Media Push for McCain's "Reform"; Turner: "Wrong Man is President"; Will Media Notice Dirkhising? Reagan a "Mediocrity"
1) The media campaign for "campaign finance
reform" has begun. Tim Russert discussed strategy with John McCain,
but with Mitch McConnell Russert demanded he defend the system. ABC's
This Week featured only McCain proponent Warren Buffet, to whom Cokie
Roberts tossed softball prompts. To a summarization of the reform case,
Sam Donaldson asserted: "We all know that you're correct."
2) Tim Russert confronted Tom Daschle, who complained
about how Bush is talking down the economy, with how back on January 3
Dick Gephardt warned a "recession is looming."
3) Al Hunt: "Senator Chuck Hagel is a good man with a
sham plan that would embrace Hillary's scam."
4) Last week Ted Turner declared the West "did not
win the Cold War," claimed that "without the U.N. we wouldn't
have made it through the Cold War" and argued that "the wrong
man is President." But CNN's new chief insisted that FNC is
"fairly extreme" while CNN is "right down the middle."
5) On CNN liberal columnist Mark Shields made CNN founder
Ted Turner's "Jesus freaks" remark his "Outrage of the
6) The trial of one of the gay men accused of murdering
13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising started last week. The New York Post's
Media Watch column noted the media's lack of interest in the 1999 case.
The Fox News Channel is again covering it and, this time around, so is the
7) The Washington Post reporter who once oozed that Ralph
Nader provided "pure honesty" and served "a reminder of
what we once hoped to be," denigrated Ronald Reagan as a
are so excited by John McCain's "campaign finance reform,"
which could better be described as the Media Influence Enhancement Act,
that even usually balanced reporters like Tim Russert aren't even
playing devil's advocacy with the contrary view of conservatives, never
mind giving it equal time. On Sunday's Meet the Press Russert discussed
strategy and tactics with McCain, whose bill will be debated in the Senate
this week, but with opponent Mitch McConnell Russert pounded away,
demanding he defend his policy position.
But Russert presented a balanced show compared
to ABC and CBS. ABC's This Week featured only McCain-type reform
proponent Warren Buffet, to whom Cokie Roberts tossed softball prompts.
After George Stephanopoulos summarized the liberal argument for more
government regulation, Sam Donaldson asserted: "We all know that
you're correct." CBS's Face the Nation featured three guests who
all favored some sort of liberal reform: Senators Russ Feingold and Chuck
Hagel as well as AFL-CIO chairman John Sweeney.
On NBC's Meet the Press Tim Russert never
questioned the premise of McCain's view that there is too much money in
politics and that it must be further regulated. Instead, he stressed
strategy and what might block passage. While Russert did raise the idea of
increasing the $1,000 hard money limit, he worried about how McCain's
bill isn't tough enough since some claim they will find a way around it.
He warned McCain: "Your bill will not stop people with money having
Here are Russert's questions to McCain:
-- "First of all, your bill, which would
ban all soft money, non-regulated money, restrict issue ads, prohibit all
foreign contributions, improve disclosure and some other things. Do you
have the 50 votes necessary to pass this in the U.S. Senate?"
-- "John Breaux, the Democrat from
Louisiana, who voted for your bill five times, says he's no longer for it.
Do you have the other 49 Democrats locked up?"
-- "Chuck Hagel, Senator from Nebraska.
Fellow Vietnam veteran, strong supporter of your campaign, has another
bill where he would only cap soft money and allow individuals to continue
to give it. He said that he is quote 'your big brother,' protecting
-- "He says that your bill will create a
black hole for so-called independent groups. The New York Times has a
reference today: 'The McCain Bill: Will the Cure Compound the
Illness?' Tom Davis, the Democratic [oops, really Republican] head of
the congressional campaign committee on the House side said, 'We'll find
a way around McCain. We'll just open up another state committee and funnel
the money through that.' Won't people find a way to find the
-- McCain: "....The day we pass this
bill, there will be people who try to find ways around it. But to accept
the status quo, accept the status quo, I mean, is-"
Russert: "But, Senator, your bill will not,
in any way, stop negative television advertising. Your bill will not stop
people with money having influence."
