1) The volunteer
summit in Philadelphia may be advertised as an effort to get more
Americans to volunteer, but for NBC's Tom Brokaw on Sunday the core
problem facing the country is not a lack of volunteering but a lack of
government spending. With two big-name guests scheduled, Brokaw imposed
himself on Tim Russert's Meet the Press, broadcast from the summit in
Brokaw questioned Colin Powell and then Jimmy Carter for the April 27
edition. In the midst of discussing with Powell the effectiveness of
AmeriCorps and how to get people to volunteer to go into "tough
neighborhoods," Brokaw asserted:
current policies in Washington, however, exacerbating the problem. For
example, the new welfare reform bill is going to put about a million kids
on the street without a safety net beneath them. We're also now pulling
back from the benefits that we've provided in the past to legal immigrants
in this country and it's putting a big burden on a lot of the states out
there. You come from an immigrant experience yourself. Do you think that
the welfare reform bill went too far in just those two areas?"
statement that the welfare bill "IS going to put about a million kids
on the street." Talk about putting hyperbole and exaggeration ahead
of reporting. Oh, and "Republican" Powell answered yes.
Up next, Jimmy
Carter. Brokaw used the opportunity as a platform to explain how locking
up drug dealers and slightly decreasing the growth in the rate above
inflation at which the government takes money from the productive and
gives it to the unproductive, aka welfare, is not reasonable. Brokaw
earlier the problem of a growing prison population in this country and the
consequences of welfare reform. In both instances there would be people
who would say well, we had to do something about this terrible drug
problem that we have in America and about crime and violence and the only
way to do it was drop the jail door, sort of speak and also welfare had
gotten out of control. But the pendulum seems to have swung all the way
across now and the question is how do we get back to a kind of centered
place and so we can have set of priorities for dealing with these problems
in a more reasoned way?"
2) If Brokaw had
seen Sunday's Today a little earlier he would have been reassured.
National Public Radio's Scott Simon, NBC's resident essayist, told
liberals, in effect, to relax. He argued that the President's volunteer
scheme is really great because it will lead to more people advocating
"There's actually been much non-partisan modesty over this volunteer
summit because these days both major parties believe that American just
won't support massive assistance programs and they hope volunteers can
make a virtue out of this political necessity. But I'm not sure
politicians understand the potential power of the movement they're
to report how companies are helping (Lens Crafters giving glasses to poor
children, Kimberly Clark building playgrounds, and AT&T connecting
schools to the Internet) but, he cautioned, corporations will follow
through only if they have the profits to afford it. Then, he noted senior
citizens are really the only reliable volunteers.
As the music of
the Clinton-Gore campaign song of 1992 (the one with "Don't Stop
Thinking About Tomorrow" as the lyrics) increased in volume in the
background, Simon hoped:
although this summit is being hailed at a time of pinched expectations,
all this volunteerism may eventually, actually, spur more government
activism. When we build community playgrounds it makes us feel more of a
stake in making the homes and streets safer for the children who play
there, and that's not just a job for volunteers. When we help a child to
see, we help ourselves to see too what else that child needs to live a
At this point the
song is at full volume and Simon stopped as viewers heard the chorus
"Don't stop thinking about tomorrow."
The song faded as
Simon concluded: "I've seen the people being helped as actual human
faces rather than statistics, as the kind of experience that can transform
a nation of volunteers into a nation of activists."
Sign him up for
3) CNN White
House reporter may soon replace Jim Miklaszewski at the White House for
NBC. In Friday's Washington Post John Carmody reported that "Shipman
is telling friends that she has decided to leave when her contract is up
in June to join David Bloom as an NBC White House correspondent." If
she moves, don't count on much tough reporting if her interview on Friday
with VP Al Gore is any guide. Shipman served as substitute host for CNN's
The April 25 show
opened with a clip of Gore at the 1996 Democratic convention: "I will
pour my heart and soul into the cause of protecting our children from the
dangers of smoking."
the upcoming interview: "Vice President Gore helped make smoking an
emotional campaign issue. We'll ask him about a new legal blow to the
tobacco industry." (On Friday, a federal judge ruled that the FDA
could regulate tobacco as a drug but cannot control advertising.)
