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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday May 2, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 18)

Flogging Soggy Elian; SDI Reruns; Newsweek's Prescription Push

1. While U.S. News & World Report again charted a middle ground on Elian Gonzalez, Time and Newsweek continued to pound the Miami faction and tout the administration's post-raid spin.

2. All three magazines suggested the American effort to create a missile-defense capability is expensive, ineffective, and destabilizing to U.S.-Russia relations. And the news magazines think the Republicans sound like they're stuck in the 1980s.

3. Newsweek touted the "explosive issue" of a prescription-drug entitlement for senior citizens, and left little room for free-market rebuttals U.S. News reported a Zogby poll found a large majority favored Republican plans to create an expensive new infringement on economic liberties, instead of the Democratic plans.

4. Insatiable Newsweek and U.S. News reported on bended knee the latest Vietnam tour of presidential loser John McCain: "Primary campaigns are usually meat grinders, turning the losers (and often the winners) into hamburger. McCain has come out as prime filet."

On the covers of the May 8 issues: Time revealed the "untold saga" of the Vikings, U.S. News & World Report took on "The Allergy Explosion," and Newsweek explored "What Teens Believe." According to the cover story, teens "maturing at Internet speedmay bode well for tolerance." Witness 18-year-old Kathryn Griffin: "Prejudice against homosexuals, bisexuals, African-Americans, Latinos - this is a big issue. It's insane that people have these feelings [about other people] when they don't even know them." Newsweek also explored the world of teen beliefs on sex, with the predictable guidance of (unlabeled) sex-education radical Debra Haffner of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, and featured an editorial from candidate Hillary Clinton touting this week's White House teen summit. Newsweek gay activist/reporter Mark Miller highlighted a gay Mormon's suicide after "a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia."


Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" writer lamented, "Just as the CW was trying to enjoy an Elian-lite week, the tone-deaf GOP kept trying to flog the soggy issue for political gain." The Miami relatives received yet another down arrow: "Little Havana histrionics have worn so thin, even the cable news nets are sick of them." Elian rescuer Donato Dalrymple, who held the boy as the INS pointed guns at them, also drew an insult: "Old: Dalrymple was hero of the sea. New: Housecleaner turned publicity hound."

Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas filed another dispatch that sounded like a press release from a crony of leftist lawyer Greg Craig. In an article titled "Cashing In on Little Elian," Thomas found the "vituperative postraid response of GOP lawmakers" was at odds with the public: "Most approved of the raid to return Elian to his father, and many people made clear that they were tired of the whole melodrama. On Capitol Hill, Republicans scheduled, then postponed, congressional hearings. That did not necessarily mean, however, that the exploitation of Elian was winding down."

Thomas returned to whacking the Miami camp: "many Americans were put off by the over-the-top public-relations campaign of Elian's Miami relatives and their entourage. A devastating profile of the fisherman who rescued Elian, Donato Dalrymple, in The Washington Post portrayed him enjoying his celebrity a little too much (he had just bought a safari jacket from Banana Republic to appear on Geraldo)[sic] and disclosed that he wasn't really a fisherman at all, but a housecleaner. He did not jump in the ocean to save Elian; his cousin, Sam Ciancio, did. Ciancio dismissed Dalrymple as 'a phony, a liar, a Kato Kaelin figure.'"

The administration had a friend in Thomas: "In briefings with reporters, federal officials involved in the raid made a fairly convincing case for approaching the Gonzalez home with a surfeit of caution. They had learned that Elian was protected by five bodyguards, four with licenses to carry concealed weapons. A self-styled militia of 15 to 20 men patrolled outside the house, bivouacking in two tents in a neighbor's yard. At least seven of the guards had criminal records for armed robbery or weapons violations. In the neighborhood, the Feds even spotted five members of a paramilitary group called Alpha 66, which had shot up a hotel in Cuba in 1995."

To Thomas, Elian had been removed from the exploitative anti-communist circus to the compassionate arms of his friend, Greg Craig, the left-wing publicist: "The only oasis of calm seemed to be at Wye River Conference Center, the leafy retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore where Elian is living with his father, stepmother, baby half brother and playmates. (Four of his classmates from Cuba were flown in for a couple of weeks.) The father's PR-sensitive lawyer, Gregory Craig, brought in a photographer at the weekend. The photos showed Elian happily hugging his father."

Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy focused on four questions, all with answers landing firmly on the left.

