1. The media claim to like a close race, but the magazines kept piling on Bush.
Time’s cover hopefully compared Bush to the fabled bad egg that couldn’t be put back together again: "Humpty W.: How Bad a Fall?"
2. U.S. News & World Report claimed Bush’s "sneers" against Al Gore are "not the side of Bush that his staff wanted to present to the American people in the homestretch of the campaign."
Newsweek warned that Bush has "yet to give a systematic response to Gore’s Pumped Populism."
3. In the spirit of the crusade for ever-greater regulation,
Time scribe Adam Zagorin blamed the alleged auto-safety neglect of the Bush and Clinton administrations on Ronald Reagan. "But as often occurs with such underfunded agencies, nothing happens until the bodies start piling up."
4. Newsweek asked if "shock doc" Dr. Laura Schlessinger is suffering from gay-activist censorship, but she also suffered at the hands of Senior Editor David France: her "hate language" was being challenged by
"antihate groups," and France always put the words "Dr. Laura" in quotes, something Newsweek probably doesn’t pull with Dr. J, Dr.
Dre, or Dr. Martin Luther King.
5. Ken Starr may have retired from the independent-counsel business, but
Newsweek’s gossip can still joke "No doubt Kenneth Starr can’t wait to get at Chelsea" for her reported relationship with a White House intern.
In the September 18 issues, U.S. News & World Report explored "Reinventing the Army." Newsweek offered a Special Report on "Redefining Race in America, " devoting 20 pages to race, and just one (three if you count columns by Robert Samuelson and George Will) to Campaign 2000. Time addressed "Dying On Your Own Terms," which dovetailed with the latest program from PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers and his producer-wife, Judith. Barrett Seaman presented their show on dying as "only the latest in a series of Moyers’ PBS documentaries that speak directly to the 77 million-strong Baby Boom generation, which has been dictating the national agenda since coming of age in the 1960s. As wise and benevolent Uncle Bill and Aunt Judith, the Moyerses are reaching boomers through television, the medium they grew up with, about the issues that concern them at key passages in their lives."
The media claim to like a close race, but the magazines kept piling on Bush.
Time’s cover hopefully compared Bush to the fabled bad egg that couldn’t be put back together again: "Humpty W.: How Bad a Fall?" For his description of New York Times reporter Adam Clymer as a "major league a–hole," Bush was named a "loser" in their "Winners & Losers" feature: "‘Major league’ mistakes, and his lead is gone. Those shiny metal things? Called microphones." (While they were in a pro-Gore mode, they also tagged Green Party threat Ralph Nader a "loser" with the quip: "Even an auto safety scandal can’t lift polls."
Inside, Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs explored "How Bush Lost His Edge" (without a subliminal subheadline such as "We Hope We Helped"). Gibbs continued with her theme that all Bush offered was personality, not policy: "In times of peace and prosperity, it takes more than a sunny disposition to persuade voters to dump their dates." Personality politics was working when "Bush was a new kind of Republican – which meant he wasn’t Newt Gingrich, and he wouldn’t shut down the government or open the orphanages."
Gibbs credited Gore’s negativity as devastating, and never objectionable or overdrawn. A Bush adviser complains "Gore’s ads make Texas look like it’s Belize or Bulgaria or someplace where kids live in huts with no roofs and everything’s polluted," but she only quotes him saying "They are really hurting us." After Gore’s terrific toughness, Gibbs ended her article with Democratic consultant John Rafaelli: "The thing we’re learning about old George is that once he gets under pressure, he goes negative quick. The bull---- about changing the tone evaporates when he ain’t winning." (Dashes theirs.)
To underscore the theme, Time presented the poll results which prove"What’s Working in Gore’s Favor." (Did any show what’s in Bush’s favor? Time didn’t say.) They painted a pretty picture for Gore, with these sentences introducing poll numbers: "A mood of contentment in the nation...Women moving to his camp....A growing favorability rating for Gore and a shrinking one for Bush....Increasing confidence in his abilities....A move out of Clinton’s shadow....Seen as equal to Bush on the issue of honor and integrity....Perceived as a good husband...Someone seen as more eager to debate than Bush....Thought to be running a less negative campaign...And some negative fallout from Bush’s vulgar comment about a reporter."
