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CyberAlert -- 04/30/2001 -- Russert Validated DNC Attack Ad

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Russert Validated DNC Attack Ad; Donaldson: Nuremberg Standard for Kerrey?; Alter's Gorbasm; Jennings Lauded "Living Wage" Effort

1) "There's nothing inaccurate in that ad," Tim Russert told Karl Rove about a DNC television ad which features a little girl asking, "may I please have some more arsenic in my water, mommy?" But on Friday evening, FNC's David Shuster and Jim Angle outlined how the ad is inaccurate.

2) After showing a clip of the new anti-Bush DNC ad in which a little girl asks her mother for "more arsenic in my water," CBS News White House reporter John Roberts relayed how "Democrats ask what happened to Mr. Bush's vaunted promise to change the tone in Washington and put an end to partisan sniping?"

3) Senators Kerry, Hagel and Cleland defending Bob Kerrey: "For our country to blame the warrior instead of the war is among the worst, and regrettably, most frequent mistakes we as a country can make." Sam Donaldson's wacky concern: "What do you say to people that after World War II we blamed, at Nuremberg and elsewhere, the warriors, not just the people who conducted the war?"

4) To the astonishment of Don Imus, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter had a Gorbasm: "He's only the most important political leader alive in the world today." Alter related how he and Mikhail Gorbachev commiserated about "how much credit Reagan gets for ending the Cold War" when Gorbachev "could have easily said he'd send the Red Army into Eastern Europe, crush what was going on there and we'd still have the Soviet Union."

5) CBS's John Roberts took on another Bush budget cut: "There are concerns about lost opportunities and questions why President Bush...would close the book on one of the most successful nationwide reading programs in history."

6) Peter Jennings gushed after a story on a bunch of Harvard University students who are protesting for a "living wage" for university staffers: "It is often said that this generation is not as committed as the last one. There's a counter argument."

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Responses to the Question, 'How Fat Is Al Gore?'"


1
On Sunday, Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert put his credibility behind a new DNC television ad by validating the accuracy of the ad which preposterously suggests that President Bush wants "more arsenic" in drinking water. But on Friday evening, FNC's David Shuster and Jim Angle outlined how the ad is inaccurate, as did Tony Snow in confronting DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe on Fox News Sunday.

"There's nothing inaccurate in that ad," Tim Russert told presidential adviser Karl Rove about the DNC ad which makes several false statements, including the assertion that President Bush "tried to roll back protections against arsenic in drinking water and salmonella in school lunches." The ad features a little girl asking for "more arsenic in my water," as if the Bush administration had done something to lead to "more" arsenic in water.

Russert played the TV ad, which given its low production values, seemed geared toward getting picked up by free media outlets. The ad opens with a little girl holding up glass of water as she asks: "May I please have some more arsenic in my water, mommy?" Then a little boy, holding a plate with a hamburger, pleads: "More salmonella in my cheeseburger, please." The announcer then declares: "George W. Bush tried to roll back protections against arsenic in drinking water and salmonella in school lunches. Bush is trying to allow oil drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge and even in our national parks. George Bush's first hundred days. Brought to you by the oil industry, the meat industry, the chemical industry. The Republicans: These guys aren't for us."

Rove called the ad "almost laughable" and explained how the Bush administration will enact a lower arsenic level standard in time to meet the same schedule as Bill Clinton's last-minute order which would not have gone into effect until 2006. Russert raised how a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that asked to rate Bush's "performance on the environment," just 28 percent said "excellent/good" while 59 percent replied "fair/poor."

Rove argued: "The Gallup Poll says that by a margin of 49 to 38, I believe the number is, that people applaud the President's handling of the issue of the environment, even after all of these ridiculous and phony charges made by like, for example, that ad."
Russert countered: "Well there's nothing inaccurate in that ad."

Having dealt with arsenic already, Rove pointed out another inaccuracy in the ad. As the ad announcer says "Bush is trying to allow oil drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge," the on-screen graphic showed a picture of mountain. Rove noted that the mountain is far from the flat, frozen tundra where drilling would occur.

But over on Fox News Sunday, Tony Snow played the ad for DNC chief Terry McAuliffe. Snow pointed out how Clinton did not sign the arsenic rule until his last week in office and that in no way had Bush advocated "more" arsenic in water.

On Friday night the Fox News Channel provided a thorough evaluation of the ad, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed. On the April 27 Special Report with Brit Hume, anchor Tony Snow introduced a story: "By all accounts, Democrats have done a successful job of painting President Bush as anti-environmental, specifically with his policy on arsenic standards. But the opportunity to hammer the President may be more related to ineffective PR at the White House than to the actual implications of the arsenic decision itself."

