1. Convention contrasts: the Republicans' "Bubba-bashing...blowtorch" was matched by Joe Lieberman's "rye sense of humor" and the
Liebermans' inspiring "versions of the American Dream."
2. The magazines split on the post-convention analysis: Newsweek celebrated the bounce of a "Gladiator of Government," while
Time and U.S. News wondered if Gore had the skills to woo both liberals and moderates.
3. Time's Eric Pooley and U.S. News & World
Report's Kenneth Walsh promoted the Gore-Lieberman ticket as "just plain folks." Why, "Did you know the Veep can body surf, make igloos, and chase coon dogs?"
4. Pounding home the usual party line, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter felt the earth move for Albert: "The average voter's bottom line on Gore is increasingly: 'He'll do.'" Besides, "Bush's massive tax cut does overwhelmingly favor the wealthy at the expense of health and education."
5. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff played the new
Clinton-Lewinsky grand jury story straight, while U.S. News concluded with Barney Frank bluster and Time urged independent counsel Robert Ray to "Give up: you can't catch that wascally
6. Time's Margaret Carlson, who introduced Hillary Clinton to the nation in 1992 as "an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Oliver Wendell Holmes" has gotten a bad case of Hillary fatigue after the First Lady's convention address: "By the time she was saying thank you (for what she didn't say), many had lost the will to live."
The August 28 editions slipped away from political covers again. Newsweek caught up with an earlier Time cover by promoting "Secrets of Survivor"; U.S. News & World Report copied Time from several years ago with "The Dark Side of the Internet"; and Time promoted Spinster Chic with the loose (er, liberated) women characters of the HBO series Sex in the City and the headline "Who Needs A Husband?"
Now that the "Stay Out The Bushes" convention in Los Angeles is over, we can compare and contrast post-convention issues. There were similarities (in U.S. News, editorialist David Gergen praised George W. Bush, while editorialist Mortimer Zuckerman praised Al Gore), but more contrasts. In Time's "Winners and Losers" feature two weeks ago, Dick Cheney was a loser for his "Clinton-bashing red-meat speech." The only Democratic losers this week were targets of friendly campaign advice: "Gore consultants: Guys, put a cork in it (except to Time). You keep making your client look like a mere pawn." The winners included Karenna Gore Schiff ("Advice to Al: Keep her onstage as well as behind the scenes") and of course, lip-locking Tipper ("'80s music scold; now Joe's the prude. H-wood, America digs you. And that dance, that kiss.")
In Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom," Bush and Gore both drew up arrows. But Bush drew half-praise ("Passes key test with 52 smirkless minutes. But will Bubba-bashing be enough?") while Gore's thumbs-up was unencumbered ("Finally, his own man. No 'lift of a driving dream,' but a bigger bounce than Bush.") Would anyone watching these two speeches conclude, as these entries suggest, that Bush did more "bashing"? Two weeks ago, Lynne Cheney got a down: "Wigs out at questions about (openly) gay daughter. Get used to it, Lynne." But Joe Lieberman got a rave review: "Bakery-truck driver's son's rye sense of humor goes over big. Bonus: He looks like a VP."
Two weeks ago, Newsweek's two-page spread of pictures before its convention story carried one caption which 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." By comparison, this week's Lieberman photo is buried under the Gore lip-lambada, but the caption read "Joe and Hadassah Lieberman spoke for the New Democrats and told their versions of the American Dream." In the former "Illlusion" column, Newsweek celebrated "The Place to See and Be Seen," over pictures of ten celebrities on site.
Two weeks ago, U.S. News writer Terrence Samuel suggested Dick Cheney's "quiet blowtorch of a speech aimed at the Clinton-Gore administration" blew up "all the early talk that having Cheney on the ticket would evoke memories of a more grown-up, less partisan Washington." This week, he never mentioned Lieberman's attacks on Republicans (although the magazine matches his article with excerpts titled "Now, a little Bush bashing"). Instead, Samuel reported on liberal unease over Lieberman by playing the usual reporter's Democratic party game: liberals were identified by these labels: the "party faithful," "party purists," "traditional Democrats," a "diehard Democrat," "blacks," and in the case of radical troublemaker Maxine Waters, the "voluble African-American congresswoman."
The magazines split on the post-convention analysis: Newsweek celebrated the bounce of a "Gladiator of Government," while Time and U.S. News wondered if Gore had the skills to woo both liberals and moderates. In "Picking a Fight," Time scribe Nancy Gibbs asserted: "The secret code of the Bush campaign is that politics doesn't really matter, the country is at peace, the market is up, so you can afford to vote for the guy you like because we're all happy centrists now...Gore heard the music and read the polls and saw that this was a contest he could not win. He is sharper when he's in a fight, but Bush has not played by the Gore rules...So last week Gore picked a different fight," picking on faceless corporations. "He may not win a popularity contest against George W. Bush, but he might win one against, say, Exxon." Gibbs wasn't totally sold, forwarding the fears of Democrats: "Why does Gore have to use the word fight 20 times in his speech when every survey shows many swing voters want all the partisan fighting to stop?"
