Bush's Speech Delivery Praised; Bush Reflected "Hard Core Conservatism"; Rather's Liberal Spin: Budget Cutting for Tax Cuts
1) Network reporters and analysts praised Bush's delivery. George Stephanopoulos: "In command of his brief." Sam Donaldson: "Overall people will judge this a very effective speech." Tim Russert: "I was amazed by how conversational he was tonight, and confident and comfortable."
2) ABC's Terry Moran insisted "the core of this speech was hard core conservatism: fiscal restraint; deep, across-the-board spending and tax cuts," but several analysts on other networks pointed out how Bush gave at least equal weight to liberal policies and spending more money.
3) Ted Koppel opened Nightline by stressing how despite an economic downturn President Bush is still pushing "huge tax cuts" as well as spending hikes. But the tax cut is not "huge" compared to the Kennedy and Reagan cuts.
4) Tax cuts are the "easy part" while holding spending to a four percent increase is "the tough part," NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw argued in seeming to question the wiseness of Bush's cut taxes first approach.
6) Dan Rather used the Democratic-liberal spin to describe both Bush's budget plan and the Democratic budget plan: "Bush tonight outlines his cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut-plan" while Democrats say "Bush's ideas are risky business, endangering... Social Security and Medicare."
7) ABC's Jackie Judd contended that Denise Rich's 19 visits to the White House "undercut...Republican suspicions" since they "did not accelerate" with the pardon effort. In contrast, NBC's Lisa Myers marveled at how Beth Dozoretz "made a remarkable number of visits to the White House: 43 times in the last two years."
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President George W. Bush earned widespread praise from network reporters and analysts for the delivery of his speech Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. Some examples:
-- ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "He was definitely in command of his brief tonight and I think...he seemed to be enjoying himself."
-- ABC's Sam Donaldson: "You just saw a new fresh spirit in the chamber. I thought the President was a little nervous at first, Peter, but he certainly settled in quite confidently and I think overall people will judge this a very effective speech."
-- CBS's Bob Schieffer: "An effective speech."
-- CBS's Dan Rather: "If one could venture a guess, it would be that this speech will be remarked upon generally as a good speech, well delivered. President Bush started out perhaps a bit nervously, then seemed to hit a confident stride and built toward his close."
-- CNN's Jeff Greenfield: "You know, when you look at the polls everyone will be taking overnight, the people will say he did fine. And the reason I can confidently predict that is they always say the President does fine in these situations."
-- NBC's Tom Brokaw: "It was, as advertised, more prose than poetry."
-- NBC's Tim Russert: "I was amazed by how conversational he was tonight, and confident and comfortable as I mentioned. And I think in large part it's because he is feeling very much at ease with the job."
Now, lengthier excerpts from broadcast network commentary after Bush completed his speech at about 10pm ET Tuesday night:
-- ABC News, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
George Stephanopoulos: "Well Peter, he was definitely in command of his brief tonight and I think you're right, he seemed to be enjoying himself, particularly with those touches of self-deprecating humor -- knowing that it might have been a close vote for the Congress to invite him and how he lost the city of Philadelphia big. What I found most interesting was how he opened the speech. The first policy he mentioned was Social Security and Medicare. The last policy he mentioned was Social Security and Medicare. He knows that's where the Democrats are going to attack first. He put the shield of Social Security and Medicare before the sword of tax cuts."
Sam Donaldson: "Peter, the thing that
stuck me was the tone in the chamber. When President Clinton was there, so
often the Republicans would sit on their hands, the Democrats would
applaud. But tonight you saw the Democrats applauding a lot of his lines.
For instance, when the President said the surplus belongs to the people,
not the government, it was Joe Lieberman who sort of led the standing up
side from the Democratic side. So the tone was one of not only civility,
but while the substance will clearly be debated in the days ahead, you
just saw a new fresh spirit in the chamber. I thought the President was a
little nervous at first, Peter, but he certainly settled in quite
confidently and I think overall people will judge this a very effective
Jennings wrapped up ABC coverage: "Even a couple of the President's harshest critics got into my ear this evening to say they thought he had done better than expected or better than they had expected, which says something about a measure of his accomplishments this evening, and perhaps some people in the country who've had it in for the new President may have underestimated his abilities once again."
