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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday June 30, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 116) 

Medicare Plan Doesn't Spend Enough; Clinton's Killer Fundraiser

1) ABC and NBC focused on Medicare beneficiaries, not taxpayers. ABC's John Cochran hit the Clinton plan from the left, arguing it doesn't transfer enough money to the recipients.

2) Katie Couric endorsed Clinton's plan: "It sounds like a no-brainer. Seniors spend billions of dollars on prescription drugs every year, often putting them in terrible financial situations."

3) FNC's Carl Cameron surprised the Energy Dept. counter-intelligence chief with information. Cameron also uniquely revealed a probe at Defense for abuse of a whistleblower.

4) NBC's Lisa Myers reported that "Starr does not yet appear to be closing shop" as "his Travelgate investigation is intensifying" with evidence Hillary Clinton lied under oath about it.

5) Clinton attended a fundraising performance of a Broadway show the New York Post described as "about a man who habitually cheats on his wife and ultimately kills her."

     >>> "What If Clinton Knew of Espionage in '95? A Suddenly Irrelevant Question: What Did the President Know and When Did He Know It?" In this latest Media Reality Check fax report the MRC's Tim Graham reviewed how the networks have shown no interest in pursuing Clinton's changing story line and evidence he and his aides knew about espionage earlier than they admit. MRC Webmaster Sean Henry has posted the fax report. Go to:  http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1999/fax19990630.html <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) President Clinton's Medicare spending plan topped the ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC evening shows Monday night, but only CBS and FNC stressed how he is proposing, as FNC's Wendell Goler put it, "the largest ever expansion of the nation's second largest entitlement program." No network raised the cost to taxpayers or considered whether it would be fairer to return some of the surplus to those who created it: taxpayers.

     Instead, ABC, CNN and NBC all focused on beneficiaries. NBC's Lisa Myers talked to a pharmacist who she said "sees a serious, perhaps deadly toll on elderly customers" who now can't afford drugs. ABC's John Cochran hit the Clinton plan from the left, arguing it doesn't give enough money to the recipients, focusing on an elderly couple who can't afford to fix their roof and will only "only" get $83 a month. Cochran concluded: "His doctor urged him to go to Mexico where drugs are cheaper. But as a war veteran who paid taxes all his life, Willie can't understand why his own government can't help more."

     Here's a rundown of how the networks treated Clinton's Medicare plan on their Tuesday, June 29, evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. First, Jackie Judd summarized the plan: "President Clinton said his plan would do two things: keep Medicare from going broke and modernize it by offering coverage for prescription drugs." Specifically, he proposed how for $288 a year starting in 2002 Medicare recipients would get 50 percent cost coverage for prescriptions up to $2,000 a year. She noted that how to pay for it was buried but that "providers take the biggest hit" with cuts planned for payments to doctors and hospitals.

     Peter Jennings then introduced John Cochran's piece on deserving seniors are of the additional money transfer from currently productive workers:
     "The President's proposal for Medicare has a certain urgency to it for many people. One of the companies that manages drug benefits for several major health plans reports that the prices of popular drugs are up as much as 20 percent over the past two years, so the plan to have Medicare pay for prescription drugs is a recognition of the burden."
     John Cochran: "Across the country the elderly watched the President Clinton tell them help may be coming for prescription drugs. In New York:"
     Man: "I think it's a step in the right direction. I think it should have been done a long time ago."
     Man: "What he said sounded wonderful to me but it seemed like all the benefits for the future. I need help now in my pharmacy bills."
     Cochran: "In Los Angeles:"
     Woman: "It sounded great and I hope it works."
     Cochran: "A 90-year old said Congress will pass a drug benefit only if older folks fight for it."
     Man: "We can do it, but we have to make ourselves heard."

     Note to 90-year-old: No you can't do it. You want others to pay for you.

     Cochran continued by outlining how Clinton is too conservative in his spending spree: "For many older people the Clinton plan is welcomed, but it would hardly solve the problems of those who have huge drug bills every month. That would include the Mitchells who live in Florida. 68-year-old Willie has kidney problems, heart problems and diabetes. The Mitchells' combined income each month from Social Security is only $1,200. Last month Willie's drug bill alone was more than $1,000. To make it through each month he cuts back on food and on medications, cutting his pills into quarters....Meanwhile other things don't get done. The leaky roof stays leaky, bills don't get paid, lot's of bills."
     Shirley Mitchell: "It's hard to pay because we just don't have the money."
     Cochran: "Under the Clinton plan Willie would only get $83 a month, not enough and he is skeptical Washington politicians will do even that much."
     After Willie asserted that politicians don't care about the elderly and just want to get their political support, Cochran concluded: "His doctor urged him to go to Mexico where drugs are cheaper. But as a war veteran who paid taxes all his life, Willie can't understand why his own government can't help more."

