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ABC Continues Praising Kerry Speech: "Doubts Dispelled." --7/30/2004


1. ABC Continues Praising Kerry Speech: "Doubts Dispelled."
On Friday morning, network news reporters continued their praise of John Kerry's Thursday night convention speech. ABC's Charles Gibson was thrilled: "For those who doubted John Kerry could pull off a stirring speech, doubts dispelled. For those who doubted John Kerry could unite a traditionally fractious party, doubts dispelled." George Stephanopoulos was even more over the top: "John Kerry went out there and he went right into the teeth of Republican issues. I mean, it was the political equivalent of turning toward enemy fire and charging the hill."

2. CBS Political Analyst Offers Rare Criticism of John Kerry
In their Thursday night reaction to John Kerry's convention speech, CBS's anchors and reporters were the most glowingly positive. But this morning on CBS, the Early Show's political analyst, Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford, actually threw a little cold water on all of the pro-Kerry celebrations, giving Kerry a grade of "C" for his efforts last night. "The trouble with John Kerry is he has a way of talking at you, not to you," Crawford told Early Show co-host Hannah Storm, adding "I think John Kerry hopes to run on his four months in Vietnam as opposed to his many decades in Congress."

3. MRC's TimesWatch Helps Expose Kerry Home Movie Flip Flop
On Friday morning, prompted by the MRC's Times Watch project, the New York Times detail yet another Kerry flip-flop, this one regarding his personal Vietnam home-movie footage. Back in September 2002, Kerry told then-Times columnist (now executive editor) Bill Keller "I have no intention of using" his Vietnam home movies, which Kerry shot with an 8-mm camera, for campaign purposes. But contrary to that promise, those films have been used in Kerry's TV ads and were heavily featured in last night's convention film.


ABC Continues Praising Kerry Speech:
"Doubts Dispelled."

George Stephanopoulos On Friday morning, network news reporters continued their praise of John Kerry's Thursday night convention speech. ABC's Charles Gibson was thrilled: "For those who doubted John Kerry could pull off a stirring speech, doubts dispelled. For those who doubted John Kerry could unite a traditionally fractious party, doubts dispelled." George Stephanopoulos was even more over the top: "John Kerry went out there and he went right into the teeth of Republican issues. I mean, it was the political equivalent of turning toward enemy fire and charging the hill."

On NBC's Today, Tim Russert was also positive: "Democrats and Republicans I talked to said that John Kerry showed last night he had the passion and toughness to be a very formidable candidate this fall."

Russert also detected a deep contrast between President Bush and Kerry: "He essentially drew the line and said to George Bush I'm going to fight you about values, I'm going to fight you about defense, I'm going to fight you about your view on how to execute the war on terrorism. And that's going to make for a very good campaign, because there are big differences on big issues between these candidates."

But over on CBS, political analyst Craig Crawford, who had not appeared on The Early Show during the four days of the Democratic convention, faulted Kerry for failing to say how he would actually differ from Bush on Iraq: "We're not that far from election day and I can not tell you what he [Kerry] would have done differently from George Bush about Iraq." (See item #2 below.)

Now, more details about Friday morning's network coverage of Kerry's speech, beginning with ABC's Good Morning America. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught how co-host Charles Gibson began the show by declaring the speech and the convention a success for John Kerry:
"For those who doubted John Kerry could pull off a stirring speech, doubts dispelled. For those who doubted John Kerry could unite a traditionally fractious party, doubts dispelled. For those who doubted John Kerry had a chance against George Bush, well, an interesting 95 days of campaign lie ahead."

Gibson and This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos then discussed how great and brave Kerry was, and how Republicans must be mad that the Democratic nominee didn't fail. Gibson argued, "If you're a Republican operative, a close advisor to President Bush, you're hoping John Kerry last night lays an egg."
Stephanopoulos interjected: "And he doesn't."
Gibson: "Boy, he did not."
Stephanopoulos: "Not at all. I mean, John Kerry went out there and he went right into the teeth of Republican issues. I mean, it was the political equivalent of turning toward enemy fire and charging the hill. On national security, on faith, on values, on all the big Republican issues, he went right at it."
Gibson: "Yeah, I was very struck, 'I'm not going to cede to the Republican values, the flag or God.'"
Stephanopoulos: "Not at all, and then he said he welcomed people of faith into this campaign, and I thought that was one of his most effective lines, the one you showed in his speech, where he quoted Abraham Lincoln saying, 'We hope that God is on our side.'"

