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CyberAlert -- 01/07/2002 -- Russert Presses to Annul Tax Cut

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Russert Presses to Annul Tax Cut; "Truth" = Taxes Must Be Raised; More SUV-Bashing; Even Maher Sees Media Bias; Bye-Bye Eric Engberg

1) NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday unrelentingly tried (14 times) to get Treasury Secretary O'Neill to concede the tax cut must be rescinded: "Will you continue to press for the implementation of the tax cut if it means deficits or tapping into the Social Security Trust Fund?" Russert recalled how after Reagan's tax cut led to deficits he "revisited the entire situation because he saw that record deficits were going to be created, and he had what was called a mid-course correction."

2) "Truth telling," Michel Martin of ABC News suggested on PBS's Washington Week on Friday night, means realizing that "what needs to happen" is "sacrifice and tax increases."

3) Anti-SUV rhetoric. Newsweek's Evan Thomas said he'd allow more oil drilling in Alaska if the government set "high CAFE standards that get rid of SUVs." ABC's Bill Maher opined that "instead of putting a flag on your SUV, which is just going to put money in the pockets of the people who fund terrorism, change the car." MSNBC's Brian Williams: "With the U.S. locked in dependence on foreign oil, is it downright unpatriotic to drive an SUV?"

4) While ABC's Bill Maher called John Ashcroft "scary" and "creepy," he also argued that the media are biased in favor of the Palestinian side.

5) Eric Engberg, the CBS News "reporter" who denounced Bernard Goldberg for "treason" for daring to point out the bias in a 1996 Engberg story which trashed the flat tax, has retired. A few years ago Engberg called an MRC staffer a "lying little worm." Dan Rather concluded Friday night's CBS Evening News with a salute to Engberg's "professionalism" and "great journalism."


1

A sure sign that the media are returning to pre-September 11 mode: NBC's Tim Russert obsessed on Sunday over the dangers of Bush's tax cut, dedicating over half of his time with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to unrelentingly trying to get the Secretary to concede the tax cut must be rescinded or delayed in order to avoid deficits and/or to protect the imaginary "Social Security Trust Fund." When he wouldn't agree, Russert went all the way to Tashkent to push Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, both of whom voted against the tax cut, for their assessments.

Other than the cost of the war on terrorism, Russert refused to utter a syllable about the role of ever-rising government spending, pushed by both parties, in eating away at the surplus. Check out the three options he presented to the two Senators, "What has caused the disappearance of the surplus: the war, the recession or tax cuts or all three?"

Apparently, because greater than inflation rate spending hikes were built in to surplus estimates, that spending is sacrosanct. If Russert wished to challenge his Bush administration guest, he could have required that O'Neill justify massive spending hikes advocated long before September 11 in such areas as education.

Instead, Russert demanded of O'Neill: "Will you continue to press for the implementation of the tax cut if it means deficits or tapping into the Social Security Trust Fund?" A scornful Russert lectured: "We were talking about fiscal discipline and the country. There were large deficits. We finally brought our budget into surplus and now we're back into deficits. Are those deficits acceptable in order to help fund the Bush tax cut?"

Russert soon admiringly recalled how "the last time there was a tax cut of this magnitude was under President Ronald Reagan, and within two years, he revisited the entire situation because he saw that record deficits were going to be created, and he had what was called a mid-course correction, driven in large part by fellow Republican Bob Dole."

All 14 of Russert's anti-tax cut questions to O'Neill, followed by his loaded inquiries to the Senators:

-- "The front page of today's New York Times, 'Huge declines seen in budget surplus over the next decade.' When the tax cut was debated, there were projections of a $5 trillion surplus over the next ten years. That has declined dramatically, almost by two-thirds. Senator Tom Daschle on Friday, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, spoke to the country. And this is what he had to say.
Daschle on January 4: "But September 11 and the war aren't the only reasons the surplus is nearly gone. They're not even the biggest reason. The biggest reason is the tax cut."
Russert: "Is that correct?"

-- "But what he said is two-thirds of the surplus is gone and it's not because of the war. It's not because of the recession. The projected surplus is gone because of the Bush tax cut. Is that accurate?"

