CyberAlert -- 09/26/2002 -- ABC & CBS Justify Daschle's Tantrum & Distort Reason For It
ABC & CBS Justify Daschle's Tantrum & Distort Reason For It; Alter: Daschle Not as "Creepy" as Lott; West Wing Launches New Season with More Liberal Advocacy; Not on TV: "Sleeping Late with Bryant Gumbel"
1) ABC and CBS on Wednesday night distorted the Bush-Daschle dispute in favor of Daschle. Peter Jennings mis-portrayed Bush's comments as related to Iraq when, as CNN, FNC and NBC stressed, they were about the homeland security bill. Jennings cited a "nasty argument...about Iraq and American security." Dan Rather put the burden on Bush's rhetoric: "Some of Mr. Bush's campaign rhetoric has resulted in a fierce Democratic Party rebuttal." NBC's Tim Russert suggested a presidential motivation for Daschle; FNC pointed out how in the same speech Bush had praised Democrats.
2) The day before Senator Tom Daschle's temper tantrum on the Senate floor, Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter insisted Daschle is preferred over Trent Lott as Senate leader -- even by Republicans. Denying Don Imus's suggestion that Daschle is "equally a creep" as Lott, Alter retorted: "No, he's not equally a creep."
3) NBC's The West Wing launched a new season on Wednesday night in full liberal roar. West Wing creator/writer Aaron Sorkin has "President Bartlet," played by Martin Sheen, facing off against a dumb Republican Governor. In the opening moments of the season premiere, Bartlet proclaimed at a campaign rally: "We need to find energy alternatives....The Republicans are busy. They're trying to convince us that they care about new energy and that they're not in the chest pockets of Big Oil. And that's a tough sell."
Ostensibly fueled by some shoddy reporting in the Washington Post, on Wednesday morning Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had a temper tantrum on the Senate floor in which he railed against President Bush for daring, as the Post reported, to say "that the Democratic-controlled Senate is 'not interested in the security of the American people.'"
Post reporter Dana Milbank also asserted in the September 25 front page story that "at a fundraiser for GOP House candidate Adam Taff in Kansas Monday, Vice President Cheney said security would be bolstered if Taff were to defeat Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan)."
In fact, as both CNN and FNC pointed out, Cheney had said no such thing and Bush's reference about Democrats not being interested in national security was to homeland security, not to Iraq as Daschle took it and, as FNC's Jim Angle noted, Bush's speech did not cite Democrats specifically but the whole Senate for insisting upon union protection of the incompetent in the proposed Department of Homeland Security. Angle also pointed out a part of Bush's speech that all the other networks skipped: "In fact, the White House argued, the President went out of his way seconds later in the same speech to be nonpartisan." FNC viewers then saw a clip of Bush: "People are working hard to get it right in Washington -- both Republicans and Democrats. See, this isn't a partisan issue."
(For the text of Bush's September 23 speech in Trenton at the campaign rally for New Jersey Senate candidate Doug Forrester, a text that doesn't always quite match what Bush really said: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020923-3.html)
Nonetheless, ABC and CBS on Wednesday night distorted the Bush-Daschle dispute in a way favorable to Daschle.
ABC's Peter Jennings inaccurately charged that the argument was over Iraq policy: "A nasty argument between grown men about American security and special interests -- by which we mean the debate about what's to be done in Iraq."
Reporter Linda Douglass emphasized not how Daschle jumped on Bush and Cheney over words that were mis-construed but how liberals are upset Daschle hadn't been anti-Bush enough: "As Republicans needled Daschle, some in his own party complained that Democratic leaders have been too eager to go along the President....California's Feinstein has gotten 10,000 calls against the war, 200 in favor."
In contrast to Jennings, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw accurately relayed: "The President's comments were about the homeland security bill, not about Iraq, but they enraged Democrats nonetheless." Of the broadcast network stories, NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely outlined Bush's concern about the homeland security bill: "All of this grows out of the President's demand that workers in the new Department of Homeland Ssecurity not be given civil service protection as Senate Democrats want." NBC's Tim Russert also uniquely raised the "ambition" motivation for Daschle, that he saw another 2004 presidential candidate, Al Gore, getting ahead of him in denouncing Bush and thus better appealing to the Democratic Party's "peace wing."
The CBS Evening News, meanwhile, put the burden on Bush's rhetoric for justifying Daschle's eruption. "Some of Mr. Bush's campaign rhetoric has resulted in a fierce Democratic Party rebuttal," Dan Rather announced before Bob Schieffer added moral weight to Daschle's effort to discredit Bush's criticism: "Democrats literally lined up behind Daschle, including Inouye of Hawaii, who lost an arm fighting the Nazis and who spoke more in sorrow than anger." Schieffer added that some "Democrats believe the President has hit them below the belt."
Schieffer also treated the subject matter Bush's original comment as in dispute when it is not. Schieffer reported that "Republicans claim the President was just chiding the Senate for not passing the homeland security bill." They "claim"? The original quote is pretty clear.
