Networks Jump on Liberal Group's Anti-DeLay "Stroller Protest" --6/12/2003
Nets Celebrate Congress "Finally" Agreeing to Prescription Plan
"Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," Iraqis Like Us for Our Food
"Top Ten Things Heard in Line to Buy Hillary Clinton's Book"
Correction: The June 11 CyberAlert cited a posting on the Nation's magazine Web site which quoted from a recent anti-conservative diatribe by Bill Moyers. The CyberAlert credited the Nation item to Bill Nichols. His name is actually John Nichols.
ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC on Wednesday all jumped on a Children's Defense Fund (CDF) publicity gimmick of having a few mothers with strollers protest against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's opposition to raising the child credit by $400 per child for those earning between about $10,000 and $27,000 annually. But only NBC's Norah O'Donnell bothered to note that those in that income class pay no income taxes.
ABC's Good Morning America aided the left-wing publicity effort by interviewing CDF chief Marian Edelman on Wednesday morning as she stood on Capitol Hill in front of a bunch of people with strollers and railed about "12 million left behind by unjust the tax bill." While Charles Gibson at least challenged Edelman with how Democrats tried to block the entire tax cut bill, he never alerted morning viewers to the baselessness of the whole protest given how those in question already live income tax-free.
CNN hyped the event, involving barely a couple of dozen people, with a big story on Wednesday's Inside Politics during which Kate Snow discovered the phoniness of it all, but that didn't dampen CNN's enthusiasm: "Most of the families CNN talked to didn't know why DeLay was targeted, didn't know the details of the partisan battle over the tax credit. And most of these moms are getting a check this summer for the $400 increase in the child tax credit signed into law by President Bush."
So the protesters aren't even in the income class in question. But Snow just proceeded to run a soundbite from a woman who said she doesn't need a tax cut and complained about all the tax cuts going to "the wealthiest top one percent."
Though federal spending will continue to soar despite the tax cut, CBS's Dan Rather bizarrely highlighted how some have started to call Bush's tax cut a "services cut package." Over video of the strollers, Joie Chen trumpeted: "Armed with their toddlers in strollers, activists pushed up Capitol Hill toward House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office to protest his blocking a Senate bill that gives a child tax refund for low-income families left out of President Bush's $350 billion tax cut package passed just last month."
NBC's Norah O'Donnell championed the gimmick: "Moms on a mission took their strollers to Capitol Hill today, urging Congress to immediately expand the child tax credit and include millions of children in low-income families." But she at least squeezed hin how "Republican Leader Tom DeLay said, quote, 'That ain't gonna happen,' that people who don't pay income taxes should not get a tax break."
Now, a fuller rundown of the June 11 stories prompted on Wednesday by the CDF's publicity gimmick, in time sequence from morning to night:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson set up the 8am half hour segment, as observed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson: "The President's tax cut, which was recently passed by both houses of Congress, had among other things a child tax credit, but at the last minute, about 12 million children lost that tax credit, children of lower-income working families. Well, a bill to restore those families to getting the child tax credit has passed the Senate, but it's stalled in the House because of opposition from Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, and opponents are protesting this morning, led by Children's Defense Fund President Marian Wright Edelman, who is joining us from Capitol Hill, along with a few of the folks with their kids in strollers who are going to be involved in this protest today. Marian Wright Edelman, good to see you again."
Gibson's questions to Edelman on Capitol Hill with a few people with strollers behind her:
- "What's happening today?"
- "Well, how are you trying to deliver the message? I understand you have a pile of cancelled checks."
- "Well, but the Republicans argue, look, the Democrats tried to block the tax cut totally anyway, they didn't want one. Now they're trying to extend it -- they can't have it both ways."
- "But it's not whether the child tax care, credit will be extended, it's whether it will be extended just by itself or whether it'll be tied to other cuts, more cuts, right?"
Gibson wrapped up: "Alright, Marian Wright Edelman, I appreciate your being with us, backed up by a whole lot of strollers and parents with their kids, ready to go up on the Hill."
-- CNN's Inside Politics. Judy Woodruff announced: "And now we come back here to Washington and to Capitol Hill and a potent political issue here and a child-friendly photo-op to go with it. It all comes the day before a House vote on extending a child tax credit to lower-income families. Democrats don't like the bill or Majority Leader Tom DeLay's efforts to block a Senate version that Democrats would prefer. Here now, our congressional correspondent Kate Snow."
Snow began over matching video: "A made-for-TV rally orchestrated by the Children's Defense Fund, the focus by Democratic speakers on extending the child tax credit increase to millions of lower-income Americans."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned: "As for President Bush's domestic agenda, you might think the controversy over his tax cut package is over. But some opponents have started to call it a 'services cut package.' Congress has passed it, the President signed it, and millions of Americans will get about $400 tax refund checks starting this month. Later, opponents say, more cuts in services will follow. But now there's a fight over amending the whole package, whatever you call it, and CBS's Joie Chen reports that fight grows louder by the day."
