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CyberAlert -- 07/10/2002 -- Bush Didn't Go Far Enough on Corporate Regulation

Bush Didn't Go Far Enough on Corporate Regulation; Bush Failed at "Personal Responsibility"; "All White" GOP "Embarrassing"; More on Couric and Reagan as an "Airhead"

1) Bush didn't go far enough in calling for new regulation of corporations to satisfy CBS or NBC which both also followed the Democratic script by devoting stories Tuesday night to recapping Bush's old Harken Energy stock sale. Tom Brokaw maintained: "The timing and the stock's sale -- or the delayed reporting of it -- continue to raise questions." CBS's Wyatt Andrews concluded: "Never mind that Mr. Bush was cleared. His opponents will charge this champion of personal responsibility once failed that standard himself." NBC's Today highlighted a liberal TV ad about the "Enron-style accounting" used by Bush's company.

2) President Bush's refusal to make U.S. soldiers vulnerable to the new International Criminal Court shows a lack of "moral leadership," ABC's Michel Martin argued on This Week. She insisted: "The U.S. has to distinguish itself from what I call the 'thugocracies.'" Reuters reporter Heleen van Geest painted the U.S. as the impediment to prosecuting "humanity's most heinous crimes." She claimed the court, "dreamed of for decades, became a reality...even as the United States fought tooth and nail to avoid its jurisdiction over humanity's most heinous crimes."

3) When House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts announced his retirement last week, ABC's Linda Douglass went over the top: "It's also an embarrassing moment, Peter, because there are very few black elected officials in the Republican Party." Good Morning America's Charles Gibson was similarly obsessed with race: "In leaving, you un-integrate the House Republican Party." And: "But doesn't it say something, then, about the House Republican Party, which will now be all white?"

4) As if the murderer of two people as LAX and the El Al security agent who shot and killed him were equivalent, on CNN's Reliable Sources Bernard Kalb asserted: "For a moment there was a scare at LAX, three people killed in a gun battle."

5) An amplification about how many times NBC's Today used the term "airhead" to describe Ronald Reagan in 1999. It was a lot more than the just one time which Katie Couric claimed. Plus, corrections about the U.S. tax rate pre-Reagan and how many nations have ratified the Kyoto Protocols on global warming.


1

President Bush didn't go far enough in calling for new regulation, in his speech on cracking down on corporate practices, to satisfy CBS or NBC which both also followed the Democratic script by devoting an entire story Tuesday night to recapitulating Bush's old Harken Energy stock sale.

John Roberts teased the July 9 CBS Evening News: "Taking aim at the crooks who cooked the books. The President's crackdown on corporate crime, some say not good enough. Stocks keep sliding. And we'll show you why the President's own stock dealings are getting more attention."

Wyatt Andrews concluded his piece on the Harken stock sale: "And this is where Democrats believe they've found a weakness. Never mind that Mr. Bush was cleared. His opponents will charge this champion of personal responsibility once failed that standard himself."

After highlighting in his top of the show tease how in "the President's own business dealings" there is "a new call today for records to be released," NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw stressed how Bush had not gone far enough: "President Bush went to Wall Street today and outlined a series of steps to deal with the spreading stain of corporate scandals, including tougher prison sentences and more money for federal regulators. But it wasn't enough to rally the stock market. And it wasn't enough to quiet his financial and political critics."

ABC's World News Tonight offered time to those who didn't think President Bush proposed enough government regulation, but ABC emphasized how far Bush had gone. John Cochran began his story by marveling at how "a Republican President, a long time opponent of government regulation, elected with overwhelming support from corporate leaders, not just announcing a crackdown, but lecturing them on morality."

-- CBS Evening News. John Roberts opened the broadcast: "President Bush came here to the financial capital of the world today where markets are facing a crisis of confidence, shaken by one corporate accounting or fraud scandal after another. The President vowed to do everything he can to, as he put it, 'end the days of cooking the books, shading the truth, and breaking the law.' But Democrats in Congress say Mr. Bush is not doing nearly enough."

