In This Issue
No Liberal Labels for Redistributionists; NewsBites: Holiday Homeless Hype; Revolving Door: Schram's Spin; Networks Predictably Erupt Over Iran-Contra Pardons; 20/20 Host Slashes at GOP; Cummins on Crime; Not Enough Details on Iran-Contra, But "Bastards" Kept Honest on Ads; Janet Cooke Award: Time's Lance Morrow, Margaret Carlson Promote the Clintons
No Liberal Labels for Redistributionists
Unidentified Elderly Activists
Spending on the elderly is the largest and fastest growing part of the federal budget. Social Security, Medicare, and the federal government's civil and military pensions account for roughly half the fiscal year 1992 budget. The powerful interest groups behind these regularly growing programs favor an ever-greater amount of government involvement.
"The Gray Panthers, National Council of Senior Citizens, AARP, and the Society to Protect [actually the National Committee to Protect] Social Security and Medicare have been actively advocating a National Health Program that would provide access to all for years," reported the Los Angeles Times. Promoting this kind of creeping socialism should earn them a liberal label. But are reporters describing them as such?
To determine the tone of reporting, MediaWatch analysts used the Nexis news data retrieval system to find every mention of six elderly-advocacy groups in 1990, 1991, and 1992 in four major newspapers (The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post). In 406 news stories, the six groups together drew four "liberal" labels (1 percent). Despite being powerful and partisan advocacy groups, reporters described them with labels like "lobbyist" or "advocate" in only 82 stories (20.1 percent).
Families United for Senior Action, or Families USA, drew all four of the "liberal" labels used by reporters in 85 stories (4.7 percent). The group also drew 41 advocacy labels, probably because of the generic name of the group. (People for the American Way, for example, also draws more labels than other liberal groups). But even these labels had a positive sound, such as "advocates for the elderly and their families" or "an advocacy group for the elderly poor."
Families USA (known before 1990 as the Villers Foundation) also makes grants to other groups, not only groups like the Gray Panthers, but far-left think tanks like the Institute for Democratic Socialism and the Institute for Policy Studies.
More than any of the other elderly advocates, Families USA drew media attention with their own studies, which were the news hook for 30 of their 84 news stories. On October 2, the newspapers reported the findings of an "independent" Families USA-organized panel that the Clinton health plan was superior to the Bush plan. Despite the group's predictable conclusion, the newspapers used no labels in the story.
The largest and most powerful group, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), appeared in 196 newspaper stories without a single ideological label. Despite being called "arguably the most convincing mega-lobby in American politics" (Los Angeles Times), "one of the nation's most powerful lobbying groups" (New York Times), and "one of the most effective lobbies in Washington" (Washington Post), reporters used advocacy labels sparingly, 25 times in 196 stories (13 percent). This may be in part because the newspapers often promoted AARP's informational brochures in news stories. But Los Angeles Times reporters also described AARP's voter education programs as "nonpartisan" and The Washington Post insisted "AARP does not take partisan political positions."
AARP may not endorse or contribute to candidates, but the September 1992 Washington Monthly used the headline: "Meet the real Democratic Party bosses: teachers' unions, government employees, and the AARP." Liberal opinion magazines are doing a better job of explaining these groups' actual role than "objective" newspapers, which present them as nonpartisan advocates for the old and poor.
Most surprisingly, the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC), which does endorse and contribute to candidates (almost all Democrats), was never identified as liberal in 54 news stories. Despite its partisan bent, the NCSC drew 3 advocacy labels (5.5 percent).
According to the Capital Research Center report The Age Lobby, the NCSC, affiliated with the AFL-CIO, gave $217,000 to 126 congressional candidates in 1986, and all but one (the late Silvio Conte) were Democrats. The report also revealed the group's funding sources: "Of NCSC's impressive 1989 budget of $58,800,000, an astonishing 95 percent -- $55,650,000 -- came from government contracts and grants." That's an investigative bombshell waiting to happen.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare drew no liberal labels and only eight advocacy labels in 32 stories. Reporters used no labels, even though the Capital Research Center found "the money spent by the rest of the age lobby combined pales in comparison to this one organization." In 1986, the group's political action committee contributed $672,000 to 249 Democratic candidates and $46,000 to 26 Republicans. In addition, the PAC made "independent expenditures" of $1.9 million, $1.72 million of it on Democrats.
