1. The political junkies and pundits watching the Up with People convention in Philadelphia may have been deprived of much partisan nastiness, but the magazines suggested they couldn’t let go of the Grumpy Old Party spin line. Bush was "Bubba-bashing," Cheney gave "a quiet blowtorch of a speech."
2. In one very important election-year weather-vane, the winds are blowing in Bush’s favor.
U.S. News Editor at Large David Gergen strongly praised Bush’s speech, which causes all of Washington to wonder if Gergen is angling for another new White House job.
3. On site in Philadelphia., the networks were quick to suggest that Republican star Colin Powell was being "used" by his white colleagues.
Time columnist Margaret Carlson was only delayed by her deadline. "I left a message for Powell asking if he might have been used as just another prop in this diversity derby."
4. Newsweek’s heartiest liberals couldn’t resist taking shots at what’s wrong with the Republicans. Jonathan Alter prematurely mourned the presence of what he called his Rogue Prince of Prosperity: "The only sure losers [of Campaign 2000] are the voters, deprived of finding the ‘good’ Clinton intact."
The news magazine cover stories stayed away from Campaign 2000. Time explored the greatness of golfer Tiger Woods with "Tiger’s Tale." Newsweek excerpted former Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas’s new book in "RFK: The Untold Story." U.S. News & World Report featured "Runway Rage." Time movie critic Richard Corliss hated how "a football movie celebrates scabs." The Replacements, a film about replacement players during an NFL strike in 1987, "does anatomize the prevailing view of unions in a country that was largely built by them." The film’s pampered pro-athlete villains "deprived the American male of his constitutional right to get drunk watching large men collide with one another on TV."
The political junkies and pundits watching the Up with People convention in Philadelphia may have been deprived of much partisan nastiness, but the magazines suggested they couldn’t let go of the Grumpy Old Party spin line. Take Time’s "Winners and Losers" feature. Dick Cheney was a loser: "Unslick style’s fresh, but Clinton-bashing red-meat speech trashed ‘New GOP’ image." Bush got an up arrow: "Passes key test with 52 smirkless minutes. But will Bubba-bashing be enough?" Lynne Cheney got a down: "Wigs out at questions about (openly) gay daughter. Get used to it, Lynne."
In Newsweek’s two-page spread of pictures before its convention story, one caption read, "Cheney, with wife Lynne, roused the delegates with a red-meat attack on Gore." Newsweek also headlined one set of photos, "The Republicans’ ‘Inclusion Illusion’: The faces on the stage were diverse, but the delegates were still overwhelmingly white."
U.S. News & World Report writer Terrence Samuel kept up his new habit of picking on Dick Cheney, who’s probably never before been compared to a blowtorch: "It was on the third night that the Republican convention stopped feeling like a Tupperware party and turned into the kind of political pep rally that the party faithful have come to expect of political conventions. And it was Dick Cheney's quiet blowtorch of a speech aimed at the Clinton-Gore administration that did the trick. Despite all the early talk that having Cheney on the ticket would evoke memories of a more grown-up, less partisan Washington, it was the former defense secretary who lobbed the first live, prime-time charges at Gore. And the crowd loved it, showing why campaigns can't resist bashing the other guys."
Samuel even insisted that Cheney’s speech suggested a forthcoming campaign unparalleled in nastiness. After quoting Peter King ("By the standards of the past, this [speech] would have been considered the opening prayer"), Samuel added: "Indeed, it may well have been the opening bell of a heavyweight bout featuring many below-the-belt blows from both sides. Notwithstanding early promises to stay positive, George W. Bush used his acceptance speech to paint Bill Clinton and Al Gore as indecent, irresponsible, ineffective leaders."
Time reporter Eric Pooley took a convention which never mentioned Hillary Clinton and barely mentioned Bill Clinton by name and turned it into "The Grudge Match: At the GOP convention, 2000 seems like 1992. That’s because Bush is asking voters, Did you get it right back then?" Pooley mysteriously declared: "All week long, the Man from Hope was hovering over the Republican convention. He was not merely its target but also its inspiration." He noted Bush stole from Clinton’s 1996 Chicago convention moves.
Pooley also (typically) took Bush’s moderate-sounding speech lines and found the campaign promises too cheap: "What he did have was a satchelful of issues the Democrats consider their property – promises to ‘fix’ Social Security and ‘repair’ Medicare, ‘share that gift’ of education with every child and ‘make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them.’ So far, Bush's campaign proposals don't come close to meeting those great goals. He hasn't offered a prescription-drug benefit, and his rough plan to let people invest some of their Social Security dollars in the market apparently causes the Social Security trust fund to run dry and requires borrowing from general revenues. Other parts of Bush's argument are equally strained. To deny the Democrats credit for the prosperity and accuse them of driving the country ‘downhill,’ he backdates the boom and pretends it began before Clinton took office."
