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CyberAlert -- 08/27/2001 -- "Lock Box" & "Trust Fund" Mantra

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"Lock Box" & "Trust Fund" Mantra; Helms "Wonderfully Odious"; Jack White Admitted Listening to Limbaugh; Condit Defended by Maher

1) In three questions ABC's George Stephanopoulos on This Week referred to the non-existent "Social Security lock box." He demanded: "Are you prepared...to come forward and say we have to repeal or delay parts of the tax cut to make sure we don't tap the Social Security lock box?" NBC's Campbell Brown and Tim Russert cited the "Social Security Trust Fund," but on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume pointed out there is no "lock box."

2) Newsweek's Evan Thomas called Jesse Helms "wonderfully odious" as he conceded that it "was very comforting to the east coast media establishment to know that there was an evil guy out there." Time's Jack White proclaimed: "Good riddance." ABC's Derek McGinty blamed Helms for appealing "to the worst in North Carolinians: Fear, mistrust, misunderstanding and prejudice."

3) Time's Jack White: "I hate to admit it, but I actually did listen to Rush Limbaugh earlier this week. And Rush Limbaugh thinks..."

4) Some media figures were still willing to defend Gary Condit: ABC's Bill Maher insisted Condit only looks bad to those "who hate him anyway and basically hate sex." Maher sympathized: "I don't blame him for feeling like the guy in all the Hitchcock movies, the wrong guy, you know." Newsweek's Eleanor Clift claimed he had been forthcoming and portrayed him as the victim.

5) "Gary Condit is a Republican, isn't he?" A caller to C-SPAN on Friday morning tripped up the host by asking to which party Condit belongs. The host's confusion probably can be attributed to how infrequently the news media identify Condit as a Democrat.

6) The CBS Evening News on Friday aired its second full story ever on a weekday about Gary Condit -- and even identified him as a Democrat.

7) Letterman's "Top Ten Ways Gary Condit Can Improve His Image."


>>> "Conservatives Use Floggings As Way to Beat Back Reforms." Now posted on the MRC Web site, a shot of that Washington Post headline as displayed by Brit Hume on his Fox News Channel show. For more about the subject of the story and to see the headline for yourself, refer back to the August 17 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010817.asp#6 <<<

1

The incredible, imaginary Social Security "lock box" and "trust fund." All weekend-long ABC and NBC reporters insisted upon using those terms to describe sacrosanct funds even though there really is no "lock box" or "trust fund."

Liberals are now advancing the spin the media are eagerly eating up because they want to discredit the tax cut and prevent any more tax cutting. And Bush operatives won't explain reality since during the campaign Bush bought into the concept of not "spending" the Social Security surplus. Until a few years ago, NBC reporter Lisa Myers pointed out after Tim Russert used the "trust fund" language, the entire "trust fund" was spent on other things and, as Brit Hume noted on Fox News Sunday, it will be again this year even if it is "saved" for Social Security.

-- ABC's August 26 This Week displayed a "lock box" mantra as co-host George Stephanopoulos turned Al Gore's campaign spin into reality:

Stephanopoulos to White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey, who never corrected the questioner: "After this mid-session review budget report came this week, both you and President Bush mentioned what seemed to be a new exception to taking money from the Social Security lock box. You said that when there's a recession you can dip into the lock box. What's the economic rational for that?"

Of course, Bush never employed the term "lock box."

Stephanopoulos followed up: "The President has also said that he thinks the Congress has to restrain spending. Are you committed now to saying the President will veto any congressional spending bills that dip into the lock box absent a recession?"

Up next, Democratic Senator John Edwards, whom Stephanopoulos pushed to dump on the tax cut: "You talk about talking straight and tough choices. Are the Democrats prepared to make those same tough choices. You say there's a big problem with the budget this year. Are you prepared, as Senator Byrd has suggested, to come forward and say we have to repeal or delay parts of the tax cut to make sure we don't tap the Social Security lock box?"

