Borger: Don't Blame Clinton; CNN's Karl Highlighted Congressional Hypocrisy; "Suspected Islamic Militants"?; 3rd Place Donahue; Jennings Special Tanked; Celebrities for Harkin
1) It's not Bill Clinton's fault. Bob Rubin told me so. In this week's U.S. News, Gloria Borger, who also toils for CBS News, ridiculed the attempt by Republicans to blame Bill Clinton for corporate wrongdoing. "'Blaming Clinton is absolutely ridiculous,' ex-Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin told me." She then blamed the GOP's Contract with America, which "was flush with proposals to roll back business regulation and legal accountability."
2) CNN's Jonathan Karl highlighted on NewsNight congressional hypocrisy over condemning corporate accounting abuses. Karl proposed that "Congress's own accounting practices look eerily like the schemes used by Enron and WorldCom." An example: "Last year Congress approved a $15 billion bail-out of the Railroad Workers Pension Fund, but not a dime of that money was counted on the balance sheet -- a trick not even WorldCom can pull off."
3) "Suspected"? A Reuters dispatch from Tokyo referred to "the attacks by suspected Islamic militants that killed nearly 3,000 people."
4) A week after Phil Donahue's debut on MSNBC, it looks like it's a battle for second place behind first place Bill O'Reilly with Connie Chung so far beating Donahue. Broadcasting and Cable magazine reported that MSNBC's Donahue attracted 660,000 viewers in his first week, compared to 710,000 for CNN's Chung and 2.1 million for FNC's O'Reilly.
5) The controversy over Peter Jennings excluding country singer Toby Keith from singing his song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," on ABC's Independence Day prime time special sure didn't attract viewers to the three-hour program. It lost to the Price is Right and CSI.
6) Celebrities put out the bucks for a liberal. The Des Moines Register reported that Senator Tom Harkin "has attracted a glittering roster of Hollywood stars and entertainment moguls to contribute to his re-election effort." Amongst his supporters: The West Wing's Bradley Whitford and ER's Anthony Edwards. Plus, Barbra Streisand and David Geffen.
>>> Latest edition of Notable Quotables, the MRC's bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media, is now online. Amongst the quote headings:
"Lobbying Against 'Weaker' Law"; "No Credibility Without Regulation"; "Scandalous Support for Business"; "Judicial Watch's Vanishing Label"; "Ruing America's Moral Weakness"; "Goofing Up Liberal Talking Points"; "Gorbasm from Across the Pond"; "Phil Donahue, Model Moderate" and "Ken Starr Aided Terrorists."
To read all the quotes:
For the Adobe Acrobat PDF version:
It's not Bill Clinton's fault. Bob Rubin told me so. In this week's U.S. News & World Report Gloria Borger, who is also a "special correspondent" for CBS News where she co-hosts Face the Nation and pops up sometimes as an analyst on the CBS Evening News, ridiculed the attempt by Republicans to blame Bill Clinton for the corporate wrongdoing. She then proceeded to blame the GOP's Contract with America.
"Don't Blame Bubba" declared the headline over her piece in the July 29 issue.
She outlined the theory: "The blame-Clinton scenario has the appeal of a simple cartoon: Today's corruption began in the 1990s and was shaped, as House Republican campaign chairman Tom Davis puts it, by a 'culture of dishonesty and situational ethics that flowed directly from the White House. A lack of accountability, dishonesty, evasion, and dissemblance are the true legacies of the Clinton era.' Ipso facto, Clinton did it."
She then countered: "One small problem: He didn't. 'Blaming Clinton is absolutely ridiculous,' ex-Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin told me."
The theory may have its weaknesses, but the fact that a Clintonista doesn't like it is hardly authoritative.
After making fun of how anyone could blame Clinton when he's no longer President, an office he left barely 18 months ago, she harkened back to 1995 to assign blame: "What about starting with the fact that the GOP's 1994 Contract with America was flush with proposals to roll back business regulation and legal accountability?"
Of course, her next sentence was not: "'Blaming the Republican Congress is absolutely ridiculous,' ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich told me." No, she agreed with the anti-conservative spin.
