NBC Evening News' Brian Williams Joins The Charles Gibson "Get Palin" Club Scrutinizing the "Fact Checkers"
Perhaps NBC is trying to match MSNBC for setting a new low standard for campaign news. Or are they merely trying to stoop to ABC's level achieved by Charles Gibson? You can be the judge.
Today was packed with important news. The AIG bailout/buyout, the DOW dropping nearly 500 points again, the bombing of the US Embassy in Yemen, and the Pelosi House passing an "energy" bill that would better be described as a "no energy" bill. But what does Brian Williams move in front of the Embassy bombing and passage of the "no energy" bill? Yet another smarmy attempt to smear Gov. Sarah Palin. It is remarkable that the same effete snobs who proclaim Palin "unqualified" to be Vice President at the same time spend enormous energy to try to smear her. If she were so unqualified as they proclaim, they wouldn't have to do a thing. All they'd have to do is wait for Sen. Biden to trounce her in their debate. But they persist in showing that their actions run contrary to their proclaimed beliefs by trotting out these smarmy smear attempts that, quite frankly, are so weak and juvenile that no serious voter will take them seriously.
McCain made a statement that "... she knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America ..." which was an obvious overstatement to make a point. That point being that, as Governor of Alaska, she more so than McCain, Obama, or Biden, has greater working knowledge about issues relating to access to and extraction and transportation of oil and natural gas. Obviously there are clearly others whose entire professional lives have been devoted to aspects of these issues. McCain's statement was obviously an attempt to praise her unique knowledge and perspective with respect to other candidates in this election. On that basis, he's right. So what Guthrie did was just another smarmy out-of-context attempt to smear Palin. But the key point here is that Guthrie uses a McCain statement in an effort to impeach the credibility of Palin! That's about as dirty a trick as they use. (0 for 1)
In her interrogation by ABC's Gibson, Palin stated that she was governor of a state "... that produces nearly 20% of the US supply of domestic energy ...". She subsequently clarified what was obviously a simple "verbal typo" by changing "domestic energy" to "domestic supply of oil and gas". Guthrie retorted this was still incorrect, claiming that "Alaska produces just 3.5% of America's total energy production" and "7.5% of oil and gas". Yet Guthrie's first reference, to "America's total energy production" was obviously aimed at the "verbal typo" that had already been corrected (a "verbal typo" far less significant than Obama's reference to having visited "57 states" during his campaign. To Guthrie's second figure regarding oil and gas, she never specified whether she was referring to energy from oil and gas or the raw materials, nor did she identify her source. So I've assumed the 7.5% figure referred to oil and gas production (and not oil and gas energy production). So let's "fact check" Guthrie's figure of 7.5%:
Converting natural gas to equivalent barrels of crude oil (1 MMCF of natural gas = 172.3 barrels of crude oil equivalent, source: http://www.eppo.go.th/ref/UNIT-OIL.html) produces a combined Alaskan portion of total US production of oil and gas (equivalent) of only 1.7%
This number is so low for the simple reason that Alaska produces a trivial amount of total natural gas production, according to the figures found (above).
So it seems that both Palin's and Guthrie's figure are in gross error! But is it reasonable that Palin's statement was meant to include natural gas production? Or did both NBC and Palin do what I had done initially and simply add the oil and gas portions computed independently together (which, as a sharp early reader pointed out, would lead to the absurd conclusion that Alaska produced 100% of oil and gas, if in fact Alaska produced 50% of oil and 50% of gas ... which is why conversion to a common unit is necessary).
It would seem reasonable to conclude that Palin was referring only to oil production and not Alaska's trivial 1.6% contribution to total US natural gas production. On that basis, NBC's "fact check gotcha" amounts to a claim that in terms of the importance of Alaska as a major contributor to US domestic oil supplies the there is a meaningful difference between 20% and 13%. Put another way, had Palin stated "Alaska produces 13% of total domestic oil production" would her statement have lost its purpose? I don't think so.
