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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday March 7, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 10)

Shhh on Hsia; Gore’s Perfectly Positioned; McCain’s "Milestone" Speech?

1. U.S. News & World Report and Time only briefly mentioned the conviction of Al Gore’s Buddhist temple fundraiser Maria Hsia. Newsweek wrote nothing even though Howard Fineman focused on the GOP’s plans to run ads about the temple event.

2. Time and U.S. News found "it is Gore who now finds himself almost exactly where he wants to be, while Bush scrambles madly to assure people he barely knows Bob Jones."

3. Time was the only news magazine to note McCain’s comparison of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton. But Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter called that speech "a milestone" for a new Republican Party.

4. In his "Washington Whispers" feature, U.S. News Senior Writer Paul Bedard featured generals complaining that young officers are leaving at record rates due to "Too much mandated diversity training, not enough war training, and micromanagement from bosses ‘more concerned with making sure nothing goes wrong on their watch.’"

On the covers of this week’s news magazines, dated March 13: Time exhibited NBC’s Today co-host Katie Couric and her crusade against and experience with colorectal cancer. U.S. News & World Report carried the risks of heart disease. Newsweek featured Kayla Rolland, the six year old girl shot in a Michigan elementary school by a classmate, and included a puffball interview with President Clinton.


U.S. News and Time only briefly mentioned the conviction of Gore’s Buddhist temple fundraiser Maria Hsia. Time mentioned Hsia only as a loser in its "Winners and Losers" feature with the message: "Gore ally found guilty. Get ready for an autumn of Buddhist temple ads."

U.S. News mentioned it in a paragraph in their "Transitions" feature, and Roger Simon quoted an unnamed Gore adviser: ‘The election campaign is going to be brutal, incredibly negative, nasty, dirty, slimy, sleazy, and one of the worst in history,’ the adviser says. Bush, too, will have material to work with, such as last week's conviction of Gore fundraiser Maria Hsia for her role in the Buddhist temple scandal." The editors can’t claim they were too pressed for time: all three magazines criticize Bush’s latest ads hitting McCain on breast cancer funding.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman devoted a whole story to how the Republicans want to capitalize on the Buddhist temple event, and mentioned new Secret Service documents show the temple fundraiser was listed as a "fund-raising luncheon," but Hsia, an agent of the Chinese government, was untouched. The magazine’s Jonathan Alter groused: "As they chow down on soft money, neither Gore nor Bush will pay more than lip service to confronting the dangers of money in politics." Earth to Newsweek: look in the mirror.


Roger Simon also lent credence to the idea that Gore avoided moving too far to the left in his primary battle with Bradley, while Bush must still fend off his Bob Jones demons: "Contrary to pre-primary predictions that George W. Bush would have an easy time staying in the center while Gore would be forced to the left by Bradley, it is Gore who now finds himself almost exactly where he wants to be, while Bush scrambles madly to assure people he barely knows Bob Jones."

Simon let Gore aides predict the fall campaign: "‘Bush will say Gore is crazy, a lunatic, and a far left-winger, a Gore adviser says. ‘He will make the classic mistake of trying to define and frighten people about Al Gore.’ And what will you say about Bush? the adviser was asked. ‘That he is a far right-wing lunatic,’ he replies." So Bush will make a classic mistake by doing exactly what Gore does?

Time’s Eric Pooley triumphantly chronicled Gore’s victory over Bill Bradley without any troubling campaign-finance conviction stories. Pooley declared Bradley only helped the Democrats create a more professional candidate with a more moderate sheen: "The candidate who'd promised big ideas was now rooting around in the Congressional Record looking for 20-year-old votes to prove Gore had been a ‘conservative Democrat.’ Of course he found them -- Gore's early opposition to federal funding for abortion and his pro-gun record in the House -- but Gore had so clearly evolved since those days that voters seemed untroubled by the news. Gore (unlike Bush) had managed to make it through the primary season without straying too far from the center. And now Gore will be more than happy to tuck the ‘conservative Democrat’ label under his belt and carry it with him into the fall, when it will be a handy way to parry G.O.P charges that he's a screaming liberal. In the end, even Bradley's attacks turned out to be one more gift to Gore."