     How many "working families" of thirty-somethings could afford to fix their roofs if they didn't have to pay so much in payroll taxes to support another entitlement expansion?

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather stressed the government expansion, opening the show: "Good evening. President Clinton today proposed the biggest expansion in Medicare since the program began in 1965."

     Bill Plante explained how Clinton wants to spend $794 billion from the surplus on Medicare over the next 15 years and, unlike ABC's Judd, Plante added that the drug benefit grows in six years to $44 a month for $5,000 a year in coverage and that couples making/getting from Social Security less than $17,000 a year would pay nothing. Plante noted: "The prescription benefit would begin in 2002 and cost the government $118 billion over the next ten years." Actually, that would cost taxpayers.

     From Capitol Hill Bob Schieffer relayed bipartisan concern about costs and giving the benefit to everyone when 65 percent already have private insurance to cover prescriptions. As to limiting the new entitlement to just the 13 million without prescription coverage, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle maintained: "Medicare is an insurance plan. Insurance has always been available to everybody regardless of resources."
     Schieffer didn't explain that means-testing would expose the program for what it is: a transfer of money from currently productive taxpayers to former taxpayers and others, in other words, a welfare program.

     -- CNN's The World Today. John King began: "The President's plan is anchored by a new prescription drug benefit sure to be popular among Medicare's 39 million recipients..." But he also noted that "it carries a daunting price tag" that Republicans find too great.

     Jeff Flock looked at senior political power and focused on one woman who can't afford her drugs now: "And like a lot of seniors she says she will vote in the future for the party that shows it cares."

     Caring equals spending money confiscated from others.

     -- FNC's Fox Report led with a piece by James Rosen. The 6pm ET Special Report with Brit Hume went first to Wendell Goler who pointed out: "In an East Room ceremony the President proposed the largest ever expansion of the nation's second largest entitlement program."

     -- NBC Nightly News. Claire Shipman stressed how Clinton is saving the program: "The Medicare program stands to go broke in just 16 years, right about the time baby boomers like 52-year-old Bill Clinton are ready to take advantage and today the President proposed a remedy that will give it another 12 years of life and a substantial increase in benefits..."

     Shipman gave the only broadcast network air time to a conservative voice: "The White House says encouraging competition among HMOs will save some money, but critics say it's not enough."
     Greg Scanlon, Cato Institute: "What he's doing now just doesn't cut the grade. It's just adding band-aids to a fundamentally flawed program."

     Next, Brian Williams got to the truly greedy. Not retired people demanding those still working turn over more of their money but the "cash cow" pharmaceutical industry: "The bills, the liquids, the inhalers that make up the cash cow industry known as prescription drugs..."
     Lisa Myers zoomed in on a woman who pays $3,000 a year on prescriptions and must dip into savings and scrimp. She doesn't get a discount like HMO patients who pay less because the HMO worked a discount deal. Myers lamented:
     "Seniors without the bargaining muscle also must deal with rising overall drug prices, up 68 percent in the last eight years. Now the average prescription costs $37, the average brand name drug almost $52. Pharmacist Jack Collins says he sees a serious, perhaps deadly toll on elderly customers."
     Collins: "They just don't take the medicine. Many people who are supposed to take one a day take one every day. And we go out there and caution them 'Mrs. So and so you're not taking your medicine the way you're supposed to.' She'll look at you, she says 'I don't have the money, are you stupid?'"
     Myers: "The President's plan, however, will try to change that and require that seniors be given a discount of about ten percent on all drug purchases. O'Laughlin [woman cited at top of story] says every little bit helps and hopes Medicare will finally begin to meet her changing needs, so that she can both stay well and afford to live well."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Today co-host Katie is baffled as to how anyone could oppose Clinton's "no-brainer" Medicare expansion plan and when someone did suggest a downside she offered up a counter-argument.

     On Tuesday's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Couric interviewed Alan Holmer of a pharmaceutical trade association and a representative from the AARP. Couric began:
     "Let me start with you Mr. Holmer. It sounds like a no-brainer. Seniors spend billions of dollars on prescription drugs every year, often putting them in terrible financial situations. So what's wrong with this plan?"

