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www.TimesWatch.org


     

 

    

 

 

 Magazine Watch

Wednesday January 9, 2002 (Vol. 4; No. 1)

Budget-busting Bush; Conservative Troglodytes; Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S. Bombs; Katie Couric: War Too Long

1. Is Daschle right? Did Bush’s tax cuts cause the recession? Time and Newsweek’s political squad played it as a he-said, he-said, but to Newsweek and U.S. News’s economic writers, the correct answer was apparently a no-brainer.

2. Casting her own liberal views as unassailable truths, Eleanor Clift embraced gay marriages and disparaged anyone who feels differently as a "troglodyte."

3. Time saw fit to publish the claims of a New Hampshire economics professor who claims to know exactly how many Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. bombs — and that it’s more than the terrorists murdered on September 11.

4. All three newsmags portrayed Harvard’s President Lawrence Summers, a former Clinton Treasury Secretary, as the bumbling bad guy for daring to criticize a darling of his university’s Afro-American studies department.

5. Tell Rumsfeld to hurry up. In an interview with Newsweek’s Marc Peyser, NBC’s Katie Couric fretted that her Today show might have "stayed with the war a little too long."


Cheer up — two of the three newsweeklies have already spotted the end of the first recession of the 21st Century. "Business Bounces Back," declared the cover of the January 14 U.S. News and World Report. Newsweek, whose cover story profiled the American wife of one of bin Laden’s jailed former aides, saved its economic sunshine for the inside pages, while Time’s cover advertised an exclusive peek at "Apple’s New Core" — Steve Jobs’s new iMac.

Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom (CW) took its usual biased swipes at President Bush’s economic policies, although it asserted in an "annual explanation" that Conventional Wisdom "does not necessarily reflect Newsweek’s views, but an unscientific sniffing of what the chattering classes and Beltway bloviators believe."

If that’s the case, the cold noses of CW’s bloodhounds (a.k.a., Senior Editor Jonathan Alter) can only pick up the scent of typical liberal inside-the-Beltway talking points, particularly on taxes. CW awarded sideways arrows to both Bush and Sen. Tom Daschle after their sparring last week on fiscal issues, but cast Bush as devious for blaming "his new massive deficit on 9-11. Not true, but it’s working." Daschle was treated more tenderly: "Blames deficit on ill-advised tax cut. Not true yet, and it’s not working." CW just needs more time to make it true.

 

So is Daschle right? Did Bush’s tax cuts cause the recession? Time and Newsweek’s political squads played it as a he-said, he-said, but to Newsweek and U.S. News’s economic writers, the correct answer was apparently a no-brainer.

"The Next Beltway Battle" (http://www.msnbc.com/news/682833.asp) according to Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, is between President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle over taxes, the budget, and the economy. While U.S. News took a pass on running a big political story this week, Time’s Jay Carney and John F. Dickerson echoed Fineman with "The War At Home." (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,190850,00.html) Taking a political look at Bush’s domestic agenda, the merits of Daschle’s lambaste of Bush’s tax cuts went unexplored in the pages of Time:

"With the Taliban vanquished, Bush has to start worrying about political enemies at home. No. 1 on his list, Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader who last week ended the unofficial ban on full-contact politics with a speech that clobbered the President for throwing away the budget surplus on a massive tax cut. Bush’s domestic agenda, Daschle charged, ‘is being written by a wing of the Republican Party that isn’t interested in fiscal discipline.’"

In Newsweek’s take, Fineman also let Daschle’s diatribe stand as an equal bookend to Bush’s argument that tax cuts are recession-enders, not recession-makers: "With a Wall Street icon at his side — former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin — Daschle in Washington last week claimed the hoary GOP mantle of ‘fiscal responsibility.’ The return of red ink to the federal budget wasn’t due to 9-11, Daschle said, but to the tax-cut measure — which also ‘probably made the recession worse.’ In California and Oregon the next day, Bush appealed to unemployed workers at a town-hall meeting and a job-training center as he championed the ancient Democratic orthodoxy of fiscal pump-priming. Budget deficits are defensible, even advisable, his aides insisted, if caused by tax cuts that spur job growth."

