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CyberAlert -- 10/01/1998 -- Surplus Credit

Surplus Credit; CBS Admired Hillary; Starr "Worrisome" to Time

1) The surplus got stories on all the networks, but none noted it's only a surplus if you count Social Security revenue and none mentioned spending has soared since Reagan. Another Clinton donor was indicted, but ABC, CBS and NBC skipped the development.

2) Tuesday night CBS and CNN blamed pork-barrel spending by Congress, not Clinton cuts, for the military's readiness problems.

3) CBS's Bill Plante admired how Hillary is overcoming adversity: "To the astonishment of many," she's still "intensely supportive of the President and his agenda."

4) "Bill Clinton may behave badly, but the really worrisome guy is Ken Starr," read the headline over a Time article this week.

5) Letterman's Top Ten, or make that Top 41, "Other Clinton Scandals."


>>> The History Channel is repeating the 10am to 3p ET playing of the 1974 House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings this week, noted in the September 28 CyberAlert, from 3pm to 8pm ET. So far I haven't seen the often recalled "bipartisanship" of the era. The majority party wins and the minority party loses every vote. Just like now, but the parties are reversed. <<<

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signsurpluscap.jpg (15878 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Clinton's announcement of a $70 billion budget surplus generated a story on all the networks Wednesday night and it led the evening shows on ABC and NBC. CBS jumped right to falling mortgage rates while FNC went first with how the Tripp tapes will show that Lewinsky told her Clinton and Jordan told her to lie. A massacre in Kosovo topped CNN and the broadcast networks also featured stories on the just-discovered atrocity which occurred last week.

All the networks spread credit around for the surplus, but none mentioned that the budget is really about $40 billion in debt if you don't count Social Security FICA tax revenue which currently exceeds outflow. Only CBS's Scott Pelley and NBC's Mike Jensen observed that there is still a $5.5 billion outstanding debt and Jensen uniquely gave some credit to President Bush. Clinton says we cannot afford a tax cut, but only FNC and NBC pointed out the billions allocated for Clinton's "emergency spending" for Bosnia and the Year 2000 computer problem.

Every network noted that spending has been held down or cut recently, though that's really not true. As Scott Hodge pointed out in a Heritage Foundation report earlier this year, "during the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan cut real domestic discretionary spending by 15 percent before 'spending caps' were enacted....But since Reagan left office, domestic discretionary spending has jumped 23 percent in real terms, even though 'spending caps' have been the norm."

A major Clinton-Gore donor in Miami was indicted Wednesday with 17 counts related to serving as a straw donor, but the broadcast network ignored the development. CNN and FNC ran short items. In fact, not a word about the Clinton scandals on the broadcast networks Wednesday night.


Here are some highlights on the budget-front from the network newscasts for Wednesday, September 30:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. After showing Clinton saying when we last had a surplus in 1969 Bonanza was on TV and Neil Armstrong was on the Moon, Cochran got right to who gets credit:
"There are a lot of people who can take a share of the credit. Five years ago the President pushed through an unpopular budget that increased gasoline taxes and raised a lot of tax revenue. Economic growth provided still more tax dollars. Republicans in Congress held down spending and passed a balanced budget. And ordinary Americans should get credit for paying all those taxes and increasing their productivity on the job."

He moved quickly to the debate over what to do now:
"As for what to do with the surplus it is the politicians who will decide. House Republicans want to set aside 90 percent of the surplus to protect Social Security but use the rest for a huge tax cut. President Clinton argues all the money should be set aside until the Social Security issue is resolved."

If 10 percent is "huge" how huge is the 90 percent?

Cochran concluded that Clinton's on the popular side: "The President says he will veto any big tax cut until the future of Social Security is guaranteed. And the polls, which he pays a lot of attention to, show he is on the popular side in this debate."


