Reporters Warn "Deep Cuts" in Social Programs Can't Be Met by Charities
Deck the Cuts with Gusts of Folly
As the holidays approach, Americans can enjoy certain
holiday traditions: shopping, caroling, and panicked media reports on
unprecedented suffering for the poor. This year's angle: charities can't
make up for "deep cuts" in social programs. Time's David Van
Biema warned on December 4: "Those who work in charity expect a new
cascade of the homeless, the hungry, and the abused to spill out of the
government's shrinking safety net and turn to the private sector for
CBS Evening News reporter Eric Engberg used the same
theme in a December 5 "Reality Check," claiming: "The
federal cuts mean that for the charities to stay even, private
contributions will have to soar 16-fold. For charities to replace all
the federal aid to the poor that's being cut, private giving will have
to grow 40 times faster than it ever has."
ABC World News Tonight reporter Kevin Newman contended
on December 3: "To make up for proposed Republican spending cuts,
an average-size church would have to fill every pew and more than double
its donations. Leaders of all faiths have written Congress warning they
can't provide that much more."
What numbers did the reporters provide to verify these
"deep cuts" in social programs? ABC used none. Time used
President Clinton's Office of Management and Budget figure of "$515
billion over seven years from programs affecting the poor." But are
these actual reductions in spending, or just more reductions in growth
from an arbitrary baseline? Time didn't say.
Unlike past years, reporters pointed out private
charities are dependent on federal funds. CBS claimed the
"cuts" would cost charities "$260 billion over seven
years." That number resembles figures put together by Independent
Sector (IS), a liberal alliance of nonprofits that fights for more
federal funds. Time also used the IS numbers. But the reports did not
focus on these groups' self-interest in federal funds or their
ideological commitment to statism. The Capital Research Center quoted IS
President Sara Melendez: "[Nonprofits] must not be asked to assume
tasks properly performed by government with its vastly greater
resources." ABC and CBS did air soundbites of conservative Arianna
Time's Van Biema interviewed conservative Marvin
Olasky, who he said argued "there is so much flab and inefficiency
in both welfare and the big charities that small, nongovernment-funded
groups, in sufficient number, would get better results." But Van
Biema allowed another social service provider to end the story,
predicting the GOP 's plans "will become painfully obvious to
average Americans when they see levels of pain and suffering never
Crossing Into Crossfire
Michael Kinsley's decision to leave the liberal chair
on CNN's Crossfire has created a much coveted opening. The Washington
Post reported November 10 that 30 people had contacted the network.
While Robert Novak, a columnist, and John Sununu, a former presidential
aide, alternate weeks on the conservative side, a reporter may get the
Two of the four people being "personally
recruited" by CNN President Tom Johnson, a revolver who toiled as a
top aide to President Johnson, are journalists: long-time Los Angeles
Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson and Time columnist Margaret
Carlson, a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Consumer Product
Safety Commission during the Carter years.
Carlson, a former Time Deputy Washington Bureau Chief,
took the liberal chair for two nights. At the conclusion of the show,
normally one host says "From the left, I'm" and gives their
name, followed by the other saying, "From the right..." Not
Carlson. On November 13 and 14 she signed off "From Washington, I'm
Margaret Carlson. Good night for Crossfire," baffling Novak:
"I'm, ah, from the right, you almost confused me, I'm Robert
This after Carlson spent the previous half hour
hitting U.S. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) with points right out of the
House Democratic talking points on the budget: "Medicare can be
discussed when we get to the merits of the budget, not when you're
trying to shove a revolution down the President's throat....The capital
gains tax benefit goes dramatically to the top ten percent of income
earners," and "Wouldn't it look fairer if you were proposing
these spending cuts without the tax cut? The spending cuts wouldn't need
to be so savage."
Two Capitol Hill liberals have tapped print media
veterans to head their press operations, Roll Call reported November 30.
Dan Holly, who covered city hall for Knight Ridder's Detroit Free Press
for the past two and a half years, is the new Press Secretary for U.S.
Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.). Earlier, he worked for the Newark
Star-Ledger and Miami Herald....Senator Carol Moseley-Braun has hired
Read Scott-Martin as her Communications Director. Roll Call reported
that he "was a United Press International reporter in both
Washington and St. Louis until 1991." He joined UPI's D.C. bureau
in 1990, covering PAC finances "and working on the foreign desk
during the Persian Gulf War." In 1988 he was a press aide in
Democrat Richard Gephardt's presidential effort, in 1992 he worked for
Senator Bob Kerrey's presidential run, and in 1994 he directed research
for Pennsylvania's unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Mark
New to McHugh
Congressman John McHugh, a New York Republican, has
brought aboard ABC News veteran Robin Wolfgang as his Press Secretary.
After helping produce video news releases for the Bush-Quayle campaign,
in late 1992 she joined ABC's Washington bureau, putting in a brief
stint as a production assistant for Good Morning America. A few months
later, she told MediaWatch, she began handling production for Political
Director Hal Bruno's weekly radio show before taking a production
associate slot with the now-defunct TV show Day One.
TV Ignores Travelgate Acquittal
Who's Billy Dale?
Billy Dale had booked flights for the White House
press corps since John F. Kennedy was President, but when the Clinton
White House's effort to justify firing the travel office staff was
proven groundless, the press corps was missing in action. The ousted
White House travel director was acquitted of embezzlement
charges on November 16.
The acquittal failed to generate any mention on ABC,
CBS or NBC nightly newscasts, nor CNN's World News. No TV
magazine shows rushed to book Dale. Among the morning news shows only
Morning America had a brief
mention of the acquittal on the 17th. PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
also had a brief mention. The New York Times and Time
ignored Dale's vindication while Newsweek and U.S. News
squeezed in brief notices. The Washington Post and Washington
Times highlighted the news November 17, and the next day had stories
quoting Dale specifically blaming the President, but that still failed
to interest the networks.
In May of 1993 Dale was fired and accused of
mismanagemtent, including taking kickbacks. "An internal White
House investigation later showed that Hollywood producer Harry Thomason,
the President's distant cousin Catherine Cornelius and several other
aides improperly schemed to take over the office for personal
gain," reported the November 17 Washington Times.
Later the White House offered jobs to five dismissed
Dale aides while Dale was prosecuted. According to The Washington
Post the FBI "examined every check he, his wife, Blanche, and
their three adult children had ever written, trying to find evidence
that Dale had used $68,000 in money the news media paid to cover costs
of traveling with the President."
Dale and his family were subjected to the type of
persecution from the Clinton administration and the government that
would usually warrant an outcry in the journalistic community. "I
feel like the victims of Ruby Ridge and Waco. The only difference is
they didn't use guns on us," Dale told the Post.
What's particularly puzzling about the Dale blackout
by the networks was that several prominent journalists, including ABC's
Sam Donaldson, actually testified on Dale's behalf.
New York Times Magazine Decries "Conservative Attack Machine" Against Dole Aide
DeParle's Drama of Destruction
Sheila Burke is Bob Dole's Chief of Staff. She is also
the center of a small controversy revolving around the question: How
conservative is Bob Dole? Some conservatives contend Burke has used the
power Dole has granted her to undermine conservative goals. Writers such
as Robert Novak and Paul Weyrich have identified Burke as a problem if
Dole wishes to win conservative votes.
This small gathering of criticism was blown up on the
cover of the November 12 New York Times Magazine into "The Campaign
to Demonize Sheila Burke: The Conservative Attack Machine Strikes
Again." The cover featured Burke's picture with red horns sketched
out of her head.
Inside the magazine, the headline read: "Sheila
Burke Is the Militant Feminist Commie Peacenik Who's Telling Bob Dole
What to Think." That was followed by the subhead: "Well, no.
She's just the Senator's moderate chief of staff, the latest victim of
the conservative attack machine." For wallowing in a conspiracy he
couldn't prove, reporter Jason DeParle earned the Janet Cooke Award.
