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From the April 1999 MediaWatch


Duck and Cover

As the Chinese nuclear espionage scandal continued to develop, much of the press coverage remained dismissive of the allegations, and several stories diverted attention by focusing on the political nature of the GOP response.

That’s not new. Last year when allegations of missile technology transfers to China first surfaced, there was a similar rush to defuse the potency of the issue. On May 22, 1998, Time’s daily Internet update led with the headline "Chinese Connection Has GOP Drooling."

On the March 18 World News Tonight, ABC’s Linda Douglass stressed spin over substance. "The charge that Mr. Clinton is soft on China is red meat for conservatives." She concluded: "Republicans insist they are not trying to make the Chinese spying case into a partisan issue. Nevertheless, they are planning task forces, hearings and investigations that may well last into the campaign season."

Andrea Mitchell’s March 17 NBC piece was more balanced. But Mitchell stressed that although conservatives "want to punish China," a "leading Republican" (George Shultz) believes "that would be a big mistake." Mitchell ended by noting that "even critics of the administration say China policy is now more about politics with Republicans taking every shot they can get." Amazingly, Republican attempts to get to the bottom of the most serious spying case since the Rosenbergs were disregarded as nothing more than a typical partisan exercise.


Don’t Stain Nature
"Before America turns into one giant paved-over subdivision," announced a March 22 Time headline, "people are fighting back. Is there hope?" Yes, since suburban sprawl is not the problem.

Senior Writer Richard Lacayo repeated Al Gore’s warnings about the environmental dangers of suburban sprawl and suggested Gore’s advocacy shows that "suburban overgrowth has become a national headache." Lacayo sugggested Gore’s "message may still need work, but his plan has some merit." The only Republican quoted was a pollster worrying Gore was "startlingly on track with voters."

Lacayo ignored an opposing point of view. But Steven Hayward pointed out in the March 22 National Review that sprawl is an old environmentalists’ tale: "Developed land accounts for less than five percent of the total land area in the continental United States..Since World War II, the amount of land set aside for wildlife, wilderness conservation, and national parks has grown twice as fast as urban areas."

Lacayo concluded by lamenting: "But sprawl is mostly indelible ink. Once the roads and houses and strip malls set in, you can’t just get them out. The best way to fight sprawl is to stop it before it starts." But to do that is to battle a foe that does not exist.


Same Killer Instinct
It’s not even 2000 yet and already CNN and NBC are helping liberal groups drag out the old ‘GOP is too extreme on abortion’ line.

On the March 23 Today, NBC’s Lisa Myers publicized a National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) ad campaign: "Eleven months before the first primary, two top Republican hopefuls already are under fire. Accused of trying to hide their opposition to abortion. An abortion rights group is running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire questioning whether Elizabeth Dole is all that different from her male opponents."

Myers, without labeling NARAL as liberal, or on the other "extreme" of the abortion issue, aired a portion of an ad on Elizabeth Dole which claimed, "Like the rest of the Republicans on the far right, Elizabeth Dole is anti-choice." Myers also played a second NARAL ad pairing George W. Bush and Pat Buchanan.

On the March 22 Inside Politics Judy Woodruff never called NARAL liberal, but did label Pat Robertson and the National Right to Life Committee conservative. After playing clips of the NARAL ads, Woodruff said abortion creates "a troubling complication" for the GOP: "While anti-abortion activists make up a large part of the GOP base, other more moderate voters, especially women, have drifted away from the party, in part because of its hard-line image on issues like abortion."



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