Clinton Avoided "Is"; Will GOP "Overplay" Pardon?; Democrats Give Less to the Wealthy; ABC Promoted Affluent Who Want Estate Tax
1) ABC and NBC stressed how donations by Denise Rich, in the
words of ABC’s Jackie Judd, "shows no huge spike in giving when talk of
a pardon began in earnest." CBS assured viewers the controversy hasn’t
hurt Bill Clinton as speaking offers are "lined up like airplanes over
LaGuardia on a foggy day."
2) In his statement Bill Clinton was grammatically incorrect in
saying "any suggestion...are false." FNC’s Brit Hume wondered if he
was trying to avoid the word "is."
3) CNN’s Bob Franken raised supposed Democratic concern that
Republicans might "overplay" the Rich pardon and ABC’s Charles
Gibson rued how the launch of a criminal probe means "this is not going
away." George Stephanopoulos stressed how difficult it will be to prove
Clinton did anything wrong and how he was motivated by trying to advance the
Middle East peace process.
4) Dan Rather: Congressional Democrats issued a plan which
"features tax cuts half the size of the Bush proposal, fewer of those cuts
going to the wealthy, many more targeted to middle and lower income
Americans." NBC’s David Gregory showcased the Democratic photo-op with a
woman who claimed to get little from Bush’s plan.
5) ABC lent its air time Thursday night, on World News Tonight
and Nightline, to promoting the effort by a few wealthy people, who feel guilty
about their affluence, to keep the estate tax.
willingness to testify under oath in exchange for immunity led the Thursday CBS
Evening News which also ran a piece on how the pardon controversy has not
diminished the speaking demands for Bill Clinton. ABC and NBC followed Denise
Rich’s money to show how it does not support the idea that she increased her
donations after Clinton agreed to pardon her ex-husband.
Phil Jones opened his lead story: "CBS News has
learned that Denise Rich is now willing to testify under oath, to answer
questions about whether any of her contributions to the Clintons and the
Democratic Party, played a role in getting a pardon for her ex-husband,
fugitive financier Marc Rich. The one caveat: she wants immunity from
Jones proceeded to quote Clinton’s denial of any
wrongdoing and noted how Clinton associates say lobbying from Israel was a
major factor. Jones ran a soundbite from the Mayor of Jerusalem praising Rich
for his contributions to Israeli causes.
Jones concluded by making sure viewers realized which
party now controls the executive branch: "Here in Washington today
officials in the Republican-controlled Justice Department said there are no
plans to ask for a special counsel."
Next, Anthony Mason looked the impact of the controversy
on n Clinton’s speaking fees. After pointing out how Morgan Stanley paid him
at least $100,000 but the Chairman later said it was a mistake to have picked
him, Mason went on to show that’s an aberration. While Gerald Ford gets
$60,000 for a speech and George H. W. Bush makes $80,000, only John Glenn at
$100,000 is in Clinton’s league and the offers keep pouring in. Mason
"The former President will speak to the Oracle
Corporation on Monday and to a conference sponsored by another investment firm
the following week. Despite the controversy and the fee, his agent Don Walker
told me today, ‘the offers are lined up like airplanes over LaGuardia on a
On the February 15 World News Tonight ABC’s Jackie Judd
reported on the criminal probe launched by the U.S. Attorney in New York City,
Mary Jo White, who will follow the money to see if there’s any connection
between it and Clinton’s action. Judd cautioned:
"An inspection of Denise Rich’s known political
contributions shows no huge spike in giving when talk of a pardon began in
earnest. She gave $172,000 last fall to the Democratic Party, $30,000 more than
the same period two years earlier. Her $450,000 contribution to the Clinton
library was made before the pardon came into play. Defense attorneys say that
illustrates how deep prosecutors will have to dig to make a case."
Abbe Lowell, defense attorney: "The benefit has to be
very personal in order for it to be a good case. Not that you gave to my party,
not that you gave to a candidate I like, not even that you gave to my library,
but you gave something to me. And so that’s the difficulty in proving any
kind of public corruption case."
