Rather: 3 Bush Errors, None by Gore; Dominated by Questions From the Left; Brokaw Wanted More Liberal Topics; Gushed Over Gus
-- Extra Edition
1) ABC's Dean Reynolds declared
Bush had been "uneasy" and "he sure did not seem relaxed."
Dan Rather lamented how Bush and Gore "confined their quote 'answers'
mostly to rehearsed, repetitive, canned, focus group tested and market
2) Dan Rather listed three errors made by Bush, but was unable
to name any by Gore. FNC noted Gore was "patently false" in saying
drug companies spend more on ads than research. "Inaccurate,"
ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared of a Bush claim about Gore's
spending, but NBC's Lisa Myers found it on target.
3) Most of the audience questions sprung "from a liberal
or Democratic premise," FNC's Brit Hume noticed. Indeed, liberal agenda
questions outnumbered conservative ones by 8-to-2. CNN's Bill Schneider
called them the "best questions in all of the debates." MSNBC's
Farai Chideya praised them as "incredibly piercing."
4) The debate didn't address enough liberal concerns for
NBC's Tom Brokaw, who grumbled about the lack of attention to the
"digital divide," "worker rights" and "the have nots."
5) Dan Rather boldly predicted that "one of the two
men" in the "joint appearance" will "be the next
6) ABC's poll found a tie at 41 percent in who won the
debate, but Gore won with independents by 14 points. CNN put Gore up by two
points and CBS's survey determined Gore won by five points.
7) The evening of the debate CBS decided to run a story on
Bush's non-response to a two-year-old letter from a man admitting to a
murder for which other men were convicted. Bob McNamara: "Critics say
Governor Bush's repeated claim that the Texas criminal justice system is
fair and failsafe has been undermined."
8) ABC's Peter Jennings highlighted the passing away of
"notable American" Gus Hall, the former Communist Party USA chief.
Jennings managed to resurrect McCarthyism as he rued how Hall "spent a
lifetime in the political wilderness for his views."
the third presidential debate Tuesday night, ABC's Dean Reynolds
declared Bush had been "uneasy" and "he sure did not seem
relaxed." Both Bush and Gore, CBS's Dan Rather lamented,
"confined their quote 'answers' mostly to rehearsed, repetitive,
canned, focus group tested and market research soundbites." Colleague
Bill Plante claimed "you probably saw" the real Al Gore and
noted how Bush "forwent the opportunity to bash Gore" on
NBC's Tim Russert outlined a common network
analyst reaction: "I don't think either candidate scored a
knockout. Both reinforced their base." Since Russert and colleague
Tom Brokaw refrained from issuing broad assessments of how each candidate
performed, below is more detail just on judgments aired by ABC and CBS.
-- ABC News. Dean Reynolds, who covers Bush, told
Peter Jennings, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
by the difference in Governor Bush tonight. I mean, I don't know whether
he was off his stride because of the directness of Vice President Gore, as
he approached him at one point during the debate, or whether he was just
having an off night, but boy, he sure did not seem relaxed. The contrast
was striking with last week where he seemed to be exuding confidence.
Tonight he just did not seem to be the same candidate. On that one
occasion, at 10:15, when he seemed to almost ask Jim Lehrer for help, to
intervene, as the question turned to affirmative action. I thought he had
one high point during the evening when he said that if you want to change
the tone in Washington, you should have someone there who tells the
truth....I've seen him in the town hall meeting I don't know how many
times, and he's very comfortable. I think people with the campaign will
be flummoxed by his performance this evening. He seemed, as I said,
uneasy, and he certainly was far from the best I've ever seen him in
-- CBS News. Dan Rather was bored: "If there
were any doubt about it, the candidates proved they can indeed walk and
talk at the same time. They covered a lot of ground, a lot of carpet, much
of it well-worn. Vice President Gore and Governor Bush again confined
their quote 'answers' mostly to rehearsed, repetitive, canned, focus
group tested and market research soundbites. In the end, each man spent
most of his time playing to his base. Whether anybody's mind was changed
by this wind [? sounded like wind] festival, I don't know."