Stephanopoulos then relayed some of the same arguments he had used during ABC's live coverage at about 11pm EDT Thursday night: "Even before the speech was over last night, I was getting phone calls from top Republican operatives, and you can tell by their reaction that they're a little worried. They went at Iraq and national security, which was his top issue last night, and they say that John Kerry missed an opportunity last night. They say he didn't take the opportunity to explain why he voted for the Iraq war and now why he's criticizing it."

A few moments later, Stephanopoulos asserted that the Democrats were solidly united against the Republicans: "They're so united against President Bush and his policies that they don't have to worry about any of their internal disagreements, they don't have to throw out, necessarily, a lot of red meat or attack President Bush by name. So even though he [Kerry] went at President Bush by implication through the whole speech, he was able to come out at the end and say let's keep it civil, let's keep it on the issues."

Gibson did wonder whether Kerry's math wasn't a bit fuzzy: "Just one other quick thing, George, the numbers. Do they add up? He says he's going to raise taxes on the top two percent, but there were a lot of proposals in there that are going to cost more money and there's not all that much to get from the top two percent."

Stephanopoulos agreed that was a weakness: "I think that's one of the biggest vulnerabilities that John Kerry had last night. He put out a lot of promises on health care, on education, on the economy, as you pointed out, but all he said was we're going to roll back that tax cut. He's going to get a lot of questions over the next 95 days, how are you going to pay for it?"

Gibson ended by saying how "everyone" agreed Kerry's speech was stirring: "Alright, George Stephanopoulos, thanks very much. I think, though, everyone generally agreed, John Kerry did a very, very good job with a stirring speech last night, and he's about to show up at this rally right next to us as they launch their big trip across America."

MRC's Megan McCormack took down the exchange on NBC between Katie Couric and Tim Russert. Couric began by reminding Russert what they had said they the day before: "Yesterday, we talked about what John Kerry needed to do. He needed to be perceived as more human or humanize himself, and offer voters real specifics. How did he do on each front?"

Russert was impressed with Kerry's effort, calling it specific and saying Kerry was "to the right" of Bush when it came to the military:
"Clearly Katie, he gave of himself last night. Where he came from, who he was, and I think quite successfully. On specificity, it was a very good first step. In terms of economic populism, tax cuts, health care, defense, running to the right of George Bush in terms of increasing the size of the military. I think overall Democrats and Republicans I talked to said that John Kerry showed last night he had the passion and toughness to be a very formidable candidate this fall."

Couric noted how Kerry took on "traditionally Republican issues" such as patriotism, the flag, faith and values, saying those were "issues that the Republicans have co-opted, if you will, and sort of taken as their own. But he said, not so fast."

Russert agreed: "When he stood up and said, 'John Kerry, reporting for duty,' you could feel the whole room say, 'yes.' Because they realize that in post-September 11th world, the Democrats cannot yield on the issue of defense or terrorism or values. They have to be embraced and articulated, and fought from different perspectives, and I think that John Kerry laid that out last night. He essentially drew the line and said to George Bush I'm going to fight you about values, I'm going to fight you about defense, I'm going to fight you about your view on how to execute the war on terrorism. And that's going to make for a very good campaign, because there are big differences on big issues between these candidates."

Russert did detect one Kerry weakness: "The problem that John Kerry has on Iraq, and the Republicans were quick to point this out last night, is that they -- they would call it his Achilles heel -- they say George Bush says we were right about Iraq back then, and we're right about it now. John Kerry voted for the war, against the money to keep it going, where does he stand?"

Over on CBS, which has been the network that's done the most to boost the Democrats this week, the coverage was relatively low key. Byron Pitts offered two wrap-up reports, one during the 7am news update and another after 8am. In his first update, MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, Pitts cited news reports as providing the authoritative reaction to Kerry's speech: "By most accounts, John Kerry gave a good acceptance speech last night and in the end he did what he had to do.

