2. John Berman on ABC's GMA: McCain is Really, Really Old
3. Couric Insists Pope 'Extremely Conservative,' 'Very Conservative'
4. ABC'S Cuomo: Goal of Pope's Visit: 'Reinforce Hardline Doctrine'
5. Matthews: Neo-Cons Spread Human Rights at 'Point of a Gun'
6. NYT: Unemployment, Mortgage Woes? All Milton Friedman's Fault
Network journalists have yet to meet a spending hike or regulation that they considered unwise, but any tax cut is always ill-advised and helps "the wealthy." Living up to the pattern -- and illustrating how John McCain will earn media scorn for any conservative policy proposal -- NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up a Tuesday story on McCain's economic plan by emphasizing how "some critics say his economic plan, which centers on more tax cuts, doesn't add up."
Reporting on McCain's plan outlined in a speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, reporter Kelly O'Donnell listed McCain's idea for a summer suspension of the gas tax, though that "tax is used to pay for highway repairs." O'Donnell moved on to McCain's proposal to "double the income tax exemption for dependents to $7,000 a year," hardly a boon to the rich, before getting to McCain's "core idea" to "lower taxes and make up lost revenue with cuts in government spending." She then delivered the liberal line: "But critics and some economists argue McCain's math is wrong, that his plan would tilt toward the wealthy, swell the deficit, and not trim enough."
Press release on McCain's plan: www.johnmccain.com
O'Donnell concluded with how "there's extra scrutiny on his economic proposals today because in the past McCain has said he needs to learn more and that the economy is not his strongest subject." How about just a little scrutiny on whether the massive new spending plans forwarded by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton really "add up" to a balanced budget?
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The CBS Evening News limited coverage to a brief item read by anchor Katie Couric, but ABC's World News ran a full story from reporter Ron Claiborne, who concluded with the same criticism around which NBC had framed its story: "Critics question how McCain expects to pay for the war in Iraq, massive tax cuts and balance the budget. McCain says he can do it, but it will take until the end of his second term."
Apparently, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and not raising taxes when current rates expire in a few years constitute "massive" tax cuts to ABC and, for NBC, tax cuts tilted "toward the wealthy."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, April 15 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Most Americans don't need reminding this is tax deadline day, and John McCain used the occasion to give his second speech on the economy in two weeks' time. He is offering more specifics on how he would handle the economy and the federal budget. But some critics say his economic plan, which centers on more tax cuts, doesn't add up. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is with the McCain campaign tonight in Pennsylvania.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Going right for your wallet and your gas tank, today John McCain urged the government to drop the federal tax on gasoline, 18 cents a gallon, for three months this summer before the election.
ABC reporter John Berman delivered a Tuesday Good Morning America segment that was supposed to be about Senator John McCain's age, and how much it concerns voters, and filled it with clip after clip of comedians mocking the Republican presidential candidate for being "crazy old." Berman featured no less than six snippets of comics such as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and others mercilessly hammering the Senator as too elderly to be President.
In an introduction to the piece, Berman asserted, "His age is a non-stop punch line for the late night comedians" and then added: "It's safe to say his age may be an issue that McCain will never outgrow." You could argue that one way to make that claim come true is by highlighting comics who mock McCain for something he has no control over. If it some how became politically correct to joke about Barack Obama's race or Hillary Clinton's gender, would Good Morning America so gleefully feature the punch lines?
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The issue of McCain's age is certainly a legitimate topic for discussion. It could inform a number of debates, including the Senator's vice presidential pick (Berman did briefly mention that point in passing). But endlessly playing jokes about age hardly examines the matter. Towards the end of the segment, Berman did feature an ABC News/Washington Post poll that said that more Americans are bothered by McCain's age than they are Obama's race or Clinton's gender. However, after highlighting an endless number of comedic clips, Berman simply wondered: "But is America laughing?" and led into the segment's close.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:17am on Tuesday, April 15:
DIANE SAWYER: And there are a lot of potential firsts, as we know, in the race for '08. Could it be the first African American, the first woman or the oldest American ever in the White House? John McCain will be 72 on inauguration day. And his age is a non-stop punch line for the late night comedians. How do you feel about that? How does he feel about it? John Berman is here with more. John?
