Drilling Instead of Spending; Churches Don't Follow Civil Rights Laws; Bush Showed "Far Right" He's One of Them
1) Bush not using enough federal power to satisfy CBS News. Dan Rather opened Monday's CBS Evening News by complaining that "no new specific help is being offer to California" by Bush as he advocates drilling in "environmentally sensitive areas."
2) ABC, CBS and NBC delivered remarkably balanced stories on President Bush's "charitable choice" initiative. Only ABC's, however, raised a concern from the right about how receiving federal money could dilute the religious message of the groups and thus undermine their effectiveness. CBS, instead, highlighted how "churches are exempt from civil rights laws."
3) Most on target observation of the night: FNC's David Lee Miller after a soundbite of Hillary Clinton complaining about how Ashcroft's "record demonstrates a long personal struggle to bend the rule of law to fit his views."
4) Corruption for the sake of fighting corruption? CNN's Judy Woodruff insisted that former Teamsters chief Ron "Carey came under suspicion of using union funds illegally for his anti-corruption campaign."
Rather opened the January 29 broadcast: "Good evening. President Bush made a big new push today for his energy agenda, with Vice President Cheney as his point man. This includes proposals dialing back federal clean air laws in order to step up power plant construction, and domestic drilling in some environmentally sensitive areas. But, no new specific help is being offered to California where severe electricity shortages and spiking prices may generate wider trouble for the U.S. economy."
John Roberts allowed Bush to explain how using less foreign energy would bring price stability, but he stressed how Bush offered no short term solution, just long term proposals like "drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environmental groups vowed to fight him every step of the way."
Rather next set up a second story: "The moves by the Bush White House today are small comfort, if any, to Californians who are reeling from the sticker shock of their latest electricity bills."
From California, John Blackstone relayed the usual
CBS canard about deregulation: "Consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield
says Californians are being held hostage by a failed experiment in
deregulation of electric utilities."
If only California had deregulated end-user prices they wouldn't be in the present mess.
The broadcast networks delivered a remarkably balanced set of stories Monday night on President Bush's "charitable choice" initiative with at least as much time and emphasis on how such programs work as on critics who claim the programs will violate the separation of church and state.
Only ABC's Peggy Wehmeyer, however, raised a concern from the right which CNN and FNC also examined: How receiving federal money could dilute the religious message of the groups and thus undermine their effectiveness. Looking at the record of faith-based programs in Texas, Wehmeyer interviewed Yale law professor Steven Carter, noting: "The real threat, says Carter, is not to the state, but to the church."
CBS, instead, highlighted another liberal attack on how "churches are exempt from civil rights laws."
Bush's announcement also kept Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State busy. While the networks found a variety of people (in addition to Bush himself) to praise Bush's plan, they all turned to Lynn and his group for a critical soundbite. Lynn appeared on ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News while colleague Rob Boston showed up on the NBC Nightly News.
For a flavor of how ABC, CBS and NBC approached the story, here's how each anchor introduced their January 29 stories:
-- ABC's World News Tonight made it the lead story as Peter Jennings announced: "We're going to begin this evening with the argument about church and state. President Bush has begun his second week in office stepping right into the middle of it. Today Mr. Bush, as he said he would, has established a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. His goal is to increase the role of religious organizations in solving some of America's pressing social problems, including crime and drugs and poverty -- and give them government money to work with. This is among the touchiest subjects in the never ending American conversation."
Reporter Terry Moran outlined Bush's plan and allowed Congressman Robert Wexler to denounce it before noting how Bush credited Christianity with getting him to stop drinking. Moran then concluded by warning: "But that very devoutness, which is at the core of Mr. Bush's world view, is precisely what alarms his critics. They fear, Peter, that under a Bush administration non-believers and members of minority religions could be rendered second class citizens."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather, in his as usual overly dramatic style, declared: "Also today, a Bush initiative to open a White House office, the first in the history of the country, where church-run charities could get billions of federal tax dollars to provide social services. The President says this doesn't violate the Constitution or the American tradition of separation of church and state. Others disagree."
