ABC: Gore's Spin on Bush's SS Plan; Lehrer's Judgment; "Factually Inaccurate" Hillary Skipped; The West Wing Demonized Dr. Laura
1) ABC's World News Tonight
advanced Gore's agenda by devoting a whole story to demanding: "How
will Bush pay for the trillion dollars Gore says will be removed" from
the Social Security fund?Peter Jennings actually asked: "What happens
when people ask him about paying for this transition phase?"
2) Of the broadcast networks Wednesday night, only NBC aired a
fact-checking story on Tuesday's debate. Lisa Myers decided "most
independent experts say...both candidates have over promised." There
were actually many claims by Bush and Gore to review, CNN's Brooks Jackson
showed on Inside Politics.
3) FNC's Brit Hume questioned the judgment of debate
moderator Jim Lehrer: "'HMOs setting all the decisions' is a Gore
campaign line. Now you're the moderator of the debate. You get a question
that looks like it's coming out of somebody's campaign literature. Would
you choose it?"
4) The AP referred to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting as
simply a "media watchdog group," but described the Media Research
Center as a "conservative watchdog group."
5) In a single paragraph a Washington Post reporter distorted
the Bush tax cut more than has Gore. A quiz. What's wrong with this:
"Someone making $200,000 might get a 10 percent reduction in taxes, but
that would mean $20,000 in tax cuts."
6) Independent Counsel Robert Ray called Hillary Clinton's
testimony about the Travel Office "factually inaccurate," but CBS
and NBC Wednesday night didn't utter a word about it. ABC gave it 20
seconds, less than one-sixth the time allocated to the "subway
series." CNN avoided Hillary's false testimony. FNC ran a full story.
7) Dr. Laura demonized by NBC's The West Wing. Martin Sheen
as the President attacked her misleading "Dr." title and
sarcastically compared her claim that the Bible says homosexuality is "an
abomination" to how it advocates slavery for his daughter and that his
mother be burned. "You may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of
the ignorant tight-ass club."
Correction: The October 18
CyberAlert accurately relayed how CBS's post-debate "survey
determined Gore won by five points, 45 to 40 percent." But the
CyberAlert later stated the CBS poll "found 45 percent
considered Gore the winner compared to 40 percent who were more impressed
by Al Gore." That second "Gore" should have read
Al Gore's anti-Bush campaign play book to ABC's story topic list.
Wednesday night ABC didn't show a second of the Tuesday debate or review
the accuracy of claims made by both candidates. Instead, World News
Tonight advanced Gore's agenda by giving credibility to Gore's attack
on Bush's Social Security proposal: "How will Bush pay for the
trillion dollars Gore says will be removed from the fund?"
Reporter John Martin concluded Bush "is
avoiding the hardest decision of all: Telling voters, before the election,
how he will pay for the reform." An out of touch Peter Jennings
actually asked Bush beat reporter Dean Reynolds: "What happens when
people ask him about paying for this transition phase?" Reynolds had
to inform Jennings: "It doesn't come up."
Jennings introduced ABC's October 18 story by
noting: "Presidential politics today, the debates are over. In the
ABC News poll after the debate 41 percent thought Mr. Bush had won, 41
percent thought Mr. Gore. Overall the polls are close, the race is as
tight as ever. Both men are back on the road again today."
He then reported how Bush's Social Security plan
would allow people to invest a portion of their contribution themselves,
but Gore "is attacking him for not explaining how he's going to pay
for the transition from the current system to a new one."
John Martin looked at the issue from Gore's
perspective: "The question is, since current retirees count on what
is paid into Social Security by younger workers to finance their
retirement, how will Bush pay for the trillion dollars Gore says will be
removed from the fund?"
Of course, nothing would be "removed." Just less
than projected would be collected through the FICA tax.
Martin played a soundbite from Eugene Steuerle of
the Urban Institute: "The other money has to come from either a
decrease in other federal expenditures, a decrease in Social Security
benefits, a decrease in say Medicare or Medicaid or education or defense
spending. Or it has to come from increased taxes."
Martin: "All of
which Bush has said he will not do. The trust fund will run out of money,
but the Gore campaign complains that this will happen sooner under the
Bush plan than if the fund is left untouched."
