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CyberAlert -- 09/11/2001 -- ABC Leapt on Anti-Tax Cut Poll

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ABC Leapt on Anti-Tax Cut Poll; Justices on the "Dark Side"; "Champion" Ginsburg vs. "Extreme" Thomas; NBC's Anti-Gun Fashions

1) Peter Jennings highlighted how an ABC News poll found 57 percent want the tax cut reduced. But back in March, when ABC's survey discovered 58 percent thought Bush's tax cut plan was "about right" or "too small," World News Tonight ignored the finding. MSNBC's Brian Williams jumped on the new number as proof the public never liked "Bush's much ballyhooed tax cuts."

2) Newsweek on Bush's State Dinner: "POTUS served buffalo meat, wore cowboy boots and welcomed Clint Eastwood. Meanwhile, the rest of America priced horse meat."

3) Supreme Court justices who ruled to end the Florida recount were on "the Dark Side," Newsweek's David Kaplan asserted in an excerpt from his new book, The Accidental President. On NBC's Today Katie Couric quoted Kaplan's citation of how a Russian judge scowled: "In our country we wouldn't let judges pick the President." Kaplan: "Exactly."

4) Newsweek bios for Supreme Court justices admired liberals and showed disdain for conservatives. Ginsburg earned praise "as a champion of women's and minority rights" while Stevens is "known for his independence and idiosyncratic reasoning." Newsweek, however, put Thomas at the "conservative extreme," complaining that he's "consistently taking a page from the far right's play-book on abortion, school prayer, gay rights." Scalia "is a notorious right-wing rebel."

5) Not even a fashion segment on Today is safe from liberal advocacy. Today's Katie Couric prompted designer Kenneth Cole go on at length about gun control. Today even played a clip from a spoof of the Sopranos called, "A Life Without Guns," in which a character proclaims: "A life without violence, a life without guns. That sounds more like a dream to me."

6) When CNN panelist Jake Tapper recalled how President Bush's father appeared out of touch when "did not know...what a supermarket scanner was," CNN's Wolf Blitzer and USA Today's Susan Page pounced to set him straight on the often-cited inaccurate anecdote. But earlier in the week CNN reporter Major Garrett relayed the same accuracy-challenged memory.


1

Peter Jennings on Monday night highlighted how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found 57 percent want the tax cut reduced and 52 percent hold President Bush more responsible than Democrats in Congress for the shrinking surplus. But back in March, when the same polling operation discovered 58 percent thought Bush's tax cut plan was "about right" or "too small," World News Tonight ignored the finding.

The new ABC News poll so excited Brian Williams that he showcased it on his program on a competing network. Williams proposed on MSNBC: "Doesn't this play into the Democrats' argument that there was no groundswell in the first place for Bush's much ballyhooed tax cuts?"

The Washington Post story on the fresh poll reported that "an overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed said they opposed using Social Security funds for other purposes." The actual poll question posed, however, referred to "taking surplus money from the Social Security program and spending it on other programs." But that wording could easily mislead those surveyed into fearing money may be taken away from the "Social Security program," an idea no one is proposing. Not one dime of FICA tax revenue above outflows to cover current retirees will go to Social Security.

On the September 10 World News Tonight, ABC anchor Peter Jennings announced: "An ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that most Americans favor reducing the size of President Bush's tax cut as a way to deal with the shrinking federal surplus. 57 percent of Americans favor cutting the tax cut and 52 percent of Americans hold Mr. Bush more responsible than Democrats in the Congress for the smaller surplus."

As documented in the March 28 CyberAlert, earlier this year an ABC News/Washington Post poll discovered 58 percent think Bush's tax cut plan is "about right" or "too small" while just 36 percent consider it "too big," but instead of reporting that, ABC's Terry Moran stressed how the public is "becoming a little skeptical about some aspects of his leadership" as he has "an anemic rating" for handling the economy and "by a margin of two to one, 61 to 31 percent, Americans polled in our polls say that the President favors large business corporations over the interests of ordinary working people."

For more details, refer back to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010328.asp#3

Monday night of this week, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, the anchor of the same name raised the numbers from the competing network. Williams reviewed the survey with Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, suggesting to him:
"The next one is a question asked of the respondents: 'Who is responsible for this talk we're hearing that the surplus has gone away.' They are saying Bush over the Democrats 52-38, and finally, to keep the budget balanced, how about some remedies? Well, look at the bottom line: 'Reduce tax cuts.' And, Dan, doesn't this play into the Democrats' argument that there was no groundswell in the first place for Bush's much ballyhooed tax cuts?"

