McCain Pronounced "Conservative"; Worried Bradley-Gore Fight Could Hurt
1) ABC focused on how Bush went to a "place that's so conservative interracial dating is still banned." While NBC's David Bloom noted how Bush charged McCain "sounds more like Al Gore than Ronald Reagan," Tom Brokaw pronounced McCain "a conservative maverick."
2) ABC's Cokie Roberts admonished George Bush about the dangers of going right. Gore and Bradley not asked about policy, but two morning hosts pressed McCain on the Confederate flag. CBS and NBC worried the Gore-Bradley fight may harm the Democrats in November.
3) "McCain has worked the press constituency just brilliantly," Newsweek's Howard Fineman admitted and so Bush shouldn't count on the media turning on McCain. As for Forbes, he should get out: "It's too bad that he wasn't the guy who fell off the platform."
ABC and NBC led Wednesday night with the consequences of the New Hampshire primary results while the CBS Evening News went first with a supposed "exclusive" about a "stunning breach of national security" by former CIA Director John Deutch.
On ABC's World News Tonight Dean Reynolds focused on how George W. Bush campaigned at Bob Jones University, "the kind of place that's so conservative interracial dating is still banned." NBC's David Bloom looked at how Bush charged "McCain is out of step with South Carolina's conservative Republican voters" as he claimed McCain "sounds more like Al Gore than Ronald Reagan." Bloom allowed McCain to maintain he's "a proud conservative Republican." NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw came down on McCain's side, soon declaring McCain "a conservative maverick." NBC's Lisa Myers uniquely noted one driving force behind McCain's victory: "In New Hampshire, at least, McCain made himself the anti-Clinton."
Of the broadcast evening shows, only ABC picked up on Bill Bradley's charge that Gore backers hurled mud at Bradley-backer Senator Bob Kerrey and called him a cripple.
Here's a rundown of some noteworthy aspects of February 2 broadcast network evening show coverage of the campaign made possible by the transcribing efforts of MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings provided
the most colorful opening of the night:
After Linda Douglas checked in on McCain in South
Carolina, where she found that he "appeared stunned by the jubilant
crowds that met him at 3am," Dean Reynolds caught up with George W. Bush:
Reynolds went on to note how Bush attacked Clinton on ethics and played a soundbite of Bush on McCain: "I wouldn't call John a liberal. I would just say on key points he has taken the Democrat position."
Up next, Jackie Judd informed viewers of an incident the
networks ignored over the weekend and which CBS has yet to highlight and NBC
only briefly mentioned Sunday night, though Judd soon downplayed its
For ABC's fourth and last campaign story, John Cochran
examined how Gore flew back to Washington to be ready to cast a tie breaking
vote on an abortion protest liability bill, but enough Republicans backed it
in order to ensure Gore's vote was not needed. Cochran concluded by scolding
-- CBS Evening News. "A CBS News exclusive. Accusations that then CIA Director John Deutch visited high risk web sites on a home computer full of sensitive information," Dan Rather breathlessly announced in teasing CBS's top story, going on to refer to a "stunning breach of national security" by Deutch. Without any video, Lesley Stahl sat at the anchor desk and outlined CBS's story about how Deutch supposedly made his top secret computer files vulnerable by using the computer which housed them to browse unsecured Web sites, including pornography sites.
Later in the show, after a story on the Air Alaska crash, Rather got to the campaign, issuing this Ratherism about the New Hampshire results: "Democrat Bill Bradley came close enough to Al Gore to crack his tail lights."
CBS aired two uneventful campaign stories: Bill Whitaker in South Carolina on the Republicans and John Roberts on how Democrats Gore and Bradley filled their day.
-- NBC Nightly News. Up front, David Bloom explored
Bush's new strategy of describing McCain as more Clinton Democrat than
Reagan conservative: "Today John McCain celebrates his eighteen point
trouncing of George W. Bush in New Hampshire. And the suddenly vulnerable
Texas Governor levels his most pointed attack yet on the Arizona Senator.
Bush's argument: After eighteen years in Washington, McCain is out of step
with South Carolina's conservative Republican voters."
So, is McCain a conservative or not? Tom Brokaw came down on McCain's side. Introducing a profile piece, Brokaw declared as fact: "McCain is an unconventional Republican Party candidate, a conservative maverick given to irreverent comments and self deprecating humor. More tonight on the McCain, the man and his style, from NBC's Lisa Myers."
Interlaced with clips of McCain, Myers explained:
"One hundred fourteen thousand voters in New Hampshire, men and women of
all ages, say there is something about John McCain. He's edgy,
irreverent....Rebellious....Seemingly straightforward, even when his integrity
is questioned on his key issue: money in politics....Even as he runs for the
highest office in the land, the man once nicknamed John Wayne McCain,
regularly tweaks the rules of politics. The atmosphere on his campaign bus
sometimes is more Saturday Night at the Improv than the Road to the Oval
Myers soon added: "Even when the humor doesn't
work, and it can seem harsh, McCain's direct unvarnished style seems to appeal
to voters wary of packaging and polish. His five years in a Vietnamese prison
also seems to give voters confidence that this is a man who means what he
says. In New Hampshire, at least, McCain made himself the anti-Clinton, saying
voters may not always agree with him but-"
Next, NBC's Claire Shipman checked in on the two Democrats, outlining how Bradley attacked Gore again on his truthfulness and how Gore took a trip to Washington, DC to be ready to break a tie on the abortion bill vote.
The morning after the New Hampshire primary ABC's Cokie Roberts admonished George Bush about how he'll be hurt in the general election if he goes to the right now in order to win in South Carolina. The CBS and NBC morning show hosts didn't raise any policy questions in interviews with Democratic primary victor Al Gore, but demanded Republican primary winner John McCain take a position on the divisive issue of the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina's state Capitol building. CBS's Jon Frankel did gush to McCain: "I'm not sure if you're a rock star or politician on the move."