-- CBS News:
Dan Rather grudgingly conceded: "George Bush, this is not an original thought, he constantly surprises people by exceeding expectations. Yes, some of his detractors and even some of his friends say he benefits from low expectations, but he constantly exceeds expectations. Second point, you can see the growth in George W. Bush whether you like him or not, whether you agree with him or not on his politics, his ability to deliver this kind of speech has improved dramatically over the last six to seven months."
Rather a bit later: "If one could venture a guess, it would be that this speech will be remarked upon generally as a good speech, well delivered. President Bush started out perhaps a bit nervously, then seemed to hit a confident stride and built toward his close. One of the things that President Bush and those around him have to be pleased about -- again, whether you like or don't like George Bush, whether you agree with him or not -- he has already managed to steer the national debate to the topics that he spotlighted in his presidential campaign, tax cut being one."
-- NBC News:
Tim Russert: "I was amazed by how conversational he was tonight, and confident and comfortable as I mentioned. And I think in large part it's because he is feeling very much at ease with the job. And that's rather quite striking when you observe this. Compare this to the way he was when he addressed the nation during those 37 days. It was described as a hostage tape some of those times. Not tonight."
ABC's Terry Moran insisted "the core of this speech was hard core conservatism: fiscal restraint; deep, across-the-board spending and tax cuts," but FNC's Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke and Tony Snow as well as CNN's Jeff Greenfield and MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Brian Williams all pointed out how Bush advocated an activist government which would spend more as he appropriated "Democratic applause lines."
Before the speech, MRC analyst Jessica
Anderson noticed, Peter Jennings asked: "Terry Moran, to what extent
do we see the President's conservative ideology on display
Following the address, Moran stuck to his spin: "Although he talked a lot about Democratic priorities -- education, the entitlements, racial profiling -- the core of this speech was hard core conservatism: fiscal restraint; deep, across-the-board spending and tax cuts; the privatization of part of Social Security. So he certainly has made his own people very happy on this speech."
That's quite a liberal definition of conservative when "hard core conservatism" is applied to a man pushing to increase federal spending faster than inflation as he creates new entitlement programs.
Observers at other networks detected at least as much liberalism as conservatism:
-- CNN's Jeff Greenfield: "Some of what he said when he talked about putting aside the old debate between those who want more government regardless of cost and those who want less regardless of need, that's almost an echo of Bill Clinton's, that third way idea."
-- FNC anchor Brit Hume, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "A speech which seemed structured to portray this President as a man quite prepared to spend public monies on a multitude of different projects and he listed many of them before he got around to talking about what is the centerpiece of his program, his tax cut. Obviously, the idea was to emphasize how much money is available and how much money is there to be made available to the public in a tax cut."
-- FNC analyst Fred Barnes: "I think you had the structure of the speech correct, Brit. The first half was compassion, the second half was conservative. Triple the spending on reading, triple the amount of money spent on character education, double Medicare spending over ten years, double the number of people over five years who go to community health centers and military pay raise, double the funding of the National Institutes of Health. Then he got around to the tax cut and said what I thought was the only memorable line of the speech: 'The people of America have been overcharged, and on their behalf, I am here to ask for a refund.'"
-- FNC analyst Morton Kondracke: "This was not a Reagan Republican speech. I mean he did not say that the problem we face is entirely too much government, let's get rid of it, let's get government off our back. He said that he wanted government to have an active but limited role and be gauged but not overbearing."
-- FNC's Tony Snow: "He stole a lot of Democratic themes early and often. He talked about racial suspicion on the second page of the speech, he used a Ted Kennedy line about we can't make people choose between buying food and buying prescription drugs. There was a wonderful emotional moment about Joe Moakley, a Democrat from Massachusetts who's struggling with cancer. He talked about disabilities, he talked about conservation."
-- MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I thought the power of this speech came from the first half when he gave a series of uninterrupted Democratic applause lines. He came out for -- let me count them -- prescription drugs for seniors, better education, stronger Social Security, health care, a patients' bill of rights."
