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 Magazine Watch

Thursday September 7, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 35)

"Prissy" George W? U.S. News Relays the Right; Newsweek Still Ogling The Kiss

1. Newsweek and Time took Bush to task over his latest ad criticizing Al Gore’s integrity. Jonathan Alter: "I’d like to see the Democrats attack Bush as a lightweight in hock to polluters. "Margaret Carlson: "Bush wails like a cheap car alarm over the most minor incursion -- and attacks at the same time."

2. U.S. News, contrary to the other news magazines, reported on two independent studies that support conservative arguments: one showing a significant media bias towards Gore following the conventions and one finding black students vastly improving test scores through school voucher programs.

3. Newsweek’s "Wisdom" czar attacked Bush as untrustworthy and Cheney as an "option-holding fat cat" while still waxing poetic over Al and Tipper’s mandible-mash: "the Kiss still lingers."

On the covers of the September 11 edition of the magazines: Time and Newsweek both feature their Olympics previews, with both leaving the campaign only four pages. U.S. News touted its annual survey of the nation’s top colleges and universities. Newsweek’s Anna Quindlen charged hard with the gay agenda in her column, getting "good laughs" out of the Old Testament and connecting the Boy Scouts to "gay bias murders."


Both Newsweek and Time featured stories on the Bush campaign’s new ad against Al Gore questioning his character and credibility. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter actually lamented the risk-averse ways of politicians in today’s elections and offered his own blueprint for how he would like Gore to go after Bush. "Personally, I like personal criticism. We’ve had that in our politics for more than 200 years. I’d like to see the Democrats attack Bush as a lightweight in hock to polluters who expects the Oval Office as a graduation gift and wouldn’t know enough as president to settle the inevitable differences among his advisers."

Upon laying out this attack strategy for the Gore campaign, Alter then attempts to rule out alternate avenues of attack for Bush. On the subject of campaign finance reform, Alter has consistently dismissed the political potency of the Buddhist-temple fundraiser (which resulted in a five-felony conviction of Gore fundraiser Maria Hsia): "Bush now has to convince voters that Gore should be fired for an annoying exaggeration of what was in fact his important and farsighted role in funding the Internet while in Congress, and for that dumb picture of him wearing the lei at the temple, which most voters don’t even understand....And even if the arrogant corner-cutting of the Democrats’ 1996 fund-raising blitz is ultimately Gore’s responsibility, that hardly makes him a hypocrite for advocating campaign-finance reform now, as the ad suggests. Bush, who broke all records for vacuuming up special-interest money and whose campaign-finance reform proposal was labeled a hoax by John McCain, is in no position to lecture anyone about fund-raising." Just because the other guy has a felon for a fundraiser...

This is becoming an Alter pattern:

* February 28, 2000: "On campaign-finance reform, McCain says he would ‘beat Gore like a drum.’ Well, not necessarily. When McCain accuses Gore of impropriety for holding a fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple, Gore could bring up McCain's involvement with the Keating Five." * March 20, 2000: "Buddhist-temple jabs and Internet-creation jokes may get stale, but Bush will have other material." * August 28, 2000: "For Bush to hit hard on Gore's 1996 visit to the Buddhist temple might also seem like old news -- and too negative." Time’s Margaret Carlson, in an article titled "When Politicians Get Prissy," also took Bush to task for his ad criticizing Gore’s integrity. While she does critique Gore and Lieberman for being thin-skinned, she reserves her harshest rhetoric for Bush and his so-called "personal" attacks. "But now it seems that the party of John Wayne is becoming the party of John Tesh. Bush wails like a cheap car alarm over the most minor incursion -- and attacks at the same time. Last Friday he was the first to unleash a frontal-attack ad. And for a year, he’s laced every speech with rhetoric aimed at Gore’s integrity and concluded most of those speeches with a pledge to ‘restore honor and integrity to the White House.’ What’s that if not personal?" First to unleash an attack ad? Try July 31, Democrats on Cheney: "Cheney was one of only eight members of Congress to oppose the Clean Water Act. One of the few to vote against Head Start. He even voted against the school lunch program; against health insurance for people who lost their jobs. Cheney, an oil company C.E.O., said it was good for OPEC to cut production so oil and gasoline prices could rise. What are their plans for working families?" Or try NARAL running ads against Bush and Elizabeth Dole in...March 1999! (It’s apparently not a "frontal attack" to claim someone’s against school lunches and for higher gas prices.)

Carlson wasn’t the only Time writer to mangle the facts. James Carney and John F. Dickerson also claimed "the GOP launched the first personal attack ad of the campaign last Friday." (By contrast, U.S. News writer Kenneth Walsh accurately noted "the GOP unleashed their toughest anti-Gore ad yet.")


Kudos to U.S. News: contrary to other magazines, they reported on two independent studies that support conservative arguments: one showing a significant media bias towards Gore following the conventions and one finding black students vastly improving test scores through school voucher programs.

The "Washington Whispers" feature briefly highlighted one study showing how the media has been biased towards Gore following his speech at the Democratic National Convention. Paul Bedard wrote, "Signs are pointing to a network-news bias in favor of Vice President Al Gore after a long rally for George W. Bush. The independent Center for Media and Public Affairs pegs the shift to the August political conventions. Says a preliminary CMPA report: ‘When networks quoted representatives of either party, Gore received 83 percent positive mentions.’ A center analyst calls that an ‘overwhelming slant.’ By comparison, only 59 percent of those interviewed by TV gave Bush ‘positive evaluations’-- and they were all GOP-ers."

So far, no mention of this in either Time or Newsweek. However, Time's Eric Pooley in the August 21 issue cited a study touting a pro-Bush media bias. "Gore's penchant for exaggerating his past and distorting the positions of his opponents has dominated his press clippings. A study of campaign coverage by the independent Project for Excellence in Journalism found that more than three-quarters of Gore stories focused on negative themes -- that Gore is scandal tainted and that he lies and exaggerates -- while only 14% looked at his competence and experience."

U.S. News also reported on the Harvard, Georgetown and University of Wisconsin study showing improving test performance among black students enrolled in voucher programs. "After two years, black students who moved to private schools scored more than 6 percentile points higher on reading and math tests than those who stayed in public schools. That’s a bigger improvement than was found for blacks in a landmark Tennessee study of lowering class size." Again, no mention in Time or Newsweek. This report was a sidebar to a larger article headlined "Vouchers look like a loser...Odd politics could doom two state ballots."


Finally, Newsweek’s latest edition of Gore’s Talking Points, I mean, "Conventional Wisdom Watch." The unbylined Wisdom czar awarded Bush a down arrow because he "promised to ‘change the tone.’ Now he has with attack ad. So who’s untrustworthy?" Likewise, Dick Cheney received a down arrow with this caption, "option-holding fat cat can’t duck that military cuts he decries were started by....him." For the moment, we will ignore the astounding ignorance of defense policy under Bush and Clinton-Gore in that remark. Joe Lieberman received a sideways arrow because he "overdoes God thing in speech, looks gefilte fishy to some other Jews. High Holy Daze?" Now if Bush used the religious rhetoric that Lieberman does, Newsweek would not confine it to CW. Rather, it would be the feature story accompanied by a cover photo of a sinister-looking Bush with the title, "The Coming Theocracy." Last but not least we have Mr. Gore. Of course, he drew an elated up arrow. "Opens up a real lead and knocks Bush off stride. The Kiss still lingers."

Nice to see reporters still wallowing in the emotional aftermath of The Kiss despite the fact they weren’t the ones receiving it.

-- Paul Smith




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