Bush Scolded for Raising Scandal; Stephanopoulos Thrilled with Gore; Rather Bored; CBS Picked Up Anti-Bush Gun Article
-- Extra Edition
1) Bush scolded in post-debate
analysis for daring to mention Gore's fundraising scandals. CBS's Bob
Schieffer called it Bush's "weakest moment" and Dan Rather
disapprovingly raised the strategy with both Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.
2) ABC's George Stephanopoulos was enthralled with Al
Gore's performance, gushing: "He was strong, he was detailed, he was
specific." In contrast, CBS's Bob Schieffer thought Bush gained the
most because "he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as Al
Gore." CBS's Bill Whitaker equated Bush's challenge with how Reagan
had to prove "he wasn't an extremist."
3) ABC's Gore and Bush beat reporters did not give equal
deference to their subjects. Terry Moran marveled over Gore's "mastery
of the issues," but Dean Reynolds complained about Bush's brevity and
how he didn't have enough material "to cover a 90-minute debate."
4) Tom Brokaw actually raised conservative agenda points with
both Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney.
5) Peter Jennings highlighted ABC's "pretty meaningless
and totally unscientific" post-debate poll. Dan Rather cryptically
informed viewers: "We used the Internet to help collect the data." Both found little movement in
6) The debate bored Dan Rather. He grumbled about "long
stretches" which "were pedantic, dull, unimaginative,
7) Just a few hours before the debate, CBS picked up on the
findings of a LA Times story about how, as Dan Rather put it, "since
concealed handguns were legalized in Texas....thousands of people who were
issued licenses have been arrested on charges ranging all the way to
8) FNC's Brit Hume reported that CNN clarified its initial
statement that it's post-debate town meetings are "part of
Time-Warner's plan to support campaign finance reform through voter
9) Adam Clymer provided evidence which supports George
Bush's assessment of him as the New York Times reporter demanded The
Washingtonian magazine refund his subscription after it reported the
"arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his colleagues."
and CNN analysts disapproved of George Bush reminding debate viewers of
fundraising scandals involving Al Gore. CNN's Jeff Greenfield suggested
that line of attack is where "Bush might want to have some words
back." CBS's Bob Schieffer called it Bush's "weakest
moment" and Dan Rather disapprovingly raised the strategy with both
Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.
CNN's Jeff Greenfield, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth
observed, argued to Bill Schneider: "I think, Bill, you know better
than I that negativity is not selling well with most voters. The one place
where I think Governor Bush might want to have some words back was the
very end when he said the man has no credibility on the issue."
In CBS coverage, Bob Schieffer decided Bush had a
successful night (see item #2 below), but he stressed what disappointed
"I would also
say I think Al Gore came on strong at the end and I think George Bush's
weakest moment, when he turned on Bush's [sic, meant Gore's]
character, it just gave Al Gore a chance to say, look I'm going to
attack the problems in this country, I'm not going to attack
Later during CBS's 10:30pm ET half hour, Dan
Rather raised the subject in his interviews with both VP nominees. To Dick
Cheney, via satellite from Ohio, Rather wondered: "Whom was Governor
Bush trying to reach primarily when he attacked Vice President Gore right
there near the end, what some people are going to read as his strongest
attack, certainly in terms of his demeanor, on the Gore fundraising?"
Joe Lieberman appeared via satellite from Kentucky,
but instead of coming up with some fresh questions he posed the very same
one: "Near the end Governor Bush delivered what I think will be
generally seen as his strongest, at least more forceful attack, on Vice
President Gore about fundraising. Vice President Gore said it was an
attack on his character. What do you think Governor Bush was trying to do
and CBS delivered quite contrasting assessments of who came out better
from Tuesday night's debate as ABC's George Stephanopoulos praised Al
Gore and CBS's Bob Schieffer thought Bush gained the most. Schieffer's
CBS colleague Bill Whitaker employed loaded language in equating Bush's
challenge with one successfully met by Reagan 20 years ago: "Just
like Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter had to try to prove to
the American people that he wasn't an extremist..."