Bill Plante thought "maybe the most surprising
thing was that Bush passed up several opportunities to respond to Gore,
particularly when the morality question was raised. Bush forwent the
opportunity to bash Gore on the campaign finance business that he has
mentioned before." Plante added later: "If there is such a thing
as a real Al Gore I think you probably saw him tonight. He was very much
after the debate ended CBS's Dan Rather highlighted three supposed
factual errors made by George Bush, but was unable to identify even one
made by Al Gore. While Rather referenced an AP story as his source that
Bush was wrong in his claims about the patients' bill of rights in
Texas, citing the very same AP story FNC pointed out how Gore was
"just patently false" in claiming pharmaceutical companies spend
more on advertising than on research.
"Inaccurate," ABC's George
Stephanopoulos declared of Bush's claim that Gore will spend more than
even Clinton, but NBC's Lisa Myers found that "most experts say
Bush is right." Only CNN pointed out how Gore's claim to have
reduced federal employment was almost totally achieved through post Cold
War reductions in the Defense Department.
On CBS, Rather pounced: "On the truth patrol,
the Associated Press and others report that while Governor Bush is
promising to make prescription drugs more affordable -- that's one of
the things he did tonight -- the Governor did sign legislation in Texas
making it more difficult for doctors there to prescribe a cheaper generic
version of a popular blood-thinning drug. And Associated Press and others
point out that a very large drug company was involved in getting that
legislation passed with the Governor's support of it. The situation's
changed somewhat in more recent times. Also, Governor Bush said the
percentage of those without health insurance in Texas has gone down while
the percentage of uninsured nationally has gone up. According to the
Census Bureau, the percentage of uninsured in the United States has
actually gone down from 16.3 percent in 1998 to 15.5 percent last
Rather only admonished Gore for not outlining a
policy: "As for Vice President Gore, he said at one point in the
debate that he would do something about what he called 'this culture's
assault on children' from the Internet, over the airways, and on the
movies, but the Vice President did not say what he would do."
Last Thursday CNN's Brooks Jackson showed how
Bush's insurance coverage numbers are accurate according to Census
numbers: 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 over the same stretch, from 15.4 percent to
Over on the Fox News Channel, the MRC's Tim Graham
noticed, Morton Kondracke alerted viewers: "One whopper, one serious
whopper, and that was the statement, the allegation that pharmaceutical
companies spend more money on advertising than they do on research. That
is just patently false by a factor of ten or twelve."
Brit Hume then relayed information Rather skipped:
"Indeed we are indebted to the Associated Press for telling us that
the Kaiser Family Foundation study released in July showed that the
industry spent between $5.8 billion and $8.3 billion on promotion and $21
billion on research and development in the year 1998, which was, I guess,
the most recent year for which at least that study had statistics. If
those statistics are anywhere near matched in the last two years, it
appears that that was really quite an extravagant exaggeration."
ABC's George Stephanopoulos admired how "Gore
seemed to know some of Bush's proposals and facts about his record
better than Bush did himself, and they'll point out that many of
Bush's charges against Gore, most specifically on his spending
proposals, are inaccurate." Asked by Peter Jennings if Bush made any
progress in tying Gore to big government, Stephanopoulos ruled Bush out of
order: "I think there's a chance he may have lost some ground
because when Gore was questioned about it, he was able to say quite firmly
Bush's charges are absolutely wrong, and I do believe that Gore will be
right, that when the charge that Bush, that Gore spends three times as
much as President Clinton is analyzed, it will seem to be more of a
partisan analysis than an impartial analysis."
Sort of like Stephanopoulos's analysis?
At about the same time, Lisa Myers was telling
viewers of MSNBC, and some NBC affiliates which weren't carrying
baseball, that of Bush's charge that Gore will initiate the largest
federal spending spree in years, "on this, most experts say Bush is
"The Truth Squad" report from Myers called
Bush "misleading" on the Texas patients' bill of rights,
matched Rather's correction about how the number of uninsured Americans
actually declined last year and caught Gore only on citing as a model a
North Carolina plan to close bad schools when, in fact, none have yet been
closed, so the policy is untested.
Myers decided: "Bottom line, Tom, what we found
is no real whopper tonight but two candidates very selective with their
facts, trying to make a case for their own version of the truth."
Only CNN, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, picked
up on a true Gore whopper raised by John McCain in an earlier interview.
