Media Slate "Peace Dividend" for Social Spending
WAGING WAR ON DEFENSE
The new Bush budget hadn't even been
released before the networks attacked the President for inadequate cuts
in defense spending. On January 8, ABC News Pentagon correspondent Bob
Zelnick got a jump on his colleagues, predicting: "Critics will
likely claim that the Pentagon should have taken more account of
this past year's dramatic changes in Eastern Europe."
Used to complaining about Republican
"budget gimmickry," the network budget analysts did some cagey
number-crunching of their own. Dan Rather led off the January 29 CBS
Evening News: "President Bush came out with his election-year
budget today. It calls for some cuts in defense spending, much bigger
cuts in domestic programs." Lesley Stahl concurred: "While the
budget does call for a two percent cut in military spending, the
President would cut far more out of the domestic budget." Among
"some of the big losers": education, "which gets slightly
less than the amount needed to keep up with inflation." How the
education increase is a "much bigger cut" than the actual cut
in defense is anybody's guess.
On Nightline a few hours later,
ABC's Jim Wooten told viewers of "the dreaded federal deficit,
created, for the most part, by the most massive peacetime military
buildup in America's history." That's some interesting math.
Defense spending is a quarter of the budget and has decreased 16
percent in the past five years, while "entitlements" take half
the budget and have grown sharply.
Time went to bat against Bush
with the subheadline: "Yes, Bush is finally cutting defense. But
with a clearer vision of America's responsibilities in a changing world,
he could save billions more." How? "Research for the Strategic
Defense Initiative could be cut from $4.5 billion to $3 billion a
year," not to mention "The armed forces' 2 million manpower
could be halved." Suggesting cuts "far deeper" than the
Bush budget, a Time chart relayed the recommendations of the
liberal Defense Budget Project and Brookings Institution.
Dazzled by the prospect of a "peace
dividend" diverting tax dollars to the ever-growing demands of
social engineering schemes, Jim Wooten was typical: "$150 billion
in real money by 1999, badly needed for the alleviation of a lot of
pressing problems in the country. Problems like homelessness and
housing, for example, and health care for the elderly and day care for
the children of working parents and what have you." Ignored by
network reporters: any thought a "peace dividend" belongs to
the taxpayers, not the federal government.
Oregon Trail. The December MediaWatch
front page story, "Renouncing the Reagan Decade," analyzed an
article by USA Today reporter Debbie Howlett. MediaWatch
has since learned that Howlett spent four months in 1983 as Press
Secretary to Oregon State Senator Margie Hendricksen, a Democrat who
later opposed Republican Senator Mark Hatfield. The Almanac of
American Politics blamed Hendricksen's loss on her
"consistently liberal views" which, as The New Republic
once noted, include favoring unilateral nuclear disarmament.
NBC's Carter Consultant. NBC
News Senior Vice President Tom Ross has resigned to become Director of
Media Relations for the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton,
though he'll remain a consultant to NBC News throughout 1990. Ross was
Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times when Carter
appointed him Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
Moving to Greener Pastures.
Since Senator Terry Sanford's 1986 election, William Green Jr. has
served as Senior Assistant to the North Carolina Democrat. In December
he decided to retire and returned to Durham where he had worked as a
Duke journalism professor when Sanford was President of the university.
Green put in a one year stint as The Washington Post's
Ombudsman during which he had to explain away the newspaper's 1981 Janet
Cooke Pulitzer Prize fiasco.
Pressing for Democrats. Bonnie
Piper, a production assistant for National Public Radio's Morning
Edition from 1980 to 1984, recently became Press Secretary to U.S.
Representative Bob Traxler, a moderately liberal Democrat from Michigan.
Piper's spent the last few years working for Time-Life Books....Georgia
Democratic Congressman Doug Barnard's new Press Secretary, Lanie Pryles,
spent 1983 as a news writer for CNN in Atlanta.
