In NH Exit Polls, Networks See "Bad News for the White House" --1/28/2004
2. No Matter What the Point, Jennings Showcases Bush-Bashing Bites
3. Russert: 80% Want Tax Cut Revoked, But FNC Notes Issue Hurt Dean
4. MSNBC Analyst Ron Reagan Jr. Accuses Bush of "Dementia"
5. Koppel Avoids Kerry's Liberal Record, But Not CNN and Others
6. CBS Uses Kay to Undermine Bush, But on NBC Kay Backs Iraq War
Correction: A January 26 CyberAlert item on a CBS Evening News story, about supposed "war profiteering" by Halliburton, quoted Dan Rather as saying: "The Halliburton company, formally run by Vice President Dick Cheney..." Cheney may indeed have been formal in how he ran the office, but that should have read "formerly."
Citing some exit poll numbers, several network reporters and analysts on Tuesday night sought to portray the anti-Bush attitude of voters in New Hampshire's Democratic primary as indicative of widespread anger at Bush from the electorate in general as they assumed the "independents" who voted were somehow people without liberal or Democratic predilections.
"Whichever Democrat wins," CBS's Bob Schieffer intoned, "these numbers are bad news for the White House...because four out of ten voters who cast ballots today were registered independents, which means dissatisfaction with Iraq and the economy is not just confined to Democrats." Schieffer found disillusion with a Republican President by Democratic primary voters "stunning" as he proceeded to run through their opposition to the Iraq war and view that the economy is in bad shape -- "all that in the only New England state that George Bush carried in the general election four years ago."
At about 7:35pm EST on MSNBC, Newsweek's Howard Fineman argued: "If I was sitting in Karl Rove's chair tonight, I would be worried by the size of this turnout because New Hampshire was the only New England state that went for George Bush in 2000. The expression of concern by all these people, who said by 9 to 1, that the economy wasn't where they wanted it to be, has got to be a warning bell tonight for the White House."
Minutes later on CNBC, Gloria Borger contended "it is not pretty" what New Hampshirites think of Bush, "and remember," she emphasized, "these are independents and Democrats as well." Running through opposition to the Iraq war, Borger repeated herself as she drove home her point: "I want to say this is independent voters as well as Democrats, Alan, so that could spell some trouble on the horizon for George W. Bush."
Fuller quotes for those three items:
-- CBS Evening News, before the polls closed. Dan Rather, from New Hampshire, set up Bob Schieffer's look at the exit polls: "As the night goes along here on CBS, we hope to tell you not only who won, but some of the why's. For that, we turn to our wise correspondent, Bob Schieffer. Bob, what was the mood of the voters today?"
Schieffer explained: "You know, Dan, mind you we have to remember this is the Democratic primary, so you have to expect some of this, but these are angry voters who do not like the way things are going. Overwhelmingly, they believe it was wrong to go to Iraq and that the economy is in bad shape, and whichever Democrat wins, these numbers are bad news for the White House. Why do I say that? Because four out of ten voters who cast ballots today were registered independents, which means dissatisfaction with Iraq and the economy is not just confined to Democrats. And, I must say, these numbers are stunning: 66 percent of today's voters believe it was wrong to go to Iraq, 71 percent believe the economy is in bad shape, and 38 percent said their family is worse off financially than it was four years ago. All that in the only New England state that George Bush carried in the general election four years ago."
-- MSNBC at about 7:35pm EST. Newsweek's Howard Fineman told Chris Matthews during the six-hour-long Hardball from New Hampshire: "President Bush is coming here in a couple of days. And the voters here are sending a message to him, all those Democrats and independents in record turnout. They're saying 'we're concerned.' If I was sitting in Karl Rove's chair tonight, I would be worried by the size of this turnout because New Hampshire was the only New England state that went for George Bush in 2000. The expression of concern by all these people, who said by 9 to 1, that the economy wasn't where they wanted it to be, has got to be a warning bell tonight for the White House."
-- CNBC's Capital Report, at about 7:40pm EST. During a discussion in New Hampshire with co-host Alan Murray, Gloria Borger contended, as transcribed by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
More than a few in the media sure hope so.
No matter what the theme, bashing Bush fits. To illustrate how New Hampshire Democrats, "and some independents too, are looking especially hard for someone to beat George Bush," ABC's Peter Jennings showcased a soundbite in which a man declared his disgust with Bush since "we've got men over in Iraq dying right now for money and oil." Jennings proceeded to assert that "more of them say they want a man who stands up for what he believes," but to represent that perspective, Jennings ran a clip not of a voter praising a Democrats' steadfastness, but of a woman delivering more Bush-bashing: "We need somebody strong to fight against that Bush ensemble up there [exasperated laugh]."
