GOP Budget Views Shutdown; Orwellian Starr "Stained" the U.S.
1) ABC and NBC gave Clinton
unanswered soundbites to denounce the Republicans on the budget. ABC
highlighted wasteful spending by Gingrich and Lott and mourned the loss of
campaign finance reform.
2) The House voted, but
"America shrugged," argued Newsweek's Jonathan Alter on NBC
3) ABC's Lisa McRee wondered
if it's "too hopeful" to think that Democrats will not vote
for articles of impeachment. Cokie Roberts corrected GMA which means she
4) "As much as Clinton
stained the dress, Starr stained the country to nail him for it,"
decried Time's Margaret Carlson.
5) "We've lost
privacy," thanks to Ken Starr. CNN's Bruce Morton argued: "If
this reminds you of George Orwell's novel, 1984, it should."
6) The woman CBS claimed a six
month prison sentence would prevent from getting an abortion was really
already six months pregnant.
7) A "Partisan"
House vote or did Democrats "Back GOP"? The New York Times
versus the Washington Post.
Corrections: In a joke
about Clinton the October 9 CyberAlert referred to his "desert."
That should have read dessert, as in food not parched land. At another
point that same CyberAlert quoted Peter Jennings as saying: "After
all the countries been through in the last eight or nine months..."
Countries should have been country's.
Monday night the broadcast networks all led with preparations for an
airstrike against Serbia and the possibility an agreement might be reached
to put them off. Before the holiday weekend, on Friday night, CNN and NBC
began with Kosovo/Serbia, but the CBS and FNC evening shows led with
pieces on White House reaction to the impeachment hearings vote and a look
a what's next for the House Judiciary Committee.
ABC went first
Friday with the budget showdown but in three nights of coverage while ABC
provided multiple platforms for Clinton to denounce the Republicans and
their conservative actions on policy and process, the network never
allowed a Republican to make a policy statement or criticize Clinton on
policy. NBC didn't do much better, running unanswered soundbites from
Clinton on Friday and Saturday night. (Football bumped the CBS Evening
News in the east on Saturday and Sunday and NBC Nightly News on Sunday.)
Below is a rundown
of how ABC and then NBC didn't meet fundamental journalistic norms of
balance on the budget showdown.
-- On the Friday, October 9 World News Tonight
Sam Donaldson began:
"Both Republicans and Democrats spent the
day not coming to terms with each other on final legislation, but trying
to persuade the public that it's the other side's fault that it's
come down to the wire with so much left undone."
Donaldson played a clip of Tom Daschle blaming
the Republican leadership before Donaldson allowed Tom DeLay to point out
Clinton's inattention and how he had yet to meet this year with the
Republican leadership. Donaldson then let Clinton take a shot at the
Republicans on policy:
"Not so fast replied the President flanked
down at the White House by fellow Democrats, not so fast."
Clinton: "What is the record to date of the
majority? They have killed the bill to reform the way we treat tobacco and
to protect our children from the dangers of tobacco. They killed campaign
finance reform. They killed the minimum wage."
elaborated on Clinton's points: "Now said the President the
Congress must pass certain legislation, beginning with more money for
education, a new agriculture measure to replace the one he just vetoed as
inadequate, the $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund and of
course final funding for several government departments whose
appropriation bills have never been passed. Late today Congress moved
toward keeping the government open over the weekend in an effort to settle
Donaldson concluded by telling anchor Charlie
Gibson: "The President challenged Congress today to stay in session
until it passes his education legislation. The Republicans replied they
would stay until the work was done. But the fact is Charlie legislators of
both parties can't wait to get out of town in order to explain to the
voters why it is so that little got done and why it is that's the other
Next, John Cochran
highlighted how little Congress has accomplished, with an emphasis on how
a liberal proposal failed. After explaining that it took until Friday for
the House to pass a bill making it harder to declare bankruptcy, Cochran
asserted that the House had passed half as many bills as last year.
Cochran continued: "Republicans are so worried about charges of a
do-nothing Congress that they have new ads touting what everyone agrees
are real accomplishments like tax cuts and the balanced budget."
Ad clip: "or health insurance that goes with
you when you get a better job."
Cochran countered: "But all those laws were
passed either last year or the year before that. The slowdown began in
January and you know what happened then. The scandal diverted attention
from popular issues that might have received more debate and public
support like campaign finance reform. When the Senate decided to kill
reform no one noticed because the vote came the day after the Starr report
was delivered to Capitol Hill."
