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NBC's Today Skeptical of "Made-for-TV" GOP

Powell Quizzed on Mandela, Confederate Flag and Abortion

NBC didn't show Colin Powell's speech or provide any other coverage of the first night of the Republican Convention, but the gang on Today spent its first half hour questioning the sincerity of the GOP's Monday night program. "It's the face of the new GOP, or at least it's the made-for-TV image Republicans want to project: women, blacks and Latinos taking center stage in Philadelphia," reported David Bloom.

Matt Lauer wondered whether conservatives could even tolerate the convention program. "You're listening to a more moderate message from speakers on the floor, yet the delegates on the floor, the people listening to those speeches are more conservative than ever. So how is the message playing to them," Lauer demanded of Tim Russert." Russert had to remind him that "the Democrats have done the same thing, that the Democratic delegates are to the left of their party leadership."

In an interview, Katie Couric challenged Powell several times. "Speaking of inclusion," she told the retired general, "much has been made of the face the GOP is trying to put on and African Americans, as you are well aware, were very much in evidence last night in the program and at the podium, yet according to a poll, only four percent of the delegates in the convention hall are African Americans. Do you feel troubled at all by this, and do you feel used by your party?"

Couric pressed Powell on every hot-button social issue she could. "You said last night that race still casts a shadow over society," she said, "Does that include the Confederate flag, and if so would you like Gov. Bush to suggest the Confederate flag come down everywhere?" Then, "Does the call for a ban on abortion in the Republican Party, in the Republican platform, rather trouble you?" She also wondered how Powell could support Dick Cheney, since the latter voted "against a resolution that would have allowed Nelson Mandela to be released from prison." No NBC coverage is planned for tonight, either.

 

Quote of the Morning

"Speaking of inclusion...only four percent of the delegates in the convention hall are African Americans. Do you feel troubled at all by this and do you feel used by your party?"
- NBC's Katie Couric, interviewing Colin Powell, August 1 Today

 

The White Stuff?


In this week's Newsweek, Howard Fineman described how "Democrats saw the GOP ticket as Central Casting villains - wealthy white males from upper-income America - in the us-versus-them psywar they were already preparing to run. 'They represent the men's club view of the world,' said [Gore advisor Bob] Shrum. 'They couldn't be more out of touch.'"

But in the magazine's up-front item "The Buzz," Newsweek pitched the names of potential Gore running mates, but they only mentioned wealthy white males: John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, Bob Graham, George Mitchell, Evan Bayh and John Edwards.

But Central Casting would hardly cast a trial lawyer like Edwards as a villain.

 

Anti-Gore Bias?


Margaret Carlson thinks the media are out to get Al Gore. "[Bush's] Big Tent will be the biggest ever," she writes in this week's Time. "Why should a little disagreement over abortion make us all tense and angry with one another? The ideology-lite candidate, Bush was able to change from compassionate conservative to Bob Jones conservative and back again inside six weeks with near impunity, while Al Gore was ripped apart for changing the color of his clothes."

 

Journalists Continue Cheney-Bashing For Seventh Day
"He Did Vote Against Head Start"


One week after Dick Cheney was announced as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, journalists continue to paint his conservative record as controversial. This morning, as Colin Powell made the rounds he was asked about his former boss. "If you are trying to be inclusive, why a Dick Cheney pick," CBS's Jane Clayson asked. "A man with such a conservative Congressional voting record?"

NBC's Katie Couric pushed Powell even harder. "Let me ask you briefly, if I could Gen. Powell, about your former colleague Dick Cheney, the vice presidential candidate. Of course, he was Secretary of Defense when you were chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and much has been made of his conservative voting record. I'm just curious, do you have any problems with the fact that he did vote against Head Start - because you care so deeply about education - and against a resolution that would have allowed Nelson Mandela to be released from prison?"

Cheney wasn't Mandela's jailer, despite the persistent media buzz to the contrary. And in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, former Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn writes that "Head Start doesn't narrow the achievement gap. Study after study has found any academic gains vanishing after a child's first few years in school."

But if you care deeply enough, maybe results don't matter.

 

Monday's Speeches Leave Many Journalists Confused
A Republican or Democratic Convention?


The liberal media were befuddled by Monday night's convention festivities, which undermined their stereotype of a bigoted, intolerant GOP.

