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CyberAlert -- 04/09/2001 -- Why Not Apologize?

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Dan Rather's "Objectivity"; Why Not Apologize?; Can't "Eat, Drink or Breathe" Thanks to Bush; Bush Too "Hard-Edged" on China

1) Howler of the Weekend. Bernard Kalb on Dan Rather's Democratic fundraising: "I don't believe for an instant it will affect Dan's constant pursuit of objectivity."

2) Best Question of the Weekend. Brit Hume to Senator Tom Daschle on the $1.2 trillion tax cut plan: "If it's such a great victory for your side, why did you vote against it?"

3) CBS's Bob Schieffer to Colin Powell: "What would be wrong with apologizing?" ABC's Sam Donaldson proposed the same idea to two Democratic Senators, but Fox's Brit Hume wondered why we don't demand an apology from China.

4) "Imagine, Mad Cow Disease among children, K through 12," warned Time's Margaret Carlson. If "the Bush administration keeps trying to kill health and safety regulations at this pace, soon we won't be able to eat, drink or breathe."

5) When George Will asserted that "what Democrats really want is a targeted tax cut to boss us around, saying you can get a tax cut if you do what the government wants," Donaldson took offense at the negative characterization of the Democratic position: "Wait a minute George, what they say is a tax cut if you are among people who need it more than the very wealthy."

6) ABC and CBS on Friday night portrayed the Senate passage of a $1.2 trillion tax cut as a loss for Bush while NBC delivered a more even-handed presentation of spin from both sides. "This is not, in many ways, a great political victory for Mr. Bush, is it?" Peter Jennings asked. CBS anchor John Roberts wondered: "So is this a stinging setback for the Bush plan?"

7) While conservatives worry that President Bush may be going too soft on the Chinese, ABC's George Stephanopoulos warned that Bush was too "hard-edged" and CBS News reporter Barry Petersen claimed China planned to end the incident "quickly," but then "strong words from the U.S. President stunned China's President Jiang Zemin, forcing him to up the ante."

8) Instead of seeing communists as on the left, ABC's Mark Litke worried reformers in China are "under a great deal of pressure from hardliners and conservatives."

9) Also-ran suggestions for Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Dan Rather Doesn't Give a Damn Anymore."


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1

Howler of the Weekend. Bernard Kalb, co-host of CNN's Reliable Sources and a long-time CBS News reporter, on Dan Rather's appearance at a fundraiser for the local Democratic Party committee in Travis County, Texas:
"Dan himself has said that it's a serious mistake, that he regrets it. But I don't believe for an instant it will affect Dan's constant pursuit of objectivity."

I guess the fundraiser was just a little detour.

Friday's late afternoon CyberAlert "Reading & Viewing Alert" noted that "in the early 1980s, before she became a White House speechwriter, [Peggy] Noonan wrote Rather's radio commentaries, making her, I think it's a fair bet to say, the only person to have toiled for both Dan Rather and Ronald Reagan."

Well, Bernard Kalb would be another, though he wasn't as close to Rather or Reagan. Kalb went from the CBS News Washington bureau to spokesman at the State Department under Reagan.

2

Best Question of the Weekend. Fox News Sunday played a soundbite of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle proclaiming on Friday of the Senate passage of a $1.2 trillion tax cut plan: "I understand some of our Republican friends have called this a victory. If this is a victory there ought to be more like them."

Fox's Brit Hume then asked Daschle: "The question is Senator, if it's such a great victory for your side, why did you vote against it?"

Daschle replied that the bill did not have enough spending, what he termed "investments."

Best Remote Location for a Sunday interview show guest: Daschle in Murdo, South Dakota.

3

Let's just apologize to China, suggested CBS's Bob Schieffer and ABC's Sam Donaldson, but Fox's Brit Hume wondered why we don't demand an apology from China.

-- Bob Schieffer to Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday's Face the Nation: "You have said that the Chinese know that they should not expect an apology. Let me just ask you an obvious question: What would be wrong with apologizing?"

Powell answered that apologizing means you did something wrong and the U.S. did not in this case.

-- Sam Donaldson to Democratic Senators Joe Biden and John Breaux on Sunday's This Week: "Forty percent of the American public, according to our most recent poll, says it would be alright to apologize. That's a minority, but still a sizable minority. What would the United States actually lose if it resolves this whole matter by offering an apology?"

