CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
| Friday January 28, 2000 (Vol. Five; No. 17) |
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Speech Never Tagged Liberal; Bemoaning Clinton’s Loneliness; He’s a "Martyr"?

1) A "virtuoso" speech by "a proud President, a tireless policy wonk," gushed ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. A wistful Dan Rather recalled Clinton’s last chance "to preach, to teach." Reporters noted the spending costs; NBC dubbed his gun idea a "wedge issue."

2) Networks refused to label Clinton’s plans as liberal. CBS’s John Roberts gushed about how Clinton "really wants to improve the social status of everyone." ABC’s reporters listed reasons why the address could be called "historic."

3) "His agenda is ambitious," crowed NBC’s Claire Shipman. If Congress gets in Clinton’s way, ABC’s John Cochran casually relayed, "he will simply bypass Congress whenever he can by using his power to issue executive orders."

4) On ABC’s World News Tonight Jim Wooten examined the "wistful acknowledgment that" Clinton "is now more alone in the White House than he's ever been."

5) The Forbes "hard line" on abortion, CBS News warned, may get him third place in NH but "end up hurting the Republican Party" as Bush may be "shoved too far right on the issue like Bob Dole was."

6) Katie Couric: "So are you saying that the relatives in Miami somehow frightened this little boy before the meeting and made him too nervous and the grandmothers too nervous to make this natural at all?" No, the Sister who set up the meeting said, blame Cuba.

7) MSNBC’s Brian Williams wondered if Clinton might someday be considered a "martyr" for "what he was put through" in sex scandals.

>>> "Little or No Interest in Gore and Marijuana: Media Leaped on Rumors of Bush Cocaine Use Without Any Accuser, But Gore Accuser Gets Little Play." The latest Media Reality Check fax report by the MRC’s Tim Graham has been posted by Andy Szul. It begins: "Last August, national media outlets leaped on rumors of cocaine use by George W. Bush, even though reporters searching for people to accuse Bush of drug use could not find an accuser. Now longtime Gore friend John Warnecke claims Gore used marijuana regularly, right up to his 1976 run for Congress, four years later than Gore has claimed he stopped. Warnecke also claims Gore asked him to ‘stonewall’ on the issue during the 1988 campaign. But the media aren’t exactly riveted." Graham runs through how every major media outlet has handled the story. To read the report, go to: <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)If it weren’t for Bill Clinton’s flub during his State of the Union address Thursday night that Al Gore had led a "new effort to help make communities more liberal," instead of "more livable," viewers at home never would have heard the word "liberal." Neither before or after the speech, or in the preview stories on the evening shows beforehand, did any of the broadcast networks describe Clinton’s litany of new spending and regulatory program ideas as liberal.

    The MRC night team of Jessica Anderson, Brad Wilmouth, Geoffrey Dickens and Ken Shepherd stayed into the morning to track coverage, but with Clinton blathering on so long the networks dumped out to local news at 11:15pm ET -- as soon the Republicans finished their response. We did, nonetheless, come across some noteworthy material. This item lists what we found after Clinton’s speech. Item #2 below recounts some pre-speech analysis and #3 relays reporting from the evening shows.

    After Clinton’s speech, while no one described it as liberal, all the broadcast networks remarked about the high price tag of all the proposals. ABC included George Stephanopoulos among its analysts allowed to critique it. He dubbed it a "virtuoso" performance and oozed: "The address of a proud President, a tireless policy wonk and a very shrewd political strategist." (Clintonistas Stephanopoulos and David Gergen served later as the only analysts on Nightline.)

    Dan Rather signed CBS off by solemnly intoning: "Tonight Bill Clinton mounted the Bully Pulpit one last time as President to preach, to teach, to prod the country." NBC’s Tom Brokaw actually wondered why we couldn’t have a larger tax cut and Tim Russert suggested Clinton’s gun licensing idea was a "wedge issue" meant to benefit Hillary in New York.

