Clinton's "Very Clever" Speech Enthralls Brokaw and Russert --7/27/2004
2. MSNBC: Dems Not Anti-Bush Enough, Scarborough: "I Trust" Kerry
3. CNN: Carter Has "Improved with Age....An Honest Man, Truthful"
4. FNC Doesn't Show Gore, Notes Platform v Delegate Iraq Disparity
5. Jennings Notes How in ABC Poll Kerry "Losing Ground" to Bush
6. Neither CBS nor NBC Show Teresa Kerry's "Un-American" Accusation
7. "Top Ten Signs Your Convention Speech is Boring"
Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert were enthralled by former President Bill Clinton's address. Immediately after Clinton concluded, Brokaw enthused on NBC: "He put himself in the speech, obviously, as a newly wealthy man, talking about the Bush tax cuts and what they cost America." A couple of minutes later, Brokaw again favorably raised Clinton's denouncement of the Bush tax cuts and didn't doubt one terrible result of them: "When he talked about the tax cuts he really did refer to the number of uniform police who are going to be cut from the program." Russert soon paraphrased how Clinton said "I'm the recipient of the tax cut and I also avoided going to Vietnam." Russert admired how "by using those own personal weaknesses, if you will, he only re-enforced the uniqueness of John Kerry. Very clever speech."
Brokaw and Russert consumed the last minute of NBC's coverage, which ended at 11:04pm EDT, by gushing over the wonders of Clinton's speech and his claims:
Russert: "This was old-fashioned political oratory. He called the President a 'strong man who loves his country,' and then suggested he's just plain wrong about every issue that he possibly goes near. It had the sense of the White House, the Congress, nothing personal about it. But he laid out a case which really did build around the whole notion of John Kerry as a strong Commander-in-Chief. And it was playing off his wife who as a liberal Democratic Senator from New York called for increasing the Defense budget by doubling the size of proposed troop strength. It was an extraordinary night for the Democrats -- how they're trying to position their party."
(About an hour earlier, at the top of CBS's 10pm EDT hour, John Roberts noted that the Democrats weren't as negative-free as they promised: "The mantra going into this Dan was supposed to be accentuate the positive, really downplay the negative, don't talk too much about President Bush, talk more about John Kerry. But so far, in speeches from Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, Dan, the Democrats certainly have been going negative for their fair share of the time.")
MSNBC's team worried Monday night that the Kerry-Edwards campaign's effort to limit Bush-bashing would disappoint some. Andrea Mitchell commiserated with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell about how "they've taken some of the best lines out of your speech" and prodded him to deliver one of his zingers to MSNBC's audience. Rendell gladly complied: "My line was the Bush energy policy was 'written by Big Oil, of Big Oil and for Big Oil.'" Campbell Brown approached Howard Dean from the left: "There's been this huge effort to try to keep the message positive, but are people speaking out strongly enough in the way that you would prefer about George Bush and his policies?" On several occasions, however, Chris Matthews pointed out how the party is trying to cover up its liberalness.
In the most unexpected event of the night, the MRC's Geoff Dickens caught how after Clinton's speech, MSNBC's conservative host, Joe Scarborough, praised John Kerry: "Tonight we are getting a glimpses of John Kerry as a guy that would lay it on the line." Scarborough explained that the comments from Kerry's Vietnam crew mate, David Alston, "moved me. That made me think, you know what? I would sleep well at night. Even though I disagree with this guy probably on 90 percent of the issues that they have out there. This is a guy that I, that I could trust as President."
