Only CNN Noted Gore Fossil Folly; "Dastardly" Bush vs. Gore's "Cunningly" Smart Verbiage; Oval Office "Not a Flight Simulator"
-- Extra Edition
1) ABC and NBC squeezed in
post-debate fact-checking and corrected both Bush and Gore. ABC agreed with
Gore on Texas health insurance, but unlike CNN's Brooks Jackson, did not
show how Bush was also accurate. Only Jackson recalled how, contrary to his
debate stance, Gore once advocated higher taxes on fossil fuels.
2) A New York Times news story called Bush's evoking of
Hillary's health care scheme a "dastardly claim." But the same
story asserted that in saying "Bush-Quayle" Gore was "cunningly
evoking" a reminder of another politician "who was ridiculed for his
3) The President has his "hands on the controls and the
Oval Office is not a flight simulator," Tom Brokaw intoned as he ended
Thursday's NBC Nightly News with a lecture about the importance of who is
chosen to be the next President.
4) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Your Debate Moderator is
5) A kid on a Nick News special went where Shaw and Lehrer
would not and asked Bush and Gore: "I would like to ask why do my Mom and
Dad have to pay so many taxes?"
Correction: The October 12
CyberAlert Extra included this quote in an excerpt of an article
countering Al Gore's claim the North Pole will melt in 50 years:
"At the North Pole the winter temperature is never lower than 35
degrees Celsius." We dropped what we thought was a misplaced dash
mark. In fact, the quote actually referred to negative 35 degrees, so
should have read: "...never lower than -35 degrees Celsius."
terrorist bombing of a U.S. ship and violence in Israel led and dominated
all the broadcast and cable network newscasts Thursday night, but the
broadcast networks did manage to squeeze in one story each on the
presidential debate and its aftermath.
ABC and NBC fact-checked each candidate, but neither
touched on Gore's claim about how the polar ice caps will melt in 50
years, a charge countered in the October 12 CyberAlert Extra. ABC
admonished Gore for claiming his college tax credit is earned "per
child" while NBC corrected Gore's implication that his education
plan requires testing of students.
Both corrected Bush on how only two of the three men
convicted of murdering James Byrd were sentenced to death. NBC also
corrected Bush about his allegation that Russia's Viktor Chernomyrdin
embezzled IMF funds. ABC's Dean Reynolds backed up Gore's charge that
Texas ranks at the bottom in health insurance coverage, but he failed to
point out, as did CNN's Brooks Jackson, that Bush was also accurate in
saying the percent covered in his state has increased while it has fallen
nationally. Jackson also uniquely noted that contrary to his opposition in
the debate, in the past Al Gore has supported higher energy taxes.
Before getting to
the debate, ABC, CBS and NBC all showed Gore's comment on the
terrorist bombing followed by a clip of Bush supporting the
administration. The CBS Evening News avoided debate fact checking as
Bob Schieffer reported only that the candidates differed on foreign
policy somewhat, but "it got testier on domestic issues. Bush
chided Gore for relying too much on government. Gore went after Bush
for his record back home. It was informative but broke no new
Here's how ABC,
CBS and CNN evening shows on Thursday, October 12, evaluated the
accuracy of Bush and Gore:
-- ABC's World News Tonight actually ran two
brief stories, one on each candidate. Up first, Terry Moran from
Milwaukee with Al Gore, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
campaign was also playing defense today on both the candidate's
unusually subdued performance in last night's debate and on this
remark in his closing statement."
Gore in the
debate: "I want to give new choices to parents to send their kids
to college with a $10,000 tax deduction for college tuition per child
"Today the campaign said Gore misspoke since his plan actually
calls for a deduction not per child but per family per year. The
misstatement was another stumble in what has become a campaign
struggling to regain its stride."
Moran failed to point out Gore's larger
distortion in using the "$10,000 tax deduction" verbiage. As
CNN's Brooks Jackson explained on the October 10 Inside Politics:
"Ten thousand dollars of tuition will already qualify for a
$2,000 tax credit under current law. Gore would increase the maximum
benefit by $800 a year. One reason Gore keeps overselling his $800
tuition proposal: His campaign research shows talking about a $10,000
deduction is his single most popular initiative."
Next on ABC Thursday night, Dean Reynolds with
George Bush: "Pressed last night on why he did not fight to
expand the Texas hate crimes law after the racially-motivated slaying
of James Byrd, Bush said this:"
Bush in the
debate: "The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's
gonna happen to'em. They're gonna be put to death."
