1. All three news magazines relayed Fidel Castro’s spin on the Elian Gonzalez case as
U.S. News saw "growing sentiment" for closer relations with Cuba. In a surprising twist,
Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter maintained Elian should return but conceded the "Keep Elián Here crowd is on the right side of history" and the "American left still has a bit of a soft spot" for Castro.
2. Time magazine tied the IMF’s "free-market shock therapy" to "Dr. Death." In a piece headlined, "Retro Cool? Ralph Nader’s Campaign,"
Time polished up Nader’s resume as Matthew Cooper recounted Nader’s regulatory accomplishments.
3. U.S. News looked into the unpopularity of tax cuts.
Newsweek had gay former Congressman Steve Gunderson assess Bush’s meeting with gay leaders while Howard Fineman wondered if evangelicals "have become more of a burden than a blessing."
Time expressed doubts about Bush’s compassion strategy, proclaiming "it’s hard enough being the leader of a party" that has refused "to add a few quarters to the minimum wage." The magazine praised Bush for trying to show "he cares about real people, just like the Democrats."
On the covers of the April 24 editions: Newsweek asked, "Is the Bull Market Really Over?" U.S. News & World Report examined: "Why Jesus Was Killed" and Time proclaimed the virtues of testosterone.
Newsweek covered the Elian Gonzalez’s home video in an article mostly spent on psychoanalyzing the child but which did bring up the communist propaganda line relayed through Juan Miguel’s attorney Greg Craig. Joseph Contreras and Evan Thomas reported the accusation that Elian was being "brainwashed" but never mentioned Castro’s threats to send the child through "reeducation" in Cuba: "There is no evidence that Elián has anything to fear from his father. According to his lawyer Greg Craig, Juan Miguel worries that his son is, in effect, being brainwashed. ‘He’s not the son he knew five months ago. That boy had no fears. He was never afraid of Cuba, never afraid of his father. What has been done to the boy by these relatives is unspeakable,’ Craig told Newsweek."
Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter begrudgingly admitted that Cuban Americans are on the "right-side of history," though noting they remain "unhip." Alter opened:
"I was born and raised in Chicago, home of tens of thousands of refugees from Eastern Europe. Throughout my childhood, some stolid flag-waving Latvian or Lithuanian in an ugly tie was always on TV shouting about ‘Captive Nations Week’ or Stalinist thugs. They were not just deeply uncool but sometimes kooky -- the kind who would spray you with spittle in the park if you got too close.
"Well, the 20th century is over and the kooks won. All of those trendy lefty intellectuals turned out to be clueless about politics, economics and human nature, though of course many could never admit it. Whatever their excesses, the hard-liners were closer to the mark.
"I thought of Captive Nations Week last week when I was in Miami interviewing people in the crowd outside the González house. These Cuban-Americans are wrong to resist returning Elián to his father and, despite Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia, decidedly unhip. Public opinion has turned against them; elite opinion has been withering. But like the Chicago spittle-spewers, the Keep Elián Here crowd is on the right side of history, and that should still count for something."
Alter went on to admit the American left has a "soft-spot" for Fidel Castro: "Despite all of the denials, the American left still has a bit of a soft spot -- or at least a postmodern ironic appreciation -- for the guy with the beard and cigar. The more that Cuban exiles attack him, the less comfortable American liberals feel in identifying his abuses. The respectable left now views Fidel with a kind of offhand indulgence, as if he’s faintly comical. In Miami, of course, they rightly see nothing funny about him at all."
But in the end Alter returned to the liberal line that would reward Castro’s recalcitrance by pushing to end the trade embargo: "This means there’s a better chance of finally establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and at long last lifting the counterproductive trade embargo. Clinton and Congress have refused to do so out of fear of alienating Cuban-Americans. But any student of Cuba knows that resisting the embargo is how Fidel stokes resentments against the United States; ending it might hasten his demise, which would give the exiles a victory in spite of themselves. Juan Miguel González told the New York Daily News last week that ‘I just want [Elián] to change the world somehow.’ By the time this is over, he might."