Stephanopoulos was enthralled with Gore's
performance, declaring immediately afterward that "Gore dominated the
debate" as all the issues addressed favored Gore. Later on Nightline
Stephanopoulos gushed: "He was strong, he was detailed, he was
specific and he posed questions to Bush that Bush left on the table."
In contrast, CBS's Bob Schieffer maintained that Bush gained the most
because "he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as Al
Gore did tonight."
Stephanopoulos told Peter Jennings just after the
debate ended, as noticed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Gore
dominated the debate, Peter. You know, all year long he's been trailing
Governor Bush on the issue of who's the strongest leader. Well, tonight
Gore not only took up most of the time, most of the time was spent on the
issues that he has the biggest advantage on, most particularly
prescription drugs....It was even the way that he would interrupt Jim
Lehrer and say, 'Listen, I want one more word.' He looked like he was
dominating, and then again, the issues that the time was spent on:
prescription drugs, education, Social Security, even the RU-486 and
abortion issue. All of those favor Gore."
Later on Nightline Stephanopoulos remained impressed
with his old White House associate: "I really think if you look at
the totality of the questions, there wasn't a single issue, with perhaps
the exception of the energy question, where Gore lost on points over the
course of the 90 minutes. He was strong, he was detailed, he was specific
and he posed questions to Bush that Bush left on the table. My guess is
also on the issue of foreign policy, Bush was quite shaky, particularly
when he was talking about military readiness, when he was talking about
the situation in Serbia right now. Gore actually corrected him. Yes, Gore
was too much of a know-it-all, a little too arrogant, but I think that
people in the end were looking at the substance and the specifics, and on
that, Gore won."
(Nightline guest analyst David Gergen argued:
"While Gore may have won on substance, Bush clearly won on style.
Gore was more in control of the facts. He was more, I think he argued a
more popular side of some of the issues, but he was too overbearing. He
butted in too often, whereas Bush stood there, he was poised, he answered
the questions, he was more straightforward, and I think people related
more to that. I think that on this kind of debate, Ted, people are looking
for someone who's going to be comfortable in their living room, as well as
somebody who knows the facts, and I think Bush, I think Bush exceeded
expectations in this debate and Gore, I frankly think,
But on CBS's post-debate coverage, Bob Schieffer
contended that Bush made out the best: "I do believe something
significant happened here tonight because clearly the burden was on George
Bush. Al Gore's been around a long time in the national spotlight.
He's expected to have a grasp of the issues, but if you look at any
poll, any of the backgrounding we've done, people were wanting to know
does George Bush have a grasp of the issues, is he up on stuff, is up to
this job. Well I think clearly tonight if anyone gained from this debate
it was George Bush because he showed -- that people will argue back and
forth of the positions they took -- but clearly he seemed to have as much
of a grasp of the issues as Al Gore did tonight. So in that sense I think
Bush gained a lot..."
Just before 11pm ET Bill Whitaker, who is assigned
to cover Bush, conceded Bush may have achieved his goals, but Whitaker
couldn't resist describing Ronald Reagan with the "extremist"
tag favored by liberals back in 1980:
Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter had to try to prove to the
American people that he wasn't an extremist, well George Bush had
something to prove to the American people tonight as well. He set out
tonight to try to prove he had the seriousness and substance to assume the
Oval office and I think if anything at least he was able to hold his own
and go toe-to-toe with the Vice President today."
Gore and Bush beat reporters did not give equal deference to their
subjects Tuesday night after the debate, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson
noted. Terry Moran, who covers Gore, barely touched any negatives as
he marveled over his "mastery of the issues." But Dean
Reynolds, who is assigned to track Bush, complained about Bush's
brevity, asserting: "I don't think he really had enough
material...to cover a 90-minute debate."