A front page headline in Wednesday's Washington Post had declared: "Louder War Talk, and Muffled Dissent." Under that, the Post ran two stories, one of them Milbank's. It was headlined: "In President's Speeches, Iraq Dominates, Economy Fades." Milbank's September 25 piece began:
As he seeks to boost Republican candidates in the midterm elections, President Bush is increasing his emphasis on terrorism and national security, shedding his previous determination to demonstrate his concern about the flagging economy.
Four times in the past two days, Bush has suggested that Democrats do not care about national security, saying on Monday that the Democratic-controlled Senate is "not interested in the security of the American people." His remarks, intensifying a theme he introduced last month, were quickly seconded and disseminated by House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
At a fundraiser for GOP House candidate Adam Taff in Kansas Monday, Vice President Cheney said security would be bolstered if Taff were to defeat Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). "Cheney talks about Iraq at congressional fund-raiser/ Electing Taff would aid war effort," read the headline in the Topeka Capital-Journal.
END of Excerpt
For the Post story in its entirety: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62783-2002Sep24.html
Below, a more detailed rundown of what was reported Wednesday night, September 25, on FNC and CNN, followed by ABC, CBS and NBC:
-- FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume. Hume described Daschle's Senate floor comments as a "colossal outburst" before Carl Cameron showed them to viewers.
(For a transcript of Daschle's tantrum: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/transcripts/daschle.html)
Cameron then explained: "Republicans and the Bush administration denied politicizing war with Iraq and pointed out that the Washington Post quoted the President not about war but about the debate over creating the new Department of Homeland Security. The President has accused Democrats of putting labor unions' special interests ahead of national security because Democrats refuse to give the President the flexibility he seeks to move personnel around in the new department."
Cameron pointed out how a Democratic Senator had offered some very tough criticism of Democrats on the same subject on which Bush had been critical: "The harshest attacks have come not from Republicans on that score but from a Democrat: Zell Miller of Georgia. Miller predicts history will judge Democrats harshly if they continue this."
Next, Jim Angle outlined how the Post story had distorted Bush's remarks: "Relying on the Washington Post, Senator Daschle skewered the President for saying Monday in New Jersey, that the Democratically-controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people. The White House pointed to the President's actual remarks in which he never mentioned Democrats and was talking about the Homeland security bill, not war with Iraq."
Angle added that as for the Post's claim about Cheney, "a review of the speech shows Cheney only said that Taff would be a good partner with the administration."
-- CNN's Inside Politics. Jonathan Karl elaborated on the same point about Cheney: "Democrats were especially critical of Vice President Cheney for allegedly telling voters in Kansas to vote for a Republican candidate because he would support the war. But Cheney appears to have been a victim of a misleading Associated Press headline. There is no record of Cheney saying it, although he has repeatedly talked about the war at political events."
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased the show by mis-portraying Bush's comments as related to Iraq: "On World News Tonight, a question of patriotism. The nasty argument in Washington about Iraq and American security."
Jennings then opened the broadcast, which he anchored from overlooking the White House: "Good evening from Washington. There are several things of national interest here today. A new report on the cost of health care, the President on who is more dangerous -- al Qaeda or the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein -- and a nasty argument between grown men about American security and special interests -- by which we mean the debate about what's to be done in Iraq."
Linda Douglass began the lead story: "A lot of anger, Peter. Few people can ever remember seeing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as visibly enraged as he was today. In an extraordinary speech, Senator Daschle ripped into the President for suggesting the Democrats don't care about America's security."
Following a clip of Republican Senator Trent Lott chastising Daschle for treating Bush and not Saddam Hussein as the enemy, Douglass concentrated on how Democrats think Daschle has been too close to Bush: "As Republicans needled Daschle, some in his own party complained that Democratic leaders have been too eager to go along the President."
So Feinstein makes decisions about national security and war based on who calls her office?
-- The CBS Evening News led with the hurricane, but Rather framed the Daschle matter as one of Democrats just reacting to Bush's first strike, as he teased up top: "A capital firestorm: Senate Democrats blast back at President Bush for what they see as his election year questioning of their commitment to U.S. security."
Rather soon elaborated: "Iraq and Saddam Hussein, not the U.S. economy, continue to be that talk of Washington. Some analysts see this as an advantage for President Bush and Republicans in the election year battle for control of the Senate, whether he intended that to be the case or not. Against this background, some of Mr. Bush's campaign rhetoric has resulted in a fierce Democratic Party rebuttal."
Bob Schieffer began his story: "What set Democrats off was a story in the Washington Post noting the President has been telling audiences that Senators don't care about national security."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the show with a far more balanced presentation than provided by Jennings or Rather:
Lisa Myers suggested Democrats are frustrated by how their issues have been lost in all the focus on Iraq and so "the usually soft-spoken Tom Daschle erupted" at what the Post reported Bush had said.
