually gave his opponent two-third's of the face time!  Debate was a continuation of their "Morning Joe" squabble over how much the Blue Dog Dems hurt the party.  Here's what Glenn wrote.  O'Donnell, in his defense, closed segment with famous proud-to-be-a-liberal scene he wrote for "West Wing." 

Obama criticized Israel's housing plans for East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu barked back, now peace talks in jeopardy..... Naomi Klein video pickYoung Jews disrupted Netanyahu w/ truth about why Israel faces legitimacy crisis.

New twist: Who sent those fake Olbermann e-mails blasting his boss to a newspape columnist? Well, it turns out, none other than Tucker Carlson. Tucker is laughing about it. Keith is not.  Tucker claims he didn't think they'd be published. Right....

Meanwhile, Olbermann returned last night with jokes, and pointed comments, about his suspension, but pretty much along the lines of his letter to viewers. Guest Michael Moore, meanwhile, offered to lett NBC air his "Fahrenheit 911" for free as balance for its days of Bush book promo.

Colbert Persuades Cee-Lo To Change Lyric From “F*ck You” To “Fox News” (video).

FOR COMEDY RELIEF Check out op-ed by Bolton and Yoo, claiming that the "will of the voters" demands that we not cut nukes. Yeah, that was a hot campaign issue all right.

NO INSURANCE   The Centers for Disease Control reports that 59 million Americans went without health insurance at some point last year, many with illnesses that required serious treatment. That was up 4 million from two years before. 

WITCH ENDS IS UP Female host on Fox & Friends better watch her back: Christine O'Donnell on Tonight Show tonight. 

WARNER, OH BROTHER  MoveOn responds to Mark Warner's comparison of them ("super-left")  to radical Tea Partiers.

SHOE ON OTHER FOOT IN 2012  Dems will have only 12 House seats to defend where Obama won minority of vote in 2008, GOP has 55 where Obama won majority...

BEATING AROUND THE G.W. BUSH  Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame blast Bush's take on Scooter Libby suffering enough in CIA leak case.....My review of Bush-Lauer interview: The Silence of the Lamb.... Andy Borowitz:  "Watching Matt Lauer [with Bush] reminded me of how good he is when they have a chimp on The Today Show." ...  More comedy:  Today's WSJ  interview with Bush.....   Amnesty International tweets:   "Bush: If Waterboarding’s So Great, Put this Video in Your Museum!" .... Activists plan bookstore protests, demanding the Bush memoir get moved to "Crime" section.....   Bush on Elie Wiesel: "Here was a man who had devoted his life to peace urging me to intervene in Iraq." 

FLACK JOURNALISM Once-proud Editor & Publisher (my old magazine back when it was among most-honored bis magazines) now reduced to printing press releases and reprinting outside articles, after getting rid of last remaining holdover editors and writers.  Here's just one of several PR release on site now.

PALIN HITS DELETE  BUTTON  John Dickerson of Slate posted comments on discussion area at Sarah Palin's Facebook page—and immediately deleted!  

I GET GRITTY My appearance on GRIT TV this week, on money and politics, Keith O, Bush interviews, "Fair Game," more.

BITS & PIECES  Newly elected Tea Partier's  chief of staff wanted to HANG illegal immigrants who commit crime.

TODAY's LAFF

Auto-tuning is the cat's meow—literally, in this case.

 

 

TODAY's MUSIC

Continuing our week of "tributes" to George W. Bush to mark the publication of his new memoir, here's Steve Earle's "Condi," which even includes a reference to Springsteen's "Rosalita." 

 

DAYBOOK for Tuesday: Bush (Not) Whacked, Stewart Defends Rally, The War at Home, John Fogerty, More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses  plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com.  Check out my new book on one of most influential poltiical races ever here.

TUESDAY TOPPERS

Matt Lauer refuses to whack Bush, at all, in the big NBC primetime interview/book promo last night. Here's my full take on it.

By now you know, Keith Olbermann apologized last night—to his viewers, not MSNBC. He admitted a mistake but also questioned the way the network has carried out its donation policies—and how it handled his case.

On GRIT TV last night I discussed with Laura Flander the Olbermann suspension—and corporate donations—plus Fox's lack of shame,  the Bush-Lauer interview, new Plame/CIA Leak movie, and more.

 

 Jack Shafer in Slate: Let Keith Be Keith and Rachel Be Rachel. 

Interesting NYT piece on the needy getting to live in foreclosed homes in Florida—thanks to a 1869 statute. Will that last? 

