CyberAlert -- 03/09/2001 -- Tax Vote Ruined Bi-Partisanship
Tax Vote Ruined Bi-Partisanship; Odd Definitions of "Solid" Versus "Narrow" by LA Times; Morning Shows Pushed Federal Action on Guns
1) Bush won the tax cut vote in the House, but CBS's John Roberts asserted, "his pledge to change the tone in Washington was shattered on the House floor." ABC's Linda Douglass: "So much for bi-partisanship....The Republicans rammed through this tax cut." Warned NBC's Lisa Myers: "This victory comes at a price." NBC reported a poll found 57 percent favor the tax cut.
2) To the Los Angeles Times, the 55 percent its poll learned support the Democratic tax and spending plan is a "solid majority," but the 52 percent which favor Bush's plan represent a "narrow majority." So FNC's Brit Hume noticed of a poll with seemingly contradictory answers, which demonstrated that how a question is posed impacts the response.
4) Diane Sawyer and Bryant Gumbel pushed Education Secretary Rod Paige to use federal power to control guns. Sawyer: "One thing that some people have said, that the Clinton administration was way out front on this issue after Columbine and that the Bush administration has been relatively reticent."
"So much for bi-partisanship, Charlie," sighed ABC's Linda Douglass to anchor Charles Gibson, "the Republicans rammed through this tax cut." ABC colleague Terry Moran noted how "many Democrats say that the President's hard sell tactics could backfire, raising the possibility that Democrats could become heroes by resisting the pressure and saying no to President Bush."
CBS's Dan Rather contrasted how while "it was an important step forward for President Bush's big tax cut plan," it was also "a big step away from bi-partisan cooperation in Congress." CBS reporter John Roberts intoned: "George Bush hit the road again today amid criticism that his pledge to change the tone in Washington was shattered on the House floor."
The ABC and CBS stories also played into the Democratic spin by using dollar figure numbers to illustrate how the wealthier would get a bigger tax break. Only NBC's David Gregory picked up on new Treasury Department numbers which show "just nine percent goes to those making more than $200,000." But he went on to relay the liberal case that the estate tax reduction would benefit the rich.
Now some details about the Thursday, March 8, evening show coverage. The tax cut passage topped all three.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Charles Gibson cautioned up front: "The debate in the House today was contentious at times. Indicative, perhaps, of polls that show many Americans are still not convinced the cuts are necessary." (See NBC section below for how a new NBC poll found Bush's tax cut is supported by 57 percent.)
Linda Douglass began her piece, as transcribed by
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "So much for bi-partisanship, Charlie. The
Republicans rammed through this tax cut, and all but ten Democrats voted
against it, and the Democrats are accusing President Bush of reneging on
his promise to change the tone in Washington. House Republicans today
staged a rally with so-called 'average Americans,' the very people
they say will benefit from their tax cut."
Douglass proceeded to outline the rate reductions
and then used raw numbers instead of percent cuts to illustrate the
Next, Terry Moran checked in from President Bush's rally in Fargo where "the President is out to muscle Democrats." Moran concluded with the quote cited in the second graph of this item.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced: "Good evening. It was an important step forward for President Bush's big tax cut plan. It was a big step away from bipartisan cooperation in Congress. The Republican-controlled House tonight approved the core of the Bush plan over Democratic objections that it was a rush to judgment and risky for the overall U.S. economy. True or not, don't expect any fast final approval in the Senate. CBS's Bob Schieffer has the latest on tonight's vote and the future of the Bush tax cuts. Bob."
Schieffer explained: "Dan, what passed on a
mostly party line vote was a sweeping reduction in income tax rates.
Democrats say the refusal to discuss even a, even discuss a smaller
compromise proposal will probably doom the legislation in the Senate, but
House Republicans were having none of that."
Rather followed up on the breakdown of Bush's promise of bi-partisanship: "As Bob mentioned, tonight's House vote underscores the increasingly partisan political stress cracks that are forming up and so do the President's latest trips outside Washington to campaign hardball for his tax cut agenda. CBS's John Roberts is traveling with the President."
Roberts warned: "With an early legislative
victory assured, George Bush hit the road again today amid criticism that
his pledge to change the tone in Washington was shattered on the House
Roberts noted how Republicans say they are just giving voters what they want before he outlined how Bush is campaigning in states he won which have Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2002.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw celebrated Bush's win, but also again insisted upon calling the tax cut "massive." He opened the show: "President Bush, who's off to a fast start after a long and tortured road to the White House, tonight is getting a major victory in Congress -- a sharp reduction in tax rates, the first big step toward the massive tax cut program that he wants as well."
Lisa Myers began: "Tom, this is indeed a big victory for the President. Republicans simply used their superior numbers to muscle the heart of the Bush tax cut through the House. But this victory comes at a price."
Myers went on to report how a family of four making $54,000 would save $1,900 while someone single earning $31,000 would save $400 a year as those in higher incomes would "do better," specifically a woman Myers found who would save $5,000. After relaying how Democrats called the cut "reckless," Myers warned the lack of bi-partisan effort could cost Bush later.
Next, David Gregory looked at Bush's road trip to push his tax cut which he noted, in contrast to the claims of ABC's Charles Gibson that "many" are against it, is supported by the majority. He reported that a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll discovered Bush's tax cut is favored by 57 percent and opposed by 32 percent.
Gregory added: "And it was no accident that
today the White House chose to release data officials say proved the tax
cut isn't just a payoff to the rich. According to the Treasury
Department, 38 percent of the savings goes to individuals making $30 to
$40,000 a year while just nine percent goes to those making more than
$200,000. But critics say they're not telling you everything, like who
really benefits when you include Mr. Bush's proposal to repeal the
estate or death tax."
