CyberAlert -- 10/20/2000 -- Subverting "Compassionate Image"

Subverting "Compassionate Image"; "Nonpartisan" Democrats"; Letterman Leaned on Bush from the Left

1) ABC didn't scold Gore for claiming Bush would end prosperity, but Dean Reynolds reprimanded Bush for saying Gore is a big spending liberal who does not deserve credit for prosperity: "This kind of language may conflict with Bush's compassionate image" and "undermine...calls for an end to partisan bickering."

2) New York Times on Rock the Vote: "Nonpartisan," "nonprofit" but "with close ties to Democrats."

3) David Letterman failed the Oprah test for treating Gore and Bush equally. After carrying on a jovial conversation with Al Gore five weeks ago sans any challenges to his record, Thursday night Letterman demanded that George W. Bush defend Texas's death penalty zeal, justify his desire to remove oil and natural gas from Alaska and explain why Texas is so polluted.

4) George W. Bush's "Top Ten Changes I'll Make in the White House." Number 2: "Give Oval Office one heck of a scrubbing."

5) Media Reality Check. "Jack Kemp Ripped, Joe Lieberman Skipped: Boston Globe, CBS, U.S. News & World Report Have Perfect Double Standard on Farrakhan Flaps."


"Nineteen days from today prosperity is on the ballot," Al Gore charged in a shot at George Bush. But while ABC News did not scold Gore, it did castigate Bush for saying Gore is a big spending liberal who does not deserve credit for the current prosperity. Dean Reynolds reprimanded Bush: "This kind of language may conflict with Bush's compassionate image. It may...undermine his repeated calls for an end to partisan bickering."

ABC's World News Tonight led Thursday with back-to-back stories on Gore and Bush. Terry Moran's story played several soundbites from Gore attacking Bush, including: "Nineteen days from today prosperity is on the ballot." On Bush's Social Security plan, Gore took this shot: "His own chief economist said, 'I don't know why he said what he said.' If his chief economist has no idea what he's talking about, how are the rest of us supposed to figure it out?"

Moran concluded his story with an upbeat assessment of Gore's tactics: "Al Gore has been trying all year to get voters to focus on issues rather than personalities in this campaign, and the overriding issue, he says, is simple. It's the prosperity, people."

Next, Dean Reynolds looked at how Bush "launched a fierce counterattack today against" Al Gore's attacks on his Social Security plan. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Reynolds then critically assessed Bush's tactics:
"Bush's message in the waning days of the campaign is vintage GOP, calling Gore a big-spending, big government liberal in the mold of Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis."
George W. Bush: "He wants the government to control your lives. We want you to control your lives."
Reynolds: "Yes, the current administration has presided over years of prosperity, but Bush says it deserves none of the credit."
Bush: "The economic growth of today has occurred because of ingenuity and hard work, but it sure helped to have Ronald Reagan's tax cuts provide more capital in the private sector for small businesses to use."

Reynolds concluded with a warning: "This kind of language may conflict with Bush's compassionate image. It may inflame the opposition and undermine his repeated calls for an end to partisan bickering. But with 19 days before the election, the time for making nice is over."


"Nonpartisan," "nonprofit" but "with close ties to Democrats." FNC's Brit Hume pointed out on his show Thursday night this bit of New York Times reasoning contained in an October 19 "Campaign Briefing" item by Eric Schmitt.

Under the mine-headline "Inspiring Young Voters," Schmitt wrote: "Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit voter registration organization with close ties to Democrats, has produced several new public service announcements that seek to inspire those ages 18 to 24 to vote on Election Day. The 30-second spots, which went on the air nationwide last week on MTV, show young people confronting a political system dominated by special interests or biased law enforcement officials."

The ad Schmitt went on to describe hardly refrained from advocating a point of view which matches the campaign agenda of one the two major party candidates: "In one commercial, a young woman with a broken leg and in a wheelchair has her credit card rejected at a pharmacy when the cost of her prescription drugs totals $352.40. The advertisement's tag line says the pharmaceutical industry gave more than $1 million to senators in 1999, suggesting that the contributions helped block access to cheaper drugs."


David Letterman failed the Oprah test. After carrying on a jovial and lighthearted conversation with Al Gore exactly five weeks earlier in which he did not challenge or cast doubt upon any Clinton-Gore policy, Thursday night Letterman demanded that George W. Bush defend Texas's death penalty zeal, justify his desire to remove oil and natural gas from Alaska and explain why Texas is the most polluted state.

The "Oprah test" refers to the question posed after she dedicated a show to a light-hearted and positive hour with Al Gore: Would she provide George W. Bush the same welcoming, non-confrontational atmosphere. She did.

Letterman certainly gave Bush time to explain himself and also tossed him some cued-to-comic-retort softballs, but for a comedy show about half the interview came off as something closer to Meet the Press.

