2. In '92, ABC Called Zell's Bush Attacks "Time Honored Tradition"
3. Democratic VP Nominee John Edwards On ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC
4. CBS: More than 800 Americans Died Since Mission Accomplished
5. CNBC's Borger Now Wonders If Democratic Convention Fell Short
6. Ex-President Bush Tells ABC's Sawyer: We Didn't Go It Alone
7. Matt Lauer Helps Set Up a Bush Aide's Slam on Flip-Flopper Kerry
On Thursday morning's Good Morning America, ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos seemed the most offended by the Wednesday night convention speeches delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Senator Zell Miller. Gibson complained that "the Vice President and Senator Miller pounded and pounded and pounded. It may have been very effective politics; it was not subtle." Stephanopoulos characterized Miller as out of control: "The Vice President was very, very tough, but Zell Miller was on a tirade. I mean, he was red faced, red meat for the red states."
CBS and NBC also stressed the negative tone of last night's speeches. CBS's Bill Plante said the "Republicans unleashed their fiercest partisans" with Miller delivering "stinging partisan jabs" at Kerry. NBC's Campbell Brown argued that Cheney and Miller "delivered plenty of red meat," and she characterized Miller's speech this way: "He called Senator John Kerry unpatriotic and unqualified to lead."
In fact, Miller last night distinguished "patriotism" from "judgment" when he challenged the approach of Democratic Party leaders:
ABC's Gibson and NBC's Tim Russert both were more equivocal. Gibson's phrase was that "Miller all but questioned Kerry's patriotism," while Russert said Miller in his speech was "challenging, in effect, Senator Kerry's patriotism."
Now, more complete summaries of how ABC, CBS and NBC showed their disgust with the Republican criticisms of John Kerry:
# ABC's Good Morning America led with the dismissal of the Kobe Bryant case and the hurricane heading to Florida. Previewing the upcoming story on the convention, however, MRC's Jessica Anderson recorded how Gibson used war metaphors: "The Democrats really came under the gun last night. Republicans were on the attack and we're going to show you some of that."
A few minutes later, in his review of the night's speeches, Gibson asserted that Democrats had been "polite to the President" in their speeches: "Democrats might now question their strategy of having been polite to the President at their convention, for Republicans showed no such reluctance last night. The keynote speaker, Democratic Senator Zell Miller."
Then a soundbite from Miller: "For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure."
Gibson then moved on to Cheney: "The Vice President, in his acceptance speech, was milder by comparison, but just by comparison."
After running through a couple more soundbites from Cheney --including his crack that "Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual. America sees two John Kerrys" -- Gibson fretted: "The Vice President and Senator Miller pounded and pounded and pounded. It may have been very effective politics; it was not subtle."
Gibson then turned to Stephanopoulos: "What did you think of what they did last night?"
Stephanopoulos was just as dissatisfied: "Well, the Vice President was very, very tough, but Zell Miller was on a tirade. I mean, he was red faced, red meat for the red states. I think it did a lot more to energize Republican voters than convince some of those swing voters in the middle."
# NBC's Today led with the hurricane, then reporter Campbell Brown summarized the events of Wednesday night using some of the same clips from Cheney's speech: "It was Vice President Cheney and a Democrat in the key note slot who delivered plenty of red meat."
Brown, too, suggested that Miller had been the most extreme: "But by far, the harshest words of the evening, perhaps the convention, coming from a Democrat, keynote speaker Georgia Senator Zell Miller."
Brown recalled a happier time when Miller used his oratorical powers to castigate the first President George Bush: "The folksy firebrand, who electrified Democrats at their convention twelve years ago, this time accusing leaders of his own party of elevating partisan politics over national security."
Matt Lauer then asked Tim Russert what he thought of Miller and Cheney's approach. Russert cited Republican delegates as making the case that Miller was too hot:
He painted Cheney in a more favorable light: "Vice President Cheney took a much different tack by saying these are the specific issues in which we disagree with Senator Kerry and frankly, we don't think he's up to the job. The Republicans set the table in a very interesting way, Matt. You had Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger saying the most important issue is the war on terror, and we need a strong commander-in-chief. Vice President Cheney came in last night and said John Kerry is not a strong commander-in-chief."
Russert added that Cheney's general popularity was beside the point: "It doesn't matter what Dick Cheney's popularity ratings are with the American public, frankly. His job is to be by the president's side and offer the best advice. What the public saw last night was Dick Cheney. Not electrifying, but someone who laid out, in his mind, a very dangerous world and all the scenarios that could flow from that, if you didn't have the right commander-in-chief."
