CyberAlert -- 02/14/2002 -- Finance Reform "Finally"

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Finance Reform "Finally"; CNN's Dobbs Provided Contrarian View; Anti-U.S. March in Iran Heralded as Anti-Bush; NYT's Rubin Tribute

1) CBS and NBC on Wednesday night heralded how the House was expected to "finally" pass campaign finance "reform." But as for who would benefit, CBS portrayed the President as the beneficiary because he had so many individual donors while NBC asserted that both parties would find a way around the new rules.

2) To the dismay of a Frankfurt-based columnist, on Tuesday night CNN Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs ensured that the conservative view on the motivations of campaign finance reform backers got time. He asked whether it is "more helpful" to supporters "that this be a political scandal rather than what it is to this point, a business scandal?" Dobbs observed that "reform often falters under the burden of a lot of time to think and to contemplate."

3) NBC's Tom Brokaw trumpeted an anti-U.S. mob in Iran: "The crowds were reportedly much larger than last year because people are upset at President Bush calling Iran part of an 'axis of evil.'" ABC's Peter Jennings claimed Bush had called the people of Iran "evil," not the regime: "Millions of people do not like being referred to as evil." But as Michael Ledeen noted, the crowd was "appallingly small by historical standards."

4) A New York Times front page early Valentine to Robert Rubin. The reporters seemed most upset by how Rubin's call to Treasury on behalf of Enron "inadvertently gave comfort to the White House and to some conservative commentators, who said it was evidence that it was a prominent Democrat, not Republicans, who backed a government rescue -- even though Republicans received most campaign contributions."

5) Reacting to Ted Turner's comments about how the terrorists were "brave" and that they were motivated by "abject poverty," Eason Jordan, CNN's President for news gathering, quipped: "Where would Ted be without the First Amendment? There can be no doubt: in prison." While Turner issued a statement to clarify his terrorism remarks, he's standing by his other liberal pronouncements.

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Your Olympic Event is Fixed."


1

CBS and NBC on Wednesday night heralded how the House was expected to "finally" pass campaign finance "reform," crediting the victory to the Enron scandal. But as for who would benefit, the networks differed. CBS portrayed the President as the beneficiary while NBC maintained that both parties would find a way around the new rules.

Dan Rather announced on the February 13 CBS Evening News: "A late night showdown tonight in the House on long-blocked legislation for an at least partially-meaningful campaign money reform bill. The bill was revived mostly by the shame of Enron. Opponents are hoping to kill it in the end run with maneuvers to keep it from becoming law."

Bob Schieffer trumpeted: "Ironically, reformers say embarrassment over the nearly $6 million that Enron has lavished on Congress may be what it finally takes to force reform."

NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw celebrated from Utah, where his show led with the figure skating controversy: "Now to Capitol Hill, where a far-reaching campaign finance reform bill finally is being debated in the House in the shadow of the Enron collapse."

Reporter David Gregory soon asked: "So, who are the winners and losers here? Experts say it's a wash for both parties because state parties and outside interest groups will still get soft money."
Political analyst Charlie Cook asserted: "It's not going to change the fact that money will be still going into campaigns; it will be going in through a different direction."

But over on CBS, John Roberts offered a different assessment, based on how the Shays-Meehan bill would restrict large "soft money" donations: "Ironically, it's the President who stands to gain the most from the bill. In the 2000 primary season he beat Democrat Al Gore almost three-to-one in the individual contributions the legislation would allow."

An on-screen graphic, which listed the Center for Responsive Politics as the source, listed Bush with 61,972 donors compared to Gore with 21,786.

How many of those 21,786 would you guess work for a network news division?

2

Much to the consternation of a Frankfurt-based columnist for onlineFN.com, on Tuesday night CNN Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs took the time to make sure the conservative perspective on the motives of campaign finance reform supporters got equal weight on his show as he suggested proponents are taking advantage of Enron "opportunism." He asked whether it is "more helpful to their cause that this be a political scandal rather than what it is to this point, a business scandal?" Dobbs observed that "reform often falters under the burden of a lot of time to think and to contemplate."

Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/) site on Wednesday highlighted how onlineFN columnist Ned Stafford had complained about the "mysterious disappearance" from the CNN Web site of transcripts for Moneyline, making it impossible for him to quote Dobbs' latest transgression.

Stafford complained: "I watched Moneyline Tuesday night (Feb 12), and Mr. Dobbs had another embarrassing on-air exchange with a correspondent involving a political issue, this time Congressional reporter Kate Snow. Anyway, I wanted to read the exchange this morning on CNN.com, and that is when I discovered: No Moneyline transcripts since Feb. 4."

Stafford recalled: "As some of you know, Mr. Dobbs on Jan. 14 bawled out Correspondent Tim O'Brien on-air, intimating that Mr. O'Brien was not being 'balanced' in a taped report on the Enron mess. I felt that Mr. O'Brien's report was highly professional and balanced, and I think most other bona fide journalists would agree."

Stafford proceeded to relate what Dobbs did to again disturb him: "Over here in Germany Moneyline starts at midnight, so I do not get the chance to see it regularly. Tuesday night, though, I was up late, and I tuned in. Kate Snow gave a live report on the impending debate over the highly controversial campaign finance bill, and that is when the live exchange with Mr. Dobbs began.
"Campaign finance reform appears to be another subject Mr. Dobbs is not real comfortable with. He asked Ms. Snow whether the supporters of the bill (mostly Democrats) were playing politics by using the Enron scandal to promote the bill.
"Unfortunately, unlike the case of Mr. Dobbs lecture to Mr. O'Brien, there is no transcript of his exchange with Ms. Snow (at least not yet). But it was obvious that Ms. Snow was uncomfortable with Mr. Dobbs line of questioning. She humored him, saying, well, the Republicans certainly think the Democrats are playing politics...."

For Stafford's article in full: http://www.nedstafford.com/main/msg.php?ma=sm&id=102

For details about the earlier Dobbs questioning of O'Brien:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020116.asp#1

If there aren't transcripts available, you can always do what we do at the MRC: Tape the show and transcribe it yourself. So, on Wednesday afternoon, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd took down the exchange which so upset Stafford.

Kate Snow wrapped up a story from Capitol Hill: "...One issue, Lou, that's going to come up, you're going to hear about tomorrow, is when should, if they pass reforms, when should they be effective? When should they go into effect? The sponsors of campaign finance reform today announced that they're going to change their bill tonight. It's now going to be in effect November 6th, that's the day after the next election. Lou."
Dobbs wryly noted: "The day after the election." Dobbs then inquired: "There are some similarities here with Enron. There's a lot of rhetoric rising up over Washington. And at this point, in point of fact there has been no evidence of influence peddling whatsoever. Is this, in point of fact a bit of opportunism, if you will, for those who support campaign finance reform?"
Snow conceded: "Well, Senator McCain said today, or I think someone said about him that he has always said that it would take a scandal to get campaign finance reform out there, to get the support built up. So they'll tell you this is, they were waiting for a scandal and here it is. So, yes, maybe it's a little opportunistic but they've said for years that they need to get soft money out of politics. That's how they'll explain it. The other side, Republicans, will say yeah, they're completely taking advantage of a moment and passing a bill that in their view, in the opponents' view is fatally flawed. Lou."
Dobbs speculated: "Wouldn't it be more helpful to their cause that this be a political scandal rather than what it is to this point, a business scandal?"
Snow: "Wouldn't it be more helpful to the cause of those who want campaign finance reform?"
Dobbs: "Right."
Snow: "Well, some of them will tell you that it is a political scandal. That's what some of the Democrats here on Capitol Hill think. Republicans, as you say, would say that it's just a corporate scandal. But it is certainly, what's clear is it's certainly playing into this whole debate. And one thing Lou, they're not going to have the bills and the language of the amendments, what they're going to be voting on tomorrow, until about midnight tonight so there's not going to be a lot of time for studious examination of you know, what it is they're voting on tomorrow, it's going to be very quick, very harried. Tomorrow morning you're going to see a lot of debate going on on the House floor. It should be a very interesting day."
Dobbs concluded by observing: "Reform often falters under the burden of a lot of time to think and to contemplate. Kate, thanks a lot. Kate Snow from Washington."

