CyberAlert -- 10/04/2000 -- Bush Scolded for Raising Scandal

Bush Scolded for Raising Scandal; Stephanopoulos Thrilled with Gore; Rather Bored; CBS Picked Up Anti-Bush Gun Article -- Extra Edition

1) Bush scolded in post-debate analysis for daring to mention Gore's fundraising scandals. CBS's Bob Schieffer called it Bush's "weakest moment" and Dan Rather disapprovingly raised the strategy with both Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.

2) ABC's George Stephanopoulos was enthralled with Al Gore's performance, gushing: "He was strong, he was detailed, he was specific." In contrast, CBS's Bob Schieffer thought Bush gained the most because "he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as Al Gore." CBS's Bill Whitaker equated Bush's challenge with how Reagan had to prove "he wasn't an extremist."

3) ABC's Gore and Bush beat reporters did not give equal deference to their subjects. Terry Moran marveled over Gore's "mastery of the issues," but Dean Reynolds complained about Bush's brevity and how he didn't have enough material "to cover a 90-minute debate."

4) Tom Brokaw actually raised conservative agenda points with both Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney.

5) Peter Jennings highlighted ABC's "pretty meaningless and totally unscientific" post-debate poll. Dan Rather cryptically informed viewers: "We used the Internet to help collect the data." Both found little movement in public opinion.

6) The debate bored Dan Rather. He grumbled about "long stretches" which "were pedantic, dull, unimaginative, lackluster..."

7) Just a few hours before the debate, CBS picked up on the findings of a LA Times story about how, as Dan Rather put it, "since concealed handguns were legalized in Texas....thousands of people who were issued licenses have been arrested on charges ranging all the way to murder."

8) FNC's Brit Hume reported that CNN clarified its initial statement that it's post-debate town meetings are "part of Time-Warner's plan to support campaign finance reform through voter education."

9) Adam Clymer provided evidence which supports George Bush's assessment of him as the New York Times reporter demanded The Washingtonian magazine refund his subscription after it reported the "arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his colleagues."


1

CBS and CNN analysts disapproved of George Bush reminding debate viewers of fundraising scandals involving Al Gore. CNN's Jeff Greenfield suggested that line of attack is where "Bush might want to have some words back." CBS's Bob Schieffer called it Bush's "weakest moment" and Dan Rather disapprovingly raised the strategy with both Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.

CNN's Jeff Greenfield, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth observed, argued to Bill Schneider: "I think, Bill, you know better than I that negativity is not selling well with most voters. The one place where I think Governor Bush might want to have some words back was the very end when he said the man has no credibility on the issue."

In CBS coverage, Bob Schieffer decided Bush had a successful night (see item #2 below), but he stressed what disappointed him:
"I would also say I think Al Gore came on strong at the end and I think George Bush's weakest moment, when he turned on Bush's [sic, meant Gore's] character, it just gave Al Gore a chance to say, look I'm going to attack the problems in this country, I'm not going to attack character."

Later during CBS's 10:30pm ET half hour, Dan Rather raised the subject in his interviews with both VP nominees. To Dick Cheney, via satellite from Ohio, Rather wondered: "Whom was Governor Bush trying to reach primarily when he attacked Vice President Gore right there near the end, what some people are going to read as his strongest attack, certainly in terms of his demeanor, on the Gore fundraising?"

Joe Lieberman appeared via satellite from Kentucky, but instead of coming up with some fresh questions he posed the very same one: "Near the end Governor Bush delivered what I think will be generally seen as his strongest, at least more forceful attack, on Vice President Gore about fundraising. Vice President Gore said it was an attack on his character. What do you think Governor Bush was trying to do with that?"

2

ABC and CBS delivered quite contrasting assessments of who came out better from Tuesday night's debate as ABC's George Stephanopoulos praised Al Gore and CBS's Bob Schieffer thought Bush gained the most. Schieffer's CBS colleague Bill Whitaker employed loaded language in equating Bush's challenge with one successfully met by Reagan 20 years ago: "Just like Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter had to try to prove to the American people that he wasn't an extremist..."

