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CyberAlert -- 05/29/2001 -- "Moderates" Opposed Tax Cut

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"Moderates" Opposed Tax Cut; Conservatives the "Abusers" of Moderates; Jeffords Switch Praised; Brokaw's Conservation Advocacy

1) CBS's Eric Engberg maintained that "moderate" Democrats opposed the "massive tax cut," before he highlighted comments from Charles Rangel and Chris Dodd.

2) NPR's Nina Totenberg claimed Republicans have an "abusive relationship" with moderates as "the enables" and conservatives as "the abusers." Time's Margaret Carlson praised Jeffords as "a man of principle" who spoke for her as "he gave word to what some of us have not been able to."

3) Two Washington Post reporters praised Jim Jeffords for dumping the GOP. E.J Dionne claimed his "departure may have been a profound act of loyalty toward his fellow embattled moderates." David Ignatius expressed relief at how Democrats can now "help" Bush: "An administration that managed the amazing feat of getting kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Commission this month clearly needs some help. And now the Democrats, thanks to Sen. Jeffords, are in a position to provide some advice and consent."

4) A Washington Post front page news story on Saturday echoed the liberal themes expressed by Dionne and Ignatius. Thomas Edsall and David Broder used the switch to argue that the Jeffords split "is the most glaring example of the difficulties facing the Republican Party in its struggle to hold together a fragile coalition under a party leadership dominated by conservative white southern men."

5) NBC's Matt Lauer suggested to Karen Hughes: "Is this a chance for the party to look at itself and perhaps move more to the center, become more moderate in the wake of his defection?" ABC and CBS on Friday morning took a similar approach toward Hughes Friday morning.

6) "Vt. Moderate Might Leave Republican Party, But Rightward-Marching GOP Left Him First," announced a USA Today headline. In the story reporter Kathy Kiely more accurately dubbed Jeffords a "northeastern liberal." Pre-1990 Jeffords earned the same liberal rating, 87 percent, as Pat Leahy.

7) Tom Brokaw bemoaned, on the Late Show, how there's "only kind of a rhetorical homage to conservation" in Bush's energy plan. Brokaw thought the plan should have had more for wind and solar power, scolded people for buying too many SUVs and blamed cars for global warming.

8) A couple of million buck is not a lot enough money, certainly not enough spending of taxpayer money to satisfy Peter Jennings.

9) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Your Senator Has Lost It."


1
"Moderate" Democrats against the "massive tax cut." From the opening of Eric Engberg's Saturday, May 26 CBS Evening News story on House and Senate passage of the tax cut:
"The massive tax cut had sliced through the Congress with such speed and ease that in today's final debate liberal and moderate Democrats were largely left complaining on the sidelines."

Viewers then saw two soundbites. First, Congressman Charles Rangel on the House floor: "I've never heard such poppycock in my life."
Second, Senator Chris Dodd on the Senate floor: "This proposal is going to cause a train wreck."

So who is the "moderate," Rangel or Dodd? And notice that despite how the original Bush tax cut package was reduced by a fourth, from $1.7 to $1.35 trillion, Engberg still labeled it "massive."

2

Using Jeffords' defection as another excuse to repudiate conservatism and urge the GOP to move left. On Inside Washington over the weekend NPR's Nina Totenberg claimed Republicans have an "abusive relationship," with moderates as "the enables" and conservatives as "the abusers"; Time's Jack White called Jeffords a "profile in courage"; and Time's Margaret Carlson praised Jeffords as "a man of principle" who spoke for her.

-- NPR's Nina Totenberg on Inside Washington: "The message from Jeffords is not a new one. Jack Germond has been reiterating it from the seat that he is missing from today for the last year, and that is that Republicans, when they govern from the right and castigate their moderate members, do so at their peril."

And: "It seems to me that the modern Republican Party and its moderate wing are in a sort of, to use the psychobabble of the era, in an abusive relationship...and the moderate are the enables and the conservatives are the abusers and they just got used to doing it that way and suddenly one member said I'm not going to take it anymore."

