Jeffords Mislabeled "Moderate"; In Wake of Jeffords Defection Bush Should Move Left; Fault of Conservatives for Moving GOP Too Right
1) Jeffords Defection Theme #1: Bush should move left to
the center. CBS's John Roberts relayed how a Democratic pollster hoped,
"he may be forced to govern from the middle." NBC's Campbell
Brown pushed Bush to the left: "The President's options? Political
analysts say bi-partisan compromise."
2) Jeffords Defection Theme #2: Label him a
"moderate," or a "maverick," but never what he really
is, a liberal. Looking at ideological ratings, Jeffords' record makes
him 24 points less conservative and 25 points more liberal than a true
moderate like Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.
3) Jeffords Defection Theme #3: Blame conservatives for
making the Republican Party too conservative. ABC's Linda Douglass
referred to his "frustration with his increasingly conservative
party." NBC's Lisa Myers worried about how he "was treated as
a pariah in his own party." On MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter
suggested the Republican Party left him.
4) Jeffords Defection Theme #4: Scold the Bush White House
for punishing him for working to eviscerate their bills. NBC's Lisa
Myers credited his departure to how "he is deeply offended by lack of
respect from the White House and from key Senate Republicans."
Defection Theme #1: If Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont leaves the GOP
President Bush should not, as conservatives advise, take to his case to
the public and make clear his difference with liberal Democrats, but move
left to the center, advised CBS and NBC on Wednesday night.
CBS's John Roberts relayed how the switch
"could be a good thing politically" for Bush since, counseled a
Democratic pollster, "he may be forced to govern from the
middle." Roberts lectured: "He'll also need to walk the walk
on his promise to change the tone in Washington." NBC's Campbell
Brown similarly pushed Bush to the left: "The President's options?
Political analysts say bi-partisan compromise."
-- John Roberts on the May 23 CBS Evening
News: "With Jeffords' departure, the President's legislative
agenda would be filtered through a Democratic lense. Ironically, says
Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman, that could be a good thing
politically for the President."
Hickman: "It may end up helping George Bush.
He may be forced to govern from the middle in a way that he wouldn't
have if he had been able to maintain control of the Senate."
Roberts: "Where the new balance of power may
affect the President most is in his judicial nominations. Democrats had
already geared-up for a fight over two conservative judges. Without
control of the all-important Judiciary Committee, Mr. Bush may need to
re-think future nominations. He'll also need to walk the walk on his
promise to change the tone in Washington, says Republican strategist Scott
Reed: "Washington will be re-defined in the
next 24 hours with George Bush and Tom Daschle being the two marquee
players and he needs to re-think how he's working with Democrats and
give and take a little."
Hard to imagine how Dole lost in 1996 with
Reed running his campaign.
-- Campbell Brown on the NBC Nightly News:
"The question now though, what happens to Bush's agenda?
Republicans say Bush's tax cut should still win approval, his education
plan faces new hurdles but also has bi-partisan support. At risk, any
other new legislation and confirmation for judicial nominees. The
President's options? Political analysts say bi-partisan
Stu Rothenberg, political analyst:
"They've talked that game, Democrats say they haven't really
played it. But now with Democrats controlling the Senate I don't think
the White House has any alternative."
Defection Theme #2: Label him a "moderate,"
"independent," or a "maverick," but never what he
really is, a liberal. Jeffords' record makes him 44 points less
conservative and 25 points more liberal than a true moderate like
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, according to 2000 ratings from
the American Conservative Union (ACU) and Americans for Democratic Action
His 2000 rating from the ACU: a mere 36
percent. Compare that to other northeastern Republican
"moderates." Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter: 62 percent;
Maine's Olympia Snowe: 80 percent; and Maine's Susan Collins: 76
percent. For more on ACU vote ratings, go to: http://www.conservative.org/ratings2000.htm
From the left, Jeffords voted the way the ADA
liked a majority of the time in 2000, earning a 55 percent "liberal
quotient." Specter had a 40 percent rating from the ADA, Snowe a 30
percent approval level and Collins voted liberal 25 percent of the time.
For more on ADA ratings, go to: http://adaction.org/voting.html
So, while Jeffords is not a hard core leftist,
he's also quite a bit to the left of moderates and so should be
described as a "fairly liberal," or at least as "a moderate
to liberal." But, over the past 24 hours the networks have studiously
avoided any type of liberal tag.
