2. Borger: Kerry-Edwards "Kennedy-esque Picture" Will Attract Women
3. Today Detailed Cheney's Conservatism, Skips Edwards' Positions
4. Newspaper Profiles Deflect Edwards' Liberalism, Play Up Charisma
5. Cheney: "Combative & Blunt," Edwards: "Stirring & Expressive"
6. New CNBC Prime Time Host Concedes He "Registered as a Democrat"
Another day of rave reviews for John Kerry and John Edwards, especially from CBS. "It was the all important and perfectly choreographed first glimpse of the Democratic Party's new dream team," CBS's Byron Pitts gushed over video on Wednesday night of the Kerry and Edwards families on the lawn of Teresa's Kerry's Pennsylvania estate. Leading into a clip of John Edwards proclaiming that "people are desperate to believe again that tomorrow will be better than today," Pitts characterized that as expressing "humanity." Pitts soon trumpeted Edwards' "passion" and how "Kerry-Edwards versus Bush-Cheney is a contrast in style, politics, even in physical appearance."
(Thursday morning on CBS's Early Show, Hannah Storm giddily announced: "The Democrats' dream team of John Kerry and John Edwards hits the campaign trail today...")
In the next story on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Bill Plante ended his piece by passing along how the Bush campaign will attack Edwards "as inexperienced and a social liberal," but instead of backing up that contention with evidence of Edwards' liberalism, as CBS did in 2000 to prove Dick Cheney's conservatism, Plante endorsed the Democratic spin as he earlier touted how Democrats "now have someone who speaks comfortably about values, about religion and middle class concerns."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Carl Quintanilla oddly claimed that the Democratic ticket is "winning praise even through the clenched teeth of frustrated Republicans. Media analyst Kathleen Hall Jamieson." Viewers then heard from the liberal Jamieson: "The implicit argument is that unlike Bush he looks at all sides, he weighs all alternatives and then carefully comes to a conclusion." Huh? Does Quintanilla think Jamieson is a "frustrated Republican" or was he making the allegation about "frustrated Republicans" without offering any evidence?
Quintanilla concluded: "Tonight, Kerry aides, aware that Edwards' time in office has been short, began taking the potentially risky step of touting his trial lawyer experience, portraying him as a champion of the disadvantaged."
Next, NBC went to Tim Russert for the results of a NBC News poll which found Kerry-Edwards now at 49 percent over Bush-Cheney at 41 percent and Nader-Camejo at 4 percent. Russert noted how Kerry "has united his party like never before" with 87 percent of Democrats now supporting Kerry, the same percentage as Republicans who back Bush. Russert expressed surprise that more people, 45 percent, think Edwards would make a better President than Cheney, at 38 percent.
Later, Kelly O'Donnell contributed an "In Depth" story on policy differences between Edwards and Kerry. She never uttered the word liberal as she focused only on past splits on trade and tort reform.
("Farm" or "Estate"? Quintanilla began by referring to how the Kerry's campaign's "media manipulation juggernaut" had started "this morning near Pittsburgh at Kerry's 90-acre farm." The Kerry "farm?" Later, on CNN's NewsNight, Candy Crowley also described it as a "farm," but on ABC's World News Tonight, Dan Harris referred to how the candidates appeared "on the lawn of Teresa Heinz Kerry's sprawling estate outside Pittsburgh.")
Anchor John Roberts opened the July 7 CBS Evening News by announcing how Kerry has jumped from a 45 to 44 percent lead over Bush to a 49 to 44 percent lead. For the rundown of the poll: www.cbsnews.com
But of the four, George W. Bush is by far the poorest.
Roberts set up the next story: "President Bush campaigned today in Edwards' home state of North Carolina, a trip that was scheduled before Edwards joined up with the Kerry team. And as Bill Plante reports, the President took his first shot at the new addition to the Democratic ticket."
Plante began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "In John Edwards' own back yard, the President delivered his assessment of Kerry's running mate with blunt force when asked to compare Edwards to Dick Cheney."
The Bush campaign will have to go around the media to do that.