-- Time national correspondent Jack White on Inside Washington: "Well anybody who can make sure Trent Lott is less on television deserves to be commended, so I classify him as a profile in courage."

-- Time magazine reporter and columnist Margaret Carlson on the May 26 CNN Capital Gang: "He is a man of principle. He switched parties but not identities. He is a man who is a rare breed now, a moderate Republican and he gave word to what some of us have not been able to, which is that Bush campaigned as a moderate but he's been governing as an arch-conservative."

3

Two veteran Washington Post newspaper reporters, who now write columns, took to the Post on Sunday to sympathize with and praise the decision by Senator Jim Jeffords to abandon the Republican Party and thus turn over the Senate to Democrats.

"This Is Not Mutiny. It's a Different Kind of Loyalty," argued the headline over an "Outlook" section piece by E.J Dionne Jr., a New York Times political reporter during the 1980s before he switched loyalties and moved to the Washington Post. Dionne contended that "Jeffords's departure may have been a profound act of loyalty toward his fellow embattled moderates." Dionne admitted: "Personally, I feel for Jeffords -- and not just because my political opinions are closer to his than to those of his critics."

Post colleague David Ignatius, a one-time foreign editor for the paper who, I believe, until recently was its "Business" section editor, expressed relief in a column from Paris on how the Democrats would now be able to check Bush's "right wing" policies: "They can challenge judicial nominations that don't reflect mainstream opinion; they can oversee federal agencies to make sure they're doing the public's business, rather than pursuing a right-wing special agenda."

Ignatius condescendingly concluded: "An administration that managed the amazing feat of getting kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Commission this month clearly needs some help. And now the Democrats, thanks to Sen. Jeffords, are in a position to provide some advice and consent."

-- An excerpt from Dionne's May 27 piece:

....Vermont Republican officials are very unhappy with Jeffords, and so are the U.S. senators who are about to lose their committee chairmanships. But -- and this is significant -- not all Republicans are choosing to denounce him. In fact, Jeffords's departure may have been a profound act of loyalty toward his fellow embattled moderates. By quitting, he strengthened their position in the party and their ability to make demands on its leadership. As soon as Jeffords made his announcement, such mavericks as Maine's Olympia Snowe and Arizona's John McCain began pressing the case that Republicans needed to be, well, kinder and gentler toward those who depart from party orthodoxy. In their telling, Jeffords emerges more as hero than traitor.

Personally, I feel for Jeffords -- and not just because my political opinions are closer to his than to those of his critics. I, too, grew up in a staunch Republican family. My views have strayed some over the years, but because I revere my late parents, I want to insist that in all the fundamentals I'm true to the tradition in which I was raised. You don't have to be a politician to protest that, really and truly, you're being loyal even when you change horses.

But politicians are accountable to voters, so their claims get much more scrutiny. Invariably, those who decide they no longer want to dance with the ones who brung 'em insist it's the ones who brung 'em who done wrong. As one of history's most important party-switchers, Ronald Reagan, said when he left the Democrats, "I didn't leave my party. My party left me." That makes one Reagan statement, at least, with which Jeffords wholeheartedly agrees....

END Excerpt

To read the entirety of Dionne's treatise, go to: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A80305-2001May26.html

-- An excerpt from the May 27 column by Ignatius:

PARIS -- It has been annoying these past few months to hear Europeans complain about American arrogance and isolation -- as if the conservatives who were steering George W. Bush's presidency somehow stood for the country as a whole. So what a pleasure to see Sen. James Jeffords puncture those presumptions at a stroke and remind the world of the vitality and unpredictability of American democracy.

This past week showed that there remains a mysterious balance wheel in the American political system that frustrates attempts at unilateral, partisan solutions. You would think that after Newt Gingrich's failed "revolution" in Congress during the 1990s, the Republicans would have learned that lesson. But no, they had to learn it again last week.