# Only CBS's Early Show gave a full report on the GOP convention before diving into the hurricane and Kobe Bryant case. MRC's Brian Boyd caught how co-host Harry Smith called it a "no-holds-barred assault" on Kerry:
Plante echoed Smith's summary: "On the third night of the convention Republicans unleashed their fiercest partisans and one of them was a Democrat. Vice President Cheney, as Vice Presidents traditionally do, also went on the attack....But the most stinging partisan jabs came from a Democrat, Georgia Senator Zell Miller, who ridiculed Kerry for opposing a long list of weapons."
Now it's harsh and ugly, then it was a "time-honored tradition." ABC's Good Morning America may have been horrified by Zell Miller's GOP convention speech, but twelve years ago, the morning after Miller at the Democratic convention in New York City delivered a very negative speech attacking then-President George H.W. Bush as "a timid man" who "just doesn't get it," ABC's Mike Schneider saluted it as an instance of Democrats "engaged in the time-honored tradition of attacking the opposition."
MRC's Jessica Anderson tracked down our DVD recording of the July 14, 1992 Good Morning America. News reader Mike Schneider offered this summary during the 8am EDT news update: "This year's Democrats are trying to chart a new course for their party, a winning course. One of the keynote speakers, Barbara Jordan, summed it up best, perhaps, by saying, 'It's time for the Democrats to convince the American people to trust them to govern again.' But while that new message was being spun out, some of the other speakers engaged in the time-honored tradition of attacking the opposition."
ABC then showed Miller taking a whack at Bush and, indirectly, then-Vice President Dan Quayle: "Let's face facts: George Bush just doesn't get it. He doesn't see it, he doesn't feel it, and he's done nothing about it. That's why we cannot afford four more years. If the Education President gets another term, even our kids won't even be able to spell 'potato.'"
A footnote: Six years later, in 1998, Mike Schneider ran for a U.S. Congressional seat in New Jersey as a Democrat. He lost.
Breaking with the usual convention manners, John Edwards did a round of morning interviews on ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN this morning. ABC's Charles Gibson and NBC's Matt Lauer each wondered if the Democrats have been too soft on Republicans. CNN's Bill Hemmer was the only one to note that the major party nominees don't have a habit of trying to steal time on the other's convention days.
After being the most critical of last night's Republican speeches (see item #1 above), ABC's Charles Gibson was the gentlest with Edwards, sticking largely to questions about the candidate's feelings. He asked if the Democrats went too easy "not to engage as directly" in Boston.
In contrast, NBC's Matt Lauer was actually challenging, asking Edwards why Kerry "hasn't come out more on the offensive against those [Swift Boat] ads." On CBS, Edwards stammered as Hannah Storm demonstrated a surprisingly hard-news approach, asking for Kerry-Edwards specifics.
Unlike ABC, CBS and NBC were at least being consistent in having on a representative of the other party on the final day of a convention. On July 29, the Thursday morning in Boston, NBC interviewed Rudy Giuliani in the first half hour, explaining he was there to respond to the convention. CBS interviewed Giuliani at 8:40 that morning, but stuck to the topic of the September 11 Commission and New York's homeland-security needs. But ABC's Good Morning America hosted only Democrats on July 29.
A run-down of this morning's coverage:
# ABC. Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson began: "Senator Edwards, they went at you hammer and tong last night from the podium here at this Republican convention, saying the fundamental security of this country was at stake in this election, questioning John Kerry's ability to be Commander In Chief. I wonder how you felt as you listened." He said there was "an enormous amount of anger."
Gibson replied: "Did it make you, in any way, second guess the decision at the Democratic convention not to mention George Bush from the podium so often, not to engage as directly?" Edwards said no.
Gibson then asked two more challenging questions about how they will respond to the Republican focus on Kerry flip-flops, but then returned to softballs: "You speak with such equanimity this morning. Didn't they make you mad last night?" Edwards said it was "over the top" and avoided the issues, so Gibson prodded: "Did you get mad, though?" Sensing he had to give Gibson what he wanted, Edwards said, "Oh, yeah. I was especially about the personal attacks against John Kerry, because they're false. I know this guy and I know what he's made of inside and he's ready to lead this country."
# NBC. MRC's Megan McCormack transcribed how Matt Lauer began: "Did you watch the speech last night by the Vice President?" Edwards said "I did." Lauer replied: Matt Lauer: "What was your reaction?" After the Edwards line about a lack of focus on domestic afffairs, Lauer grew tougher: "Actually, you issued a statement last night. And you said there was a lot of hate coming from that podium. I'm curious about that choice of words. I mean, political rhetoric is one thing, hate is something different. Do you really think it was hate?" Edwards did not say yes, but changed the subject to economic statistics.
