"Conservative" Clinton Speech?; Gore’s for "Change"?; Feeding the Media Beast
1. U.S. News & World Report White House reporter Kenneth T. Walsh incredibly found Bill Clinton’s last State of the Union to be "cast in conservative terms" and bought the remarkable spin of Democratic Leadership Council President Al From that "Clinton isn't proposing the kind of big, bureaucratic government that was anathema in the '70s and '80s."
2. U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman admonished George W. Bush for taking a strong pro-life position and dismissed his political philosophy as "little more than a gigantic tax cut," while Al Gore was "establishing himself as an independent candidate, even as a candidate of change."
3. Time devoted another cover story to thumping the tub for campaign "reform" with liberal writers Donald Barlett and Roger Steele: "In essence, campaign spending in America has divided all of us into two groups: first- and second-class citizens...Call it government for the few at the expense of the many."
4. U.S. News became the first news magazine to devote an article to Newt Gingrich’s affair with Callista
Bisek. Reporter Lynn Rosellini’s Washington rules could also apply to a certain President.
5. Newsweek showed how the Gore campaign has tried to get to reporters’ hearts through their stomachs.
On the February 7 covers of the big three news weekly magazines: Newsweek featured "Inside Wrestling Inc.," U.S. News &World Report led with "Why We Fall in Love," and Time presented "Money and Politics," a preachy expose on money and influence in American political life. U.S. News columnist John Leo offered a preview of how Hillary Clinton and her crew will use the New York City police shooting of innocent black man Amadou Diallo against Rudy
U.S. News White House reporter Kenneth T. Walsh first reviewed Clinton’s State of the Union address as a sermon for a super-sized state: "The administration’s agenda amounts to a surge in both spending and governmental activism that could undermine Clinton’s 1996 declaration that ‘The era of big government is over.’"
But Walsh changed course in mid-article, asserting: "It's unlikely that many of the president's ideas will make it through Congress this year. Yet the politically savvy Clinton framed his proposals in conservative terms -- keeping the budget balanced, paying off the national debt in 13 years, and easing the tax penalty on married couples." Walsh even bought this bit of salesmanship from the
DLC's Al From "President Clinton isn't proposing the kind of big, bureaucratic government that was anathema in the '70's and '80's."
If $350 billion in spending increases does not constitute a proposal for "big, bureaucratic government," then what does?
In his back-page commentary, liberal U.S. News owner Mortimer Zuckerman recycled numerous cliches in handicapping the race for the White House and rebuked George W. Bush’s for his pro-life stance, arguing "this decision will come back to haunt him." He claimed: " Bush's problem is that supporters find it difficult to articulate why they vote for him other than the belief that he offers the best chance for the Republicans to regain the White House. His ‘compassionate conservatism’ so far seems composed of little more than a gigantic tax cut. Pressed from the right by Steve Forbes, Bush came out against the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion in Roe v. Wade, a decision sure to come back to haunt him. In the dispute over South Carolina's flying of the Confederate flag, he hedged wanly. Bush's tax program would eliminate the hard-earned federal budget surplus over the next decade and would, as John McCain pointed out, disproportionately favor the wealthy."
While the "wisecracking Texas governor" managed to win in Iowa, "it was Gore who was the clear winner, though. He had to cope with the so-called Clinton fatigue by establishing himself as an independent candidate, even as a candidate of change." The candidate of change? Al Gore? Zuckerman’s not kidding.
But Zuckerman mysteriously added that Gore won by seemed more, well, Clintonesque: "Gore managed to shake off the bland image that comes from the perception of him as a cultural centrist, a family-values conservative, and an honest, trustworthy man, a good husband and a good father – in other words, something of a bore." Isn’t this "family-values conservative" the same guy who cheered the coming-out episode of "Ellen"?
Zuckerman gushed that the Veep tossed aside blandness and became a bold fighter for the people: "He was able to throw his punches well because of his extensive experience. He made sense of his fiscal prudence in rejecting Republican calls to fritter the surplus on a tax cut rather than protect Social Security and Medicare. His mastery of science and technology rang bells with an American people who understand just how much these fields determine our future prosperity."
Now how many hardcore Iowa Democrats would tell exit pollsters they voted for Gore because of his "mastery of science and technology"?
Time devoted another cover story to thumping the tub for campaign "reform" with liberal writers Donald Barlett and Roger Steele. They explained: "If you know the right people in Congress and in the White House, you can often get anything you want. And there are two surefire ways to get close to those people: Contribute to their political campaigns. Spend generously on lobbying.
"If you do both of these things, success will maul you like groupies at a rock concert. If you do neither -- and this is the case with about 200 million individuals of voting age and several million corporations -- those people in Washington will treat you accordingly. In essence, campaign spending in America has divided all of us into two groups: first- and second-class citizens."
Barlett and Steele added: "Call it government for the few at the expense of the many. Looked at another way, almost any time a citizen or a business gets what it wants through campaign contributions and lobbying, someone else pays the price for it. Sometimes it's a few people, sometimes millions. Sometimes it's one business, sometimes many. In short, through a process often obscured from public view, Washington anoints winners and creates losers."
With all this crusading, Time made no effort to solicit an opposing point of view -- for example, that this system is created through heavy government intervention in the economy, so that if government usurped less power to "anoint winners and create losers," businesses wouldn’t feel as great a need to make large contributions and hire large lobbying staffs.
U.S. News became the first news magazine to devote an article to Newt Gingrich’s affair with Callista Bisek. While she seemed sympathetic to Gingrich’s pariah status among Washington Republicans, reporter Lynn Rosellini mostly outlined how the Speaker’s hypocrisy doesn’t seem to hurt him. Her first three rules of modern Washington – "Public humiliation in Washington is just a window to greater opportunity," "mistakes were made – but not by you," and "Practicing what you preach doesn’t really matter" – could also apply to a certain President.
A Newsweek "Periscope" item showed the lengths to which the Gore campaign was willing to get in the good graces of the press covering his campaign: "Can good food win the good will of a fractious press corps? The Gore campaign has decided to give it a try. To ease the monotony of long days, endlessly repeated speeches and infrequent access to the candidate, the veep is now showering the media with creature comforts. ‘It's not brain surgery,’ says a Gore aide. "I ask myself what would I want if I'd been on the road for nine hours. I'd want a hot lunch or a hot dinner -- or both.’
In New Hampshire recently, shocked reporters at one stop were treated to a sit-down dinner of poached chicken and fresh asparagus instead of the usual cold sandwiches. After an evening event in Iowa, an aide poured red and white wine for reporters on the press bus. The veep is doing his part, too. He surprised a CNN correspondent with a box of chocolates for his birthday and handed out Tennessee Titans Super Bowl T shirts to the press pool traveling with him on Air Force Two.
Things weren't always so good. Early in the campaign, a green advance staff left reporters to fend for themselves. Gore floundered—and his press coverage was dismal. Now Gore has brought in an experienced White House team who treat the task of handling the media entourage as though they were provisioning the Concorde.
Has the care and feeding paid off? Hard to say, but as life on the road has improved, so have Gore's coverage and his poll figures. Says one aide: ‘An advance man can't win the campaign for a candidate, but he can lose it.’"
It’s comforting to know the coverage of presidential candidates is partly influenced by something as trivial as the food the reporters eat.
-- Mark H. Drake
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