Excusing Gore's Tenn. Plight; More RAND Ranting; Media Skipping Gore's Secret Russia Deal; Bush a "Serial Killer"
-- Extra Edition
1) ABC, CBS and NBC Wednesday
night rationalized Gore's Tennessee plight. ABC's Jim Wooten: "It
isn't a case of a prophet being without honor in his own land....Tennessee
is a genuine two party state." NBC's Claire Shipman insisted:
"Experts say, in fact, it's not a state a Democrat would naturally
2) ABC and CBS highlighted the RAND report critical of
Bush's education record. ABC even played a clip of a new Gore ad it
inspired. Both showed Gore asserting Texas students have "serious
learning deficits," but FNC's Jim Angle pointed out how the report says
Texans "did better than students in other states."
3) FNC's Brit Hume observed the network bias in jumping on
the anti-Bush RAND report: "The big three broadcast networks could not
get enough of it."
4) GMA and Today dedicated 7am segments to RAND. Charles
Gibson: "This morning, George W. Bush on the defensive after the RAND
think tank reports that his Texas education miracle is a myth."
5) Gore's secret deal with Russia finally worth 17 seconds
to one network evening show, but only as evidence of political chicanery. On
FNC, Fred Barnes argued the media's lack of focus on the Russia story
compared to the RAND report demonstrates media bias.
6) MSNBC's Brian Williams wondered if George W. Bush might
pick a "Souter-type Justice" instead of an
7) BET's Tavis Smiley to Geraldo Rivera: "As far as
I'm concerned, Bush in Texas is nothing more than a serial killer."
8) Which former 60 Minutes correspondent asked a Mets catcher:
"So you spend a lot of time on your knees. Have you ever considered
interning at the White House?"
been at least 20 years since a U.S. presidential election has been so
close so close to election day," declared CBS Evening News anchor Dan
Rather Wednesday night before stories on the tight races in states each
candidate had been expected to win easily: Bush in Florida, Gore in
Tennessee. NBC also ran back-to-back pieces on the two states while ABC
looked only at Gore's troubles in Tennessee.
CBS and NBC blamed Bush's Social Security plan for
his problem in Florida while none of the three evening shows faulted any
Gore policies and instead rationalized his Tennessee plight. ABC's Jim
Wooten assured viewers: "It isn't a case of a prophet being without
honor in his own land....It's just that Tennessee is a genuine two party
state." NBC's Claire Shipman insisted: "Experts say, in fact,
it's not a state a Democrat would naturally win." She even balanced
a Mason-Dixon poll, which put Bush ahead in the Volunteer State, with a
very unusual citing of an internal Democratic poll which supposedly found
The Cole investigation led the ABC, CBS and NBC
broadcasts Wednesday night, October 25.
-- ABC's World News Tonight did not cite any
Tennessee poll numbers. Jim Wooten traveled to Carthage, Tennessee where
he found Bush and Gore dead even in the state. Gore campaigned in
Tennessee Wednesday and Wooten recalled how Bush was there Tuesday
"asking his favorite sarcastic question, where exactly is home for
the Vice President?"
Bush in front of a cheering crowd: "He may win
Washington, DC but he's not going to win Tennessee."
Wooten conceded that message has
"resonance" and he ran soundbites from two local men, one who
thought Gore has been in DC for too long and another concerned with
Gore's association with Clinton. But Wooten cautioned: "It isn't
a case of a prophet being without honor in his own land or even here in
his own town. It's just that Tennessee is a genuine two party state and
has been for a long, long time. And so although Al Gore has never lost an
election here, he's never had a landslide either."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather reported how a CBS
News/New York Times poll put Gore ahead in Florida by 46 to 42 percent.
Bill Whitaker checked in from Florida:
"According to the CBS poll, Jeb's popularity doesn't rub off on
brother George. The troops leading Al Gore's advance in the polls:
Senior citizens who by a healthy ten points favor Gore's plan for Social
Security and prescription drugs."
Whitaker played a clip of John McCain warning a
crowd that Gore wants to scare seniors. Whitaker explained how northern
Florida is solid for Bush, the south for Gore, so Bush is concentrating on
central Florida where he's bashing Gore's Social Security plan.