Lauer then played a clip of Cheney and asked: "Since Senator Kerry used those word, a more sensitive war on terror, a few weeks ago, the Republicans have really used them against him. Do you think he regrets that term?"
Lauer finished with a panicky-Democrat question: "There's no doubt in the polling John Kerry seems to have been hurt by these ads that question his version of events in Vietnam. A lot of people are wondering why Senator Kerry hasn't come out more on the offensive against those ads. Why he seems to be taking a defensive strategy and, in some ways, putting you out there to take the offensive on this."
# CBS. On The Early Show, co-host Hannah Storm began: "Last night, Democrat Zell Miller offered a blistering attack on Senator Kerry. First off, I want to show you some comments from that keynote address....Miller went through this litany of weapons systems that he said that Senator Kerry has opposed. What's your reaction to his statements about Kerry's voting record?"
Edwards answered, in part: "It's just false, it's not true. And if you actually look at Senator Kerry's life, not just his time in the Senate when, by the way, he strongly supported our national defense. Some of these votes that he's talking about, the Vice President of the United States, who spoke right after him, supported exactly the same position when he was the Secretary of Defense."
Storm hit Edwards with the polls: "The Vice President said last night, and terrorism has been the theme of the convention, that Senator Kerry has repeatedly made the wrong call on issues of national security. And there was this very interesting Washington Post poll this week that says Americans trust the President to fight terrorism more than John Kerry and the numbers are astounding: 56 percent to 38 percent. So are you losing this debate on national security?"
Edwards claimed: "No, because what will happen between now and the election on election day is the American people will hear what John Kerry and I plan to win this war on terrorism. I mean, we have a real substantive plan to win the war on terrorism, including making sure that we lead the kind of strong alliances around the world that allows us to get at these terrorists where they are before they can get at us."
Storm: "Can you give me one specific because he is implementing a lot of those recommendations. So give me one specific where he's taken a half measure."
Edwards: "Yes, ma'am. He will not, in terms of having a national director of intelligence, he will not give that national director the authority he needs to do his job, including budget authority. The President has taken a half step in that direction, not the kind of, and unfortunately we're facing these threats every single day."
# CNN. On American Morning, MRC's Brian Boyd noted, host Bill Hemmer began: "You released a statement last night and quoting from that statement 'there was a lot of hate coming from the podium last night.' What do you mean by that, the word 'hate'?" After Edwards equated hate and anger and talked about the poor and jobless, Hemmer asked: "What did you think of your Democratic colleague, Zell Miller?" Edwards said: "I thought it was sad, honestly."
Hemmer was the only anchor to note how the Edwards' interviews upset the natural pattern of convention manners:
Edwards suggested they just wanted to work so hard to get their message out, to which Hemmer followed up: "But back to my original question, Republicans would suggest the presence is a sign of desperation. How would you react to that?" Edwards insisted: "Well, this is, we have planned long ago to campaign straight through the Republican convention."
White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett was interviewed on CBS and NBC, and got liberal questions in both interviews. CBS's Harry Smith highlighted "more than 800 Americans have died since the President appeared under that 'Mission Accomplished' sign." NBC's Matt Lauer told Bartlett the economic numbers "are not all that much in President's favor."
On CBS's The Early Show, Smith had two rough questions, beginning with: "John Kerry, not exactly on vacation this week and he was addressing veterans yesterday and talking about the President's fitness to serve, continue to serve as Commander-in-Chief. And he said, John Kerry said, that the President really didn't have a plan to sort of win the peace in Iraq. And the fact is, more than 800 Americans have died since the President appeared under that 'Mission Accomplished' sign on the aircraft carrier about a year ago or so. Did the President botch the execution of this war?"
Smith also demanded Bartlett respond to grieving parents: "The speeches and the people who have been on the podium this week at the convention have all talked about security really as being kind of the primary issue and the war on terrorism. There have been a lot of protesters out on the streets, more than 100,000 over the weekend and some of the people who are out there are parents of young men who have died in combat. Speak to them a little bit about whether or not that loss of life was worth while."
Over on NBC's Today show, Matt Lauer began with the comparative-civility question: "In the Democratic convention, Dan, there was an edict from John Kerry that said let's not attack the president and vice-president by name. Let's try and stick to that. Will the president tonight, take the tone of last night of Vice President Cheney and Zell Miller and attack John Kerry straight on?" Bartlett promised "It's going to be an optimistic, positive speech talking about the future of America."