    -- ABC News. After a few words from Peter Jennings ABC went first to George Stephanopoulos for an assessment:
    "Virtuoso, Peter. The address of a proud President, a tireless policy wonk and a very shrewd political strategist. He essentially handed Vice President Gore his campaign plan tonight. Lots of proposals that he suspects won’t pass -- prescription drugs, gun control, Medicare reform -- and he sets up Vice President Gore to run against a do-nothing Congress this fall, just like Harry Truman did in 1948."

    Sam Donaldson picked up on the costs: "Peter, something in there for everyone almost. Maybe $364 billion worth of new spending. Senator Domenici, the Republican head of the Budget Committee in the Senate, estimated that it would be about $4 billion a minute if he went an hour and a half, and that’s about what it was. I agree with George, though. It was well delivered, a Clinton speech always is. But I suspect, Peter, that the one soundbite you’re going to hear in the next 24 hours, more than any other, is the one where he fluffed, and said, ‘Remember last year the Vice President launched a new effort to help make communities more liberal.’ He meant livable, but I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun at that and you saw his face redden. But overall, a successful final address by this President on the State of the Union."

    Cokie Roberts added that "the President proposed ten, as I counted, either tax credits, tax deductions or tax incentives. That’s another form of spending." Well, maybe.

    -- CBS News. Wrapping up coverage at about 11:15pm ET, Dan Rather wistfully reminded viewers:
    "For many years Presidents delivered the State of the Union message in writing. Woodrow Wilson revived the tradition of delivering it in person, turning a duty into an opportunity to rally support for a President’s programs. Tonight Bill Clinton mounted the Bully Pulpit one last time as President to preach, to teach, to prod the country toward his vision of America in the 21st century."

    -- NBC News. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught some unusual questions and points from the right. Interviewing former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, whom he’d earlier labeled the "architect" of the economic boom, Tom Brokaw wondered:
    "Are you worried at all that the President is just over-promising with the promise of the surplus that is going on. There was a big, big shopping list of government programs here tonight. I think at one point the Senate Budget Committee, made up of Republicans, said it ran to about $4 billion a minute."

    Brokaw also asked: "But why shouldn’t we have a bigger tax cut. For example $500 billion instead of stopping at $350 [billion] if there is the kind of surplus that we are talking about?"

    Later, Tim Russert explained how a "top Republican" assured him the gun licensing idea would not pass and "will even help the Republicans keep some swing districts in the Congress up for re-election this November because it will mobilize, energize the NRA." Russert made clear Clinton had put politics ahead of policy:
    "The President knew exactly what he was doing, he wanted to create this as a wedge issue. One that would benefit the President and the First Lady in New York. He certainly has succeeded in doing that because the Republicans saw red when he proposed it."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)During the lengthy twenty minutes after the networks signed on at 9pm ET and Clinton finally decided to come out, the networks filled the time with their own chatter.

    In the most ironic comment of the night, referring to Bill Clinton’s role in the Hillary Clinton Senate campaign, Gloria Borger of U.S. News and CBS News told Dan Rather: "I think behind the scenes, Dan, he’s actually running that campaign. I mean he’s very involved in every aspect of that campaign and people in her campaign say that he is her closest adviser. He is the one she trusts."

    "Trusts" him?

    Just like after the speech, beforehand ABC, CBS and NBC avoided the term "liberal" to describe Clinton’s spending spree. Instead, CBS’s John Roberts gushed about how "I think that this is all part of the President’s legacy, he really wants to improve the social status of everyone in the country here." ABC’s team of star correspondents exchanged reasons for why Clinton’s address could be called "historic." Peter Jennings lamented how "the President spends an awful lot of time alone at the White House alone now," though he didn’t explain why he assumed the absence of Hillary and Chelsea meant he was actually alone.