MoveOn responds to Mark Warner's comparison of them (the "super-left")  to  radical Tea Partiers .... Jon Stewart last night responded to critiques of his rally from Olbermann, Maddow, Maher—that it provided too much "false equivalency" between left and right.. He defended it, but it was nice that he showed what they said.... 

Repeal of DADT now faces tough fight in lame-duck Senate. ... Our own Katrina backs Pelosi for Dem leader.    The NYT editorial had said NO.

PACIFICA FIRINGS  Entire staff of Berkeley's KPFA "Morning Show" ordered off the air, protests planned.

TALKING AND STALKING  Remember that recent Daily Show segment on a Michigan assistant Attorney General who had brutally targeted a seemingly innocuous gay student at a college in his blog and at demonstrations? The guy actually sat for an interview with the show. You had to wonder: How has he kept his job.? Now he has lost it, and also faces legal actions.

MORE MURDOCH FUNDING More Murdoch donations to GOP revealed. More to come?

THE WAR AT HOME National Journal hails terrific photo/text series by Amanda Lucier for the Virginian-Pilot: "While You Were Gone," on what those serving in military have missed while abroad. Latest photo  is "First Grandchild" with this text: "Lilian and Dave Tiberio, along with their sons Ethan, 4, and Jordan, 21, made the long drive from Red Hook, New York to meet their first grandchild. Missing from the reunion is David, a Third Class Petty Officer on the Normandy, whose ship deployed just days before his daughter was born."

LEFT OUT? Glenn Greenwald to continue his debate with Lawrence O'Donnell tonight on the latter's MSNBC show over how much the left is to blame for latest Democratic disaster.

OBAMA HUMOR? Andy Borowitz: "Obama 2008: Change You Can Believe In. Obama 2010: Tax Cuts We Can Leave In." ...  Huff Post's Nico Pitney tweets: "Days after '06 GOP blowout, Bush announces the Iraq surge. Obama's version: a '60 Minutes' sad-face." 

AWLAKI: VIDEO STARK  New Awlaki video calls for Muslims everywhere to kill Americans—but at least he's been booted off YouTube. 

BITS & PIECES  Attorney General race in Calif still a tossup, more ballots to count.  ...  "AN ASSAULT ON CAPITALISM": Arizona Tea Party activists protest changes to trash, recycling program .... Texas has 26 percent uninsured—highest in the nation. If they drop Medicaid, that will  go to 40 percent.

NO WARMING? Greg Sargent: Despite what you heard last week, the GOP has NO plans for hearings into "scientific fraud" behind global warming. 

TODAY's LAFF

Obama's Mumbai dance, re-mixed.

 

 

 TODAY's MUSIC

 As an antidote to the Bush interview last night and more to come, here's John Fogerty's 2007 protest song.

 

 
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Matt Lauer Interviews George Bush: The Silence of the Lamb

There was no way to tell from the advance publicity and clips how poorly Matt Lauer would perform in his primetime interview with George W. Bush tonight, part of the ex-president's book-flacking tour (which will now move on to Oprah and a lengthy embed at Fox News). Oh, we had our suspicions based on Lauer's track record, but the reality was even worse than the fantasy.

For exact quotes, and probably a transcript, you can go elsewhere. NBC will be posting "extended" segments, and Bush will come on the Today Show and even answer viewer questions. They might well be quite a bit better than Matt's.

Time after time Bush would offer a whopper and Lauer either said nothing, or expressed sympathy for the poor man who was subjected o such harsh criticism. It went that way, from Bush saying there was "no intelligence" prior to 9/11 about terrorists maybe wanting to fly planes into buildings,  to stating flatly that lack of regulations had anything to do with  the financial meltdown. 

Bush said he had zero doubts about the WMD intelligence on Iraq, not one—and Lauer eagerly pointed out (doing his Judy Miller impersonation) that George Tenet called it a "slam dunk."  (See David Corn's full  takedown on this.)  Bush said posing in front of the window when flying over New Orleans was a mistake but Lauer helps him finger  local officials who had not done enough.   Lauer even highlights Bush's claim that he could not send in federal troops because it would have looked like a white president putting down an "insurrection" in largely black city.  

On Cheney telling him his daughter is gay:  "There's nothing in your background," Lauer gushes, "that would have led him to believe you wouldn't be tolerant."

