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CyberAlert -- 05/30/2001 -- Price Caps Will Increase Supply?

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Price Caps Will Increase Supply?; Sympathy for Casey Martin's Cause; News Weeklies Used Jeffords to Push Bush to Center

1) Dan Rather came at California's energy problems from the point of view of Governor Gray Davis, stressing George Bush's "refusal to consider any price controls."

2) The Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune magazine argued Tuesday night on FNC that price caps on California electricity prices "might help the blackouts through this summer," contending caps would somehow lead to the availability of more electricity.

3) The networks aired balanced stories on the Supreme Court's decision to force the PGA to change its rules for golfer Casey Martin, but reporters betrayed their sympathies. CBS's Diana Olick noted the ruling does not give "every disabled athlete a place on the team" because it was "not about playing the game, but about getting to the starting line."

4) Time's Margaret Carlson bizarrely worried that in ten years the tax cut will mean "there's not going to be money to pay for basic services."

5) Newsweek proclaimed beside a cover picture of Jim Jeffords: "A Quiet Yankee Sends a Loud Message to the Republican Right." The other news weeklies also approached from the left, rebuking the GOP as too conservative and urging Bush left. Time's Karen Tumulty complained Bush's "compassionate rhetoric masked his conservatism" and concluded by gushing: "Thanks to a stern, quiet man named Jeffords, Bush may finally have the opportunity to create the kind of Washington he promised last fall."


1

Dan Rather on Tuesday night came at California's energy problems from the point of view of California Governor Gray Davis, focusing on President Bush's "refusal to consider any price controls." In the subsequent story, John Roberts showcased a single woman: "The rejection of price caps sparked howls of protest from one woman in the audience."

Rather set up the May 29 CBS Evening News story: "It was a politically-charged meeting in California today between Republican President Bush and Democratic Governor Gray Davis. But there was no meeting of the minds about Bush help for energy-short California, especially the President's refusal to consider any price controls."

Roberts ran through Bush's day in California, noting: "The rejection of price caps sparked howls of protest from one woman in the audience and threats of legal action from Davis."

2

Economic Illiteracy 101. The Washington Bureau Chief of a major business magazine argued Tuesday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume that price caps on California electricity prices "might help the blackouts through this summer."

When fellow panelist Morton Kondracke of Roll Call pointed out, "If energy is cheaper, then you're going to use more of it. Therefore, you're going to have blackouts," Jeff Birnbaum of Fortune magazine held his ground: "Yeah, but you may also have a chance of having more of it, it's also possible."

Birnbaum's rationale might be explained by his admittance to Hume that he didn't take any economics courses in college.

MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth took down this exchange in the roundtable portion of the May 29 FNC show:
Jeff Birnbaum: "I think that the Republican strategists in the White House should worry that if there really are a lot of blackouts and very high prices in California, there's nowhere for them to go. I mean, they have really boxed themselves out and said, no, we cannot do price [caps]-"
Brit Hume: "I know, but price caps are not going to stop the blackouts."
Birnbaum: "Yeah, but what can he do? Right now, what can he do to help California? And he'll be blamed because he's President." Hume: "But the only thing he's being asked for is price caps. Price caps, would you agree, do you think price caps will help or hurt the blackouts?"
Birnbaum: "I think that that might, I think that that might help the blackouts through this summer-"
Hume: "How could price caps-?"
Morton Kondracke: "No, no, no!"
Birnbaum: "It's perfectly possible."
Kondracke: "If energy is cheaper, then you're going to use more of it. Therefore, you're going to have blackouts."
Birnbaum: "Yeah, but you may also have a chance of having more of it, it's also possible."
Hume: "How is that?"
Kondracke: "Why?"
Hume: "How do price caps make that possible?"
Birnbaum: "Well, because people might be able to, to pay for energy. It's possible. I think, wait, as a political matter, wait, as a political matter-"
Hume: "Jeff, did you ever have any economics in college?"
Birnbaum: "In college, no. High school, it was excellent, actually. No, I'm teasing."
Hume: "There are books, we can, that could help you."

