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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday August 1, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 30)

The White Stuff; Bush Is No Bill; Dastardly Dick and Lynne

1. While Newsweek reported the Democrats saw Bush and Cheney as "Central Casting Villains -- wealthy white males from upper-income America," the magazine failed to put a single minority on Gore's potential veep list.

2. Bush just can't compare to President Clinton. Newsweek suggested he doesn't have the knowledge and patience of Peace Broker Bill; Time wondered how Bush could win after "eight years of rampaging prosperity"; U.S. News & World reported the White House spin that Bush's tax cuts contrast with Clinton's "disciplined economic policy."

3. The Cheneys scare reporters as fierce warriors from the ultra-right.

4. U. S. News columnist John Leo devoted another column to double standards, and took special notice of Bryant Gumbel's undernoticed bleeping-idiot gaffe:" A prominent TV executive, not known as a conservative, told me: ‘‘Can you imagine if a conservative had done that on national TV? He would have been fired in two minutes.'"

Handing out their magazines free by the bushel in Philadelphia, the newsmagazines made typical cover choices. Newsweek presented a hostile George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as "The Avengers: Taking Aim at the Age of Clinton. "Time advertised a black-and-white look "Inside the Bush Dynasty." U.S. News & World Report chose a history lesson the 1948 Republican convention in Philadelphia, "when conventions really mattered."


In Newsweek, reporter Howard Fineman forwarded the : "Democrats saw the GOP ticket as Central Casting villains -- wealthy white males from upper-income America -- in the us-versus-them psywar they were already preparing to run. ‘‘They represent the men's club view of the world,' said [Gore aide and notable wealthy white guy Bob] Shrum. ‘‘They couldn't be more out of touch.' "Just when their demonization of prosperous palefaces was sinking in, a reader could flip back to the front of the magazine, where in their weekly cutesy feature "The Buzz," complete with cartoon bubbles for text, Newsweek strategized about potential Gore running mates, but mentioned only wealthy white males: John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Bob Graham, George Mitchell, Evan Bayh, and John Edwards. Won't any of these media stars scowling at the thought of "inclusive" Republicans find a single female or minority to tack on to Gore's veep list?


The news magazines weren't offering any bounce of their own to George W. Bush, and even compared him unfavorably with President Clinton.

For example, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter's long article on "How He'd Govern" didn't sound much different than a briefing from Bob Shrum. He began by slighting the Cheney pick: "The governor was focused first on governing. Why else pick an overweight bald guy with a bad ticker, three Wyoming electoral votes, and right-wing positions to defend?"

Alter went back to the primary theme of picking on Bush's alleged lack of knowledge: "Unlike his father, Bush does not seem to find foreign policy compelling. Last year the governor with a legendary memory for names could not remember the name of the prime minister of India, the second largest country on earth. (Imagine an applicant for CEO of a major computer company not knowing the CEO of, say, Oracle.) It is hard to believe Bush would have the knowledge and patience Clinton brings to brokering peace."

Alter also described Bush's Texas as a basket case: "A 1999 report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities listed Texas as one of the 11states least prepared to weather a recession. Bush's priorities aren't too hard to figure out, starting with tax cuts. Gore says that Bush's proposed$1.2 trillion tax cut, most of it benefiting the affluent, wouldn't leave much room for ‘‘compassion.' That has certainly been the pattern in Texas, where $2.7 billion in tax cuts has made it tougher to meet social needs." He added: "Choosing tax cuts over children's health and housing: expect to seethe same priorities in a Bush administration."

Oh, "And his environmental record is spotty at beast. By several measurements, Texas now has the worst air pollution in the nation."

In U.S. News, Kenneth Walsh reaches into the Clinton camp for anonymous Bush advice: "‘‘Bush needs to persuade people it's safe to make him president,' says a former senior adviser to President Clinton. ‘‘He needs to show that he won't turn back the clock and he's not like the Republican Party's congressional crazies.'" Walsh may have inspired unintentional laughs with this subsequent sentence on Cheney: "Clinton suggested that the selection reveals Bush as a right-winger who, like Cheney, opposes a woman's right to choose abortion, strong gun control, and a disciplined economic policy."

Walsh asserted that conservative House Republicans are political poison: "In fact, Bush wants Republicans to permanently alter their image of recent years as the party, at least at the presidential and congressional levels, of ideological zealotry and scorched earth -- the hard-line crowd that impeached President Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky sex-and-lies scandal, bashed immigrants, failed to reach out to minorities and women, and shut down the government in a bitter partisan dispute with the White House. Hoping to put a kinder and mellower face on the GOP, Bush has ordered party leaders to minimize harsh rhetoric against Gore and the Democrats. And the roster of prime-time speakers highlight some of the party's most popular figures -- like Sen. John McCain and retired Gen. Colin Powell -- rather than ideological fire breathers."

