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CyberAlert -- 03/08/2002 -- All Tax Cuts "Huge" to CBS?

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All Tax Cuts "Huge" to CBS?; CNN: Klein's Clinton Book "Balanced"; Today Featured Bruni's "Ambling Into History" & EPA's Bush-Basher

1) Is a tax cut ever seen as anything but "big" or "huge" by CBS News? On Thursday night, Bob Schieffer found the culprit for why the stimulus bill was delayed: "Republicans insisted on coupling unemployment benefits with huge tax cuts for business."

2) Joe Klein's new book is titled, "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton," but CNN anchor Aaron Brown declared it a "very balanced book on the former President." Klein expounded on CNN about Clinton's "courageous" policies and how he couldn't fix the FBI by firing Louis Freeh "because it would appear that he was firing him over Monica Lewinsky." Years ago, Klein defended Clinton's morals: "Having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the presidency."

3) NBC's Today showcased New York Times reporter Frank Bruni and his new book, Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush. Bruni recounted amateurish behavior by Bush at a 1999 memorial service and how Bruni finds Bush uninformed about popular culture, but that he was transformed by September 11 so people now see the genuine and plain-spoken side. Bruni insisted: "This is not meant to bash him or to bolster him."

4) Today also featured former EPA staffer Eric Schaeffer who Katie Couric prodded to repeat his attacks on Bush's environmental policy as she challenged him only once, and then very mildly. But seconds later, with EPA chief Christie Todd Whitman, Couric played devil's advocate with every question and demanded she respond to the spin from a liberal House Democrat about how "more Americans will breathe toxic air pollution for a longer period of time."


>>> Hear Dan Rather as he accepted the "Gilligan Award (for the Flakiest Comment of the Year)" at the MRC's Dishonor Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Reporters of 2001. Sort of. Roast attendees really heard an interview between Kate O'Beirne and Dan Rather made possible by the editing together of audio clips of actual past Rather comments. Now, the MRC's Mez Djouadi has posted a RealPlayer clip of the exchange enjoyed by those at the roast back on January 17. To hear it, as well as to read a transcript, go to the address below and scroll down a bit:
http://www.mrc.org/news/nq/dishonor2002/dishonor2002b.html#gilligan
You'll hear Rather proclaim: "I'm all news, all the time. Full power, tall tower. I want to break in when the news breaks out." And: "You know, I've been a dumb-ass all my life."
Plus, also now online, RealPlayer videos of Lucianne Goldberg accepting, on behalf of Helen Thomas, the "Bring Back Bubba Award (for the Best Journalistic Lewinsky)"; Bob Dornan accepting the "Peter Arnett Award (for Hopelessly Foolish Wartime Reporting)" for David Westin; and Katherine Harris accepting, on behalf of Dan Rather, the "Sore Losers Award (for Refusing to Concede Bush's Victory in Florida)." New today: Steve Forbes accepting the "We're All Going to Die and It's Bush's Fault Award (for Doomsday Environmental Reporting)" on behalf of Margaret Carlson. Go to:
http://www.mrc.org/news/nq/dishonor2002/dishonor2002a.html <<<

1

Is a tax cut ever seen as anything but "big" or "huge" by CBS News? On Thursday night, Bob Schieffer reported that the House managed to agree to a stimulus package which had been delayed because "Republicans insisted on coupling unemployment benefits with huge tax cuts for business."

Schieffer opened his March 7 story on the CBS Evening News: "With the six month anniversary of the attack less than a week away, Congress is finally near agreement on an economic stimulus package to get the economy going again and help the unemployed. Until now, House Republicans insisted on coupling unemployment benefits with huge tax cuts for business."

Last year in the MRC's study, "Liberal Spin Prevails: How CBS Led the Networks' Charge Against the Bush Tax Cut," the MRC's Rich Noyes determined that CBS's Dan Rather branded "the President's tax plan as 'big' eleven times," more often than any other network reporter. To read the study, refer back to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/specialreports/fmp/2001/bushtaxexec.html

2

Joe Klein's new book features an image of Bill Clinton on a mocked-up dime surrounded by the title, "The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton," but CNN anchor Aaron Brown declared it a "very balanced book on the former President."