Two other groups also drew no liberal labels. The Older Women's League received 34 mentions (with three advocacy labels), while the Gray Panthers appeared in only five. The pattern duplicated itself in magazine coverage: a Nexis survey of 1990-92 articles in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report found 26 mentions, but no liberal labels, and only four advocacy labels. Like the newspapers, three of those four were applied to Families USA.
As entitlement spending swells, identifying these groups' ideological preference may be a good first step toward informing media consumers that the groups not only promote the enrichment of the elderly whether they're poor or not, but the aggrandizement of the federal government as well.
NewsBites: Holiday Homeless Hype
Holiday Homeless Hype. The holiday season generated another round of exaggerated TV reports on homelessness. On the December 26 CBS Evening News, reporter John Roberts found "more than three million homeless in America, and millions more living in poverty." ABC's Walter Rodgers began a story the next night, "By all estimates there are now more homeless in America, three million by some counts, all across the country."
The three million figure remains the unsupported personal estimate of the late homeless activist Mitch Snyder. The networks continue to ignore the 1990 Census partial count, which found only 150,000 in shelters and 70,000 on the streets.
Panetta Pandering. The media have almost universally proclaimed Clinton Budget Director designate Leon Panetta as a "deficit hawk." On December 11, USA Today's Richard Wolf cooed: "His ability to prescribe such politically perilous medicine with a reassuring smile makes him the Marcus Welby of deficit reduction." On December 10, ABC's Sheilah Kast declared: "As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Leon Panetta has been passionate about the need to cut the deficit." CNN's Wolf Blitzer proclaimed the same day: "The President-elect also named California Congressman Leon Panetta, a hard-liner on the need to cut the deficit, to become Budget Director."
Unfortunately, Panetta's fiscal record falls short of the hype. He vocally opposed the Balanced Budget amendment, in addition to crafting the infamous 1990 budget deal, which raised taxes and doubled the deficit. Two years later he voted to abolish the budget "firewalls" established by the 1990 agreement, allowing defense spending to be shifted back to more domestic programs. In 1991, the National Taxpayers Union gave Panetta a pitiful 21 percent score, officially rating him a "Big Spender."
Cold War Casualty? American forces landed in Somalia to alleviate misery there, but some in the media still managed to blame America for the starvation. CNN anchor Patrick Greenlaw demonstrated this on the December 4 World News: "The situation in the African country is an example of the lingering fallout of the Cold War."
For Bob Simon in a December 8 CBS This Morning piece, it was all America's fault: "Successive American administrations turned a deaf ear to human rights abuses, Somalia's position on the Horn of Africa was simply too important. America was Somalia's most important ally in the 1980s. Washington supplied the dictator [Siad Barre] with guns and butter, and got strategic bases in return. But then the Cold War ended, Washington didn't need Somalia anymore, and cut off aid. That's when it all began to unravel."
On Nightline December 8, reporter John Hockenberry, who just joined ABC from National Public Radio, saw U.S. fingerprints on the devastation. "The government of Siad Barre ran on a potent mixture of repression and advanced armaments, tucked away in a Cold War side show called the Horn of Africa. Somalia's leader had no trouble siphoning military aid from the main event, the confrontation between Moscow and Washington...The Soviet-built naval base on the Red Sea was abandoned by the Americans and never once used." Hockenberry called the base "The world's most strategic garbage dump," and mused, "Maybe this is the best monument to the Cold War."
Reaganomics Verdict. Though President Bush abandoned Reagan's economic policies, the Los Angeles Times continues to blame supply-side policies for Bush's defeat. In a "news analysis" five days after the election, business reporter James Risen declared: "Ultimately, Reaganomics was a failure. It produced big political dividends for the Republicans, and it may have contributed to rapid economic growth during the 1980s. But it was, at its core, a governing philosophy based on a deeply flawed economic notion: that tax cuts, especially large tax cts for the rich, would not worsen the government's budget deficit. Ironically, it was the illogic of that theory that helped bring down President George Bush -- even though it seems clear that Bush never fully believed in the theory himself."
Later Risen insisted: "Tax cuts did not generate higher government revenue, and so did not help balance the federal budget....In the end, what will be remembered most about Reaganomics is the debt that it brought America -- towering mountains of it."
