The ongoing news coverage of the pope's death pleased a lot of Americans -- especially the stirring live coverage of the papal funeral on April 5, when the TV networks did a nice job of mixing silence and expert commentary. The cable networks even respectfully replayed the ceremony in prime time. But in the midst of it all, there were those journalists who had to, just had to, find a way to criticize President Bush.
On April 3, NBC's "Today" show bizarrely found the makings of civil war after perusing the list of presidents attending the papal funeral. President Jimmy Carter was missing from the list! A snub! Pass it on! Katie Couric began the show by fussing: "the question some people are asking is 'Where's President Carter in all this?' Are the Bushes and the Carters the modern-day version of the Hatfields and the McCoys?"
"Some people," my eye. Remember this family-feud line the next time you hear someone say talk radio wildly overstates things, while the news media are much more restrained in tone. Does Katie mean to suggest that next, the Bushes and the Carters will start tying each other to fence posts and unloading their rifles?
Diplomatic correspondent Andrea Mitchell was trotted in to fret about the poor, deprived Nobel-winning statesman: "You have to wonder why the White House couldn't have asked the Vatican to permit one more person in the Basilica, particularly a Nobel laureate who actually worked on Third World issues with John Paul II. And it seems as though this snub may have had something to do with Carter's strong criticism of the president at last summer's Democratic convention." (That would be the gut-punching speech in which Carter suggested Bush was an extremist and a liar.) Matt Lauer insisted that someone needed to make room for Jimmy: "Why doesn't Secretary of State Rice step aside and say, 'You take my spot ... former President Carter?'"
Why does NBC love Jimmy Carter so? Neither ABC nor CBS led their show with this non-story. They didn't even do a story. As National Review's Kate O'Beirne pointed out, President Carter could have attended either one of the two papal funerals in 1978, but sent other family members in his place. You would think NBC could mention that fact to balance out their story. They didn't.