***MRC CyberAlert: From San Diego***
Day One: Moderate Speakers, Extreme Platform | Today's Major Articles | The Media's Exclusionary Rule | Buchanan "Destroyed" Bush | Portraying a Putrid Platform | Gutless Moderates? | Corporate Welfare Watch | Networks Challenge Dole's Plan | Reality Check | On Inside Washington | Millionaire Anchors Tag GOP Delegates As Out of Touch with Middle America
Quote of the Day
"Ronald Reagan will still have to learn how history will judge his time in office -- the deficits, the Iran-Contra affair. But for the members of this party, there is no more beloved figure."
-- NBC's Tom Brokaw after Nancy Reagan's address which followed a video tribute to former President Reagan, August 12 NBC News convention coverage.
Day One: Moderate Speakers, Extreme Platform
Networks Obsess Over Abortion
Monday's coverage of the Republican convention was a near carbon copy of the themes emphasized over the weekend. Viewers of Monday's morning shows heard repeated questions about why the Republicans excluded pro-choice voices. On the evening shows and in prime time coverage they heard references to the GOP's harsh, and extreme platform. Several reporters used retired General Colin Powell's speech as a foil to contrast his themes against the media-promoted image of the 1992 convention.
Looking at the bright side of the Jack Kemp pick, on Today Monday morning NBC's Tim Russert argued it might prevent the GOP from employing a certain strategy: "This may be an enormous public service. If Jack Kemp's presence on the Republican ticket neutralizes the race issue, if the race card is not played in 1996 because of Jack Kemp, he will have achieved more than any national figure in a long time. In 1988, the Willie Horton ad. Jack Kemp has said that was just absurd."
Today's major articles:
A Scary, Harsh, Extreme and Radical Republican Platform Not Even Counting Abortion.
On CBS Lesley Stahl declared without supporting information: "On the platform, women find that extreme. It's turning them off." Dan Rather asked Jack Kemp if he agreed that the platform is "harsh, extreme, even radical."
Exclusion of Pro-Choicers the Number One Concern of Reporters. Today's Katie Couric posed seven questions about abortion, even demanding that Dole's daughter Robin explain her abortion views. She asked Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: "Do you still believe you can call the Republican Party an inclusive party?" See page 3.
Reporters Dismiss Dole Tax Plan as Failed Reaganomics. "Do you worry about the budget deficit ballooning as a result?" CNN's Bob Franken asked George Shultz on Monday.
The Media's Exclusionary Rule
Conventioneers Battered with Abortion Questions All Day
The networks stayed on message in harping on Republican exclusion of pro-abortion podium speakers. Just after noon Pacific time CNN's Charles Bierbauer asked Congressman Sam Brownback of Kansas: "But haven't some of those who might feel that abortion rights defensible, haven't they been excluded?" Candy Crowley asked pro-abortion Sen. Arlen Specter: "Do you think there is ever going to be room on the Republican ticket for someone like you?"
On NBC's Today on Monday, Katie Couric posed at least seven abortion questions. To Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: "You know a lot has been made of the Republican Party being a very inclusive party, one that can embrace the views of various people. Given the way the platform has worked out vis a vis abortion, and the fact that some of these Republican governors are not speaking because they felt, as if they were being censored. Do you still believe you can call the Republican Party an inclusive party?"
During the 1992 convention, Couric only asked Clinton's mother Virginia Kelley puff questions: "I also read in the many things that have been written about your son and his childhood that he used to walk to church alone with a Bible under his arm.' But Couric felt compelled yesterday to ask Dole's daughter Robin: "You all don't agree on all things political. I know you differ with him in terms of his views on abortion. Do you have discussions? Do you talk about it, talk it out, exchange views?"
But CNN exemplified an ironic new twist: excluding or downplaying conservatives wasn't censorship, but cleverly manipulative stage management. Reporter Frank Sesno declared Monday afternoon: "The placement of the various speakers at this convention is very purposeful and during this session, during this afternoon, some of the more hard line conservative speakers, such as Sam Brownback, were placed. We're not going to hear that rough edge tonight in prime time. Sesno's tone grew sharper: "The keynote speech will be delivered by a woman by the name of Susan Molinari. She is someone who is here with a very deliberate aim, and that is to take a belt sander to some of the sharper edges of the Republican Party."
ABC's Peter Jennings told Monday's San Diego Union Tribune: "Whenever a political party goes out of its way to restrain, isolate, or box in other voices , and both parties do it , then you almost invariably attract the attention of journalists." But Jennings ignored the Democrats' spiking of Bob Casey in 1992. Whether he lives up to his own statements this year will be tested in two weeks in Chicago.