Judy Woodruff later asked Dick Gephardt to respond: "I just asked
Senator McCain about the charge that, or the defense rather, on the part
of the Vice President, to the charge that he is for a big-spending federal
government. He talked about the loss of federal jobs under the
Clinton-Gore administration. Senator McCain's response was, well most of
those jobs came out of the Defense Department and the Energy Department,
suggesting that this really was not due in any part, to any effort on the
part of President Clinton, Vice President Gore, to shrink the federal
government, that their intentions are exactly the opposite. Where do you
come down on this?"
audience members selected by Gallup and the debate commission were even
more ideologically tilted left in the questions they posed than were
moderators Jim Lehrer or Bernard Shaw at previous debates, a slant
uniquely acknowledged by FNC.
Brit Hume relayed how he counted, "I guess, one
or two questions that seemed to spring, at least to my ears, from what
seemed like a conservative or Republican premise. The rest seemed either
neutral or to spring from a liberal or Democratic premise."
Indeed, Hume was quite observant about the 15
questions posed during the town meeting style debate. By my assessment,
liberal agenda questions outnumbered conservative ones by 8-to-2 with the
remaining five forwarding ambiguous or neutral inquiries.
Back to FNC, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed that
Morton Kondracke observed how "most of those questions, I believe,
came out of left field...You know, it was about did you enjoy executing
people in Texas? You know, what about the Brady Bill? You know, it was
what are you gonna do about prescription drugs for me? I mean it was
basically, I think, questions that did not come straight down the playing
Despite that, or maybe because of the slant, CNN's
Bill Schneider called the citizen topics the "best questions in all
of the debates." On MSNBC Farai Chideya praised the questions as
"incredibly piercing, incredibly poignant."
Kondracke hit on three of the eight liberal
questions which mainly exposed questioners as selfish whiners who demanded
to know how the presidential candidates would take money from others and
give it to them or take care of their problems.
Here are synopses of the eight inquiries I've
categorized as coming from the left and matching the liberal agenda.
(Unless necessary I've skipped to whom the question was posed since both
candidates answered all the questions):
1. What will you do
to have doctors and not HMOs make medical decisions?
2. How will you get
drug companies lower prescription prices?
3. Why not a
national health care plan "for everybody?"
4. A high school
teacher raised the issue of crumbling schools and low teacher pay.
5. To Bush. Why do
you object to the Brady bill? TV ad says NRA will work out of your office.
6. What steps would
you take to protect family farms?
7. How would you
ensure diversity, "what role would affirmative action play in your
8. To Bush. You
seemed joyful, at the last debate, about the death penalty. Are you really
proud Texas is number one in executions?
The two questions from the right which followed a
1. How do you
propose to make the military better prepared or will you better select
2. Concerned about
morality in TV and in music and movies. What can be worked out with
Hollywood to protect our kids?
The five ambiguous or neutral inquiries:
1. How can we hold
parents accountable in education, make them show an interest?
2. What would make
you the best President to have during the Middle East crisis?
3. A college
professor asked about apathy among college students who don't plan to
vote. How do you address that?
4. How will your tax
proposals affect me as 34-year-old single person with no dependents?
5. A teacher of a
6th grade class passed along a question from his students, who wondered:
Will you keep pledges and promises?
The questioning pleased CNN and MSNBC analysts.
CNN's Bill Schneider argued "that they asked questions a lot of
voters are interested in. And they really, quite frankly, asked the best
questions in all of the debates that I've seen."
That's not saying much.
Just before 1am ET on MSNBC, Farai Chideya of
popandpolitics.com who is a former CNN analyst who briefly worked as an
ABC News reporter, proclaimed: "I think that the real winner here
tonight was the American people. I thought that the questions that were
asked were incredibly piercing, incredibly poignant."
debate didn't address enough liberal concerns for NBC's Tom Brokaw. In
post-debate coverage shown on MSNBC and a few NBC affiliates which skipped
the baseball game, New York-based Brokaw grumbled about the lack of
attention to the "digital divide," "worker rights" and
"the have nots." Later he quizzed Senator McCain about how Bush
doesn't support campaign finance reform.