-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened te show:
"It's New Year's Eve. Fiscal New Year's Eve and there's important news tonight about the U.S. economy and your money. The White House estimates Fiscal 1998 is ending with a U.S. budget surplus of $70 billion."
After noting and IMF report predicting no recession in the U.S. and lower oil prices ahead, Rather went to Anthony Mason for a look at falling mortgage rates. Barry Petersen then examined Japan's economic problems before Dan Rather glowed:
"On this side of the globe, President Clinton with considerable factual justification, was talking up America's budget fitness, officially announcing the first U.S. federal budget surplus in three decades."
Scott Pelley reported that with the election in a few weeks Clinton "used the surplus announcement today to castigate Republicans, suggesting they are investigating too much and legislating too little."
Clinton: "How can we possibly walk away from this session of Congress when there is no pain in doing the right thing, without saying we're going to save Social Security first, put education as our first investment priority, pass a patient's bill of rights and keep America and the world's economy growing. How can we do that?"
But Pelley also gave the other side: "Today Republicans insisted that Mr. Clinton is stealing credit for their surplus."
After a clip of Senator Phil Gramm crediting the 1994 elections and how Clinton gave in to the mandate for a balanced budget, Pelley offered this summary of who should get credit:
"Actually many important factors behind the surplus are beyond politics: the demise of the Soviet Union cut billions in cold war spending, the roaring stock market has pumped vast capital gains tax revenues into the federal treasury. And the Federal Reserve bank set the nation on a course of high growth and low inflation. For all the talk about balancing the federal budget today, there wasn't much talk about the national debt. The United States owes $5.5 trillion, today's surplus amounts to only a little over one percent of that."


-- CNN's The World Today. Carl Rochelle handled the surplus story. After battling soundbites from Clinton and Gramm, he let Robert Reischauer, of the Brookings Institute, and formerly head of the CBO when Democrats controlled Congress, assign credit, saying "one key financial analyst says these are the real reasons for the surplus."
Reischauer asserted: "Sensible fiscal policy. In other words, reduced spending and increased taxes. Enlightened monetary policy by the Federal Reserve and a good dose of luck."

Later, Candy Crowley explained how Democrats are considering the advantages of crafting an alternative procedure on the Clinton-front, either censure or advocating an inquiry with a timetable for after the election. The fewer Democrats who support the Republican plan, she noted, the more the Republicans will look partisan. Bill Schneider explored how the election will be interpreted as referendum on impeachment.

Finally, co-anchor Joie Chen took a few seconds to report: "A Miami business executive stands accused of making illegal contributions to several Democratic campaigns, including the Clinton-Gore reelection effort. Mark Jimenez, CEO of Future Tech International has been indicted on 17 counts of violating federal election laws. Attorney General Janet Reno notes that Jimenez is the 12th person charged by the campaign finance task force."


-- FNC's Fox Report led with Rita Cosby on the tape transcripts about to be released. Referring to what is revealed on a tape Tripp made while wired by he FBI, Cosby reported: "Although President Clinton has denied under oath ever telling Monica Lewinsky to lie, one tape tells a different story. Lewinsky says the President and his close friend Vernon Jordan advised her to lie about her sexual relationship with Mr. Clinton, saying if we deny it no one will catch us."
Cosby added that her sources concede Tripp "comes off as aggressive and manipulative" and since Lewinsky told the grand jury she lied to Tripp about Jordan's role the tapes will contain "fodder for both sides."

Next, Carl Cameron caught another Democratic flip-flop: "Democrats had argued that any impeachment of the President should follow procedures established during Watergate. Now they're changing their tune." He went on to run a clip of John Conyers demanding a narrow inquiry on he Starr report instead of a broad investigation Conyers supported during Watergate. But Cameron was balanced, also hitting Trent Lott by contrasting his comment on Tuesday that "bad conduct" justifies impeachment with his 1974 argument that only serious crimes warrant impeachment.

Co-anchor Jon Scott took a few seconds to note the Jimenez indictment before he talked with Dick Morris about what Morris told the grand jury about Clinton's use of private investigators to silence women by intimidating them with embarrassing information.