Arkansas Shuffle. The
Arkansas Democrat's Washington bureau has been a frequent rest stop
for press secretaries between campaigns, judging by a recent National
Journal item. Rex Nelson was Washington Bureau Chief from 1986
until last October when he headed west to Little Rock to join Republican
Congressman Tommy Robinson's campaign for Governor. Back in 1984, when
Robinson was still a Democrat, Nelson worked as Press Secretary to Judy
Petty, his unsuccessful Republican opponent. Nelson took over the
Washington bureau from Damon Thompson when Thompson became Press
Secretary to Senator David Pryor, a Democrat. Before moving to D.C. for The
Arkansas Democrat, Thompson served as Press Secretary to Pryor's
1984 Republican opponent, U.S. Representative Ed Bethune.
A Ritzy Switch. William
Ritz, a Denver Post reporter from 1978 to 1984, has left his
position as Press Secretary to Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) to become
Director of Public Affairs for the National Committee to Preserve Social
Security and Medicare, a group headed by former Democratic Congressman
James Roosevelt. Ritz was an AP reporter from 1974 to 1978.
EARTH TO EHRLICH
Few causes inspire more passionate
reporting than the environment. Perceived by journalists as a can't-miss
opportunity to demonstrate their conscience (who is against the
environment?), those who normally naysay charges of media bias concede
-- even boast -- that they are pushing an agenda. Last year, NBC Capitol
Hill correspondent Andrea Mitchell acknowledged that "clearly the
networks have made that decision now, where you'd have to call it
advocacy." NBC has been one of the most active advocates, airing a
second three-part series of environmental reports by that left-wing
"master of disaster," ecologist Paul Ehrlich.
As they did in May, in January Today
gave Ehrlich a production and travel budget to narrate three completely
unchallenged six-minute reports. In the eight months since the May
series, Today has given no air time to a different point of
view. For its repeat performance of imbalance, NBC earns this month's
Janet Cooke Award.
NBC provided an unrebutted platform for
Ehrlich's apocalyptic views. In so doing Today encouraged
people's worst fears, making them more receptive to massive government
intervention favored by liberals. It's not just a matter of ideological
bias, but of attributing respect to a discredited record of doomsday
predictions. It's not just a clash between objective and advocacy
journalism, but between science and politically motivated pseudoscience.
Ehrlich authored the 1968 panic manual The
Population Bomb, which began: "The battle to feed all humanity
is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of
millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash
programs embarked upon now."
The Ehrlich series kicked off January 9
with a story on "how man is destroying the entire ecological system
with something that appears to be completely harmless." What was
this global threat? The cow. "The dog may be man's best friend, but
cows are family
...our dependence on the cow is
destroying the world environment. "Overgrazing turned American
public lands into severe desert, Ehrlich exclaimed. "Under the best
of circumstances, it would have taken hundreds of years for the land to
regenerate itself." But later in the report, he praised a private
ranch where "scientists have measured fantastic improvements"
in just 20 years. Not only did Ehrlich contradict himself, he missed the
distinction. Public lands are treated carelessly, while private lands
flourish with a mindful property owner.
The January 10 report used overpopulation
as an argument to discontinue capitalism: "What concerns ecologists
is that these [Third World] countries look to the United States,
Germany, and Japan as models of development. They think the only way out
of poverty is to industrialize."
Ehrlich continued: "But the
foundations of our survival -- the world's forests, soils, water, and
air -- have already been badly overexploited as a result of vast
overpopulation in the industrial nations, who do, after all, use 80
percent of the world's resources to keep the standard of living high for
less than 20 percent of the world's population. The most explosive
social reality of the next century is that the world's ecosystems cannot
support the spread of the American lifestyle to the underdeveloped
nations of the world." How ironic that Ehrlich singles out Western
democracies, whose citizens have demanded comparatively stringent
pollution controls, while ignoring the heavy polluters of the Soviet
bloc. As the world abandons command economies for cleaner service
economies, Ehrlich proposes turning the clock back to the pre-industrial
Greenhouse hysteria dominated the January
11 segment. Repeating frantic forecasts of global warming, Ehrlich
solemnly declared: "There is an even greater threat that scientists
can only speculate about. As global temperatures rise, they may cause
the massive West Antarctic ice sheet to slip more rapidly. Then we'll be
facing a sea-level rise not of one to three feet in a century, but of 10
or 20 feet in a much shorter time. The Supreme Court would be flooded.
