Appearance Alert!
MRC's Brent Bozell on FNC's The Kelly File, Thursday 9:10pm ET/PT

CyberAlert -- 03/28/2001 -- "Sneaky" Attacks on McCain

Printer Friendly Version

"Sneaky" Attacks on McCain; ABC Suppressed Poll Which Found Most Want Bush's or Bigger Tax Cut; Bush's Anti-Environmental "Madness"

1) Good guy McCain versus anyone against him. "The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation survived some attempts to gut it," Dan Rather assured CBS viewers. McCain needs Democratic votes "to prevent what he calls 'this sneaky, tricky poisoned pill.'" NBC's Tom Brokaw framed his network's story around how McCain "sees some potential ambushes ahead."

2) CBS's John Roberts highlighted attacks on Bush's Kalamazoo speech. He led into a scolding from Gene Sperling: "It was the furthest Mr. Bush has gone to reassure worried Americans but not far enough to satisfy his critics." Roberts soon turned to Kevin Phillips, who blasted Bush: "I don't think George Bush has a very good command of either economics or tax policy."

3) An ABC News poll discovered 58 percent think Bush's tax cut plan is "about right" or "too small," but instead of reporting that, ABC's Terry Moran stressed how Bush has "an anemic rating" for handling the economy and "by a margin of two to one" people "say that the President favors large business corporations over the interests of ordinary working people."

4) Sound familiar? "The Sierra Club has called President Bush's latest moves on the environment 'March madness.'...Some in the President's own party are becoming alarmed." ABC had Jack Ford voice over the same story aired days earlier from Linda Douglass. Ford demanded of Christine Whitman: "Why shouldn't the public believe" it's true that he "has declared war on the environment?"

5) A former NBC News reporter in the New York Times: "Mr. Bush is presiding over a right-wing juggernaut." Bob Herbert asked: "Did Americans really want a President who would smile in the faces of poor children even as he was scheming to cut their benefits?"


1
There are two sides to Senator John McCain's liberal regulation of speech bill, known as "campaign finance reform," in the view of the media: The good guys on his side and the bad guys against him who will resort to any under-handed maneuver to undermine his noble quest.

"The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation survived some attempts to gut it," a relieved Dan Rather assured CBS Evening News viewers on Tuesday night. Rather eagerly quoted how McCain told CBS News that to win on severability he needs Democratic votes "to prevent what he calls 'this sneaky, tricky poisoned pill.'"

Similarly, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw framed his network's story around how McCain "sees some potential ambushes ahead." Lisa Myers focused on how there "are signs of trouble" approaching for McCain's effort, though unlike CBS she at least explored how Democrats who for years used the issue to bash conservatives are now working against McCain-Feingold. Myers concluded, however, by endorsing the premise of McCain's effort as she asserted that "many Americans" see the present system "as legalized corruption."

ABC's World News Tonight didn't mention the subject on Tuesday night.

-- CBS Evening News, March 27. Dan Rather handled the update: "In the U.S. Senate, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation survived some attempts to gut it today, but a poisoned pill may already be planted that could kill it off. Here's how: Opponents of the bill, including Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott, helped pass a provision to ban issue-related advertising by profit and non-profit groups in the last 60 days before an election. This is almost certain to be challenged as a violation of free speech, so opponents of McCain-Feingold will now try to add a provision to nullify the whole bill if any part of it is ruled unconstitutional by the courts. Senator McCain tells CBS News he has ten Republican votes but needs a lot of Democrats to prevent what he calls 'this sneaky, tricky poisoned pill.'"

Why not avoid the "sneaky poisoned pill" by just not pushing for passage of a law the courts will overturn? Not something on Rather's radar.

-- NBC Nightly News provided a full story. Tom Brokaw set up the piece by describing soft money as do liberal advocates of additional government regulation:
"In Washington the epic battle over campaign money is reaching a climax with some surprising twists. Today the Senate voted to ban so-called soft money. That's the unregulated hundreds of millions of dollars that go to political parties, often with no way of knowing where it came from. But Senator John McCain, who's leading the drive for reform, sees some potential ambushes ahead. NBC's Lisa Myers tonight on Capitol Hill."

