Merger Fears; Russert Argued for Internet Taxes; Bush Like Clinton
1) AOL/Time-Warner led Monday night. Peter Jennings relayed how Gerald Levin "says he believes in objective journalism" while CBS focused on the threat to consumers. Dan Rather also warned "there is fear of dust bowl in the nation's salad bowl."
2) Moderating another GOP debate Monday night Tim Russert again became the seventh candidate, arguing with Steve Forbes over Internet taxes. In a post-debate interview with George Bush he continued his network's fixation on the Confederate flag.
>>> Oliver North on the MRC's
special report on gun bias. A new syndicated newspaper column by North is
now up on the MRC Web site, thanks to MRC Webmaster Andy Szul. To read
North's column, as it appeared in the January 9 Washington Times, go to:
The AOL merger with Time-Warner topped the three broadcast network evening shows Monday night. ABC briefly touched on supposed concerns about the new company's size and Peter Jennings scoffed at CEO-to-be Gerald Levin's praise for Time founder Henry Luce. CBS devoted an entire story to how, as Jerry Bowen related, "critics say the merger will come at a price to consumers, higher prices for products and Internet services."
On the campaign front, Gore got all the attention, good and bad. CBS ran a full story on Al Gore's UN appearance to announce U.S. aid to African nations to battle AIDS while NBC aired a full report on his backtracking on his litmus test on gays in the military for members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Introducing two ominous "Weather
Watch" stories, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather warned: "U.S.
government climate experts tell CBS News that they now believe global
warming is real and underway." Setting up the second story, Rather
relayed a rhyme:
On the AOL front, after two stories about the merger ABC brought aboard Ken Auletta of The New Yorker. The first question posed by Peter Jennings: "Ken, should the news and information consumer beware, all this media in fewer hands?"
At the end of the January 10 World News
Tonight Jennings profile AOL's Steve Case and Time-Warner's Gerald Levin,
who will be the merged company's CEO. Looking at Levin, who has overseen
Time magazine and CNN, Jennings intoned:
The CBS Evening News opened with a story about
the basics of the merger, but then Rather moved to the dark side,
Bowen opened by noting how the new company
will own everything from Braves baseball to Pokemon to Buffy the Vampire
Slayer and People magazine. Bowen first showcased someone who saw the
Sounds like CBS News may be afraid they'll lose their current feature status on AOL.
 Though he wasn't as intrusive as during the January 6 debate last week in New Hampshire, Monday night NBC's Tim Russert again became the seventh candidate as he at one point went beyond the moderator role and argued with Steve Forbes over Internet taxes. (For details on how Russert hit George Bush from the left last Thursday, see the January 7 CyberAlert.)
His leading question: "Are you prepared, as more and more people buy on the Internet, to allow Michigan to lose more and more sales tax revenue when, in fact, two-thirds of that revenue goes directly to education in this state?" When Forbes did not affirm that Michigan residents should voluntarily pay sales tax on Internet purchases, Russert seemed to accuse Forbes of inciting anarchy: "So consumers should break the law in Michigan by not paying?"
After the debate sponsored by Grand Rapids, Michigan, NBC affiliate WOOD-TV ended, Russert picked up where colleague Brian Williams left off Friday night. Live on MSNBC's post-debate special Russert pressed George Bush about the Confederate flag in South Carolina. Russert declared: "It is a divisive flag." (For details on how Williams was booed by South Carolinians for his questioning of Bush on the flag, see the January 10 CyberAlert.)
(Seemingly, only NBC affiliates sponsor Republican debates. Monday's debate from Michigan was MSNBC's third cablecast of a Republican debate sponsored by an NBC affiliate, and the fourth involving an NBC star as a host, thus providing Tim Russert with his second moderating job in less than a week. Back in December, Tom Brokaw co-moderated the WHO-TV debate in Des Moines and on Friday night Brian Williams co-moderated the WIS-TV debate from South Carolina. Last Thursday Russert moderated a GOP debate sponsored by The Union Leader, New Hampshire Public Television and New England Cable News which was shown by MSNBC.)
