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CyberAlert -- 04/03/1997 -- Contract with America Too Conservative

Contract with America Too Conservative; Grand Grenada Conspiracy

1. CBS reports that Republicans out-spent Democrats in 1996 by $200 million. That's the White House spin, but it's not quite true.

2. Katie Couric suggests conservative "rigidity" and "their almost religious adherence to the Contract with America" backfired.

3. Rockefeller and Kennedy "have long histories of caring about people," Eleanor Clift says. The problem is people who "think government regulation is the worst problem facing the country."

4. Hugh Downs is upset that the Republican Party is "enthralled to the far right."

5. Cronkite's Crockery of the Day: The Reagan administration planted Soviet military equipment in Grenada.


1) Wednesday night (April 2) the three broadcast network evening shows all aired full stories on the release of more papers from the files of Harold Ickes detailing the White House obsession with fundraising. None though mentioned either of the other fundraising stories described in the April 2 CyberAlert: Ron Brown rewarding donors with government loans and Charlie Trie getting money from a Chinese-owned bank.

Two reporters relayed the White House line that they were just trying to keep up with the Republicans. On World News Tonight ABC's John Donvan stated: "As hard as the Democrats worked they still raised less than the Republicans..." Over on the CBS Evening News, Rita Braver asserted: "In fact, all day long the White House was reminding reporters that Republicans out-raised the Democrats by more than $200 million dollars in the last election..."

Really? Not quite, Baltimore Sun reporter Carl Cannon documents in the April 7 Weekly Standard. First, Cannon noted that the White House numbers don't include the $35 million spent by the AFL-CIO for ads attacking Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. "And that $35 million doesn't include the thousands of phone banks, get-out-the-vote organizers, and professional field operatives that organized labor paid for in 1996. Leo Troy, a professor at Rutgers University, estimates that this help would have cost 10 times as much as the AFL-CIO attack ads if the Democrats had to pay for it."

Second, "the President's numbers include 'hard money' -- campaign contributions of $1,000 or less from individuals and $5,000 or less from political action committees." In soft money, the subject of Clinton's problems, the Democrats raised $122 million in 1995-96, just $19 million less than the $141 million collected by Republicans.


2) A week and a half after his article appeared in the Weekly Standard calling for Newt Gingrich to step aside, Congressman Peter King was interviewed on Wednesday's Today.

The New York Republican explained his view that Gingrich's personality, not his political views, made him unpopular, adding: "I don't think the American people want him to be siding up with Jesse Jackson as opposed to J.C. Watts."

Katie Couric then asked: "But in fairness, what is wrong with Newt Gingrich reaching out to some other groups, extending himself? I mean, can't you catch more flies with honey. Isn't there something about that? And perhaps the rigidity of some of the conservative Republicans and their almost religious adherence to the Contract with America, didn't that ultimately backfire on them?"

Gingrich has figured out how to get on the media's side: move left so reporters can defend you while bashing conservatives.


3) On last weekend's McLaughlin Group the show looked at some wealthy politicians who spend their own millions on their campaigns. Host John McLaughlin asked, "Question: Does the personal wealth of a member of Congress make a difference? Eleanor Clift."

As transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift responded: "You know you could have asked each one of those members where they stand on cutting COLA's for people who are less well off I suppose. But listen a number of those people, family traditions, Rockefeller, Kennedy, have long histories of caring about people who are less fortunate. I think a much bigger problem with this Congress is all of the people, particularly in the Republican Party, who represent small business and think government regulation is the worst problem facing the country."


4) Watching Monday night's (March 31) Politically Incorrect on ABC, MRC news analyst Gene Eliasen caught a few liberal comments from 20/20 co-host Hugh Downs.

-- On abortion: "But they can preach that under free speech, there's nothing wrong with trying to persuade a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. But ultimately it's got to be her decision and not the decision of some lawmakers, men lawmakers."

-- On the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan: "The problem started on his watch, though, and that is the Republican Party got in disarray because they're enthralled to the far-right. And yet the polls show that that's not the way the people feel so they don't know what to do."

-- They may be far-right, but Republicans are no different than Democrats: "I think it might be important to point out that this country is a one-party country. Half of that party is called Republican and half is called Democrat, it really doesn't make any difference. All the really good ideas belong to the Libertarians and we're gonna wake up to that sometime."

How awake to libertarian thinking is Downs? After a December 29, 1989 20/20 piece by John Stossel on the benefits of deregulation, Downs told Stossel: "I have to admit I hadn't known about the good things that deregulation may have brought."


5) Cronkite's Crockery of the Day. In today's quote Walter Cronkite spreads an uncorroborated conspiracy theory about Grenada. On page 266 of his book, A Reporter's Life, Cronkite recites misinformation told about the 1983 Grenada invasion, such as how officials initially claimed there were no civilian casualties but later had to concede "a U.S. Navy plane accidentally bombed a mental hospital, killing at least 17 persons."

Cronkite then expounds:

"With this record of misinformation perpetrated by the Reagan administration, we are entitled to harbor other doubts. For instance, to back its claim of Cuba's military intentions, our military, when it finally let correspondents into Grenada, three days after the invasion, showed the newspeople a warehouse at the airport filled with boxes of Soviet-made armaments.

"There is no evidence that I know of to suggest that this was anything other than what our military said it was. But for three days huge Air Force transport planes had shuttled to the island from Barbados and the United States in far greater numbers than resupply of our forces would seem to have demanded.

"Is it possible -- is it just possible -- that our forces actually had not found evidence of heavy Cuban military activity and so had planted it for the benefit of the correspondents in order to justify the invasion?

"Now, that is far-fetched -- I hope. I really don't want to believe that our government could have been that Machiavellian. But historians in the future might well raise that possibility, and there is no independent information to disprove it, such as that which might have been supplied if our free press had been able to attest that the arms really were there when our troops first arrived. Thus is illustrated the kind of mischief, of the birth of rumor, that a lack of trust -- and a lack of evidence collected by a free press -- invites."

Or, the mischief the "most trusted man in America" can cause when he spreads a rumor that he admits he has no evidence to support. Remember this Cronkite passage the next time you hear a journalist disparaging the "irresponsibility" of a conservative for making an "unsubstantiated" charge against Clinton.

-- Brent Baker

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