More Abortion Troubles; NBC's Dream Theme; Stahl's Anti-CBS Conspiracy
1) Bernard Shaw demanded during Wednesday night's Republican debate that George Bush write a proposed abortion amendment and that Alan Keyes answer for U.S. policy toward Pinochet. At the Democratic debate Bill Bradley was asked by the local anchor: "In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?"
4) NBC's liberal dream State of the Union. On The West Wing the President abandons "the era of big government is over" theme and agrees "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....an instrument of good."
5) CBS's Lesley Stahl told FNC's Bill O'Reilly she's not biased: "I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent." Stahl ascribed conservative claims of bias to how CBS is the only target remaining now that communism is no more.
>>> The January 26 MagazineWatch about the January 31 issues of
the news weeklies, is now online. This edition, compiled by MRC analyst Mark
Drake, is the first enhanced with links to the major articles quoted. The
Near the top of Wednesday night's Republican debate CNN's Bernard Shaw asked George W. Bush: "So will the Republican Party platform plank on abortion be your Bible?" Despite that loaded question, there was no significant ideological disparity between the questioning of the candidates from the two parties during the back-to-back debates of Republicans from 7 to 8:30pm and Democrats from 9 to 10pm ET co-sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV of Manchester, NH. CNN showed both debates live from WMUR-TV's Queen City studios with CNN's Bernard Shaw and WMUR's Karen Brown moderating the GOP confab while CNN's Judy Woodruff and WMUR's Tom Griffith handled the Democrats.
The two oddest questions of the night. Bernard Shaw to Alan Keyes, raising a topic not quite on the cutting edge of Republican policy arguments: "Could the United States be culpable in the disappearance of thousands of Chileans under the Pinochet regime?" And Tom Griffith to Bill Bradley: "In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?"
In a close runner-up Judy Woodruff portrayed the Republicans as an awesome force to be feared, telling Bradley that she's heard Democrats worry that in the fall they "are going to need a fighter to go up against what will surely be a relentlessly rough campaign put on by the Republicans and they say they don't see that fight in you."
Other noteworthy questions posed during the two evening events. First, during the Republican debate:
-- Bernard Shaw to Bush: "If you could write a two
sentence amendment to the United States Constitution on abortion, what would
-- Shaw to all five remaining GOP contenders: "According to population experts, within years whites will no longer be the racial majority in the United States of America. Should our national dialogue drop the words 'minority, majority'?"
-- Shaw, coming at John McCain from the right: "You and President Clinton propose setting aside about two-thirds of the federal budget surplus and making it off limits for tax cuts. What do you say to critics who say your tax plan looks too much like President Clinton's?"
-- Shaw to all: "Should it be a felony for the President to lie to the American people?"
-- Shaw to Alan Keyes: "In the interest of human rights, should the
United States government fully open to the world its files on General Augusto
Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile?"
Karen Brown returning to the media's main interest, to Gary Bauer: "You have said that you would require a litmus test for your Supreme Court nominees on the issue of abortion. How far would you take that litmus test? Would you also require it for your Secretary of Education, your Secretary of State, your Secretary of Defense and others?"
Second, during the Democratic debate:
-- Judy Woodruff to Bill Bradley about how Democrats think he is too laid back, "worry that in the fall the Democrats are going to need a fighter to go up against what will surely be a relentlessly rough campaign put on by the Republicans and they say they don't see that fight in you. Is it there?"
-- Woodruff noted that Bradley is the only candidate not advocating more defense spending, and queried: "How do you know that this is not going to leave the United States national security position in a vulnerable state?"
-- Tom Griffith to Bradley: "Please outline for me
your worst behavior on the basketball court?"
John McCain's comment on the "Straight Talk Express," bus that he'd allow his 15-year-old daughter to decide whether or not to have an abortion, generated full stories Wednesday night on the three broadcast network evening news shows. But ABC and CBS seemed less concerned with how McCain may have strayed left from a principled position than in portraying pro-life advocates as a hindrance who burden Republican candidates. Only NBC's David Bloom aired a soundbite from a pro-life representative criticizing the reasoning expressed by McCain.
On ABC's World News Tonight Linda Douglass worried
about how "Republican candidates often struggle with abortion as they try
to satisfy religious conservatives in the primaries without alienating
abortion rights supporters in the general election."
Here's how the three broadcast evening shows handled the story on Wednesday night, January 26:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings conveyed
just how much a disconnect on the issue the media perceive:
As transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, Linda
Douglass began: "Talking with reporters on the bus he calls the 'Straight
Talk Express,' John McCain stumbled on the issue that so often troubles
Republican candidates: abortion. He has taken the position that abortion
should be outlawed, but he was asked what would happen if his 15-year-old
daughter got pregnant."
-- CBS Evening News. Bill Whitaker opened his report from New Hampshire over video of Steve Forbes supporters shouting at McCain: "Hounded by Steve Forbes fans, it was Arizona Senator John McCain's turn to be dogged on abortion, the issue Forbes used to sting George W. Bush in Iowa."