Russert served as moderator of the 90 minute debate Monday night from Calvin College with two WOOD-TV anchor/reporters also posing questions. MSNBC showed the debate live at 7pm ET and C-SPAN played it on tape at about 11pm ET Monday night.
Russert opened with a question for Bush about the Steve Forbes TV ads accusing him of breaking his no sales tax hike promise. A local male anchor asked all the candidates whether libraries should filter Internet content before Russert asked John McCain if he'd ever negotiate with hijackers. The local female reporter pressed Bush about John Rocker's comments and the male anchor raised the Elian Gonzalez case.
So far, so good. But then Russert posed this
leading question to Steve Forbes, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad
Wilmouth who stayed late to monitor the debate for CyberAlert:
Forbes replied by noting how Internet companies generate tax revenue indirectly: "I think, Tim, the way you phrase the question shows what's wrong with politics today, and that is the assumption that when something happens, if somebody gains, somebody loses. The Internet, overall, is stimulating commerce. It's allowing people who may not have time to buy things quickly and easily, and what does that mean? It means you need a warehouse to store the goods. It means you need more trucks and drivers to deliver the goods. That means more salaries, more jobs. It is a net wealth creator. But in Washington, and in Lansing, and elsewhere, they have this mentality that if it's out there, it's growing, by golly they gotta get their claws and hooks into it. It's not right. But it's typical of that mentality. It's no coincidence that the boom in startups and dot com's came when Congress put a three-year moratorium on in October of 1998, and the boom in e-commerce allowed to flourish and boomed after that moratorium was put on. Don't kill it with taxes. It creates wealth, Tim. It doesn't destroy it."
Russert stuck to the topic, pressing Forbes:
"The state government of Michigan has sent a form to taxpayers
throughout the state which asks them to itemize all the items they
purchased on the Internet and to voluntarily pay the six percent tax.
Should taxpayers in Michigan comply with that law?"
+++ To watch this exchange between Russert and Forbes, go to the MRC home page late Tuesday morning. The MRC's Eric Pairel will post a RealPlayer clip of it.
Following the debate, Russert interviewed Bush
during MSNBC's post-debate special. He asked him about Elian Gonzalez and
the Forbes ads. Then, he picked on up a subject Brian Williams asked Bush
about during the January 7 debate and afterward on that night's MSNBC
post-debate special: The Confederate flag. Russert reminded Bush:
"You were asked in South Carolina about the flag, the Confederate
flag, and you said it's a state decision. Would you feel comfortable with
the Confederate flag flying over the Capitol of Texas?"
Back at the MSNBC studio in the New Jersey Forrest Sawyer filled in as anchor for Brian Williams. His guest analysts for the Republican debate: Two former Clinton aides, Mack McLarty and David Gergen.
Russert could be just as activist in moderating a Democratic debate, but since no NBC star has yet done so and is not scheduled to do so, we don't know. But, as detailed in the January 7 CyberAlert, in interviews on MSNBC after the January 5 Democratic debate Russert failed to push Al Gore or Bill Bradley from the left.
Next up: A Des Moines Register/Iowa Public Television debate amongst the Republicans at 1pm CT on Saturday which will be shown live by CNN, FNC, C-SPAN and PBS.
For more information about how NBC reporters
approached the last three debates, check out these CyberAlert items which
also feature illustrative video clips:
CyberAlert isn't alone in pointing out, as did the January 7 and 10 editions, how NBC's moderators have become part of the debates. USA Today's Walter Shapiro raised the issue Monday as did Howard Kurtz on CNN's Reliable Sources, though both failed to note, as had CyberAlert, how the advocacy of the moderators marched a liberal political agenda.
-- In his January 10 "Hype &
Glory" column in the news section of USA Today, Walter Shapiro
-- On Monday's Inside Politics on CNN,
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz looked at how the moderators
have become part of the debates:
After showing Russert going back and forth
with Bush, Kurtz explained: "In the flurry of debates in recent
weeks, the personality of the moderator has often shaped the tone of the
encounter. These are, after all, network extravaganzas, complete with
big-shot anchors more prominent than some of the White House wannabes. And
sometimes they can't help drawing attention to themselves, as NBC's Tom
Brokaw did in Iowa."
