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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday June 13, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 24)

Gore the Slumlord Spiked; Unreal Estate Tax Outcome; Gore "The Truth" Rises

1. All three news magazines completely ignored any reference to a renter on Gore’s family property calling him a "slumlord" over inattention to the house’s crumbling condition. At least U.S. News did mention, albeit briefly, the disappearance of more than a year of subpoenaed Gore e-mails announced last week.

2. U.S. News and Time’s Internet edition decried the "cascading perversions" of campaign-finance law. Both condemned advertising by groups the media have dubbed the "527s," and lobbied for Congress to close these latest legal loopholes.

3. Time’s Jessica Reaves explored the meaning of approving estate tax cuts: "the rich may be poised to get a whole lot richer -- and congressional Democrats could be staring at an election year gold mine."

4. The news magazines could be worse. In the June edition of Vogue, Julia Reed smothered Al Gore with affection: "When Senator Gore lost anyway, he famously vowed that ‘the truth will rise in Tennessee,’ and it did, in 1976, when the 28-year-old Al Gore ran for and won his father’s old seat in the House of Representatives."

Making the covers of the magazines this week: Time ruminated on "The Future of Technology" and how it will change our lives, U.S. News & World Report alleged that "Kids are At Risk" from various chemicals in the environment which adversely affect their development, and Newsweek featured the Microsoft lawsuit, "How Bill Blew It. And How He Can Still Save Microsoft." Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom Watch" feature gave a caricatured portrait of the viability of a national missile defense, giving it the down arrow: "Nice idea with one problem -- it won't work. But let's spend another $60 billion anyway."


If you accumulated all of your news from the three news weeklies, you’d have no concept of the "slumlord" allegations leveled by a family that rents from Al Gore and lives within sight of Gore’s house in Carthage, Tennessee. The story broke into print last Sunday that Tracy Mayberry complained to the local CBS affiliate that Gore and his property managers haven’t responded to months of complaints about their broken toilets and other household collapses. In fact, they threatened to evict the family, which lives on Social Security disability payments. Time’s "Winners & Losers" cited Gore as a loser – in the Microsoft case. "Sleepless in Seattle: after this ruling, you gotta really fight for reliable Wash. state."

At least U.S. News did mention, albeit briefly, the disappearance of more than a year of subpoenaed Gore e-mails last week. Kenneth T. Walsh and Marianne Lavelle covered the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee’s release of documents which "show that even Gore's natural allies were deeply skeptical of his professed ignorance. Key Justice Department official Robert Litt, whom conservatives had accused of pro-administration bias, actually favored an independent counsel's probe rather than leaving the matter to Attorney General Janet Reno."

Walsh and Lavelle wrapped up their piece by mentioning the disappearance of Gore’s emails regarding the campaign finance scandal, surmising that the real question arising from this turn of events "may be whether there is yet more evidence to come out." They concluded: "On at least one front there won't be: The White House said last week that the vice president's E-mails on this subject and others had been lost because of a technical error."


U.S. News and Time’s Internet edition both condemned advertising by groups the media have dubbed the "527s," and lobbied for Congress to close these latest loopholes in the campaign-finance laws. U.S. News columnist Gloria Borger explained: "The loophole du jour is found in Section 527 of the handy tax code: Special-interest groups have discovered they can avoid campaign laws entirely by professing to be apolitical. How so? By claiming they don't support any particular candidate. Hence, the latest mutation – unlimited secret contributions. Run an ad, hide the donors. Think of it this way: All that awful stuff about the Chinese trying to influence the last election can now take place legally and anonymously. It's so bad that the Senate, in a surprise vote last week, passed a McCain plan requiring these groups to disclose their contributions and spending. (Too bad the House turned it down.)" Like Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff last week, Borger employed a label in allowing that "Section 527 was first mined by the liberal Sierra Club."

In a Web exclusive, Viveca Novak sounded a lot like she was still in her former job at Common Cause’s magazine: "It looked like evidence for the proposition that this isn't a do-nothing, gridlocked, impossibly partisan Congress after all: On Thursday evening the Senate voted to pass a tiny piece of campaign finance reform legislation, an amendment attached to a defense authorization bill that would force a new slew of tax-exempt political groups to disclose who's giving them money, how much, and how the funds are being spent." Congress is asleep at the wheel unless it is passing legislation infringing on First Amendment freedoms, but doesn’t come in for criticism when Tom Daschle strangles tax cuts.