Exactly one month later, New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum countered this typical media portrayal of Reaganomics. Deep in a December 8 story on 1980's tax policies, Rosenbaum wrote: "One popular misconception is that the Republican tax cuts caused the crippling federal deficit, now approaching $300 billion a year. The fact is, the large deficit resulted because the government vastly increased what it spent each year, while tax revenues changed little."
Holes in Cole's Story. Almost the entire media ignored the furor over Johnnetta Cole, the Spelman College President who heads Clinton's transition cluster for education, arts, labor, and the humanities. Human Events reported that Cole had worked for the pro-Castro Venceremos Brigade and the pro-communist U.S.-Grenada Friendship Society in the early 1980s. Among the networks, only CNN touched the story. On the December 17 Inside Politics, anchor Frank Sesno asserted that Human Events "accused her of being a left-wing extremist with Marxist sympathies. While Cole has denounced the allegations as `vile,' it appears the publicity has severely undercut her chances of being nominated to any high- level administration post." Sesno gave viewers the incorrect impression that the facts about Cole -- her membership in pro-communist groups -- were in doubt.
That's not the only story about Cole the media didn't report. In May 1991, a white male English professor at Spelman, Joe Reese filed a $1 million discrimination suit when he was denied tenure by Cole. Reese and Spelman settled out of court late last year for an undisclosed sum. The Clinton team's record on "diversity" is more interesting than reporters would like to admit.
The Good Old Soviet Days. "Workers and managers alike say they long for the simpler days when there was a system to count on and things were affordable." Is this quote from a speech by an anti-Yeltsin, hard-line Marxist on the floor of the Congress of People's Deputies? No, it's CNN Moscow correspondent Claire Shipman on the September 10 World News. On December 3, Shipman reported on people in Moscow who were scrounging through a garbage dump for food. As the camera panned from people picking through the garbage to a shed with a picture of Lenin hanging on it, Shipman announced: "Communist ghosts still linger around the waste yard, this one [Lenin] surveying this post-communist scene with what seems to be an `I told you so' gaze." Shipman struck earlier on CNN's November 11 World News. As viewers saw a child holding up a picture of Stalin, Shipman asserted: "As the future looks more frightening for these Russians, the past is bound to look better all the time."
"Some people are now unhappy at the new price of freedom," anchor Susan Rook sighed on World News last September. Maybe she was referring to western journalists reporting from Moscow.
Hungry for News. With Somalia's famine dominating the news, CBS and CNN sought to dramatize hunger in America, using wild and unsupportable statistics. On December 18, CNN's Anne McDermott declared "Yes, even in the U.S., children die from what might best be called the complications of poverty -- the violence, disease, and ignorance that poverty breeds. And, in the U.S., one out of every five children is poor." Her source? The liberal Children's Defense Fund, famous for advocacy of greater social spending and for inaccurate statements, such as claiming two million children go homeless. McDermott did not provide any proof or balancing view, as evidenced by her breathless conclusion: "Children's advocates say they don't really care where the money comes from, all they know is it's absolutely necessary for these children."
CBS News took exaggeration of hunger to new heights, as Cinny Kennard cited unprovable and highly improbable figures on the December 4 Evening News: "Perhaps there is so much anguish, because there is so much hurting at home. The fact is there are about 30 million people who are hungry and undernourished in America."
CBS colleague Scott Pelley, on the December 17 Evening News, added that "you don't often hear about hungry children in the U.S. starving to death, that's because disease kills them first." Pelley maintained that "the hungry grow by one million per year." However, the Centers for Disease Control told MediaWatch there are no official statistics measuring poverty - or malnutrition- caused infant death, because it's so rare, and none on overall hunger, leaving a factual vacuum for the networks to fill.
No Abrams Admirer. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who "objectively" covered President Bush's recent pardons of Caspar Weinberger and five other Iran-Contra defendants, believes at least one pardon recipient was undeserving. Pincus wrote a review of Elliott Abrams' new book Undue Process in the December issue of The Washington Monthly. The review revealed a very vindictive Pincus: "This is a very personal memoir, sometimes embarrassingly so. It is riveting because it portrays a man so different from the Elliott Abrams we have come to know through the media. If you disliked him and the harm the Contra policies he espoused caused others (tens of thousands dead in Nicaragua and El Salvador), you'll not be saddened to hear of his mental suffering" from prosecutors.
