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CBS Hails 'Landmark' and 'Historic' Federal Control of Health --8/2/2007


1. CBS Hails 'Landmark' and 'Historic' Federal Control of Health
Wednesday's CBS Evening News trumpeted two liberal efforts to expand government power, leading by heralding "landmark legislation" to have the FDA regulate cigarettes followed by a story slanted in favor of, as reporter Thalia Assuras described it, an "historic expansion of health care coverage for children" of the "working poor." Assuras, however, ignored such inconvenient facts as how a family of four with an income as high as $82,600 could get on the taxpayers' dole. Katie Couric introduced a look at "getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it." Sinking to the all too common media technique of exploiting a victim to push a liberal policy, Assuras cited "children like seven-year-old Pilar Edwards whose ear ache was so severe her mother brought her to this mobile medical clinic where she could get help even though Pilar is uninsured." Assuras did pass along how critics contend "the legislation is a slippery slope toward a universal health care plan," but against two negative soundbites, viewers heard from four advocates as Assuras concluded with a Senator's charge that "it would be a travesty if the President vetoed this legislation," followed by these final words from Assuras: "With kids caught in the middle."

2. Snarky Shipman on GMA: Did Cheney 'Dream About Taking on Iran?'
On Wednesday's Good Morning America, ABC reporters offered advice to Dick Cheney on how to resuscitate his "rock bottom poll numbers." The network featured clips from a Bush-bashing cartoon and correspondent Cokie Roberts even suggested that if the Vice President wants to change his image, he needs to do it on "Jon Stewart and maybe talk to Doonesbury." The Claire Shipman-hosted segment, which played like a media victory lap over Cheney's unpopularity, also featured snarky comments, such as this dig about the Vice President briefly taking over for George W. Bush during his colonoscopy in July: "He was even acting President for a few hours during the President's recent colonoscopy. Did he dream about taking on Iran? No, he says. He wrote a letter for his grandkids and then made it public."

3. King Played Softball with Gore, But Much Tougher with Cheney
During the month of July, CNN's Larry King Live both began and ended with interviews of Vice Presidents. On July 5, host Larry King interviewed former Vice President Al Gore. On July 31, King interviewed sitting Vice President Dick Cheney. The difference between the two interviews was like night and day. King, for the most part, did not press Gore for an answer to his questions, and asked a few light questions (such as, "How did you get Madonna?" for Live Earth). On the other hand, King's questions to Cheney pressed the Vice President on a number of hot political topics (for example, "General Powell says he would close Guantanamo yesterday. Would you?" and the oh-so-typical follow-up, "You have to torture them when they're there?") and the interview was almost completely serious.

4. Liberals Confused About Whether They 'Hate Most' WSJ or Murdoch
An editorial in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal tweaked the New York Times and other liberal critics of Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Journal. Noting how some of the fussier media outlets are competing with the Journal at a time when all newspapers are fighting the Internet tide, "readers can judge if the tears these papers and their writers claim to shed for the Journal's future are real, or of the crocodile variety." As for the ideology Murdoch's News Corp. might bring to the Journal, the editors of the famously conservative editorial page mocked: "The nastiest attacks have come from our friends on the political left. They can't decide whose views they hate most -- ours, or Mr. Murdoch's. We're especially amused by those who say Mr. Murdoch might tug us to the political left. Don't count on it."


CBS Hails 'Landmark' and 'Historic' Federal
Control of Health

Wednesday's CBS Evening News trumpeted two liberal efforts to expand government power, leading by heralding "landmark legislation" to have the FDA regulate cigarettes followed by a story slanted in favor of, as reporter Thalia Assuras described it, an "historic expansion of health care coverage for children" of the "working poor." Assuras, however, ignored such inconvenient facts as how a family of four with an income as high as $82,600 could get on the taxpayers' dole. Katie Couric had teased her top story: "Tonight, landmark legislation that supporters say could save millions of lives. Congress takes a step toward regulating everything about cigarettes for the first time ever."