Readers looking for expert opinion to break the Daschle-Bush stand-off on taxes were left clueless by Time and Newsweek’s political stories, but in their stories on the overall economy both Newsweek and U.S. News credited the tax cuts as having made the recession shorter and sweeter than it might have been.

"The Bush tax cuts helped. So did falling fuel prices," Newsweek’s Daniel McGinn wrote. (http://www.msnbc.com/news/682849.asp) "Falling interest rates, tax cuts, and the simple fact the downturn is already 10 months old argue for a pickup," James Pethokoukis argued in U.S. News’s cover story — although he hedged that "few expect anything other than a modest" ecnomic climb-back in ‘02.
(http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/020114/biztech/14forecast.htm)

If it’s so obvious to business reporters that tax cuts are good for the economy, why didn’t the political analysts ask an economist whether Daschle-nomics makes sense?

 

Casting her own liberal views as unassailable truths, Eleanor Clift embraced gay marriages and disparaged anyone who feels differently as a "troglodyte."

In its snail-mail version, Newsweek promoted its Web exclusives, including Clift’s Capital Letter, a "behind-the-scenes look at Congress and Washington." In her January 4 submission to Newsweek.com (http://www.msnbc.com/news/682046.asp), Clift lobbed a vicious attack on social conservatives while writing on Vermont Governor Howard Dean and his ‘04 presidential candidacy.

A delighted Clift noted the fact that the "progressive" Dean was mimicking one of Bill Clinton’s techniques for stroking liberals: "You can tell he’s serious because he turned up for the first time at Renaissance Weekend, the annual New Year’s gathering that Clinton made famous. The rules of Renaissance forbid divulging any of the spiritual soul-searching and navel-gazing that goes on among the important and self-important, but suffice it to say that Dean turned a lot of heads." But she couldn’t refrain from revealing her own disdain for religious conservatives while writing on the potential backlash Gov. Dean could get for "the little matter of Vermont’s sanctioning civil unions for gays and lesbians."

"Dean defends the law as ‘a no-brainer,’ and he’s right. Enlightened corporations and local governments increasingly are recognizing the legal rights of same-sex couples. But it’s heavy political baggage," Clift mourned. "Worrying about how his support for civil unions will play in the general election strikes Dean as a bit absurd given what a long way he has to go. Should he by some miracle of timing and force of intellect and luck become the Democratic nominee, he’ll deal with it then. In the meantime, he’s enough of a politician to smile a bit and note that in the Democratic primaries, where voters tend to be left of center, he might even be taking a few bows here and there for standing up against the troglodytes and doing what’s right."

Unfortunately for Clift’s latest hero, the "troglodyte" vote — if you count everyone opposed to gay marriage — is well over half the country.

 

Time saw fit to publish the claims of a New Hampshire economics professor who claims to know precisely how many Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. bombs — and that it’s more than the terrorists murdered on September 11.

Time’s Richard Lacayo wrote about the "frustrating endgame" of the Afghan war that just two months ago Time declared would last well into the spring. In "The Deadly Hunt," (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,190847,00.html) Lacayo cited the absurdly specific numbers of a New Hampshire economics professor who has apparently become something of a hero to the American-bashing European press:

"The issue of Afghan casualties has begun to erupt in the European press, where columnists have been citing figures compiled by Marc Herold, an economics professor at the University of New Hampshire. Drawing mostly on world press reports of questionable reliability, Herold contends that 3,767 Afghan civilians had died by Dec. 6 — more than were killed in the U.S. on Sept. 11. The Pentagon insists that civilian casualties are the lowest in the history of war. The Afghan government has no way to track those casualties. Human-rights groups say they have been unable to make any worthwhile assessment. It is probable that summer will come and go in Afghanistan before anyone has a handle on how many innocents have died there."

