CBS & NY Times Twist Own Poll to Show Bush’s Priorities Wrong; Russert Pleads Again to Rescind Tax Cuts; Fox Carries Bush Speech; Kennedy, Carter and Clinton = the “Fantasy” of Bartlet; Lauer Throws It to “NBC’s Penthouse Correspondent”
1) A CBS News/New York Times poll distorted by both. CBS’s John Roberts stressed how “70 percent of people say they want to hear more about the economy than war,” but he failed to point out how a majority think Bush is splitting his time “about right” between foreign policy and domestic issues. The Times story began: “A majority of Americans say that the nation's economy is in its worst shape in nearly a decade and that President Bush and congressional leaders are spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting problems at home.” But as FNC’s Brit Hume observed, “the poll shows no such thing.”
2) If it’s Sunday, it’s time for Tim Russert to press his guest, whether a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, to agree with him that the tax cuts should be rescinded. Russert’s October 6 target: Senate Majority Leader Tom
Daschle. Russert hoped: “Would you be in favor of postponing the Bush tax cut, the implementation, in order to have money to pay for the war and also reduce the deficit?”
3) A rare instance of Fox showing up the Big Three networks by displaying some corporate responsibility, or at least taking advantage of a PR opportunity left by the decision of ABC, CBS and NBC to not interrupt prime time to carry President Bush’s Iraq speech. Fox convinced Major League Baseball to delay the start of the playoff game so it could air Bush’s speech at 8pm EDT.
4) John Kennedy’s “great heart,” Jimmy Carter’s “morality” and Bill Clinton’s “intelligence,” all rolled into one, make up the “fantasy” of The West Wing’s “President
Bartlet,” actor Martin Sheen suggested last week to PBS’s Charlie Rose. Sheen declared of President Clinton: “I think he was probably the brightest President of the 20th century.” In contrast, of Ronald Reagan he opined: “I don’t think he was a great President.”
5) Sex on Matt Lauer’s mind? On Monday morning, the Today co-host introduced NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski as “NBC’s Penthouse correspondent.” Though he quickly corrected himself, Katie Couric teased him about it later in the show. Maybe he was just thinking about the “genital contortionists” scheduled to appear Wednesday on NBC’s Tonight Show.
A CBS News/New York Times poll distorted by both CBS News and the New York Times.
“A new CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight finds that Americans still have plenty of questions about going after Saddam,” John Roberts declared on Monday’s CBS Evening News. Roberts highlighted a particular poll finding: “Most notably, why are the President and Congress spending so much time on it? 70 percent of people say they want to hear more about the economy than war.”
But Roberts failed to point out how when asked, “Do you think George W. Bush has been spending too much time on foreign policy problems, or too much time on problems here at home, or has he been spending his time about right?,” a majority of 52 percent responded that he’s getting the balance “about right.”
Roberts went on to stress that “while a majority of Americans support the idea of military action, they overwhelmingly want to give weapons inspectors time before sending in the troops and want the U.S. to wait for its allies before acting.”
At least Roberts simply chose to highlight one question over another. The New York Times decided to make up results to questions which were never asked, FNC’s Brit Hume pointed out on Monday night.
Reporters Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder began their October 7 New York Times story, headlined “Public Says Bush Needs to Pay Heed to Weak Economy,” by asserting:
“A majority of Americans say that the nation's economy is in its worst shape in nearly a decade and that President Bush and congressional leaders are spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting problems at home, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”
But as Hume observed Monday night on FNC’s Special Report with Brit Hume after reading that opening sentence from the Times story: “In fact, the poll shows no such thing. It does show that people by a 56 to 43 percent margin think the economy is bad, and it does show that 70 percent of those asked would like to hear political candidates talk more about the economy. But the poll never asks whether the President is talking too much about Iraq.”
And, as noted above, Hume relayed how “the poll found a majority -- 52 percent -- think the President is spending his time, quote, 'about right,’ with only 41 percent saying he’s too focused on foreign policy. Those numbers, by the way, are not reported in the New York Times.”