And we know the media will gladly promote the image of Gore as reasonable moderate, panders to Al Sharpton, abortion advocates, gay-left lobbyists, radical environmentalists and labor unions notwithstanding.


Time’s Nancy Gibbs tsk-tsked over religion being an issue in the Republican race, since "Both George W. Bush and John McCain were heirs to the victory wing of the party, not the purity wing; both based their appeal on being conservative enough to win the purists but expansive enough to capture the radical center as well."

Gibbs didn’t suggest McCain’s comparison of "mullahs" Robertson and Falwell to anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton was factually incorrect, just tactically incorrect: "It all sounded so personal that it was easy to miss that the war was less about ideology than about power. McCain could claim that his assault last week on leaders of the religious establishment was just his latest rage against the machine, to tell Republicans that they cannot hope to draw people into the fold if they continue to be obsessed with soft money or partisan power or ideological purity. But when he went too far and called the mullahs evil, he allowed the Texans to whisper once more that McCain was simply not steady enough to carry the flag for his or any other party." Gibbs found the McCain staff heard "the Hallelujah Chorus" in his attacks on Robertson and Falwell, but noted how the tactic backlashed. To help McCain, Time also ran a story on his personal faith, not to mention an excerpt from Bush-bashing humorist Molly Ivins’ new book Shrub.

But Time was the only news magazine to mention McCain’s comparison of Robertson and Falwell to Farrakhan and Sharpton -- perhaps because the others don’t want readers to inquire into that attack too deeply. While Time noted McCain’s self-destruction, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter blamed his media colleagues: "When he apologized for having called the televangelists ‘forces of evil’ in an offhand comment aboard his bus, much of the thickheaded press thought he was apologizing for the speech, which muddied his argument further."

Alter presented his theory that the Northeastern-style McCain Republicans will succeed in their conquest of the party and put those conservative "agents of intolerance" in their place. While McCain goofed tactically, "in the longer term, the speech was a milestone. Rockefeller Republicans are dead. (The late Nelson Rockefeller was to the left of where even the Democratic Party is today.) Their descendants, in the Northeast and pockets of rationality elsewhere, may be known as McCain Republicans from now on. They are fiscal conservatives who believe that the GOP can't win without new blood, and the new blood is moderate. They know that the far-flung, free-floating independents they seek are bound together by only two ideas: tolerance and political reform. So by attacking ‘the agents of intolerance’ and ‘the failed philosophy that money is our message,’ McCain set a new path. This year's Death Wish Republicans will fight to the finish to avoid following it. They insist on nominating a candidate shown by polls everywhere to be weaker than McCain against Gore. But if the GOP loses in November -- especially if it loses big -- the McCain message will grow louder in the future, even if the war hero himself doesn't carry it. That's how parties get transformed over time."


Lastly, we hear often in this presidential race how this election is so crucial because the next President will likely nominate two to three justices to the Supreme Court. However, in his "Washington Whispers" feature, U.S. News writer Paul Bedard featured an anecdote on the declining state of our military that illustrates the governing difference between liberals and conservatives.

"The Army brass is worried that too many of tomorrow's generals are calling it quits. In a memo to senior commanders, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane laments the high number of captains – junior officers with four to 10 years of service – who are bailing. Since 1990, the dropout rate has surged to an all-time high of 10.6 percent. Why? Too much mandated diversity training, not enough war training, and micromanagement from bosses ‘more concerned with making sure nothing goes wrong on their watch.’ Keane's message: ‘Let these great officers know that we are listening to them.’"

The next time we send our troops into battle, we should arm them with the diversity training manuals. That should send any enemy force into a panicked flight.

-- Paul Smith





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