On Tuesday's World News Tonight, before the polls closed, Jennings recounted some exit poll numbers: "There was a lot of anti-war sentiment among Democrats and some independents, who could also vote in the primary today."
NBC's Tim Russert touted how the New Hampshire exit poll, which he stressed included both "Democrats and independents," found that "80 percent said, repeal part or all the tax cut." Looking at the numbers another way, however, only 33 percent want the tax cut "cancelled for all Americans" with 58 percent either wanting it "cancelled only for the wealthy" (48 percent) or for it to remain in place for all income tax payers (10 percent).
Over on FNC a few minutes before Russert spoke on the 9pm EST Dateline, Mort Kondracke noticed the aversion to tax hikes amongst primary voters and how it hurt Howard Dean, who advocated repealing the tax cuts for everyone: "56 percent of these voters in this primary said that they either wanted Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy to be cancelled or that the tax cuts be left entirely in place -- 56 percent. And only 34 percent wanted the Dean position, which was to cancel all the tax cuts."
As Brokaw and Russert stood in front of the Bedford Village Inn during an update during the 9pm EST Dateline, Russert offered this short synopsis of the exit poll findings: "Democrats and independents, 50 percent of them today, Tom, said 'angry.' That's the word they used. And 80 percent said, repeal part or all the tax cut. And 85 percent said they are worried about the economy. This state, which George Bush only carried by 7,000 votes in 2000, a lot of anxiety right now about his policies."
About 15 minutes earlier on FNC, however, at 8:52pm EST, Mort Kondracke took an anti-tax hike lesson from the outcome: "There's one fascinating item in the exit polls: 56 percent of these voters in this primary said that they either wanted Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy to be cancelled or that the tax cuts be left entirely in place -- 56 percent. And only 34 percent wanted the Dean position, which was to cancel all the tax cuts. Among those-"
Three locations for the exit poll numbers done for the consortium of ABC News, AP, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News, but each with slightly different numbers:
The NBC/MSNBC version: www.msnbc.msn.com
CBS's version: www.election.cbsnews.com
And FNC's, as a PDF: www.foxnews.com
Ron Reagan Jr., on MSNBC Tuesday night, sure dispelled the notion of anyone who assumed that he is any kind of conservative of friend of a Republican President. Just past 11pm EST, Reagan, whose father suffers from Alzheimer's disease, suggested that President George W. Bush has "dementia." Reagan, whom MSNBC brought aboard to stand in front of a national map in order to discuss upcoming primaries, commented about how David Kay concluded that "Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction." Reagan then sarcastically asked: "What does George W. Bush say? 'Well, I still think they had them.' That's not just spin. That's dementia, you know."
Reagan, a veteran of Fox News in its pre-FNC days, stood in front of the map, with a fire going in a fire place behind him, and commented a couple of times an hour about where the Democratic candidates may next battle it out. Just past 11pm EST, he opined on another topic:
John Kerry's liberalness didn't escape the attention of some network anchors and reporters, such as MSNBC's Chris Matthews, CNN's coverage team of Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield, as well as CBS's Dan Rather, though in an interview few saw, as each pressed him to respond to GOP talking points about his record. NBC's Tom Brokaw alluded to Kerry's liberal record at the end of a question, but on ABC's Nightline Ted Koppel stuck to horse race and mood questions.
Koppel's questions to Kerry: Whether he's the presumptive nominee, is beating Bush the "central issue" to Democratic voters, "what are the pitfalls that lie ahead" for him in the primaries, how he would explain the U.S. primary process to an imaginary visitor from Mars, if the system is the best way to pick a President and, finally, is he "starting to enjoy" the campaign? Kerry, naturally, used each question as a prompt to spout off his standard liberal mantra.
Elsewhere, network reporters noticed Kerry's liberal views and how the Bush team will make them an issue:
-- MSNBC, 8:50pm EST. The MRC's Brad Wilmouth caught this query from Chris Matthews to Dee Dee Myers: "Will this big, tall, French-looking, Yankee-looking, Yankee-talking aristocrat who has this strong liberal voting record to the left of Teddy Kennedy sell on the road in America? Will he play in Peoria?"