Following a rundown of Bush's speech, Roberts set up a story on some very old news: "As President Bush was addressing ethics in corporate America, there were lingering questions about his own actions as a corporate director, specifically his sale of company stock. CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews looked into that."

Andrews explained, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Twelve years ago, a tiny Texas oil company called Harken Energy and its part-owner George W. Bush landed a potentially fat contract with the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain. It looked then like a financial hit. So the future President, who was also buying the Texas Rangers, cashed in some Harken stock worth $848,000. The problem was just two months later, Harken announced a loss of $23 million."
Ann Richards, former Texas Governor: "Those Harken shares for the stockholders of that company were worth half."
Andrews: "The charge that Mr. Bush dumped that stock based on inside information has dogged him politically for eight years, but, in fairness, the SEC thoroughly investigated and dropped it. Where's the issue? The issue is all insiders, like Mr. Bush, are supposed to promptly tell investors after they have unloaded shares, and Mr. Bush did not. He did file this form, 144, which announced his intention to sell. But he was eight months late with this, Form 4, which announced the deal had closed. What caused that eight-month delay is something the White House first blamed on lawyers."
Ari Fleischer: "Turned out to be a mixup with the attorneys."
Andrews: "While the President -- the President pushing responsibility -- still says he doesn't know."
George W. Bush: "As to why the Form 4 was late, I still haven't figured it out completely."
Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity: "That's technically a violation of federal law."
Andrews: "Chuck Lewis of the watchdog group Center for Public Integrity says Form 4 is what investors typically use to learn if insiders are bailing out."
Lewis: "If I owned stock in that company and I knew one of the board members was unloading it in a big major way, I'd like to know that."
Bush: "The important document was the 144, the intention to sell."
Andrews concluded: "And this is where Democrats believe they've found a weakness. Never mind that Mr. Bush was cleared. His opponents will charge this champion of personal responsibility once failed that standard himself."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the show: "Good evening. President Bush went to Wall Street today and outlined a series of steps to deal with the spreading stain of corporate scandals, including tougher prison sentences and more money for federal regulators. But it wasn't enough to rally the stock market. And it wasn't enough to quiet his financial and political critics..."

Campbell Brown began her piece by assessing: "Tom, the President today delivering a tough message aimed in part at improving his own credibility in taking on corporate America." After running through the provisions proposed by Bush and airing a supportive soundbite from a Bank of America official, Brown cautioned: "But other proposals won less applause because they call on corporations to police themselves, like asking companies to prevent officers from getting company loans and calling on CEOs to explain and justify their often multi-million dollar compensation packages. Democrats today said more needs to be done to protect corporate whistle-blowers and oversee the accounting industry, charging the President's proposals are too weak."
Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR): "The fox is still guarding the hen house, and the President didn't offer us anything today except political rhetoric."
Brown: "Democrats are also seizing the issue to accuse the President and his administration of hypocrisy, raising questions about the President's time more than a decade ago as director of Harken Energy and accounting measures there that brought on an SEC investigation, even releasing this TV ad today."
Clip of ad: "Bush thinks tough talk can hide the record. That's sly like a fox."
Brown concluded: "And also pointing to the ongoing SEC investigation of accounting practices at the Halliburton company during the time Vice President Cheney was CEO. And along with Democrats, public outcry over the corporate scandals they clearly hope they have found a potent issue to use against Republicans in the fall congressional elections."

NBC then delved deeper into Bush's stock sale. Brokaw set up the next story: "As Campbell reported, the President's own financial background has become a part of the larger story in Washington. Before he was Governor of Texas, he made more than $800,000 cashing in stock that he owned as a member of the board of Harken Energy. The timing and the stock's sale -- or the delayed reporting of it -- continue to raise questions. More on that now from NBC's David Gregory."

Questions from reporters and Democratic activists.