DeParle focused on the conservatives' "attack dog
wing proficient at demonizing individuals, whether through Willie Horton
ads or talk radio hosts who label Hillary Rodham Clinton a `feminazi.'
When it comes to vilification, the left isn't always more virtuous:
recall Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. But for now it has little of the
right's fervor, finances and reach."
The Times reserved one page for a listing of
"specialists in bare-knuckle attacks on political opponents."
Listed, among others, were Rush Limbaugh ("pioneer of `anything
goes' commentary"), Robert Novak ("cultivates a snarling
image"), R. Emmett Tyrrell ("Clinton hater"), Floyd Brown
("all-around attack entrepreneur"), and The Washington Times
(a "broadsheet mix of fact and rumor.") "Victims"
included Anita Hill, Vince Foster, Hillary Clinton ("talk radio's `feminazi'")
and Bill Clinton ("`Slick Willie' or worse in direct-mail
Burke also made the list of "victims,"
although she has yet to be fired, demoted, or otherwise embarrassed.
Apparently, Burke was "demonized" as a liberal Republican. But
DeParle hailed Burke's openly pro-abortion views and told of Burke
"dispensing a $20 million gift to a New York Democrat -- one
insisting, at that very moment, that the Republican bill will flood the
streets with orphans. But Burke thinks the study worthwhile." The
study requested by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan claimed a million
children would be hurt by the Republican welfare reform, and drew major
How did this "conservative attack machine"
work against Burke? DeParle reported Novak wrote an anti-Burke column in
the spring of 1994. Then this year, one Senator called New York Times
columnist William Safire "urging him to expose Burke as a moderate.
[Safire didn't.] So something was already in the air when Novak fired
his shot in late June."
DeParle continued: "The subsequent chronology
would look awfully suspicious to a conspiracy buff...The Wall Street
Journal's op-ed piece was written by John Fund, a former Novak research
assistant. Fund, in turn, quoted Weyrich. Weyrich then followed up,
hitting Burke with both a television commentary and a column in The
Washington Times. Novak, meanwhile, is the host of a show on Weyrich's
network. Mmmmm. Sounds like a plot."
After noting that Weyrich denied a conspiracy, DeParle
admitted: "Weyrich is probably telling the truth when he disavows
any formal plan. Then again, who needs a plan?"
DeParle complained about the role of the "attack
machine" in Burke's fame: "Of course the whole thing would
have gone unnoticed by anyone beyond the movement faithful had the
mainstream press not picked it up. The Burke story reincarnates an old
problem: covering an attack campaign inevitably helps the attackers by
keeping the story alive....Once the Burke story was in play, it echoed
everywhere despite the emptiness of the accusations."
But DeParle did not discover that Burke surfaced
earlier in the March 28, 1994 U.S. News & World Report, where Gloria
Borger paired her with Hillary Clinton, titling the article "Health
Reform's Other Woman." As for the "emptiness" of calling
Burke a liberal, Borger wrote that "Clintonites try to figure out
what Burke is thinking -- and take some comfort in her open devotion to
[health] reform." With articles like that in mind, the November 27
Weekly Standard critiqued DeParle's attack-machine thesis: "A
computer search has turned up seven conservative pieces totalling about
6,000 words attacking Burke. And a total of 15 totalling 23,000 words
From DeParle's position on the political spectrum, he
could not believe Burke would be accused of being a liberal, most of all
on health care. "It would be a flattering, if true....There is, in
fact, a case to be made against Burke and her boss, but it's the
opposite one: following the polls, they dashed all hope of a health care
breakthrough, disowning even the moderates' bill, which Dole himself had
endorsed the year before."
DeParle not only found conspiracy on the right but
repressed psychological problems: "The portrayal of Burke as a
feminist Svengali may say more about the phobias of her critics than it
does about her." Later, he added: "There is also what sounds
like a lot of old-fashioned fretting about a woman's achieving
power." To drive home the repressed-male-chaunivist angle, DeParle
implied the claim that "if you like Hillary Clinton, you'll love
Sheila Burke" came from men: Burke replied "I'm strong-willed
and I'm independent, and I see women as fully capable as men of doing
anything they choose." DeParle did not report Andrea Sheldon of the
Traditional Values Coalition claims authorship of the phrase. Sheldon
told MediaWatch: "That's the worst part of the article. Women also
disagree with her. I don't agree with her."