Lauer practically gave him a reassuring hug when mentioning that a lot of people, gosh, thought poor George, the Decider, was actually being played by Cheney or Rove.   Bush declared that waterboarding "saved lives"--a much-disputed assertion (but not by Lauer) -- and explained with little protest from the interviewe that he'd simply been "blindsided" by the financial crisis.

Finally, Bush gave Lauer a dirty look when he mentioned the nearly 4,000 US service members killed in Iraq on his watch, but Matt quickly responded by gushing that the "military families" loved him.   He even asks,  "Have you been given enough credit, sir, for the success of the surge?" 

Favorite Bush quote: "I tend to boost people's spirits during difficult times." 

Perhaps the sharpest commentary came near the end: a McRib commercial—boosting another form of fake, pressed-together, junk product. 

A new edition of Greg Mitchell's award-winning book "The Campaign of the Century,"  on the birth of media politics, has just been published.

Olbermann Apologizes—to Viewers Only

UPDATE   Keith Olbermann finally responded to MSNBC's Sunday announcement that he would be allowed to return to his Countdown show tomorrow night after serving a two-day suspension. He apologized—but only to viewers, in his open letter to them.

Olbermann asserted he had made a "mistake" and did not know NBC's political donation rule existed—and claimed it is “inconsistently applied.” He wrote that perhaps his donations should have earned him a "warning" but no more, adding that one of his representatives had been told he would not be suspended—but then he learned about  it from the media and "without a hearing."

As Olbermann had done in his only previous comment—in one tweet on Sunday—he hailed viewer support and petitions which “should remind us of the power of individuals spontaneously acting together to correct injustices great or small.” He added: “I also wish to apologize to you viewers for having precipitated such anxiety and unnecessary drama."

He also pointed out, in a thinly-veiled swipe at fellow MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, and perhaps others, that he did not make his donations "through a relative, friend, corporation, PAC, or any other intermediary, and I did not blame them on some kind of convenient ‘mistake’ by their recipients."

EARLIER:

Just hours after Politico dug up the fact that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, a few days ago, had donated to three Democrats running for office, the cable news network suspended the newsman/commentator without pay indefinitely.

After much media commentary and protests, MSNBC announced late Sunday that Olbermann would be allowed to return Tuesday. He has not yet said that he will, in fact, come back then.

"After several days of deliberation and discussion, I have determined that suspending Keith through and including Monday night's program is an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy," said MSNBC President Phil Griffin in a statement released Sunday. "We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night."

Olbermann has been quiet since Friday, but Sunday afternoon he broke his Twitter silence with this: "Greetings From Exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug."

Friday night the airwaves were filled with reactions.

On CNN's Parker Spitzer—one of Countdown's rival shows—Eliot Spitzer blasted the MSNBC move and pointed to Rupert Murdoch's political gifts this year.  Guest Steve Smith agreed.  Kathleen Parker defended MSNBC.

A little later, Rachel Maddow tackled the episode, saying that she understands the NBC rules about asking permission before making a donation—as MSNBC's Joe Scarborough apparently did at least once. But she insisted that the "point" had been made and "we need Keith back." She then profiled the multitude of Fox hosts donating to, fundraising for and outright endorsing Republicans. "We are not a political operation," she said. "Fox is. We are a news operation. And the rules around here are part of how you know that." Here's a transcript.

Liberal bloggers were quick to point out that Scarborough, once and current MSNBC host, donated $4,200 to a House candidate in 2006. Records also show that Scarborough made a $5000 contribution to a candidate earlier this year. He claims the records are wrong—the donation was from his wife.

It recently came to light that Fox's Sean Hannity and his wife each gave $5000 to Michele Bachmann. Neil Cavuto has also donated to candidates.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post raises the question: Did Olbermann even violate the network's policy? Activists are already circulating petitions—more than 100,000 signed by the end of the evening—and jamming NBC phone lines.

Olbermann has acknowledged the donations, saying they were his first, and hinting that this was not so bad compared to Fox practically fundraising for candidates on its nightime programs. Some of his fans worried that since he has sometimes clashed with top NBC execs they will use this episode as an excuse to fire himà la the Juan Williams/NPR episode.

Howard Kurtz of CNN in an interview this afternoon said GOP fundraising by Fox hosts was "worse" than what Olbermann did. But he later wrote that he still thinks Olbermann's suspension is warranted. The Olbermann case has an added twist that he interviewed one of the candidates on air just before sending his campaign a donation.

MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel defended Olbermann at Slate. He charged that policies on contributions are outdated. "Free Keith Olbermann," declared the headline.