Lisa Myers approached the story from how McCain is faring, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "This was a big victory for Senator John McCain and the reformers, a vote to ban so-called soft money."
John McCain: "We spoke affirmatively that soft money would be banned by a 60 to 40 vote that we would not allow soft money, and I think that was an important vote and important message."
Myers worried: "But there also are signs of trouble. Last night opponents of the bill, led by Republican Mitch McConnell, joined with some Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, to add an amendment that many say is unconstitutional. Why? McConnell says he did it because he wants to kill the bill."
Mitch McConnell: "I thought a bill that was already unconstitutional ought to be made a little more unconstitutional, so that's why I voted for it and lobbied for it."
Myers: "But why would Democrats, who claim to support the bill, go along? They may be trying to have it both ways. Senator Toricelli, who raised record amounts of soft money last year, Hillary Clinton, whom some call the queen of soft money, and Durbin of Illinois, all voted for the amendment that hurt the bill."
Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21: "There is no question we have some Senate Democrats who are supposed supporters of this bill who are trying to kill it."
Myers explained: "When the drive to outlaw soft money began, Democrats raised millions less than Republicans, but now they've pulled even. And some Democrats believe they now need soft money even more than Republicans who have fought this all along."
Charlie Cook, National Journal: "Democratic leaders for all their expressed support of McCain-Feingold, you know, have been bringing in Democratic Senators one by one and telling them, having lawyers explain to them why this bill is bad for the party."
Myers: "The next key test: A provision that would nullify the entire bill if any of it is ruled unconstitutional."
McCain: "There is no doubt that people are very strenuously trying to figure out ways to kill this legislation."
Myers concluded: "Some Republicans now are threatening a filibuster to try to talk the bill to death while some Democrats plot ways to kill the bill without getting blamed. What many Americans see as legalized corruption, many senators see as the system that got them elected."

2

President Bush's big speech in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday may have been meant to explain why he shouldn't be blamed for the economic downturn and how tax rate cuts are needed to provide a stable environment to encourage investors, but CBS News wasn't buying any of it. John Roberts led into a soundbite from Gene Sperling by scolding: "It was the furthest Mr. Bush has gone to reassure worried Americans but not far enough to satisfy his critics." Roberts soon turned to political analyst Kevin Phillips, who blasted Bush: "I don't think George Bush has a very good command of either economics or tax policy. And the way he's talking is actually drawing attention to that."

In contrast, ABC and NBC avoided such harsh attacks. On World News Tonight Terry Moran checked in from Kalamazoo: "After months of being criticized for talking down the economy as a way of selling his tax cut, the President today bluntly tried to distance himself from the economy's troubles." After a clip of Bush, Moran did point out: "Though the White House billed this speech as a major economic address and Mr. Bush took the unusual step of using a teleprompter, the President offered no new ideas for spurring growth. Instead, he plugged his $1.6 trillion tax cut and sought to head off a move gaining steam in Congress for a smaller cut that would take effect sooner."

NBC's David Gregory opened his Nightly News piece from Kalamazoo: "The President's most detailed address on the economy yet was in fact an aggressive counter-attack against those who accuse him of talking the economy down to a near recession."

Dan Rather set up the March 27 CBS Evening News story by stressing how Bush was trying to counter those who have criticized him for talking down the economy, though Rather failed to note how that is a common CBS mantra:
"President Bush is trying to distance himself from blame for economic problems and to deflect critics who say he isn't helping matters with repeated negative talk about it. He was talking about it again today in Michigan. White House correspondent John Roberts is there."

Roberts began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "After months of wild gyrations on Wall Street, convulsions in consumer confidence and massive corporate layoffs, President Bush had this message today: Don't blame me."
George W. Bush: "I believe I must speak straight with the American people. The American economy began slowing last summer."
Roberts: "The major policy address was an attempt to beat back criticism that the President has been talking down the economy for three months to sell his tax cut.

