CyberAlert -- 02/16/2001 -- Clinton Avoided "Is"
Clinton Avoided "Is"; Will GOP "Overplay" Pardon?; Democrats Give Less to the Wealthy; ABC Promoted Affluent Who Want Estate Tax
1) ABC and NBC stressed how donations by Denise Rich, in the words of ABC's Jackie Judd, "shows no huge spike in giving when talk of a pardon began in earnest." CBS assured viewers the controversy hasn't hurt Bill Clinton as speaking offers are "lined up like airplanes over LaGuardia on a foggy day."
3) CNN's Bob Franken raised supposed Democratic concern that Republicans might "overplay" the Rich pardon and ABC's Charles Gibson rued how the launch of a criminal probe means "this is not going away." George Stephanopoulos stressed how difficult it will be to prove Clinton did anything wrong and how he was motivated by trying to advance the Middle East peace process.
4) Dan Rather: Congressional Democrats issued a plan which "features tax cuts half the size of the Bush proposal, fewer of those cuts going to the wealthy, many more targeted to middle and lower income Americans." NBC's David Gregory showcased the Democratic photo-op with a woman who claimed to get little from Bush's plan.
Phil Jones opened his lead story: "CBS News has learned that Denise Rich is now willing to testify under oath, to answer questions about whether any of her contributions to the Clintons and the Democratic Party, played a role in getting a pardon for her ex-husband, fugitive financier Marc Rich. The one caveat: she wants immunity from prosecution."
Jones proceeded to quote Clinton's denial of any wrongdoing and noted how Clinton associates say lobbying from Israel was a major factor. Jones ran a soundbite from the Mayor of Jerusalem praising Rich for his contributions to Israeli causes.
Jones concluded by making sure viewers realized which party now controls the executive branch: "Here in Washington today officials in the Republican-controlled Justice Department said there are no plans to ask for a special counsel."
Next, Anthony Mason looked the impact of the controversy
on n Clinton's speaking fees. After pointing out how Morgan Stanley paid him
at least $100,000 but the Chairman later said it was a mistake to have picked
him, Mason went on to show that's an aberration. While Gerald Ford gets
$60,000 for a speech and George H. W. Bush makes $80,000, only John Glenn at
$100,000 is in Clinton's league and the offers keep pouring in. Mason
On the February 15 World News Tonight ABC's Jackie Judd
reported on the criminal probe launched by the U.S. Attorney in New York City,
Mary Jo White, who will follow the money to see if there's any connection
between it and Clinton's action. Judd cautioned:
Abbe Lowell: An example of the resurrection of the Clinton defenders as independent experts.
Pete Williams made the same point on the NBC Nightly News: "An NBC News analysis of her contributions shows a dramatic increase in 1998, before Marc Rich hires former White House counsel Jack Quinn to press for the pardon. The contributions reach a peek in 2000, an election year and Clinton's last year in office."
The lack of a spike in donations after the pardon request hardly proves Denise's money didn't have an influence. Maybe she just gave a lot of money hoping Clinton would appreciate it and do her a favor knowing she had a lot more money to give.
Did Clinton avoid the word "is" on purpose? All the networks on Thursday night quoted Bill Clinton's statement denying he did anything improper in granting the Marc Rich pardon, but only FNC picked up on Clinton's grammatical error in which he incorrectly used the word "are" instead of "is."
During the roundtable segment on Special Report with Brit Hume viewers saw this text on screen of Clinton's statement: "Any suggestion that improper factors including fundraising for the DNC or my library had anything to do with the decision are absolutely false."
Hume observed: "So the suggestion 'are' false. Mort, any thoughts as to how because that statement is not grammatical and we're using the word 'is' there, is that a way out of this statement if it turns out to be true?"
Mort Kondracke postulated: "Maybe the word 'is' is not in Clinton's vocabulary anymore." Kondracke urged a careful "parsing" of the words and jokingly suggested: "Maybe the 'fact,' if it were a fact that he gave the pardons out in return for money or for the library or something like that, the fact would be true but the 'suggestion' is false."
Don't be too quick to dismiss that parsing.