Lacayo’s caveat that Herold used "world press reports of questionable reliability" seemed to acknowledge that the "3,767 Afghan civilians" figure is pure fantasy — a factoid designed to thrill the hearts of those who insist on making America the villain in every story. But there it is, in black and white, on the pages of Time.

 

All three newsmags portrayed Harvard’s President Lawrence Summers, a former Clinton Treasury Secretary, as the bumbling bad guy for daring to criticize a darling of his university’s Afro-American studies department.

As Time blurbed in its "Notebook" section, "Six months into the job, Harvard president Lawrence Summers is finding he still has much to learn. He offended black professor Cornel West during an October meeting by criticizing West’s nonacademic activities — reportedly including his support of the Rev. Al Sharpton — and drew fire from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others who questioned Summers’ commitment to affirmative action. West and two colleagues in Harvard’s renowned Afro-American Studies department threatened a move to Princeton. But Summers made peace with West last week and reaffirmed Harvard’s commitment to diversity. End of lesson."

U.S. News struck the same spin — albeit in a slightly milder form — in its Top of the Week section: "Summers, a former Clinton administration official, is in hot water with professors in the school’s star-studded Afro-American studies department. Summers’s sin? He allegedly criticized Prof. Cornel West for recording a rap CD and chairing Al Sharpton’s exploratory presidential committee."

Time and U.S. News clearly get failing grades for letting go unchallenged the notion that Summers’ job is to placate noisy demagogues like Jesse Jackson rather than vigorously uphold the academic quality of Harvard faculty regardless of their color.

And while the Left may be untouchable, attacking the Right is a sign of greatness, according to Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria in "The Education of a President." (www.msnbc.com/news/682855.asp) Analyzing the dispute between West and Summers, Zakaria offered a role model for Summers in former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti. Back in 1981, when Giamatti was too ill to deliver his welcoming speech in person, the prez mailed a copy to each and every freshman. It was, recalled an enthusiastic Zakaria, "one of his most famous speeches — making the front page of The New York Times the next day — a brilliant and blistering attack on the Moral Majority and other Christian fundamentalists, whom he called ‘peddlers of coercion.’"

As Zakaria described it, Giamatti’s gambit could have been dubbed a reverse-Sister Souljah: "The reason that Giamatti chose to direct his wrath at the Moral Majority in 1981 was that he had come into office with a reputation as a neoconservative. By noting that he had a common enemy with the campus left, he gained their trust — and was able to make the changes he wanted to."

Zakaria could improve on the example of his alma mater’s former president and attack the real "peddlers of coercion," but the liberal media have a poor track record going after liberal celebrities like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Cornel West.

 

Tell Rumsfeld to hurry up. In an interview with Newsweek’s Marc Peyser, NBC’s Katie Couric fretted that her Today show might have "stayed with the war a little too long."

Pegging his interview with Today’s 50th anniversary, (http://www.msnbc.com/news/682694.asp) Peyser gushed that "Tom and Nicole may now be the most famous unmarried couple in America, but Katie Couric and Matt Lauer run a close second. They’ve been cohosting the Today show for five years, and if you feel you know them because they come in for coffee every morning, you’re not entirely wrong." Just the friendly yuppie couple from down the block.

Peyser asked whether the pair worries "about Good Morning America nipping at your heels?" Couric said that was "a bit overblown," while Lauer stressed the sunny side of losing viewers: "In many ways, it’s a lot easier being No. 2. You take chances, you try new things, you always have someone in your sights. What it’s done is focused us." Then Couric added, "Maybe we stayed with the war a little too long." Reality can be so uncooperative.

Couric also explored the pros and cons of being labeled perky: "It’s much better than nasty or bitchy or other -y words you might come up with, but it’s sort of a cheap, easy moniker. It’s one-dimensional. I’ve lived too long and seen too much to feel that I’m perky."

For a brief review of Couric’s stint on Today, check out MRC’s "Katie Couric’s Ten Years of Loving Liberalism." (http://www.mrc.org/projects/couric/welcome.asp)

– Ken Shepherd and Rich Noyes

 

 

 


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