    At about 9:10pm ET CBS News viewers witnessed this bit of insight as taken down by the MRC’s Ken Shepherd:
    "About the tax cut, seeing Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron up there in the gallery seated beside the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, tonight, tempts one to use a baseball metaphor, is it more likely will you see a left-handed shortstop for the Yankees or the Mets than we are to see the President’s tax cut get through or is that a little too pessimistic?"
    John Roberts: "Well, Dan, he really has a fight with Republicans in Congress over this tax cut. Today the Republicans said that they would like to see a broad-based tax cut for all Americans not just the ones that the President picks out. The Republican mantra has always been put the money back into the hands of the people to let them do with it what they, what they will. Perhaps there’s some people out there who don’t have children going to college, who don’t need health care, who don’t need to save for their retirement who need to buy other things with money that they could get from a tax cut and that’s what the Republicans would like to do.
    "You know, Dan, I think that this is all part of the President’s legacy, he really wants to improve the social status of everyone in the country here. He has consistently said that in this era of unprecedented economic prosperity and indeed as of next month America will have gone through its longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in history, that it’s imperative upon the country to not leave anyone behind. That’s why he’s launched his new markets initiative, this is all about community and responsibility and opportunity tonight. The President really wants to get to those areas of the country and those people in the country who have not shared in economic prosperity to the degree that a lot of people have. There are so many instant millionaires in this country and at the same time there are so many people who can’t even put food on the table. So I think this really is, though his aides would deny, legacy, a really a one for the legacy scorecard, Dan."

    Opening ABC’s coverage, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, Peter Jennings asked his team if "this is an unusually historic occasion." John Cochran replied: "Well, this is a President who, after all, survived impeachment. That’s historic. The historic thing to me is I don’t think there’s ever been a President who will be sorrier to leave the White House. He just loves the job. He’d keep it until the age of 90 if they’d let him, Peter."

    Cokie Roberts offered another historic angle and falsely assumed it is now the 21st century: "Well, for Bill Clinton it’s unusually historic in that there’s not some huge cloud hanging over him as he goes into that chamber tonight, and that is different. It’s also the first State of the Union address of the 21st century, and there are two candidates. The historic part is probably Mrs. Clinton, who’s coming into the chamber now, and having a First Lady run for the Senate is a first in history."

    That prompted Jennings to ruminate: "Right behind her, Chelsea of course, reminding us that the President spends an awful lot of time alone at the White House alone now -- Chelsea at school in California, Mrs. Clinton now living in New York State and running for the Senate, as Cokie said."

    Sam Donaldson compiled Roberts’ error: "Peter, as Cokie says, the first one of the millennium, only the third President to have two terms in the last 50 years, and this may not be very much, but it’s going to be historic: perhaps the longest of such addresses we have ever heard -- 35 pages. It could go on over an hour and a half, maybe toward two hours."

    At least we were warned.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Instead of pointing out how Clinton’s proposals represent liberal activist government with more spending, more regulation and more tax code tinkering to alter behavior, during Thursday’s evening newscasts before the speech the networks avoided the term liberal and instead praised Clinton’s ambitiousness.

    On the NBC Nightly News Claire Shipman proclaimed: "It’s the last time Bill Clinton will make this walk to outline the State of the Union and with less than a year left his agenda is ambitious."

    Over on the CBS Evening News John Roberts at least credited the "ambitious" claim to the White House: "Despite the fact that the President has less than a year remaining in office, his final State of the Union address tonight will be what the White House characterizes as his most aggressive and ambitious yet. What that really means is that the President will take record revenues and again raise government spending to record levels."

    And if Republicans don’t go along? No problem. John Cochran relayed at the end of his World News Tonight piece laying out Clinton’s ideas: "The President will challenge Republicans to work with him in this his final year, and his aides say if they refuse, he will simply bypass Congress whenever he can by using his power to issue executive orders."

    You’d think subverting the will of Congress might generate more media ire since it so concerned them in the 1980s.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)Poor Bill Clinton, supposedly all alone in the White House. ABC’s Peter Jennings lamented the plight of "this very young, very energetic man," though if he’s still energetic he probably isn’t very alone. On Thursday’s World News Tonight Jim Wooten examined the "wistful acknowledgment that he is now more alone in the White House than he's ever been."