The first signs of a media backlash against Republicans for pursuing the Rich pardon? CNN's Bob Franken raised supposed Democratic concern that Republicans might "overplay" the Rich pardon controversy and ABC's Charles Gibson rued how the launch of a criminal probe means "this is not going away." On Good Morning America on Thursday George Stephanopoulos stressed how difficult it will be to prove Clinton did anything wrong and how he was motivated by trying to advance the Middle East peace process by fulfilling a request from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
-- CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, February 14. MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught this Wednesday night exchange on the 8pm ET show:
Wolf Blitzer: "How much of a stomach do the
Republicans appear to have right now to pursue this investigation to the bitter
-- ABC's Good Morning America concentrated its February 15 discussion around how the probe may never end, showing how hard it will be to prove Clinton did anything wrong and rationalizing Clinton's decision by liking it to bringing peace to Israel. MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down a hunk of the discussion which failed to delve into the provable possibility of wrongdoing if Denise Rich's donation money came from her husband's overseas accounts:
Charles Gibson: "George, when this gets into the
realm of a criminal investigation, or a preliminary criminal investigation, it
becomes open-ended. This is not going away."
At least it was worth is since those peace talks worked out so well.
Democratic spin as Dan Rather's reporting. On Thursday's CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather adopted as factual the Democratic characterization of their tax plan as well as of Bush's while NBC's David Gregory eagerly relayed without retort the Democratic photo-op with a woman who claimed she would not benefit from Bush's plan.
Dan Rather held coverage to this short item: "A key Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, told reporters this evening President Bush does not have the votes to pass his big tax cut plan, at the very least not yet. And Democrats in Congress put out their version of a budget and tax cut plan. It features tax cuts half the size of the Bush proposal, fewer of those cuts going to the wealthy, many more targeted to middle and lower income Americans. The Democrats would also earmark more of the federal surplus for national debt and for creating a prescription drug benefit for seniors under Medicare."
Rather and CBS went on to celebrate how key Senators have moved to support the creation of a huge new spending program: "On that score, a new bi-partisan prescription drug benefit proposal is being offered in the Republican-led Congress and it's a far cry from the one put out by President Bush." Indeed, Bob Schieffer explained how Republicans have decided to let Bush's plan die and are now pushing the John Breaux/Bill Frist effort to make prescription drugs part of Medicare, a government expansion plan which matches what Al Gore advocated.
The NBC Nightly News provided a full report on the Democratic tax and spending plan. Tom Brokaw announced, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "On Capitol Hill tonight, tax cuts back at center stage. The Democrats offering up a plan of their own that they say is more fair to working Americans and less tilted toward the rich than President Bush's plan. NBC's David Gregory joins me now with that debate that's centered on the difference between a payroll tax and an income tax. David."
Gregory began: "Well, Tom, Democrats may be willing to swallow the bitter pill of a big tax cut, but not as big, as you say, as the President's. Their offer about half what Bush wants. Today top Democrats, eager to prove the Bush tax cut mostly helps the rich, turned to Luwuanna Adams, a low income single mother, who, because she doesn't pay much income tax, gets little out of the President's plan."
Luwuanna Adams: "I can expect to receive $117 a year. That comes to about $2 a week."
Gregory relayed the Democratic spin: "An example,
Democrats say, of the working poor who, squeezed by high payroll taxes like
Social Security, really need the tax break most."
Without putting the Democratic claims in any kind of
context by, for instance, pointing out how Luwuanna Williams is already getting
a great deal in having to pay little if anything in income taxes, or how
liberals would scream about how Social Security would be destroyed by any
reduction in FICA tax revenue if Bush really proposed cutting FICA in any way,
What "'90s recessions"? It's been ten years since the last downturn in 1991 which shows that for liberals like Chafee it's always too soon for a tax cut.
The networks love people who love paying high taxes -- or at least assuaging their own guilt by making others pay high taxes. In this case, their heirs. As detailed in the February 15 CyberAlert, on Wednesday night the NBC Nightly News highlighted the efforts by a few wealthy philanthropists to keep the estate tax. On Thursday night, ABC joined the liberal campaign with a story on World News Tonight and an entire Nightline all prompted by the decision of a few rich guys to buy some newspaper ads next week.
Peter Jennings introduced the February 15 World News
Tonight story by first taking brief note of the Democratic tax cut and spending
Betsy Stark explained: "Billionaire George Soros, billionaire Warren Buffett, several Rockefellers, and other icons of American wealth are telling George Bush, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' They are running this newspaper ad saying they want to pay estate taxes because not to do so 'would be bad for our democracy, our economy, and our society.' Leading the charge, William Gates, Sr, father of Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, the richest man in the world."
[Newspaper ad headline as shown on screen: "If the estate tax is eliminated, someone else will pay. YOU."]
William Gates: "It may be a little hard for people
to believe, but there are a lot of people in our country who actually put the
country's interests ahead of their own, and it's not in the country's
interests to repeal the estate tax."
The estate tax cut, like all tax cuts, always had opposition from the media so "the odds of a win" were always long. -- Brent Baker
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