MSNBC's policy, drafted in 2007, states that “anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the President of NBC News or his designee.”

The New York Times notes that CNN has a policy against donations—but for full-time staffers only. 

Chris Hayes of The Nation was asked to host Friday's  show, but the Times subsequently reported that the invitation has been rescinded. Conservative bloggers had pointed out that Hayes had made small donations to two friends' campaigns awhile back—but this was before Hayes had a contract with NBC as a part-time contributor. 

Hayes tweeted late this afternoon: "I didn't feel comfortable doing it given the circumstances. My not hosting tonight has nothing to do with several donations I made to two friends before I ever signed an MSNBC contract."

Interesting take by Jeff Bercovici at Forbes:  "Another question in all this is whether the looming acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast played any role in [MSNBC President Phil] Griffin’s response. Whether he was disparaging his colleagues in public or blurring the roles of anchor and commentator, Olbermann has always required a great deal of special care and handling, and Griffin has always been careful to give it to him. But with the merger now facing a potentially difficult approval process in a Washington suddenly swarming with Republican lawmakers, NBC can hardly afford to be giving ammunition to its conservative critics."

Andy Borowitz tweets: "MSNBC's new motto: 'Lean Forward, so we can kick your ass out of the building.' "

Greg Mitchell's award-winning book The Campaign of the Century and the birth of media politics has just been published in a  new editon.

 
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DAYBOOK for Monday: Olbermann Back, Afghan Nightmare, More Election Fallout, a 'Promise' From Springsteen

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses  plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com.  Check out my new book on one of most influential poltiical races ever here.

MONDAY WAKE-UP

Incredible NYT story: Afghan women who set themselves on fire as a "way out." Yes, the rate seems to be increasing. And strong video here... Also from NYT: Are we getting accurate reports on progress in Afghan—or just Gen. Petraeus's improved "spin"? 

Keith Olbermann suspension lifted by MSNBC as of Tuesday,  president of network announces late Sunday—after a weekend of reaction, and protests (including a quarter-million signing a petition to bring him back). See my updated full story here. David Carr column here... NYT happened to interview Olbermann last week. He tweaked the Stewart-Colbert rally and revealed that Joe Biden had asked him for advice on channeling anger. 

For family of slain activist Rachel Corrie—no end in sight in legal fight in Israel.

This week's upcoming New Yorker cover: Obama extends hand to Boehner—who offers in return a clenched fist. By illustrator who brought us the infamous Barack-Michelle "fist bump" cover.

NYT op-ed by the late Tony Judt on "My Endless New York."

Big Bush memoir rollout today—so far it appears that he is still telling lie about Iraq, and getting away with it... Andy Borowitz: "The best part of Bush's new book is the fold-out 'Where's Waldo?' section with the WMDs."

I will be on GRIT TV with Laura Flanders later today.

THE GEEZER VOTE  Poll shows that Dems didn't lose so much because young failed to turn out but because seniors did—and gave GOP a whopping 22 percent margin.

MORE ELECTION FALLOUT NYT editorial calls for Dems to reject Pelosi, pick new House leader...  Van Jones: We Must Prepare for Battle... Glenn Greenwald hits new Politico piece on how "everyone" is mad at Obama...  Glenn debated Lawrence O'Donnell on Morning Joe on how much the left was responsible for Democrats' setbacks. Got  heated. O'Donnell said flatly: "I am a socialist.  I am to the left of all you liberals."... A far too kind NYT piece on GOP woman who defeated Rep. John Hall in NY race—she may be "smart" but holds neanderthal views.

GRAHAM CRACKERS?  Lindsey Graham wants to start a war with Iran? Doesn't he know that David Broder wrote last week that this might get Obama re-elected? 

YES, WE HAVE SOME BANANA  Nick Kristof shocker, with stats: US now a "banana republic"—and will get worse after election. 

BITS & PIECES IHT: Obama in India...  Peggy Noonan: Sarah Palin is a "nincompoop.'"... Lady Godawful: Courtney Love parades naked for reporter...  I complained at the time, but NYT public editor now notes many agreed: Horrid front-page photo of Obama at presser.  

PLAME READY FOR TAKE OFF? Hollywood flick on Plame/CIA case opened Friday—good reviews—here's my report, brief Q & A, and trailer.

TODAY's LAFF

Bill Maher's take on the Stewart-Colbert rally, at close of his show Friday on HBO, was part funny, part serious, and all provocative. Let us know what you think in comments.