Terry Moran told Peter Jennings: "Well
Peter, what I heard is Al Gore doing what he does best, which is
focusing on these specific issues. I suppose what I was a little bit
surprised at was the way he managed time after time to control every
single question, it seemed like, to get to what he wanted to say....He
does better over a longer course of time, does better with voters over
the course of an hour than over the course of 15 minutes. His
strengths come out, his mastery of the issues, how much he's thought
about these things. And then the other thing that struck me is he's
better when he's behind, when has to hustle and really try to get
people's attention and approval. Tonight it seemed at some point he
clicked into the overconfident mode a little bit.....It's something
he does every single day on the campaign trail. He mentions that tax
cut, he mentions the way that he carves it up statistically and he
hangs it around Governor Bush's neck like an albatross. It is one of
the central arguments he makes every day on the stump."
Dean Reynolds did not boost his assignee, and
instead lambasted him: "Well Peter, I was struck by what I think
was the brevity of the Governor's answers, I mean, and the fact that
he stayed so much on message. I did not hear a great deal that was
different from the standard stump speech that the Governor gives day
in and day out, and that speech runs about 10 to 15 minutes long, and
I don't think he really had enough material from that speech to
cover a 90-minute debate."
Brokaw actually raised conservative agenda points with both Joe
Lieberman and Dick Cheney. Tim Russert suggested Bush and Gore both
tried to use the debate to gain the attributes of the other. (Brokaw
and Russert refrained from offering assessments of how each candidate
While ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan
Rather anchored from New York, despite the fact that only a few NBC
affiliates dropped baseball for the debate, both Tom Brokaw and Tim
Russert traveled to Boston for their coverage shown mainly on
Brokaw ruminated to Lieberman: "Already the
Bush campaign is saying how can Vice President Al Gore and Joe
Lieberman say that they're best equipped to reform campaign finance
in America given what we've been through in the last eight years.
And didn't Governor Bush score points when he said if you wanted to
do something about prescription drugs, if you wanted to do something
about Social Security, you've had two terms to do something about
Interviewing Cheney, Brokaw brought up another
conservative point: "I was surprised that it took the Governor 75
minutes to raise the cost of the Gore campaign proposals that he's
been putting out there thus far."
Russert wrapped up NBC's coverage just before
11pm ET by offering this insight: "George Bush knew he went into
this debate likable, but he wanted to be perceived as more
knowledgeable. Al Gore knew he was perceived as knowledgeable, wanted
to come out of the debate more likable. Bush had to prove capacity to
govern, Gore had to prove character to govern."
Jennings conceded ABC's post-debate poll was "pretty
meaningless and totally unscientific," but nonetheless ABC
highlighted its quickie poll as did CBS where Dan Rather cryptically
informed viewers: "We used the Internet to help collect the
data." Both found little movement.
Jennings announced on ABC: "Now I've got
a couple of cards here from a random sample telephone poll of
registered voters....Who won the debate? Gore, 42; Bush 39; tied, 13.
That doesn't tell us an enormous amount. Did the debate affect their
choice? Before, people, 45 percent, liked Mr. Gore; afterwards, 45
percent liked Mr. Gore. Before, 48 percent liked Mr. Bush; 49 percent
afterwards....All seems to be pretty meaningless and totally
unscientific after this first debate."
Over on CBS, Dan Rather recounted the finding of
a "CBS News/Knowledge Networks" poll based on a
"nationwide random sample of registered voters." Rather
cryptically added: "We used the Internet to help collect the
It found that 49 percent thought Gore won
compared to 34 percent who said Bush did.