Sheldon appeared in the DeParle article concerning a
disagreeable meeting Burke held with conservatives about welfare reform.
DeParle wrote: "Conservatives wanted the bill's preamble to call
marriage `the foundation' of society. Burke sided with those suggesting
`a foundation.'" (Italics his). Heritage Foundation analyst Robert
Rector told MediaWatch DeParle was wrong: "The actual debate was to
substitute the word `family' for the word `marriage,' which goes to the
heart of the problem: the bill had no provisions dealing with
illegitimacy. The fight was over the substance of legislation she
brought to the floor, on an issue of fundamental importance to our
society, and DeParle chose to trivialize it." DeParle failed to
return repeated phone calls.
Why would the Times publish such a stew of personal
attacks and unproven conspiracies? Perhaps they're a broadsheet mix of
fact and rumor, a part of the liberal attack machine.
A Wee Bit Off.
A brief item on the November 9 NBC
Nightly News and a Washington Post story the next day were the only
major reports on an audit that could further damage the Clinton
administration's credibility. A General Accounting Office audit found
the President's Task Force on Health Care Reform spent $13.4 million,
instead of initial White House claims putting the cost "below
$100,000," later raised to $200,000. After ignoring the math of a
White House that spent $134 for every dollar they claimed to spend, one
can understand why reporters might not have done the math behind
A classic case of dirty Democratic
politics in Florida went unreported by the same vigilant media that
piled on GOP campaign consultant Ed Rollins in 1993. On November 9,
Florida's Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles admitted his 1994 campaign
placed scare calls to senior citizens in a successful last ditch attempt
to defeat his Republican opponent, Jeb Bush.
The November 10 Washington Post reported
"The scandal took off after Jim Krog, Chiles's former chief of
staff and senior campaign manager, admitted last Friday to reporters in
Tallahassee that he had authorized the calls and use of fictitious
fronts." The scare calls claimed Bush cheated on his taxes and that
his running mate wanted to "abolish" Medicare and Social
Security. The New York Times buried a story on page 39 while the network
morning and nightly news shows ignored it. Bush lost by less than 65,000
votes and a Chiles spokesman conceded 70,000 senior citizens received
the scare calls, many from the non-existent "Citizens for Tax
When Republican consultant Ed Rollins
claimed (falsely, it later turned out) that he paid black ministers to
encourage blacks not to vote in the 1993 New Jersey Governor's race, the
four networks aired 38 evening news stories in 20 days on what CBS
labeled a "dirty trick." The Los Angeles Times, New York
Times, USA Today, and Washington Post combined for a total of another 62
stories in the same time period, 15 on the front page.
Hiding HUD's Blacklist.
On June 14, CBS Evening News reporter
Eric Engberg warned that House Republicans were seeking to end federal
funding of liberal lobbyists by "drafting a bill to severely
restrict lobbying by any activist group that gets federal grant
money." He noted that some of the "targets include
unions" which are "regarded as opponents of the GOP
agenda." But CBS did not unleash Engberg when a November 23
Associated Press story revealed a union targeting Republicans. The other
networks also ignored the news of political blacklisting.
AP's Richard Keil began: "The week
President Clinton took office, the head of a federal employees union
sent Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros a list of agency workers that the
group said were anti-union, racist or aligned with Republicans."
John Sturdivant, President of the American Federation of Government
Employees, admitted that "these workers, most of them career senior
managers, could pose a `blocking mechanism' to the new administration's
policies." Keil noted that "eleven of those on the list were
career workers who by law are supposed to be free from political
pressures." Retired HUD worker Walter Sevier was described as a
"reported racist," but Keil found internal HUD records that
showed Sevier's office in Fort Worth "had the highest percentage of
minority workers among regional offices." The networks overlooked
Sturdivant's defense of the purge: "It was part of working with the
administration that we helped elect."