"This convention looked more like a Democratic convention here," CBS's Jane Clayson said on Tuesday's Early Show, "with a podium full of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, even a Baptist choir, Bryant, at one point." Even a Baptist choir.

"If I closed my eyes, I would have imagined I was at a Democratic convention in many parts of [Colin Powell's] speech," former Clinton aide (and ABC News analyst) Dee Dee Myers told Charles Gibson on Tuesday morning's Good Morning America.

"You could have switched the channel and been watching 'Who Wants to Be a Democrat,' because it sounded exactly the same themes," Time's Margaret Carlson insisted on a CNN during a special Capital Gang late last night. "It turns out that the Republican Party has morphed for this week into such a compassionate party that it does look like the Democratic Party."

One strains to consider what the Democrats would have to do at their convention to make reporters think they were at a GOP meeting.

 

Early Show Profiles Doctor Who Conducts Partial-Birth Abortions
"Star Attraction" For Pro-Abortion GOPers


The Early Show offered a sympathetic profile of a notorious abortionist this morning. "It might not have been the hot ticket this week, but hundreds of Republicans turned out for a Planned Parenthood reception to promote abortion rights," reported CBS's Jon Frankel this morning. "The star attraction: not a Hollywood celeb or a GOP heavy-hitter, but a soft-spoken doctor from Nebraska."

Leroy Carhart Frankel meant Leroy Carhart, the late-term abortionist who was at the center of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions. After Frankel reported how overworked Carhart is as one of only three abortionists in Nebraska, the doctor told him, "The first thing we have to do as providers is be proud of what we do, make it a legitimate part of medicine, make it a fundamental part of medicine, and I don't think we can do that if we're uncomfortable talking about what we do."

Frankel offered no criticism of Carhart, nor did he quote any opponents of partial-birth abortion. Instead, he portrayed Carhart as brave for risking his own safety to promote his cause on the national stage. "Are you willing to give your life?" Frankel asked. "If I have to," replied Carhart.

"Monday, as expected, abortion-rights advocates lost the platform battle," Frankel concluded, "but they hope the defeat re-energizes supporters for the long-term war."

 

CBS's Schieffer Rues Lack of Coverage; Boss Says "Never Again"
"We Can't Justify This Amount of Coverage"


In an interview with PBS's Terence Smith that aired last night on NewsHour, CBS News President Andrew Heyward said "we all walked away from the '96 convention saying, 'it's really never going to be this way again. I think what's happened, Terry, is that the conventions themselves have changed. There's less at stake. It's no longer a nomination process, it's really a coronation." CBS carried about thirty minutes of last night's convention, packaged inside a regularly-scheduled episode of 48 Hours.

Heyward added, "From the journalistic point of view, we simply can't justify this amount of coverage of something that - without using the pejorative word 'infomercial' - really is a political pep rally."

But on Tuesday's Imus in the Morning, CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer said that while he agreed that gavel-to-gavel coverage was undesirable, "I sort of wish we had done a little more last night because I think a lot of people would have liked to have seen and heard Laura Bush's speech in its entirety."

Instead of Mrs. Bush's speech, 48 Hours ran a story on alleged abuses in using human test subjects in medical experiments.

 

Laura's Negative Attacks


"Republicans say they'll stress positive politics over these four days," Charles Gibson said on Tuesday's Good Morning America, "and for the most part on Day One, they did - for the most part."

So who went negative, at least in Gibson's eyes? None other than Laura Bush, who at one part in her speech Monday night said that parents she and her husband meet campaigning "say to George, I'm counting on you. I want my son or daughter to respect the President of the United States of America."

"The verbal shots at President Clinton, pretty obvious," said Gibson.

 

Is Laura "Hillary-Like?"


Later on Tuesday's GMA, Gibson asked ABC Political Analyst George Stephanopoulos whether Laura Bush was "the antithesis of Hillary Clinton?"

"By her bearing, I mean the whole tone is that she's anti-Hillary, but what struck me is what a Hillary-like speech it was," responded Stephanopoulos.

"If you go back to the 1996 convention and Hillary's speech to the 1996 convention, it was a merging of biography, policy and philosophy, exactly what Mrs. Bush did last night from the podium. So that was quite striking to me."

He probably meant it as a compliment.