Chen began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Armed with their toddlers in strollers, activists pushed up Capitol Hill toward House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office to protest his blocking a Senate bill that gives a child tax refund for low-income families left out of President Bush's $350 billion tax cut package passed just last month. DeLay had already left the office, but his spokesman, armed with his two-year-old daughter, got the message."
Note how the Republicans are "conservative," but CDF is not liberal to CBS News, nor to ABC, CNN or NBC.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw announced: "As Congress wrestles with the prescription drug benefit for Medicare, the issue of child tax credits for lower-income families is stalled on Capitol Hill. House Republicans are defying the President's request to pass that bill. Here's NBC's Norah O'Donnell.
O'Donnell reported: "Moms on a mission took their strollers to Capitol Hill today, urging Congress to immediately expand the child tax credit and include millions of children in low-income families. President Bush did not include the tax credit in his original tax plan, but once Democrats charged Republicans were short-changing working families, he threw his support behind it."
Every time the tax cut debate arose over the past couple of years network anchors and reporters were most concerned about the high "cost" of any tax cut, who would most benefit and who would not -- see item #1 above for proof of the media's obsessive interest in who was supposedly left out of the latest tax cut. But with talk this week of a bi-partisan compromise agreement to create a new entitlement program in Medicare for prescription drugs, the networks have not displayed any interest in outlining who pays (those at lower incomes still working) and who benefits (the elderly, the wealthiest age group), and when they mention the cost it's not in the context of a big price tag, but in how it's not high enough, as network reporters campaign in favor of Congress "finally" creating the new service which will give "new hope" and "badly needed help" to struggling seniors.
On Wednesday night, for instance, ABC's Linda Douglass complained that "Senators voted earlier this year to limit the cost of any plan to $400 billion over 10 years. So the Senate plan has limits." Wednesday morning on Today, Campbell Brown also stressed how it's an inadequate amount: "The cost of the plan, $400 billion. But advocates for seniors, like the powerful American Association for Retired Persons, say it's still not enough."
Every network highlighted a elderly person who needs help to pay for their prescriptions, but I don't recall any stories before either tax cut passed which focused on struggling families which could really use a tax cut.
Back on May 21, CBS's Dan Rather insisted upon referring to the compromise $350 billion over ten years tax cut as "President Bush's big tax cut plan," but on Tuesday night he didn't mention the cost of the prescription plan or refer to it as big, though at $400 billion over ten years it will cost more than the tax cut and, since it will not end in ten years, much more beyond that. Instead, Rather portrayed it as long overdue:
Chen chronicled how paying for prescriptions is a "daily concern" at senior center before she trumpeted how "some badly needed help may be on the way, a $400 billion plan outlined today would give all seniors a prescription drug benefit."
Minutes later, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, Dan Rather tied the tax cuts to a rising deficit without noting how a new entitlement will surely also do so: "The Congressional Budget Office is upping its projection of the federal budget deficit by 33 percent, largely because of the Bush tax cut. The CBO now estimates a record American deficit of more than $400 billion."
Wednesday morning, June 11, on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught how Campbell Brown championed the prescription drug coverage expansion: "The President travels to Chicago today then another trip this week to promote a prescription drug plan even though it's already clear the President is not gonna get everything he wants. New hope for the 40 million seniors on Medicare. Next week the Senate is expected to pass a bipartisan plan finally adding a prescription drug benefit. But it's not the plan President Bush supported. Under the Senate bill seniors would pay $35 a month and the first $275 each year. Then insurance would cover half the cost, up to $3450. After that seniors would pay for drugs until their total out-of-pocket expenses reached $3700. Insurance would then pick up the rest of the tab."
The night before, on the June 10 NBC Nightly News, Brown focused on an elderly woman and proclaimed: "Now new hope for Cathy and other seniors. Next week the Senate is expected to pass a bi-partisan plan finally adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare."
Over on ABC's June 11 World News Tonight on Wednesday evening, Linda Douglass saw no downside to the idea: "The President and the Congress are hurrying now to pass this prescription drug plan. They do not want to face the voters in this, next year's election and tell them that they've failed one more time. Seventy-one-year old Eva Baer-Schenkein suffers from hypertension and other health problems. She cannot afford the cost of her prescription drugs and is tired of waiting for Congress to help her."
To the Washington press corps it's very simple: Tax cuts are bad and increase the deficit, but higher spending is always good and has no impact on the deficit.
Today, the sixth installment of "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," quotes drawn from actor Sean Penn's 4,000-plus word ad which filled a full page of the May 30 New York Times. In this excerpt, Penn whines: "Our television channels show images of grateful and liberated Iraqis with no acknowledgment that true poverty will bring the best of us to our knees, where we would honor any individual or nation who held food."