Birnbaum certainly needs some help. His way has already been tried and blackouts occurred anyway. Under the regulatory scheme of the last few years the state mandated caps on the price utilities could charge customers.

3

Tuesday night's ABC, CBS and NBC stories on the Supreme Court ruling which decided that under the Americans with Disabilities Act golfer Casey Martin, who suffers from a degenerative circulatory condition, must be allowed by the Professional Golfers Association to use a cart between holes, generated largely balanced stories. All three included comments from either Jack Nicklaus or a PGA official lamenting the intrusion into the rules of a private organization.

But, network reporters betrayed their feelings in their conclusions as all three ended with spins in favor of Martin and the ruling and not by reflecting on the negative consequences of the pandora's box the ruling may have opened by letting a court decide which disability a sport must change its rules to accommodate:

-- ABC's Jackie Judd on World News Tonight: "He is now part of a second-tier golfing circuit, but the court decision gives up the opportunity to compete and that, he says, is all he ever wanted."

-- Diana Olick on the CBS Evening News: "The high court has now opened the door for many more challenges to professional sports, but it did not by any means give every disabled athlete a place on the team. That's because the Martin case is a narrow one -- not about playing the game, but about getting to the starting line."

-- Tom Brokaw introduced the NBC Nightly News story with a more expansive take: "At the U.S. Supreme Court tonight a huge victory for one professional golfer that ultimately could have a big impact on millions of other disabled Americans."

NBC reporter Fred Francis concluded by quoting from Antonin Scalia's dissent, the only story to mention it, noting how Scalia had quoted "Mark Twain's classic barb that golf is quote, 'a good walk spoiled.' For Casey Martin there are no good walks and the high court agreed."

4

The federal government spends over $2 trillion every year and is projected to continue hiking spending by more than the inflation rate, but Time's Margaret Carlson still bizarrely maintains that in ten years, because of the tax cut, "there's not going to be money to pay for basic services."

On Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN guest panelist Jack Kemp reminded the panel how "last week I watched her and she said 'oh, this is the end of government as we know it.'" Indeed, that was the "Howler of the Weekend" in the May 21 CyberAlert as Carlson claimed that because of the tax cut "government is going to end as we know it....Government will be drastically reduced."

On the May 26 show Carlson defended herself: "What we don't know yet is which parts of government will suffer most. The only parts that Bob Novak, or perhaps you Jack, would care about is like air traffic control or beach erosion, but if air traffic control doesn't grow over the next ten years-"
Kemp: "What's that have to do with tax cuts?"
Carlson: "But there's no money, there's going to be no money."
Kemp: "There's a $6 trillion surplus!"
Carlson: "In ten years, when the bill comes due, there's not going to be money to pay for basic services. We don't know where it's going to come from."

5

Just like the television networks, the weekly news magazines approached the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords from the left, assuming his decision means President Bush has gone too far to the right and should move to the middle. Even after listing Jeffords liberal votes over the years going back to voting against Reagan's tax cut in 1981 -- though of course not calling them liberal -- Newsweek and Time explicitly rejected the notion that Jeffords was out for himself and only made the switch at a time when he could achieve maximum self-aggrandizement.

Below are some highlight quotes from the magazines followed by lengthier excerpts, gathered by the MRC's newest analyst, Ken Shepherd.

Newsweek blared its bias on its cover, which proclaimed beside a picture of Jeffords: "A Quiet Yankee Sends a Loud Message to the Republican Right."

Inside, Jonathan Alter called it "an act of political conscience" and stressed how it caused "sleepless nights" for Jeffords. Alter rebutted the idea that "the unassuming Vermonter [was] a craven usurper." Alter, whose piece also carried the byline of Eleanor Clift (remember that the next time anyone claims she no longer writes news stories), argued: "Another way to view it is that Jeffords is restoring the true message sent by the evenly divided electorate last November, which is that the parties must share power." Alter concluded by implying Republicans should have been more accommodating of Jeffords: "'Jeezum Jim' should stand as a warning to his old party: in politics, everybody can win, too. But only when they work together."

