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CyberAlert -- 08/15/1996 -- MRC CyberAlert: From San Diego

***MRC CyberAlert: From San Diego***

Finally Find a Republican They Like, But Still Attack Rest Elizabeth Dole: "Masterful" | GOP Criticized for Attacking Clinton's "Eating Habits"; Decrying "Bash Bill Night" | Will Clinton Be Held to the Same Standard in Chicago? | Want Some Cheese With Your Whine? | Rapping Reagan's Film | Media Salesmanship at the 1992 Democratic Convention

Quote of the Day

"Just how tightly scripted is this convention? Well, a Russian television reporter said today that this is as tightly controlled as anything the Communist Party ever put on, Tom."

-- Reporter David Bloom from the convention floor to anchor Tom Brokaw, August 14 NBC Nightly News.

Finally Find a Republican They Like, But Still Attack Rest Elizabeth Dole: "Masterful"

It took until the third night, but Wednesday evening the networks finally found a Republican they could respect: Elizabeth Dole. However, they still spent yesterday morning and evening disparaging speakers who had criticized President Clinton and questioning the credibility of Jack Kemp for changing his position on affirmative action and immigration.

"Absolutely powerful performance," gushed Dan Rather after Elizabeth Dole finished her reflections on Bob Dole's life. "It was masterful," agreed Tim Russert on NBC where Tom Brokaw explained: "In the language of this summer, ladies and gentlemen, that was a gold medal performance." ABC's Peter Jennings pronounced it "an unquestionably brilliant piece of stagecraft by Mrs. Dole."

Yesterday, network viewers also heard:

Jack Kemp has "damaged his credibility" by altering his positions on affirmative action and immigration. Lesley Stahl asked if he''s "selling his soul to be loyal to Bob Dole?" ABC suggested it "fights the very image that he's built for himself as an independent thinker." Kemp adjusted two views, all of Clinton's are usually in constant motion. Will networks focus on that in Chicago?

Networks come to Clinton's defense and say Tuesday night speakers went too far in their "harsh" criticism of Clinton. CBS insisted Susan Molinari went after Clinton "with a vengeance" and Good Morning America's Elizabeth Vargas claimed "some of the harshest words were from Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison." Bryant Gumbel wondered if anyone is "seeing any evidence" of tolerance from Republicans. And NBC's Maria Shriver asked "how ugly" Republicans will make the fall campaign.

Reporters may like Elizabeth Dole, but they still hold a grudge against Marilyn Quayle. ABC's Michel McQueen recalled the "strident tone" of her 1992 convention address as NBC's Tom Brokaw also charged last night that Mrs. Quayle was "too strident."

GOP Criticized for Attacking Clinton*s "Eating Habits"; Decrying "Bash Bill Night"

Journalistic sensitivity to any attacks on Bill Clinton quickly came through loud and clear Wednesday morning and night. "GOP Unleashes An Attack On Clinton Over Character and His Economic Policies," charged The New York Times.

"Congresswoman Susan Molinari took on the role of attack dog last night, using her keynote address to attack the President," Bryant Gumbel began Wednesday's Today.

NBC*s morning crew stuck to the Democratic line in their questions. Gumbel asked Tim Russert: "There's an old adage that says what you do speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say. Republicans are speaking tolerance and diversity. Are you seeing any evidence of it or quite the contrary?"

Today's Katie Couric inquired of Republican Charles Black: "Chris Dodd of the DNC says this is a huge con game. That the way you're portraying the party as this moderate inclusive party just doesn't gibe with say, the platform, and some of the attitudes of members of the GOP. How do you address that?" Couric asked Pat Buchanan: "Your speech at the 1992 Republican convention, where you talked about a religious war, was considered by many to be very polarizing, a real turn-off, self-righteous, superior, exclusionary. Do you regret giving this speech?"

CBS This Morning co-host Jane Robelot declared: "It was unofficially Bash Bill Night last night in San Diego...Speaker after Republican speaker went after the man with a vengeance, including the keynoter, Susan Molinari."

Over on Good Morning America, news anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted: "Some of the harshest words were from Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who tried to paint the President as a tax and spend liberal." GMA co-host Charles Gibson added: "Polls will tell you these days that people do not want much partisanship in their politics, but they got it at the Republican convention last night. There were attacks on President Clinton's credibility, integrity, even his eating habits." ABC's Vargas didn't shy away from stereotyping: "But in addition to a gender gap, Republicans have had problems attacting minorities, a party that has traditionally been home to the angry white man."

