Is "Anti-Religion" Shooting a "Pious Invention"?; Yippee for Buchanan Hurting GOP!; Protecting McCain
1. While Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report relayed evidence that the Fort Worth church shooter had "anti-religious" views,
Time suggested linking religion with the crime may be a "pious invention."
U.S. News praised the rapid response from the Gore campaign in exploiting the shooting.
2. Campaign 2000 reporting was focused primarily on Buchanan’s impending switch to the Reform Party and his courting of liberals.
U.S. News/CBS analyst Gloria Borger cheered the Buchanan boomlet. "There is just one correct response to these events: Yippee! Unless, of course, you are (a) George W. Bush or (b) some other loyal Republican."
3. Time underlined its disillusionment with post-Gorbachev Russia and its "crony capitalism."
4. U.S. News uniquely stuck to the Puerto Rico story, noting how the Lewinsky saga has further eroded Clinton’s credibility with the fallout on his claim of executive privilege over documents related to his clemency of 16 Puerto Rican terrorists.
5. Chalk up another one for the Media Admits Bias file. U.S. News admitted "McCain has gotten terrific press–the praise has been so lavish, it has been dubbed the ‘McCain Swoon’ -- and he is so open, it is easy for reporters to start feeling protective of him."
On the covers of the September 27 issues: Time explored Silicon Valley with the title "GetRich.com." Newsweek promised a look at "Where Health Begins" -- in the womb. U.S. News featured Pope John Paul II and an excerpt of George Weigel’s forthcoming biography. The most unintentionally amusing line of the week came from Newsweek’s Laura Shapiro reviewing the new tome on the family that runs the New York Times: "Modesty is not a reigning virtue in this family -- judging from "The Trust," the Ochses and Sulzbergers spend so much time contemplating their own greatness, it's a wonder they manage to put out a paper -- but loyalty runs deep. Their patriarch promised he would cover the news ‘without fear or favor,’ and to a remarkable extent, the Times still does."
While Newsweek and U.S. News reported evidence that the Fort Worth church shooter had "anti-religious" views, Time suggested linking religion with the crime may be a "pious invention."
One common theme in this week’s newsmagazines was the church shooting in Texas. Newsweek’s Jerry Adler reported the most detail: [Shooter Larry] Ashbrook shot and fatally wounded Sydney Browning, the church's choir director, then a young man selling recordings of Christian music, before kicking open the doors to the sanctuary. Forty Days, a Christian rock group, was performing a number called Alle, Alleluia. ‘I can't believe you believe this junk!’ Ashbrook shouted, according to witnesses, and began firing." Adler added: "Inside the house police found wrecked walls and trashed bathrooms, boxes of ammunition, bomb-making equipment and the family Bible, which was methodically torn to pieces. There were rambling letters and pamphlets that police described only as "anti-religious," but as to motive, Fort Worth police chief Ralph Mendoza had no clue, except to say that Ashbrook was "paranoid, someone who exhibits signs of being schizophrenic."
Adler was fairly balanced and questioned the ability of gun control to prevent these types of shootings. "But if gun owners don't have to be licensed, how do you keep guns out of the hands of schizophrenics? Ashbrook's purchase of his 9mm pistol, and a .380 that he also carried into the church, "was a legal transaction," Mendoza said. ‘There were no federal, state or local laws that were violated’ (although he neglected to apply for a concealed-carry permit). For that matter, as Handgun Control spokesperson Naomi Praiss noted, ‘nothing in the modest package of legislation that is causing so much blood, sweat and tears on Capitol Hill would have prevented these shootings, either.’...But the hard lesson of Ashbrook's spree was that there are some dangers against which society might just not have a clear defense. Not even prayer."
U.S. News featured a report from Roger Simon that dealt almost exclusively with the political consequences of the shooting. Simon noted "Ashbrook did not leave a suicide note or any clue of why he went on a killing spree. But the FBI and local law enforcement authorities discovered antireligious writings and written rants in his house blaming various employers for his many job losses." But he praised the rapid response from the Gore campaign in exploiting the shooting. "But while Bush was concentrating on love, Al Gore was concentrating on laws: both the law that Bush had signed making it legal for Texans to carry concealed weapons and new laws Gore says are needed to protect American families. For once, the Gore campaign moved swiftly: Twenty-four hours after the shooting, Gore was on Larry King Live saying that ‘assault weapons’ like the 9-mm Ruger and the .380 AMT semiautomatic handguns that Larry Gene Ashbrook had used to kill seven people and himself should be banned....While Gore was attacking Bush on the air, his operatives were busily faxing reporters copies of the 1997 law that Bush had signed barring the prosecution of people who brought guns to churches or synagogues unless the houses of worship had alerted people that weapons were not wanted. ‘Has it come to this?’ Gore asked. ‘Are we not even safe in church anymore?’"
