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CBS Jumps on "Bad News" for GOP & Hope for Dems, But in 1994... --5/10/2006


1. CBS Jumps on "Bad News" for GOP & Hope for Dems, But in 1994...
Bob Schieffer led Tuesday's CBS Evening News by heralding "bad news for the Republicans" in a new CBS News/New York Times poll and suggesting the new poll portends "a dramatic shift in the political landscape" with approval of Congress at only 23 percent, its lowest since 20 percent in 1994. But reporting on that low number 12 years ago, just six days before Republicans took control of the House and Senate, Bob Schieffer didn't see disaster ahead for Democrats. Back then he maintained: "It's hard to gauge who'll be helped or hurt by all this gloom come Election Day."

2. Katie Cites Reads Biblical Verses on Wealth in Scolding Pastor
In what was perhaps an attempt to innoculate themselves against criticism of their hyping of The Da Vinci Code next week with Matt Lauer's "On The Road With The Code," NBC's Today show looked at the rise of "Christian conservatives," complete Tuesday morning with an interview with Pastor Joel Osteen of Sunday morning national TV fame. During the interview Couric, who is leaving for her new $15 million a year gig at the CBS Evening News, had the gall to question Osteen's own ventures, including a $13 million book deal: "How do you square your wealth with, with sort of the tenets of, of Christianity?" Couric even recited a series of Bible verses to the pastor

3. WashPost Plays Up Liberal Chart Showing GOP Tax Cuts for the Rich
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday's front page that House and Senate Republicans reached agreement on extending "President Bush's deep cuts to tax rates on dividends and capital gains," but the chart they used on the front page was a Democratic talking point. It shows that people with a 2005 income between $10,000 and $50,000 would receive nearly zero, while people making over $100,000 would have much larger returns. The source cited on the page was merely "Tax Policy Center." But inside, readers learned that this supposedly nonpartisan center is a project of two liberal think tanks. (Plus, the same Post reporter three years ago delivered a similarly distorted article without any regard for how you have to pay taxes in order to get a tax cut or for how those at the top already pay far more in taxes than their fair share.)

4. "Top Ten Surprises in ABC's Bird Flu Movie"
Letterman's "Top Ten Surprises in ABC's Bird Flu Movie."


CBS Jumps on "Bad News" for GOP & Hope
for Dems, But in 1994...

Bob Schieffer led Tuesday's CBS Evening News by heralding "bad news for the Republicans" in a new CBS News/New York Times poll and suggesting the new poll portends "a dramatic shift in the political landscape" with approval of Congress at only 23 percent, its lowest since 20 percent in 1994. But reporting on that low number 12 years ago, just six days before Republicans took control of the House and Senate, Bob Schieffer didn't see disaster ahead for Democrats. Back then he maintained: "It's hard to gauge who'll be helped or hurt by all this gloom come Election Day."

This year, Schieffer led with the bad news for the GOP poll: "Well, are we about to see a dramatic shift in the political landscape? If the findings of a new CBS News/New York Times poll are accurate, the answer may well be yes. President Bush's ratings have hit another all-time low" at "only 31 percent" approval "and the Republican-controlled Congress gets even lower marks, an approval rating of only 23 percent. That's just a little better than 1994 when dissatisfaction was running so high that Republicans wrested control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years from Democrats." Gloria Borger chimed in with how "our new poll shows just why Democrats are starting to believe, as opposed to simply hope, that change is in the air. By wide margins, the public says Democrats would do a better job of handling most all issues" and, "overall, Democrats are viewed favorably by 55 percent of Americans. Just 37 percent favor Republicans. That's a complete turnaround from 1994 when Republicans dominated public opinion just before taking control of the Congress."

Reporting the survey back in 1994, however, Schieffer did not inform viewers of how the GOP "dominated" issues, never referred to the Congress as "Democrat-controlled" and didn't bother to mention how 54 percent viewed Republicans favorably, ten points above the 44 percent who viewed Democrats favorably.