National reporters tried to insert race
into one gubernatorial campaign while ignoring its obvious presence in
another. On the November 16 World News Tonight, ABC's Jim Wooten called
the vote in Louisiana between white Democrat-turned-Republican Mike
Foster and black liberal Cleo Fields an example of how "more and
more whites are leaving the [Democratic] party, leaving it to a few
die-hard whites, to Cleo Fields and most of the blacks. What is
happening here is the steady resegregation of politics." Wooten
tarred Foster, noting he "has the endorsement of David Duke, the
former Klansman turned Republican." A GMA story made the same
The next day National Public Radio's John
Burnett got in the act: "Both Fields and Foster have tried to take
the high road by downplaying mentions of race, but it's been hard to
ignore. David Duke, who ran a divisive, racially tinged campaign four
years ago, has endorsed Mike Foster. Foster was asked why he hasn't
rejected Duke's endorsement." But later in the story, Burnett
allowed a Fields supporter to declare that Fields "epitomizes"
Louis Farrakhan's virtues.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, Secretary of
State Dick Molpus ran a radio ad against Republican incumbent Kirk
Fordice implying a vote for Fordice was a vote for segregation. In it, a
white-sounding voice intoned: "You go to the back of the bus,"
followed by a black-sounding voice: "Back of the bus, that's where
Kirk Fordice wants to put folk like you and me." Only USA Today
Aim for Bambi. In July, an ABC promo
promised "a series of reports about our environment which will tell
you precisely what the new Congress has in mind: the most frontal
assault on the environment in 25 years." That theme continued with
a November 20 Nightline. ABC inaccurately suggested Republicans were not
out to trim excessive regulations that cost billions for little
environmental benefit: they were out to clear the books of pollution
laws. Reporter Ned Potter described the grand Republican deception:
"It's worth remembering that the word environment never appeared in
the Contract with America, no mention of air or water....There was a lot
in the contract, though, about stripping away any government
regulation...Their elimination became nothing less than an ideological
crusade....So, almost from the outset, the new Republican majority set
out to reverse 25 years of environmental lawmaking." Potter
charged: "It became clear that the legislative assault was not just
coming from loggers and ranchers. It was, in fact, one of the
best-organized corporate lobbying efforts in years." Potter even
tossed in a Republican saying this "isn't what we voted for."
Potter concluded: "The Republicans
have handed their opponents a weapon for the '96 campaign." Host
Chris Wallace's first question to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska): "Now
it seems that the GOP is going after everything but Bambi. How
Partial News on Partial Birth. When the
House voted to ban partial birth abortions, most reporters looked for a
way not to describe the gruesome procedure or even mention its name. Dan
Rather warned on the November 1 CBS Evening News: "On Capitol Hill,
abortion is re-emerging as a national election issue. The House voted
overwhelmingly today to make a rarely used type of late-term abortion a
felony, a federal crime punishable by prison time for doctors who
perform it." CBS This Morning aired a whole report by Sharyl
Attkisson without describing the procedure. Only ABC's Good Morning
America and World News Tonight described the procedure: a doctor
partially delivers a baby 4 1/2 months old or older, then takes a pair
of scissors and thrusts them through the baby's skull. The baby's brain
is sucked out through a catheter.
There was no real effort to investigate
how many such abortions occur each year. The numbers ranged from
"100 to 400" in a November 13 U.S. News piece by Steven
Roberts to "13,000" in an ABC World News Now segment by Dick
Schaap. The networks also pretended these abortions are done solely
because of genetic defects or the mother's health. On the November 2 NBC
News at Sunrise, Ann Curry stated "The bill makes it a felony to
perform the procedure, which is mostly used to save the life of the
mother, or when the fetus has severe abnormalities." But one of the
foremost practitioners of partial birth abortions, Dr. Martin Haskell,
told the American Medical News: "In my particular case, probably 20
percent are for genetic reasons, and the other 80 percent are purely
Harry Hits the War Drums. In a cover
story on the November 12 CBS Sunday Morning, Harry Smith displayed his
disdain for GOP attempts to curb federal spending on social programs, in
this case federal aid to American Indians. Decrying how the U.S.