Instead, she proceeded to favorably relay: "Who gets the blame? No one in particular, says Rubin. But, he adds, the trillion-dollar tax cut has only made it worse."
An excerpt from Borger's U.S. News piece:
....When Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week described an "infectious greed" permeating business, the verdict was final: The bad boys got away with murder.
Republicans cringed in horror. After all, this corporate mess was
happening on their watch. They needed a plan, fast. Voters were already beginning to believe that the administration was more interested in protecting big business than little consumers. Would a congressional stampede to punish corporate cads be enough to salve the angry masses? Maybe. How about a daily presidential reminder that the Republican Party is on the case? Wasn't enough. Then someone had a great idea: What about returning to a golden-oldie strategy-blame the mess on Bill Clinton, the baddest boy of all? Perfect.
The blame-Clinton scenario has the appeal of a simple cartoon: Today's corruption began in the 1990s and was shaped, as House Republican campaign chairman Tom Davis puts it, by a "culture of
dishonesty and situational ethics that flowed directly from the White House. A lack of accountability, dishonesty, evasion, and dissemblance are the true legacies of the Clinton era." Ipso facto, Clinton did it.
One small problem: He didn't. "Blaming Clinton is absolutely ridiculous," ex-Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin told me. "We all have our faults, and Bill Clinton has his faults. But money and greed are not among them." Not only that, he adds, the notion that the crooked culture of business stemmed from Clinton's personal moral lapses is silly. "I never heard anybody in business extrapolate from Bill Clinton's problems." And if they had, what exactly would they have said? Gee, since President Clinton lied about Monica, I guess I can cash in on these options? Please.
It's understandable that some Republicans might be looking elsewhere for explanations. But what about starting with the fact that the GOP's 1994 Contract with America was flush with proposals to roll back business regulation and legal accountability? Or that Republicans led the fight to cut the Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement budget? Or that the Republican version of last year's economic stimulus package would have provided $254 million in tax breaks to Enron? Nah. It's easier to lay it on Clinton because it works. In one recent survey, about half of the voters called him "at least partially responsible" for the current business scandals. Is he still President?
This is not to say, of course, that Democrats are without culpability. Eager to shed their image as antibusiness (and eager to collect large, unregulated "soft money" checks from business), Democrats consistently balked at imposing tough regulations on CEOs and their auditing firms....
[In the 1990s] "Productivity was up," says Rubin. "Unemployment was way down." So what happened? "Corporate debt was up and so was the stock market. There had to be a period of adjustment." Who gets the blame? No one in particular, says Rubin. But, he adds, the trillion-dollar tax cut has only made it worse....
END of Excerpt
To read the article in full:
(The July 14 Fox News Sunday featured an argument between Brit Hume and Juan Williams about whether to blame Clinton or Gingrich for corporate misdeeds. For details:
Some contrarian reporting by CNN's Jonathan Karl featured on Monday's NewsNight. Despite congressional outrage over corporate accounting, Karl proposed that "Congress's own accounting practices look eerily like the schemes used by Enron and WorldCom."
One example of the hypocrisy cited by Karl: "Congress has
perfected the art of understating expenses, sometimes not
counting them at all. For example, last year Congress approved
a $15 billion bail-out of the Railroad Workers Pension Fund,
but not a dime of that money was counted on the balance sheet
-- a trick not even WorldCom can pull off."
Raising how Congress does not count future Social Security
payments as liabilities, Karl noted: "Enron's alleged crime
was using accounting gimmicks to conceal its debts, which is
exactly what Congress does, but with much bigger numbers."
Karl highlighted congressional hypocrisy since their
"accounting practices look eerily like the schemes used
by Enron and WorldCom"
closely matched an op-ed by him which appeared in Monday's Wall
Karl began his CNN story, which did not air on Inside Politics but which Aaron Brown allowed to run on the July 22 NewsNight:
"There's been no shortage of congressional outrage over shady corporate accounting."
Senator Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut: "This wasn't just cooking the books. This was marinating them, sauteeing them and garnishing them. This was a recipe for financial disaster."
U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-Louisiana: "This is not accounting 101. This is fraud 101."