After the MRC's Ken Shepherd transcribed all that, a CNN public relations person sent Romenesko the transcript to post of the offending portion of Tuesday's Moneyline. She explained that CNN had moved all the Moneyline transcripts to money.com where you must pay $29.95 to buy them.

As for the points Dobbs raised on his show, it's interesting that with all the anchors and reporters skewing their coverage in favor of campaign finance reform, what could better be described as the "News Media Influence Enhancement Act," it's the rare mention of a contrarian line of thought which is what generates concern from the media columnist in Germany.

For a rundown of the media's incessant support for the liberal regulatory scheme, see the MRC's Media Reality Check on the media's record of promoting campaign finance reform: "Will Congress Reward Media's Advocacy? Establishment Journalists Discarded Objectivity for Activism In Pushing for Campaign Finance 'Reform.'" To read the report by the MRC's Rich Noyes, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/2002/20020211.asp

3

ABC, NBC and the New York Times this week trumpeted the importance of a demonstration in Iran against the United States after President Bush included that nation's regime in his "axis of evil." But as Michael Ledeen wrote on NationalReview.com, the crowd was "appallingly small by historical standards" and much smaller than a demonstration few months ago "to demand an end to the regime." Ledeen asserted that the "mob was an insult to the regime, a further demonstration of its weakening grip on the Iranian people."

Nonetheless, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed that on the February 11 NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw announced: "In Iran hundreds of thousands filled the streets to show their anger at America on the 23rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution in that country. The crowds were reportedly much larger than last year because people are upset at President Bush calling Iran part of an 'axis of evil.'"

ABC's Peter Jennings further distorted Bush's point by claiming he had called the people of Iran, not the regime, "evil." Plugging an upcoming story on Monday's World News Tonight, Jennings heralded: "Gigantic demonstrations against the United States today. Millions of people do not like being referred to as evil."

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed that Jennings set up the subsequent story: "In Iran today, there were large anti-American demonstrations in many parts of the country. It is the 23rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. The current President, Mohammad Khatami, said the large turnout was a response to what he called U.S. insults and trumped-up charges against the Islamic republic. There has been tremendous anger in Iran since President Bush included the country in what he called an 'axis of evil.'"

From Tehran, Iran, Jim Wooten concluded his story: "The puzzle, of course, is simply the struggle between an Iran that wants to do business with America and the other Iran, habitually hostile to the U.S. And now those three words, 'axis of evil,' have given those who hate America another edge."

"Millions in Iran Rally Against U.S." declared the February 12 New York Times headline over a story by Neil MacFarquhar. An excerpt:

Millions of Iranians galvanized by President Bush's branding of their nation as part of an "axis of evil" marched in a nationwide pep rally today that harkened back to the early days of the Islamic revolution, with the American flag burned for the first time in recent memory.

Amid the dirgelike chants of "Death to America!" marking the revolution's 23rd anniversary, President Mohammad Khatami tried to display Iran's milder face, stressing his government's interest in d├ętente.

Ever since Mr. Bush designated Iran part of an international terrorist network open to American attack, conservatives in Iran have been greatly buoyed, trying to use a resurgence of disgust with America to quash reform at home, daily denouncing Washington and exhorting Iranians to follow suit. This has made it difficult for President Khatami to preserve his reformist agenda of promoting democracy and rooting out corruption -- an agenda he emphasized today before he, too, criticized American foreign policy....

END of excerpt

Note how, as usual, the bad guys are tagged "conservatives."

For the entire article, those registered with the New York Times, can go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/12/international/middleeast/12IRAN.html

Michael Ledeen took on the media line in a February 12 piece for National Review Online. An excerpt:

Today's New York Times carries an amazing account of yesterday's rallies in celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. The account, which runs along the same lines as an earlier piece by the BBC, is so full of revolutionary zeal and enthusiasm that one wonders -- Really! -- what possesses these people. The journalists, that is, not the demonstrators. We know what possesses them, all too well.