Bush on stage: "He's got a plan called Social
Security plus. Social Security plus $40 trillion of debt down the
Gore campaign language as he warned: "But Bush's Social Security
plan is part of his problem here. By wide margins seniors say a partially
privatized plan like Bush proposes is a risky idea."
Next, John Roberts looked at Gore's problems in
Tennessee where he's never lost in 24 years and Bush is
"relishing" an upset win. Roberts noted how Gore has been forced
"to divert precious time and money" from elsewhere to his home
state, but "he rejects the notion of weakness, saying the state has
gone back and forth for years."
Gore on a plane:
"It's always a state where you have to campaign hard. And you know
there's nothing new about that."
Bruce Oppenheimer of
Vanderbilt University agreed: "This is closely divided partisan
state. There's a hard-core Republican base, there's a hard-core
Democratic base. It would be silly to think that it is an automatic."
Roberts moved on to Gore's attack on Bush's
education plan (see item #2 below for details), before concluding:
"For the Vice President Tennessee is about far more than just eleven
electoral votes. It's a personal battle. His father suffered a serious
Senate defeat here 30 years ago and Gore does not want to be the first
presidential candidate to win the White House while losing his home state
since it happened to Woodrow Wilson in 1916."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced: "In
the presidential race tonight, with less than two weeks to go now, both
candidates are forced to spend time in states they should have had safely
in the win column months ago. It is that tight tonight. According to
today's MSNBC/Reuters tracking poll, Gore is maintaining his lead over
Bush, but that lead narrowed from three points to two in the last 24
hours. And in the crucial battleground state of Florida, two statewide
polls today also show just how tight this race is. One poll done for the
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel shows Bush with a five-point lead over Gore,
46 to 41 percent, but another poll by the American Research Group shows
Gore up by four points in Florida, 49 to 45 percent."
David Gregory looked at Bush's challenge in
Florida where he brought in his
"best weapon," John McCain, to reach undecided voters in a bus
tour along the central Florida I-4 corridor.
From Tennessee, Claire Shipman next assessed
Gore's situation where she found he concentrated on a get out the vote
message. She noted how a Mason-Dixon poll found Bush ahead 46 to 43
percent, "but an internal
Democratic poll has Gore up 47 to 45."
Gore's plight: "Experts say, in fact, it's not a state a Democrat
would naturally win."
Democratic pollster, backed her up: "The South as a whole in the last
couple of elections has gone Republican."
evidence: "The state's Republican Governor and two Republican
Senators have been a boost to Bush, but Gore aides say, Tennessee will, in
the end, support its native son."
She concluded by noting that the last presidential
candidate to lose his home state was George McGovern in 1972.
second straight night, ABC and CBS on Wednesday highlighted the RAND
report critical of Bush's Texas education record. ABC even played a clip
of a new Gore campaign ad which uses the RAND numbers to attack Bush.
Both played a soundbite of Al Gore asserting
Bush's emphasis on teaching to a test has left Texas students "with
serious learning deficits." But only FNC's Jim Angle corrected
Gore's claim as he pointed out how "the new paper only argues that
students in Texas didn't do as well as originally claimed, but still
says they did better than students in other states."
In his CBS Evening News story on Gore's day in
Tennessee, quoted in item #1 above, John Roberts relayed: "In an
appeal to partisans and swing voters alike, Gore today hammered Bush on
his claims to have elevated student test scores. He pointed to that RAND
Corporation report debunking the Governor's so-called Texas Miracle as
so much myth."
Gore in speech:
"This is the bottom line. We cannot afford to just teach kids how to
take a state tests while leaving them with serious learning
Instead of assessing
that claim, Roberts concluded his story: "For the Vice President
Tennessee is about far more than just eleven electoral votes. It's a
On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, however,
Jim Angle played the same Gore soundbite, but then informed viewers:
"'Leaving them with serious learning deficits' isn't quite
accurate. The new paper only argues that students in Texas didn't do as
well as originally claimed, but still says they did better than students
in other states. The Bush campaign also got some help today in refuting
the new critique. The Education Trust, a liberal education group, issued a
statement calling the RAND study 'incomplete' and 'misleading' and
it said that something important is indeed happening in Texas."