On screen as Williams spoke viewers saw, under an ABC logo, this heading: "To Keep the Budget Balanced." The options:
"Cut spending on social spending: 25 percent"
"Cut military spending: 31 percent"
"Reduce tax cuts: 43 percent."

Balz agreed with Williams: "Brian, you're right. This poll confirms what we've known about this tax cut all along, and even from the day George Bush proposed it in 1999, which is that there is not overwhelming and never has been overwhelming public support for a tax cut of this size. People like some size tax cut, but they have never thought that one like this was needed, and what they're saying is that the first thing that they would be prepared to see jettisoned is some of that tax cut."

The Washington Post on Monday night posted an early version of Balz's story for Tuesday's paper about the survey, headlined, "Poll: Tax Cut Size Questioned." Balz and Richard Morin cautioned: "The poll also offered a clear warning to Bush and Congress as they move toward dipping into the Social Security surplus to fund other programs this year and next, despite earlier promises not to do so. An overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed said they opposed using Social Security funds for other purposes -- with 81 percent saying they are strongly opposed."

But of course "other purposes" is the ONLY option. Excess Social Security revenue above pay outs to current recipients will either be used to pay down the federal debt or for spending on other programs -- or a combination of both.

The survey asked: "There are a few ways the government could handle the shrinking surplus. For each, please tell me if you support or oppose it."

The options, starting with the very misleading wording of the first one:
"a. Taking surplus money from the Social Security program and spending it on other programs."
"b. Reducing the size of the tax cut."
"c. Dropping plans to increase spending on education."
"d. Dropping plans to improve prescription drug benefits for senior citizens."
"e. Dropping plans to increase military spending."

That was question #12. For the results for it and all the other questions, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data091001.htm

2

Want fries with your dog food and horse meat? Newsweek's "Conventional Wisdom" box struck again in the September 17 issue with another liberal exaggeration, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd observed. Under the heading of "Remember the Alamo Edition," Newsweek set up its specific up and down arrow targets by explaining:
"The Bushes held their first state dinner. POTUS served buffalo meat, wore cowboy boots and welcomed Clint Eastwood. Meanwhile, the rest of America priced horse meat."

Two weeks ago, in the September 3 Newsweek, the "Conventional Wisdom" provided a down arrow for Bush: "Adios, surplus. When retired boomers dine on dog food, will they say thanks for that $600?"

3

Conservatives are on "the Dark Side" in the world of Newsweek reporter David Kaplan who was presumably applying an analogy from the Star Wars movies in which the evil characters, such as "Darth Vader," represented "the Dark Side."

In a portion of his new book, The Accidental President, excerpted in this week's Newsweek, Kaplan recounted how Justice David Souter felt that "if he'd had 'one more day'" to make his case for not stopping the Florida recount, "he believed he would have prevailed. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, had long ago become part of the Dark Side. O'Connor appeared beyond compromise. But Kennedy seemed within reach."

Monday morning on NBC's Today Katie Couric quoted Kaplan's citation of how a Russian judge scowled: "In our country we wouldn't let judges pick the President." Kaplan marveled at how if you are Russian "you've been hearing all these years about the American system. You kind of scratch your head and say 'run this by us again.'"

Kaplan's book has a 26 word title, which might explain why the Newsweek articles never actually list it in full. But here it is: 'The Accidental President: How 413 Lawyers, 9 Supreme Court Justices and 5,160,110 Floridians, Give or Take a Few, Landed George W. Bush in the White House.' In what helps explain the skew of the book, the justices who talked to Kaplan were all on the losing side of the case.

"The Secret Vote that Made Bush President: The Untold Story of the Supreme Court's 5-4 Ruling," screamed the large type on the cover of the September 17 Newsweek. "Secret vote"? Didn't we all learn last December which way each justice voted?