(To view the cover with Clinton's head on a dime under the word "Liberty," check this Amazon.com page: http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0385506198.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpg)

Interviewing Klein on Wednesday's NewsNight, Brown wanted to know, "what did he do that was good?" After Klein admired how "his domestic policy was excellent and it was courageous," Brown didn't see Clinton as having any "bad" policies, just "less successful" ones: "Would you agree that he was less successful a President on the foreign policy side?"

Klein is most famous for writing Primary Colors which dealt with how personal foibles of a Clinton-like character impeded the noble goals of a liberal politician. But a few years ago Klein was holding up Bill Clinton's character and morals as an attribute since "having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the presidency." Two quotes from the MRC archive:

-- As a Newsweek Senior Writer, in the January 3, 1994 issue he opined: "I suspect that as long as the peccadilloes remain within reason, the American people will have great tolerance for a President who has not only seen the sunshine of Oxford, but also the dusky Dunkin' Donuts of the soul."

-- A few months later, on the May 8 Face the Nation, Klein mocked concerns about Clinton's behavior: "Are we in an era of government by Geraldo? Have we created an atmosphere where no one with any interesting aspects of their past is going to want to get involved in politics? Are we going to look back on this time 100 years from now the way we look back on Salem?...We're going to wind up with government by goody_goodies, government by people who have done nothing in their life except walk the straight and narrow, who have no creative thoughts. We're going to look back on this 100 years from now and say we drove some of our best people out of politics. In the 20th century, having an interesting sexual history is a leading indicator of success in the presidency."

A Publisher's Weekly review showcased by Amazon.com demonstrates that Klein's new book hardly offers a balanced take on liberal and conservative policies and leaders during the Clinton presidency. Picking up on Klein's criticism for Clinton's Lewinsky relationship, the review noted:
"Klein is even more critical of the fanatical press that fed on the affair, and the Newt Gingrich-led Republican ideologues and their subsequent suicidal impeachment mission. Klein also provides brilliantly illuminating caricatures of the political players who swirled around Clinton. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms is an 'antediluvian Visigoth,' consultant Dick Morris 'a prohibitively bizarre human being,' and Gingrich is an 'American Mullah' and a 'faux revolutionary who tried to turn democracy into war.'"

For the entire review: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/
books/0385506198/reviews/qid=1015549874/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-2674045-4508817

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed how Brown opened the March 6 NewsNight with his always self-indulgent rant, this time about how the independent counsel's final report bothered him. At the end of his remarks he got to his claim about the "very balanced" nature of Klein's book:
"We don't usually put breaking news right here at the top of the program, the first 90 seconds or so being devoted to some weird and self-indulgent rant. But how can we resist this. Item: the investigation into Bill Clinton is officially over. The independent counsel announced that today. Wow, I was worried there might be an impeachment or something! Look, do me a little favor. If you thought the investigation of Mr. Clinton ended a year ago when he left office, raise you hand. Okay, now you can lower them. If you thought the investigations would never end, raise you hand. It turns out you were closer to correct.
"It's remarkable, isn't it, a year after the guy leaves office, makes the deal so both sides can avoid a trial with an uncertain outcome, the country was still spending money on this? Anyway, it's over now. After about $70 million we can say he lied when he said he didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky. I wasn't sure of that until today.
"It turns out we'll spend some time, more time on Mr. Clinton today. Joe Klein has written an interesting and very balanced book on the former president, one of those books that will make everyone happy, or perhaps unhappy. We'll see."

Brown later set up his interview with Klein: "For President Clinton now, or citizen Clinton, the investigation is now officially over. We mentioned this earlier in that sometimes-annoying Page Two that begins the program. No reason to say it again, it's done, he lied, $70 million, no trial.
"Which leads us, and how is this for great planning by the way, to Joe Klein, who wrote the book on Mr. Clinton. Well actually, he wrote two books on Mr. Clinton. The first Primary Colors, the campaign book. Now, The Natural, which strikes us as the perfect title for a book about a guy who seemed to have been born to run for something, anything."