Gregory began: "The President's history at Harken dates back to 1986, nine years before he was sworn in as the Governor of Texas. Mr. Bush served as a director and sat on the Houston-based company's audit committee. At the core of his now controversial tenure at Harken are three main issues. One, a controversial sale. Harken's sale of a subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. The SEC later ruled it to be 'an inappropriate attempt to boost Harken's sagging profits.'"
Chuck Lewis, Center for Public Integrity: "What Harken did was it gave a false picture to the public about their money. They made it sound like they were doing better than they were doing."
Gregory: "The President says he doesn't remember whether he approved the sale of Aloha, but he denies the charge from Democrats that the sale represents the same sort of accounting tactics used by Enron."
George W. Bush: "There was an honest difference of opinion as to how to account for a complicated transaction."
Gregory: "Issue two: Mr. Bush's stock transactions. On June 22, 1990, Mr. Bush sold nearly $850,000 worth of Harken stock at $4 a share. That sale caught the attention of the SEC because on August 20th the company reported a loss of $23 million in revenue, causing the stock price to fall to just over $2 a share. Did Mr. Bush trade on inside information, which is a crime? The SEC, while Mr. Bush's father was President, said 'no' as it cut off its investigation. Issue three: Disclosure to the SEC. All insiders selling stock in their company must file paperwork to the SEC announcing an intention to sell. In the case of Mr. Bush's June 22nd stock sale, the law required him to notify the SEC of the sale by July 10th, but he didn't report it until roughly eight months later on March 4, 1991. Such tardiness is against the law, but no charges were filed. And Mr. Bush says other documents announcing the sale were indeed filed on time. Democrats are calling on the SEC to release all the Harken files, which the President calls election year politics, pointing out that since 1994, both the SEC and his political opponents have looked into all of this only to find no wrongdoing on his part."

So why are the networks so eager to give it airtime?

Tuesday's Today also highlighted the Harken issue and a liberal TV ad about the "Enron-style accounting" used by Bush's company, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed.

Previewing Bush's then-upcoming speech, Gregory observed: "How to prevent future abuses? The President does not support an auditing review board advocated by Senate Democrats. And the Bush plan is vague about which loopholes will be closed. Explaining that in corporate America accounting procedures are never black and white. Which is how he also explained, for the first time, his rocky tenure as a director of Harken Energy which has been accused of engaging in the same sort of business practices that ultimately sunk Enron. Democrats have seized on the Harkin issue, releasing this new TV ad today accusing Bush of using kid gloves with corporate America."
Clip of ad: "They used Enron-style accounting to hide losses. Bush sold out early."
Gregory: "The President called new questions about his role at Harkin in 1990 and his past stock transactions recycled political attacks without merit."

2

President Bush's refusal to accede to the new International Criminal Court in The Hague because of concerns over the power of it to prosecute U.S. soldiers abroad, shows a lack of "moral leadership," ABC News reporter Michel Martin maintained on Sunday's This Week. She insisted: "The U.S. has to distinguish itself from what I call the 'thugocracies.'"

And last week, on the day the new court became official, a Reuters headline triumphantly proclaimed: "Dreamed-Of World War Crimes Court Becomes Reality." Reuters reporter Heleen van Geest painted the U.S. as the impediment to prosecuting "humanity's most heinous crimes." She claimed that the court, "dreamed of for decades, became a reality on Monday -- even as the United States fought tooth and nail to avoid its jurisdiction over humanity's most heinous crimes."

During the roundtable segment on the July 7 This Week, George Will outlined some concerns with the new international court, including how there are no checks on the power of its prosecutors and how it is controlled by anti-American European elites, an especially troubling reality given the types of operations U.S. operatives may have to undertake overseas in the war on terrorism.

The MRC's Rich Noyes, however, noticed that Nightline correspondent Michel Martin had other priorities. Martin did acknowledge: "Well, I think that George points up that there are legitimate concerns that Americans would have [about a new international court] having a unique role in the world."

