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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday June 20, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 25)

Donna Gets the Shaft; Kim Jong Il, Huggy Bear?; The NRA in NYC

1. All three magazines minimized the sudden retirement of scandal-plagued Gore campaign boss Tony Coelho, praised Gore’s selected replacement, Bill Daley as "a step up," and all but ignored his blatant snub of his top black aide, Donna Brazile. All three news magazines interviewed Gore, but none raised the "slumlord" gaffe or his embarrassing "I’m not an expert on computers" defense of his vanishing year of White House e-mails.

2. All three magazines praised North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il, the dictator with the showstopping moves: "The world’s scariest dictator made himself into a huggy bear."

3. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the media’s love of taxes at death. U.S News reporter Jodie Allen found a "conservative" who not only supports estate taxes, but complete confiscation of estates.

4. U.S. News reporter Kit R. Roane lumped the National Rifle Association’s NRA Sports Blast cafe with recent shootings and the Central Park ‘wilding’ incident.

The newsmagazines stuck with light, airy topics on their covers this week. U.S. News and World Report featured "Cool Cars," Newsweek attempted to lure teen and pre-teen girls with its cover story on Britain’s Prince "William," while Time went after the male demographic with it’s bikini-clad cover girl from the CBS show Survivor and its exploration into the popularity of "Voyeur TV." U.S. News columnist Michael Barone explored Al Gore’s and Hillary Clinton’s strategies of avoiding press conferences and Sunday morning TV interviews: " No sensible candidate risks such a hostile press without a good reason. And for these two candidates, the reason is clear: There are lots of questions they would prefer not to answer."


You’d think quota-sensitive reporters would lament Al Gore tabbing a member of the old white boy network to head his campaign, snubbing a top black aide on his own staff. But both Time and U.S. News praised the selection of Commerce Secretary Bill Daley but gave Gore a pass on bypassing one of his top aides Donna Brazile, a move that according to the Drudge Report had many within Gore’s camp fuming. "She is the real star of this campaign...I can't believe she was overlooked for the top job," Drudge quoted one Gore source.

In an article implausibly titled, "Down home with the newer, looser Gore, He’s right where he wants to be -- behind," U.S. News and World Report’s Roger Simon hailed the move: "The vice president’s political operation has already been through a number of stomach-heaving changes, so perhaps it was no coincidence that Tony Coelho's colon started acting up. A fortunate coincidence, though, because while Coelho had helped get the campaign back on track, he is saddled with ongoing investigations of his personal business dealings. There is near-unanimous agreement that Daley is a step up." Terence Samuel recounted how Daley has "winning in his genes," including his ability to deliver crucial votes for the administration’s trade bills.

Over at Time, Margaret Carlson gave a similar treatment to Daley. "If anyone can rise to the task, it’s Daley. Born on Chicago's South Side, a son of the legendary Mayor Richard Daley, he ran the 1989 campaign that elected his older brother to that job. He has been pulling Clinton’s coals out of the fire since 1992, when he flew to Clinton’s side in New Hampshire just as the draft and Gennifer Flowers threatened to doom the candidate. Later he delivered Illinois to Clinton-Gore. Daley was rewarded for his efforts with...nothing. Many thought him a shoo-in for the first Clinton Cabinet. But the President wanted a team that looked like America, and despite a smile as wide as the Illinois prairie and feet firmly in the heartland, Daley didn't fit the bill." Apparently Daley did "fit the bill" for Gore despite having a top candidate already on staff that "looked like America."

Why would Carlson overlook a dissed fellow female? Maybe she’s not a Brazile fan. In fact, on the January 8 Capital Gang on CNN, Carlson warned: "Gore manager Donna Brazile should hark back to days when aides were seen and not heard. A few months ago she vowed, quote, ‘Not to let the white boys win,’ whatever that means. Then in trying to make a legitimate point about the Republican Party's failure to help African-Americans, she said of Colin Powell and Congressman J.C. Watts, quote, ‘They have no love and no joy. They would rather take pictures with black children than feed them.’ Powell in particular does a lot more than that. Gore says she is doing a good job. Is she?"

Newsweek buried the Coelho/Daley/Brazile story in two Gore interview questions on page 4 promoting "Newsweek This Week Online." This might seem especially strange since the potential story’s of Brazile’s snub for another white guy is replaced by a seven-page spread on "Will A Woman Ever Become President?" Both Newsweek’s Bill Turque and Time’s Karen Tumulty published transcripts of their Gore interviews online. Turque pestered Gore about naming a female veep nominee, but didn’t ask about Brazile. Neither of these intrepid scribes breathed a word of Gore’s Tennessee tenant problems or his embarrassing "I’m not an expert on computers" defense of his vanishing year of White House e-mails. (The quote itself was used upfront in both Time and Newsweek.) Instead, they buried him in operational questions and horse-race chat. Simon of U.S. News also sat down with Gore, which shows in his bizarre press-flack declaration that Gore is right where he wants to be at 12 points down.