Compare everything above with how the same shows treated Dick Cheney on the evening of Wednesday, July 26, 2000, the day after Bush announced him as his running mate. As summarized at the top of the July 27, 2000 CyberAlert:
Twelve years ago, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift salivated over the Bill Clinton-Al Gore team. "I must say I was struck by the expanse of their chests. They may have to put out their stats," she gushed on the July 10, 1992 Inside Politics on CNN before two days later oozing on the McLaughlin Group about how "it looks like the all-beefcake ticket."
Gloria Borger of CNBC and U.S. News didn't go quite that far on Wednesday's Today in talking about the Kerry-Edwards ticket, but she glowed about how "they look like two fraternity brothers, if you will. Kind of reunited a little bit grayer in John Kerry's case. But he said, you know, we're two guys with full heads of hair with their families beside them. You know it was a kind of a Kennedy-esque picture, if you will on a, on a hillside. On Teresa Heinz-Kerry's farm." Borger also found it admirable that "these are two men who married older women" as "their wives are each about five years older than they are and accomplished in their own right." That prompted Today news reader/tri-host Ann Curry to chirp up: "I suspect that will help them with the female vote." Borger agreed: "It sure will."
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught the Borger-Curry mutual admiration for Kerry and Edwards. Curry set up the July 7 Today segment: "Now to give us more insight on the Kerry/Edwards versus Bush/Cheney tickets let's take a listen to what Gloria Borger of CNBC's Capital Report and she's also a columnist for U.S. News and World Report has to say. Gloria, good morning to you."
Later in the show, just before Kerry and Edwards made their first joint appearance a bit past 8:30am EDT, Katie Couric was also reminded of President Kennedy: "Before they start speaking Tim, it's interesting that, that John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth, they have a daughter who is six and a son who is four. We haven't seen children that young in a long time. It does seem slightly reminiscent of John F. Kennedy doesn't it?"
Four years ago, NBC's Today put the burden on Republicans to prove that Dick Cheney was not too conservative, as Matt Lauer and Tim Russert listed his supposedly extremist positions, but on Wednesday morning of this week, Today put the burden on Republicans to demonstrate that John Edwards is liberal as neither Russert nor Katie Couric provided any listing of Edwards' liberal positions.
Back on the Wednesday, July 26, 2000 Today, the day after Bush announced Cheney, Today explored Cheney's supposedly extreme views. An excerpt from the July 27, 2000 CyberAlert:
Today co-host Matt Lauer asked Tim Russert: "As soon as it became clear that Dick Cheney was indeed the man people came out of the woodwork and started challenging his voting record while a member of Congress. And it's a pretty conservative record. Do you think people had a more moderate image of him than is true?"
Russert explained: "That's because of his personality, his presentations, his avuncular approach to life, Matt. But this is the race, the battle to define Dick Cheney and therefore define George W. Bush. The Republicans will say Cheney is reliable, steady, competent and will help us govern. The Democrats will say, 'Not so fast. Before you govern you have to win an election. And let's look at Mr. Cheney's record of anti-abortion, anti-environment, anti-equal rights amendment for women, anti-gun control.' That's what we're going to see play out over the next few days."
Lauer eagerly took up the Gore cause and painted a contradiction between all the things Cheney is supposedly against and Bush's compassionate message: "And when you talk about votes like that, that he made while in Congress, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-equal rights, how does George Bush portray him as a compassionate conservative?"
Jump ahead to Wednesday morning of this week, and Today had no interest in expounding upon Edwards' liberalness, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed. Katie Couric asked Russert: "Let me get your take on the tactics employed by the RNC in terms of attacking this ticket as overly liberal, disingenuous, using John Kerry's words against John Edwards in previous campaigns. I mean it's quite an extensive list. Is that gonna be effective in your view?"
Neither Russert nor Couric cited any liberal policy positions taken by Edwards.
In their Wednesday morning news stories, newspaper reporters matched their TV colleagues and either skipped over John Edwards' liberalism or described it as a Republican attack instead of an essential element of his political biography.