It's a bit difficult for a dead person to enjoy a tax break.
To the Los Angeles Times, the 55 percent its poll learned support the Democratic tax and spending plan is a "solid majority," but the 52 percent which favor Bush's plan represent a "narrow majority." FNC's Brit Hume caught the assessments in a Los Angeles Times story published on Thursday. The conflicting responses from those polled also showed how the way you form a question impacts the answer the public gives.
During the "Grapevine" segment on
Thursday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC Hume observed:
The subhead over the March 8 Los Angeles Times story reported: "Majorities back the President on such issues as defense and education, and most like him personally. But 55% prefer how the Democrats would use the surplus."
Reporter Ronald Brownstein wrote: "Despite
growing anxiety about the economy, Americans give Bush high marks for his
early job performance -- and say they like him personally as well. Such
Bush priorities as building a missile defense shield, reforming federal
education programs and increasing cooperation between Washington and
religious charities all draw support from significant majorities of the
public, the survey found.
Later, Brownstein again stressed the "solid" support for the Democratic plan: "All these doubts about the Bush proposal help explain the solid 55% support for the Democratic alternative of a smaller tax cut that would leave more money for both new spending and debt reduction. Voters at every income level favor the Democratic approach (though the margin drops among the most affluent); even nearly one-third of Republicans prefer it. By contrast, only about 1 in 8 Democrats prefers Bush's blueprint."
To read Brownstein's story, go to: http://www.latimes.com/print/20010308/t000020479.html
To be fair to Brownstein, his "narrow" versus "solid" descriptions could reflect an interpretation of the gap between support and opposition. While 52 percent back Bush's plan, 12 percentage points fewer, 40 percent, disapprove of it. Asked if they favor the Democratic plan or the Bush plan, the gap grew to 25 percentage points, with 55 preferring the Democratic plan to 30 percent saying they liked Bush's plan better.
But, as Hume noticed, you can only figure any of this out by going to an Adobe Acrobat PDF document on the LA Times Web site. Brownstein did not explain the gap ratio, thus making his three point difference between "solid" and "narrow" stand out.
The PDF of every poll question and all the answers provides an illuminating illustration of how pollsters can generate conflicting responses depending what facts are laid out in the question. Compare the two inquiries at issue here.
-- Question 35: "During the presidential campaign George W. Bush proposed using the budget surplus for an across-the board- tax cut of $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years for all taxpayers as part of his economic program, rather than a targeted tax cut for low and middle income families. Do you approve or disapprove of Bush's tax cut proposal?"
Approve: 52 percent
-- Question 39: "George W. Bush has proposed a tax cut of $1.6 trillion and eliminating about two-thirds of the national debt over the next 10 years, which is about $2 trillion. Democrats say the tax cut should be about half as big with more money devoted to spending on domestic programs such as Medicare and education and reducing the debt. Which comes closer to your view?"
Bush's proposal: 30 percent
To access the Adobe Acrobat PDF with all of the poll questions and responses broken down by race, party, sex, income and region, go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/timespoll/pdf/455pa1da.pdf
The next time you hear or see missile defense described as "controversial," remember this poll result: The same Los Angeles Times poll discussed in item #2 above also found that by nearly two-to-one the public backs the building of a "missile defense system."
Specifically, 59 percent replied that they approved of it while 31 percent said they were opposed.
For those accessing the PDF of the poll, this was question #33.
The network drumbeat for more gun control in the wake of the Santee, California school shooting has begun. On Thursday night ABC's Prime Time Thursday aired another one of its hidden camera segments to show how teens who are left alone in a room will pick up a gun and play with it. Nightline carried on the coverage and earlier World News Tonight previewed the prime time segment.
On the March 8 CBS Evening News Dan Rather forecast what may be coming next: "With each school shooting in this country come new calls for stricter gun control laws. In Britain, which already has tough gun regulations, CBS's Richard Roth reports tonight they are now talking about possibly banning toy guns."
Thursday morning, both ABC's Diane Sawyer and CBS's Bryant Gumbel pressed Secretary of Education Rod Paige about Bush administration inaction on guns. Here is their advocacy in the guise of questions:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer, as
taken down by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson. Sawyer set up the segment:
"In our last half-hour you may have seen some of the report tonight
on Prime Time on kids and guns. Well, a few minutes before we began this
morning, I talked with the Secretary of Education in this country, in the
Bush administration. He is Secretary Rod Paige, and I talked to him about
many things, including the responsibility adults have in making so many
guns accessible to kids."
-- CBS's The Early Show. MRC analyst Brian Boyd caught Bryant Gumbel's leading inquiries:
Gumbel: "If reviewing this is a broader
problem, Mr. Secretary, how much do you fault the surplus of guns for the
frightening increase in violence we're seeing?"
Conservatives obviously don't think there are enough conservatives in the media, but it turns out ABC's Peter Jennings also realizes the lack of conservatives "in mainstream broadcasting."
Prompted by an e-mailed tip, MRC Communications
Director Liz Swasey located our tape of this past weekend's Tim Russert
show on CNBC and found this exchange at the end of the interview first
shown on Saturday evening, March 3:
Nice thoughts and he has brought aboard a religion reporter who appears occasionally. But he's been the anchor for over 15 years, so what else has he done to include conservatives in ABC's diversity?
Yesterday's CyberAlert promised more Dan Rather quotes today. But I'm out of time and space, so if time permits later today, I'll try to put out a CyberAlert Extra with more Rather quotes on the occasion of his 20th anniversary as anchor of the CBS Evening News.
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