     After tossing some softballs to the woman from the AARP Couric offered this retort to Holmer's concern that price controls and reduced payments for drugs will hurt research and ultimately patients who need new drugs:
     "And while I appreciate your concern about medical research, certainly I feel passionately about that as well, it's important for people who are sick now and who are experiencing problems to be able to get affordable drugs, isn't it?"


cameron0630.jpg (11769 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Maybe the Energy Department should hire FNC's Carl Cameron. Tuesday night he showed how he knew about testimony from a counter-intelligence agent that the agent's boss, the Energy Department's counter-intelligence chief, wasn't even aware of. And Cameron added unique TV play for a story on the wires Tuesday and in the Washington Times Wednesday about how a Defense official was transferred pending the outcome of a probe about how the supervisor improperly tried to access the computer files of a whistleblower testifying at that moment on Capitol Hill.

     In a piece featured on both Special Report with Brit Hume and the Fox Report, Cameron revealed what went on behind the scenes at a House Government Reform Committee hearing last week:
     "Inadvertently on Capitol Hill last week several lawmakers at a closed door meeting found themselves hearing new allegations of security breaches at Energy Department nuclear labs. Democrats and Republicans say the secret testimony of Energy Department counter-intelligence agent Bob Henson caught them completely off-guard. Lawmakers are mum on the classified details which sources say involve weapons labs, like Los Alamos, over the last five years and may have been part of China's nuclear espionage.
     "The Energy Department's top spy catcher, who admits security cannot be guaranteed, said he was unaware of his agent's testimony until Fox News told him."
     Ed Curran: "I'm surprised at your comment. As director of counter-intelligence I think I have a responsibility to know what was said in closed hearings. I have not been informed of Mr. Henson's comments to anybody concerning security breaches in the past. I would certainly be more than interested in finding out though."

     Cameron went on to explain that when House members realized what Hansen would disclose he was removed from a panel of officials testifying about reprisals for their efforts to expose security shortcomings and stop dangerous technology transfers. This was the June 24 hearing that all but FNC ignored. See the June 25 CyberAlert for details: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990625.html#1

     Cameron picked up the story with this bit of intrigue: "At the exact time Defense Department analyst Peter Leitner was telling Congress that his bosses have in the past planted evidence in his desk to discredit him, over at the Pentagon those supervisors were allegedly trying to get into his computer without proper permission. A trail of e-mails obtained by Fox News indicates that several Defense Department officials were involved. Ultimately they did not gain access, but the Defense Threat Reduction Agency has announced an investigation and pending the outcome Leitner's supervisor at the Pentagon has been transferred to another post. Congress continues to investigate alleged reprisals and has subpoenaed Leitner's supervisors to explain their actions next week."

     Cameron concluded: "As to ongoing security breaches, despite Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's insistence that the problem has been fixed, one senior counter-intelligence official said quote, 'They continue to steal us blind,' unquote."

     But only Fox News notices.

     +++ Watch Cameron's story. While over 50 percent of cable homes now have access to the Fox News Channel, many still don't, including mine. So that all CyberAlert readers have the chance to view another of Cameron's unique stories, the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post it Wednesday morning. To watch it via RealPlayer, go to the MRC home page: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Is Starr finished? NBC says maybe not yet. "Hubbell to Plead Guilty as Starr Wraps Up," the Washington Post headlined its hopeful June 29 story on the plea deal in Starr's last scheduled trial.

     Tuesday morning on Today NBC's Lisa Myers, in a piece that never aired on Nightly News on Monday or Tuesday, shot a hole in liberal dreams that Starr will go away without getting at the First Lady: "But Starr does not yet appear to be closing shop. NBC News has learned that in fact his Travelgate investigation is intensifying. With testimony recently from witnesses who quote a White House official as saying Hillary Clinton ordered the firing of travel office workers contrary to what she said under oath."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Best lines of the week. Monday afternoon Bill Clinton attended a special Democratic fundraising performance on Broadway in New York City of the play The Iceman Cometh, which stars Kevin Spacey.

     Two best paragraphs in stories about Clinton's attendance:

     -- Associated Press reporter Kevin Galvin in a dispatch distributed Tuesday morning:
     "After the special matinee of the Eugene O'Neill classic, which drew some 1,000 Democratic contributors, Clinton entered from the rear of the stage to thank the cast, greeting star Kevin Spacey with a bear hug. He said the tale of besotten souls living on lies they tell to themselves gave him and the audience 'too much to think about.'"

     -- Reporters Robert Hardt Jr., Deborah Orin and Marilyn Rauber in their June 29 New York Post story offered a harder-edged summary of the play's plot:
     "Clinton thanked the cast -- starring Kevin Spacey -- 'for giving us too much to think about' after the play about a man who habitually cheats on his wife and ultimately kills her."

     He can't do that now or he'll deprive the national media of its favorite Senate candidate. -- Brent Baker


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