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NBC's Matt Lauer Presses President Bush to Raise Taxes --8/30/2004


1. NBC's Matt Lauer Presses President Bush to Raise Taxes
In an interview taped over the weekend and shown Monday morning on Today, NBC's Matt Lauer implored President Bush to consider raising taxes in a second term and asserted that pro-American feelings since 9/11 have degenerated. "After 9/11 there was never a greater outpouring of support and compassion," Lauer lectured. "Here we are three years later and, as I mentioned, in parts of the Arab world we have never been more hated. We've separated ourselves from some traditional allies." Bush tried to correct him: "Actually, that's not a necessarily true statement."

2. ABC's Shipman Tells Cheney He's Labeled "Mr. Doom and Gloom"
Good morning, Vice President Darth Vader! ABC's Good Morning America touted a "rare" interview with the "ultra-private" Vice President Cheney this morning, an interview taped some time ago in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and refreshed with new sound bites from Cheney over the weekend. Reporter Claire Shipman hurled a number of insulting names at Cheney -- telling him he's been called "evil genius, Darth Vader, architect of war, Mr. Doom and Gloom" -- then asked, "Does that bug you?"

3. Pressing McCain on Swift Vets, No Room for GOP Moderates?
John McCain was interviewed on all three networks this morning, and was pressed with ten questions full of objections to the ads of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, five of them from ABC's Charles Gibson. CBS's Harry Smith added the 2000 primary campaign, insisting to McCain and his wife Cindy that Bush's treatment of McCain was "hurtful, and both of you said so at the time." ABC and NBC both played up McCain's disagreements with Bush, with Gibson insisting "some people" say "there's really no room for moderate Republicans" in the GOP.

4. Reporters Fudge Record to Cast McCain as Pro-Abortion
Do reporters just assume that John McCain shares their liberal views? While the networks played up Republican party disunity between conservatives and moderates, and highlighted the social issues in the party platform (something they didn't do to the Democrats in Boston), they seemed to ignore the fact that John McCain regularly votes with pro-lifers on abortion and has taken a pragmatic "not-needed-yet stand" -- as opposed to outright opposition -- on a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA).

5. Reuters Editor Sends E-mail Blasting Abortion Foes
A Reuters editor denounced the pro-life agenda of the National Right to Life Committee, the Washington Post reported Monday morning. Todd Eastham sent a hostile reply after he received a National Right to Life press release via e-mail. "Where's your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children?" he demanded. "Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them?"

6. Meredith Vieira Marched in NYC Protests Against Iraq War
Meredith Vieira, the former CBS 60 Minutes reporter and current co-host of ABC's The View, announced to viewers Monday that she attended the Sunday anti-Bush protest in New York, insisting "I didn't go anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. I'm still so upset about this war and I'm so proud I live in a country where you can protest." Barbara Walters added that the current focus on Vietnam and John Kerry "doesn't make any sense."


NBC's Matt Lauer Presses President Bush
to Raise Taxes

NBC's Matt Lauer In an interview taped over the weekend and shown Monday morning on Today, NBC's Matt Lauer implored President Bush to consider raising taxes in a second term and asserted that pro-American feelings since 9/11 have degenerated. "After 9/11 there was never a greater outpouring of support and compassion," Lauer lectured. "Here we are three years later and, as I mentioned, in parts of the Arab world we have never been more hated. We've separated ourselves from some traditional allies." Bush rejected Lauer's premise: "Actually, that's not a necessarily true statement," and he cited governments such as Pakistan's which have become greater partners with the United States since 2001.

The interview was conducted Saturday aboard the Bush campaign bus in Ohio. This morning's excerpts did not include one comment from Bush that received wide play over the weekend: his statement that he thought John Kerry's service in Vietnam was "more heroic" than his stint as a pilot with the Texas Air National Guard. The Today show ran just under 11 minutes with Bush during the 7am hour, and even though Lauer promised "more of my interview with President Bush later this morning," Today's 9am hour included only a shorter version of the same questions and answers that viewers had seen during the first half hour of the show.