The MRC’s Rich Noyes nailed Pooley to the wall in his current MediaNomics analysis. "Six months earlier, however, Time reported that the economy was about to enter record territory: ‘When this expansion passes the February milepost, it will become the longest in American history – 107 months,’ wrote business correspondent Berhard Baumohl. At that time, Clinton had been in office just 84 months."
Pooley noted: "Gore will make these points at his convention next week, of course, but doing so could cast him as the stern dad who stops the music and sits everyone down for a serious talk." Pooley’s bias is so shameless that he acknowledges that his criticisms of Bush will be echoed by the Democrats. At least he added that Hillary’s fundraising at the convention drives the Gore people nuts.
As for convention nastiness, both Newsweek and U.S. News quoted Ron Reagan about George W. Bush: "What is his accomplishment? That he’s no longer an obnoxious drunk?" Hmm. Who’s accomplished here? One presidential kid’s a presidential nominee, and the other one can’t get a TV job on Animal Planet.
Not every magazine writer was reinventing the Republican Convention. In one very important election-year weather vane, the winds are blowing in Bush’s favor. U.S. News Editor at Large David Gergen strongly praised Bush’s speech, which causes all of Washington to wonder if Gergen is angling for another new White House job.
Gergen began: "If Teddy White were still with us, he might devote an entire book to the Republican convention last week in Philadelphia. What we saw in those four remarkable days was the Making of a President, 2000."
He added: "Vice President Al Gore still has a chance to win this fall, but George W. Bush has now seized the commanding heights, and more to the point, has shown strengths that indicate he could become an effective and responsible steward of the nation's future. A year ago, Bush seemed young and a bit callow – someone who, as a Democratic wag put it, was born on third base and acted like he just hit a triple. But the Bush who spoke from the podium in Philadelphia was clearly a man who has the inner fiber and integrity that the public wants in its next leader. Few candidates have demonstrated as much personal growth as he has during this campaign."
Is Bush taking resumes yet?
On site in Philadelphia, the networks were quick to suggest that Republican star Colin Powell was being "used" by his white colleagues. Time columnist Margaret Carlson was only delayed by her deadline. Carlson couldn’t stand Powell’s speech: "In fact, party activists, once bent on cutting school breakfasts and midnight basketball, actually applauded Powell....But wait. Isn’t killing and burying affirmative action the signature cause of the GOP? Didn’t this party just two weeks ago vote in Congress to sabotage Clinton’s request for more teacher hirings and school construction? Forget reality."
Carlson displayed her charming phone manners. "I left a message for Powell asking if he might have been used as just another prop in this diversity derby." Powell called back to disagree, that he wanted to shake up the GOP, Carlson didn’t let up: "But wasn’t he also telling them what they wanted to hear: that you can leave no child behind and have tax cuts? That America’s Promise, his massive volunteer effort, will pick up the slack from government services slashed in the bargain?" Powell said "You’re not listening. I always make the point that if you do everything America’s Promise hopes for, it’s not a substitute for government."
Carlson concluded by looking ahead to the next convention: "I want to be there when Powell tells the GOP that the good-heartedness of volunteers and the generosity of corporations and the support of faith-based charities haven’t been enough. That there are pieces of the problem needing more, not less, government. Then I’ll be listening for the applause."
Newsweek’s heartiest liberals couldn’t resist taking shots at what’s wrong with the Republicans. Jonathan Alter prematurely mourned the presence of what he called his Rogue Prince of Prosperity: "The only sure losers [of Campaign 2000] are the voters, deprived of finding the ‘good’ Clinton intact. They can’t have both Clinton’s political skills (inherited more by Bush) and his brain (inherited more by Gore)."
Matt Bai underlined the Democrats "Inclusion Illusion" gibe: "GOP stars John McCain and J.C. Watts are embarking on a bus tour of black neighborhoods this summer. If the two can’t convert new voters, GOP strategists hope they can at least dampen enthusiasm for Gore and hold down voter turnout. It’s not exactly a lofty goal for the party of Lincoln. But after decades of squandering that legacy, it’s a start."
Clearly, Bush’s line about Democratic legacy-squandering is getting under some journalistic skins.
-- Tim Graham