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CyberAlert -- 07/24/2002 -- CBS: Seniors "Just Get the Shaft"

CBS: Seniors "Just Get the Shaft"; WorldCom's GOP Ties; CNBC Anchor: Liberal Media "A Gimme"; Dancing with Reno a Reporter's "Fantasy"

1) CBS and ABC lamented the failure of the Senate to pass a huge new entitlement program for prescription drugs. Dan Rather bemoaned "the badly fading chances that President Bush and Congress will deliver on their promises and give any kind of help to seniors." While each party blames the other, Schieffer charged: Seniors "just get the shaft." ABC's Charles Gibson pleaded: "Can they come up with a compromise before this coming election?"

2) WorldCom donated to both Democrats and Republicans, but on Tuesday night CBS's John Roberts linked them only to Republicans as he outlined how an anti-WorldCom lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year by a judge who "happens to be the former law partner and cousin of powerful Republican lobbyist Haley Barbour." Roberts gratuitously added that Republican Congressman Chip Pickering got "more than $88,000 in campaign contributions from WorldCom."

3) Is CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera coming around? In January, the anchor of CNBC's Power Lunch asked Bernard Goldberg whether bias is "in the eye of the beholder?" But on Tuesday, she began an interview with Ann Coulter by conceding: "I'll give you that a lot of the media is liberal. In fact, I think that's probably a gimme."

4) A Time magazine reporter's "fantasy" of dancing with Janet Reno went unfulfilled. Joel Stein recounted his attendance at Reno's dance party last Friday night in Miami, but rued: "I leave my friends behind and rush the stage to try to dance with Reno, only to find myself in a small crowd of men living the same fantasy. When I finally push my way past them, she is gone."


1

CBS and ABC on Tuesday night lamented the failure of the Senate to approve a huge new entitlement spending program -- adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare, a program which is already growing out of control. Neither network even hinted at any downside to enacting a new spending program to solely benefit the wealthiest age group.

"Senior Americans who saw retirement savings evaporate in the Wall Street meltdown have another financial headache now," Dan Rather asserted, as if not getting new payments from the government has created a fresh "financial headache" for the average senior. Rather promised that Bob Schieffer would look at "the badly fading chances that President Bush and Congress will deliver on their promises and give any kind of help to seniors on this."

How about some help to taxpayers by not burdening them with another way to have the government spend their money?

Schieffer took a true Washington insider position, assuming that since both parties promised a new program it must be the right thing to do, and so scolded both for not following through. He concluded by ruing: "Expect Democrats to blame Republicans, Republicans to blame Democrats, and the White House to blame Congress. Seniors, in the meanwhile, just get the shaft."

Of course, seniors are hardly getting "the shaft" when they are no better or worse off.

Over on ABC, anchor Charles Gibson pleaded to reporter Jackie Judd: "I mentioned 34 million Americans eligible for it. That's a lot of voters. Elderly people say they want it. Can they come up with a compromise before this coming election?"

On the July 23 CBS Evening News, Rather segued from a stock market story: "Senior Americans who saw retirement savings evaporate in the Wall Street meltdown have another financial headache now. It turns out it was all talk and no action with the President and Congress again today on passing any version of Medicare prescription drug coverage. CBS's Bob Schieffer looks tonight at the badly fading chances that President Bush and Congress will deliver on their promises and give any kind of help to seniors on this."
Schieffer began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Remember George Bush during the campaign?"
George W. Bush in 2000: "Keeping the promise of Medicare and expanding it to include prescription drug coverage will be a priority of my administration."
Schieffer: "Back then he was saying what Washington has always said. Something has to be done to help seniors pay for prescription drugs. Just what Senators in both parties were still saying today. Here's a Democrat:"
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA): "It's time that we make good on the promise of 44 million Americans who rely on Medicare."
Schieffer approved: "It's a good thought. Drugs have become so expensive, seniors can go to places like Mexico and buy American-made drugs cheaper than they can buy them at home. Changing that is complicated because the drug lobby is a powerful force, and real relief is expensive. The Democratic plan that senators considered today would cost $594 billion over 10 years. The Republican plan, $370 billion. A plan passed earlier by the House that all sides agree is going nowhere would cost $310 billion. So Washington just talks and does nothing, which is what happened in the Senate today. Democrats said the Republican plan didn't go far enough and defeated it. Republicans said the Democratic plan went too far and defeated it. In the end, all they could promise was to keep trying."
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME): "So I hope there will be another day. I hope that the environment can be created so that we can get something done."
Schieffer concluded: "They say they'll keep trying, but don't bet on them getting far. Instead, expect Democrats to blame Republicans, Republicans to blame Democrats, and the White House to blame Congress. Seniors, in the meanwhile, just get the shaft."