After a clip of Bush saying the economy is "somewhat winded but fundamentally strong," Roberts asserted: "It was the furthest Mr. Bush has gone to reassure worried Americans but not far enough to satisfy his critics."
Gene Sperling, former White House economic advisor: "Now that people are starting to blame him for talking down the economy and bringing down consumer confidence, he's trying to have it both ways."
Roberts: "The President is walking a tricky line, says political scientist Kevin Phillips, exploiting the urgent need for short-term stimulus to sell a long-term plan that has none."
Kevin Phillips, political analyst: "I don't think George Bush has a very good command of either economics or tax policy. And the way he's talking is actually drawing attention to that. It's not a wise way to do business."

The way CBS News is reporting "is actually drawing attention" to their bias.

Roberts went on to outline how the Democrats have proposed an immediate cut of the 15 percent tax rate to ten percent with a rebate of $300 to all taxpayers.

3

What is it about the networks that leads them to avoid reporting how their own polls find support for Bush's tax cut plan? About four weeks ago, as detailed in several CyberAlerts, the CBS Evening News refused to inform its viewers of how a CBS News survey after Bush's address to Congress determined 67 percent backed his tax cut plan. See these CyberAlerts for details:

http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010301.asp#1

http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010302.asp#2

http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010305.asp#3

http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010314.asp#1

Now the same avoidance of positive numbers for Bush's tax cut has hit ABC. An ABC News/Washington Post poll discovered 58 percent think Bush's tax cut plan is "about right" or "too small" while just 36 percent consider it "too big," but instead of reporting that, on Monday night ABC's Terry Moran stressed how the public is "becoming a little skeptical about some aspects of his leadership" as he has "an anemic rating" for handling the economy and "by a margin of two to one, 61 to 31 percent, Americans polled in our polls say that the President favors large business corporations over the interests of ordinary working people."

World News Tonight fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas announced on the March 26 show, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "An ABC News/Washington Post poll out today provides an interesting reading on public perceptions about President Bush's job performance so far. After a little more than two months in office, Mr. Bush's overall approval rating is at 58 percent. But people are more skeptical about his performance so far on a number of important issues."

White House reporter Terry Moran, despite being in the field covering Bush's push for his tax cut, skipped over the poll's numbers on the public attitude toward Bush's tax cut. Instead, Moran picked up on Vargas's theme about Bush's weak approval rating:
"The President is back on the road here in Billings, and earlier in the day in Kansas City, pushing for his tax cut. In both states there are Democratic senators he's trying to win over, but he is, as you note, addressing a public that is becoming a little skeptical about some aspects of his leadership. Take a look at what our poll found. Fifty percent of Americans, only 50 percent, approve of the way the President is handling the economy. That's a pretty anemic rating. It's lower than any President Clinton ever had, and there's even more ominous news. By a margin of two to one, 61 to 31 percent, Americans polled in our polls say that the President favors large business corporations over the interests of ordinary working people. That could spell real trouble for the President if the economy starts sinking."

Moran proceeded to explain: "Now the White House has a couple of responses to these numbers. They say, first, that Americans are savvy enough not to blame the President, who's only been in office for two months, for a faltering economy. And second, that the reason the perception exists that he favors business is because he's been trying to undo some last-minute regulations that President Clinton put in hastily, and they believe wrongly. But what they're really trying to do is communicate that the President is the man with the plan if the economy goes south. That plan is the tax cut, and it is going to be a feat of rhetorical sleight of hand for the President to sell the tax cut as an economic recovery plan."

Maybe he already has succeeded.

The March 27 Washington Post reported a poll result ABC ignored. The question: "As you may know, Bush has proposed cutting taxes by up $1.6 trillion over ten years. Do you think this tax cut is too big, too small or about right?" The answers: "About right" replied 48 percent, "too small" said ten percent and "too big" responded the 36 percent who agree with the Washington press corps. Six percent had "no opinion."

