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CyberAlert -- 02/03/2000 -- McCain Pronounced "Conservative"

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McCain Pronounced "Conservative"; Worried Bradley-Gore Fight Could Hurt

1) ABC focused on how Bush went to a "place that's so conservative interracial dating is still banned." While NBC's David Bloom noted how Bush charged McCain "sounds more like Al Gore than Ronald Reagan," Tom Brokaw pronounced McCain "a conservative maverick."

2) ABC's Cokie Roberts admonished George Bush about the dangers of going right. Gore and Bradley not asked about policy, but two morning hosts pressed McCain on the Confederate flag. CBS and NBC worried the Gore-Bradley fight may harm the Democrats in November.

3) "McCain has worked the press constituency just brilliantly," Newsweek's Howard Fineman admitted and so Bush shouldn't count on the media turning on McCain. As for Forbes, he should get out: "It's too bad that he wasn't the guy who fell off the platform."

4) For the first time in February, but for at least the fourth time this year, Dan Rather proclaimed: "The U.S. government climate experts do believe global warming is real."

5) Bryant Gumbel has offered to up his monthly payment to his estranged wife from $250 a month to $31,000.

6) What happened Wednesday that hasn't occurred in about 1,112 years?


1

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)ABC and NBC led Wednesday night with the consequences of the New Hampshire primary results while the CBS Evening News went first with a supposed "exclusive" about a "stunning breach of national security" by former CIA Director John Deutch.

On ABC's World News Tonight Dean Reynolds focused on how George W. Bush campaigned at Bob Jones University, "the kind of place that's so conservative interracial dating is still banned." NBC's David Bloom looked at how Bush charged "McCain is out of step with South Carolina's conservative Republican voters" as he claimed McCain "sounds more like Al Gore than Ronald Reagan." Bloom allowed McCain to maintain he's "a proud conservative Republican." NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw came down on McCain's side, soon declaring McCain "a conservative maverick." NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely noted one driving force behind McCain's victory: "In New Hampshire, at least, McCain made himself the anti-Clinton."

Of the broadcast evening shows, only ABC picked up on Bill Bradley's charge that Gore backers hurled mud at Bradley-backer Senator Bob Kerrey and called him a cripple.

Here's a rundown of some noteworthy aspects of February 2 broadcast network evening show coverage of the campaign made possible by the transcribing efforts of MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings provided the most colorful opening of the night:
"Good evening. The presidential campaigns and the hordes of reporters following them might have choked on road salt and jet fuel as we bailed out of New Hampshire last night and this morning. Now that New Hampshire voters have given politics 2000 a political concussion, it is time to exploit victory if you can or avoid another defeat."

After Linda Douglas checked in on McCain in South Carolina, where she found that he "appeared stunned by the jubilant crowds that met him at 3am," Dean Reynolds caught up with George W. Bush:
"George W. Bush went to one of the most conservative spots in South Carolina today, the rigidly fundamentalist Bob Jones University."
George W. Bush at the university: "We conservatives, we who stand on conservative principles, have got compassionate hearts."
Reynolds stressed: "This is the kind of place that's so conservative interracial dating is still banned, and though Bush disagrees with that policy, he is not reluctant to go after supporters here. To make the point he laced his remarks with the word conservative, repeating it six times in less than a minute."
Bush: "I look forward to publicly defending our conservative philosophy."

Reynolds went on to note how Bush attacked Clinton on ethics and played a soundbite of Bush on McCain: "I wouldn't call John a liberal. I would just say on key points he has taken the Democrat position."

Up next, Jackie Judd informed viewers of an incident the networks ignored over the weekend and which CBS has yet to highlight and NBC only briefly mentioned Sunday night, though Judd soon downplayed its significance:
"Bill Bradley demanded Gore take responsibility for an incident that occurred last weekend in New Hampshire, an incident that got very little attention at the time. Senator Bob Kerrey, a Bradley supporter and a Vietnam veteran who lost his leg in the war, said Gore backers hurled mud at him and called him a cripple."
Bill Bradley: "When his campaign demeans a medal of honor winner like Bob Kerrey, there should be an apology from Al Gore to Bob Kerrey. He should take responsibility."
Judd: "Gore has said there was no proof his people were responsible for anything that may have happened. And today a spokesman said such behavior would never be condoned. Even Kerrey himself, when asked about the name calling incident a couple of days ago, seemed to shrug it off."
Bob Kerrey: "This is a young person carried away in the moment. No, the Vice President would never say that to me. I know that."
Judd concluded: "In other words, Kerrey gave Gore a pass and so may have undermined Bradley's attempt to put the Vice President on the defensive the first day after New Hampshire."