Next, Couric introduced a look at "getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it." Assuras touted how a proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) "boosts funding by $50 billion over five years, almost doubling the number of uninsured kids covered from the current six million children to about 11 million." Sinking to the all too common media technique of exploiting a victim to push a liberal policy, Assuras cited "children like seven-year-old Pilar Edwards whose ear ache was so severe her mother brought her to this mobile medical clinic where she could get help even though Pilar is uninsured." Assuras did pass along how critics contend "the legislation is a slippery slope toward a universal health care plan," but against two negative soundbites, viewers heard from four advocates as Assuras concluded with a Senator's charge that "it would be a travesty if the President vetoed this legislation," followed by these final words from Assuras: "With kids caught in the middle." More like taxpayers.

[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The Heritage Foundation on Wednesday released a critique of the bill, "The House SCHIP Bill: Cutting Medicare, Undercutting Private Coverage, and Expanding Dependency." An excerpt from the August 1 report by Cheryl Smith and Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D.:

The Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act (H.R. 3162), greatly expands dependency of millions of Americans on government health care, undermines private health plans, reduces choice for Medicare beneficiaries, and saddles taxpayers with a permanent new entitlement....

Crowds Out Private Health Coverage. The House bill undermines private insurance. Rather than designing subsidies in an innovative way to encourage private health insurance among families, the bill's sponsors displace it. Recent studies indicate that people with private insurance will likely drop eligible dependents in favor of welfare-style health coverage'€"a phenomenon economists refer to as "crowd out." According to CBO estimates, the House bill would move nearly 1.9 million people off private insurance and onto taxpayer-supported health care.

The legislation embodies a bias against private health coverage and in favor of government coverage. For example, in addition to regular SCHIP payments, the bill would offer "bonus payments" to states for SCHIP and Medicaid enrollment over specified "baseline" levels. As enrollment above designated levels increases, the bonuses get exponentially larger....

Expands Government Health Coverage to Middle-Income Adults and Fosters Greater Dependency on Government. The authors of the House bill repudiate the original intent of the program: SCHIP is no longer limited to low-income persons or to children. House sponsors achieve this expansion by simply redefining both "low-income" and "children." Under the bill, eligibility for government coverage would be extended to families with incomes up to 400 percent above the federal poverty level (FPL)'€"$82,600 for a family of four'€"hardly considered low-income by any reasonable standard. The House policy is transparently absurd: 89 percent of all children between 300 percent and 400 percent of the FPL are enrolled in private health insurance; 77 percent of all children between 200 percent and 300 percent of the FPL are enrolled in private health insurance; and 50 percent of all children between 100 percent and 200 percent of the FPL are enrolled in private health insurance....

Increases Government Spending. The CBO estimates that the House bill, if enacted, would effect a major change in direct government spending of more than $58 billion over 10 years....

END of Excerpt

For the full report: www.heritage.org

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the August 1 CBS Evening News story on the efforts to expand federal payments for health insurance:

KATIE COURIC: And there's a battle brewing on Capitol Hill over another serious health issue: Getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it. The House is about to approve the biggest expansion of benefits ever. But, as we hear from Thalia Assuras, the fight is only just beginning.
DENNIS HASTERT, on the House floor: It's Hillarycare all over again.
THALIA ASSURAS: Fundamental differences on an historic expansion of health care coverage for children clashed today.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): There should be no debating the moral crisis of nine million children without health care.
ASSURAS: At issue, two competing bills to re-authorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, that will also substantially increase funding. SCHIP targets the working poor who earn too much for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance. The House plan boosts funding by $50 billion over five years, almost doubling the number of uninsured kids covered from the current six million children to about 11 million. The Senate bill proposes 35 billion dollars, adding about three million more children -- children like seven-year-old Pilar Edwards whose ear ache was so severe her mother brought her to this mobile medical clinic where she could get help even though Pilar is uninsured.
UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER: If I didn't have this place to bring her, my child would not be seen.
ASSURAS: Clinic director Doctor Rhonique Harris warns lack of health insurance is putting kids at risk.
Dr. RHONIQUE HARRIS, Children's Health Fund: For a lot of children who are uninsured, a lot of chronic diseases go farther than they need to go.
ASSURAS: President Bush and his allies contend the bills go too far. They say the legislation is a slippery slope toward a universal health care plan. And the President is threatening a veto.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I'll resist Congress's attempt to federalize medicine.
ASSURAS: Mr. Bush has actually proposed a $5 billion funding increase, but that's his limit, and it won't expand coverage. So expect a showdown with the President.
REP. JOHN DINGELL (D-MI): I'm willing to make a fight on this issue if the President wants it.
SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE (R-ME): It would be a travesty if the President vetoed this legislation.
ASSURAS: With kids caught in the middle. Thalia Assuras, CBS News, Washington.