MRC's Megan McCormack caught how Lauer began by telling Bush that "here in Ohio, you won the state by about 165,000 votes in the year 2000. In the last three years, they've lost about 200,000 jobs in this state. How do you look those at those people who may be out of work and say 'Re-hire me'?"

He seemed incredulous when Bush said he thought he'd win Ohio. "You do? They're struggling in a lot of places here." Lauer also painted the President's tax cuts as a failure: "In terms of the predicted number of jobs that were supposed to be created by your tax cuts, you haven't gotten them." Bush replied that 1,500,000 jobs had been created since the tax cuts became effective.

Lauer then brought up the budget deficit, projected to be $445 billion this year. Bush noted that was lower than previously estimated. Lauer asked, "Does the deficit matter?" Bush replied that it did, in the long run, and said his administration had a plan to reduce it by half over the next five years.

Lauer presumed Bush's plan would fail: "If the deficit doesn't come down, if you can't pay it down by half by 2008, will you raise taxes?"

Bush told him, "It's going to come down by half. That's the goal."

But Lauer insisted: "If it doesn't?" Bush told him "raising taxes now would be a disaster."

A few minutes later, Lauer instructed Bush to "think about the last three years, if you will. I mean, the day after 9/11 there was never a greater outpouring of support and compassion to the United States than in those days. I mean, in Tehran they held candlelight vigils. The flags were at half staff in Turkey and France and Germany, gatherings in the street. Here we are three years later, and as I mentioned in parts of the Arab world, polls show we have never been more hated. We've separated ourselves from some traditional allies."

Bush began objecting when Lauer used the phrase "never been more hated," telling Lauer: "Actually, that's not a necessarily true statement. America has, unfortunately, throughout the history of the Middle East, and elsewhere, there have been periods where we have disliked, and periods when we've been liked, depending on the decisions made by the country."

Lauer persisted: "If you look in places like Pakistan and Jordan and they asked the people there do you support suicide attacks against Americans or western interests, something like 60 or 70 percent of the people in those countries say yes we support it."

Bush countered that "Their leadership in Pakistan is strongly on the hunt for al-Qaeda."

Lauer continued to object: "But you can't dispute the fact that there is enormous growing discontent and I want to use the word hatred and if you think it's too strong, we can argue that." Bush volunteered that, "when they see a free Afghanistan emerge, and when they see a free Iraq emerge they will understand why we made the decisions we made."

Lauer tried one last time: "All I'm asking is how did we go from this period of great compassion and support, three years later and we got this issue that we're talking about."

Afterwards, Lauer closed with a promise: "And we're going to have more of my interview with President Bush later this morning, as well as tomorrow on Today. Tomorrow we'll talk about what the President once termed the Axis of Evil: Iraq -- where we've been, where we're going -- and Iran and North Korea -- the threats posed by those two countries."

Of course, the 9am showing did not include anything viewers had not seen at 7am.

ABC's Shipman Tells Cheney He's Labeled
"Mr. Doom and Gloom"

Good morning, Vice President Darth Vader! ABC's Good Morning America touted a "rare" interview with the "ultra-private" Vice President Cheney this morning, an interview taped some time ago in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and refreshed with new soundbites from Cheney over the weekend. Reporter Claire Shipman hurled a number of insulting names at Cheney -- informing him that he's been called "evil genius, Darth Vader, architect of war, Mr. Doom and Gloom" -- then asked him "Does that bug you?"

Shipman also raised Cheney's lack of military service during Vietnam: "In 1989, you were quoted as saying you had other priorities than serving in Vietnam. Do you ever look back and say, 'Boy, I wish I had served and had experienced that part of American life'?"

After Cheney told her that a number of past wartime leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt did not serve in the military, Shipman persisted: "I just meant personally, when you are in a position now twice where you're running wars, do you ever look back and say, 'That's an experience that might have been interesting'?"

Cheney told her: "I never found it all that useful to spend time looking back."