Karl pointed out: "All that tough talk obscures a basic fact: Congress' own accounting practices look eerily like the schemes used by Enron and WorldCom."
U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio: "It appears now that senior WorldCom executives deliberately hid almost $4 billion in expenses, disguising its true performance."
Karl outlined a similar scam pulled off by Congress: "But Congress has perfected the art of understating expenses, sometimes not counting them at all. For example, last year Congress approved a $15 billion bail-out of the Railroad Workers Pension Fund, but not a dime of that money was counted on the balance sheet -- a trick not even WorldCom can pull off.
"There's more. A lot more. Congress classified money for the 2000 census sues as emergency spending. Of course, the census is not an emergency. It's been done every 10 years since the dawn of the republic, but the move enabled Congress to keep $4.5 billion off the books. And Congress was able to wipe $2.3 billion in cost off the 2001 budget by simply paying military employees a day early. That's because it moved the big payday from the first day of fiscal year 2001 to the last day of 2000. And this sort of thing is nothing new."
Tim Penny, former Member of Congress: "That kind of gimmickry, that kind of smoke and mirrors was part and parcel of the way we did budgeting all during the 1980s."
Karl: "In fact, back in 1985 David Stockman, Reagan's budget director said: 'We have increasingly resorted to squaring the circle with accounting gimmicks, evasions, half-truths and downright dishonesty in our budget numbers. If the SEC had jurisdiction over the executive and legislative branches, many of us would be in jail.'"
Senator Peter Fitzgerald, R-Illinois, to Ken Lay at a hearing: "I'd say you were a carnival barker, except that wouldn't be fair to carnival barkers. A carney will at least tell you up front that he's running a shell game."
Karl tied in the Social Security shell game: "Enron's alleged crime was using accounting gimmicks to conceal its debts, which is exactly what Congress does, but with much bigger numbers."
David Walker, General Accounting Office: "What you won't find in the U.S. government's financial statements is you won't find shown as a liability the amount that the U.S. government owes to the trust funds of Social Security and Medicare."
Karl concluded: "If you counted all the money Congress owes future retirees, the true size of the federal debt is several trillion dollars higher, but don't look for the true debt to show up on the debt clock any time soon. Like most federal laws, the corporate accountability law won't apply to Congress."
Karl also raised his perspective in a CNN Saturday Edition interview with House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed.
The first question from Karl to DeLay on the 10am EDT show of July 20: "I want to get right off on something that has been bothering me since Congress started taking up this whole issue of corporate accountability, and that's your own record, Congress' own record with their own books. Let me just look at a couple examples and get you to tell me what you think is going on here.
Congress, in the last budget last year, classified $4.5 billion for the Census as a emergency spending. We've been doing a
census since 1790. They also shifted a military payday from the first day of 2001 to the last day of 2000, creating savings of $2.3 billion that weren't there. And they also shifted a corporate tax deadline from the end of 2000 to the beginning of 2001. That
move created an extra $23 billion in mythical income for the federal government.
"Now, Mr. DeLay, you're a powerful member of the House. How does this stuff go on in Congress' own budget? And how do you guys have any credibility talking about corporate America?"
Karl followed up: "Doesn't that create a credibility problem, though? I mean, if you look at some of those practices, they're almost exactly the kind of thing that Enron and WorldCom are accused of, this kind of moving of numbers around to make one year look better than the other. It seems like there's a credibility problem there."
"Cooking the Books is an Old Recipe for Uncle Sam" read the headline over Karl's op-ed piece on the July 22 Wall Street Journal which the MRC's Rich Noyes brought to my attention. Before citing the same examples as the CNN piece, it began:
"Here's an accounting scandal that hasn't yet hit the business pages. The offending organization set up off-the-books mechanisms to conceal debt, inflated its revenues by manipulating accounts receivable, and understated costs by shifting employee pay periods to the previous fiscal year. And it gets worse. Billions of dollars of expenses were simply left off the books and other expenses were paid by raiding the pension fund.
"The scandal here is the federal budget, and it's brought to you by Congress, the very folks who now say they're going to force proper accounting standards on corporate America."
Before listing the examples he also highlighted on CNN, Karl suggested: "Congress's questionable accounting schemes are so costly they make Worldom's $3.8 billion overstatement of profits look like a rounding error."
