Surprised by Bush's Knowledge; Gore Exposed Bush Vulnerability; "Hidden Hand" President Cheney; Lehrer's Liberal Push -- Extra Edition
1) ABC praised Bush's knowledge of foreign policy. Peter Jennings cracked that Bush named nations "which his critics have said in the past he couldn't even pronounce, or perhaps spell." Gore did not show his "smarty pants" side, CBS's Bob Schieffer noted. NBC's Tom Brokaw thought Gore "had his behavior under control."
2) "Governor Bush seemed surprisingly sure-footed in the area of foreign policy," an astonished Ted Koppel announced on Nightline. David Gergen argued that Gore "was undercutting his credibility by coming out as a different person."
4) ABC's Dean Reynolds and CBS's Gloria Borger told viewers that Bush failed to adequately answer Gore's charge about Bush's bad record in providing health coverage for Texas kids. CNN pressed Colin Powell and Dick Cheney about how Bush will have to provide a better answer.
6) The ABC, CBS and CNN snap polls all discovered that most thought Bush won the debate. Despite warning that as "a snap poll" it "may or may not be worth anything," CBS's Dan Rather took the time to detail his network's findings.
8) Bush missed an opportunity to hit Gore on his unpopular position of favoring the same immigration rights for gay partners as are given married couples, NBC's Tim Russert suggested. But NBC never reported Gore's leftward policy shift.
10) Clueless undecided voters. A man on NBC was impressed that Gore wants smaller government, adding: "They both had beautiful points tonight." A woman on CNN heard Bush say that "healthy children don't need insurance."
>>> MRC on TV Thursday. MRC Chairman L. Brent Bozell is scheduled to appear today on the 700 Club to discuss campaign coverage. The 700 Club airs at 10am and 11pm ET on the Fox Family Channel as well as at various times on local stations around the country. It airs at 9am in Washington, DC on WBDC-TV.
ABC reporters and analysts declared George W. Bush the winner of Wednesday night's second presidential debate, though Al Gore earned acclaim for his dissection of Bush's health care record in Texas. Gore also earned some praise from network analysts for, as NBC's Tom Brokaw put it, having taken "his anti-sigh pills. He had his behavior under control."
Going toe-to-toe with the incumbent Gore "is an achievement in and of itself," declared ABC's Peter Jennings who argued that Gore "succeeded" in turning "the country's attention to Governor Bush's record in Texas." Jennings snidely quipped that Bush cited "crises and challenges in parts of the world which his critics have said in the past he couldn't even pronounce, or perhaps spell."
George Stephanopoulos declared it "a very strong night for Governor Bush" who "was able to look like a statesman by agreeing with the administration on the Middle East and Kosovo."
CBS's Dan Rather recalled the VP debate as he suggested Bush and Gore "came off as vice presidential, you might say." Before criticizing Bush for two foreign policy points, Bob Schieffer asserted "this was not Al Gore the smarty pants that we sometimes saw in the first debate."
NBC's Tim Russert decided that after the debate the choice still remained one of "capacity versus character."
Now the full quotes from October 11 ABC, CBS and NBC post-debate coverage:
-- ABC News. Peter Jennings immediately after the
debate ended, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
George Stephanopoulos was impressed by Bush's performance: "I thought it was a very strong night for Governor Bush. I mean, Al Gore did do fine; he lowered down the ticks. But the fact that the first 40 minutes of the debate was on foreign policy, I think, really helped Bush. He was able to look like a statesman by agreeing with the administration on the Middle East and Kosovo. He was able to look strong by taking a hardline against Saddam Hussein and corruption in Russia, and he didn't appear obviously less experienced, less capable or less informed than Vice President Gore. Finally, even though Gore did get to wedge in education at the end, he didn't get to talk about Social Security or progress in the last eight years, which he wanted to do."
Jennings then quipped: "I confess that the foreign policy was one we very much noticed here, with Governor Bush on occasion introducing crises and challenges in parts of the world which his critics have said in the past he couldn't even pronounce, or perhaps spell."