    Peter Jennings introduced the January 27 piece: "Finally this evening from here, home alone may be an exaggeration of what life is like for President Clinton these days, but it does give you an idea that life for this very young, very energetic man is certainly in transition. When his State of the Union is over tonight, he'll likely go back to the White House with applause still ringing in his ears, but it's never going to be the same."
    Jim Wooten: "Unlike most kids' dreams..." [on screen, video of Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy]
    President Clinton, being sworn in in 1992: "I, William Jefferson Clinton-"
    Wooten: "-his really came true."
    President Clinton: "-so help me God."
    Wooten: "-that reality is down to 359 days."
    President Clinton: "I finally figured out what a lame duck is. That's when you show up for a speech and no one comes."
    Wooten: "That won't happen tonight, of course, or tomorrow or anytime soon. But there is about the President these days a certain sense of, if not loneliness, as least a wistful acknowledgment that he is now more alone in the White House than he's ever been. Ordinarily, for example, Mrs. Clinton would have spent today helping him with tonight's speech and the Vice President would have come around to offer his assistance. Instead both have returned only briefly to the capital and will be back to their campaigns tomorrow....Actually, there's hardly anyone around now who was there when his presidency began. Joe Lockhart is his fourth press secretary. He claims Mr. Clinton's now more focused than ever."

    After American University presidential scholar James Thurber remarked, "He is set in terms of his legacy now. However, those legacies change over time when people have some perspective. Give this man some perspective and he may look a little bit better a decade from now," Wooten concluded:
    "In the meantime, Mr. Clinton may already have learned a lesson from Harry Truman: If you want a friend in Washington, Truman said, get yourself a dog."

    So I can maintain plausible deniability, fill in your own Monica Lewinsky joke here.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)The damaging duo of Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes is making sure frontrunners George Bush and John McCain "cannot escape" the "divisive issue" of abortion, CBS News contended. The network reported it’s a development which concerns the party establishment because they hoped to prevent Bush "from being shoved too far right on the issue like Bob Dole was." As if being too conservative was Dole’s problem in 1996.

    It’s more like the Republican candidates "cannot escape" from CBS’s one issue, abortion, agenda, an extremist test they do not apply to Democrats who oppose any restrictions on abortion-on-demand.

    Otherwise, Thursday night NBC skipped the campaign and ABC ran a piece on Bush’s challenge from McCain in New Hampshire, but did not mention abortion.

    Teasing the January 27 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather announced:
    "Abortion troubles for Republican presidential frontrunners and there’s a brand new Dollar Bill, Bill Bradley goes negative against Al Gore, all but calling him a liar."

    After the story on Bradley, Rather declared: "More now on the five man Republican field. The latest CBS News poll indicates Bush's win in Iowa and McCain's fifth place showing after basically bowing out apparently have had little carry-over affect in New Hampshire. Forbes and Keyes on their right though have each picked up several points. That may turn out to not be good news for George W. Bush. And, they're both making sure the front runners cannot escape a divisive issue."

    CBS refused Thursday night to tag Clinton as "liberal," but reporter Bill Whitaker wasn’t so reticent about labeling Republicans. He began: "When it comes to abortion, John McCain would appreciate his own don't ask, don't tell policy. Hounded by abortion questions again today he joked he'd rather tackle a safer issue like the Confederate flag....What's got him rattled? Well, until recently both he and George W. Bush deliberately downplayed their staunch anti-abortion records making conciliatory statements like Bush today."
    Bush: "As I said, good people can disagree on that issue."
    Whitaker warned in applying a label: "Both frontrunners are hoping to appeal to moderate voters and the party establishment was hoping to keep their favorite, Bush, from being shoved too far right on the issue like Bob Dole was."
    Elizabeth Sherman, Director of Center for Women in Politics: "They had seen in the 1996 election that women voters had really made the difference for Bill Clinton against, against Dole and they decided that they were not going to let that happen again."
    Whitaker: "But nobody told Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes. They used the issue like a battering ram to push Bush to make strong pro-life statements in Iowa. Now they're pressing McCain in New Hampshire."
    Alan Keyes: "Isn't it God's choice."
    Steve Forbes: "Dancing around on Roe v. Wade, people don't want that, they want to know where you stand."
    Whitaker: "That hard line may secure Forbes a third place finish here and end up hurting the Republican Party. Why? According to a CBS News poll out today, for every woman in New Hampshire who says this:
    Woman: "I am definitely pro-life."
    Whitaker: "Two or more disagree."
    Second woman: "I'm very pro-choice."