After showing the comments from McCain in question, Whitaker relayed that Alan Keyes said he sounded pro-choice and in a soundbite Forbes hit him for dancing around issues. But the issue may fade away, Whitaker suggested: "By all appearances and polls, the issue that so gripped Iowa has not taken root in New Hampshire so far and it's unclear whether Forbes will get much traction out of it. Folks here say they're much more concerned about economic issues."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, introduced David Bloom's most even-handed and thorough story of the night: "It was at best an awkward day for John McCain, who has been trying to run as an unconventional candidate for the Republican nomination. But today abortion as an issue tripped him up."
Bloom explained: "John McCain hurt himself today
with voters on both sides of the abortion issue. He made a series of
contradictory statements after being asked about what he would do if his
fifteen-year-old daughter became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. John
McCain, testy and irritated with reporters today who kept pressing on the
Though McCain soon backtracked, Bloom noted how
"abortion opponents pounced" and allowed one some air time as he
showed Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee saying:
"Senator McCain's positions have been conflicting, and we do not think
he warrants the support of pro-life voters."
Another example of the new media mantra, illustrated in the January 25 and 26 CyberAlerts, that poor George Bush is being pushed right out of the mainstream by Steve Forbes. MRC analyst Mark Drake caught this latest instance of this reasoning from NBC's Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's 6pm ET Decision 2000 show.
On the January 25 show she told David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register: "Steve Forbes pushed George Bush to the right on the abortion issue all during the Iowa campaigning because of the importance of the religious right and social conservatives there and now when he gets to New Hampshire he's going to push George Bush to the right on the tax issue. So George Bush is really losing the middle ground that he wants to be in for a general election."
Just two weeks before the real State of the Union address by the real President, NBC's fictional West Wing delivered the State of the Union message every liberal dreams the real President would provide: The "era of big government is over" is itself over. And Clinton, if preliminary reports about all the new spending proposals he has prove true, just might.
On the January 12 edition of the 9pm ET, 8pm CT Wednesday night drama about the White House staff around Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet" played by Martin Sheen, after becoming angered by error-laden arguments against the National Endowment for the Arts, "Communications Director Toby Ziegler" marches in to see the President and within seconds convinces him to use his State of the Union address to show how "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....An instrument of good." (Now that's one long sentence, all 87 words of it, but I think it flows nicely.)
The President's proposals are supposed to fit into the
framework of the theme that "the era of big government is over."
"Raymond": "Now, the President is
proposing in his speech that the budget for the NEA be increased by 50
At this point Toby wanders off in profound thought, though my only thought in watching this was how many top congressional staffers would really oppose a NEA hike and doesn't such a hike already contradict the idea that "the era of big government is over"?
Jump ahead in the show a few minutes and Toby goes to
see the President in the living quarters where he is recovering from the flu.
He's joined there by "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman." Toby
utters the line to the President: "The era of big government is
(In other words, we lied so that we'd win the election. Just like real life.)
Toby's sermon convinces the President: "I think
so, too. What do you think Josh?"
Time to re-write the State of the Union, we're going left.
+++ Watch this scene of how Hollywood liberals dream a President's team would think. On Thursday, go to the MRC home page where Webmaster Andy Szul will post a RealPlayer clip of the above scene from West Wing. After 12 noon ET, go to: http://www.mrc.org 
FNC's Bill O'Reilly didn't see any liberal bias at CBS News in the 1980s and when asked if she displays any liberal bias, CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl insisted: "I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent." Stahl appeared Tuesday night on FNC's The O'Reilly Factor to promote the paperback version of her book, Reporting Live.
When pressed by O'Reilly about why conservatives complain so much about CBS's liberal bias, Stahl relayed a bizarre conspiracy theory about how a "senior Reagan official" once told her "off the record" that "it was part of the conservative triad, was the anti-communism, there was the abortion wing, and there was CBS" and so after the Berlin Wall came down conservatives lost communism as a target and so "they couldn't lose CBS too. They had to keep using us as a target."
Whoever told her this is probably still laughing about how gullible she was for a tale that filled her paranoia about conservatives always plotting to destroy the do-gooders of the world.
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth caught this rather humorous interplay that aired on the January 25 show:
Bill O'Reilly: "Is CBS News fair and balanced?
Some conservative Americans believe CBS tilts to the left in its news
coverage. I worked at CBS News in the early '80s when Dan Rather had just
taken over from Walter Cronkite, and I didn't see that, but the perception
is out there. With us now is a co-editor of 60 Minutes, CBS News correspondent
Lesley Stahl, whose new book is now out in paperback. It is called Reporting
Live. So how did this, do you think there's any validity to the conservative
opinion that CBS News tilts a little to the left?"
And a rich target full of bias that Stahl is too paranoid about her enemies to see within.
O'Reilly continued: "Yeah, you know, there is,
but they point to Bryant Gumbel, and they're all over him when he was at
NBC, the conservatives, as being a very liberal guy, and Dan Rather. Now I
know both of those guys-"
If she did she'd be acknowledging their bias and not impugning those pointing it out.
O'Reilly kept going: "They are number three in
the ratings and have been now for three years."
We wish. -- Brent Baker 
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