The op-ed offered a longer exposition on "the biggest federal accounting gimmick: the so-called trust funds for Medicare and Social Security. Just as Enron set up off-the-books partnerships to conceal its debt, Congress has set up these trust funds, borrowed money from them and spent it on current operating costs. The promised benefits for future retirees amount to trillions of dollars in future costs.
"Yet as David Walker, head of the General Accounting Office, explains, 'You won't find shown as a liability the amount that the U.S. government owes to the trust funds of Social Security and Medicare.' How can the government pretend trillions of dollars in liabilities don't exist? 'When you deal with Social Security and Medicare and other trust funds,' says Mr. Walker, 'they're really not a traditional trust fund, they're really an accounting device.' So much for the old 'lockbox' canard.
"No private-sector corporation could get away with treating its pension fund the way the federal government treats Social Security. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act prohibits it, but, of course, this law doesn't apply to Congress."
For a bio and photo of CNN congressional reporter Karl, who joined CNN in 1996 after stints at the New Republic and New York Post:
It's very unusual for a perspective outlined on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page to get air time soon after on a television news broadcast, so CNN deserves credit for allowing Karl's take on the corporate scandals, which is contrary to the widespread media tableau in which only Congress can rein in out of control greed corporate chieftains, to get some air time.
Does Reuters have doubts? A July 20 Reuters dispatch from Tokyo referred to "the attacks by suspected Islamic militants that killed nearly 3,000 people."
The description, highlighted on Monday's "Best of the Web" column on OpinionJournal.com
(www.opinionjournal.com/best), came in the very last sentence of a July 20 story headlined: "Japan Company Hits Sony, Jackson over 9/11 Single."
Reporter Isabel Reynolds began the report from Tokyo: "The Japanese owner of the rights to an all-star charity single aimed at raising millions for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks says Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment seemed to be blocking its release."
The last sentence of the Reuters dispatch: "Jackson's representatives said last October he had finished studio recordings for the single, which he hoped would raise $50 million for victims' families and survivors of the attacks by suspected Islamic militants that killed nearly 3,000 people."
For the article in its entirety:
A week after Donahue's debut on MSNBC at 8pm EDT, where he goes head-to-head with Connie Chung on CNN and Bill O'Reilly on FNC, it looks like it's a battle for second place behind first place O'Reilly with Chung so far beating Donahue. But while MSNBC remains in third place at 8pm EDT, Donahue has boosted the network's audience at the hour by 86 percent over how many used to tune in The News with Brian Williams.
In a piece posted on the Broadcasting and Cable magazine Web site, reporter Allison Romano ran down the numbers for Donahue's first week, July 15 to July 19. For the week, Donahue attracted an average of 660,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. CNN's Connie Chung Tonight, however, "pulled in 710,000 total viewers."
Meanwhile, "Fox News' Bill O'Reilly maintained his stranglehold on first place, harvesting an average 2.0 rating and 2.1 million viewers."
At MSNBC Donahue, Romano pointed out, "is a welcome injection to prime time. In the 8pm hour, Donahue drew 86 percent more viewers to MSNBC compared to second quarter."
For the Broadcasting and Cable magazine article:
Tomorrow night Donahue will do a little gimmickry to try to attract viewers: A town hall meeting in Houston with former Enron workers. His guests on the July 24 show? Romano relayed: "Donahue will be joined by journalist Molly Ivins and consumer advocate Ralph
But maybe more liberalness is not what cable TV news viewers desire.
As USA Today's Peter Johnson noted last week, after a big tune in for Donahue's first night, he "lost a hefty 37% of his audience on MSNBC Tuesday, barely beating CNN's Connie Chung for second place in cable's 8pm ET/5 PT talk show wars."
Given how Donahue fell behind Chung for the week, his viewership must have dropped off more as the week progressed.
All publicity may not be helpful publicity. The controversy over Peter Jennings excluding country singer Toby Keith from singing his song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," on ABC's Independence Day prime time special sure didn't attract viewers to the three-hour program.