 

 TODAY's MUSIC

NYT with big Bruce Springsteen interview yesterday concerning release, this week, at last of his The Promise package (featuring unused cuts from Darkness album and recently aired HBO doc). Here's an extended look at recording "The Promise" back in 1978.   

 
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AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEX GIBNEY: His Film About Eliot Spitzer's Downfall Opens Today

(Note: This article first appeared here two weeks ago, re-posted today with official opening of the film.)   The range of Alex Gibney’s documentary films over the past two decades is impressive. Subjects have included Hunter Thompson, al-Qaeda, Jimi Hendrix and torture in Iraq, the latter earning him an Academy Award for Taxi to the Dark Side. Next up for him: Lance Armstrong and Ken Kesey. Yet, in his latest film, arriving in theaters on November 5, he has returned again to the shady world of business and politics.

Gibney got his first Oscar nomination for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Arriving earlier this year was his film about Jack Abramoff, Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Now on tap, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.   

While the first part of its title suggests that it focuses on chasing call girls, the new film actually spends more time on Spitzer’s days as “Sheriff of Wall Street,” the big money enemies he made—and how they may have brought him down. Actually, the film could have been titled “The United States of Money, Part II.”

Gibney’s background and early films (beyond The Pacific Century) didn’t seem to promise repeated probings of finance and politics, so in an interview yesterday I asked him how that happened.

“I’ve always had interest in power and the abuse of power,” he replied. “Power in this most recent era tends to be about corporate  power and how money, often coming from the corporate  sector, influences our political sector. We need to study the ‘political economy.’   

"Economics is not just about numbers but about human survival, the most basic stuff, who’s going to win and who’s going to lose. It becomes very personal—it’s really about people.

“We’re taught that markets are transparent and efficient and it turns out they aren’t and they are manipulated  by people in power. We shouldn’t be surprised—that ‘s what capitalism is about. So this is about people trying to kill each other—in a metaphorical way—and amassing that kind of power.”

This naturally drew him to the Spitzer story, which he describes as “about human beings and how they act.” 

He points out that “Client 9” in the title has a dual meaning. Yes, it’s the “john” name given to Spitzer in the federal affidavit before he was publically named—but the way Client 9 was described at unusual length in that report, practically with a flashing red light or Drudge siren, suggests to Gibney that this was an “improper investigation to embarrass a public official.”  

That’s a stronger condemnation than you find in the film—written, directed and narrated by Gibney—which lays out evidence, some of it new, and lets viewers draw their own conclusions.   Certainly you may come to believe that the US attorney who brought the case, a Republican named Michael Garcia, may have been all too happy to bring down a Democrat with a future on the national stage. (Garcia refused Gibney’s interview request.)

“In the film I try to go about as far as I could or should with the evidence at hand,” Gibney explains. “I don’t have an email to Garcia asking him to go after Spitzer hard. But it does strike me that the way the investigation was conducted was improper and was really not about bringing [the owners of the call girl operation] to justice.  

“It may have been mainly about the leak. The New York Times deserved its Pulitzer but a lot of clues were laid at their feet.”  

The film also makes new connections between Spitzer's enemies who may have conspired to tip off the feds—and/or arranged their own surveillance of the governor. There’s no smoking gun but it’s certainly suspicious that a “friend” of one key player just happened to be standing in line behind Spitzer when he made one of his money transfers to the call girl operation.

Gibney tracked down the escort, “Angelina,” who was Spitzer’s favorite (surprise: it's not Ashley Dupré) and she describes how the FBI questioned her at length about sexual details, such as, did the governor like sex toys? This only “served the purpose of an attempt to embarrass a public official,” Gibney observes.

For example: the famous charge that Spitzer wore black knee socks to bed? Not true, says Angelina, “but this was part of campaign to embarrass Spitzer so he doesn’t return to office,” Gibney comments. “It became holy writ” in the media, “kind of a marker on how things work—sometimes an appealing or salacious lie is far more effective than the truth.”

But the film, contrary to what the outrage over the tactics used against Spitzer may suggest, is not a “fan film,” as Gibney puts it. My own response was that the film may only make viewers more angry at Spitzer for throwing away the good he might have accomplished as governor and possibly beyond. 

“I have come to the conclusion that he knew the risks of what he did, but did it any way,” Gibney declares. “I have to say, what the hell was he thinking? I respect a lot of what he did, especially as [New York] attorney general, but I still shake my head….” He recalls the New York magazine cover with a full-length picture of Spitzer and an arrow labeled "brain" pointing to his groin.

