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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday June 15, 1999 (Vol. One; No. 3)

Promoting George W. & His "Moderate" Backers; Feeling Global Warming; The Right Hurts GOP

1. Time and Newsweek help promote the "sheer, almost undemocratic nerve" of the Bush presidential coronation. U.S. News wonders if front-runnerdom is so great.

2. The magazines offered varying degrees of optimism on the Kosovo aftermath, but U.S. News Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman gushed praise for Clinton.

3. Time’s Dick Thompson argued that last week’s sweltering heat was clear evidence of global warming and blasted the public for its indifference.

4. Newsweek and U.S. News each underlined how the Republicans suffer under the weight of its conservative base, while Democrats led by Gephardt may build a majority for "centrism."


George W. Bush graced the covers of both Time and Newsweek in their June 21 editions. (U.S. News & World Report featured shyness on its cover.)

-- Time on Bush. Time’s cover story was generally favorable but wholly predictable. In "Who Chose George?", Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy and Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs traced Bush’s rise and maintained that all popular Republican governors, including Michigan’s John Engler, were moderates: "In contrast to the sinking Congress, the Governors were emerging as stars, centrist and practical CEOs who were busy fixing welfare and improving schools and cutting taxes while Gingrich fiddled."

Regarding Bush’s ascendancy on the national stage, Duffy and Gibbs fawned: "There was a growing curiosity about this popular Governor with the big halo; organizers and activists and consultants wanted to see for themselves whether he had the right moves." Bush was seen as a unifying agent of the oft-fragmented right: "In these early, intimate meetings, people wanted to see if he was one of them. Was he truly a conservative or a moderate, a Christian, a tax cutter, a libertarian? What breed of Republican was this guy? Bush seemed to have found a universal language." Duffy and Gibbs concluded: "It is hard to watch the Bush anointment and not be shocked by the sheer, almost undemocratic nerve of it, and the risk that this could all blow up and leave the party with a choice among broken and, other than Steve Forbes, penniless understudies."

Hugh Sidey praised George Herbert Walker Bush as patriarch of a Republican dynasty akin to the beloved Kennedys: "His constant awe about his luck may have been one reason he did not win a second presidential term, but once again Providence may have been dealing out a lucky hand, clearing the way for a new generation that could elevate him to something greater than mere political power -- patriarch of history's most commanding family in American public life, beyond the Adamses, the Harrisons, the Roosevelts and the Kennedys."

Eric Pooley and S.C. Gwynne outlined George W’s career, made obligatory references to his allegedly wild past (making sure to include drugs: "Bush now jokes about the stories: ‘I bought cocaine at my dad's Inauguration,’ he facetiously told a writer for Texas Monthly.") They also raised questions about his past financial dealings: "In 1982, Bush stumbled by trying to go public with a drilling fund just as oil prices dipped. That year he also sold 10% of his company to a Panamanian company run by Philip Uzielli, a longtime friend of Vice President Bush's top adviser James A. Baker III, who later became Secretary of State. What raised eyebrows was the price Uzielli paid: $1 million in exchange for 10% of Bush's company, whose total worth at the time was $382,000. Bush says the infusion wasn't a bailout. Arbusto, he says, ‘wasn't in trouble. We were in growth mode.’ Bush says he met Uzielli through investors and at first didn't know of his ties to Baker. ‘Jim Baker didn't introduce me to him. Jim Baker didn't pick up the phone and say, 'Phil, you must invest with George W.' So why did Uzielli pay so much for his 10% stake? ‘There was a lot of romance and a lot of upside in the oil business,’ Bush explains. ‘Everybody thought the price of oil was going to $100.’ Uzielli, who has said he lost money on the deal, couldn't be reached for comment."

-- Newsweek on Bush. Over at Newsweek in another cover story, there was similar praise for Bush. After his campaign kick off speech in Iowa, Howard Fineman gushed: "It looked like a coronation in a cornfield." Fineman further praised Bush as "a full-fledged phenom, a rookie leading the league in potential. He's the popular two-term governor of the nation's second largest state, a champion of that house blend of ideology he calls ‘compassionate conservatism’ and a missionary to the Hispanic and female voters the GOP needs."

As for the Bush family’s often tempestuous relationship with conservatives, Fineman wrote: "His father's loss to Bill Clinton galvanized the son. But to win the White House for himself, Bush must address another piece of family history. For generations, the Bushes have been troubled by—and had trouble with—the GOP right. His grandfather was a consummate Ike man, flummoxed by McCarthy and the Red-baiters. His father never bonded with the New Right activists who despised him even after he became leader of the party the Gipper built. If W can get the right wing to ease off—or roll them in the primaries—he can call the party of Ike and Reagan his."

In an interview, Fineman pressed Bush on his qualifications as a compassionate conservative, given his wealthy upbringing: "You've said that you want to be president to help ‘those who are left behind.’ Where in your own rather privileged life did that goal come from?" Fineman kept on the silver-spoon attack: "You talk about ‘access.’ Don't you have to admit that you've had more than your share?" And: "But didn't you have more than equal access to financial and political opportunities?"