"Nothing," replied Biden, but Breaux shot down the idea.

-- Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday took the opposite approach with Colin Powell: "It appears then that this Chinese fighter, ace fighter pilot flew too close, took chances with the lives of 24 Americans. An accident occurred, or maybe not an accident, that resulted in severe damage to the aircraft, could have killed our crew members. They had to make an emergency landing. Why are we not asking for an apology?"

4

In a seeming parody of her over-hyped anti-Bush declarations, on CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday Time columnist and reporter Margaret Carlson exclaimed that thanks to the Bush administration, "soon we won't be able to eat, drink or breathe."

Her ridiculously exaggerated outburst came in her "Outrage of the Week." She charged: "Remember when Ronald Reagan tried to save a few pennies on the school lunch program by classifying ketchup as a vegetable? Last week the Bush administration went further, axing a regulation that forced the meat industry to test hamburgers served in school for salmonella. Imagine, Mad Cow Disease among children, K through 12. The day it hit the papers the proposal was quickly withdrawn. The Bush administration keeps trying to kill health and safety regulations at this pace, soon we won't be able to eat, drink or breathe."

Maybe we could get that to occur only with reporters like Carlson who make up and distort facts. First, Ronald Reagan never proposed counting ketchup as a vegetable in school lunches. It's just a liberal myth perpetuated by lazy reporters who agree with the premise of an uncaring Reagan.

Second, the meat inspection rule officials at the Agriculture Department considered withdrawing was put into effect last July so, by Carlson's reasoning, for the first seven-and-a-half years of the Clinton administration kids were vulnerable to Mad Cow Disease. Third, the rule change would not have made meat more dangerous. As the Washington Post reported on April 5: "The alternatives would focus on improving control of all types of contamination during slaughtering and in processing plants rather than testing at the end of the process, said Kenneth Clayton, acting administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service."

5

Sam Donaldson, Democratic policy defender. When George Will asserted that "what Democrats really want is a targeted tax cut to boss us around, saying you can get a tax cut if you do what the government wants," Donaldson took offense at the characterization: "Wait a minute George, what they say is a tax cut if you are among people who need it more than the very wealthy."

The exchange took place during the roundtable segment on Sunday's This Week:

George Will: "It may be good for the Democrats's self-esteem and psychotherapy and other things they believe in to pretend that they won this, but look what happened. The Democrats real choice for a tax cut was zero because it cuts back government and they exist to inflate the government."
George Stephanopoulos: "They were for tax cuts all last year."
Will: "Yeah, sure, they were tortured into supporting $250 billion, then they said okay, $500 billion, then they said if you must, $750 billion. They settled for $1.2 trillion, first across the board tax cut in twenty years and what Democrats really want is a targeted tax cut to boss us around, saying you can get a tax cut if you do what the government wants. So you get 30 percent of the Democrats vote with the Republicans to give George Bush most of what he wants-"
Sam Donaldson, cutting him off: "Wait a minute George, what they say is a tax cut if you are among people who need it more than the very wealthy."
Will: "No, no, if you buy a car that burns the right kind of stuff and that sort of thing.
Donaldson: "In general this is about rates and targeting tax cuts to the middle class has nothing to do with the government."

Dan Rather attracted donors to a Democratic fundraiser. Consider this Donaldson's even more valuable "in-kind" contribution to the Democratic cause.

6

ABC and CBS on Friday night portrayed the Senate passage of a $1.2 trillion tax cut as a loss for Bush while NBC delivered a more even-handed presentation of spin from both sides.

"This is not, in many ways, a great political victory for Mr. Bush, is it?" Peter Jennings asked ABC's Linda Douglass, who confirmed his downbeat assessment for Bush. CBS anchor John Roberts wondered: "So is this a stinging setback for the Bush plan?" Bob Schieffer added some nuance: "All sides claim that they won today. The President saw it as the first step in his plan that he promised in the campaign: to cut taxes." NBC's Lisa Myers avoided taking sides: "Today's vote was a mixed bag. The President had to settle for 75 percent of his tax cut, which is much less than he wanted. But it's much more than anyone would have predicted he'd get three months ago. In the end, everyone declared victory."

