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CyberAlert -- 05/07/2001 -- Traficant "Embarrassment" to GOP

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Traficant "Embarrassment" to GOP; Lack of More Day Care Spending Denounced; U.S. at Fault with U.N.; Bush's Media Free Ride

1) ABC's Linda Douglass on the indictment of Congressman James Traficant: "Now Traficant is a Democrat, but this indictment is actually an embarrassment to Republican leaders..." CNN's Wolf Blitzer agreed.

2) Douglass also put abortion ahead of all issues as she labeled potential judicial nominee Chris Cox as "very conservative" because he is "opposed to abortion rights."

3) Good question of the weekend, Tim Russert to Democratic Senator John Kerry on putting the same national effort into missile defense as the nation had into getting to the moon.

4) In a one-sided CBS Evening News piece John Roberts bemoaned how while candidate George Bush promised to "leave no child behind," his budget has "no net increase in child care funding, only tax breaks for which low income families don't qualify."

5) Blame America First: Peter Jennings on why the U.S. lost its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission: "The U.S. has paid a price for taking so long to pay its U.N. dues, for voting against so many international treaties....Cuba says the U.S. was paying a price for its arrogance..."

6) Liberals, unlike conservatives who pursued President Bill Clinton, are not out to get President George W. Bush, so Bush is getting a free ride from the media, Washington Post reporter John Harris argued in a Sunday piece. Harris cited two areas where the media have not pounced: Bush giving up on vouchers and agreeing to a smaller tax cut. But in both instances no media outrage occurred because Bush pleased reporters by moving left.

7) Fox News Sunday gave air time to the theory that the false network reports, about how polls had closed in Florida's Panhandle an hour before they really did, cost George W. Bush thousands of votes. On OpinionJournal.com John Fund recalled how a then-unknown Katherine Harris had implored the networks to not report the polls had closed when they remained open in the Central Time Zone.


1
Democrat James Traficant an embarrassment to the GOP? ABC's Linda Douglass wrapped up a World News Tonight piece on Friday, about the indictment of Youngstown Congressman Traficant on tax fraud, racketeering and bribery charges, by asserting:
"Now Traficant is a Democrat, but this indictment is actually an embarrassment to Republican leaders. They gave him $20 million last year for a project in his district in return for his support of the Republicans."

Sunday on CNN's Late Edition host Wolf Blitzer delivered the same spin, asking during the roundtable segment: "Is it a bigger embarrassment to Democrats or Republicans? He is a Democrat, though he voted for the Republican Speaker."

2

Pro-life phobia. ABC's Linda Douglass put abortion ahead of all other issues as she labeled one potential judicial nominee "respected," but "very conservative" as evidenced by his being "opposed to abortion rights."

In a set up piece on Sunday's This Week, Douglass looked at Democratic upset over the judicial selection process as she told Sam Donaldson:
"The President's going to release his list of nominees this week and the Senate is abandoning its practice of letting one home state Senator veto a nominee. Some very conservative names potentially on that list we're hearing. Being talked about, people like Congressman Chris Cox of California, respected member of the House but opposed to abortion rights. And the White House may not necessarily listen to the home state Democrats. They're meeting with the Democrats now, running the names by the Democratic Senators. If the Democratic Senator saying I don't like that nominee, the White House is saying to those Senators but the President feels strongly about it. A big fight Sam."

In Douglass's lexicon does being pro-abortion make one automatically "very liberal"? I doubt it.

3

Good question of the weekend, Tim Russert to Democratic Senator John Kerry on putting the same national effort into missile defense as the nation had into getting to the moon.

After pounding away at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with all the usual liberal arguments against missile defense, on Sunday's Meet the Press Russert suggested to Senator John Forbes Kerry:
"There was once another JFK from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy, and he said the United States of America should put a man on the moon. Why is it not beyond this country to set that same goal. We will have a missile defense system no matter where it is -- on land, air, sea, space -- which will defend this country from any attack by anyone?"

Kerry answered that "reach the moon" goals could be better directed at more school spending and "full funding" of Head Start.