Having highlighted the media's favorite liberal
cause, Cochran concluded: "It's not just Congress that was
distracted, so was a weakened President who showed little of his usual
skill in fighting for bills he wanted. Americans have made it clear they
do not want the scandal to effect the nation's business, but it already
There's no World News Tonight anywhere on
Saturday's during college football season, but ABC gave Clinton more
time on Sunday. The October 11 show led with the gay beating in Wyoming
and then went to Mike Von Fremd on the budget fight. He announced:
"In a rare Sunday meeting in the cabinet
room the President, flanked by Democratic leaders, blasted the
Republican-controlled Congress for failing to pass his budget and
education package to repair old schools and higher more teachers."
Clinton: "We are waiting for the Republican
majority in Congress to bring this year's education investment bill to
the floor. The delay must end on education. Congress must choose progress
Von Fremd allowed Trent Lott to speak, but not to
express any policy view about empowering local officials to control the
money. Instead, von Fremd showed Lott just saying they would have a
meeting Monday morning.
Leading into a clip of Newt Gingrich saying
Congress will stay until a deal is made, von Fremd recalled: "Three
years ago Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were blamed for the government
shutdown, something they want to avoid this time around."
Von Fremd did then show himself asking Clinton,
in a White House meeting earlier in the day, a process question:
"Republican leaders were saying this morning that if you were serious
about reaching this budget deal that you would stay in Washington instead
of going on the fundraisers tomorrow and the following day."
But, by the end of the story, no Republican or
conservative got to counter Clinton's first soundbite about how his plan
Having failed to
explore the GOP view on the budget -- whether from the Republican view of
allowing localities to control education funding or pointing out how
Clinton's spending exceeds his agreement or even from a conservative
view critical of the Republicans for failing to fight for reduced spending
-- on Monday night ABC highlighted wasteful spending advocated by Gingrich
and Lott. After anchor Charlie Gibson noted Clinton and Congress had
agreed to another two-day deal, he announced: "Somehow there always
seems to be enough for the pet projects of powerful politicians,
especially military projects."
explained: "When Congress passed the Defense budget Speaker Newt
Gingrich blamed President Clinton for failing to ask for enough money to
keep the military strong."
Gingrich, October 6: "The President can talk
about Kosovo or Bosnia or Iraq or Korea but the fact is we have to pay for
and strengthen a military force capable of backing up those
Martin: "Gingrich was so concerned he
decided to give the Pentagon things it didn't want. This bill he is
signing contains $464 million to build seven C-130 cargo planes. They just
happen to be built in his home town of Marietta, Georgia and that's six
more than the Pentagon asked for. Mr. Gingrich wouldn't talk to us about
the planes but this isn't the first time the Pentagon has been ordered
to take something. In fact, there's even money in the budget this year
for a helicopter carrier it didn't ask for, but getting back to those
After Air Force
General Michael Ryan complained he's not allowed to deploy the planes
where he wants and that his budget does not include the cost of
maintenance for the planes, Martin added Trent Lott as a culprit:
"One place they are being told to put one new plane is Mississippi,
the home of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott."
Following soundbites from Lott and Democrat David
Obey, who dubbed the planes a "pork project for the Speaker,"
Martin concluded with the cost: "Since 1994 Congress has ordered 20
C-130s the Pentagon did not ask for at a cost of $1 billion. It's your
-- NBC Nightly News also gave Clinton time to
denounce Republicans for hurting children but never found time for the GOP
or conservative side. On Friday night Claire Shipman began her story by
noting that Clinton "insists Republicans give him the money he wants
Viewers heard this shot from Clinton: "They
have tried to erode my commitment to saving Social Security first in the
House of Representatives. But still it is not too late for us to go
forward together on our children's future."
Shipman moved on
to the fight with no soundbite from a Republican, reporting that the White
House thinks it will get funding for Head Start and child literacy while
Republicans believe they will win on tax breaks for farmers "and on
the controversial issue of the way the next census will be counted."
From Capitol Hill,
Gwen Ifill hit several topics but did not allow any time for a Republican
to counter Clinton. Ifill noted that "In the House lawmakers approved
a bankruptcy bill to make it tougher for consumers to erase bad debts, but
the President says it favors credit card companies and he will veto
Over video of Democrats marching up the Capitol
steps she announced: "And Democrats staged one last attempt to
salvage a political lost cause: HMO reform." Jumping to her third
topic, Ifill next looked at how Republican Representative Jay Dickey's
vote for both resolutions angered Republican leaders, but "Dickey's
unorthodox vote apparently didn't cost him at home." Ifill
illustrated that with a soundbite from a man in Arkansas: "A lot of
other Republicans should have had the guts to be that objective and do
Finally, she noted that Judiciary Committee
members are drawing up wish lists of witnesses.