Catching up on some old news here, ABC's In Search of America: A Musical Celebration, hosted by Peter Jennings live from Mount Vernon with music from venues around the country, beat NBC's Friends but was trounced by a 9pm EDT repeat of CSI on CBS -- and even lost to a 8pm EDT CBS prime time repeat of Price is Right and a 10pm repeat of CBS's The Agency, a Neilsen chart in the July 10 USA Today revealed. And as for viewer preference in Independence Day shows, NBC's 90 minute coverage of Macy's fireworks and concert in New York City (from 9 to 10:30pm EDT), hosted by Rob Lowe, handily beat ABC and Jennings.
As the July 10 Washington Post reported: "In the battle of Fourth of July specials, NBC's coverage of the Macy's fireworks display in New York drew nearly 8 million viewers, way ahead of ABC News's three-hour In Search of America special, which was seen by 4.6 million. However, the most watched show on the holiday was a CSI repeat, with 8.5 million viewers."
For more about Keith's charge that Jennings rejected him after objecting to the lyrics of his song, see the June 14
The stanza in question:
"This big dog will fight/
"When you rattle his cage/
"And you'll be sorry that you messed with/
"The U.S. of A./
"'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass/
"It's the American way."
Despite how the show did in the ratings and the liberal editorial judgment applied by Jennings to reject Keith, ABC and Disney do deserve applause for devoting all of prime time to patriotic programming. CBS's The Price is Right, CSI and The Agency may have won the night, but what did they have to do with America celebrating its first Independence Day since September 11th?
A bunch of celebrities have contributed to the re-election campaign of liberal Iowa Democratic Senator Tom
Harkin, the Des Moines Register reported on July 14, a revelation highlighted on the July 15 edition of CNN's Inside Politics.
This is another item I'm catching up with from my "pending" file.
Register reporter Jane Norman, of the paper's Washington bureau, disclosed what she found in FEC reports: "When it comes to the glamour campaign, Sen. Tom Harkin is winning hands-down. The Iowa Democrat has attracted a glittering roster of Hollywood stars and entertainment moguls to contribute to his re-election effort, which as of June 30 had raked in $6.8 million."
An excerpt from her July 14 story:
A review of Federal Election Commission records of nearly 6,000
contributors to Harkin's campaign turned up celebs such as Emmy award-winning actor Bradley Whitford, who plays presidential aide Josh Lyman in the NBC drama "The West Wing." Whitford, a native of Madison, Wis., gave $2,000 to
There's also actor Anthony Edwards, who until recently starred as Dr. Mark Greene in NBC's popular series "ER." Edwards, who has testified before Harkin in Congress, asking for more federal money for autism research, contributed $1,000. Christie Hefner, the head of Playboy Enterprises, gave $250.
A similar scan of contributors to the campaign of Harkin's opponent, Republican Greg Ganske, doesn't turn up nearly as many celebrity names....
For Harkin, songstress Barbra Streisand forked over $1,000, and millionaire producer-screenwriter Stephen Bing gave $2,000....
Whitford, of "The West Wing," was traveling last week and couldn't be reached for comment on why he's interested in a Senate race in Iowa. But he says in the current issue of the magazine Business 2.0 that "I'm on a wonderful, tremendously partisan political e-mail list with people who worked in the Clinton administration."
Harkin's other famous contributors include:
-- David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, producers who own DreamWorks, a multimedia company, with Steven Spielberg. Each gave $1,000.
-- Lew Wasserman, the late movie mogul, who gave $2,000.
-- Director Sydney Pollack, who gave $1,000.
-- Haim Saban, half-owner of Fox Family Worldwide, who gave $2,000, and his screenwriter wife, Cheryl, who also gave $2,000.
Perhaps the most famous name among a list of more than 4,200
contributors to Ganske's Senate and recent House campaigns was that of retired University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, who gave $400 to Ganske back in 1999....
END of Excerpt
For the story in full:
To remind yourself of who some of these celebrities are, you can check their Internet Movie Database pages which features photos and bios.
For The West Wing's Bradley
For ER's Anthony Edwards:
For Sidney Pollack, who has been in movies such as Random Hearts and Eyes Wide Shut:
No space left for a witty closing thought. --
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