An excerpt from Newsweek's book excerpt which includes the "Dark Side" reference:

A month after the decision, Souter met at the Court with a group of prep-school students from Choate. Souter was put on the Court in 1990 by Bush's father, advertised as a "home run" for such constitutional crusades as overturning Roe v. Wade. Instead, Souter turned out to be a non-doctrinaire New Englander who typically sided with the liberal justices. It didn't make him a liberal -- this was a passionately modest man in matters of law as well as life -- as much as it reflected how far the rest of the Court had yawed starboard. Souter told the Choate students how frustrated he was that he couldn't broker a deal to bring in one more justice -- Kennedy being the obvious candidate....

If he'd had "one more day -- one more day," Souter now told the Choate students, he believed he would have prevailed. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, had long ago become part of the Dark Side. O'Connor appeared beyond compromise. But Kennedy seemed within reach. Just give me 24 more hours on the clock, Souter thought. While a political resolution to the election -- in the Florida Legislature or in the Congress -- might not be quick and might be a brawl, Souter argued that the nation would still accept it. "It should be a political branch that issues political decisions," he said to the students. Kennedy, though, wouldn't flip. He thought the trauma of more recounts, more fighting -- more politics -- was too much for the country to endure.

END of Excerpt

To read the book excerpt in full, go to: http://www.msnbc.com/news/626045.asp

On Monday's Today, NBC brought Kaplan aboard to discuss his new book. Katie Couric picked up on how "Justice Breyer was very outspoken. He said this was 'the most outrageous, indefensible thing the Court had ever done.'" Kaplan confirmed that he said that to a Russian judge visiting the Supreme Court.

Couric then relayed the Russian's lecture on democracy: "Well, one of the Russian judges says, said, to, apparently, to members of the Supreme Court or to someone in particular: 'In our country we wouldn't let judges pick the President.'" Kaplan elaborated: "Exactly. You're a Russian judge in a new democracy. You've been hearing all these years about the American system. You kind of scratch your head and say 'run this by us again.'"

The Russians should now be scratching their heads over how Newsweek's slanted story upholds the idea of a balanced and fair press.

[Web Update: Newsweek's David Kaplan took issue with CyberAlert's assessment of his story. He sent a response to Washington Times "Inside Politics" columnist Greg Pierce who had picked up and quoted from this CyberAlert article. In his Thursday, September 13 column, Pierce reported:

Newsweek reporter David A. Kaplan, author of "The Accidental President," takes issue with the Media Research Center's Brent Baker, who, in an analysis picked up by this column Tuesday, criticized the book for referring to conservative Supreme Court justices as being on "the Dark Side" in the Bush vs. Gore ruling.

Mr. Kaplan, in an e-mail to this columnist yesterday, denied that his book is skewed in any way. Here is Mr. Kaplan's response in full (he refers to Mr. Baker as "your letter-writer"):

"Read your item today concerning my book and, hey, I'm flattered by any mention of the book. But three small points:

"(1) My mention of 'the Dark Side,' if you read it in context, is from Justice David Souter's perspective. The sentence right before explains that all that follows in the graf is from Souter's point of view. I didn't call the conservative bloc 'the Dark Side' as such and, more important, the book makes that clear my criticism of both wings of the court in recent decades.

"(2) Your letter-writer claims my book has a 'skew.' I'd ask him to read it first before casting judgment. The book certainly has a point of view, but 'skew' connotes an agenda.

"(3) Your letter-writer also refers to 'justices who talked to Kaplan.' Both the excerpt in Newsweek, and the book itself, say no such thing."

END Reprint of Washington Times article.]

4

Newsweek saved some liberal bias just for its Web site. In the middle of the excerpt from David Kaplan's book, The Accidental President, as well as in an accompanying piece by Howard Fineman on the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling, Newsweek's online site featured a "Newsweek Interactive" page with the "voting record" for each justice.

While the unsigned text in the pop-up boxes acknowledged how several justices are liberal, it offered admiration for those liberal views as the magazine showed disdain for justices with conservative perspectives. Newsweek, for instance, admired Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for having "established herself as a champion of women's and minority rights." The magazine insisted that Justice John Paul Stevens, "a leading voice for liberals on the Court," is "known for his independence and idiosyncratic reasoning."

Newsweek charged, however, that along with Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas "is at the Rehnquist Court's conservative extreme." The magazine described Thomas as a pawn, complaining that he's "consistently taking a page from the far right's play-book on abortion, school prayer, gay rights and other issues." Scalia was referred to as "an unabashed and unrelenting conservative" who "is a notorious right-wing rebel."