"But," she continued, "the issue is also moral leadership. The U.S. has to distinguish itself from what I call the 'thugocracies' that rule places -- and until recently ruled Afghanistan, that certainly rules Iraq, and to establish moral leadership the U.S. has to establish that it is governed by the rule of law and that it is willing to submit to the rule of law around the world. However, it's a very tricky issue at a time when the U.S. continues to hold citizens of other countries without access to counsel, without access to evidence held against them, in military tribunals, in Guantanamo Bay. It's a very tricky issue, a delicate issue, for the U.S. right now."
Will countered: "But this court is inimical to the rule of law. The rule of law exists when you have due notice of what is required or proscribed. There is no settled body of law that this court would be administering. They would be making it up as they went along."
Martin maintained her concern: "But the issue is also the way that the, the way the United States projects this issue in the world, and I think that some people argue that the administration hasn't clearly articulated to its allies around the world why- "
Cokie Roberts jumped in and saw points on both sides: "I think that's certainly true, but it is true that there are problems on both sides because this court would be a permanent court and, as George says, its mission is somewhat ill-defined. The problem that we have now, though, is ad hoc tribunals that are set up to deal with individual problems, as we have right now with the situation in Yugoslavia and trying Milosevic. They take a long time to get established, and often there's so much politicization of them in the United Nations that that becomes a problem, too. So both sides have their difficulties."

"Dreamed-Of World War Crimes Court Becomes Reality" extolled the headline over a July 1 Reuters dispatch highlighted last week by OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" column.

An excerpt of the story from The Hague by Reuters reporter Heleen van Geest:

The first permanent world criminal court, dreamed of for decades, became a reality on Monday -- even as the United States fought tooth and nail to avoid its jurisdiction over humanity's most heinous crimes.

Without fuss or fanfare, the International Criminal Court's (ICC's) first four workers arrived at temporary quarters in an office block on the outskirts of The Hague to handle complaints of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes worldwide.

Human rights groups hail the ICC as global justice's biggest milestone since an international military tribunal in Nuremberg tried Nazi leaders after World War Two....

No one -- from head of state to citizen on the street -- guilty of human rights violations, including systematic murder, torture and rape, would be immune from ICC prosecution.

But the court, born of a 1998 treaty, has powerful critics like China, Russia and the United States, which wants immunity for its overseas peacekeeping troops and other U.S. officials.

The United States has threatened to withdraw from all U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions around the world if the 15-nation U.N. Security Council fails to grant it assurances that U.S. nationals are safe from the court's grasp.

Washington has backed off, for now, from a vow to kill off the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia over its ICC demands. But it renewed a threat to shut down the missions one by one to get its way, prompting NATO to call an emergency meeting....

END of Excerpt

For the Reuters story in full:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=578&e=1&cid=578&
u=/nm/20020701/ts_nm/news_un_court_dc_1

3

Linda Douglass over the top. When House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts announced his retirement last week all the networks noted how he was the only black in the Republican House leadership, but ABC's Linda Douglass went further. On the July 1 World News Tonight, she declared: "It's also an embarrassing moment, Peter, because there are very few black elected officials in the Republican Party."

She didn't bother to point out how both the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser are blacks in a Republican administration, higher ranks than any black achieved in any previous administration. As for elected officials, Republicans might have a few more if Democrats stopped beating them with white men. Remember U.S. Representative Gary Franks of Connecticut? He lost to a white guy put up by the Democratic Party. How about U.S. Senator Ed Brooke? Democratic White guy Paul Tsongas replaced him as the Bay State's Senator.

The next morning, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson was similarly obsessed with how Watts would leave the GOP all white. Gibson's first two statements/questions to Watts on July 2: "In leaving, you un-integrate the House Republican Party." And: "But doesn't it say something, then, about the House Republican Party, which will now be all white?"