For ABC's fourth and last campaign story, John Cochran examined how Gore flew back to Washington to be ready to cast a tie breaking vote on an abortion protest liability bill, but enough Republicans backed it in order to ensure Gore's vote was not needed. Cochran concluded by scolding both sides:
"No one came out of this looking good. Gore's dash back to Washington raised suspicions that he was pandering to abortion rights supporters, and Republicans looked as though they were willing to do anything, even switch votes, just to spite him."

-- CBS Evening News. "A CBS News exclusive. Accusations that then CIA Director John Deutch visited high risk web sites on a home computer full of sensitive information," Dan Rather breathlessly announced in teasing CBS's top story, going on to refer to a "stunning breach of national security" by Deutch. Without any video, Lesley Stahl sat at the anchor desk and outlined CBS's story about how Deutch supposedly made his top secret computer files vulnerable by using the computer which housed them to browse unsecured Web sites, including pornography sites.

Later in the show, after a story on the Air Alaska crash, Rather got to the campaign, issuing this Ratherism about the New Hampshire results: "Democrat Bill Bradley came close enough to Al Gore to crack his tail lights."

CBS aired two uneventful campaign stories: Bill Whitaker in South Carolina on the Republicans and John Roberts on how Democrats Gore and Bradley filled their day.

-- NBC Nightly News. Up front, David Bloom explored Bush's new strategy of describing McCain as more Clinton Democrat than Reagan conservative: "Today John McCain celebrates his eighteen point trouncing of George W. Bush in New Hampshire. And the suddenly vulnerable Texas Governor levels his most pointed attack yet on the Arizona Senator. Bush's argument: After eighteen years in Washington, McCain is out of step with South Carolina's conservative Republican voters."
George W. Bush: "And he's done a pretty good job of trying to get the area codes that we live in confused. I'm 512. That's Texas. He's 202. That's Washington, D.C. The people of this state and South Carolina aren't gonna fall prey to that. They know I'm a Texas governor. I come from outside of Washington, D.C."
Bloom: "But McCain argues his victory in New Hampshire, where independent voters favored McCain three to one over Bush, proves he's more electable than the Texas governor. Today McCain tells Republican Party leaders to listen up. 'We can win,' he says."
John McCain: "I am a proud conservative Republican, and my views are conservative. Less government, lower taxes, stronger military."
Bloom: "But Bush, far more aggressive now, claims that on everything from the size of tax cuts to McCain's support for campaign finance reform, the Arizona Senator sounds more like Al Gore than Ronald Reagan."
Bush: "I wouldn't call John a liberal. I would just say on key points he has taken the Democrat position."
McCain: "I can give him lots of lessons about being a conservative, including not spending all the surplus on tax cuts."

So, is McCain a conservative or not? Tom Brokaw came down on McCain's side. Introducing a profile piece, Brokaw declared as fact: "McCain is an unconventional Republican Party candidate, a conservative maverick given to irreverent comments and self deprecating humor. More tonight on the McCain, the man and his style, from NBC's Lisa Myers."

Interlaced with clips of McCain, Myers explained: "One hundred fourteen thousand voters in New Hampshire, men and women of all ages, say there is something about John McCain. He's edgy, irreverent....Rebellious....Seemingly straightforward, even when his integrity is questioned on his key issue: money in politics....Even as he runs for the highest office in the land, the man once nicknamed John Wayne McCain, regularly tweaks the rules of politics. The atmosphere on his campaign bus sometimes is more Saturday Night at the Improv than the Road to the Oval Office."
Reporter on bus: "So right now on the Straight Talk Express, are you living la vida loca?"
McCain: "Absolutely, surrounded by communists."

Myers soon added: "Even when the humor doesn't work, and it can seem harsh, McCain's direct unvarnished style seems to appeal to voters wary of packaging and polish. His five years in a Vietnamese prison also seems to give voters confidence that this is a man who means what he says. In New Hampshire, at least, McCain made himself the anti-Clinton, saying voters may not always agree with him but-"
McCain: "As President of the United States, I will always tell you the truth no matter what."
Myers: "It touched voters who say they never before cared about politics."

Next, NBC's Claire Shipman checked in on the two Democrats, outlining how Bradley attacked Gore again on his truthfulness and how Gore took a trip to Washington, DC to be ready to break a tie on the abortion bill vote.

2

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)The morning after the New Hampshire primary ABC's Cokie Roberts admonished George Bush about how he'll be hurt in the general election if he goes to the right now in order to win in South Carolina. The CBS and NBC morning show hosts didn't raise any policy questions in interviews with Democratic primary victor Al Gore, but demanded Republican primary winner John McCain take a position on the divisive issue of the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina's state Capitol building. CBS's Jon Frankel did gush to McCain: "I'm not sure if you're a rock star or politician on the move."