On the surplus, Wendell Goler ran clips from Clinton and Senator Don Nickles, explaining Republicans credit their takeover and push for a balanced budget while Clinton thanks his 1993 budget plan. After noting that Clinton says the country cannot afford a tax cut, Goler concluded with a Republican point about Clinton's "emergency spending" plans:
"The Republican tax cut would take about $7 billion of the surplus the first year, the troops in Bosnia and computer fixes cost about $14 billion. Republican Senator Pete Domenici says if the country can afford the big package, it can afford the little one."


-- NBC Nightly News. "Money to spend. After years in the red now the government in $70 billion in the black, but can Congress and the President agree on how to spend the surplus?" So teased Tom Brokaw at the top of the show.

David Bloom explained that both Clinton and Republicans think they deserve the credit, before asserting
"The real argument is over how to spend the money. The President points out that after a wave of baby boomers retire around 2020 Social Security could go broke in just 12 years. Save the money for Social Security he says, arguing today that Republicans just want to serve up an election year tax cut."
After a clip of Clinton, Bloom continued:
"But Republicans point to the billions of dollars of so-called emergency spending Mr. Clinton has proposed -- for everything from U.S. troops in Bosnia to the Year 2000 computer glitch, from farm disaster relief to U.S. embassy security."

Next, Mike Jensen looked at "what does the surplus mean?" He answered that $70 billion can do a lot but there is still a national debt of $5.5 trillion costing 14 cents of every federal dollar for interest. Who gets the credit? Jensen suggested:
"Economists say it's a long list. Former President Bush for his policies that paved the way for this seven-year expansion, Congress for cutting government spending, the Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates low, American companies for becoming more competitive. Then there's President Clinton. Most experts say he's done a good job with the economy and of course he's the one who gets to take a public bow."

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cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) No CyberAlert on Wednesday, so here's a brief run down of Tuesday night coverage. (Some detail of another admiring look at Hillary Clinton, this time by CBS, in item #3).

The Fed's quarter point reduction in its loan rate led all the newscasts Tuesday night, September 29. ABC, CBS and CNN featured full reports on the top military Generals telling a Senate committee that readiness is falling to a dangerous level, but both CBS and CNN blamed pork-barrel spending by Congress, not Clinton administration decisions to reduce defense spending and force size.

On the CBS Evening News David Martin began: "For the first time in a generation the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Congress the military is in decline and in danger of going into a nosedive..."
Martin later observed: "Military spending has gone down while the pace of operations has gone up. Bosnia alone is costing $2 billion a year. Congress has made things worse by forcing the military to buy unwanted hardware which keeps assembly lines open in their districts, and by refusing to close unneeded bases which provide jobs..."
CNN's Jonathan Karl highlighted wasteful projects like more cargo planes the military does not want which are manufactured in Newt Gingrich's district.

On the Monicagate-front, zilch on ABC and NBC. Dan Rather noted House Republicans "are floating plans" to give the Judiciary Committee authority for an open-ended probe. Scott Pelley reported that the White House is writing a new rebuttal to Starr's report as Clinton defenders maintain that even if true the charges do not warrant impeachment. CNN's John King provided a piece on how word of a pro-Clinton ad campaign has upset Capitol Hill Democrats:
"Congressional Democrats are outraged, saying money is hard to come by and should go directly to the most competitive House and Senate races, not to any effort to help the President." Candy Crowley delivered a piece on how Democrats are trying to make the public believe Gingrich, not Henry Hyde, is running the show.

Carl Cameron, on FNC's Fox Report, picked up on how the about to drop document dump will reveal that Sidney Blumenthal told Hillary about "the Monica problem" but she said Clinton was "just ministering to a troubled young person" and "as for the Tripp tapes, sources say Linda Tripp comes across as a schemer and a manipulator, but in those tapes Monica Lewinsky did in fact ask her to lie. And about the White House Lewinsky said quote 'I wouldn't cross those people for fear of my life.'"