-- CNN 10:15pm EST. Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield each posed a question to Kerry:
# Blitzer, after congratulating Kerry on his win: "As you already know, Senator Kerry, the Republicans, many Republicans are trying to brand you as nothing more than a Massachusetts liberal, a Democrat, a tax and spend liberal Democrat. How do you expect to project your message now outside of New Hampshire, outside of New England, outside of Iowa into the other states next week, South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, these other contests that are coming up?"
# Woodruff: "Senator Kerry, it's Judy Woodruff. I want to join Wolf congratulating you on your fine showing tonight in New Hampshire. But I want to follow up what Wolf said. It's not just the label of Massachusetts liberal Senator Kerry. It's a 20-year voting record in the Senate. We already hear Republicans pointing to votes on taxes, on same sex marriage, defense spending and guns and on and on that Republicans are going to try to use to keep those so-called red states red."
# Greenfield: "Senator Kerry, it's Jeff Greenfield. Bill Clinton became a two-term President by challenging Democrats on a lot of orthodoxies. What are you prepared to challenge the Democratic Party on?"
1985? Okay, what has he done in the last 19 years?
-- 10:30pm EST, Tom Brokaw with Kerry in an interview simulcast on MSNBC and CNBC, and maybe carried on NBC in some time zones, just not the EST: "Senator, some of the toughest attacks against you here in New Hampshire came from the second place finisher, Vermont Governor Howard Dean, saying you voted against Operation Desert Storm in 1991, you voted for this war against Iraq but then voted against the $87 billion. To be a devil's advocate for just a moment, I can see the Republicans in the White House taking those Dean comments, packaging them for their own benefit, and saying this is just another weather vane liberal from Massachusetts."
-- Dan Rather, in an interview with Kerry carried on CBS's Up to the Minute overnight show, but possibly run in Western time zones since it was conducted during the 10pm EST hour when EST/CST CBS affiliates were airing a Judging Amy re-run:
CBS's skewed take on David Kay's assessments. On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, John Roberts trumpeted how CIA Iraqi weapons inspector "Kay's findings that Iraq likely has no stockpiles of banned weapons have now cast serious doubt on the President's central claim as he took the nation to war" and Roberts lamented how "the White House today tried to steer the debate away from weapons back toward Saddam's record, renewing the nonexistent tie to 9/11." But President Bush made a perfectly reasonable assertion in the subsequent soundbite which did not support Roberts' suggestion of a baseless claim about Hussein being directly connected to 9/11: "Given the offense of September 11th, we know we could not trust the good intentions of Saddam Hussein because he didn't have any."
Roberts also ignored concerns of Kay which both ABC and NBC have found time to relay. On ABC's World News Tonight on Tuesday night, Terry Moran noted how Bush "aides point to several other things Kay has said, including: That Iraq was working to produce a biological weapon, using the poison ricin, up until last year; that Iraq tried to revive its efforts to produce nuclear weapons in 200 and 2001; and that Iraq had an extensive and forbidden missile program."
Tuesday morning on Today, Matt Lauer prompted Kay to outline how he "found that in 2000 and 2001 Saddam Hussein did actively try to develop and start a nuclear program" and, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, asked him: "So based on the information that you have, David, not what we had prior to the war, but you have, in your opinion, was it prudent to go to war? Was there an imminent threat?" Kay affirmed: "I think it was absolutely prudent. In fact, I think at the end of the inspection process we'll paint a picture of Iraq that was far more dangerous than even we thought it was before the war. It was of a system collapsing. It was a country that had the capability in weapons of mass destruction areas and in which terrorists, like ants to honey, were going after it."
The night before, Kay traveled to Bedford, New Hampshire to appear on Monday's NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw asked him about Democratic charges that Bush lied, but then proposed to Kay: "The President described Iraq as a gathering threat, a gathering danger. Was that an accurate description?" Kay agreed: "I think that's a very accurate description." Brokaw followed up: "But an imminent threat to the United States?" Kay warned: "Tom, an imminent threat is a political judgment. It's not a technical judgment. I think Baghdad was actually becoming more dangerous in the last two years than even we realized. Saddam was not controlling the society any longer. In the marketplace of terrorism and of WMD, Iraq well could have been that supplier if the war had not intervened."
But none of that came through in CBS's Tuesday night story. Dan Rather set up the January 27 piece, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "President Bush is playing down the statement of his former chief weapons hunter in Iraq that Saddam Hussein had no significant arsenal of illicit weapons. More on that now from CBS's John Roberts at the White House."
Roberts began: "Critics today called David Kay's conclusions a shot between the eyes in the White House's case against Iraq. The President called them premature."
-- Brent Baker