David Shuster's piece began with an ad clip:
Girl: "May I please have some more arsenic in my water, mommy?"
Shuster: "It has become the first line in Democratic ads."
Ad announcer: "George W. Bush tried to roll back protections against arsenic in drinking water."
Shuster explained what Russert ignored: "And while the commercial may be effective, it is not entirely accurate. For 60 years, the arsenic standard in drinking water has been 50 parts per billion. Three days before President Clinton left office, his administration decided to lower than to 10 parts per billion -- starting in 2006. The Bush administration, in the meantime, is conducting a review."
Christine Whitman, EPA Administrator: "Arsenic levels will be reduced in the water of this nation. People will have safe drinking water. They will have even safer drinking water than they enjoy today, and when we make a final determination, it will be based on science."
Shuster: "The science used by the Clinton administration relied on data collected in Chile and Argentina, countries with high rates of cancer. The arsenic levels there are in the hundreds of parts per billion. The EPA under President Clinton reasoned that 50 is a proportional danger and 10 parts is just right. But water experts say that reasoning is untested and could cost a fortune."
Tom Curtis, American Water Works Association: "Our estimate is that at 10 parts per billion, this rule would cost about $4.5 billion initially to build arsenic treatment plants and then about $600 million every year to operate those plants."
Shuster: "The Clinton administration projected the rule would cost only $210 million and would save 28 lives per year, but critics say that's being generous, and they argue the money spent on new water systems would have a greater public benefit if it were saved or spent on health care. But that debate doesn't seem to be resonating, and many media experts say the Bush administration only has itself to blame."
Robert Lichter, Center for Media and Public Affairs: "Once the White House failed to respond to the initial attack, they were stuck on the defensive, so now what they're trying to do is just put their head in the sand and say this isn't out there at all."
Shuster concluded: "Indeed, some Republicans have been arguing that arsenic is insignificant compared to other environmental initiatives. Environmental experts say that's true, but Democrats are still having a field day portraying President Bush as a friend of polluters."

Portraying Bush as a "friend of polluters" with the eager assistance of virtually every major media outlet. If journalists, especially at the networks, had just reported the Bush decision accurately Bush wouldn't have a PR problem.

Later in the show, during the roundtable segment, FNC played the entire ad. FNC White House reporter Jim Angle observed:
"There is one factual point here, and that is when Democrats say that President Bush has rolled back the new arsenic standards, that is absolutely not true because the Clinton standard put in at the end of the administration would not take effect until 2005, 2006, so regardless of what the standard is, a new one will not take effect for five years. What Bush has done is saying the standard that President Clinton ordered was done with what this administration believes was insufficient science. They're going back to the National Academy of Sciences, and they have already signaled that they will go to less than 20 parts per billion, current standard is 50, Clinton had put it at 10, they're gonna go somewhere below 20, and that has not yet happened. The only criticism the Democrats have that may actually hit home is that if this delays things by several months, it might take municipal water systems longer to implement the new regulation and therefore could delay it by a few months, but nothing has been rolled back."

Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard agreed: "The truth is people are not being poisoned by arsenic in the water. If they were, I don't think even a rogue like Bill Clinton would have allowed the 50 parts per billion standard to last for 7 years and 360 plus days in his administration before acting just before leaving office. I mean come on, we're not being poisoned."

2

Without any irony, after showing a clip of the new anti-Bush DNC ad in which a little girl asks her mother for "more arsenic in my water," CBS News White House reporter John Roberts relayed how "Democrats ask what happened to Mr. Bush's vaunted promise to change the tone in Washington and put an end to partisan sniping?"

In a lengthy piece for Sunday's CBS Evening News, Roberts reviewed President Bush's first hundred days in office. After listing in successes in the China crisis and in leading the charge for his tax cut, Roberts cautioned: "But among Mr. Bush's achievements, some stumbles."
DNC TV ad, little girl holding up glass of water: "May I please have some more arsenic in my water, mommy?"
Roberts: "Democrats and environmental groups piled on the President for everything from arsenic standards in drinking water to his reversal on a promise to curb emissions of carbon dioxide. The honeymoon of the early days is over."
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "These first one hundred days gives us real concern about the next 1,360.
Roberts: "Democrats ask what happened to Mr. Bush's vaunted promise to change the tone in Washington and put an end to partisan sniping?"
Bush, address to Congress on February 27: "And I ask you to join me in setting a tone of civility and respect in Washington."
Dick Gephardt: "There's been no consensus building. There have been no bi-partisan conclusions. It is my way or the highway, everyday."