On the July 1 World News Tonight, Jennings stressed: "As we said, Mr. Watts is the only black Republican in the Congress. We go to Capitol Hill now. ABC's Linda Douglass is there. This is something of an historic moment for the Republican Party."
Douglass agreed: "Well, it is a historic moment in that now that there will be no black Republicans in the Congress, certainly none in the House. It's also an embarrassing moment, Peter, because there are very few black elected officials in the Republican Party. And they're frantically looking around for some candidates."
Jennings: "I have heard it said that he was unhappy with his party. I've heard it said that he wanted more power. What's the real story? Or is it family?"
Douglass: "Family is a real reason, according to people very close to J.C. Watts, according to people who even say that there might have been a few other reasons. He has clashed with the leaders. He did want to move up the ranks of leadership and didn't see any opportunity to do that. He wanted a committee chairmanship, they say, but he's saying its family, and everybody's agreeing with that, Peter."

4

A murder's rampage was simply a "gun battle"? That's how CNN commentator Bernard Kalb described the LAX shooting, an alert CyberAlert reader noticed and notified me. The MRC's Patrick Gregory tracked down the exact quote.

Kalb, the former network reporter (CBS News I believe) who, despite his obvious liberal ideology, George Shultz chose as the press spokesman for the State Department during the Reagan administration, gets a weekly, end of the show commentary slot on CNN's Reliable Sources.

His July 6 piece examined how the media covered the first Independence Day since the terrorist attacks. In one sentence he implied that no one was more at fault in a July 4 "gun battle" at Los Angeles International Airport, as if the murderer who killed two people and the El Al security agent who shot and killed him were equivalent. The sentence: "For a moment there was a scare at LAX, three people killed in a gun battle."

5

Since I have a clarification and two corrections today, I thought I'd put them together under one numbered item instead of placing them in the usual spot beneath the table of contents which would have pushed item #1 far down the page:

-- Clarification/Amplification: NBC's Today used the "airhead" term four times to describe Ronald Reagan.

The June 26 CyberAlert reported how on that morning's Today Katie Couric argued with author Ann Coulter who accurately quoted Couric as having opened Today in 1999 by trumpeting: "The Gipper was an airhead. That's one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan..." When Coulter contended that Today had trumpeted the "airhead" charge on three different mornings, Couric countered: "No it was just one day and we'll get the transcripts for you." CyberAlert corrected Couric and reported that Today opened with the "airhead" phrase two days in a row.

In fact, as Mickey Kaus noted in a July 8 "Kausfiles" posting on Slate.com, via a Nexis search he found the term employed "two days, three times (plus once on Later Today)." Today opened with it twice, as CyberAlert documented, but also employed the term two other times that week. Kaus explained: "Couric said it on Sept. 27, 1999. The next day, as charged, Lauer opened the show by talking about 'the author's assertion that Reagan was a great President but an airhead.' NBC's Jamie Gangel repeated the 'airhead' charge without the 'apparent' later that day in a Today interview with ex-President George H.W. Bush. The winner: Coulter on points. She was closer to the truth than Couric, who picked this particular fact fight and was wrong."

For the Kaus piece: http://slate.msn.com/?id=2067592

For full citations of the two days Today opened with the "airhead" characterization, as well as for a full rundown of the Couric/Coulter clash and a RealPlayer clip of part of it, refer back to the June 26 CyberAlert: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020626.asp#4

-- Corrections:
# The July 2 CyberAlert item about how China will take 50 percent of an NBA player's pay stated: "Of course, pre-Reagan the U.S. confiscated up to 91 percent of a high-income person's earnings." In fact, the Kennedy tax cut lowered that top marginal rate to 70 percent, which is where it stood when Reagan took office. His 1981 tax cut lowered it to 50 percent, the 1986 reform cut it to 28 percent before Clinton boosted it to nearly 40 percent from which the Bush tax cut is making a slight reduction.

# The July 9 CyberAlert asked: "If Kyoto is so great, why has no nation but Romania ratified it? Where are all the European countries?" Apparently I'm a month behind the news. In fact, on June 4 Japan ratified it. The June 5 New York Times also reported: "The 15 countries of the European Union, acting in unison, presented their ratifications of the protocol on Friday [May 31]."

I'm 72 percent confident that nothing in today's CyberAlert will require a correction. -- Brent Baker


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