MRC's Jessica Anderson transcribed the segment, which began with Diane Sawyer's introduction from the convention floor: "And now, a rare interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. As we said, he's the man making news heading into this convention. And he's a famously private man, but ABC's Claire Shipman traveled all the way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a conversation, and she joins us this morning from Madison Square Garden up there. Claire."

From the ABC News skybox, Shipman began her report by getting Cheney's reaction to the Swift Boat Veteran for Truth ads against John Kerry: "Diane, it was indeed unusual access to the most powerful Vice President this country has ever known. We were even able to catch up with him yesterday on the eve of the convention to ask him about the issue that's been dominating the campaign lately, those Swift Boat attack ads on Senator Kerry. Like the President, he said he thinks all third-party ads should be banned, but he said something surprising. Even though a Time magazine poll shows that 77 percent of the country has seen those ads, the Vice President said he hasn't seen them."

Shipman, talking to Cheney in New York City: "Do you think those particular ads are wrong?" Cheney told her that he hadn't looked at them to form a judgment.

Then Shipman moved to the main part of the interview, conducted in Wyoming: "He's a man who does not like to give much away, but the ultra-private Vice President invited us inside for an unprecedented look at his other life. Images you've never seen of him, his family on their home turf, Wyoming, where his dry demeanor was forged."

After showing pictures of Cheney leading his four-year-old granddaughter on her first horseback ride, Shipman confronted Cheney with the negative caricature the media has helped draw: "A few things people say about you -- I'm sure you've heard them and not all of them are your opponents, many are your friends: the evil genius, Darth Vader, architect of war, Mr. Doom and Gloom. Some days it certainly seems as though everything that's negative or controversial about the administration gets put at your feet. Does that bug you?"

Cheney's simple response: "No."

Shipman was similarly frustrated when she tried to get Cheney to expound on his position against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which President Bush supports. Cheney, who has a lesbian daughter, said last week that whether or not "gay marriages" ought to be allowed is a matter best left to state governments. He told Shipman, "We're about to select the next President of the United States. There are huge issues to talk about, and I think questions about my daughter's private life are inappropriate."

But Shipman wanted more: "But a lot of people are in a similar position and they listen very closely to what you would say on that."

Cheney told her: "Well, I was asked a public policy question, it's been asked and I've answered it."

Shipman ended with a preview of Tuesday morning's segment: "Part Two of our interview with the Vice President tomorrow on Good Morning America, some candid talk on Iraq, on intelligence failings and also his favorite past time, fly fishing -- he even gives me a few pointers. Diane?"

Pressing McCain on Swift Vets, No Room
for GOP Moderates?

Arizona Senator John McCain was interviewed on all three networks this morning, and was pressed with ten questions full of objections to the ads of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, five of them from ABC's Charles Gibson. CBS's Harry Smith added the 2000 primary campaign, insisting to McCain and his wife Cindy that Bush's treatment of McCain was "hurtful, and both of you said so at the time." ABC and NBC both played up McCain's disagreements with Bush, with Gibson insisting "some people" say "there's really no room for moderate Republicans" in the GOP.

On ABC's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson found Gibson began by peppering McCain with five questions on the Swift Vet ads: "Senator, let me start asking you about the Swift Boat ads. You have called them dishonest and dishonorable. Why won't the President disown them, condemn them?"

McCain: "The President has condemned the 527s and he's agreed to work to try to make these organizations live under the same campaign finance contributions as other campaigns are. In other words, this is dirty money. The President, I believe -- of course I want him to denounce this ad specifically."
Gibson: "But why won't he, Senator?"
McCain: "But we also maybe should have some of the ads that are attacking President Bush and calling him a liar denounced as well."

Gibson tried another approach as the two sat on the GOP convention floor: "But a new poll, 77 percent of the people have seen these ads and they've registered in their consciousness....These ads attack the war record of a man who served in Vietnam, where you served. They are having more impact than any other ads. You've campaigned with the President. He even gave you a kiss on the forehead the other day -- I'll ask you about that in a minute -- but have you said to him, 'Mr. President, you need to disown these, they disgrace your campaign'?"

