All Tax Cuts "Huge" to CBS?; CNN: Klein’s Clinton Book "Balanced"; Today Featured Bruni’s "Ambling Into History" & EPA’s Bush-Basher
1) Is a tax cut ever seen as anything but "big"
or "huge" by CBS News? On Thursday night, Bob Schieffer found
the culprit for why the stimulus bill was delayed: "Republicans
insisted on coupling unemployment benefits with huge tax cuts for
2) Joe Klein’s new book is titled, "The Natural:
The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton," but CNN anchor Aaron
Brown declared it a "very balanced book on the former
President." Klein expounded on CNN about Clinton’s
"courageous" policies and how he couldn’t fix the FBI by
firing Louis Freeh "because it would appear that he was firing him
over Monica Lewinsky." Years ago, Klein defended Clinton’s morals:
"Having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of
success in the presidency."
3) NBC’s Today showcased New York Times reporter Frank
Bruni and his new book, Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of
George W. Bush. Bruni recounted amateurish behavior by Bush at a 1999
memorial service and how Bruni finds Bush uninformed about popular
culture, but that he was transformed by September 11 so people now see the
genuine and plain-spoken side. Bruni insisted: "This is not meant to
bash him or to bolster him."
4) Today also featured former EPA staffer Eric Schaeffer
who Katie Couric prodded to repeat his attacks on Bush’s environmental
policy as she challenged him only once, and then very mildly. But seconds
later, with EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman, Couric played devil’s
advocate with every question and demanded she respond to the spin from a
liberal House Democrat about how "more Americans will breathe toxic
air pollution for a longer period of time."
>>> Hear Dan
Rather as he accepted the "Gilligan Award (for the Flakiest Comment
of the Year)" at the MRC’s Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most
Outrageously Biased Reporters of 2001. Sort of. Roast attendees really
heard an interview between Kate O’Beirne and Dan Rather made possible by
the editing together of audio clips of actual past Rather comments. Now,
the MRC’s Mez Djouadi has posted a RealPlayer clip of the exchange
enjoyed by those at the roast back on January 17. To hear it, as well as
to read a transcript, go to the address below and scroll down a bit:
You’ll hear Rather proclaim: "I’m
all news, all the time. Full power, tall tower. I want to break in when
the news breaks out." And: "You know, I’ve been a dumb-ass all
Plus, also now online, RealPlayer videos of
Lucianne Goldberg accepting, on behalf of Helen Thomas, the "Bring
Back Bubba Award (for the Best Journalistic Lewinsky)"; Bob Dornan
accepting the "Peter Arnett Award (for Hopelessly Foolish Wartime
Reporting)" for David Westin; and Katherine Harris accepting, on
behalf of Dan Rather, the "Sore Losers Award (for Refusing to Concede
Bush’s Victory in Florida)." New today: Steve Forbes accepting the
"We’re All Going to Die and It’s Bush’s Fault Award (for
Doomsday Environmental Reporting)" on behalf of Margaret Carlson. Go
a tax cut ever seen as anything but "big" or "huge" by
CBS News? On Thursday night, Bob Schieffer reported that the House managed
to agree to a stimulus package which had been delayed because
"Republicans insisted on coupling unemployment benefits with huge tax
cuts for business."
Schieffer opened his March 7 story on the CBS
Evening News: "With the six month
anniversary of the attack less than a week away, Congress is finally near
agreement on an economic stimulus package to get the economy going again
and help the unemployed. Until now, House Republicans insisted on coupling
unemployment benefits with huge tax cuts for business."
Last year in the MRC’s study, "Liberal
Spin Prevails: How CBS Led the Networks’ Charge Against the Bush Tax
Cut," the MRC’s Rich Noyes determined that CBS’s Dan Rather
branded "the President’s tax plan as ‘big’ eleven times,"
more often than any other network reporter. To read the study, refer back
Klein’s new book features an image of Bill Clinton on a mocked-up dime
surrounded by the title, "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency
of Bill Clinton," but CNN anchor Aaron Brown declared it a "very
balanced book on the former President."
