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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday August 17, 1999 (Vol. One; No. 12)

Bauer a "Zealot"; Bill Bradley..."Zen Master"?; Newsweek Crusades Against Guns

1. Newsweek noted the obvious. George W. Bush won big in Iowa and Steve Forbes spent a lot on his way to a strong second place finish.

2. Time took seriously speculation about a presidential bid by actor Warren Beatty, contending that "seasoned Washington figures," like Bill Moyers, "are already giving the actor a fighting chance at doing for grassroots liberalism what Reagan did for Goldwater conservatism."

3. Gloria Borger prayed at the altar of Bill Bradley in her U.S. News & World Report profile.

4. Newsweek took an official stance on gun control: "It is time, as Franklin Roosevelt said long ago, to try something. "The magazine argued the issue hurts George W. Bush and ran a column in which a professor called the gun culture "a dark undercurrent that deforms the American psyche."

No one issue dominated the magazine covers this week. The August 23 Time magazine explored the debate between creationism and evolution in its issue "How Man Evolved." Newsweek left no doubts about where they stand on the gun control debate with its cover blaring, "America Under the Gun." U.S. News & World Report did not publish this week, having published a double issue last week with "The Year 1000" on the cover.


Iowa Straw Poll coverage:

Newsweek touted George W. Bush’s win in Iowa as impressive. Newsweek’s David Brooks, "The song said it all. ‘Life is good,’ went the chorus in George W. Bush's tent in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday night, ‘and I'm gonna keep it that way.’ A well-heeled crowd of Republicans shimmied and cheered as the Texas governor danced with his wife, Laura, and jocularly wrapped his arms around the country guitarist. For the Republican front runner the Iowa straw poll was history, victory was in the bag and everything was just fine."

Bush’s victory and Steve Forbes’ second place finishes earned them up arrows in Newsweek’s Conventional Wisdom Watch:

Bush: "At 31 percent, not a Texas-sized victory but a win is a win. Tip: Watch your language."
Forbes: "$ can't buy love, but it can buy 2d place. Can you bus a whole country to the polls?"

Liddy Dole and Gary Bauer’s performances were given split decisions, each getting a sideways arrow, though Newsweek slammed Bauer as a "zealot."

Dole: "Despite amateurish org., a respectable 3rd. What if the Bobster had supported her?"
Bauer: "‘Pro-family’ zealot noses out Buchanan to win Values crown. But in 1999, who cares?"

Dan Quayle and Lamar Alexander got the down arrows:

Alexander: "'04 apparel: I made 80 visits to Iowa and all I got was this lousy T shirt."
Quayle: "Former veep bags exactly 916 votes. How do you spell ‘hasta la vista’?"

Time held its straw poll coverage to a piece by James Carney profiling Karl Rove. The subhead: "He's the client, George W. Bush, who owes his Iowa win to a history-loving, manic strategist."


In a sidebar column by the Rove profile Time contributor Walter Kirn considered speculation about a presidential bid by actor Warren Beatty. The headline reflected the story, asserting: "President Bulworth -- He's musing about going for the job. Don't laugh yet." Kirn admired how Beatty "has taken politics seriously for more than 30 years. After stumping for Robert Kennedy, Beatty strategized for George McGovern."

The bottom line? Kirn equated Beatty's appeal with Ronald Reagan's, concluding his piece: "Beatty's passion for policy resurfaced with Bulworth, a movie whose depressive Senator-hero first arranges his own assassination and then, with nothing to lose but hypocrisy, starts spouting truth-telling rap songs about corruption. Was Beatty's performance really a rehearsal? Famously cagey and deliberate, Beatty isn't talking. Yet. But seasoned Washington figures such as Bill Moyers, Lyndon Johnson's former press secretary, and Pat Caddell, Jimmy Carter's pollster, are already giving the actor a fighting chance at doing for grassroots liberalism what Reagan did for Goldwater conservatism. Skeptics abound, of course, but one crucial fact about Beatty bears remembering as the story unfolds. He isn't just an actor -- he also directs."


Over at U.S. News and World Report, in an August 16-23 edition published last week, Gloria Borger profiled how former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley is taking on Al Gore as he’s "behaving like he’s the frontrunner."

In an article titled, "The Zen Candidate." Borger asserted: "By all accounts, Bill Bradley is no favorite to beat Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination. In fact, it's not even close. Raise this with Bradley, and he shrugs. Then try giving him the good news that the Vice President is clearly suffering from his loyal association with Bill Clinton, and he also shrugs. ‘I don't have any sleepless nights thinking about that,’ he says, unwilling to take the bait. The most he will say is that ‘to some people, what has happened [this past year] makes a difference. They yearn for a fresh start.’