Snarky Shipman on GMA: Did Cheney 'Dream
About Taking on Iran?'

On Wednesday's Good Morning America, ABC reporters offered advice to Dick Cheney on how to resuscitate his "rock bottom poll numbers." The network featured clips from a Bush-bashing cartoon and correspondent Cokie Roberts even suggested that if the Vice President wants to change his image, he needs to do it on "Jon Stewart and maybe talk to Doonesbury." The Claire Shipman-hosted segment, which played like a media victory lap over Cheney's unpopularity, also featured snarky comments, such as this dig about the Vice President briefly taking over for George W. Bush during his colonoscopy in July: "He was even acting President for a few hours during the President's recent colonoscopy. Did he dream about taking on Iran? No, he says. He wrote a letter for his grandkids and then made it public."

Additionally, ABC appears to be infatuated with "Lil' Bush," Comedy Central's liberal cartoon. Wednesday's GMA, not for the first time, featured a clip from the program. Regarding Cheney's more frequent appearances on radio and the new book written about him, Shipman wondered: "What gives? A blitz to boost his leaden poll numbers, to staunch the ubiquitous lampooning?" Clip from "Lil Dick Cheney" on Lil Bush: "October surprise."

On June 14, ABC reporter Dan Harris also previewed the left-wing program on Good Morning America: "That's Lil' George, the leader of the gang. There's also Lil' Rummy, Lil' Cheney, who barely talks and chews the head off chickens, and Lil' Condi, who has an unrequited crush on George."

Shipman closed her August 1 report by stating that the Vice President's media blitz may not be effective because "his poll numbers are so low now, it's not clear he'll be an effective messenger, especially to the mainstream."

Not to worry, if Cheney's poll numbers were to rise, GMA could always air more clips from "Lil' Bush" to take care of such a problem.

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

A transcript of the August 1 segment:

Robin Roberts: "Now to extreme make-over Cheney edition? Or is it? We've all noticed the normally reclusive Vice President has been all over the television and on radio the past few days. And it has people wondering, what's going on here? GMA's senior national correspondent Claire Shipman has more from D.C. So, what's going on here, Claire?"

