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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday October 17, 2000 (Vol. 2; No. 41)

Jimmy Carter, Foreign Policy Guru?; "Class Cutup" vs. "Smarty Pants"; Millionaire Contestant Gored!

1.Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter wanted to know who would be better at foreign policy, Bush or Gore, so he went to foreign policy expert, Jimmy "Desert One" Carter, to find out.

2. Time’s Margaret Carlson moaned and groaned that the media was giving George W. Bush a free ride in the debates.

3. U.S. News & World Report explained how Al Gore’s deceptions have already cost at least one taxpayer a shot at some easy money.

On the covers of this week’s news magazines: All three featured the crisis in the middle east. Both U.S. News ("On the Brink") and Time ("Terror in the Middle East") featured that now- famous photo of the bloody-handed Palestinian terrorist, while Newsweek placed a photo of one of the sailors wounded in the USS Cole bombing on its cover, entitled "Target: America." In a late review of House and Senate races, Time’s Richard Lacayo plucked out the challenger to House impeachment manager Bob Barr, with the subhead: "Millionaire Kahn tries to unseat the Clinton hater." Lacayo charged "Barr went to Congress in 1994 as the most bellicose spear carrier in the Gingrich revolution. He hates liberals with a special glee."


Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter explored how the recent events in the Mideast have brought renewed examination on Al Gore and George W. Bush’s fitness in the foreign policy arena.

Alter found Gore won hands down: "By demonstrating some knowledge of foreign policy in the debate, Bush may well have neutralized any political advantage Gore held. But the actual difference between them in fluency and experience is large. During his nearly quarter century in public life, Gore has assiduously studied national-security issues. He has arguably played the most significant foreign-policy role of any vice president in history, negotiating agreements that denuclearized Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan; diverted Russian weapons scientists to peaceful occupations; secured more open trade relations, and addressed global health and environmental problems. Bush, by contrast, is hampered not just by his lack of formal Washington experience. Until recently, Mexico was the only country outside the United States that seemed to engage his interest; he has visited the Middle East once, in 1998 (one of only three trips he has taken overseas in his life). He did not take advantage of his father’s presidency to familiarize himself with foreign policy, though he has obviously been studying up lately."

Alter allowed Bushies to downplay experience, and that "Gore’s experience in the international arena has not all been positive. His relationship with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was a double-edged sword. Last week The New York Times disclosed that Gore signed a secret agreement with Chernomyrdin in 1995 that let the Russians off the hook for arms sales to Iran, then turned a blind eye when the Russians violated that agreement last year." There’s the entirety of Newsweek’s Gore-Chernomyrdin investigation.

Oddly enough Alter went to a President with a fractured foreign policy record as the final arbiter on the issue: Jimmy "Desert One" Carter. He could teach Bush how to muff a hostage-rescue mission, and how to make America look weak and self-loathing around the world. Great.


Time’s Margaret Carlson moaned and groaned that the media was giving George W. Bush a free ride in the debates. Bush had not been treated with the same standard as Gore and therefore was getting a free ride. "But Bush benefitted from a double standard. Residual disdain for the teacher’s pet makes it satisfying to catch a smarty pants like Gore in an error, while it’s no fun to go after the class cutup. This is not meant to excuse Gore's earlier performance in Boston or withhold credit from Bush for passing an exam on world affairs. But had the standard of accuracy operating in the first debate been applied in the second, Bush would not have fared as well."

Margaret picked nits: "For instance, Bush said we should pull our troops out of Haiti, but there are not a lot of troops in Haiti – a scant 34 soldiers by the Pentagon's last count." Now how does that compare to Gore making up a trip to Texas? And: "We don't need to persuade Europe ‘to put troops on the ground’ in Kosovo because almost 85% of the soldiers there now are from Europe." She wrongly claimed Bush called Nigeria a "continent," and charged " he may have created a minor international incident by accusing former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of pocketing IMF loans, without any solid evidence. Gore let it go, but Chernomyrdin didn't. He warned that ‘Mr. Bush Jr. should be getting ready for a trial.’" Bush didn’t have evidence, but Margaret didn’t consider that nobody in the media wanted to pay more attention to the Gore-Chernomyrdin link right about now.

Other Bush "errors" were simply policy differences. "On other issues, Bush, in arguing against the Kyoto environmental agreement, seemed unaware of scientific consensus that pollution does indeed cause global warning. He spoke as if a link between pollution and global warming had not been scientifically established." Outside of Liberal Land, it hasn’t.

Then she just started imagining things: "Bush got positively gleeful over sending the three men who dragged James Byrd on the back of a truck to the death chamber, when only two are going (the other got a life sentence). And contrary to what he said in the debate, he did block hate-crimes legislation." Margaret concluded, "So far, Bush has slipped the bonds of mortal combat. Gore gets pummeled when he deserves it and when he doesn’t. Maybe this week, for the final debate in St. Louis, there will be one standard evenly applied to both."


In their "Washington Whispers" section, U.S. News & World Report noted how a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant was bumped from the chair across Regis on a question about Al Gore. "Vice President Al Gore’s exaggerations have claimed a victim, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant Joel Foss. The Marysville, Wash., contractor faced this $64,000 question last Thursday: ‘Al Gore was the basis for the main male character in which of these bestselling novels?’ A Separate Peace, Primary Colors, The Secret History, and Love Story. Foss saw a trick. He recalled that Gore repeated an erroneous report that he and Tipper were the basis for Erich Segal's Love Story. He remembered Segal saying he used a dash of Gore, a pinch of actor Tommy Lee Jones, and imagination to create Oliver Barrett IV. So he rejected Love Story and guessed Primary Colors and lost. Was the question fair? ABC says Segal now insists ‘he derived a great deal from Al Gore.’ That’s the furthest he’s gone on it, but how was Foss to know? ABC wouldn't release Segal’s letter. ‘We didn't say that Al Gore was the only basis for the character,’ whines ABC. Says Foss, ‘In my opinion, when they say Al Gore was the basis for it, that's singular; they didn’t say a basis.’ The result: He's filing a grievance and hopes to return."

Al Gore isn’t even in the White House and already he’s deprived at least one American from the dream of becoming a millionaire.

– Geoffrey Dickens




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