For the October 7 New York Times story:
For the complete poll results with every question posed:
If it’s Sunday, it’s time for Tim Russert to press his guest, whether a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican, to agree with him that the tax cuts passed last year should be rescinded. And after not having the opportunity to press his pet cause last week since NBC did not air Meet the Press because of the Ryder Cup, on this past Sunday Russert picked up where he left off two weeks earlier when he had pushed both Colorado Senator Wayne Allard and Democratic challenger Ted Strickland.
Russert’s October 6 target: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who was already on record opposing the tax cuts. Russert hoped: “Would you be in favor of postponing the Bush tax cut, the implementation, in order to have money to pay for the war and also reduce the deficit?” And Russert pleaded: “If you feel so seriously about it, Senator, why not postpone the tax cut, freeze it and not let it take place?”
Those represent Russert’s 45th and 46th anti-tax cut questions posed on Meet the Press this year by the count of Rich Noyes, the MRC’s Director of Media Analysis.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens provided the specifics of the relevant exchange on the October 6 Meet the Press:
Reciting what Daschle said on September 18, Russert inquired: “You mentioned the economy. This is what you said just about two weeks ago about it, and, and the tax cuts: 'The tragic set of financial and economic circumstances we are witnessing today, is directly connected to the tragic decline in our fiscal circumstance. President Bush’s solution appears to be pretty clear. They have one all-purpose, economic antidote to everything, and that is tax cuts -- tax cuts largely dedicated to those at the very top.’ Having said that, it now about, appears on the verge of a war with Iraq, would you be in favor of postponing the Bush tax cut, the implementation, in order to have money to pay for the war and also reduce the deficit?”
Daschle: “Tim, I have said from the very beginning that what we ought to do is to not dig the hole any deeper. The President has proposed that we make permanent all of the tax cuts, that we make permanent all of the specific, very expensive and costly and I think imbalanced approaches to tax policy. And what we have said is we won’t do that. We’ll have that vote, and, and I think we ought to stop that from occurring and we ought to have a vote on it right now.”
Russert: “But what about the existing tax cuts that are in place? Why not-”
Daschle: “Well, let’s take first things first.”
Russert: “If you feel so seriously about it, Senator, why not postpone the tax cut, freeze it and not let it take place?”
Daschle: “Well, because the President has said he’d veto something like that. There’s no way that, that will become law. It would be, it would be a, a futile effort in part because the administration is so opposed to it. So that isn’t going to get us anywhere. What I, what I think we can do, though, in spite of the administration opposition is keep this from becoming permanent so we don’t lose another $400 billion in the first 10 years and $4.5 trillion in the second 10 years. We can avoid that from happening. We can put some semblance of fiscal responsibility back into the budget by taking that, at least that minimal step.”
Two weeks ago Russert kept up his mantra during a Colorado Senate debate segment. To Democratic candidate Ted Strickland: “Would you be supportive of freezing or postponing the Bush tax cut in order to raise revenues to help fight the war in Iraq?” To Republican incumbent Wayne Allard: “How are you going to pay for the war in Iraq without, would you suggest, holding off on the tax cut?” For details, see the September 23
Russert's obsession with the tax cut has been ongoing all year:
-- In a span of just over five minutes, eight times on the
Labor Day weekend edition of Meet the Press Russert urged that the Bush tax cuts be rescinded: "Would it be better to freeze, postpone, the Bush tax cut?....Why not freeze the tax cut rather than spend the Social Security surplus?....How did they squander it? With the tax cut?....As part of a budget summit, would you be in favor of freezing the Bush tax cut?....You did come to office with a $5.6 trillion surplus, and it's gone, and a third of that can be directly attributed to the tax cut." For details:
-- The MRC's Rich Noyes documented Russert's tilt over the first seven months of 2002. See his July 30 Media Reality Check: "A Bias Blind Spot for Meet the Press Host; One-Sided Questioning: Russert Pushed Both Friends and Foes of Bush Tax Cut to Suspend Its Benefits." To read it:
While Russert did go on to briefly raise farm bill spending with Daschle, I’m still waiting for a little balance from Russert on tax policy, such as pressing guests about the conservative idea of accelerating the tax cuts or targeting new ones to those hurt by the stock market plunge.
