ph2005120401326.jpgI mentioned earlier my objection to the way in which Brian Williams phrased his abortion question to the Democratic candidates during the first debate (whereas the GOP candidates got lightly scented, gift-wrapped soft balls).  Bob Somerby looks even deeper into Williams' hackery:

[H]ow about this astounding question to Edwards, concerning that recent Supreme Court decision:

WILLIAMS: Our most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicated a majority of Americans approved of last week's Supreme Court decision to make so-called partial birth or late-term abortions illegal.

Most of the people on this stage put out statements and criticized the ruling. A lot of American families find this just a hideous topic for a discussion.

Is this a case, do you think, of the Supreme Court and the public with opinions in one place, and yet a lot of elected officials [i.e., Democrats] in another?

Good God! Unfortunately, that question has so many glaring problems it’s hard to get them all straightened out.

First, of course, Williams’ use of the term “partial-birth abortion” was a political choice. That’s the language of conservative pols, not of medical people. Beyond that, Williams’ conflation of “partial-birth” and “late-term” abortion was one of the many conceptual blunders the handsome hunk would author this evening. So-called “partial-birth abortion” is only one form of “late-term abortion;” the terms are not interchangeable. Yes, it’s a fairly minor point. But in the course of the debate, Williams would make many small blunders like this, as we will point out below.

But the most remarkable part of this question to Edwards was the section where Williams informed the world that “a lot of American families find this just a hideous topic for a discussion.” With this statement, Williams put his thumb firmly on the scale, producing an absurdly “loaded” question. Almost surely, his statement was technically accurate; the vagueness of the phrase “a lot” is very useful in spinning such matters. But once again, Williams had his thumb firmly on the scale as he offered this highly-charged aside. In this question, the word “hideous” played the same sort of role that “treasonous” had played earlier on. It served to put an obvious political slant on an otherwise valid question.

“American families” found this thing “hideous!” Edwards had criticized the Court’s decision—and here was Williams, plainly saying that this put him, and his fellow Democrats, severely at odds with these families. After all, “a majority of Americans” approved the Court’s decision, Williams said at the start of his question. But uh-oh! There too, he was tilting his presentation. In fact, he was making a claim about that new NBC poll that is just untrue.

In fact, it isn’t clear from that NBC poll that “a majority of Americans” agree with the Court’s new ruling. In its poll, NBC asked about the ruling in two different ways. And as NBC’s results clearly show, when pollsters mentioned the lack of “an exception for the health of the mother,” the public favored the Court’s ruling by a very slender plurality; 47 percent favored the ruling, 43 percent opposed it. (For poll results, click here.) Indeed, only 50 percent favor the ruling when results from NBC’s two questions are combined. But so what? Williams built an aggressive framework around his question, putting Edwards on the defensive. In his next question, he repeated his framework, asking for Obama’s “reaction to most of the public agreeing with the court’s holding.”

“American families” think this whole thing is “hideous!” Aside from that, Mr. Edwards, how do you like your opposition to this new, highly popular ruling?

What do you expect from a guy who thinks Rush Limbaugh hasn't had his due.  I might actually say that myself, though I doubt we mean the same thing.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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