Instead of being worried about how getting on the federal dole may lead religious groups to dilute their message in order to qualify for more grants, Bill Plante followed up a soundbite from Barry Lynn by relaying a liberal critique: "Others fear that religious charities may not be staffed by trained professionals, and they point out that churches are exempt from civil rights laws."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw delivered a low key introduction to a piece by David Gregory: "At the White House tonight, taking the wraps off what President Bush is calling one of the most important moves he's expected to make. This is an initiative to steer government money to religious charities, an idea that has sparked a good deal of controversy."
Most on target observation of the night: FNC's David Lee Miller after a soundbite from Hillary Clinton.
In a story on Special Report with Brit Hume, viewers heard a clip of Senator Clinton denouncing John Ashcroft as she announced her plan to vote against his confirmation for Attorney General: "Moreover, his record demonstrates a long personal struggle to bend the rule of law to fit his views." FNC's Miller then quipped: "That may be an ironic charge in light of accusations against the Clintons when they occupied the White House."
Corruption for the sake of fighting corruption? Check out the phraseology employed by CNN's Judy Woodruff in a January 25 Inside Politics item which CyberAlert reader Steve Allen noticed.
Woodruff's item in full: "The former head of the Teamsters Union now faces federal perjury charges. Ron Carey is charged with making false statements about fundraising in his 1996 reelection bid. Carey came under suspicion of using union funds illegally for his anti-corruption campaign. His attorney says his client is not guilty."
NBC's Matt Lauer characterized President Bush's executive order on abortion as a way to say to "the far right" that he's with them.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught the extremist
labeling in a Monday Today discussion with Tim Russert who observed:
"The charm offensive in full gear. George W. Bush has met with 80
members of Congress. Matt he's even going to go to a retreat sponsored by
Democrats, Senators and Congressman, over the next couple of weeks. First
time a Republican president has ever walked in that territory."
Speaking of describing Bush's abortion order as a sop to the right wing, on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume pointed out how very differently the broadcast networks treated Bush's 2001 order compared to how they characterized Clinton's order back in 1993. The January 29 CyberAlert noted how on CNN's Capital Gang Kate O'Beirne picked up on a CyberAlert item from last week to make the same point.
Hume, who on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume last week relayed the basic facts from the CyberAlert article, did the same on Sunday's broadcast show. Talking about the abortion order during a roundtable segment on the January 28 Fox News Sunday, NPR talk show host Juan Williams complained: "Lots of people were disappointed with regard to his actions on abortion this week. They thought this was divisive." NPR reporter Mara Liasson asserted: "He made sure that his right wing base was basically taken care of."
Liasson's interpretation prompted Hume to point out: "Your observation reflects perfectly the play given to what Bush did. What Bush did was to restore an order which had been present for the previous 12 years before Bill Clinton came along. That was the policy. He has now restored it. When Bill Clinton undid it eight years to the day beforehand it was played as, 'Clinton keeps campaign promise.' All three major network news programs started it that way. Now comes George W. Bush, who goes back to the old policy, and it's 'keeps promise to right wing.' Well look, there's a right and a left on this issue. Clearly Bush is on the right. He did exactly the same thing, the mirror image of what Clinton had done eight years ago, but two very different views."
For a detailed report on the contrasting reporting, check out the January 23 CyberAlert which outlined: "Monday night ABC, CBS and NBC characterized Bush's abortion order as a 'controversial' decision in which he 'did something to quickly please the right flank.' But eight years ago to the day Clinton's executive orders on abortion reflected how he had 'delivered on his campaign promise' by taking non-ideological action which demonstrated how he 'keeps his word.'"
The panel for a "Town Hall Meeting on America's Future," sponsored by the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, broadcast live at 8pm ET Monday night on C-SPAN from the Kennedy Center:
-- William Cohen, Clinton's Secretary of Defense
The moderator: NBC's Tom Brokaw.
Attention the Bush team: Welcome to Washington, where that is considered a balanced panel. -- Brent Baker 
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