Brokaw listed subjects he thought were missing from
the debate, starting with relations with China and Russia. He then rued:
"There was almost no discussion about the digital divide or the role
of technology in our lives. Globalization really didn't come up. Worker
rights around the world. The issue of poverty, the have nots in this
country, again, not much addressed. Both candidates aiming squarely at
senior voters and at working class and middle class families."
Brokaw later pressed McCain about Bush's lack of
support for McCain's pet cause: "Your great passion is campaign
finance reform and it was Vice President Gore tonight who invoked that
first and talked about it most enthusiastically, almost no word at all
from the man you're supporting, Texas Governor Bush."
After McCain expressed hope that Bush will
"come around," Brokaw asked him to agree: "But safe to say
the Governor has not embraced this enthusiastically at all."
His next question: "Are you worried at all that
the Governor is over-promising with the size of that tax cut?"
From the St. Louis debate site Tim Russert handled
the balancing interview with Joe Lieberman. His only policy question dealt
with how Gore's plans assume continued surpluses which may not come to
Rather didn't deliver any Ratherisms after the debate Tuesday night, but
he didn't fail to provide a quirky bit of pontificating that only Rather
could write as he wrapped up CBS coverage with a banal review of the
"It's been forty years since candidates for
President of the United States first stood side-by-side on live
television. John Kennedy and Richard Nixon faced off four times in 1960,
pioneers on what was then a new medium. At the close of their final joint
appearance moderator Quincy Howe (?) speculated, and I quote: 'Perhaps
they have established a new tradition,' unquote. They had. Forty years
later American voters once again had the opportunity to take the measure
of two men, standing side-by-side and face to face, not debating, but in a
joint appearance, discussing the issues on live television. One of the two
men who did that tonight will be the next President of the United States.
In just 21 days, in an old and sacred tradition, you will make that
poll found a tie at 41 percent in who won the debate while CNN put Gore up
by two points and CBS's survey determined Gore won by five points, 45 to
40 percent. ABC also determined that Gore won with independents by 14
points. CNN's Bill Schneider argued CNN's results were especially bad
news for Bush since he "lost ground with the debate viewers."
As on other debate nights, NBC/MSNBC did not offer
snap poll results. If tradition holds, NBC will announce numbers on Today.
ABC's Peter Jennings relayed their poll: "We
once again did a poll of registered voters who watched the debate, and
here is what it looks like. Forty-one percent thought Vice President Gore
won, and 41 percent thought Governor Bush won, and 14 percent of those
people we talked to called it a tie. We also asked whether the debate
affected their choice and here you can see support for Mr. Gore among
viewers, 40 percent before the debate and 42 percent after it. Support for
Mr. Bush, 53 percent before the debate and 53 percent afterwards, and the
head of our polling unit says the implication, in part, in that latter
number is that more Republicans may have tuned in this evening than
Later on Nightline, Ted Koppel added: "We've
taken note that during the past couple of debates, there doesn't seem to
have been any shifting of opinion among the independents. We just got a
call from our polling unit, and that loud creaking noise you've heard may
be the independents finally stirring themselves. It turns out that tonight
among independents, 47 percent thought that Al Gore won the debate, 33
percent thought George Bush."
Dan Rather provided numbers from a CBS
News/Knowledge Networks survey. It found 45 percent considered Gore the
winner compared to 40 percent who were more impressed by Bush. The
remaining 15 percent fell into the "can't say" category.
Rather moved on to the question: "Compared to
two weeks ago, your feeling about him as President?" For Gore, 34
percent felt better, 31 percent worse. For Bush, 36 percent felt better,
26 percent worse.
William Schneider related the findings of a
CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll: "We interviewed viewers of the debate
tonight. Now they started out favoring Bush 52 to 43 percent. That's a
9-point margin. Then we asked them, okay, who do you think won the
debate?...The answer is Gore by two points, 46 to 44. But that's
actually a substantial victory for Gore because, notice this: They started
out, 52 percent of them, supporting George Bush for President, but only 44
percent of those interviewed said they thought Bush won the debate. So
very clearly Bush lost ground with the debate viewers. A majority of them
started out supporting him. Only 44 percent thought he won the
Rather is shameless. The night of Al Gore's convention address Rather
falsely suggested Republicans were behind "a potentially damaging,
carefully orchestrated story leak about President Clinton" related to
the empaneling of a grand jury. Then on the night of the first
presidential debate he hit the Bush campaign by publicizing a newspaper
story which alleged that many criminals obtained guns under Bush's
concealed weapons law.
