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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday January 6, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 3)
Conservatives Want to "Torture" Clinton; Byrd's Brain; Perry Smith: Fire Kaplan

1) Cokie Roberts blamed the inability of Senators to agree upon how to proceed on "conservative Republicans who just want to torture the President for as long as they humanly can." ABC and NBC led Tuesday night by emphasizing "impeachment chaos."

2) "Whatever the verdict, Robert Byrd will make sure it's done right, for the Senate and for history" because he's "a Democrat known for integrity and independence." So gushed NBC's Lisa Myers in skipping Byrd's pork-barreling and Klan membership.

3) Today's Matt Lauer wondered if people in the future will consider the Clinton scandals "much ado about nothing" and seemed baffled that Gary Bauer did not see Elizabeth Dole "as catering to the people on the far right of the party enough."

4) On Tailwind, Perry Smith declared Tuesday that CNN is "well short of doing all the right things." The former CNN military affairs consultant complained: "They didn't get rid of Peter Arnett and Rick Kaplan, which they should have done."

5) Elizabeth Dole has won Dan Rather's blessing. He argued that getting females to vote Republican "will be a hard task given the Republican Party's official position on abortion and some other issues directly affecting women," a problem Dole can solve.

>>> Amplification. The January 5 CyberAlert cast doubt about the accuracy of referring to Elizabeth Dole as a "social conservative" and quoted Cal Thomas as saying on FNC that "she does have a liberal streak." Though she has never advanced any conservative policies as far as I know, I may have assumed too much. In their January 5 Washington Bulletin (available at http://www.nationalreview.com), National Review's John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru wrote that in the wake of John Ashcroft's decision not too run, "The leadership of the Christian Coalition desperately wants to get behind a single candidate in 2000; Robertson and his top lieutenants had hoped Ashcroft would be their man. Now they might look to a woman: Robertson is close to the Doles, and she is well-liked by grassroots social conservatives unaware of her dodgy record on abortion." <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) ABC and NBC led Tuesday night by emphasizing seeming Senate disarray as the Thursday swearing-in approaches as every network (ABC, CNN, FNC and NBC) but CBS, which began with Iraq, started with the impending Senate action. "Impeachment chaos," declared NBC's Tom Brokaw. But NBC Nightly News seemed to display the chaos as seconds apart David Bloom referred to how "Senate Republicans are in disarray about how to proceed" and to how "a Republican consensus is emerging tonight."

     On ABC, Cokie Roberts blamed the inability to come to an agreement on "conservative Republicans who just want to torture the President for as long as they humanly can," a group she unfavorably contrasted with Democrats like Robert Byrd who are "serious constitutionalists who really think the process should play out."

     Here are some highlights from the Tuesday, January 5 evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened:
     "Good evening. It's less than 48 hours now until the President's impeachment trial is supposed to begin in the Senate. It does not get any more serious than that. And still the men and women of the country's most thoughtful, deliberative political body cannot figure out what to do."

     Linda Douglass looked at how Trent Lott could not sell conservatives on a four day process.

Jennings then asked Cokie Roberts "Why is it so difficult to get started?"
     Roberts answered by implying conservatives are unprincipled political hacks while more liberal members with concerns about Clinton are "serious constitutionalists." Roberts told Jennings: "I can't answer it in a phrase because it is complicated. Part of it is that you have conservative Republicans who just want to torture the President for as long as they humanly can. But part of it is that you have serious constitutionalists who really think the process should play out -- Senator Byrd among them...."

cokie0106.jpg (8897 bytes)

     -- CBS Evening News. "In an atmosphere of fierce partisan politics, a trial that could remove President Clinton from office is now scheduled to start Thursday in the U.S. Senate," Dan Rather announced in introducing a piece from Bob Schieffer. From the White House Scott Pelley explained how Clinton's lawyers are "prepared for war" in a real trial.

     Dan Rather then cited two CBS News poll results. First, that when asked what the Senate should do first, 64 percent said "vote on charges" while just 29 percent replied "begin a full trial." Second, "Is a full trial necessary?" No said 63 percent versus just 32 percent in favor.

     Finally, Eric Engberg profiled new House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He began: "The portly ex-teacher known to all as Denny is not an accidental Speaker. He's sturdy workhorse who benefits from bizarre times and the right friends..."