Pincus attacked the Reagan Administration's support of the Contras, writing, "Nowhere in this book does one get the sense that Abrams ever had second thoughts about the legitimacy of his policies and the terrible loss of life and destruction they brought to the people of Nicaragua. After all, these were men, women and children even more innocent than he." Pincus then took a final whack: "Abrams represents a new breed. He's someone with so little respect for democratic institutions that when he violates them he doesn't realize it...if [Abrams] is a model of the new generation of conservative Republican public servant, we are in for trouble when they occupy the White House again."
Coverage Limits. On the November 4 CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer briefly mentioned term limit measures, successful on all state ballots where they appeared, noting "Fourteen states passed laws which will limit in some way the number of years their Senators and Congressmembers can serve." If implemented, the measures would limit the terms of Speaker of the House Thomas Foley, House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, and Senate Banking Chairman Donald Riegle, but the networks ignored the issue. Between September 1 and December 30, the four networks did no full-length stories on term limits.
In contrast, ballot measures in Oregon and Colorado seeking to prevent homosexuals from becoming a specially protected minority group were the focus of six in-depth stories in the same time period. In September, NBC's Scott Simon likened language in the Oregon measure to the days of Nazi Germany, "language which some leaders of Oregon's Jewish community recognize and revile." In light of the disparity in coverage, perhaps the test of newsworthiness is what the networks do not show.
Revolving Door: Schram's Spin
The cover of Mandate for Change, the Progressive Policy Institute's (PPI) book of policy recommendations for the Clinton Administration, lists two editors: Will Marshall and Martin Schram.
Marshall's no surprise since he's President of PPI. But Schram's a long-time Washington journalist. Schram was Washington Bureau Chief of Newsday until becoming a Washington Post political reporter in 1979. Leaving the Post after the 1984 race, Schram has kept busy as a CNN analyst and syndicated columnist.
In an early January column, he wrote: "Today's sorry spectacle finds our 41st President, George Bush, veritably piling the furniture against the Oval Office door, seeming desperate to prevent the truth from getting out to us, in what looms as his special Iran-Contratemps."
The book from PPI, known as the Democratic Leadership Council's think tank, carries an endorsement from Bill Clinton claiming it "charts a bold course for reviving progressive government in America." Among the contributors edited by Schram, PPI Vice President Robert Shapiro, a U.S. News & World Report Associate Editor in the mid-1980s.
Nessen's New Nest
After a decade as Vice President for News with the Mutual Broadcasting System, Ron Nessen left the radio network late last year. He's now the Vice President for Public Affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the lobbyist for cellular phone companies. Nessen served President Ford as Press Secretary.
Smith Swept Out
Dorrance Smith, an ABC News producer during the 1980s who joined the Bush White House in 1991, plans to create his own post- Inauguration day job. The Assistant to the President for media affairs will join with White House counsel C. Boyden Gray to form "a television production company that will produce and syndicate programming to cable stations," The Washington Post reported. Smith was Executive Producer of This Week with David Brinkley until taking the same title with Nightline in late 1989.
Mass Movement to Begin
As MediaWatch goes to press in mid-January no members of major media outlets have joined the first Democratic administration in 12 years. But that won't last long. The Washington Post has already begun speculating about several likely revolvers. The January 7 Post "Transition" column suggested National Public Radio President Douglas Bennet who "ran the Agency for International Development in the Carter Administration, is likely to return as Assistant Secretary in charge of international organizations, although he also could replace former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh as United Nations Undersecretary."
The next day the Post reported that former Time Washington Bureau Chief Strobe Talbott who was "Clinton's Rhodes scholar roommate, husband of Hillary friend and transition aide Brooke Shearer and brother-in-law of Clinton economic adviser Derek Shearer," is not taking an expected position at Time Warner. "There has been discussion of Talbott as Deputy Director of intelligence at the CIA, Ambassador to Russia or most likely in a job as Senior Adviser to Warren Christopher at the State Department," wrote the Post's Al Kamen.
