Clinton If GOP's Extreme, Stahl Raps Dole for Criticizing Hillary
60 Minutes Does a 180 on Dole
Labor Day weekend marks the start of the campaign
season, and this year the 60 Minutes interviews with the two
presidential candidates demonstrated how it also corresponds with
another season of tilted coverage.
In his August 18 interview with Bill Clinton, Dan
Rather wasn't as interested in posing questions as setting up speeches:
"Some of your staff members, not by name, have been saying, `Yes, the
President thinks Bob Dole is a nice person and has been a pretty good
leader in some ways,' but, say they, `he's been captured by the
extremists in the Republican Party, the radical part of the Republican
Party, including Newt Gingrich.' Is that what you think?"
Rather then led Clinton through a set of GOP
convention speeches. He showed Dole charging Clinton led "a core of
elites who never grew up, did anything real, never sacrificed, never
suffered, and never learned." He played video of Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison mentioning the FBI files, and George Bush on the White House
being "diminished" since his wife left.
When Clinton's response wasn't strong enough, Rather
added: "I don't know of anyone in the convention who didn't take that as
a difference of the present First Lady and the former First Lady."
Rather insisted: "Don't you get mad, Mr. President, when this sort of
Two weeks later Lesley Stahl interviewed Bob Dole. But
in her September 1 talk she gave Dole less time to react to attacks.
Stahl didn't suggest Clinton is too far to the left and when Dole
complained about unfair attacks, she made him defend his criticisms.
Rather never argued with Clinton, but Stahl debated the advisability of
Dole's tax cut plan.
Stahl began by underlining the Democrats' decency: "At
the Democratic convention, a lot of Democrats were saying that Bob Dole
is a good and decent man, and even Bill Clinton made a point of saying
Bob Dole loves his country. I'm wondering what you think of Bill
Clinton. What kind of a man do you think he is?"
When Dole complained about Democratic attacks, Stahl
aired a convention clip of Al Gore saying Dole voted against creating
Medicare and Medicaid, Peace Corps and Head Start. She assumed such
votes would have been wrong: "Did you really vote against all these
things?" Then she turned on Dole, asking: "They say that you were unfair
in what you said about Hillary....Do you think you were unfair in what
you said to her?"
Stahl made Dole respond to 11 inquiries doubting the
tax cut. She demanded he explain how he's going to pay for it,
contending that in the '80s he was correct to oppose Reaganomics: "You
were right, it did explode the deficit."
In the Media
GOP Speeches Derided as "Clinton-Bashing,"
Bashing Dole Showed "Very Deep Passion"
A Stunning Contrast on Negativity
In 1992, the networks questioned the convention's tone
as too negative 70 times during the GOP convention, to zero at the
Democratic convention. This year, analysts again searched for
questioning of negative tone (such as the use of words like "attack" or
"bash"), and found a similar tilt.
At the GOP's San Diego convention, prime-time TV
analysts noted excessive Republican negativity 34 times, to one NBC
reference to Clinton "pummeling" Dole in TV ads. In Chicago, the
networks suggested excessive GOP negativity again on 23 occasions, to
only six for the Democrats. In total, the networks had a negativity gap
of 57 to 7.
GOP Convention. On August
13, keynoter Rep. Susan Molinari said: "Americans know that Bill
Clinton's promises have the lifespan of a Big Mac on Air Force One."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison remarked earlier: "America -- it's time to
wake up to President Clinton and his high-taxing, free-spending,
promise-breaking, Social Security-taxing, health care socializing,
drug-coddling, power- grabbing, business-busting, lawsuit-loving,
UN-following, FBI- abusing, IRS-increasing, 200-dollar-haircutting,
gas-taxing, over-regulating, bureaucracy-trusting, class-baiting,
privacy- violating, values-crushing, truth-dodging, Medicare-forsaking,
property-rights-taking, job-destroying friends."
Network Reaction: On NBC,
Tim Russert warned: "I think the speech by Senator Hutchison of Texas is
dangerous, Tom, because she uses words that could be interpreted by some
people as mean." Lisa Myers asked Hutchison: "Do you think you went too
far?" Tom Brokaw worried that the party knows "it has to lower the
threshold of perceived meanness" in the country.