You could tie your boat to the Washington Monument. Storm surges would
make the Capitol unusable. For Today, Paul Ehrlich in
Washington, DC, on the future shoreline of Chesapeake Bay."
A more earthbound assessment recently
came from the American Geophysical Union. In the case of a 3-to-4 degree
warming, they reduced estimates of expected sea-level rise to 12 inches,
down from an estimate of 25 feet in 1980. Of course, scientists are not
even unanimous about that much warming. As University of Virginia
environmental scientist Patrick J. Michaels said, "The question
scientists should now be asking is not how much it will warm over the
next 50 to 100 years, but why has it warmed so little during the major
carbon dioxide buildup?"
When asked about the Ehrlich series, Today
spokesman Mary Neagoy told MediaWatch
"We're real happy with what he's done for us." Neagoy admitted
that Ehrlich had a definite point of view, which is why Today
put him on the air. Neagoy claimed Ehrlich was only one "among a
lot of people we used," but no one else was given a travel budget
and eighteen minutes of solo airtime. When asked why Ehrlich was used as
an NBC reporter, Neagoy said "all kinds of news organizations use
all sorts of people as reporters. Doctors are medical reporters. Lawyers
are law reporters. It's common practice." But it's not common
practice to sign up partisan doctors like Benjamin Spock or lawyers like
William Kunstler who advocate a particular political cause, without
providing an opposing viewpoint.
Julian Simon, professor of economics at
the University of Maryland and author of The Ultimate Resource,
a fact-filled refutation of Ehrlich's contentions, told MediaWatch:
"On just about every point where his statements can be tested
against evidence, Ehrlich is wrong. Indeed, he has been wrong across the
board since the 1960's. Every one of his predictions has been falsified.
How many times does a 'prophet' have to be wrong before he stops being a
NBC may want to show off its
environmental conscience, but Ehrlich's long-discredited reputation
should be an embarrassment to the network. But his role as NBC's number
one environmental expert continues. They have announced he will be
"among the people" they plan to use for their upcoming
coverage of Earth Day. They apparently agree with Bryant Gumbel's on-air
assessment at the end of the series: "That's good stuff."
RAY AND FRANCES SHOP FOR BAD
NEWS. CBS business
correspondent Ray Brady thinks government economic statistics only
matter when they're bad. When inflation, which Dan Rather described as
"up only slightly over the previous two years," was
insufficiently gloomy on January 18, Brady began with this query:
"Why do so many Americans question the government statistics?"
These "many Americans" turned out to be one Frances Kessler, a
shopper who relied on her memory to claim dramatic single-item price
Cornflakes in hand, Kessler complained,
"$1.99. I think the last time I bought this, it was $1.59. That's a
big increase. It's ridiculous." Armed with a box of Kleenex,
Kessler charged, "I just finished a box at home. The price was 99
cents. This is $1.29. That's 30 cents. That's a 30 percent increase.
Ridiculous." The ridiculous label belongs to Brady.
SEMPER FIDEL. Given
events in Eastern Europe, Fidel Castro must be struggling hard to keep
hope for communism alive. The Washington Post's Julia Preston,
once a writer for the pro-Castro North American Congress on Latin
America (NACLA), is just the person to give Fidel a helping hand. In a
front-page article January 22, Preston asserted that "Cubans today
do not compare their conditions to those of Western Europe, as do many
East Europeans, but to those of Latin America. From that perspective,
they see that socialism offered them exceptional advances."