[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Twelve years ago, the CBS News/New York Times poll people waited until the very end of October to assess how the public viewed Congress and the Wednesday, November 2 CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung -- six days before the election -- waited until after the first ad break to get to the results.

Dan Rather dampened GOP excitement: "Republicans expect a big triumph. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight indicates many voters are confused and definitely in a volatile mood. No surprise there. But what may surprise you is what the people in our poll indicate they'll do to act on their frustrations on Election Day." Instead of zeroing in on the rejection of the Democratic Congress, Bob Schieffer, unlike this year, avoided partisan culpability as he explained how "only one voter in five gave Congress a favorable rating" and "many have apparently concluded it doesn't matter all that much who serves in Congress." What the public would do less than a week later escaped Schieffer: "Overall, people have a higher opinion of Republicans than Democrats, but Republicans seem to be failing in their effort to make these elections a referendum on the President" and "so it's hard to gauge who'll be helped or hurt by all this gloom come Election Day."

(That same newscast included then-reporter Eric Engberg's hit job on Newt Gingrich, whom he castigated as "bombastic and ruthless." Engberg maintained: "Newton Leroy Gingrich, former history professor, came to Congress in 1979. From the start, modesty was not his style. Rejecting the House's gentlemanly ways, he waged such constant guerilla war against the Democrats he was attacked for McCarthyism." Engberg scolded, "It's a record filled with contradictions: The family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife, the avowed enemy of dirty politics who bounced 22 checks at the House bank and runs a big-dollar political action committee that won't disclose its contributors." Full transcript below.)

Back to this week. As usual, the CBS News/New York Times poll surveyed more Republicans than Democrats. The PDF of the full results lists 344 Republicans polled compared to 433 Democrats, numbers which were then weighted to give Democrats an even higher percent of those counted: 453 Democrats, but only 313 Republicans.

For CBS's summary of the poll: www.cbsnews.com

For the PDF: www.cbsnews.com

CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer, May 9, 2006. Schieffer's tease:
"I'm Bob Schieffer. Bad news for the Republicans, as the President's approval rating falls to a new low, and public dissatisfaction with Congress is even worse. We'll start with what it may portend for the fall elections. Then, we'll cover these stories."

Schieffer led his newscast with the poll, transcript corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
"Good evening. Well, are we about to see a dramatic shift in the political landscape? If the findings of a new CBS News/New York Times poll are accurate, the answer may well be yes. President Bush's ratings have hit another all-time low. Only 31 percent of those polled now approve of the job he's doing, and the Republican-controlled Congress gets even lower marks, an approval rating of only 23 percent. That's just a little better than 1994 when dissatisfaction was running so high that Republicans wrested control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years from Democrats. Our national political correspondent, Gloria Borger, has the latest. Gloria?"

