2. Morning Show Interviewers Let Kerry Off Easy on Gay Marriage
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told the House Committee on the Budget on Wednesday that the soon-to-be soaring number of retiring baby boomers and long-term deficit will require that Social Security costs be reduced by slowing cost of living hikes and/or by raising the retirement age, but though Greenspan specifically said he favors making the Bush tax cuts permanent and strongly urged budget cuts over tax hikes to reduce the deficit, the NBC Nightly News distorted Greenspan's testimony and targeted the Bush tax cuts, which they bizarrely labeled "Bush's spending," for blame.
Greenspan recommended that lawmakers "close the fiscal gap primarily, if not wholly, from the outlay side."
Without mentioning spending, Tom Brokaw led his newscast by declaring that "America is in a fix" with "record federal deficits, a record number of people -- the baby boomers -- eligible for Social Security and other benefits in a few years, and big tax cuts the President is determined to make permanent."
Reporter David Gregory zeroed in on the annual deficit as the problem and tied it to Bush: "At the White House, Greenspan's testimony was an unwelcome reminder of how big an issue the Bush deficit will be in this fall's election." Gregory, ignoring how Greenspan said he wants the Bush tax cuts to be made permanent, painted the Bush team's advocacy of them as a problem: "The President also wants to make his tax cuts permanent at an estimated cost of nearly $2 trillion over the next ten years."
On screen, NBC labeled the tax cuts as "Bush's Spending." Below that heading, NBC listed the "cost" of the tax cuts: "Make tax cuts permanent "Cost: $2 trillion over next 10 years"
ABC's World News Tonight also skipped Greenspan's comments in favor of tax cuts, but at least did not distort Greenspan's comments by suggesting he blamed them for Social Security's shaky fiscal situation. ABC's Peter Jennings and Bob Jamieson stuck to how Greenspan urged adjustments to the Social Security and Medicare programs.
CBS's Dan Rather decided that with Greenspan arguing for a "cut" in Social Security, though all he urged was a slowing in the rate of increase, it was time to remind viewers that he's a "Republican." Rather intoned: "Alan Greenspan, the influential Republican Chairman of the Federal Reserve, today recommended cutting Social Security benefits for future retirees."
John Roberts portrayed Greenspan's comments as bad news for the White House, though Greenspan's remarks undermined the John Kerry/John Edwards position that Social Security never be changed: "It was another election year blow to a President already beset by fiscal worries, a sharp warning from the nation's top economist today that future Social Security benefits may fall victim to soaring deficits." Roberts, however, at least noted Greenspan's opposition to raising taxes: "So how to ease the crunch? Roll back the President's tax cuts? Too risky said Greenspan. That could stunt economic growth."
On CNN's NewsNight, John King uniquely gave time to a Greenspan soundbites about how he wants spending cuts before tax hikes. A fair and balanced King reported: "Chairman Greenspan has legendary status in Washington and both parties looked for election year advantage in his testimony. To the Democrats' delight, he said growing federal budget deficits eventually threaten long-term interest rates and living standards."
Unlike NBC and ABC, the New York Times and AP recognized what was said by Greenspan, the husband of NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, about making the tax cuts permanent.
New York Times reporters Edmund L. Andrews and Kenneth N. Gilpin wrote in a story posted Wednesday evening:
For the New York Times story in full: www.nytimes.com
In a February 25 AP dispatch, Martin Crutsinger noted: "The central bank chairman also repeated his view that Bush's tax cuts should be made permanent to bolster economic growth. He said the estimated $1 trillion cost should be paid for, preferably, with spending cuts so the deficit would not be worsened." See: story.news.yahoo.com
-- "Today, federal outlays under Social Security and Medicare amount to less than 7 percent of GDP. In December, the CBO projected that these outlays would increase to 12 percent of GDP by 2030 under current law, using assumptions about the growth of health-care costs similar to the intermediate assumptions of the Medicare trustees; when spending on Medicaid is added in, the rise in the ratio is even steeper. To be sure, the rise in these outlays relative to GDP could be financed by tax increases, but the CBO results suggest that, even if other non-interest spending is constrained fairly tightly, ensuring fiscal stability would require an overall federal tax burden well above its long-term average."
-- "I certainly agree that the same scrutiny needs to be applied to taxes. However, tax rate increases of sufficient dimension to deal with our looming fiscal problems arguably pose significant risks to economic growth and the revenue base. The exact magnitude of such risks is very difficult to estimate, but they are of enough concern, in my judgment, to warrant aiming to close the fiscal gap primarily, if not wholly, from the outlay side."
For the full text of his prepared remarks: www.federalreserve.gov
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased his show: "On World News Tonight, the Social Security crisis. The Federal Reserve Chairman tells the Congress to cut the benefits or raise the retirement age."