(To view the cover with Clinton’s head on a
dime under the word "Liberty," check this Amazon.com page: http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0385506198.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg)
Interviewing Klein on Wednesday’s NewsNight,
Brown wanted to know, "what did he do that was good?" After
Klein admired how "his domestic policy was excellent and it was
courageous," Brown didn’t see Clinton as having any "bad"
policies, just "less successful" ones: "Would you agree
that he was less successful a President on the foreign policy side?"
Klein is most famous for writing Primary
Colors which dealt with how personal foibles of a Clinton-like character
impeded the noble goals of a liberal politician. But a few years ago Klein
was holding up Bill Clinton’s character and morals as an attribute since
"having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of
success in the presidency." Two quotes from the MRC archive:
-- As a Newsweek Senior Writer, in the January
3, 1994 issue he opined: "I suspect that as long as the peccadilloes
remain within reason, the American people will have great tolerance for a
President who has not only seen the sunshine of Oxford, but also the dusky
Dunkin' Donuts of the soul."
-- A few months later, on the May 8 Face the
Nation, Klein mocked concerns about Clinton’s behavior: "Are we in
an era of government by Geraldo? Have we created an atmosphere where no
one with any interesting aspects of their past is going to want to get
involved in politics? Are we going to look back on this time 100 years
from now the way we look back on Salem?...We’re going to wind up with
government by goody_goodies, government by people who have done nothing in
their life except walk the straight and narrow, who have no creative
thoughts. We’re going to look back on this 100 years from now and say we
drove some of our best people out of politics. In the 20th century, having
an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the
A Publisher’s Weekly review showcased by
Amazon.com demonstrates that Klein’s new book hardly offers a balanced
take on liberal and conservative policies and leaders during the Clinton
presidency. Picking up on Klein’s criticism for Clinton’s Lewinsky
relationship, the review noted:
even more critical of the fanatical press that fed on the affair, and the
Newt Gingrich-led Republican ideologues and their subsequent suicidal
impeachment mission. Klein also provides brilliantly illuminating
caricatures of the political players who swirled around Clinton. North
Carolina Senator Jesse Helms is an ‘antediluvian Visigoth,’ consultant
Dick Morris ‘a prohibitively bizarre human being,’ and Gingrich is an
‘American Mullah’ and a ‘faux revolutionary who tried to turn
democracy into war.’"
For the entire review: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/
MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed how Brown
opened the March 6 NewsNight with his always self-indulgent rant, this
time about how the independent counsel’s final report bothered him. At
the end of his remarks he got to his claim about the "very
balanced" nature of Klein’s book:
usually put breaking news right here at the top of the program, the first
90 seconds or so being devoted to some weird and self-indulgent rant. But
how can we resist this. Item: the investigation into Bill Clinton is
officially over. The independent counsel announced that today. Wow, I was
worried there might be an impeachment or something! Look, do me a little
favor. If you thought the investigation of Mr. Clinton ended a year ago
when he left office, raise you hand. Okay, now you can lower them. If you
thought the investigations would never end, raise you hand. It turns out
you were closer to correct.
remarkable, isn't it, a year after the guy leaves office, makes the deal
so both sides can avoid a trial with an uncertain outcome, the country was
still spending money on this? Anyway, it's over now. After about $70
million we can say he lied when he said he didn't have sex with Monica
Lewinsky. I wasn't sure of that until today.
out we'll spend some time, more time on Mr. Clinton today. Joe Klein has
written an interesting and very balanced book on the former president, one
of those books that will make everyone happy, or perhaps unhappy. We'll
Brown later set up his interview with Klein:
"For President Clinton now, or citizen Clinton, the investigation is
now officially over. We mentioned this earlier in that sometimes-annoying
Page Two that begins the program. No reason to say it again, it's done, he
lied, $70 million, no trial.
leads us, and how is this for great planning by the way, to Joe Klein, who
wrote the book on Mr. Clinton. Well actually, he wrote two books on Mr.
Clinton. The first Primary Colors, the campaign book. Now, The Natural,
which strikes us as the perfect title for a book about a guy who seemed to
have been born to run for something, anything."
