Paranoia: Lindh Repressed Enron; Campaign Finance "Reform" Hopes; Hillary Still Victimized by the VRWC; Ombudsman Concedes Bias
1) Paranoia relayed by the New York Times: "Though no
network news executive openly suggested that the Bush administration had
timed the Lindh hearing to coincide with the start of the Enron hearings,
several executives said they would not be surprised if Bush officials had
planned it that way" -- just so CNN, FNC and MSNBC would downplay
2) Dan Rather pleaded Friday night: "Could or could
not the Enron fiasco finally result in some kind of real campaign finance
reform?" NBC's Katie Couric hoped: "What does this portend
for, for campaign finance reform? Could this be the straw that breaks the
camel's back that makes people say, 'Enough is enough! This has got to
3) President Bush's approval rating stands at what Tim
Russert described as a "sky high" 82 percent, but on Thursday
morning Today co-host Matt Lauer felt obligated to point out how
"it's gone down six points" since November.
4) Headline over a Washington Post Magazine story on
Hillary being victimized: "A supportive spouse, surprisingly
accepting colleagues, and a mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life
is almost perfect. If only they weren't still out to get her."
Reporter John Harris featured variations of the term "liberal"
just three times -- the first not until the 83rd paragraph. But he used
the term "conservative" for her opponents twice as often, six
times. Harris even allowed the Senator to define herself as a champion of
5) Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler acknowledged
that a Post story, which contrasted Bush administration fealty to
"religious conservatives" concerned about human embryo clones to
how "at the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a
faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives," came across
as "having been written from a point of view."
6) During last Wednesday night's NBC News special, The
Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing, Tom Brokaw seemed vexed by
the idea that in the wake of Enron's collapse the Bush administration
would still pursue allowing people to invest some of their Social Security
money in stocks.
7) As he walked across the South Lawn to Marine One on
Friday morning, President George W. Bush was carrying a copy of Bernard
Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the
8) So much for NBC News respecting the family hour. Sunday
night at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST/MST NBC aired, "In the bedroom and
beyond, a Dateline special." NBC's announcer plugged a story:
"She puts the sex in Sex and the City, steaming up TV screen across
America. Can she do the same for your love life?" NBC showed the
cover of a book titled, "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female
up the Twilight Zone music as you read this item. In a Friday New York
Times story, television reporter Bill Carter gave legitimacy to claims by
network news executives that the Bush administration planned the first
court appearance by John Walker Lindh to occur an hour before
congressional hearings into Enron just so that Lindh would distract the
cable news networks from the Enron story.
The evidence, which he attributed to network
news executives? That in a scene in NBC's special, Inside the Real West
Wing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer had expressed
"satisfaction that he had steered the network newscasts away from the
White House's connection to Enron, at least for a day." As if that
scene from January 17 in the January 23 show had disclosed some kind of
insider secret. Of course the White House wants the news media to portray
Enron as a business scandal and not a Bush administration scandal.
Carter began his January 25 story by
lamenting: "Hearings into the collapse of the Enron Corporation
opened on Capitol Hill yesterday, but the all-news cable television
channels showed little interest, providing only intermittent coverage.
CNN, Fox News and MSNBC devoted far more attention to the initial court
appearance of John Walker Lindh, the American accused of acts of terrorism
for serving with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Mr. Lindh appeared in court
at about 9 a.m. in Alexandria, Va., across the Potomac River from
Washington, where the Enron hearings were about to take place."
Now, cue up the Twilight Zone music for these
next paragraphs from Carter brought to my attention by the MRC's Tim
no network news executive openly suggested that the Bush administration
had timed the Lindh hearing to coincide with the start of the Enron
hearings, several executives said they would not be surprised if Bush
officials had planned it that way. One executive noted that information on
Mr. Lindh's appearance was 'a big mystery' until yesterday morning.
executives, referring to what they called the administration's efforts to
manage the Enron story, pointed to comments made by Ari Fleischer,
President Bush's spokesman, in an NBC program on the White House on
Wednesday night. Mr. Fleischer was portrayed as expressing satisfaction
that he had steered the network newscasts away from the White House's
connection to Enron, at least for a day."
right,' Mr. Fleischer said in the NBC report. 'Look what made it onto
the air. The business scandal side of it. All the political stuff they're
Carter added: "Scott McClellan, a White
House spokesman, said the suggestion that the timing of Mr. Lindh's
hearing had anything to do with the Enron hearing was 'one of the most
ridiculous suggestions I've heard yet.'"
