of the Day | Democrats Not Portrayed as Intolerant,
Extreme | Just as in San Diego, Networks Attack
from the Left | Benchmarks for Week One: A Look
Back at San Diego | Sidebites: Public disagrees
with Ted Koppel; "Moderate" delegates are quite liberal; and Sam
Donaldson and Cokie Roberts go to bat for Hillary Clinton
"You said this morning
that the party's message will focus on the needs and cares of the people.
Now, how do you reconcile that with a President who has just signed a
quote 'welfare reform bill' which by general agreement is going to put a
lot of poor children on the street?"
-- Dan Rather to Chris Dodd
during an interview on the August 25 CBS Evening News
Shows Fail to Apply GOP Level of Scrutiny Democrats Not Portrayed as
Unlike Republicans two Sundays
ago, Democrats yesterday did not come under assault from the networks over
their intolerance on abortion. While the subject was raised a few times,
the networks spent more time raising liberal criticisms of the welfare
reform bill President Clinton just signed. Findings from weekend coverage:
-- Democrats faced about
one-third as many questions about abortion and the exclusion of dissenting
speakers. Two weeks ago, the Sunday morning shows asked 27 questions about
the GOP split on abortion and the failure to allow Gov. Pete Wilson to
speak. Interviewers asked only 10 questions yesterday, perhaps because
unlike inviting pro-choice Wilson and pro-life Bay Buchanan weeks before,
pro-life Democrats like Gov. Bob Casey were not booked, despite Casey's
Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the "intolerance" of
a "gag rule party." CNN's Late Edition asked only two questions,
compared to 11 posed to the GOP; NBC's Meet the Press asked six questions,
compared to nine for the GOP. ABC's This Week with David Brinkley had two
questions instead of four, and CBS's Face the Nation offered zero abortion
questions, compared to three in San Diego.
-- No mention of corporate
contributions to the Democratic convention, not even of the hypocrisy of
accepting funds from tobacco companies while Clinton attacks them with
rhetoric and new regulations. Two weeks ago on Meet the Press, David
Broder twice asked RNC Chairman Haley Barbour about the hypocrisy of
accepting corporate money for the convention while promising campaign
finance reform. On the Friday, August 23 World News Tonight, however,
ABC's Brian Ross did do a story on the top ten corporate contributors to
the DNC, including "a labor union under federal investigation for its
ties to the mafia."
-- No questions were posed about
how unions have taken over the Democratic Party. A Washington Post survey
of Democratic delegates found 34 percent belong to a union. Friday's Wall
Street Journal noted that "more than 400 delegates -- roughly one in
ten -- will be members of the National Education Association." But
that failed to generate questions about who controls the party.
Only 21 percent of GOP delegates
said they were part of the religious right, but in San Diego CBS worried
about their having too much influence. On Sunday August 11, Face the
Nation guests got five ominous questions. "There are a number of
Republicans who are very uncomfortable with what they feel is the power,
the control that the conservative religious right has. Are you concerned
about that?" CBS reporter Phil Jones asked Texas Governor George W.
called too conservative, charged from the left with going too far on
as in San Diego, Networks Attack from the Left Network Stars Line Up for
Welfare Status Quo
The networks came at Republicans
from the left on abortion in San Diego, and on Sunday they also came at
Democrats from the left. By concentrating on liberal complaints about
welfare reform, reporters helped Bill Clinton's effort to portray himself
as a centrist. Dan Rather wondered if the party had gone "too far to
-- Al Hunt of the Wall Street
Journal set the tone of liberal anger on Saturday night's CNN Capital
Gang: "Jesse Jackson and a few others will complain and I think a
majority of the delegates here privately agree with Senator Daniel Patrick
Moynihan that supporters of this bill, quote, 'will take this disgrace to
their graves,' end quote. They know Bill Clinton put his own political
interests ahead of the well being of little children."
-- Meet the Press moderator Tim
Russert demanded of DNC General Chairman Chris Dodd: "It's an issue
of morality to many people, and how can you defend a President who
basically said to the Congressional Democrats: Listen, that's your view,
but I'm doing this, because -- was it politically expedient?"
-- Talking with Democratic
strategist James Carville later in the show, Russert reminded viewers that
he once toiled for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo: "But the
Democratic Party for sixty years, James Carville, fought for a minimum
guarantee payment to poor children and Bill Clinton undid that. Don't you
have to draw the line someplace and say 'I'm a Democrat and this is what I
-- On yesterday's Face the
Nation, CBS reporter Rita Braver asked Chicago Mayor Richard Daley:
"The party looks a lot more united right now. But we have a sense
that there are some underlying divisions and particularly this week with
the President signing a welfare bill that a lot of people think is going
to put children into poverty. And I guess the question is that in a city
like this, aren't you scared about what is going to happen? Aren't you
afraid you are going to have a lot of hungry children?"
-- Minutes later while
interviewing Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, Braver pictured the Democrats as
being too conservative: "I just wondered what you think is the really
big difference between the Democrats and Republicans in this election?
What would make people go Democrat when it seems like the Democrats are
moving so close to Republican positions?"
-- Last night Dan Rather joined
the chorus, inquiring of Braver on the CBS Evening News: "Rita, how
worried are the Democrats about protests from some here that the party is
running too far to the right, particularly on welfare reform?"
Before the networks begin their
prime time coverage in Chicago, here's a brief summary of how they covered
the Republican convention in San Diego.
-- Labeling. Republican
delegates, speakers, and candidates were described as conservative more
than three times as often as moderate, but reporters also used more
extreme labels than moderate labels. The networks employed 46 conservative
labels (including 16 references to extreme conservatism) to only 13
-- Agenda of Questions. Reporters
posed more than seven times as many questions from the liberal agenda as
they did from a conservative agenda: 51 questions from the left, compared
to only six questions from the right.
-- Controversies. Reporters
referred to the Republican Party's split on the abortion issue, including
Gov. Pete Wilson's "disinvitation" to speak, on 55 occasions in
prime time. In 1992, the Democrats' spiking of Gov. Bob Casey surfaced
only six times (once on NBC, five times on CNN). ABC and CBS never
acknowledged the Casey flap.
Most people think Ted Koppel was
wrong to leave the Republican convention early, a Fox News/Opinion
Dynamics poll found. On yesterday's Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow
reported that when asked if Koppel was "justified in leaving,"
52 percent said no, 31 percent responded yes and 16 percent were
undecided. On Tuesday of the GOP gathering, Koppel announced Nightline
would leave because "this convention is more infomercial than a news
"Return to Chicago: This
Time, the Democrats Embrace Moderation" declared the headline on the
front of the Sunday Washington Post's convention section. Four pages later
the Post headline over a story on a survey of delegates read:
"Delegates Leaning More Liberal Than Their Leader or the Rank and
File." Indeed, 82 percent favor affirmative action, 65 percent are
against a balanced budget amendment, 72 percent oppose "reducing
spending on social programs," but 65 percent want less defense
Hillary the Revolutionary
Sam Donaldson identified Hillary
Clinton's problem on yesterday's This Week with David Brinkley: "I
think much of the opposition to Hillary Rodham Clinton is the fact that
she is a strong-willed woman doing things in a man's arena, and we men
don't seem to like that."
After George Will pointed out
that politics is the arena of many women, from Margaret Thatcher to Indira
Gandhi, Cokie Roberts retorted that she's been an "agent of
change" and "it's very difficult for the world to accept people
who have been revolutionaries."
-- Brent Baker in Alexandria, Va.
with Associate Editor Tim Graham and media analysts Steve Kaminski, Clay
Waters, Jim Forbes and Geoffrey Dickens.
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