In Time, Washington reporter Karen Tumulty scolded Bush: "Having run as a centrist who could forge a new bipartisan middle, Bush __ like Clinton __ started governing in a way that seemed rather to cater to his party's extreme. Where Clinton had gays in the military and Hillarycare, Bush had Arctic drilling, global warming, a Vice President who scoffs at conservation and a hard_right Attorney General, John Ashcroft."

Do you recall Time criticizing Clinton in 1993 for being too "extreme"?

After noting how White House operatives point out how Jeffords stuck with the GOP when Reagan tried to kill the Department of Education but abandoned he party as Bush pushed for more funding of it, Tumulty countered that Bush had perpetrated a fraud: "Those arguments ignore the fact that many of Bush's most conservative agenda items were hidden away in the campaign's fine print and covered over by his big messages about moderation and helping the little guy. His compassionate rhetoric masked his conservatism."

In another Time piece, Washington reporter Douglass Waller, a one-time aide to Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, lamented how Jeffords' dream of Bush being a "closet progressive" was shattered:
"When Bush was elected President, Jeffords hoped that this 'new kind of Republican,' as the Texan liked to call himself, was actually an old kind of Republican -- a closet progressive in the mold of Nelson Rockefeller. Jeffords soon realized Bush was nothing of the kind, as the President catered to his Republican base by appointing such right-wingers as John Ashcroft as Attorney General and Gale Norton as Interior Secretary."

A few paragraphs later, Waller relayed how Jeffords had urged Senator Hillary Clinton "to fight harder" for more spending. So just who is out of touch with mainstream Republicans?

U.S. News & World Report also saw Bush moving to the middle as an upside to the Jeffords switch: "The president will be forced to give voice to the oft stated theme of his presidential campaign, that he is a 'uniter, not a divider.' That, in turn, is likely to lead to more moderate positions on a lot of issues and may have the unexpected benefit of putting Bush more in line with the votes of the vast swath in the middle of the American electorate."

Now, excerpts from the above quoted articles in the June 4 editions.

-- Newsweek's subhead over the cover story by Jonathan Alter with Daniel McGinn, Martha Brant, Eleanor Clift and Alan Wirzbicki: "For years Jim Jeffords watched the GOP drift to the right, and now he's had enough. The unlikely rebel whose socks don't match -- but who's rocking the capital."

An excerpt:

He woke up screaming in the middle of the night, yelling to his wife: "Watch out! The machine guns are firing!" Jim Jeffords's nightmare then was about impeachment. As a friend of Bill Clinton's, he was tormented by his duty to sit in judgment of the president, voting first with his GOP colleagues to move ahead with the trial, then with Democrats against Clinton's conviction and removal from office.

Two years later the senator's sleepless nights were back. In anguish, he informed a group of longtime Republican colleagues last week that his differences with his party on fundamentals were so great that he was leaning toward leaving the GOP. "It was the most moving meeting I've ever had with anyone," Jeffords told NEWSWEEK. "There were tears from me and tears from them because we'd worked so hard on so many things together. And to know they had dreamed of chairmanships and now they wouldn't keep them..." Here his already-soft, docile and unsenatorial voice trails off further....

Independence is increasingly the American way, a growing political preference among voters weary of simple-minded partisanship. Only inside the capital is it viewed as disloyal or aberrant to think for oneself. But rarely has an act of political conscience carried such myriad consequences....

Like everything else in hype-addled America, the political ramifications have been overstated. "Not everyone gets to wake up one morning and decide an inner voice has told him to overturn the results of a national election, an unprecedented legal struggle and a decisive Supreme Court decision to form a government," The Wall Street Journal editorial page opined, as if the unassuming Vermonter were a craven usurper.

