1) In his April 29 column for The Washington Post, James Glassman acknowledged: "Despite all the talk of making the government smaller, the budget for 2000, the last year of the President's term, calls for $1.7 trillion in tax revenues -- up 56 percent from George Bush's last year."
Spending is soaring. Nonetheless, as shown in the April 28 and April 29 CyberAlerts, in covering the volunteer summit the networks blamed supposed budget cuts for creating the need for volunteers. Here are three additional examples observed by MRC news analysts.
-- Colin Powell made the rounds of the three morning shows on Monday. The April 29 CyberAlert relayed the questions from the left he got on GMA and Today. MRC analyst Steve Kaminski noticed that CBS This Morning took the same approach. Powell could have saved time and just recorded one set of answers and had each network star insert their version of the same question. Mark McEwen asked Powell:
"There are also some protestors here this weekend who say that you're asking people to volunteer to do what the government is not doing. You're asking them to help the people that the government has, sort of, turned its back on by closing down some of the projects that are helping the people you're asking volunteers to help. Is there an element of truth to that?"
"Republican" Powell agreed instead of noting that if the government has "turned its back" on anyone it's the taxpayer.
-- Well before summiteers arrived in Philadelphia, the networks, it turns out, started pushing the idea that too much volunteerism is dangerous because it will lessen the need for government. MRC analyst Gene Eliasen caught this inquiry from Ted Koppel to former President Jimmy Carter on the April 24 Nightline:
"And yet, I would think, I mean I could raise some notions here to a sometimes liberal Democrat like yourself on social issues that says this sort of volunteerism becomes more necessary at precisely the times when people start cutting social programs, and I'm not sure that you would want to participate in something that helps make it easier to cut those social programs."
-- MRC analyst Jim Forbes alerted me to what was probably the first instance of a pre-summit interview with Powell in which welfare reform became the culprit. Back on the April 11 edition of 20/20 Barbara Walters demanded Powell respond to the liberal line:
"What do you say to people who say we need volunteerism because we have abandoned the safety net which we used to have under welfare?"
Just a few minutes later, Walters tried to have it both ways:
"General, if we talk about the economy in this country almost every expert has said that we have to cut entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare, so forth -- and they say that we aint seen nothing yet with 76 million baby boomers retiring within a decade. Nobody wants to tackle it, what should we do specifically?"
So, we must reduce entitlement spending, but if we do then we will have "abandoned the safety net." Being a journalist means never having to be consistent.
2) Inconsistency in ideological labeling continues. The April 23 and 24 editions of CyberAlerts detailed labeling imbalance in the New York Times and Washington Post. The problem extends to the networks:
-- In an April 25 CBS Evening News story on the May 1 British election in which the Labor Party led by Tony Blair is far ahead in the polls, reporter Tom Fenton contended:
"Here in Britain, they call him Clinton-like, and the similarities are remarkable, both Tony Blair and Bill Clinton went to Oxford, both have successful lawyer wives, and both have pulled their respective parties smack-dab into the middle of the political road."
Having put Blair in the middle, Fenton couldn't just describe former PM Margaret Thatcher as conservative. He had to offer a harder-edged tag. Noting that the public feared "the old Labor Party's tax and spend policies...So the Conservatives have been able to hang on to power under the bland and unpopular John Major who followed the tough, popular arch-conservative Margaret Thatcher."
-- ABC's This Week on April 27 brought aboard Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to discuss their kidcare welfare expansion bill. Why bother with an opponent when two such wonderful Senators are on the media's side of the issue. But Sam Donaldson applied an extremist label to just one of his guests.
With a reference to Hatch's colorful tie, Sam Donaldson opened the segment: "It's like the Odd Couple. Here's an arch-conservative, tie not withstanding; here's the last of the old liberal lions. How'd you get together?"
3) Speaking of the "kidcare" bill which would raise cigarette taxes in order to generate $20 billion to provide health services for half the children without insurance, a reporter-turned- columnist hopes it is the first step to nationalized health care. In his April 18 Washington Post column, former New York Times and Post political reporter E.J. Dionne Jr. argued:
"Many conservative fear that kidcare is a foot in the door for national health insurance. One can only hope they are right. It's irrational to have a health system, so brilliant in many respects, that leaves about 40 million people without basic coverage.
"President Clinton made many mistakes in pushing for universal coverage, but his goal was right. He's endorsed Hatch-Kennedy, but how hard will he fight for it? Hubert Humphrey would be surprised if a conservative Republican showed more spunk for expanding health coverage than a Democratic President. Clinton should get over the trauma of losing his last health care fight and join the new one.
"And if Trent Lott wants to fight this bill, how can the President resist being on the right side of the question: Don't kids deserve the same health coverage their grandparents get? You can bet their grandparents think so."
Dionne must hope the kids can breath through the second-hand smoke from their cigarette dragging grandparents who must, for this scheme to work, remain addicted to the tax-generating nicotine-spiked butts.