For each of the nine justices the "Newsweek Interactive" feature listed a date of birth, a brief list of pre-High Court career highlights, identified which President nominated them, noted the date they joined the court and offered a synopsis of the "voting record." Below is the text for that "voting record" paragraph for each justice, in the alphabetical order presented by Newsweek when you click on "printable version."

-- Stephen G. Breyer: "The Court's newest Justice is comfortably part of the Court's liberal wing but is better described as a pragmatist than an activist."

-- Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "A former General Counsel of the ACLU, Ginsburg is one of the Court's most consistent liberals and has established herself as a champion of women's and minority rights."

-- Anthony M. Kennedy: "An unpredictable centrist who has shown discomfort in both directions on divisive issues like abortion, Kennedy is often the decisive vote in contentious decisions."

-- Sandra Day O'Connor: "As Ronald Reagan's first appointee, O'Connor was supposed to be a reliable member of a conservative voting block. But she has grounded herself firmly in the Rehnquist Court's center, helping to affirm abortion rights while defending states' rights."

-- William H. Rehnquist: "Although a staunch conservative who has racked up an impressive record of decisions against federalism, Rehnquist has been less activist than some imagined and promoted Court authority as strongly as conservative causes."

-- Antonin Scalia: "An unabashed and unrelenting conservative. On a Court that hardly leans left, Scalia is a notorious right-wing rebel, leading the conservative charge on issues like school prayer, abortion and gay rights."

-- David Hackett Souter: "Conservatives hoped that Souter would be an advocate of conservative judicial restraint. Instead, he has acted as a moderate and when he has leaned at all in one direction it has been to the left."

-- John Paul Stevens: "Unafraid to be the lone dissenter in 8-1 decisions, Stevens is known for his independence and idiosyncratic reasoning. He is a leading voice for liberals on the Court."

-- Clarence Thomas: "Along with Scalia, Thomas is at the Rehnquist Court's conservative extreme, consistently taking a page from the far right's play-book on abortion, school prayer, gay rights and other issues."

Instead of applying derogatory "extreme" tags, how about describing Thomas as a "champion for individual property rights and the rights of the unborn"?

To read the bios in full, go to the Newsweek home page and click on the cover story: http://www.newsweek.msnbc.com

Or, go to the book excerpt and scroll down the page: http://www.msnbc.com/news/626045.asp

5

Not even a fashion segment on Today is safe from liberal advocacy prompted and encouraged by Katie Couric, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed. Setting up an 8:30am half hour look at Kenneth Cole's new clothing line, Couric on Monday noted how "this year Kenneth Cole's seasonal charity will focus on gun control and safety." Before playing a lengthy clip of it, Couric added: "Today's 'Fashion Week' show will even kick off with an animated spoof of the Sopranos called, 'A Life Without Guns.'"

Couric soon cued Cole to sound off: "Why is it so important for you to take up social causes?" Noting how he's married to Mario Cuomo's daughter, Couric wondered: "Have you ever thought about running for office yourself?"

Couric introduced the September 10 Today segment: "In just a few minutes designer Kenneth Cole will reveal his Spring 2002 lines. Not too shabby for a guy who started out in a much more humble setting. It was 1982 when Kenneth Cole sold his first pair of shoes out of the back of a friend's truck in New York City. Since then his brand has grown into one of the most recognizable and most popular around. Along the way he's also become well known for his social advocacy and witty marketing. With campaigns from fighting homelessness to getting out the vote."
On screen: A Cole ad displayed with picture of Dan Quayle with a quote from Cole saying, "Don't forget to vot." (Misspelling deliberate.)

Couric continued: "This year Kenneth Cole's seasonal charity will focus on gun control and safety. Today's Fashion Week show will even kick off with an animated spoof of the Sopranos called, 'A Life Without Guns.'"

Today viewers were then treated to Cole's propaganda with a clip from the animated spoof. Up first, a Tony Soprano character talking to his psychiatrist: "And then I was at this fashion show or maybe it was a funeral, I don't know. Everyone was wearing black. And they were all kissing each other. But, but not really kissing, like air-kissing. And after that I woke up. So whaddaya think Doc? Some messed up nightmare huh?"
Female psychiatrist character: "I don't know Tony solving your problems with brains rather than with brawn, talking out your differences, a life without violence, a life without guns. That sounds more like a dream to me."