Following a clip of a Gore TV ad which claimed Bush
twice counted money promised for two purposes, Martin gave Bush a few
seconds: "But Bush insisted today that he did not see the need to
raise spending or cut benefits."
certainly hope not, but I know this: that in order to make sure te system
has got real assets and has got solvency, younger workers need to get a
better rate of return on their own money."
however, by agreeing with the Gore complaint: "Some say Bush should
be rewarded for attempting to reform Social Security, but they believe he
is avoiding the hardest decision of all: Telling voters, before the
election, how he will pay for the reform."
Next, Jennings conducted a brief q & a with
ABC's Gore and Bush reporters. Jennings asked Terry Moran in Des Moines
with Gore if Gore's crowds agree with his Social Security argument.
Moran said yes: "In Al Gore's crowds there's no question that
older voters get it. They hear his message that the very nature of Social
Security as a universal, government-sponsored, social compact for
retirement is at stake. They're anxious, he stokes their anxiety."
From La Crosse with Bush, Dean Reynolds told
Jennings that Bush's Social Security investment idea is a "proven
applause-getter" as young people "jump to their feet and
cheer" when Bush talks about trusting people with their own money.
Jennings demanded: "But what happens when people ask him about paying
for this transition phase?" Reynolds was forced to bring Jennings
back to reality: "It doesn't come up. I think there's a belief
among the supporters here, who are obviously ardent supporters, that this
is a system that needs reform and that Bush should be given credit for
trying to reform it."
broadcast networks Wednesday night, only NBC aired a fact-checking story
on Tuesday's debate as Lisa Myers hit the accuracy of both candidates in
saying the other is irresponsible on taxes or spending: "Most
independent experts say they're both right. The truth, they say, both
candidates have over promised."
Before Bob Schieffer outlined what points
independents in a focus group liked, CBS's Dan Rather complained some
more about how Bush and Gore "often gave pre-tested, previously
There were actually many claims by Bush and Gore to
review, CNN's Brooks Jackson showed on Inside Politics as he clarified
Bush's assertions about his position on lawsuits against HMOs and
countered Gore's claims that he is not advocating a big government
expansion and is responsible for reducing federal employment by 300,000.
All three broadcast evening show on October 18 led
with the USS Cole memorial and investigation.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather whined: "On the
economy and other subjects, Vice President Al Gore and Governor George
Bush were spirited, but they often gave pre-tested, previously stated
answers last night in their final televised joint appearance. Neither
achieved a breakthrough, at least not in the CBS News poll" which
found 45 percent thought Gore won and 40 percent believed Bush won.
Bob Schieffer reviewed the findings of a focus group
organized by Knowledge Networks. Independents, Schieffer relayed, liked it
when "Gore stressed the strong economy" and HMO reform.
"Bush's strong suit was clearly education," Schieffer
reported, and "Bush also got good reaction when he stressed
government reduction and morality."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw briefly noted how
Bush spent the day campaigning in Wisconsin while Gore in Iowa said
Bush's Social Security plan "doesn't add up." Lisa Myers
then provided NBC's "The Truth Squad" assessment of Gore's
attack on Bush's tax cut and Bush's attack on Gore for advocating more
Myers decided: "Most independent experts say
they're both right. The truth, they say, both candidates have over
Carol Cox Wait of
the Center for Responsible Federal Budget asserted: "Both campaigns
essentially plan to blow the entire surplus on tax cuts and spending
increases over the next ten years. We don't know we're gonna have all
"Under the rosiest scenario, the government is projected to take in
$4.6 trillion more than it spends over the next decade. Half that surplus
is for Social Security. Bush would use some of that to fund private
accounts for young workers. That leaves at most $2.2 trillion for tax cuts
and new government programs."
Concord Coalition: "Both of them have made promises that could easily
take up that entire amount."
"What's more, an independent report warns that the surplus may be
partly a mirage. Why? Because Congress and the President have increased
spending twice as fast as anticipated."
-- CNN's Inside Politics. Brooks Jackson reviewed
the claims of both candidates, starting with Bush. On a "patient
protection law," Jackson agreed that "Bush did support many
patient protections in Texas, including access to specialists and a ban on
physician gag rules. But Bush may have overreached when he said
Bush: "But we
did something else that was interesting. We're one of the first states
that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage."
"Actually, Bush only reluctantly allowed the right to sue HMOs to
become law in Texas, without his signature, saying in May, 1997 quote,
'I am convinced that this legislation has the potential to drive up
health care costs and increase the number of lawsuits. I hope my concerns
are proven wrong.'"
