Lieberman Dubbed "Centrist"; Unlike GOP Show, Lieberman Pick Demonstrated True Inclusiveness
1) Joe Lieberman may not be a
left-wing liberal, but with a 1999 ADA rating of 95 and a zero from the ACU,
he’s certainly no "centrist," yet Monday night all the networks
tagged him either as "centrist" or a "moderate."
2) CNN’s Bill Schneider:
"Republicans in Philadelphia kept calling attention to their party’s
inclusiveness. Well the first Jewish candidate on a national ticket trumps
anything they had to say."
3) Lieberman "is a
conservative Democrat," NBC’s Claire Shipman insisted Monday morning as
she transferred that view to Gore, "and they probably don’t agree with
everything he supports, but, you know, Gore is a pretty conservative
"Their Conventional Wisdom" read the headline over an August 7
Investor’s Business Daily editorial, about convention coverage, which
cited several quotes from the MRC’s daily convention analysis produced
last week. It’s not online, but if you have access to Monday’s IBD you
might want to check it out on the back page of the main section.
Lieberman is a "centrist," a "moderate" or even
"a conservative"? Not according to the leading conservative and
liberal ratings of congressional votes, but that’s how he was described
Monday morning and evening on the networks.
Near the end of
Monday’s Nightline, host Michel Martin, the former Michel McQueen,
compared Lieberman with guest Maxine Waters, the very liberal
Congresswoman from Los Angeles. Martin asked David Gergen: "The
Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, Joe Lieberman’s
rating: 80 percent; Maxine Waters’s rating: 80 percent. The American
Conservative Union, Maxine Waters’s rating: zero; Joe Lieberman’s
rating: 16. So this is a moderate you tell me?" David Gergen replied:
"Well I think he’s more moderate on defense issues, he’s more
moderate on economic issues. On social issues he’s a liberal."
But in opening the show
Martin had spread the misleading labeling, calling him "outspoken, a
centrist, even a moralist." She added that Lieberman "is a
Earlier, on ABC’s
World News Tonight, anchor Charles Gibson dubbed him "a centrist
Democrat." CBS Evening News anchor Steve Kroft maintained
"Lieberman is noted for his moderate voting record and high moral
standards." NBC’s Claire Shipman, who on Imus in the Morning had
described Lieberman as a "conservative Democrat," toned it down
for NBC Nightly News on which she referred to him as "a political
Lieberman certainly is
noteworthy for his moral concerns about Clinton’s behavior and interest
in the negative influence of television and the entertainment industry,
and he has challenged liberal doctrine in a few other areas, but that
doesn’t change the fact that most of his votes have followed the liberal
line. He may not be a left-wing liberal, but he’s certainly no centrist
Just look at the
ratings. He’s earned a lifetime "Liberal Quotient" of 77 from
the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) for his votes since 1989. As a
way of comparison, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt has received 71
percent approval from the liberal group over his congressional tenure. In
1999, Lieberman was assessed 95 percent from ADA while the American
Conservative Union (ACU) gave him a zero for that year, making him one of
the Senate’s eight most liberal Senators in 1999. His lifetime ACU
rating: 19 percent.
Democratic Senator John
Breaux of Louisiana, who earned a lifetime 47 percent from ACU, could
accurately be described as a moderate. Republican Senator William Roth of
Delaware, at 73 percent, earned a slightly lower rating from ACU than
Lieberman got from ADA, but have you ever heard Roth dubbed as a centrist
To check out ADA’s
assessment for Lieberman, go to:
For the ACU’s ratings
of Lieberman, go to:
For the 25 evaluated
1999 votes in which Lieberman voted against the ACU view all 25 times, go
Number 24 was his vote
against banning partial-birth abortions, but no network on Monday pointed
out his "hardline" support of abortion as they had the opposite
point of view when they introduced Dick Cheney. Instead, they refereed to
his support for "abortion rights."
