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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday August 31, 1999 (Vol. One; No. 14)

Bush’s Implied Hypocrisy; Nonviolent Terrorists; Blame Waco on Bush?

1. Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report promoted the Bush-cocaine story and implied Bush was a hypocrite without providing any evidence.

2. Newsweek and U.S. News split in their coverage of Clinton’s proposed commutation for Puerto Rican terrorists: Newsweek replayed the White House line, while U.S. News lamented the terrorists’ "get-out-of-jail card."

3. Time’s Viveca Novak sold the notion that "calls are mounting for an end to the deluge of campaign cash" in this "season of excess."

4. On the newest Waco evidence, Time took a sympathetic look at Janet Reno’s plight, calling the death scene "a place full of things she did not know existed." Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff turned the Waco spotlight around to George W. Bush.

The covers of the September 6 edition of the three major newsmagazines demonstrated another slow news week. Newsweek featured standardized student testing on its cover. U.S. News & World Report discussed how to pay for college and Time’s cover featured the USA Today-style headline "Why We Take Risks" on thrill-seeking like extreme sports and day-trading. Time noted one of the books Bill Clinton took on vacation was Waves of Rancor by Robert Hilliard and Michael Keith, which they say is a "Tract asserting the extreme right-wing press, primarily in radio, spreads hate and bigotry." Don’t miss Newsweek’s Periscope section item where the Planned Parenthood spokeswoman complains that a law giving women in Wisconsin a choice to hear the baby’s heartbeat before undergoing an abortion is a "coercive tactic."


Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report promoted the Bush-cocaine story and implied Bush was a hypocrite without having to provide any evidence. Newsweek took the stereotypical soft-on-crime stance in its National Affairs package on drug policy. The central thesis of its political reporting and commentary on the drug war in America is that the current process of incarcerating drug offenders is failing miserably and resources should be devoted to treatment programs instead. Jonathan Alter’s lead story was heavily salted with liberals -- Judge Terry Hatter, Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project, author Michael Massing, even the strange trio of Ed Koch, Al Sharpton, and Harvard professor Charles Ogletree.

Alter also devoted space to imply hypocrisy on the part of George W. Bush with his handling of the cocaine issue: "the collateral damage of the drug war has been immense, and it may yet reverberate through American politics. The reason Gov. George W. Bush isn't being held to account for refusing to answer questions about using cocaine in his 20s is that Americans are basically fair-minded; it was a long time ago. But that same sense of fairness might now, ironically, put the whole subject of drugs back on the table for some serious rethinking -- about the glaring injustices of the criminal justice system; the moral ambiguities of baby-boomer parenting; the twists of fate that can leave one man a prisoner, another a possible president." Alter concluded: "It’s unclear whether the questions about his past will make Bush more likely to show more leadership here -- or less."

In a great example of what-you-can’t-prove-you-can-imply, Jerry Adler’s piece on what to tell your kids about drugs when you’ve been a user included an author claiming "We need to confront George W.’s dilemma in our homes." The other piece of the package was an Ellis Cose editorial with the headline "The Casualties of War: Using prisons to solve the drug problem hurts not just the black and Latino communities that have suffered the most, but all of America."

U.S. News directly addressed the Bush-cocaine question in an five-paragraph campaign update by Roger Simon, who went on the attack: "Bush asks voters to dismiss his past sins, real or imagined, as the result of an occasionally ‘irresponsible’ youth, but, as Governor of Texas, two years ago he signed legislation authorizing judges to send people to jail for possessing less than a gram of cocaine (less, in other words, than a packet of Sweet ’N Low.) Three years before that, he made it possible to imprison kids as young as 14. As Ted Koppel put it on Nightline, Bush ‘has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior.’ Except that is, when it comes to himself."