While a couple of Wednesday stories in the New York Times noted how "Republicans...depicted Mr. Edwards as an unaccomplished, inexperienced, disingenuous liberal," the word "liberal" wasn't applied by a reporter to identify Edwards, the MRC's Clay Waters noted in a TimesWatch.org posting. That's quite a change from the Times' treatment of Dick Cheney in 2000, when the paper made his "extremely conservative record" a running theme of its coverage. See below for an excerpt from TimesWatch.
MRC interns Mary Fisher and Jennifer Schwarz looked at the coverage of Kerry's selection of Edwards as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and found lots of positive references to the candidate's good looks and charisma, but almost no acknowledgment of his liberal record. The Washington Post's John Harris, in a front page profile headlined, "Under Relaxed Exterior, A Complex Man," would only describe Edwards as "striking populist themes." But the Post's Dana Milbank and Mike Allen freely used the "conservative" label to describe groups opposed to Edwards
The Chicago Tribune's Andrew Zajac was rarity, stating matter-of-factly in a profile that Edwards' Senate voting record is "mostly liberal."
The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this summary of what our interns found, starting with the Chicago Tribune:
"Democrats have been in the minority for all but about 18 months of Edwards' tenure, giving him little opportunity to author significant legislation. His voting record is a mostly liberal one, and he has received high marks from the AFL-CIO and Americans for Democratic Action. He voted against confirming John Ashcroft as attorney general and for expanding law-enforcement authority to investigate suspected terrorists. He voted against President Bush's 2001 tax cuts but for authorizing the president to go to war in Iraq." See: www.chicagotribune.com
-- Los Angeles Times political reporter Ron Brownstein insisted that Edwards has "managed to avoid ideological labels," even though the National Journal ranked him the fourth-most liberal U.S. Senator (trailing first-place John Kerry). Brownstein portrayed Edwards as a non-liberal: "Many Democrats find the 51-year-old Edwards attractive precisely because he has mostly managed to avoid ideological labels during his brief political career. During the primaries, he took on Kerry and the race's earlier presumed front-runner, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, from both the left and the right. In many states, he polled better among independent voters than among partisan Democrats." See: www.latimes.com
-- The New York Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote glowingly of Edwards's liberal rant, without using the "L" word, against inequality in America right before she let an Edwards' spinner compare the Senator to President Reagan: "On the campaign trail, he often talked about what he calls 'the two Americas,' his catchphrase for a nation where education, health insurance, and tax policy are different for the haves and the have-nots. 'We will say no,' the Senator told supporters, on the night he came in second place to Mr. Kerry in the Iowa caucuses, 'to kids going hungry, to kids who don't have the clothes to keep them warm, and no forever to any American working full-time and living in poverty. Not in our America!' Mr. Edwards is also known for being relentlessly upbeat, a trait that Ed Turlington, who was general chairman of Mr. Edwards's presidential campaign, said reminded him of Ronald Reagan. His standard stump speech struck hard on that theme. 'America was not built by cynics,' Mr. Edwards liked to say. 'America was built by optimists.'" See: www.nytimes.com
But the Journal's Jacob M. Schlesinger and David Rogers suggested Kerry's selection of a multi-millionaire trial lawyer moved the Democrats even farther from the political center: "The choice of Mr. Edwards will also complicate Mr. Kerry's recent efforts to reassure the business sector that he would offer the kind of centrist agenda Bill Clinton pursued through the 1990s boom. Mr. Edwards's trial-lawyer career -- where he won state-record malpractice awards against doctors, hospitals and insurers-makes executives nervous....The Republican National Committee wasted no time yesterday labeling Mr. Edwards as a 'disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal' trial lawyer."
