CyberAlert -- 05/24/2001 -- Jeffords Mislabeled "Moderate"
Jeffords Mislabeled "Moderate"; In Wake of Jeffords Defection Bush Should Move Left; Fault of Conservatives for Moving GOP Too Right
1) Jeffords Defection Theme #1: Bush should move left to the center. CBS's John Roberts relayed how a Democratic pollster hoped, "he may be forced to govern from the middle." NBC's Campbell Brown pushed Bush to the left: "The President's options? Political analysts say bi-partisan compromise."
2) Jeffords Defection Theme #2: Label him a "moderate," or a "maverick," but never what he really is, a liberal. Looking at ideological ratings, Jeffords' record makes him 24 points less conservative and 25 points more liberal than a true moderate like Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.
3) Jeffords Defection Theme #3: Blame conservatives for making the Republican Party too conservative. ABC's Linda Douglass referred to his "frustration with his increasingly conservative party." NBC's Lisa Myers worried about how he "was treated as a pariah in his own party." On MSNBC, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter suggested the Republican Party left him.
4) Jeffords Defection Theme #4: Scold the Bush White House for punishing him for working to eviscerate their bills. NBC's Lisa Myers credited his departure to how "he is deeply offended by lack of respect from the White House and from key Senate Republicans."
CBS's John Roberts relayed how the switch "could be a good thing politically" for Bush since, counseled a Democratic pollster, "he may be forced to govern from the middle." Roberts lectured: "He'll also need to walk the walk on his promise to change the tone in Washington." NBC's Campbell Brown similarly pushed Bush to the left: "The President's options? Political analysts say bi-partisan compromise."
-- John Roberts on the May 23 CBS Evening
News: "With Jeffords' departure, the President's legislative
agenda would be filtered through a Democratic lense. Ironically, says
Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman, that could be a good thing
politically for the President."
Hard to imagine how Dole lost in 1996 with Reed running his campaign.
-- Campbell Brown on the NBC Nightly News:
"The question now though, what happens to Bush's agenda?
Republicans say Bush's tax cut should still win approval, his education
plan faces new hurdles but also has bi-partisan support. At risk, any
other new legislation and confirmation for judicial nominees. The
President's options? Political analysts say bi-partisan
His 2000 rating from the ACU: a mere 36 percent. Compare that to other northeastern Republican "moderates." Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter: 62 percent; Maine's Olympia Snowe: 80 percent; and Maine's Susan Collins: 76 percent. For more on ACU vote ratings, go to: http://www.conservative.org/ratings2000.htm
From the left, Jeffords voted the way the ADA liked a majority of the time in 2000, earning a 55 percent "liberal quotient." Specter had a 40 percent rating from the ADA, Snowe a 30 percent approval level and Collins voted liberal 25 percent of the time. For more on ADA ratings, go to: http://adaction.org/voting.html
So, while Jeffords is not a hard core leftist, he's also quite a bit to the left of moderates and so should be described as a "fairly liberal," or at least as "a moderate to liberal." But, over the past 24 hours the networks have studiously avoided any type of liberal tag.
An exception: On Tuesday night's Inside Politics, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, CNN's Jonathan Karl twice referred to Jeffords as "one of the most liberal members" of either the Republican Party or Senate: "Well, what's happened here is there has been intense speculation that Senator Jeffords, who has long been one of the most liberal members of the Republican party here serving in the Senate, would switch parties, either to become a Democrat or to become an independent....The impetus for all this is that Jeffords has long been one of the most liberal members of the Senate, but he also is the person Republicans think single-handedly caused the Republicans to forced to scale down their tax cut."
Still, at another point, anchor Frank Sesno delivered the usual network description: "At issue: Will Republican moderate James Jeffords of Vermont switch to the Democratic Party?" Wednesday night, at the top of Wolf Blitzer Reports, the anchor of the same name declared: "There are 100 members of the U.S. Senate. For most of today nearly everyone in Washington was focusing on one of them. He's a Senator many people probably never even heard of, the moderate Republican from Vermont, James Jeffords."
Other examples of mislabeling from the night and morning of Wednesday, May 23:
-- ABC's Nightline. Anchor Chris Bury: "mild-mannered maverick."
Linda Douglass: "He is a maverick, he is an independent. This was really about having his own moderate views heard within what he thinks is an increasingly conservative Republican Party."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Linda Douglass: "His friend and fellow moderate, Maine's Olympia Snowe, said a Jeffords defection should be a wake-up call to the Republican Party."