All three magazines praised North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il, the dictator with the showstopping moves. He may be building a nuclear bomb and supporting terrorist acts, but the magazine reporters looked deeper to find his endearing side. First, there were the quips: the up arrow in Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box: "Old: Loony nuke-crazed playboy. New: Gregarious peace partner." Add the "winner" label in Time’s "Winners and Losers" box: "Elusive North Korean holds hug-filled, teary summit with South. You been watching Oprah?"

Newsweek’s George Wehrfritz fell for "North Korea’s shadowy ‘Great Leader,’ in the articled headlined: "All together Now, North Korea’s leader comes out of his Stalinist cocoon and dazzles his South Korean guest with poise, charm and the hope of ending the last Cold War standoff." Wehrfritz all but nominated Kim Jong Il for a Tony Award: "A hardline Stalinist recluse who controls his rogue state so tightly that North Korea radios can receive only government broadcasts, Kim was only warming up. Last month he briefly visited Beijing. And then last week he hit the big time, playing the gracious host to South Korea’s president, Kim Dae Jung, at a historic summit between two countries that technically are still at war. With the precision of the Hollywood musicals he adores, Kim Jong Il choreographed the first meeting between two Korean leaders to remake his reputation as a recluse, fanatic and closet terrorist. He displayed previously undetected humility, poise and charm. Wearing his trademark zip-front Mao jacket, the 58-year-old dictator surprised President Kim by meeting his plane at Pyongyang airport."

In U.S. News, Bay Fang reminded readers of Il’s volatility but still couldn’t resist the stage references either: "Kim Jong Il was commonly rated the Dictator Most Likely to Start a Nuclear War, developing a weapons program while his people starved. But there he was, the so-called hermit of the North, surprising his southern counterpart by greeting him at the airport, cracking jokes about his reputation as a recluse, and generally upstaging the stiffer Kim Dae Jung."

Time’s Tim Larimer explained "how – and why – the world’s scariest dictator made himself into a huggy bear." While he was previously described as "unpredictable and goofy," now "The 58-year-old leader of the world’s most mysterious country had been transformed into a fellow who could crack jokes at his own expense, banter about kimchi recipes and show proper Confucian deference to the elder President Kim." Larimer concluded: "The smiling fellow who waved his South Korean partner goodbye at week’s end was already looking less like a wacko in search of a weapon of mass destruction and more like a grandfather in search of a hug."


There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the media’s love of taxes at death. U.S. News reporter Jodie T. Allen revealed her fiscally liberal stripes when it comes to tax policy. Allen seemed dismayed at the demand to end the death tax in the article headlined. "The American dream tax, Congress finds surprising support for ending the levy on estates." Allen noted that Senate Democrats were "surprised by the bill’s momentum," and expressed wonderment at its popularity: "On the facts, outright repeal of the estate tax would be a political curiosity. Half of the roughly $30 billion raised by the tax each year comes from the 1 in 1,000 Americans who die leaving estates worth more than $5 million. Fewer than 2 in 100 estates pay any tax at all, thanks to exemptions (now $675,000 for an unmarried person, $1.3 million per couple, and far larger breaks for family-owned businesses and farms)."

Allen offered up expert analysis from William Gale of the left-leaning Brookings Institution: "‘A tax on your kids is easy to portray as ugly,’ but alternatives -- such as jacking up income taxes -- are even uglier. The estate tax is also a major stimulus for the philanthropy Republicans favor over government spending. Gale says that estates worth over $20 million gave $7.5 billion to charity in 1997 alone. Studies predict such giving could drop by as much as 45 percent without the tax." Allen then sought some insight from a conservative economist – who favors a 100 percent tax on estates. "That concentration concerns Irwin M. Stelzer, a leading conservative economist at the Hudson Institute: ‘If you believe in equal opportunity, and especially if you’re a conservative opposed to preference programs, you should want to start everyone off on as equal a footing as possible -- unless you think there’s special merit in the way you choose your father.’ Stelzer favors cutting taxes on current earnings but imposing a 100 percent tax on estates. He points out that megamillionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett agree big inheritances discourage productive work among the heirs: ‘It's a theory well accepted in Silicon Valley.’"


U.S. News feared the NRA’s proposed Sports Blast cafe for families wouldn’t be welcome after a recent attack on women in Central Park. Kit R. Roane opened the little attack piece: "Mickey and Bugs, take cover. The National Rifle Association is planning to open its own ‘family oriented megastore’ in Manhattan's bustling Times Square. No way, says Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But lawmakers, worried about the impact of a café-shop with a shooting-sports theme, aren’t taking any chances. The City Council recently passed a resolution condemning the idea. And New York Sen. Charles Schumer -- one of the gun lobby's favorite targets -- has taken to talking of a ‘Dodge City’ in his midst." Roane snidely compared the NRA plans to recent tragedies in New York City. "But it’s a tough sell, given such recent events as last month’s deadly armed robbery in a Queens fast-food restaurant and the criminal groping of dozens of women by wilding youth in Central Park. Yet, despite quips about ‘Planet Homicide,’ and ‘Bambi au poivre,’ the 3.6 million-member NRA isn't budging."

Maybe Roane, Giuliani, Schumer and the city council should spend less time agonizing about an NRA megastore and more time worrying about an unarmed citizenry unable to defend themselves from thugs when the police aren’t there to defend them.

-- Geoffrey Dickens




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