Given the tone and inaccuracy of the cheap attack in the DNC ad it's Bush who has the right to ask why Democrats abandoned his quest for civility and respect.

3

Wackiest question of the weekend: Sam Donaldson equating the holding accountable of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam with how the U.S. at Nuremberg held individual Nazis accountable, "not just the people who conducted the war."

On Sunday's This Week Sam Donaldson interviewed the U.S. Senators with Vietnam experience: Chuck Hagel, John McCain, John Kerry and Max Cleland. Picking up on a Washington Post op-ed by Senators Cleland, Hagel and Kerry defending former Senator Bob Kerrey, who last week admitted accidentally shooting and killing civilians in Vietnam in 1969, Donaldson queried the three:
"One line caught my attention. You said, 'Many people have been forced to do things in war that they are deeply ashamed of later. Yet for our country to blame the warrior instead of the war is among the worst, and regrettably, most frequent mistakes we as a country can make.' What do you say to people that after World War II we blamed, at Nuremberg and elsewhere, the warriors, not just the people who conducted the war?"

John Kerry replied by recalling how many WW II vets have terrible memories too of civilian atrocities and that in Vietnam civilians were often disguised combatants.

But Donaldson's premise is preposterous. The Nuremberg trial did not prosecute lieutenants in the field who carried out German Army or Navy orders from above, just the architects and leaders of horrific Nazi policies which, unlike the U.S. goal in Vietnam, was not to free people of tyranny.

4

A fresh "Gorbasm." Now that's a Rush Limbaugh-created term I've not had a need to employ for many years, but on Friday morning Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, fresh from an interview with the former communist leader, exclaimed, to the astonishment of Don Imus: "He's only the most important political leader alive in the world today."

Alter insisted on Friday's MSNBC simulcast of the Imus in the Morning radio show, that "if I look back over my lifetime who is the world leader who changed things the most and I don't actually think it is a close call." Alter related how he and Gorby commiserated about "how much credit Reagan gets for ending the Cold War" when Gorbachev "could have easily said he'd send the Red Army into Eastern Europe, crush what was going on there and we'd still have the Soviet Union."

MRC analyst Paul Smith caught the April 27 exchange and took it down in full:

Alter, referring to the lesson Gorbachev provided his kids who were present for the interview: "I told them, I think they will remember it for a long time, you know. He's only the most important political leader alive in the world today, historically speaking I guess I would maintain, don't you think?"
Imus: "Gorbachev?"
Alter: "Yeah, you look at what he did."
Imus: "No, I wouldn't agree but maybe I don't know enough about it. He just seemed like a guy with a blotch on his head. He is not happening."
Alter: "No, he's not happening now."
Imus: "He couldn't get it done there. I mean-"
Alter: "No, he is not happening now. I am talking about if you look over the course of our lifetimes, who was the most, well, you go back to Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.....but for me if I look back over my lifetime who is the world leader who changed things the most and I don't actually think it is a close call. I mean one of the things that Gorbachev and I talked about was how much credit Reagan gets for ending the Cold War. Needless to say Gorbachev didn't think uh, didn't think a lot but he could have easily said he'd send the Red Army into Eastern Europe, crush what was going on there and we'd still have the Soviet Union. We'd still have this basically, you know the era of stagnation continuing and we could have a Cold War going on to this day."
Imus: "Jesus, you really are a communist. We were just kidding around. We've just been kidding."
Alter: "No, no, seriously. How do, how do you, what do you think would have happened if Gorbachev had been a hard guy?"
Imus: "No, he would've got his ass kicked. Squished him like the bug that he is. He'd have another blotch on his head."

Imus is a lot more in touch with reality than Alter.

5

No budget cut is justified to CBS News which on Thursday night ramped up the tear ducts to bemoan how the Bush budget "would close the book on one of the most successful nationwide reading programs in history."

Dan Rather set up the April 26 CBS Evening News harangue noticed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "Questions are being raised tonight about what is not in the new Bush budget for one long running education program."

John Roberts began: "At the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, Book Distribution Day is all about opening up new opportunities...but on this day there are concerns about lost opportunities and questions why President Bush, who has made literacy a top priority, would close the book on one of the most successful nationwide reading programs in history."

After a clip from a school librarian on the value of reading, Roberts intoned: "With a budget of $20 million, Reading is Fundamental last year provided 14 million free books for school children, many of them disadvantaged. Mr. Bush wants to give that money to states to spend on education how they see fit. While states could individually choose to fund the program, administrators claim a piecemeal approach will destroy their purchasing power and distribution chain."