Terry Moran: "It was clear that a White House strategy of trying to muscle the maverick Republican had backfired."
(Douglass, however, did acknowledge how senior Senate Democrats are liberal: "If Jeffords switches, Democrat Tom Daschle would be the Senate's leader. Democrats would control which legislation comes up for a vote. They would chair the committees. Liberal Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee with power over the selection of Mr. Bush's judges; liberal Ted Kennedy the Health and Education Committee in charge of prescription drug legislation. Conservation-minded Jeff Bingaman, the Energy Committee overseeing Mr. Bush's energy plan.")
-- ABC's Good Morning America. George Stephanopoulos: "Jeffords has voted against the Republican Party for an awful long time. He voted against the Reagan tax cut in 1981, he was the first Republican to come out against President Clinton's impeachment and he had been comfortable in that position, a maverick Republican."
-- CBS's The Early Show. News reader Julie Chen announced, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed: "Senator James Jeffords is expected to announce today whether he will leave the Republican Party. A switch by Jeffords would give control of the evenly divided Senate to the Democrats. The three term moderate from Vermont has been at odds with the GOP, especially over President Bush's tax cut plan."
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek: "He voted against Clarence Thomas, against the Reagan tax cut, against impeachment, pro-choice, pro-environment, so he's been this moderate Republican -- fiscally conservative, socially liberal -- for many years now."
It's "fiscally conservative" to push for higher spending, as he's been doing all year?
-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers: "The turmoil overshadowed what would otherwise have been a day of celebration for Republicans: Senate passage of the President's $1.3 trillion tax cut. Instead, all eyes on a quirky moderate from Vermont who has a black belt in Tai Kwon Doe and now threatens to shift the balance of power in the Senate."
-- NBC's Today. Lisa Myers: "Some conservative Republicans treat Jeffords as a pariah because he and other moderates buck the party."
-- Linda Douglass on ABC's World News
Tonight, May 23: "Jeffords' frustration with his increasingly
conservative party has been building for a long time. Even with a
Republican in the White House he's been voting with Democrats on big
issues....Jeffords felt his views on taxes, the poor, the environment were
dismissed by Republican leaders. His friend and fellow moderate, Maine's
Olympia Snowe, said a Jeffords defection should be a wake-up call to the
-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, May
23. Williams asked: "Newsweek magazine columnist and NBC News
contributing correspondent Jonathan Alter has known and covered Senator
Jeffords for many years and knows well the dynamic of the Senate, of
course. He is with us tonight here in our studios. Jonathan, simple
question: Why the switch?"
-- Lisa Myers on the May 23 NBC Nightly News:
"Jeffords often was treated as a pariah in his own party, undercut on
key bills like education."
Gee, you vote against Reagan's tax cut, against the confirmation of Clarence Thomas and spend this year fighting a tax cut and pushing for more spending. Then you really are a "pariah."
More from May 23:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Setting up a full story on how the White House threatened to kill dairy price supports for New England and how Jeffords was not invited to the Teacher of the Year ceremony in the Rose Garden for a Vermont teacher, Peter Jennings argued: "The rhetorical question in Washington is, who lost Jeffords? And all fingers are pointing at the White House."
-- ABC's Good Morning America. MRC analyst
Jessica Anderson caught this exchange. Diane Sawyer asked: "So, what
is going on and is Jeffords doing it for politics or because somebody made
him really mad?...Linda, so what's it about?"
Sawyer soon turned to George Stephanopoulos,
asking him to react to the proposition: "An attempt to tame a Senator
-- On the CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer contended "the ham-handed tactics" by he White House "apparently backfired."
-- Lisa Myers on the NBC Nightly News: "So why is Jeffords on the brink of bolting? Mostly, friends say, because he is deeply offended by lack of respect from the White House and from key Senate Republicans. Sources say Jeffords is angry about being bad-mouthed by the President's political guru Karl Rove and top lobbyist Nick Calio. The last straw: After Jeffords's votes against Bush's tax cut, the White House retaliates by not inviting him when a Vermont educator is honored as teacher of the year."
-- NBC's Today. Lisa Myers delivered the
same reasoning as she did later, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed:
"Why would Jeffords defect? One reason, he tells friends, the White
House. Jeffords repeatedly joined with Democrats to pair down Bush's $1.6
trillion tax cut. He was asked whether that wasn't a bold move for a
Well, now there will be one less "moderate" Republican for the media to promote.
-- Brent Baker
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