Attack-dog columnist Margaret Carlson unleashed another salvo on Bush over his Clymer quote. "And if you need the press to confirm your image as a nice guy, it’s bad to see singling out one of their membership for minor transgressions."
Like describing the Texas border as "a hotbed of contagion"? No malice or bias there?
"Clymer wrote two pieces, quoting experts, critical of Bush’s health-care record, but he’s hardly one of the smart-alecks cracking wise on TV about Bush’s mangling of the English language." That, in fact, describes Major League Margaret Carlson. "Bush’s insistence that he apologize only for being heard, not for being vindictive, reminds people that he has a mean streak and that his discovery of God and self-discipline are rather recent."
After a rehash of Bush campaign vittles vs. Gore campaign vittles, Margaret concluded: "The press that panned Gore’s convention speech has discovered that the 97-lb. Weakling is an Issues Superman, a hunk on the rope line, and a good kisser...In contrast, Bush’s verbal tics are suddenly evidence of an addled brain not up to debating. Before, he was a breath of fresh air; now he’s trotting out old supply-side economics."
As if Gore’s Teddy Roosevelt aspirations are fresh.
Not everything in U.S. News was pro-Gore. Columnist John Leo explored how Clymer deserved his epithet for opinion-mongering in the news pages. "Washington Whispers" included the Cynthia McKinney quote that "Gore's Negro tolerance level has never been too high." David Gergen backpedaled furiously from his anoint-Bush-now column of just two weeks’ vintage, sounding like Margaret Carlson on economics: "Of course, there's a lot more he could productively do. With imagination, he might find a way to pare back his giant tax cut and apply more of the budget surplus to retiring the national debt – something he should have done long ago."
But columnist Gloria Borger warned of Bush’s cockiness: "Thinking Republicans hark back to the gory days of Gingrich, when he felt just as cocky – about the virtue of shutting down the government in a budget fight with Bill Clinton and, later, about the virtue of harping on the Lewinsky scandal as a way to win congressional seats. Both strategies were big-time losers: After the 1995 government shutdown, 71 percent of the voters sided with Clinton. Post-Lewinsky, the Democrats picked up five House seats. With his strategic vision a total flop, Gingrich resigned."
In the next paragraph, headlined "Shadowboxing," Borger continued: "The Bush campaign's hubris is eerily Gingrichian: They've decided that trust is the issue, and consequently the campaign has largely been based on the premise that Al Gore is morally unfit for the job. In other words, like Clinton, like Gore. Pre-convention, the plan worked well because Gore was still clumsily sorting out his serial personalities. But something happened at the convention that the Bush campaign has yet to notice: Gore successfully declared his independence from Clinton and outlined a coherent agenda."
From the campaign trail, U.S. News reporter Roger Simon also found an unattractive, sneering Bush: "His speeches are now filled with sneers about Al Gore's famous ‘no controlling legal authority’ defense for his White House fundraising calls and accusations that the vice president is a man who ‘says one thing but does another.’ This was not the side of Bush that his staff wanted to present to the American people in the homestretch of the campaign. Bush was supposed to be different from those Washington attack-dog politicians who will do anything and say anything to become president. Bush was supposed to be the candidate of charm and warmth and compassion."
Simon then explained why Gore is blessed by the press: "Good polls also inoculate candidates against news media attention to their gaffes, missteps, and bobbles. Last Wednesday, Gore threw batting practice pitches with the Detroit Tigers and hit first baseman Robert Fick on the leg. A few months ago, this would have been portrayed as yet another example of how nothing was going right for the "hapless" Gore. Now, with Gore up in the polls, the media laughed it off..."