-- CBS News. Dan Rather pronounced afterward: "No hits, no runs, a few errors. The kind of Superbowl of soundbites, conversational and cordial, if not always coherent. Vice President Gore and Governor Bush came off as vice presidential you might say, taking a page from their running mates' play books. Even their disagreements were polite. Both agreed that they believe in the golden rule. That was, of course, very good to hear."
Bob Schieffer found errors in Bush's presentation: "Clearly on foreign policy this was a much kinder, gentler Al Gore. This was not Al Gore the smarty pants that we sometimes saw in the first debate. But I must say I thought Bush made a tactical mistake when said he could handle Saddam Hussein better than the Clinton administration had done, because that just opened the door very wide for Al Gore to come back and make the point your dad's the one who left him in place. And I think Gore took very good advantage of that. I think Bush also made a mistake in not explaining what he meant about not using the military for 'nation building.'"
Schieffer added: "I think Bush got his footing better later on when they turned to domestic affairs, but in foreign policy discussion it seemed to me that Al Gore was much more comfortable talking about it tonight."
-- NBC News. Anchors Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, who were the only broadcast network anchors actually at the debate site, refrained from offering much in the way of broad assessments.
Brokaw's first remark after the debate: "Tim, the Vice President tonight obviously took his anti-sigh pills. He had his behavior under control and it's clear that Governor Bush and President Bush share the same gene-pool when it comes to the vision thing. They just don't care for it very much."
Russert contended: "Going into this debate it was an issue of capacity versus character. I think we leave the debate with the same issues."
"Governor Bush seemed surprisingly sure-footed in the area of foreign policy," Ted Koppel announced on Wednesday night's Nightline. David Gergen argued that Gore "was undercutting his credibility by coming out as a different person."
An astonished Koppel conceded: "If there was any surprise in that initial segment, it came with the sense that Governor Bush seemed surprisingly sure-footed in the area of foreign policy -- that has always been regarded as one of his weakest areas -- and Vice President Gore appeared to be holding back."
Later, Gergen outlined the downside of Gore's calm demeanor: "I think he recovered his voice in the last half of the debate, but in the first half, you weren't quite sure what happened to the Al Gore of last week and who is the real Al Gore, and I think that he was undercutting his credibility by coming out as a different person. I thought he was so far removed from the one of last week that I think he hurt himself."
Blurring of policy differences will benefit Bush since he's on the wrong side of most issues, two NBC analysts insisted.
Near the end of NBC's post-debate half hour, liberal presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin maintained: "They both blurred the distinctions between the two sides and that may help Bush in a funny way since the issues tend, according to the polls, to be more on the Democratic side."
Tim Russert soon agreed: "I think the point that Doris is making is that blurring the differences was something that benefited Bush because if people don't agree with him on the issues, and they see that he's in sync with Al Gore, then they'd say well maybe it can be a personality race."
Bush's Texas record, a target-rich environment for Gore, network analysts argued. ABC's Dean Reynolds and CBS's Gloria Borger told viewers that Bush failed to adequately answer Gore's charge about Bush's bad record in providing health coverage for Texas children, but NBC's Tim Russert found both Gore and Bush were accurate in their battling numbers. The Gore attack so intrigued CNN that Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield pressed Colin Powell and Dick Cheney about how Bush will have to provide a better retort.
During ABC's prime time coverage, Bush beat reporter Dean Reynolds lectured: "I thought it was interesting that the Governor who has spent maybe a year and a half trying to get the country confident in his leadership was very confident of himself tonight. His demeanor was one of great confidence. He brushed aside a lot of the criticism that Vice President Gore directed at him, and he was doing fine for about the first hour, and then when the record in Texas came up, his responses became more halting and he began to talk about the mathematics, questioning Gore's mathematics without actually challenging the conclusions that the Vice President was making."