On CBS, Dan Rather announced Hutchison was "expected
to hit President Clinton, rhetorically, with everything short of a tire
tube." CBS's Bob Schieffer told Sen. Hutchison: "I must say, it's Attack
Dog Hutchison tonight."
CNN's Judy Woodruff announced: "Well, they said it was
going to be a Clinton-bashing night at the Republican convention."
Bernard Shaw replied: "And the bashing will continue when the keynote
speaker, Susan Molinari, steps up there."
From the podium in Chicago on August 27, Jesse Jackson proclaimed:
"President Clinton has been our first line of defense against the Newt
Gingrich Contract, America's right-wing assault on our elderly, our
students, and our civil rights."
Mario Cuomo charged: "The Republicans are the real
threat. They are the real threat to our women. They are the real threat
to our children. They are the real threat to clean air, clean water, and
the rich landscape of America...in the end, Bill Clinton spells hope and
the Republicans spell disaster." The next night, Al Gore proclaimed
Republicans "want to give free reign to lobbyists for the biggest
polluters in America to rewrite our environmental laws, allowing more
poison in our air and drinking water."
On August 29, Sen. Ted Kennedy used the same literary
device that caused Hutchison to be bashed for negativity, in this case
describing the Republican platform: "It is the radical wish list of the
education-cutting, environmental-trashing, Medicare- slashing,
choice-denying, tolerance-repudiating, gay-bashing, Social
Security-threatening, assault-rifle-coddling, government- closing, tax
loophole-granting...minimum wage-opposing Republican majority..."
Network Reaction: Dan
Rather said of Jesse Jackson: "Mrs. Clinton received a ringing defense
during what was clearly the most stirring speech of the convention so
Oozed Brokaw: "The old lion has not lost its roar.
There are very few speakers left in America who can switch on a hall
like Jesse Jackson. He has done it so many times in the past. He began
tonight in more muted tones, but of course it's almost irresistible for
him, and it grows out of a very deep passion."
Russert added: "The crowd is letting loose a little
bit because the philosophy of Jesse Jackson is something they very much
ascribe to, and by him bridging the gap and endorsing Bill Clinton so
wholeheartedly, it's a plus for Bill Clinton."
"Convention rhetoric has not been much better than it
was tonight, particularly with Jesse Jackson," exclaimed CNN's Ken Bode.
CNN reporter Bob Franken asked Andrew Cuomo about his father: "You
really are a fan of his speaking style. It's amazing, isn't it?"
ABC's Jim Wooten noted wistfully of Cuomo: "That
old-fashioned voice, full-throated, fierce, raising the rafters...a
glimpse of conventions past, when liberals were still the lions of the
party, and rhetoric roared."
When Gore accused the Republicans of advocating
pollution, CBS reporter Bob Schieffer mysteriously insisted it was the
opposite of nastiness: "This was an old-fashioned political speech, the
kind of speech that politicians used to give before politics turned so
nasty with all those commercials on television."
On Kennedy, Brokaw came out of the speech on NBC/PBS:
"Still in full voice after all these years in the United States Senate.
The proud champion of the liberal cause, addressing this convention hall
once again as he does every four years."
Bode observed: "You need a partisan speech, one that
puts it to the other party. You get it at any convention. Ted Kennedy
does it as well as anybody could do it. Elder statesman of the party.
TV Analysts Label Democrats Twice As Often, But
Fire Mostly Liberal Questions in Chicago
The Spin: Both Parties Too Conservative
The networks had big news from the Democratic
convention in Chicago: liberals exist in the Democratic Party, and they
didn't like President Clinton's decision to sign a welfare reform bill.
From both the Republican and Democratic conventions, the networks
relayed the same message: the parties had become too conservative.
During the Chicago convention:
Democratic delegates, speakers, and candidates were labeled twice as
often as the Republicans were in San Diego, although they were labeled
as extreme only one-fourth as often;
and anchors posed almost five times as many questions from the left as
from the right, a much more liberal questioning agenda than the
Democratic convention four years ago; and
controversy over welfare reform dominated the convention story line,
while the Democrats' abortion-on-demand stance and exclusion of some
pro-life speakers garnered no network mentions in prime time.
- As during the Republican convention, MediaWatch
analysts watched live prime-time coverage of the Democratic convention
for a special daily Media Reality Check '96 newsletter. Analysts
watched all ABC, CBS, and NBC prime time coverage, as well as the
combined PBS/NBC broadcast and CNN starting at 8 pm Eastern time.
