Obama’s Three-Day-Late Press Conference On Flight 253

Picture 2President Obama stepped away from his Christmas vacation in Hawaii to hold a short press conference in order to address Friday’s averted terrorist attack aboard Northwest Flight 253 as well as the escalating conflict in Iran. The President appeared without tie, or teleprompter, to reassure the nation that “we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable” and that “the American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to you keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season.” He also announced that additional air marshals had been added to flights entering and leaving the U.S. The president did not take questions.

All of which is well and good, and exactly the sort of presser the President should have given three days ago, including the lack of tie and questions. Unfortunately, the casualness of his attire matched with the shortness of the statement and the lack of questions felt a bit tone deaf considering the President and his advisers had the entire weekend to prepare for it, and only served to underline concerns that the president perhaps did not have a grasp of the seriousness of the situation. Obama also “strongly condemned” the protests in Iran (something he didn’t do back in June). Watch the full statement below.

Related: To Freak Out Or Not: Whatever Became Of The Terror Alert System?

To Freak Out Or Not: Whatever Became Of The Terror Alert System?

terror_alert_systemThis holiday weekend featured news of not just one, but two potential terror attacks (though the latter appeared to be no more than just a long stay in the bathroom.) Had this happened during the Bush Administration, we would have had a steady diet of former Department of Homeland Security head Tom Ridge and the ubiquitous color-coded terror alert system. Under President Obama — well, three days later, we finally see him speak. Which leaves us to ask: are we better off with or without the color bars? Or put another way, should we be freaking out right now or not?

When news broke that another disruptive passenger had prompted an alert on another Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on Sunday, I suddenly experienced a sinking feeling that I had not felt since the days that followed 9/11. In New York City, the sound of helicopters circling overhead no longer sounded like background noise for the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, but rather a disquieting reminder of how highly valued this city is as a potential target.

Had Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted attack happened in the early to mid-aughts, we would have seen and heard about the color-coded bars of terror alert status on a day-to-day basis, and passed machine gun-toting personnel in midtown — in short, our hearts would have been filled with terror. In this most recent instance, government officials have seemed almost relaxed, as if there were no real need to worry. Or maybe they seemed caught off-guard — which in turn, fills one’s heart with terror.

In truth, the color-coded system is still very much in place, though not really in the news (best evidenced by a Google News search that reveals almost no results. So, its not that the system was done away with. Its just never mentioned by any Government official of real import.

I was never a big believer in the coded color terror alert system. I criticized it privately because I felt it failed to realistically convey a complicated sense of danger and risk. I also felt that it played right into the hands of terrorists, whose real goal is to disrupt normal life through the threat of random acts of violence against innocent civilians.

That said, I now see value in this system where I saw little before. The color coded alert system reminded us that the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, and the FBI were, somehow, on top of it. Perhaps had the Obama administration responded in a more timely and competent manner I wouldn’t be missing the silly colored bars. But Janet Napolitano’s inadequate back-and-forth on how the system worked “like clockwork,” then “failed miserably,” and President Obama’s failure to make a statement for days — lead me to question the administration’s core competency moving forward.

New York House Republican Peter King has been a very vocal critic of the President over the past weekend. Speaking in the future tense during an interview with CNN, King branded the “what-if” scenario as “the Christmas Massacre” and spoke at length about what might have been. Was he making these claims to gain political advantage? Absolutely — but that doesn’t completely discredit his message.

Obama should have made an on-camera statement right after news of the failed attack broke, instead of three days later, if only to mollify his critics, and remind everyone else that he’s on top of it. Instead, we were left with the White House press corps filing reports with Waikiki in the background — not great imagery for an administration that so highly values perception.

I never thought I’d see the day that I’d miss those over simplistic color-coded bars. And maybe, its not the bars that I miss. But the bars represent a constant attention to detail and obsession with forces of evil, and that is something that I’m starting to miss.

MSNBC’s New New Plan For Daytime: “Give Me The Facts, Ma’am”

brewer_12-28The recent programming changes at MSNBC – Dr. Nancy canceled, Dylan Ratigan moving to 4pmET, Chuck Todd/Savannah Guthrie to host new 9amET show – signal a shift in the strategy for the network.

And MSNBC is explaining why the plan in June has been scrapped fora new one.

The Associated PressDavid Bauder talked to MSNBC President Phil Griffin about the changes. “We did some experimentation to find out what the audience during the daytime wants and I think we found out they want your basic facts – give me the facts, ma’am,” Griffin said. “We can still do it with our passion and a fast pace.”

But it wasn’t always this way – just six months ago Griffin was convinced the personality-driven approach would work better. As TVNewser noted, the original plan was for “Appointment TV,” to move the dayside formula “away from the TelePrompTer headline news.” It didn’t work – MSNBC’s daytime hours finished in 5th place in the A25-54 demographic, even below CNBC – and now they’re back to the prompter.

There’s also this quote from Griffin: “All three cable networks kind of struggle during the day trying to figure out their identity. We’re going to get into a more aggressive headline and information programming.”

Bauder doesn’t explore how exactly Griffin thinks CNN and Fox News are ’struggling’ to ‘figure out their identity’ but it seems that they’ve figured out their identity long ago. For years, FNC and CNN have been in news hours, similar to what MSNBC will employ in January, from 9amET-4pmET (and beyond for CNN). Say what you want about CNN’s prime time ratings, but during the day they are a solid #2 beyond a surging FNC, and they seem to have their identity pretty clear.