And the last question about this facet of Guthrie's "story" is: where did Guthrie come up with the figure 7.5%? (0 for 2)
Next, Guthrie tries to make a fuss about whether or not Palin actually set foot in Iraq when she flew to the Middle East arena of combat. Again, Guthrie quotes "campaign aides" who told her that Palin flew to Kuwait and met troops on the border with Iraq, briefly venturing over the border into Iraq. Guthrie then states an unspecified "Alaska National Guard" source said Palin never crossed the border. So we have a conflict between unspecified sources about whether or not Palin was actually in Iraq. Given the confusion, it is quite possible that Palin thought she was in Iraq, but was actually in Kuwait ... or she may actually have been in Iraq. The real point is that Palin made the effort to go to the Iraqi area for the purpose of actually speaking with troops of the Alaskan National Guard, just as she had done when she was in Germany. That's a lot more than Sen. Barack Hussein Obama managed to do. He made no time to see the injured troops when he was in Germany. His visit to Iraq now appears to have been for the purpose of appealing to Iraqi leaders to not make any deals with the Bush administration about withdrawal of US troops from Iraq (quite a different story than he tells his admirers in the US). (0 for 3)
Then, yet again, Guthrie takes issue with "an aide" who stated Palin had been to Ireland, but then another "aide" said it was just for a refueling stop. So what's the big deal? Guthrie managed to find one aide who knew only that Palin had been to Ireland, and another who was more informed and who told Guthrie that it amounted to no more than a refueling stop. Good grief! (0 for 4)
Still trying desperately to make up in quantity what she lacks in quality, Guthrie throws another handful of mud when she quotes from ABC's Gibson's interrogation of Palin where, in response to the question of whether she had ever met with a foreign head of state, Palin admits she hasn't and goes on to say that "if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many Vice Presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you." Note the term may. To contradict this statement, Guthrie mentions "historians" but then speaks with only one, NBC News' own "Presidential Historian" Michael Beschloss. Gee, do you suppose maybe an NBC presidential historian might have a little bias when answering that question? Beschloss provides no evidence for his assertion that "since Pearl Harbor, every single Vice Presidential candidate of a major party has had some pretty serious exposure to foreign leaders, with the exception of Spiro Agnew." Really? I wonder what Beschloss considers "some pretty serious exposure to foreign leaders"? He provides no examples. In the interest of timeliness, I was only able to check a single historical Vice Presidential candidate, so I chose Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be selected to be a Vice Presidential candidate (Palin is the second). The only "serious exposure" with anyone outside of the United States that was deemed "serious" enough to warrant mention at Wikipedia was Ferraro's trip to Nicaragua to meet with the contras! Hardly a major resumé of "serious exposure" to "foreign leaders" that Beschloss would have us believe. Keep in mind that Palin's use of the term "may" clearly suggested that she felt it unlikely that every candidate for Vice President has had significant exposure to foreign leaders prior to their election. If the Wikipedia information on Ferraro is accurate, or if Beschloss is accurate with his exception of Spiro Agnew, then Palin is certainly correct. (0 for 5)
Finally, Guthrie tries to raise from the dead, the "bridge to nowhere" horse. First, Guthrie introduces this section with an old clip where Palin is speaking as a candidate for Governor and is quoted as saying, "... I support these infrastructure projects ...." This is quite different from Palin supporting the "bridge to nowhere" after becoming governor and learning more about that particular project. Then Guthrie contradicts herself. Claiming Palin only withdrew support after Congress "killed it" but then says "the state kept the money." Well, if Congress had "killed it" there wouldn't have been any money for the state to keep!
Frankly, based on Guthrie's performance on the other non-issues, I don't have much confidence in the accuracy of her assertion that contradicts Palin, particularly when she provides no specifics nor any sources for her statements. But Guthrie's unsourced contradictions aren't the worst of this particular smear attempt. Guthrie goes on to claim that at Palin's "direction, Alaska's Department of Transportation is considering alternatives to link the town of Ketchikan to its airport. Including several bridge proposals with federal earmark dollars." That Palin asked the Alaska DoT to consider alternatives for linking the town of Ketchikan to its airport is good governance, something that is praiseworthy. Alternatives might include a ferry service or much less expensive bridges. Palin has repeatedly stated that, if Alaskans want a bridge, they'll build it with their own resources, thank you.
For Guthrie to toss in a completely unsourced statement that funding would come from federal "earmark" dollars is an outrageous lie for the simple and obvious reason that earmarks are funding proposed by members of Congress to promote programs in their home districts. It is not possible for a governor of any state to slip an "earmark" into a funding bill. Furthermore, Palin has clearly gone on record as being opposed to all earmarks. (0 for 6)
Since so many of Guthrie's "fact check issues" were based on statements by others, one has to wonder why NBC would air such a weak and shabby attempt to attack and smear Palin? We understand NBC maintains an on site "Obama for President" unit, but does that mean they have to abandon all pretext of honesty? Are the executives at NBC so corrupt and their arguments in support of Obama so weak that they have to resort to these kind of smear tactics to try to entice voters away from McCain-Palin?
Guthrie wraps up her smarmy smear attempt by claiming "the McCain campaign has carefully controlled access to Palin ...." Evidently, Guthrie missed ABC's Charles Gibson's lengthy interrogation of Palin. And she certainly must have missed Sean Hannity's lengthy interview with Palin. Guthrie must also be oblivious to Palin's scheduled appearance with Katie Couric. Would Guthrie have Palin cease all campaigning just to meet with Obama-adoring members of the media?
Guthrie's performance on Brian Williams' Nightly News program provides a keen insight into why the AP reported "... while Gibson and Couric have interviews with Palin, NBC's Brian Williams — who anchors the top-rated evening news program — has been snubbed so far."
Bob Webster, a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.