(Wednesday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noted, Gwen Ifill did mention the Blumenthal/Hillary exchange and Dick Morris's charge about intimidating women, but none of that has made it onto NBC Nightly News.)

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cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Catching up with NBC News, Tuesday night CBS featured its own admiring look at how Hillary Clinton is overcoming adversity, instead of focusing on the possibility she is shamelessly playing the part of the hurt but supportive wife when she was really part of the scam all along. (See the September 23 CyberAlert for the latest from NBC.)

Bill Plante began his September 29 CBS Evening News piece: "Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Puerto Rico tonight, comforting victims of Hurricane Georges, out in public as she has been almost every day since the release of the President's videotaped testimony and still, to the astonishment of many, intensely supportive of the President and his agenda. Accepting an award she underscored that it's for"
Hillary Clinton: "The President's proposal."
Plante: "But she still refers to him in a more personal way, as her husband."
Hillary Clinton: "Everyone who applauded my husband's announcement."
Plante: "For those who wonder how she can even say that word, the First Lady's friends say she wouldn't do it any other way."
Mandy Grunwald: "What would you have her do? Hide under the bed? Walk out the door? She believes in marriage and she believes in for better and for worse. And this is certainly for worse but I don't think she's walking away. I think she's throwing herself into her work."
Plante: "As a campaigner Hillary Clinton may be more in demand this year than her husband. She skewers Republicans in Congress, this time for not spending money on education."
Hillary Clinton: "They'd rather spend their time dividing our country, diverting our resources. Doing anything but focusing on the real problems of America."

After showing her applauding Martin Luther King's daughter when she said Bill Clinton deserved forgiveness and noting that no one really knows what she says in private, Plante concluded:
"Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to have no intention of answering the question many people have about her marriage: why do they stay together. What she does seem willing to do is to put her own public image on the line, for her husband and for their shared goals."

In other words, she's doing it to maintain her own political power.

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cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) The weekly newsmagazines have joined the Clinton defense team this week. "Enough Already" declared the headline over the October 5 cover story in the latest Newsweek about how "in the real world, people want the Monica Madness to end."

In Time, opposite a full page drawing of Linda Tripp's face made to look like a tape recorder, the headline: "There's Something About Linda." The subhead: "Tripp may have helped trigger the Lewinsky scandal, but her manipulations may now be key to Clinton's counterattack."

A few pages later Time allocated a whole page to an attack on Ken Starr headlined "Cover That Keyhole: Bill Clinton may behave badly, but the really worrisome guy is Ken Starr." Time Senior Writer Richard Lacayo insisted: "What the President did ranged from the silly to the squalid, but the investigation is worse, turning a private mess into a public eyesore."

In this excerpt, we pick up Lacayo's diatribe slightly short of midway, after he's shown his disgust with how Starr's team questioned Clinton about the specifics of his sexual activities with Lewinsky. Lacayo then contended:

"You don't have to care much for Clinton to know that any number of things about Starr's inquiry feel unsound. His indifference to the niceties of nonpartisanship, his way of delivering the evidence without the exculpatory alternatives that prosecutors generally offer would be enough. What's really unsettling is the larger dynamic. At a time when the notion of a protected personal realm is beginning to seem quaint and sepia toned, even people who don't expect government investigators on their doorstep sense that Starr has breached more than just the President's tattered defenses. By its very example, his investigation furthers a truly unwholesome idea: that relations between consenting adults -- even juvenile, unappetizing and wrongful ones -- can be criminalized. All you have to do is corner the people involved, question them under oath and make them squirm."

Wasn't it liberals who pushed through all those sexual harassment laws which criminalized supposedly consensual sex between two people of unequal power in the workplace?

