CyberAlert -- 03/28/1997 -- Praising Newt's Moderation

Praising Newt's Moderation; Cronkite's "humane" liberalism

1. NBC still hasn't reported one big Clinton fundraising story, but NBC did highlight a development ignored by the other networks.

2. Steve Roberts says Gingrich realizes he doesn't have votes for "radical right agenda." Sam Donaldson praises Newt for dumping tax cut.

3. A Washington Post vs. Washington Times headline contrast.

4. Cronkite's Crockery of the Day: He complains about the "selfish '80s" and insists the public has not rejected liberalism's "humane and deeply democratic principles."

1) The March 25 CyberAlert noted that NBC News had not yet reported how the White House coffees had specific fundraising targets, a disclosure made in Sunday's New York Times. On Monday's CBS Evening News, Rita Braver pointed out the significance of the discovery: "It's important because it absolutely shatters this illusion that the President has been trying to create that this was all an informal process, that people were just invited in here -- if they felt like giving they could. It shows how calculated it was."

The illusion has not yet shattered for NBC viewers. Neither Nightly News on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night nor Today on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning uttered a syllable about the revelation.

But, Wednesday night (March 26) NBC was the only one of the three broadcast evening shows to report anything about Warren Meddoff's grand jury testimony. On NBC Nightly News Jim Miklaszewski explained that a federal grand jury looking at fundraising in White House is focusing on the activities of Harold Ickes.

Back in early February, ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News, but not NBC Nightly News, reported that just before the election Harold Ickes had misused his White House office to fax a memo to Warren Meddoff instructing him on how to contribute $5 million. (See the February 4 and February 7 CyberAlerts for details.) Now, seven weeks later, NBC is catching up.

Miklaszewski, however, added an angle skipped by ABC, CBS and CNN's The World Today. Miklaszewski explained:

"But Ickes wanted most of the donations to go to tax-exempt groups, like $250,000 to Vote Now '96 in Miami. The five million was never donated, but at least one congressional committee, and now the grand jury, wants to know if Ickes' attempt to divert political donations to tax-exempt groups violated federal election laws. In his own hand-written memo Ickes appears to make a distinct connection between the intended donation to Vote Now and the money meant for the DNC. The DNC says it was all perfectly legal."

After a soundbite from DNC National Chairman Steven Grossman, Miklaszewski led into a comment from Bill Hogan of the Center for Public Integrity by intoning: "But campaign watchdogs call it an elaborate and illegal scheme."

The alleged use of a non-profit entity for partisan purposes is what got Newt Gingrich in trouble.

Miklaszewski's angle is old news to Los Angeles Times readers. "Democrats Steered Gifts to Favored Tax-Exempt Group," read a front page Los Angeles Times headline back on Sunday, February 9 (it may have been Saturday, February 8). The Times reported that "Democratic officials regularly steered would be campaign contributors to a tax-exempt and supposedly non-partisan voter registration group that in reality has close ties to the Democratic Party." The story detailed Ickes' role in directing contributions to Vote Now '96 and a few other similar groups.

None of the networks at the time picked up on the revelation in the Los Angeles Times. (See the page one article in the February MediaWatch, "Two Standards on Nonprofits," for details:

2) Media stars approve of Newt Gingrich....when he's seen as making conservatives mad. Back on March 9 on CNN's Late Edition host Frank Sesno asked Steve Roberts about Ralph Reed's complaint that Gingrich was offering "muddle-headed moderation." MRC news analyst Clay Waters caught the liberal response from Roberts, now with the New York Daily News, but formerly a reporter for U.S. News & World Report and the New York Times. He declared:

"I have a lot of sympathy for Newt Gingrich on this one, because he doesn't have the votes for a radical right agenda, and he is trying, he's saying, the public told us, be cooperative, that's what he's trying to do. And the right wing is trashing him just like the left wing is trashing Clinton for being cooperative."

What exactly is "radical right" in the agenda advocated by conservatives? A small tax cut? The elimination of the NEA, a puny agency?

Two Sunday's later, after Gingrich announced that he was willing to forgo a tax cut, ABC's Sam Donaldson came to his defense. From the March 23 This Week, as transcribed by MRC analyst Gene Eliasen:

Sam Donaldson: "One mark of leadership is to tell people what they need to hear and I think Newt Gingrich was exactly right."

George Will: "Oh, he'll be glad to hear this. Another endorsement."

Donaldson: "Well, happy to be of service but Newt Gingrich learned the lesson...could I make my point? Newt Gingrich learned his lesson in shutting down the government, to the great unhappiness of the electorate and it rebounded against the Republican Party. He said, 'Folks, let's not do it this year. Let's do the balanced budget first and then we'll get our tax cuts, let's not put that on the table and let Bill Clinton once again say, 'Ooh, you're going to destroy Medicare! Ooh, you're going to destroy the elderly!' And for this he's pilloried by the Republican Party?"

Of course, by declaring as fact that the Republicans shut down the government, when Clinton had at least an equal role, Donaldson demonstrated the problem encountered by Gingrich. And the public only believed the Republicans were cutting Medicare because that's how the media falsely reported their plan to hike spending.

3) Earlier this week conservative Republican Virginia Governor George Allen vetoed a bill that would have allowed Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, DC, to ban guns in community centers. While a local issue, the headlines in the two Washington newspapers display their contrasting political perspectives. Both headlines appeared over March 26 stories.

"In Fairfax, Gun Ban Veto Decried: Community Centers Vulnerable Under Current Law, Some Say." -- Washington Post

"Allen wins Praise for Gun-Bill Vetoes." -- Washington Times


4) Cronkite's Crockery of the Day. Today's quote comes from pages 196 to 197 of his book, A Reporter's Life. Discussing the 1992 campaign, Cronkite argues that the public has not rejected liberalism:

"[Mario] Cuomo was a rare combination: an intellectual and a spellbinding orator. I would have bet that he could have won the Democratic nomination and been elected to the presidency. He had electrified the 1984 Democratic convention with his keynote speech, and I never saw him fail to excite those who shared his liberal vision of America's future.

"Despite the pollsters and political operators' contrary opinions, I remain convinced that the public was ready for a leader who could restore that vision after the selfish eighties. I don't believe the public has rejected liberalism; it simply has not heard a candidate persuasively advocate its humane and deeply democratic principles.

"It seemed to me that Michael Dukakis blew any chance he had of defeating George Bush in 1988 when he ran away from the 'L-word,' even to the extent of letting Bush get away with accusing him of being a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dukakis ducked that, too, although Bush handed him on a silver platter a chance to defend the sort of Americanism that believes that the Constitution protects all of the country's citizens regardless of their appearance or the popularity of their cause or the ugliness of the crimes of which they are accused."

There you have it: Dukakis would have won if he had been more liberal.

-- Brent Baker