4

ABC News recycled on Tuesday's Good Morning America its Bush-bashing story from Saturday's World News Tonight, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed. Setting up a March 27 interview with EPA Administrator Christine Whitman, in which GMA co-host Jack Ford hit her from the left, he read a set up piece in which the words matched a March 24 piece by Linda Douglass which was detailed in the March 26 CyberAlert.

Ford announced: "This morning The Washington Post is reporting on a controversial move by Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman. According to the Post, Governor Whitman wrote a memo to President Bush warning that he was risking his credibility with world leaders unless he demonstrated his commitment to fighting global warming. Governor Whitman will join us in just a moment, but first a look at a series of controversial decisions by the President that have become a rallying point for his critics."

Ford then nearly identically voiced over the very same piece which had carried Douglass's voice three days earlier, complete with the same soundbites: "The Sierra Club has called President Bush's latest moves on the environment 'March madness.' In the last two weeks, the administration has signaled that it may allow logging in pristine forests that had been declared off limits, put off a decision to reduce arsenic in drinking water, suspended a rule to protect the environment from damage caused by mining. But the President, campaigning back in September, had sounded almost green."
President Bush: "We will require all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time."
Ford: "He has since gone back on that campaign promise to limit carbon dioxide emissions. The President has also suggested drilling for oil in national parks and is pushing oil exploration in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Some in the President's own party are becoming alarmed."
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert: "The fact of the matter is this was disappointing. If you just take a snapshot, I think he's done damage to himself and the reputation of the administration in dealing in one very sensitive issue area, but that's for the moment."
Ford: "Democrats have not been as gentle."
Sen. Barbara Boxer: "We believe that George W. Bush has declared war on the environment."
Sen. Charles Schumer: "We are not going to stand for the Bush administration's latest assaults on our environment. What a devastating week it has been for our nation's air, water and land."

To compare the Ford wording to how he copied it from the March 24 Linda Douglass story on World News Tonight, go to: http://www.mrc.org/news/cyberalert/2001/cyb20010326.asp#3

Ford then moved to the interview: "And joining us now from Washington, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman....We just heard a few moments ago, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer say that the President has declared war on the environment. Given the President's recent decisions, why shouldn't the public believe that that is true?"

Ford's next question also assumed action on arsenic is the only rational way to go: "You mention the arsenic decision, and the National Academy of Science is recognizing that there's a health link between arsenic and the general population's health conditions, has said, in their words, 'the current standard does not sufficiently protect the public health.' You said the administration is going to be doing something specifically and exactly what will they do in terms of reduction and when will it be done?"

Ford then worried about how Bush may have undermined Whitman's effectiveness in pushing liberal policy solutions: "Let me ask you about that memo that's being reported in The Washington Post today. It indicates within the memo that you told the President that global warming was important, was an important 'credibility issue for the United States,' 'we need to appear engaged.' Senator John Kerry has said that he respects you enormously, but he thinks that the administration has undermined your credibility and your ability to be effective within the global community. Is that so?"

5

"Mr. Bush is presiding over a right-wing juggernaut," complained former NBC News reporter Bob Herbert in his New York Times column on Monday. Herbert, an on-air reporter for NBC News from 1991 to 1993, asked rhetorically in his March 26 column: "Did Americans really want a President who would smile in the faces of poor children even as he was scheming to cut their benefits?"

Herbert suggested the "snickering you hear is the sound of Mr. Bush recalling the great fun he had playing his little joke on the public during the presidential campaign. He presented himself as a different kind of Republican, a friend to the downtrodden." The twice a week Times columnist argued: "The simple truth is that the oversized tax cuts and Mr. Bush's devotion to the ideologues and the well-heeled special interests that backed his campaign are playing havoc with the real-world interests not just of children, but of most ordinary Americans."

An excerpt from Herbert's March 26 column in which he equated the willingness of a politician to spend other people's money with compassion and failed to consider the actual effectiveness of the specific programs "cut" by Bush:

Is this what the electorate wanted?

Did Americans really want a President who would smile in the faces of poor children even as he was scheming to cut their benefits? Did they want a man who would fight like crazy for enormous tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting funds for programs to help abused and neglected kids?....