For his part, Jonathan Alter didn’t miss a chance to both trash conservatives and belittle Bush as a Clinton clone for his stance on the recess appointment of openly gay James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg: "If the cloudy temporizing [of Bush] sounds familiar, you need not look far. Even before he finesses big issues like abortion and Social Security, Bush's approach already resembles that of a certain fellow Yalie trimmer from a neighboring state. Comparing anyone to Clinton is a grievous insult nowadays. But of course there are many Clintons. The one who fudges and parses is a bad one for Bush to sound like. But the smart Clinton is the one who moved his party to the center, proving anew that that's where elections are won in this country. Bush knows this is his historical mission, too; we don't know yet whether he is a big enough man to complete it. He didn't flunk the Hormel test outright, but he didn't pass it, either." Alter claimed W. needed to match Clinton’s 1992 repudiation of rapper Sister Souljah’s anti-white comments, and concluded "there's still room for George W. to prove to centrist voters that he's a reform Republican. Luxembourg is unimportant, but the principle isn't. Bush must get the party of Lincoln to stop embracing bigotry and prejudice, in any form. Is that too much to expect?"

-- U.S. News White House correspondent Kenneth Walsh questioned how much of an advantage front-runner status is at this stage: "As today's Establishment choices, Governor Bush and Gore will try to avoid the taint of elitism, their advisers say. They will spend the summer soliciting voters one on one, glad-handing through diners, malls, and Main Streets from Des Moines to Manchester. In other words, these two scions of power and privilege will behave as much like average Joes as they possibly can."


The magazines offer varying degrees of optimism on the Kosovo aftermath. Time’s Romesh Ratnesar wasn’t buying the Clinton administration’s spin on the war in Kosovo: "The White House pressed ahead with the effort to chalk this up in the win column for the U.S. ‘Do you think,’ grumbled White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, ‘that on the day the Gulf War ended, [CNN] had a segment titled 'At What Price Peace?' Maybe not. But victory seems too ‘simple a word for this complex and tragic region."

Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh concluded "at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the mood was upbeat—but far from festive. ‘There's definitely no feeling of euphoria, but I think this is going to work,’ said one senior NATO diplomat. Still, he said, ‘This will be very, very difficult.’ But don't tell that to the joyful Kosovars hoping to return home."

But U.S. News played cheerleader: first in Kevin Whitelaw’s news report, and then in Editor-in-Chief Mortimer Zuckerman’s gushing back-page commentary praising Clinton for his leadership in a piece entitled "A Moment to Savor." Zuckerman is apparently untroubled by the fact that a man the President equated with Adolf Hitler remains firmly in power as an indicted war criminal: "Let us take a moment to celebrate the end and outcome in Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic’s capitulation realizes every major objective of NATO: The Serbs will be out, NATO will be in, the refugees can come back, and there will be an interim political settlement that allows for the autonomy and self-government of the Kosovars."


Time’s Dick Thompson argued that last week’s sweltering heat was clear evidence of global warming and blasted the public for its indifference in an article titled "What Global Warming: As the world heats up, the public simply goes cold."

Thompson began: "If you wanted to question whether global warming is indeed upon us, last week was not the time to do it. Two weeks before the official beginning of summer, a heat wave baked the eastern third of the U.S. and Canada, driving temperatures high into the 90s and even 100s. At the same time, a flurry of scientific papers was released that ‘seemed to explain all the late-spring suffering." Worrying about a new study showing public concern with global warming on the decline, Thompson interviewed a unanimous cast of liberal environmentalists to complain about corporate ad campaigns and Bill Clinton’s failures, including Peter Kelly of the National Environmental Trust, Dan Weiss of the Sierra Club, and Greg Wetstone of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Newsweek and U.S. News each underlined how the Republicans suffer under the weight of its conservative base. Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff relished the Christian Coalition’s diminished role as a political power broker since losing its battle for tax-exempt status: "But some former aides say [Pat] Robertson may be too divisive a figure to unite the Christian right. Even [Christian Coalition spokesman Michael] Russell acknowledges that ‘the Christian Coalition has leveled off.’ For Republican candidates weary of worrying about Robertson and his followers, that may be the real blessing."

In "GOP House of Horrors," U.S. News reporter Major Garrett focused on House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s fight with conservatives over the budget: "Conservative ringleader Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma physician, declared that he had performed a series of ‘spinal transplants’ on his leaders. But the doctor's next procedure on the leadership might have to be an autopsy, assuming Republicans follow through with cuts in popular spending programs." Garrett defined the 2000 year elections as a referendum on the legacies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton: "The battle for the House next year will be a watershed in American politics, for it will decide which legacy is more resilient, Ronald Reagan’s or Bill Clinton’s. If Republicans retain control they can expect to be the majority party for years to come, thanks to redistricting and the expected retirement of senior Democrats who delayed stepping down in the fervent hope of regaining power. If Democrats win, it will be the first the majority born of ‘new Democrat’ centrism instead of New Deal redistribution."

Dick Gephardt and David Bonior, centrists?

-- Mark Drake


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