Spitzer, to the surprise of some, sat for five interviews with Gibney, and while this adds a lot to Client 9 he is not forthcoming about why he screwed up so royally. Gibney advises that while his words may not be profound, keep an eye on his face, which at times speaks volumes. “With Spitzer what you see is what you get,” he explains. “His personality is extremely compartmentalized.... Sex is funny that way—it’s an urge. You’d think being governor and understanding the stakes and the enemies out to get him that he’d curb it, but he didn’t.”

So what does he think about the new CNN show Parker Spitzer? He feels CNN has put Spitzer on “too short a leash” and he should be allowed to go after guests more. 

And the future? “I think what he really wants to do is get back in government to shape public policy.” As an appointee or... a candidate? “Either-or,” GIbney responds, which may surprise many. “Some thought he might run for New York State comptroller this year, an interesting position,” as he could have probed, for example, the pension crisis.

A comeback via TV, Gibney points out,  “is a passage taken by others." 

Friday DAYBOOK: Patty Murray Wins, Olbermann Suspended, Jobs Up, Phil Ochs on War (Over), More

Plame/CIA Leak Case Goes Hollywood—Movie Opening Friday

For most who covered it, the CIA Leak Case, also known as Plamegate, ended on a sour note with top Bush White House officials going free and Scooter Libby getting released thanks to the president. Even Judy Miller, after her jail stint, survived to twist the facts again, as a regular Fox News contributor.  In his new memoir, George W. Bush paints a picture of Dick Cheney bullying him right up to end of their term for a full pardon.

Now we get a replay, with the first full-length Hollywood film, the much-awaited (by some of us) Fair Game, starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts as Joe and Valerie Wilson. Based on Plame’s memoir of the same title, it was selected for Cannes last spring—the only American film in competition—and picked up by Summit Entertainment, which bought us Hurt Locker. But given the recent showing of Green Zone and other serious war-related films, it might still be box office poison.

Reviews from the festival circuit were mixed, but it gained a positive assessment in The New Yorker this week and The New York Times just now.  Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly writes: "Fair Game gets you riled up all over again at a deeply unpatriotic abuse of power."

For what it's worth, it has an 81 percent positive score at Rotten Tomatoes so far. When I interviewed Plame related to the film Countdown to Zero a few months ago she had nothing but praised for the handling of the story and Naomi Watts's performance. They had become close friends and often photographed hand in hand at various movie premieres. 

Director: Doug Liman, who has helmed everything from Swingers to Bourne films, also has a tantalizing connection, being the son of former Iran/Contra hearings chief counsel Arthur Liman. The writers are brothers Jez and John Butterworth. Liman's latest statement on the "politics" of the film and the "hornet's nest" is here, along with his earlier posts.  

The film opens with Plame still an active agent and flying to Iraq to help some people in trouble. Actors play Ari Fleischer and Scooter Libby and “Cheney’s secretary,” but most familiar characters appear under new names. Judy Miller has already appeared in fictionalized form in Rod Lurie’s Nothing But the Truth (played by Kate Beckinsale, with Vera Farmiga in the “Plame” role) and Green Zone (Amy Ryan).

Richard Roeper in his review goes this far: "Nearly the equal of All the President's Men as a riveting procedural, even though we know the outcome." Roger Ebert writes this week: "What amazes me is that 'Fair Game' doesn't play the game of using fictional names. They're all right there, including Cheney personally ordering the intelligence to be falsified."

The first word that leaked out came from Liman himself, as his popular blog at 30 Ninjas. In multiple posts, from last fall to this past month, he has stressed that he has stuck to the “facts” and that this is not an “art” film.

“As much as it's obvious to me what the White House did," Liman wrote, "we don't show it in Fair Game if we don't have facts to support it. I think Oliver Stone takes a different tack, in which, if he believes something to be true, even if he doesn't have the facts to support it, he'll go ahead and put it in his movie as though it's fact. I know in my heart that Dick Cheney orchestrated this whole thing, but I don't know that for a fact, so I'm not going to say that in the film. I'm going to make this a strength of the movie. In Fair Game, when they take on the White House, it's scarier because you don't really know what's going on inside. Just as Spielberg lucked out in Jaws because his shark didn't work and he discovered that the less you saw it the scarier it was, we feel that the less you see of the workings of Cheney and Bush, the scarier they will be.”