1. Did the government use too much force? Duffy included two paragraphs of administration damage control about Alpha 66 guerrillas and tens of "self-appointed bodyguards."

2. Was it legal? Duffy allowed a sentence for Laurence Tribe and Arlen Specter arguing the raid was "unlawful and unconstitutional. That's dubious." Duffy found the courteous INS left the search warrant on a table after raiding the house screaming with their guns drawn.

3. Did Reno cut off her negotiations too soon? No, Duffy argued: "Her mistake wasn't ending negotiations too early; it was letting them drag on." Clearly, Duffy felt that negotiations were not even necessary.

4. Was the Miami family negotiating in good faith? Duffy found the family wanted the allegedly unacceptable demand of joint custody. Duffy didn't succumb to the obvious: without joint custody, what power does the family have now to save the boy from Castro? He concluded with more government spin: "Government lawyers believe the family got the outcome it wanted, other than the boy himself: a televised martyrdom that would allow them to hold their heads up forever in Little Havana."

U.S. News reporter Linda Robinson suggested Elian was now at peace in loco parentis, but didn't join her colleagues in trashing the family or aiding the INS damage-control effort. The magazine offered three different columns on the conflict: John Leo presenting the struggle as a comic opera; Michael Barone suggesting that the raid's contempt for the rule of law symbolized liberal baby-boomers' countercultural Ivy League education; and owner Mortimer Zuckerman making the liberal case for the (too-long-delayed) raid: "The great-uncle has no cause to complain about the showdown. He had ample opportunity to deliver the boy peacefully, even up to the point when the INS knocked on his door."


All three magazines suggested the American effort to create a missile-defense capability is expensive, ineffective, and destabilizing to U.S.-Russia relations. And the news magazines think the Republicans sound like they're stuck in the 1980s.

All three also were shocked and dismayed at Sen. Jesse Helms' declaration that no new arms-control agreement would be considered by his committee in Clinton's last eight months. In U.S. News, Richard J. Newman began: "It was the senatorial equivalent of a rogue missile attack." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter found it "scathing even by the standards of the gentleman from North Carolina." Time's Mark Thompson and Douglas Waller wrote "Jesse Helms fired his own ICBM."

Thompson and Waller declared both parties were lurching undemocratically into the void: "With scant public debate, the U.S. is on the verge of building an ever more costly missile shield. You are forgiven the doubletake. You are not, however, back in the Reagan era with its dream of a Star Wars anti-missile defense system...Critics then scoffed at the viability of Star Wars. They are scoffing too at the new missile shield. The difference is this system is not only being tested but is also being demanded by a majority of the U.S. Congress, with the assent of the White House. The geopolitical implications may resurrect the cold war. Says U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: 'It could well lead to a new arms race.'" Time warned that Clinton "may be staring at the collapse of practically every major arms-control treaty."

Newman claimed Helms "could cause some fratricide" among conservatives. He added: "Caught in the middle is Bush, who may now have to side with Helms or risk aligning himself with Clinton and Gore. 'Bush is rapidly painting himself into a missile-defense corner,' says Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 'Will he look like he's beholden to the Republican right?'" Newman didn't find anyone to wonder if Gore will appear beholden to liberal naysayers of a shield to protect the voters from incineration. Newman concluded that ignoring Helms would be best: "Clinton could still decide this fall to build a missile defense system, Helms notwithstanding. Then the burden would be on the next president to force the treaty changes past Helms. That in itself would be a legacy."

Alter also worried about what Bush might do: "If George W. Bush is elected this fall, odds are good that the United States would move to a full-scale system with sea-launched and space-launched weapons. Once that begins, it will be off to the arms race again. China, for instance, will hardly be satisfied with its current stockpile of a dozen or so nuclear warheads."Alter concluded: "This president, and this Congress, still have little to show for all their noble words on making a safer world. By summer we'll learn whether that will change."

To reporters, arms control is still the key to "a safer world."


Newsweek touted the "explosive issue" of a prescription-drug entitlement for senior citizens, and left little room for free-market rebuttals. David Noonan began with the usual victim story, of 73-year-old Viola Quirion: "She could be the poster patient for what has emerged as one of the election year's most explosive political issues. Quirion is one of an estimated 13 million elderly Americans with no prescription-drug coverage. This doesn't just affect poor people: many middle-class seniors without additional private insurance struggle to pay for the drugs they need. To get by, some occasionally go without their medicine. Some break pills in half. Others take fewer pills than their doctors prescribe. All are victims of what critics of the drug industry call price discrimination."