"Take that, Al Gore. Bradley, the underdog who should be yapping away at you like any other self-respecting underdog (see Dan Quayle vis-à-vis George W. Bush), is instead behaving like he's the front-runner. You're over, beside the point. Sure, he delivers implicit critiques of your ‘little issues’ (his are bigger) and your ‘timid leadership’ (his, presumably, would be bolder). And he talks a lot about trust ("Ultimately that's what the vote for president is"). But this isn't about Al Gore, at least not yet. Arrogant? Maybe. But if you're Bill Bradley, it's all about setting the tone, mixing the perfect score for the movie starring the Zen Candidate."

Borger concluded by showing sympathy for Gore and calculating Bradley’s chances of becoming America’s Swami in Chief: "It's hard not to feel for Al Gore. Poor guy, first defending Bill Clinton, then shunning his ‘inexcusable’ behavior. And as all the world wearies of Team Clinton, Gore suffers. (In a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, one third of all Democrats said they could vote for George W. Bush.) And now Bradley. As one pointedly anonymous Democratic pollster puts it, ‘He's bound to embarrass Al Gore somewhere.’ Could be in New Hampshire, then New York and California. Is that the strategy? Bradley shrugs. "If you connect, you succeed," says the Zen guy. "I tell [voters] what I want to do, tell them what I believe, and if they don't like it, well, then, life goes on."


Last week Time’s Roger Rosenblatt called for an abolition of guns, This week it was Newsweek’s turn to take aim at gun owners. Newsweek devoted almost their entire issue to flogging the gun control issue. "America Under the Gun," cried the cover. In only its fourth editorial in the magazine’s history, Newsweek set the grim picture from the most recent L.A. shooting, "After it was over, after the SWAT teams had swept in and the suspect had fled, after the screams and the tears, a little boy too young to know his letters wanted to thank the men who rescued him from the shooter. Handing his mother a green crayon and a piece of blue construction paper, 4½-year-old Nathan Powers started dictating. ‘Thank you policemen,’ Nathan said, ‘for saving us from the gun because you're our friend.’ ‘For saving us from the gun’"

Newsweek set the tone for their entire issue in the editorial: "America, or at least the sensible center where most of us stand, has had enough — of this senseless violence, and of this circular debate. For more than a generation, we've watched as the great and the pedestrian have died in the line of fire. Though it won't do to act as though, in the emotional aftermath of yet another shooting, a sweeping ban or a single bill will keep more tragedies from happening, it also won't do to shrug off the deadly role guns play." Newsweek asked, "So what must be done? It is time, as Franklin Roosevelt said long ago, to try something."

Among the measures Newsweek called for was a total ban on "assault weapons": "We've been here before, and the lessons from that battle shed light on the tricky terrain ahead. The Uzi Furrow probably used in Granada Hills can no longer be legally imported to the United States, but was obviously available. Gun control wouldn't have stopped him. Still, assault weapons have few sporting purposes."

Newsweek also called for licensing and registration of all guns: "To ears unaccustomed to the nuances of the gun debate, this could sound innocuous, or at worst bureaucratic. But proposals to establish a gun registry, either state by state or nationally, raise gun owners' most fundamental fears. Still, licensing could operate along the same lines as the DMV: to drive a car, you need to pass a minimal test. There are potential perils; authorities might be distant, or abusive, or inattentive. But licensing could improve gun safety, particularly for beginners."

The editorial demanded things would be better if only gun owners sacrificed some of their constitutionally protected rights: "The gun lobby says the government shouldn't know who owns a firearm, and on Second Amendment grounds it has a point. Bill Clinton isn't likely to confiscate guns, but some President in the distant future might. Still, all rights have to be balanced with the need for public order, and registration is one sure-fire way of shutting off a line of supply to criminals. Why? If all sales of firearms have to be logged in a registry, then the typical gun owner who gets his firearm legitimately knows the government has a record of his acquisition. He may then be much more careful about what happens to that gun for fear that crimes committed with it would bring the police to his door. Would it stop underground gun traffic altogether? No, and the NRA says the measure would create ‘massive civil disobedience.’ But registration could help keep guns from slipping, through a careless private sale or swap, into a criminal's grasp."

The editorial concluded: "On the morning after the shootings in Granada Hills, parents of children at the day camp arrived early, determined not to flinch in the face of hate, or of guns. ‘We're not going to let anyone scare us,’ one father said. Bringing sanity to the gun wars, and safety to our schools and public places, will take the same flinty courage. The road will be rough and long, the battles pitched and confusing, the compromises difficult and costly. But let us begin."

In an article entitled "The Gun War Comes Home," Howard Fineman related how the gun issue will influence the 2000 campaign.

Fineman traced the path of the gun used in the most recent shooting, "Every gun has a history, and this one was potentially explosive. Federal officials quickly traced the XS-15 mechanism to a company in Maine owned by one Richard Dyke. Until last month, he was Bush's state finance director in Maine. He's an ally of top Bush political supporters; he had flown down to Austin, Texas, to take part in a luncheon with the governor. And, as bad luck would have it, Dyke's company bears an unfortunate name: Bushmaster Firearms. ‘We were looking at a public-relations nightmare,’ said one Bush adviser. By Friday, police said that Furrow, in fact, had used other weapons in his arsenal: an Uzi and a Glock 9mm pistol. Even so, Democrats thought they had found a way to attack the Republican presidential front runner. The gun-control issue, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told Newsweek, 'could be the No. 1 chink in George Bush's armor.'"