Brown began by asking if Klein thought he knew Clinton and "are there people who you think know him?" Klein replied: "His wife, perhaps. Some of his close friends...."

Brown then inquired: "Let's try and cover a couple things a little quickly here. It's always seemed to me that he is perceived in a kind of black-and-white way. You either love him or you hate him, and one of the arguments you make in the book is that, in fact, the guy did good and the guy did bad."
Klein: "Yeah, most Presidents do."
Brown: "On the good, what did he do that was good?"
Klein admired Clinton's courage: "Well, his domestic policy was excellent and it was courageous. He did something that was really quite remarkable for a President. He went right up into the face of his base, his strongest supporters, by deficit reduction, when you know the liberal Democrats really wanted to spend more money on social programs, welfare reform, free trade. These are all things that are kind of an anathema of died-in-the-wool Democrats, and yet he did them and he did them because he had a vision of the world. He wanted to move us from the industrial age to the information age, and he had mixed success in doing that."
Brown gently raised a downside: "And would you agree that he was less successful a President on the foreign policy side?"
Klein agreed: "Yeah. I don't think he ever felt really comfortable with the military. I think that that resulted from his position on the war in Vietnam, and it was there from Day One, and it was probably still there at the last day. Also, he didn't pay as much attention as he should have to foreign policy, and then in the end, I really believe that the Lewinsky affair had some deleterious, really bad effects on the foreign policy."
Brown: "It was a distraction to him?"
Klein held up anti-Clinton scandal mongering as an excuse for why Clinton couldn't fix the FBI: "It was more than a distraction. I think that a lot of people knew that the FBI really wasn't in very good shape. In fact, it was a disaster, and I think he wanted to fire Louis Freeh but he couldn't do it because it would appear that he was firing him over Monica Lewinsky."

Of course, Clinton picked Freeh to run the FBI.

Brown next contended that irrational reasoning is behind any dislike of Bill Clinton: "You talked about his relationship to the military and going back to Vietnam, which is for me, a perfect segue into this theory I have about people's feelings about him. That I've always thought that many people had, inappropriately, I'm not sure that's really the word I want, strong dislike for him that is out there somewhere years ago, but not necessarily related to anything he specifically did. Does that make sense?"
Klein rationalized: "Yeah, well, you know in the ancient, ancient world, in very early world, a scapegoat was always guilty of the crimes he or she was accused of. And Bill Clinton was a classic scapegoat because he represented the three great crimes of my Baby Boom generation, my awful self-indulgent Baby Boom generation. There was the sexual stuff. There was the looseness, the moral looseness. There was the fact that he put marketing over substance too often. And then there was the dreadful fudging and skating and avoiding service that we all did. And it's one of the reasons why I think we haven't been as good public servants as our parents were."
Brown: "Yes or no, okay, do you like the guy?"
Klein: "You can't not like the guy. And also, yes or no, do you like a hurricane? Do you like a tornado? I mean, this is the most talented politician I covered in 33 years doing this stuff. And sometimes, you just sat back with your mouth agape in wonder that he could do it."
Brown: "It's a terrific read. Thanks for coming in."

Brown probably thinks his interview was balanced -- by the same standard he thinks the book is balanced.

3

NBC's Today on Thursday morning showcased New York Times reporter Frank Bruni and his new book, Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush. Bruni recounted some supposedly amateurish and inappropriate behavior by Bush at a 1999 memorial service and how Bruni finds Bush surprisingly uninformed about popular culture, but that he was transformed by September 11 so people now see the genuine and plain-spoken side Bruni saw behind the scenes while covering him in 1999 and 2000.

NBC's Matt Lauer summed up Bruni's view: "There's a huge balance there. So he doesn't know much about Sex and the City, or Stone Phillips or Leonardo DiCaprio, he's earnest and sincere." Bruni insisted: "This is not meant to bash him or to bolster him this is just a book-length answer to the question: What is he like up close and personal?"

Stone Phillips as a representative name everyone should know from pop culture? Stone Phillips?