government simply stole land from the Indians in the mid-1800s, Smith
declared: "Now they and most of the nation's two million Indians
are about to lose more. Congress is hacking away at Indian support
programs....Cuts that are averaging 20 percent. Some call it
Smith looked at the Pine Ridge
Reservation in South Dakota where "there are no jobs for these
hunters" and where "unemployment is 85 percent. Virtually
everyone relies on federal aid." Smith concluded by portraying
Indians as helpless victims: "What makes it particularly harsh is
that many Sioux cannot accept the sacrifices in the here and now being
asked of them so that future generations of white folks may be a little
Instead of taking a hard look at why
things are bad for Indians on reservations -- lack of education, high
rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, and dependence on the
government -- Smith decided to go with the one-sided, liberal viewpoint
that more, not less, government support is needed. No one got any time
to suggest that total dependence is the core problem, as all five people
Smith interviewed for the story favored more spending. One man
"worries about the effect of the cuts on the Indian children"
as "tribal leaders see the coming cuts as the beginning of a
destructive cycle." One woman, an Indian artist, suggested that the
government wanted to "cut our throats eventually." Smith
insisted that "Indian art work, a successful $500 million a year
business, will also suffer. Congress has cut in half the budget for the
Institute of Native American Arts." Smith did not explain why a
thriving business venture would need government funding.
Post-Soviet Stress Disorder. Last
November it was Mary Williams Walsh reporting on the post-communist
collapse of child care in East Germany. This year it's a two-part series
from Sonni Efron on health care in Russia. The demise of communism keeps
driving the Los Angeles Times Column One into lamenting the decline in
social services in post-communist countries, as if communist statistics
are a reliable standard with which to measure decline, and communism is
a preferable alternative.
On November 12, Efron wrote "public
health officials have begun to point to alcohol abuse as a key factor in
an alarming decline in public health since the demise of the Soviet
Union." Efron noted that in the old Soviet Union, "Chronic
drunks were locked up in hospitals for treatment; if that failed, they
were sentenced to stints in special labor camps for alcoholics."
Sounding almost wistful, she noted "there is no totalitarian state
to brake antisocial or self-destructive behavior. Labor camps for
alcoholics have been closed."
The teaser for Part Two read: "Old
diseases pose new threats as Russia's sickly health care system starts
to collapse." The November 13 headline was even more stark:
"Post-Soviet Russia Slips Into Third World's Sickly Ranks."
Efron warned: "As the underfunded health system here slips into
critical condition, infectious diseases that had been nearly
extinguished by the now-defunct Soviet Union have returned with a
vengeance." Efron sounded like an advertisement for communism:
"For 70 years, the communist social contract held that Soviet
citizens might be poor -- and might have to wait decades for an
apartment or a car -- but that if they feel ill, the socialist workers'
state would look after them."
Networks Present One-Sided View of Public and Bureaucrats as Victims of Shutdown
Budget News Without Basic Numbers
In mid-November, President Clinton and
the GOP Congress disagreed over federal spending levels, causing a brief
partial shutdown of the federal government. Clinton objected to what he
called GOP cuts in education and Medicare and a hike in Medicare
premiums. Republicans countered that they were actually increasing
spending and the premium in their plan was merely $11 per month higher
Did the networks give equal weight to
both sides? MediaWatch analysts reviewed all of the stories on
evening newscasts (ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's
World News, NBC Nightly News) about the budget impasse from the day
before the government shutdown (November 13) through the day after its
end (November 20).
Of the 104 stories during the study
period, not a single one mentioned the actual levels of spending in
either the President's plan or the Republican plan. Not a single story
questioned the President's rhetoric about "destroying"
Medicare, when Republicans were proposing Medicare increases.
The study also found that reporters
promoted the Democratic spin on the impact of the shutdown on federal
workers and the public.