There were similarities between the two interviews. Both were asked about Adam Clymer and Bush's "asshole" remark, both got to read "Top Ten" lists which largely made each look good and Letterman asked both about current issues of the day: Gore about the Wen Ho Lee case, Bush about Yemen and violence in Israel.

But on specific policies advocated by each, they received disparate treatment. During the Thursday, September 14 interview this was Letterman's only question about the Clinton-Gore record:
"From the first inauguration to this moment just give me one or two things that really, when they happened you went home and you said to yourself I'm so proud and happy to be doing what I'm doing. There must have been moments that filled you with great joy."
Gore replied: "When I was able to cast the tie-breaking vote to put in place a brand new economic plan in the first year that turned, that helped to turn the biggest deficits into the biggest surpluses, create 22 million new jobs, create the strongest economy in history...."
The second of two events he recounted: "When I was able to go over to the international negotiation on global warming and helped to get a treaty -- called the Kyoto Treaty -- it sounds a little arcane but actually it's a very serious environmental problem that we have to take the leading role in addressing."

The supposedly melting polar ice cap is a Letterman interest, so he fell into a Gore agenda topic by asking how we are going to lower the temperature so the polar ice cap does not melt.

The "Top Ten Rejected Gore-Lieberman Campaign Slogans," read by Gore, did feature a shot at himself: "Remember, America: I Gave You The Internet, And I Can Take It Away. Think About It." To read the whole list, go to:

But five weeks later, Letterman forced Bush to spend much of the interview justifying his positions. And this is relevant since a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey earlier this year found 28 percent of the public, and 47 percent of those under 30, rely on the late night comedy shows for campaign information.

Letterman opened the four-segment, October 19 Bush interview by asking why the race is so close, whether Bush is tired of campaigning, how fast he runs his three mile jogs, who he likes in the World Series. Then he put Bush on the spot:
"When somebody has an office like Governor and then like, you're in the middle of your second term is that right, and then they announce 'well I've been Governor for one and a half terms but now I think I'd like to be something else,' and so you go on to run for another office -- in your case pretty good, you're going for the biggest around -- but is that, and a lot of people do this and I always think to myself is that some kind of a breach of confidence between the candidates and voters?"

Bush replied that he didn't promise voters he wouldn't run.

Letterman called Bush's "asshole" comment the "only honest moment" in campaign and wondered if Bush would like to apologize. "Not really," Bush answered.

After a bit of talk about how the debates went, and Letterman joking that the last debate looked "like elementary ballroom dancing," Letterman turned serious:
"We make a lot of jokes about you electrocuting people in Texas and I know you don't electrocute them, but is there a circumstance that you can imagine, have you ever thought about this, that might change your view of capital punishment?"
Bush said yes, if it was found to be unfair, but that his job is to uphold law and capital punishment will save lives.
Letterman pressed: "Nothing you could imagine that would cause a change of heart here?"
Bush: "If I was convinced lives weren't being saved, if the death penalty didn't save other people's lives."
Letterman suggested: "Or perhaps if someone were wrongly executed?"
Bush: "Definitely on that..." Bush explained how those convicted have full access to the courts and all put to death so far have been guilty. He recalled how he delayed one case so DNA testing could be conducted, but the test proved the man guilty.

Letterman conceded the obvious: "The notion of this whole topic just makes me very uncomfortable, very squeamish and I think people who oppose the death penalty would agree with that."
Bush inquired: "You're against the death penalty?"
Letterman replied: "I see in certain circumstances, I think, 'yeah it seems like might suit here,' in other circumstances I think 'jeez, I don't know if I would be comfortable.'"
Bush: "That's fair..."

The next segment began with a discussion of the situation in Yemen and what Bush would do. Letterman moved on to the Middle East and wondered if Bush knew why people hate each other so much.

Letterman then exposed his environmentalism: "I heard something a few weeks ago coming out of your campaign and I just thought, 'well this is not true, he's not really going to do that.' Talking about wilderness lands up in Alaska or Arctic Circle, you're going to take trucks up there and drill for oil. And I said 'that's a joke, he's not going to do that.'"
Bush: "Well, you're not going to have any natural gas if we don't do it..."

Letterman recalled for Bush how when he mentioned the melting polar ice caps to Gore, the Vice President promised he would "lead us to solutions to save the planet. Now one, do you believe him when he says that?"
Bush: "Not really."
Letterman: "Do you believe the planet needs saving?"
Bush said yes, but he wants to make sure energy bills are not out of sight for the middle class.

Letterman proceeded to a Gore campaign charge: "Don't you have bad air pollution down in Texas"
Bush blamed it on having so many cars.
Letterman demanded: "But if in fact this is true, is it the worst country, the worst state in the country for air pollution? Is that true?"
Apparently referring to Houston, Bush said it's a "big city." To which Letterman fired back: "But it's not as big as New York, not as big as Los Angeles."

Letterman delivered one last plea: "Instead of sending these guys up looking for natural gas in Alaska, or wherever the Hell you're going to do it, why can't we take some of that money and look for alternative means of energy?"