4

Once again, caring equated with a willingness to spend other people's money. This time, on day care. In his "Sunday Cover" piece for the May 6 CBS Evening News, John Roberts bemoaned how while candidate George Bush promised to "leave no child behind," his budget has "no net increase in child care funding, only tax breaks for which low income families don't qualify."

Instead of balancing that view with the perspective of those who don't feel it's the federal government's role to provide day care, Roberts spent the remainder of his piece relaying the views of unlabeled liberals, concluding with a mother whining: "I think it's unfortunate that the government doesn't view child care as an important goal, something to be invested in and something to help parents with."

Roberts opened his story by looking at the plight of two Massachusetts women, one who pays $1,100 a month for day care for her child, but complained it's too much, and another who qualified for low-income assistance for her child care. But all is not well, Roberts stressed, since low pay for day care workers means high turnover.

Roberts then warned: "But now there's a political storm brewing. In his campaign for President George Bush repeatedly claimed children as his issue, even adopting the slogan of the Children's Defense Fund, to 'leave no child behind.' But in his administration's first budget there is no net increase in child care funding, only tax breaks for which low income families don't qualify. And so far Congress has no plan."
Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund: "We've got to stop and challenge the hypocrisy of our President and administration and Congress that use slogans about caring about children, that use children as photo-ops, but when they get down to budget and tax policies they don't walk the walk."
Roberts: "And child advocates have some ammunition in new studies that show good child care can actually improve a child's cognitive skill, giving a jump start to the education of our children who currently lag behind the rest of the world in school readiness."
Dr. Jack Shonkoff, child psychiatrist: "Children are learning all the time from their earliest infancy and they need to be cared for and protected when they're too young to take care of themselves. So you can't separate care from education, it's a meaningless distinction."
Roberts suggested: "In the coming political battle, child advocates say, the key will be to re-cast child care as early education. In the meantime, for mothers the battle will continue to be finding, and somehow paying for, safe, quality care for their child."
Roberts concluded with this whining from Kathleen Hicks, a mother who pays $1,100 a month: "I think it's unfortunate that the government doesn't view child care as an important goal, something to be invested in and something to help parents with."

Attention Ms. Hicks: You're in Massachusetts! Ted Kennedy land. How much more government spending do you want?

Nice of Roberts to try to make the United States as socialist as his native Canada. If a government program can solve every problem, why did he leave?

5

Speaking of Canadians telling Americans what we've done wrong, on Friday night ABC anchor Peter Jennings focused on the point of view of U.S. adversaries and human rights violators in explaining why the U.S. lost a seat on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights which now includes Sudan, Cuba and China.

Jennings intoned on the May 4 World News Tonight: "There's been a lot of reaction today to the news that the U.S. has been voted off the United Nation's human rights commission. Many of America's friends think the U.S. has paid a price for taking so long to pay its U.N. dues, for voting against so many international treaties at the U.N. and other places and not having a new U.S. Ambassador to lobby for Washington. America's adversaries are pleased. Cuba says the U.S. was paying a price for its arrogance and China weighed in, naturally, saying the U.S. has used human rights as a political weapon."

As opposed to Sudan, which just has slavery.

6

Liberals, unlike conservatives who pursued President Bill Clinton, are not out to get President George W. Bush, so Bush is getting a free ride from the media, Washington Post reporter John Harris argued in a Sunday "Outlook" section article. But in making his case that there's no liberal or conservative media bias in how the Washington press corps approached Clinton or are treating Bush, Harris inadvertently demonstrated the media's liberal tilt.

First, in contending that conservatives fueled a media onslaught against Clinton he ignored how reporters spent just as much time disparaging and discrediting the legitimacy of Ken Starr and congressional Republicans. Second, in illustrating how reporters have gone easy on Bush because there are no liberals attacking him, Harris cited two examples: Bush giving up on vouchers in his education plan and agreeing to a smaller than promised tax cut. But in both those instances it could be credibly argued that no media outrage occurred because Bush pleased reporters by moving left. Contrast that with self-produced journalistic revulsion at Bush's order to end aide to groups promoting abortion overseas, an event skipped by Harris.

