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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday August 15, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 32)

The Chutzpah! Ticket; Ugly Gore Caricatures; Karenna In Command

1. Newsweek’s coverage of Dick Cheney vs. Joe Lieberman was black and white: Cheney was "an overweight bald guy with a bad ticker...and right-wing positions to defend," while Lieberman was not only a historic choice, but a "centrist" and "Al Gore's air freshener." U.S. News & World Report at least acknowledged Lieberman had a record to be evaluated.

2. Time’s Eric Pooley made no mention of Lieberman’s ideology, but found him not boring, but "charming." The magazine’s pollsters singled out the "Christian right" as "very concerned" about Lieberman’s views on Jesus.

3. In another article, Pooley pleaded for "The Man Behind The Myths: Al Gore is trapped inside ugly caricatures."

4. As part of Humanize Al Week, Time focused on "The Women Who Made Al Gore." Tamala Edwards looked at his daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, and found her to be an imposing power inside the campaign. "I hear people say, 'Let's fax a copy to Karenna.’ ‘Has anybody talked to Karenna about this?’"

Since only two weeks have elapsed since the last pre-convention editions, it’s easy to compare covers (and everything else). Newsweek featured the Democratic ticket with the words "Leap of Faith: Al’s Big Bet on the ‘Un-Bill.’" Two weeks ago, the Bush-Cheney cover read "The Avengers," or a leap of revenge, which is less than inspiring. Time celebrated Gore’s "Chutzpah! Gore’s historic leap of faith." Two weeks ago, Time had a black and white picture of Bush (no Cheney) and promised a look "Inside the Bush Dynasty." That’s very Old Guard vs. New Guard. U.S. News & World Report ignored both tickets -- featuring a history of the Democrats, or "Jefferson’s Party," just as two weeks ago they wrote a cover story on the 1948 Philadelphia convention.


Newsweek’s coverage of Cheney vs. Lieberman was black and white: while Dick Cheney was a hard-right pick that underlined Bush’s lack of experience, Joe Lieberman was an unquestionably bold and centrist pick.

Jonathan Alter wondered two weeks ago: "Why else pick an overweight bald guy with a bad ticker, three Wyoming electoral votes, and right-wing positions to defend?" To celebrate Lieberman, Alter penned a long article on "Post-Seinfeld America" and how Lieberman’s selection is greeted by Alter’s generation of Jews as a hopeful sign that anti-Semitism is one the wane. (It does include one shocking sentence with the words "Clinton" and "sleaze" next to each other. "And if Gore wins, Clean Joe Lieberman will be seen as Al Gore's air freshener, his inoculation against Clinton Sleaze Syndrome.")

Two weeks ago, Newsweek’s Bill Turque found "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." Turque had a different take on Lieberman: "Of the finalists in the vice presidential sweepstakes, he is probably closest to being Gore's political soulmate. He is a moderate man with a generally liberal record, yet willing to break with Democratic orthodoxy on issues like defense spending and media violence." Turque’s article on Lieberman, titled "The Soul & The Steel," began with Lieberman’s 1963 trip to Mississippi to register black voters, with an old classmate describing his objective in life: "to roll the great ball of truth and goodness forward an inch or two."

Two weeks ago, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman touted Bob Shrum’s take that "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." Fineman had no similar take on the all-white Democratic ticket: "He [Lieberman] and Gore have been friends since the ‘80s, when they were founding members of the centrist pro-big business Democratic Leadership Council...growing especially close when both were among the few Democrats to support the Persian Gulf War." And we can’t say he wasn’t embraced by um, liberals: "As popular as Lieberman was with the conservative wing, the party's base of workers, blacks, and teachers was in need of reassurance."

The Republican message was left to the second-to-last paragraph, in which the Bush campaign coasted and felt little need to change anything in their game plan: "They think they have ammo with which to attack Lieberman if they have to – his ties to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in particular – but are happy to let Green Party candidate Ralph Nader do that job."

Or take the prospective vice-presidential spouse coverage. Newsweek’s Matt Bai story on Lynne Cheney carried the subhead "Cheney's wife is the family's true right-wing warrior" and noted "Gore aides are already prodding reporters about Lynne Cheney's ultraconservative ties." Lynette Clemetson presented Hadassah Lieberman’s hopes and dreams: "I feel all this history so acutely at this moment...[My parents] were predestined to die in the Holocaust, and here I am in this place right now."

In U.S. News two weeks ago, reporter Kenneth Walsh quoted a former Clinton aide charging Bush "needs to show that he won't turn back the clock and he's not like the Republican Party's congressional crazies." Now Walsh declared Gore’s "rationale for seeking the presidency remains a confusing mess," sometimes waging war on the wealthy, other times on the "do-nothing Congress," and "On still other occasions, Gore goes into Bill Clinton mode from 1992, calling himself a different kind of Democrat – an impression reinforced by his choice of centrist Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate."