Gloria Borger on Capitol Hill, with numbers on screen: "Bob, our new poll shows just why Democrats are starting to believe, as opposed to simply hope, that change is in the air. By wide margins, the public says Democrats would do a better job of handling most all issues, including gas prices [Democrats 57%, Republicans 11%] and the war in Iraq [Democrats 48%, Republicans 30%]. And overall, Democrats are viewed favorably by 55 percent of Americans. Just 37 percent favor Republicans. That's a complete turnaround from 1994 when Republicans dominated public opinion just before taking control of the Congress." [Republicans viewed favorably by 37% now, 54% in 1994]
Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL): "Enough is enough-"
Borger: "Congressman Rahm Emanuel runs the campaign committee for House Democrats, and he's got his talking points."
Emanuel: "People want change. They want new priorities. They're tired of the stewardship of government by one party that rubber-stamps the President's policies."
Lois Murphy, Democratic Congressional candidate to man at gas pump: "I wonder how you find the gas prices today?"
Man: "Oh, man. They're outrageous."
Borger: "Lois Murphy is a Democrat running to unseat Republican Jim Gerlach in suburban Philadelphia. She hopes that issues like gas prices translate into a national election."
Murphy: "It's time for a change, and I think people know that."
Borger: "But before Democrats get too giddy, it's a different political world than it was in 1994. While the Democrats need just 15 seats to win back the House, there aren't as many seats up for grabs because members have made sure most of their districts are safe. Republicans say the Democrats have no agenda."
Ed Gillespie: "American voters want to know what are you for."
Borger: "Ed Gillespie helped write the Republican Contract with America, the party's 1994 call to action."
Gillespie: "If we'd simply run against the Democrats in Congress and against Bill Clinton, we would not have won 52 seats in 1994."
Borger: "Come fall, the Democrats are going to present an agenda, including calling for changes in that prescription drug law, but the Republicans are going to stick to one simple question: Do you really want those liberal Democrats in charge? Bob?"
Schieffer pushed McCain's candidacy: "You know, Gloria, one of the interesting things to me in this poll is that the major Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore -- all have unfavorable ratings that are more than their favorable ratings, just as George Bush and Dick Cheney do. Now, one Republican whose favorables are higher than his unfavorables are John McCain, but that may be because many Americans simply don't know enough about him yet to have an opinion."
Borger: "Yes. In fact, 53 percent said they don't really have an opinion of him. What this says to me, Bob, is that this is, of course, a wide-open race. And watch for the anti-establishment candidate to do very well."
Schieffer: "I think all incumbents should be nervous about this, Gloria. Thank you very much."

Now back to 1994. From Washington, DC on the Wednesday, November 2, 1994 CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung, Rather introduced the poll story right after the show's first ad break:
"Here on Capitol Hill, no one needs reminding that it's less than a week to Election Day. Republicans expect a big triumph. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight indicates many voters are confused and definitely in a volatile mood. No surprise there. But what may surprise you is what the people in our poll indicate they'll do to act on their frustrations on Election Day. CBS News Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer has the details."

Bob Schieffer explained, over stock video of people and then numbers on screen:
"One week before the elections, Americans are confused about the present, pessimistic about the future and cynical about the ability of government to make things better. A CBS News/New York Times poll of more than 1,400 people completed yesterday shows only 18 percent now believe things will get better for the next generation. More than half [54 percent] believe the country is worse off than five years ago.
"President Clinton's approval rating remains where it was when he was elected -- 43 percent -- but confidence in other officials continues to fade. Only one voter in five gave Congress a favorable rating [20 percent]. Only one in three [28 percent] knew his or her member of Congress by name. And many have apparently concluded it doesn't matter all that much who serves in Congress. Only 37 percent of the people we questioned thought their member of Congress deserved re-election, yet nearly half [48 percent] the people in our poll said they intended to vote for their member of Congress anyway.
"Overall, people have a higher opinion of Republicans than Democrats, but Republicans seem to be failing in their effort to make these elections a referendum on the President. Most people told us that what they think of the President will not influence their vote for other offices. So it's hard to gauge who'll be helped or hurt by all this gloom come Election Day, but one thing's sure, the optimism that marked the electorate two years ago when Bill Clinton won has evaporated. This time people are really in a sour mood. Bob Schieffer, CBS News, at the Capitol."

Despite hiding the good news for Republicans in the poll, CBS producers must have realized what it meant since later in the half hour CBS aired a fairly derogatory profile of Newt Gingrich. Connie Chung set it up:
"Most Americans alive today had not yet been born the last time Republicans controlled the House of Representatives. Now, the GOP has its best shot in years to become the majority party. That could give Congressman Newt Gingrich the Speaker's gavel and send Democrats running for cover. Eric Engberg looks at the man who would be Speaker in tonight's Eye on America."

