In a fiendishly clever move, Barack Obama performed a jujitsu negative attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton by taking a vacation. By sunning himself in the Virgin Islands, Obama left the coast clear for full-bore scrutiny of his rival. She became the Story of the Day as all three networks led with her campaign. CBS followed up on its delightful reconstruction of her First Lady trip to Tuzla in 1996. NBC chose her decision to make the Rev Jeremiah Wright an issue after all. ABC chose her determination to stay in the race despite her diminishing odds for success.    
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video thumbnailCBS2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignRepeatedly mischaracterized her Bosnia visitSharyl AttkissonWashington DC
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignCriticizes Obama's choice of church in ChicagoRon AllenPennsylvania
video thumbnailCBS2008 Presidential race Democratic delegates standingsTone of two-way race turns acrimonious, negativeDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailABCReal estate housing market prices continue to fallValues fall in ten major cities by 11% annuallySharyn AlfonsiNew York
video thumbnailABCSmall businesses are motor of job growthSlowdown forces family-owned outfits into debtBetsy StarkMichigan
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGovernment forces fight with Mahdi Army in BasraLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: post-war reconstruction effortsOil industry revival hampered by graft, theftRichard EngelBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSUSAF Minuteman N-missile component goes missingInventory snafu sends nose cone fuses to TaiwanDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCPremature babies require intensive hospital careHealth problems often persist into adulthoodRobert BazellNorth Carolina
video thumbnailABCWar on Cancer research effortsInoperable tumor removed by innovative surgeryJeffrey KofmanMiami
RODHAM CLINTON UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT In a fiendishly clever move, Barack Obama performed a jujitsu negative attack on Hillary Rodham Clinton by taking a vacation. By sunning himself in the Virgin Islands, Obama left the coast clear for full-bore scrutiny of his rival. She became the Story of the Day as all three networks led with her campaign. CBS followed up on its delightful reconstruction of her First Lady trip to Tuzla in 1996. NBC chose her decision to make the Rev Jeremiah Wright an issue after all. ABC chose her determination to stay in the race despite her diminishing odds for success.

ABC's David Wright (embargoed link) found "a growing number of pundits who say she just cannot win" when Rodham Clinton vowed to compete in all remaining states through Montana on June 3rd. Wright did not identify those pundits. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson, who created a YouTube hit with Monday's report on Rodham Clinton in Bosnia, followed up with the candidate's repeated claims of the danger of sniper fire before unveiling her own videotape of Tuzla Airport: "She and her daughter Chelsea lingered on the tarmac to greet US military officials, took photos. There was a group of seventh graders on the tarmac too." Rodham Clinton, in her own defense "claims she misspoke and was sleep-deprived." Her soundbite: "So I made a mistake. That happens, It proves I am human--which, you know, for some people is a revelation."

On NBC, Ron Allen turned to Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama's decision to join minister Wright's Trinity United Church on the South Side of Chicago some 20 years ago: "He would not have been my pastor," she stated. Allen reported that Rodham Clinton "compared Wright with Don Imus, saying she spoke out against hate speech by the radio host as well." Allen did not tell us which particular words of Wright's were seen to be the equivalent of Imus' casual and inaccurate sexism about 2007's Rutgers University basketball team: "Nappy headed whores."

Speaking personally, I found both Rodham Clinton's comment and the superficial parsing of it by NBC's Allen to be maddeningly imprecise. At what level was she indicating her preference against pastor Wright? Was it merely at the level of taste, as in "that would not have been my choice of restaurant for tonight's dining"? Or did it rise to an insinuation that Obama's choice of church disqualified him? If so that would amount to a religious test for political office, unConstitutional on its face.

These are the thorniest of issues and require careful reporting. For those interested, I spent much of last week wrestling with the pros and cons of when to leave a church and the import of Obama's speech on Wright and race at Jeff Jarvis' The comments thread was challenging and thoughtprovoking. Check out Obama Explains and You Wouldn't Understand.

KNEECAPS "The Tonya Harding Option." That was the delicious phrase that ABC's Jake Tapper cited about Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to try to criticize Barack Obama. Tapper was, of course, referring to the wannabe Olympic ice princess who had to kneecap her superior opponent because she knew she could not outskate her. Too bad that Tapper could not get it on the record so he attributed the odious comparison to "one Democratic Party official." If Tapper thought that such a comparison was apt perhaps he should have said it in his own words.

The nasty tone of the Democratic race was not in dispute. CBS' Dean Reynolds cited "acrimonious exchanges" and a mood that "a once spirited campaign may be simply dispiriting." He quoted insults such as "Judas" and "Joe McCarthy"--"on and on it goes, the fames stoked every day by the increasingly angry catfight both campaigns are waging in cyberspace and elsewhere." On NBC, Tim Russert perceived "deep distress about the tension and divisiveness in this campaign."