-- The night before, on Saturday's NBC Nightly News, reporter Campbell Brown recalled from Crawford, Texas how earlier in the week "the White House released revised budget numbers that showed the surplus, projected in April to be $281 billion, is now down to $158 billion. And only one billion is available for new spending. The rest dedicated to the Social Security Trust Fund."

-- Meet the Press. A week after Robert Novak explained to Tim Russert how "there is no trust fund" (see August 20 CyberAlert: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20010820.asp#1), Russert at least added a "so-called" to his use of the term: "Last Sunday on this program, Lawrence Lindsey, the chief economic adviser to the President, said the President of the United States, George W. Bush, will never submit a budget that in any way taps into the so-called Social Security Trust Fund."

Russert's NBC News colleague, Lisa Myers, soon pointed out to her boss during the roundtable segment: "One thing we should add about the Social Security surplus: Until two years ago Congress and the President spent every dime of that money."
Russert: "Including the Democrats."
Myers: "Including the Democrats. And now it's being treated as though it's politically sacred. But economically it makes almost no difference."

Politically sacred and sacred to the Washington press corps.

-- Fox News Sunday. Instead of just repeating the "lock box" mantra to Lindsey, Fox's Brit Hume explained its phoniness to him: "We keep hearing that the Social Security surplus may be invaded, which is to say that these payroll tax revenues that come in, which are estimated to be in excess of what's necessary to pay benefits by somewhere between $155 and $160 billion this year, will not be touched, that they're in a quote, 'lock box,' unquote. In fact though, sir, isn't it the case that the money will be very much touched and it will be loaned back to the government. Social Security will get IOUs or government securities and what will happen is the money will be used to pay down other government debt, correct?"
Lindsey: "That's correct..."

2

More harangues about Helms over the weekend. Newsweek's Evan Thomas called retiring Senator Jesse Helms "wonderfully odious" and "an evil guy" as he conceded that it "was very comforting to the east coast media establishment to know that there was an evil guy out there that you could really fear." Time's Jack White proclaimed "glad he's gone" and "good riddance" to him. ABC's Derek McGinty blamed a 1990 Helms TV ad for appealing "to the worst in North Carolinians: Fear, mistrust, misunderstanding and prejudice."

-- Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas on Inside Washington fondly recalled a certain Time cover: "I think liberals are going to miss him. He was so wonderfully odious. Remember that old Time magazine, Jack [White], that had him on the cover with the dark shadows under the eyes and he's this dark and menacing figure? And he was very comforting to the east coast media establishment to know that there was an evil guy out there that you could really fear."

-- Time national correspondent Jack White on Inside Washington: "As a native North Carolinian, the only question I have is what took him so doggone long? Glad he's gone. He was an old segregationist. He never changed. Him and his counterpart in the state next door, Strom Thurmond, good riddance to both of them."

Can we assume White will display equal hostility toward and equal pleasure at the retirements of Democratic Senators Robert Byrd, who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, and Ernest Hollings who, as Governor of South Carolina, prevented any blacks from attending the University of South Carolina?

-- ABC's This Week. During the roundtable, Derek McGinty, a former NPR talk show host who now co-anchor's ABC's overnight World News Now, showed a clip of the 1990 Helms TV ad with the white hands crumpling a piece of paper as the announcer intoned: "You needed that job. And you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority."
McGinty denounced it as the start of negative ads: "That ad appealed to the worst in North Carolinians: Fear, mistrust, misunderstanding and prejudice. That ad, unfortunately, burst a whole generation of negative attack ads, something most people wouldn't want-."
Cokie Roberts corrected his obvious over-hype: "I think they were around-"
George Will jumped in: "I don't think there was anything wrong with that ad. It seems to me people who favor racial preferences open themselves to exactly that kind of argument. You can't advocate racial preferences and then say we can't talk about it as a political issue."

3

Jack White of Time mocked Rush Limbaugh's analysis that Gary Condit is just following Bill Clinton's behavior pattern.