Gibbs saw a candidate in trouble, with a shaky base. "Even the right wing wants victory enough to do anything and say nothing. You didn't see Charlton Heston in Philadelphia.; you couldn't miss Jesse Jackson in Los Angeles." Gore "is threading a fine needle: he picked a centrist running mate and shaped a centrist platform, all the while calling for the workers in the hall to unite. He's offering Clintonism in populist garb, centrism in a union suit." Gibbs suggested "some Democrats - and some Republicans - say Gore is making a huge miscalculation." Gore aides made their case to her: "In some ways, it's role he has been comfortable with, as the son of a waitress and a Senator known for his fiery defense of Tennessee farmers."
In "On his own at last," U.S. News reporters Roger Simon and Kenneth Walsh explained: "Ignoring advice to veer to the center, where campaigns are often won or lost, ignoring advice to go more for the heart than the head, Gore delivered a populist address of the old school."
At their most sympathetic, Simon and Walsh proclaimed: "The frustration for the Gore forces has been that when people are asked who shows the greatest leadership ability, an area where the seriousness and long record of Gore should shine through like a beacon, they pick Bush by wide margins." Like Gibbs, Simon and Walsh [worried] about the effects of Gore's risky populism scheme on voters in the middle, and will have to thread a needle between the party's liberal and centrist wings.
Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Bill Turque took a different tack. In "How Al Got His Bounce," they focused on average voter reaction: "Gore's speech wasn't World Wrestling Federation, but far more muscular and combative than [25-year-old swing voter Ken] Kinter expected. He and his fiancee, Kirsten Held, nodded approvingly when Gore promised to defend abortion rights. They liked his potshots at Big Tobacco, Big Drugs, and Big Oil. Kinter voted for Bob Dole in 1996 and remains undecided, drawn to George W. Bush's 'bubbly,' upbeat style. But the Vice President impressed him. 'Al Gore is dry, but with both feet planted firmly on the ground.' he declared."
They continued by explaining what won a "big" convention bounce: "It was the newest and, his supporters said, the innermost Al Gore: a bull-market populist vowing to use prosperity (and the big budget surplus) for programs the benefit 'working families'...If that's so, then this is who Gore really is: a back-to-the-future liberal with a tinge of Southern populism, a Gladiator of Government and the political heir to his own dad, the late Sen. Albert Gore Sr. of Possum Hollow, Tenn. This presumably final release of the new Al Gore was also notable for what he didn't say...He did not pay much homage to the centrist New Democrat cast, of which running mate Joe Lieberman is a leading member." Fineman and Turque completely slid past the question of the very prominent liberal base at the convention, spending most of their space previewing possible fall strategies and tactics.
Time's Eric Pooley and U.S. News & World Report's Kenneth Walsh promoted the Gore-Lieberman ticket as "just plain folks."
Two weeks ago, Pooley was picking on George W. Bush's economic program as too cheap. But image, not substance, was his beat this week. Pooley's article was headlined: "Al Gore, Regular Guy: Did you know the Veep can body surf, make igloos, and chase coon dogs?" He dutifully began: "One big goal of the Democratic convention was to prove that Al Gore has the experience to be President. Not executive experience, but the really important stuff - body surfing and mountain climbing, making igloos and cocoa and a dinosaur diorama with the kids, shooting pool and watching Star Trek with Tommy Lee Jones, chasing through the woods with coon dogs in the middle of the night, wrapping a turkey in aluminum foil and roasting it in the fireplace. At this convention, Gore's image was the thing being cooked inside the shiny wrapper."
Pooley found Gore more intense than easygoing, but he played along: "The
biographical film narrated by Tipper Gore was effective because it showed Gore as a loving family man, and he is that. Best of all, it was a chance to show off photos of Al and Tipper as young marrieds in the 1970s - a scruffy hunk and his blond babe. As a 30-year-old woman sitting in the hall was heard to say, 'Gore was hot - who knew?'"
Now that Gore had been eroticized, Pooley ended by praising his double-time convention address: "The convention offered a thousand opinions about who Gore is. But his speech suggested a simple one: He's a man who knows that he and the system are flawed but who might just be smart and tough enough to get things done. Gore came out of his shiny foil wrapper."
Under the headline "The families are just plain folks: Tipper and Hadassah stand by their men," Walsh argued: "Excitement or no, the Lieberman family seems to make a lot of sense as a paradigm of simple, straightforward normalcy after nearly eight years of the dysfunctional and vastly complex marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Ditto Al and Tipper Gore, who were portrayed last week as doting parents and political lovebirds at the Democratic National Convention." In case you didn't get the point, Walsh concluded: "Says a friend of both the Liebermans and the Gores, 'These are two strong and tranquil marriages by today's standards.' It may be just what the country wants to see in the White House after the storm-tossed Billary years."
Walsh didn't explore whether the Bush marriage would just as easily accomplish this task.
Pounding home the usual party line, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter felt the earth move for Albert: "Gore connected with the kitchen-table concerns of ordinary Americans and at long last developed his own political profile. If the underlying motivation for those leaning to Bush is 'change for change's sake,' the average voter's bottom line on Gore is increasingly: 'He'll do.' That's the living-room view. Out in Campaignland, a spirited debate is underway about Gore's populist theme...But on balance, it should work. Bush's massive tax cut does overwhelmingly favor the wealthy at the expense of health and education. When that becomes widely known, it will hurt Bush." (Italics his.)