-- The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson argued that Edwards's "up-by-the-bootstraps populism" would compensate for Kerry's "Eastern elitist aura." Discussing the electoral impact, Johnson wrote: "Experts said the choice of Edwards does not guarantee a victory in any state, Southern or otherwise, even North Carolina. But he may convert that state, as well as Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas, into battlegrounds that divert the Bush campaign's time and attention somewhat from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the other assumed swing states. And in Midwestern states, said experts, Edwards's up-by-the-bootstraps populism may play well, offsetting Kerry's Eastern elitist aura and helping reel in undecided working class voters, who culturally lean toward the GOP but continue to struggle somewhat economically." See: www.boston.com
But the Post's Dana Milbank and Mike Allen freely used the "conservative" label to describe groups opposed to Edwards: "Conservative interest groups tried to portray Edwards as liberal, inexperienced and unprincipled. Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said Edwards has shown 'conspicuous hostility to manufacturing and business.' The socially conservative Concerned Women for America portrayed Edwards as trying to have it both ways on issues such as gay marriage. 'He's a Kerry clone with charisma: He flip-flops on the issues, very hard to nail down,' said Janice Crouse, an official with the group." See: www.washingtonpost.com
John Kerry chose as his running mate fellow senator John Edwards, rated the fourth-most liberal senator for 2003 by National Journal magazine (Kerry himself was #1.) Yet the Times ignores the Democratic ticket's clear liberal slant.
David Halbfinger's favorable lead story notes Edwards voting record is in sync with that of Kerry: "Both voted to authorize Mr. Bush to deploy troops in Iraq. They have voted in favor of abortion rights, gun control, changes in campaign finance laws, stronger environmental standards and the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act. They also voted against impeaching President Bill Clinton and against the Bush tax cuts." As the National Journal noted, "Once Edwards decided to run for president and abandoned his bid for a second Senate term, his record moved dramatically to the left in 2003."
Yet in Wednesday's Times the word "liberal" isn't used once by a reporter to identify Edwards. That's quite a change from the Times' treatment of Dick Cheney in 2000, when the paper made his "extremely conservative record" a running theme of its coverage.
By contrast, the Times fences off criticism of Edwards. Richard Stevenson devotes a separate story to Republican criticism, set off with the headline equivalent of a warning flare: "GOP Opens Intense Attack On the Choice and the Chooser."
Using a sarcastic tone, as if to take the sting out of the Republican charges, Stevenson begins: "Within minutes of Senator John Kerry's announcement of Senator John Edwards as his running mate, President Bush's re-election campaign gave Mr. Edwards a different kind of introduction Tuesday, defining him as an inexperienced, unaccomplished, liberal trial lawyer who had not even been Mr. Kerry's first choice. Also, phony, disingenuous, out of step with American families and a tax scofflaw to boot, to choose from a long list of criticisms that the Kerry campaign disputed in general and specific....Republicans said the quick, intense assault was the leading edge of an effort by the Bush campaign to keep the Democrats from establishing Mr. Edwards as a Southern moderate who could help Mr. Kerry among swing voters in the battleground Northern and Midwestern states....Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush said he welcomed Mr. Edwards to the race and was looking forward to 'a good, spirited contest.' On Tuesday, at least, 'spirited' appeared to mean having the Republican National Committee throw at Mr. Edwards 23 pages of research covering everything from his votes on gun control legislation to late payment of property taxes on his Georgetown home."
In his lead story, David Halbfinger makes Republican criticism of Edwards' record come off as underhanded spycraft: "Republicans circulated a 23-page, 16,000 word dossier on Tuesday that depicted Mr. Edwards as an unaccomplished, inexperienced, disingenuous liberal."
Campaign specialist Adam Nagourney's front-page story on the Edwards selection ("A Partner With Contrasts That Complement -- Campaign Strengths Where Kerry's Weak") begins jauntily, arguing that Kerry's move is a sign of confidence.
"In John Edwards," Nagourney writes, "Senator John Kerry selected a running mate who embodies the very attributes that some Democrats worry that Mr. Kerry lacks: a vigorous campaign presence, an engaging personal manner and a crisp message that stirred Democrats from Iowa to New Hampshire. Mr. Kerry even took a risk or two in compensating for his own shortcomings, embracing a trial lawyer who has less governmental experience than any other major vice-presidential candidate in at least 20 years. As a result, many Democrats said Tuesday, this highest-profile decision of Mr. Kerry's public life was as instructive about the party's presumed presidential candidate as it was about Mr. Edwards. It was the move of a candidate who is proving to be methodical, discreet, coolly pragmatic and exceedingly self-assured; one who is so intensely focused on victory as to be presumably unruffled by the unflattering stylistic contrasts that will surely be drawn whenever he and Mr. Edwards share a stage."