The largest estimate I can find of the crowd in Tehran is about 300,000, and while that may seem like a huge number to a Western journalist, it is appallingly small by historical standards. Over the years, the regime could generally count on a million or so enthusiasts, but the last time a million people demonstrated in Tehran it was to demand an end to the regime, just a few months ago. Yesterday's mob was an insult to the regime, a further demonstration of its weakening grip on the Iranian people.

The story is even clearer when you realize that the regime knew in advance that it would have to work hard to fill the available space, and it pulled out all the stops to get bodies in place. The secret police, the Basiji, went around threatening students and teachers, warning of dire consequences if they didn't show up. All government employees, and all members of the armed forces were ordered to participate. The poor were told that if they didn't celebrate, their welfare would be cut off. Thousands of buses dragged people from the countryside to the city.

And still the best they could come up with was about a third of the usual turnout. That should have been the headline, and that is a big story.

But the Times and the BBC played it as a triumph for the regime, and a humiliation for the United States, as if the people of Iran had spontaneously rallied to their ayatollahs and mullahs in the face of George W. Bush's dreadful definition of the Islamic Republic as a country ruled by an unelected elite that represses the desire for freedom of the Iranian people....

END of Excerpt

For Ledeen's piece in full: http://www.nationalreview.com/contributors/ledeen021202.shtml

4

"Just in time for Valentine's Day," Mark Lewis of Forbes.com observed, on Monday the New York Times "delivered a remarkable front-page bouquet to Robert Rubin, in the form of an unusually generous assessment of the former Treasury secretary's attempted string-pulling on Enron's behalf."

In an analysis plugged by Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org
/medianews/
) on Tuesday, Lewis noted: "The Times seemed less concerned that Rubin had done anything wrong than that he had given aid and comfort to Republicans by making this a bipartisan scandal."

Indeed, check out the fawning first few paragraphs of the February 11 tribute, headlined "Rubin's Roles: A Public Man in Private Bank," by Joseph Kahn and Alessandra Stanley. They lamented how Rubin's call to the Treasury Department to try to save Enron's bond rating "inadvertently gave comfort to the White House and to some conservative commentators." An excerpt from the top of the story:

Plenty of government officials retire to the private sector to make their fortunes. Plenty of business executives venture into politics seeking power and influence. Robert E. Rubin is doing both.

Citigroup gives him a salary, bonus and stock options valued around $40 million a year to advise on strategy, which he does in an imposing Park Avenue office next to that of Sanford I. Weill, the company's chairman and chief executive.

But, as a former Treasury secretary, Mr. Rubin has not abandoned his role as a globe-traveling statesman. He advises the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, on economic policy. He was a sounding board for Gov. Gray Davis of California during last summer's electricity crisis even as Citigroup worked for energy companies that were selling power to the state. He debates bank reform with Prime Minister Zhu Rongji of China while trying to drum up business there for Citigroup.

He called the Treasury Department last fall to see if there was anything the Bush administration could do to save Enron, a major Citigroup borrower and client. He spoke as a banker, and also as a former Treasury chief concerned about the risks to the markets.

Mr. Rubin's call inadvertently gave comfort to the White House and to some conservative commentators, who said it was evidence that it was a prominent Democrat, not Republicans, who backed a government rescue -- even though Republicans received most campaign contributions.

Even some of Mr. Rubin's friends say privately that it was a rare misstep for a man known for caution and foresight. Like the class valedictorian who passes out at a mixer, the surprise is not that college students sometimes drink too much, but that he, of all students, would do so....

END of Excerpt

Back to Mark Lewis of Forbes.com, he reviewed how the New York Times has avoided implicating Rubin in Enron. An excerpt:

When the news of Rubin's involvement first hit the morning newspapers on Jan. 12, The Washington Post headlined its story "Rubin Asked Treasury About Aid to Enron," and focused on Rubin's Nov. 8 call to senior Treasury Department official Peter Fisher. Rubin is chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup, which is a big Enron creditor. He asked Fisher to consider advising the bond-rating agencies against an immediate downgrade of Enron's debt....