Neither CBS or NBC asked McCain about whether his ongoing battle with Bush will hurt Republican chances in the fall, but both networks worried about how the Gore-Bradley fight might harm the Democrats in November. On NBC's Today Matt Lauer acted like he has a stake in the campaign, fretting to Al Gore: "How much longer can the Democratic Party stand by and watch you two guys go at each other like this before some serious damage is done to a general election candidacy?"
(Gore and McCain appeared on all three morning shows on Wednesday with The Early Show and Today also interviewing Bradley. Bush turned down interview requests.)
Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, February 2, morning shows:
-- ABC's Good Morning America. George Stephanopoulos,
appearing with Cokie Roberts, marveled at the sweep of McCain's victory:
Roberts jumped in to warn: "Of course, that can be a problem for him going into the general election, if in fact he gets the nomination."
Interviewing Al Gore from a train station in Manhattan, co-host Diane Sawyer, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noted, pressed him twice about why independents preferred Gore before inquiring: "To wrap up this, this overnight campaign anyway, for the people who say to you and want to know personally what you feel, what would you say to George W. Bush this morning?"
-- CBS's The Early Show went first with a taped
interview with John McCain conducted earlier in the morning in South Carolina
by Jon Frankel. His questions, as taken down by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
Then Frankel demanded an answer on a divisive policy
Frankel's last question: "This is going to get tougher for you, even though you had this big push in New Hampshire. The establishment is not going to embrace you, and in fact, they're going to come down on you even harder. So how do you fight that."
Jane Clayson then talked to Al Gore from the same train
station as had ABC: "Well, it was a victory for you in New Hampshire, but
not an overwhelming win, were you hoping for a knockout?"
Finally, Clayson, not Bryant Gumbel, also handled CBS's interview with Bill Bradley: "You had a strong second place showing. It was better than expected, but Senator, is better than expected really good enough to stay in the race and ultimately win the nomination?"
Clayson followed up: "Well, among Democratic
primary voters in New Hampshire, our exit polls show that only 33 percent
believe that you can beat a Republican nominee, 63 percent believe that Al
Gore is more likely to win in November. What do you say to those who doubt
Clayson drew concerned about the impact of the battle:
"But there is concern among Democratic officials that if you continue
this way and if Al Gore continues to win primaries and caucuses, that you're
going to weaken him. What is your response to that?"
-- NBC's Today. David Bloom checked in from South Carolina with a taped interview of John McCain. His first question: "You said last night that a great national crusade has just begun. The Bush people say this is no national crusade. You're a one state wonder, you won the presidency of New Hampshire, you can't win the presidency of the United States. What do you say to that?"
Bloom's next two inquiries: "But how do you
counter the argument that you don't have the money, you don't have the
national organization to win in primaries across the country."
Bloom then bore in on the Confederate flag issue:
"You make a point in your stump speech of saying, 'I'll always tell you
the truth.' An issue that's very divisive here in South Carolina is the issue
of the Confederate flag. So is the truth in your estimation that it's a racist
symbol and it ought to come down or is it a symbol of state pride?"
Handling the Bill Bradley interview, Katie Couric
avoided policy issues and stuck to campaign strategy in these questions
transcribed by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens:
Finally, Matt Lauer probed Al Gore, starting with this query: "Let's talk about that five point margin. I mean obviously the message here. You got one, another one in the 'w' column but 47 percent of the voters in New Hampshire say they're not sure they want you to be President. Does that worry you?"
Lauer next asked Gore to react to Bradley's attacks: "There were a lot of charges that went back and forth over these last couple of weeks between your camp and the Bradley camp. Do you think that Bill Bradley succeeded in raising some doubts about your candidacy?"
David Bloom didn't ask McCain about hurting Republican
chances in the fall, but the Bradley-Gore fight concerned Lauer, who asked
Lauer then pressed about holding regular debates with Bradley: "Let me get you before you go and ask you. Bill Bradley has challenged you to a series of debates. One a week for the next several weeks. Will you accept that challenge?"
The media's admiration for John McCain is so obvious that journalists don't deny it like they do liberal bias. Wednesday morning Newsweek's top political reporter, Howard Fineman, told Don Imus that George Bush better not count on the media to ever "turn on John McCain and treat him rough." Asked about Steve Forbes, Fineman said he hopes he drops out soon, adding: "It's too bad that he wasn't the guy who fell off the platform at the pancake flipping thing."
By phone on the February 2 Imus in the Morning radio show simulcast on MSNBC, Fineman conceded: "McCain has worked the press constituency just brilliantly. He really has. And the Bush people keep waiting for the press to turn on John McCain and treat him rough, and I don't know when it's gonna happen, but if they keeping waiting for that, they're gonna be in trouble."
A few minutes later Imus asked about Forbes: "Will
this persuade Forbes now to just give it up?"
night, after another cold winter day in New York City, Dan Rather returned to
his January mantra, telling CBS Evening News viewers:
Gumbel separation update. As detailed in the February 2 CyberAlert, Bryant Gumbel's estranged wife June, in asking for increased payments from him, charged that he's only giving her $250 a month.
In Wednesday's USA Today, Life section columnist
Jeannie Williams provided this update:
Guess he doesn't really need Don Imus's "GumbelAid 2000."
My fun fact of the day, courtesy of Paul Harvey: Wednesday, February 2, 2000 was the first day in almost 1,112 years that all the numbers in the date were even: 2/2/2000. That last occurred on August 28, 888, or 8/28/888. Of course, now that for the first time since 888 we're in a year with all even digits this will happen frequently, as it will again on Friday, 2/4/2000. -- Brent Baker 
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