Since it is possible to separate Bush from conservative policies, I'd suggest that offering a negative evaluation of Bush's personal behavior does not necessarily make the book a biased anti-conservative screed unless it castigates Bush for pushing conservative policies, which it apparently does not. Let's remember that in 1999 and 2000 a lot of conservatives wondered if George W. Bush was up to the job.

Some excerpts from the March 7 interview as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:

-- Lauer: "Why don't we just start with the title okay. Ambling Into History, you look it up, ambling means, 'to move with an easy gait, to saunter,' why that description?"
Bruni: "Well this is a guy who didn't hold elective office until 1995 and in 2000 he wins the presidency. I mean most of the Presidents we've had, have been people who've worked toward it for a very long time, set in their sites very early on. He came to his ambition late. The beginning of his campaign almost seemed a little ambivalent about what he was doing. I mean he was someone who truly, more than any other President, ambled toward the office."
Lauer: "After writing about him for so many months covering the campaign and then as President you chose in this book not to write a book about his policies. You chose instead to write about small moments. His behavior, his nuances. Why was that more important to you?"
Bruni: "Because that's what I could uniquely contribute. You can write about his policies, evaluate them from a distance. You can write about his governing style from a distance. I spent so much time around him, over two years, probably more than anyone who wasn't a family member or a friend, or a, you know advisor. And I thought that was what I could give people that other people couldn't, was a real, you know-"
Lauer: "Some of what you write is not flattering. Let me, let me give you a couple of descriptions. First impressions, quote, 'An irreverent rapscallion on intermittently good behavior. Jim Carrey trying to incorporate at least a few elements of Jimmy Stewart. He was asked to be king but he still reserved the right to play the fool.' Give me an example of George W. Bush playing the fool."
Bruni: "One of the first times I met him it was at a memorial service in Ft. Worth for victims of a church shooting. And he was sitting there at this very somber event and he kept looking, looking back from his seat at myself and a couple of other reporters and making funny faces at us, wiggling his eyebrows, winking."

-- Lauer: "Another quote from you in the book. 'Part scamp and part bumbler. A timeless fraternity boy and heedless cut-up. A weekday gym rat and weekend napster.' You talk about and you make fun of some of his lack of pop culture knowledge. Rush Limbaugh says the following: 'So Bush is out of it. He doesn't know any of the latest pop icons. The important thing is this, George W. Bush knows who he is, knows the country and knows who you are and he knows what's best.' Isn't that more important in a President, if you agree with that?"
Bruni: "Oh it's absolutely more important in a President. The pop culture stuff I include just because it's an interesting aspect of the life of his particular mind. I mean he's someone, who even in his peripheral vision hasn't picked up on things like who Leonardo DiCaprio is, who Stone Phillips is. These are not things he needs to know as President. But it's just interesting that his field of interest can be so narrow."
Lauer: "While you poke fun at the President during these times you do say that here comes 9/11, here comes September 11th and there was a transformation. You point to a moment in the Oval Office just a couple of days after September 11th where the President is speaking to reporters and he tears up. Let's, let's play a brief portion of that moment....Why was that moment so significant to you?"
Bruni: "I think Americans saw in that moment what an earnest, authentic, genuine guy he could be. He's not a great actor like Ronald Reagan was or even to some extent like Bill Clinton was. He is what you see. And I think what Americans saw in that moment, more than any point before, was how sensitive he can be. How feeling he can be. Which is something I saw behind-the-scenes all the time."
Lauer: "And then there's a huge balance there. So he doesn't know much about 'Sex and the City,' or Stone Phillips or Leonardo DiCaprio, he's earnest and sincere."
Bruni: "Yeah and I think he successfully, to some extent, communicated that to voters during the course of the campaign as one of the reasons as well as he did."
Lauer: "Remember when he showed up at Ground Zero and he spoke to the workers who had been working there around the clock and he grabbed that bullhorn, this moment here, and I'm gonna ask you about it on the other side....What did he show you at that moment?"
Bruni: "Well we've often made fun of his ineloquence when he's standing at a podium in formal moments. What that showed you is that in more casual, more informal moments he can say what's necessary. He can say something very meaningful in a very plain way."
Lauer: "He can connect to the people he's talking to."
Bruni: "Yeah, I mean that was a great moment for him and unrehearsed, unscripted."
Lauer: "Is this a balanced book? I mean while you take potshots do you also give the proper credit for the transformation?"
Bruni: "Oh absolutely, to the point that I have liberals calling me, 'Bush's love-slave.' Everybody seems to-" [Lauer laughs]
Bruni: "No, I mean it's true."
Lauer: "You should get business cards printed up with that."
Bruni: "This is not meant to bash him or to bolster him. This is just a book-length answer to the question: What is he like up close and personal?"