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, John McCain would be three years older than Ronald Reagan was when he was first sworn in. That's seven years older than the average retirement age in the U.S. It's safe to say his age may be an issue that McCain will never outgrow.
On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric asked Father Thomas Williams (formerly an NBC expert) to comment on Pope Benedict's arrival in America. Couric, who fretted out loud in 2006 about Catholic orthodoxy "infringing on civil liberties" in a new Florida town, stressed to the priest that the Pope was "extremely conservative," and "very conservative," and at odds with "62 percent of Catholics" who say the church doesn't reflect their views. It's a little strange for an anchor to note someone else is "out of touch" with the public when their network is consistently dragging behind in third in the ratings.
After two generic questions about what the Pope is like, and whether succeeding John Paul II is a tough act to follow, like Gordon Brown replacing Tony Blair as British prime minister, Couric brought up Benedict's first two papal encyclicals, deep intellectual tracts that aren't easy to characterize for TV anchors:
COURIC: The feeling was that he was going to be extremely conservative, yet the two encyclicals he's issued so far, which really is sort of his philosophy, have belied that notion, haven't they?
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
It should be said that writing about love and hope does not disqualify a Pope or pundit from being a conservative. But Father Williams is suggesting that the Pope is pursuing a pontificate that's different from the "God's Rottweiler" cartoon drawn by his enemies in the church and in the media. But Couric wasn't letting go of her idea of the Pope as an extremist:
COURIC: Having said that, he is very conservative. And I know a recent poll says 62 percent of Catholics believe the church isn't reflective of their views. Does that mean entertaining issues like women as priests or use of birth control will be really off the table as long as he's Pope?
It's fascinating to observe how anchors complain that subjects like women's ordination are not up for debate at the Vatican, and then they fail to debate them on their programs. Instead, they merely cite them as markers of progress the church is sadly failing to meet.
The other half of the six-question interview dwelled on the sex abuse scandal, and whether the church is doing enough to prevent it. (Father Williams could have mentioned that many American dioceses have grown quite thorough in prevention efforts over the last five years. In the local Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, anyone who teaches in their parish's religious education program has to be fingerprinted at the police station.) Couric suggested the church couldn't possibly be doing enough:
COURIC: According to a recent poll, about three quarters of Catholics disapprove of how the church dealt with the sex abuse scandals. Even Pope Benedict said he was deeply ashamed. Is enough being done to prevent that from happening in the future?
As Couric cited these poll numbers (from the Washington Post), she and Father Williams did not discuss one problem with the polls: that they include anyone telling the pollster they are Catholic, regardless of whether they attend church regularly -- or attend church at all. If you quit attending meetings of any other voluntary organization, would you still be considered a member?
On Tuesday's Good Morning America, news anchor Chris Cuomo used the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to label the pontiff as uncompromising and assert that the Catholic Church sees the visit as "an opportunity for the Pope to come here and reinforce hardline doctrine." Earlier in the segment, Cuomo described Benedict as "a hardliner charged with protecting Catholic orthodoxy."
Cuomo also claimed that the Pope's goal is to strike a balance "between placating conservative followers and giving hope to liberals who seek social reform." The ABC journalist went on to mention the pontiff's background and note: "Born in Germany, Benedict's seminary studies were interrupted by World War II when, reluctantly, he says, he became a member of the Hitler youth and the Nazi army..." Cuomo provided no elaboration on that statement, but, as an AP report stated in April of 2005, then-Joseph Ratzinger was indeed reluctant about Germany's war:
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:14am on Tuesday, April 15:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to the Pope's visit to America. He'll be arriving inWashington, D.C. later this afternoon. Thousands expected to greet him at the White House. Quite an opportunity for the Pope to introduce himself to an American audience. Chris has been following the story for us.
On last Wednesday's Hardball, MSNBC's Chris Matthews repeated his charge that neo-cons believe in enforcing human rights only at the "point of gun." During a discussion on protests following the Olympic torch's path to China, Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times pointed out that "neo-cons" as well as liberals, believed in spreading human rights to which Matthews interjected: "Yeah, but at the point of a gun!"
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange occurred on the April 9 edition of Hardball:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, is this a bit of an elitist issue Chrystia? In other words, college students, people who are perhaps more interested in international events than it is a trade issue?