Networks Predictably Erupt Over Iran-Contra Pardons
The Unpardonable President
President Bush's pardon of six figures in the Iran-Contra affair generated outrage over Bush's decision, but no concern for misbehavior by Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh.
Making no attempt at balance, Boston Globe reporter Lynda Gorov began a December 25 story: "No legal scholars dispute a President's constitutional right to grant pardons, but many worry that President Bush may have misused that authority yesterday to disguise his own role in the Iran-Contra affair. Those scholars also said the sweeping pardon of the six Reagan-era officials has denied the American people a full airing of the arms-for-hostages scandal in court."
That night, CBS Evening News reporter Bruce Morton wasn't in a holiday mood: "[Lawrence] Walsh's investigation of the President will continue. The men Mr. Bush pardoned were all accused or convicted of lying to Congress, and so the question remains: How can the executive and the legislative agree on a foreign policy when one branch of government lies to the other?"
The next day, weekend Today co-host Scott Simon sermonized: "Until the truth about the Iran-Contra scandal is truly uncovered, and all responsible are made to answer for it, it may be difficult for any of us to trust that the policies made by the Congress we elect aren't being overturned by our own spies, suave diplomats, and good soldiers. President Bush called the men he pardoned patriots, and no doubt they are. So is Mr. Bush. But patriotism isn't simply loving your country. It's not looking for pardons from the law."
On Sunday, ABC reporter Jim Wooten joined in: "It seems to me that the President with these pardons has attempted to apply a statute of limitations to the American people's right to know what went on."
In the January 4 Newsweek, Evan Thomas wrote: "Bush's pardon also risked tarnishing the President's legacy. The humanitarian who saved Somalia suddenly looked like the arrogant elitist who forgave his friends -- and thumbed his nose at the rule of law."
Bryant Gumbel's December 28 questions on Today assumed the pardoned men were guilty: "But if, Senator, as it seems clear, that crimes were committed, that illegalities may have been done, why not let the process go forward? Why not let justice be done?"
Evans and Novak reported that former Pentagon spokesman Henry Catto said James Brosnahan, the attorney prosecuting Weinberger for Walsh, asked him whether Weinberger had an extramarital affair. Catto believed Walsh wished to "denigrate Weinberger's character" before a jury, but the networks ignored this story of improper conduct.
20/20 Host Slashes at GOP
Hugh Downs, the long-time host of ABC's 20/20, used an ABC Radio commentary program, Perspective, to launch a scandalous attack against the religious right on the weekend before Thanksgiving. Demons were the theme of his lecture: "The danger with the majority of human-spawned demons is that they are perpetuated by sane, and not insane, people."
Downs attacked Pat Robertson: "He may one day be elected President of the United States of America, and this very real possibility says more about the degradation of American values than 1,000 television situation comedies. American values have indeed degraded. They have degraded from precise, clear-headed common-sense awareness to fuzzy-brained superstitious nonsense."
He attacked the "war on drugs," falsely claiming: "Billions of dollars are cut from American schools, health care, aid to the elderly, in order to wage a battle against imaginary Satanic forces and legions of demons. Our reaction to these demons have created a crime problem out of what is essentially a medical and social problem. And America refuses to confront its inner demons and to back off of ineffective approaches. Instead, we regress into the family."
"Regress" into the family? Downs repeated himself for emphasis: "During times of social stress, humanity usually regresses into the family. Nobody denies that proper family values are worth having and protecting. The argument is over how the term is wielded; whether the motivation is broad, generous-hearted, and liberating, or narrow, dogmatic, and designed to control the lives of others."
He continued: "In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan urged the nation to adopt family values and to return to old-time religion.
Similarly, Adolf Hitler launched a family-values regimen. Hitler's centered on his ideas of motherhood. Fanatics in the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party, the Hezbollah, or any other intolerant organization, refer to themselves as religious warriors. As warriors, fanatics censor the thoughts of others and love to burn books. In the modern United States, new proponents of family values continue this tradition of fear and intolerance." Stalin had a five-year economic plan, and so does Clinton. By Downs' logic, that means something.
Cummins on Crime
On the December 9 NBC Nightly News, reporter Jim Cummins showcased a report on crime by the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based conservative think tank. Cummins found: "The new study seemed to confirm what many people have suspected for a long time. The crime rate across the nation is rising, because criminals know the chances of getting caught and doing time are declining."