An article by The Times's Robert Pear disclosed last week that President Bush will propose cuts in the already modest funding for child-care assistance for low-income families. And he will propose cuts in funding for programs designed to investigate and combat child abuse. And he wants cuts in an important new program to train pediatricians and other doctors at children's hospitals across the U.S.

The cuts are indefensible, unconscionable. If implemented, they will hurt many children.

The President also plans to cut off all of the money provided by Congress for an "early learning" trust fund, which is an effort to improve the quality of child care and education for children under 5.

What's going on?

That snickering you hear is the sound of Mr. Bush recalling the great fun he had playing his little joke on the public during the presidential campaign. He presented himself as a different kind of Republican, a friend to the downtrodden, especially children. He hijacked the copyrighted slogan of the liberal Children's Defense Fund, and then repeated the slogan like a mantra, telling anyone who would listen that his administration would "leave no child behind."

Mr. Bush has only been President two months and already he's leaving the children behind....

There are many important reasons to try to expand the accessibility of child care. One is that stable child care for low-income families has become a cornerstone of successful efforts to move people from welfare to work.

Members of Congress had that in mind when they allocated $2 billion last year for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. That was an increase of $817 million, enabling states to provide day care to 241,000 additional children.

Now comes Mr. Bush with a proposal to cut the program by $200 million.

Is that his idea of compassion?

The simple truth is that the oversized tax cuts and Mr. Bush's devotion to the ideologues and the well-heeled special interests that backed his campaign are playing havoc with the real-world interests not just of children, but of most ordinary Americans.

Mr. Bush is presiding over a right- wing juggernaut that has already reneged on his campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions (an important step in the fight against global warming); that has repealed a set of workplace safety rules that were designed to protect tens of millions of Americans but were opposed as too onerous by business groups; that has withdrawn new regulations requiring a substantial reduction in the permissible levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water; and that has (to the loud cheers of the most conservative elements in the G.O.P.) ended the American Bar Association's half- century-old advisory role in the selection of federal judges, thus making it easier to appoint judges with extreme right-wing sensibilities....

Mr. Bush misled the public during his campaign. He eagerly donned the costume of the compassionate conservative and deliberately gave the impression that if elected he would lead a moderate administration that would govern, as much as possible, in a bipartisan manner....

END Excerpt

To read the entire column, go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/26/opinion/26HERB.html

For a picture of Herbert, to see if you can recall him from his NBC News days, and a bio, go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/library/opinion/herbert/bio_herbert.html

Just how devastating are Bush's cuts? Scroll back up and you'll notice that Herbert cited how Bush has proposed cutting one program by $200 million after Congress last year hiked its funding by $817 million.

So, Bush is proposing $617 million more for the program than was allocated to it under President Bill Clinton just two years ago. Yet the children of America survived.

--Brent Baker


>>> Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions which make CyberAlert possible, by providing a tax-deductible donation. Use the secure donations page set up for CyberAlert readers and subscribers:
http://www.mrc.org/donate

>>>To subscribe to CyberAlert, send a blank e-mail to: mrccyberalert-subscribe
@topica.com
. Or, you can go to: http://www.mrc.org/newsletters. Either way you will receive a confirmation message titled: "RESPONSE REQUIRED: Confirm your subscription to mrccyberalert@topica.com." After you reply, either by going to the listed Web page link or by simply hitting reply, you will receive a message confirming that you have been added to the MRC CyberAlert list. If you confirm by using the Web page link you will be given a chance to "register" with Topica. You DO NOT have to do this; at that point you are already subscribed to CyberAlert.
To unsubscribe, send a blank e-mail to: cybercomment@mrc.org.
Send problems and comments to: cybercomment@mrc.org.

>>>You can learn what has been posted each day on the MRC's Web site by subscribing to the "MRC Web Site News" distributed every weekday afternoon. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: cybercomment@mrc.org. Or, go to: http://www.mrc.org/newsletters.<<<