Jackson moved on to Gore and contradicted Gore's
insistence he is not, as Jim Lehrer put it in relaying Bush's argument,
"proposing the largest federal spending in years." Jackson
ruled: "But in fact, Gore is proposing hundreds of billions in added
spending, far more than Bush. And the Bipartisan Committee for a
Responsible Federal Budget says Gore's proposals quote, 'would produce
the largest spending increases since LBJ and the Great Society.'"
Jackson identified a second Gore misstatement:
"Gore overstated his role in shrinking the federal government."
Gore: "For the
last eight years, I have had the challenge of running the streamlining
program called Reinventing Government. And if there are any federal
employees in this group, you know what that means. The federal government
has been reduced in size by more than 300,000 people."
Jackson explained: "It's true: The federal
civilian work force has been reduced by nearly 325,000 since Gore took
office, according to the Office of Personnel Management. But 87 percent of
that, nearly 284,000, are civilian defense workers, from downsizing the
Pentagon after the Cold War, not from reinventing government."
Back to Bush, Jackson concluded by outlining how
"Bush tripped up when he overstated the national rise in persons with
no health insurance."
Special Report with Brit Hume on Wednesday night took up the subject of
the liberal agenda of the questions debate moderator Jim Lehrer selected
to be asked by audience members. Hume quoted one question, "HMOs
setting all the decisions," and suggested it matched "a Gore
campaign line." He asked his fellow panelists: "Now you're the
moderator of the debate. You get a question right not that looks like
it's coming out of somebody's campaign literature. Would you choose
As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, during
the roundtable segment Hume outlined the concern: "There was quite a
bit said about the role of the moderator in last night's debate who,
while the questions came form the audience, there was something over 130
or so submitted, from which he chose ultimately to ask 15. We looked at
them and figured that six or so of them were kind of neutral, one of them,
the question about military readiness, seemed to proceed from a
conservative view of things, and here's a sample of the other
Viewers saw a video compilation of liberal
questions. Hume explained the process: "The Gallup organization
picked the sample, picked the group, but Jim Lehrer picked the
Morton Kondracke warned: "Yeah, we don't know
what the other 115 questions were like. They may have been even more
left-wing than those questions that you heard. But clearly, I mean, Lehrer
had a responsibility to, it seems to me, to pick questions that went down
the middle of the plate for the most part."
Hume: "Or at
least one balance the other maybe."
"Exactly. And I don't think they did."
Hume doubted Lehrer's judgment in picking one
question: "But the premise of the question was, you know, 'How do
you feel,' it was to Gore anyway, and it was, 'How do you feel about
HMOs setting all the decisions?' 'HMOs setting all the decisions' is
a Gore campaign line. Now you're the moderator of the debate. You get a
question right not that looks like it's coming out of somebody's
campaign literature. Would you choose it?"
Hume counted six
neutral questions while I counted five, but we're on the same
wavelength. To see a rundown of the agenda of all 15 audience questions,
go to the October 18 CyberAlert:
For a complete rundown of the full text of all eight
liberal questions posed, check out the October 18 Media Reality Check:
"Lehrer Picks Pile of Liberal Questioners."
To view it as an
Adobe Acrobat PDF file, go to:
AP style book: Add ideological labels to a conservative group but not
a far-left one. A Wednesday AP story, about Jim Lehrer's performance
as moderator, referred to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting as simply
a "media watchdog group," but described the MRC as a
"conservative watchdog group," the MRC's Tim Graham and
Bonnie Langborgh noticed.
The MRC is a conservative group and we don't
hide it, but FAIR is further to the left than we are to the right and
should also be labeled.
The labeling disparity occurred in an October 18
AP dispatch by New York-based reporter David Bauder, titled: "Lehrer
Receives Unwanted Attention." Bauder also relayed how CBS's Bob
Schieffer "scoffed at the idea that Lehrer leaned more in one
direction politically." An excerpt of Bauder's story:
Jim Lehrer was clear about his mission moderating the three
presidential debates: The candidates should get the attention, not
He wasn't entirely successful.
While his sober, respectful approach to the job drew praise, some
critics grumbled that Lehrer's questions weren't pointed enough to
throw George W. Bush and Al Gore off their preprogrammed responses and
that he should have kept them on a tighter leash....
Several of his questions were direct, with little preamble:
"Do you believe, in general, that gays and lesbians should have
the same rights as other Americans?"
