1. All three news magazines took Rep. Rick Lazio to task for being a little too rough on the First Lady in their first New York Senate debate, while Hillary was "dignified," "confident and strong."
2. Newsweek’s Howard Fineman criticized the Bush campaign for its inability to get liberal reporters to deliver Bush’s message. "The media-savvy Gore campaign is spinning circles around Bush in the news-cycle-by-news-cycle war for headlines, air time -- and undecided votes."
3. Time’s Matthew Cooper analyzed the hard-fought Senate race between Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan and Republican Senator John
Ashcroft, and found the race was all about Ashcroft: if he looks conservative, he loses. If he looks moderate, he wins.
On the September 25 covers: U.S. News & World Report and Time focused on children. U.S. News examined "Why Computers Fail as Teachers," and Time looked at "What Divorce Does to Kids." Newsweek’s cover featured an elderly women clutching bottles of medicine with the headline: "Bitter Pills, Prescription Drugs: Why They Cost So Much." Time and Newsweek featured the same words about espionage prosecution ("The Wen Ho Lee Fiasco") on their covers, and all three magazines took the view that Lee was railroaded. In the issue both Al Gore and George W. Bush authored short articles detailing their Medicare plans. In Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom" box, Gore won the week that was. Gore received an up arrow: "Top three reasons for good week: wins debate, debate, boffo on Letterman and Oprah." Bush was handed a down arrow: "Still off message as media smells a RAT. And ‘subliminable’ fuels bogus dyslexia boomlet." Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio garnered sideways arrows. [See below.] In Time’s Winners and Losers section, Gore was declared a winner: "Boffo Letterman show, solid polls, good buzz-must be time for something to go terribly wrong." Time called Lazio a loser: "Polls say in-your-face style loses Hil debate. Didn’t they teach manners at Vassar?"
All three news magazines took Rep. Rick Lazio to task for being a little too rough on the First Lady in their first New York Senate debate. In an article headlined, "Little Ricky Gets Rough," Time’s Eric Pooley analyzed Hillary Clinton’s response to the "stomach-churning footage from the Lewinsky scandal," played by debate moderator Tim Russert: "It was classic Hillary: a dignified attempt to reveal what’s underneath the armor followed by a wave of her sword. When it came time for Lazio’s response, he could have won some hearts by saying ‘Let’s move on.’ Instead, he kicked her hard. ‘What’s so troubling,’ he said, ‘is that somehow it only matters what you say when you get caught. And character and trust is about, well, more than that. And blaming others every time you have responsibility? Unfortunately, that’s become a pattern, I think, for my opponent.’ Those who loathe Hillary no doubt cheered his words, but Lazio’s job was to reel in 7% who are undecided, and his attack didn’t help."
Have you noticed how undecided voters invariably have the same reactions as national reporters? Pooley cited figures among women in an instant poll by the New York Daily News, but they only polled about 275 people, making any assumptions about smaller demographic segments (like women) very dicey.
Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom" box sized up the debate this way. They took a shot at fellow MSNBC partner Tim Russert while giving Clinton a sideways arrow: "Looked senatorial, plus Russert ambush on Zippergate made her sympathetic." Lazio received a sideways arrow for lacking "gravitas": "Comes off as a credible candidate, but overcaffeinated and gravitas-challenged. Down boy!" In an article headlined, "Lazio Comes on Strong, Maybe Too Strong," Newsweek’s Debra Rosenberg seemed to portray the ultra-feminist as a damsel in distress, hounded by the two men on the stage: "Clinton’s roughest moment may, ironically, have been a boon. Asked by Russert if she owed the country an apology for denying her husband’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mrs. Clinton looked shaken and spoke haltingly. Viewers, especially women, felt her pain. ‘Russert did her a huge favor,’ said a Hillary confidante. Lazio’s closing stunt didn’t play well, either, said Hillary’s aides. Striding over to Mrs. Clinton’s lectern, he pressured her to sign a no-soft-money pledge. Women were offended that he ‘invaded her space,’ her aides said."
U.S. News and World Report’s Kit Roane praised Clinton’s evasive, "I didn’t mislead anyone" side-stepping of Russert’s questioning as well. "Clinton came off as confident and strong, refusing to buckle even in the face of embarrassing questions about her husband's affair."
On the campaign trail Newsweek’s Howard Fineman criticized the Bush campaign for its inability to get liberal reporters to deliver Bush’s message. "The media-savvy Gore campaign is spinning circles around Bush in the news-cycle-by-news-cycle war for headlines, air time -- and undecided votes. Staffed by blooded veterans of the Clinton years–from the ‘war room’ in Little Rock to the impeachment hearings in Washington -- the Gore campaign is outmaneuvering and outmanning a Bush campaign that sometimes seems to be run from a cigar box in the back of the old family store." Fineman glowingly profiled Gore’s spin machine: "All campaigns try to manage the conversation of the contest -- spin it in their direction -- but none is doing it with more relish than Gore’s. In Nashville the spinners operate out of a room they call ‘The Kitchen,’ but it has the feel of an Ivy League law-review conference room. (Indeed, four of the top five ‘message’ purveyors in the Gore campaign are graduates of the Harvard Law School.) The Bush team, by comparison, is a down-home unit essentially run by two longtime loyalists -- consultant Karl Rove and communications director Karen Hughes -- with input from the candidate’s dad, The Kibitzer of Kennebunkport. The list of victories in The Kitchen keeps growing. Bush tried to set the agenda for the time and format of presidential debates, but lost the debate on debates. (Last week he caved entirely, agreeing to the original schedule of three debates in October.) When news broke that someone had anonymously mailed Bush’s debate prep materials to a Gore adviser, the veep’s spinners went on the offensive, hinting—with no evidence—that the Bushies might have been trying to set them up. Kitchen commander Ron Klain seemed almost disappointed by the lack of competition. ‘There hasn’t been much incoming,’ he said."
Time’s Matthew Cooper was able to avert his eyes, from the New York Senate race, for just a moment, to see what was happening in Missouri. In an article headlined, "It Makes New York Look Sweet," Cooper analyzed the hard-fought Senate race between Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan and Republican Senator John Ashcroft. Cooper donned his campaign consultant hat and advised the two candidates: "If Carnahan can make Ashcroft seem too conservative, he’ll win. Likewise, if Ashcroft can seem like a man of moderate policies and upright character, he’ll take it. In that sense, Missouri’s no different from the rest of the country."
There you have the media’s take on the campaign in a nutshell. The ideological appearance of Democrats is irrelevant. To win, Democrats from Clinton to Carnahan must demonize their opponent as too conservative, and Republicans from Lazio to Ashcroft better hope to moderate themselves if they hope to win.
-- Geoffrey Dickens