After looking at how ABC's Peter Jennings
"took a more self-effacing approach last week in New Hampshire"
and FNC's Brit Hume "used subtlety to drive home a point," Kurtz
played a South Carolina soundbite:
Kurtz continued: "No moderator worth his anchor-hair wants a boring debate. But Russert's dominating performance drew fire from the Manchester Union Leader, which is backing Steve Forbes. The paper apologized for co-sponsoring the debate, saying Russert gave too much time to Bush and John McCain, though the air time turned out to be roughly even."
Kurtz then relayed a defense from Russert who, Kurtz asserted, "makes no apologies for challenging the candidates." Russert told CNN: "You can have a staged infomercial if you like where each of the candidates can offer their canned responses and consultant-driven replies. Or you can have a journalistic even where you ask follow-up questions. It's imperative that we fulfill our role as journalists and press for specific answers."
Just as long as they approach candidates for both parties with equal zeal.
After playing the Shaw question to Dukakis in
1988 cited by Shapiro, Kurtz returned to last Friday:
Kurtz concluded: "In theory, at least, the debates are supposed to be about the candidates, but they are also television shows, with television stars and would-be stars trying to enhance their own reputation. Running for President these days means getting into the ring with millionaire anchors who pack a rhetorical punch."
Today's Katie Couric asked Al Gore Monday morning about Donna Brazile's race-mongering attack on Colin Powell and J.C. Watts and even suggested that in courting gays and blacks "perhaps you've been a little too strident."
After talking to Gore about his back tracking
on a litmus test over gays in the military, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens
noticed that on the January 10 Today Katie Couric moved on to Brazile's
blast. Unlike Saturday's NBC Nightly News story recounted in the January
10 CyberAlert, Couric quoted what Brazile said:
Couric pressed Gore: "Do you regret her invoking the names of General Powell and JC Watts to get this point across?"
Couric ended the interviewing with this exhortation: "In your efforts to court blacks and gays are you worried at all Mr. Vice President, that perhaps you've been a little too strident in efforts and in the process are turning off many potential voters?"
George Stephanopoulos, who certainly knows about "slick Southern Governors," suggested George W. Bush's supposed image as one is why independent voters are not attracted to him.
On Sunday's This Week Stephanopoulos reported a taped story about a focus group in New Hampshire made up of independent voters. Stephanopoulos, MRC intern Ken Shepherd observed, asserted that "George W. Bush doesn't fare much better [than Al Gore]. In a word:" He then played three clips from voters: "Arrogant," "Pretty plastic," and "I think he's slippery."
Stephanopoulos rejoiced: "Sound familiar?
Another slick Southern Governor is decidedly not what these voters want.
And they're also suspicious of Bush's family ties."
Just being from the South doesn't make you as sleazy as Clinton.
Speaking of This Week, while former Clinton enabler George Stephanopoulos has been promoted to reporter, fired conservative roundtable commentator Bill Kristol has found other outlets for his analysis, including Fox News Channel, though one less outlet than USA Today cited Monday.
In his "Inside TV" column in Monday's USA Today Peter Johnson wrote: "Conservative commentator Bill Kristol seems to be as popular as ever on the Sunday network talk show circuit since he and ABC's This Week parted ways a few weeks ago. On Jan. 2, Kristol was a guest on Bob Schieffer's Face the Nation on CBS. When asked where he'd been, the former Face contributor said, 'I disappeared down a black hole for a few years' -- a dig at ABC News, which decided not to renew his contract. On Sunday, Kristol was a guest on Tim Russert's Meet the Press on NBC."
Actually, no he wasn't. The January 9 Meet the Press featured a roundtable with two liberals (Al Hunt and Joe Klein) versus one conservative (Bill Safire). Given the imbalance, he may have been scheduled, but he didn't appear.
From the January 10 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Good Things About Having a President With a Temper." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Fun to hear White House spokesman use phrase "'roid rage"
And from the Late Show Web site, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."
-- New tradition of calling locker room of losing team in Superbowl to
curse them out
Now that Ted Turner will be the number three man in the new AOL/Time-Warner empire, he'll have control over CompuServe, so if these suddenly stop coming you'll know why. -- Brent Baker 
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