On Inside Washington over the weekend, the weekly roundtable program shown on many PBS stations which is taped and run on Washington, DC's Gannett-owned CBS affiliate, the Time national correspondent reluctantly admitted listening to Limbaugh:
"I hate to admit it, but I actually did listen to Rush Limbaugh earlier this week. And Rush Limbaugh thinks that Condit's behavior in all this is the ultimate result of Clintonism. So everything goes back to Bill Clinton. He's to blame for everything including Gary Condit's behavior in this."

4

Despite near-unanimous condemnation for Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA), some media figures were still willing to defend him after it became clear he would obfuscate and refuse to apologize: ABC's Bill Maher, joined to some extent by Alexandra Wentworth, the future Mrs. George Stephanopoulos and USA Today editor Jack Curry and, in another forum, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift.

Maher insisted Condit only looks bad to those "who hate him anyway and basically hate sex." Maher sympathized: "I don't blame him for feeling like the guy in all the Hitchcock movies, the wrong guy, you know."

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught these exchanges on the Thursday, August 23, Politically Incorrect taped before Primetime Thursday aired, but after the panel heard the audio of the interview as provided by ABC News. The panel put Charmaine Yoest of the conservative Independent Women's Forum on the defensive, questioning her every assertion of what is common knowledge about the case:

Yoest: "You know what, that's another thing, is this guy is devoid of normal human emotion."
Bill Maher: "Devoid of normal human emotion?"
Yoest: "Yeah, yeah."
Maher: "This is the first time the guy ever spoke. How do you know this?"
Yoest: "Well, because the guy, he admits now he was having an affair with her for five months, and if you listen to all this smarmy stuff-"
Maher: "No."
Alexandra Wentworth, actress: "No, he actually admits that he was close to her for five months on the ABC Connie Chung interview."
Yoest: "Well, see, that's my point exactly, is you're close to a girl for five months and, you know-"
Wentworth: "I'm close to people. I'm close to Bill."
Maher, laughing: "Yeah."
Jack Curry, Editor of USA Weekend: "Would you have preferred it if he'd cried? Would you have preferred it if he used this forum to turn himself into this, you know, you know, bawling Congressman from Modesto...?"

Later, Yoest asserted: "I thought it was really striking that both of these girls [Lewinsky and Levy] had this delusional fantasy that these guys were gonna leave their wives, they were gonna end up having babies together-"
Curry: "How do you know that much about Chandra?"
Maher: "Yeah, how do you know this?"
Curry: "I mean, that hasn't come out anywhere."
Yoest: "Well, that's what her aunt has said."
Maher: "Her aunt! Of course, the aunt is the, of course, Oracle of Delphi, but he is devoid of human emotion."
Yoest: "The point-"
Maher: "How do you know these things? What about-"
Wentworth: "The point is, we need a scandal. It's the summer. We haven't had a scandal in a while. The media feeds on that kind of stuff."

At another point, Yoest contended: "The way he has responded time after time after time has made him look horribly guilty."
Maher: "To you. To people who hate him anyway and basically hate sex, he looks awful....So we're talking about the difference, really, between murder and adultery, and I think, you know, this guy may not be, as I say, a role model. But to make that immediate leap I think is what the press has been trying to do all summer. They've been trying to blow on this little spark and make it into an inferno to roast him over so they have something."
Wentworth: "Desperately."
Bill: "Desperately, and you know, I don't blame him for feeling like the guy in all the Hitchcock movies, the wrong guy, you know."

Curry soon sympathized with Condit's plight: "You know, I think the other thing that, you know, he's an easy guy to kick around, you know. It's one thing when you're dealing with the President and his infidelities -- well, we've already been there, so this is easy. This is an easy one, to pick at him."
Wentworth added: "But let's even put the stakes higher, let's put a murder in it. I mean, Monica and Bill was infidelity. Now let's take it a step further."