The "shaft?" Not getting government payments means you're getting "the shaft"?

As I've seen widely reported, senior citizens only spend an average of $600 per year on prescriptions, far less than they do on food or housing or probably even gas for their car.

ABC's World News Tonight handled the story with a Q and A between anchor Charles Gibson and reporter Jackie Judd.

Gibson: "More from Capitol Hill, another blow today for prescription drug coverage under Medicare. It's been a political issue for years, 34 million Americans are eligible for it, both parties say they want it, but the Senate today defeated not one, but two bills that would have provided it. Why? We turn to ABC's Jackie Judd in Washington. So I ask the question, Jackie, why?"
Judd explained: "Why, Charlie? There were two big hurdles. The first: Who would run the program. The Democrats want this to be a Medicare program. The Republicans want private insurance companies to run the program. The second thing, the cost. Democrats wanted to spend about $200 billion more dollars than the Republicans would go along with over a ten-year period."
Gibson pleaded: "I mentioned 34 million Americans eligible for it. That's a lot of voters. Elderly people say they want it. Can they come up with a compromise before this coming election?"
Judd: "Well, a lot of incumbents up here, Charlie, are scared to death to go home empty-handed, and so there certainly are going to be efforts. It's going to be difficult. The majority leader, Tom Daschle, said everything is on the table. The minority leader, Trent Lott, was less optimistic. He said the spending gap may not be met. We'll know more in about two or three days."

Taxpayers should hold onto their wallets.

2

WorldCom donated to both Democrats and Republicans, but on Tuesday night CBS's John Roberts linked them only to Republicans as he outlined how an anti-WorldCom lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year by a judge who "happens to be the former law partner and cousin of powerful Republican lobbyist Haley Barbour." Roberts added: "Yet another cousin is the campaign chairman for Republican Congressman Chip Pickering, who received more than $88,000 in campaign contributions from WorldCom or its subsidiaries since the 1996 election campaign."

Roberts began the trial-lawyer inspired piece on the July 23 CBS Evening News by relaying how in 2000 a lawyer sued WorldCom on behalf of shareholders. Roberts offered no clue as to the substance of the suit, but noted that on March 29 of this year a judge named Barbour decided the suit lacked merit. He then let the lawyer claim that if the suit had gone forward investors could have gotten out before the company collapsed.

Before doing just that, Roberts insisted: "No one is suggesting political influence in the judge's decision, but the case again throws a spotlight on the delicate intersection of politics and big corporations."

Roberts recounted: "WorldCom was a business showcase in Mississippi, a state where Republicans have launched a major push to place limits on civil lawsuits. Judge Barbour, a Reagan appointee, happens to be the former law partner and cousin of powerful Republican lobbyist Haley Barbour, who may run for Mississippi governor. Yet another cousin is the campaign chairman for Republican Congressman Chip Pickering, who received more than $88,000 in campaign contributions from WorldCom or its subsidiaries since the 1996 election campaign."
Larry Noble, Center for Responsive Politics: "What you have with all these connections, what you have with WorldCom's political giving, is you just have a cloud over the situation that I think may disturb some people, especially in light of how large the WorldCom collapse was."
Roberts concluded by buying the spin of the losing lawyers: "It also appears that WorldCom's board of directors either never took seriously or just didn't follow up on the allegations contained in the lawsuit, a fire alarm that attorneys say might have either prevented the entire WorldCom house from burning down or at least saved some of the investors trapped inside."

3

CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is coming around, the MRC's Rich Noyes observed. In January, the co-anchor of CNBC's Power Lunch asked Bernard Goldberg whether bias is "in the eye of the beholder?" But on Tuesday, she began an interview with Ann Coulter by conceding: "I'll give you that a lot of the media is liberal. In fact, I think that's probably a gimme."

In both cases, she consistently challenged the authors as to how the tone of the specific comments in their books might undermine the credibility afforded their premises, but her take on the legitimacy of the claim of liberal media bias did seem to evolve a bit.

-- Caruso-Cabrera on January 25 with Bernard Goldberg, author of Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Her first question: "You believe the media, including all of us, distort news to the left rather than to the right?"