Indeed, it's rather scary that
"several" network news executives could be so paranoid -- and
all over the relatively piddling number of people who actually watch one
of the three cable news networks during the day, a time when their
combined audience is smaller than the viewership of CBS's The Early
Show, the least-watched broadcast network morning show.
And the 9am EST Lindh hearing was over by the
time the Enron hearings had even started.
For the entire article, those registered with
the New York Times can access it at:
Dan Rather and NBC's Katie Couric on Friday used the Enron scandal as an
excuse to push for campaign finance "reform," as if additional
regulation of political speech would have avoided the current mess.
Rather plugged upcoming stories: "It's
the Friday CBS Evening News and still ahead: Sentencing day for the man
convicted of killing another hockey dad. Plus, Eye on America, could or
could not the Enron fiasco finally result in some kind of real campaign
Introducing the subsequent story, Rather
pleaded: "In tonight's Eye on America, CBS gives you an in-depth
look at the sudden revival of congressional interest in legislation
that's been killed more times than Dracula: Legislation for serious
campaign finance reform. In the wake of the Enron fiasco, will Congress
finally put its votes where its mouth is?"
Earlier Friday, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
noticed, Today co-host Katie Couric conveyed her wishes to MSNBC/CNBC
Hardball host Chris Matthews: "What does this portend for, for
campaign finance reform? Could this be the straw that breaks the camel's
back that makes people say, 'Enough is enough! This has got to happen! We
don't care what those folks on Capitol Hill say?'"
Bush's approval rating stands at what Tim Russert described as a
"sky high" 82 percent in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal
poll, but on Thursday morning Today co-host Matt Lauer emphasized how
"it's gone down six points" since November.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down this
exchange between Russert and Lauer on the January 24 Today:
Lauer: "Let's get to this NBC News/ Wall
Street Journal poll. A lot to cover in it Tim. President Bush's job
approval rating. What did we find out?"
"Sky high, Matt. It continues. Here it is on the board: 82 to 13.
Even Democrats give George W. Bush a favorable rating. Republicans, Matt,
are 99 to 1."
"Am I nitpicking though if I go back to that graphic, Joe, if you can
put that up again? You look from November 2001 until now it's gone down
"Well I think Bush supporters will say yes we're in a downward spiral
but the White House is very comfortable with these numbers. They do say
privately, however Matt, they expect those numbers to go down to the low
60s, high 50s by the fall."
the victim. If it only weren't for all those awful conservatives
irrationally opposing her noble ideals. "The Liberation of
Hillary," celebrated the cover of Sunday's Washington Post Magazine
for a story by former Post White House reporter John Harris, who is now on
leave at the moderately liberal Brookings Institution to write a book
about the Clinton presidency.
Inside, over a two-page bleed-out photo of
Senator Clinton crouching down to pose for a photo with a little girl:
"Hillary's Big Adventure." The subhead set up the story's
premise of Hillary as the victim of the vast right-wing conspiracy:
"A supportive spouse, surprisingly accepting colleagues, and a
mandate to legislate. For Sen. Clinton, life is almost perfect. If only
they weren't still out to get her."
In the 7,400-word story, Harris applied
variations of the term "liberal" just three times -- the first
not until the 83rd paragraph. But he employed the term
"conservative" for her opponents twice as often, six times, the
first instance coming 36 paragraphs into the 280-paragraph treatise.
And those liberal labels were hardly
disparaging. Harris referred to "people who share her instinct for
preachment and a therapeutic brand of liberalism that is vitally concerned
with personal attitudes and routines." The second tag didn't even
apply to her: "Clinton, representing a liberal state where she might
reasonably be reelected for years to come..." The third generously
explained: "While her positions do not always fit neatly into a
liberal mold, she is plainly driven by a sense of mission about
government's proper role that at times takes on a nearly religious
Recounting what Senator Clinton must endure,
Harris cited "the catcalls of surly firefighters and policemen at the
VH1 relief concert in New York on October 20. They weren't booing Senator
Clinton, who had been working nearly round the clock on disaster issues
after September 11. They were booing Hillary: Down from the stage, lady!
Who the hell do you think you are?"