   Whitaker concluded: "The most pro-choice segment of the voting population, independent voters, and most of those are and you can't win here without winning them over and right now, most of them are moving toward McCain. No wonder he'd like this abortion issue just to go away."

    CBS News certainly isn’t letting it.

    And while ABC didn’t explore abortion Thursday night, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed they did Thursday morning. On Good Morning America Dean Reynolds asserted:
    "However much Senator McCain and George Bush would like to talk about something else, the abortion issue keeps dogging at them here. McCain now says that he made a mistake yesterday when he said that were his 15-year-old daughter to have an unwanted pregnancy, it would be up to her whether to have an abortion. He later amended that to say it would be a family decision, but last night that wasn't good enough for Alan Keyes, who pressed him on the issue, and got a scalding response from the former prisoner of war."


cyberno6.jpg (1848 bytes)Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin "was asked by Attorney General Janet Reno, described as an old friend, to provide a neutral setting" for a get-together between Elian Gonzalez and his two grandmothers, the January 27 Washington Post reported. So naturally when she appeared on Thursday’s Today to recount the meeting she hosted in Miami, Katie Couric assumed she saw the Florida family as the bad guys. Not so Couric learned, to her surprise.

    Couric asked: "Whose fears were dispelled Sister Jeanne, in your view?"
    O'Laughlin replied: "I think the child was tremoring when he entered as were his grandmother and the family. When they left I still felt the grandmothers were trembling. I don't feel the child was. I think he had images of being whisked away or being taken away. And I don't think the family left in fear. And it saddens me that these grandmothers could be so sad after what should've been a joyful meeting. But the suspicions, the fears, the images were just not real Katie. And it comes from a source other than the heart of grandmothers."
    Couric pounced on the evil Florida-side of the family: "So are you saying that the relatives in Miami somehow frightened this little boy before the meeting and made him too nervous and the grandmothers too nervous to make this natural at all?"
    O'Laughlin corrected her: "No, I don't believe the families did that. I believe that there are people with other agenda, political agenda that take the child as a pawn and perhaps the grandmothers also. I think there have been ways of instilling fear in the family and the grandmothers and therefore a natural loving environment was difficult to create."
    Couric: "Who are these people with the agendas in your view?"
    O'Laughlin: "I really am fearful Katie, that the Cuban government who I understand have even said that we were not nice to the grandmothers. This is just not true. That we had spies, this is not true. We truly acted in good faith with a loving concern for the child and the grandmothers and yet there was not a freedom and I think I'm a wiser woman today and I understand how blessed we are to understand what it is to be free and not full of fear."

    Both ABC’s World News Tonight and CBS Evening News briefly mentioned O’Laughlin’s assessment and NBC Nightly News featured an "In Their Own Words" segment in which O’Laughlin explained why she changed her mind and decided the boy should stay:
    "I feel that something in the environment was fearful and feared. These were two loving grandmothers but they were not free. From the moment the car door opened it was urgency for cover and urgency not to trust. I question the ability with anyone involved with that side to eliminate the fear in the environment in which that child will have to grow."


cyberno7.jpg (1724 bytes)Someday maybe America will be "progressive" enough to see Bill Clinton as a "martyr" for how he was abused over his sexual activities.

    MRC analyst Mark Drake caught this exchange during a January 26 News with Brian Williams interview by MSNBC’s Williams with Clinton biographer David Maraniss:
    Williams: "Has timing again helped him in that he's a President with a sex scandal but he is also a President with a sex scandal in what is now incrementally a more progressive America? Could you paint a scenario where he is someday martyred by you know, the American Compendium of American History?"
    Maraniss: "For, well his own behavior?"
    Williams: "Yeah, for what he was put through."

    The American people should be considered martyrs for having to put up with this kind of media thinking. -- Brent Baker



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