Brown began by asking if Klein thought he knew
Clinton and "are there people who you think know him?" Klein
replied: "His wife, perhaps. Some of his close friends...."
Brown then inquired: "Let's try and cover
a couple things a little quickly here. It's always seemed to me that he is
perceived in a kind of black-and-white way. You either love him or you
hate him, and one of the arguments you make in the book is that, in fact,
the guy did good and the guy did bad."
"Yeah, most Presidents do."
"On the good, what did he do that was good?"
Clinton’s courage: "Well, his domestic policy was excellent and it
was courageous. He did something that was really quite remarkable for a
President. He went right up into the face of his base, his strongest
supporters, by deficit reduction, when you know the liberal Democrats
really wanted to spend more money on social programs, welfare reform, free
trade. These are all things that are kind of an anathema of
died-in-the-wool Democrats, and yet he did them and he did them because he
had a vision of the world. He wanted to move us from the industrial age to
the information age, and he had mixed success in doing that."
raised a downside: "And would you agree that he was less successful a
President on the foreign policy side?"
"Yeah. I don't think he ever felt really comfortable with the
military. I think that that resulted from his position on the war in
Vietnam, and it was there from Day One, and it was probably still there at
the last day. Also, he didn't pay as much attention as he should have to
foreign policy, and then in the end, I really believe that the Lewinsky
affair had some deleterious, really bad effects on the foreign
"It was a distraction to him?"
Klein held up
anti-Clinton scandal mongering as an excuse for why Clinton couldn’t fix
the FBI: "It was more than a distraction. I think that a lot of
people knew that the FBI really wasn't in very good shape. In fact, it was
a disaster, and I think he wanted to fire Louis Freeh but he couldn't do
it because it would appear that he was firing him over Monica Lewinsky."
Of course, Clinton picked Freeh to run the
Brown next contended that irrational reasoning
is behind any dislike of Bill Clinton: "You talked about his
relationship to the military and going back to Vietnam, which is for me, a
perfect segue into this theory I have about people's feelings about him.
That I've always thought that many people had, inappropriately, I'm not
sure that's really the word I want, strong dislike for him that is out
there somewhere years ago, but not necessarily related to anything he
specifically did. Does that make sense?"
rationalized: "Yeah, well, you know in the ancient, ancient world, in
very early world, a scapegoat was always guilty of the crimes he or she
was accused of. And Bill Clinton was a classic scapegoat because he
represented the three great crimes of my Baby Boom generation, my awful
self-indulgent Baby Boom generation. There was the sexual stuff. There was
the looseness, the moral looseness. There was the fact that he put
marketing over substance too often. And then there was the dreadful
fudging and skating and avoiding service that we all did. And it's one of
the reasons why I think we haven't been as good public servants as our
"Yes or no, okay, do you like the guy?"
"You can't not like the guy. And also, yes or no, do you like a
hurricane? Do you like a tornado? I mean, this is the most talented
politician I covered in 33 years doing this stuff. And sometimes, you just
sat back with your mouth agape in wonder that he could do it."
"It's a terrific read. Thanks for coming in."
Brown probably thinks his interview was
balanced -- by the same standard he thinks the book is balanced.
Today on Thursday morning showcased New York Times reporter Frank Bruni
and his new book, Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W.
Bush. Bruni recounted some supposedly amateurish and inappropriate
behavior by Bush at a 1999 memorial service and how Bruni finds Bush
surprisingly uninformed about popular culture, but that he was transformed
by September 11 so people now see the genuine and plain-spoken side Bruni
saw behind the scenes while covering him in 1999 and 2000.
NBC’s Matt Lauer summed up Bruni’s view:
"There's a huge balance there. So he doesn't know much about Sex and
the City, or Stone Phillips or Leonardo DiCaprio, he's earnest and
sincere." Bruni insisted:
"This is not meant to bash him or to bolster him this is just a
book-length answer to the question: What is he like up close and
Stone Phillips as a representative name
everyone should know from pop culture? Stone Phillips?