To see another instance of Matthews accusing neo-cons of spreading human rights at "gunpoint," check the September 19, 2007 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org
New York Times economics reporter Peter Goodman in a Sunday "Week in Review" piece: "Joblessness is growing. Millions of homes are sliding into foreclosure. The financial system continues to choke on the toxic leftovers of the mortgage crisis. The downward spiral of the economy is challenging a notion that has underpinned American economic policy for a quarter-century -- the idea that prosperity springs from markets left free of government interference. The modern-day godfather of that credo was Milton Friedman..."
[This item, by the MRC's Clay Waters, was posted Monday on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]
Sunday's paper featured the latest "Week in Review" attack on "feral" free markets by Times economics reporter Peter Goodman. This time the focus of his criticism is the late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman. Last December 30, in a story headlined "The Free Market: A False Idol After All?" Goodman wrote: "But now the invisible hand is being asked to account for what it has wrought. In this country, many economic complaints -- from the widening gap between rich and poor to the expense of higher education -- are being dusted for its fingerprints." See: www.timeswatch.org
This Sunday Goodman took the same tone of repressed glee, with an unsympathetic slant toward free-market ideas:
Joblessness is growing. Millions of homes are sliding into foreclosure. The financial system continues to choke on the toxic leftovers of the mortgage crisis. The downward spiral of the economy is challenging a notion that has underpinned American economic policy for a quarter-century -- the idea that prosperity springs from markets left free of government interference.
The modern-day godfather of that credo was Milton Friedman, who attributed the worst economic unraveling in American history to regulators, declaring in a 1976 essay that "the Great Depression was produced by government mismanagement."
Five years later, Ronald Reagan entered the White House, elevating Mr. Friedman's laissez-faire ideals into a veritable set of commandments. Taxes were cut, regulations slashed and public industries sold into private hands, all in the name of clearing government from the path to riches. As the economy expanded and inflation abated, Mr. Friedman played the role of chief evangelist in the mission to let loose the animal instincts of the market.
But with market forces now seemingly gone feral, disenchantment with regulation has given way to demands for fresh oversight, placing Mr. Friedman's intellectual legacy under fresh scrutiny.
Just as the Depression remade government's role in economic life, bringing jobs programs and an expanded welfare system, the current downturn has altered the balance. As Wall Street, Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue seethe with recriminations, a bipartisan chorus has decided that unfettered markets are in need of fettering. Bailouts, stimulus spending and regulations dominate the conversation.
In short, the nation steeped in the thinking of a man who blamed government for the Depression now beseeches government to lift it to safety. If Mr. Friedman, who died in 2006, were still among us, he would surely be unhappy with this turn.
So firm was his regard for market forces, so deep his disdain for government, that Mr. Friedman once said: "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand."
This antagonism toward bureaucracy seemed to spring from Mr. Friedman's conception of his country as a bastion of rugged individualism. During an interview on PBS in 2000, he noted that Adam Smith, the father of classical economics, published his canonical work, "The Wealth of Nations," in 1776, "the same year as the American Revolution."
Among professional economists, Mr. Friedman's analytical mastery was near-universally admired.
His first breakthrough came in the 1950s with his idea that people's savings and spending were not a function of psychological factors, but based on rational estimations of wealth.
His greatest contribution came the following decade, when Mr. Friedman dismantled the consensus view that inflation was a tolerable byproduct of high employment. He demonstrated that high inflation would eventually cost jobs, as businesses were discouraged to invest by the higher wages they had to pay.
But the reviews for Mr. Friedman's work grow mixed when the subject moves to his role as chief proselytizer in the drive to reduce the role of government in public life.
Goodman's kicker does come from a Friedman supporter:
But as America reaches for regulation to tame the markets, the keepers of the Friedman flame remain resolute that government is no solution.
"Friedman taught some fundamental long-run truths and he was adept and skilled and almost brilliant at getting them into the public domain," said Allan H. Meltzer, an economist at Carnegie Mellon. "Now we've come into a crisis that has dampened enthusiasm for those policies, and we're headed back into a period of more regulations that will do the same bad things as in the past."
END of Excerpt
For the April 13 piece in full: www.nytimes.com
For the latest daily on bias in the New York Times: www.timeswatch.org
-- Brent Baker