Jennings led the program: "We're going to begin tonight with the future of Social Security. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board said today there was a crisis coming. He told the Congress that it must consider cutting or delaying retirement benefits that many Americans will come to depend on. Alan Greenspan said the budget was 'overcommitted' and could not afford to maintain current benefits once all the baby boomer begin retiring. There've been warnings before, of course, but this, among other things, was a monkey wrench tossed right into a presidential campaign."
Bob Jamieson then ran through Greenspan's comments about how Congress must act and make structural adjustments by cutting the COLA or delaying the retirement age since fewer will son be paying in. He ran soundbites from Bush and Edwards before concluding that in an election year neither party wants to touch Social Security.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw teased up top: "Social Security: A big warning for baby boomers. The Fed Chairman says future benefits may have to be cut."
Brokaw began his show by focusing on tax cuts over spending as the problem: "Good evening. America is in a fix. It has record federal deficits, a record number of people -- the baby boomers -- eligible for Social Security and other benefits in a few years, and big tax cuts the President is determined to make permanent. Something has to give and today one of the most influential financial voices in the country recommended what is sure to be a controversial solution: Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Social Security and other benefits should be reduced to cut the budget deficit. Greenspan, who is appointed not elected to his job, made a proposal that's long been considered political suicide for elected officials."
David Gregory put the onus on Bush: "Greenspan's testimony amounted to a Code Red warning about the nation's financial future. The biggest problem: Red ink. The Fed Chief warned today that the Bush administration's projected $521 billion deficit for this year now threatens to shortchange Social Security just as the baby boomer generation nears retirement."
After a clip of Greenspan saying that demographic changes mean an enormous demand on resources, Gregory noted how he "urged massive unpopular fixes" -- cutting benefits for future retirees and gradually raising the retirement age.
Gregory continued: "At the White House, Greenspan's testimony was an unwelcome reminder of how big an issue the Bush deficit will be in this fall's election. Mr. Bush said he hadn't seen the Chairman's remarks, but said his budget is the best way to cut the deficit."
As he said the above, on screen NBC showed a head shot of Bush with this beside it at the top of the screen: "Bush's Spending." As if tax cuts, or not raising taxes so people can keep their own money, is "spending." Below the heading, NBC listed the "cost" of the tax cuts: "Make tax cuts permanent "Cost: $2 trillion over next 10 years"
Gregory picked up: "And then there's Medicare reform, including drug benefit which the White House now says will cost one-third more than originally advertised. Critics of the administration's budget said Greenspan is right, the White House can't have it all."
Up next, Carl Quintanilla found a woman in Colorado who works in a photo store who whined about how Social Security won't be there in the future for her. After an AARP representative got time to claim any change to Social Security will hurt people, Quintanilla, without suggesting any demagoguery by liberals who scare seniors by warning of cuts while doing nothing to resolve the shortfall, painted Greenspan's comments as a boost to Democrats:
Quintanilla concluded by showing the problem of people with an entitlement attitude, such as a woman who has barely paid in any money: "The issue is playing out today not only among hose who have contributed to Social Security for decades, but also those who are just getting started. Like Brittany Davis, a University of Toledo student who even at 18 has a sense of entitlement."
A ridiculous sense of entitlement no doubt fueled by the liberal news media pushing a dependency culture.
John Kerry got off easy on gay marriage when the broadcast network morning shows each interviewed him on Wednesday, with only ABC's Charles Gibson even noting how he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. But even Gibson gently prompted him to expound on his views: "You just feel that it does not merit inclusion in the Constitution, that it's an issue that ought to be handled state by state."
CBS's Rene Syler didn't even try to play devil's advocate as she simply cued him up to spout his attacks on President Bush: "Want to get your comments on something that happened yesterday -- gay marriage. The President calling for a constitutional amendment banning same sex unions. Your reaction to that?" Her follow-up: "Do you think this is going to be a major issue in the race for the White House?"
Though polls show widespread opposition to same-sex marriage and majority support for a constitutional amendment in favor of allowing only male/female marriage, Katie Couric opened Today by treating it as a topic with an even split: "Good morning, the cultural divide. A nation split down the middle in the 2000 presidential election could be a house divided once more. Today's hot button issues: A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; and religion as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ opens today..."
Couric soon worried about how Bush will abuse the gay marriage issue: "Will President Bush's support of a ban on gay marriage be a key wedge issue?"
Matt Lauer asked Kerry to comment on why Bush supposedly changed positions: "What about the timing? And because in 2000 during the presidential campaign the President did say in an interview that he thought this was something the states should handle, it was up to them. Why do you think he switched?"