-- "Fred Thompson, who supports your
bill, the Senator from Tennessee, said, 'But we also should increase the
amount of hard money, the regulated contribution people get, from $1,000
to, say, $3,000,' because the $1,000 was created in '74 and because of
inflation, $3,000 is a more appropriate amount. Could you buy into
-- "Senator Torricelli of New Jersey
said, let's have a provision in the bill which says that the lowest
possible TV rate, advertising rate, should be allowed or given to
political candidates by the local TV stations....could you support that
-- "George W. Bush has come forward with
his principles and you read through those, they seem diametrically opposed
to your views. Let me look at the first one. We'll put it on the screen.
The New York Times described it as '...an anti-labor provision requiring
union members to approve the expenditure of their dues for political
purposes. Though it's now married to a proposal requiring shareholder
approval of similar corporate expenditures, it is designed to repel
Democrats from the coalition supporting reform in the Senate.'
"The second thing is 'The President would
allow individuals to give unlimited amounts to parties even if
corporations and unions do not...'
"The third, '...he wants to protect the
right of advocacy groups to raise unlimited money from special interests
for their own campaign ads.'
"And four, 'He supports a provision to
throw out the entire law if any part of it is found unconstitutional.'
"Every one of those things, John McCain
-- "But if those are the President's
principles, he's going to veto your bill."
-- "Bottom line: Will significant
campaign finance reform pass next week?"
Then Russert turned to Senator Mitch McConnell
and unlike with McCain he demanded that McConnell defend the underlying
premises of his position: "A country of 285 million and 800 gave
two-thirds of the soft money. How can you support such a system?"
Russert seemed afraid people might "get away" with free speech
as he insisted all McCain's bill would do is make it so groups
"couldn't go on the air 60 days before an election and run
pseudo-attack ads and get away with it."
Russert's questions to McConnell:
-- "Let me put on the screen for you a
single quote from The Wall Street Journal on Friday. 'Soft Money Study
Shows Concentration Of Donations by Wealthy Contributors. Nearly
two-thirds of the unregulated soft money campaign contributions in the
last election -- about $296 million -- came from just 800 donors who gave
at least $120,000 each.' Two-thirds of this revenue stream of soft money
from the hands of 800 people. A country of 285 million and 800 gave
two-thirds of the soft money. How can you support such a system?"
-- "When the reforms were written in '74,
however, the reason there was hard money restrictions was to have
accountability and to lower the amount that people could give to avoid the
impression of influence-peddling. You give $1,000 per candidate. Then
someone found the soft money loophole, and look how it's grown. In 1984,
$22 million raised from soft money. It's now $463 million. And this is
where it comes from. Tobacco, oil and gas and insurance, the Republican
Party, $5 million, $12 million, $10 million; Democratic Party get less
from that. But they have their benefactors. Labor unions, lawyers and
entertainment, $29 million, $18 million, $12 million. And then some
industries, they're equal opportunity. Computers give $10 million,
Democrats, Republicans; $21 million from securities and investments; real
estate $15 million and $12 million. Senator, these are huge amounts of
money, gushing into Washington. And people see when it's in the small
hands of 800 people, influence-peddling, influence-buying. And this was
not the intent of the law."
-- McConnell: "...With all due respect,
the McCain-Feingold bill does nothing about money in politics. It simply
diminishes the ability of the political parties to do their job, a big
part of which is to help candidates-"
Russert: "Well, what it says is-"
McConnell: "One other point."
Russert: "-those groups couldn't go on the
air 60 days before an election and run pseudo-attack ads and get away with
How awful. Someone might "get away"
with free speech.
-- "Do you have the votes to stop McCain-Feingold?"
-- "One of the things that is brought up
constantly is the money that goes to campaigns influences, affects
legislation. Public Citizen put out a report, naming you, and I'm going to
give you a chance to respond. 'Over in the Senate, the bill was running
into very similar obstacles erected by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)' --
this is the legislation that would ban betting on amateur or college
sports in Nevada; it's already banned across the country, but no more Las
Vegas -- 'who headed the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the
fundraising arm for GOP Senate candidates...Public Citizen interviews with
two well-placed Republican staff sources revealed the following: in late
1999 and early 2000, McConnell urged a number of GOP senators not to
support the bill. His argument...was that 'this is a big year for Senate
races' and 'we need the money [from the casino industry.'"