And Rather did it again last night, suddenly
considering newsworthy on the evening of the debate a complaint that Bush
did not act on a two-year old hand-scrawled letter from a man who claimed
to have committed a murder for which other men are serving life sentences.
Rather intoned: "Texas justice under Governor
Bush has been raised time and again as an issue in this presidential
campaign. Sometimes he's raised it, sometimes his opponents have. This
time it's over a letter from a Texas convict confessing to murder. What
Bush's office did or did not do about it and about the two other men who
were serving time for the crime. CBS's Bob McNamara has been checking
McNamara began with Bush's deficiency in not
responding to one particular letter, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad
inmate's murder confession to Governor Bush was stamped 'received'
by Bush's office more than two years ago. [over video of hand-written
letter] Over four pages, Achim Josef Marino wrote it was he and he alone
who raped and murdered a twenty-year-old Austin woman in 1988 and that two
men now serving life prison sentences for the crime were innocent. One of
the two men, Christopher Ochoa, claimed that police threatened him with
the death penalty unless he confessed to the murder and testify against
Richard Danziger. Danziger maintained that Ochoa and police were lying,
but he was convicted, too. A spokesman for the Texas Governor says while
Bush never saw this letter of confession, such mail is usually forwarded
to the appropriate law enforcement agency. However, in this case, the
letter was never passed on because Marino wrote he'd already confessed
in a letter to the Austin police chief several years earlier."
McNamara then denounced Bush's assurances:
"Today, critics say Governor Bush's repeated claim that the Texas
criminal justice system is fair and failsafe has been undermined by this
His expert source? A lawyer who defended murderer
O.J. Simpson. Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project asked rhetorically:
"How can you be confident that you have a system in place that's
gonna adequately investigate these kinds of claims if this one could slip
through the cracks so egregiously."
"Governor Bush was asked about the case on the campaign trail."
Marino's case was fully looked at by the Austin police department."
"But recent DNA testing now suggests that neither of the two men
doing life terms was involved in the murder. And as attorneys and
prosecutors rush to reexamine all the evidence of this decade-old case,
two men, long behind bars, are hoping to soon be free."
Two weeks ago, just hours before the first debate,
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
murder." For details, go to:
Back on August 17 Rather was disgusted by news which
threatened to mar Gore's day. The news was that Robert Ray had
established a new grand jury to examine Bill Clinton's statements in the
Monica Lewinsky case. The next day a Democrat-appointed federal judge
conceded telling a reporter about the development, but that night, from
the Democratic convention, Rather complained: "Timing is everything.
Al Gore must stand and deliver here tonight as the Democratic Party's
presidential nominee. And now Gore must do so against the backdrop of a
potentially damaging, carefully orchestrated story leak about President
In a Web posting, Rather slimily noted how Ray is
overseen by a three-judge panel which "features two federal judges
backed by the Jesse Helms wing of the Republican Party....Any reporter
who's spent time on the police beat learns to look for motive. So you ask
yourself -- what group has the motive to see that such a leak would occur
at such a time, hours before Gore is set to accept his party's nomination
in the most important speech of his political life?" For more details
and a video clip of Rather, go to:
highlighting Tuesday night the passing of former Communist Party USA chief
Gus Hall, ABC's Peter Jennings elevated him to "notable
American" status. Jennings even managed to resurrect McCarthyism as
he painted the communist as a victim who spent "a lifetime in the
political wilderness for his views," but was respected as a "dignatarian"
in the Soviet Union.
Jennings delivered this short tribute to Hall on the
October 17 World News Tonight:
"We missed the
death of a notable American this week, so we want to catch up. Gus Hall
actually died on Friday. The son of a Minnesota miner, became head of the
U.S. Communist Party at the height of anti-communist McCarthyism in the
late '40s and '50s. He spent eight years in prison and a lifetime in the
political wilderness for his views here, but he was a dignatory,
dignatarian in the Soviet Union. Even after his friends there abandoned
the cause, Hall never wavered and he was 90."
As if never wavering from communism is something of
which to be proud. -- Brent Baker with
the night team of Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth
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