- Previous convention studies in 1984, 1988, and 1992
found the Republicans were tagged as conservative or very conservative
far more often than the Democrats were called liberal or very liberal,
with reporters instead playing up the moderate nature of Democratic
candidates and delegates. In 1992, Republicans drew 131 labels, 118
(90 percent) of them conservative; the Democrats had 89 labels, 51 (57
percent) of them moderate or conservative.
- In 1996, the Republicans were labeled only 59
times, 46 of them (78 percent) conservative; while the Democrats were
labeled twice as often, on 119 occasions, and 75 of those tags (63
percent) were liberal, to only 44 moderate or conservative labels. The
Republicans were still four times as likely to be described as extreme
as the Democrats -- 16 to 4 -- but the Democrats were never described
as extremely liberal in 1992.
- ABC (with three moderate/conservative labels and 15
liberal tags) was the network most willing to underline the liberal
nature of the party gathered in Chicago, while CBS (8
moderate/conservative, 10 liberal) CNN (13-20), NBC-PBS (15-24), and
NBC (5-6) held to a more traditional percentage of moderate labeling.
Labeling decreased nightly -- from 40 on Monday, to 35 on Tuesday, to
13 on Wednesday -- and then jumped back up to 31 on Thursday, when the
departure of Dick Morris spurred speculation about Clinton's
post-Morris ideological positioning.
- In 1992, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and the Democratic
platform were never described as liberal. In 1996, Clinton was
described as moderate on 28 occasions and liberal on 16 occasions, but
almost always as a tactical function of "moving to the left" or
"moving to the right." In San Diego, the Republican platform was
described as conservative on six occasions; in Chicago, the platform
was described as moderate on six occasions.
Some examples of labeling:
- As the Republican convention began on August 12,
PBS anchor Charlayne Hunter-Gault told former Sen. Howard Baker: "Pat
Buchanan said most of his views, most of Senator Dole's views, were
consistent with his own, and he cited specifically, affirmative
action, and the platform position of illegal immigration. And as you
know, Pat Buchanan is on the farthest extreme of the right wing of the
- CNN reporter Gene Randall declared on August 13:
"With me is Phyllis Schlafly, an ardent anti-abortion rights
advocate...Do you think the speakers do not reflect the conservatism
of the platform?"
- CNN's Bob Franken explained the next night: "It's
interesting they just had a minute ago a very brief tribute to the
Republican freshmen in the House of Representatives. Why brief?
Because they are highly, highly controversial. It's the freshmen in
the House of Representatives that really gave Bill Clinton the
extremist issue, fairly or unfairly."
- In Chicago on August 26, ABC's Sam Donaldson
explained the Democrats "want to accomplish the same thing the
Republicans accomplished -- showing a unified party, even though we
know from our survey that these delegates are far to the left of the
mainstream just as the Republican delegates were to the right of the
- That night on CBS, Dan Rather asked Jesse Jackson:
"Bill Clinton's been running pretty hard to the right, so far that
some Democrats now call him a `Republicrat.' Do you go that far?"
- Tom Brokaw put Clinton and Gore in Newt Gingrich
territory: "Since 1994 they have slid across the political spectrum to
really right of center. And they've got a guy by the name of Dick
Morris who's advising them on a daily basis how to be more pragmatic."
- Three nights later, Brokaw exemplified post-Morris
speculation in asking James Carville: "He was the man who moved him to
the right. I know that you had some philosophical differences with
Dick Morris. Does this mean that the door has been opened again for
those of you who believe that the President probably ought to move a
little more left of center?"
- The bottom dropped out on agenda questions from the
right in 1996. In 1992, Republicans were asked 130 questions from the
left, while Democrats were asked only 38 from the right. Actually,
Democrats were asked more questions from the left (45) than the right
- In 1996, network reporters asked Republicans 51
questions from the left, and only six from the right. Thanks to
welfare reform, the pattern in Chicago was almost exactly the same: 47
questions from the left, 11 from the right.
- In Chicago, ABC asked only two liberal questions
and one conservative question, followed by NBC with just three liberal
questions and one conservative.