-- ABC's World News Tonight on April 6. Peter Jennings announced: "Now back to Washington again because it was a very big day in the Senate. The Senate has approved nearly $1.3 trillion in tax cuts today over a period of 11 years. The package of cuts is about 25 percent less than what President Bush had wanted. However, after the vote today, Mr. Bush followed the time-honored political tradition of getting what you can and then declaring victory. However, not quite. ABC's Linda Douglass is on Capitol Hill tonight. This is not, in many ways, a great political victory for Mr. Bush, is it?"

Douglass confirmed Jennings' premise: "Not a great political victory at all, Peter. This is actually a victory to a certain extent for Democrats and some moderate Republicans who sent a very strong signal to the President that they think his tax cut is too big, it's going to have to be smaller, they want to give more back to people right away this year and they're telling him he's got to negotiate with them now, which he hasn't done before. So for President Bush, today was really a turning point."

-- CBS Evening News. Fill-in anchor John Roberts (could Rather have been off to another fundraiser?) asserted: "Concerning the centerpiece of the Bush domestic agenda, the Senate voted today on the President's tax cut plan and gave him three-quarters of what he proposed. So is this a stinging setback for the Bush plan? Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer is at spin-central on Capitol Hill."

Bob Schieffer replied: "Well, John, all sides claim that they won today. The President saw it as the first step in his plan that he promised in the campaign: to cut taxes.
Bush: "I applaud today's action, and congratulate the Republicans and Democrats who helped make it happen."
Schieffer: "As the President was saying thanks, the Senate's top Democrat was saying, 'Excuse me?'"
Tom Daschle: "If this is a victory for them, we want more victories just like it."

Without pointing out how Daschle had voted no on the bill he now called a victory for Democrats, Schieffer explained: "Daschle claimed victory because the President wanted a $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years. The Senate slashed that to $1.2 trillion, with $400 billion promised for education programs and debt reduction. Of course, the tax cut was still a lot bigger than the $900 billion cut that Democrats wanted, which may be why the vice president was smiling, too."
Dick Cheney: "We think it constitutes major progress."

-- NBC Nightly News. Substitute anchor Brian Williams introduced NBC's story without offering an assessment of who won: "The Senate approved a new federal budget today, and in the process lopped off about one-quarter of the President's proposed tax cut. For what this all means tonight, here is NBC's Lisa Myers."

Myers contended: "Today's vote was a mixed bag. The President had to settle for 75 percent of his tax cut, which is much less than he wanted. But it's much more than anyone would have predicted he'd get three months ago. In the end, everyone declared victory."
Bush: "The United States Senate, just moments ago, passed a budget that funds our nation's priorities and allows for over $1.2 trillion of meaningful real tax relief."
Myers: "Bush and his point man, the Vice President, tried and failed to ram his entire $1.6 trillion tax cut through the Senate. But he was forced to compromise by Democrat John Breaux, who ultimately persuaded 14 other Democrats and two renegade Republicans to vote for his compromised tax cut. This budget deal sets aside $1.2 trillion over 10 years for tax cuts. Likely to include across-the-board rate cuts, reduction of the marriage penalty and reform of the estate tax. Also included, $85 billion for tax cuts or rebates this year to help the economy. Republicans call it a victory for taxpayers."
Senator Pete Domenici: "This vote today means that help is on the way."
Myers concluded: "The $400 billion slashed from Bush's tax cut instead would go for education, prescription drugs and other domestic needs, a victory for Democrats. What all this means is that there will be a significant tax cut this year, though somewhat less than Bush wants. But don't expect to see any of it before late summer at best."

7

While conservatives worry that President Bush may be going too soft on the Chinese, ABC and CBS have blamed Bush's words for prolonging the situation. ABC's George Stephanopoulos warned that Bush was too "hard-edged" at first and on the CBS Evening News, reporter Barry Petersen claimed China planned to end the incident "quickly," but then "strong words from the U.S. President stunned China's President Jiang Zemin, forcing him to up the ante. His demand: a full apology."

