1. All three news magazines devoted a story to Justice Department fundraising investigator Robert Conrad’s recommendation of a special counsel for Al Gore.
Time’s online staff loved Gore’s Conrad interview (Could this be the alpha male veep we’ve been hearing so much about?") but the print edition found he was "a defense lawyer’s nightmare."
2. Newsweek continued its weekly crusade against the death penalty, but balanced their distaste over Gary Graham in Bush’s Texas with their dislike of the federal death penalty under Clinton-Gore.
U.S. News called Gary Graham "the new martyr of the rejuvenated anti-death-penalty movement."
3. Time took on Dr. Laura Schlessinger with a ten-foot pole in an interview: "Do you really believe everything you say, or do you just think it makes great talk radio?" Gay left activists protested the chat, but should have liked David Van Biema’s sympathetic portrait of gay activism in mainline churches.
4. Time online reporters whimsically dismissed the geopolitics of Elian Gonzalez (
"Elian Gonzalez, Your Jet to Havana Is Waiting") and "Sex-Mad Scientists" at Los Alamos.
The major news magazines this week stay apolitical with their cover stories. Newsweek digested the problem of childhood obesity, featuring on the front a boy devouring an ice cream cone and the heading "Fat for Life." Time magazine profiled two scientists who were instrumental in "Cracking the Code," referring to the recent completion of the Human Genome Project. The U.S. News & World Report cover explored Tiger Woods with a look into "Mind Power" and how mental conditioning can sharpen athletic prowess. Only U.S. News had a piece about the report filed by Independent Counsel Robert Ray on Travelgate. Angie Cannon mostly sticks to the facts in her piece, "Travelgate: No charges," but Cannon’s lead paragraph makes Ray’s report out to be an issue of inconvenience to Clinton rather than the end product of a long investigation delayed by White House lethargy and legal maneuvers: "It seems so long ago and far away: the firing of seven employees in the White House travel office in 1993 so Clinton cronies could take over. But the case is back -- just in time to dog Hillary Rodham Clinton’s run for the Senate."
All three news magazines devoted a story to Justice Department fundraising investigator Robert Conrad’s recommendation of a special counsel for Al Gore. Bill Turque and Michael Isikoff in Newsweek ("There was little new in the 123-page interview") and Toni Locy in U.S. News (quoting a Justice official calling the case over "itsy-bitsy, nitty gritty-type bull") downplayed the report, despite its unwelcome political effects.
Time presented a split personality between Time Daily online and the print edition. Last Thursday, Time Daily reporter Frank Pellegrini had an article headlined "Why Al Gore Shouldn’t Sweat Over Latest Leak." Pellegrini lamented the alleged get-Gore press corps: "The drill is familiar: Republicans call for Reno to appoint special counsel or resign, and pray daily that the issue sticks with the voters. The meat-starved political press says things like this ‘could not come at a worse time for Mr. Gore,’ (New York Times) ignoring the obvious fact that September, say, would be a far worse time." Time reporter Viveca Novak suggested to Pellegrini that Reno might not act since "she, maybe more than anybody in politics we've ever seen, is impervious to political pressure."
The next day, Pellegrini exhibited his pro-Gore bias more flagrantly in another Web exclusive entitled "You Alpha Male, You: Al Plays Full Disclosure." In recounting Gore’s release of the full transcript of his April interview with Conrad, Pellegrini sees a masterful performance. "Give Al Gore credit for a fast, non-shifty response -- in classic Friday-at-4 fashion -- to the sight of those palm-greasing Buddhist monks rearing their shaven heads. He released the full transcript of his April 18 grilling by Justice prosecutor James [sic] Conrad, who was sufficiently put off by a short-fused Gore’s answers to recommend to Janet Reno that she launch an independent investigation." Conrad was all pique, no professionalism.
Pellegrini concluded on an even lighter note: "Plus, in text-only evasions like ‘I sure as hell don’t recall having -- I sure as hell did not have any conversations with anyone saying this is a fund-raising event,’ we are invited to imagine a fiery Al Gore, barely containing the seething beast within, ready to throttle these pesky lawyers that impugn his honor. Could this be the alpha male veep we’ve been hearing so much about?"
Or could it be a haughty, stiff politician who thinks he’s subject to "no controlling legal authority?"
By contrast, Viveca Novak’s story for Time’s print edition is the longest and most substantive magazine treatment of the week, complete with four excerpts from Conrad’s Gore interview. She didn’t find a masterful Gore performance, finding his testimony to be "a defense lawyer’s nightmare – a tendency toward needlessly expansive, rambling responses that sometimes contradicted his earlier words." Only Novak among the magazine writers insisted that "the notion that Gore knew of no connection between the [White House] coffees and the dollars is almost impossible to believe." And only Novak noted the irony of Reno’s stubborn second-term resistance to naming a special counsel, that "Gore might, for the first time, wish she had pulled the trigger then; at least it might be over by now."
Newsweek continued its weekly crusade against the death penalty, and U.S. News called Gary Graham "the new martyr of the rejuvenated anti-death-penalty movement." Time gave Graham a few words of an obituary. In U.S. News, Toni Locy loaded her story with uncontradicted "legal experts" who opposed Graham’s execution, concluding with statements from Jesse Jackson and leftist Stephen Bright proclaiming "I think most people realize it’s better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent." At least U.S. News readers had columnist John Leo to explain the media’s biased treatment of the Graham case.