Following a soundbite from Dick Sells of Reading is Fundamental, Roberts made the issue personal for Bush: "Supporters of Reading is Fundamental wonder why the President would jeopardize a program that has been successful since the days of Lyndon Johnson and counts among its advisory board members the President's mother."
Barbara Bush, TV commercial from her days as First Lady: "Reading is Fundamental, the national organization that has helped millions of young people discover the joys of reading."
Roberts: "With next year's education bill at a crunch point in Congress, Democrats today promised to do all they could to save the program."
Joseph Lieberman promised funding would be restored, before Roberts concluded: "Reading is Fundamental administrators hope the President just didn't realize what he was cutting when he swung the budget ax. But the White House was quite clear, the money is much better off in the hands of local control."

If the program is so great, why can't it earn private support? I bet the federal money represents less than half its funding.

And as for dissing a program supported by his mother, isn't that something to be commended? After all of the CBS News bashing of Bush for doing what his business supporters command, how about a little credit for going against a personal conflict of interest?

6

A bunch of Harvard University students who are protesting for higher pay for university employees earned the admiration of ABC anchor Peter Jennings. After an April 26 World News Tonight story on the campus activity, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed how Jennings gushed: "It is often said that this generation is not as committed as the last one. There's a counter argument."

Jennings' accolade followed a full story on the point of view of the radical students who want everyone paid what the socialist city of Cambridge has decided is a "living wage." Dan Harris began his piece: "There are 37 students holed up in this administration building, sleeping on the floor, bathing in a communal sink and using cell phones and a Web site to get their message out."
Allegra Churchill, protester: "It's absurd. It's absolutely absurd that at the richest university in this nation, which has an endowment of $19 billion, that they can't pay workers what they need to be paid in order to put food on their table."
Harris: "The protesters want Harvard to pay all employees at least $10.25 an hour, roughly $21,000 a year; that's what the city of Cambridge has deemed a living wage. There are at least 900 Harvard workers, mostly custodians and cooks, making less.
Harris to a custodian: "How much do you make an hour?"
Emmanuel Gilbert, Harvard custodian: "$9.25."
Harris: "Nine twenty-five an hour -- is that enough to live on?"
Gilbert: "No."
Harris: "The occupation began last Wednesday. There's now a tent city of sympathizers outside on the quad and daily rallies with hundreds of people. All the signs, slogans, and songs may seem like throwback to the '60s, but observers say activism is alive and well on the American campus and the living wage is apparently the hot new issue. By one count there are now living wage campaigns at 16 campuses, most of them started by students within the last year. Harvard says its wages are competitive and that it is now offering free classes to lower paid employees."
Joe Wrinn, Harvard spokesman: "To get out of lower paying jobs into better paying jobs through education, which is the core mission of Harvard University."
Harris: "Administrators say they won't negotiate until protesters leave the building, but the protesters aren't budging, making it likely they'll leave either in victory or in handcuffs. Dan Harris, ABC News, Cambridge, Massachusetts."

Jennings then opined: "It is often said that this generation is not as committed as the last one. There's a counter argument."

My suggestion: Harvard should raise the wages but then assess the cost in an additional fee paid by each student, not by their parents or any taxpayer-supported loans. When reality hits maybe their liberal idealism will recede.

7

From the April 27 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Responses to the Question, 'How Fat Is Al Gore?'" Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. He's so fat, when he appears in public the band plays "Hail To The Beef"
9. He's so fat, the Florida Election Commission is recounting his chins
8. He's so fat, he'll only take money from the Chinese if it comes with egg rolls
7. He's so fat, instead of apples, his students place margarine on his desk
6. He's so fat, the Secret Service has added one agent just to guard his ass
5. He's so fat, his belt gave a concession speech
4. He's so fat, he asked Bush if he can be ambassador to KFC
3. He's so fat, he had one of Dick Cheney's heart attacks
2. He's so fat, the Liberty Bell is now the second largest thing with a crack
1. He's so fat, Clinton is thinking of hitting on him

And, from the Late Show Web page, some of the "extras," entries from the Late Show writers which did not make the final cut:

-- "He's so fat, when teaching class, he gets winded after picking up the chalk"
-- "He's so fat, when he goes to raise money at Buddhist temples, people think he's Buddha"
-- "He's so fat, his breasts have replaced Dolly Parton's as the biggest things in Tennessee" -- completing recovery at home from the flu. -- Brent Baker


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