A rare instance of Fox showing up the Big Three networks by displaying some corporate responsibility, or at least taking advantage of a PR opportunity left by the decision of ABC, CBS and NBC to not interrupt prime time in the EDT and CDT to carry President Bush’s speech in Cincinnati about Iraq. (Many West coast network affiliates were able to carry Bush’s speech live at 5pm PDT/6pm MDT, which put it in the middle of local news time anyway.)
Fox convinced Major League Baseball to delay the start of the San Francisco-Atlanta playoff game so it could carry Bush’s speech which ran until about exactly 8:30pm EDT. But it was a last-minute decision. As Lisa de Moraes reported in today’s Washington Post:
“Fox suits, who originally said they would not carry the speech live, changed their minds at about 6pm yesterday after canvassing their stations and finding that a significant portion of them wanted the speech. The network worked with baseball officials and got them to postpone the first pitch until the President wrapped his speech, a network rep told The TV Column.”
The fact that Fox affiliates around the nation showed such interest, when supposedly people care more about the economy than any war, is gratifying. But it is, however, hard to fault ABC, CBS and NBC for sticking to regular programming when the White House never formally requested coverage by the broadcast networks.
John Kennedy’s “great heart,” Jimmy Carter’s “morality” and Bill Clinton’s “intelligence,” all rolled into one, make up the “fantasy” of The West Wing’s “President Bartlet,” actor Martin Sheen suggested last week to PBS’s Charlie Rose. Sheen declared of President Clinton: “I think he was probably the brightest President of the 20th century.”
In contrast, of Ronald Reagan he opined: “I don’t think he was a great President.”
On the October 3 Charlie Rose show, Sheen said he’d have great difficulty playing a President based on Reagan. When Rose asked if he’d give Reagan “some credit” for the “decline of the Soviet empire,” Sheen refused: “No, I think there are other ways to do that sort of thing. But, no, he pounded them into the dust, basically, you know, he made it impossible to compete.” Sheen
complained about “the cost. We’re still not able to get rid of all the weapons that were built on both sides, you know. We’re still stuck with these.”
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth took down the relevant portions of the interview with Sheen, who plays Democratic “President Josiah Bartlet” on NBC’s The West Wing.
Sheen proposed: “I think if you took three Presidents that I happen to admire very greatly and put them all together, you'd have the fantasy of Bartlet and that would be John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.”
Rose: “Really? Which part would you take from each?”
Sheen: “Well, I would take John Kennedy -- his charm and his wit, and his great heart. And I would take Jimmy Carter's morality, and I would take Bill Clinton's intelligence. I think he was probably the brightest President of the 20th century. I really do. The fact that he got there.”
Rose: “A lot of people believe that actually. And others will say Carter was even smarter, I mean, in terms of raw IQ...And I don’t know, I mean, everybody said Clinton’s smart, I never met a person that didn’t say he’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever seen.”
Sheen: “He has that intellectual curiosity about everything and everybody all the time.”
Rose soon wondered: “Would you have played this character if he was not a liberal Democrat Catholic from, if in fact he was a-”
Rose: “Yeah. If he was a combination of, let’s say, Teddy Roosevelt’s a Republican. Ronald Reagan is a-”
Sheen, referring to Roosevelt: “But he would have been a Democrat if he were living now, I believe. He was more Democratic than he was a Republican.”
Rose: “You’re not letting the Republicans off here.”
Sheen: “No, sir.”
Rose: “If he was a combination of Ronald Reagan, say, who had a gift.”
Sheen: “He had a great heart and a gift as an actor. But I don’t think he was a great President, no. “
Rose: “What about, I mean, won’t you give him some credit for the Soviet, decline of the Soviet empire?”