He reviewed the study data and took comment from the study's author, NCPA's Morgan Reynolds. Cummins explained: "Reynolds says obviously those who are caught and convicted serve more time, but most aren't caught and convicted -- and that brings the average way down...In fact, Reynolds' crime and punishment study found that from 1950 to 1974, there was a five-fold increase in the felony crime rate and a corresponding decrease in prison time for serious crimes...Reynolds believes the only realistic solution to this problem is to build more prisons and hire more cops."
Considering the usual network practice of presenting uncritical reports on studies from liberal groups, it's nice to see a conservative group get the same treatment. But don't reporters do their job best when they provide both sides?
Bill and Hillary Clinton's January 5 decision to send daughter Chelsea to a $10,000-a-year private school prompted CBS and NBC to question the political message sent by the First Couple's decision.
But only ABC's Brit Hume and CNN's Wolf Blitzer highlighted Clinton's hypocrisy, escaping public schools while opposing policies which would allow those less well off to do the same. Blitzer noted that "despite his support for public school education and his opposition to tax credits or vouchers that would help families send their children to private schools, 12-year-old Chelsea will now be attending eighth grade in one of the nation's most elite private schools." On World News Tonight, Hume asserted: "Clinton's education policy has included support for school choice, but only among public schools. He's opposed the use of public money to help those who can't afford it go to private schools."
Not Enough Details on Iran-Contra, But "Bastards" Kept Honest on Ads
Media Think They Did Great Job
"A substantial majority (55 percent) of the American journalists who followed the 1992 presidential campaign believe that George Bush's candidacy was damaged by the way the press covered him. Only 11 percent feel that Gov. Bill Clinton's campaign was harmed by the way the press covered his drive." So determined a December-released survey of 250 members of the media by the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press. The sample included 48 people dubbed the "powers that be," meaning news executives, Washington bureau chiefs, executive producers, anchors and political correspondents.
How did these top people rate their coverage of the 1992 campaign? Remarkably, 84 percent called it good or excellent. Of all those polled, 80 percent offered the same assessment. Despite the fact economic indicators released after the election showed negative coverage during the fall to be way off base, 73 percent overall and 75 percent of the "powers that be" called economic coverage good or excellent.
While 72 percent of those surveyed categorized coverage of Clinton's Vietnam draft status as good or excellent, reporters thought Iran-Contra didn't get enough attention, believe it or not. The Times Mirror report explained: "Coverage of Bush's relation to the Iran-Contra scandal received the harshest judgment. Over 70 percent said it was only fair (48 percent) or poor (23 percent); one-fourth (24 percent) said it was good."
Journalists were quite proud of their "ad watch" efforts: "Most applause was given to press assessments of candidates' commercials during the campaign (77 percent positive). Such propaganda debunking, said one television newsman, `is the primary reason why no Willie Horton ads or their cousins have appeared in this campaign. Our coverage is keeping the bastards honest.'"
Janet Cooke Award: Time's Lance Morrow, Margaret Carlson Promote the Clintons
Man of the Year -- And Four More?
Of all the reasons Time named Bill Clinton its Man of the Year, perhaps the best is his skill in keeping political reporters in love with him all year. For their magazine's tribute to Clinton (and presumably the effect of its own year-long biased coverage), Time earns the January Janet Cooke Award.
Time began 1992 with the cover headline "Is Bill Clinton For Real? Why both hype and substance have made him the Democrats' rising star." In the same January 27 issue, Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Margaret Carlson introduced the candidate's wife: "Friends of Hillary Clinton would have you believe she is an amalgam of Betty Crocker, Mother Teresa, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. She gets up before dawn, even on weekends, and before her first cup of coffee discusses educational reform. She then hops into her fuel-efficient car with her perfectly behaved daughter for a day of good works." Carlson only moderated the picture slightly: "Fortunately....[Hillary] is more interesting than that."
The next issue of Time, which covered the one-week-and-punt Gennifer Flowers controversy, also plugged for the candidate. Senior Writer Lance Morrow wrote a scolding pro-Clinton defense titled "Who Cares, Anyway?" Morrow insisted: "If the public is going to behave like an idiot on the subject of sex, the candidate will naturally do almost anything to avoid telling the truth about any behavior less than impeccable. The issue of a candidate's sex life is essentially a phony....It is time for America to get serious. At the very least, turn off the television set. And grow up about sex."
