Lieberman Dubbed "Centrist"; Unlike GOP Show, Lieberman Pick Demonstrated True Inclusiveness
1) Joe Lieberman may not be a left-wing liberal, but with a 1999 ADA rating of 95 and a zero from the ACU, he's certainly no "centrist," yet Monday night all the networks tagged him either as "centrist" or a "moderate."
3) Lieberman "is a conservative Democrat," NBC's Claire Shipman insisted Monday morning as she transferred that view to Gore, "and they probably don't agree with everything he supports, but, you know, Gore is a pretty conservative Democrat."
>>> "Their Conventional Wisdom" read the headline over an August 7 Investor's Business Daily editorial, about convention coverage, which cited several quotes from the MRC's daily convention analysis produced last week. It's not online, but if you have access to Monday's IBD you might want to check it out on the back page of the main section.
Joe Lieberman is a "centrist," a "moderate" or even "a conservative"? Not according to the leading conservative and liberal ratings of congressional votes, but that's how he was described Monday morning and evening on the networks.
Near the end of Monday's Nightline, host Michel Martin, the former Michel McQueen, compared Lieberman with guest Maxine Waters, the very liberal Congresswoman from Los Angeles. Martin asked David Gergen: "The Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group, Joe Lieberman's rating: 80 percent; Maxine Waters's rating: 80 percent. The American Conservative Union, Maxine Waters's rating: zero; Joe Lieberman's rating: 16. So this is a moderate you tell me?" David Gergen replied: "Well I think he's more moderate on defense issues, he's more moderate on economic issues. On social issues he's a liberal."
But in opening the show Martin had spread the misleading labeling, calling him "outspoken, a centrist, even a moralist." She added that Lieberman "is a moderate."
Earlier, on ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Charles Gibson dubbed him "a centrist Democrat." CBS Evening News anchor Steve Kroft maintained "Lieberman is noted for his moderate voting record and high moral standards." NBC's Claire Shipman, who on Imus in the Morning had described Lieberman as a "conservative Democrat," toned it down for NBC Nightly News on which she referred to him as "a political moderate."
Lieberman certainly is noteworthy for his moral concerns about Clinton's behavior and interest in the negative influence of television and the entertainment industry, and he has challenged liberal doctrine in a few other areas, but that doesn't change the fact that most of his votes have followed the liberal line. He may not be a left-wing liberal, but he's certainly no centrist either.
Just look at the ratings. He's earned a lifetime "Liberal Quotient" of 77 from the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) for his votes since 1989. As a way of comparison, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt has received 71 percent approval from the liberal group over his congressional tenure. In 1999, Lieberman was assessed 95 percent from ADA while the American Conservative Union (ACU) gave him a zero for that year, making him one of the Senate's eight most liberal Senators in 1999. His lifetime ACU rating: 19 percent.
Democratic Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, who earned a lifetime 47 percent from ACU, could accurately be described as a moderate. Republican Senator William Roth of Delaware, at 73 percent, earned a slightly lower rating from ACU than Lieberman got from ADA, but have you ever heard Roth dubbed as a centrist or moderate?
To check out ADA's
assessment for Lieberman, go to:
For the ACU's ratings
of Lieberman, go to:
For the 25 evaluated
1999 votes in which Lieberman voted against the ACU view all 25 times, go
Number 24 was his vote against banning partial-birth abortions, but no network on Monday pointed out his "hardline" support of abortion as they had the opposite point of view when they introduced Dick Cheney. Instead, they refereed to his support for "abortion rights."
Here's a rundown of how the networks introduced Lieberman on Monday night, August 7:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Charles Gibson announced: "That pick was described in all sorts of ways today. Some of the quotes: 'courageous,' 'moral,' 'groundbreaking.' Not many people across the country know Joe Lieberman. To the extent that labels can be attached, he is a centrist Democrat. Notably, he is the first Jewish candidate for Vice President in U.S. history."
Terry Moran began the subsequent story by stressing Gore's values: "In the end, according to people who were in the room with Al Gore as he reached this decision last night, it came down to a personal compatibility the Vice President feels with Senator Lieberman. They're both strong family men, they both have intense commitments to their faiths, they come from the same wing of the Democratic Party."
After Gibson noted he was the first Democrat to chastise Bill Clinton as "some call him the conscience of the Senate," Linda Douglass profiled him, noting how his support for school vouchers has "infuriated" Democratic groups like the teacher unions. She hinted at his hardline abortion views in her conclusion: "The Bush campaign is trying to paint Lieberman as a closet Republican but Democrats point to his solid support for Democratic issues like abortion rights and gun control."
Aaron Brown took up the impact of his religion before Gibson asked George Stephanopoulos: "Is it a risky choice?" Stephanopoulos called it "unchartered territory," but suggested "it sure helps" Gore separate himself from Clinton.
-- CBS Evening News. Unusual substitute anchor Steve Kroft proclaimed: "Democrat Al Gore's choice for a running mate is unprecedented. Fifty-eight-year-old Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, flew to Nashville this evening to join Gore for the official announcement tomorrow. Lieberman is noted for his moderate voting record and high moral standards. He was an early critic of President Clinton, a long-time friend, over the Monica Lewinsky affair."
John Roberts reviewed the mechanics of the pick and how Lieberman backs school vouchers before Jim Axelrod noted how the percent of people who say they could vote for a Jew has grown from 46 percent in 1937 to 92 percent last year.