Harris sympathized: "Her husband said he
too perceives an assault with no visible end. Of the many complicated
bonds these two share, one is a mutual sense of besiegement. 'As long as
they're rewarded for attacking people personally, they'll do it,' he
said. 'They raise money off of demonizing us, and now her. It's a very
Harris did, however, acknowledge: "There
is a reason why conservatives are skeptical that the carefully modulated
centrist agenda on which she campaigned for senator is the genuine item.
For while she invokes bipartisanship constantly, she becomes demonstrably
more passionate when she is talking about the role of government as
leveler, protector and moral agent." Harris asserted: "Yes,
Hillary Clinton is more personable than you might think. No, she is not
the closet socialist of right-wing fantasy. But hers are the politics of
prescription -- a world of problems that right-thinking people like her
and Irwin Redlener are ready to solve -- that make her as restless for
battle as her foes."
Yet Harris soon described her ideology in
charitable term: "This lifelong Methodist is at ease with both the
rituals and language of the Christian calling. Do not underestimate her
sense of duty, say people close to her, in understanding her tolerance
during hard patches of her marriage. Do not underestimate the sense of
mission she brings to her public life."
Harris allowed the liberal Senator who
advocates policies which absolve people of responsibility to define
herself as a champion of individual responsibility: "What does
equipoise mean for a senator? 'I grew up in a very Republican home --
child of 1950s and '60s suburbs,' she said. 'I have a rock-solid
belief in individual responsibility and hard work. But I also believe in
community. I reject the idea that there is no such thing as society' --
a precept she said also comes 'from my religious faith and
An excerpt from the beginning of the January
The news conference had just begun when Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Democrat of New York, slipped quietly into the press gallery and joined a
bipartisan cluster of colleagues on the podium. The most celebrated and
incendiary member of the United States Senate was eager to speak about a
new bill aimed against bioterrorism. But she would wait her turn.
It was rather a long wait. First came the bill's sponsor, Ted Kennedy,
a man whose name once evoked dynastic possibilities not unlike those that
Hillary Clinton's carries now. She nodded affirmatively every couple of
moments while Kennedy spoke, then leaned over to give a pat on the arm and
whisper in his ear when he took his seat. Then came others who hold rank
over a newly elected senator: Chris Dodd, Susan Collins, Barbara Mikulski,
Mike DeWine, Evan Bayh, John Edwards. They all made their points as
Clinton pursed her lips and nodded her head with exaggerated emphasis --
yes, yes, good point, how wise. A typical day on Capitol Hill affords her
literally dozens of occasions to project soulful approval.
Finally, speaker number eight, came Clinton. And the person who has
inspired more argument, more admiration and animus, than any other woman
of her generation spoke about...."food safety provisions." Not
enough has been done, she said, "and I think we are now taking some
important steps to address that." There were ostentatious references
to the adopted state she represents -- "greater security at
facilities like Plum Island off the coast of Long Island....I was up in
Rochester and Syracuse, and I mostly talked with doctors, nurses,
front-line responders" -- and she was done.
The appearance was parochial and prosaic in ways that her devotees find
poetic: Hillary Clinton has earned the luxury of being boring. Or, more
precisely, pretending to be. A woman whose past is shrouded in unanswered
questions and whose future is cloaked in unrevealed possibilities will
remain interesting for a long time to come.
Her life now is spent in the Senate club, palling around with Democrats
and working with surprising collegiality with the same Republicans who
once reviled her and tried to evict her husband from office. She gives the
speeches she wants to, no longer bowing to the West Wing political
advisers who, when her husband was president, fretted that her presence
was too hot. She power-walks around Capitol Hill from hearing to floor
speech to news conference to reception, putting in 12- to 14-hour days,
often with a cell phone planted to her ear. The New York reporters who
follow her ask more often than not about financial aid for New York City,
or even the federal Animal Disease Center on Plum Island, rather than
about her marriage or her hair or her legal controversies. She constantly
pays deference to Senate elders, saying she knows she's just one of a
hundred. She chirps a singsongy "How are you?" to the tourists
who regularly do double takes or stretch out their hands when they spot a
celebrity, making plain that she is hardly just one of a hundred.
It is her husband, the former president, who still seems searching for
the right role on the right stage. She, by contrast, is right where she
wants to be.