Abbe Lowell: An example of the resurrection of the
Clinton defenders as independent experts.
Pete Williams made the same point on the NBC Nightly
News: "An NBC News analysis of her contributions shows a dramatic increase
in 1998, before Marc Rich hires former White House counsel Jack Quinn to press
for the pardon. The contributions reach a peek in 2000, an election year and
Clinton’s last year in office."
The lack of a spike in donations after the pardon request
hardly proves Denise’s money didn’t have an influence. Maybe she just gave
a lot of money hoping Clinton would appreciate it and do her a favor knowing
she had a lot more money to give.
avoid the word "is" on purpose? All the networks on Thursday night
quoted Bill Clinton’s statement denying he did anything improper in granting
the Marc Rich pardon, but only FNC picked up on Clinton’s grammatical error
in which he incorrectly used the word "are" instead of
During the roundtable segment on Special Report with Brit
Hume viewers saw this text on screen of Clinton’s statement: "Any
suggestion that improper factors including fundraising for the DNC or my
library had anything to do with the decision are absolutely false."
Hume observed: "So the suggestion ‘are’ false.
Mort, any thoughts as to how because that statement is not grammatical and
we’re using the word ‘is’ there, is that a way out of this statement if
it turns out to be true?"
Mort Kondracke postulated: "Maybe the word ‘is’
is not in Clinton’s vocabulary anymore." Kondracke urged a careful
"parsing" of the words and jokingly suggested: "Maybe the
‘fact,’ if it were a fact that he gave the pardons out in return for money
or for the library or something like that, the fact would be true but the
‘suggestion’ is false."
Don’t be too quick to dismiss that parsing.
signs of a media backlash against Republicans for pursuing the Rich pardon?
CNN’s Bob Franken raised supposed Democratic concern that Republicans might
"overplay" the Rich pardon controversy and ABC’s Charles Gibson
rued how the launch of a criminal probe means "this is not going
away." On Good Morning America on Thursday George Stephanopoulos stressed
how difficult it will be to prove Clinton did anything wrong and how he was
motivated by trying to advance the Middle East peace process by fulfilling a
request from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
-- CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Reports, February 14. MRC analyst
Brad Wilmouth caught this Wednesday night exchange on the 8pm ET show:
Wolf Blitzer: "How much of a stomach do the
Republicans appear to have right now to pursue this investigation to the bitter
Bob Franken: "Well, you know, it's very interesting. I
noticed today that the Democrats on the committee were all saying pretty much
the same thing: 'Hey, this has gone far enough. It's time to put it to an end.'
And perhaps a question to them would be, have they seen had some sort of poll
that has shown people are getting sick and tired of this? This was something
that happened a lot of times during the scandals and the controversies that
surrounded Bill Clinton while he was in office, and perhaps the Democrats would
seem to be indicating that maybe they're saying that Republicans are gonna be,
have to watch out that they don't overplay this."
-- ABC’s Good Morning America concentrated its February
15 discussion around how the probe may never end, showing how hard it will be
to prove Clinton did anything wrong and rationalizing Clinton’s decision by
liking it to bringing peace to Israel. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down a
hunk of the discussion which failed to delve into the provable possibility of
wrongdoing if Denise Rich’s donation money came from her husband’s overseas
Charles Gibson: "George, when this gets into the
realm of a criminal investigation, or a preliminary criminal investigation, it
becomes open-ended. This is not going away."
George Stephanopoulos: "That's right, there's no
natural ending point. Usually these preliminary investigations can take place
in a matter of days or weeks, but we're dealing with a complicated set of facts
here, looking at a lot of different bank records from overseas. But as Jackie
[Judd] said at the end, and we should really underscore this, this case is very
difficult to prove. Denise Rich gave contributions to the Democratic Party and
the Clinton library. In order to show it was illegal, you really have to show
that the contributions came from overseas in about the same amounts at about
the same time as she made the contributions to the Clintons."
Gibson: "Well, and in order for the President, the
former President to be charged, you'd have to show that he was, in some way,
doing what he did as a quid pro quo for the money coming in."