Since it is possible to separate Bush from
conservative policies, I’d suggest that offering a negative evaluation
of Bush’s personal behavior does not necessarily make the book a biased
anti-conservative screed unless it castigates Bush for pushing
conservative policies, which it apparently does not. Let’s remember that
in 1999 and 2000 a lot of conservatives wondered if George W. Bush was up
to the job.
Some excerpts from the March 7 interview as
taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- Lauer: "Why don't we just start with
the title okay. Ambling Into History, you look it up, ambling means, 'to
move with an easy gait, to saunter,' why that description?"
"Well this is a guy who didn't hold elective office until 1995 and in
2000 he wins the presidency. I mean most of the Presidents we've had, have
been people who've worked toward it for a very long time, set in their
sites very early on. He came to his ambition late. The beginning of his
campaign almost seemed a little ambivalent about what he was doing. I mean
he was someone who truly, more than any other President, ambled toward the
"After writing about him for so many months covering the campaign and
then as President you chose in this book not to write a book about his
policies. You chose instead to write about small moments. His behavior,
his nuances. Why was that more important to you?"
"Because that's what I could uniquely contribute. You can write about
his policies, evaluate them from a distance. You can write about his
governing style from a distance. I spent so much time around him, over two
years, probably more than anyone who wasn't a family member or a friend,
or a, you know advisor. And I thought that was what I could give people
that other people couldn't, was a real, you know-"
"Some of what you write is not flattering. Let me, let me give you a
couple of descriptions. First impressions, quote, 'An irreverent
rapscallion on intermittently good behavior. Jim Carrey trying to
incorporate at least a few elements of Jimmy Stewart. He was asked to be
king but he still reserved the right to play the fool.' Give me an example
of George W. Bush playing the fool."
"One of the first times I met him it was at a memorial service in Ft.
Worth for victims of a church shooting. And he was sitting there at this
very somber event and he kept looking, looking back from his seat at
myself and a couple of other reporters and making funny faces at us,
wiggling his eyebrows, winking."
-- Lauer: "Another quote from you in the
book. 'Part scamp and part bumbler. A timeless fraternity boy and heedless
cut-up. A weekday gym rat and weekend napster.' You talk about and you
make fun of some of his lack of pop culture knowledge. Rush Limbaugh says
the following: 'So Bush is out of it. He doesn't know any of the latest
pop icons. The important thing is this, George W. Bush knows who he is,
knows the country and knows who you are and he knows what's best.' Isn't
that more important in a President, if you agree with that?"
"Oh it's absolutely more important in a President. The pop culture
stuff I include just because it's an interesting aspect of the life of his
particular mind. I mean he's someone, who even in his peripheral vision
hasn't picked up on things like who Leonardo DiCaprio is, who Stone
Phillips is. These are not things he needs to know as President. But it's
just interesting that his field of interest can be so narrow."
"While you poke fun at the President during these times you do say
that here comes 9/11, here comes September 11th and there was a
transformation. You point to a moment in the Oval Office just a couple of
days after September 11th where the President is speaking to reporters and
he tears up. Let's, let's play a brief portion of that moment....Why was
that moment so significant to you?"
think Americans saw in that moment what an earnest, authentic, genuine guy
he could be. He's not a great actor like Ronald Reagan was or even to some
extent like Bill Clinton was. He is what you see. And I think what
Americans saw in that moment, more than any point before, was how
sensitive he can be. How feeling he can be. Which is something I saw
behind-the-scenes all the time."
"And then there's a huge balance there. So he doesn't know much about
'Sex and the City,' or Stone Phillips or Leonardo DiCaprio, he's earnest
"Yeah and I think he successfully, to some extent, communicated that
to voters during the course of the campaign as one of the reasons as well
as he did."
"Remember when he showed up at Ground Zero and he spoke to the
workers who had been working there around the clock and he grabbed that
bullhorn, this moment here, and I'm gonna ask you about it on the other
side....What did he show you at that moment?"
"Well we've often made fun of his ineloquence when he's standing at a
podium in formal moments. What that showed you is that in more casual,
more informal moments he can say what's necessary. He can say something
very meaningful in a very plain way."
"He can connect to the people he's talking to."