Last May Liman was interviewed by Movieline:

Q. There was Nothing But the Truth, which was kind of mishandled. Then there was Green Zone, which audiences were very cool toward. Where will Fair Game fall in this political intrigue/spy thriller spectrum?

A. I think it’s in the spectrum of "It’s a really great movie." And a lot of other movies that have been about the war or dealt with the war have not been great movies. In fact, they’ve been motivated more by politics than by story, and that’s been a turn-off to audiences. This is sort of the first political movie that’s been made where I feel like the commitment was there from the first moment to story and character, and not to politics.

Trailer:

Thursday DAYBOOK: Bush's Book, Jon & Stephen Hit Election Coverage, The Return of 'Bob Roberts,' Much More

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses  plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com.  My new book on one of most influential poltiical races ever here.

THURSDAY POST-TSUNAMI EDITION 

Time's new cover story on John Boehner....Don't miss video posted by Palin just now, showing candidates she backed, ignoring the ones who failed, closing with a grizzly image. .. How Republicans blew taking the Senate.... Now it begins: Politico's Roger Simon asks—"Can Howard Dean beat Obama in 2012?" 

Good Kakutani review of Bush memoir today and his mantra: "I was blindsided".... In new memoir what does Bush call worst moment of presidency: 9/11? Invading Iraq w/ no WMD? Katrina? Economic meltdown? No: Kanye West's attack on him. So Bush DOES "care about black people"—dissing him.

Kathleen Parker opened last night's CNN show by saying, seriously, that Obama should have come out at presser, flapped his ears, and said, "I hear you.".... On her campaign Meg Whitman spent more than the annual budget of the Nat'l Endowment for the Arts... Audio of  Rush Limbaugh on air yesterday saying "bye-bye Pelosi" over "Ding-Dong, The Witch is Dead."  Of course, earlier he had proposed waterboarding for her ....   Danced out:?  Bristol Palin didn't vote.  

Jim Hightower: What's that hiding behind the Tea Party? ...  Nick Kristof: "Mr. Obama, We Need Some Poetry"....  Terrible front-page photo of Obama in NYT reminds me of that famous shot, seen everywhere, of Eliot Spitzer at his post-disaster press conference.... Dan Froomkin: Obama can pursue progressive agenda—without Congress...  Gallup, surprise, finds plurality of voters want Congress to pass new stimulus, more than they want to repeal HCR or cut deficit: 

Tina Fey did a little Palin on Letterman last night, also pointed out Fox keeps calling her "Gov. Palin," which is "like referring to me as Dairy Queen employee--yes, I was, but I quit." 

MORE ELECTION FALLOUT  Colbert's election wrap-up. ...  Jon Stewart congratulates Fox's  Chris Wallace and his team  for retaking control of the House...  Ex-Howard Dean aide probes "none of the above elections" and how Dems blew it. ... Forbes charts billionaires' favorite candidates by contributions. .. TPM:  Meet the top members of the House Crazy Caucus, the spawn of Michele Bachmann

CLINTON AND RABIN Bill Clinton's NYT op-ed: "Finish Rabin's Work." ... YouTube removes "terror cleric's" videos.

ROVE HAS ENERGY Will Bunch: Karl Rove after election tells energy people "Climate is gone." Meaning Dems can't pass anything to help—or maybe he meant, you know, it's gone.  

CAN-PAIN HUMOR Gail Collins points out today O'Donnell has a great future on Fox "but now they'll have to pay her.".... Andy Borowitz: "For once I agree with John Boehner—when he became Speaker I sobbed uncontrollably." And more: "The Tea Party is right to close the Education Dept. Last night proves that knowledge is not necessary for success."

PULLING A BOEHNER New closing for Olbermann's show: "One day since Republicans took the house. Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?"

WORKING ASSET More than 5.5 percent of Cuomo's vote rally in NY came from Working Families Party—part of campaign to boost it on next ballot. Matt Damon backed.

AND WE BETTER DUCK Kucinich just coined  great term for Republican plans: "Economic quackery."

BITS & PIECES Yes, Krugman was right from the start on Obama's failures on economy.... Waiting for Meat Loaf to re-record "Bat Out of Hell" in honor of Carl Paladino.... My question for Obama at presser: New GOPers in Congress have said they do NOT accept any deadlline on Afghan pullout. So what will he do?

TODAY's LAFF

Jon Stewart: "Ever notice how all the terms GOP used for its win—tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake—all kill thousands of people?" More:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2010 - Republican Earthquake Tsunami of Nothing
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

 

 TODAY's MUSIC

Sad to say, great satire in Tim Robbins' classic Bob Roberts film coming true again, with latest election, especially with this "Wall Street Rap" Dylan takeoff ("make millions" and win by any means necessary).