An exception: On Tuesday night's Inside
Politics, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, CNN's Jonathan Karl twice
referred to Jeffords as "one of the most liberal members" of
either the Republican Party or Senate: "Well, what's happened here is
there has been intense speculation that Senator Jeffords, who has long
been one of the most liberal members of the Republican party here serving
in the Senate, would switch parties, either to become a Democrat or to
become an independent....The impetus for all this is that Jeffords has
long been one of the most liberal members of the Senate, but he also is
the person Republicans think single-handedly caused the Republicans to
forced to scale down their tax cut."
Still, at another point, anchor Frank Sesno
delivered the usual network description: "At issue: Will Republican
moderate James Jeffords of Vermont switch to the Democratic Party?"
Wednesday night, at the top of Wolf Blitzer Reports, the anchor of the
same name declared: "There are 100 members of the U.S. Senate. For
most of today nearly everyone in Washington was focusing on one of them.
He's a Senator many people probably never even heard of, the moderate
Republican from Vermont, James Jeffords."
Other examples of mislabeling from the night
and morning of Wednesday, May 23:
-- ABC's Nightline. Anchor Chris Bury:
Linda Douglass: "He is a maverick, he is
an independent. This was really about having his own moderate views heard
within what he thinks is an increasingly conservative Republican
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass:
"His friend and fellow moderate, Maine's Olympia Snowe, said a
Jeffords defection should be a wake-up call to the Republican Party."
Terry Moran: "It was clear that a White
House strategy of trying to muscle the maverick Republican had
(Douglass, however, did acknowledge how senior
Senate Democrats are liberal: "If Jeffords switches, Democrat Tom
Daschle would be the Senate's leader. Democrats would control which
legislation comes up for a vote. They would chair the committees. Liberal
Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee with power over the selection of
Mr. Bush's judges; liberal Ted Kennedy the Health and Education
Committee in charge of prescription drug legislation. Conservation-minded
Jeff Bingaman, the Energy Committee overseeing Mr. Bush's energy
-- ABC's Good Morning America. George
Stephanopoulos: "Jeffords has voted against the Republican Party for
an awful long time. He voted against the Reagan tax cut in 1981, he was
the first Republican to come out against President Clinton's impeachment
and he had been comfortable in that position, a maverick Republican."
-- CBS's The Early Show. News reader Julie
Chen announced, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed: "Senator James
Jeffords is expected to announce today whether he will leave the
Republican Party. A switch by Jeffords would give control of the evenly
divided Senate to the Democrats. The three term moderate from Vermont has
been at odds with the GOP, especially over President Bush's tax cut
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams.
Jonathan Alter of Newsweek: "He voted against Clarence Thomas,
against the Reagan tax cut, against impeachment, pro-choice,
pro-environment, so he's been this moderate Republican -- fiscally
conservative, socially liberal -- for many years now."
It's "fiscally conservative" to
push for higher spending, as he's been doing all year?
-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers: "The
turmoil overshadowed what would otherwise have been a day of celebration
for Republicans: Senate passage of the President's $1.3 trillion tax
cut. Instead, all eyes on a quirky moderate from Vermont who has a black
belt in Tai Kwon Doe and now threatens to shift the balance of power in
-- NBC's Today. Lisa Myers: "Some
conservative Republicans treat Jeffords as a pariah because he and other
moderates buck the party."
Defection Theme #3: Blame conservatives for making the Republican Party
too conservative, not him for being too liberal. ABC's Linda Douglass
referred to his "frustration with his increasingly conservative
party." On MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan recalled how Reagan said the
Democratic Party left him "and I think that's the way Jim Jeffords
feels about the Republicans, that there was a place in the past for
moderate Republicans from the Northeast."
-- Linda Douglass on ABC's World News
Tonight, May 23: "Jeffords' frustration with his increasingly
conservative party has been building for a long time. Even with a
Republican in the White House he's been voting with Democrats on big
issues....Jeffords felt his views on taxes, the poor, the environment were
dismissed by Republican leaders. His friend and fellow moderate, Maine's
Olympia Snowe, said a Jeffords defection should be a wake-up call to the
Senator Olympia Snowe: "We have to fight to
make sure that our voices and our views and our agenda is heard, you know,
within our party."
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, May
23. Williams asked: "Newsweek magazine columnist and NBC News
contributing correspondent Jonathan Alter has known and covered Senator
Jeffords for many years and knows well the dynamic of the Senate, of
course. He is with us tonight here in our studios. Jonathan, simple
question: Why the switch?"