Over on FNC the same night, the 9pm EDT Hannity & Colmes crew did not have the benefit of seeing or hearing the yet to be broadcast 10pm EDT Primetime Thursday interview, but knew the basic parameters of Condit's approach based on his letter to constituents and Connie Chung's summarization on World News Tonight of how the interview went.

During one segment, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift repeatedly came to Condit's defense, claiming he had been forthcoming, an approach that even astounded the liberal Alan Colmes. MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught these exchanges:

Sean Hannity: "But on the political question, Dick Gephardt calls him a 'man of honor.' You know, I got to believe, well, first of all, he is a humiliating disgrace. I've got to believe America can to better than a man like this that has now just orchestrated what we have witnessed before, which is a massive propaganda and spin campaign."
Eleanor Clift: "Everybody in public life who has run into difficulties tries to rehabilitate themselves, and, frankly, with the exception of O.J. Simpson, I think they all helped themselves. You have made this man an absolute caricature-."
Hannity: "He has made himself, Eleanor."
Clift: "-turned him into a monster."
Hannity: "He has brought the suspicion."
Clift: "He is now going to be able to present himself in three dimensions and be able to communicate with the American people on his terms, and he should be granted that audience."

An appalled Alan Colmes argued: "Eleanor, this is a sham. You seem to me to be defending Gary Condit."
Clift: "I'm not-"
Colmes: "I'm surprised. I think it's bad for us Democrats to do that. I think it's bad."
Clift, without denying that she is among "us Democrats," countered: "Excuse me, I am eager to see this man. I haven't heard him speak. I want to hear what he has to say. I also know that he's going to have an interview with Michael Isikoff of Newsweek magazine, the questions are not going to stop with Connie Chung. We will have a much greater sense of who he is and what he's about after this, and let the people of his district make up their minds whether they want to send him back to Congress. He's been a good congressman. He is guilty, we know, of adultery. He is guilty, perhaps, of dissembling and not confessing adultery when initially asked about it, but that's all he is guilty of."
Colmes responded: "But Eleanor, it's, it's not just, Eleanor, it's not just about adultery. It's not, you keep bringing up adultery. I have said many times during the Clinton saga, it's not just about, you know, adultery shouldn't be a reason to impeach somebody. This is about a missing woman. This is about a woman about whom he would not come forth with information, that even now, and I have sources who've seen the people magazine piece, he doesn't come forth there. The interview tonight, sources say he doesn't come forth there. In the letter, he wasn't forthcoming. He's had three opportunities I know of, and he has not been forthcoming in any of them."
Clift: "Alan, forthcoming about what?"
Colmes: "About what?!"
Clift: "He has one central message to get across tonight, and that is that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing in Ms. Levy's disappearance, and that is all he wants viewers to take away from this evening."

Colmes next read a part of Condit letter, and asked: "'Dedicated to his family?' This is a guy who's had how many alleged affairs? We believe they may be more than alleged, and he's talking about being dedicated to his family. I mean, that's a sham, that's a lie."
Clift: "So he's a hypocrite. You know, lot's of people are hypocrites. Look, he is trying to finally communicate with his constituents, to turn around his reputation. He is probably the most detested man in America today. So let's give him a chance to try to explain himself. He's going to have to answer some very tough questions. His career may have ended simply because he chose to have an affair with somebody who may have encountered some wrongdoing."
Colmes: "No, but, Eleanor, that's not it. It's not, it's not simply that he chose to have an affair. That's not it. It's that he maybe had an affair and was not forthcoming. He didn't talk to the police as forthcoming as he should have. It took the third interview to acknowledge all he knew to the police. It's not just about having an affair."
Clift argued: "You know, yeah, pundits like yourself are real exorcized about it, but I don't see anybody from the police department or from the FBI worrying about an obstruction of justice suit or talking about him lying. He may not have been fully forthcoming, so, you know, this does not go anywhere. The sad part here is that there is no evidence, there is no evidence at all connecting him or anybody else to her disappearance."

There's little evidence connecting Clift to balanced journalism.