Last night NBC*s Lisa Myers demanded of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: "Some of the focus groups which had watched your speech...voters found it too negative. They didn't particularly like the degree to which you attacked the President. In retrospect do you think you went too far?"

Calling conservatives "extremists" has been a Democratic mantra for two years, but NBC*s Maria Shriver asked Dole California campaign chairman Ken Khachigian: "You said coming out of this campaign, Clinton is going to have 80 days of hell, that we are going to take Clinton down in California, that we are going to take him down hard. How ugly is this going to get?" No uglier than the media in San Diego.

GOP Criticized for Attacking Clinton's "Eating Habits"; Decrying "Bash Bill Night"

Journalistic sensitivity to any attacks on Bill Clinton quickly came through loud and clear Wednesday morning and night. "GOP Unleashes An Attack On Clinton Over Character and His Economic Policies," charged The New York Times.

"Congresswoman Susan Molinari took on the role of attack dog last night, using her keynote address to attack the President," Bryant Gumbel began Wednesday*s Today.

NBC's morning crew stuck to the Democratic line in their questions. Gumbel asked Tim Russert: "There's an old adage that says what you do speaks so loudly I can't hear what you say. Republicans are speaking tolerance and diversity. Are you seeing any evidence of it or quite the contrary?"

Today's Katie Couric inquired of Republican Charles Black: "Chris Dodd of the DNC says this is a huge con game. That the way you're portraying the party as this moderate inclusive party just doesn't gibe with say, the platform, and some of the attitudes of members of the GOP. How do you address that?" Couric asked Pat Buchanan: "Your speech at the 1992 Republican convention, where you talked about a religious war, was considered by many to be very polarizing, a real turn-off, self-righteous, superior, exclusionary. Do you regret giving this speech?"

CBS This Morning co-host Jane Robelot declared: "It was unofficially Bash Bill Night last night in San Diego...Speaker after Republican speaker went after the man with a vengeance, including the keynoter, Susan Molinari."

Over on Good Morning America, news anchor Elizabeth Vargas asserted: "Some of the harshest words were from Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who tried to paint the President as a tax and spend liberal." GMA co-host Charles Gibson added: "Polls will tell you these days that people do not want much partisanship in their politics, but they got it at the Republican convention last night. There were attacks on President Clinton's credibility, integrity, even his eating habits." ABC's Vargas didn't shy away from stereotyping: "But in addition to a gender gap, Republicans have had problems attacting minorities, a party that has traditionally been home to the angry white man."

Last night NBC's Lisa Myers demanded of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: "Some of the focus groups which had watched your speech...voters found it too negative. They didn*t particularly like the degree to which you attacked the President. In retrospect do you think you went too far?"

Calling conservatives "extremists" has been a Democratic mantra for two years, but NBC's Maria Shriver asked Dole California campaign chairman Ken Khachigian: "You said coming out of this campaign, Clinton is going to have 80 days of hell, that we are going to take Clinton down in California, that we are going to take him down hard. How ugly is this going to get?" No uglier than the media in San Diego.

Will Clinton Be Held to the Same Standard in Chicago?

Jack Kemp, the Political "Acrobat"

The choice of Jack Kemp as Dole's running mate prompted the media to point out Kemp's "independent thinking," his differences with Dole on issues like affirmative action and immigration. Now that Kemp has modified those two views to reflect the party's platform, the media are accusing him of abandoning principle.

While reporters portray President Clinton's flip-flops on every issue as "moving to the center," they don't see moves from Dole and Kemp in quite the same light. On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, anchor Dan Rather quipped: "Bob Dole has reversed himself on deficit reduction versus tax cuts. Jack Kemp has reversed himself on how he feels about immigration. Isn't that, or is it, going to make it more difficult to attack Bill Clinton on the character issue?" Questioning Vin Weber, co-chairman of the Dole campaign, in prime time last night CBS's Lesley Stahl asked: "Your longtime friend Jack Kemp has changed his long-held views, in the last two days, on affirmative action, on immigration policy. Is he selling his soul to be loyal to Bob Dole?"

Interviewing Dan Quayle, NBC's Maria Shriver kept up the same line: "Let's talk about Jack Kemp [for] a minute. Today he reversed his position on immigration. Now in favor of expelling children of illegal immigrants from schools. How much does that damage his credibility?"

On World News Tonight ABC's Jackie Judd asserted that "The quarterback became the acrobat today. Kemp was flip-flopping on long held positions." She then looked at his affirmative action change, noting "that left at least one delegate here feeling abandoned." She concluded: "Kemp's change in position on these core issues fights the very image that he's built for himself as an independent thinker."