Pitts also portrayed Kerry's walk inside a hall populated by Democratic delegates as somehow courageous, done "despite the insistence" -- maybe Pitts meant "resistance" -- of the Secret Service:
"Senator John Kerry and his running mate Senator John Edwards brought in Friday morning in a late night concert and fireworks show. But the sparks came earlier in the evening on the floor of the Democratic convention. Despite the insistence of the Secret Service, John Kerry entered the hall walking through the crowd touching and thanking the people who got him thus far. Minutes before, delegates here were shown a nine minute documentary, home movies and images from Vietnam all meant to tell the story of John Kerry."

CBS Political Analyst Offers Rare Criticism
of John Kerry

In their Thursday night reaction to John Kerry's convention speech, CBS's anchors and reporters were the most glowingly positive. Dan Rather related that the speech brought "an almost literal thunder inside the hall, shaking the Fleet Center in a way that it seldom shakes." Bob Schieffer called it "the best speech I have ever heard John Kerry make....a very deft critique of policy."

For a complete run-down of the rave reviews Kerry got from CBS and the other broadcast networks, go to: www.mrc.org

But this morning on CBS, the Early Show's political analyst, Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford, actually threw a little cold water on all of the pro-Kerry celebrations, giving Kerry a grade of "C" for his efforts last night. "The trouble with John Kerry is he has a way of talking at you, not to you," Crawford told Early Show co-host Hannah Storm, adding "I think John Kerry hopes to run on his four months in Vietnam as opposed to his many decades in Congress."

As for the convention, it "was a bit like the Wizard of Oz, you know, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It was an evasive maneuver, they ran from their issues." While Crawford is a regular political analyst for the Early Show and he was a frequent guest during the Democratic primary season, Friday marked his first appearance on The Early Show this week, so it was the first chance for viewers to hear what he thought about the Democratic convention.

Crawford appeared just after 7:10am EDT, and MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down the exchange. Hannah Storm asked if Kerry was presidential last night?

"Oh, he was certainly presidential," Crawford replied, "but the trouble with John Kerry and we saw it last night is he has a way of talking at you and not to you. And I think the speech fell down on a couple of points, specifics for starters. But I guess this convention wasn't much about specifics."

Storm seemed to miss the fact that Crawford was saying Kerry's speech lacked detail: "Well, like you said, voters said that they were looking for specifics from Senator Kerry and he was detailed. He went very long on his domestic agenda but the question of Iraq, he offered no exit strategy there. Is that a mistake?"

Crawford: "Here we are, Hannah, at John Kerry's convention, accepting his nomination, we're not that far from election day and I can not tell you what he would have done differently from George Bush about Iraq back when he, John Kerry, voted to authorize President Bush to go to Iraq. I think on that one point alone, the Republicans will have a field day at their convention coming up."

Storm found Kerry's topics to be Republican: "Senator Kerry devoted much of his speech to these dual pillars of the Republican party: values and security. Is he wise to take that fight to the White House?"

Crawford told her that Kerry was running from his Senate record and the Democrats had camouflaged their actual positions: "Well, I think John Kerry hopes to run on his four months in Vietnam as opposed to his many decades in Congress, especially his own votes on the war. And I don't know if that'll hold up overtime. In many ways this convention was a bit like the Wizard of Oz, you know, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It was an evasive maneuver, they ran away from their issues. And Republicans at their convention, all they've got to do is tell the country what Democrats really stand for because Democrats didn't really want to do that at their own convention."

Storm asked about Bush and Kerry's reaction to the 9/11 commission's recommendations, and suggested voters would really decide based on the debates and events between now and November, and Crawford agreed. She then asked Crawford to assign Kerry a grade for his performance, and he again found fault:
"I would give him about a 'C' on this, Hannah. I think, weirdly the Kerry campaign seems to think they can just wait for George Bush to collapse and then they'll be elected. I don't think they did as much as they needed to do at this convention to tell people what they are voting for when they vote for John Kerry."

That's a far cry from the promotional coverage that Kerry and the Democrats have gotten all week from CBS. Maybe that's why Crawford hasn't been seen on the Early Show until today.

