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 Magazine Watch

Tuesday November 30, 1999 (Vol. 1; No. 27)

Media Bias Against Hillary?; Westmoreland Helps Al; Gore’s Social Conservatism?

1. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter inveighed against "right-winger" Rupert Murdoch for his newspaper’s bias against the First Lady without a "countervailing tabloid" for balance, and urged Hillary Clinton to try turning Trent Lott into "the Suha Arafat of the Potomac."

2. Newsweek remarkably stressed Hillary’s "disastrous" kiss of Mrs. Arafat and the political ties between Hillary and racial demagogue Al Sharpton.

3. Newsweek presented an excerpt from their reporter Bill Turque’s new book Inventing Al Gore, which tenderly cast doubt on the Vice President’s claim he never received any special treatment during the Vietnam War, since he was advised by Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland.

4. Columnist John Leo noted his U.S. News editors wanted to remove the word "pro-lifers" from a recent column and replace it with "abortion opponents."

5. U.S. News reporter Franklin Foer looked at the relationship between religion and politics in American life and portrayed Al Gore as a "centrist Democrat" with a "social conservative streak."

For their December 6 issues, Newsweek led with "The New Search for Life on Mars." Time’s cover story dealt with "Jesus in 2000," with novelist Reynolds Price reinventing the Gospels. U.S. News featured ‘Crimes of the Century" with a Charles Manson cover photo. Newsweek had kind words for a Republican. Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith was hailed in a headline as "The Sage of Indianapolis," and described as Bush’s compassionate conservative alter-ego prone to reporter-pleasing sentences such as: "The ever-increasing concentric circles of poverty are not only morally wrong, they can be dangerous." While Time’s Web site claimed 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising’s rape and murder by two gay men wasn’t worth covering since it was not a "hate crime," Time did devote a column this week to the possibly racially motivated killing of 19-year-old Sasezley Richardson in Elkhart, Indiana.


In Newsweek, Jonathan Alter’s "Why It’s Time to Let Loose" warned readers not to count Hillary out and complained about media bias against the first lady: "The last four months have been miserable for Hillary, and she has mostly herself to blame. But it's not too late. To overcome bias against her in the press -- and to take the edge off the monumental chutzpah it took to run in the first place --she needs to look beyond merely correcting her political tone-deafness."

Alter advised the first lady to make conservatives like Trent Lott the issue in her race against Giuliani: "The key is to run locally, but think nationally...Thinking nationally means changing the subject from the diversion du jour to larger problems. It means turning Trent Lott into the Suha Arafat of the Potomac."

Does that mean she gives Trent Lott two kisses and a hug?

Alter urged Hillary to take on the GOP congress and criticized Giuliani from the left: "While all eyes were on Hillary this fall, the mayor made the mistake of endorsing the congressional GOP agenda, from killing the nuclear test-ban treaty to supporting a $790 billion federal tax cut that left no money for the health, education and other social programs that New Yorkers tend to favor. (Giuliani has given himself more wiggle room on guns and abortion.)....Watch for the Hillary forces to rope every Trent Lott position around Giuliani's neck, even if it complicates her husband's life in Washington."

Alter rebuked the New York Post and its publisher Rupert Murdoch for their coverage of Hillary: "To turn every miscue into a fiasco, Hillary can always depend on the New York Post. The Post is now a Gotham City symbol – as New York as a bagel with a shmeer. While the tabloid, owned by right-winger Rupert Murdoch, has a circulation of only 437,000, it sets the tone for the rest of the media. News magazines (including Newsweek) and cable networks use the clever screaming headlines to represent the pulse of the city; local TV swims in currents created by the paper's coverage. Almost everyone usually fails to mention that the paper is biased against the Clintons. And there's no countervailing tabloid. When the Post ran its SHAME ON HILLARY headline, the New York Daily News, a more objective paper, did not cover a crackdown on street people with GIULIANI TO HOMELESS: DROP DEAD."

No countervailing newspaper? Millions of New Yorkers read the liberal dailies: The New York Times, the Daily News, and Newsday. But Alter complained they’re "more objective." Here’s two actual headlines from last week’s Daily News on Giuliani and the homeless. On Tuesday: "RUDY PLOWING AHEAD WITH PLAN TO ROUST HOMELESS." On Friday: "THE MAYOR TARGETS US LIKE PREY SAY NEEDY." This is more objective?