Neither CBS or NBC asked McCain about whether his ongoing battle with Bush will hurt Republican chances in the fall, but both networks worried about how the Gore-Bradley fight might harm the Democrats in November. On NBC's Today Matt Lauer acted like he has a stake in the campaign, fretting to Al Gore: "How much longer can the Democratic Party stand by and watch you two guys go at each other like this before some serious damage is done to a general election candidacy?"

(Gore and McCain appeared on all three morning shows on Wednesday with The Early Show and Today also interviewing Bradley. Bush turned down interview requests.)

Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, February 2, morning shows:

-- ABC's Good Morning America. George Stephanopoulos, appearing with Cokie Roberts, marveled at the sweep of McCain's victory:
"He carried moderates, liberals and conservatives. The only group that George W. Bush carried was religious conservatives, and you see now he's going to try to build on that going forward. Where is George Bush's first stop in South Carolina today? Bob Jones University, essentially the spiritual center of the fundamentalist Christian movement. What he is going to try to do in South Carolina is get those religious conservatives to rally behind him and save his candidacy, just as South Carolina did for George Bush in '92 and Bob Dole in '96."

Roberts jumped in to warn: "Of course, that can be a problem for him going into the general election, if in fact he gets the nomination."

Interviewing Al Gore from a train station in Manhattan, co-host Diane Sawyer, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted, pressed him twice about why independents preferred Gore before inquiring: "To wrap up this, this overnight campaign anyway, for the people who say to you and want to know personally what you feel, what would you say to George W. Bush this morning?"

-- CBS's The Early Show went first with a taped interview with John McCain conducted earlier in the morning in South Carolina by Jon Frankel. His questions, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
"After this welcoming party here I'm not sure if you're a rock star or politician on the move."
"Governor Bush said you ran a good race, he called it merely a bump in the road. Do you think he describes it that way to boost his own morale, or to knock you down and does that offend you?"
"You spent a lot of time in New Hampshire, you're not going to be able to do that over the next three weeks, strictly in South Carolina, you got the rest of the country to deal with. So how are you going to get the message out?"
"When you look at what voters really liked about you, they said it was your character, your leadership, your outspokenness, the idea that you wanted to fight the establishment. They don't mention issues, they don't mention taxes and education. Is that going to carry you enough on character?"

Then Frankel demanded an answer on a divisive policy question:
"Part of that leadership is telling the truth. People in New Hampshire asked you for it, you said you would give them the truth. So in that regard, here you are in South Carolina, you've got the Confederate flag flying over the state Capitol. People say tell me your opinion, and you've said I'll give you my opinion even if it's not always what you want to hear and it's politically costly. So what's your opinion about the flag?"

Frankel's last question: "This is going to get tougher for you, even though you had this big push in New Hampshire. The establishment is not going to embrace you, and in fact, they're going to come down on you even harder. So how do you fight that."

Jane Clayson then talked to Al Gore from the same train station as had ABC: "Well, it was a victory for you in New Hampshire, but not an overwhelming win, were you hoping for a knockout?"
"Mr. Vice President, a lot of people made up their minds in this race in the last few days when Bill Bradley went on the attack. You called it 'personal vilification,' but our exit polls show that 60 percent of voters approved of Bill Bradley's attacks. That can't be good news for you."
Clayson's last question: "Let me ask you quickly, he's got a lot of money and he promises to stay in this for a while, how and when can you shake him?"

Finally, Clayson, not Bryant Gumbel, also handled CBS's interview with Bill Bradley: "You had a strong second place showing. It was better than expected, but Senator, is better than expected really good enough to stay in the race and ultimately win the nomination?"

Clayson followed up: "Well, among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, our exit polls show that only 33 percent believe that you can beat a Republican nominee, 63 percent believe that Al Gore is more likely to win in November. What do you say to those who doubt your electability?"
And: "Exit polls show that when you went on the attack over the last week or so, voters seemed to approve of that, they seemed to support you more. You made a promise to avoid that sort of negativity. Are we seeing that you've broken your promise?"

Clayson drew concerned about the impact of the battle: "But there is concern among Democratic officials that if you continue this way and if Al Gore continues to win primaries and caucuses, that you're going to weaken him. What is your response to that?"
Clayson pressed: "You lost in Iowa, you've now lost in New Hampshire, you've got a lot of money, you can continue for a long time, but when do you decide to call it quits?"

-- NBC's Today. David Bloom checked in from South Carolina with a taped interview of John McCain. His first question: "You said last night that a great national crusade has just begun. The Bush people say this is no national crusade. You're a one state wonder, you won the presidency of New Hampshire, you can't win the presidency of the United States. What do you say to that?"

Bloom's next two inquiries: "But how do you counter the argument that you don't have the money, you don't have the national organization to win in primaries across the country."
"The Bush people say John McCain won decisively because independents crossed over in large numbers to vote for him in a liberal state. But here in South Carolina conservative Republicans they are not gonna buy his message."