Couric prompted Cole to spout off: "Kenneth Cole, good morning nice to see you. So you're taking on gun control? Why that?"

Cole took advantage of the platform provided by NBC and responded at length: "It's just such a compelling moment right now. Last week two people were killed from sharks, it was on the cover of every newspaper in the country. 250 people were killed by guns and no one talked about it. And it's become such an unfortunate reality about our culture today. So it's, and what we do is we advocate. And you know we're not vigilantes, we don't go knocking on doors, we don't tell people what they should do but this is a great opportunity for us to talk about it. And, you know, people, gun, it's just about control. There's more controls on, federal regulations on teddy bears than there are on handguns. So people say, 'well the Second Amendment says I can do this.' We say the First Amendment tells you that we can tell you how we feel about it. So that's what's so great. And in the past this is a forum to talk about, what we wear on the outside. But we say fashion is about the whole person. It's who you are on the inside as well as what you wear on the outside."
Couric continued to focus on the liberal cause: "Why is it so important for you to take up social causes? I mean, obviously the fashion industry, I think in general has gotten much more socially active. Committing themselves to the fight against breast cancer and all sorts of causes. But you've been doing this a long time. And your causes, frankly, are much more controversial. Do you worry about alienating customers or, or stockholders or anybody else as you make your political statements?"

After Cole assured her he thinks his customers respect his convictions, Couric urged him on: "You're married to Maria Cuomo who is Mario Cuomo's, very Democratic, Mario Cuomo's daughter. So obviously your, your causes tend to be more Democratic ones. Have you ever thought about running for office yourself?"

Cole demurred and Today viewers finally got to see his new clothing line.

6

When Late Edition guest panelist Jake Tapper recalled how President Bush's father appeared out of touch when "did not know...what a supermarket scanner was," CNN's Wolf Blitzer and USA Today's Susan Page pounced to set him straight on the often-cited inaccurate anecdote. But no fact checkers were around on CNN earlier in the week when reporter Major Garrett relayed the same historically-inaccurate recollection.

During the roundtable segment on the September 9 Late Edition, Jake Tapper of Salon.com commented on President Bush's effort to show he is concerned about the economic downturn:
"He's also inoculating himself against his father's problems. Back in '91 and '92, when his father, you might remember, took a long time to even acknowledge that there was a recession, did not know, you know, what a supermarket scanner was. Here is Bush saying that there is a problem, he's very aware of it and he's very aware of it because he's out there with the real people. But I do think that I'm not really a fan of the way the Democrats are putting the White House on the spot and not offering their own solutions to this problem. But I'm not a fan the White House's refusal to acknowledge that they are dipping into the Social Security surplus, perhaps even more so than projected."

Blitzer pointed out: "On the supermarket scanner, there's still a huge debate whether or not President Bush at that time-"
Page: "I was actually there-"
Blitzer: "You were-"
Page: "-and I think that's a misrepresentation of what happened."
Tapper: "Is that right? Okay."
Page: "Yes, I think he was amazed at this new generation of supermarket scanner. This is something you engage officials from the first Bush administration on at some length, but it-"
Blitzer: "And I've been engaged on that-"
Tapper: "I shouldn't -- I'm sorry, I trusted the media and I should know better."
Blitzer: "Actually, I believe it was a New York Times story that supposedly got it all wrong. You probably made the mistake of reading the New York Times."
Tapper: "I'm sorry, I apologize."

But CNN is no more reliable than the New York Times since six days earlier a CNN reporter cited the same anecdote as if it were accurate. On the September 3 Inside Politics, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd recalled, Major Garrett reported: "Most Presidents play down economic woes, but not this one. He tells just about everyone how bad things are."
Bush: "As a matter of fact, our economy has grown at a paltry one percent for the last 12 months, and that worries me. Our economy began slowing down last year, and that's bad news, and I'm deeply worried about the working families all across the country."
Garrett: "Presidents usually fear highlighting economic gloom, but White House aides say Mr. Bush fears what happened to his father even more. President Bush's bewilderment at the sight of a grocery store scanner became a symbol of his apparent distance from everyday American life."

The frequency at which journalists repeat this anecdote, despite the fact that years ago Brit Hume, then still with ABC News, demolished it in an American Spectator article, is a symbol of the media's "distance" from accuracy when the liberal prism conflicts with reality.

-- Brent Baker


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