Or, "Would you support a federal law banning racial profiling
by police and other authorities?"....
Lehrer said he anticipated criticism, considering how close the
race is. He said he had to make judgment calls on the fly, and
although it could be argued some were right and some wrong, the
debates were "a good exercise for democracy."...
CBS Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said Lehrer did a good
job asking questions the public wanted answers to, even if they
weren't necessarily designed to make news for journalists.
"The one thing you're not going to get from Jim Lehrer is a
cheap shot or snide remark," Schieffer said. "He asks very
simple questions that give people a good idea of where they
Jeff Cohen, executive director of the media watchdog group Fairness
and Accuracy in Reporting, said Lehrer "contributed to the
emptiness of these debates."
"The debates have become sort of like poll-tested posturing
and rhetoric that never gets pierced by Lehrer," Cohen said.
"The style of interviewing that he's perfected is civil, though a
more accurate term might be servile."....
Lehrer appeared stricter after the first debate at trying to keep
the candidates within their time limits. Despite a perception that
Gore took advantage of laxness in the first encounter, Lehrer noted
that both candidates talked at about the same time.
Lehrer was also criticized by Brent Bozell, chairman of the
conservative watchdog group Media Research Center, for asking
questions that allegedly reflected a liberal perspective. Questions
about racial profiling and same-sex marriages should have been
balanced by queries from a conservative point of view, Bozell said.
CBS' Schieffer scoffed at the idea that Lehrer leaned more in one
"I think it would be awfully hard to find anyone who could be
as fair and honest," he said. "I've known him for 30 years
and I don't even know if he's a Republican or Democrat."
For the entire story, go to:
single paragraph Wednesday a Washington Post reporter managed to
distort the Bush tax cut proposal even more than Al Gore has managed
Reporter Glenn Kessler labeled as
"misleading" an accurate Bush description of his tax cut
which Kessler only undermined by resorting to liberal spin, not by
addressing what Bush actually said. And to illustrate how much more
the rich benefit Kessler assumed a current tax rate so high that not
even Karl Marx would support it.
The paragraph came deep in Kessler's October
18 story headlined, "Debaters' Messages: Not the Whole
Kessler asserted: "Bush suggested the
largest percentage reductions under his plan would go to the
lowest-income earners. This is misleading. People making $22,000 may
get a 100 percent reduction in taxes, but they only pay $110 in
federal income taxes. Unlike Gore, Bush in general would not give
additional tax refunds once a tax liability had been erased.
Meanwhile, someone making $200,000 might get a 10 percent reduction in
taxes, but that would mean $20,000 in tax cuts."
Two major problems here. First, the dollar
amount of the cut in no way contradicts Bush's description of how
"the largest percentage reductions under his plan would go to the
lowest-income earners." Bush would cut the 15 percent rate to 10
percent, a 33 percent reduction, but the 38 percent bracket would fall
less than a third to 33 percent.
Second, re-read Kessler's last sentence. Now,
this brings back bad memories of high school algebra, but at what tax
rate must someone earning $200,000 be taxed in order for a "10
percent reduction in taxes" to yield "$20,000 in tax
cuts"? I believe the answer would be 100 percent!
$20,000 is 10 percent of $200,000, right? A more
realistic calculation would be that a person earning $200,000 would
have a taxable income of $150,000 and by going from a 38 to a 33
percent tax rate the person's tax payment would fall from about
$57,000 to $50,000.
To read the entire Kessler debate analysis, go
report released Wednesday, independent counsel Robert Ray called
Hillary Clinton's testimony about the Travel Office "factually
inaccurate," but the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News
didn't utter a word about it. ABC's World News Tonight gave it 20
seconds, less than one-sixth the time allocated to a story on the
"subway series." The CBS Evening News also gave over two
minutes to a preview of the Yankees-Mets World Series.
ABC's Peter Jennings announced: "The
independent counsel investigating various activities of Mr. and Mrs.
Clinton said today that Mrs. Clinton gave false testimony about her
role in the firing of White House travel workers seven years ago. But
Robert Ray concluded she should not be prosecuted because there was
insufficient evidence that she intended to influence the
The October 18 Inside Politics on CNN gave the
development 21 seconds, but Bernard Shaw avoided reporting Ray's
contention that Hillary gave false testimony: "Hillary Clinton
will not be prosecuted in the so-called Travelgate case. In a final
report released today, independent counsel Robert Ray says Mrs.
