Four items today:
1. Taking shots at President Reagan
is not limited to the news division at CBS. It occurred in the Rockford
Files movie Wednesday night.
2. Speaking of CBS, Bob
Dole is on the "attack" while Bill Clinton is helping
everyone by "protecting" the environment.
3. The story of the CIA
selling cocaine in Los Angeles in order to pay for the Contras in
Nicaragua gets a one-sided hearing on MSNBC's InterNight. Check out some
of the questions posed.
4. The MRC's Free
Market Project releases a study on how the networks worry incessantly
about to "pay" for Dole's tax cut but almost never ask how
taxpayers will afford higher taxes to pay for Clinton's refusal to trim
1) Ronald Reagan left
office more than seven years ago, but he's still fodder for liberal TV
script writers. At the beginning of Wednesday night's Rockford Files
movie special on CBS, "Jim Rockford" (a private investigator
played by James Garner, for those of you who missed the 1970s), arrives
at a birthday party for the father of a former girlfriend he hasn't seen
for 15 years.
- Upon seeing Rockford, the
father says to him: "I was glad to hear Megan say that you might
show. Hey, I bet the Reagan years were good to you, huh? S&L
investigations, defense contractor fraud."
- Rockford responded:
"Matter of fact."
- 2) A few hours earlier
Wednesday night (September 18) Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News:
"Bob Dole unloads his strongest attack yet blaming President
Clinton personally and directly for rising drug crime."
- He then began the show with
this assessment of the themes of each candidate that put Clinton in a
more positive light:
- "Bob Dole and Bill
Clinton targeted each other today, on each other's turf. In California
Dole gave star billing to President Clinton in a new attack blaming
both the President and Hollywood for what he says is a lax attitude on
drug abuse. President Clinton's theme today was let's protect the
environment, parks and public lands together. He used the Grand Canyon
as his backdrop to declare almost two million acres of Utah off limits
- Reporter Phil Jones reported
on Dole and included some doubt about the effectiveness of Dole's
anti-drug slogan and concluded by noting that "only eleven
percent blame the Clinton administration for the [drug] problem."
Rita Braver then reported on Clinton move "to stake his claim as
the environmental President." But Braver didn't include any
consideration of how Clinton's move was an anti-property rights land
grab. ABC and NBC at least aired soundbites from upset Utah Senator
Orrin Hatch, but CBS aired no dissenting voice.
- 3) Thursday night's
(September 19) InterNight on MSNBC looked at the San Jose Mercury News
story that the CIA coordinated cocaine sales in Los Angeles in the
1980s through a Nicaraguan to pay for the Contras. The guests: the
reporter (Gary Webb), Jesse Jackson, a lawyer for a drug dealer,
Washington talk show host Joe Madison and his buddy, the wacky as
always Dick Gregory. The premise of course is that if the CIA hadn't
provided the drugs the residents of South Central would not have
become addicted to crack.
- Here are a few of host Ed
Gordon's less than probing questions:
- - To Jesse Jackson:
"Does it bother you that indeed, and I think this is where you're
going, the hypocrisy that might be that those who backed the Contras
at that time and said it was for freedom fighters and the like would
indeed turn their back on this country's problems?"
- - To Dick Gregory:
"Dick, I know that this is nothing new to you in the sense of
trying to keep people alert to what may be going on across this
country as relates to the government, but as you compare it to things
you've seen and heard in the past where does this fall?"
- - To Joe Madison: "As
Dick was saying, a conspiratorial thing, something that is genocidal
that many African-Americans whisper and talk about that, or was it
simply an economic situation that they thought this was a quick way to
make money to send to the Contras?"
- 4) Study, from the front
page of the September MediaNomics published by the MRC's Free Market
- Tax Cuts Concern Reporters,
Medicare Increases Do Not Deficit Chicken Hawks
- "At the Republican
convention, Bob Dole pledged to cut income taxes by 15 percent,
balance the budget, and leave Social Security and Medicare untouched.
Tough-minded reporters believed none of it and shared their skepticism
with a national television audience," writes the Weekly
Standard's David Frum in the September 9 issue of that magazine.
- But then, according to Frum,
"Two weeks later, the Democrats met in convention and, to put it
simply, lied through their teeth about their plans for Medicare. They
accused Republicans, in Al Gore's words, of wanting to `give health
insurance rip-off artists a license to change Medicare, to let this
program for our seniors wither on the vine. That's why they want to
replace Bill Clinton. But we won't let them.' Those remarks are
blatantly untrue, both about the Republican plans and about Clinton's
own. And the media said...nothing."
- Is Frum correct? Are reporters
more skeptical of Bob Dole's tax rhetoric than of Bill Clinton's
Medicare rhetoric? Media Research Center analysts reviewed all of the
stories about either tax cuts or Medicare on ABC's World News Tonight,
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and CNN's World Today during the
month of August. The MRC's findings: While network journalists were
ardent deficit hawks when reporting on tax cuts, they lost their
deficit-cutting zeal when Democrats denounced Republican Medicare
- There were a total of 24
stories during the month that questioned whether Bob Dole could both
cut taxes and balance the budget. Only two stories questioned whether
Bill Clinton could erase the deficit while not advancing Medicare
reforms in his second term.
- The reaction to the unveiling
of Dole's tax plan was the same across the networks. "Since Dole
would leave Social Security, Medicare, and defense untouched,"
reported CBS News correspondent Phil Jones, "it's still unclear
what would be cut in order to pay for his tax cut." According to
CNN's Gene Randall, "Bob Dole has produced an economic plan that
is getting mixed reviews even from Republicans. The bipartisan Concord
Coalition on Sunday warned against election-year tax-cut Santas."
- NBC's Mike Jensen offered that
"most analysts say it's not good economics. Bob Dole says about a
fourth of the tax cuts would be paid for by an expanding economy, but
the rest would have to come from spending cuts, and those haven't been
spelled out yet." Over at ABC, correspondent John Cochran claimed
that "if critics say Dole's tax plan would lead to budget
deficits of the size of those dating back to the Reagan era, then his
campaign simply isn't going to worry about it for now."
- But what about Bill Clinton
and Medicare? Economics columnist Robert Samuelson, in the September 4
Washington Post, pointed out that in the upcoming years "the only
way to avoid (or minimize) much higher taxes, the [Congressional
Budget Office] said, would be a mix of an older retirement age,
reduced benefits and a shift of Medicare toward managed care. On
Medicare, the Republicans proposed precisely such a shift...Clinton's
demolition of this effort confounds the CBO's sensible advice."
- Only two network reporters
questioned whether leaving Medicare alone could be compatible with
balanced budgets. "A generation of baby boomers begins retiring
within a decade," ABC's Jerry King pointed out. "So, the bad
news is, unless the politicians find a way to cut entitlement
spending, today's deficit reductions will be impossible to
sustain." ABC's Jeff Greenfield reported that "with the huge
baby boomer generation retiring in about 15 years, those entitlement
programs could take every single dollar of the budget."
- King and Greenfield were the
only reporters concerned about how to "pay for" automatic
Medicare spending increases. If Bill Clinton won't reform Medicare in
his next term, why aren't reporters asking him which taxes he will