2. Howard Dean No Liberal to
Washington Post, Really a Conservative
3. NYT Editor Admits He's a Democrat, But Still Sees Liberal Bias
Corrections: Some spelling errors in the July 7 CyberAlert, all in the item on the CBS and NBC homeless stories. It cited how CBS's Lee Cowan was "in high-dungeon." That should have read "high-dudgeon." A later sentence noted how NBC's John "Hockenberry related his tale of woe, 'Eric's eviction was the result of a double-wammy..." Wammy should have been spelled "whammy." The CyberAlert also quoted NBC's Stone Phillips as asserting: "But for millions of Americans the dream is simple and all-too illusive, four walls and a roof, a place to call home." Illusive should have read "elusive."
President Bush's "bring 'em on" comment from last week continues to appall national news figures as they channel the spin of liberal Democrats. Peter Jennings on Monday night decided that Diane Sawyer asking General Tommy Franks about it was the only newsworthy part of her interview and so highlighted her asking him about it earlier in the day on Good Morning America. When Franks affirmed that he "absolutely" agreed with Bush's statement, a clearly astounded Sawyer retorted, "You do!?!?"
On the Chris Matthews Show over the weekend, Newsweek's Howard Fineman decided Bush's remark represented "one of the first times where he did trip up" rhetorically "because he's talking tough, that looks good here. But over in Iraq our troops know that they are in trouble."
Jennings set up the short item on the July 7 World News Tonight: "General Franks talked about his retirement on Good Morning America today. Diane Sawyer asked him about the President's comment last week, 'bring 'em on,' directed at Iraqis who were attacking U.S. forces. Several Democrats have said the President was inviting more attacks."
Viewers then saw this excerpt from the morning interview with Franks in Tampa on the day of his retirement from running Central Command:
On GMA, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson observed, Sawyer had a lot of bad things to remind Franks about. She set up the interview:
-- "Offensive [operations], and yet the troops have said that they feel like a peacekeeping force in combat mode, that this is, in some sense, a guerilla war going on and do they need combat protection, some different kind of protection?"
-- "I want to play, if I can, what President Bush said the other day, because it's caused so much comment around the country, when asked about what's going on in Iraq. Here it is."
-- Sawyer: "A lot of Americans, I guess a lot of Americans feel fear for those men and women. Are you saying they shouldn't?"
Afterward, White House reporter Terry Moran, substitute co-hosting in New York, was also astonished by Franks standing by Bush: "Very interesting, Diane. The commanding general echoing the Commander-in-Chief there, 'bring 'em on.'"
To watch the GMA interview via RealPlayer: abcnews.go.com
Howard Dean has emerged as the hero of left-wing Democrats, but reporters are reluctant to describe Dean as a liberal and instead go out of their way to dissuade readers from believing any such notion.
The word "liberal" did not appear until three-fourths the way into Sunday's Washington Post profile of Dean by reporter Evelyn Nieves, and then only in a quote from an expert denying he is one: "'His being called a liberal is one of the great white lies of the campaign,' said Tom Salmon, a fellow Democrat and governor of Vermont for two terms during the Nixon-Ford era. 'He's a rock-solid fiscal conservative.'"
Nieves proceeded to quote Dean denying his liberalness: "'I think it's pathetic that I'm considered the left-wing liberal,' Dean said. 'It shows just how far to the right this country has lurched.' Over and over on the campaign trail, he tells audiences that he is a fiscal conservative who believes balanced budgets serve the cause of social justice."
Of course, the fact that as Governor he submitted balanced budgets is meaningless since he was required to do so by state law and it has nothing to do with whether the policies he espoused were liberal or conservative.
Back on June 23, a Boston Globe profile went through similar contortions to try to portray Dean as some kind of conservative. Globe reporter Sarah Schweitzer insisted that "Dean's record isn't radically left-leaning" because "he advocates a balanced federal budget" and "received top ratings from the National Rifle Association and supports the death penalty in some cases." Plus, "on the campaign trail, Dean consistently distances himself from the far-left. 'This is not some liberal idea that makes me unelectable,' he said of his health care proposal last week in Manchester." For more: www.mediaresearch.org
An excerpt from the part of Nieves' July 6 Washington Post profile of Dean headlined, "Short-Fused Populist, Breathing Fire at Bush," in which she addresses his ideology:
....Most Vermonters would say that Dean the Passionate Populist who extols health care and equal rights for all is a Different Dean from the one they know. He did sign a universal health care bill for children while governor. And he did sign the bitterly debated civil union bill after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as married heterosexual ones. But Dean was no fire-breather.
He insisted on balancing the budget above all else. He went from being against the death penalty to supporting it in limited cases. He refused to fund social programs without making sure the state could pay its bills first.
"His being called a liberal is one of the great white lies of the campaign," said Tom Salmon, a fellow Democrat and governor of Vermont for two terms during the Nixon-Ford era. "He's a rock-solid fiscal conservative," Salmon said, "and a liberal on key social issues. But we're talking key issues."
Garrison Nelson, a professor of political science at the University of Vermont and a frequent Dean critic, says the Different Dean has been fascinating to watch. "Howard Dean pounding the podium taking back America is a new Howard," he says. "Now, whether the new Howard is the real Howard is a matter for speculation. Is he taking the left as a campaign strategy?"