 

Wednesday DAYBOOK: Special 'Morning After' Edition!

WELCOME TO DAYBOOK, our daily collection of media and politics hits/misses from a wide variety of sources plus fun videos and (at the bottom) a music pick. Return for updates during the day. Keep up with fresh items via @gregmitch at Twitter. E-mail me at: epic1934@aol.com. To increase type size, hit middle "A" above right.

PICKING UP THE PIECES

If you're just waking up, or hung over, some late returns: NYT pegs GOP House pickup at 60, with 13 still undecided. Reid won Nevada, Murray leads in Wash and Bennet in Colo but not all votes counted yet (Denver Post called it for Bennet 10 am today). Murkowski appears to have won write-in vote in Alaska, with Miller second, but 7 percent lead means she could lose if ballots not marked properly (and this will take awhile). Half of 46 "blue dog" Dems lost, as we've warned.

Unless reversals, GOP only picks up 6 seats in Senate. For starters, go to NYT for results, maps, quick analysis—or to Talking Points Memo for same. 

Very latest analysis from Nate Silver .... Amanda Terkel on the blue dog disaster (or is it?), with half of 46 losing. Arianna Huffington on Bush breaking it but Obama underestimating how badly and now finding he owns it. Peter Daou: Dems stood for nothing and drifted to anything. Simon Johnson: Obama needs Elizabeth Warren more than ever (but GOP will target "czars")..... Alex Cockburn on GOP crazies and weak Dems here...... Polling on overall national poll turned out pretty good, despite cell phone "problem," but as warned, Gallup way off.

150 years after Civil War there will be no African-Americans in US Senate next year.

Our own Katrina on Colbert last night in a spirited and fun and meaty debate.

Ezra Klein on gridlock, pro and con. My take: perfect for GOP, because they can still blame Dems for everything for next two years due to control of White House and Senate and claim they need it all in 2012—and may well get it, with many vulnerable Dems (including Obama) running then. Those who say "now GOP/Tea Party" have to deliver are off —they can always say they were blocked, and will.

Colbert: "It looks like Boehner will be speaker—unless he blocks his confirmation out of habit."

My election night blog, but much of action was at my Twitter feed @gregmitch and The Nation's hash tag #NAT2010.  My latest: Tea Party actually cost GOP the Senate, dooming wiinable races in Nevada, Delaware, W.Virginia, probably Colorado... Biggest statewide Tea Party sweep was actually in Maine.

Speaking of elections, don't miss my final daily dispatch at Huff Post on why Upton Sinclair's race for governor of California was one of most influential campaigns ever.

Virtual silence last night, from candidate and media, on the two wars we've been conducting for, oh, 8 or 9 years now. Also: almost all winning GOPers oppose any deadline for US pullout in Afghanistan next summer.

Pundit wrapup at The Atlantic. Full mainstream coverage and links via Mike Allen at Politico. Palin had mixed scorecard but lost many of her high-profile faces... Nation writers on Democracy Now and GritTV  today. 

Obama presser at 1 pm today. He vowed to work with GOPers when Dems had huge advantage so he can hardly blow them off now. Harry Reid warns "no" from Repubs can't be tolerated. I'm still waiting for exit poll results on how many GOP voters believe 1) Obama born abroad 2) earth was created 6000 years ago.

Before returning to election coverage, let us note that nearly lost in last night's frenzy was the NYT scoop in obtaining George W. Bush's memoir a week before publication. Now Bush's first interview, with Matt Lauer, yet to air has leaked out in which, believe it or not, he claims he was a "dissenting voice" on going to war in Iraq.

Daily Show: Yes, We Can? No, Maybe We Can't.

Ponder this: I didn't hear one word about our wars all night until 1 am and an ABC panel.... A bit hidden but super-important: GOP taking over so many legislatures and governor's posts, to swing the coming re-districting. Also, GOP in control of most key governor's seats for 2012 prez race .... Crushed by Feingold's defeat....  Carl Paladino's must-see, almost psychotic non-concession concession speech—yes he was holding a bat....

Still the one? Still havin' fun? No, Rep. John Hall or Orleans fame has lost in upstate NY.... Kamala Harris still in tight AG race in Calif. ... Plenty of analysis from their own bloggers at The Atlantic. .. A look at mixed results of TV coverage "innovations"...

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