Another way to view it is that Jeffords is restoring the true message sent by the evenly divided electorate last November, which is that the parties must share power. For the past four months George W. Bush has been acting as if he had won a Ronald Reagan-style landslide -- a shrewd political strategy, perhaps, but out of sync with the actual election returns. Last week's midcourse mandate correction comes early in Bush's presidency, but late in the key policy struggle that will shape the future: the 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut headed for approval may well prevent the Democratic Senate from boosting spending beyond the margins for years to come. Even so, the days of Bush's catering exclusively to conservatives are apparently over. Every part of his agenda will now be subject to compromise....

Now comes the fallout. The White House is spreading the word that Jeffords's decision was about committee perks. That spin wasn't playing, because it doesn't square with the senator's reputation. Right-wingers cried betrayal (the New York Post called him "Benedict Jeffords" on the front page), though that characterization was conveniently missing from their analysis a few years ago when Sens. Richard Shelby and Ben Nighthorse Campbell deserted the Democrats. (Sen. Zell Miller has promised the Democratic leadership that he won't follow them.) Sen. John McCain, a more vocal maverick than Jeffords, used the occasion to rebuke his own party for "abusing" his colleague: "Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party, and it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up."

But will it? One day each week Jim Jeffords spends his lunch hour reading aloud to a third grader at a Capitol Hill school. Thanks in part to the senator, who introduced the program in the Washington area, there are now hundreds of professionals who do the same, including a half_dozen other senators. The program is called Everybody Wins. When he resumes his Senate career on the other side of the aisle this month, "Jeezum Jim" should stand as a warning to his old party: in politics, everybody can win, too. But only when they work together.

END Newsweek excerpt

For the complete story, go to: http://www.msnbc.com/news/578808.asp

-- Time's Karen Tumulty in her cover story, titled, "One Man Earthquake":

How did this happen? Bush was determined not to make his father's fatal mistake of neglecting the conservative Republican base. Instead, he may have repeated the near fatal one Bill Clinton made in his first two years in office. Having run as a centrist who could forge a new bipartisan middle, Bush -- like Clinton -- started governing in a way that seemed rather to cater to his party's extreme. Where Clinton had gays in the military and Hillarycare, Bush had Arctic drilling, global warming, a Vice President who scoffs at conservation and a hard_right Attorney General, John Ashcroft. As Jeffords announced his decision to become an independent, the Senator who traces his family's Republican roots back to the days of Lincoln said, "Looking ahead, I see more and more instances where I will disagree with the President on very fundamental issues -- the issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment and a host of other issues, large and small."...

This was no national referendum, Administration officials say, just one wobbly liberal who decided to walk off the end of the pier -- perhaps, they suggest, to salvage a chairmanship he was slated to lose in 18 months under Senate rules. "This is a guy who said he found it impossible to support an agenda that the President has spent two years talking about," says Bush strategist Karl Rove. And it is true that on the issue that Jeffords cares most about -- education -- Bush has moved to the left, cutting deals with Ted Kennedy and abandoning vouchers. White House communications director Karen Hughes says Jeffords "was quite comfortable remaining in the Republican Party when the leaders talked about abolishing the Department of Education, but he's not comfortable with a President committed to education."

Those arguments ignore the fact that many of Bush's most conservative agenda items were hidden away in the campaign's fine print and covered over by his big messages about moderation and helping the little guy. His compassionate rhetoric masked his conservatism, but five months of decision making have pulled off the mask.

If all that has just dawned on Jeffords, he has plenty of company. The TIME/CNN poll shows public disapproval of the job Bush is doing has climbed 14 points since early February, to 38%; nearly half of those polled say they are somewhat or very unlikely to vote for him next time -- about the same percentage that felt that way about Clinton at this point in his first term....

Though all it took was one Senator to fracture the landscape in the capital, it will take everyone to put it back together. On Wednesday, Daschle called Bush, and the two men spoke for the first time since March. "He expressed his congratulations, and we talked about attempting to set a new tone and attempting to work together constructively," Daschle said. "It was a very nice conversation." And it may have been a start. Thanks to a stern, quiet man named Jeffords, Bush may finally have the opportunity to create the kind of Washington he promised last fall.

