2. Sam Donaldson Charges Budget Cut "On the Backs of the Poor"
3. Journalists Spend Weekend Touting Howard Dean's Virtues
While CBS on Monday night showcased a liberal opponent of Bush's Social Security plan, FNC displayed the hypocrisy of Democrats today denouncing efforts to alter Social Security when they favored such changes just a few years ago. On the CBS Evening News, Jim Axelrod trumpeted the credentials of Robert Ball, who "may well know more about Social Security than anyone alive." Axelrod relayed the recommendations of the former Commissioner of Social Security: "Raise the max on income that gets taxed" and "keep and dedicate the tax on estates over $3.5 million." Axelrod concluded with a boost to Ball's wisdom. Showing Ball's wall with photos of past luminaries, Axelrod asserted: "While the wall in his study speaks from the past, it's also the voice of experience."
Over on FNC, Major Garrett documented past dire warnings from Democrats about Social Security, and their past endorsement of Bush's plan. In 1999, for instance, current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stated: "Most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it in the private sector."
The MRC's Rich Noyes noticed the contrasting story themes, and MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather set up the February 14 story: "Democrats are pressing ahead with their campaign to try to stop a major overhaul of Social Security. Senator Patty Murray of Washington state today disputed President Bush's insistence that his plan won't affect Americans now 55 and older. Senator Murray said adding trillions to the national debt will affect every American. So what should be done? CBS's Jim Axelrod got the thoughts of a man with a unique perspective for tonight's 'Eye on Social Security.'"
Axelrod began, over a video pan of pictures of many top politicians of the last century: "If you judge a man's experience by the pictures on his study wall, well, Robert Ball sure got a lot of experience. You know, there's not that many people with this kind of wall."
Garrett: "In 1998, Bill Clinton said this about Social Security's future:"
ABC's This Week on Sunday brought back their "classic" roundtable of George Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson. While Donaldson played true to his liberal roots, charging that President Bush was attempting to balance the budget "on the backs of the poor," Roberts, who noted that "when Republicans impose a litmus test, everybody goes crazy," castigated the Democratic Party for imposing a "stringent litmus test" on abortion when they rejected Tim Roemer for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). George Stephanopoulos repeatedly defended Howard Dean, the man Democrats picked over Roemer to lead them, from criticisms by Roberts and Will.
[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
The issue of abortion came up during a discussion of Howard Dean's selection as the new Democratic National Committee Chairman. Conservative columnist and ABC This Week regular George Will observed that "Howard Dean has been selected by a party that lost 97 of the 100 fastest growing counties in the country. They are going to win the presidency if -- but only if -- they get a bunch of Republicans to move over. So now they pick Howard Dean who says, quote, 'I hate the Republicans and all they stand for.' Either he's deranged, in which case he shouldn't be there, or he's a blowhard, in which case he shouldn't be there."
This Week host George Stephanopoulos rushed to Dean's defense: "But the second part of that, what came right after, he said 'I admire their discipline and organization,' and I think that's what a lot of Democrats were attracted to."
Roberts quickly interjected: "But discipline and organization do not a message make. Look, the Democrats lost the Senate, the House and the presidency with a chairman [Terry McAuliffe] who brought in lots of money, and got lots of organization going. The fact is Howard Dean is probably the most secular candidate that you have seen coming down the pike in a very long time."
Earlier, during the discussion of Bush's budget, Donaldson stressed the liberal line that these puny cuts of less than one percent, after years of huge budget increases, were damaging to the poor. He reminded Stephanopoulos:
National journalists, quizzed about the Democratic Party's future under hard-charging liberal Howard Dean, tried over the weekend, to accentuate the positive. On Inside Washington, Jeanne Cummings of the Wall Street Journal, predicted: "This may be a case of the conservatives regretting their wishes." Mara Liasson of National Public Radio claimed on Fox News Sunday: "I think some of the Republicans' giddiness at a Howard Dean chairmanship for the DNC is a little exaggerated." Her colleague, Juan Williams, agreed Dean was part of a "winning ticket for Democrats." Newsweek's Howard Fineman insisted on the Chris Matthews Show that Dean was a "fiscal conservative" and his problem was his anti-war stance. New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller disagreed, saying Americans "don't necessarily love the war," and "I think the fact that they [Democrats] have a clear alternative in Dean, I don't think is such a bad idea."
[The MRC's Tim Graham submitted this item for CyberAlert.]