Want Some Cheese With Your Whine?

Koppel Cops Out of San Diego

Ted Koppel is angry. As quoted by Martha Moore in the August 14 USA Today, he complained that convention planners always exert as much control over coverage as possible, but this year, "`I think the politicians are ahead,'" says ABC's Ted Koppel, who took his Nightline show back to Washington today, two days early. `They have more control over what we put on the air this week than they have ever had before.'"

Just how successful have planners been? According to USA Today ABC filled a bit over half of their broadcast on Monday, 34 minutes out of an hour, with actual convention proceedings. On Tuesday, ABC aired even less of the convention, 26 out of 66 minutes broadcast. ABC filled the rest with interviews, analysis and ads.

Koppel sounded like a restless child in his Tuesday Nightline announcement: "This convention is more of an infomercial than a news event. Nothing surprising has happened, nothing surprising is anticipated. Frankly, we expect the Democratic convention in Chicago to be much of the same. Indeed the only reason we were planning to originate these Nightline broadcasts from Chicago in another couple of week was a sense of fairness. And then it occurred to us that perhaps we should learn from our experience. There was a time when the national political conventions were news events of such complexity that they required the presence of thousands of journalists , but not this year. If anything important happens we will certainly have an adequate staff here to cover it and we will send an equivalent unit to Chicago. But we don*t all have to be here so most of us from Nightline are going home tomorrow."

Such is the sad state of American journalism: Koppel's Nightline broadcast five stories about Tonya Harding in 1994, many more about O.J. Simpson, but will only turn in two on the 1996 Republican convention."

Reporters couldn't help but praise Elizabeth Dole, but Marilyn Quayle still hasn't lived down the media's feminist fury over her 1992 convention speech. On Tuesday night, ABC's Michel McQueen said: "I ran into Marilyn Quayle today, who gave a speech in 1992 that was kind of a 'peel the paint off the walls' speech that was described later on as contributing to a rather strident tone of the '92 convention. She told me she was shocked by the way it was received afterwards."

After Dan Quayle's speech last night, NBC's Tom Brokaw recalled: "Marilyn Quayle, who spoke at the convention four years ago, and many people thought that her speech was too strident, talking about the place of women, critical of the feminist movement in this country at the time."

Rapping Reagan's Film

Remember Bill Clinton's "Man From Hope" video during the 1992 Democratic convention? The sugary-sweet film was shown on all the networks and was widely praised for adding insight into Bill Clinton. But the Republican*s equally sweet video of President Ronald Reagan on Tuesday night touched off a round of media carping as to the video*s value as news.

As James Bennet reported in Wednesday*s New York Times, Jeff Zucker, Executive Producer of NBC coverage, said: "Let me say if I had to do it again, I would really give that a second thought...I*m not as convinced, Monday morning quarterbacking myself, that it was as newsworthy as I thought going in."

CBS officials clucked about their decision to pass over the video, hoping for more of a movie of the week flavor. "Lane Venardos, a CBS vice president, sounded equally comfortable with his decision to ignore the film almost completely. "We decided on news value alone not to run it," he said. "There was not one scintilla of new information." Mr. Venardos said convention planners had promised the video would include "new pictures of the former President, never-before-seen post-Alzheimer's-onset pictures."

Clinton: Fiscal Conservative

In the August 19 edition, Newsweek's six-million-dollar "anonymous" author, Joe Klein, declared the GOP faithful "entered their convention on a mild, quasi-delusional wave of enthusiasm. The rest of us will be forgiven for yawning: the Dole tax cut stands, to all but hard-core taxophobes, as a transparent and rather pathetic bit of politics. He wants to cut $548 billion over six years? And balance the budget? Does anyone actually believe this? The trouble is, after all the deficit reduction of the past few years, there isn*t much non-incendiary matter left on the federal level to cut."

Time's George Church sneered: "Getting people not to think might be helpful, particularly since some of Dole's numbers do not seem to add up." Church concluded: "A case could be made that the candidate who best represents the fiscally conservative, moderate Republican tradition is, believe it or not, Bill Clinton."

Candace Capitalizes

On Wednesday's Today, NBC's Jamie Gangel did a feature on Candace Gingrich which painted a very unsympathetic portrait of the lesbian*s half-brother Newt: "Gingrich went on to call Candace a sinner. He's also compared homosexuality to alcoholism and is against legislation that would protect gays from being fired because of their sexual orientation."