Other answers highlighted by Rather:
-- Opinion of
candidate after the debate:
Better: Bush 28 percent, Gore 26 percent
Worse: Bush 19 percent, Gore 18 percent
-- Prepared well enough for the job of President
Before: Bush 49 percent, Gore 71 percent
After: Bush 51 percent, Gore 70 percent
debate bored Dan Rather who complained on CBS immediately after it
ended: "Governor Bush's father was criticized for looking at
his watch in the presidential debate in 1992. There may have been many
across the country tonight doing somewhat the same thing as through an
hour-and-a-half there were certainly long stretches, one would
hesitate to say the whole hour-and-a-half, which were pedantic, dull,
unimaginative, lackluster, humdrum, you pick the word. And there will
be those who think this was sort of a form of
hours before the debate Tuesday night, CBS dedicated nearly three
minutes to highlighting the findings of a Los Angeles Times story
about how, as Dan Rather put it, "since concealed handguns were
legalized in Texas five years ago, thousands of people who were issued
licenses have been arrested on charges ranging all the way to
Reporter Vince Gonzalez ran through several
examples of people who managed to obtain guns, warning: "The
system doesn't prevent innocent people from becoming victims of
those licensed to carry." But
other than giving Bush deputy Karen Hughes four seconds to say
"Texas is a safer place," Gonzalez failed to include what
FNC's Carl Cameron detailed about specific crime rate reductions,
culpability of the Clinton-Gore administration and how "people
who carry concealed weapons are six times less likely to commit
violent crimes than other Texans."
A brief excerpt from the Los Angeles Times story
as well as a link to it were featured in the October 3 CyberAlert
Dan Rather introduced the October 3 CBS Evening
News hit piece: "As the presidential candidates prepare to face
off tonight in Boston, the national debate over guns is back in the
headlines. After a long investigation the Los Angeles Times reported
today that since concealed handguns were legalized in Texas five years
ago, thousands of people who were issued licenses have been arrested
on charges ranging all the way to murder."
Vince Gonzalez began his story, as transcribed
by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, by immediately tying in Bush: "One
of the first bills signed into law by George W. Bush after he became
Governor gave Texans the right to carry concealed weapons."
George W. Bush
at the bill signing: "Texas will be a better place as a result of
"But according to a year-long investigation by the Los Angeles
Times, concealed weapon licenses have been issued to hundreds of
Texans with histories of violence, mental illness, or prior
convictions for serious crimes, such as rape and armed robbery."
Gonzalez cited some instances: "What
Patrick Bordelon allegedly did is shoot two Mexican teenagers in the
back, killing one, in separate border incidents. He plans to plead
insanity. Court records show he suffers from severe mental disease and
impulse control problems. At the time of the shootings, he was under
psychiatric care, and he had a Texas concealed weapon permit. Robert
Hinkle is serving a life term for a double murder....Hinkle had no
convictions when he got a Texas concealed weapon license, but federal
agents knew he was a member of the Banchees, a violent motorcycle
gang....To get a permit, applicants must pass a ten-hour course
proving they know the law and how to shoot straight."
Gonzalez focused on what the newspaper disclosed
and again linked Bush to the resulting murders: "In Texas,
details about permit holders, even those who commit violent crimes,
are secret, but the LA Times broke the code, for the first time
linking anonymous statistics to real people."
Bush in 1995:
"I believe certain people ought to be allowed to carry concealed
weapons under strict licensing requirements. I have no problem with
"But the system doesn't prevent innocent people from becoming
victims of those licensed to carry. For example, Gene Hanson ambushed
Tim Gooch, shooting him repeatedly in the head before killing himself.
Daniel Meehan shot his girlfriend in the back and claimed it was
suicide. Terry Gist, alias 'Holsters,' got a permit despite a
history of domestic violence. He's now serving ten years for
sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl."
CBS then gave Bush Communications Director Karen
Hughes a few seconds: "This law has been administered in a very
fair way, in a very balanced way, and the proof is in the results.
Texas is a safer place."
concluded: "The law has been popular in Texas. Now Bush has to
worry about how it will play in the rest of the country."
It won't play well if people rely on CBS's
FNC's Carl Cameron provided a more balanced
presentation on Special Report with Brit Hume. After summarizing the
LA Times story and how it reported 3,000 who obtained concealed
licenses had arrest records and 400 had convictions, he relayed:
said, in fact, only 71 convicts were granted licenses that are now
being revoked and she blamed the snafu on Al Gore."