Alter: "Well, I was thinking about Ronald
Reagan, of all people, when I heard the news. He, when asked why he
changed parties, he said, 'I didn't leave the Democratic party,'
back in the '50s, 'The Democratic party left me.' And I think
that's the way Jim Jeffords feels about the Republicans, that there was
a place in the past for moderate Republicans from the Northeast, and he
has been that all along. He hasn't changed his politics much at all. He
voted against Clarence Thomas, against the Reagan tax cut, against
impeachment, pro-choice, pro-environment, so he's been this moderate
Republican -- fiscally conservative, socially liberal -- for many years
now. And he thought at the beginning of this year, Brian, that there would
be a place in a 50-50 Senate for these moderate Republicans, and he's
found over the last four months that that simply hasn't been the
-- Lisa Myers on the May 23 NBC Nightly News:
"Jeffords often was treated as a pariah in his own party, undercut on
key bills like education."
Senator Lincoln Chafee, (R-for now, RI): "I
think this is a culmination of a long shift in the Republican Party,
particularly here in the Senate, towards the right and his discomfort with
Gee, you vote against Reagan's tax cut,
against the confirmation of Clarence Thomas and spend this year fighting a
tax cut and pushing for more spending. Then you really are a
Defection Theme #4: Scold the Bush White House for punishing him for
working to eviscerate their bills. NBC's Lisa Myers credited his
departure to how "he is deeply offended by lack of respect from the
White House and from key Senate Republicans." How about his lack of
respect for the policy views which won Republicans control of the House,
Senate and White House?
More from May 23:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Setting up a
full story on how the White House threatened to kill dairy price supports
for New England and how Jeffords was not invited to the Teacher of the
Year ceremony in the Rose Garden for a Vermont teacher, Peter Jennings
argued: "The rhetorical question in Washington is, who lost Jeffords?
And all fingers are pointing at the White House."
-- ABC's Good Morning America. MRC analyst
Jessica Anderson caught this exchange. Diane Sawyer asked: "So, what
is going on and is Jeffords doing it for politics or because somebody made
him really mad?...Linda, so what's it about?"
Douglass replied: "Well, it is a little of
both, as you say, both personal and politics. Jeffords often does vote
with the Democrats on key issues, but this year he had a big battle with
the White House. He wanted more funding for special education in the
President's budget. The White House wouldn't give it to him, so Jeffords
cast the key vote that forced President Bush to scale back his tax cut and
at that point, say Republican sources, it appeared to them that the White
House began punishing Jeffords, not inviting him to a ceremony at the
White House honoring a Vermont teacher and even more importantly,
appearing to threaten to oppose an agreement that would lock in high dairy
prices in Vermont."
Sawyer soon turned to George Stephanopoulos,
asking him to react to the proposition: "An attempt to tame a Senator
Stephanopoulos agreed: "Yeah, I think that's
almost exactly what happened because, look, over the long-term, Jeffords
has voted against the Republican Party for an awful long time. He voted
against the Reagan tax cut in 1981, he was the first Republican to come
out against President Clinton's impeachment and he had been comfortable in
that position, a maverick Republican. But this is his pride at stake now.
The White House comes out, they start calling Vermont reporters when he
votes on the tax bill and put pressure on him that way, they start to
threaten the life blood of his state -- dairy farmers -- and then he has
to stand up for his state."
-- On the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer
contended "the ham-handed tactics" by he White House
-- Lisa Myers on the NBC Nightly News:
"So why is Jeffords on the brink of bolting? Mostly, friends say,
because he is deeply offended by lack of respect from the White House and
from key Senate Republicans. Sources say Jeffords is angry about being
bad-mouthed by the President's political guru Karl Rove and top lobbyist
Nick Calio. The last straw: After Jeffords's votes against Bush's tax
cut, the White House retaliates by not inviting him when a Vermont
educator is honored as teacher of the year."
-- NBC's Today. Lisa Myers delivered the
same reasoning as she did later, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed:
"Why would Jeffords defect? One reason, he tells friends, the White
House. Jeffords repeatedly joined with Democrats to pair down Bush's $1.6
trillion tax cut. He was asked whether that wasn't a bold move for a
James Jeffords: "Yes."
Myers: "But the White House wasn't laughing.
It retaliated. Jeffords was not invited when a Vermont educator was
honored as National Teacher of the Year. Threats were made about changing
dairy price supports, critical to Vermont."
Well, now there will be one less
"moderate" Republican for the media to promote.
-- Brent Baker
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