Dean says he doesn't mind being called a liberal and welcomes progressives to the campaign. ("I'd be delighted if the Greens supported me!") But he chuckles at the liberal label, considering that "I am probably the most conservative of the candidates when it comes to gun control." It's a states issue, he says, and his state, with its low crime rate, doesn't need it.
"I think it's pathetic that I'm considered the left-wing liberal," Dean said. "It shows just how far to the right this country has lurched."
Over and over on the campaign trail, he tells audiences that he is a fiscal conservative who believes balanced budgets serve the cause of social justice. "Here's why," he'll say. "When you balance the budget, you have money in hard times to pay for the things you need." Yet if he generally sounds more like a Paul Wellstone progressive than a Bill Clinton centrist on the stump, even borrowing the late Minnesota senator's line about representing "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," well...
"I distrust ideologues," Dean said, "and that's being played out now at anger at the right. It played out in college at mistrust of the left....I was against the war, but I wasn't a protester."...
END of Excerpt
For the profile in full: www.washingtonpost.com
A New York Times editor has outed himself as a liberal, but he still is able to see liberal bias. The new Ombudsman of the Sacramento Bee, until May the assistant metro editor at the Times, conceded in his weekly Bee column on Sunday that "I've been a registered Democrat all my life" and, though "I disagree with many conservative views," Tony Marcano asserted, "that doesn't mean I don't think conservatives raise some valid concerns about The Bee."
In fact, Marcano proceeded to concur with some complaints from conservatives about biased stories as he decided that "many of the complaints I get from conservative readers are well considered."
Romenesko's Web page (www.poynter.org) highlighted Marcano's piece. An excerpt from the July 6 column by Marcano, "In search of the Holy Grail: Balanced coverage," who just moved from New York to Sacramento in early June to take the Ombudsman slot at the paper in California's capital:
If we could harness the power behind political passions in this area, California would never have another energy crisis.
I've only been in this job for a couple of weeks, but it's already clear that there is a very emotional and very vocal set of readers who can't stand what they see as The Bee's unrelenting liberalism....
But while The Bee is listening, it's clear from many of the messages I've received that a lot of readers don't think they are being heard.
I see a few reasons for that. First, there is the hard-core group of readers who will not be satisfied until The Bee starts printing American flags on the front page and uses terms like "our president" and "our troops." They don't feel they're being heard because that's just not going to happen -- and rightfully so. Next are the conspiracy theorists who believe that The Bee's editors meet to discuss the best ways to undermine the Republican Party (and, by extension, America). It's hard to convince them that there is no truth to that whatsoever.
But I don't think people with such views are representative of most readers. Many of the complaints I get from conservative readers are well considered, and that makes me wonder whether they are getting the attention they deserve when they reach out to The Bee.
Before I continue, a quick comment: In my first column, I promised full disclosure, so I'll tell you that I've been a registered Democrat all my life. I disagree with many conservative views, but that doesn't mean I don't think conservatives raise some valid concerns about The Bee.
Case in point: a June 26 front-page article about Ward Connerly's income from two nonprofit groups he created to support his campaign against racial preferences. Some readers called to say The Bee should not have run that article at all. I disagree. Connerly is a public figure, and the public has a right to know everything about every aspect of his ballot initiative -- including any financial gain he might accrue from it.
If I were an editor here, I would have run the story, but not on the front page. When I saw the story there, I thought it was going to reveal that Connerly's earnings were somehow illegal, or at least questionable. But all it said was that Connerly is making a great deal of money off this. That might be distasteful in the eyes of people who oppose his initiative (and -- more full disclosure here -- I'm one of them), but it isn't necessarily improper. Placing the story on the front page implied that it was. And the headline -- "Connerly's crusading is paying off" -- didn't help. "Paying off" implies something underhanded, or even illegal, and that just wasn't the case here.
Another example from this past Thursday: A front-page headline read, "Human cost of GOP cuts called high." Its subhead read, "Republicans reply: We were more humane than Davis."
That sure puts the GOP on the defensive, as did the lead of the story, which said, "Republican budget plans released this week would make thousands of people ineligible for subsidized health care, give young students a later start and cut monthly grants to the aged, blind and disabled."
Says who? Sure, the next paragraph says that's the conclusion of advocates for state programs, but the lead reads like it's an indisputable fact rather than the conclusions of people with a vested interest in those programs....
Neutrality is a bit of a Holy Grail for both journalists and readers. The goal is to get to the center, but the problem is, you have to move right to get to the center from the left, and vice versa. Some people are just too entrenched in their views to do that.
But as newspaper professionals, we have the responsibility to be as open-minded as possible. That doesn't mean caving in to one set of views or another, and it doesn't mean that The Bee should abandon its responsibility to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But maybe folks here are a bit too comfortable with their views, and that's why so many of the readers feel afflicted.
END of Excerpt
For Marcano's column in full: www.sacbee.com
For that online and a picture of him: www.sacbee.com
Marcano suggested: "The goal is to get to the center, but the problem is, you have to move right to get to the center from the left" and "some people are just too entrenched in their views to do that."
Marcano has identified the problem in the news media but one wonders how many in his profession share his realization that folks in the news media "are a bit too comfortable with their views" and so "that's why so many of the readers feel afflicted" and whether he did anything himself to address the problem while at the New York Times.
-- Brent Baker