McCain: "I have not talked to him in the last week or so. I did talk to him about the 527s, going to court and to legislatively to act to bring them under control."

Gibson: "But that shouldn't be necessary. The Federal Elections Commission ought to take care of that, shouldn't they?" McCain denounced the FEC as useless.

Gibson followed up: "The head of the Swift Boat Veterans has said he's going to keep pummeling Kerry with these ads right up to election day. What do you think of that?"
McCain replied, "As I said, I think it's disgraceful and I wish that the ads that are calling President Bush a liar and questioning his integrity would be stopped as well." He also mourned reopening wounds from Vietnam.

Next, Gibson highlighted McCain's disagreements with Bush: "You're going to give a speech supporting the President tonight. Just in five minutes I sat down, on a piece of paper, and wrote down the issues on which you disagree with this President: Patients Bill of Rights, tax cuts, global warming, oil drilling in Alaska, the gay marriage amendment, more troops in Iraq."

McCain rejected Gibson's attempt at division: "And I could give you another list on free trade, on support for going to Afghanistan, support for our effort in Iraq, deregulation, telecommunications reform -- there's another long list of issues that I could show you that I'm also in agreement with the President on. Of course we've disagreed on some specific issues and some important ones, but the overriding issue, the transcendent issue is the War On Terror and I believe that President Bush has proven himself the leader that we need for the next four years."

Gibson asked of Bush, "Do you think he'd be better in that war than Senator Kerry?"
McCain: "Yes."
Gibson: "You do? Why?"
McCain: "Yes, because I think he's proven himself. I'm not saying that John Kerry is weak -- I'm sure he would do a good job. This President has proven himself, has already proven himself on September 14th, not very long from here, not very far from here where he rallied the nation."

Gibson wrapped up with a little liberal cynicism: "Let me ask you what I suspect is probably not your favorite question, but there are some people who say John McCain doesn't fit in this Party any more, there's really no room for moderate Republicans, and the reason he's campaigning so strongly for President Bush is his own presidential ambitions for 2008 have not died and he needs to get good-guy points."

Over on CBS's Early Show, co-host Harry Smith welcomed both McCain and his wife Cindy. MRC analyst Brian Boyd noted he began with three Swift Vet ad questions:

# "I want to start with you. I see your picture and name in print, in the Daily News here in New York yesterday talking about the swift boat controversy of which you are not a fan. How come?" He was talking to Cindy McCain, who called the controversy "completely unnecessary" on CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown. She said to Smith it was "time to move on" from Vietnam.

# "Some people have suggested over the weekend that this, people are still trying to fight the Vietnam war. That that's what this is all about. Does that ring true to you?" John McCain lamented that in some respects that he felt that was true.

# "You called the attacks dishonest and dishonorable. The President has said he believes that John Kerry is telling the truth about his service in Vietnam. Who's not telling the truth?" John McCain said it's hard to tell in the fog of war.

Smith then returned to the 2000 primary campaign, asking Cindy McCain: "Were you surprised at how staunch an ally your husband has become to George Bush especially considering what happened to your husband during the campaign four years ago in South Carolina?"

She answered, "Not at all, not at all. We put that behind us a long time ago. It's important now to make sure that we reelect George Bush." When her husband mocked the notion they just put it behind them, Smith took up the defense: "It wasn't just. Honestly, it wasn't just. It was hurtful and both of you said so at the time."

Smith closed by asking three questions on Bush's handling of the war on terror (one of those on Iraq in particular), one on John Kerry's remarks about an Iran policy, and four questions about McCain's 2008 ambitions, including more liberal cynicism:" "People have suggested there's some quid pro quo here. That your support of the President is in exchange for fill in the blank."

Due to their exclusive Bush interview, NBC's Matt Lauer was the last to the McCain party at 7:45. MRC analyst Megan McCormack found that Lauer began not with the Swift Vet ads, but with personal questions about McCain being in demand in both parties, including (in a bow to the liberal cynics) quoting McCain's mother Roberta in the New York Times insisting her son is "not enough of a phony" to support the President without believing in him.