Jeffords's defection turned the United States momentarily into a parliamentary democracy. It was the equivalent of a vote of no confidence, and it shattered the conservative "mandate" the Republicans had imagined for themselves -- oblivious to the fact that their candidate had actually lost the popular vote in last November's elections.

Now that the Democrats control the Senate, they'll have many opportunities to exercise the "checks and balances" of the American system. They can challenge judicial nominations that don't reflect mainstream opinion; they can oversee federal agencies to make sure they're doing the public's business, rather than pursuing a right-wing special agenda.

One especially useful task for the newly Democratic Senate will be to examine the qualifications of some of the Bush administration's nominees for ambassadorial posts in Europe. This list is so weighted toward political cronies and campaign contributors that it seems almost like a calculated insult to the Europeans....

The Senate's careful scrutiny of Bush administration ambassadorial nominees will help focus the larger issue: How can the United States connect better with the world? That's becoming a serious problem, as anyone living abroad can testify. Years of conservative GOP repudiation of arms treaties, environmental treaties and U.N. funding have taken their toll.

An administration that managed the amazing feat of getting kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Commission this month clearly needs some help. And now the Democrats, thanks to Sen. Jeffords, are in a position to provide some advice and consent.

END Excerpt

To read of the Ignatius column, go to: http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A80285-2001May26.html

4

A Washington Post front page news story on Saturday echoed the liberal themes expressed by Dionne and Ignatius the next day. Instead of seeing the Jeffords departure as conservatives do, as the act of a liberal, well to the left of true Republican moderates, taking advantage of an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, Post reporters Thomas Edsall and David Broder used the switch to argue, as do liberals, that "the Jeffords split is not an isolated incident" and that "Republican critics have charged that what they see as intolerance of dissident views could significantly endanger the GOP's ability to reach beyond its base."

An excerpt from the May 26 front page "analysis" headlined "A Defection Highlights GOP's Fragile Coalition," by Thomas B. Edsall and David S. Broder:

For 35 years, the Republican Party reaped huge gains among Sun Belt whites, evangelicals and social conservatives, enough to put the GOP within reach of becoming the nation's majority party. Now, with unexpected abruptness, this success has begun to impose major costs.

The defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords, the Vermont Republican who announced Thursday he was becoming an independent, is the most glaring example of the difficulties facing the Republican Party in its struggle to hold together a fragile coalition under a party leadership dominated by conservative white southern men.

The Jeffords split is not an isolated incident. Although Republicans emerged from the 2000 election in control of the White House, Senate and House for the first time in almost 50 years, there were signs of shakiness. President Bush did not win a plurality, trailing his opponent, Al Gore, in the popular vote. The GOP nearly lost control of the Senate, with Vice President Cheney available to salvage a 50-50 split in its membership. Republicans showed conspicuous weaknesses in the nation's suburbs, the crucial battleground. And the northern Atlantic seaboard and the entire West Coast emerged as Democratic bastions.

"The problem for the Republicans is that we risk becoming a regional rather than a national party," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said yesterday. "And any party that becomes regional has difficulty winning a national election."

Last December, in a meeting with Republican senators, pollster Bill McInturff warned: "It is clear that when Republicans think about electoral strategy and about 'turning out our base,' we must understand that the Democratic base coalition is expanding as a percent of the electorate."

In other words, the voters attracted to the GOP by its stands on lower taxes, opposition to abortion and a strong military -- the coalition that powered Ronald Reagan into the White House twice and George H.W. Bush once in the 1980s -- are no longer a reliable majority.

Now, Jeffords's defection has cost the GOP control of the Senate, posing new problems for the president. And in the aftermath of Jeffords's departure, Republican critics have charged that what they see as intolerance of dissident views could significantly endanger the GOP's ability to reach beyond its base....

The shift in the regional base of the GOP shows clearly in the makeup of Congress. In 1980, when Ronald Reagan's election boosted Republican strength in both the House and Senate, the South and the border states sent 49 Republicans to the House; the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, 46. By 1994, when Republicans recaptured the House, there were twice as many from the South and border states as from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic -- 80 and 41, respectively.