U.S. News & World Report joined in the crusade for ending trade embargos on Cuba. U.S. News reporter Linda Robinson claimed American’s growing weariness with the Elian case also demonstrated a willingness to deal with Castro: "But the Elián case is also highlighting a certain Cuba fatigue that may ultimately undermine the most radical members of the Cuban-American community. The feeling is most immediately evident in the overwhelming number of people who tell pollsters: ‘The boy should be with his father.’ Less apparent is what seems to be a growing sentiment among citizens and policymakers that dealing with Cuba will be more productive than fighting it."
Time’s Nancy Gibbs added her voice to the fray: "...there was a nasty sense last week that what his Miami relatives warned would happen to him in Cuba was already happening to him here. Was that really his idea to sit on a bed, wave his finger at his father and defy him -- the father who must , surely, have played some role in making him the delightful kid everyone says he is?"
Gibbs seemed to have been swayed by Fidel Castro’s "smooth" propaganda man: "Unable to speak to his son, Juan Miguel began to speak instead to the rest of the country. His public appearances increased, his movements carefully staged by Havana’s envoys in Washington and by Craig, who was speaking regularly by telephone to Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, Castro’s smooth American strategist."
All three news magazines covered the WTO protest in Washington D.C. but Time’s writers offered the most strident and even offbeat analysis. Time’s Eric Pooley took a hardline against the IMF. Pooley, in a story headlined, "The IMF: Dr. Death?" berated lifting of trade barriers: "The anti-globalization movement serves up plenty of hot rhetoric but also some disturbing truths. Street protesters have it exactly right, for example, when they argue that the economic policies imposed on developing nations by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have hammered the poor. Using loans and the threat of default as levers, the IMF has pushed more than 90 countries to accept its brand of free-market shock therapy: lowering trade barriers, raising interest rates, devaluating currencies, privatizing state-owned industries, eliminating subsidies and cutting health, education and welfare spending."
Pooley examined Tanzania: "For two decades, it steered a course of self-reliant socialism -- a one-party government controlled the economy, taxed mightily and spent lavishly; its literacy rate was among the highest in Africa. But by the mid-1980s, Tanzania’s economy was flat-lining, with hyperinflation, huge budget and trade deficits, and massive dependence on foreign aid." Pooley allowed James Adams, the World Bank director to cite statistics showing a growth in GDP and drop in inflation since the IMF’s involvement but Pooley quickly dismissed him: "It would all be rosy were it not for the 15 million to 18 million people -- more than half the population -- living in dire poverty, with 12.5 million of them unable to afford the most basic needs. These men and women, almost all subsistence or small-plot cash-crop farmers, have been structurally adjusted half to death."
According to Time’s Matthew Cooper the WTO protest is introducing a new generation of Lefties to the coolness of Ralph Nader. In an article headlined, "Retro Cool? Ralph Nader’s Campaign," Cooper recounted Nader’s regulatory accomplishments: "For two generations, the Harvard-trained lawyer turned activist has been an American icon. There are children’s books about him. His 1965 polemic on auto safety, Unsafe at Any Speed, led to taken-for-granted items like seat belts in every car and shatter-resistant glass. Since then, he's toiled on unglamorous issues like electric-utility rates. And he's inveighed against global-trade deals. It was Nader-founded groups that helped lead the Seattle WTO protests and who are shaping the IMF protests. ‘This is what a robust democracy should be about,’ he says."
Cooper then went to pollster John Zogby to get a measure of Nader’s popularity. "Nader plays especially well with the elderly over 70 -- worried about prescription-drug benefits -- and with the young. ‘He’s retro cool,’ says John Zogby, who conducted the poll. ‘The same way my kids like Led Zeppelin and Cream.’"