Walsh’s colleague Terrence Samuel was the only one to see any similarity with the Cheney story. Two weeks ago, Cheney was "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." This week Samuel added: "But much like Dick Cheney, the GOP's vice presidential nominee, Lieberman has a long and varied record with plenty to feast on for friends and foes alike. On some levels, Lieberman is a pure Democrat. He is against banning ‘partial-birth' abortion; opposed removing Clinton from office; voted against confirming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; and was against a balanced-budget amendment. The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, gave him a perfect score of 100, while the Christian Coalition scored him at 9 out of 100 in favoring their issues. In recent weeks, Lieberman has revised some of his more provocative positions, notably partial privatization of Social Security, which he once favored and now opposes."

Samuel also displayed Lieberman the comedian: "As to whether his socially conservative views are more in line with Bush, he cracked, ‘With all due respect, I think that's like saying that the veterinarian and the taxidermist are in the same business, because either way you get your dog back.'" This is an odd joke for the ticket that embraces those would not return an unwanted baby in one piece.


Time’s Eric Pooley also loved the Lieberman pick, but wrote absolutely nothing about Lieberman’s ideology, either the past record or the evolving new flexible version. He loved Lieberman’s personality: "You know, there are some people who might actually call Al's selection of me an act of chutzpah," he said in Nashville, using the familiar Yiddish word for audacity. Lieberman has chutzpah too. At first glance you figure he will bore you silly, but he grows on you -- his voice is a decent instrument, and he obviously enjoys playing it. His basic tune, about an immigrant's grandson who was the first in his family to attend college and now might be Vice President, is an American classic. He makes no effort to conceal how tickled he is to be on the ticket, and the result is charming."

While two weeks ago, Time asked in a poll if people would be more or less comfortable with Cheney when told he "is very politically conservative," no poll question asked about Lieberman’s policy views. Instead, pollsters focused on just "how concerned" voters would be about "the fact that Lieberman does not believe Jesus Christ was the son of God." They then isolated "Among those who identify themselves as members of the Christian right, percentage who say they are ‘very concerned’ about Lieberman’s views on Jesus: 49 percent."

Pooley guessed the Lieberman pick would ruin Bush attacks: "Bush's team said he wouldn't be calling a halt to his talk of ‘restoring honor and integrity’ to the White House, but both his advisers and Republicans in Washington are worried that they have been robbed of one of their central themes. They concede that choosing Lieberman is the smartest thing Gore has done in this campaign, and what happened to Bush on the trail last week helps explain why – because Bush came close to calling a truce in the character war."

He also chronicled how Bush can’t attack Clinton without flinching. "After his Clinton-attacking convention ended and he set out on his ‘Change the Tone’ tour, Bush tried to claim that he never attacked in the first place. Using Clintonian weasel words, he tried to pretend that his oft-repeated "dignity and honor" vow is somehow not a reference to Clinton." Bush added: "I don't think President Clinton is an issue as we go forward."

Pooley gibed: "That will be news to the Bush strategists and speechwriters who spent a week in Philadelphia trying to punish Gore for Clinton's sins." He then found Gore campaign chief Bill Daley to claim "We knew that all that negative stuff on Clinton had very little impact on undecided voters."

A "Clinton-attacking convention"? "Spent a week in Philadelphia" on Clinton’s sins? "All that negative stuff on Clinton"? Time is clearly misleading its more gullible readers into believing the GOP convention was Impeachment Trial II, starring the House managers, who Bush treats like they are radioactive.


In another article, Pooley pleaded for "The Man Behind The Myths: Al Gore is trapped inside ugly caricatures." He explained: "His challenge isn't merely a charisma deficit or a tin ear or a knack for seeming phony even when he's being himself. It's that he must try to dispel at least five familiar myths about himself. Each is based on nuggets of truth, but Gore believes each fails to convey the essence of who he is. Is it possible that the shorthand on a man can be so wrong?"

MYTH NO. 1 AL THE CAUTIOUS: " Though there's truth to this image (think Elian), Gore is capable of making gutsy campaign choices (think Lieberman). Lurking behind the often slippery candidate is a man whose approach to governance is undeniably bold."