Stephanopoulos: "And knew it, and you know, again, to
prove these cases, we've all seen the movies, you'd basically have someone on a
wire saying, 'I'm giving you this money and you're giving me the money,
Gibson: "Well, that's very hard to prove, yes, if
there's a criminal charge, but from the former President's standpoint, it's
very hard to prove that he didn't. As Senator Cole from Wisconsin said
yesterday, there's no one in the country who doesn't think this is a question
of power, connection or money. In other words, there's a cloud hanging over the
President that's very difficult for him to get removed."
Stephanopoulos: "And that's what I think everyone
agrees on here, that this raises the question of money and power, because even
if it wasn't a trade, how did Marc Rich get the case heard? Because he had a
lot of influence, he had a lot of friends in high places, and no question that
the campaign contributions at least allowed his case to be heard."
Gibson: "Well, it's not just campaign contributions.
Jack Quinn, the attorney who was making the case to the President on behalf of
Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, was pointing to the fact, yesterday in his
testimony, that the Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak was weighing in on behalf
of this pardon."
Stephanopoulos: "Several times, and I think you're
going to learn more about this in coming days as well. Prime Minister Barak
weighed in in the Oval Office with the President, on phone calls with the
President. Remember, he was pushing two pardons at the same time, this and the
Jonathan Pollard, the ex-spy. He knew he wasn't going to get Pollard. Marc Rich
was a big contributor to a lot of philanthropic organizations in Israel. Some
people say there were connections between him and the Labor Party, so the
President, who was trying to get Prime Minister Barak to cooperate with him in
the peace negotiations, felt that pressure as well."
At least it was worth is since those peace talks worked
out so well.
spin as Dan Rather’s reporting. On Thursday’s CBS Evening News anchor Dan
Rather adopted as factual the Democratic characterization of their tax plan as
well as of Bush’s while NBC’s David Gregory eagerly relayed without retort
the Democratic photo-op with a woman who claimed she would not benefit from
Dan Rather held coverage to this short item: "A key
Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, told reporters this evening President Bush
does not have the votes to pass his big tax cut plan, at the very least not
yet. And Democrats in Congress put out their version of a budget and tax cut
plan. It features tax cuts half the size of the Bush proposal, fewer of those
cuts going to the wealthy, many more targeted to middle and lower income
Americans. The Democrats would also earmark more of the federal surplus for
national debt and for creating a prescription drug benefit for seniors under
Rather and CBS went on to celebrate how key Senators have
moved to support the creation of a huge new spending program: "On that
score, a new bi-partisan prescription drug benefit proposal is being offered in
the Republican-led Congress and it’s a far cry from the one put out by
President Bush." Indeed, Bob Schieffer explained how Republicans have
decided to let Bush’s plan die and are now pushing the John Breaux/Bill Frist
effort to make prescription drugs part of Medicare, a government expansion plan
which matches what Al Gore advocated.
The NBC Nightly News provided a full report on the
Democratic tax and spending plan. Tom Brokaw announced, as transcribed by MRC
analyst Brad Wilmouth: "On Capitol Hill tonight, tax cuts back at center
stage. The Democrats offering up a plan of their own that they say is more fair
to working Americans and less tilted toward the rich than President Bush’s
plan. NBC’s David Gregory joins me now with that debate that’s centered on
the difference between a payroll tax and an income tax. David."
Gregory began: "Well, Tom, Democrats may be willing
to swallow the bitter pill of a big tax cut, but not as big, as you say, as the
President’s. Their offer about half what Bush wants. Today top Democrats,
eager to prove the Bush tax cut mostly helps the rich, turned to Luwuanna
Adams, a low income single mother, who, because she doesn’t pay much income
tax, gets little out of the President’s plan."
Luwuanna Adams: "I can expect to receive $117 a
year. That comes to about $2 a week."
Gregory relayed the Democratic spin: "An example,
Democrats say, of the working poor who, squeezed by high payroll taxes like
Social Security, really need the tax break most."
Tom Daschle: "The American people deserve a major cut,
and we want to give it to them so long as it’s fair, responsible, and based
on honest projections."