Clinton did play a role in the decision to fire the staff, but he
won't prosecute because there's no evidence she intended the
firings to happen."
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume provided a
full report from David Shuster. He began, as transcribed by MRC
analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"It was the
strongest criticism of Mrs. Clinton from any independent counsel
investigation so far. In his final report on the White House Travel
Office firings, Robert Ray said the evidence was overwhelming that
'Mrs. Clinton's sworn testimony is factually inaccurate.' The
investigation began in the administration's first term when seven
members of the Travel Office staff were terminated and replaced by a
company run by Clinton friends. The issue for prosecutors was whether
anybody in the White House tried to cover up alleged mismanagement of
the firings. Under oath, Mrs. Clinton flatly denied any role and
denied that she had any input, but later a memo surfaced from
administration chief David Watkins suggesting Mrs. Clinton wanted the
travel staff fired. Watkins said there would be hell to pay if swift
action was not taken in conformity with the First Lady's wishes. A
friend of Watkins also alleged that Watkins was told to quote, 'fire
the sons of bitches.'
"While that claim could not be substantiated,
Independent Counsel Robert Ray cited eight separate conversations
between the First Lady and senior staff and concluded: 'Mrs.
Clinton's input into the process was significant, if not the
significant factor influencing the pace of events in the Travel Office
firings and the ultimate decision to fire the employees.'"
GWU Law Professor: "It essentially says that she satisfies all of
the components of an indictment and is ultimately safe from trial
simply by the discretion of the prosecutor. That's pretty
"Prosecutors decided not to seek perjury charges because they
said a key element, intent, would have been difficult to prove. The
report said that when Mrs. Clinton testified she did not have a role,
she might not have understood the impact of her conversations on White
House staff. Still the report's strong language angered Clinton
lawyer David Kendall. He accused the independent counsel of taking aim
over a semantic quibble, adding: 'This innuendo that Mrs.
Clinton's testimony was 'factually inaccurate' is thus highly
West Wing's war on Dr. Laura. Wednesday's West Wing on NBC gave a
prime time airing to the anger behind the Hollywood Left's crusade
to shut down syndicated radio personal advice host Dr. Laura's
daytime Paramount TV show.
There was no mistaking the intended identity of
"Dr. Jena Jacobs" as "President Josiah Bartlet,"
played by Martin Sheen, quizzed her about misleading listeners about
her expertise by calling herself "Doctor" when she has no
medical degree and castigated her reference to homosexuality as
"an abomination." When she cited the Bible, he sarcastically
asked: "I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into
slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7....What would a good price for
her be?" Bartlet/Sheen scolded: "You may be mistaking this
for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club."
The setting for the confrontation on the October
18 episode was a reception at the White House for talk radio hosts,
all of whom were portrayed as buffoons. One boasted to the White House
Press Secretary: "I call myself Gary with a G."
"President Bartlet" walked into the
large room where most people were standing and talking, but "Dr.
Jena Jacobs" who was played by a blond women prettier and younger
than the real Dr. Laura (though with the same hair style), remained
sitting, the relevance of which you'll soon see.
Bartlet saw her and became distracted, leading
to this exchange followed by a sermon from Bartlet: "Forgive me
Dr. Jabobs, are you an MD?"
Bartlet: "A PhD?"
have a PhD in English literature."
"I'm asking because on your show people call in for advice and
you go by the name 'Dr. Jacobs' on your show and I didn't know
if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had
advanced training in psychology, theology or health care."
don't believe they are confused, no sir."
"Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality 'an
don't say homosexuality is an abomination Mr. President. The Bible
"Yes it does. Leviticus-"
into an impassioned diatribe which was interspersed with shots of an
uncomfortable Jacobs fidgeting:
and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you
here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as
sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks
fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What
would a good price for her be? [silence in the room] While thinking
about that can I ask another? My chief-of-staff, Leo McGarry, insists
on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put
to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to
call the police?
one that's really important, 'cause we've got a lot of sports
fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean,
Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington
Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the
whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for
planting different crops side-by-side? Can I burn my mother in a small
family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?
Think about those questions, would you.
thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the
ignorant tight-ass club, in this building when the President stands,
Unlike the real Dr. Laura, this one was silenced
and after a long pause she acquiesced and stood up before a proud
Bartlet walked out of the room. -- Brent Baker
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