Some highlights from MSNBC's Monday night coverage, in time sequence:
-- Andrea Mitchell, 6:47pm EDT, prodding a guest for some Bush-bashing: "Hey Chris. You know one of the problems here for some of the speakers has been that Kerry and DNC people have been trying to keep all the red meat out of the speeches. They want to be kindler and gentler. And that has affected some of the potential speakers. I'm standing here now with former head of the Democratic National Committee, current Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell. Governor I gather that they've taken some of the best lines out of your speech, the speech you're gonna give Wednesday night....Well we're gonna give you a chance right now on MSNBC to give us, tell me a line that they cut out. What was, what hit the-"
-- Chris Matthews to David Gregory at 7:15pm EDT, on how Democrats are trying to "keep the crazy people off camera":
-- Matthews at 7:43pm EDT disputing guest Wesley Clark's contention that Kerry is not liberal: "How can you call him a right guy when he is a man of the Left! He has 100 percent, I'm sorry, according to the National Journal he has the most liberal voting record in the entire United States Senate, now you're trying to sell him as a middle-of-the-roader. John Edwards the fourth most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. Now you are all trying to sell him as a moderate. Which is the truth? Is this a makeover? Is this Beverly Hills cosmetics?"
-- Campbell Brown, on the convention floor, hitting Howard Dean from the left at 9:16pm EDT: "What do you think of what you have heard tonight. There's been this huge effort to try to keep the message positive but are people speaking out strongly enough in the way that you would prefer about George Bush and his policies?"
-- Chris Jansing, moments later, to Dennis Kucinich, about his delegates: "Here's why they tell me they're not happy. They look at the Democratic platform, they don't think it reflects the views either of the Democratic Party or certainly it doesn't reflect your views because it refuses to say essentially that they thought the war in Iraq was wrong. They said people of goodwill disagree about whether America should have gone to war in Iraq."
-- Joe Scarborough, regularly host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, in the 11pm EDT hour pronounced John Kerry trustworthy and a man he'd be comfortable with as President:
Jimmy Carter repeatedly used the term "extremist" to attack Bush policies, at one point denouncing "extremist doctrines and the manipulation of truth," but CNN's Aaron Brown and Joe Johns found something to admire in Carter's method of attack. Brown enthused on his 11pm EDT NewsNight: "Nearly 80 years old now, Jimmy Carter was given a spotlight. And in many ways, to many people, he has improved with age. He was pointed tonight, as they like to say..."
Johns passed on how John Lewis, "the esteemed Congressman and former civil rights leader from Georgia," said that Carter is able to deliver criticism because he "is simply the elder statesman of the party, an honest man, truthful, and when those words come out of his mouth, he's viewed as such." Johns also gushed about how "this crowd really enjoyed him. I'll put it that way. He did something for them. And he never raised his voice."
That exchange in full, as noted by the MRC's Ken Sheperd:
Johns: "I talked to some people, in fact I sat in the Georgia delegation while he was delivering that speech, watched the people as the listened very closely. They very politely applauded. Then I talked afterward with John Lewis, the Congressman, the esteemed congressman and former civil rights leader from Georgia, and asked him just how does Jimmy Carter get away with that when Kerry and Edwards are trying to tamp down the criticism and he said Jimmy Carter is simply the elder statesman of the party, an honest man, truthful, and when those words come out of his mouth, he's viewed as such. He also said Jimmy Carter, only Jimmy Carter, can do something like that. So I had the first-"
FNC may have provided fuel to its left-wing critics when the network failed to air Al Gore's speech live, though it ran a lengthy excerpt a couple of hours later at 10pm EDT, and carried on with its regular line-up, running The O'Reilly Factor from 8 to 9pm EDT. Instead of Gore, FNC viewers were treated to O'Reilly interviewing Democratic consultant Howard Wolfson.
When FNC did get around to full-time convention coverage in the 10pm EDT hour, Major Garrett pointed out how "the Democratic platform, written by John Kerry, basically calls for an open-ended financial, military and political commitment to democratizing Iraq. Now, that is not something that all the delegates on this floor agree with." Chris Wallace also pressed Illinois Senate candidate Barack to Obama about the disconnect on Iraq between the platform and the views of the delegates: "Aren't John Edwards and John Kerry hiding where the Democratic Party really is on Iraq?"
And FNC's commentators disagreed on the ideological flavor of Bill Clinton's speech. William Kristol, Publisher of The Weekly Standard, insisted that Clinton delivered a "very centrist speech" while Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of the same magazine, countered: "I didn't think Jimmy Carter, Al Gore or Bill Clinton gave centrist speeches."