Sheen: “No, I think there are other ways to do that sort of thing. But, no, he pounded them into the dust, basically, you know, he made it impossible to compete-”
Rose: “He made them realize they couldn’t win. And they realized they couldn’t compete.”
Sheen: “They couldn’t compete, but look at the cost. We’re still not able to get rid of all the weapons that were built on both sides, you know. We’re still stuck with these, you know. The treaties are still trying to be worked out.”
Rose tried again: “Would you play if it was a combination of George Bush, 43, Ronald Reagan, and Herbert, and not Herbert Hoover-”
Sheen: “George Bush Sr.”
Rose: “Well, Senior, take Senior if you’d like, number 41. George Bush Sr., Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan. Suppose it was an amalgam of them?”
Sheen: “Well, I don’t know if I could, frankly.”
Sheen: “I played President Kennedy once and I didn't feel up to it at all. I mean, I didn't think anyone could do it and maybe no one should have because he was so powerful and he was, he was so beloved, you know, it was very difficult. But, in fact, I did him because I loved him and my wife talked me into it basically because she said if by your doing him, you prevent someone from playing him who didn’t love him, it’s a good thing. So I went with that.”
Rose: “Okay, but I’m not getting an answer to my one question.”
Sheen: “I’m not trying to answer it.”
Rose: “Would you play it if it wasn’t somebody you admired, they had values that they were conservative, they were a hawk, and they wanted to dominate the world.”
Referring to The West Wing’s creator/writer, Sheen replied: “I’ll put it this way: If Aaron Sorkin wrote it, I would do it.”
Rose: “You think that much of him?”
Sheen: “I would play anything that he writes with pleasure.”
Don’t count on any positive portrayals of conservatives from Sorkin. Before The West Wing, he wrote The American President, a movie in which Michael Douglas played a liberal President who lost his way until realizing he should battle industry-caused global warming and fight for more gun control.
For The West Wing’s character/bio page on Sheen:
Another episode of The West Wings airs Wednesday night on NBC at 9pm EDT/PDT, 8pm CDT/MDT.
Sex on Lauer’s mind? On Monday morning, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Today co-host Matt Lauer introduced NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski as “NBC’s Penthouse correspondent.” Though he quickly corrected himself, Katie Couric teased him about it later in the show.
At about 7:17am on the October 7 show, Lauer set up Miklaszewski: "As we reported, President Bush speaks to the nation tonight. He's expected to address some questions about a possible war with Iraq. A war that would open a second front with the U.S. war on terrorism. One year ago today the war in Afghanistan began and U.S. troops are still there. Here's NBC's Penthouse correspondent, Pentagon correspondent, excuse me, Jim
At the top of the 8am half hour, Couric teased him about it as they plugged, shall we say, the upcoming subjects of that half hour, which included sex columns in college newspapers:
Lauer: "Also Dr. Ruth and Carrie Bradshaw do it now college students are giving it a go as well. We are talking about sex columns and why they are popping up in college newspapers all across the country. Yes even places like Yale. And we're gonna talk to two columnists and find out about some of the advice that they are giving their fellow students. And I guess some people are a little upset about this. Maybe it's not exactly what they expect to see in those newspapers."
Couric: "Yeah. Well I understand they're pretty graphic. Some of the-"
Lauer: "Well one of the columns actually just answers questions and so yes some of the questions are graphic and thus the answers are graphic."
Couric: "Kind of like the Dear Penthouse thing."
Lauer feigned naivete: "How would you know? I have no idea. Never read the magazine."
Couric quipped, to laughter from those in the studio: "Our 'Penthouse correspondent.’"
Maybe Lauer was just thinking about the guests scheduled for Wednesday’s Tonight Show: “Genital contortionists” David Friend and Simon Morley, creators of the “Puppetry of the Penis” stage show. I’ll leave what they do to your imagination, though I trust they will only talk about it with Jay Leno.
Tonight, Tuesday October 8, CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman will stick to more serious topics with Senator John McCain as a guest. Given how many get much of their news from the late night hosts, many will probably learn for the first time from McCain why a war with Iraq is necessary.
-- Brent Baker
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