Meanwhile, Bauder touches on another question of identity – MSNBC weekends. We noted several times the lack of live coverage from MSNBC concerning the attempted terror attack, and how CNN and Fox News covered the story far more. When asked for comment, an MSNBC spokesperson told Mediaite, “We cut-in to our regular programming with updates on the story throughout the afternoon and evening.”

One final note: the Wikipedia MSNBC schedule for January, first reported by Inside Cable News, is not accurate, confirms MSNBC. The more specific anchor breakdowns have not yet been announced.

» Follow Steve Krakauer on Twitter

Could Time Warner Cable Really Drop FOX? FOX Thinks So

fox_12-28Cable providers and networks have a long tradition of arguing over renewal terms and other charges. It’s why you couldn’t watch the NFL Network Thursday night games on Time Warner Cable, and why Yankee fans can’t see their team play on YES on Cablevision.

But could FOX broadcast network, the fourth of the big four networks, actually be eliminated from Time Warner Cable this week? They think so.

USA Today has some background:

The current contract expires Thursday. It also covers some of parent company News Corp.’s regional sports networks, FX, Speed and Fox Reality Channel. The companies are locked in a bitter and potentially precedent-setting dispute over renewal terms from Fox that Time Warner Cable warns also could result in higher monthly rates for consumers.

And now FOX has started a campaign to both make viewers aware of the potential situation and convince their fans to take action. A website called KeepFOXOn.com has been launched, where the days count down and details about the negotiations are presented. And of course, there’s the link to “make your voice heard.”

But it’s not just on the web – FOX is running 30 second ads about the prospects as well. “No FOX? No way!” says the current ad, which you can watch below. “TV with no FOX? Thanks a bundle Time Warner Cable.”

USA Today quotes a research analyst who says there’s “a high likelihood that programming will get dropped (or) pulled,” which is pretty shocking. But even if FOX is dropped for a few hours on Thursday at Midnight, it would truly be unprecedented if a last-minute deal isn’t worked out soon after. Time Warner Cable subscribers shouldn’t be too concerned they’ll miss American Idol this year.

Here’s the FOX ad:

» Follow Steve Krakauer on Twitter

Possible Accomplice? Suspect Reportedly Boarded Flight 253 Without Passport

flight253There appears to be a new twist amidst all the hand-wringing and second-guessing about how airport securities systems worked, or failed miserably. Reuters is now reporting a Dutch military police investigation surrounding a possible accomplice who helped get the passenger on board Flight 253. They cite a US couple, Kurt and Lori Haskell, who claim that a well-dressed man appeared to escort suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

Reuters Africa reports:

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch military police are investigating the possibility that an accomplice may have helped the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, a spokesman said on Monday.

A U.S. couple on the flight, Kurt and Lori Haskell, told Reuters and other news agencies that they saw a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 with the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Friday morning at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The Haskells have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

“At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy,” the military police spokesman said. “We are checking all clues and information we get.”

Tyra Banks Announces The End Of The Tyra Banks Show

tyrashowThe forthcoming fifth season of The Tyra Banks Show will be its last, the host told People today. “I’ve been loving having fun, coming into your living rooms, bedrooms, hair salons for the past 5 years,” said Banks.

According to People, who scored the exclusive report, Banks will leave to work on launching Bankable Studios, her film production company, and focus on bringing “positive images of women to the big screen.” True to form, Banks was motivational in her parting words: “My next huge steps will allow me to reach more women and young girls to help us all feel as fierce as we truly are,” she said.

The announcement was also tied to Oprah’s big show-ending news, as an industry source told People, “With Oprah’s big announcement this year, I think that gave Tyra the confidence to get out there and follow her longtime dream of film producing.”

“There’s a lot cooking right now and a lot of fire burning in my heart,” Banks promises in an open letter on her website. “And I salute you my amazing family of viewers; without you there never would have been a Tyra Show. I really love you all.”

Let us never forget:

TMZ Today: JFK And Naked Women, Sports (Update)

tmz_12-28What would have happened if TMZ was around during the Kennedy Administration? They very likely could have changed history.

Today they published an image from the 1950s of then-Senator John F. Kennedy on a boat with naked women. And watch out sports stars, this could be your future. Update: The pic could be fake.

Calling it “The JFK Photo That Could Have Changed History,” the photo appears to be a lounging Kennedy on a boat with at least four nude women. The photo is believed to have been taken in the mid-50s (Kennedy married in 1953). The high-res image can be downloaded at TMZ.com.

TMZ reports they went through a rigorous verification process:

TMZ had multiple experts examine the photo — all say there is no evidence the picture was Photoshopped. The original print — which is creased — was scanned and examined for evidence of inconsistent lighting, photo composition and other forms of manipulation. The experts all concluded the photo appears authentic.

50 years later, this photo seems to provide some level of evidence to what everyone really assumes about JFK anyway. But back in the 1960s, if a young TMZ Gazette felt no qualms about trafficking in yellow journalism, this image could have done serious damage to Kennedy’s political future.

And while TMZ focuses mainly on celebrities, but certainly politicians as well, the Harvey Levin-run site is expanding to sports (as rumored last week).

“I don’t really see a difference between a sports star and a celebrity,” Levin tells the New York TimesBrian Stelter.

TMZ Sports is hiring – and the Time Warner-owned site is ready to expand its sports reach already seen on the main site. Tiger Woods was just the beginning.

So if you’re a teen pop star, L.A. Lakers shooting guard or former President dead for 40 years – TMZ is watching.

> Update: The Smoking Gun is reporting, with some pretty convincing evidence, that the photo is fake, and actually came from a 1967 Playboy photo shoot. TMZ is acknowledging the possibility. What’s that about TMZ going mainstream again?

» Follow Steve Krakauer