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CyberAlert -- 07/30/2001 -- CBS's Hanssen-Reagan Link

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CBS's Hanssen-Reagan Link; Arsenic Rule Distorted; Bush "Doesn't Play Well with Others"; CBS Found Scandal in Ashcroft Not Condit

1) Leave it to CBS News to link spy Robert Hanssen to Ronald Reagan. CBS highlighted Hanssen's role in a 1980s effort to monitor U.S. citizens for ties to Moscow: "It was former President Ronald Reagan who beefed up the FBI initiative against Soviet subversion in the U.S."

2) Over video of a little girl drinking from an outdoor fountain, CBS's Diana Olick distorted Bush's arsenic in water decision: "This week the House voted against his plan to ease restrictions on arsenic in drinking water..."

3) Bush's foreign policy grade from USA Today's Susan Page: He "doesn't play well with others." CBS's Bob Schieffer argued that backing away from treaties "is going to leave the United States looking as if it is somehow contemptuous of the work that has gone before and that we are somehow sort of an isolationist country."

4) CBS tried to create a scandal about Attorney General John Ashcroft. On last Thursday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather demanded to know "why is the Attorney General of the United States doing all his air travel by specially chartered jet at taxpayer expense?" Jim Stewart relayed the FBI's insistence that threats against Ashcroft justify the policy, but he then showed how Ashcroft and others could not identify the threats.

5) Not even a fourth interview with Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) prompted the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather to touch the topic. And as for identifying Condit as a Democrat, ABC did and NBC did not.

6) Tip O'Neill was Charles Gibson's favorite interview subject because he was one of those who "thinks outside the box."


Editor's Note: Jeans or not? The July 26 CyberAlert highlighted an op-ed from Roger Ebert in which he ridiculed President's Bush's foreign policy. He started the column by criticizing Bush daughter Barbara for wearing "denims" to visit the Queen: "The British have a useful word, 'yob,' which the dictionary defines as an 'uncouth, ignorant, loutish youth.'" As several readers have noted, in interviews last week, First Lady Laura Bush denied the British newspaper reports that her daughter wore jeans and a denim jacket. She told Today's Matt Lauer last Monday, July 23, for example: "She wore a dress, of course, to meet the Queen, and the Queen and Prince Philip were very generous with their time, and very nice to invite us and to invite our daughter as well."

1
Leave it to CBS News to link admitted spy Robert Hanssen to Ronald Reagan. Sunday's CBS Evening News led with a "CBS News exclusive" with the Los Angeles Times about how, ironically, spy Hanssen was the number two man in an FBI effort in the 1980s to monitor Soviet activities in the United States and any connections between U.S. citizens and Moscow.

Reporter Randall Pinkston summarized the discovery: "Hanssen, who earlier this year confessed to selling secrets to the Soviets, was also second in command of the FBI's 'Soviet Analytical Unit' that included spying on American citizens, part of a broad program to counter KGB disinformation campaigns..."

After a clip of David Major, Hanssen's boss on the project who defended the rationale behind it, viewers saw a 1983 soundbite from then-President Ronald Reagan: "To ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire-"
Pinkston picked up: "It was former President Ronald Reagan who beefed up the FBI initiative against Soviet subversion in the U.S. Among the unit's discoveries, a flyer with a racist warning from the Ku Klux Klan was actually written by the KGB, an effort to disrupt the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. But critics say the problem with the FBI operation is that it monitored thousands of U.S. citizens. For example, files with the names of Americans who attended a 1987 women's convention in Moscow..."

Pinkston went on to report that even letters from Congressman Barney Frank were in the unit's files.

More tonight on this from Dan Rather in a CBS Evening News "Eye on America" series.

2

Sunday night CBS also distorted President Bush's decision on arsenic in drinking water. CBS reporter Diana Olick reported the House on Friday had "voted against his plan to ease restrictions on arsenic in drinking water," making it sound like the House blocked an easing of current standards. In fact, the last-minute Clinton executive order to reduce the current parts per billion levels, which Bush had suspended to study further, would not have gone into effect until 2006.

On the July 29 CBS Evening News fill-in anchor Scott Pelley noted how Bush's agenda is "being held hostage by members of his own party."

Olick outlined how "moderates" are "delaying the President's education and faith-based initiatives, refusing to pass the Patients' Bill of Rights he wants and reversing his environmental policies. [over video of little girl drinking from an outdoor fountain] This week the House voted against his plan to ease restrictions on arsenic in drinking water and many moderates are now planning to join Democrats in opposing oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic Wildlife Refuge."

3

President Bush "doesn't play well with others," USA Today White House reporter Susan Page scolded when asked on CNN's Late Edition to assess Bush's first 180 days in office. CBS's Bob Schieffer listed treaties Bush has backed away from as he demanded of Condoleezza Rice: "Are you concerned that this is going to leave the United States looking as if it is somehow contemptuous of the work that has gone before and that we are somehow sort of isolationist country."

-- CNN's Late Edition, July 29. Asked by substitute host John King during the roundtable to grade Bush at 180 days on international policy, USA Today reporter Susan Page replied with a critique offered by the left which assumes Bush's conservative policies have been misguided:
"If you were in elementary school, you might say 'doesn't play well with others.' There are a series of issues -- global warming, arms control, national missile defense -- in which Bush has really been at odds with some of our allies as well as our adversaries. And you can succeed as President with that kind of stance, but it's harder. You talk to Condoleezza Rice, for instance, about sanctions against Iraq. The administration was unable to get the rest of the world, even our allies, to go along with the new regime, a different kind of sanctions against Iraq because he hasn't built the kind of relationships that would enable him to force the allies to do what he wanted to do in that case. So I think that's a risk for the President as he looks out at the next three and a half years of his term."