Lauer then offered a negative accounting of the U.S. economy: "You talk about the economy. By most accounts, by a lot of accounts, Dan, the numbers are not all that much in President Bush's favor. You've got unemployment. He says 5.5 percent, but the job growth is decelerating. You had more people falling into poverty last year. More people losing health insurance. The stock market's worth less today, than it was four years ago. Can he really run on those type of numbers?"
More Kerry worry. CNBC host Gloria Borger suggested the Kerry camp is in trouble and responded to the Edwards round of interviews charging that the New York convention is short on economic talk by noting it made her "wonder why they didn't talk about it more at their convention. Because what they were talking about at their convention was John Kerry as commander in chief. And there are a lot of strategists who believe that that was a mistake."
NBC's Matt Lauer talked to Borger during the 9am EDT hour of Today, and he asked her about Kerry's schedule: "Traditionally when one party holds a convention, the candidate for the other party takes to the sidelines. Doesn't do much. John Kerry has not done that. He's actually stayed in the spotlight somewhat this week, and actually gone on the attack....Do you get a sense that John Kerry thinks momentum-wise they're in a lot of trouble?"
Borger: "Yeah, I think the campaign does. I've talked to people in the campaign who say you know, he should have been out there right after those swift boat ads, holding a press conference, maybe Matt, saying look, you know, this is wrong. You shouldn't do this to me. And you know, Dick Cheney last night said we honor John Kerry's service. But it's what happened after the war that was so controversial. So I think he's playing a little catch-up ball."
Later, Lauer asked: Two months to go Gloria, do you expect the Democrats to go economy, economy, economy?"
Borger said yes: "Well, I think they should at this point. You know, Edwards' answer made me wonder why they didn't talk about it more at their convention. Because what they were talking about at their convention was John Kerry as commander in chief. And there are a lot of strategists who believe that that was a mistake. That they gave the Republicans a big hole to run a mack truck through, which is what they are doing at this convention. They will talk about agenda, they're not going to hide about the economy. The president's going to say we've turned the corner, and the Democrats perhaps ought to get back to the issues that really work for them which are domestic policy issues."
On ABC's Good Morning America, the President's parents made more salty remarks. ABC's Diane Sawyer asked: "In the ranking of mean campaigns, where do you put this one?" Barbara Bush said: "Top." Sawyer noted their dislike for Michael Moore, and when the former President suggested he should be asked if he liked Saddam Hussein in power, Sawyer introduced a soundbite of Moore responding: "That's kind of a crazy thing to say. I mean, nobody wants to see Saddam Hussein in power."
In the 7am half hour, Diane Sawyer introduced a taped interview with both Bushes yesterday in what looked like a New York City hotel Room. She began, MRC's Jessica Anderson noted, with the first President Bush insisting people see John Kerry's 1971 activism against the Vietnam war:
Bush: "I think in some way. Any time your country is losing lives, I think there are bound to be divisions."
Sawyer: "There's a persistent comment that you would have done it differently, that you would have created an alliance that would at least have been in there taking some of the burden with us."
Later Sawyer mentioned: "And as you might expect, the Bushes reserve their biggest anger for Michael Moore, the filmmaker of 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' [She said "nine-one-one."] So I asked the former President and Mrs. Bush about him and they said somebody should get to Michael Moore and ask him does he still want Saddam Hussein in power? And so we did."
Bush: "That's the choice. That's the choice today. Do you wish that we would go back to the status quo ante? Were they better off?"
ABC ran a soundbite of Moore: "And that's kind of a crazy thing to say. I mean, nobody wants to see Saddam Hussein in power. That's trying to get the issue off, you know, what we really should be talking about."
Back to the interview, Mrs. Bush concluded: "I'm not sure that Michael Moore cares about anything but himself, that this is just a way of getting himself in the public eye."
D'oh! On Thursday morning's Today, NBC's Matt Lauer inadvertently invited a shot at Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry when he asked a Bush aide who would play Kerry in the Bush campaign's debate rehearsals. Playing off the "two John Kerrys" theme from the convention speeches, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett deadpanned: "We're going to get a couple of people to play him."
The exchange came at the conclusion of Lauer's interview with Bartlett, as Lauer asked whether the Bush team would accept all of the recommendations of the Commission on Presidential Debates. Bartlett demurred, saying there would still be negotiations to set an exact schedule.
Then Lauer brought up the subject of rehearsals, the standard way presidential candidates prepare for the debates. Lauer asked Bartlett, "Who's going to play John Kerry in the practice suggestions?"
Bartlett playfully replied, "We're going to get a couple of people to play him because he takes so many positions on all the sides."
Lauer admitted, "I guess I set you up there, didn't I, Dan?"