Here’s a rundown of
how the networks introduced Lieberman on Monday night, August 7:
-- ABC’s World News
Tonight. Charles Gibson announced: "That pick was described in all
sorts of ways today. Some of the quotes: ‘courageous,’ ‘moral,’
‘groundbreaking.’ Not many people across the country know Joe
Lieberman. To the extent that labels can be attached, he is a centrist
Democrat. Notably, he is the first Jewish candidate for Vice President in
Terry Moran began the
subsequent story by stressing Gore’s values: "In the end, according
to people who were in the room with Al Gore as he reached this decision
last night, it came down to a personal compatibility the Vice President
feels with Senator Lieberman. They’re both strong family men, they both
have intense commitments to their faiths, they come from the same wing of
the Democratic Party."
After Gibson noted he
was the first Democrat to chastise Bill Clinton as "some call him the
conscience of the Senate," Linda Douglass profiled him, noting how
his support for school vouchers has "infuriated" Democratic
groups like the teacher unions. She hinted at his hardline abortion views
in her conclusion: "The Bush campaign is trying to paint Lieberman as
a closet Republican but Democrats point to his solid support for
Democratic issues like abortion rights and gun control."
Aaron Brown took up the
impact of his religion before Gibson asked George Stephanopoulos: "Is
it a risky choice?" Stephanopoulos called it "unchartered
territory," but suggested "it sure helps" Gore separate
himself from Clinton.
-- CBS Evening News.
Unusual substitute anchor Steve Kroft proclaimed: "Democrat Al
Gore’s choice for a running mate is unprecedented. Fifty-eight-year-old
Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, flew to Nashville
this evening to join Gore for the official announcement tomorrow.
Lieberman is noted for his moderate voting record and high moral
standards. He was an early critic of President Clinton, a long-time
friend, over the Monica Lewinsky affair."
John Roberts reviewed
the mechanics of the pick and how Lieberman backs school vouchers before
Jim Axelrod noted how the percent of people who say they could vote for a
Jew has grown from 46 percent in 1937 to 92 percent last year.
In between, Kroft
pointed out how Lieberman "supports abortion rights," opposed a
same sex marriage bill, but sponsored a bill to outlaw discrimination
against gays and lesbians.
-- NBC Nightly News
opened with Tom Brokaw’s interview of Al Gore. Brokaw asked: "Let
me read to you something Joe Lieberman said about President Clinton at the
height of the discussion about impeachment. He said ‘such behavior is
not just inappropriate it is immoral.’ Did you agree with Joe Lieberman
when he said that?"
Gore: "Yes and I said so at the time and you know
the President said that he agreed with it at the time."
As they sat in a diner,
instead of pressing Gore about school vouchers or private investment on
Social Security, two views supported by Lieberman, Brokaw pushed from the
left: "Health care. There’s a man in this diner today who says why
can’t we have an expanded pool to take care of people with pre-existing
conditions who are high-risk?"
On Lieberman, Claire
Shipman declared: "It’s a bold move by Gore to put an Orthodox Jew
on his ticket...a revered figure in the Senate, even Republicans can
barely come up with criticism."
Fred Thompson: "Joe is a man of rare ability,
integrity, and I think that is something, a statement that the Gore
campaign needed to make"
Shipman: "One reason Republicans like Lieberman,
he’s a political moderate, a hawk on foreign policy, a critic of sex and
violence on TV."
In a subsequent profile
by Anne Thompson, she described him as "a workhorse rather than a
showhorse" and listed how he disagrees with Gore on vouchers, Social
Security private investment, cutting the capital gains tax. She added that
he also opposed Clinton’s welfare reform plan.
pick of Lieberman "trumps anything the Republicans had to say in
Philadelphia," CNN analyst Bill Schneider insisted on Monday’s
"Lieberman is a true centrist, a moderate who can build coalitions.
You know how the Republicans in Philadelphia kept trying to show how
moderate they were? Well this trumps anything the Republicans had to
Lieberman, November 13, 1995: "We did not see our
role as simply defending the status quo of every government program that
was ever created."
Schneider: "A guy like that can reach independents
and Republicans in a way Al Gore could never do."