Fuller quotes from FNC's Monday night coverage, as tracked by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
-- Bill O'Reilly announced a bit past 8pm EDT: "In just a few moments, Al Gore is going to address the crowd here. We might listen in for a minute or so, but we're trying to stay away from partisan speeches in both conventions this year. The 'No Spin Zone' has turned into a 'No Propaganda Zone,' and that's the subject of this evening's 'Talking Points Memo.'"
After showing about 45 seconds of Gore, O'Reilly opined: "Oh man, I wish I was out there. I would have said, 'Hey, a deficit? We got a war on terror. We were attacked. What are you talking about?' I can't do it. I'm up here in the booth. All right, let's get back to talking about Teresa Heinz Kerry, Mr. Wolfson. I like her. I know her. I want her to be feisty. I, these robotic politicians, that's why Gore lost. He was a robot, okay? But if she's gonna get in your face, she's got to explain it, right?"
-- In the 10pm EDT hour, discussing Jimmy Carter's speech, reporter Martha McCallum pointed out: "He also mentioned, though, an interesting point when he talked about the fact that North Korea was a bigger threat, nuclear threat than Iraq is. Interestingly, if you may remember, Carter was part of a delegation under the Clinton administration that went to North Korea, came back and suggested that the Clinton administration basically back off of a military approach there because he didn't feel that there was a serious threat there."
-- Major Garrett soon noted: "In addition to the speeches, there is some actual business being conducted here on the floor of the Democratic National Convention. One of the things that was done tonight, Democrats here on the floor, the delegates reviewed the party platform. And on the central issue touched on both by former Vice-President Al Gore and former President Jimmy Carter, the war in Iraq, it might be interesting for our viewers to know that the Democratic platform, written by John Kerry, basically calls for an open-ended financial, military and political commitment to democratizing Iraq. Now, that is not something that all the delegates on this floor agree with. A Boston Globe poll today showed that 95 percent, 95 percent of the assembled Democrats here for the convention do not think the war in Iraq is a good idea. I talked to one of the biggest opponents of the war, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, earlier tonight, he said we don't agree with this platform, but we're not going to make a stink about it. There will be no division among Democrats on this issue. What we in the peace movement will do is try to create a context for John Kerry to change his mind about Iraq once he is elected."
-- Chris Wallace, on the convention floor, quizzed Barack Obama:
# "Let me ask you about the Iraq war. The Boston Globe had a very interesting poll in the paper today that found that 95 percent of the delegates now believe that the U.S. never should have gone into Iraq in the first place. Aren't John Edwards and John Kerry hiding where the Democratic Party really is on Iraq?"
-- William Kristol declared of Clinton's address: "And giving a very centrist speech, very much a contrast to Al Gore, you know, I was thinking about that listening to Clinton. Nothing about 'the people versus the powerful,' no attack on big corporations, no invocation of the great liberal themes, abortion rights, all that kind of stuff. An incredibly centrist, I mean, this was Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton wants John Kerry to run as a Clinton Democrat with the addition that he will be a stronger leader on foreign policy in a post-9/11 world."
Barnes soon argued: "I didn't think Jimmy Carter, Al Gore or Bill Clinton gave centrist speeches."
From the floor of the Democratic convention at the Fleet Center in Boston, ABC's Peter Jennings led Monday's World News Tonight by highlighting how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that "John Kerry is losing some ground, currently to the President, on several big issues." Most prominent among those, which candidate voters trust more to handle the war on terrorism, the Bush-Kerry split has moved from a virtual ties to a 55 to 37 percent advantage for President Bush. George Stephanopoulos suggested Kerry "can take heart in" how "more than half of the voters...don't have a good idea of where he stands on the issues, so if he can fill that in, he should get a boost this week." But, Stephanopoulos warned, "those numbers on terrorism, an 18 point deficit. In the post 9/11 environment, if he doesn't close those numbers on Commander-in-Chief, he can't win."