MYTH NO. 2 AL THE LIAR: "Gore's penchant for exaggerating his past and distorting the positions of his opponents has dominated his press clippings...But many of the well-known examples of Gore's stretching the truth are themselves stretches. He never claimed to have ‘invented’ the Internet; he said that in Congress he ‘took the initiative in creating the Internet,’ an unfortunate way of saying he sponsored the bill that bankrolled the transformation of a Defense Department computer network into the Internet we know today. Nor did he claim to have discovered the Love Canal toxic-waste crisis; he was misquoted on the subject, but the newspaper corrections didn't get the same play as the original charge. That's not to say Gore doesn't exaggerate; he does. But plenty of other people in his line of work do too." If he does exaggerate, how is it a "myth"?

MYTH NO. 3 AL THE HYPOCRITE: Pooley reminded the reader that Gore told the 1996 Democratic convention he swore on his sister’s death bed to fight the tobacco industry, but continued tobacco farming for years. He can’t correct that, but he makes excuses for Gore: " He was so passionate about giving the speech that none of his aides felt comfortable pushing the hypocrisy issue with him. Like many other overachievers, he is arrogant and a little insecure, but people had always called him Dudley Do-Right, and it never occurred to him that could change. Six months later, during the furor over his campaign fund-raising adventures, the same belief in his goodness led Gore to call a press conference and repeat ‘no controlling legal authority’ seven times – and with that, his ugly new image was set in stone."

MYTH NO. 4 AL THE TECHNO-INTELLECTUAL: Pooley undercuts this "myth" too: "Gore has always had an eye for how social and technological change affects people," but he’s also political: "perhaps the reason Gore so often seems to be impersonating a tub-thumping pol is that he feels the need to disguise his cerebral nature, since American politics has often punished eggheads....But it's more likely that the tub thumper is part of the real Gore too."

MYTH NO. 5 AL CORLEONE : "Recently it has become fashionable to compare Gore to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, a soft idealist who becomes hard and cold and reconciled to the violence of the family business. But Gore's taste for political combat isn't acquired; it's innate." Pooley boasted: "If he succeeds in defeating Bush, it won't be because people suddenly decided that Gore is the more likable fellow. It will be because he seems the more presidential fellow and because he has separated Bush from his lungs by slicing and dicing his record in Texas and his ‘risky’ policies. (Joe Lieberman will help with that too.)"


As part of Humanize Al Week, Time focused on "The Women Who Made Al Gore." Tamala Edwards looked at his daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, and found her to be an imposing power inside the campaign.

"Karenna's fingerprints will be across the program, from the choice of speakers to the entertainment to the look of the stage. On Wednesday she will give the speech kicking off the roll-call vote that will formally nominate her father. The gauzy biographical film touting Gore as the man from Carthage will be vetted by her; her pen will edit the remarks of both the Vice President and Tipper Gore. And when Senator Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, shows up to take his place, you can be certain that she weighed in on the decision to put him there."

Edwards said political kids are often uninformed troublemakers, but "Karenna has been savvy enough to cultivate warm relationships throughout Goreville, from top advisers to state operatives. She has offered herself up as another avenue for staff members who don't believe their voices are being heard. ‘She always tries to communicate that it's safe to talk to her, that she's not going to rat on you,’ says a senior Gore aide. Says another: ‘I hear people say, 'Let's fax a copy to Karenna.’ ‘Has anybody talked to Karenna about this?’"

Karenna wasn’t always so bright, Edwards reported: "By the time she hit the teen years, her spirited nature veered into open rebellion. Karenna lectured her parents on how their rules infringed on her First Amendment rights. She was big on ‘adventuring,’ climbing out of her window to shimmy down a manhole into the D.C. subway system for afterhours partying. When her friends spray-painted the names of punk bands on the tunnel walls, Karenna, ever the iconoclast, threw up names of country singers like Emmylou Harris and Kenny Rogers. One night Karenna was dancing along the tracks and headed off to stomp on the third rail. A friend pulled her back, explaining that she would be electrocuted. ‘I always think of that,’ she says. ‘I could have died, because I really was about to go jump on that.’"

But Edwards found teenaged Karenna was smart enough to see the logical connections between Dear Old Dad and defiant punk bands: "Yet it was in these rowdy years that the political bond between father and daughter began to form. One night Karenna came home refusing to admit she was drunk. Gore had her draw a floor plan of the house; the next morning, as she looked at its wild misproportions, Karenna had to face up to the fact that she had not been sober. Still, this was the same 14-year-old who tagged along with him one Saturday afternoon in 1987 when he met with advisers to talk about a presidential run. As she has done repeatedly, Karenna came to define her father in her own way, a way at odds with his establishmentarian image. The teen decided that Gore and his insurgent bid were of a piece with the defiant punk bands she sneaked out to see. ‘I felt like we were trying to overthrow the Old Guard,’ she says."

Apparently, it’s not just Tipper that sees Al as a Sex Pistol. 

-- Tim Graham




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