Noonan touted "landmark" legislation in Maine calling for drug price controls, and complained, "The stretched seniors are pushing to correct a basic imbalance in the drug marketplace." Bulk buyers get discounts, and foreign countries like Canada and Mexico have price controls. Noonan claimed "The prices of the 50 drugs seniors use most increased last year at nearly double the rate of inflation, according to a new study." Noonan did not explain the study was done by the left-wing group Families USA, or that the drug companies responded with a different study, telling USA Today "the government's own data show that the producer price index rose 3.3 percent last year while wholesale drug prices rose by 1.3 percent."

Bill Turque echoed his colleague, noting Democrats are taking groups to Canada "for low-cost Canadian medicines and valuable press coverage." He added: "Drug prices may be this election year's hottest issue. Polls routinely show that voters regard escalating drug costs as the most serious problem facing the health-care system, and candidates are responding in kind... Congressional Republicans -- worried about being portrayed by well-organized seniors this fall as heartless conservatives -- have also developed plans to ease drug costs." Turque quoted Harvard's Robert Blendon declaring "Their view is that they cannot afford to be against a prescription drug benefit...It's a real vote mover." Turque didn't tell readers Blendon was the pollster for Hillary Clinton's failed health plan. He also allowed leftist Families USA chief Ron Pollack to attack the Bush plan as a "no-show," labeled as head of "a consumer group."

Newsweek's only opponents of a prescription-drug entitlement were the pharmaceutical companies, and many free-market rebuttals were ignored. Readers were not led to assume that the "injustice" or "price discrimination" is something the Canadians or the Mexicans were practicing, getting American know-how at a dictatorial mark-down. The reporters did not ask: would American continue to lead the world in pharmaceutical development if they faced the price-control regimes of Canada or Mexico? Needy elderly people are presumed to have the inalienable right to cheap medicine, but inventors have no right to profit from their innovation.

Paul Bedard reported in the U.S. News "Washington Whispers" feature that a large majority favored Republican plans to create an expensive new infringement on economic liberties, instead of the Democratic plans. "A Zogby poll for the Republican Leadership Coalition provided to Whispers finds that 68 percent support the RLC plan compared with 28 percent for Clinton's. The group's plan, being shopped to George W. Bush, would start earlier, cost less, and cover more drugs than Clinton's. 'This gives Bush and the Republicans in Congress a huge opening on an issue the Democrats thought was a silver bullet,' says Scott Reed, chair of the coalition."


Insatiable Newsweek and U.S. News touted the latest Vietnam tour of presidential loser John McCain McCain. Roger Simon of U.S. News suggested: "Primary campaigns are usually meat grinders, turning the losers (and often the winners) into hamburger. McCain has come out as prime filet. Simon touted the new movie deal for McCain's autobiography and argued, "Not since Ronald Reagan lost to Gerald Ford in 1976 has a losing candidate so enhanced his personal image. Reagan made 75 speeches the following year, never stopped campaigning, and won the presidency four years later when he was 69. John McCain will be 68 in 2004 and his campaign gives every appearance of not stopping until at least then."

Simon did not consider that Reagan's following was within the Republican Party, while McCain's is not.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman also touted the McCain movie deal, and Random House's demand for a second book. He believed McCain would not accept Bush campaign entreaties to be considered for Vice President, since "In 1996 he allowed GOP nominee Bob Dole to consider him for vice president. That led to a painstaking examination of the family spreadsheets, including those of his wife, Cindy, and her wealthy Phoenix parents. McCain said he won't go through that again." That might be because, as World magazine reporter Bob Jones IV noted in February, while Mrs. McCain is a multi-millionaire, "The only joint assets they list are two small bank accounts totaling less than $15,000. Not even their home in north Phoenix is jointly owned, according to FEC filings."

Besides, Fineman reported, "The antagonism between Bush and McCain began long before Campaign 2000. They had their first real encounter in 1992, at the convention in Houston. Bill Clinton had been nominated by the Democrats, and Bush asked McCain to use his standing as a war hero to trash Clinton for failing to serve. McCain was outraged and refused, viewing the mission as a cynical task suggested by a clan that specializes in using others to do their dirty work."

Silly Bush. Idealists don't attack Clinton; they attack the Republican "Death Star."

-- Tim Graham




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