Claire Shipman: "[Laughs] Good question, Robin. Well, look, given his rock-bottom poll numbers, he is hardly the person that Republican image-makers would choose to be the face of the administration these days. Everybody is wondering what the strategy is."
ABC Graphic: "What Does Cheney Want? Is VP Trying to Improve Image?"
Vice President Dick Cheney: "There are always things in war that happen that nobody anticipated. Surprises."
Shipman: "Suddenly, the Vice President is everywhere. On Larry King:"
Cheney: "But that doesn't mean the strategy isn't, isn't the correct strategy."
Shipman: "-in a new authorized bio."
Stephen Hayes, author of Cheney biography: "He thinks that he's got a job to do."
Shipman: "He was even acting President for a few hours during the President's recent colonoscopy. Did he dream about taking on Iran? No, he says, he wrote a letter for his grand kids and then made it public. 'As I write this,' it begins, 'our nation is engaged in a war with terrorists of global reach.' A bit on the somber side for kids, but he explained on national radio'€""
Mark Knoller, CBS radio: "What did you say in that letter?"
Cheney: "A souvenir for them to have down the road some day."
Shipman: "What gives? A blitz to boost his leaden poll numbers, to staunch the ubiquitous lampooning?"
[Brief clip from 'Lil Bush']
Cheney "[Mumbles] October surprise."
Bush: "He's right!"
[Clip ends]
Cokie Roberts, ABC News: "If he wants to change his image, he has to do it on David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and maybe talk to Doonesbury."
Shipman: "Well, that's not going to happen. And Cheney insiders say this junket is nothing so ambitious. First of all, the VP doesn't take much to being molded."
Hayes: "Dick Cheney is not someone who sits at the Vice President's residence at night and scratches his head and thinks, 'Hmm, how can I go from 26 percent favorability to 37 percent favorability?'"
Shipman: "Not that his team hasn't tried to coach him. A few years ago, I was invited to his ranch to see the family man. His aides told me he complained about our invasion the whole time. The fact is, even today, whenever he speaks, he's always unapologetically Dick Cheney."
Larry King: "In retrospect, you would still go into Iraq?"
Cheney: "Yes, sir."
King: "So those 3,000-plus lives have not died in vain?"
Cheney: "No, sir."
Shipman: "Now, his team says the VP has simply gone public as part of an administration PR blitz on Iraq, an attempt to gain a little bit of momentum before the September report. But what's interesting is, while the Vice President has been dispatched to make an important case in the past for the administration and it's worked, his poll numbers are so low now, it's not clear he'll be an effective messenger, especially to the mainstream."

King Played Softball with Gore, But Much
Tougher with Cheney

During the month of July, CNN's Larry King Live both began and ended with interviews of Vice Presidents. On July 5, host Larry King interviewed former Vice President Al Gore. On July 31, King interviewed sitting Vice President Dick Cheney. The difference between the two interviews was like night and day. King, for the most part, did not press Gore for an answer to his questions, and asked a few light questions (such as, "How did you get Madonna?" for Live Earth). On the other hand, King's questions to Cheney pressed the Vice President on a number of hot political topics (for example, "General Powell says he would close Guantanamo yesterday. Would you?" and the oh-so-typical follow-up, "You have to torture them when they're there?") and the interview was almost completely serious.

[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

King's interview of Gore dealt mainly with Gore's "Live Earth" concerts, though it touched on more "hard" political topics such the troop surge in Iraq and the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence. A sample of King's questions to Gore on July 5:

- "First, we need to ask, how -- how's your son doing? Have you spoken with him? And how's he doing, you know, emotionally?"

- "How did this thing [Live Earth] come about? This massive thing Saturday night? I think we discussed it on this show once."

- "Penguins or people? [in reference to the Live Earth performance in Antarctica]"

- "There was a question, Al, about Rio de Janeiro. Clear it up."

- "Wasn't it a question about Rio not coming off?"

- "How'd you get Madonna?"

- "Some items in the news, Mr. Vice President. Just today, Republican Senator Pete Domenici broke ranks with the administration, says he's unwilling to continue the current strategy in Iraq. He joins fellow Republican Senator Lugar, both good friends of yours. What do you make of this?"

- "Can you call the surge [the troop surge in Iraq] now a failure?"

- "Scooter Libby, what do you make of the -- I know your former running mate and former president served with you, of course, you as Vice President, with Bill Clinton as President -- really attacked it yesterday. What do you make of the commutation of the Libby sentence?"

- "Your book The Assault on Reason, are you surprised at how successful it's been? I mean, it's a very strong political statement."

- "Do you -- how do you feel about Senator Inhofe, who has been, I guess, the most strong critic of yours in the Senate, who calls climate change 'a hoax'?"

- "When people say to you, Al, you have such strong feelings. You had the most votes last time. Why not consider it? I mean, it's kind of an obligation. You're so involved. Why not [run for President again]?"

- "We have an e-mail from Jerry in Houston, Texas. 'Mr. Gore, how can you fly in your private jet, live in a massive mansion and set an example for others?'"

- "Did you see the Michael Moore film Sicko?"