"What occurred was that the federal law enforcement authorities,
which of course are under the jurisdiction of Vice President Gore's
administration, were delayed and slow in responding to Texas
officials' requests for a background check."
"Hughes said since Bush signed the law the Texas homicide rate
has hit a 30-year low, that violent crime is down 20 percent and
juvenile violent crime is down 28 percent. Finally, Hughes argued that
people who carry concealed weapons are six times less likely to commit
violent crimes than other Texans."
debate night town meetings are not "part of Time-Warner's plan to
support campaign finance reform through voter education" as CNN
stated earlier, FNC's Brit Hume reported Tuesday night in picking up
on a CNN clarification. The October 3 CyberAlert reported CNN's
initial description of their intent.
In the "Political Grapevine" segment
of Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Hume related:
now issued a formal correction of its statement on Friday that the
cable channel's debate coverage is intended to advance the political
agenda of Time-Warner, CNN's parent company. Time-Warner
recently announced that it is backing campaign finance reform,
which of course is one of the most contentious political causes of the
day, and said Time-Warmer, it has stopped making soft-money
contributions. In announcing a series of CNN-Time Magazine town
meetings following the upcoming presidential debates, CNN said quote,
'the series of town meetings is part of Time-Warner's plan to
support campaign-finance reform through voter education,' end quote.
about this, a CNN spokeswoman finally said the statement was quote
'incorrect,' and that the only connection between the CNN town
meetings and Time-Warner's political agenda is that the money to pay
for the town meetings came from funds Time-Warner had saved by
stopping its soft money contributions."
On many days the "Political Grapevine"
text, though slightly different from what Hume reads on air, is up on
the Fox News Web site, but sometimes they run a couple days behind in
Whatever the intent of the CNN town meetings,
the first one aired Tuesday night and was hosted by Wolf Blitzer from
Tampa, Florida. He checked in both during CNN's 8pm ET pre-debate
hour as well as after the debate.
Clymer provided evidence last week which supports George Bush's
assessment that the New York Times reporter really is "a major
league asshole." Last Friday The Washington Post's "The
Reliable Source" column relayed a letter Clymer wrote to The
Washingtonian magazine complaining about an item which reported that
the "arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his
Here's an excerpt of the September 29 Post
article by Lloyd Grove and Beth Berselli:
Clymer's Major-League Complaint
Writing to complain bitterly about an item in the Washingtonian's
October issue, New York Times reporter Adam Clymer instructed the
local monthly's editor, Jack Limpert: "This letter is not for
Fat chance. Clymer is famous, the man George W. Bush called a
"major-league [orifice]," an opinion seconded "big
time" by Bush running mate
Dick Cheney. Predictably, the Timesman's Sept. 26 letter was leaked to
us. In it, Clymer canceled his subscription to The Washingtonian over
an unsigned report in the Capital Comment section that eagerly agrees
with Bush and Cheney. "The
arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his colleagues," it
claims, quoting former GOP consultant Mark
Goodin, who worked on Oliver North's 1994 Senate campaign, as
saying that Bush "just picked up the support of 10,000 reporters
Clymer lectured Limpert: "The New
York Times pays me to take abuse from politicians I cover....I see no
reason to pay you for the privilege of receiving more -- especially
when it is marked by a depth of reporting that consists of
interviewing Oliver North's campaign manager to find out what
reporters think. Please cancel my subscription, and refund the
balance. I am afraid I discarded the wrapper before beginning to read
your October issue, but with the time he or she saved by not reporting
this story, I am sure your anonymous reporter can unearth the
Expect another CyberAlert Wednesday afternoon
with a review of morning show coverage of the debates, plus
Letterman's "Top Ten Ways to Make the Gore-Bush Debates More
Exciting." -- Brent Baker
Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions
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