Here are all of
the questions Shipman posed to Gore:
on the tobacco ruling. That would seem a significant, at least
partial, victory for you. But on the advertising front, the fact that
the judge says the federal government can't control the tobacco
company's advertising, that seems to be a loss, because of course that
would have a major impact on influencing young kids to start smoking.
Are you disappointed? What can you do about that at this point?"
Vice President, what impact do you think this is going to have on the
ongoing and now not so secret negotiations between the attorneys
general and the plaintiffs in the tobacco companies, to reach a larger
settlement? There was some speculation that this might make that
effort for difficult to achieve."
another topic, Mr. Gore, one that the President spent some time
talking about in his news conference, China and the new reports today
that the FBI seems to have more evidence that would show that senior
Chinese officials sanctioned these attempts to influence U.S.
politics. You were there recently, you were told the public that you
were assured by Chinese officials that was not the case. Do you feel
at this point you were misled? Were you lied to?"
you think, as the President indicated, we need to be cautious, he made
a point that there are a lot of countries who openly try to influence
U.S. politics and that's accepted, Israel for one. Is the
administration's point of view, then, that this might be acceptable if
it is the case?"
you frustrated at all at the impact this seems to be having -- both
the China stories and the campaign finance stories on your own
popularity and approval rating? Do you think that that's going to
continue to be a problem for you personally, especially as the
hearings come up?"
No mention of
the hypocrisy of Gore's convention speech in light of how he sold
tobacco for many years, but Shipman was worried about the impact of
the fundraising scandals on him, as if he's an innocent spectator to
4) Wall Street
Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt is doing all he can to
embarrass independent counsel Ken Starr out of doing anything
significant about Whitewater. Here's an exchange with Bob Novak from
Saturday's (April 26) Capital Gang:
"I think to bring some kind of action against the President of the
United States and the First Lady in some penny-ante real estate deal
that took place six or seven years before he went to office with a
sleaze-bag like Jim McDougal is just out of the question. I think more
importantly, however, is the campaign fundraising and that's what we
ought to keep our eye on. There have been more stories this week about
the Chinese involvement. Fred Thompson's hearings are now scheduled to
start in mid-June with John Huang and Charlie Trie -- that is
"I want to ask Al a question, because I think Whitewater, I always
thought it was more important. If the President, if, this is an if. If
the President can be found, as President of the United States, not
something that happened years ago, if he did obstruct justice and
perjured himself, don't we as a country have a serious problem."
"Well, Bob look, sure we do. I mean there's no question on that.
But I'm saying is that it is something that is so far-fetched, that is
so ludicrous I mean it's kind of like saying if my daughter had wheels
she'd be a trolley. This is really a bunch of loonies down there who are
bringing these charges, Bob."
and a "sleaze-bag" the President chose to do business with.
5) If you've
been out of the country, it's news to you that Wednesday night ABC will
air an episode of the "Ellen" sit-com in which the star
reveals, or more accurately confirms, that she is a lesbian.
On Friday night
ABC began the final PR drive with an interview of Ellen DeGeneres
conducted by Diane Sawyer. In the 20/20 piece Sawyer noted how former
Vice President Dan Quayle had criticized a TV show a few years back:
"We told her he declined comment and wouldn't compare her show to
Murphy Brown's out of wedlock baby. But he did have a challenge for
DeGeneres: "He said what would be really courageous, what has never
been done, would be for Hollywood to have a favorable portrayal of a
pro-life, Christian Republican. Do you agree?"
replied: "Sure, why not. We have room for everybody. Let's put that
on television. Let's put it up against me."
It would be
interesting to see who would get more viewers, but don't bet on ABC or
any network soon to have the "courage" to air a show like the
one suggested by Quayle.