"It turns out only two were sentenced to death, the other to life
in prison. The Gore campaign argued that Bush's comments may have
tainted the men's appeals. And when asked to explain why he fought
the expansion of health insurance to poor children or why Texas as a
state ranks near the bottom in coverage for all its citizens, he said
can quote all the numbers you want, but I'm telling you we care
about our people in Texas."
concluded: "It turns out Gore's numbers came from the Census
Bureau. Still, Bush campaign officials today are jubilant, believing
the debates have been great for their man. As one of them put it,
'when the American people saw Governor Bush last night, they saw the
CNN's Brooks Jackson offered a more complete
assessment of the Gore-Bush health insurance dispute. On Thursday's
Inside Politics, like Reynolds, Jackson noted that Gore accurately got
his ranking of Texas from the Census Bureau. But Jackson explained how
the Census Bureau also backs up Bush's claim that the percent
insured in Texas has risen during his tenure as Governor while it has
fallen nationally: Those with no health insurance has decreased in
Texas from 24.5 percent in 1995 to 23.3 percent in 1999 while nationally
those without insurance has grown slightly, from 15.4 percent to 15.5
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw cited a new NBC
News poll conducted after debate. It found Bush leading Gore by 46 to
Lisa Myers handled "The Truth Squad"
for NBC and outlined her concerns: "Both men seemed more careful
with their facts than in their previous meeting, but there are a few
mistakes. Bush may have made a mistake in accusing a former Russian
Prime Minister of corruption."
Bush in the
debate: "We went into Russia. We said here's some IMF money,
and it ended up in Chernomyrdin's pocket."
"Though Chernomyrdin has been linked to corruption, experts say
Bush was wrong to directly link him to IMF money, that there's
simply no proof. Today the Russian threatened to sue Bush. A spokesman
says Bush stands by his statement. On domestic issues today, Bush
admits he did get one thing wrong about a brutal hate crime in his own
state, the dragging death of James Byrd by three white
three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's gonna happen to'em.
They're gonna be put to death."
"Wrong, as Bush acknowledges this morning. One of the three is
sentenced to life in prison."
Bush on GMA:
"Unfortunately I was wrong. Two of them are gonna get the
ultimate penalty. Three maybe should have."
education experts say Gore's wrong in describing his own plan."
Gore in the
debate: "I think that we should require states to test all
students, test schools and school districts."
"Experts say that's misleading, that Gore encourages testing,
even provides incentives, but doesn't have such a sweeping
Center for Education Reform: "The Gore plan does not call for
testing of all students, schools, and school districts."
"With 26 days to go in the race so close, observers say both
candidates seem increasingly cautious, fearing that any significant
mistake or exaggeration could turn the election."
-- CNN. Inside Politics ran a debate review by
Brooks Jackson, but it did not run again during CNN's 8pm ET hour
usually filled by The World Today, though that hour-long special look
at overseas crises did include a campaign story.
In addition to Jackson's more thorough review
of health insurance claims quoted above as a contrast to ABC's
reporting, Jackson uniquely highlighted another Gore distortion of his
waffled when Bush brought up his past support for raising taxes on
the debate: "He's right that I'm not in favor of raising
"In 1992 Gore wrote in his book, Earth in the Balance, that
quote, 'higher taxes on fossil fuels...is one of the logical first
steps' toward a more responsible approach to the environment. But
that was then and now is now."
Jackson also asserted that Bush
"stretched" in claiming he always supported the
administration on Kosovo.
Bush versus how Gore was "cunningly evoking." An October 12
New York Times news story called George Bush's evoking, during the
debate, of Hillary Clinton's 1993-94 health care scheme, a
"dastardly claim." The American Heritage Dictionary defines
"dastardly" as: "Cowardly and mean-spirited; base.
Usage: Dastardly is employed most precisely when it refers to acts
involving cowardice. It is loosely used when it applies to any
reprehensible or risky act." But in the same story, New York
Times reporter Frank Bruni was impressed by how in using the term
"Bush-Quayle," Gore was "cunningly evoking" a
reminder of another politician "who was ridiculed for his verbal
MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey caught
the contrasting descriptions in the last few paragraphs of Bruni's
debate review. It came in the context of praising Gore's restraint:
"But there was acid just under the surface,
and it occasionally bubbled up. Mr. Gore made a point of referring to
the 'Bush-Quayle' administration, cunningly evoking with that
second name a politician, like the Texas Governor, who was ridiculed
for his verbal unsteadiness.
just so happened to evoke 'Mrs. Clinton,' circa 1993, when she was
pressing a health plan that included more federal control than most
Americans wanted. He tied Mr. Gore to her, and the careful viewer
could sense the barely suppressed chortle as he did so. Mr. Gore
stared back at Mr. Bush icily.