When McCain said he and George W. Bush have a lot in common to talk about, Lauer replied: "Politically, you have some things that are not in common, as well. You disagreed with the president on some very key issues. You didn't think he used enough troops going into Iraq, you disagree with the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, you disagree on stem cell research, disagreed on tax cuts. So is it hard to stand up on a podium and say 'but this is the right guy at the right time for this country?'"

McCain said they agreed on "a variety of other issues," adding that just "because you have some specific policy disagreements does not mean that we don't share an overall philosophy."

Lauer then ended with two Swift Vet questions: "I know you want to get past Vietnam but there are been so much talk about these Swift Boat ads against John Kerry, questioning his version of the story in Vietnam. This is what you said, you said quote, 'It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me', and you went on to say you deplore this kind of politics. I believe you are referring to back in 2000 when questions were raised about your commitment to veterans. Does it bother you at all that some people connected to the Bush administration have supported this group that's placed these ads?"

After McCain again attacked the FEC and mourned re-opening Vietnam wounds, Lauer added: "But you said to the President publically, and I would imagine in private as well, you said, denounce these ads. Come out, stand up against them. And while he's said things about 527s, like you just said, he's not stood up against this particular ad. How hard does that make it for you to continue to support him?"

McCain: "The President has said that he believes that John Kerry's service is honorable, he also has attacked the 527s themselves. I would hope that of course he would denounce the ad specifically, but I also hope that maybe John Kerry would denounce some of the ads that have been specifically and personally attacked the president."

For the record, on the first morning of the Democratic convention, July 26, the networks interviewed Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, but neither of them were asked about where they disagreed with Kerry, and were certainly not asked about his Vietnam record. To see the contrast, go to: www.mrc.org

Reporters Fudge Record to Cast McCain
as Pro-Abortion

Do reporters just assume that John McCain shares their liberal views? While the networks played up Republican party disunity between conservatives and moderates, and highlighted the social issues in the party platform (something they didn't do to the Democrats in Boston), they seemed to ignore the fact that John McCain regularly votes with pro-lifers on abortion and has taken a pragmatic "not-needed-yet stand" -- as opposed to outright opposition -- on a Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA).

As mentioned in item #3 above, ABC's Charles Gibson highlighted the FMA, and NBC's Matt Lauer insisting McCain "disagreed" with the FMA. But there's more. On CBS, within a minute of the show's opening, reporter Bill Plante argued that "the speakers won't reflect the party's official position on hot-button social issues such as gay marriage and abortion. This convention will showcase speakers that who don't necessarily hold those views, including Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain." The Plante story was repeated in the 8am half hour.

Doesn't that ignore the presumably conservative-pleasing language in the speeches of Vice President Cheney and President Bush, not to mention conservative Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who will deliver the keynote address on Wednesday?

On NBC, Katie Couric asked Tim Russert: "Meanwhile, part of the Republican plan during the convention is to highlight moderate Republicans like Governor Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani, people like that. But yet, these are not necessarily the faces of the party as defined by the platform. Why the disparity there?"

Russert replied: "Katie, they want to put on a compassionate image. They want to say this is the face of the Republican Party."

Couric: "How do those speakers differ though, from the platform, Tim?"

Russert: "If you take Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, George Pataki the governor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the five major key players in this convention, disagree with the party platform on abortion rights, gay rights, gun control, and stem cell research. It's really striking. Now, the Republicans will counter, well a lot of Democrats disagreed with the war and John Kerry and John Edwards all voted for it. But this is really, really something to behold when you see these faces of the Republican Party which are so different than the faces that govern the Republican Party in the Congress of the United States."

The networks did not highlight internal Democratic struggle on the Iraq war during their week in Boston. But their characterization of Senator McCain's actual stands are at best muddled. For example, the National Right to Life Committee's Web site contains a scorecard on the important Senate votes in the current Congress. McCain scored 82 percent (or 9 out of 11), voting with the NRLC on eight abortion bills, plus the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. He only differed with the NRLC on the Medicare Modernization Act, which the NRLC thought didn't do enough to protect seniors from euthanasia. So blurring him in with pro-choice Republicans is pretty sloppy journalism.