Saturday, October 10, NBC Nightly News led with
Gwen Ifill on how the two sides are not so far apart, but they do still
disagree on spending for drug abuse and education. After Tom Daschle
claimed the Democratic bill "deals with urgent needs facing
America's public schools," Ifill led into a clip of Senator Pete
Domenici by outlining one of the GOP's arguments that ABC never bothered
to mention: "But Republicans argue that Democrats are busting the
balanced budget and dipping into the surplus they promised to save for
Next, from the
White House John Palmer gave Clinton some more unanswered time,
highlighting how Clinton was "criticizing Senate Republicans for
rejecting his bill to clamp down on managed health care programs, warning
in his weekly radio broadcast the same fate should not happen to his
Clinton in his radio broadcast: "I do not
want to see this Congress walk away from America's school children as it
has walked away from America's patients. We should be able to make real
bipartisan progress on education."
Palmer followed with a clip of Erskine Bowles
saying Clinton's proposal will help education by "reducing the size
of classrooms" and adding 100,000 teachers.
Time allowed for
the GOP radio broadcast: Zilch.
For Saturday's NBC Nightly News Newsweek's Jonathan Alter set out to
prove that everyone wants to move on and doesn't understand why the
House voted for unlimited hearings. Alter opened his piece, interspersed
with clips from the House debate:
"A fierce debate in the Capitol Thursday.
But at the same moment Congress agonized over history, America
Alter introduced a series of soundbites
denouncing the focus on he scandal: "At a Los Angeles restaurant....A
grocery store in Dearborn, Michigan....A coffee bar in Atlanta."
Finally, he settled in New Jersey. Sitting at the
counter he told viewers: "Here at the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton, New
Jersey they like to hash over the scandal with their hash browns, but
they're not necessarily going to vote over it. With three weeks to go
before the mid-term elections, most politics is still local."
He ran a some soundbites from a waitress and a
businessman expressing more interest in local matters before turning to
Andrew Kohut of the Pew Center: "Public opinion really hasn't
changed because people haven't learned anything new." Alter picked
up Kohut's thought, concluding: "And unless they do, Washington's
obsession will never be theirs."
Wishful thinking? On Friday's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Ross
Adams noticed that co-host Lisa McRee, in Dorset, Vermont for fall
foliage, asked ABC's Cokie Roberts:
"Cokie, so many people have said that since
only 31 Democrats voted with the Republicans yesterday, that at the end of
this inquiry it's very unlikely that any Democrats will vote for the
articles of impeachment. Is that too hopeful?"
that's "way ahead of the game here," but then corrected an
earlier item: "Keep in mind only five members of the House, you all
said earlier it was ten, it was five, only five members of the House voted
against any inquiry at all."
Indeed, in the
first half hour of the October 9 show Kevin Newman asked Paul Begala:
"But how partisan was it really I mean? All but ten members of
Congress voted for some kind of investigation into the President's
behavior, particularly into the Monica Lewinsky. That's significant. How
do you square that?"
Gee, where did he
get the idea that ten voted no to both resolutions? On World News Tonight
the night before a reporter told Peter Jennings: "It is significant
that the Democrats did have their own inquiry plan too and almost all of
them voted for it, so one way or the other, almost every single member of
the House of Representatives today, only ten voted against proceeding with
some kind of inquiry of impeachment against the President of the United
The name of the
reporter who passed along the erroneous information on ABC's evening
show? Cokie Roberts.