MRC's TimesWatch Helps Expose Kerry Home
Movie Flip Flop

On Friday morning, prompted by the MRC's Times Watch project, the New York Times detail yet another Kerry flip-flop, this one regarding his personal Vietnam home-movie footage. Back in September 2002, Kerry told then-Times columnist (now executive editor) Bill Keller "I have no intention of using" his Vietnam home movies, which Kerry shot with an 8-mm camera, for campaign purposes. But contrary to that promise, those films have been used in Kerry's TV ads and were heavily featured in last night's convention film.

Thursday morning, TimesWatch.org editor Clay Waters included an excerpt from a September 7, 2002 column by Keller in which he relates how Kerry took exception to a claim that he would use his Vietnam-era films in his presidential campaign.

Keller wrote: "Relying on a report in the usually dependable Boston Globe, I mocked him for pulling out a movie camera after a shootout in the Mekong Delta and re-enacting the exploit, as if preening for campaign commercials to come. Cheap shot, the senator's people said of the notion that he belabors his war record. And just plain wrong about those movies. Which is how I came to be sitting in a wing chair in the senator's office the other day while he plugged in a videocassette and fumbled with a balky remote. 'It is so innocent,' he said by way of introducing his youthful cinematic effort, adding a little defensively, 'I have no intention of using it' for campaign purposes."

It's reasonable to suggest that showing those movies at a political convention and in a bevy of campaign commercials amounts to "campaign purposes" -- although there may be some way to parse the original promise that we just haven't thought of, yet.

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

Times Watch has had a busy few days, documenting the bias in the Times political coverage this week:

# Monday: In the Sunday "Week in Review" section, reporter Katharine Seelye is horrified by President Bush's daughter Jenna sticking her tongue out at the press. Seelye even manages to work in a snide reference to Jenna's alleged wild side: "Well, that was a fine how-do-you-do. This was supposed to be the new Jenna Bush. Fresh out of college, ready to shed the 'Jenna and Tonic' image she earned as a partying undergraduate...But her off-message gesture may also have reminded voters of her father's reputation as a frat-boy prankster, which may not be the image that his campaign wants to rekindle in a time of the war on terror."

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

# Tuesday: Reporter David Halbfinger seeks to expand on the myth of Sen. Max Cleland, "the triple amputee and former Democratic senator from Georgia whose defeat in 2002 - by an opponent who ran commercials linking him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden - has become a rallying point for Democrats determined not to let Republicans who avoided combat bludgeon them with patriotic symbols." But the commercial from Cleland's Republican opponent (now Sen.) Saxby Chambliss did no such thing. Also: a funny Times caption lamented "the Republicans' war room was decorated on Monday with the so-called liberal ratings of Democrats' voting records."

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

# Wednesday: Reporters Robin Toner and Todd Purdum insisted: "It was a night when the party not only paid tribute to its proud legacy as the advocate of Social Security and civil rights but also showed its striking unity and discipline in the face of the fall challenge to Mr. Bush." But there's also a far less cheery view of the Democratic party's "proud legacy" as the advocate of civil rights, especially the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protected the rights of blacks to vote.

Also Wednesday: The Times soft-pedaled the controversy over Teresa Heinz Kerry's "feisty comments," and claimed Republicans are "Fox's natural constituency."

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

# Thursday: Times writer Michael Slackman covers Al Sharpton's fiery convention speech and sees no worries in the Democratic party's embrace of the hateful activist. In fact, Slackman appears to be the Times' go-to guy for favorable Sharpton pieces that glide over his hate-mongering past. Also: Chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney "John Kerry was nominated here on Wednesday by a Democratic Party that is as united as any in years--awash in money, crackling with partisan energy and invigorated by polls that suggest that President Bush can be ousted."

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

# Friday: Reporter Jim Rutenberg files "New Skirmish Over Images From Vietnam in a Kerry Video," which includes details of a Kerry flip-flop regarding his personal Vietnam footage first highlighted on Times Watch. Back in September 2002, Kerry told then-Times columnist (now executive editor) Bill Keller "I have no intention of using" his Vietnam home movies, which Kerry shot with an 8-mm camera, for campaign purposes, which have been heavily feature in TV ads and last night's convention film. Also: TV critic Alessandra Stanley found Kerry "had a little of the glow that Ronald Reagan transmitted in almost every television appearance."

For more, see: www.timeswatch.org

-- Brent Baker