END excerpt of Time's Tumulty.

To read all of her article, go to: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101010604-128086,00.html

In a second piece, Douglass Waller wrote, in part:

Moderates don't survive in the Republican Party without a thick skin. Over the years, the proud, laconic Jeffords had endured countless arm twistings, cold shoulders and petty slights for taking stands at odds with his party -- against Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut and Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court nomination, for the Clintons' health-care reform, minimum-wage hikes and more money for the National Endowment for the Arts. But by last year, the hostility had begun to wear him down. He was chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a post that could be powerful in promoting his passion for schools, but conservative G.O.P. upstarts on the panel, such as New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, were constantly maneuvering to undercut Jeffords' authority, doing things like convening private meetings of the committee's Republicans and not inviting him. Jeffords complained to Lott, but the majority leader didn't rein in the right-wingers.

When Bush was elected President, Jeffords hoped that this "new kind of Republican," as the Texan liked to call himself, was actually an old kind of Republican -- a closet progressive in the mold of Nelson Rockefeller. Jeffords soon realized Bush was nothing of the kind, as the President catered to his Republican base by appointing such right-wingers as John Ashcroft as Attorney General and Gale Norton as Interior Secretary. By January, Jeffords was no longer ignoring the casual entreaties that came from the other side. At that point, Daschle, Reid and other Democrats made them half jokingly to keep things low key, even though they were hungry for a defector to break the fifty-fifty split in the Senate.

Jeffords began withdrawing from his Republican colleagues and finding Democratic friends more appealing. Some of the "Mod Squad" -- moderate G.O.P. Senators Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter -- found Jeffords increasingly quiet at the private lunches they held each week. After Senator Hillary Clinton sat down from delivering an impassioned floor speech about education funding, Jeffords stopped at her desk. "I really agree with you," he said. "We've got to fight harder, so don't get discouraged." But Jeffords was becoming gloomy....

END excerpt of Time's Waller.

For the entire piece, go to: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101010604-128085,00.html

-- U.S. News and World Report. An excerpt of a story by Kenneth T. Walsh, Terence Samuel and Angie Cannon:

The move by the heretofore unassuming -- that being a truly relative term in the Senate -- James Jeffords, to wrest control from his own party by declaring himself an independent, was many things. But perhaps a fellow GOP moderate, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, labeled it most aptly: "pure repudiation." Repudiation of a new president, George W. Bush, who narrowly won the Oval Office but tried to govern as though he had Ronald Reagan's landslide margins. Rejection of a more conservative tilt on education funding, the environment, even tax and budget policy. Rebuff to strong-arm politics and petty indignities....

[Jeffords] predicted that the White House would blame him for its own lapses. "They've got to spin it somehow," he says. "We're getting into that, where they're going to come up with all sorts of rationales that are going to make it look like a selfish-type thing."

He was right. Senior Bush advisers are suggesting that Jeffords simply got a better deal from the Democrats, that his talk of principle was cover for the real reasons: power and influence. They advised reporters to ponder the fact that Jeffords, for example, had remained in the GOP when party leaders wanted to abolish the Department of Education. The president, they counter, wants to increase education spending. "You can draw your own conclusions," says a senior Bush aide.

Bush also insists that he hasn't lurched to the right. "I was elected to get things done on behalf of the American people," Bush says, "and to work with both Republicans and Democrats. And we're doing just that."

Move to the middle. He'll certainly have to now. The president will be forced to give voice to the oft stated theme of his presidential campaign, that he is a "uniter, not a divider." That, in turn, is likely to lead to more moderate positions on a lot of issues and may have the unexpected benefit of putting Bush more in line with the votes of the vast swath in the middle of the American electorate.

END U.S. News excerpt

For the whole piece, go to: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/010604/usnews/senate.htm

-- Brent Baker


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