CyberAlert -- 04/28/1997 -- Brokaw Volunteers More Spending

Brokaw Volunteers More Spending; Ellen Endorses Quayle

1. A million children will be thrown on the streets because of a welfare bill that lacks any reason. Comments from a far-left commentator? Well no, or maybe yes. It's Tom Brokaw.

2. NBC's Scott Simon explains the bright side of the volunteer summit: It will create demand for more government spending.

3. CNN's soon to depart reporter tosses softballs at Gore, wondering if he's "frustrated" about how fundraising is hurting his popularity.

4. Bill Clinton lied about Whitewater? That's "far-fetched, that is so ludicrous," insists Al Hunt.

5. Ellen DeGeneres agrees with Dan Quayle's idea for a TV plot.

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 Philadelphia.

Russert and 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:

"Are some 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?"

Note Brokaw's 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 demanded:

"You raised 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 government spending.

Simon began: "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 endorsing..."

Simon proceeded 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:

"But 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 better life."

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 AmeriCorps!

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 Inside Politics.

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."

Shipman plugged 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:

  • "First, 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?"
  • "Mr. 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."
  • "On 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?"
  • "Do 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?"
  • "Are 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 what happened.

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:

Al Hunt: "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 substantive."

Bob Novak: "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."

Hunt: "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."

"Loonies" 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 Hollywood."

Sawyer asked 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?"

DeGeneres 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.

-- Brent Baker