Both of these writers returned in the Man of the Year issue. Morrow effectively summarized all of Time's biased campaign articles from 1992: "Clinton's campaign, conducted with dignity, with earnest attention to issues and with an impressive display of self-possession under fire, served to rehabilitate and restore the legitimacy of American politics and thus, prospectively, of government itself. He vindicated (at least for a while) the honor of a system that has been sinking fast. A victory by George Bush would, among other things, have given a two-victory presidential validation (1988 and 1992) to hot-button, mad-dog politics -- campaigning on irrelevant or inflammatory issues (Willie Horton, the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, Murphy Brown's out-of-wedlock nonexistent child) or dirty tricks and innuendo (searching passport files, implying that Clinton was tied up with the KGB as a student)."
Time didn't notice the discrepancy between this grandiose claim and Special Correspondent Michael Kramer's article about Clinton's post-election strategy in the same issue. Of Clinton's pounding of the issue of tax avoidance by foreign corporations and claiming tougher enforcement would raise $45 billion in four years, Kramer wrote: "Among those who have studied this problem seriously, Clinton is the only person left who still thinks such a windfall is possible. `Ain't no way,' says [budget director designate Leon] Panetta. 'Maybe we'll get $3 billion a year -- if we're lucky.'" But neither Kramer nor Morrow called the foreign corporation tax a phony issue or demagogic rhetoric.
Morrow also typified the magazine's divergent views of this year's party conventions. "The President permitted [Pat] Buchanan, the man who tried to destroy him, to speak at the Houston convention during prime time. Buchanan delivered a snarling, bigoted attack on minorities, gays and his other enemies in what he called the `cultural war' and `religious war' in America. Buchanan's ugly speech, along with another narrow, sectarian performance by Pat Robertson, set the tone of right wing intolerance that drove moderate Republicans and Reagan Democrats away from the President's cause in November. If Houston represented the Republican Party, many voters said, they wanted out."
But a page later, Morrow extolled the Democratic conclave as a healing wonder: "Clinton, whose stepfather's violent alcoholism shaped his early life, and Gore, who often borrows recovery language and concepts, turned the Democratic convention last summer into a national therapy session and display case for personal trauma and healing. Gore dramatically retold the story of his son's near fatal accident and the effect on his family.
"The subtext of the recovery-and-healing line is that America is a self-abusive binger that must go through recovery. Thus: the nation borrowed and spent recklessly in the 1980s, drank too deeply of Reagan fantasies about `Morning in America' and supply-side economics. And now, on the morning after, the U.S. wakes up at the moment of truth and looks in the mirror. Hence: America needs the `courage to change' in a national atmosphere of recovery, repentance and confession."
In her article "The Dynamic Duo," Carlson returned to puffing Hillary and Bill: "She is the disciplined, duty-bound Methodist, carrying her favorite Scriptures around in her briefcase and holding herself and others to a high standard; he is a more emotional Baptist who sings in the choir and gets misty-eyed when he introduced his boyhood friend Mack McLarty as his new chief of staff...Perhaps a First Lady who consults lawbooks rather than astrologers doesn't look so frightening after all. And perhaps Bill Clinton, rather than seeming weak by comparison with his wife, has proved that it takes a solid, secure man to marry a strong woman."
In an interview with MediaWatch, Carlson criticized her colleagues for being too quick to jump on the incoming First Lady. "I think that she's probably going to make some mistakes, and we're going to see them and report them. God knows the press was absolutely waiting with bated breath for the tea-and-cookies [remark], and mischaracterized that. So the minute she stumbles, people are going to leap on that, including me....The tea-and- cookies remark was about ceremonial duties as the Governor's wife. And it was reported as f she was saying that in some general way, and she wasn't. They didn't want to report the next sentence. It's like the supermarket scanner with Bush."
When asked if she thought her coverage of Hillary could be described as tough, Carlson replied: "I think it's down the middle. I try to be that way....I don't have a brief for Hillary. I think some of the facts were wrong."
The average observer would have a tough time telling the difference between the work of the Clinton-Gore press team and Time. The question for the next four years becomes: Is Time selling Americans the news or selling them the Clintons?