Gangel said to Candace: "You're being very polite about the fact that your brother says terrible things about homosexuals....He doesn't return your phone calls. He doesn't answer your faxes. He doesn't respond to his own sister. That's okay with you?"

Gangel never attempted to understand how the Speaker might feel: that Candace has capitalized on her half-brother's fame (complete with a guest star appearance on Friends by making him look insensitive, and that replying to any call or fax might lead to another batch of negative publicity. Gangel simply claimed: "Candace says she is not trying to hurt her brother. She just wants equal rights and hopes people will learn to accept gay relationships."

Kemp's flip flops.

When Bob Dole announced his choice of Jack Kemp as his running mate, the media quickly pointed out Kemp's "independent thinking," his differences with Dole on issues like affirmative action and immigration. Now that Kemp has modified his views to reflect those of the party platform, the media is accusing him of flip-flopping.

On CNN's coverage of the convention, political analyst Ken Bode was quick to attack Kemp: "Today Jack Kemp did a double back dive ten degree of difficulty on the issues of immigration and affirmative action." Questioning Vin Weber, co-chairman of the Dole campaign, CBS' Lesley Stahl asked: "Your longtime friend Jack Kemp has changed his long-held views, in the last two days, on affirmative action, on immigration policy. Is he selling his soul to be loyal to Bob Dole."

While reporters consider President Clinton's flip-flops "moving to the center," they don*t see moves from Dole and Kemp in quite the same light. On the August 14 CBS Evening News, anchor Dan Rather quipped: "Bob Dole has reversed himself on deficit reduction versus tax cuts. Jack Kemp has reversed himself on how he feels about immigration. Isn*t that, or is it, going to make it more difficult to attack Bill Clinton on the character issue?" Interviewing Dan Quayle, NBC's Maria Shriver kept up the same line: "Let's talk about Jack Kemp [for] a minute. Today he reversed his position on immigration. Now in favor of expelling children of illegal immigrants from schools. How much does that damage his credibility."

The questions were no different on the floor of the convention. On the August 14 World News Tonight, ABC's Jackie Judd got her angle from a liberal California delegate, claiming Kemp had "abandoned" that wing of the party. She started her story: "The quarterback became the acrobat today. Kemp was flip-flopping on long held positions to get in line with Bob Dole." It's not so unusual for a vice-presidential candidate to accommodate the views of the presidential candidate, but Kemp's change in position on these core issues fights the very image that he*s built for himself as an independent thinker."

Media Salesmanship at the 1992 Democratic Convention

Speaking of Infomercials...

As network stars grumble about the tightly scripted "infomercial" the GOP convention has become, perhaps they should remember the infomercial-like tone some reporters employed to promote the Clinton-Gore ticket at their New York City convention in 1992: ABC*s Jim Wooten introduced the convention on July 13, 1992: "That*s the ticket. Not a liberal in sight and that*s the picture Clinton wants the convention to leave with the country. Democrats happily moving from their liberal past to their centrist future...So Clinton and his moderates have captured the Democratic Party for the moment."

In the next morning's New York Times, reporter David Rosenbaum echoed ABC: "The views that dominated the party for so long, what was proudly called liberal, are hardly in evidence in Madison Square Garden this week...Mr. Mondale, who in 1984 was the last down-the-line liberal to win the Democratic presidential nomination and who lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan in November, said he was resigned to the change."

On the evening of July 14, 1992 Dan Rather announced: "Delegates approved the Clinton-Gore center-of-the-road Democratic Party platform, trying to move the party closer to the voters around the malls in America*s suburbs."

CBS This Morning reporter Bill Plante touted Clinton's momentum: "Everything seems to be going Clinton's way. They couldn't be happier here. They say that the candidate*s numbers are improving every day. They have their moderate platform. And things are just generally where they would want them to be."

Peter Jennings claimed on July 15, 1992: "He's become a little more disciplined, Bill Clinton, but you know he loves a crowd. And he has, don*t want to get carried away here, but he has the kind of hands people respond to."

From the floor of the convention NBC's Maria Shriver merely tried to get Elizabeth Glaser to repeat her nasty attack on Ronald Reagan: "You place responsibility for the death of your daughter [from AIDS] squarely at the feet of the Reagan administration. Do you believe they are responsible for that?"

Before savaging Barbara Bush in August, then-PBS anchor Judy Woodruff asked Hillary Clinton: "The Clinton campaign has been saying that this is a week that they were trying to tell the American people more about who Bill Clinton really is...What is it that you think the American people should know about your husband that they may not know or may not understand?" -- Brent Baker

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