ABC's World News Tonight dedicated a whole story
to evaluating the Texas situation. But first, anchor Peter Jennings
conveyed Gore's spin, though Jennings' words were a bit jumbled:
"Mr. Gore spent the day concentrating on Mr. Bush's education
record in Texas -- a researcher at the RAND Corporation criticized
yesterday on the subject of testing children. Democrats rushed a political
ad into production to beat up on Mr. Bush."
Ad announcer over a
shot of the ad video: "Now the new RAND study reports the achievement
gap for Texas students is widening. There is serious question about the
validity of scores on state tests."
Gore has been hard at it too."
Gore in a speech:
"We cannot afford to just teach kids how to take a state test while
leaving them with serious learning deficits."
"Well, the Bush campaign has dismissed the criticism and cited an
earlier RAND study which was much more positive."
Blakemore then examined the Texas record, as transcribed by MRC
analyst Brad Wilmouth, and found evidence to support the contentions
of Bush fans and detractors: "The controversy is the new RAND
issue paper, which finds that when Texas students take their state's
test, they do a lot better than when they take the leading test given
author "Rand Issue Paper": "The statewide test scores,
we feel, is not necessarily presenting an accurate picture of true
improvement of the students in reading and mathematics."
"And there have been complaints that the Texas test is too easy
and that Texas teachers spend too much time preparing kids just to
pass that test."
Elsa Duarte-Noboa, San Antonio teacher: "We
have school districts here in Texas who have focused so much on
test-taking skills that they're not teaching the curriculum, and
that's very scary."
"But the Texas education commissioner says that a study RAND
published in July is far more significant."
Texas Commissioner of Education: "If you look at the previous
report, it talked in length about the progress of Texas, the
achievement of Texas."
"And indeed, that RAND study based only on the nationwide test,
did show that between 1992 and 1996, Texas fourth-graders scored among
the best in the country in math, and African-American fourth graders
better than peers in all other states. Mr. Bush did not become
governor till 1995, but he is given credit by many for continuing
reforms that were started by others and for keeping education a
priority. But how could both RAND studies by true? Education analysts
say it's a matter of grade levels, that the tests show this:"
Carnoy, Stanford University School of Education: "The gains in
Texas are concentrated at the lower level, and that once they get up
to the middle grades and the high school grades, that in fact they
don't get these gains, particularly for the lower income kids."
concluded: "In most states, you'll find controversy over
testing and over statewide versus national results. In an election
year where a candidate is also the Governor, it's especially
bias in hyping the RAND report, at least by the networks, highlighted
by FNC's Brit Hume. In the "Political Grapevine" segment
of Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume, he observed:
"That RAND Corporation document that challenged George W. Bush's
education record was not a study, as news reports claimed, but as
we've heard, is a so-called issue paper whose author by the end of
the day Tuesday was describing it as a mere, quote 'hypothesis.'
But the big three broadcast networks could not get enough of it
anyway. CBS News called it a quote, 'shot to the heart' of the
Bush campaign, and all three networks ran extensive stories on it,
noting only in passing that the paper contradicted an earlier, much
more extensive report, from RAND itself."
Indeed, for details about this coverage, see the
October 25 CyberAlert which included a full recitation of Bill
Whitaker's CBS story quoted by Hume:
morning, George W. Bush on the defensive after the RAND think tank
reports that his Texas education miracle is a myth," ABC's
Charles Gibson declared at the top of Wednesday's Good Morning
America in previewing a second straight morning of coverage for the
RAND paper. Minutes later Gibson revealed how he had adopted Gore
campaign spin in that opening, as he asked a RAND researcher:
"There's already a Gore campaign ad out quoting the lead
researcher on this study as saying this shows the Texas miracle in
education is a myth. Is at overstated or is that what the study
NBC's Today also devoted a 7am half hour
interview segment to the "controversial report questioning the
success of Governor Bush's signature issue, education. The study cast
doubt on the validity of rising test scores in Texas." (Worth
noting: MRC analyst Brian Boyd informed me CBS's The Early Show did
not mention the RAND report either Tuesday or Wednesday morning.)