In between, Kroft pointed out how Lieberman "supports abortion rights," opposed a same sex marriage bill, but sponsored a bill to outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians.
-- NBC Nightly News
opened with Tom Brokaw's interview of Al Gore. Brokaw asked: "Let
me read to you something Joe Lieberman said about President Clinton at the
height of the discussion about impeachment. He said 'such behavior is
not just inappropriate it is immoral.' Did you agree with Joe Lieberman
when he said that?"
As they sat in a diner, instead of pressing Gore about school vouchers or private investment on Social Security, two views supported by Lieberman, Brokaw pushed from the left: "Health care. There's a man in this diner today who says why can't we have an expanded pool to take care of people with pre-existing conditions who are high-risk?"
On Lieberman, Claire
Shipman declared: "It's a bold move by Gore to put an Orthodox Jew
on his ticket...a revered figure in the Senate, even Republicans can
barely come up with criticism."
In a subsequent profile by Anne Thompson, she described him as "a workhorse rather than a showhorse" and listed how he disagrees with Gore on vouchers, Social Security private investment, cutting the capital gains tax. She added that he also opposed Clinton's welfare reform plan.
Gore's pick of Lieberman "trumps anything the Republicans had to say in Philadelphia," CNN analyst Bill Schneider insisted on Monday's Inside Politics.
"Lieberman is a true centrist, a moderate who can build coalitions.
You know how the Republicans in Philadelphia kept trying to show how
moderate they were? Well this trumps anything the Republicans had to
Schneider did raise an angle not picked up by the broadcast networks: "Lieberman once said quote, 'we in government should look to religion as a partner as I think the founders of our country did.' Exactly the sentiments of the Religious Right."
Schneider soon concluded: "You know how the Republicans in Philadelphia kept calling attention to their party's inclusiveness. Well the first Jewish candidate on a national ticket trumps anything they had to say."
In a later discussion
with Jeff Greenfield, co-anchor Judy Woodruff smartly asked: "Someone
said to me Jeff that in a way this is like a Democratic John McCain, that
Lieberman is not as conservative as his reputation. Does that strike a
chord with you?"
The misleading labeling of Lieberman began in the morning on Monday, August 7, as detailed on a Media Reality Check fax report produced Monday afternoon by the MRC's Tim Graham using quotes observed by MRC analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd, Paul Smith and Geoffrey Dickens.
Here's the text of the August 7 Media Reality Check headlined, "Lieberman the 'Conservative Democrat'? Does a Conservative Rating Average of 19 Percent Define the 'Middle of the Road' of Politics?"
When George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney as his running mate, reporters soon began using extremist terms to describe him, placing him on the "hard right," the "far right," someone who was "very, very conservative." But when Al Gore selected Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate this morning, they placed him squarely in the mainstream:
-- On ABC's Good Morning America, Terry Moran said: "He's known as a moderate Democrat, who had demonstrated fiscal conservatism in the Senate and a kind of hawkishness in foreign policy."
-- On The Early Show, CBS reporter John Roberts explained "He has been a core supporter of Democratic issues, the Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council of which President Clinton is a member. A real sort of centrist Democrat."
-- On CNN at 7 AM, reporter John King echoed the morning line: "The 58-year-old senator, like Gore, a member of the Democratic Leadership Council. He is viewed as a Democratic moderate...He is in sync with Gore on the major issues, again, both products of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council."
-- On the MSNBC simulcast of Imus in the Morning, NBC's Claire Shipman was the boldest: "It is very hard to find negative things to say about Joe Lieberman. I know, look, labor might not be happy. He is a conservative Democrat and they probably don't agree with everything he supports, but, you know, Gore is a pretty conservative Democrat." How can Cheney be "very conservative" with a 90 ACU, and Gore be "pretty conservative" with a Senate ACU average of 10?
On Today, Shipman said, "He's a conservative Democrat and an Orthodox Jew...While critics brand Lieberman as a liberal who votes for abortion rights, gun control, and tax hikes, Democrats say he's more conservative when it comes to issues such as defense spending and family values."
-- A Time Online article carried the headline "With Middle-of-the-Road Joe, Al Aims to Ditch Monica." Reporter Frank Pellegrini sounded confused: "He's a moved-to-the-center kind of liberal with a reputation for integrity and relatively straight-shooting. And because he's an orthodox Jew, he won't campaign on Saturdays -- just work that promotes, as Lieberman has put it, 'the respect and protection of human life and well-being.'"
Time did not find that to be the time to add that Lieberman draws no heat from hard-line feminists of the Democratic base on abortion. He supports partial-birth abortions and tax-funded abortions. "He is pro-choice," explained Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz in a Monday discussion at the Post Web site. "Politically, no Democratic nominee in any year can pick a running mate who is opposed to abortion." The media call the Republican platform "hardline" on abortion, but apparently you can be a 100-percent pro-abortion vote and be a "conservative Democrat."
Does an ACU rating of 19 define the "middle of the road" of politics? Or are Democrats so liberal that a 19 puts you in the party's "conservative wing"? If Dick Cheney had averaged an 80 ACU rating, would reporters call him a "liberal Republican"? The media's labeling is shifting the "middle of the road" into the left lane.
One wonders if there was anyone who Gore could have picked whom the networks would have abused, as they did Cheney, with the liberal equivalents of "hardline conservative," "hard-edged conservative," "hard right," "rigid right" etc. labels. -- Brent Baker
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