In Time, Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs joined Walsh in celebrating Clintonomics: "But only eight years have passed since voters tossed a Bush out of office, and they have been eight years of rampaging prosperity. "Clinton may have never met a private sector payroll, but Duffy and Gibbs proclaimed: "So the fact that W. stands a chance of becoming the President with one of the thinnest resumes in a century is teaching the Bushes themselves a thing or two about how the game of politics can be played.

"Perhaps the crabbiest magazine writer this week is Time's Margaret Carlson, who came away fuming from traveling on the road with Bush: "His Big Tent will be the biggest ever. Why should a little disagreement over abortion make us all tense and angry with one another? The ideology-lite candidate, Bush was able to change from compassionate conservative to Bob Jones conservative and back again inside six weeks with near impunity, while Al Gore was ripped apart for changing the color of his clothes."


Both Dick and Lynne Cheney scare reporters. In Newsweek, Bill Turque and Mark Hosenball alerted readers: "Cheney's moderate and quietly congenial style made his legislative scorecard a surprise for those who thought congressional conservatives come only in the Tom DeLay and Jesse Helms models. But Cheney, vehement defender of Ollie North and foe of social spending and abortion rights, was no moderate in 10 years as Wyoming's sole House member."

In U.S, News, Terence Samuel agreed: "Embedded in Bush's theme of ‘‘compassionate conservatism' is a subtle rebuke of the tone, if not the substance, of GOP politics of the recent past, presided over by the most conservative precincts of the party. Yet Dick Cheney is a Reagan-era conservative who has consistently chosen fiscal austerity over government spending, particularly in regard to entitle programs and regulatory issues. As a member of the House from 1979 to 1989, he was a soft-spoken hawk, moderate on the outside but conservative to the core, proudly opposing the equal rights amendment, reauthorization of the Clean Water Act, abortion rights, and gun control.

"Time hit Cheney's voting record in the "Notebook" section up front. Under a painting of Cheney, they wrote the caption: "Right-Hand Bland. "Another solid oilman on the George W. ticket. Dick Cheney is strong on foreign policy, but somehow colorless, and his votes for cop-killer bullets and against freeing Nelson Mandela are real head scratchers." But when Time's pollsters asked if people thought more or less favorably about Cheney when told he "is very politically conservative," 44 percent said more favorable,22 percent said less.

Reporters also drubbed Mrs. Cheney with ideological labels. Newsweek's story carried the subhead "Cheney's wife is the family's true right-wing warrior." Matt Bai found her shockingly extremist: "After a stormy tenure leading the National Endowment for the Humanities, she waged a campaign to have both the NEH and its larger cousin, the National Endowment for the Arts, abolished -- a stand too extreme even for Charlton Heston, who opposed her. "Bai added: "Having Lynne around should reassure social conservatives. But she could get into trouble if she speaks her mind, and of course she will." Bai promised: There will be other questions; Gore aides are already prodding reporters about Lynne Cheney's ultraconservative ties."

In U.S. News, Angie Cannon described Mrs. Cheney: "The outspoken mother of two daughters, Cheney holds staunchly conservative political views that have made her a darling of the right and a demon to the left." She was a "cultural warrior" and a "fierce critic of ‘‘politicaly correctness.'" Time's Ann Blackman compared Lynne to Hillary: "Each is smart, educated, and controversial. While Hillary inflames people on the right, those on the left are equally apoplectic about Cheney." But that's not the way Time introduced Hillary to the nation.


U. S. News columnist John Leo devoted another column to double standards, and took special notice of Bryant Gumbel's undernoticed bleeping-idiot gaffe. "We have reached the point where the public understands and resents the flood of double standards but hasn't found a way to speak out. Bryant Gumbel's recent adventure with naughty words, for instance, passed without much comment. After interviewing a man from the Family Research Council on the CBS Early Show, Gumbel mouthed ‘‘what a ----ing idiot!' A prominent TV executive, not known as a conservative, told me: ‘‘Canyou imagine if a conservative had done that on national TV? He would have been fired in two minutes. '"After his performance, perhaps it's not surprising CBS sent Jane Clayson to report live from the convention. The delegates might have been moved to some civil disobedience of their own.

-- Tim Graham in Philadelphia




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