Preston claimed that "Castro
inspires Cubans who admire how he transformed the island nation of 10.5
million into a power that could stand off the nearby Yankee
giant...Castro, 63, with tireless energy and political passion, is still
popular with many Cubans. Although no accurate measure of Cuban opinion
is available, analysts say fidelistas far outnumber devoted
LEFTIST EXPERTISE. The CBS
Evening News keeps turning to liberal experts to get an
understanding of Soviet events. On the January 22 broadcast, Dan Rather
claimed "Bruce Morton sampled the debate in this country." But
Morton's "sampling" ranged from left to left: Ellen Mickiewicz
of the Jimmy Carter Center, Ed Hewitt of the Brookings Institution,
William Hyland of the liberal journal Foreign Affairs, and CBS
consultant and Nation contributor Stephen Cohen.
On February 3, anchor Bob Schieffer's
"Washington Notebook" segment rounded up another group of
experts: Jack Mendelsohn of the liberal Arms Control Association,
Raymond Garthoff of Brookings, and Daniel Hamilton of the Carnegie
Endowment. Since no conservatives were included in either group, MediaWatch
can only conclude that only liberals have sufficient
"expertise" for CBS.
PRIME TIME PRAVDA.
ABC's search for better ratings for Prime Time Live (PTL)
finally led to the Kremlin. Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer squandered
the rare opportunity to look behind the Kremlin's walls. PTL repeated
the tired myth that communism made life better for Russians. Discussing
the show on Good Morning America, Sawyer proclaimed, "you
realize the weight of the oppression, really, of 400 years under the
tsars...you also see the vast, the startling difference when the Soviets
came into power." It's hard to claim the system that Lenin built
lightened the weight of oppression.
The show also repeated the myth of
Lenin's charisma. "The man himself retains an almost mystical hold
on the Soviet people," Sawyer asserted, "back in 1917, it was
Lenin who fired up an entire country with his bold dream of communist
equality." That's why it took bloody civil war until 1925 to force
all of the Russians under the yoke, and until World War II to get
control of the Baltic nations.
GORBY GROUPIES. Since
they named him Man of the Decade, Time's editors continue to
stick up for Gorbachev, no matter how far they have to stretch the
facts. A January 22 piece by Associate Editor Jill Smolowe on
Gorbachev's trip to Lithuania offered a goo example. "He touched
down in Vilnius the dignified statesman ...the Soviet President proved
himself a master of street theater." Smolowe gushed: "Never
had Gorbachev sustained such an energetic performance." For Smolowe,
"Thomas Jefferson could not have asked for a better illustration of
democracy in action." Not mentioned: the trip was a failure for
An unattributed article following
Smolowe's asked "Could Lithuania Go It Alone?" The author
answered that "if the Baltic state were ever to declare its
complete independence from the U.S.S.R., that freedom would carry a
price." And what is that price? "Most of Lithuania's
factories, buildings, highways, trains, communication systems -- pretty
much everything except the kitchen sink -- belong to the Soviet
state....presumably Lithuania would have to compensate Moscow in some
way for what it takes away with it." Time might have
suggested Gorbachev compensate Lithuania for invading and forcing
Lithuanians to work in those factories in the first place.
SCHIEFFER'S SMOG. Recent
CBS environmental reports have been long on hype and short on facts. Dan
Rather introduced a January 22 CBS Evening News report:
"In the words of one lawmaker it is 'a test of our ability as a
society to come to grips with problems that are part of what is now the
most dangerous threat to our nation and our species.'" Washington
Correspondent Bob Schieffer piped in that "in the '80s nothing much
was done" since Reagan questioned "if cleaning up the air is a
good idea." He applauded that "for the first time in a decade,
major legislation designed to reduce auto and industrial emissions will
be debated on the Senate floor."
Schieffer's story made viewers believe
that since "nothing much was done" by the government, nothing
improved without it. But CBS didn't mention a single fact about air
quality, so we thought we'd highlight syndicated columnist Warren
Brookes, who noted that since 1975, all indicators of air quality have
improved, with sulphur dioxide carbon monoxide, suspended particles,
lead, and ozone each down at least 20 percent, some much more.