See the votes at www.nrlc.org: www.capwiz.com

On the Federal Marriage Amendment, McCain's press statement on July 13 doesn't sound like a pro-gay manifesto, but rather a concern about leaving the marriage issue to the states on the principles of federalism. Noting he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, he explained:
"Currently, 39 states have defense of marriage laws in place. And thus far, there has yet to be a successful challenge to DOMA in federal court. Mr. President, I think the Defense of Marriage Act represents the quintessentially federalist and Republican approach to this issue. The constitutional amendment we are debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans. It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed, and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them, and which they feel capable of resolving should it confront them, again according to local standards and customs."

See the whole statement on McCain's Senate Web site: mccain.senate.gov

Reuters Editor Sends E-mail Blasting
Abortion Foes

A Reuters editor denounced the pro-life agenda of the National Right to Life Committee, the Washington Post reported Monday morning. Todd Eastham sent a hostile reply after he received a National Right to Life press release via e-mail. "Where's your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children?" he demanded. "Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them?"

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz included Eastham's rant in his Monday "Media Notes" column, including a re-print of the Reuters editor's rejection of the National Right to Life Committee's agenda:
"What's your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children you people want to bring into the world? Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them when you, their parents & the system fail them? Oh, sorry. All that money has been earmarked to pay off the Bush deficit. Give me a frigging break, will you?"

Kurtz included the Eastham's reaction: "Saying he doesn't usually edit stories involving abortion, [Eastham] responds that he read the release 'as a personal political solicitation and was not responding in my capacity as an editor. I didn't intend this as a professional communication.' Reuters spokesman Stephen Naru says it's 'unfortunate' that an editor 'chose to offer his personal opinion.'"

For Kurtz's entire Monday column, which also features a profile of conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham, go to: www.washingtonpost.com

Meredith Vieira Marched in NYC Protests
Against Iraq War

ABC's Meredith Vieira Meredith Vieira, the former CBS 60 Minutes reporter and current co-host of ABC's The View, announced to viewers Monday that she attended the Sunday anti-Bush protest in New York, insisting: "I didn't go anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. I'm still so upset about this war and I'm so proud I live in a country where you can protest." Barbara Walters added that the current focus on Vietnam and John Kerry "doesn't make any sense."

After a discussion about co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck's upcoming Tuesday night speech at the Republican National Committee on fighting breast cancer, Vieira proclaimed: "I don't know if you saw the cover of the New York Post, but I believe this is me right here on the cover [which had a picture of hundreds of people]. I went to that demonstration yesterday, not because I'm, you know what, I didn't go anti-Bush or pro-Kerry, I'm still so upset about this war and I'm so proud I live in a country where you can protest and it was really [applause]....I went with my daughter, Lily, and my husband, Richard. My sons didn't want to protest. They chose to not go, or even just experience it. I wish they had because it was peaceful, the New York City police department, phenomenal. They did such a wonderful job. They had 40,000 of them out there and the people that demonstrated I would say, by and large, there were a few probably, I didn't see anybody that was out of hand at all."

Star Jones: "Aren't you impressed that your kids made choices? You know, one son decided ideologically he just disagreed with you, and he didn't want to be there so that nobody could misinterpret his presence."
Vieira: "Absolutely, and the other one said that as he was doing Game Boy, so I'm not sure what he really felt. But Lily went and it was just a really wonderful thing. And there were a lot pro-Bush folks along the side who were also saying, giving their two cents, so it was interesting just to experience."
Barbara Walters: "It was interesting when you mentioned the war, that here it is, and instead of discussing the Iraq War that much, we're discussing Vietnam war 35 years later. Doesn't make any sense."
Vieira replied: "I know, I know."

To view a picture of Vieira at the march, with an anti-Bush sign behind her, check the posted version of this CyberAlert for the picture The View showed on Monday morning.

-- Brent Baker