Eric Engberg: "Meet Newt Gingrich, the Republican who is President Clinton's walking worst case scenario of what could happen in next Tuesday's elections."
Newt Gingrich, Republican Whip, to crowd: "I think the odds are better than even money as of today that we will have a majority and that we will have the first Republican Speaker in 40 years."
Engberg: "If he is reelected and the Republicans win the House, the Speaker's chair will belong to Gingrich who treats Democrats like a disease."
Engberg to Gingrich: "There are many of them that personally hate you. Why is that, why has it gotten so personal?"
Gingrich: "I think because they're unused to the idea that we would actually fight for control of the House. They want Republicans to be patsies. I think they are so arrogant and so out of touch, and so used to dominating, that they can't imagine a world in which they get to be in the minority for a change."
Engberg: "As Speaker, he could order investigations into every corner of the administration."
Gingrich: "Because the fact is, the Democrats in Congress have been covering up for this administration for two solid years."
Engberg: "Newton Leroy Gingrich, former history professor, came to Congress in 1979. From the start, modesty was not his style. Rejecting the House's gentlemanly ways, he waged such constant guerilla war against the Democrats he was attacked for McCarthyism. Democrat Mike Synar watched him for years."
Rep. Mike Synar (D-OK): "Newt Gingrich has spent the better part of the last decade trying to convince the American public -- and successfully to a degree -- that this is a place of corruption and scoundrels."
Engberg: "It was Gingrich who built the ethics case that toppled Jim Wright. That got Gingrich the number two job in the House Republican leadership, where he plotted to overthrow the Democrats."
Engberg to Gingrich: "Here is Gingrich on Gingrich: `I am the most serious, systematic revolutionary of modern times,' as quoted in USA Today."
Gingrich: "'In Washington.'"
Engberg: "Oh, in modern times in Washington. How can you support that?"
Gingrich: "Look at my record."
Engberg: "It's a record filled with contradictions: the family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife, the avowed enemy of dirty politics who bounced 22 checks at the House bank and runs a big-dollar political action committee that won't disclose its contributors. Gingrich now has a cable TV lecture series -- sort of Newt's World. [clip of Gingrich before his class] He has called the President the enemy of normal Americans but now he says he could work with the White House, could be a compromiser. Off the record, many Republicans doubt that and Democrats say it out loud."
Synar: "He's strictly been the political bulldog that the party has really rallied around over the last decade. And the question is whether or not he can move out of the political bulldog arena into the governing arena."
Engberg to Gingrich: "Why do you want to be the Speaker?"
Gingrich: "You can't sustain civilization with 12-year-olds having babies, 15-year-olds killing each other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't read. Now that's where we're at and so I think from the stand-point of renewing our civilization, we need very dramatic changes. I don't think you can get those changes with the same Democratic Party team that's been in charge for 40 years.
Engberg: "And Gingrich himself -- bombastic and ruthless -- would be the most dramatic change imaginable, a change the administration can only dread. For Eye on America, this is Eric Engberg in Roswell, Georgia."

Katie Cites Reads Biblical Verses on
Wealth in Scolding Pastor

In what was perhaps an attempt to innoculate themselves against criticism of their hyping of The Da Vinci Code next week with Matt Lauer's "On The Road With The Code," NBC's Today show looked at the rise of "Christian conservatives," complete Tuesday morning with an interview with Pastor Joel Osteen of Sunday morning national TV fame. During the interview Couric, who is leaving for her new $15 million a year gig at the CBS Evening News, had the gall to question Osteen's own ventures, including a $13 million book deal: "How do you square your wealth with, with sort of the tenets of, of Christianity?"

Couric even recited a series of Bible verses to the pastor: "I looked up a couple of quotes which I found interesting. I was curious how, again, how you could square these things. It said, this is, Matthew 19, verses 23 and 24. 'Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth. It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"

[This item, by the MRC's Geoff Dickens, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following questions took place during the 7:30 half hour of the May 9 Today:

Couric: "Meanwhile your work I know Joel has made you a very wealthy man and you don't believe as Gordon Gekko did on Wall Street that, that, 'greed is good.' But you believe that wealth is good, that it's a positive thing. You make, I guess, most of your money from your books. You signed a $13 million book deal which I understand is bigger than Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan and Pope John Paul II, so how do you square your wealth with, with sort of the tenets of, of Christianity?"