Novak continued: "If those who want a little sun to shine into the crannies of these secretive groups could get around Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader who opposed the provision, they couldn't maneuver around Tom DeLay, the House Republican whip who has close ties to three such outfits. On Friday a House measure similar to the Senate's went down 216-202. Forget, for the moment, soft money. Forget foreign contributions, undercover state-level political actions committees and all the other cascading perversions of post-Watergate election-reform law. Each year those laws have grown more distorted, yes. But this year's proliferation of groups that have essentially no boundaries is the most brazen subversion yet." It would be easy to forget any "brazen subversions" of the Clinton-Gore fundraising team, since Time made no mention of the latest documents on the fundraising scandal released by Congress.


In another exclusive, Jessica Reaves predicted Republicans’ move to cut estate taxes is "A GOP Victory that May Make Dems Very Happy." Reaves claimed that cutting taxes somehow enriched the rich, as if it wasn’t their money in the first place: "Thanks to the energetic support of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the rich may be poised to get a whole lot richer -- and congressional Democrats could be staring at an election year gold mine. Friday, the GOP-controlled House, with the help of 65 rogue Democrats, passed a bill that would repeal estate taxes by the year 2010 -- a far more sweeping (and expensive) tax break than the version favored by most Democrats, including President Clinton."

Notice how Time described Democrats who voted with Republicans as "rogues." When a few Republicans go along with a Democratic agenda, the measure is "bipartisan."

Reaves supplemented her slant with a similarly tilted Time colleague: "‘In the long run, however, this GOP victory may play right into Democrats' campaign plans, says Time White House correspondent Jay Branegan. ‘The Democrats are thrilled to have the Republicans sign something like this tax cut,’ he explains. Reason: It gives Dems a golden opportunity to paint the GOP as having a disregard for the middle class."

Reaves concluded with estimates that the GOP plan would "cost" $105 billion, while the Democrats carry a slimmer $22 billion "price tag." She then concludes her piece with a twinge of class warfare rhetoric: "And where would the extra $88 billion provided for in the GOP plan end up? In the bank vaults of America’s wealthiest families. In other words, says Branegan, everyone involved in this debate was out to please someone. ‘The Democrats wanted a cut that would benefit Democrats, and the Republicans were pushing for a plan that would appeal to their core constituents,’ he says. ‘Namely, the rich.’"

She does not explain how the Republicans manage to mislead so many voters without large estates into voting for them, or how Republicans happened to dupe a sizable chunk of congressional Democrats, too.


The news magazines could be worse: they could hire Julia Reed, who smothered Al Gore with affection in the June edition of Vogue. Her profile urged the magazine’s female readership to love Gore’s private side.

It began with Gore joining Columbus, Ohio elementary school students in making a collage out of magazine clippings on construction paper. The teacher said Gore’s picture of the Earth was beautiful. Reed agreed: "In fact, it was – a gorgeous Matisse-like globe floating in space, complete with the Surgeon General’s warning that ‘cigarettes contain carbon monoxide’ in the bottom-left-hand corner...But Gore, who once dabbled in paint, had not spent the day in an inner-city public school to show off how cleverly he could integrate two of his signature issues into a piece of artwork."

Later, Reed explained how Gore enlisted in the Army and served almost five months in Vietnam to help his Senator father get re-elected. "When Senator Gore lost anyway, he famously vowed that ‘the truth will rise in Tennessee,’ and it did, in 1976, when the 28-year-old Al Gore ran for and won his father’s old seat in the House of Representatives."

Reed even claimed Clinton was a less authentic Southerner than Gore: "Clinton constantly employed phrases like ‘fat as a wood tick’ and ‘I’ll be here until the last dog dies,’ which made him appear to be the more genuine Southerner compared to his running mate...In reality, Clinton’s upbringing in Hot Springs – not Hope, which he left when he was four – was closer to Gore’s Washington experience...Unlike Hot Springs, Carthage, a town of about 2,800 an hour east of Nashville, is the real thing, a community of small farms and lots of churches, where, ‘if you want to see and be seen,’ says one of Tipper Gore’s former assistants, ‘you go to the Wal-Mart.’"

Someone should ask Vogue, not the ideal periodical to be assessing levels of Southernness, how Southern it is to refuse to fix your tenants’ toilets.

-- Ken Shepherd and Tim Graham




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