-- George Stephanopoulos on Sunday's This Week: "First of all, China has to bear the first responsibility for holding the hostages. This is something that is unacceptable, but I think it did take a few days for Bush and the administration to find their voice. When Bush went out there he was very firm but very hard-edged. And you'll notice that Premiere Jiang did not demand an apology himself until after Bush came out, and then you saw the White House scrambling and finally coming up with all these words of regret. I think it took them a little bit too long to get to that place."

Nice of Stephanopoulos to concede that "China has to bear the first responsibility for holding the hostages."

-- CBS Evening News on Thursday, April 5, blamed America first. Dan Rather declared: "Decisions made by China's leaders in the first minutes and hours after the two planes collided set the stage for the current standoff. And CBS News tonight has exclusive word that it could have been avoided."

From Beijing, reporter Barry Petersen asserted, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Dan, CBS News has learned that when this incident began China's top political leaders really intended to end it quickly, in fact, some argued for returning the plane and the crew immediately. But then things started spinning out of control. Under the scenario described to CBS News the Chinese military stepped in with its own agenda insisting on a 48 hour delay, time to search the plane and extract any high-tech secrets still left intact. By Tuesday night the military would be willing to give up the people and the plane. But on Monday President Bush spoke out demanding the Americans be freed."
President Bush on Monday, April 2: "Our priorities are the prompt and safe return of the crew and the return of the aircraft without further damaging or tampering."
Petersen: "Sources say strong words from the U.S. President stunned China's President Jiang Zemin, forcing him to up the ante. His demand a full apology."
Sun Yu Xi, Foreign Ministry: "The U.S. side should admit its mistakes and apologize to the Chinese people."
Petersen: "In a further escalation today the Chinese now say they may interrogate the crew."
Xi: "It is justifiable for competent personal to question the crew."
Petersen: "This public hard-line say sources here makes it more difficult to find a way out and if the crisis drags on, if for instance, it results in the United States selling the advanced Aegis radar system to Taiwan, the province China claims, then the situation will go beyond what diplomacy can fix. Kenneth Lieberthal is the former National Security Council expert on Asia."
Lieberthal: "On the Chinese side they may say if you sell the Aegis radar system to Taiwan these pilots, these crew members that we have are going to have grandchildren before we hand them back."
Petersen concluded: "The sense here is that China's leaders feel trapped. They've demanded an apology that Washington will not give over an incident they never thought would go this far out of hand. And now nobody on this side seems to know the way out."

Yes, it's our fault.

8

Nightline again last week labeled hard-core communists as "conservatives," instead of viewing the political spectrum as a continuum with hard-core communists on the "hard left." As noted in the April 5 CyberAlert, on the April 3 Nightline Ted Koppel tagged the bad guys in Beijing and in the U.S. as conservatives: "Over there they also have their conservatives and maybe not their liberals, but they're less conservative, and I'm sure that they now are arguing in similar fashion, 'Hey, we don't need this relationship with the United States.' Is there anything of value that we want to preserve here, even after this incident is over, no matter how it turns out?"

The next night, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, reporter Mark Litke in Beijing told April 4 Nightline viewers: "There's a reform-minded leadership here that I believe wants to solve this issue, but they're under a great deal of pressure from hardliners and conservatives. There's a power struggle going on behind the scenes for a change in leadership next year. The reform-minded people cannot give the conservatives the ammunition that might scuttle their ability to continue controlling this country next year."

9

The April 6 CyberAlert featured the Late Show with David Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Dan Rather Doesn't Give a Damn Anymore." I've since had a chance to access the Late Show Web site and so here are the "also rans," the suggested entries from the writers which did not make the final cut for the April 5 list:

-- Simply says, "Stuff happened today; more stuff's gonna happen tomorrow; who cares, we're all gonna die"
-- In effort to be more time-efficient, now delivers news while flossing his teeth
-- In clumsy product-placement attempt, mentioned coffee in his cup is so rich and full-bodied, it must be Maxwell House
-- All March delivered news wearing sundress as "Danielle Rather"
-- Ends a lot of reports with "Blah blah blah"
-- Claims the long stretches of silence are "reports that only doggies can hear"
-- Last Thursday said, "Lets cut out the middleman," turned teleprompter to face camera, and took a nap

Maybe that last one would cut out some of the bias too. --Brent Baker


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