The Times also reported the Rubin news on Jan. 12 -- but lower down in a story that led with Enron President Greg Whalley's own calls to Fisher. Whalley's involvement was news, of course, but not huge news, given that by that point it was already established that Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay had placed similar calls to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans. Arguably, the big story on Jan. 12 was the involvement of Rubin, a prominent Democrat and a Wall Street icon. Yet the Times not only downplayed the news, it bent over backward to let Rubin off the hook, by emphasizing that he eventually agreed with Fisher that calls to the bond-rating agencies would be inappropriate.

Of course Rubin had no choice but to agree, since Fisher declined to place the calls. When Rubin, who was an interested party in Enron's fate, asked Fisher what he thought of the idea of helping the struggling energy firm, Rubin was not raising a philosophical point for discussion; he was making a request -- one that was very inappropriate indeed. Consider this reaction from The Economist in its Jan. 19 issue: "To make matters yet worse for the Democrats, the one person whose actions smack of unethical politicking turns out to be one of their own: Robert Rubin, the former treasury secretary..."....

[The February 11 New York Times story] digressed to a long, fawning profile of Rubin, who "is youthfully trim but gives little evidence of overt vanity," and who "masks an overpowering intellect behind verbal modesty," and who as Treasury secretary "had some commentators calling him the best steward of the economy since Alexander Hamilton." Finally, in the very last paragraph of this lengthy story, the Times reluctantly returns to Enron: "Mr. Rubin's peers say he has the judgment to navigate smoothly between his two worlds. But the call regarding Enron illustrates that even he can steer astray. 'Bob is no longer in the public sector and had the right and every reason to make the call,' said his friend Felix G. Rohatyn, the financier. 'It's delicate -- the impression is not great when it is on behalf of a company that has created the worst profile in the history of capitalism.'"

Enron is a scandal, all right, but members of both major parties have been recipients of the firm's largesse. Apparently, no Bush Administration officials responded to the firm's desperate calls for help last fall, whereas Rubin -- a prominent Clinton Administration official -- was happy to pick up the phone on Enron's behalf. This scandal is indeed a bipartisan affair -- which may be more than one can say about the Times' coverage, at least with regard to Robert Rubin.

END of Excerpt

For the entire piece by Lewis: http://www.forbes.com/2002/02/11/0211rubin.html

For the New York Times story, those registered with them can go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/11/business/11RUBI.html

5

Reacting to Ted Turner's comments Monday night at Brown University about how the terrorists were "brave" and that they were motivated by "abject poverty," Eason Jordan, CNN's President for news gathering, quipped to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Ted should be more grateful than any of us for the First Amendment. Where would Ted be without the First Amendment? There can be no doubt: in prison."

The February 13 CyberAlert Special relayed Turner's claim that his comments "were reported out of context, and I deeply regret any pain they may have caused. I abhor violence in any form and wholeheartedly support the campaign to free the world from the threat of terrorism." The two papers which had reporters in the room, the Providence Journal and Brown Daily Herald, stand by their stories. The February 12 CyberAlert Extra has been updated with Turner's February 12 statement about his February 11 remarks:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020212_extra.asp

For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story on reaction:
http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/epaper/editions/wednesday/news_c3a
67115660bb0bb00f1.html

I'd note that Turner did not rescind or clarify any of the other wacky far-left comments he was quoted as uttering, just the ones about the terrorism. For instance, he claimed "the environment will collapse in your lifetime," lamented that with "a few more votes in Florida....we could have had the best environmental President we ever had." Instead, he regretted, President Bush "is another Julius Caesar. Just what we need."

6

From the February 13 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs Your Olympic Event is Fixed." Copyright 2002 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Medal ceremony takes place before the event
9. In the middle of your figure skating routine, you're run over by the Zamboni
8. You see five heads in the four-man bobsled
7. Instead of scores, the P.A. system announces bribes given to judges
6. Event judged by former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay
5. You hear the Child of Light wants you to take a dive or else
4. You see six judges and a figure skater check into a Holiday Inn
3. It's curling, and everyone knows curling is controlled by the mafia
2. You lose to this... [old black and white video of a women skating in a bird outfit]
1. For some reason, it's being promoted by Don King

#9 would get some men to watch figure skating. -- Brent Baker


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