The Today Web page features an excerpt from the book's chapter about Bush's odd behavior at a memorial service, a picture of Bruni and a video clip of the Today interview: http://www.msnbc.com/news/720190.asp

4

A week after he resigned in a publicity stunt to create a platform to bash the Bush administration for not being liberal enough on environmental policy by daring to consider policy solutions other than heavily bureaucratic regulatory enforcement schemes, NBC's Today on Thursday featured former EPA staffer Eric Schaeffer.

Today's Katie Couric prodded Schaeffer to elaborate on his opinions and only once, and then very mildly, challenged his premise. But seconds later, with EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, Couric played devil's advocate with every question and demanded she respond to the spin from a liberal House Democrat: "Congressman Henry Waxman says quote, 'Contrary to the Clean Air Act the Bush administration has delayed the date by which toxic air pollution will be cleaned up. With this delay more Americans will breathe toxic air pollution for a longer period of time.'"

The March 4 CyberAlert documented: An EPA official who resigned by denouncing Bush environmental policy was rewarded with a boomlet of laudatory media coverage with stories in major newspapers and on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as an interview on This Week. MSNBC's News with Brian Williams featured the NBC Nightly News story, but three nights earlier, when Nightly News aired a piece about how "Enron did surprisingly well during the Clinton years," MSNBC's prime time newscast not re-air that story. For details:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020304.asp#1

A rundown of the questions posed to Schaeffer and Whitman on the March 7 Today as tracked by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:

Couric set up the segment: "Last week Eric Schaeffer, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official leveled some very serious allegations against the Bush administration and its enforcement of clean air laws. Then he resigned. Eric Schaeffer joins us this morning. Mr. Schaeffer good morning."

-- Couric: "Ultimately what made you say, 'I'm mad as heck and I'm not gonna take it any more?'"

-- Couric: "So you have charged, pretty much Mr. Schaeffer, that big business and industry in exchange for generous contributions to the Bush campaign has been lobbying to relax clean air standards. Do you really think there's a quid-pro-quo going on here?"

-- Couric: "And what, what is the rationale for getting rid of the Clean Air Act?"

-- Couric mildly challenged Schaeffer, but presented the question in the form of asking him why the Bush policy is bad: "But meanwhile the Bush administration has introduced something that you well know, it is called the Clear Skies Initiative. Christie Todd Whitman has said it's quote, 'the most aggressive initiative to cut air pollution in a generation. Why don't you think that's an adequate replacement for the Clean Air Act?"

-- Couric: "And real quickly what do you hope to achieve through your resignation?"

-- Couric turned to Whitman: "Well obviously Mr. Schaeffer has leveled some pretty serious accusations against the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bush administration. How do you respond?"

-- Couric: "What about the, the, the sentiment that, that these new initiatives are intended to help energy suppliers? That the White House is in essence paying back its friends to the detriment of public health in this country?"

-- Couric: "The EPA has also been criticized for extending the deadline for compliance with the Clean Air Act. Congressman Henry Waxman says quote, 'Contrary to the Clean Air Act the Bush administration has delayed the date by which toxic air pollution will be cleaned up. With this delay more Americans will breathe toxic air pollution for a longer period of time.'"

By extending Couric's contract, NBC has extended the length of time Americans must endure her harmful biased approach to interviews.

> I've run out of space again before getting to my planned further analysis of the PBS NewsHour's assessment of the cable news channels and FNC's conservative bias. I'll try again to fit it in on Monday along with my take on the just-published New Republic cover story which attacks the premise of Bernard Goldberg's book. -- Brent Baker


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