Fineman concluded, "Bush's strategists are obsessed with ensuring that he is competitive -- if not a winner -- in states such as California and New York. That means appealing to women in the suburbs. And soccer moms don't generally carry guns. So it's not surprising how the Bush campaign decided to deal with Richard Dyke when they first learned about the company he owned. When he'd come down for lunch, he was known only to top Bush campaign officials as a ‘businessman’ and CEO of ‘Dyke Associates.’ Then the Democratic ‘opposition researchers’ vetted the luncheon lists, and discovered his gun company. Soon thereafter, reporters started calling him. Soon after that, Dyke quit the Bush campaign. It didn't matter that Dyke had never talked with Bush about guns, or that the governor had had no idea what Dyke did for a living. The title 'gun manufacturer' was enough. ‘I didn't want him to carry my baggage,’ Dyke told Newsweek. The feeling was mutual: no one tried to talk him out of leaving.’"

In an interview with reporters Fineman, Matt Bai and Jon Meacham, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre did get an opportunity to express the other side of the gun issue but was peppered with questions from the left: 
"Are people right to be saying ‘Why do we have guns? Why can't we do something about this violence? Why are you so opposed to licensing gun owners?’"
"How about stricter bans on assault weapons, like California just enacted?"
"Are you willing to compromise on gun laws?"

Bai then explored how the current gun debate is hurting gun manufacturers in, "Clouds Over Gun Valley," with the subheadline, "The industry that armed generations of Americans now finds itself battered by lawsuits — and at odds with the greatest gun lobby of them all." Bai opened: "Today, the industrial-age factories are little changed: workers still sit at tin desks twisting and clicking new revolvers into place, at a rate of about four an hour, while the smoldering stench of forged metal drifts over the valley. But in just about every other way, life in Gun Valley is not what it was. As fewer people shoot for sport, profits are drying up quicker than the parched river. Old-line companies find themselves marketing cheap handguns and assault rifles in an effort to compete with renegade suppliers. Lawsuits are raining down on the industry, and public opinion has turned squarely against it. More than 200 years after the Revolution, Gun Valley is now the site of another popular revolt — this time, against the gunmakers themselves."

Newsweek's guest editorialists both called for more gun control. First was Devon Adams, a student from Columbine High School and then Professor Robert Jay Lifton of John Jay College at the City University of New York wrote a column titled, "The Pysche of a 'Gunocracy'-- Firearms are icons of freedom and power, 'equalizers' in an egalitarian country. Can we change our myths and break this troubling bond?" He blamed the actions of the Jewish Center shooter, Buford Furrow, on his access to guns. "Beneath the murderous behavior of Buford O. Furrow Jr. flows a dark undercurrent that deforms the American psyche: our unique bond with the gun. That bond readily lends itself to zealotry, the dangers of which become all the more terrifying in our age of high, unregulated technology. The historian Richard Hofstadter once said that after a lifetime studying the American experience, what he found most deeply troubling was the country's inability to come to terms with the gun and its association with the warrior subculture. Indeed, the gun has become close to a sacred object, revered by many as the essence of American life."

Newsweek allowed the professor to link gun rights to racism: "The contemporary resurgence of paramilitary groups has been accompanied by fierce resistance to political efforts to impose the mildest kind of gun control. And this is not surprising, since even God, as envisaged by these groups, is gun-centered ('Our God is not a wimp' is one popular slogan). The violence committed in his name is likely to be performed on behalf of a 'white race' supposedly endangered by Jews, blacks and homosexuals. Whatever the social dislocations that fuel such racist ideology, the gun is always available to provide an absolute solution. The gun is crucial, as well, to the enactment of vengeance, so central to the martyrology of the racial right."

Lifton concluded: "Besides fanatics and mentally disturbed people (Furrow appears to be both), many ordinary Americans have also become caught up in the cult of the gun. For them, it is not a jarring source of violence but as much an accepted part of the landscape as forests and rivers. Such people often resist controls over the objects they revere. But human beings are capable of modifying their own mythologies. After the tragedies in Littleton, Colo.; Atlanta, and now Los Angeles, Americans have shown signs of a change in their feelings about guns, seeing them increasingly as more dangerous than sacred. That kind of collective psychological shift is necessary if we are ever to transcend the crippling fraternity of the gun."

Newsweek’s brazen editorial put on record what many gun owners suspected, the media elite just don’t like guns and they will exploit any and every tragedy as an excuse to trample on their Second Amendment rights.

-- Geoffrey Dickens


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