Couric followed up: "You know I, you can see the other thing, though, in the Bible as well because I looked up a couple of quotes which I found interesting. I was curious how, again, how you could square these things. It said, this is, Matthew 19, verses 23 and 24. 'Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth. It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' Here's another one, 'And Jesus said to him, 'Watch out, be on your guard against all kinds of greed. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.' And then another one. 'People who want to get rich fall into temptation, into trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction, for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.' If you listen to those and it makes you wonder about sort of, your claim that, that wealth is a positive thing."

Osteen replied: "Well I don't think that just strive to get wealthy but you know the Bible, right there it says, 'the love of money.' It's what, what do you want to do. I mean my thing is if, if wealth is a problem then everyone of us here in America are, are sinners. Because you go to India where I've spent a lot of time and they don't have anything. So it's all relative to what your heart is toward it. I mean I can quote scriptures too that says, you know Jesus..."

Couric had set up the session: "In the past five years the power and influence of Christian conservatives has grown to unprecedented levels with the election and re-election of President Bush. The influence of Christianity is undeniable and its reach goes far beyond the walls of its sanctuaries. America's having an evangelical moment. A President who speaks openly about his faith."
George W. Bush: "Prayer and religion sustain me."
Couric: "Put in office, in part, by self-identified Christian voters. After the election 76 percent of Bush voters said moral values drove their choice. At least 40 million Americans now describe themselves as evangelical Christians and what has long been a powerful political movement is increasingly big business. Films like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and last year's The Chronicles of Narnia heavily marketed to churches each brought in millions at the box office. Christian music now generates $700 million in annual sales. And sales of religious books have reached the $1.9 billion mark. One of the movement's most successful voices? A 43-year-old Texas native many call, 'The Smiling Preacher.'"

WashPost Plays Up Liberal Chart Showing
GOP Tax Cuts for the Rich

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday's front page that House and Senate Republicans reached agreement on extending "President Bush's deep cuts to tax rates on dividends and capital gains," but the chart they used on the front page was a Democratic talking point. It shows that people with a 2005 income between $10,000 and $50,000 would receive nearly zero, while people making over $100,000 would have much larger returns. The source cited on the page was merely "Tax Policy Center."

But inside, readers learned that this supposedly nonpartisan center is a project of two liberal think tanks: "Middle-income households would receive an average tax cut of $20 from the agreement, according to the joint Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, while 0.02 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would receive average tax cuts of $42,000."

And later, the Urban Institute complained about a Roth IRA provision: "Over the next 35 years, it would cost the government $36 billion, according to the Urban Institute. 'And it's losing the money when we're really going to need it,' said Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute."

The story itself, by Jonathan Weisman and Paul Blustein, includes both sides of the tax debate, but the Post really ought to have a more forthcoming front-page source citation, instead of trying to create a sense of ideological camouflage.

For the May 10 front page article: www.washingtonpost.com

It includes this "How Much Would You Save Under the Plan?" table:

$10,000-20,000: $2
$20,000-30,000: $9
$30,000-40,000: $16
$40,000-50,000: $46
$50,000-75,000: $110
$75,000-100,000: $403
$100,000-200,000: $1,388
$200,000-500,000: $4,499
$500,000-1 million: $5,562
More than $1 million: $41,977

[All the above was posted Wednesday morning by Tim Graham, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog. What follows is my elaboration:]

This isn't the first distortion of tax data by Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman to benefit the liberal spin. An excerpt from the May 14, 2003 CyberAlert:

The Democratic argument that the Bush tax cuts is skewed in favor of the rich "is seen by many as the sharpest and best weapon they have against Bush's drive to cut taxes by at least $550 billion over 10 years," Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman relayed before aiding that liberal spin by declaring it accurate.