The pattern was similar in the Senate: near-parity, 13-10, in 1980; almost double, 18-10 in 1994.

Of those 10 Senate seats from the Chesapeake Bay up to the Canadian border held by Republicans after the 1994 election, three are now gone: Incumbents lost in Delaware and New York, and Jeffords has abandoned the party....

END Excerpt

But in 1980 when moderates from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic had parity with Southerners the GOP did not win a majority of House seats.

To read this Washington Post story in full, go to:
http://washingtonpost.com/ac3/ContentServer?articleid=A79602-2001May25&pagename=article

5

"Is this a chance for the party to look at itself and perhaps move more to the center, become more moderate in the wake of his defection?" So asked NBC's Matt Lauer Friday morning in a leading question to White House counselor Karen Hughes. Lauer's suggestion on Today matched the theme conveyed to Hughes on ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's The Early Show which all concentrated on White House errors and argued that the GOP must do more to "incorporate moderates into the party." Not one morning show interviewer raised the possibility Jeffords was just out for himself or was himself too liberal for the party.

ABC's Elizabeth Vargas inquired, as noted by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "He did say yesterday, though, that since President Bush's election, he felt that moderate Republicans no longer had a voice in the party and warned that if President Bush didn't incorporate moderates into the party, he would be a one-term President."

CBS's Jane Clayson opened her interview, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "In his meeting with the President this week Senator Jeffords says he told Mr. Bush, quote, you will be a one term president if you don't listen to moderates. I hope he got the message. With this defection did the President get the message?"

Clayson followed up: "But even top Republicans are acknowledging that some soul searching is necessary now regarding how dissenting voices are treated within the Republican Party. Even Senator Arlen Specter said Jeffords defection is a very loud wake up call. Isn't it?"

6

More misleading "moderate" labeling of Senator Jeffords whose ratings put him 73 points below a perfect conservative score, but just 39 points below a perfect liberal score.

In addition to the "moderate" labels quoted in items above, on Friday's Good Morning America, Linda Douglass reported: "Senator Jeffords was blunt about why he's leaving the Republican Party. He said with President Bush in the White House, conservatives no longer feel that they have to welcome moderate Republicans like himself."

Last Wednesday a Washington Post headline declared: "Moderate Republican Sets His Own Course: Jeffords Is Often at Odds With Party."

"Vt. Moderate Might Leave Republican Party, But Rightward-Marching GOP Left Him First," argued a front page headline in Thursday's USA Today. In the story below, however, reporter Kathy Kiely managed to tag Jeffords as both a "moderate" and a liberal. In one sentence she maintained: "If Sen. Jim Jeffords was feeling neglected, marginalized, even ignored as a moderate in a party dominated by conservatives from places such as Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma, that is definitely not the case anymore."

But five paragraphs later she wrote: "One of the last of his party's once-thriving branch of Northeastern liberals..."

That last description is closer to the mark. Last week I had some confusion in reading the Americans for Democratic Action's liberal ratings. A CyberAlert reader pointed out that I just had to scroll down the ADA ratings page several more feet to locate their "lifetime" ratings which can be compared to those of the American Conservative Union (ACU).

Doing so, I learned Jeffords voted the liberal way 61 percent of the time over his career, and an incredible 87 percent of the time before 1990. That pre-1990 rating is identical to the record of his Democratic Senate colleague from Vermont, Pat Leahy. In contrast, Jeffords' lifetime rating from the ACU is a piddling 27 percent.

Compare Jeffords to real northeastern "moderate Republicans," Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Snowe earned a lifetime 40 from the ADA and Collins a 34. That's 21 and 27 points less liberal than Jeffords.

ACU assessed Snowe's lifetime voting record at 51 percent, 56 percent for Collins. That makes Jeffords 24 and 29 points less conservative than the two moderates.