Later, Harris pointed out how Bush has received his "toughest coverage" on the environment, an area where liberals have complained the most.

Harris also held Republicans, not Clinton, accountable for the bad tone: "Washington's snarling public tone was caused more by his opponents; he was as ready to meet with Republicans as Bush is with Democrats. Little of his rhetoric ever matched the vitriol that congressional Republicans aimed at him." Harris praised James Carville, "one of the few Democrats to match conservative zeal for combat," noting how he "is frustrated by his party's timidity."

An excerpt from "Mr. Bush Catches a Washington Break," a May 6 Washington Post piece by John Harris, who spent six years covering Clinton:

I was on the receiving end the other day of a harangue from Rahm Emanuel, a top aide in the Clinton White House, who is not impressed by the news media's coverage of President Bush. "The Washington press corps has become like little puppy dogs," he said. "You scratch them on the tummy and they roll right over."....

Are the national news media soft on Bush? The instinctive response of any reporter is to deny it. But my rebuttals lately have been wobbly. The truth is, this new president has done things with relative impunity that would have been huge uproars if they had occurred under Clinton. Take it from someone who made a living writing about those uproars.

The difference is not in journalists' attitudes toward Bush or their willingness to report aggressively on him. It is that nearly all the political and institutional forces that constitute Washington writ large have aligned to make Bush's life more pleasant than Clinton's ever was, even at the start of his presidency.

There are many small reasons: Republicans and Democrats alike seem exhausted from the negativity and scandal of the Clinton era. The Bush team is mostly competent and well-focused, so it has given adversaries fewer handles to grab. And even his opponents seem to think the new president is a likable enough fellow.

Above all, however, there is one big reason for Bush's easy ride: There is no well-coordinated corps of aggrieved and methodical people who start each day looking for ways to expose and undermine a new president.

There was just such a gang ready for Clinton in 1993. Conservative interest groups, commentators and congressional investigators waged a remorseless campaign that they hoped would make life miserable for Clinton and vault themselves to power. They succeeded in many ways. One of the most important was their ability to take all manner of presidential miscues, misjudgments or controversial decisions and exploit them for maximum effect. Stories like the travel office firings flamed for weeks instead of receding into yesterday's news. And they colored the prism through which many Americans, not just conservative ideologues, viewed Clinton.

It is Bush's good fortune that the liberal equivalent of this conservative coterie does not exist. Take the recent emergency landing of a U.S. surveillance plane in China. Imagine how conservatives would have reacted had Clinton insisted that detained military personnel were not actually hostages, and then cut a deal to get the people (but not the plane) home by offering two "very sorrys" to the Chinese, while also saying that he had not apologized. What is being hailed as Bush's shrewd diplomacy would have been savaged as "Slick Willie" contortions.

Try to recall this major news story during Clinton's first 100 days: Under pressure from Western senators, the president capitulated on a minor part of his 1993 budget deal, grazing fees on ranchers using federal lands. A barrage of coverage had an unmistakable subtext: Clinton was weak and excessively political and caved to special interests. Bush has made numerous similar concessions on items far more central to the agenda he campaigned on, such as deemphasizing vouchers in his education plan and conceding that his tax cut will be some $350 billion smaller than he proposed. For the most part these repositionings are being cast as shrewd rather than servile....

Bush and aides boast that the days of an obsessively political White House ended with Clinton. Thomas B. Edsall, my Post colleague, wrote in a story last month that generated little comment that Bush political advisers are conferring regularly with Catholic leaders in anticipation of the 2004 election. That revelation under Clinton would have prompted waves of coverage about a president addicted to the permanent campaign.

What's going on here? It is not that reporters have been charmed by Bush. It is not that Democrats are nicer, more decent people than Republicans. The difference is that the GOP conservatives' zeal to undermine Clinton -- and the techniques they used to do it -- flowed from special historical circumstances. For a generation before Clinton, conservatives believed they would never get a fair shake from the establishment news media -- "an effete corps of impudent snobs," in Spiro Agnew's words.

One response of the conservatives was to create new voices of their own: think tanks, columnists, magazines, radio programs. These voices tended to be in concert....