Simon also compared Bush’s cocaine response to the recent flip-flop Senator John McCain made on the abortion issue. "But having said he had not abused drugs in the past 25 years, Bush would go no further in his denials. "If the voters don't like that answer, if the voters want me to inventory something I did 25 or 30 years ago, then they can vote for somebody else," he said. And though that position seemed to satisfy a majority of those polled, it did not satisfy some of Bush's fellow Republicans. "He's saying that he did it in his youth so it doesn't count," one Republican adviser said. ‘That is beyond hypocrisy. That is beyond even what Clinton did.’ Simon asked, "So why didn't his fumble make as huge a media splash as Bush's cocaine travails? First, McCain is not the Republican front-runner, and second, he was talking about variations on a political position, not snorting an illegal substance through rolled-up legal tender."

These two magazines must know something the rest of us do not because as far as we are aware, not one witness has come forward and claimed that Bush did indeed use cocaine or provide any substantial evidence as proof of the rumor.


Newsweek and U.S. News split in their coverage of Clinton’s proposed commutation for Puerto Rican terrorists: Newsweek replayed the White House line, while U.S. News lamented the terrorists’ "get-out-of-jail card." We here at the MRC have been lamenting the near complete lack of media coverage of President Clinton’s offer to commute the sentences of Puerto Rican terrorists. While the broadcast media continue to ignore the story (with the noble exception of Fox News Channel), the news magazines are finally starting to catch up a little with Newsweek and U.S. News both featuring reports. (Time had nothing.)

U.S. News issued a scathing report titled "Giving terrorists a get-out-of-jail card." Angie Cannon pointed out the unanimous opposition to the President’s decision by the law enforcement community, the remarkable and extraordinary nature of the decision given Clinton’s history with pardons and strong reactions from those who were victimized by the violence committed by this terrorist group. Read for yourself. "Law-enforcement officials say the FALN is responsible for more than 130 bombings around the nation between 1974 and 1983. The bombings killed six people and injured scores more. The wounds of those who lost loved ones have healed with time, but now they have been opened afresh with a controversial decision by President Clinton to commute the sentences of the 16 FALN members, a move unanimously opposed by federal law enforcement."

The report continues, "Clinton's offer is unusual. He rarely grants sentence commutations. Since 1993, he has approved only three out of 3,042 petitions. But the White House says none of the 16 was involved in any deaths and that their sentences ‘were far out of proportion to the nature of their crimes.’ Clinton has set conditions on their commutation: that they renounce violence and adhere to typical parole terms......Clemency was strongly opposed by the FBI, the federal Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. attorneys in Illinois and Connecticut, according to a senior Justice Department official. A senior FBI official says the bureau is ‘shocked and dismayed’ by the president's proposal. ‘People are very, very, very upset,’ the official said. ‘These are not model citizens going back on the street. These are terrorists.’ The Justice Department official conceded it was unusual for the department to send a final recommendation to the White House with different options for each prisoner, a move that suggested a range of views by law enforcement that did not exist....The 283,000-member Fraternal Order of Police is up in arms. In New York last week, Police Commissioner Howard Safir joined with police union leaders to decry Clinton's decision, appearing with detectives severely wounded in FALN bombings in New York in 1982."

The report concluded with a heart-wrenching account from a victim of a bombing perpetrated by this terrorist organization. "Diana Ettenson was six months pregnant when her husband died in the Fraunces Tavern blast, and, like others, she speculates that Clinton's move was designed to help his wife win votes from New York's Puerto Rican community in her Senate bid. The White House emphatically denies the charge. ‘I'm furious,’ says Ettenson. ‘Getting these people to promise not to be violent is like asking a 4-year-old not to take a cookie from the cookie jar.’"

Further proof that nothing is beneath this corrupt and immoral President.