Her second question: "But, to borrow a phrase from Peter Jennings, is bias in the eye of the beholder, which you write about? You know, you, for example, say that you think that the coverage of the war on terrorism has in fact been very good and very straightforward, but there have been criticisms that in fact it's been too pro-government, too pro-White House -- for example, using the phrase 'we' instead of 'American troops.' Isn't it just that you happen to agree, maybe, with the way things are right now?"

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera conceded: "I'll give you that a lot of the media is liberal. In fact, I think that's probably a gimme."

-- Caruso-Cabrera's first question on July 23 to Ann Coulter, author of Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right:
"I'll give you that a lot of the media is liberal. In fact, I think that's probably a gimme. I'll even, you know, give you the first line here of your book where you say, and I think you're absolutely right, 'Political debate in this country is insufferable.' But do you do yourself a disservice when you write things like, 'Liberals hate America. They hate 'flag wavers,' they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam (post 9/11). Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do. They don't have the energy. If they had that much energy, they'd have indoor plumbing by now.'? I'm wondering, do you feel at all that maybe you stooped to the level of those that you dislike, or those that you disagree with, when you use that kind of phrasing?"

For a bio of Caruso-Cabrera, with a picture of her:
http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/CNBCTV/AnchorsAndReporters/P1342.asp

4

A Time magazine reporter's "fantasy": Dancing with Janet Reno. But his fantasy went unfulfilled. In a giddy piece in the July 29 issue of the magazine, staff writer Joel Stein recounted his attendance at Reno's dance party last Friday night in Miami, a Saturday Night Live skit brought to real life as a fundraiser for the Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate.

Stein rued: "I leave my friends behind and rush the stage to try to dance with Reno, only to find myself in a small crowd of men living the same fantasy. When I finally push my way past them, she is gone."

The MRC's Rich Noyes caught the piece, which appeared up front on page 6 of the magazine, titled: "Who Knew? The Lady Is a Dancin' Machine." The subhead: "Think Elian brought out Reno's wild side? Step past the velvet rope at her rave."

An excerpt from the one-page story by Stein:

My greatest fear is being the biggest dork at the Janet Reno Dance Party. I have never been anywhere in South Beach where I was not the least cool person in the room, and Level, where Reno is throwing a Friday-night fund raiser, is one of the hottest clubs in Miami. Being the No. 1 loser at a party for Janet Reno -- the former U.S. Attorney General, current Florida gubernatorial candidate and perennial icon of dork style -- could set my self-confidence back to junior high levels.

Reno is having the dance party for many reasons, several having to do with postmodernism, the triumph of irony and the melding of Hollywood and Washington. But the biggest reason is that she trails incumbent Jeb Bush 37% to 53%. Plus, the Florida Democratic establishment wants nothing to do with her. With so little to lose, she figures, why not impersonate Will Ferrell's impersonation of her on Saturday Night Live?...

I don't know if you've ever fantasized about living out an old Saturday Night Live sketch with a bunch of hard-core Democrats, but there are 2,200 people who have -- and they've paid $25 a head to do it. The good news is that these are 2,200 people who make me look like the young John Travolta....

Reno leaves, but before I know it, she has returned to the stage, where she does a kind of stand-still-and-clap thing that makes Al Gore seem like Jackie Wilson. Oddly enough, she isn't doing a particularly good impersonation of Will Ferrell's impersonation of her. I leave my friends behind and rush the stage to try to dance with Reno, only to find myself in a small crowd of men living the same fantasy. When I finally push my way past them, she is gone....

Elaine Lancaster, the 6-ft. 2-in. drag queen who is the hostess of the club, says she approves of Reno's moves. "Tonight she looks great in black," she says of Reno's suit skirt. "It's all about fashion." Reno's younger sister Maggy Hurchalla is equally impressed. "She can make her feet move. I just pretend," she says. "Jeb can probably dance better than Janey and I can. He's conventional."

Conventional is what the four high school kids protesting outside the club want. One of them, Fred Moffat, 17, holds a sign that says, "That's not a woman, it's a man, baby!" His friends are equally passionate in their anti-Reno sentiments, except possibly the one with a sign that says, "Honk if you like cookies." "I've hated her ever since the Elian case," says Moffat, who skateboarded here. "But I think it's good she can poke fun at herself. The SNL thing was hilarious." Dancing, especially really bad dancing, really does bring the world together.

END of Excerpt

For the entire piece:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101020729-322658,00.html

Nice to learn that a Time staff writer shares the same "fantasy" as liberal Democrats and the magazine gives him a page to fondly reminisce about his big night out. -- Brent Baker


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