- CBS (12 liberal, zero conservative), CNN (13-2),
and NBC-PBS (17-7) clearly preferred a menu of questions from the
left. Combine both conventions, and the questioning numbers are more
stark: ABC (five liberal, one conservative), CBS (20-3), CNN (23-3),
NBC-PBS (37-8), and NBC (13-2). Some examples of agenda questions:
- From the right to Republicans:
CNN's Gene Randall asked New York Gov. George Pataki on August 13:
"The focus tonight of course is on the keynote speech and that is by
Representative [Susan] Molinari, who it's well known favors abortion
rights. Do you sense a dissatisfaction on this floor that she will
be giving this address?"
- From the left to Republicans:
CNN's Judy Woodruff inquired of Rep. Susan Molinari on August 12:
"Leading up to the convention, Bob Dole was running well behind
President Clinton with women voters. We look at the statistics of
how many women delegates. What, 43 percent in 1992. Only 36 percent
of delegates are women this year. What sort of signal does that send
the country, you think?"
- From the right to Democrats:
NBC's David Bloom asked James Carville after Hillary Clinton's
speech August 27: "I was struck by the fact that she talked about
health care and the need for more health care insurance for the
unemployed. That's a topic that got her and Bill Clinton into a lot
of trouble two years ago. Why would she revisit that tonight?"
- From the left to Democrats:
ABC's Michel McQueen asked former DNC official Lynn Cutler on August
26: "She is comparing her candidate not to perfection, but to Bob
Dole. Isn't that right, Lynn -- do the liberals in the party, as you
unashamedly describe yourself, feel abandoned by the President this
- The controversy over welfare reform surfaced in
prime time on 44 occasions (questions plus comments by reporters),
forming the most common basis for liberal analysis. As in agenda
questions, ABC (4) and NBC (2) did not dwell very much on the welfare
controversy, and NBC-PBS raised it 10 times in a longer time frame.
CNN (16) and CBS (9) were most interested in the story.
- Tom Brokaw provided the only example found of
coming at the issue from the right, even if it sounded like he wished
some lesser welfare reform had passed before the GOP takeover of
Congress. He asked HHS Secretary Donna Shalala: "I guess the question
a lot of us have is why didn't you come up with something of your own
two years ago when you had power in the Congress, before Newt Gingrich
and the Republicans took over, when you knew that Repub -- welfare
reform was a high-priority issue for this country and the President
was talking about it when he was running in 1992?"
- Brokaw also asked a more typical network question:
"If you were a poor single mother in a poor rural state in America,
without many resources, and you wanted to go to work, you want to do
the right things, but there aren't too many jobs for people who have
real skills. Wouldn't you be slightly terrified looking into the next
- CBS reporter Ed Bradley questioned far-left Rep.
Ron Dellums on August 29: "Congressman Dellums was unhappy when the
President signed the welfare bill. I know you saw it not as welfare
reform but more as a budget cut. What does he have to do to fix it?"
Bradley followed up: "When the President is expected to say tonight
that he's going to propose a $3.5 billion jobs program for welfare
recipients, is that enough?"
- Judy Woodruff pleaded with Hillary Clinton to
intervene with her husband in six questions of an August 27 interview:
"We were just reminded in that moving film that we saw here of your
lifelong work as an advocate for children's causes. And yet, late last
week, your husband signed a welfare reform bill that as you know,
Senator Patrick Moynihan and other welfare experts are saying is going
to throw a million children into poverty. Does that legislation undo
so much of what you've worked for over the years?"
Poll: Most Say Media Favor Clinton.
A September survey for the Pew Research Center for the
People and the Press found that while most of the public thinks coverage
of Clinton and Dole has been fair, when asked "Who do you think most
newspaper reporters and TV journalists want to see win the presidential
election," 59 percent said Clinton, 17 percent Dole and just one percent
As to how much influence news organizations have on
which candidate becomes President, 64 percent thought "too much," 30
percent said "about right" and a mere four percent believed "too
Nasty Bob, Pure Bill
On September 12, Bob Dole demanded that Bill Clinton
release his medical records and complained that Clinton's ads were
overwhelmingly negative. Instead of examining the tone of Clinton ads,
ABC and CBS portrayed Dole as the villain.
On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings said: "The
campaign for President took a nasty turn today. First, Bob Dole departed
from his standard stump speech in Kentucky, lashing out at the Democrats
for what he says they are saying about him, and negative advertising was
the kindest thing Mr. Dole had to say." After a piece on Dole, Jennings
introduced the next story: "The President is going to come under further
Republican attack with the release next week of the House Committee on
Government Operations and Oversight's report on the firings at the White
House travel office."