-- "Time magazine said in September that
you and Trent Lott, the leader of the Senate, flew to Las Vegas on Steve
Wynn's jet, and came back and sat down with Orrin Hatch and members of the
Judiciary Committee, and said that 'if we voted for this legislation, it
would impact our ability to raise money.' Is Time wrong, too?"
-- "So there's no connection between
campaign contributions and legislation?"
Over on ABC's This Week, Cokie Roberts gave
an unchallenged platform to liberal regulation advocate Warren Buffet,
Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Her prompts in the form of questions:
-- "I love your analysis about
underpriced commodity, I mean applying essentially market conditions to
the political world. You're saying that somebody who spends $200 million
on advertising could do better putting it straight into political
-- "What do you think will be the
affect on American democracy if what you just said is true [that
businesses feel obligated to donate], if we don't stop it now?"
-- "Describe a little bit for me
what it's like for the business community to have this kind of pressure
to give this kind of money."
-- "So it's a shakedown?"
-- "Now you in an op-ed piece in
the New York Times, made an interesting proposal that an eccentric
billionaire, and you stipulated not you, would say I will a give a billion
dollars to the party that votes for campaign finance reform and the effect
would be that everybody would vote for campaign finance reform and the
billionaire wouldn't have to give."
-- "I know you don't want to talk
specifically about the estate tax but that seems to me to be a perfect
example of the kind of thing. Elimination of the estate tax, would that be
there without people giving campaign contributions?"
ABC then jumped to its roundtable.
George Will immediately noted the "vapidness" of Buffet's
George Stephanopoulos defended him:
"Warren Buffet is showing the common sense that made him a wealthy
man. We all know right now that money gets you in the door, whether it's
Congress, whether it's the White House, whether it's the state
legislatures. The soft money loophole has led to almost half a billion
dollars contributed in the last campaign and you can't say that it's
not buying policy. I mean, just look at this week: $3.4 million from the
coal industry, Bush turns around on CO2 emissions."
To which Sam Donaldson chimed in:
"We all know that you're correct."
In last week's Newsweek, the March 19
edition, Jonathan Alter outlined what McCain needs to do to prevent his
bill from being destroyed by amendments: "McCain's aim is to trade
on his rock-star status (and wartime heroics) to prevent that. To do so,
he needs his old allies in the press. If the media could devote a fraction
of the passion and time to the causes of the disease that it lavished on
the John Huang-Marc Rich-Lincoln Bedroom symptoms, real change might even
There's no question McCain has
"his old allies in the press" on his side.
Russert may have been disappointing in how he handled campaign finance,
but in interviewing Senator Tom Daschle about the Democratic spin that
President Bush is improperly talking down the economy, he stood out for
confronting Daschle with how on January 3 House Minority Leader Dick
Gephardt warned a "recession is looming."
Russert told Daschle on the March 18 Meet the
Press: "Some are suggesting it's just telling the truth. Let me show
you the gross domestic product on the board here. In the first quarter we
grew at 4.8 percent; second quarter, 5.6 percent; third quarter -- July,
August, September -- it was down to 2.2 percent; and then October,
November, December, 1.1 percent. Your fellow Democrat, Dick Gephardt, on
the Today show in January two months ago. This is what we had to
Gephardt on the January 3 Today: "Look, I
don't know the exact size. It may be that it has to get bigger because the
recession is looming and we've got economic worries out there."