Newsweek bigfoot Howard Fineman proved Simon right. He mentioned Gore’s batting practice pitching in Detroit, but completely left out the beanball. Fineman listed Bush’s problems: "What’s gone wrong for Bush? Plenty. He didn’t anticipate the furious pace of the campaign in late summer. He has yet to give a systematic response to Gore’s Pumped Populism. He’s wasted time talking tactics...His running mate, Dick Cheney, has been on the defensive over lucrative stock options and his lax voting habits in Texas. Fate – in the form of open mikes – hasn’t helped. Bush was heard privately calling a New York Times reporter a ‘major league a------.’ It was a glimpse of Bush’s less appealing frat-boy side."
Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom Watch" had a "Special Open-Mike Edition" with an up arrow for Gore and a sideways arrow for Lieberman, who’s still running for two offices this fall. The intro joked without any semblance of originality that Bush’s Clymer remark was "A good start to ‘restoring dignity and honor to the Oval Office.’" Bush’s regular down arrow came with the caption: "Major-league debate shirker squanders precious time. And stop shooting dove, Guv." Dick Cheney’s down arrow quipped: "Has voted in only two local elections in five years. So much for ‘local control.’"
In the spirit of the crusade for ever-greater regulation, Time scribe Adam Zagorin blamed the alleged auto-safety neglect of the Bush and Clinton administrations on Ronald Reagan. He explained that in the wake of a Firestone tire recall Congress was nipping at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: "There’s just one problem: congress helped puncture the agency’s effectiveness. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration poleaxed NHTSA and other regulatory agencies as costly encumbrances to business. NHTSA’s current budget is $392 million, a third less in real terms than it was in 1980." Zagorin ended on a note of liberal hope that new funding for NHTSA "may soon be able to change the way it does business. But as often occurs with such underfunded agencies, nothing happens until the bodies start piling up."
Newsweek asked if "shock doc" Dr. Laura Schlessinger is suffering from gay-activist censorship, but she also suffered at the hands of Senior Editor David France. The article carried the subheadline: "Do the fierce protests against her new TV talk show violate the shock doc’s First Amendment rights?" But France’s allegiances seemed clear from the reporting style: her "hate language" was being challenged by "antihate groups," and France always put the words "Dr. Laura" in quotes, something Newsweek probably doesn’t pull with Dr. J, Dr. Dre, or Dr. Martin Luther King. France acknowledged that she has a Ph.D. in physiology, so why the quotes? She regularly warns her show is not the place for therapy. What next? Can you imagine an article with "President Clinton" in quotes, suggesting he isn’t much of a President? Wouldn’t that look about as biased as this?
France reported that controversy didn’t seem inevitable when Paramount picked up the TV show idea: "After all, her Morton Downey Jr. routine has already taken aim at just about parents who work ("Don’t have children if you won’t raise!"). Single moms ("criminal and immoral!"). All women ("They have abortions! They go to bars! They get knocked up again!"). But her view of gays and lesbians is what most riles the anti-Schlessinger forces. She has famously branded homosexuality "a biological error," declaring that "a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys." She uses her enormous media reach to promote the psychologically harmful notion that homosexuality should (and can) be ‘cured.’"
France concluded with a spin favorable to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Disagreement, I mean, Defamation: "GLAAD is so convinced ‘Dr. Laura’ will continue its war on gays that she has called for Paramount to keep it off the air. Which sounds an awful lot like another ‘Lauraism’ the good doctor probably never wished she uttered: ‘You can’t bring home an elephant and expect it to purr.’"
Ken Starr may have retired from the independent-counsel business, but Newsweek’s gossip can still joke about him, can’t she? On the "Newsmakers" page, Alisha Davis wrote: "The whole thing is just too familiar – the Oval Office refusing to comment on a relationship between a Clinton and a White House intern. No doubt Kenneth Starr can’t wait to get at Chelsea, who is reportedly dating White House intern and fellow Stanford student Jeremy Kane, 21."
The gossip didn’t point out the President and Chelsea apparently both prefer paramours barely into their twenties.
-- Tim Graham