Rich Noyes of the MRC noticed that on Inside Washington, a Sunday talk show produced by Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV, Wall Street Journal reporter Jeanne Cummings argued: "This may be a case of the conservatives regretting their wishes because Howard Dean did govern as a moderate and during the campaign he was, he became the caricature of this wild liberal especially with his scream at the end."
On Fox News Sunday, National Public Radio reporter Mara Liasson insisted: "I think some of the Republicans' giddiness at a Howard Dean chairmanship for the DNC is probably a little exaggerated. In other words, I don't think he's going to be the disaster and the gift that keeps on giving to Republicans that a lot of Republicans think. Yesterday, the reason you had to search so hard for a piece of red meat in that speech is because there wasn't that much. He wasn't a liberal loose cannon...As a matter of fact, the biggest rallying cry was that 'the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. No Republican President has ever balanced a budget. And all they do is borrow and spend, borrow and spend. You can't trust them with taxpayers' money.' Now, at the end of a week, when the President issued his first veto threat to protect spending on a big Medicare program, instead of cutting it, I would say that that is not a bad issue for Democrats."
Liasson touted Dean as less liberal than the stereotype: "I talked to a woman from Kentucky. She was the chairman of the Kerry campaign there, never was a Dean person, very worried he was way too liberal for Kentucky. She said, 'I represent Democrats who are more conservative than California Republicans.' And she said that he met with her personally, he asked her to research his record. She did. She found out he was less liberal than the stereotype."
Like many in the media, Liasson pictured the DNC battle as less than ideological: "I think, more than a kind of left-right debate, the kind of debates the Democrats usually have after they lose, the race for DNC Chairman this time was an insider-outsider fight. The outsiders won. Dean had them. They were the grassroots people who are very alienated from the Washington establishment of the Democratic Party, such as it is. And he organized that group, and they prevailed."
Later, NPR's Juan Williams also touted Dean's public appeal: "There was a poll done this week, I think it was Gallup. It found that just about half of Democrats said they had a positive feeling about Howard Dean. But two to one, Republicans said, he's a disaster. But you know what? This isn't the Republicans' choice. This is a Democrats' choice. And they like Howard Dean. And Howard Dean, I think, is going to pick up on the best of Terry McAuliffe, to follow up on your point [about fundraising proficiency]."
Williams was talking about the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. In a Friday USA Today story, reporter Jill Lawrence saved the bad news for the seventeenth and final paragraph:
But if Dean only gets positive feelings from 43 percent of Democrats, how can Williams suggest he's a popular choice?
Williams added that Dean's part of a winning Democratic team: "Now, the political side of this in Washington is that Howard Dean is not Hillary Clinton's guy, he's not Bill Clinton's guy. He is not Harry Reid's guy, in the Senate. He's not Nancy Pelosi's guy. Those guys were leading the anybody-but-Dean movement. And clearly they did not carry the day with state party chairmen, who were promised by Howard Dean that he will give them $11 million a year. I mean, he's going to put money into state organizing. And I agree, I think that's a winning ticket for the Democrats."
MRC analyst Geoff Dickens found more positive words for Dean on syndicated Chris Matthews Show. Newsweek's Howard Fineman offered a mixed verdict. He said Dean won because he won over local Democratic officials: "And he can be an impressive guy in person. Yes, you can -- you know, Tim Russert could throw up a list of quotes on Meet the Press, 'Here's what you said, Dr. Dean, X, Y, Z time.' But if you sit down and meet him, he is a fiscal conservative." But Fineman conceded: "The bigger problem is his anti-war stance. Because if he...if you look back at the polls on how the election -- last election was decided, the big dividing line was willingness to use force. And Dean came off as a guy who was unwilling to do it."
Time's John Dickerson called Dean "a red-meat guy, which is what they need. Somebody out there fighting, hitting the Republicans hard." He added: "But there's a huge bloc of Democrats who say, 'Wait a minute, we've got a Northeasterner here,' this -- Dean is not right on values, which a lot of Democrats believe are a problem for the party, and this sends the wrong signal."
Matthews asked Elisabeth Bumiller, a White House reporter for the New York Times, about Hillary Clinton: "Elisabeth, do you think, the fact that the Senator from New York who's up for re-election now faces a party chief who isn't her kind of guy?"
-- Brent Baker, somewhere between Manchester, New Hampshire and Alexandria, Virgina