Stephanopoulos was enthralled with Gore's performance, declaring immediately afterward that "Gore dominated the debate" as all the issues addressed favored Gore. Later on Nightline Stephanopoulos gushed: "He was strong, he was detailed, he was specific and he posed questions to Bush that Bush left on the table." In contrast, CBS's Bob Schieffer maintained that Bush gained the most because "he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as Al Gore did tonight."

Stephanopoulos told Peter Jennings just after the debate ended, as noticed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "Gore dominated the debate, Peter. You know, all year long he's been trailing Governor Bush on the issue of who's the strongest leader. Well, tonight Gore not only took up most of the time, most of the time was spent on the issues that he has the biggest advantage on, most particularly prescription drugs....It was even the way that he would interrupt Jim Lehrer and say, 'Listen, I want one more word.' He looked like he was dominating, and then again, the issues that the time was spent on: prescription drugs, education, Social Security, even the RU-486 and abortion issue. All of those favor Gore."

Later on Nightline Stephanopoulos remained impressed with his old White House associate: "I really think if you look at the totality of the questions, there wasn't a single issue, with perhaps the exception of the energy question, where Gore lost on points over the course of the 90 minutes. He was strong, he was detailed, he was specific and he posed questions to Bush that Bush left on the table. My guess is also on the issue of foreign policy, Bush was quite shaky, particularly when he was talking about military readiness, when he was talking about the situation in Serbia right now. Gore actually corrected him. Yes, Gore was too much of a know-it-all, a little too arrogant, but I think that people in the end were looking at the substance and the specifics, and on that, Gore won."

(Nightline guest analyst David Gergen argued: "While Gore may have won on substance, Bush clearly won on style. Gore was more in control of the facts. He was more, I think he argued a more popular side of some of the issues, but he was too overbearing. He butted in too often, whereas Bush stood there, he was poised, he answered the questions, he was more straightforward, and I think people related more to that. I think that on this kind of debate, Ted, people are looking for someone who's going to be comfortable in their living room, as well as somebody who knows the facts, and I think Bush, I think Bush exceeded expectations in this debate and Gore, I frankly think, over-performed.")

But on CBS's post-debate coverage, Bob Schieffer contended that Bush made out the best: "I do believe something significant happened here tonight because clearly the burden was on George Bush. Al Gore's been around a long time in the national spotlight. He's expected to have a grasp of the issues, but if you look at any poll, any of the backgrounding we've done, people were wanting to know does George Bush have a grasp of the issues, is he up on stuff, is up to this job. Well I think clearly tonight if anyone gained from this debate it was George Bush because he showed -- that people will argue back and forth of the positions they took -- but clearly he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as Al Gore did tonight. So in that sense I think Bush gained a lot..."

Just before 11pm ET Bill Whitaker, who is assigned to cover Bush, conceded Bush may have achieved his goals, but Whitaker couldn't resist describing Ronald Reagan with the "extremist" tag favored by liberals back in 1980:
"Just like Ronald Reagan in his debate with Jimmy Carter had to try to prove to the American people that he wasn't an extremist, well George Bush had something to prove to the American people tonight as well. He set out tonight to try to prove he had the seriousness and substance to assume the Oval office and I think if anything at least he was able to hold his own and go toe-to-toe with the Vice President today."

3

ABC's Gore and Bush beat reporters did not give equal deference to their subjects Tuesday night after the debate, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted. Terry Moran, who covers Gore, barely touched any negatives as he marveled over his "mastery of the issues." But Dean Reynolds, who is assigned to track Bush, complained about Bush's brevity, asserting: "I don't think he really had enough material...to cover a 90-minute debate."