Myers played clips of Daschle and Byrd on the Senate floor, before actually letting viewers in on what concerns Bush: "All of this grows out of the President's demand that workers in the new Department of Homeland Security not be given civil service protection as Senate Democrats want. Here's what the President said."
Myers concluded by noting how Republicans suggest that Daschle was motivated by Democratic party politics as he's taking heat from "party liberals" for being too supportive of Bush or Iraq.
Brokaw talked about the dispute with Tim Russert who raised the possibility that Daschle was just trying to catch up with another 2004 presidential candidate, Al Gore. Citing some reasons for Daschle's outburst, Russert explained: "Ambition. Al Gore introduced a whole new equation into this debate, appealing to the peace wing of the party, Democratic activists. Tom Daschle, with one eye on Gore, also hearing from Democrats around the country realized he also had to step forward."
The day before Senator Tom Daschle's temper tantrum on the Senate floor, Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter insisted Daschle is preferred over Trent Lott as Senate leader even by Republicans.
Denying Don Imus's suggestion that Daschle is "equally a creep" as Lott, Alter retorted on the September 24 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC: "No, he's not equally a creep." Alter contended: "An awful lot of people in Washington in both parties who if you really asked them, you know, would you rather have Daschle running the Senate or Lott, just in terms of people getting along with each other and moving legislation, they'd say Daschle."
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught the exchange which came after Alter provided a reason to support incumbent New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli over Republican Doug Forrester:
Imus: "We're talking to Jonathan Alter from Newsweek, who lives in New Jersey, don't you?"
Moving legislation? Where's the homeland security bill. Whatever happened to the budget bills which should have been dealt with months ago?
Just six weeks or so before a real mid-term election, NBC's The West Wing returned to the air Wednesday night with its fictional "President Bartlet" campaigning for re-election six weeks before a presidential vote. West Wing creator/writer Aaron Sorkin who has Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, facing off against a dumb Republican Governor from the South, used NBC's prime time to advance the liberal agenda.
The September 25 episode opened with a campaign rally set at an Indiana farm. Bartlet proclaimed: "We need to find energy alternatives....The Republicans are busy. They're trying to convince us that they care about new energy and that they're not in the chest pockets of Big Oil. And that's a tough sell."
Later in the two-hour season premiere, in a scene set in the Oval Office, Bartlet lectured his Commerce Secretary about a global warming treaty: "I think what's lunacy is a nation of SUVs telling a nation of bicycles that they have to change the way they live before we'll agree to do something about greenhouse emissions."
The season premiere opened with the crowd on an Indiana farm chanting "four more years!"
Sheen, as President Bartlet, related a joke he subsequently used to slam Republicans: "You know the story about the guy whose car gets stuck in a muddy hole. Farmer comes along and says he'll pull the car out of the mud, but he's going to have to charge fifty bucks because this is the tenth time he's had to pull it out of the mud today. The driver says, 'God, when do you have time to plow your land? At night?' The farmer says 'no, no,' night time is when I fill the hole with water."
A very nice in-kind contribution from NBC to liberal Democrats, the very kind of political promotion that the media will still be able to advance under "campaign finance reform."
Later, in a scene set in the Oval Office, Bartlet's Secretary of Commerce warned him about a global warming treaty's impact on the United States: "It is shear lunacy to suggest America take unilateral steps while exempting 80 percent of the world's nations from the same obligations."
In an interview with the New Yorker in March, even as he claimed The West Wing is "non-political," Sorkin boasted of how he would use the program to re-play the 2000 campaign. The New Yorker's Tad Friend wrote:
As recounted in the April 3 CyberAlert, on the March 27 episode President Bartlet took a shot at Sorkin's stand-in for George W. Bush: "Governor Robert Ritchie" of Florida, the Republican presidential candidate. After an interview with the fictional Philadelphia station ends, but while still live with the anchor, President Bartlet is asked about Ritchie's book in which he advocates drilling in ANWR. Bartlet replied: "I think we might be talking about a .22 caliber mind in a .357 caliber world."
That episode also featured a lot of liberal environmental advocacy. For details: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020403.asp#6
As for the show being "non-political," the March 6 CyberAlert contained a rundown from past CyberAlerts of liberal pronouncements and advocacy promoted on The West Wing over the show's first three years. For links to fuller CyberAlert articles, some of which feature RealPlayer clips of the scenes: http://www.mediaresearch.org/cyberalerts/2002/cyb20020306.asp#4
From the September 24 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Programs that Didn't Make the Fall Television Lineup." The Late Show Web page: http://www.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow
10. "Touched By A Mullah"
9. "Who Wants To Be A Dental Hygenist?"
8. "Diagnosis: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome"
7. "Sleeping Late with Bryant Gumbel"
6. "Fear Tractor"
5. "Weather Channel: Special Cold Fronts Unit"
4. "Unsolved Nursing Home Mysteries"
3. "Wolf Lake"
2. "The Dr. Phil Collins Show"
1. "8 Simple Rules For Dating Your Priest"
Some of those don't sound any worse than some real shows that are on the fall schedule. -- Brent Baker