Russert: "'The recession is looming,'
the R-word, fellow Democrat. Is he talking down the economy?"
to rhyme, Al Hunt chastised Chuck Hagel for his campaign finance bill as
he castigated President Bush for doing nothing about Denise Rich-like
donations. The Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street Journal made
Bush's bill his "Outrage of the Week" on CNN's March 17
"As revelations surface about Denise Rich's
unsavory political contributions and Hillary Clinton's $9.6 million of
soft money, most of it funneled through the state party, the Senate
considers McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. President Bush would do
nothing about the Denise Rich's, mocking his pledge to restore integrity
to politics, and the author of the alternative, Senator Chuck Hagel is a
good man with a sham plan that would embrace Hillary's scam. We'll soon
see which Senators are addicted to this system of political bribery and
which ones want to clean up corruption."
week CNN founder Ted Turner, currently Vice Chairman of AOL Time Warner,
declared the West "did not win the Cold War," claimed that
"without the U.N. we wouldn't have made it through the Cold War"
and argued that "the wrong man is President." Last Thursday FNC
played clips of some of his remarks in receiving the "Norman Cousins
Global Governance Award" from the World Federalist Association which
Greg Pierce, in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column,
The March 15 Special Report with Brit Hume
showed Turner making these declarations:
-- "We won, won my foot. I mean we did
not win the Cold War. The Cold War ended really pretty much in a
-- "You will notice that when we go bomb
countries we do it in Iraq or Grenada, places like that, we don't bomb
Russia or China because they can bomb back. We pick on the real little
guys, you know, the real small ones. You know I don't know why haven't
we bombed the Palestinians? Because all they have is rocks to throw at
-- "This election that we just had was so
close that we didn't know who was going to be President and probably the
wrong man is President, anyway, after they recounted, recounted those
That morning in the Washington Times Greg
Pierce relayed some additional comments from Turner:
"Mr. Turner accused the Bush administration
of justifying 'its increased military budget buildup' by falsely
viewing Russia, China and North Korea as potential enemies....Praising the
United Nations for its efforts to promote population control, world peace
and a cleaner environment, Mr. Turner said that 'without the U.N. we
wouldn't have made it through the Cold War.'
"'We owe our very existence to the
U.N.,' he added."
++ To view a RealPlayer clip of Turner's
remarks as shown by FNC, go to the online version of this CyberAlert. MRC
Webmaster Andy Szul will put it on the MRC home page shortly after this
CyberAlert is e-mailed.
Meanwhile, CNN's new chief has claimed
to see right wing bias in the Fox News Channel but no liberal bias on CNN.
Jamie Kellner, who had been running the WB network, last week was put in
charge of most of AOL Time Warner's cable channels, including CNN. In
his March 19 column, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz picked up on
some recent comments from Kellner:
"Kellner told the Chicago Tribune that
while Fox uses a 'we report, you decide' slogan, 'the fact is it is
a fairly extreme, to-the-right-of-center channel. And that's a brilliant
strategy. CNN can never be that. CNN is about journalism; it's about
reporting right down the middle of the alley."
Maybe Kellner should be less dismissive
of FNC and consider that it appears conservative compared to CNN not
because FNC is so right wing but because CNN is so far to the left. Kurtz
pointed out that though CNN has more viewers because it is carried by more
cable systems, its 319,000 average households viewing it this year is up
just 4 percent from last year while FNC's 266,000 households represents
a 135 percent jump.
columnist Mark Shields dared to use CNN air time to denounce Ted Turner
for his "Jesus freaks" remark, though it took him an extra week
to get to it. The March 7 CyberAlert quoted Brit Hume's March 6 story
about the incident at the retirement party for Bernard Shaw. See the March
7 and 15 CyberAlerts for details.
Shields made the outburst his "Outrage of
the Week" on the March 17 Capital Gang: "On the first day of
Lent, Catholics around the world have ashes put on their foreheads with a
reminder, quote: 'Remember you are dust and will return to dust,' end
quote. When CNN founder Ted Turner noticed ashes on the foreheads of some
CNN employees, Turner reportedly called them, quote, 'Jesus freaks,'
end quote, and asked, 'shouldn't you be working for Fox?' In 1990,
Turner called Christianity a religion for losers. Later he denounced
Catholics and Pope John Paul II. Now, once again, Ted Turner has profusely
apologized and condemned religious intolerance. Ted Turner may be truly
contrite, but what he said remains the Outrage of the Week."
trial of one of the gay men, accused of murdering 13-year-old Jesse
Dirkhising during a sexual assault, started last week, but you can be
excused if you haven't heard about it. Like when the crime occurred in
the fall of 1999, the mainstream media, which hyped the Matthew Shepard
case of a murdered gay man, aren't so interested in a case where the
offenders are gay.