Terry Moran told Peter Jennings: "Well Peter, what I heard is Al Gore doing what he does best, which is focusing on these specific issues. I suppose what I was a little bit surprised at was the way he managed time after time to control every single question, it seemed like, to get to what he wanted to say....He does better over a longer course of time, does better with voters over the course of an hour than over the course of 15 minutes. His strengths come out, his mastery of the issues, how much he's thought about these things. And then the other thing that struck me is he's better when he's behind, when has to hustle and really try to get people's attention and approval. Tonight it seemed at some point he clicked into the overconfident mode a little bit.....It's something he does every single day on the campaign trail. He mentions that tax cut, he mentions the way that he carves it up statistically and he hangs it around Governor Bush's neck like an albatross. It is one of the central arguments he makes every day on the stump."

Dean Reynolds did not boost his assignee, and instead lambasted him: "Well Peter, I was struck by what I think was the brevity of the Governor's answers, I mean, and the fact that he stayed so much on message. I did not hear a great deal that was different from the standard stump speech that the Governor gives day in and day out, and that speech runs about 10 to 15 minutes long, and I don't think he really had enough material from that speech to cover a 90-minute debate."

4

Tom Brokaw actually raised conservative agenda points with both Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney. Tim Russert suggested Bush and Gore both tried to use the debate to gain the attributes of the other. (Brokaw and Russert refrained from offering assessments of how each candidate performed.)

While ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather anchored from New York, despite the fact that only a few NBC affiliates dropped baseball for the debate, both Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert traveled to Boston for their coverage shown mainly on little-watched MSNBC.

Brokaw ruminated to Lieberman: "Already the Bush campaign is saying how can Vice President Al Gore and Joe Lieberman say that they're best equipped to reform campaign finance in America given what we've been through in the last eight years. And didn't Governor Bush score points when he said if you wanted to do something about prescription drugs, if you wanted to do something about Social Security, you've had two terms to do something about it?"

Interviewing Cheney, Brokaw brought up another conservative point: "I was surprised that it took the Governor 75 minutes to raise the cost of the Gore campaign proposals that he's been putting out there thus far."

Russert wrapped up NBC's coverage just before 11pm ET by offering this insight: "George Bush knew he went into this debate likable, but he wanted to be perceived as more knowledgeable. Al Gore knew he was perceived as knowledgeable, wanted to come out of the debate more likable. Bush had to prove capacity to govern, Gore had to prove character to govern."

5

Peter Jennings conceded ABC's post-debate poll was "pretty meaningless and totally unscientific," but nonetheless ABC highlighted its quickie poll as did CBS where Dan Rather cryptically informed viewers: "We used the Internet to help collect the data." Both found little movement.

Jennings announced on ABC: "Now I've got a couple of cards here from a random sample telephone poll of registered voters....Who won the debate? Gore, 42; Bush 39; tied, 13. That doesn't tell us an enormous amount. Did the debate affect their choice? Before, people, 45 percent, liked Mr. Gore; afterwards, 45 percent liked Mr. Gore. Before, 48 percent liked Mr. Bush; 49 percent afterwards....All seems to be pretty meaningless and totally unscientific after this first debate."

Over on CBS, Dan Rather recounted the finding of a "CBS News/Knowledge Networks" poll based on a "nationwide random sample of registered voters." Rather cryptically added: "We used the Internet to help collect the data."

It found that 49 percent thought Gore won compared to 34 percent who said Bush did.

Other answers highlighted by Rather:
-- Opinion of candidate after the debate:
Better: Bush 28 percent, Gore 26 percent
Worse: Bush 19 percent, Gore 18 percent

-- Prepared well enough for the job of President
Before: Bush 49 percent, Gore 71 percent
After: Bush 51 percent, Gore 70 percent

6

The debate bored Dan Rather who complained on CBS immediately after it ended: "Governor Bush's father was criticized for looking at his watch in the presidential debate in 1992. There may have been many across the country tonight doing somewhat the same thing as through an hour-and-a-half there were certainly long stretches, one would hesitate to say the whole hour-and-a-half, which were pedantic, dull, unimaginative, lackluster, humdrum, you pick the word. And there will be those who think this was sort of a form of narcolepsy-inducing."