Simon did allow that "The Bush campaign lashed back angrily. ‘The American people are tired of politicians trying to politicize every tragedy,’ Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. ‘They are looking for leaders to help heal the country, not those who use tragedies to score political points. Al Gore is desperate to turn around his floundering campaign.’ It was one of the rare moments in which the Bush campaign found itself on the defensive–and regarding an issue that could have a significant impact on the 2000 race. One of Bill Clinton's proudest political legacies to the Democratic Party has been the conversion of gun control from a left-wing to a mainstream issue. Clinton focused on widely unpopular items like 'cop-killer' bullets and 'assault weapons,' and stressed that Americans needed neither for sport or protection. The issue resonated especially well with women, who rewarded Clinton in 1992 and 1996 with their votes."
In Time, a subheadline asked "Are Evangelicals the new hate-crime target?" From a ten-foot-pole distance, David Van Biema covered the growing belief among conservative Christians that they are being persecuted for their faith: "Yet even if it is pious invention, it gives a glimpse of the way some evangelical Christians, children and adults alike, are thinking these days about the string of killings in the U.S. in which they have been victims." They even believe the shootings are acts of Satan, which Van Biema suggested: "It’s an explanation that allows the bereaved a certainty and solace in the face of a horrible riddle." Van Biema’s account found no police evidence of "anti-religious" belief. "The police and other authorities who searched his home and his life in the next 72 hours found plenty of clues to a deranged mind...What no one found was any connection to the Wedgwood church or its congregation."
Campaign 2000 reporting was focused primarily on Buchanan’s impending switch to the Reform Party. The biggest quote of note came from U.S. News and CBS analyst Gloria Borger who is apparently thrilled with the prospect. "Confused by the news that "Pitchfork" Pat Buchanan intends to join with "Relic" Ross Perot's branch of the zany Reform Party? More confused when you learn that together they could try to tag team Jesse "The Body" Ventura's libertarian wing to win the party's presidential nomination? Relax. There is just one correct response to these events: Yippee! Unless, of course, you are (a) George W. Bush or (b) some other loyal Republican."
Time focused on a possible Donald Trump candidacy and how it could hurt the Democratic candidate in the presidential election. Michael Duffy and Matthew Cooper joked: "His finances make the Clintons’ look simple; his women outnumber the President’s." Newsweek’s Matt Bai emphasized the spectacle of Buchanan meeting with left-wing fringe candidate Lenora Fulani and moving left for votes: "Determined to find common ground with liberals, Buchanan's team is already floating the names of some unlikely vice presidential picks: among them, Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa Jr. and Jerry Brown, the Democratic insurgent turned Oakland mayor. For the record, Hoffa says he'd be flattered. Brown isn't interested."
Also in Newsweek, Howard Fineman wrote about the role of George Bush the Elder in the campaign of Bush the Younger. Overall, a positive portrayal of the elder Bush, though Fineman does dredge up one of the issues that has dogged W. "With the money chase won, perhaps Dad's most significant role now is as a steadying influence -- and source of behind-the-scenes information and savvy. When new questions were raised recently about whether Bush's family had used connections to get W into the Air National Guard, the candidate ducked away from noisy crowds on the campaign trail to call his dad. After checking with his father, W was ready to give his careful answer: ‘No George Bush’ had made any effort to get him the guard slot." Fineman wondered why voters forgot 1992: "The Clinton scandals boosted Bush the Elder's stock. Voters today tend to forget his lack of street cred -- his apparent failure to comprehend the gritty realities of everyday life -- and fondly recall his personal probity and decency."