Buchanan "Destroyed" Bush
Following Colin Powell's speech, reporters quickly pointed out the difference between this convention and the "divisive" Houston convention in 1992. Andrea Mitchell declared on MSNBC: "There's a real interesting contrast here because Pat Buchanan set the tone for the Houston convention four years ago with the same prime time starring role on the first night of the convention and that of course was the speech that many people feel destroyed George Bush's chance of winning re-election because it set a very narrow, exclusive and mean-spirited tone and tonight we had the contrast of Colin Powell." On Monday's Good Morning America, host Charles Gibson couldn't let the issue die: "It is this convention that is going to be harmonious. The Republicans are determined that there will be no repeat of Houston 1992, which many saw as a harsh and divisive convention." While never mentioning that raising taxes could have cost Bush the election, ABC's John Cochran opined on World News Tonight: "The one thing that Bush did not have to tell Dole is that at all cost Dole should try to prevent a re-run of that bitter divisive convention four years ago in Houston, that so badly damaged Bush's chances for re-election. Dole knows that only too well."
Portraying a Putrid Platform
Abortion Not the Only Plank That Offends Media
With the GOP showcasing the inoffensive lineup of former Presidents Ford and Bush as well as retired General Colin Powell, the networks made sure viewers learned that the Republican platform still upheld the party's ideological hard line.
NBC's David Bloom announced an amalgam of antis on Monday's Nightly News: "But not a word today from Bob Dole about the tough anti-immigration, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion platform adopted this afternoon at the convention hall." Later in the show, NBC's Lisa Myers ended a story: "One Dole strategist has a different standard [of convention success]. He said he'll consider this convention a hit if the viewers end the week thinking Republicans aren't quite as scary as they thought."
"Even some Republicans describe the current platform as quote, harsh, extreme, even radical. Do you see it that way?" Dan Rather asked Jack Kemp on Monday's CBS Evening News.
During prime time, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl added: "The whole purpose of tonight's convention, the whole program, is to diminish the image of this party as extreme because that's what's turning the women off. Four years ago, the main speaker at the convention, the Republican convention, was Pat Buchanan. He was yelling, his pitchforks were raised. Tonight it will be Colin Powell, he will appeal to civility. On the platform, women find that extreme. It's turning them off."
In the August 19 Newsweek, Senior Editor Jonathan Alter gave pro- abortion Republicans his recipe for political success. In a piece titled "The Passion Gap," he wrote: "Pro-choice Republicans insist it's their party, too. But the high-minded moderates are too polite to take on the hard-charging right. Until they do, the GOP may never truly win over the country."
The crux of Alter's wisdom? Attack your most loyal voting block: "This is now the fifth nominating convention in which the GOP has applied an anti-abortion litmus test. Ronald Reagan signed an abortion-rights law as Governor of California, then changed his position in time for his presidential campaigns. George Bush was such a supporter of family planning as a congressman that he was called 'Rubbers,' but by the 1980s had flip-flopped. Bob Dole is pro-life but has gone back and forth so many times on platform language and planks that he has raised basic questions about his leadership. If he can't stand up to a Phyllis Schlafly, how would he handle a Saddam Hussein?"
Alter closed by holding up the Democratic Party, the same party that shut Governor Bob Casey out of its 1992 convention for his pro-life views, as an example of the big-tent the GOP should emulate: "The only real way to change the Republican Party is for...a pro-choice candidate to run for President in 2000....Sometime soon a compelling moderate Republican will take a leaf from the successes of centrist Democrats and enter a few primaries. Then we'll find out if the Republicans can finally pitch that big tent they like to talk about."
Corporate Welfare Watch
Two reporters cheered Colin Powell's denunciation of corporate welfare last night, but they failed to mention which party tried to reduce it or how NBC is a recipient. On MSNBC, correspondent Andrea Mitchell never reflected on the hard choice her own network made when NBC decided to make money in prime time by joining up with PBS for convention coverage: "One of the things that I thought was interesting about Colin Powell's speech is that he did talk about the hard choices and he said, 'Listen friends, let me put it to you. We're going to have to give up corporate welfare as well and that entitlements are the real issue.'"
PBS anchor Charlayne Hunter-Gault said to Gary Bauer after Powell left the podium: "You heard the reaction in the room at the conclusion of the speech. You also heard Mark [Shields] say that when he talked about corporate welfare and welfare for the wealthy there was a deafening silence in the room. How do you think this crowd is really receiving this message."
The House Republicans tried to eliminate the Commerce Department, a fact not raised by either reporter.
Very Conventional Wisdom
Jonathan Alter's Conventional Wisdom Watch in the August 19 Newsweek should be renamed Cliched Wisdom Watch for this well- worn slap at Ronald Reagan. Alter gave Reagan an up arrow: "'96 GOP theme is `win another one for the Gipper' , and his big deficits, too."
Networks Challenge Dole's Plan
Tax Plan Declared Failed Reaganomics
The offering of tax cuts is universally seen as good politics, but that doesn't mean reporters won't try to make them unpopular. Bob Dole's new tax cut proposal and selection of Jack Kemp as his running mate may be making headway in the polls, but journalists are trying to put on the brakes. For reporters all tax cuts are bad.