In a oustandingly distorted and insidious May 13 "news analysis" piece, Weisman marveled at how "remarkable" it is that the Bush plan has gained public support given that "the President's original $726 billion tax cut plan -- and the smaller versions that passed the House and are under consideration in the Senate -- clearly do favor the affluent."

There you have it, the Washington Post taking sides in its news pages, declaring the political spin of one side accurate and of the other inaccurate by looking at the subject from just one point of view.

Weisman served as a stenographer for liberal class warriors: "Under Bush's original proposal, households with $40,000 to $50,000 in taxable income would receive an average tax cut of $482 and a boost of 1.2 percent to their total after-tax income. For households earning more than $1 million, the average tax cut would be more than $89,500, with an increase in their after-tax income of 4.2 percent, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center."

An accompanying table with the story on page A6 conveyed matching numbers, such as how those earning $10,000 to $20,000 would get only a $53 or $92 tax cut in the House or Senate plan while someone earning $200,000 to $500,000 would receive a cut of $5,631 or $4,232.
No where in his polemic disguised as a news story did Weisman note how you have to pay taxes in order to get a tax cut, inform readers of how those at the top already pay far more in taxes than their fair share, delve into the much more relevant percentage cut numbers or explore the concern of conservatives that the Bush plan, by removing several million more from the tax rolls, will exacerbate the problem of even more Americans not paying income taxes and thus having no reason not to vote for politicians advocating more spending....

The Tax Foundation provides the analysis the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman skipped:

-- According to preliminary data released by the Internal Revenue Service and a new Tax Foundation Special Report, the top-earning 25 percent of taxpayers earned more than two-thirds of the nation's income (67.3%) and paid more than five out of every six dollars collected by the federal income tax (84%) in 2000. There were 32 million tax returns in the top 25 percent, all with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) over $55,225.

The top one percent of U.S. taxpayers (annual income over $313,469) made 20.8 percent of the income earned in 2000 and paid 37.4 percent of the total federal individual income taxes collected that year. This fraction of the tax burden paid by the top one percent -- well over a third of the total -- is up from 25.1 percent ten years earlier in tax year 1990.

At the other end of the income spectrum, the bottom 50 percent of the nation's taxpayers earned only 13.0 percent of all income in 2000, but they paid an even smaller fraction of the federal individual income taxes collected -- 3.9 percent....

-- Skew of tax cuts in favor of lower incomes. A Tax Foundation table shows that under Bush's original plan a couple with two kids making $50,000 would have their income tax liability cut by 42 percent but that same family making $200,000 would receive a mere 9 percent income tax cut.

-- On dividend income, the Tax Foundation reported: "Despite widespread belief to the contrary, dividend income was earned by taxpayers across the income spectrum. In fact, of all taxpayers that claimed some dividend income in 2000, nearly half (45.8 percent) earned less than $50,000 in adjusted gross income (which includes dividends). Moreover, 63.8 percent of those taxpayers claiming dividends earned less than $50,000 in just wages and salaries.

END of Excerpt

For the May 14, 2003 CyberAlert with an excerpt from Weisman's polemic in the guise of a news article: www.mrc.org

"Top Ten Surprises in ABC's Bird Flu
Movie"

From the May 9 Late Show with David Letterman, as presented by Britney Spears, the "Top Ten Surprises in ABC's Bird Flu Movie." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Thanks to sponsorship deal, flu is cured by delicious taste of Dr. Pepper

9. Humans attacked by pigeons with tire irons

8. 20% of population comes down with less dangerous "bird hiccups"

7. Every time someone says, "chicken," all the characters chug a beer

6. Hilarious scene in which Leslie Nielsen confuses his Tamiflu with his Viagra

5. Every single person in the world ends up at General Hospital

4. The big villain? Larry Bird

3. Sad conclusion in which Charlie Brown puts a bullet in Woodstock

2. Hilarious scene where the guy playing President Bush actually solves the problem

1. Sole survivors Michael Jackson and Rosie O'Donnell are forced to repopulate the earth

-- Brent Baker