Spending. Not one of the 104 stories
pointed out that Republicans were proposing to spend $2.6 trillion more
over the next seven years than had been spent over the last seven, going
from $9.5 trillion to $12.1 trillion. None reported that under the GOP
plan, the annual budget in 2002 would be $267 billion higher than in
No story pointed out that on Medicare
alone, Republicans would spend $86 billion more in 2002 than in 1995,
allowing the program to grow more than 6 percent annually. None reported
that spending per Medicare recipient would soar from $4,800 to $7,100.
Only one story mentioned that the difference between the two parties on
Medicare premiums -- the reason Clinton gave for his veto -- was only
$11 per month.
Instead viewers heard about
"cuts." Dan Rather reported on the 16th: "Republicans
were still pumping out a stopgap budget certain to draw another
presidential veto, a bill containing what President Clinton called
tonight, quote, critical cuts in Medicare and other programs."
The next day, Tom Brokaw announced:
"The House today did pass a bill to balance the budget in seven
years with major cutbacks in big government programs and a tax cut of
$245 billion." On the same show, Lisa Myers said "the
President has promised to veto the bill because of what he calls extreme
cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment."
Federal Workers. There was near-universal
sympathy for furloughed federal workers. In all, there were 29
soundbites from laid-off federal workers. CBS's Bob McNamara asserted:
"There is frustration, too, for the people who get paid to solve
these kinds of problems, the federal workers sent home to cool their
heels while Congress and the President bicker over the budget."
According to NBC's John Palmer on
November 18, "To Tony Chapello and his pregnant wife Kelly, both
furloughed by the Social Security office in Kansas City, the shutdown is
more than an inconvenience." She told viewers: "I worry about
the medical bills, and I want to do the baby's room." Unlike the
private sector, laid-off government employees are later paid. Only CNN's
Brooks Jackson, on November 13, accurately described the time off:
"In effect a paid vacation."
Services. There were 24 stories about the
effect of the shutdown on public parks and public services. All but one
of them highlighted inconveniences to the public. None explored whether
bureaucrats, in deciding what services to shut down, had pursued a
"Washington Monument strategy" of stopping high-profile public
services to increase public outrage.
Most reporters simply assumed the
shutdown was a problem for the public. CNN anchor Kathleen Kennedy, the
night before the shutdown, warned that "the echoes of a government
shutdown would be felt from coast to coast. The gates of Lady Liberty at
New York would be closed. The same will happen at many other tourist
attractions, including the Washington Monument, Bunker Hill, and many
national parks. A lot of tourist plans will have to be changed if a
On November 17 ABC's Peter Jennings
opined that "as is evident to a lot of you, a lot of people around
the country are already paying deeply for this budget impasse."
According to Brokaw on November 17: "While the shutdown of the
federal government goes on, it is beginning to have a major ripple
effect well beyond Washington....Around the country a lot of people were
feeling the pain that even a partial shutdown is bringing."
Over at CBS, Linda Douglass, in addition
to national parks, found a unique angle: killer toys. "Imported
Christmas toys, which could be unsafe, are not being examined by safety
inspectors," she fretted on the 16th. Bob McNamara insisted that
"for Americans inside and outside the federal bureaucracy, this
week has been a hard lesson on what happens when big government goes
Other reporters, such as ABC's John
Martin and NBC's Lisa Myers, focused on passport offices being closed.
Martin complained on November 13: "Journalists won't be able to ask
questions at a State Department briefing, which will be canceled without
electricians to light the room."
No story explored why it was that these
high-profile services came to be deemed non-essential. Why were passport
offices and the State Department's press office deemed non-essential
when, according to The Washington Post, about 70 percent of State's
employees were considered essential and ordered to work? Or why were
some parks not closed until the third or fourth day of the shutdown?
Could it be for visuals of angry tourists?
The networks were also one-sided in
selecting the "people on the street" they aired about the
shutdown. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, reported November 15 that 51
percent considered the shutdown either a crisis (11 percent) or a major
problem (40 percent). Forty-seven percent of the public considered the
shutdown either a minor problem (33 percent) or not a problem at all (14
So about half of the citizens interviewed
would not consider the shutdown a problem, right? Wrong. Of the 74
"people on the street" interviewed, 67 considered the shutdown
to be a problem. Only seven didn't consider the shutdown a problem.