Brand new CBS This Morning co-host Jose Diaz-Balart declared Monday: "It will be interesting to see if Bob Dole, who'd been skeptical of supply-siders like Jack Kemp in the past, can sell this to the American people without being perceived as a hypocrite." Other reporters assumed that supply-side economics is a failed doctrine and that tax cuts will "balloon" the deficit as they allegedly did in the Reagan years:
Just before noon Pacific time on Monday, CNN's Bob Franken asked George Shultz on the convention floor: "I wanted to talk to you about the fact that you worked with Republican Bob Dole on his economic plank. Were you pleased that there were tax cuts in there, and do you worry about the budget deficit ballooning as a result?"
On Inside Washington just before Dole released his plan, Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas declared: "There are millions of quotes from Bob Dole all through the '80s saying, Look, you can't just cut taxes and expect the economy to do much better. Now he's screeched around, 180 degrees, and he's sounding like a pie-in-the-sky, Reaganomics professor. It's, it doesn't suit his character and he's giving up some high ground. Now Bill Clinton looks like the responsible guy."
Headline in the August 5 USA Today: "Dole's Tax Plan Could Backfire, Experts Say: Deficits, interest rates could rise." NBC reporter David Bloom quickly declared on the August 5, Nightly News: "Most economists say the Reagan tax cuts did worsen the budget deficit and many are skeptical of Dole's plan." Mike Jensen agreed about "most economists" minutes later: "They say these tax cuts could cause huge budget deficits as they did during the Reagan years, debt that would have to be paid off by future generations....Most analysts say it's not good economics."
Minutes after Dole's tax cut address that day, U.S. News & World Report Senior Writer Susan Dentzer suggested on CNN that the people didn't care about fiscal realities: "I think it's going to sell very well among those who, for one thing, think that government is taxing them too heavily and don't have a calculator, don't particularly care about the details of federal fiscal policy and don't particularly want to add up the dimensions of the problem or stare into the future that we know we face."
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman stressed in the August 12 issue that Dole "risks his most cherished asset: his credibility...Now he's embracing supply-side economics, years after it came (and went) in GOP circles. So late in his career , so late in his campaign , it looks desperate. Clinton, meanwhile, can brag that the annual deficit on his watch , and that he's a champion of fiscal responsibility. In other words, he can be Bob Dole."
Monday's Investor's Business Daily pointed out: "Just turn to page 369 of the 'Economic Report of the President'...A table shows that receipts from individual income taxes rose to $446 billion in fiscal '89, President Reagan's last budget, from $286 billion in fiscal '81, the year Reagan began to slash personal rates. That's a 56 percent gain. Annualized, tax receipts grew faster than the period's average 4 percent inflation. The problem was clearly NOT a fall in revenues. It was the other side of the ledger: Spending grew even faster. Look at the 'total outlays'' column in the same table. Spending rose to $1.143 trillion in '89 from $678 billion in '81. That's a 69 percent gain. It's no surprise that Clinton, a professional politician, would brush over such inconvenient facts. Media figures who claim to have no hidden agendas, on the other hand, have no excuse."
On Inside Washington:
Evan Thomas, Newsweek's Washington bureau chief: "I think this is really disappointing.
And more advice from the left from Thomas: "Maybe pandering works, but the polls don't show that. The polls, I think, even Dole's own polls show that most people reject this tax cut because they don't believe it. They got conned in the 1980s by Reagan, they got a tax cut, but they still got a, it didn't do what he predicted it would do to the economy. They're in a highly cynical mode, I don't think they believe his pandering. In fact, if you ask the question, 'Do you approve a tax cut if it would increase the deficit?' only 11 percent of the country, according to one reputable poll, went for it, so I think it's lose-lose."
Millionaire Anchors Tag GOP Delegates As Out of Touch with Middle America
Early in Monday's PBS/NBC coverage, Tom Brokaw asked: "The big question, of course, what is the Republican Party these days?...Well on the floor of this convention hall, they are overwhelmingly white and male, male by a factor of about two to one...The largest single income group, more than 38 percent of the people here earn more than $100,000 a year." Some additional examples from Monday of how the networks created an image for viewers of an out of touch elite gathered in San Diego:
Ed Bradley on the CBS Evening News last night: "For the most part they are white, male, and they are older than the average American. They are also more conservative than the average American. They are also wealthier , about a third of the delegates earn more than $100,000 a year."
Dan Rather in prime time: "Delegates in this convention have been selected, inspected, detected, categorized by the press, the polls, the pros, and the pollsters. We know they're mostly male, overwhelmingly white, mostly well to the right politically, and almost one in five of these delegates is a millionaire."
CNN's Judy Woodruff to Susan Molinari: "We look at the statistics of how many women delegates. What? 43 percent in 1992. Only 36 percent of the delegates are women this year. What sort of signal does that send to the country, you think?
Woodruff again last night: "We talked to Jack Kemp a little while ago and asked him about, among other things, the fact that not only not just the language in the platform , only three percent of these delegates are African American. Only 36 percent of these delegates are women. This is not a convention that is necessarily representative even of the broader Republican Party, the people who vote Republican, much less the electorate overall."
So, will these reporters apply equal treatment to the unrepresentative Democrats gathering in Chicago in a few days? -- Brent Baker