Most of the time, anyway. If, say, 90 percent of her hours and psychic
space is taken up by being "Senator Clinton," her words and
deeds taken at face value, in the remaining 10 percent she is still
"Hillary" -- with everything that means.
It means the National Enquirer cover in September, "HILLARY CHEATS
ON BILL; How ex-Prez found out," or the rival Globe from March:
"CLINTONS TO DIVORCE: INSIDE THE BITTER BUST-UP." It means the
catcalls of surly firefighters and policemen at the VH1 relief concert in
New York on October 20. They weren't booing Senator Clinton, who had been
working nearly round the clock on disaster issues after September 11. They
were booing Hillary: Down from the stage, lady! Who the hell do you think
Slowly, and incompletely, she has answered that question more clearly
over the course of the last year in the Senate than she did in the
previous eight in the White House. Her greater comfort springs from
greater confidence, which in turn springs, according to many people close
to her, from a potent psychological source: liberation.
Thanks to a generous majority of Empire State voters, her influence no
longer comes from her marriage. "She's gone from a completely
derivative role to nonderivative role," says a former White House
staff member who is close to her. "In Washington, 'first lady' has
never really been taken that seriously. 'Senator' has. She's not trying to
construct something from nothing."
Clinton does not put it quite like that, and is careful not to
disparage the first lady's role. But, in an interview, she came close to
endorsing the thesis. "Those years in the White House for me were
extraordinary experiences; I'm really grateful for it. But the role itself
is more of a vicarious responsibility in that you are, like everyone in
the White House, there because of one person, the president. Everybody
else is there at his sufferance," she said. "And this job I have
now -- I'm representing the people of New York, but there's a lot more
opportunity to express my own opinions, to work through what I would do
and how I would do it."
One particular constituent, like her a newcomer to the state, is not
only approving but vastly relieved. "To the extent she speaks for
herself, and is directly accountable to the people of New York, it's got
to be liberating for her," said Bill Clinton, during an interview for
this article. After the turbulence of their White House tour, he surely
has many reasons to feel relief at her contentedness now, but he reaches
far back in their history to explain. In 1974, as he was getting ready to
propose to her, he said, he was reluctant to ask her to move to Arkansas
because she'd have to give up on elective politics herself. He thought
then that she'd be good at it -- and, as it has turned out, "she's
just as good as I thought she'd be."
Favorable reviews are coming from quarters far less inclined to
charity. Last month the conservative New York Post, whose roastings of
Hillary are a local specialty, summarized her first year with the
headline: "Hill on the Hill: So Far, So Good." The article
included a quote from Larry Craig of Idaho, one of the Senate's most
conservative Republicans, who acknowledged he hardly ever agrees with
Clinton but added: "She's had a successful year. It appears that she
knows her job and does it well."
Still, she does not believe her opponents have laid down their weapons,
nor is she laying down her own. Perhaps, an interviewer ventured, now that
her influence flows from voters rather than her husband, the political
forces she described in the opening days of the Monica Lewinsky scandal as
a "vast right-wing conspiracy" may be ready for a truce.
"I don't know that it's a truce," she answered, with force.
"It doesn't ever seem to end. If a couple days go by and they haven't
heard anything they can talk about, they make something up. It never
Pressed for examples, she declined. Perhaps she was talking about the
criticism she got on talk radio and conservative Web sites for yawning and
whispering to a colleague during President Bush's address to Congress
after the September 11 attacks? "You know, a capital offense,"
she said, scoffing at the episode, which aides attributed to fatigue.
"It's kind of a perverse form of flattery. That's how I kind of think
about it, honestly."....
END of Excerpt
To read the entire piece by Harris:
Post ombudsman Michael Getler on Sunday acknowledged that a January 17
Post story, which contrasted Bush administration fealty to "religious
conservatives" concerned about human embryo clones to how "at
the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway
nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for
imposing their moral code on others," came across as "having
been written from a point of view" and raised the issue of "a
real or perceived bias."