Gibson announced on GMA after the opening music:
"Our lead story is education, this study that put education in
the spotlight on the campaign trail. The RAND Corporation has put out
a report which really deconstructs George W. Bush's education record
in Texas, says it's not as strong as they have claimed in the past,
refutes an earlier RAND Corporation study that said Texas was
outperforming the nation. So we're going to talk to the Bush
education advisor and one of the researchers on this study a little
Setting up the interview segment, Gibson
asserted: "The Bush campaign is decidedly unhappy about a new
study that suggests the so-called Texas education miracle is not what
it's cracked up to be. The study by the RAND Corporation, a private
think tank, a think tank once touted by Bush because of an earlier
study, has now found the record-breaking scores of blacks and Latinos
in Texas are not a result of a better education but just the result of
intense drilling to pass the state's standardized test."
GMA first played for viewers Bush's reaction
as recounted the day before to Ted Koppel for a Nightline story.
Gibson talked with RAND researcher Brian Stecher,
to whom he first asked the question quoted above about whether it's
a "myth"? Stecher avoided a direct answer and reiterated the
new RAND numbers about how they found scores in the Texas test are up,
but scores on national tests have not gone up while the gap between
whites and blacks has improved in the Texas test but not in the
Gibson also interviewed Bush education adviser
Margaret LaMontagne, who got time to dispute the RAND report.
Over on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey
Dickens noticed, Matt Lauer previewed the program: "The polls say
this presidential race is still as tight as it can be and now there is
a potential bump in the road for the Bush campaign."
"That's right. A new study out giving them a real headache."
"That's right, a new report from a non-partisan organization says
that many of Governor George Bush's claims of improvements in
education in the state of Texas, specifically improvement in test
scores may be overblown. This would call the whole so-called, 'Texas
Miracle' into question but there are also questions about the report.
We'll have the latest on that."
Of course, it's not the "study"
which is giving the Bush campaign "a real headache," it's
the decision by Today and other network shows to make it the biggest
news of the day.
Lauer set up the subsequent interview segment:
Up this morning, the politics of education. Just two weeks before an
incredibly tight presidential election a non-partisan think tank, the
Rand Corporation, has released a controversial report questioning the
success of Governor Bush's signature issue, education. The study cast
doubt on the validity of rising test scores in Texas and has been met
with a swift rebuttal from the Bush campaign. Stephen Klein is one of
the authors of the study and Margaret LaMontagne is Governor Bush's
senior education adviser. Good morning to both of you. Mr. Klein let
me start with you. Let, let's get through the controversy of this. The
report seems to deflate some of the claims made by the Bush campaign
on the improvement in education in Texas. What exactly did you find in
Lauer's other questions: "So are you, are
you saying that the Bush people are inflating the numbers, are they
trumping up the numbers or are they misinterpreting what their numbers
-- "Before I get to Miss LaMontagne, what
was the reason for going back and looking at this? Because didn't the
Rand Corporation release a report in July that pretty much backed up
the Bush campaign's claims?"
-- "And we'll talk about timing in a
second. Ms. LaMontagne what do you think about this report? Obviously
it says that some of the claims made by Governor Bush do not seem to
hold water....Now let's go, let's go, let's go through that. Let's see
if we can dispute that. Go ahead."
LaMontagne, what about the improvement or the shrinking of the gap
that Mr. Klein talked about and Governor Bush has talked about
repeatedly in this campaign between students of color and students,
and white students? How has that been documented in, in the Bush
campaign and do you think you can, you can, back up those
-- "What about
the timing here, Mr. Klein? I mean obviously we are two weeks before a
presidential election that is extremely tight. This has been called a
signature issue for the Bush campaign. It does, I mean it does call
into question why would this report come out now?"
was the report ready?"
-- "So no
one's been asking you to hold this report at all?"
-- "Ms. LaMontagne, the Gore campaign is
coming out with an ad I think you've seen already today that will
challenge the Bush findings on education. Will the Bush campaign
continue to stick to these numbers?"
secret deal with Russia finally worth 17 seconds to one network
evening show, but only as evidence of political chicanery. And on FNC
Fred Barnes argued the media's lack of interest in the Russia story,
while pounding away over the RAND report, demonstrates media bias.
Peter Jennings read this short item on
Wednesday's World News Tonight: "Presidential politics reached
Capitol Hill today. When have they not? Republicans held hearings
which may embarrass Mr. Gore. Senators said that Mr. Gore violated
U.S. law by making secret deals about Russia's arms sales to Iran.
The White House says no laws were broken. House members questioned the
Education Secretary today about the money he spends on travel. His
office called the charges partisan."