At the top of his broadcast, Jennings outlined the poll results: "Every presidential challenger coming into a convention is looking for a bounce in the polls. Our poll finds that John Kerry is losing some ground, currently to the President, on several big issues. On the war in Iraq, taxes, and the economy, the public now trusts President Bush to a greater degree than Senator Kerry. A month ago when we asked registered voters which candidate they trusted more to handle the war on terrorism it was even [Bush 48, Kerry 47]. Today, 55 percent say they trust the President, 37 percent trust Senator Kerry more. The public's perception of the man is crucial. A month ago 55 percent of people told us that John Kerry was the candidate who better understood their problems. Today, it is 46 percent. And the famous horse race number if the election were held today, 48 percent would vote for President Bush, and 46 percent for Mr. Kerry. That is approximately a dead heat."
Jennings turned to Stephanopoulos: "Taking a look at those poll numbers, George, Senator Kerry be a bit depressed?"
For ABC's online rundown of the survey findings: abcnews.go.com
For the article in the July 27 Washington Post about the poll: www.washingtonpost.com
Of the broadcast network evening newscasts on Monday night, only viewers of ABC's World News Tonight heard Teresa Heinz Kerry make her accusation about how "we need to turn back some of the creeping, un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming into some of our politics," a soundbite which put into stark contrast her denial moments later that she talked about anyone being "un-American." Before showing a clip of her "shove it" outburst to the journalist who wanted her to explain what she meant by "un-American," CBS's Byron Pitts referred only to how "she confronted an editorial writer for a conservative Pittsburgh newspaper with accusations he had misquoted her" -- as if the accusation might be inaccurate. NBC's Brian Williams at least made it clear she did make te accusation as he paraphrased how she "complained about an anti-Pennsylvanian, anti-American tone in the campaign."
Like Pitts, ABC's Dan Harris felt compelled to apply an ideological tag to the "right-wing Pennsylvania newspaper." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann raised animal imagery in his labeling, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed. On an abbreviated Countdown, Olbermann asserted: "The speech caught the ear of Colin McNickle, the editorial page editor of the rabidly conservative Pittsburgh Tribune Review, widely viewed by Democrats as the nexus of the proverbial right wing conspiracy. The house organ of Richard Mellon Scaife."
Later on World News Tonight, Jennings raised the "shove it" remark with Hillary Clinton, but he failed to ask her to respond to the "un-American accusation." In the taped session, Jennings observed: "Teresa Heinz today told -- or reportedly told a reporter, editorial editor, to stick it. 'Shove it' I think was the exact phrase. You had your baking cookies moment. How much pressure is there on a spouse?" Hillary: "I think everyone gets frustrated with the press, with all due respect..."
(Dan Rather also interviewed Hillary Clinton, but he didn't raise the "un-American" or "shove it" comments.)
Earlier on World News Tonight, ABC's Dan Harris reported: "As this crucial week kicks off, however, Kerry is taking questions about the behavior of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Last night she made the following comments at a party for delegates from Pennsylvania."
Over on the July 26 CBS Evening News, Byron Pitts played a clip, from WTAE-TV, of Heinz Kerry confronting McNickle: "I didn't say that."
On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams noted "an incident last night involving Teresa Heinz Kerry, who complained about an anti-Pennsylvanian, anti-American tone in the campaign. When a Pittsburgh newspaper reporter repeatedly asked her to explain, she pursued the reporter."
For a picture of Colin McNickle: www.pittsburghlive.com
From the July 26 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Your Convention Speech is Boring." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. You begin by thanking all 4,353 delegates by name
9. Your only applause comes when your microphone stops working
8. You've got the coveted 5:30am slot
7. Halfway through the speech, workmen begin dismantling the podium
6. You tried to punch it up by asking Joe Lieberman for some of his priceless quips
5. Every other sentence begins with "so anyway..."
4. The ghost of Harry Truman is giving you the "wrap it up" signal
3. Networks cut away to live coverage of delegates smoking on the sidewalk
2. Teresa Heinz Kerry gets a standing ovation when she tells you to "shove it"
1. You're described as a duller Al Gore
-- Brent Baker, with the night/overnight team of Geoff Dickens, Brad Wilmouth and Ken Shepherd; plus Mez Djouadi on the early morning posting shift