5

"Gary Condit is a Republican, isn't he?" A caller to C-SPAN on Friday morning tripped up the Washington Journal host by asking to which party Gary Condit belongs. Given how closely C-SPAN staffers must follow the news, the host's confusion probably can be attributed to how infrequently the news media identify Condit as a Democrat and how frequently they refer to his district as "conservative."

As a July MRC study determined, in 179 stories on ABC, CBS and NBC during the first two month of the scandal, a piddling 14, or 8 percent, listed Condit as a Democrat, meaning he was not properly identified in more than nine out of ten stories.
For details, go to:
http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/2001/pdf/fax0712.pdf

That policy continued on Friday morning at the same time the C-SPAN host misstated Condit's party. MRC analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Geoffrey Dickens informed me that although the Condit story consumed most of the August 24 morning shows, Condit was never identified as a Democrat on Friday's Good Morning America, Early Show or Today -- though there were hints in questions about whether Democrats will rally around Condit.

MRC Web page visitor Robert Peets alerted the MRC's Bonnie Langborgh to the incident on C-SPAN highlighted on the Free Republic Web site, and she passed on e-mail on to me.

Just past 7:30am EDT on Friday, C-SPAN host Connie Brod, at least I believe her last name is Brod, went to a caller, identifying which line he was calling in on, Republican, Democratic or independent: "Big Sandy Texas, Republican, good morning to you. Got to turn your television set down, please."
Male caller: "Got it down, Connie. I'm confused. What party does Gary Condit belong to?"
Brod: "Gary Condit is, is what?"
Caller: "Is he, what party does he belong to?"
Brod: "Gary Condit is a Republican, isn't he?"
Caller: "Gary Condit, see, that's what I thought. No, Mam, he is not. He is a Democrat."
Brod: "I'm sorry, my mistake. [several second pause as background talk heard on phone] You have something else to say, sir?"
Caller at low volume as he seems to be boasting to someone else in the room at his home: "Nailed her ass."
Brod guffawed: "Oh, oh, oh!"

Without further comment, Brod moved on to another caller.

++ See and hear the above exchange. By late Monday morning ET, the MRC's Mez Djouadi will post, on the MRC's home page, a RealPlayer clip of this. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org

6

CBS came through. The August 24 CyberAlert wondered if the CBS Evening News, after running a 35-second item on Thursday night about Condit's letter to constituents, would return with a full story on Friday night after his ABC interview. CBS did, airing its third story ever weekday CBS Evening News story and its second full report after its first one on July 18.

Anchor Russ Mitchell miraculously even identified Condit as a Democrat: "After months of silence, Democratic Congressman Gary Condit of California is talking publicly about the Chandra Levy case..."

But that story came too late for C-SPAN's Connie Brod.

7

From the August 24 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways Gary Condit Can Improve His Image." Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants. Inc. (Since the Friday Late Show is taped on Thursday night at either 8 or 8:30pm, this list was created before Letterman's writers saw the ABC interview. But it captures just the right tone anyway.)

10. New campaign slogan: "Oh, like you've never killed anybody!"
9. Blame everything on his idiot brother Jeb Condit
8. Stop screaming at reporters, "Holy crap! I'm actually getting away with it!"
7. Get himself really cool nickname, like "G. Conditty"
6. Release lengthy list of former interns he did not kill
5. Announce he hasn't been the same since the break-up with Nicole Kidman
4. Grow a full, reassuring, Kenny Rogers-style white beard
3. Confess, resign, serve 50-to-life
2. Focus on the 25% of voters who don't think he's a loathsome prick
1. Have sex with Monica Lewinsky

And, from the Late Show Web page, some of the "extras," the also-rans which did not make the final cut:

-- Blame it all on the poorly-designed ballots
-- Remind voters that there have been many days when he wasn't questioned by police
-- Give Connie Chung an "exclusive," if you know what I mean

Speaking of Connie Chung, she's scheduled to appear tonight, Monday August 27, on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS

-- Brent Baker


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