Conservatives became skilled in using the same news media they reviled. In the early days -- well before Clinton's Whitewater and sexual controversies reached full flower -- every misstep was pounded by the opposition and turned into a major event. The storms of that first year whirred by in an indistinguishable blur: Zoe Baird, Waco, the Christophe haircut, the travel office, Somalia. From the vantage point of the right, there were no small stories, only big ones; no complicated explanations, only ones that illustrated Clinton's incompetence or venality. Bush's missteps -- contradictory statements about whether the White House was closing the offices of women and AIDS, for instance -- are not being flogged as metaphors for his presidency.

Reporters and editors do not work like commentators. There are no newsroom deliberations about how "soft" or "mean" to be on a president. And we aim to make our own judgments about what's important, rather than respond in Pavlovian fashion to whatever ideologues or interest groups are inveighing about. But there's no denying that we give more coverage to stories when someone is shouting. For example, the toughest coverage Bush has gotten has been over decisions to suspend environmental rules issued by Clinton, which infuriated liberals.

For the most part, Clinton's foes and their contemptuous views of him were within the bounds of fair debate. But Democrats are not likely to give as good as they got. They simply aren't as well organized. And they are not shouting as loudly....

In Clinton's first term, Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) turned to Democrats and said, "Your president is just not that important to us." This underscores the irony that Bush, whose ascension was clouded by questions over whether he really won, has been accorded more legitimacy by the opposition than Clinton was -- or than Gore would have had he become president while losing the popular vote.

It also illustrates how Bush and his aides miss the point with their constant boasting about how Bush has "changed the tone" in Washington after the coarsening Clinton years. Clinton disgraced himself through his personal behavior and by then taking flight from honor and accountability. But Washington's snarling public tone was caused more by his opponents; he was as ready to meet with Republicans as Bush is with Democrats. Little of his rhetoric ever matched the vitriol that congressional Republicans aimed at him.

James Carville, one of the few Democrats to match conservative zeal for combat, is frustrated by his party's timidity. "There's a tendency not to get all gassed about things: People just don't have the energy for it now." He is even more disdainful of the media for not reacting more aggressively to such things as Bush's discomfort at news conferences and confusing statements on Taiwan that left aides on clean-up duty. "In the Clinton administration we worried the president would open his zipper, and in the Bush administration, they worry the president will open his mouth," he said. "The press finds it easier to cover sex than stupidity."

Bush is not stupid, but Carville's larger point has some truth to it. Clinton's personal tale was so consuming that, over time, covering him became as much about soap opera as about policy. The Washington press corps collectively may have fallen a bit out of shape at the hard work of examining, exposing, and critiquing public officials as they go about making the decisions that affect national life.

The Bush White House makes this task more difficult by being especially disciplined in talking to the news media. Over time, however, it is not possible to control a public message as tightly as Bush believes he can. Good for this White House in avoiding the worst stumbles of the early Clinton administration; good for Washington in giving a new president a break at the start. And those people eager to see this president face scrutiny can rest assured: The opposition is sure to awaken.

END Excerpt

I think media opposition to Bush was awakened the first time he did anything conservative, as evidenced by the ongoing hostility to his tax cut.

To read the entire piece by Harris, go to:
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47313-2001May5.html

7

Fox News Sunday gave air time to the new theory that the false network reports, about how polls had closed in Florida's Panhandle an hour before they really did, cost George W. Bush thousands of votes. On OpinionJournal.com on Friday John Fund also explored the subject, relaying testimony from poll workers about how voting tailed off in the last hour and recalling how a then-unknown Florida Secretary of State had implored the networks to not report the polls had closed in Florida when they remained open in the Central Time Zone.

As noted in the May 4 CyberAlert, the May 3 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC ran a short item on the theory as espoused by 41's White House counsel, C. Boyden Gray.