Newsweek, in a brief report in its Periscope section, reveals an explosive fact that completely undercuts the White House argument for granting these pardons. The report also allows for speculation that the President’s decision was purely political and motivated by a desire to aid Hillary in her New York Senate campaign. " Some Justice Department officials are still simmering over President Clinton's decision last month to commute the sentences of 16 Puerto Rican nationalists. The most damning evidence against the nationalists, NEWSWEEK has learned, is still-secret audiotapes made by the Bureau of Prisons. The tapes record at least some of the prisoners saying that ‘as soon as they get out of there, they were going to return to violence,’ one law-enforcement official said. As a result, the Bureau of Prisons -- which rarely participates in pardon and clemency debates -- strongly recommended against leniency. This position was endorsed by the FBI and former federal prosecutors who brought the cases against the Puerto Ricans."

They added: "Republicans in Congress have accused the White House of playing politics on the issue, saying the president's action was taken with Hillary Clinton's Senate race in mind, hoping to shore up the large Puerto Rican vote in New York. But White House officials flatly denied those charges, saying that the review of the Puerto Ricans' cases has been underway for four years -- long before the First Lady ever thought of running for the Senate. White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said that ‘the president made his decision based on a full range of advice. This was strictly a presidential decision. The First Lady was not consulted as part of this process.’ A White House aide noted that the move was prompted by requests by dozens of members of Congress and several religious leaders, and that all of the nationalists who received clemency have publicly renounced violence. ‘They pose no danger to society now,’ the aide said."

If this does not fully demonstrate the adolescent naivete of this White House, I don’t know what does. Anyone with a shred of common sense would know that a person would say anything to get out of prison. Next thing you know, the White House will say these terrorists had "difficulties" in their childhood.


Time’s Viveca Novak sold the notion that "calls are mounting for an end to the deluge of campaign cash" in this "season of excess." Yes, once again, the media are putting campaign gag rules at the top of their legislative agenda. Novak claimed First Amendment-amending Republicans like Sen. John McCain and Rep. Chris Shays would try again this fall, "and their chances of success are improving." Novak also pushed the notion that some liberal chief executives (like those in the Committee for Economic Development) are pushing for an end to soft money both within their companies and through legislation. Novak worried that the "pro-reform coalition" could be split by compromises, such as dropping the censorship of nonprofit "issue ads" in the 60 days before an election. "If soft money is banned, but issue ads are left unregulated, many experts believe, donors will simply route their money to outside groups, which will run such ads largely as surrogates for the parties."

Speaking of acting as "surrogates for the parties," campaign gag rules would likely help the electoral chances of the Democrats, so whose surrogate is Novak? Of course, before writing for Time and her previous stint at The Wall Street Journal, Novak labored at...Common Cause magazine.


On the newest Waco evidence, Time took a sympathetic look at Janet Reno’s plight, calling the death scene "a place full of things she did not know existed." Howard Chua-Eoan suggested "The trouble for Reno is not so much with what’s out there as with the facts that still may be undetected and undigested in their files." Time would never dare suggest the possibility of a coverup, something regularly charged when the Attorney General was Ed Meese. But the thought of Reno sitting on embarrassing evidence might put a whole new light on the magazine’s gaudy 1993 reaction to Reno’s declaration of responsibility for the Waco fiasco: "In that instant, Reno, who had already pretty much captivated Washington with one gutsy performance after another, achieved full-fledged folk hero status."

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff turned the Waco spotlight around to George W. Bush. For the desperately-digging-up-a scandal-on-Bush file, Isikoff reported how a political appointee of Bush encouraged the admission by the FBI after ordering Texas Rangers to dig up the truth. He writes, "As it turns out, [Public Safety Commissioner James] Francis's role could create a minor conspiracy flurry of its own. A political appointee of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, Francis is also the top fund-raiser for Bush's presidential campaign. Francis told NEWSWEEK that the connection was pure coincidence. "I'm trying not to be political," he says, adding he hasn't even talked to Bush about this. There isn't any evidence that last week's news was the result of a GOP plot to embarrass the Clinton administration. But six years after the siege, Waco skeptics aren't about to start taking politicians at their word -- about anything."

Mr. Isikoff, when it came to Waco, the Clinton Administration did not need any help in embarrassing itself.

-- Paul Smith


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