Alter on Bush, damned if he does: "AFTER CONVENTION, BUSH CHIDES GORE FOR DIVISIVE TONE, read the lead headline in The New York Times. This is not a winning theme for Bush. 'Chiding' can itself be 'divisive'; you can't easily go negative on someone's negativity. And voters don't go for aggrieved victimhood. They want candidates to punch back."
Alter on Bush, damned if he doesn't: "For Bush to hit hard on Gore's 1996 visit to the Buddhist temple might also seem like old news - and too negative. As for litigating the last eight years, this is a total loser for Bush."
If Alter's view held sway, Bush would be advised to quit now and avoid the hassle.
Newsweek's Michael Isikoff played the new Clinton-Lewinsky grand jury story straight, which you couldn't say for U.S. News or Time. Isikoff reported all the details of the story that broke on the day of Gore's convention speech and sparked a forest fire of Democratic accusations of a partisan leak by independent counsel Robert Ray or the Republicans: "But the leaker wasn't Ray and the motive, as nearly as anyone could tell, wasn't political. In fact, the story resulted from some quick work by an Associated Press reporter and a bit of indiscretion by a federal appellate judge, Richard D. Cudahy. Cudahy, who was appointed by Jimmy Carter, is a member of the three-judge panel that oversees Ray's office."
U.S. News featured in their upfront "In Quotes" section White House mouthpiece Jack Siewert's complaint: "The time of this leak reeks to high heaven." (In fact, while two weeks ago, the "In Quotes" feature included young Ron Reagan's scabrous insult of George W. Bush, every quote this week is pro-Gore, including Jimmy Carter saying anyone who would link Al "One of Our Greatest Presidents" Gore to the Lewinsky scandal is "absolutely stupid and ridiculous.")
In a story titled "The Scandal That Just Won't Go Away," Angie Cannon and Toni Locy mentioned that "Ray's office announced the next day that a loose-lipped judge 'inadvertently' spilled the beans." (What? He secretly hates Gore?) Despite explaining Cudahy's admission, they never noted he was Carter-appointed. They concluded: "The suspicious timing was reminiscent of the indictment of President Bush's former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, in the Iran-Contra scandal during the fading days of the '92 campaign. Mindful of a backlash, Ray's office did debate whether to empanel a grand jury now or after the election and concluded 'there's really no good time,' a legal source says." They end by quoting liberal Rep. Barney Frank claiming "If Bill Clinton were a private citizen, there isn't a remote chance he would be prosecuted for this."
This provokes two points. First, if Ray wasn't guilty of leaking, how is this reminiscent of Lawrence Walsh (here unnamed) re-indicting Weinberger on the Friday before Election Day in 1992? At that time U.S. News treated Bob Dole's post-election accusations of a partisan leak with 85 words of disdain. Second, with their suggestive Frank finish, U.S. News continues to ignore the reporting of major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, who found over 100 private citizens in late 1998 who were prosecuted for perjury involving sex.
But Time took the cake, completely ignoring the Cudahy admission in naming Robert Ray a "loser" in their "Winners & Losers" feature, with the quip: "Grand Jury leaks on Al's day, splashes your rep. Give up: you can't catch that wascally
Michael Weisskopf's brief article on the next page makes no mention of Carter-appointed judge Cudahy, who should have the "splashed rep" for spilling the beans, which was not so much a "leak" (which sounds maliciously intentional) as a "goof" or "gaffe." Weisskopf reported "Kenneth Starr's successor had previously had a private lesson in just how polarizing the sex-and-cover-up probe remains 19 months after Bill Clinton was acquitted of impeachment charges. Legal sources tell Time that Ray had trouble finding 23 grand jurors who could objectively review evidence of criminal conduct by the President."
If Time's view held sway, Ray would be advised to quit now and avoid the hassle. Do you see a theme developing here?
Time's Margaret Carlson, who introduced Hillary Clinton to the nation in 1992 as "an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Oliver Wendell Holmes" has gotten a bad case of Hillary fatigue after her convention address.
Two weeks ago, Margaret was ripping on Colin Powell a GOP "prop," but this week she became a rare equal-opportunity critic. "Hillary simply couldn't make music. To her the Staples Center was the world's largest day care center, and she the patient teacher, mouthing bromides in the singsongy style that Al Gore rose above for his own address. Along about the third reference to helping children, the audience began to drift. By the time she was saying thank you (for what she didn't say), many had lost the will to live." Wow.
After years of pom-pom coverage of Brilliant Hillary, Margaret has now started debating herself: "Yes, she's smart and would have made something of herself if she hadn't married Bill Clinton. But without his sins, we wouldn't know she's human. Had she not become the Wronged Wife, does anyone think Hillary's Senate candidacy would be the least bit plausible in a state she'd only visited as a tourist deciding to run there?....Hillary, without the President, is all work and no warmth."
These two must have had a serious private falling out.
-- Tim Graham