Other than the question about whether the Rio de Janeiro concert would get off the ground, it is clear from the interview that King did not press Gore for answers to his questions. The only really tough question he asked -- on Al Gore's use of private jets -- wasn't even one of King's questions, but was sent in by a viewer.

At the same time, King didn't challenge any of Gore's answers. In fact, when Gore compared Senator Inhofe to people who believe the Earth is flat, and when he made the comparison that "it's hard when some of the largest polluters close their ears and spend millions of dollars a year trying to intentionally confuse people into thinking this isn't real, the same way that tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to try to convince people that the doctors weren't really saying that smoking causes lung disease," King lets both statements go unchallenged. As icing on the cake, after Gore's comparison between polluters and tobacco companies, King gushed, "There's no stronger proponent of your position than you."

King's July 31 interview of Vice President Cheney dealt mostly with a number of political topics. A sample of the questions from that interview:

- "How do you deal with it when public opinion polls are stridently against the [Iraq] policy?"

- "But in all cases, they did question themselves. In all cases, they said, well, let's look at it this way. Don't you? I mean the question is, don't you ever say, maybe I'm wrong?"

- "In retrospect, you would still go into Iraq?"

- "Does it pain you when Brent Scowcroft says this is not the Dick Cheney I knew?"

- "Wouldn't you like to be liked?"

- "Okay, let's go back. On this program, May of 2005, you said the Iraqi insurgency was in the last throes. Why were you wrong?"

- "In that same interview, you said that the Iraqis were well on their way to being able to defend themselves. Why not? Why are they gone?"

- "To which branch of government do you belong? Are you executive or legislative, or both? We were a little confused over recent statements that you're not in either."

- "We have an op-ed piece by Walter Mondale, a former vice president, who held your job. And at that time, I guess, up to that time, he would be considered the most powerful vice president. He wrote that: 'After 9/11, Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the Office of the Vice President. It was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy, but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president.' He also accused you of having 'a near total aversion to the notion of accountability.' How would you respond to that?"

- "Don't you think this administration has also had its credibility problems?"

- "Alberto Gonzales. Do you stand by him?"

- "You're going to stand by him? No doubt about that?"

- "In that regard, the New York Times, which is -- as you said, it's not your favorite paper, reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the President's intelligence gathering program. Was it you?"

- "The 'Scooter' Libby trial, did it pain you?"

- "The Senate Judiciary Committee is subpoenaing Karl Rove in connection with the firing of federal prosecutors. Why shouldn't he appear?"

- "But the public might say, what have you got to hide?"

- "So he -- so he [Rove] will not appear?"

- "General Powell says he would close Guantanamo yesterday. Would you?"

- "You have to torture them when they're there?"

- "How come in the past though there's been a question on that?"

- "Have you ever said, 'We support certain methods of physical harm'?"

- "What is 'enhanced' [referring to Cheney's line 'We support the ability of certain agencies of the federal government to have the capacity to use enhanced techniques for interrogation']?"

Though King's interview of Cheney did not last the entire hour of the program as did Gore's, there were clearly more questions during the Cheney interview. There were also more follow-up questions and questions that pressed Cheney for an answer. The only critics of Gore that King brought up were Senator Inhofe and Bob Geldof, while King asked Cheney about criticism from Republican Senators on the Iraq war policy, Brent Scowcroft, Walter Mondale, and Colin Powell's call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Liberals Confused About Whether They
'Hate Most' WSJ or Murdoch

An editorial in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal tweaked the New York Times and other liberal critics of Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Journal. Noting how some of the fussier media outlets are competing with the Journal at a time when all newspapers are fighting the Internet tide, "readers can judge if the tears these papers and their writers claim to shed for the Journal's future are real, or of the crocodile variety."

As for the ideology Murdoch's News Corp. might bring to the Journal, the editors of the famously conservative editorial page mocked: "The nastiest attacks have come from our friends on the political left. They can't decide whose views they hate most -- ours, or Mr. Murdoch's. We're especially amused by those who say Mr. Murdoch might tug us to the political left. Don't count on it."