...But Cheney in 2000 "Dogged" by "Extremely Conservative" Votes
That's quite a change from how Nagourney and former political reporter (now restaurant critic) Frank Bruni covered Bush's selection of Dick Cheney to be his running mate.
After a few graphs on Cheney's unusual path to the VP slot (he was originally in charge of screening other candidates for the job), Nagourney and Bruni noted in a July 28, 2000, story on Cheney's selection by Bush three days previously: "Mr. Cheney is an immensely respected political veteran, and his selection elicited praise from many Republicans. But the unusual way in which the former defense secretary ended up at Mr. Bush's side at a news conference here on Tuesday to announce the vice-presidential selection has stirred concern among some Republicans. They have noted with alarm the attacks Democrats were able to quickly muster on Mr. Cheney's conservative voting record in Congress, and questioned whether the man in charge of screening the other candidates for the job could possibly have received as thorough a screening himself....Within minutes after Mr. Cheney's selection was announced on Tuesday, Democrats produced a trove of extremely conservative votes from Mr. Cheney's decade in Congress, and the barrage of questions about his record that hit Mr. Cheney and the Bush campaign seemed to take them at least partly by surprise."
While Edwards has so far not been forced to defend his liberal voting record, Times' coverage of the Cheney selection focused intensely on his conservatism.
On July 26, 2000, the day after the Cheney pick was announced, reporter Frank Bruni noted: "In turning to Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush chose someone whose extremely conservative record from 1979 to 1989, when he represented Wyoming in Congress and reliably cast votes against abortion rights and gun control, was sure to provide Democrats and liberal interest groups with fodder for their assertions that a Bush presidency would tilt sharply toward the right."
Alison Mitchell's July 27 story (featuring the slanted headline, "Voting Record Dogs Cheney As G.O.P. Team Campaigns,") began: "Gov. George W. Bush and his new running mate, Dick Cheney, made a whirlwind visit today to the vice-presidential contender's home state, defending Mr. Cheney's conservative voting record and vowing that the ticket would 'renew America's purpose.'"
On July 28, Mitchell's campaign update (featuring another loaded headline, "Once Again, Cheney Confronts the Questions") began the same way: "Dick Cheney tried today to beat back questions about his conservative voting record, appearing on the morning news programs of all three major networks as the Bush campaign fought to keep from being defined by the second man on the ticket."
END of Excerpt
For the article as posted, with links to the New York Times stories: www.timeswatch.org
USA Today described Dick Cheney's standard criticism of John Kerry as "combative and blunt," but characterized John Edwards' standard stump speech criticism of George W, Bush as "stirring and expressive."
The contrasting descriptions came in a sidebar box on page 2A to a front page story in Wednesday's USA Today by Jill Lawrence and Susan Page, "Choice reflects Kerry's desire to win, his self-confidence."
"Comparing the vice presidential candidates" read the heading over the box in the July 7 paper which included side-by-side columns for Cheney and Edwards for these subject headings: "Age," "Years in elective office," "Previous occupations," "Home state and electoral college votes," "Debate style," "Hobbies" and "Key constituencies." For that last one, "Conservatives" for Cheney, "Working class; African-Americans" for Edwards.
Under "Campaign style," for Cheney: "Combative and blunt: 'These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another the next,' he said Friday in Macon, Ga. Kerry's views on issues, he said, 'depends on when you ask him.'"
For Edwards: "Stirring and expressive: 'Under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks,' he says in most speeches."
The article, but not the box, is online at: www.usatoday.com
Tennis star John McEnroe, who on Wednesday night began hosting a new CNBC prime time talk show, on Wednesday's Today revealed that he recently "registered as a Democrat" because "change has to come." McEnroe's program airs weeknights at 10pm EDT.
The MRC's Geoff Dickens caught this exchange on the July 7 Today:
Katie Couric: "Let me ask you are you gonna do a lot of politics because I know you're a registered Democrat? This is an election year."
McEnroe is scheduled to appear tonight, Thursday, on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
-- Brent Baker