Newsweek ran two pieces on the death penalty. In "A Reckoning on Death Row," Jonathan Alter declared "like most people, I’m a hardliner on crime," and then listed his reasons why Graham’s execution was unfair. Alter capped off his column by slamming Gov. Bush and the people of the state of Texas: "A new poll shows that nearly 60 percent of Texans believe the state has, at some point, executed the innocent. No matter. These voters apparently view state-sanctioned murder as a fair price to pay for maintaining the status quo. A real leader would try to take his people to a better place. Will Bush? I have reasonable doubt."
Michael Isikoff, however, raised the issue of the federal death penalty under the Clinton/Gore administration, an angle otherwise unexplored by reporters, albeit from the liberal criticism of alleged racial discrimination in sentencing. In "Race, Death, and the Feds," Isikoff mentioned the case of Juan Raul Garza, who is set to die by lethal injection on August 5. "Garza has admitted murdering three drug dealers who worked for him. But in an effort to drag Clinton and Gore into the controversy, Garza’s lawyers claim the federal death penalty has proven to be racially biased -- condemning a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics to death."
Isn’t it funny how Gary Graham proved to Newsweek that "the ‘full and fair access’ to the courts that Bush brags about is now a mirage," but Garza is trying to "drag Clinton and Gore into the controversy"?
While Alter says the Texas systems raises questions about "Bush’s leadership," Isikoff described how Janet Reno is intimately involved in the decision-making process: "Federal prosecutors must file for permission when seeking death, and Attorney General Janet Reno reviews every case personally. Aides say she lugs home an armload of files to read in the evening and sometimes calls them in the middle of the night with questions. ‘She really agonizes over these,’ says one aide. In the end, Reno has approved death penalty requests nine out of 10 times."
Isikoff wrapped up: "As the questions over guilt and innocence on death row persist, George W. Bush may not be the only one with some explaining to do." Certainly the media has some explaining to do about why we haven’t heard of Garza’s allegations.
Under the heading "Preacher, Teacher, Nag," Time’s Jeanne McDowell interviewed Dr. Laura Schlessinger, asking loaded questions that betrayed a bias against the interviewee. After discussing the content and purpose of Dr. Schlessinger’s radio program, McDowell began ripping into her subject:
*"But what qualifies you to be a moral authority?"
* "Can you set the record straight and explain your comments about homosexuals as ‘deviants’?"
* "Do you really believe homosexuals are ‘biological errors’?"
* "As a deeply religious person, does it trouble you that your words hurt so many people?"
* "Should people be able to say whatever they want on the radio?" (She should have said: "I don’t know, should people be able to write whatever they want in a news magazine?")
* "Do you really believe everything you say, or do you just think it makes great talk radio?" Dr. Laura quickly replied: "That’s insulting." (She could have said: "Do you really believe the liberal agenda you promote in your reporting or are you just trying to sell magazines?")
*"How do you reconcile your harshness toward listeners over their moral lapses with your own, some of which have come out in the press?"
Despite the tone of these questions, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation proclaimed it was "disappointed by the uncritical interview" in Time. "The magazine owes its readers more than a 'Dr. Laura' radio monologue in print."
GLAAD did not express its delight with Time reporter David Van Biema, who found the issue of homosexuality inside mainline religions "impossible to ignore and yet maddening to be stuck on." Van Biema profiles lesbian Episcopal Very Rev. Tracey Lind (who "felt a special empathy for the oppressed"), gay former Jerry Falwell ghost writer Mel White (who had "a transformation that begs for comparison with Saul’s on the road to Damascus") and Jane Wise, a 73-year-old straight Methodist woman who found her church’s "transformation [into seeking out and approving of openly gay members] was a joy and a challenge." While their opponents are "campaigning fervently from the right," Van Biema found no "left" in his love story.
Time online reporters whimsically dismissed the geopolitics of Elian Gonzalez and a congressional report on sex-induced espionage. In "Elian Gonzalez, Your Jet to Havana Is Waiting," Time.com’s Tony Karon rejoiced in the impending return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba. Karon the epic failure of anti-communist Cuban Americans to the butternut-and-grey Confederates: "Once they’ve exhausted all legal avenues, the Miami activists are unlikely to quietly accept the outcome. Having made the campaign -- perhaps against better strategic judgment -- a make-or-break affair, they’re obliged, like the Confederates at Gettysburg, to fight to the end." Karon echoed the liberal spin that the aim of the Miami family is to deprive Elian of a chance to grow up with his father, calling it a "bruising battle to keep a son away from his father."
In addition, Time Daily’s Frank Pellegrini reported on another security concern at the nuclear labs at Los Alamos: sexual liaisons between Los Alamos scientists and foreign agents, as reported by the General Accounting Office (GAO). In his piece, "New DOE Dilemma: Sex-Mad Scientists," Pellegrini bemoaned the criticism poor Energy Secretary Bill Richardson faced over the GAO report: "It's not just the scientists at Los Alamos who are out to embarrass Bill Richardson. It's the entire world. A General Accounting Office report ordered up by Reps. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) and Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) on the espionage risks of nuclear scientists traveling abroad reads like a steamy Bond novel, full of phone taps, hidden cameras and sexy scientists from ‘sensitive’ nations like China, Russia, Pakistan and Israel. It's also a reminder that nuclear security is an all-too-human business, and should confirm to Richardson what he's been muttering to himself for months: He's got the worst political job in the world."
Pellegrini snidely concluded by noting that the GAO called for travel requests to
countries such as France and Britain to be reviewed by Energy Department officials: "Maybe every time a scientist wants to leave the country, he should have to take Richardson along."
Perhaps he’s a far better chaperone than the President.
-- Ken Shepherd