On the CBS Evening News Dan Rather followed the same
Clinton-as-victim theme: "Now for his part, Bob Dole reopened one of his
favorite lines of attack today about President Clinton's health
records." Reporter Phil Jones provided a very short piece just on the
medical records, concluding: "Dan, this campaign is headed exactly where
everybody expected it to go: personal."
Bloom and Doom
Only NBC Nightly News bothered to show viewers that
night what upset Dole. Tom Brokaw declared: "Bob Dole on the ropes and
looking for a way to boost his sagging campaign made it clear today he
is taking off the gloves in the war of the political airwaves."
Reporter David Bloom began: "Stung by a barrage of
negative television advertising, Bob Dole today accused Bill Clinton of
running a campaign of fear, of engaging in character assassination."
Bloom aired Clinton declaring "This must be a campaign of ideas, not a
campaign of insults," and then added: "But since then, the Dole camp
claims the Democrats have run only 42 positive ads with 4, 0 negative
ads running across the country."
Bloom explained: "Dole aides say the campaign will
double its ad budget next week, unveiling new attack ads blaming Clinton
for rising teen drug use, ads even tougher than this one." After an ad
clip, Bloom ended: "At a Dole rally today the music blared `get ready.'
Get ready, that is, for a very nasty campaign."
What "Moderate" Democrats?
"Return to Chicago: This Time, the Democrats Embrace
Moderation," declared the headline on the front of the Washington Post's
August 25 convention section. Four pages later, the Post headline over a
story on a survey of delegates read: "Delegates Leaning More Liberal
Than Their Leader or the Rank and File." Indeed, 82 percent favored
affirmative action, 65 percent were against a balanced budget amendment,
72 percent opposed "reducing spending on social programs," but 65
percent wanted less defense spending.
Three days later, New York Times reporter David
Rosebaum insisted the Democratic platform "takes a middle ground between
the unfettered capitalism and government-enforced morality espoused by
Republicans and the welfare-state economics and Aquarian values that
once formed Democrats' image." Four paragraphs later, Rosenbaum
summarized the "middle ground" policies: "The Democrats call for
government-paid abortions for poor women, full civil rights for
homosexuals, a strong commitment to public schools, gun control, tobacco
regulations, a continuation of affirmative action programs and a greater
emphasis on environmental protection than on the development of
"Most Economists" Split.
An August survey of 700 economists found that "52
percent blame the growth of the federal deficit in the 1980s on
increased government spending more than on the Reagan tax cut," which
was blamed by 48 percent. The fact that economists are about evenly
split contradicts many recent media reports.
"Most economists say the Reagan tax cuts did worsen
the budget deficit and many are skeptical of Dole's plan," announced
reporter David Bloom on the August 5 NBC Nightly News. Colleague Mike
Jensen insisted a few minutes later that "most analysts say it's not
good economics." The next morning a headline over a Washington Post news
story declared: "Economists Question Dole's Plan." The headline over a
Boston Globe news story asserted: "Economists Cool to Dole's Tax-Cut
Plan: Candidate Speaks of Growth, but Analysts See No Big Payoff."
The poll of 700 members of the American Economics
Association discovered that 81 percent agreed that the Reagan tax cuts
increased economic growth. A plurality of 42 percent "want to see the
next Congress put a high priority on both restraining government
spending and cutting taxes," matching the Dole-Kemp promise. William
Adams, a professor at George Washington University, directed the poll
conducted August 19-21.
Though reported in The Weekly Standard and The
Washington Times, none of the previously noted outlets revised their
claims. In fact, in the September 9 Post, reporter Clay Chandler focused
only on the answer which put Dole in the minority: "A majority expressed
doubt about the notion that 30 percent of the revenue lost from a 15
percent cut in marginal income tax rates would" be recaptured.
Another Gore Gaffe That Wasn't.
After Al Gore's emotional August 28 speech recalled
the 1984 death of his sister Nancy and how it motivated him to fight the
tobacco industry, ABC, NBC, and CNN did suggest hypocrisy. Jennings
noted that "tobacco companies are here in Chicago wining and dining the
hierarchy of the Democratic Party." NBC's Tom Brokaw recalled that "the
Gore family were tobacco farmers." On CNN, Judy Woodruff suggested that
Gore "was responding to what was said in San Diego," where his tobacco
roots were highlighted.