     -- CNN's The World Today. Bob Franken raised the issue of how House managers might cite the Jane Does, women not named in Starr's report, including the one woman Tom DeLay has been denounced as a McCarthyite, by Al Hunt and Evan Thomas, for mentioning. (See the January 4 CyberAlert.) Franken told viewers:
     "Among them, Jane Doe #5. Several congressional sources who have seen the documents say she claims she was pressured to sign an affidavit in which she denied 'unwelcome sexual advances' by Bill Clinton 20 years ago. According to these congressional sources, the FBI agent and Starr investigators who interviewed her decided her claim was quote 'inconclusive.'"

     -- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's tease stressed confusion:
"Impeachment chaos 48 hours before the President's trial. Still, no agreement on what the Senate really wants to do."
     Brokaw then opened with the same theme: "Good evening. It may be the trial of the century, the most important vote a Senator will cast, the impeachment of a President, the political life of Bill Clinton and his place in history. But tonight, the Senators can't agree on how to proceed. The wrangling within and between the parties is expected to continue right up to the beginning of the trial with preliminaries scheduled for Thursday."

     David Bloom began: "Tonight Senate Republicans are in disarray about how to proceed and NBC News has learned there's a hitch."
     The hitch: Because of the Supreme Court schedule, a trial start may have to be delayed until late next week. But just seconds after stressing Republican disarray, Bloom discovered unity:
     "A Republican consensus is emerging tonight to hold a full-fledged trial, with a limited number of witnesses followed by an up or down vote on whether to convict or acquit the President."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Robert Byrd, you're my hero. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News and MSNBC's News with Brian Williams reporter Lisa Myers, who normally delivers some of the most solid and insightful reporting seen on a broadcast network, provided a gushing tribute to Democratic Senator Robert Byrd which didn't manage to mention what he's known best for -- pork-barrel spending for his home state -- or, in praising his "unflinching devotion to principle," did she recall his opposition to the Civil Rights Act or membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

     Instead, viewers saw a piece full of superlatives. Myers began by describing him as "The Senate's most respected voice on impeachment, a Democrat known for integrity and independence." After noting that he doesn't think witnesses are necessary, she explained the importance of his thinking:
     "The Senator's words carry special weight because he's a scholar, has written books on the Senate, and its rules and traditions. Most politicians quote public opinion polls, Byrd quotes the founding fathers and Greek and French philosophers."

     Following a quick clip of Byrd citing the names of some philosophers, admired Myers:
     "This from an orphan who grew up in grinding poverty, worked first as a butcher and earned his law degree at night after he was elected to the Senate from West Virginia. His only known indulgence, his fiddle, which he gave up in sorrow after his grandson died. For Byrd it was a matter of sacrifice, a matter of principle. And it is that unflinching devotion to principle that Byrd puts above everything, including his party."

     To illustrate, Myers showed how Byrd called Clinton's post-impeachment pep rally "an egregious display of shameless arrogance." But he also told her censure would damage Clinton, a point right out of the Democratic spin machine. Myers concluded by effusing: "Whatever the verdict, Robert Byrd will make sure it's done right, for the Senate and for history."

     Myers skipped over some parts of Byrd's life that are not so admirable. In a January 18 New Republic article titled "Byrd Brain," David Plotz, a Senior Writer with the Slate online magazine, reminded readers:
     "In 1964, he demonstrated his growing mastery of procedure by filibustering the Civil Rights Act for more than 14 hours, one of the longest such delays in Senate history. Several years later, Byrd voted against the Supreme Court nomination of Thurgood Marshall. (Byrd briefly belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in his twenties, a misstep he has apologized for but never adequately explained. He has written that, at the time, he believed the Klan was 'an effective force in the struggle against communism and in the promotion of traditional American values,' which sounds more like a Klan advertisement than sincere remorse.)
     "And, as a legislator, Byrd has accomplished little -- unless you count getting most of the state of West Virginia named after him. In 1988, he retired from the Majority Leader's job to chair the Appropriations Committee. He used that position to uproot government agencies from D.C. to West Virginia, relocating parts of the Coast Guard, Treasury Department, FBI, ATF and other departments to the Mountain State...."

     What are the chances a network profile of a Republican Senator would not mention his or her dedicated opposition the Civil Rights Act and to the first black ever nominated for a Supreme Court seat, never mind membership in a violent, racist group?


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) On Tuesday morning Today's Matt Lauer wondered if people in the future will consider the Clinton scandals "much ado about nothing" and seemed baffled that Gary Bauer did not see Elizabeth Dole "as catering to the people on the far right of the party enough." MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens noted how in separate interviews Lauer hit both Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and conservative leader Gary Bauer from the left about getting beyond a Senate trial.