7

Just hours before the debate Tuesday night, CBS dedicated nearly three minutes to highlighting the findings of a Los Angeles Times story about how, as Dan Rather put it, "since concealed handguns were legalized in Texas five years ago, thousands of people who were issued licenses have been arrested on charges ranging all the way to murder."

Reporter Vince Gonzalez ran through several examples of people who managed to obtain guns, warning: "The system doesn't prevent innocent people from becoming victims of those licensed to carry." But other than giving Bush deputy Karen Hughes four seconds to say "Texas is a safer place," Gonzalez failed to include what FNC's Carl Cameron detailed about specific crime rate reductions, culpability of the Clinton-Gore administration and how "people who carry concealed weapons are six times less likely to commit violent crimes than other Texans."

A brief excerpt from the Los Angeles Times story as well as a link to it were featured in the October 3 CyberAlert Extra:
http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2000/cyb20001003_extra.asp#2

Dan Rather introduced the October 3 CBS Evening News hit piece: "As the presidential candidates prepare to face off tonight in Boston, the national debate over guns is back in the headlines. After a long investigation the Los Angeles Times reported today that since concealed handguns were legalized in Texas five years ago, thousands of people who were issued licenses have been arrested on charges ranging all the way to murder."

Vince Gonzalez began his story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, by immediately tying in Bush: "One of the first bills signed into law by George W. Bush after he became Governor gave Texans the right to carry concealed weapons."
George W. Bush at the bill signing: "Texas will be a better place as a result of this law."
Gonzalez warned: "But according to a year-long investigation by the Los Angeles Times, concealed weapon licenses have been issued to hundreds of Texans with histories of violence, mental illness, or prior convictions for serious crimes, such as rape and armed robbery."

Gonzalez cited some instances: "What Patrick Bordelon allegedly did is shoot two Mexican teenagers in the back, killing one, in separate border incidents. He plans to plead insanity. Court records show he suffers from severe mental disease and impulse control problems. At the time of the shootings, he was under psychiatric care, and he had a Texas concealed weapon permit. Robert Hinkle is serving a life term for a double murder....Hinkle had no convictions when he got a Texas concealed weapon license, but federal agents knew he was a member of the Banchees, a violent motorcycle gang....To get a permit, applicants must pass a ten-hour course proving they know the law and how to shoot straight."

Gonzalez focused on what the newspaper disclosed and again linked Bush to the resulting murders: "In Texas, details about permit holders, even those who commit violent crimes, are secret, but the LA Times broke the code, for the first time linking anonymous statistics to real people."
Bush in 1995: "I believe certain people ought to be allowed to carry concealed weapons under strict licensing requirements. I have no problem with the bill."
Gonzalez: "But the system doesn't prevent innocent people from becoming victims of those licensed to carry. For example, Gene Hanson ambushed Tim Gooch, shooting him repeatedly in the head before killing himself. Daniel Meehan shot his girlfriend in the back and claimed it was suicide. Terry Gist, alias 'Holsters,' got a permit despite a history of domestic violence. He's now serving ten years for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl."

CBS then gave Bush Communications Director Karen Hughes a few seconds: "This law has been administered in a very fair way, in a very balanced way, and the proof is in the results. Texas is a safer place."
Gonzalez concluded: "The law has been popular in Texas. Now Bush has to worry about how it will play in the rest of the country."

It won't play well if people rely on CBS's distorted picture.