7

Tom Brokaw expressed his dissatisfaction to David Letterman about Bush's energy plan. On Thursday's Late Show he bemoaned how there's "only kind of a rhetorical homage to conservation for example and doing something about that." Brokaw agreed the plan should have had more for wind and solar power, scolded people for buying too many SUVs and declared that "global warming is affected a lot more by the cars we drive than by industry at this point."

Brokaw appeared on Letterman's show the night the May 24 USA Today reported that he attended a fundraiser at New York's American Museum of Natural History for Conservation International, which featured actor Harrison Ford, director Sydney Pollack, and Saturday Night Live Bush and Gore impersonators Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond. USA Today's Jeannie Williams relayed: "Tom Brokaw was also on hand; wife Meredith is on the CI board. Meredith noted, 'Our parents were products of the Depression. Of course we turned off the lights. You wouldn't think not to. I'm feeling like a failed parent because our children don't have the concept.'"

When Letterman asked Tom Brokaw about Bush plan, Brokaw responded, as transcribed by MRC intern Lindsay Welter:
"The enormous emphasis here is on increasing production and a big reliance on fossil fuels and probably trying to kick start nuclear energy again as a, as a component of the energy package in America. Only I think it's fair to say, only kind of a rhetorical homage to conservation for example and doing something about that. Both the President and the Vice President feel very strongly that we have to have more independence. We are relying more on foreign oil than we were even during the energy crisis of Jimmy Carter, but, and and they do say that you can't conserve your way to independence, the fact is that we've made great strides when it comes to conservation. Most cars in America, not your cars, are a lot more fuel efficient, are a lot more fuel efficient now when you buy those."

A bit later, Letterman contended: "I think we all recognize the fact that with more people and the way of life that we love and hold dear we're going to need, energy. But why isn't, or maybe there were, provisions for let's explore and exploit alternative energies. What about solar power, what about wind power was there any of that in this?"
Brokaw: "Not very much."
Letterman: "But shouldn't there be?"
Brokaw: "Yes, I think that."
Letterman: "I mean, haven't we reached that point now?"
Brokaw: "Well I believe that there should be. I'm, you know I can't claim that I'm an absolute expert on it."
Letterman: "Right."
Brokaw: "I've spent a lot of time covering it over the years."
Letterman: "I understand."
Brokaw: "And I do think that all of us have a role in this. You know, we stand back and say, 'oh my God, gasoline prices are too high and what are we going to do about rolling blackouts?' and then we go out and buy the world's largest SUV."
Letterman: "Exactly."
Brokaw: "You know, and pump it up, $50 to fill up the tank and think nothing about it. The country, we have a great quality of life here, we can continue to have that. We've made enormous strides, industry actually is doing quite well when it comes to conservation because it's cost efficient for them to do that. Consumers are not doing so well. The global warming is affected a lot more by the cars we drive than by industry at this point."

8

A couple of million buck is not a lot enough money, or certainly not enough spending of taxpayer money to satisfy Peter Jennings.

During his "Medical File" briefs on Friday's World News Tonight, Jennings intoned: "The Environmental Protection Agency's going to spend $2 million trying to make some of the nation's beaches less of a health risk. Doesn't sound like a lot of money."

9

From the May 24 Late Show with David Letterman, prompted by the Senator James Jeffords party switch, the "Top Ten Signs Your Senator Has Lost It." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Only voting he does is on MTV's "Total Request Live"
9. Claims to be senator from the great state of Margaritaville
8. During debates, speaks only through a hand puppet made of his hairpiece
7. Instead of voting "Yay" or "Nay," often voted "Nyay"
6. Publicly fights with wife about his mistress (Sorry, that's a sign your mayor has lost it)
5. Supports "dress down Fridays" by showing up to work naked
4. Describes George W. Bush as the "greatest president in the history of the United States of America"
3. Only interested in capturing the "monkey man vote"
2. During TV interviews, says things like... (Video of Sen. Lieberman, "I'm going to raise your taxes so I can buy myself a sweet Camaro")
1. Asks the floor to recognize the "junior senator" in his pants -- Brent Baker


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