The original Post story was the subject of a
January 17 Media Reality Check from the MRC: "Afghanistan's
Murderous Taliban = U.S.A.'s 'Religious Conservatives.' Post
Reporter Bends over Backwards to Slam Conservatives." Go to: http://archive.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020121.asp#7
In his January 27 column about reader
responses during the week, Getler revealed:
my mail and calls this week came from a dozen or so readers angered by a
Jan. 17 Federal Page article on the president's new Bioethics Council by
science reporter Rick Weiss. Among the comments were that they viewed it
as 'highly objectionable' editorializing and 'a form of demagoguery
by The Post.' Readers raised several points, but the one that no one
missed was this comparison: 'In November, researchers announced that
they had made the first human embryo clones, giving immediacy to warnings
by religious conservatives and others that science is no longer serving
the nation's moral will. At the same time, the United States was fighting
a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives
who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others.'
Weiss is an excellent and authoritative science reporter, but I'm with the
readers on this one. The article comes across as having been written from
a point of view, and nothing can distract readers more from the work of
reporters with real expertise than a real or perceived bias in the telling
of their stories."
I'd call it a "real" bias.
For Getler's column in full:
last Wednesday night's NBC News special, The Bush White House: Inside
the Real West Wing, Tom Brokaw seemed vexed by the idea that in the wake
of Enron's collapse the Bush administration would still pursue allowing
people to invest some of their Social Security money in stocks.
Over video of a meeting in Karl Rove's
office taped the previous Thursday, January 17, during NBC's day at the
White House, Brokaw observed: "Senior aide Karl Rove was forced to
sell his Enron shares at a loss last year to comply with ethics
regulations. Even though thousands lost their life savings in Enron stock
and 401(k) accounts, this administration is pressing ahead to allow all
Americans to buy stock as part of their Social Security accounts."
Rove: "So you're going to continue to pursue that?"
steady: "You bet, absolutely. This is a fundamental reform that is
important to the country long term."
may have already seen highlighted by the DrudgeReport and Tony Snow on
FNC's Special Report or elsewhere, on Friday morning at about 10:40am
EST, as he walked across the South Lawn to Marine One for transport to Air
Force One for a trip to Portland, Maine, President Bush was carrying a
copy of Bernard Goldberg's book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the
Media Distort the News.
The Fox News Channel showed Bush with the book
live on Friday morning, an event missed by CNN. A few minutes later, FNC
media reporter Eric Burns pointed out Bush's reading choice. (I didn't
get a chance to check MSNBC.) The MRC's Mez Djouadi has posted, on the
MRC's home page, a still shot from FNC. But it's too small to allow
you to make out the book.
The Yahoo News page, however, features big and
clear photos from both the AP and Reuters.
For the AP photo:
AP's caption: "President Bush waves as
he walks out of the White House in Washington, headed for Portland, Maine,
where he is focusing on border and harbor security, Friday, Jan. 25, 2002.
Slung beneath Bush's right arm as he walked to Marine One is the book,
'Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distorts the News,' by
former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg, which accuses television
news executives of tilting liberal in how they report the news. (AP Photo/J.Scott
Oops, AP changed the title from
"Distort" to "Distorts." The word "media" is
For the Reuters photo:
The Reuters caption: "U.S. President
George W. Bush leaves the White House January 25, 2002 on his way to
Andrews Air Force Base for a trip to Portland, Maine. Bush is carrying a
book titled 'Bias,' by former CBS employee Bernard Goldberg, which is
one person's view of a claimed liberal bias in the news media. REUTERS/Win
Adding a little distance there, "a
claimed liberal bias."
for NBC News having any more respect for any concept of a family hour than
the NBC entertainment honchos.
Dateline NBC airs three times a week: Tuesdays
at 10pm EST/PST, 9pm CST/MST; Fridays at 9pm EST/PST, 8pm CST/MST and
Sundays at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST/MST.
Guess which time slot NBC News decided to use
for its show with this theme: "In the bedroom and beyond, a Dateline
The earliest one, of course, not the late as
possible 10pm/9pm Tuesday time slot.
In the top of the show preview at 7pm EST/PST,
6pm CST/MST on Sunday night, January 27, viewers saw a scene from HBO's
Sex and the City of a bare-chested firefighter dancing on stage as actress
Kim Catrall cooed: "Hello 911? I'm on fire!" The Dateline NBC
announcer helpfully explained: "She puts the sex in Sex and the City,
steaming up TV screen across America. Can she do the same for your love
life? Now she's written a book on sex and it's not for women
On screen NBC showed the cover of her new book
titled, "Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm."
The announcer promised that viewers would
learn from Catrell "the secrets of seduction."
More like NBC's effort to seduce an audience
away from CBS's 60 Minutes. --
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