Schneider did raise an
angle not picked up by the broadcast networks: "Lieberman once said
quote, ‘we in government should look to religion as a partner as I think
the founders of our country did.’ Exactly the sentiments of the
concluded: "You know how the Republicans in Philadelphia kept calling
attention to their party’s inclusiveness. Well the first Jewish
candidate on a national ticket trumps anything they had to say."
In a later discussion
with Jeff Greenfield, co-anchor Judy Woodruff smartly asked: "Someone
said to me Jeff that in a way this is like a Democratic John McCain, that
Lieberman is not as conservative as his reputation. Does that strike a
chord with you?"
Greenfield disagreed: "Bill Schneider got it
dead-on. Joe Lieberman is a centrist..."
misleading labeling of Lieberman began in the morning on Monday, August 7,
as detailed on a Media Reality Check fax report produced Monday afternoon
by the MRC’s Tim Graham using quotes observed by MRC analysts Jessica
Anderson, Brian Boyd, Paul Smith and Geoffrey Dickens.
Here’s the text of the
August 7 Media Reality Check headlined, "Lieberman the
‘Conservative Democrat’? Does a Conservative Rating Average of 19
Percent Define the ‘Middle of the Road’ of Politics?"
When George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as
his running mate, reporters soon began using extremist terms to describe
him, placing him on the "hard right," the "far right,"
someone who was "very, very conservative." But when Al Gore
selected Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate this morning, they
placed him squarely in the mainstream:
-- On ABC’s Good Morning America, Terry
Moran said: "He’s known as a moderate Democrat, who had
demonstrated fiscal conservatism in the Senate and a kind of hawkishness
in foreign policy."
-- On The Early Show, CBS reporter John
Roberts explained "He has been a core supporter of Democratic issues,
the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council of which President
Clinton is a member. A real sort of centrist Democrat."
-- On CNN at 7 AM, reporter John King
echoed the morning line: "The 58-year-old senator, like Gore, a
member of the Democratic Leadership Council. He is viewed as a Democratic
moderate...He is in sync with Gore on the major issues, again, both
products of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council."
-- On the MSNBC simulcast of Imus in the
Morning, NBC’s Claire Shipman was the boldest: "It is very hard to
find negative things to say about Joe Lieberman. I know, look, labor might
not be happy. He is a conservative Democrat and they probably don’t
agree with everything he supports, but, you know, Gore is a pretty
conservative Democrat." How can Cheney be "very
conservative" with a 90 ACU, and Gore be "pretty
conservative" with a Senate ACU average of 10?
On Today, Shipman said, "He’s a
conservative Democrat and an Orthodox Jew...While critics brand Lieberman
as a liberal who votes for abortion rights, gun control, and tax hikes,
Democrats say he’s more conservative when it comes to issues such as
defense spending and family values."
-- A Time Online article carried the
headline "With Middle-of-the-Road Joe, Al Aims to Ditch Monica."
Reporter Frank Pellegrini sounded confused: "He’s a
moved-to-the-center kind of liberal with a reputation for integrity and
relatively straight-shooting. And because he’s an orthodox Jew, he
won’t campaign on Saturdays -- just work that promotes, as Lieberman has
put it, ’the respect and protection of human life and
Time did not find that to be the time to
add that Lieberman draws no heat from hard-line feminists of the
Democratic base on abortion. He supports partial-birth abortions and
tax-funded abortions. "He is pro-choice," explained Washington
Post media reporter Howard Kurtz in a Monday discussion at the Post
Web site. "Politically, no Democratic nominee in any year can pick a
running mate who is opposed to abortion." The media call the
Republican platform "hardline" on abortion, but apparently you
can be a 100-percent pro-abortion vote and be a "conservative
Does an ACU rating of 19 define the
"middle of the road" of politics? Or are Democrats so liberal
that a 19 puts you in the party’s "conservative wing"? If Dick
Cheney had averaged an 80 ACU rating, would reporters call him a
"liberal Republican"? The media’s labeling is shifting the
"middle of the road" into the left lane.
One wonders if there was
anyone who Gore could have picked whom the networks would have abused, as
they did Cheney, with the liberal equivalents of "hardline
conservative," "hard-edged conservative," "hard
right," "rigid right" etc. labels. -- Brent Baker