-- "But you're just taking this one year. What he's talking about is the 10-year projection and the out years of the tax cut that are about to take place, according to every objective estimate that I have analyzed or seen, estimates that about 60 to 70 percent of the surplus will be taken up by the tax cut."

-- "Let me listen to more of Senator Daschle, and this is his concern about the tax cut."
Daschle: "But the Republican agenda in Washington today is being written by a wing of the Republican Party that isn't interested in fiscal discipline. They have one unchanging, unyielding solution that they offer for every problem: tax cuts that go disproportionately to the most affluent."
Russert: "Would you consider not raising taxes, but rather postponing or implementing the tax cut in out years in order to make sure the budget is balanced?"
O'Neill: "I don't know why we would want to raise taxes, Tim. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
Russert: "No, I was very careful. I said not raise taxes, rather, implement a future tax cut. Keep taxes at their current level. Not raise them. Not cut them."

-- "Well, Senator Lieberman, who we'll talk to later on in our program, has said this morning everything should be on the table, that if you truly want to have a bipartisan discussion, then you have to include discussing rescinding or postponing the tax cut. Would that be on the table in this bipartisan spirit you're talking about?"

-- "So if that's off the table, postponing the tax cut, then how can you say this is a bipartisan, open negotiation?"

-- "All right. Let's cut to the chase, however. Will you continue to press for the implementation of the tax cut if it means deficits or tapping into the Social Security Trust Fund?"

-- "We were talking about fiscal discipline and the country. There were large deficits. We finally brought our budget into surplus and now we're back into deficits. Are those deficits acceptable in order to help fund the Bush tax cut?"

-- "Let's look at what the Congressional Budget Office had to say about some of the plans: [on screen text] '...the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office gave poor grades to several of the president's proposals in a report...The report said several Democratic proposals had a better chance of reviving the economy at the lowest cost. It reserved its highest praise for a 'payroll tax holiday' advocated by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)....Two of the administration's main priorities-accelerating planned cuts in individual tax rates and repealing the corporate minimum tax-were rated by the CBO as offering little 'bang for the buck.'"
"Based on the Congressional Budget Office, non-partisan, would you be willing to embrace Senator Domenici's idea of this holiday from the payroll tax where, for a month, the ordinary worker who pays 6.2 percent of their salary into a payroll tax would, in fact, get a $500 bonanza in order to spend out of their pocket, use that Domenici plan and get rid of this alternative minimum tax for corporations or get rid of the planned cuts in the individual tax rates?"

(My comment: Huh? The $300 to $600 rebate for every income tax payer has caused havoc and portends economic ruin, but another $500 for even more people is a great idea?)

-- "Mr. Secretary, the last time there was a tax cut of this magnitude was under President Ronald Reagan, and within two years, he revisited the entire situation because he saw that record deficits were going to be created, and he had what was called a mid-course correction, driven in large part by fellow Republican Bob Dole. Would you be willing to step back and say this morning, 'Deficits are going up, we are tapping into the Social Security Trust Fund, and the number of people on Social Security and Medicare is going to double within the next 20 years. Based on that in a bipartisan way, we ought to step back and examine and consider a mid-course correction'"?

-- "Can we keep the Bush tax cut in place, increase defense spending, provide a prescription drug and other health benefit cost and not touch the Social Security Trust Fund and meet all future obligations on Social Security and Medicare -- do all those things without a deficit?"

-- "Let me, my question is a very serious one because the country has been through this so many different times and it's a very straightforward question. Can we have the Bush tax cut fully enacted, increase in defense spending, prescription drugs, and Social Security and Medicare programs fully funded at their levels for the next generation without deficits?"

Following a segment with the new leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, Russert interviewed Lieberman and McCain from Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Russert soon got to his domestic agenda:

-- "I want to turn homeward if I can. What has caused the disappearance of the surplus: the war, the recession or tax cuts or all three?"
McCain: "I think all three, in my view."
Russert: "Should we delay the implementation of the tax cut, Senator McCain?"
McCain: "No, I think that's done..."
Russert: "Senator Lieberman, should we revisit the implementation of the tax cut?"
Lieberman: "...we've got to put everything on the table..."