In the last segment Bush got to deliver his own "Top Ten" list. See the item below.


From George W. Bush's appearance Thursday night on the Late Show, his "Top Ten Changes I'll Make in the White House" -- issued from the "home office in Crawford, Texas."

10. To save taxpayer dollars, calls to winning sports teams will be collect
9. New rule at cabinet meetings -- you can't talk until you ride the mechanical bull
8. Goodbye boring presidential radio address -- hello "Dick Cheney Spins the Hits of the 80's, 90's and Today"
7. Make sure the White House library has lots of books with big print and pictures
6. Just for fun, issue executive order commanding my brother Jeb to wash my car
5. First day in office my mother's face goes up on Mount Rushmore
4. Look into hiring a security guard for our nuclear secrets
3. Will not get sick on Japanese leaders like other President Bushes I know
2. Give Oval Office one heck of a scrubbing
1. Tax relief for all Americans -- except smart aleck talk show hosts

For a "Top Ten Extra" entry, scroll to the end of this CyberAlert.


The Campaign 2000 Media Reality Check by Tim Graham distributed Thursday by fax and titled, "Jack Kemp Ripped, Joe Lieberman Skipped: Boston Globe, CBS, U.S. News & World Report Have Perfect Double Standard on Farrakhan Flaps."

To view the report as fax recipients saw it, go to the Adobe Acrobat PDF document posted on the MRC Web site:

The pull-out quote in the center of the page under the heading "Jack Kemp Endorses Hitler?" New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal on Kemp praising Louis Farrakhan and his march, October 16, 1996:
"This is asked seriously but with anger: do we really still have to explain to a candidate for the Vice Presidency that the preaching of racial contempt and hatred led to slavery and then to the Holocaust? Do we have to explain that to any adult of any intelligence and/or religious, racial, or even historical sensitivity? Mr. Hitler, I do not like everything you say but how disappointed I am that you did not invite me to join you on a platform in Munich."

Now the text of the October 19 Media Reality Check:

Jack Kemp Ripped, Joe Lieberman Skipped
Boston Globe, CBS, U.S. News & World Report Have Perfect Double Standard on Farrakhan Flaps."

The media blackout of vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman's September 26 declaration of "respect" for anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his desire to meet with him continued through Farrakhan's "Million Family March" on Monday. But in 1996, when GOP vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp reached out to Farrakhan, several outlets which are ignoring the Lieberman story played up the Kemp flap.

-- The Boston Globe. The story began with Globe reporter Michael Rezendes on September 8, 1996: "Jack Kemp, the self-styled Republican ambassador to minorities and the poor, believes Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's self-help philosophy is 'wonderful'...Kemp was careful to say he does not endorse all the teachings of Farrakhan, who has been labeled anti-Semitic...But Kemp also said he admired the Million Man March organized by Farrakhan last year, and the speech Farrakhan delivered at the event, that he wished he had been able to take part." Globe coverage of Lieberman's remarks? Zero.

-- CBS. On the September 11, 1996 This Morning, co-host Jane Robelot explained Kemp was "trying to mend fences with Jewish-Americans" over his remarks. Reporter Troy Roberts began: "Jack Kemp is learning the hard way what many politicians have known for a while. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is a political hot potato, and anyone who gets too close is likely to be burned...Kemp praised the 'Million Man March' the Nation of Islam leader organized last year, and went on in an interview to endorse Farrakhan's philosophy of black self-reliance. But he failed to denounce Farrakhan's teachings that have been labeled anti-Semitic." CBS on Lieberman? Zero, even though The Early Show interviewed him on Tuesday.

-- U.S. News & World Report. Columnist Gloria Borger (now also with CBS) wrote on October 14, 1996: "Reporters, by and large, have moved beyond their first assignment, which was to be present at the moment Jack Kemp stopped reading from Bob Dole's script or said something silly. (Remember when he praised Louis Farrakhan's 'wonderful' self-help philosophy?)" Later she noted Kemp's friend Jude Wanniski, whom Dole campaign aides blamed "for Kemp's Farrakhan faux pas." U.S. News on Lieberman? Zero.

-- The New York Times. On September 10, 1996, reporter Jerry Gray noted the flap, adding Kemp's "praise of Mr. Farrakhan came just days before he was set to speak in New York City before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. And his comments, no matter how mild, are likely to upset some members of the coalition." Later, columnist and former Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal savaged Kemp.

But the only Times mention of Lieberman's remarks came on October 6 in an Adam Nagourney article on Hillary renouncing Suha Arafat on page B10: "she declined to 'second guess' the statement by Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president, that he was willing to sit down with Mr. Farrakhan, who has been criticized for making anti-Semitic statements." They left out Lieberman's "respect" for Farrakhan.

END Reprint of Media Reality Check

A parting joke. From the Late Show Web page, one of George Bush's "Top Ten Changes I'll Make in the White House" which didn't make the final cut: "Free up bedroom in White House by sharing one with my wife." -- Brent Baker

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