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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday May 23, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 21)

Lazio’s Links to "Newtie"; Hard-Edged Helms; ‘Slim Shady’ Schlessinger?

1. The news magazines probe Rudy Giuliani’s replacement in the New York Senate race., Rep. Rick Lazio. Can he be demonized by Hillary and company as a harsh "Newtie"?

2. Time’s Douglas Waller reported Sen. Jesse Helms "hasn’t lost his hard edge, particularly when it comes to civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights." As for the rights of people trapped in communist regimes, "Clinton may want to build a foreign policy for the 21st century, but Helms is happy to remain its Tyrannosaurus rex." Time also makes fun of outrage over Elian’s new Young Pioneers photo.

3. Amy Dickinson in Time gave a favorable review to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s new book but Dr. Laura took it on the chin in the rest of the issue.

A very light week for breaking news, according to the magazine covers: U.S. News and World Report celebrated Winston Churchill as "The Last Hero." Time’s cover featured "Last Letters Home. Correspondence from Soldiers Who Never Made It Back." And reverting to the time-tested advertising adage that ‘sex sells’ Newsweek offered "The Science of Women’s Sexuality" on its cover. Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom gave the NRA and Republican Senator Judd Gregg the predictable down arrows. The NRA: "Wants to put shootin' gallery theme eatery in Times Sq. We nixed the strip joints for this?" As for Gregg: "N.H. Repub. singlehandedly blocks U.N. peacekeeping payment. Holy Jesse Helms!"


The New York Senate race dominated the week’s political news. Newsweek’s CW also gave Rudy Giuilani an up arrow: "The new Oprah-ized Rudy drops out of Sen. bid. Next: Orders NYPD to hug homeless. Hillary received a sideways arrow: "In place of adulterous moralizer, faces telegenic newcomer Lazio. Issues replace gossip." Time’s Winners and Losers named Rick Lazio a winner: "Hillary’s opponent gets good, oh-so-moderate buzz. Your luck is positively Clintonesque."

All the magazines explored the Hillary camp’s spin on Rick Lazio, that he’s a Gingrich clone. Time’s Eric Pooley explained: "Then came the Gingrich Revolution. Lazio allied himself with the leadership, signed Newt’s Contract with America and vote for most of its provisions, including ones to cut education and Medicare funding. It’s those kind of moves the Clinton campaign plans to hang around his neck. But Lazio’s allies say he worked behind the scenes to soften some of the harsher Contract bills -- increasing the child-care subsidy in the House G.O.P’s 1995 welfare bill, for example, and working to save nutrition funding for seniors. And he wasn’t a lockstep Newtie. He supported the assault-weapons ban and the Brady handgun-control bill, as well as Clinton’s family-and-medical-leave act. He became a leader on public-housing reform, voted for gay and lesbian domestic-partner health benefits and executed a complicated straddle on abortion -- nominally pro-choice but against federal funding and late-term abortions."

Kit. R Roane in U.S. News inexplicably pro-claimed Lazio a ‘social conservative’ just because he voted against the most extreme of abortion procedures, but did note Lazio’s more moderate stances: "The 42-year-old congressman is socially conservative and supports tax cuts, making him a favorite of the state's influential Conservative Party. And while he’s against ‘partial-birth’ [quote marks are Roane’s] abortion, he's otherwise an abortion-rights supporter and backs gun control, giving many Democrats-especially those reluctant to support Clinton-something to like as well." Roane also publicized the Hillary attack line: "While a senior strategist for the first lady concedes that Lazio is ‘a fresh face’ who can shape his own image with the state’s voters, that also means the Clinton campaign has a chance to shape his image as well. Claiming that Lazio voted with Newt Gingrich 83 percent of the time, Clinton’s advisers say they will try to make a convincing case that he is a right-wing extremist, a Gingrich clone. Hillary’s talking points for the attack include this riff: Lazio voted for big GOP tax cuts in education; against the patient’s bill of rights, and for shutting down the government in Gingrich’s showdown with President Clinton several years ago. ‘It will be easy to nationalize the election now,’ says one senior adviser."

Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and Debra Rosenberg pointed out that Lazio was more moderate but relayed the Hillary spin: "On the day the GOP switched candidates, Hillary ignored Lazio and promised to ‘pray’ for Rudy's recovery. But her attack dogs began barking almost immediately, branding the four-term congressman a malevolent right-winger. Giuliani, the Clintonistas said, was a maverick who had never served in Congress, and thus lacked a voting record that would tie him to the Republican establishment in Washington." Lazio was also accused of voting against the Department of Education, a charge the moderate Lazio has explained as a non-binding vote on a broad resolution: "The viscosity is ideological as well. Lazio voted for Gingrich's ‘Contract With America,’ to abolish the Department of Education, for tuition vouchers and to support an $800 billion GOP tax cut. But while Lazio opposes ‘partial-birth abortions,’ he otherwise is pro-choice, and supports controls on handguns and assault weapons. Though he backed Armey, he heads the moderate GOP ‘mainstream caucus.’ He worked with Democrats on a bill for breast cancer research but lost interest when his Senate candidacy faded. When it revived, he hijacked the measure and refashioned it as a GOP (and his own) proposal."


Time’s Douglas Waller took on Sen. Jesse Helms in an article headlined "Senator No: Jesse Helms is the man who gleefully gives the President nightmares on foreign policy." Waller found an old man whose committee doesn’t do much any more. Nevertheless, "Helms also hasn’t lost his hard edge, particularly when it comes to civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights. Last October, he had Capitol police throw out 10 Congresswomen who barged into his hearing room demanding he allow the committee to vote on a U.N. treaty that urges countries to end discrimination against women. Helms claims the accord would outlaw Mother’s Day and legalize prostitution. (It wouldn’t.)"

This is a classic example of media labeling: ten ultraliberal Democratic women stormed into a Helms committee meeting on China policy, yelling and toting placards, and only Helms is bringing a "hard edge" to the proceedings. As for the dismissed conservative argument, see an analysis by Concerned Women for America.

To understand the Helms approach to foreign policy, Waller claimed, you have to accept that Helms" lenses haven’t changed much since the 1920s, when Helms was growing up in the South. "Helms, for instance, still thinks the civil rights movement was unnecessary. Foreign affairs for him is defined by the black and white of the cold war. He still speaks fondly of brutal Latin American dictators, like Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, because they fought communism. Clinton may want to build a foreign policy for the 21st century, but Helms is happy to remain its Tyrannosaurus rex."

As for views that haven’t changed much since the 1920s, turn to page 24 get a load of the magazine’s anti-anti-communist take on Elian’s new photo sitting in Maryland in a Young Pioneers outfit. They compare it to a photo from April 20 with Elian in oversized sunglasses, a Nickelodeon "Blue’s Clues" T-shirt, and a scooter. "Havana Ball. The Cuban-American community was (again) outraged last week, when a new photo of Elian was released. Was it the Pioneer scarf instead of the TV-show T-shirt, the lack of sunglasses or the switching of a $129 scooter for two wooden sticks?"


Amy Dickinson in Time gave a favorable review to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s new book but Dr. Laura took it on the chin in the rest of the issue. Dickinson opened: "You have to hand it to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who has built an impressive career as the hectoring moral lightning rod of American family life, telling people what they don’t want to hear about how they conduct themselves and especially how they raise their kids. Through her books and syndicated radio show (soon to be a TV show), Dr. Laura preaches a reactionary gospel, begging for a return to 1950s family values and dissing the choices of an entire generation-my generation-that wants to ‘have it all’: fabulous careers, love lives and families. Dr. Laura is so ripe for parody that at least two characters on prime-time TV are clearly based on her. It would be easy to dismiss her except for this: she does score some direct hits, and let me tell you-the truth hurts."

The rest of the review is so favorable that it appeared Time felt the need to balance it, by calling Dr. Laura a loser in its Winners and Losers column: "United Airlines mag rejects your ads: advertisers drop. Must be a liberal conspiracy."

And if that weren’t enough, pop music writer Christopher John Farley took a dig at Dr. Laura in his review of Eminem’s latest CD. "On other tracks, Eminem goes after gays with a fervor that would shame Dr. Laura." Farley then went on to quote some of Eminem’s more violent lyrics against homosexuals, including making fun of the killing of designer Gianni Versace.

Despite Farley’s comparisons I don’t think we’ll be seeing Dr. Laura and Eminem hanging out at the next Source Awards.

-- Geoff Dickens




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