On the campaign front, U.S. News & World Report’s Jodie Allen looked into why tax cuts aren’t popular in her article headlined, "Why the Tax Issue Can’t Get Traction, America’s Soaking the Rich and Loving It." While Allen found one of the reasons tax cuts may not be popular is that so many are enjoying them right now, she failed to give credit to the Republican Congress and didn’t seem to mind that the rich were getting hit harder: "Poll after poll shows that taxes are no longer a burning concern for most Americans. One major reason: Most Americans are paying less of them. ‘The federal income tax has become extraordinarily progressive,’ says Eugene Steuerle, a tax expert at the Urban Institute. This fact is backed up by studies from the Congressional Budget Office, the Treasury Department, and even the IRS-averse Tax Foundation. Except for the most affluent, the federal income tax is claiming a smaller percent of most Americans’ income than it has in three decades.’"
Newsweek covered the campaign with two articles -- one by their own Howard Fineman and one written by former Republican Congressman Steve Gunderson about George W. Bush’s meeting with gay Republicans. Gunderson: "Though Bush was attentive -- and does show a willingness to hear all sides -- I don't think we changed his positions. He still opposes gay marriage and classifying crimes against gays as hate crimes. To be honest, Bush still has a long way to go. But I think he’s a lot farther along today than he was last week."
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman talked about the decline in influence of Christian conservatives in a story about Pat Robertson. Fineman noted how Evangelicals "struck back" at Senator John McCain, "obliterating him at the polls," but wondered if in fact they were more of a burden than a help to George W. Bush: "Robertson and fellow Virginian Jerry Falwell were pivotal players in the Republican presidential race and crucial allies in George W. Bush's victory. And yet, from within the movement and without, there are new doubts about what role they and others should play in the GOP. A generation ago evangelicals were the New New Thing on the right, helping to send Ronald Reagan to the White House. Now the question is whether Bush can tap what is left of their passion -- or whether they have become more of a burden than a blessing in the general election."
Time’s James Carney and John F. Dickerson trained their skeptical eyes from the left on George W. Bush’s compassionate conservative strategy. Picking up on Bush’s insistence he really does care about education and immigrants, they charged: "If it sounds as if George Bush is protesting too much, that’s because he’s got a credibility problem. It’s hard enough being the leader of a party that has made headlines by shutting down the government and refusing to add a few quarters to the minimum wage. The Texas Governor also has his own recent past to overcome, including a bruising primary fight that featured him cozying up to the religious right and running a singularly uncompassionate campaign against his opponent, John McCain."
A highlight box on the second page of the two-page spread assessed Bush’s policies from a liberal perspective, assuming spending taxpayer money equals compassion while tax cuts are discredited because they are "for the rich." Under the heading of "Smart Politics..." Time listed two items:
-- "Mr. Compassion: Shows he cares about real people, just like the Democrats."
-- "Future Focus: Helps him divert attention from spotty record in Texas."
But under the accompanying heading "...but Shaky Policy," Time complained:
-- "Not Texas-Sized: Tax credits may be too small to help those in need."
-- "Supply-Side Memories: Tax cut for the rich could squeeze money for the poor."
In the story text Carney and Dickerson also took up the Gore line: "Bush brags about his record as Governor, promising the same success for the entire country, but Gore is pointing to a grimmer Texas." Carney and Dickerson then questioned Bush’s record on health care in Texas and warned that Bush’s tax cut, "as written, would most benefit higher-income Americans." The article wrapped up with Gore’s strategy: "Gore has another campaign he plans to copy. His strategists like to cite the last time an incumbent Vice President ran against a Governor who touted his record as a new kind of moderate from a party with an extreme past. That Vice President came from behind, ran a cynical, negative campaign and crushed his opponent. It was 1988. The defeated Governor was Michael Dukakis. The victorious Vice President? George Bush."
So the Gore camp admits they will run a "cynical," and "negative" campaign. Yet it’s George W. Bush who has to prove he’s compassionate candidate?
-- Geoffrey Dickens