Schieffer brushed over industry concerns
about added costs, but didn't mention how they might hurt the effort to
improve air quality. As Brookes explained, higher car prices from
tighter emission controls result in less turnover of older cars, meaning
longer lifespans for pre-1981 models, which cause nearly all the auto
emissions that CBS is so worried about.
GOOD MORNING PYONGYANG.
On January 25, Good Morning America co- host Charles Gibson
discussed the future of U.S. troops in South Korea with two experts. One
declared that the reason North Korea "has the posture they have is
because they fear the power of the American forces, particularly the
American nuclear forces, and the only way they think that they can
counter that is to build up a very powerful offensive force of their own
so they'd make the cost of any move into North Korea so great that we
wouldn't do it."
When Gibson pointed out that the mentally
"unstable" leaders of North Korea were working on nuclear
weapons, the expert shot back, "Well what would you do if you faced
American nuclear weapons? Wouldn't you try to develop your own nuclear
weapons to counteract them?" Finally, Gibson was told that
"there are hawks and doves in North Korea...and the problem for the
United States is to do things that will strengthen the doves, not the
So who was this expert? Richard Barnet of
IPS? Noam Chomsky? No, it was Selig Harrison, a Senior Associate of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who served The
Washington Post as a South Asia correspondent (1962-65), an
editorial writer (1966-67), a North East Asia correspondent (1968-72)
and finally as national affairs reporter (1972-74).
LET'S SPEND MORE. If
you're a liberal and want greater spending on social programs, CBS will
do your bidding. When the National Urban League released its annual
report on black America, CBS' Mark Phillips use the January 9 Evening
News to parrot the sound- bites of the Urban League President John
Jacob: "By the Urban League's arithmetic, 50 billion dollars in
saved military costs a year should be spent on education, housing,
health care, and job training for American minorities."
CBS aired no one who doubted that this
new "urban Marshall Plan" was needed because of "the
hopelessness of those up against the wall here." Phillips
concluded: "The Urban League calls the '90s a window of opportunity
for equality at home and competitiveness abroad. But action, it says, is
needed now, or that window will slam shut for good."
AND MORE. Correspondent
Bob Faw tried to top Phillips' imbalance in a January 26 report on black
college enrollment. Faw cited a ten percent decline in college
enrollment over the last decade. Faw and every one of his sources saw
these figures as "killing hope for a better life and helping to
create a lost generation of Americans." Perhaps CBS News should
examine the Census Bureau figures cited by Ben Wattenberg in the January
22 U.S. News & World Report, which showed that since 1980
the number of black college graduates has gone up 30 percent while
doubling to over two million.
MY, HOW TIME SPIES.
During his stint with Time during the Vietnam War, Boston
Globe Assistant Editor H.D.S. Greenway became chums with fellow Time
correspondent Pham Xuan An. In a January 21 Washington Post "Outlook"
section piece Greenway reminisced on the old Vietnam days, and the
friend that gave journalists insights into the enigmatic country in
which they found themselves.
Greenway later learned, however, that An
was a communist working for the Viet Cong, a dedicated operative
purposefully undermining American efforts. An used his press pass to
gain access inside the South Vietnamese military, then briefed the Viet
Cong on U.S. strategy. But the revelation that his buddy was a
subversive imposter did not disturb Greenway. Rather, he became irate at
the "right-wingers [who] seized on the An story to say that the
press had fallen victim to a fiendish disinformation plot." How
else could you explain it?
LISA'S LIBERALISM. You
can forget about getting both sides in the abortion debate from NBC News
reporter Lisa Myers. On the January 20 Nightly News, Myers was
in Missouri, where the Supreme Court's Webster decision made
abortion illegal in public hospitals.