Like Clinton stained the dress, "Starr stained the country,"
declared Time magazine's Margaret Carlson. In an October 12 "Public
Eye" column in Time about how Starr "remains a mystery
himself," Carlson concluded with some ominous implications about the
Starr-directed grand jury appearance by Bill Clinton at the White House:
"Coming out on to the White House driveway
on the day after he had violated all norms of privacy, he jauntily gave
his trademark wave and his patented grin, one that doesn't involve eye
movement, carrying himself as if he were President and as if there were a
crowd of well-wishers rather than a ravenous camera crew awaiting him, as
if he were on some high horse instead of on some low road. 'You cannot
defile the temple of justice,' he has said in explaining his relentless
pursuit of Clinton. But Starr did. As much as Clinton stained the dress,
Starr stained the country to nail him for it. And his party goes on and
day after he had violated all norms of privacy...." I'm somewhat
baffled by her reference to the day after when I assume she's referring
to Starr violating Clinton's privacy that day in the Map Room
Great media minds and Starr haters think alike. Carlson is upset by how he
"violated all norms of privacy" and on Sunday's Late Edition
CNN's Bruce Morton recalled the book "1984," claiming that by
violating people's privacy Starr fueled the sordid scandal and created
In his end of the
show essay for October 11 Morton showed Democrat Robert Wexler on the
House floor complaining: "The global economy is crumbling and we're
talking about Monica Lewinsky. Saddam Hussein hides weapons and we're
talking about Monica Lewinsky. Genocide rakes Kosovo, and we're talking
about Monica Lewinsky."
Morton agreed, but
warned: "Yes, neither one can worry full time about global recession
or murderous Serbs right now. They're busy with lawyers and depositions
and so on. But we've lost maybe forever one other thing, perhaps more
valuable. We've lost privacy.
"This shabby tale has reminded us that
people, or government can record your telephone calls, that people or
government can wear wires and record what you say [over video of Linda
Tripp]. That people or government can demand that your bookstore reveal
what you read. That people or government can raid your computer and read
messages you thought you'd erased. Can access your telephone records, your
bank accounts and so on, and so on and so on."
Clinton in his testimony saying he knew Lewinsky would talk, Morton
insisted: "Anyone of us could be investigated like this and we would
be able to keep no secrets about love or sex or money -- no secrets about
anything. If this reminds you of George Orwell's novel, 1984, it should.
The government in that book poked and pried everywhere. Its slogan was,
big brother is watching you. And with the aid of the thought police, he
then: "Welcome to Orwell's world."
Morton held Starr
the prosecutor responsible: "Lovers, like cold war spies, may have to
meet in parks in open spaces away from hidden microphones. Coded messages
maybe. One time pads, all the stuff James Bond taught us how to use. Maybe
the loss of privacy will make us virtuous, chaste in word and deed but
probably not. The President knew he'd be found out and seems not to have
cared. So welcome to the brave new world in which the letter P stands not
for privacy, but for poking and peeking and prying and for prosecutor,
coming soon perhaps to life near yours."
Only if you make
the first move and commit perjury in a court proceeding.
An update on the woman denied an abortion by a judge's tough sentence,
at least in the version portrayed by CBS News. "Locked inside this
Ohio jail is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who wants to have an abortion.
Sitting inside this courthouse is a judge who won't let it happen."
So bemoaned reporter Diana Olick in opening an October 8 CBS Evening News
story detailed in the October 9 CyberAlert.
I suggested that
despite Olick's implication that a six month sentence from the judge
would stretch from the woman's first to third trimester, she had been
pregnant more than three months when she appeared before the judge. I was
correct. The CBS story aired two days after Yuriko Kawaguchi's October 6
sentencing. An October 8 AP story, the MRC's Tim Graham alerted me to,
reported that on October 6 Kawaguchi, "who is more than five
months' pregnant" and had pleaded "guilty August 10 to forgery
in a credit-card scam, was sentenced to six months in prison, with credit
for four months already spent in jail."
In other words,
she was already into her sixth month of pregnancy when she faced Judge
Patricia Cleary, whom CBS portrayed as an insensitive anti-abortion
crusader. Her previous four months in jail may well have prevented her
from obtaining an abortion, but her subsequent six month sentence only
stopped her from trying to get an abortion months outside the normal first
trimester time frame.
having failed to tell viewers about how the sentence was imposed days not
months ago and skipping over the fact that all but two months were
suspended, Olick had declared: "When Kawaguchi is released in about a
month she'll be close to seven months pregnant, forced to have her
See the October 9
CyberAlert for more on Olick's story.
The headlines Friday, October 9, in America's two most influential
-- The Washington
Post: "Impeachment Inquiry Approved; 31 House Democrats Back
-- The New York
Times: "House, In a Partisan 258-176 Vote, Approves a Broad,
Open-Ended Impeachment Inquiry."
As so many in the
media emphasized, it was a solemn vote in the House. But not solemn enough
for the New York Times to rise above inserting liberal spin. -- Brent Baker
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