"Yeah, I mean that was a great moment for him and unrehearsed,
"Is this a balanced book? I mean while you take potshots do you also
give the proper credit for the transformation?"
"Oh absolutely, to the point that I have liberals calling me, 'Bush's
love-slave.' Everybody seems to-" [Lauer
"No, I mean it's true."
"You should get business cards printed up with that."
"This is not meant to bash him or to bolster him. This is just a
book-length answer to the question: What is he like up close and
The Today Web page features an excerpt from
the book’s chapter about Bush’s odd behavior at a memorial service, a
picture of Bruni and a video clip of the Today interview: http://www.msnbc.com/news/720190.asp
after he resigned in a publicity stunt to create a platform to bash the
Bush administration for not being liberal enough on environmental policy
by daring to consider policy solutions other than heavily bureaucratic
regulatory enforcement schemes, NBC’s Today on Thursday featured former
EPA staffer Eric Schaeffer.
Today’s Katie Couric prodded Schaeffer to
elaborate on his opinions and only once, and then very mildly, challenged
his premise. But seconds later, with EPA Administrator Christie Todd
Whitman, Couric played devil’s advocate with every question and demanded
she respond to the spin from a liberal House Democrat: "Congressman
Henry Waxman says quote, 'Contrary to the Clean Air Act the Bush
administration has delayed the date by which toxic air pollution will be
cleaned up. With this delay more Americans will breathe toxic air
pollution for a longer period of time.'"
The March 4 CyberAlert documented: An EPA
official who resigned by denouncing Bush environmental policy was rewarded
with a boomlet of laudatory media coverage with stories in major
newspapers and on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as an interview on This Week.
MSNBC’s News with Brian Williams featured the NBC Nightly News story,
but three nights earlier, when Nightly News aired a piece about how
"Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years,"
MSNBC’s prime time newscast not re-air that story. For
A rundown of the questions posed to Schaeffer
and Whitman on the March 7 Today as tracked by the MRC’s Geoffrey
Couric set up the segment: "Last week
Eric Schaeffer, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official leveled
some very serious allegations against the Bush administration and its
enforcement of clean air laws. Then he resigned. Eric Schaeffer joins us
this morning. Mr. Schaeffer good morning."
-- Couric: "Ultimately what made you say,
'I'm mad as heck and I'm not gonna take it any more?'"
-- Couric: "So you have charged, pretty
much Mr. Schaeffer, that big business and industry in exchange for
generous contributions to the Bush campaign has been lobbying to relax
clean air standards. Do you really think there's a quid-pro-quo going on
-- Couric: "And what, what is the
rationale for getting rid of the Clean Air Act?"
-- Couric mildly challenged Schaeffer, but
presented the question in the form of asking him why the Bush policy is
bad: "But meanwhile the Bush administration has introduced something
that you well know, it is called the Clear Skies Initiative. Christie Todd
Whitman has said it's quote, 'the most aggressive initiative to cut air
pollution in a generation. Why don't you think that's an adequate
replacement for the Clean Air Act?"
-- Couric: "And real quickly what do you
hope to achieve through your resignation?"
-- Couric turned to Whitman: "Well
obviously Mr. Schaeffer has leveled some pretty serious accusations
against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bush administration.
How do you respond?"
-- Couric: "What about the, the, the
sentiment that, that these new initiatives are intended to help energy
suppliers? That the White House is in essence paying back its friends to
the detriment of public health in this country?"
-- Couric: "The EPA has also been
criticized for extending the deadline for compliance with the Clean Air
Act. Congressman Henry Waxman says quote, 'Contrary to the Clean Air Act
the Bush administration has delayed the date by which toxic air pollution
will be cleaned up. With this delay more Americans will breathe toxic air
pollution for a longer period of time.'"
By extending Couric’s contract, NBC has
extended the length of time Americans must endure her harmful biased
approach to interviews.
> I’ve run
out of space again before getting to my planned further analysis of the
PBS NewsHour’s assessment of the cable news channels and FNC’s
conservative bias. I’ll try again to fit it in on Monday along with my
take on the just-published New Republic cover story which attacks the
premise of Bernard Goldberg’s book.