NBC's Russert was astonished that Rodham Clinton chose to make her disparaging remarks about Obama's longtime pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, at the offices of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, a newspaper "owned by Richard Mellon Scaife, who is described by her allies as the Godfather of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy--the man who raised questions about the suicide of Vince Foster and the death of former party chairman Ron Brown, who funded investigations of Troopergate and Whitewater."

SUN BELT BUST After yesterday's "sliver of hope," as ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi (no link) put it, referring to February real estate statistics, the full scope of the decline in the housing market was underscored by rival statistics from Standard & Poors. Both Alfonsi and NBC's Martin Savidge covered the ten-city survey that revealed a nationwide bear market. Prices are falling at an average rate of 11%, with the Sun Belt hardest hit: both reporters focused on Miami, Las Vegas, San Diego and Phoenix. "This is the bust many cities feared after a frenzied building boom peaked three years ago," Alfonsi concluded.

IN GOD WE TRUST All three networks filed features on economic hard times. For its Hitting Home series, CBS had Sandra Hughes go mawkish to illustrate the heartbreak of eviction after mortgages are foreclosed. Former homeowners turned tenants often have to give up family pets. Hughes showed us poignant pooches in the animal shelters of Riverside Cal, where foreclosures have climbed by 228% in the past year. NBC's Where They Stand chose the public policy route instead, as Andrea Mitchell contrasted Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton on their foreclosure platforms: he would offer $10bn to help distressed homeowners; she would offer $30bn. Both have close ties to Wall Street financiers, Mitchell pointed out, having received $6m each in campaign contributions "from investment banks and the securities industry."

ABC's economy feature for its Kitchen Table series concentrated on small business. Betsy Stark profiled a distressed family-owned display fabricator in Troy Mich that has had to lay off ten of its 23 workers, increase their healthcare deductibles, shorten its work week and dip into personal savings to meet payroll. "Is there something in this hard time that makes you hopeful?" she asked boss Steve Dearing. "By the grace of God we go on."

BURN BABY BURN Only CBS had a reporter file from Iraq on the looming power struggle between opposition leader Muqtada al-Sadr and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Lara Logan showed us footage of fighting in Basra between the Sadrist Mahdi Army and government forces. "Basra has become the battleground for the proxy war between the United States and Iran taking place inside Iraq," Logan reflected. So far the Mahdi Army's seven months ceasefire in Baghdad is holding. The Sadrists called a general strike "followed by a popular revolt and threatened war as a final option."

NBC had Richard Engel looked at the state of Iraq's oil industry, where the rate of theft of crude is estimated at $10m to $30m each day. "Oil records are often misdated to facilitate organized theft or documents are just burned," Engel quoted from an anti-corruption draft prepared by the US diplomats. He showed the charred remains of the records room at the Central Bank and another torched records room at the Ministry of Oil.

LOOSE NUKES Taiwan was the focus for the Pentagon correspondents at CBS and ABC. Both covered the inventory snafu by the United States Air Force under which the nosecone fuses for Minuteman nuclear missiles were apparently mistaken for helicopter batteries and shipped from a Utah warehouse to the Taiwanese military. ABC's Jonathan Karl (embargoed link) observed that the two items "look nothing alike" and are "not remotely the same size." He imagined that the People's Republic of China "cannot be happy about technology like this going to its rival." Mused David Martin on CBS: "For a country that constantly lectures others about the danger of loose nukes falling into the hands of terrorists, the United States has been alarmingly sloppy in handling its own nuclear weapons."

ELSEWHERE… A Duke University study on the lasting health consequences for those born prematurely was covered by NBC's Robert Bazell and CBS' Michelle Miller. Even in adulthood those born early can suffer disabilities and impaired fertility, the study found. Miller cautioned about concluding cause and effect: "The mothers were unmarried and poor and, at the time, none had access to the advances in neonatal care now available." There has been a huge increase in prematurity recently, Bazell explained, because fertility treatments are used more often, which lead to more twins and triplets, who are often born early…the organ transplant surgeons at the University of Miami boasted of a procedure that ABC's in-house physician Timothy Johnson (at the tail of the Kofman videostream) called "an amazing technical feat." CBS' Kelly Cobiella described it yesterday; now ABC's Jeffrey Kofman files the same story. The abdominal tumor suffered by Brooke Zepp, aged 63, was considered inoperable because it was covered by vital organs. So the surgeons removed her stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, intestines and kidneys en bloc, removed the tumor and then reinserted and reconnected them using blood vessels made of Gortex. "Somehow these organs start functioning even when they are not hooked up to the nerves. I do not understand it but it happened," ABC's Johnson marveled.

MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out.

Today's examples: a USNavy container ship in the Suez Canal is on alert against suicide attack by small speedboats…a huge chunk of an ice shelf broke free in Antarctica…the Medicare program has gone into negative cash flow, spending more on healthcare than it receives in taxes…former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, campaigning for her mother, refused to answer a question about Monica Lewinsky…Medal of Honor recipients have created a new award to recognize heroism by civilians…USAirways released a photograph of the bullet hole in a jetliner cockpit after a pilot shot his gun while in midair.