Matthews added: "He said, 'How about tax cuts for the lowest income people?' and I noticed that Kweisi Mfume was applauding that, the leader of the NAACP. 'Let's cut their rates from 15 points down to 10 points.' Then he talked about the marriage penalty, then doubling the child credit, and then repealing the death tax, and then talking about how important a $1600 a year tax cut can be to a regular family, daring the elite liberals to say that's not enough money for regular people to benefit from. I thought the first part of this speech and the music came from the Democratic, positive, activist government. The last part of this speech was a case for conservatism, lots of red meat to the conservatives, just as powerful in cutting apart the constituencies. The Democrats will now have to defend."
-- MSNBC anchor Brian Williams highlighted Bush's "Democratic red meat," suggesting to Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore: "Now Governor, you know the Beltway view during the eight Clinton years were that what we saw there was Bill Clinton appropriating, largely, the Republican position, and that's what he did to the revolution that was the 104th Congress. Tonight saw a Republican President with a lot of Democratic red meat applause lines loaded into that speech."
Koppel opened Tuesday's Nightline by stressing how despite an economic
downturn President Bush is still pushing "huge tax cuts" as well
as spending hikes:
OMB Director Mitch Daniels pointed out to Koppel that Bush's tax cut is smaller than the ones enacted during the Kennedy and Reagan years.
Tax cuts are the "easy part" while holding spending to a four percent increase is "the tough part," NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw argued in seeming to question the wiseness of Bush's cut taxes first approach.
During NBC's post Bush speech coverage, Russert
asserted: "George Bush is putting his tax cut first because that's
the easy part. Even Richard Gephardt, the Democrat, today used the 'T'
word. He said we could maybe take a trillion dollars. What happens then?
After you get your tax cut then you've got to hold the line at four
percent in spending."
Just because politicians couldn't control themselves does not mean spending four percent more should be "tough." Most people would dream of getting an automatic four percent hike in their household budget. And to whatever extent it is "tough," the media are at least partly to blame because they rush to highlight supposed victims of any slowing in the rate of spending hikes.
Dan Rather expressed wonderment at how President Bush managed to become the first President in history who "has quoted Yogi Berra and the Three Bears in the same speech."
Shortly after Bush completed his address to Congress, Dan Rather ruminated: "At least one record was set in the speech. In this address President Bush quoted Yogi Berra as saying 'when you come to a fork in the road, take it.' The fork, said the President, is a choice between a big tax cut or big spending. The President also said some believe his tax cut is too big, others too small, he thinks it's just right, he said. So, this may be the first time in history a President, any President, has quoted Yogi Berra and the Three Bears in the same speech."
Balance to Dan Rather: Using the Democratic-liberal spin to caricature Bush's budget plan and the Democratic-liberal spin to describe the Democratic plan.
Check out how, on Tuesday's CBS Evening
News, he characterized the competing plans:
Yeah, that's about it.
A few minutes earlier Rather opened the broadcast by labeling Bush's tax cut as "big" and "controversial." Rather asserted at the top of the February 27 CBS Evening News: "He will try to sell the Congress, and you the public, his federal budget plan, including the controversial big tax cut he says is necessary to stimulate the economy."
Numerous White House visits by Denise Rich and Democratic fundraiser Beth Dozoretz: Relevant or irrelevant? ABC and NBC offered contrasting assessments on Tuesday night. ABC mentioned only Rich as reporter Jackie Judd contended her 19 visits "undercut...Republican suspicions" since they "did not accelerate when the pardon campaign was underway." In contrast, NBC's Lisa Myers ignored Rich and marveled at how Dozoretz "made a remarkable number of visits to the White House: 43 times in the last two years alone."
-- Jackie Judd, on ABC's World News Tonight,
reported how Dan Burton thinks Marc Rich may have used straw donors to
funnel money to Clinton's library. She then tried to undermine another
-- Lisa Myers, on the NBC Nightly News, in contrast
From the February 27 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Hugh Rodham Tips for a Happy Life." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. No matter how busy you get, eat your nine square meals a day
If there's anything interesting about Bush's speech on Wednesday's morning shows I'll send a CyberAlert Extra on Wednesday afternoon. --Brent Baker
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