Lacayo proceeded to lay out how Starr will damage society:
"It will be a while before we understand all the ways Starr has changed things. To be sure, the notion of privacy has suffered. But even civic moralizing has taken a hit. From now on it takes place in an even more muddled context. It will be interesting to watch the House debating pornography on the Internet now that its own Judiciary Committee has launched the President's cigar into cyberspace. Or to watch cities attempt to zone porn shops to the margins now that the Starr report has been sold next to the cash register at Barnes and Noble. Or to sit through the next election season of family-values campaigning by candidates fending off news about past 'indiscretions.'"

Equating Starr's clinical recitation of a few sexual encounters with true pornography meant to arouse is rather preposterous. Just compare the Starr report to a romance novel, never mind a Penthouse Letter.

A paragraph later Lacayo concluded that Starr was more sinister than Clinton:
"Clinton made the truest statement of his testimony when he was asked whether he had tried to keep his Lewinsky interlocks a secret. 'I did what people do when they do the wrong thing,' he said. 'I tried to do it where nobody else was looking at it.' We would all be better off if Starr had exercised his prosecutorial discretion and left the White House Kama Sutra a closed book. What the President did ranged from the silly to the squalid, but the investigation is worse, turning a private mess into a public eyesore. It's Starr, after all, who has given us the dirtiest paperback ever to top the best-seller list. And it's Starr who produced thousands more pages of clammy evidence, much of it devoted obsessively to proving that someone's mouth touched someone else's penis. And for all the assurances that now it's up to the American people, don't expect it to end soon. 'Back to the touching of your breasts for a minute.'"

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cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) From the September 29 Late Show with David Letterman, the Top Ten, or make that the Top 41, "Other Clinton Scandals." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants Inc.

10. Kicked 12 year-old boy to get McGwire home run ball
9. He's the real reason behind Matt Damon-Minnie Driver breakup
8. Wedding ring he gave to Hillary? Cubic Zirconia
7. Sold secret puffy thigh technology to Yeltsin
6. Once tried to build a bong out of Al Gore
5. Broke into the Watergate just for the hell of it
4. When family goes to movies, makes Chelsea pretend she's under 13
3. Paid Ken Starr to write a report that would "make him look like a stud"
2. At state dinner, once accidentally hit on Hillary
1. Secretly sold Delaware to Chinese for $500

Now, three more:

3. During last State of the Union Address, bit the head off a live bat
2. Blew off Russian summit to follow Phish around the country
1. Never had sex with Eleanor Mondale, but Walter's another story

And two more:

2. Fathered the entire population of Tyson's Corner, Virginia
1. Completely ignored existence of brothers Marlon and Tito

And another 26, for 41 in total:

26. Let O.J. live in Lincoln bedroom for a few months
25. During visit to Europe, played paintball in the Sistine Chapel
24. Buddy the dog actually a cat
23. Socks the cat actually a dog
22. Hillary actually a man
21. Frequently seen in "I Love Communism" T-shirt
20. Reproduces by dividing in two like an amoeba
19. Killed Lorne Greene
18. Used black magic to raise Lorne Greene from the dead
17. Killed Lorne Greene again
16. He tugged on Superman's cape
15. He spit into the wind
14. He pulled the mask on the ol' Lone Ranger
13. He messed around with Jim
12. Publicly referred to Mexico as "Nacho-rific"
11. Secretly tested new drug on Emmy voters causing them to give The Late Show an Emmy
10. Monicagate
9. Paulagate
8. Lansburygate
7. All-the-women-on-the-U.S.-swim-team-gate
6. Bill Gates-gate
5. Didn't dial 10-10-321-gate
4. Only-offered-people-Life-Savers-when-green-one-was-on-top-gate
3. Killing-Vince-Foster-gate
2. Gate-Gate-Water-White-Water-Gate-Gate-Water-White-Water-Water- Water-Gate
1. Just-plain-being-a-hick-gate

Just too many potential scandal possibilities to contain in a Top Ten list. -- Brent Baker


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