Without putting the Democratic claims in any kind of
context by, for instance, pointing out how Luwuanna Williams is already getting
a great deal in having to pay little if anything in income taxes, or how
liberals would scream about how Social Security would be destroyed by any
reduction in FICA tax revenue if Bush really proposed cutting FICA in any way,
"The Democratic plan, still short on details, would
take only $900 billion, a third of the $2.7 trillion surplus, for a tax cut.
Another $900 billion would pay down the debt, and $900 billion would be
earmarked for new spending on everything from education to defense. But today
the President wouldn’t budge....His plan’s major components: an
across-the-board cut in income tax rates and a doubling of the child credit to
$1,000. But today a noticeable crack in Republican unity."
Senator Lincoln Chafee, (R-sort of): "I think it’s
too big a tax cut for this early in a recovery from the ‘90s
Gregory concluded: "Senator Chafee’s comments tonight
confirmation that in an evenly split 50-50 Senate, Bush doesn’t yet have the
votes to pass his tax cut. The President admitting tonight quote, ‘I have a
lot of work to do.’"
What "‘90s recessions"? It’s been ten years
since the last downturn in 1991 which shows that for liberals like Chafee
it’s always too soon for a tax cut.
love people who love paying high taxes -- or at least assuaging their own guilt
by making others pay high taxes. In this case, their heirs. As detailed in the
February 15 CyberAlert, on Wednesday night the NBC Nightly News highlighted the
efforts by a few wealthy philanthropists to keep the estate tax. On Thursday
night, ABC joined the liberal campaign with a story on World News Tonight and
an entire Nightline all prompted by the decision of a few rich guys to buy some
newspaper ads next week.
Peter Jennings introduced the February 15 World News
Tonight story by first taking brief note of the Democratic tax cut and spending
"On the Hill today, Democrats produced their plan for
cutting taxes. They want to reduce taxes by less than half the amount that
President Bush has proposed. They want to go on using the budget surplus to
keep on paying down the national debt, to increase spending on education,
defense and prescription drugs. Now there’s another specific tax issue in the
news this week. President Bush wishes to repeal the estate tax, which people
pay when they inherit pretty significant amounts of money. But now more than
200 of the wealthiest people in the country have begun a campaign to keep the
tax in place."
Betsy Stark explained: "Billionaire George Soros,
billionaire Warren Buffett, several Rockefellers, and other icons of American
wealth are telling George Bush, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ They are running
this newspaper ad saying they want to pay estate taxes because not to do so
‘would be bad for our democracy, our economy, and our society.’ Leading the
charge, William Gates, Sr, father of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, the richest
man in the world."
[Newspaper ad headline as shown on screen: "If the
estate tax is eliminated, someone else will pay. YOU."]
William Gates: "It may be a little hard for people
to believe, but there are a lot of people in our country who actually put the
country’s interests ahead of their own, and it’s not in the country’s
interests to repeal the estate tax."
Stark: "The estate tax is paid by roughly two percent
of Americans. Repealing it could cost the Treasury nearly $300 billion over the
next ten years."
Steven Rockefeller: "Somebody else other than the
wealthy people who are paying inheritance taxes are going to have to make up
that loss, and, undoubtedly, it will fall on the middle class and on others who
are least able to afford it."
Stark: "These wealthy critics also argue that repealing
the estate tax would hurt charitable giving. Right now, the rich have a strong
incentive to leave money to non-profits like New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
It reduces the value of their estate and, therefore, their tax bill. Those on
the other side of the debate, like Republican Senator Jon Kyl, say most
Americans support a repeal."
Jon Kyl: "It’s not a fair tax. That death is a
taxable event is a stain on our tax code."
Stark concluded: "Senator Kyl says the estate tax makes
it difficult for the children of small business owners and family farmers to
keep their parents’ businesses intact. But they have a wealthy opposition
now, making the odds of a win on this part of the tax bill even longer."
The estate tax cut, like all tax cuts, always had
opposition from the media so "the odds of a win" were always long.