But all the networks ignored the July 3 New York Times
report that in 1988, Al Gore told an audience of tobacco farmers during
his presidential campaign: "Throughout most of my life, I raised
tobacco. I want you to know that with my own hands, all of my life, I
put it in the plant beds and transferred it. I've hoed it. I've dug in
it. I've sprayed it, I've chopped it, I've shredded it, spiked it, put
it in the barn and stripped it and sold it." Dan Quayle can only dream
of getting away with something like that.
CBS Evening News took two different approaches to the
passionate poles that create each party's base. The day before the
Republican convention, CBS reporter John Roberts suggested "hard-line
anti-abortionists" controlled the Republican Party: "Delegates are
pursuing their own agendas and forcing party leaders, including Dole, to
fall into line behind them...so far the rogue elephants seem to be
calling the shots."
But on August 28, reporter Harry Smith's piece on
unions didn't talk about ideologically extreme unions pushing around the
party, but how Bill Clinton failed to be liberal enough for them: "It
still takes steel to make America's cars. It still takes labor to get a
Democrat elected President. But talk to the union rank and file, and
you'll find that their enthusiasm is less than red hot.... We talked
with United Auto Workers in Dearborn, Michigan this week. Their biggest
gripe: Bill Clinton's support of the North American Free Trade
Agreement...Organized labor will invest millions of dollars to get Bill
Clinton elected this fall. These dues-paying members wonder if they are
still getting their money's worth."
The networks came at Republicans from the left on
abortion in San Diego, and on the Sunday before the Democrats convened,
they also came at Democrats from the left. By concentrating on liberal
complaints about welfare reform, reporters helped Bill Clinton's effort
to portray himself as a centrist. On the August
CBS Evening News, Dan Rather demanded of DNC General
Chairman Chris Dodd: "You said this morning that the party's message
will focus on the needs and cares of the people. Now, how do you
reconcile that with a President who has just signed a quote `welfare
reform bill' which by general agreement is going to put a lot of poor
children on the street?" Earlier, on Face the Nation, CBS reporter Rita
Braver asked Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: "Aren't you scared about what
is going to happen? Aren't you afraid you are going to have a lot of
That same day NBC Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert
demanded of Dodd: "It's an issue of morality to many people, and how can
you defend a President who basically said to the congressional
Democrats: Listen, that's your view, but I'm doing this, because -- was
it politically expedient?" Russert tried the same line with strategist
James Carville: "But the Democratic Party for sixty years, James
Carville, fought for a minimum guarantee payment to poor children and
Bill Clinton undid that. Don't you have to draw the line someplace and
say `I'm a Democrat and this is what I stand for'?"
All three networks featured stories August 27 critical
of the new welfare reform law. On NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw presented
his view: "There are serious questions about what happens to these
people after they're taken off the welfare rolls. Andrea Mitchell went
to Indiana to look at the conflict between fixing the system and doing
the right thing by people." Mitchell featured no welfare reform
proponents, just social workers, Jesse Jackson, and impending victims:
"Kimberly Gilbert will get benefits for two years. After that, she's cut
off, whether or not she finds a job. That deadline is near for Charla
Milton. Unable to find work, she is terrified."
On ABC's World News Tonight, Peter Jennings suggested:
"Maybe if he is reelected, Mr. Clinton will do something to reverse
himself on welfare reform. Many of these delegates hope so." ABC
reporter Erin Hayes asked where the jobs would come from to support
welfare recipients: "An Urban League study found in Chicago there are
six times as many people who need work as there are entry-level jobs
available." Hayes aired no voices favoring welfare reform, and
concluded: "There is another concern as well: the young children. When
their mothers are made to go to work, who will take care of them? Right
now, no one really has an answer. With so much still uncertain about
welfare reform, it is no wonder there is fear out there."