On Friday the New York Post's "Media
Watch" column reminded readers of the case and reported that this
time around the AP has decided to cover the trial, but that hasn't led
to any network interest beyond the Fox News Channel. A reprint of the
March 16 Media Watch column:
The first of two trials in the brutal 1999 sex-torture murder of
13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising has been under way in Bentonville, Ark.,
since Monday -- and the media silence is deafening. Save for the
Associated Press and the local Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, not a
journalistic peep has been heard across the nation.
But that's hardly surprising. Because since the day that 13-year-old
Jesse was found bound and gagged after having been repeatedly sodomized,
there has been a near-total media blackout on this story.
Why? Could the fact that his admitted killers are a gay couple who
insist it was all a case of statutory rape "gone wrong" have
something to do with it?
At yesterday's trial session, two police officers testified as to how
they found the youngster. According to The Associated Press, they said he
was lifeless, his face was blue and he had blood in his mouth and
excrement smeared on parts of his body." Officer Jason Curry
testified: "There was a horrible stench in the room when I walked in.
It was overwhelming."
Can you imagine similar media silence if Jesse Dirkhising had been gay
and his attackers straight? No way.
In a column that appeared in The Post, Brent Bozell of the Media
Research Center compared the Dirkhising case to the media orgy that
accompanied the murder a year earlier of Matthew Shepard: "It made
the cover of Time magazine with the headline 'The War Over Gays,' with
reporters predictably using the occasion to blame religious conservatives
and call for hate-crime laws and other gay-left agenda items."
But not the Dirkhising case. Indeed, as Bozell noted, the initial AP
stories refused even to describe the accused killers as gay. The rest of
the media have taken their cue from the gay-rights Human Rights Campaign,
which declared, "This has nothing to do with gay people."
As Bozell noted, "this is the same Human Rights Campaign that led
the national media by the nose to the ridiculous charge that Matthew
Shepard was not killed by the two strangers he followed out of a bar, but
by Christian conservatives who bought newspaper ads urging gays to return
AP, to be fair, has reversed its previous silence and is filing
comprehensive stories that, unlike earlier dispatches, are moving over the
national wire. But none of them has made its way into print. And no
network is covering the trial.
Well, none of the broadcast networks CNN or
MSNBC. As in 1999, FNC has assigned reporter Bret Baier to the case and
the March 14 Fox Report, FNC's hour-long news show at 7pm EST, carried a
full story by Baier. Anchor Shepard Smith set it up:
"A 13-year-old boy enslaved for weeks.
Prosecutors say sexually-abused by two gay men, then left to die. Now one
of the accused standing trial in an Arkansas courtroom, facing charges of
rape and capital murder. Jury selection finishing up this afternoon."
To read the aforementioned Bozell column, go
To read Media Watch columns when they are
published in the New York Post: http://www.nypostonline.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/
media disgust toward President Reagan. A Washington Post column on
Saturday by a veteran reporter demonstrated how little respect the
Washington press corps have for Reagan. The comment in question came in
the middle of a March 17 "Metro" section column by Marc Fisher,
who had been a national and international reporter for the Post for many
years before becoming a columnist.
The column dealt with the efforts of Georgia
Congressman Bob Barr to get the Metro subway system to add
"Reagan" to the "National Airport" stop as listed on
their maps and signs. While Fisher's contention about naming things for
persons still living is certainly a reasonable point worthy of discussion,
note this snide assessment of Reagan which preceded it in this sentence:
"Leaving aside Reagan's mediocrity, the
fact that he is alive should be enough to shame any public body into
waiting to name anything for him."
Fisher was the first runner-up in the
"Media Hero Award" category in the MRC's Best Notable
Quotables of 1989 for this fawning tribute in the Washington Post
"Ralph Nader is a legend, perhaps the only
universally recognized symbol of pure honesty and clean energy left in a
culture that, after being shot through with greed, cynicism and weariness,
is oddly proud of its hardened self. Two decades after he slew General
Motors, Nader, the young dynamo who could not be bought, is a reminder of
what we once hoped to be."
That about sums up the Washington press corps:
Reagan was mediocre, Nader represents the hopes of journalists. --Brent Baker
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