As noted in the June 4 CyberAlert, it's impossible to sum up Penn's diatribe, so I'll defer to Tony Snow, who in his end of the show "Final Thoughts" on the June 1 Fox News Sunday, offered this apt description of the screed: "It throbs with loopy desperation, as if he were trying to persuade authorities that aliens from Alpha Centauri had instructed him to scale a TV tower, put on a hat made of foil and await lightning. You know the old theory that a chimp, given enough time in front of a typewriter, would pound out the Gettysburg Address? Well, this is a simian rough draft."
For more of Snow's take and for the first installment of "Penn's Pugnacity of the Day," culled from the first three paragraphs of his diatribe headlined "KILROY'S STILL HERE," see the June 4 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org
For the fourth installment, lifted from the tenth, eleventh and twelve paragraphs: www.mediaresearch.org
In re-evaluating the responsibility of citizenship and U.S. foreign policy in the post-9/11 age, there have been disparate opinions among Americans about how supporting our troops would now be defined, how supporting our principles would now be defined, and how the "rule of law" would now be upheld. In what way would dissent be most productive within a system of government that does not exist without questioning by its people? We accepted that journalists were "embedded" with reliance on their subject, the military, to keep them from harm's way. We found that our Secretary of State presented plagiarized and fictitious evidence of WMD's in Iraq to the American people and the world. We would rely on this, our government, acting alone, to uncover those weapons of mass destruction said to be possessed by the Iraqis and originally said to have justified our assault. A similar justification came out of military sources in Baghdad, when an American tank fired on journalists on the sixth floor of the Palestine Hotel in response to shots claimed to have been fired on them from that building's lobby. In a hotel full of international journalists, not one heard the shots that the military reported to have preceded their "response". We would watch as the United Nations was described "unnecessary," rather than useful, if only as an oversight committee, inspiring some domestic and international faith in a new found American weapons inspections process that is covert at best. Any responsible person must ask, in whose hands our flag now waves and what perception the world may have of it in those hands.
Even as the New York Times presents unchallenging articles (see Judith Miller, April 21, 2003, "Prohibited Weapons") on a weapons inspections process now in place, unnoticed are the legitimate concerns about potential insertion of WMD evidence. Our television channels show images of grateful and liberated Iraqis with no acknowledgement that true poverty will bring the best of us to our knees, where we would honor any individual or nation who held food. Our knowledge and understanding of Arab culture and Islamic belief is sketchy at best. While Saddam Hussein was certainly a beast among men, and while his people, to any degree that we would presume comprehension, were under the thumb of brutal oppression in his hands, we must reflect as we triumph at the image of an American soldier cradling an Iraqi infant, with no curiosity as to the fate of its parents. And what of the shocking rise in leukemias and other cancers in Iraq due to depleted-uranium exposure and of the thousands of unexploded ordinances, both, gifts of U.S. artillary. Will we remember the hundreds of thousands of children who suffered slow and agonizing deaths by diarrhea? These primarily attributed to the U.S.-led sanctions in Iraq, where bombing of water treatment plants and an embargo on chlorine continued to ravage predominantly young victims. We must reflect on the certainty with which we were sold a war on the basis of what we now so expertly call WMDs. We must reflect on the resentment of the world, invited in our positioning ourselves as their police. With Syria, Iran, and North Korea on media hit lists, we must reflect on the availability of funds for violent crusades in the absence of funding crusades for healing the very real suffering of our own people and others.
END of Excerpt
For a PDF of the ad, go to Penn's Web site: www.seanpenn.com
For picture of Penn and a rundown of his movie roles, check the Internet Movie Database's page on him: us.imdb.com
We've passed the halfway mark in excerpts of the ad text. Another scintillating excerpt in the next CyberAlert.
From the June 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Things Heard in Line to Buy Hillary Clinton's Book." Late Show Web site: www.cbs.com
10. "At last we'll cut through the lies and get to the embellished, politically motivated truth"
9. "Do we get a discount if we've had sex with Bubba?"
8. "Hey, the Whitewater chapter is all shredded"
7. "Why ain't your husband king no more?"
6. "Hillary Clinton? Crap, I thought it was the new Harry Potter book"
5. "That Barnes and Noble cashier looks a lot like Al Gore"
4. "I hear the section about Bill is a pop-up book"
3. "The last time I was at one of these, Rosalyn Carter showed up drunk"
2. "Twenty-eight bucks for a book? That Lewinskys"
1. "I feel weird doing this with your wife right there, Mr. Clinton"
De-euphemizing #2, think of a word that begins with "b" which describes that for which Lewinsky is best known.
-- Brent Baker