Fox News Sunday moderator Tony Snow made the idea the lead item in the show's "Below the Fold" segment:
"Did TV networks create the Florida recount mess? A conservative outfit called the Committee for Honest Politics says yes. It reports that every major network told voters the Florida polls were closed at 7pm eastern time on election night, a full hour before balloting actually ended in Florida's overwhelmingly Republican Panhandle region. Voting there fell off significantly in the final sixty minutes and Yale economist John Lott estimates the plunge cut George Bush's lead by at least 7,500. We at Fox committed the error once. Other networks did so more often. Dan Rather and CBS led the parade with 18 direct statements in one hour that the polls had closed and another 15 implying the Florida vote was over."

An excerpt from John Fund's May 4 OpinionJournal.com piece in which he cited a Senate hearing in which the topic was raised, a hearing I've not seen reported anywhere else:

The entire Florida election dispute might have been avoided if the networks hadn't declared the polls were closed in Florida when some 5% of the state, in the Central time zone, was still voting. Since those areas voted 2-to-1 for George W. Bush, the GOP nominee probably lost several thousand votes because citizens thought they couldn't cast ballots....

It's now well known that all five TV networks and the Associated Press declared Florida for Al Gore at 7:50 p.m. Eastern time, 10 minutes before the polls closed in the panhandle counties. That could not have dissuaded many voters from casting ballots. But far more serious was the announcement by all five networks at 7 p.m. Eastern time that the polls in Florida had closed....

Affidavits from 42 poll workers or inspectors were presented at a hearing chaired by Sens. Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman yesterday. They all indicated that they saw a decline in the number of voters beginning at 6 p.m. CST, when ordinarily the voting traffic increases. The networks have yet to fully own up to or explain this more serious mistake....

CBS, for example, explicitly stated that the polls had closed in Florida 13 times during the hour while the panhandle counties were open, along with 15 additional implied statements to that effect and frequent visual references to a map showing Florida's polls had closed. All of the networks except of Fox News Channel repeated the contention that Florida's polls were closed throughout the hour that the panhandle precincts remained open.

There is growing evidence that the network poll-closing announcement did lower voter turnout. A survey by pollster John McLaughlin estimated that the early calls by the networks discouraged more than 4% more Republicans than Democrats to go to the polls. Another study, by John Lott of the Yale Law School, estimated the drop-off at 3%. That's a range of 7,500 to 10,000 Republican voters for the two studies.

The Committee for Honest Politics, a GOP-founded watchdog group, estimated that at each of the 361 panhandle polling places, the networks' false information dissuaded 54 people from voting. That would represent a total of 19,133 Floridians who didn't vote. If these voters would have gone 2-to-1 for Mr. Bush, as actual voters in the panhandle did, that means a loss of 6,377 Bush votes -- nearly 12 times his official margin of victory.

There's no way of knowing how accurate these estimates are, but the testimony of poll workers and inspectors indicates that something certainly happened after the networks declared Florida's polls closed.

A poll worker in Bay County reported: "Voting was steady all day until 6 p.m. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. was very different from past elections. It was very empty. The poll workers thought it was odd. It was like the lights went out."

A clerk for elections in Okaloosa County: "Soon after 6 p.m., I noticed the volume dropped to almost zero. In past elections, there was usually a rush of people coming from work, trying to get to vote before the polls closed."

Another clerk for elections in Okaloosa County: "I don't think we had more than five people from 6:15 until we closed at 7p.m. We had averaged 80 voters per hour until the last hour."

Warren Brown, deputy for elections, Santa Rosa County: "Eight years ago in the presidential election, there were so many people in line that the last voter did not vote until nearly 10:30 p.m. When I went outside at the end of the day to tell people to hurry along, there was no one in the parking lot."

Barbara Alger, a poll inspector in Escambia County: "The last 40 minutes was almost empty. The poll workers were wondering if there had been a national disaster they didn't know about."

On Oct. 30, a week before the election, Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris issued a statement to the media pointing out that the polls in the Central time zone would be open until 8 p.m. EST. "The last thing we need is to have our citizens in the Central time zone think their vote doesn't count -- because it certainly does," she implored the networks. "Waiting until 8 p.m. EST allows all Floridians the opportunity to decide the outcome of races within Florida."

The networks ignored her....

END Excerpt

To read all of Fund's piece, go to:
http://opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=95000423

Journalists certainly "ignored her" until she became a convenient target of the Gore team.

-- Brent Baker


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