Myers' only sources to comment on the
change: an abortion clinic staffer and a representative of Planned
Parenthood. Latching on to "pro-choice" language, Myers
lamented: "For poor women, who rely on public hospitals, an
abortion is no longer even an option. The law means most must continue
On the January 22 Nightly News,
Myers added her spin again in reporting on the decline in the number of
doctors willing to do abortions. Myers wrapped up her story this way:
"Some clinic operators say the growing shortage of doctors may be
the biggest threat to the widespread availability of abortion. They warn
that victories in the courts and statehouses will be hollow if the
battle in the streets is lost." Of course, pro-lifers would be
happy to have "hollow" victories for abortionists, but Myers
didn't report their side of the story.
Anti-abortion activists "call themselves pro- life," NBC
anchor Tom Brokaw told Nightly News viewers on January 22. But
coverage of the January 22 March for Life showed how reporters continued
to use the negative "anti-abortion" label for one side of the
debate while using the positive and euphemistic "pro-choice"
label for the other.
NBC's Robert Hager covered the march in
typical form: it pitted "anti-abortion demonstrators" vs. the
"pro-choice side," as leaders of "pro-choice groups"
held a counterdemonstration. At a nearby clinic, "anti-abortion
demonstrators" were arrested while "pro-choice
demonstrators" taunted them. The state legislatures, Hager said are
divided into "anti-abortion" and "pro-choice" camps.
ABC's Jim Wooten related the day's events
as a protest by "tens of thousands who oppose abortion" and a
counter-protest by "advocates of abortion rights." John Martin
of ABC also kept the positive side for the pro-abortion camp. In his
report, "those who oppose abortion rights" were pitted against
"those who favor abortion rights." Abortion
"opponents" in Pennsylvania have "succeeded in getting
restrictions on abortion" while "abortion rights advocates
have gained victory after victory" in other states. Republicans, of
course, "have taken the most restrictive position."
DOING BARNEY'S DUTY. For
years liberals have been trying to repeal the McCarran-Walter Act, a
fight most recently led by Barney Frank. Now, liberals have NBC on their
side. A January 27 Nightly News piece looked at the act,
enacted during the '50s to bar entry into the U.S. by those who
expressed revolutionary and communist views. Anchor Garrick Utley called
it "a law whose time has clearly passed...from the days when people
were afraid of communists and true freedom of speech." The piece
glibly called for its repeal, with reporter Henry Champ noting it caused
America to be "ridiculed elsewhere in the world." Utley
suggested that glasnost has made the law obsolete and Champ agreed,
"Communism is just not a threat anymore here in America."
BETTER RED AND DEAD. The
Washington Post can't even keep bias out of the obituaries. Last
June, when a succession of McCarthy era figures died, including Owen
Lattimore and Alger Hiss, they were described in headlines as
"victims of McCarthyism" and never as communists.
The Post burnished its bad
reputation on January 28 with a glowing news story on a memorial service
for far-left defense attorney Leonard Boudin, who for many years was
general counsel for the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, a Communist
front. "Civil Liberties Attorney Embraced Constitution," read
the headline. Post reporter Paula Span ran an old Boudin quote:
"I could never embrace an ism...I did embrace the
Constitution." But Boudin, was fond of one "ism" the Post
didn't report -- communism. He was a member of the Communist Party, USA.
The father of Kathy Boudin, in prison for
a 1981 Weather Underground armed robbery, Boudin was remembered by the Post
for defending "victims of McCarthyism" during "what has
been called the American Inquisition of the late '40s and '50s."
Span added that "More than once, he was referred to as having been
the best constitutional lawyer in the United States."
BETTER RED AND DEAD II. The
Soviet Union and abortion rights continue to dominate TBS and CNN
Chairman Ted Turner's personal agenda. In October, his left-wing Better
World Society awarded its annual Better World Medals. Planned Parenthood
President Faye Wattleton garnered the "Population
Stabilization" Medal, while Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded a medal
for "Peace Advocacy and Arms Reduction." One of Turner's
equally liberal media competitors, Time Inc., received the
"Communications" award for 1989. Past recipients include:
Communist China for "Population Stabilization" in 1988 and the
team of Vladimir Posner and Phil Donahue for "Communications"
Sponsorship of PBS Show
America's Century Draws
Criticism. The December Janet Cooke Award went to the Public
Broadcasting Service for distributing America's Century,
narrated by Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham. The series was originally
produced and aired in Britain under the name American Power.