Only on network newscasts would spending
increases be called cuts, would people paid to take the day off be
portrayed as victims, and would half the public's opinion be ignored
during a government shutdown.
the Bright Side
"Al Capone of Apple Juice"
On November 17 the new CBS Evening News
feature "Bernard Goldberg's America" showed a country whose
government has lost all sense of proportion. Goldberg focused on Ben
Lacey, 73, a Virginia business owner who makes sparkling apple cider. He
is also a convicted felon. He could be sent to prison for up to 24
years, longer than most convicted murderers, and fined up to $2 million.
Goldberg noted, "He's even been called `the Al Capone of apple
What could he possibly have done to face
such prison time? Goldberg explained: "Ben Lacey is in big trouble,
not because he killed anyone or robbed a bank. No, it's a lot worse than
that: Ben Lacey has been convicted of falsifying environmental reports.
Each month he had to fill in numbers, numbers about how much oxygen and
nitrogen and ammonia was in the apple juice run-off and the bathroom
waste water that was being discharged into this tiny stream behind the
plant. The government found seven wrong entries that it said Lacey
intentionally falsified. Seven out of thousands."
Lacey says the incorrect entries were
mistakes, not intentional. Goldberg found that even a local
environmental group agreed the stream was not polluted. But the
bureaucrats won't bend: "The government says Lacey's no victim,
he's a big time polluter who years ago was fined for violating labor
laws involving his apple pickers...So whether he's the monster the
government says he is, or whether he's the victim of a bureaucracy run
amok, Ben Lacey could face 24 years in prison, and while no one really
thinks the judge will give him the maximum, at 73 he faces the
possibility of some time behind bars and a stiff fine."
Wehmeyer: Faith Works
Every once in a while the media admit
that sometimes the private sector is more efficient than government
bureaucracies. Even less often do they admit that religion can
accomplish something that government cannot. On the November 7 World
News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings made a startling discovery: "In
Texas there is a faith-based program which has been remarkably effective
in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. It does not cost the
taxpayers a cent."
ABC religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer
asserted: "At 130 Teen Challenge centers across the country,
addicts are taught that Jesus Christ, not Prozac or psychiatrists, can
help free them from addiction....A recent University of Tennessee study
showed that 70 percent of Teen Challenge graduates were drug free after
six months," compared with a state-funded rehab specialist's
suggestion that a 25 percent rate would be "very good."
Despite their success, Wehmeyer found Texas state auditors are looking
at revoking their license over, among other things, the accreditation of
the counselors: "Teen Challenge doesn't want to pay for training
they don't believe in. They use their own reformed addicts as
Media Mourn Moderates' Decline
In the wake of Colin Powell's campaign
retreat, CBS Sunday Morning host Charles Osgood asked November 19:
"Is there room under the Republican tent for points of view so
different from those of its most conservative wing?" Reporter Russ
Mitchell also asked: "Is there room in the Party of Lincoln for
moderates like Colin Powell?" CBS did not explore the question of
"room" for conservatives or moderates within the Democratic
party, since they keep tumbling out to join the Republican column.
Mitchell looked at the Pennsylvania GOP,
formerly dominated by moderates: "Professor Mike Young says
Pennsylvania Republicans tolerated each other because no one thought
ideologues could win state office. He fears [conservative Senator} Rick
Santorum could change that." Mitchell focused on theway
conservatives treat moderates, but did not examine the divisive
presidential campaign of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who attacked
the "intolerant Right."
Mitchell did mourn the Specter candidacy
by observing: "It appears moderate Republicans can win the
Governor's house, or the U.S. House or Senate, but when it comes to this
house [the White House] it may be a different story." Mitchell
concluded his story by warning: "The extreme right wing of the
party cheered when Colin Powell decided not to run, but polls show
two-thirds of Republicans view him favorably. General Powell and
moderates like him say they have no plans to go away."
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