Instead of challenging Kerry on the shallowness and opportunism of his position that he opposes same-sex marriage as well as doing anything to stop it, Lauer saw Bush turning off "swing voters" and thus an opportunity for Kerry: "In some way, Senator, does this present an opportunity for you? Because clearly he's moving toward his conservative base but at the same time you'd have to think he's moving away from those swing voters in the center. Do you think this provides you with an opportunity to capture those votes?"
Kerry, at a steel mill in Cleveland, appeared simultaneously on the February 25 ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows. He was live on ABC, on tape on CBS and NBC. Below are full rundowns of the questions posed, as taken down by MRC analysts Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd and Geoff Dickens:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson: "We're going to turn now live to the clear Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who has now swept 18 of 20 states with three victories last night, and he joins us this morning from Cleveland..."
# Gibson: "Just for the basis of this discussion, let me just try to get a brief answer. You oppose gay marriage, correct?"
# Gibson: "And I'll get to some of those issues in a moment, but I want to concentrate for the moment on gay marriage, because essentially what you're saying is you agree with the President, you agree with his basic position of opposition to gay marriage; it's just that you argue about tactics. You think it ought to be done by the states, he thinks it ought to be done federally."
# Gibson: "If Massachusetts, as the Supreme Court of Massachusetts has decreed, if Massachusetts starts marrying people in May, if someone gets married in Massachusetts, a same-sex couple gets married in Massachusetts and moves to Ohio, are they married there in your mind?"
# Gibson: "Let me get to some of the issues you've started to mention a moment ago. The President had said he was going to stay out of the political fray, but he got into it, as you well know, with a speech to the Republican Governors the other night, talking about the fact that you had changed positions, or he maintained you had changed positions on taxes, NAFTA, Patriot Act, Iraq. A lot of people thought he would attack you as a liberal, but instead he's attacking you as a flip-flopper. Does that surprise you and how do you answer him?"
-- CBS's The Early Show. Rene Syler: "As we've noted, Senator John Kerry breezed to easy victories last night in Democratic contests in Idaho, Utah and Hawaii as he prepares for next week's big Super Tuesday showdown. This morning the Democratic frontrunner is campaigning in Cleveland. Senator Kerry, good morning to you."
# "You had some pretty convincing victories last night, though not a whole lot of delegates at stake. Coming up on Super Tuesday you've got a thousand up for grabs. Can you wrap this up by next Tuesday?"
# Syler: "Alright, want to get your comments on something that happened yesterday -- gay marriage. The President calling for a constitutional amendment banning same sex unions. Your reaction to that?"
# Syler: "Do you think this is going to be a major issue in the race for the White House?"
# Syler: "Senator, President Bush attacked your record on the issues on Monday. He says you have flip-flopped on a number of issues. You voted for and against tax cuts, NAFTA, the Patriot Act, liberating Iraq. Your reaction to those comments?"
-- NBC's Today. Over a graphic of a red/blue state by state map of the United States, Katie Couric announced as the show opened: "Good morning, the cultural divide. A nation split down the middle in the 2000 presidential election could be a house divided once more. Today's hot button issues: A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; and religion as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ opens today Wednesday, February 25th, 2004."
At the desk, Matt Lauer asserted: "A couple of emotional and extremely divisive issues facing people in this country right now."
# "Congratulations on your wins in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii today. Can you wrap this thing up next week on Super Tuesday?"
# Lauer: "The President grabbed some of the headlines yesterday, Senator, when he called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. Now he's always said he's against gay marriages or same sex marriages but this is the first time he's actually called for a constitutional amendment. Break down, briefly, if you will the differences in your stance on this issue and the President's."
# Lauer: "What about the timing? And because in 2000 during the presidential campaign the President did say in an interview that he thought this was something the states should handle, it was up to them. Why do you think he switched?"
# Lauer: "In some way, Senator, does this present an opportunity for you? Because clearly he's moving toward his conservative base but at the same time you'd have to think he's moving away from those swing voters in the center. Do you think this provides you with an opportunity to capture those votes?"
# Lauer: "I was just gonna say the President has gone on the offensive in recent days unofficially kicking off his campaign. He targeted you in a speech the other night, Senator, without mentioning your name. Talking about flip-flopping on votes and questioning some of your military votes. For example for the B-2 bomber and the Apache helicopter. You seem to think that when the President does this or his allies do this that they are attacking your patriotism. Why isn't it though that they're just simply stating your voting record?"
# Lauer wrapped up by hitting him from the left: "Let, let me ask you and ask you for a very brief answer if you will. You're talking jobs there in Ohio. Some people talk about the three million jobs lost in the last few years and they say one of the reasons could be a trade agreement like NAFTA which you supported. How do you defend that? Briefly, if you will."
-- Brent Baker