Economist Milton Friedman was one of the few conservatives featured in
the six-part series.
After reviewing a transcript of the
program, Friedman told MediaWatch: "Lapham
chose very selectively quotes of mine where he could either use them as
things to attack or where, while entirely correct, they could be viewed
as consistent with his own view....Many of my quotes are put in the
context which gives a very erroneous impression....They are put in a
context and used in a way so that anybody who heard the program would
certainly not come away with a view I would want them to come away
In a letter to DHL Worldwide Express
Chairman Patrick Foley, MediaWatch called the
series "anti-American, largely factually inaccurate, and --
consequently -- devoid of any educational benefit." MediaWatch
asked if DHL was still happy with their sponsorship and prepared to
continue funding similar projects. Reacting to the letter, Director of
Marketing Services Richard Rossi was unwavering in his support for the
series: "I don't know what we will be doing in the future. We are
happy with the show. I don't think Lapham is a traitor to his country. I
can understand differences of opinion, but the vehemence of your
reaction is puzzling."
NEWSWEEK (DOWN) BIAS
Wisdom" (CW) feature just celebrated its second birthday, and only
liberals enjoyed the party. Since the election of George Bush, this
'wisdom' has specialized in bashing Bush, Republicans, and their
policies while Democrats and liberalism have escaped largely unscathed.
Almost every time the CW dealt with politicians, Newsweek has
presented its readers with toe-the-line liberalism in the guise of
enlightened political analysis.
In a conversation with MediaWatch,
Senior Editor Jonathan Alter, a former Ralph Nader worker who authors
the CW, claimed innocence for the disparity. He said he was merely
reporting what he saw as the CW, "the Beltway thinking" of the
"elites, pundits, bureaucrats, observers, hacks, etc." After
reading the CW, the question arises: is Newsweek capable of
detecting any conservative opinions to use in its appraisal of the CW?
The facts say no.
A MediaWatch study
found substantial evidence of a liberal slant in the 39 political CW's
from the 1988 election until the recent February 5 issue. Republicans
from the Bush Administration, Congress, and elsewhere made 68
appearances but a paltry 14 were positive, as opposed to 43
"Down" arrows and 11 "Even" ratings. Although the CW
included Democrats only 38 times, about half as often, they received the
same 14 "Up" grades, with only 15 negative and 9 ambivalent
ratings. Nearly all of these criticisms came at the expense of 'leaders'
embroiled in ethics disasters, whereas Republicans rated poorly simply
for conservative policies.
Amazingly, as Americans judged Bush more
and more successful, Newsweek went 17 ratings in a row without
a single positive CW from January 30, 1989 until January 22, 1990. When
told how his appraisal of the CW repeatedly bashed the President, Newsweek's
Alter said, "I'm really surprised by that," and noted that the
string was recently broken. True, but the reason was Bush's "goofy
good luck" (1/22/90). Among the many gems of CW partisanship in the
President's 22 appearances: March 20: "Down: Holds press conference
to deny he is Jimmy Carter"; April 17: "Down: Huge Ollie spill
spreads Iran-contra goo toward Kennebunkport"; July 24: "Even:
Still on a lucky streak but missed chances in Europe. He's no JFK in
Berlin." And the abortive Panama coup inspired a CW box comment,
"It was Dukakis who was said to be vulnerable to
foreign-policy fiascos" (10/16/89).