McCain soon self-servingly pointed out: "Tim, could I mention, I voted against the tax cut and I voted against it because I didn't think there was sufficient relief for working Americans and I think that events that have transpired since then have validated that vote."
Lieberman: "Absolutely right."
Instead of challenging his guests, Russert matched them: "Well, let's put it right on the table for the American people to hear. Can we afford Social Security, improving our health care, aid to Afghanistan and the region, fighting the war on terrorism and the tax cuts as they are currently constructed?"

-- Russert: "Why not delay the tax cut until we know if we have the resources necessary to deal with Social Security, health care, aid to Afghanistan and the war on terrorism?"

-- Russert: "Senator Lieberman, would you consider delaying the tax cuts?"
Lieberman: "I think you've got to put everything on the table. Again, I don't think, let's remember that most of the tax cut has not yet gone into effect...."

So, how can it have caused so many problems?

2

To the Washington press corps, as espoused by ABC's Michel Martin Friday night on PBS's Washington Week, "truth telling" means realizing that "what needs to happen here" is "sacrifice and tax increases and things of that sort."

On the January 4 Washington Week, after Boston Globe Washington Bureau Chief David Shribman asserted that post-September 11 "people want blunt talk," fill-in host Michel Martin of ABC News wondered to Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray:
"But, Alan, what about truth telling on the economy? This is one area in which people have not responded well to blunt talk about what needs to happen here, you know, sacrifice and tax increases and things of that sort."
Murray regretfully agreed, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Yeah, and there hasn't. We haven't had that much talk about sacrifice. In fact, in terms of economic policy, the effect of September 11th was the exact opposite, which was we can do it all. You know, you can have your tax cut and we can buy all, we can, you know, deal with your health care problems and this is a time of national crisis, therefore we need to spend a lot of the taxpayers' money to give you what you want. So I don't know. I think that's gonna be, I think we're gonna find that out this year. You know, there are some Democrats, Gloria [Borger], as you know better than I do, who are already toying with the notion of whether they ought to say hey, wait a minute, maybe we ought to roll back some of these tax cuts that President Bush enacted because we need the money to do other things. I don't know how that's gonna sell."

If liberals do call for a repeal of the tax cut, this exchange and Tim Russert's attitude outlined in item #1 above, show they'll have the Washington press corps on their side.

3

A fresh round of anti-SUV rhetoric. On Inside Washington over the weekend Newsweek's Evan Thomas said he'd allow more oil drilling in Alaska if the government set "high CAFE standards that get rid of SUVs." Friday night on Larry King Live, ABC's Bill Maher opined that "instead of putting a flag on your SUV, which is just going to put money in the pockets of the people who fund terrorism, change the car."

Earlier last week, MSNBC's Brian Williams devoted a segment of his prime time show to the question: "With the U.S. locked in dependence on foreign oil, is it downright unpatriotic to drive an SUV?"

-- Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas on Inside Washington: "I have a deal. My environmentalist friends will kill me for this, but allow them to drill in the North Slope if they put in CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards, high CAFE standards that get rid of SUVs. A package deal. You allow drilling, but you have the conservation measures on fuel requirements that get rid of SUVs."

-- Exchange on CNN's Larry King Live on Friday night, January 4, between King and Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect:
King: "You drive a hybrid car?"
Maher: "I do. See, there's an example of something that you could-"
King: "You sacrifice?"
Maher, referring to Saudi Arabia: "Well, yeah. And it's a good car. You don't have to sacrifice that much. But instead of putting a flag on your SUV, which is just going to put money in the pockets of the people who fund terrorism, change the car, not the flag."

-- MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on January 2. The opening tease caught by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "At issue tonight, with the U.S. locked in dependence on foreign oil, is it downright unpatriotic to drive an SUV? Should Americans be somehow forced to get better mileage or should the government stay out of the car business?"

During the show he offered these plugs for the upcoming segment:
"We'll also talk about the question, in a nation dependent on foreign oil, is it a patriotic duty of some sort to drive a fuel efficient car and not an SUV, as some say."
"When we come back, fueling concern about what's good for America. Tonight our discussion here over dependence on foreign oil. Are SUV drivers actually being somehow unpatriotic?"