Over on CBS, Gloria Borger made the same point: "Gore managed to get George Bush a little bit on domestic policy. He said look, your state is dead last in insuring families and Bush did not respond with any numbers of his own. That was a problem."
But NBC's Tim Russert portrayed a draw: "When Al Gore said that Texas ranks 49th he's correct. But when George Bush says he's making progress, more than the country, he's correct too."
CNN failed to pose policy questions to Gore Chairman Bill Daley or Democratic Senator Chris Dodd but, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, the network demanded two pro-Bush spokesman provide an answer for Gore's attack line on health insurance for children.
Greenfield asked Colin Powell: "Your current passion is children, kids. You heard Vice President Gore say that Texas ranks last or next to last in health care for kids, women and families, and that money was diverted from a tax cut instead of for health care, and to which Governor Bush did not give a specific answer. Do you think Governor Bush now has to address that specific charge soon to lay to rest that charge about the Governor's priorities?"
Minutes later Judy Woodruff raised the same concern with Dick Cheney: "What I want to ask you about were the questions that were posed, the statements that were put by the Vice President about the record in Texas when it comes to health care and children, women and families. It didn't seem as if Governor Bush addressed this. What will he say about the Texas record on these issues?"
CBS and NBC, but not ABC, took time to address supposed factual errors by both candidates.
Dan Rather hit each candidate for one error. For Gore, he cited his misidentification of Milosevic as President of Serbia instead of Yugoslavia. For Bush, he pointed how Bush said all three men convicted of murdering James Byrd were given the death penalty, but actually one received a life sentence.
Lisa Myers manned "The Truth Squad" desk for NBC. She highlighted the same two errors caught by CBS, but added another for Bush. She maintained that while Bush was correct in saying the situation had deteriorated nationally, he erred in implying Texas has improved its health coverage for children since the number of children without health insurance has increased during Bush's tenure.
The ABC, CBS and CNN snap polls, though they offered widely varying numbers, all discovered that most thought Bush won the debate. CBS's Dan Rather took the time to detail his network's findings despite his warning that as "a snap poll" it "may or may not be worth anything."
The ABC News post-debate poll found 46 percent thought Bush won while 30 percent favored Gore's effort. The CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll picked Bush as the winner by 49 to 36 percent while the CBS News poll came up with a close contest as 52 percent called Bush the winner compared to 48 percent who said Gore.
Wrapping up ABC coverage, Peter Jennings outlined what ABC's pollsters learned: "We always say that a poll is only an instant snapshot of a moment in time, but in an ABC News poll of registered voters tonight, we asked them, first, who they thought had won the debate. Thirty percent thought Mr. Gore had won, 46 percent thought Mr. Bush had won and 18 percent called it a tie. We also asked them whether the debate actually had affected their choice, and here you can get a quick look at support for Gore among viewers. Forty-two percent supported him before the debate, 41 percent after the debate. For Mr. Bush, 52 percent supported him before the debate and 54 percent after the debate. Now that support for Bush may simply mean that more Republicans are tuning in, but that is the way we see it in a scientific poll of registered voters this evening, one of those snap polls, as we call them."
On CBS Dan Rather cautioned: "CBS News interviewed a nationwide, what we think representative sample of registered voters. This is a quick poll, it's a snap poll, may or may not be worth anything but here it is."
In addition to the 52 to 48 pick of Bush as the winner, the "CBS News/Knowledge Networks" survey asked if respondents were "confident in ability to handle foreign crisis." For Gore 56 percent said yes, 44 percent no. For Bush, 52 percent answered yes, 48 percent no. "Did anything in tonight's debate change your vote?" Yes replied just 10 percent while 90 percent said no.
Rather conceded: "You may want to note that the last time they had a face-off, our quick poll showed that Vice President Gore had won. He then immediately went down in the polls."