Called "Pin-striped retreads"
(1/16/89), Bush's Cabinet and staff have fared no better in the CW, with
only 5 "Up" arrows out of 24 ratings. Dick Cheney's three
positive showings were offset by a "Down" arrow apiece for
Richard Thornburgh, C. Boyden Gray, Brent Scowcroft, and William
Bennett. Nicholas Brady and James Baker were each twice a victim, as was
John Sununu, savaged in a off- base CW introduction: "...Those CW
meisters who predicted he'd last only six months believe they're right
on schedule" (3/6/89). Combative Republicans always raise the ire
of the liberal establishment: Lee Atwater was no exception. The
Republican National Committee memo on Tom Foley caused the CW to get
downright partisan: "Atwater: Down:...New CW: adolescent Joe
McCarthy"..."Bush: Down: Refusal to fire Atwater confirms
'kinder, gentler' line was a hoax" (6/19/89). And predictably, Dan
Quayle hit the CW chart seven times without a single "Up"
Meanwhile, Democrats were garnering a
nearly even distribution of ratings. Somehow, the CW found space to
praise suspects like Mario Cuomo, Tony Coelho -- "Up:...New CW:
martyr to the cause of decency" (6/12/89) -- and Jimmy Carter:
"Even: If only he could have been as good a President as he is
ex-President" (11/6/89). After the RNC memo, Newsweek
deified Foley: "Up: Deft handling of GOP slurs confirms he'll be
the greatest Speaker since Sam Rayburn" (6/19/89). Since many
prominent targets such as Ted Kennedy never faced CW analysis, Alter
felt obliged to explain the dearth of Democratic appearances: "The
CW doesn't care about the Democrats. They're not important."
Of course, a trio of discredited leaders,
Jim Wright, Marion Barry, and Barney Frank, accounted for almost all of
the Democratic criticism. Pressed to name Democrats the CW criticized
who weren't stained by ethics violations, Alter pointed to Richard
Gephardt's 1988 campaign, saying, "he got his share of down
arrows." Wrong: Gephardt was the CW favorite son then, with eight
"Up" arrows in 11 tries during his campaign.
The foreign policy of the CW could have
been written by Jesse Jackson. Note the matter-of-fact adjective in this
snippet: "John Tower was not rejected for his central role in a
flawed military build-up" (3/20/89). Anti-peacenik leaders Margaret
Thatcher and Helmut Kohl felt the CW wrath, as did Reagan's peace
through strength commitment: "Rambo: Down: Hang up your rocket
launchers, tough guy. We won the Cold War without them" (12/25/89).
The October 2 CW knocked Bush diplomacy toward the Soviet Union:
"Down:...'Watch and wait' is too little, too late." And Panama
provided some insipid analysis, as Pres-ident Endara's election victory
didn't matter in a post-invasion appearance: "Down: This
is the face of Panama's democratic future? Where's his support?"
Not surprisingly, Mikhail Gorbachev was
idolized while Ronald Reagan headed to the CW dustbin of history.
Reagan's CW after the Bush Inaugural wondered, "...will history's
arrows always point up?" But not even his 1989 arrows did:
"Down:...HUD scandal. Thank God for the 22nd Amendment"
(7/24/89). Meanwhile, Gorbachev basked in the CW sun, "Down"
only once since the birth of the CW. It had "another Gorbasm"
(12/19/88), and noted on the Berlin Wall collapse that, "Up: Mr.
Bold doesn't try to take credit. The CW believes he deserves it"
(11/20/89). The outlandish comparisions culminated in the 1980's finale:
"Reagan: Down: Great politician, great guy-- just like Warren G.
Harding"..."Gorbachev: Up:... ain't no arrow high enough. A
true 20th-century hero" (12/25/89).
It appears the Conventional Wisdom isn't
changing, as the February 5 issue took CW potshots at Bush's son, his
plane, his drug policy, his carpet, and his abortion stance. As Alter
admitted, Newsweek has found it fun to present the liberal CW
that specializes in criticizing Republicans. But since the CW judgments
could have hardly been more wrong, perhaps Newsweek's
readership would be better served if occasionally they branched out with
a CW that examined other opinions, instead of repeatedly trotting out
the tired formula of inside-the-Beltway liberalism.
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