"But he did
not respond with a sigh, and he did not lapse into a lecture, and he
did not even seize this dastardly claim of Mr. Bush's as an excuse to
ask for more speaking time."
Gore knew he could count on The New York Times
to discredit Bush for him. Check out the ridicule heaped on Bush at
the top of Bruni's story, titled "Rivals Massage Their Images
in Conversational Exchange." Here's an excerpt from the
beginning of it:
For Vice President Al Gore, the second presidential debate was
basically an act of contrition, a sustained and sometimes lightly
self-mocking acknowledgment of where he had gone wrong the first time
Almost every boast was qualified, every criticism carefully
tempered. After saying that people all around the world admired the
United States, Mr. Gore quickly added, "I don't think that's just
the kind of exaggeration that we take pride in as Americans; it's
Before hitting Gov. George W. Bush with statistics that denigrated
his record in Texas, he looked and sounded pained and self-effacing,
as if he wished he did not have to do this and could only hope he was
getting it right.
Across the table, Mr. Bush was rummaging through a trove of big
words. He talked about not letting the American military
"atrophy." He expressed concern over any
"abrogation" of agreements with allies. And he found
something "egregious" twice in about five minutes.
He also went through a roll call of Middle Eastern countries,
naming "Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait." With
geographic chops like these, Mr. Bush seemed to be asking voters, how
could anyone doubt his capacity for world leadership? Mr. Bush even
mentioned Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, the former prime minister of Russia,
without having to, and managed to pronounce his name correctly.
For all the serious talk about serious issues, what the candidates
engaged in tonight was largely an exercise in image repair and image
improvement. Mr. Gore sought a softer, warmer, more truthful touch.
Mr. Bush sought an aura of comfort, not distress, with all the
complicated information a president must, or at least should, master.
Answering questions from the moderator, Jim Lehrer, about foreign
policy, Mr. Bush adopted a tone so calm, content and convivial he
might have been reminiscing with a grandmother about favorite holiday
President has his "hands on the controls and the Oval Office is
not a flight simulator," Tom Brokaw intoned as he ended
Thursday's NBC Nightly News with a lecture about the importance of
who is chosen to be the next President:
suddenly, a terrorist attack on a U.S. war ship in the Middle East, a
compete breakdown in Israel, a sharp escalation in the fighting there,
the stock market here takes a steep dive. All of this just one day
after a presidential debate in which the two candidates were dealing
with the what if scenarios.
tonight, no more what ifs, it's what now? And this one day alone is
a stark reminder of why the decision that we're all asked to make
three weeks from next Tuesday is not just another ho-hum choice. For
all the good times this remains a perilous world and so unpredictable
on so many fronts. The President of the United States is the man in
the cockpit, hands on the controls and the Oval Office is not a flight
simulator. These are the kinds of days in which Presidents earn or
lose their place and the rest of us, we're not just along for the
the October 12 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs
Your Debate Moderator is Nuts." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide
10. Rambling opening statement ends with teary marriage proposal to
9. Insists candidates may only speak when sitting on his lap
8. When things start to get heated, jumps up and down shouting,
7. Gives equal time to Bush, Gore and the invisible candidate, Carl
6. Announces next candidate who interrupts him is going to get taken
behind woodshed and beaten with a rake
5. After every answer chirps brightly, "Whoopi is correct. Circle
gets the square"
4. Debate is in North Carolina, but the moderator is in North Dakota
3. Instead of traditional blue suit, shows up dressed like a third-grader
2. Since he can't keep their name straight, refers to candidates as
"Idiot 1" and "Idiot 2"
1. His best follow-up question of the night -- "Is anyone taping
of debate moderators, Bernard Shaw and Jim Lehrer may be incapable of
posing a conservative agenda question to the vice presidential and
presidential candidates, but a 12-year-old looking kid on Nickelodeon
can and did.
A Nick News special aired Thursday night,
"Kids Pick the President," featured Al Gore and George Bush
responding to questions from kids. Jarred from Wichita, Kansas
inquired: "I would like to ask why do my Mom and Dad have to pay
so many taxes?"
Sounds like a good topic for the third
presidential debate next week. -- Brent Baker
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