Four items today:
1. Dole's reaction to a
man in a crowd calling Bill Clinton "Bozo" generated media
condemnation on Wednesday. Boston Globe and USA Today stories portrayed
Bozo as part of a grand strategy. On Today, Katie Couric charged that the
campaign "turned decidedly nastier in the Dole camp yesterday"
and she blamed "the right wing" for his new strategy.
2. Dole's intentions
are scrutinized on Today, but Al Gore gets a softball interview that
began with this challenging question: "Many can see that you have
indeed been the most powerful Vice President in our history."
3. To the media
Willie Horton symbolized GOP efforts to "play the race card,"
to "exploit racial fears," but to CNN reporters on Tuesday, Al
Gore mentioning Horton showed how "tough" he can be.
4. CBS reporter
Eric Engberg fact checked Bob Dole's debate performace, but Engberg's
correction needs correction.
On Tuesday a man in a crowd yelled at Dole "Please get Bozo out of
the White House." Dole shot back: "Bozo's on his way out."
But to believe some media reports you'd think Dole set out Tuesday to
launch a new campaign strategy based upon insulting Clinton.
Here's the headline in the
Wednesday, October 9 Boston Globe: "Dole Goes On Attack, Calls
Clinton 'Bozo.'" The subhead: "Comment Draws White House
USA Today's headline
declared: "Dole Quips That He'll Beat 'Bozo.'" The lead
of Judy Keen's story: "Bob Dole politely called his rival 'Mr.
President' during Sunday's presidential debate. But on Tuesday, he
referred to him as 'Bozo.'"
On Wednesday morning's
Today Katie Couric talked with Tim Russert. Here's part of their
discussion, as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
Couric: "Let me just turn to the presidential campaign very quickly.
As you've heard Tim it turned decidedly nastier in the Dole camp
yesterday. He was talking about a moral crisis. He refused to answer a
question if President Clinton was morally and ethically capable of being
President. You heard that bozo exchange. Effective strategy or is this
going to come back to haunt him?"
Tim Russert: "I don't think it's an effective strategy. I was rather
surprised. I think Senator Dole was very effective Sunday night in raising
his favorable rating with the American people. He didn't move many votes
but at least he was looked at in a much more favorable light with his
sense of humor and quickness."
Katie Couric: "But the right wing thought he wasn't aggressive
Tim Russert: "Well obviously he's responding to that criticism and
what he's saying is, 'My God, I haven't reached 40 percent in the polls
yet! I have 20 percent of the Republican party still not voting for me.
The only way to get to them is by being more aggressive and negative on
Clinton.' The problem is Katie when you do that, what you do is say to a
large amount of women, the so-called gender gap, they don't like that. And
they have said repeatedly they want a more positive campaign. It's a very
risky, very risky venture by Senator Dole."
Meanwhile, Al Gore gets a little nicer treatment. Later on Wednesday,
Today aired an interview with the Vice President caught by MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens. Here are all the "questions" posed by Ed
Gordon (a frequent host of MSNBC's InterNight).
-- "Many can see that
you have indeed been the most powerful Vice President in our history. You
satisfied with the role that you played for four years?"
-- "The debate is coming up. What do you want people to come away
with, after they watch you and Jack Kemp? What should they know about Al
-- "Biggest difference between you and Jack Kemp?"
-- "You want to be the best second guy you can. You're there to help
the President. Now having said that, do you want the job in 2000?"
-- "Any concerns that you all are overconfident with the lead that
the polls show and is there any concern that because the lead is so large
you might not be able to use your coattails to usher in people into the
House and the Senate?"
Five questions, but Gordon
couldn't squeeze in an inquiry about Al Gore's hypocritical tobacco speech
at the Democratic convention.
Speaking of sucking up to the VP, ever since a pro-Bush independent
expenditure campaign in 1988 highlighted the Dukakis furlough of Willie
Horton, for the media Horton symbolized how the GOP "plays the race
card." Conservatives regularly pointed out, to no avail, how Gore
first raised the issue in a 1988 primary debate.
But in a story for CNN's
AllPolitics.com Web site two CNN reporters on Tuesday cited Gore's
question not as an example of racial politics but as a sign of Gore's
toughness. MRC analyst Steve Kaminski noticed the following sentence in a
VP debate preview story by CNN reporters Marc Watts and Bob Franken:
"Gore can also fire
off the tough question. In 1988, as a Senator, he first raised what became
known as the 'Willie Horton issue' with Michael Dukakis during a primary
In a February 13, 1992 CNN
special on race and the campaign, MRC associate editor Tim Graham reminded
me, Ken Bode placed all the onus on the GOP: "David Duke's
exploitation of white working class fears about blacks echoes a theme from
the 1988 election. This is the Maryland State Penitentiary. Inside resides
the most politically notorious convict in America. William Horton, Jr.,
the focal point of a major national campaign designed to exploit white
fear of black crime....The Horton case illustrates the readiness of
political leaders to exploit the racial divide."
Monday's CBS Evening News (October 7) included a "Reality Check"
segment by Eric Engberg on facts asserted during Sunday's debate. Here's a
piece of the story:
Eric Engberg: "Some
facts got mangled."
Dole: "For the first time in history, you pay about 40 percent of
what you earn, more than you spend for food, clothing and shelter
combined, for taxes under this administration."
Engberg: "Exaggeration. The most recent government study says the
average household spends $16,000 on the basics, and only $6,000 on all
taxes, including state and local taxes outside the President's
As Engberg would say, TIME
OUT! On Tuesday the Tax Foundation released a report showing Dole was
correct and Engberg was wrong. The Tax Foundation discovered that the
government report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics "greatly
understates taxes paid....Among the omissions, the survey does not list
the employee's share of Social Security tax payments among taxes
paid....Similarly, the BLS survey does not report sales and excise taxes
paid....Just as important, the BLS survey results altogether ignore the
effect of indirect levies, such as business taxes, on American
Factoring in all these
taxes, the Tax Foundation calculated that for households from $22,500 to
$750,000 plus, taxes took a larger bite than the total for food, clothing,
and housing. The Tax Foundation found that households in the $45,000 to
$60,0000 category spent $16,000 as Engberg said on "the basics,"
but had a $25,000 tax burden.
We need a Reality Check
for the CBS Reality Check.
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