Debra Rosenberg and Gregory Beals’ "Hillary Makes Her Move" examined Hillary Clinton’s likely Senate bid and the controversy it has engendered: "Her latest troubles began with The Kiss: the diplomatically correct, but politically disastrous, embrace of Palestinian First Lady Suha Arafat, who had charged Israelis with poisoning Arab children."

Rosenberg and Beals even highlighted the role of demagogue, er, "power broker"Al Sharpton in Clinton’s campaign: "[Harold] Ickes got the same message in a meeting with the ubiquitous power broker the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton thinks Clinton's team is deluded in relying on the old-Democrat coalitions of labor unions and political clubs, a strategy that Giuliani has already twice defeated in mayoral elections...Sharpton alluded to the campaign's mishandling of the controversial pardon President Clinton extended to jailed Puerto Rican nationalists. When Republicans called it a ploy to win Puerto Rican votes for Hillary, she felt compelled to show her independence by denouncing the pardons. That, in turn, managed to alienate many of her natural supporters among Puerto Rican New Yorkers, such as influential Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano."


Newsweek ran a lengthy excerpt of its own Bill Turque’s book Inventing Al Gore.. Turque looked at Gore and Vietnam: "Gore approached military service as he did every other big step in his life -- with caution, meticulous attention to appearances and a plan. Unlike Bill Clinton, his future presidential running mate, Gore volunteered for the Army, both to rescue his father's flickering political career and to keep his own future options open. Although he saw no combat, Gore has used images of himself, clad in fatigues, in advertising for both his 1988 and 2000 presidential campaigns, a message to voters that he didn't use his privileged background to duck service. And while he adamantly refused to solicit special treatment as a senator's son, he may have been quietly protected, possibly in ways he was not even aware of, by benefactors concerned for his safety."

Turque highlighted the role Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland played in Gore’s service in the military: "According to Gore's friend, the Harvard senior didn't know until several months later that his contact was Gen. William Westmoreland, Army chief of staff. He says he met twice that spring with the former commander of U.S. forces in South Vietnam to discuss Gore's options. Westmoreland guaranteed no cushy deals, according to Gore's friend, but left him with one sweeping assurance: ‘I believe he will be watched,’ the general said. ‘He will be cared for.’"

Later, Turque added: "The two met during the general's visit to [Fort] Rucker in 1970, and Gore has intimated over the years that the general encouraged him to go. According to Michael Zibart, a Nashville friend, Gore said that Westmoreland told him he ‘would be making a grave error if he didn't serve in Vietnam.’"


Columnist John Leo explained a recent editing incident at U.S. News: "Several columns ago, when I wrote that ‘students, disability activists, and pro-lifers’ were demonstrating at Princeton, the copy desk here at U.S. News wanted to change ‘pro-lifers’ to ‘abortion opponents.’ The proposed change was by the book. Like most news organizations, this magazine uses ‘abortion-rights activists’ and ‘abortion opponents,’ not ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life.’ But in this case ‘abortion opponents’ was clearly not an adequate term. The issue at Princeton wasn't abortion. It was infanticide. The university had appointed a professor who believes parents should be allowed to kill their severely disabled babies." Leo stressed that pro-lifers strongly oppose abortion, as well as, euthanasia, doctor-assisted suicide, and other issues. "Out of fairness (and accuracy), the media should restore the ‘pro-life’ tag or come up with something similar. Given the ideological makeup of the newsroom today, this change is unlikely."

Leo suggested: "The general newsroom tendency to let every group call itself whatever it wants to (gays, Native Americans, African-Americans) is suspended for right-to-life activists."


U.S. News reporter Franklin Foer’s "Running on Their Faith" looked at the religious beliefs of the major presidential candidates and included this observation: "Centrist Democrats like Gore have made much of breaking with their party's heritage of staunch secularism. Or as a Gore adviser clumsily announced, ‘The Democratic Party is going to take back God this time.’ This smacks of post-Monica posturing. But Gore has always had a social conservative streak. The centrist buzzwords–responsibility, civil society–had been Gore favorites before they acquired their current chic. Through the mid-'80s, he had even been an abortion opponent."

If Al Gore is a "centrist Democrat" and "has always had a social conservative streak," then Bill Clinton has presided over the most ethical administration in history.

-- Mark H. Drake


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