FNC's Carl Cameron provided a more balanced presentation on Special Report with Brit Hume. After summarizing the LA Times story and how it reported 3,000 who obtained concealed licenses had arrest records and 400 had convictions, he relayed:
"Hughes said, in fact, only 71 convicts were granted licenses that are now being revoked and she blamed the snafu on Al Gore."
Karen Hughes: "What occurred was that the federal law enforcement authorities, which of course are under the jurisdiction of Vice President Gore's administration, were delayed and slow in responding to Texas officials' requests for a background check."
Cameron: "Hughes said since Bush signed the law the Texas homicide rate has hit a 30-year low, that violent crime is down 20 percent and juvenile violent crime is down 28 percent. Finally, Hughes argued that people who carry concealed weapons are six times less likely to commit violent crimes than other Texans."

8

CNN's debate night town meetings are not "part of Time-Warner's plan to support campaign finance reform through voter education" as CNN stated earlier, FNC's Brit Hume reported Tuesday night in picking up on a CNN clarification. The October 3 CyberAlert reported CNN's initial description of their intent.

In the "Political Grapevine" segment of Special Report with Brit Hume, FNC's Hume related:
"CNN has now issued a formal correction of its statement on Friday that the cable channel's debate coverage is intended to advance the political agenda of Time-Warner, CNN's parent company. Time-Warner recently announced that it is backing campaign finance reform, which of course is one of the most contentious political causes of the day, and said Time-Warmer, it has stopped making soft-money contributions. In announcing a series of CNN-Time Magazine town meetings following the upcoming presidential debates, CNN said quote, 'the series of town meetings is part of Time-Warner's plan to support campaign-finance reform through voter education,' end quote.
"Pressed about this, a CNN spokeswoman finally said the statement was quote 'incorrect,' and that the only connection between the CNN town meetings and Time-Warner's political agenda is that the money to pay for the town meetings came from funds Time-Warner had saved by stopping its soft money contributions."

On many days the "Political Grapevine" text, though slightly different from what Hume reads on air, is up on the Fox News Web site, but sometimes they run a couple days behind in posting it:
http://www.foxnews.com/channel/special_report_grapevine.sml

Whatever the intent of the CNN town meetings, the first one aired Tuesday night and was hosted by Wolf Blitzer from Tampa, Florida. He checked in both during CNN's 8pm ET pre-debate hour as well as after the debate.

9

Adam Clymer provided evidence last week which supports George Bush's assessment that the New York Times reporter really is "a major league asshole." Last Friday The Washington Post's "The Reliable Source" column relayed a letter Clymer wrote to The Washingtonian magazine complaining about an item which reported that the "arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his colleagues."

Here's an excerpt of the September 29 Post article by Lloyd Grove and Beth Berselli:

Clymer's Major-League Complaint

Writing to complain bitterly about an item in the Washingtonian's October issue, New York Times reporter Adam Clymer instructed the local monthly's editor, Jack Limpert: "This letter is not for publication."

Fat chance. Clymer is famous, the man George W. Bush called a "major-league [orifice]," an opinion seconded "big time" by Bush running mate Dick Cheney. Predictably, the Timesman's Sept. 26 letter was leaked to us. In it, Clymer canceled his subscription to The Washingtonian over an unsigned report in the Capital Comment section that eagerly agrees with Bush and Cheney. "The arrogant Clymer is broadly disliked among his colleagues," it claims, quoting former GOP consultant Mark

Goodin, who worked on Oliver North's 1994 Senate campaign, as saying that Bush "just picked up the support of 10,000 reporters in Washington."

Clymer lectured Limpert: "The New York Times pays me to take abuse from politicians I cover....I see no reason to pay you for the privilege of receiving more -- especially when it is marked by a depth of reporting that consists of interviewing Oliver North's campaign manager to find out what reporters think. Please cancel my subscription, and refund the balance. I am afraid I discarded the wrapper before beginning to read your October issue, but with the time he or she saved by not reporting this story, I am sure your anonymous reporter can unearth the necessary information."....

END Excerpt

Expect another CyberAlert Wednesday afternoon with a review of morning show coverage of the debates, plus Letterman's "Top Ten Ways to Make the Gore-Bush Debates More Exciting." -- Brent Baker


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