Setting up the segment, Williams relayed: "Readers of the New York Times woke up this morning to find op ed columnist Thomas Friedman wishing that Al Gore had been elected President rather than George W. Bush. He praised the President all right, but his reason for the Gore comment was that President Bush's support for Saudi Arabia, Mr. Bush's lack of a concrete, cohesive strategy to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil.
"At issue tonight, do oil-producing countries have the United States over a barrel? And what can Americans do? Has it become unpatriotic, for example, to drive an SUV instead of a car that conserves for the greater public good."

Williams welcomed Jerry Taylor, the Director of natural resource studies at the CATO Institute, and Amy Myers Jaffe, "President of AMJ Energy Consulting, and the senior energy advisor and project coordinator for energy research at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University."

Williams pressed Taylor: "Okay, Jerry, you have a choice. I have a pretty good idea of how you're going to answer this. Choice one is: 'All you SUV drivers are just hurting the United States by driving gas guzzlers that make the country more dependent on foreign oil.' Choice two: 'Driving an SUV is the freedom vested in me as an American citizen, and don't you dare tell me what to take onto the American highway.' Jerry?"

And: "Now, Jerry, I'd like to read you a quote from Tom Friedman, who's been doing some fabulous writing since September 11th, couldn't join us tonight. He writes in the New York Times in part: 'The most obvious bold national project that Mr. Bush could launch now, his version of the race to the moon, would be a program for energy independence based on developing renewable resources, domestic production, energy efficiency. Not only would school kid in America be excited by such a project, but it would also be Mr. Bush's equivalent of Richard Nixon going to China -- the Texas oil man weaning America off its dependence on Middle East oil. That would be a political coup.' As a political question, Jerry, what do you think?"

When Taylor said it didn't work for Carter and we already have private investors investing in renewable energy privately but that renewable energy breakthroughs would do nothing to reduce oil imports, Williams defended his former employer: "Jerry, true or false: The Carter energy policy failed for lack of interest and not ingenuity, but in areas like geothermal, wind and solar, they were ahead of their time."

Williams was an intern in the Carter White House.

4

On CNN's Larry King Live on Friday night, Bill Maher, host of ABC's Politically Incorrect, took a swipe at John Ashcroft, but Maher amazingly made the case that the media are biased to the left on at least one subject.

On Ashcroft, Maher claimed: "I always thought he was a scary, creepy guy, but now that there are even scarier and creepier people in the world, I'm kind of glad he's on our side. You know, it's like, hey, we have a nut, too."

Later, Maher insisted: "I'm like the only guy on TV who defends Israel. The media is so biased."
King: "You think they're anti-Israel?"
Maher: "Of course they are. They don't, because they don't understand what happened in that area of the world throughout the last century. They're occupied. That's a term that's just used on all newscasts. That territory is not occupied, OK? The term 'occupied' refers to a country that used to be a country. There was no Palestinian Arab country, ever."

When King wondered, "Why do you think the media would be anti-Israel?", Maher suggested: "They're not anti-Israel, they just don't know what happened there. And it's a lot easier to take the side of the underdog. You know? I saw a report on the news just the other day, a Palestinian girl who said, you know, 'I can't get through the checkpoint, and I only have my books, and the Israeli soldiers are so mean.' Well, yeah, but that's because a lot of your brothers are blowing up their pizza parlors."

5

As of last week, Eric Engberg, the CBS News correspondent who just weeks ago denounced Bernard Goldberg for committing an "act of treason" in daring to point out the bias in a 1996 Engberg story which trashed the flat tax, has retired from CBS News. A few years ago Engberg called an MRC staffer a "lying little worm" and referred to an MRC newsletter as a "propagandistic rag."

Dan Rather concluded Friday night's CBS Evening News with a salute to Engberg's "professionalism" and "great journalism." Rather announced at the end of the January 4 show: "We want to say goodbye to our colleague Eric Engberg. Engberg, whose signature 'Reality Checks' have long been a part of this broadcast, exposed hypocrisy and pomposity and covered some of the biggest stories of the past quarter century. Eric Engberg, CBS News correspondent, is retiring tonight. We will miss his professionalism, his humor, his style, his friendship and his great journalism."