Strangest question of the night, naturally from Dan Rather who took a backhanded shot at Bush's foreign policy qualifications as he suggested a nefarious scheme might be in the works. He asked Dick Cheney how voters can be sure "that you wouldn't be...the hidden hand President?"
Interviewing Republican VP nominee Cheney via satellite from Kildeer, Illinois, Rather queried: "When pressed about his experience, Governor Bush repeatedly, and he did so tonight, points to his circle of advisers and knowledgeable people such as yourself. How can the voters be sure, that if he's elected President that George Bush would in fact be in charge and that you wouldn't be, if you will, sort of the hidden hand President?"
Cheney chuckled and assured Rather "that there's no question who the top man is" and it's Bush, not him.
Bush missed an opportunity to hit one of Gore's unpopular positions, NBC's Tim Russert suggested Wednesday night, but NBC News had never bothered to report Gore's change of position on the cutting social issue.
Russert told Tom Brokaw: "When gay rights came up, the Vice President made a very controversial proposal last week when he said that a partner in a civil relationship should be given a green card to come join another partner over here. Again Governor Bush took a pass on that or didn't recall it."
Maybe he didn't recall it because he relies on NBC News.
Gore's policy pronouncement on MTV actually took
place two weeks ago, but his apparent adoption of an expansion of
immigration rights for same-sex partners was reported at the time only by
FNC, as noted in a CyberAlert and a Media Reality Check. For
details about FNC's story, which reported that Gore operatives said the
candidate misspoke, go to:
For more about the issue and coverage, check out the
Media Reality Check titled, "Media Out to Lunch on Gore's Big Gay
Shift." Go to:
Jim Lehrer repeated a couple of VP debate moderator Bernard Shaw's
liberal agenda questions, and then added his own about what can be done
for those without health insurance. As
detailed in the October 6 CyberAlert, Shaw posed several liberal agenda,
but no conservative agenda, questions. Go to:
Wednesday night Lehrer pressed the men at the top of the ticket about two of the same subjects raised by Shaw. Lehrer asked Gore and Bush if they would sign a federal law banning racial profiling by police and, given how Cheney and Lieberman said they were rethinking their views on same sex relationships, what are their views on the subject and should gay people "have the same rights as other Americans?"
Lehrer soon posed his own liberal agenda question: "Both of you have talked much about Medicare and health care for seniors. What about the more than forty million younger Americans who do not have health insurance right now. What would you do about that?"
Lehrer also tossed nice set up topic sentences to
Gore: "How do you see the connection between controlling gun sales in
this country and the incidence of death by accidental or intentional use
Wrapping up the debate, Lehrer asked each candidate to defend the personal argument being pressed by their campaign against their opponent. He asked Bush if Gore's exaggerations should be a "serious issue" for voters and he made Gore explain his campaign's labeling of Bush as "a bumbler."
The incredible ignorance of the "undecided" voters showcased by CNN and NBC Wednesday night after the debate should alarm knowledgeable voters. But their cluelessness is also amusing.
In a group if six assembled by NBC in Tampa a man named Bill Fisher offered this insight into his thinking: "I especially liked what Gore said about government being a little smaller. At one time I thought it was going to be bigger government his side and a smaller government on Governor Bush's side. I'm still struggling with it. They both had beautiful points tonight."
CNN gathered a large crowd for its CNN/Time town
meeting hosted by Wolf Blitzer in Missouri. Not letting facts get in her
way, a woman who clearly misunderstood Bush's point on how many people
who are young and healthy choose not to buy insurance, screeched:
As if she wasn't beforehand.
From the October 10 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways Ralph Nader Can Still Win." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Change name to "Al Gore,"
win on technicality
Ratherism of the night. After Gloria Borger asserted, during CBS's prime time post-debate coverage, that both candidates uttered fewer focus group approved "canned lines," Dan Rather promulgated: "When you say that there weren't as many canned lines as the last time, a little like saying it's the highest mountain in Kansas because there were a lot of canned lines, no doubt about that." -- Brent Baker with the night team of Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth
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