King later followed up with the kind of question you probably would not have heard from Wolf Blitzer: "You say 'doesn't play well with others,' but isn't it part of leadership if you disagree with the others, whether it's missile defense or global warming, to perhaps not play so well to bring them along?"
Page conceded: "Well, and that's what he's chosen to and, of course, it takes a test of a little more time before we know whether that turns out to be the right thing to do..."

-- Face the Nation, July 29. Bob Schieffer's lengthy argument in the form of a question to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: "Miss Rice, the New York Times in an editorial this morning makes the point that the United States just seems to be either withdrawing or showing no interest in any number of treaties that have been negotiated in recent years -- the Kyoto treaty, the ABM treaty, watering down the UN agreement to resolve illegal trafficking in drugs, the non-proliferation treaty. Are you concerned that this is going to leave the United States looking as if it is somehow contemptuous of the work that has gone before and that we are somehow sort of an isolationist country that's willing to go it alone no matter what the other countries of the world think?"

After Rice answered that "internationalism" should not be defined as signing treaties not in America's interest and that some of the treaties were not even supported by the previous President, Schieffer returned to his thesis: "But do you worry that perhaps we're creating the impression that we simply want to go it alone?"

As opposed to liberals who are against free trade?

4

Trying to create a scandal about Attorney General John Ashcroft. On last Thursday's CBS Evening News Dan Rather demanded to know "why is the Attorney General of the United States doing all his air travel by specially chartered jet at taxpayer expense?" Jim Stewart relayed the FBI's insistence that threats against Ashcroft justify the policy, but he then showed how Ashcroft and others could not identify the threats -- as if anyone should announce them to the news media.

Stewart pointed out how "former Attorney General Janet Reno routinely flew commercial," but he did concede that "the Justice Department insisted that it wasn't Ashcroft who wanted to fly leased aircraft. That plan they said was strictly the idea of Ashcroft's FBI security detail."

Rather set up the July 26 hit on Ashcroft caught by MRC analyst Brian Boyd: "There are unanswered questions and secrecy tonight on another government matter. The core question in this case, why is the Attorney General of the United States doing all his air travel by specially chartered jet at taxpayer expense? CBS' Jim Stewart has been looking into this for you."

Stewart began: "Fishing rod in hand Attorney General John Ashcroft left on a weekend trip to Missouri this afternoon aboard a chartered government jet. In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft, who is traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a threat assessment by the FBI and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term. 'There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines,' an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it. A senior official at the CIA said he was unaware of any specific threats against any cabinet member and Ashcroft himself, at a speech in California seemed unsure of the threat."
Unidentified reporter to Ashcroft: "What can you tell us about the nature of that threat?"
Ashcroft: "Uh, you know, I don't do threat assessments myself and I rely on those who uh, who uh, whose responsibility it is to in the law enforcement community, particularly the FBI."
Reporter: "Do you know anything about it or who might have made it?"
Ashcroft: "Uh, I think it's, frankly, I don't."

Stewart detailed the plane usage: "Earlier this week the Justice Department leased this NASA owned G-3 Gulfstream for a six day trip to western states. Such aircraft cost the government more than $1,600 an hour to fly. When asked whether Ashcroft was paying for any portion of the trips devoted to personal business a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to respond. All other Bush Cabinet appointees, with the exception of Interior and Energy with remote sites to oversee, fly commercial. The Secretaries of State and Defense traditionally travel with extra security on military aircraft. Former Attorney General Janet Reno routinely flew commercial and the Justice Department insisted that it wasn't Ashcroft who wanted to fly leased aircraft. That plan they said was strictly the idea of Ashcroft's FBI security detail. The FBI had no further comment."

5

Not even a fourth interview with Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) about Chandra Levy prompted the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather to touch the subject Friday night after finding time the night before for trying to generate scandal about Ashcroft. The CBS show hasn't mentioned Condit/Levy since its first story on it back on July 18. And as for identifying Condit as a Democrat, ABC did and NBC did not.

On the July 27 World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings announced: "Democratic Congressman Gary Condit of California has given a fourth interview to investigators about the missing intern Chandra Levy..."

But over on the NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams avoided any party ID: "In the nations's capital, Congressman Gary of California has now been interviewed for a fourth time by investigators looking into the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy..."

The Dan Rather-anchored CBS Evening News found several less than timely stories more newsworthy, including Bishop Tutu's activities in the Congo, charges that Viagra use has led to heart attacks, an anti-immigrant attitude in Iowa and an "Everyone Has a Story" piece about sisters in Oregon. Nothing wrong with these "Everyone Has a Story" reports from Steve Hartman, but this same one also ran on the Saturday Early Show and on Saturday's CBS Evening News.

6

Summer catch-up. On this fairly slow political news day, an opportunity to catch up on an item I didn't have space or time for earlier: Charles Gibson praised Tip O'Neill as a man who thought "outside the box."

In the July 6-8 USA Weekend, Gannett's Sunday newspaper supplement, "Who's Who" columnist Lorrie Lynch answered a reader's request for more information about Gibson, co-host of ABC's Good Morning America. She replied, in part:

"The Chicago native caught the reporting bug by watching the Huntley-Brinkley Report with his father and has interviewed every President since Richard Nixon. Still, his favorite interview subject was then-Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill: 'I love people who think outside the box.'"

O'Neill thought "outside the box"? Other than some occasional sympathy for the pro-life position, O'Neill defined conventional big government liberalism. -- Brent Baker


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