Bloom then bore in on the Confederate flag issue: "You make a point in your stump speech of saying, 'I'll always tell you the truth.' An issue that's very divisive here in South Carolina is the issue of the Confederate flag. So is the truth in your estimation that it's a racist symbol and it ought to come down or is it a symbol of state pride?"
Bloom followed up: "It's not your place as a moral leader to say, 'Look either this is the right thing to do or it's the wrong thing to do?'"

Handling the Bill Bradley interview, Katie Couric avoided policy issues and stuck to campaign strategy in these questions transcribed by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:
"You lost by five points despite the fact that you held a commanding lead just about a week ago. So are you slightly disappointed?"
"When you started your candidacy you said you wanted to run a different kind of campaign. One built on ideas and yet last week you got very tough on Al Gore. You questioned his integrity and his honesty. Any regrets?"
"So in terms of attacking Al Gore we can expect to hear and see more of the same as the campaign continues?"
"And finally you've invited Al Gore to debate with you every week until March. He wants as a condition for those debates you to drop your TV advertising. You've refused to do that in the past. Can you reach some compromise with him now?"
"Well could you drop your TV ads as a condition?"

Finally, Matt Lauer probed Al Gore, starting with this query: "Let's talk about that five point margin. I mean obviously the message here. You got one, another one in the 'w' column but 47 percent of the voters in New Hampshire say they're not sure they want you to be President. Does that worry you?"

Lauer next asked Gore to react to Bradley's attacks: "There were a lot of charges that went back and forth over these last couple of weeks between your camp and the Bradley camp. Do you think that Bill Bradley succeeded in raising some doubts about your candidacy?"

David Bloom didn't ask McCain about hurting Republican chances in the fall, but the Bradley-Gore fight concerned Lauer, who asked Gore:
"You talked about personal vilification a second ago. Obviously the attacks have been stepped up in recent times. Mr. Bradley called you 'tricky.' He called you, he almost came right out and called you a liar on your record on abortion and campaign finance. How much longer can the Democratic Party stand by and watch you two guys go at each other like this before some serious damage is done to a general election candidacy?"

Lauer then pressed about holding regular debates with Bradley: "Let me get you before you go and ask you. Bill Bradley has challenged you to a series of debates. One a week for the next several weeks. Will you accept that challenge?"

3

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)The media's admiration for John McCain is so obvious that journalists don't deny it like they do liberal bias. Wednesday morning Newsweek's top political reporter, Howard Fineman, told Don Imus that George Bush better not count on the media to ever "turn on John McCain and treat him rough." Asked about Steve Forbes, Fineman said he hopes he drops out soon, adding: "It's too bad that he wasn't the guy who fell off the platform at the pancake flipping thing."

By phone on the February 2 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC, Fineman conceded: "McCain has worked the press constituency just brilliantly. He really has. And the Bush people keep waiting for the press to turn on John McCain and treat him rough, and I don't know when it's gonna happen, but if they keeping waiting for that, they're gonna be in trouble."

A few minutes later Imus asked about Forbes: "Will this persuade Forbes now to just give it up?"
Fineman: "I certainly hope so."
Imus: "Ah, just get out."
Fineman, referring to how Gary Bauer fell off the back of the platform while trying to catch a pancake, sputtered: "It's too bad that he wasn't the guy who fell off the platform at the pancake flipping thing..."

4

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)Wednesday night, after another cold winter day in New York City, Dan Rather returned to his January mantra, telling CBS Evening News viewers:
"The CBS Weather Watch includes an update tonight on the story CBS's Jim Axelrod broke in January, namely that the U.S. government climate experts do believe global warming is real, is under way, and that President Clinton would seek funds to fight it. Tonight CBS News has learned the President wants to earmark almost two and a half billion dollars over time to fight global warming, also tax breaks to spur development of electric and fuel cell vehicles."

5

cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes)Gumbel separation update. As detailed in the February 2 CyberAlert, Bryant Gumbel's estranged wife June, in asking for increased payments from him, charged that he's only giving her $250 a month.

In Wednesday's USA Today, Life section columnist Jeannie Williams provided this update:
"Bryant Gumbel has told a Westchester, NY, court he would pay his estranged wife, June Gumbel, $31,000 per month, plus expenses for their two children. Bryant's lawyer, Stanley Arkin, made the offer after June asked the court for $4,000 a week in emergency financial relief, saying Bryant had not been giving her enough money...."

Guess he doesn't really need Don Imus's "GumbelAid 2000."

6

cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes)My fun fact of the day, courtesy of Paul Harvey: Wednesday, February 2, 2000 was the first day in almost 1,112 years that all the numbers in the date were even: 2/2/2000. That last occurred on August 28, 888, or 8/28/888. Of course, now that for the first time since 888 we're in a year with all even digits this will happen frequently, as it will again on Friday, 2/4/2000. -- Brent Baker


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