Newsweek’s "Conventional Wisdom Watch" was especially critical of Bush and the Republican Congress this week. It gave a sideways arrow to Congress on campaign finance reform, "House does right on camp. fin. reform. Of course, the Senate will kill it." This was followed by a slap at Congress (down arrow of course) for giving itself a pay raise while endorsing a pay raise for the President, "Greedy Congress doesn't deserve, but next prez does -- just for dealing with Congress." Eerily coinciding with Al Gore campaign speeches, George W. received a down arrow for the recent church shooting, "CW loves Lone Star state, but draws line at Bush-backed law that allows guns in church." (Time named W. a "loser" in its "Winners and Losers" feature with the quip: "Texas massacre spotlights Guv’s slavish devotion to the NRA. Where’s the ‘compassion,’ Big Guy?" )
Of course, what escapes "logic" is the fact that if one of the churchgoers had a gun in their possession at the time of the shooting, many of the deaths may have been prevented.
Time underlined its disillusionment with post-Gorbachev Russia. Russia was another story covered by all three magazines given the recent bombings in Moscow and the brewing civil war in Dagestan. But Time stood out in their distance from its ‘80s cheerleading for "Commissar Liberator" Gorbachev, their Man of the Decade. Senior Foreign Correspondent Johanna McGeary gloomily declared: "The Bank of New York irregularity is only one on a list of scandals, involving alleged money laundering, mob operations and corruption in high places, that are suddenly in the spotlight. The stories are old news in Moscow, where the highway robbery that has stripped the country of assets and enriched a handful of crony capitalists has been going on ever since ‘reform’ arrived in 1991. An impoverished, disillusioned populace long ago lost its capacity for outrage. With bombs exploding around their country, looming war in the Caucasus and rumors of a political crisis to worry about, Russians have written off the money scandals as dirty business as usual."
Ten years ago, Russia had no "impoversished, disillusioned populace," and had witnessed no "stripping" of the country’s "assets" under communist rule?
U.S. News contained some political reports on topics not covered in either of its counterparts. First, a report from Angie Cannon with the unique angle of how the Lewinsky saga has further eroded Clinton’s credibility with the fallout on his claim of executive privilege over documents related to his clemency of 16 Puerto Rican terrorists. "President Clinton may have played the executive privilege card one time too often. He invoked legal privileges so many times during l'affaire Lewinsky that the public and lawmakers don't buy it anymore -- even when he may have a valid legal reason. That's just what happened last week when he claimed executive privilege to avoid turning over documents to one of his most ardent congressional critics, Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican. Burton, who chairs the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, had subpoenaed all information about Clinton's controversial decision to grant clemency to 16 members of FALN, a terrorist Puerto Rican nationalist group. The president coughed up some 10,000 pages of related records, such as letters from FALN critics and sympathizers. But he refused to release any documents on exactly how or why he reached his decision to spring them, infuriating Burton and other lawmakers who are investigating the controversial action."
Cannon added: "Administration officials and legal experts say Clinton was well within his rights to hold back information. ‘This is probably the most legitimate invocation of executive privilege in the last 25 years,’ says Peter Shane, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh...The problem is that Clinton routinely claimed legal privileges last year in trying to shield secrets about his affair with Monica Lewinsky from Kenneth Starr's grand jury. Consequently, he appears suspect now....And thus, as Burton presses on to uncover documents, we see another legacy of the Lewinsky saga: the cheapening of an important presidential legal power."
And finally, chalk up another one for the Media Admits Bias file. U.S. News reporter Roger Simon offered a profile of John McCain and detailed how much the press loves him. "So far, McCain has gotten terrific press–the praise has been so lavish, it has been dubbed the "McCain Swoon" – and he is so open, it is easy for reporters to start feeling protective of him." When McCain recounted the "gooks" who imprisoned him in Vietnam, Simon said, "Strictly speaking, one does not say ‘gooks’ anymore. It is simply not done. But John McCain says ‘gooks,’ and who is going to tell him not to?" Simon added that McCain lists his own gaffes, including off-color humor about Hillary being ugly since Janet Reno was her father, and "pretty soon a reporter just begged McCain to shut up and protect himself."
Despite the gaffes, Simon concluded with his love for McCain: "But along with conveying a sense of urgency, McCain conveys a great sense of vigor, a sense that anything can happen on his campaign, it probably will, and if it does, McCain most assuredly will climb onto the press bus and talk about it with reporters. Maybe he really does like doing this or maybe it is therapeutic, but at least it is different. He has a huge task ahead of him, and he is going about it the only way he knows how, which is all out. So kick the tires and light the fires! To hell with the checklist. John McCain is flying once again."
This love affair should be of much relief to Senator McCain, given how successful the media were in protecting their other favorite son, Bill Clinton.
-- Paul Smith
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