     After repeatedly pushing Daschle about getting Clinton to sign aboard a censure deal, on the January 5 show Lauer suggested:
     "Let's talk about pure politics for a second and not necessarily what's in the best interest of the country. Wouldn't it be in the best interest of Democrats, Senator, for the Republicans to drag this out for month after month in the Senate? Wouldn't they take a beating at the polls or in the polls, and at the election or in the election in the year 2000 if they do that?"

     Lauer's final question to Daschle: "Let me just finish with one thing that the Los Angeles Times reported this past weekend that when asked how impeachment felt President Clinton answered quote, 'Not bad.' Senator Daschle do you think in the years to come that people will look back on this as much ado about nothing?"

     During the 8am hour Today brought on Gary Bauer, who just announced he'll be leaving the Family Research Council in anticipation of a presidential bid. Lauer pressed repeatedly about how a trial is unnecessary:
     -- Lauer: "They're basically saying on, you know, one day you have the House version of the events. The second day the White House responds and then a couple of days later the Senators vote their conscience. What's the matter with that?"
     -- "You say the American public polls should not matter, they should be ignored. But even when you talk to members of the Senate and members of Congress they don't seem to think that they rise to the level of an impeachable offense."
     -- "Let's be very honest here. This President has been severely damaged already. He's a lame duck. He's going away in two years anyway. Come 2000 people like you can run for the presidency on issues like virtue and character. But why not get back, especially within the Republican Party, to the issues that the American people say they want talked about now? Taxation and healthcare and social security. Wouldn't that help rejuvunate the Republican Party?
     -- "I want to talk about your plans for the future in a second but you say its possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Surely you're not suggesting that during some long drawn out trial in the Senate we can continue the process of running the country?"
     -- After Bauer explained why he may run, Lauer retorted: "You don't see Elizabeth Dole as catering to the people on the far right of the party enough?"


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Peter Arnett and Rick Kaplan should go. Perry Smith, the former CNN military affairs consultant who departed after the network failed to heed his advice on the inaccuracy of the Tailwind story, complained the network is "well short of doing all the right things" to truly repent for its misdeed.

     Appearing on Tuesday night's Late Late Show with Tom Snyder on CBS, Smith cited four CNN shortcomings in how it handled the June story it later retracted. Tom Snyder asked: "I just wonder, if because of this, they have tightened up their investigative unit, they take more precautions than they may have taken before. Do you think there may be a positive fallout to what happened to them here?"
     Smith replied: "Yes, I think so. They've done a lot of things to try to correct this, but there are four things they haven't done. They didn't say it really didn't happen. They didn't do a full retraction. They didn't get rid of Peter Arnett and Rick Kaplan, which they should have done. And they never gave the warriors a chance to full air time to explain what actually happened on that mission. So they're well short of doing all the right things, but they certainly have taken some steps."

     To "refresh your recollection" as they say in another scandal, Arnett was the reporter on the NewsStand: CNN & Time story about how a U.S. military unit went into Laos during the Vietnam War in order to use deadly sarin gas to kill defecting U.S. servicemen. Kaplan is the President of the CNN.

     Smith stressed the gravity of the charge made by CNN:
     "If it had been true, it would have been a much bigger story than My Lai. It would have been in fact the worst war crime in the history of America. And it never happened, none of those things happened and yet CNN still has not said that what they did was wrong and totally in error in this great expose."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Dan Rather believes Elizabeth Dole is just the candidate Republicans need to win female voters. In a "Dan Rather's Notebook" radio commentary posted Monday night, January 4, on the CBS News Web page, the CBS News anchor contended winning over women "will be a hard task given the Republican Party's official position on abortion and some other issues directly affecting women." Here's an excerpt of what he wrote/announced:

Republicans are increasingly aware that if they are to win the presidency in 2000, they must do something to do better among women voters. Most especially women who consider themselves either Republicans or independents -- swing voters.

Republicans have lost the past two presidential elections in no small part because they have not done well among women voters. By any objective analysis, Bill Clinton would not be President if the GOP had made a stronger showing among female GOP and independent voters in 1992 and 1996.

What the Republicans need, and would like to have next time, is a ticket that not only will hold the Republicans base among GOP women but one that will also draw in independents and, at best, even pull away some women from the Democrats.

That will be a hard task given the Republican Party's official position on abortion and some other issues directly affecting women. With all of this in mind, it is not difficult to see why Liddy Dole believes she may have a chance to be on the next Republican ticket as a vice-president, perhaps even a presidential candidate.

END Excerpt

By Rather's reasoning, the pro-choice Lynn Martin should have won her Senate race as a moderate Republican versus Paul Simon in Illinois.  -- Brent Baker



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