Space does not permit an adequate review of Engberg's career of liberal advocacy and denigrating of conservatives in the guise of news reporting, but here are links to some highlights:

-- For his reaction to Bernard Goldberg's new book, go to:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011203.asp#1

-- That article has links to several earlier Goldberg/Engberg related items, including one about how on C-SPAN Goldberg disclosed that since taking CBS to task for liberal bias, neither Rather or Engberg had spoken to him and that at the time Engberg "said something I can't repeat on this channel or any other." Go to:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010612.asp#4

-- To watch, via RealPlayer, or to read a transcript of Engberg's 1996 story trashing the flat tax, the story during which Engberg asked "about Forbes' number one wackiest flat tax promise" and concluded with how "one economist suggested that before we risk putting it in, we ought to try it out someplace, like maybe Albania," go to:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011205.asp#7

-- Last summer, as detailed in a CyberAlert, Engberg condescendingly claimed the House-passed energy bill "includes the oil man President's pet oil exploration plan" to drill in Alaska. http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010803.asp#3

-- The July 1995 MediaWatch "Janet Cooke Award," for the most distorted story of the month, went to Engberg. "I'm watching you like a hawk, you lying little worm," he spewed at the MRC's Tim Graham. For details about Engberg's polemic about conservative efforts to limit government funding of liberal groups, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1995/mw19950701jca.html

-- A November 1994 MediaWatch article recited how Engberg impugned then-incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich: "From the start, modesty was not his style. Rejecting the House's gentlemanly ways, he waged such constant guerrilla war against the Democrats he was attacked for McCarthyism." Engberg concluded: "Gingrich himself, bombastic and ruthless, would be the most dramatic change imaginable, a change the administration can only dread." For more, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1994/mw19941101p1.html

-- From the September 1994 MediaWatch, Engberg was bashing Ken Starr before bashing Starr was the media norm. Note the whiff of conspiracy: "The way Starr got the job, which bears the footprints of every Republican President from Nixon to Bush, is also becoming a hot issue. Independent counsels are chosen by a panel of three federal appeals court judges. By law the panel is selected by Chief Justice Rehnquist, a Nixon appointee to the Supreme Court named Chief Justice by President Reagan. Rehnquist chose Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Court of Appeals, a Reagan appointee, to head the three judge panel. Sentelle is from North Carolina where he was an active worker in the Republican organization run by Senator Jesse Helms, who is among Mr. Clinton's fiercest critics. Sentelle owes his job on the federal bench to Helms, who urged the Reagan White House to appoint him. Sentelle's two most famous rulings overturned the Iran-Contra convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter."
For more, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1994/mw19940901jca.html

-- From the November 1992 MediaWatch, Engberg began a story: "It was the most racially charged, divisive TV ad in the history of presidential campaigns. It worked. The Willie Horton commercial of 1988, blaming Michael Dukakis for a black criminal's attack on a white couple, gave George Bush a big shove toward victory. But the Horton ad also raised questions about racism and dirty politics that still haunt the electoral process like a ghost."

When called to discuss his report, Engberg asked: "Why should I spend one minute with a political, propagandistic rag like yours?" For more, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1992/mw19921101jca.html

-- An August 1989 MediaWatch story relayed: "MediaWatch analysts reviewed a year of Engberg's reports (July 1, 1988 to June 30, 1989)....This review demonstrates that whenever possible, Engberg adds a liberal spin to major news events and files pieces on liberal agenda items no other network finds important enough to cover." For examples, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1989/mw19890801stud.html

> While on this subject, I'd note that Bernard Goldberg is scheduled to appear tonight, Monday January 7, on CNN's Greenfield at Large, which airs at 11pm EST (10pm CST, 9pm MST and 8pm PST).

Goldberg's book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News," has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a few weeks. I noticed it debuted at #10 on Sunday on the Washington Post Book World's list of top sellers in the DC area. -- Brent Baker


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