CyberAlert -- 06/12/1997 -- CBS Delivers Disaster Aid to Dems

CBS Delivers Disaster Aid to Dems; Clinton a Great Father

  1. In typical one-sided report, CBS insisted that everything was fine with disaster bill until "the Republicans tacked on some other provisions they knew the White House did not want."
  2. To CNN French racists and House conservatives who "shut down" the government are both "extremists" that voters rejected.
  3. Forget sexual harassment, how well Chelsea turned out is "a better measure" of the man, Margaret Carlson contended.

1) The networks continue to forward the White House spin on the congressional-White House battle over the disaster relief bill. The June 9 CyberAlert described a June 6 ABC World News Tonight diatribe. Today, an examples from CBS.

To fully comprehend the slant of coverage provided Tuesday night by CBS you really have to see their entire stories. So, tanks to some transcribing work by MRC intern Ian Alexander, here's what June 10 CBS Evening News viewers learned:

Dan Rather started out balanced, but his presentation quickly deteriorated: "President Clinton and Republican congressional leaders are playing a political blame game today. Each is trying to avoid blame and political disaster over Congress's stalemate on the Federal Disaster Relief bill. For his part, President Clinton said today that he'd vetoed the bill because of what he sees as totally unrelated provisions Republicans tacked onto it."

President Clinton: "In the name of the people who've had to face the floods, in the name of the families who've suffered and need their help now, I ask the majority to put aside the political gains, to set aside the political wish list. We can negotiate on all this later. And instead just send me a strait forward disaster relief bill."

Rather: "So, how did a simple attempt to provide disaster relief for flood victims in the upper Midwest turn into Washington's latest political gridlock disaster? And what happens now to turn the tide? CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, Bob Schieffer, has been following the story. Bob."

Schieffer: "Dan, what you're seeing here is Washington at its very worst, when good intentions become tangled up in partisan politics. It all started 80 days ago when the President called for just over a billion dollars in flood relief aid. Congress added another billion and a half that was tacked on to a catch-all bill that had already been crafted to pay for everything from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and veterans' benefits, to American troops in Bosnia. Up to that point, no problem. But then the Republicans tacked on some other provisions they knew the White House did not want. One provision bars a new technique the government wants to use to take the next census, a technique Republicans believe will over-estimate minorities and require congressional districts to be redrawn at Republican expense. The other provision bars government shutdown should Congress and the White House fail to reach future budget agreements. Republicans figured the President would accept those provisions rather than veto a bill that included flood aid. But the President called the Republican bluff, vetoed the bill, and sicked the Vice President on the Republicans."

Vice President Gore, speaking in slow motion: "This is a colossal mistake. This is not complicated. People in this nation see through this. Stop it."

Schieffer: "But after arguing all day, and with no compromise in sight, Senate Republicans went home as Democrats set up a Capitol war room, here they'll spend the night calling attention to the situation by using on-line computer chats and giving interviews to TV stations around the country. Dan."

Note the lack of any Republican soundbites to balance Clinton and Gore. Also note how everything was great until the Republicans "tacked on some other provisions," as if this were a new legislative maneuver.

So, where did Rather go for his next story? To the GOP view. Well, no. Immediately after Schieffer, Rather continued: "Thanks, Bob. Now, Bill Plante at the White House. What's the view tonight from there?"

Bill Plante: "Well, Dan, putting the President in the Rose Garden to bash the Republicans may look like a lousy way to get a compromise, but the White House is clearly trying to make Congress feel the heat. Now the Republicans have threatened to send back a bill, minus the things the President objects to, but with less money for disaster relief. And if that happens, White House spin will go into overdrive. That would be the final insult, one official told us. 'Let the Republicans then explain to the people who need help why they gave them less money.' The administration loves this battle, because the polls tell them they're winning. Dan"

Maybe they are winning because of slanted news coverage like this provided by CBS News that doesn't bother with giving equal weight and time to the Republican spin.

It isn't as if flood victims are not being helped by programs and funding already in place. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says so. In a June 11 press release, FEMA announced:

"...More than 5,100 South Dakota residences have been inspected for flood damage. More than 4,000 residents have received assistance through the Disaster Housing program and more than $5.8 million has been distributed. Seventy eight percent of the Individual & Family Grant Program cases sent to the State have been closed.

"The Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved $7,398,300 in loans to individuals and businesses. The SBA has received nearly 2,000 applications for assistance from homeowners, renters and businesses and has approved more than 25 percent of them. An additional 250 applications are in various stages of verification and processing."

(You can read the whole release at:

Another area I've yet to see explored in network coverage: How many South Dakota and Minnesota flood victims bought flood insurance earlier this year when they knew floods were sure to occur after the heavier than normal snow melted?

UPDATE: The Communications Director for the North Dakota Republican Party, Carter Wood, sent me a fax with an interesting comment on the June 9 CyberAlert item on ABC's disaster bill story. John Cochran had begun his report by asserting that "Flood victims in Grand Forks do not understand why Republican leaders refuse to pass an aid bill without strings attached."

Cochran noted that even conservatives were upset: "Doug Spray is a life-long conservative Republican."

Doug Spray: "I believed in these guys and I voted for some of them and I'm beginning to lose my faith in the conservative party."

Carter countered: "Not quite. The Republican Party conducted a voter identification survey in September 1996. Sprehe (correct spelling) identified himself as leaning Democrat. He said he would vote for U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a Democrat, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lee Kaldor....North Dakota lacks voter registration, so you can't really verify Sprehe's politics. But calling him a lifelong conservative Republican is simply not true."

2) Parties on the left win in Britain, France and Canada. "Is the world moving to the left?" CNN analyst Bill Schneider asked on the June 5 Inside Politics. "Newt Gingrich doesn't think so. He claims the conservatives did badly in every country because they strayed from the conservative agenda. They raised taxes. Good spin, but it's only part of the story. There's a larger message -- several, in fact." Schneider's lessons were that "It's hard to sell austerity," "The left is not dead," "Don't threaten the safety net," and finally: "The right has been tainted by extremism. The strong showing of Jean Le Pen's racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Europe party in France; the Reform party's threat to Canadian unity; ideological hard-liners willing to isolate Britain from Europe or shut down the federal government here in the U.S. Voters who once rejected the left for being irresponsible are now rejecting the right for being too extreme."

There you have it: a "racist" French party in France that wants to fundamentally alter the structure of society is the same as American conservatives who wanted to slightly reduce to the soaring rate of spending in order to lead to a balanced budget after the turn of the century.

3) Bill Clinton may be a philandering sexual harasser, but hey, he is a great father. Just look at Chelsea. Or so argues Time magazine's Margaret Carlson. As observed by MRC analyst Gene Eliasen, on the June 5 Good Morning America, Carlson marveled at Chelsea's success:

"The President's giving the commencement address tomorrow, which by the way they're keeping cameras out of, so that it remains a personal event. And at the very moment that her father is in the headlines for this sexual harassment suit by Paula Jones, and I think there's always an edge of surprise in our voices that Chelsea has turned out so well and it's not just because she's in the White House but because, well, look at all the criticism of her father and the character question, but I think this is another example that it's not the measure of a man, it's not the total measure of a man whether he's, you know quote, caused pain in his marriage. The children we give to the world are a better measure of that and I think she's a great example that there's a side and there's a goodness to Clinton as a father that we don't see except when we see her."

Another way to look at Chelsea: In Little Rock the Clintons hired good Nannies to raise and care for her while Hillary was traveling the country for liberal causes and Bill was taking advantage of her absences to visit lady friends.

-- Brent Baker