That took Jennings 25 seconds to announce, 17
seconds of which was consumed by the Gore-Russia part. But that was
the first broadcast network evening show mention yet of a story broken
on the front page of the October 13 New York Times and advanced by a
couple of front page Washington Times stories last week. Last week and
Wednesday night FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume delivered full
stories. (Space precludes me from running any excerpts from those
newspaper stories with the specific details, but I'll try to get
some of the details into the next CyberAlert.)
This morning, October 26, Good Morning America
co-host Charles Gibson did raise the issue with Al Gore. More on that,
too, in the next CyberAlert.
Wednesday morning, CBS's The Early Show, MRC
analyst Brian Boyd noticed, also gave the matter a few seconds as news
reader Diana Olick noted:
"Questions about a secret arms deal and Vice President Al Gore.
Today a Senate panel investigates Gore's role in a deal allowing
Russia to sell arms to Iran. Some former high level Republican
officials say the 1995 agreement should have been fully disclosed to
Congress. A Gore official said it was and calls the charges
The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes contrasted
media interest in the potential Gore scandal with its focus on the
anti-Bush RAND report. He contended on the October 25 edition of
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, as transcribed by MRC analyst
say, Brit, it's not really a study. It's just sort of a report.
It's extremely tendentious and argumentative. But it does raise, it
actually raises a legitimate point while saying that indeed Texas
students did perform well above the national average on math, and they
did at least the national average level on reading and writing and so
on, so it doesn't say that Texas did poorly. The only thing it says
is well maybe the Texas students didn't do quite as well as they
did...on their own Texas test, or quite as well as was reported in
that other RAND study.
is the thing that's the most interesting to me, and that is the
reception by the press. In other words, this was treated as a dagger
to the heart of the entire Bush program and so on. They treated this
as some explosive new report, when it's basically a press release,
some explosive new report that destroys all Bush's claims on
education. Now look, the press is gonna write about this thing because
education is something that, it is a big issue for Bush in the
campaign, but compare it to this: The New York Times has an
extraordinarily well-documented story about how Gore made a secret
deal with Vice President Chernomyrdin of Russia that allowed Iranians
to get years of weaponry, including a submarine, in violation of an
American law that Gore had sponsored while in Congress. And yet that
has no legs at all with media, though it strikes at also something
that Gore is basing his campaign on, his experience in foreign policy.
Now I say the press, in this one, made way too much out of the Bush
story and not nearly enough out of the Gore story."
labeling. Might Bush pick a "Souter-type Justice" and not an
MRC analyst Paul Smith caught this question from MSNBC's Brian
Williams to former Senator George Mitchell on the October 24 News with
"Senator, let's talk about the Supreme
Court for just one moment. Do you think there is a wind and a nod
effort by Republicans to signal to moderates that George W. would not
pick an ultraconservative Justice but would pick a Souter-type Justice
for the Supreme Court?
Rivera found someone more extreme than himself, a star of another
cable network's evening interview show, who told Rivera: "As
far as I'm concerned, Bush in Texas is nothing more than a serial
That charge came from Tavis Smiley, host of BET
Tonight on the Black Entertainment Television channel. MRC analyst
Geoffrey Dickens noticed how Smiley opined during the October 24
Rivera Live on CNBC:
there are some issues on which if you are a voter of color, certainly
if you are an African-American, you have a hard time choosing. For
example, both of these guys support the death penalty. As far as I'm
concerned, Bush in Texas is nothing more than a serial killer. But we,
but we cannot expect that much more out of, out of Gore, because this
guy supports the death penalty as well."
What a conundrum.
only male reporters would make crude allusions to Monica Lewinsky's
fellatio services to Bill Clinton? Former 60 Minutes correspondent
Meredith Viera did it Wednesday on The View, the ABC daytime show she
quint-hosts with Barbara Walters and three other woman.
On the October 25 show, Joy Behar asked Paula
Jones to describe Bill Clinton's "distinguishing
characteristic." She held up her finger at a particular angle.
After an ad break, The View played a tape of Viera at Shea Stadium
talking on the field to Mets players. Her question to catcher Vincent
catcher, right? So you spend a lot of time on your knees. Have you
ever considered interning at the White House?"
Not a question you'd get from Morley Safer. -- Brent Baker
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