CBS reporter Harry Smith also ignored taxpayers and
focused on victims on the CBS Evening News: "We talked to four welfare
moms from across Chicago. They feel like they are this year's political
target...President Clinton seemed deaf to protests last week when he
signed the new welfare cuts into law. Cuts many Americans support, but
cuts these women think go too far." Smith concluded: "Neighborhoods like
Cabrini-Green have more than their share of misery. Folks around here
think misery is only going to grow. Their long faith in the Democratic
Party has been shaken, and the actions of President Clinton confirm
their fear that the poor just do not count."
the Bright Side
Democrats blame the GOP for harsh personal attacks,
but on the August 26 Good Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson asked
Senator Christopher Dodd: "You said the other day that `I got the word
out,' that I don't want to hear personal attacks against the Republicans
at this convention. Yesterday on his train trip the President accused
Republicans of blackmail to get their budget. Al Gore, yesterday,
accused the Republicans of ignorance and audacity, talked about the
two-headed monster of Dole and Gingrich. Dick Gephardt, the leader of
the House, of the Democrats, talked about Republican extremism, said
they're radicals. Talk about getting the word out?"
Labor's Power Ties
The labor unions didn't get the Darth Vader treatment
reserved in San Diego for the Christian Coalition, but in Chicago there
were a few critical looks at union power.
CNN campaign finance reporter Brooks Jackson delivered
a story on the unions' political campaign in which he observed: "So Bill
Clinton says the era of big government is over? Not at the Democratic
convention, where unionized government workers are suiting up for battle
On World News Tonight August 27, ABC's Brian Ross
reported: "In the world of big money and Democratic politics on public
display this week in Chicago, this man holds a special place. His name
is Arthur Coia, who despite being president of a labor union the FBI
says has long been controlled by the Mafia, the Laborers International
has become one of the Democrats' top money people, raising millions and
gaining him special access to the Clinton White House....In the last two
years, the Clinton administration has gone all-out to court Coia and his
union money with invitations to the White House and an appearance by the
First Lady at a big union conference."
Ross added detail: "In an abrupt change of plans that
raised questions about whether the union's money to the Democrats had
bought it some kind of sweetheart deal, prosecutors dropped the
allegations and instead quietly negotiated a deal with Coia that let him
keep his job and put him in charge of cleaning up the union."
Media Disdain GOP's "Bitter Attacks"
Poor Hillary, Is It Worth It?
During the week of the Democratic convention the three
networks got a chance to interview First Lady Hillary Clinton, but their
favorite topic was the First Lady's role as the beleaguered martyr of
unfortunate Republican attacks.
On Monday, CNN's Judy Woodruff went first: "Let me
take you back to San Diego. Bob Dole said it doesn't take a village, a
collective, the state, which he said has made mistakes in raising
children, it takes a family. Is this something that is going to become a
major issue in this fall campaign?"
Woodruff inquired: "Also in San Diego, former
President George Bush told the delegates he `worked hard,' I'm quoting
here, `to uphold the dignity and the honor of the presidency, to treat
it with respect. And then he added, quote, `it breaks his heart, when
the White House is demeaned, the presidency diminished.' Does that hurt
coming from your immediate predecessor?"
Woodruff kept going: "He then went on, Mrs. Clinton,
he made a point of saying that his wife, Mrs. Bush, quote,
`unquestionably upheld the honor of the White House.' Is that an insult
to you?" When Mrs. Clinton failed to answer sharply enough, Woodruff
insisted: "But he was clearly drawing a contrast there...you're not
Stories of Mrs. Clinton's rough-house approach to
politics, such as her reported role in firing and lodging criminal
accusations against seven workers of the White House Travel Office, did
not prevent CBS This Morning co-host Jose Diaz-Balart from asking on
August 26: "In the San Diego Republican convention, you were the subject
of much conversation, and I think the target, I think many would say, of
some very serious attacks....Do you ever, seriously, in the White House,
when all the doors are closed, do you ever say `Is this worth it'?"
Just after she left the podium, NBC's Maria Shriver
asked her: "This has been a difficult couple of years for you. Did that
applause, the way you've been treated here, the way people have been
reacting to you, kind of make it all go away?" And: "You are credited
with really redefining the role of First Lady and for doing that, you've
taken a lot of heat, a lot of criticism. As you look back, do you wished
you'd redefined it a little less?"
On CBS, Bob Schieffer inquired of her: "Weren't you a
little offended when he [Bob Dole] made the reference he did [to your
book]?" CNN's Wolf Blitzer echoed: "What goes through your mind when you
hear some of these bitter attacks against you?"
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