The editors' common-sense bottom line: "Editorial independence enhances the prospects for business success. The more credible a publication is, especially one that specializes in financial and economic reporting, the more readers and advertisers it is likely to have....No sane businessman pays a premium of 67% over the market price for an asset he intends to ruin."

[This item, by Rich Noyes, was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An excerpt from the August 1 editorial:

Make no mistake: Business success is vital to editorial independence, precisely because it provides the resources to report and comment in ways that might offend advertisers or governments.

We also believe the reverse is true: Editorial independence enhances the prospects for business success. The more credible a publication is, especially one that specializes in financial and economic reporting, the more readers and advertisers it is likely to have. We like to think our readers buy the Journal because of the credibility built over a century, and we believe this is the heart of the "value proposition" that Mr. Murdoch is willing to pay $5 billion to purchase. No sane businessman pays a premium of 67% over the market price for an asset he intends to ruin.

There are nonetheless critics, especially in the journalism world, who claim this is precisely what Mr. Murdoch will proceed to do. And they have certainly had a merry time bashing him and the Journal these past few months. Some of these voices, however, are commercial or ideological competitors who have their own interest in undermining the Journal's credibility.

Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have been especially aggressive in assailing the potential News Corp. purchase of the Journal. These also happen to be the two publications that Mr. Murdoch has explicitly said he might invest more to compete against. Readers can judge if the tears these papers and their writers claim to shed for the Journal's future are real, or of the crocodile variety.

The nastiest attacks have come from our friends on the political left. They can't decide whose views they hate most -- ours, or Mr. Murdoch's. We're especially amused by those who say Mr. Murdoch might tug us to the political left. Don't count on it. More than one liberal commentator has actually rejoiced at the takeover bid, on the perverse grounds that this will ruin the Journal's news coverage, which in turn will reduce the audience for the editorial page. Don't count on that either.

Such an expectation overlooks that the principle of "free people and free markets" promoted in these columns has an appeal far beyond this newspaper. We fill a market niche for such commentary that is too little met by other newspapers and media outlets. But we have every confidence that if we vanished, or let our standards fall, the marketplace would find an alternative. What ultimately matters are the ideas, and their basic truth.

END of Excerpt

For the editorial in full: www.opinionjournal.com
The August 1 CyberAlert recounted:

Though many journalists impose their views regularly in biased political coverage, and last year the New York Times publisher made clear his left-wing world view, on Tuesday night the broadcast networks framed Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the Wall Street Journal around what agenda the "controversial" Murdoch will "impose." That matches the "fear" expressed in online journalism forums and media magazines about Murdoch's "conservative" agenda. Leading into pro and con soundbites, CBS's Kelly Wallace described Murdoch as "a conservative who put his imprint on the New York Post and brought topless women to the Sun in London. His critics say he may not impose tabloid on the Journal, but will impose his point of view."

NBC's Andrea Mitchell called Murdoch "a controversial press lord" and declared Murdoch "deeply conservative," but noted he's also a "pragmatic" man who has been "a supporter of liberal politicians." Mitchell relayed how Murdoch insists he "does not mix politics and business," but, she cautioned, "still, some are skeptical." The liberal Ken Auletta of The New Yorker contended Murdoch "often" uses "his publications and his media to advance either his business or his political interests." Over on ABC, David Muir warned that Murdoch "already wields great power over much of what we watch and read" and asserted that "critics caution being a brilliant businessman does not guarantee brilliant journalism." After a soundbite from Auletta about how Murdoch's politics influence his publications, Muir worried: "For that reason, this has turned into a painful decision for members of the Bancroft family, who controlled the Wall Street Journal for more than 100 years. Sell for $5 billion? Or is that selling out? There were tears within the Bancroft family and fears in the newsroom." On screen, a WSJ headline: "Fear, Mixed with Some Loathing; Many Reporters at Wall Street Journal Fret Over Murdoch's Arrival."

For the entire CyberAlert article, go to: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Brent Baker