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Quote of the Day | Democrats Not Portrayed as Intolerant, Extreme | Just as in San Diego, Networks Attack from the Left | Benchmarks for Week One: A Look Back at San Diego | Sidebites: Public disagrees with Ted Koppel; "Moderate" delegates are quite liberal; and Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts go to bat for Hillary Clinton
"You said this morning that the party's message will focus on the needs and cares of the people. Now, how do you reconcile that with a President who has just signed a quote 'welfare reform bill' which by general agreement is going to put a lot of poor children on the street?"
-- Dan Rather to Chris Dodd during an interview on the August 25 CBS Evening News
Weekend Shows Fail to Apply GOP Level of Scrutiny Democrats Not Portrayed as Intolerant, Extreme
Unlike Republicans two Sundays ago, Democrats yesterday did not come under assault from the networks over their intolerance on abortion. While the subject was raised a few times, the networks spent more time raising liberal criticisms of the welfare reform bill President Clinton just signed. Findings from weekend coverage:
-- Democrats faced about one-third as many questions about abortion and the exclusion of dissenting speakers. Two weeks ago, the Sunday morning shows asked 27 questions about the GOP split on abortion and the failure to allow Gov. Pete Wilson to speak. Interviewers asked only 10 questions yesterday, perhaps because unlike inviting pro-choice Wilson and pro-life Bay Buchanan weeks before, pro-life Democrats like Gov. Bob Casey were not booked, despite Casey's Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking the "intolerance" of a "gag rule party." CNN's Late Edition asked only two questions, compared to 11 posed to the GOP; NBC's Meet the Press asked six questions, compared to nine for the GOP. ABC's This Week with David Brinkley had two questions instead of four, and CBS's Face the Nation offered zero abortion questions, compared to three in San Diego.
-- No mention of corporate contributions to the Democratic convention, not even of the hypocrisy of accepting funds from tobacco companies while Clinton attacks them with rhetoric and new regulations. Two weeks ago on Meet the Press, David Broder twice asked RNC Chairman Haley Barbour about the hypocrisy of accepting corporate money for the convention while promising campaign finance reform. On the Friday, August 23 World News Tonight, however, ABC's Brian Ross did do a story on the top ten corporate contributors to the DNC, including "a labor union under federal investigation for its ties to the mafia."
-- No questions were posed about how unions have taken over the Democratic Party. A Washington Post survey of Democratic delegates found 34 percent belong to a union. Friday's Wall Street Journal noted that "more than 400 delegates -- roughly one in ten -- will be members of the National Education Association." But that failed to generate questions about who controls the party.
Only 21 percent of GOP delegates said they were part of the religious right, but in San Diego CBS worried about their having too much influence. On Sunday August 11, Face the Nation guests got five ominous questions. "There are a number of Republicans who are very uncomfortable with what they feel is the power, the control that the conservative religious right has. Are you concerned about that?" CBS reporter Phil Jones asked Texas Governor George W. Bush.
-- Democrats called too conservative, charged from the left with going too far on welfare reform.
Just as in San Diego, Networks Attack from the Left Network Stars Line Up for Welfare Status Quo
The networks came at Republicans from the left on abortion in San Diego, and on Sunday they also came at Democrats from the left. By concentrating on liberal complaints about welfare reform, reporters helped Bill Clinton's effort to portray himself as a centrist. Dan Rather wondered if the party had gone "too far to the right?"
-- Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal set the tone of liberal anger on Saturday night's CNN Capital Gang: "Jesse Jackson and a few others will complain and I think a majority of the delegates here privately agree with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that supporters of this bill, quote, 'will take this disgrace to their graves,' end quote. They know Bill Clinton put his own political interests ahead of the well being of little children."
-- Meet the Press moderator Tim Russert demanded of DNC General Chairman Chris Dodd: "It's an issue of morality to many people, and how can you defend a President who basically said to the Congressional Democrats: Listen, that's your view, but I'm doing this, because -- was it politically expedient?"
-- Talking with Democratic strategist James Carville later in the show, Russert reminded viewers that he once toiled for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo: "But the Democratic Party for sixty years, James Carville, fought for a minimum guarantee payment to poor children and Bill Clinton undid that. Don't you have to draw the line someplace and say 'I'm a Democrat and this is what I stand for'?"
-- On yesterday's Face the Nation, CBS reporter Rita Braver asked Chicago Mayor Richard Daley: "The party looks a lot more united right now. But we have a sense that there are some underlying divisions and particularly this week with the President signing a welfare bill that a lot of people think is going to put children into poverty. And I guess the question is that in a city like this, aren't you scared about what is going to happen? Aren't you afraid you are going to have a lot of hungry children?"
-- Minutes later while interviewing Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, Braver pictured the Democrats as being too conservative: "I just wondered what you think is the really big difference between the Democrats and Republicans in this election? What would make people go Democrat when it seems like the Democrats are moving so close to Republican positions?"
-- Last night Dan Rather joined the chorus, inquiring of Braver on the CBS Evening News: "Rita, how worried are the Democrats about protests from some here that the party is running too far to the right, particularly on welfare reform?"
Benchmarks for the Week to Come: A Look Back at San Diego
Before the networks begin their prime time coverage in Chicago, here's a brief summary of how they covered the Republican convention in San Diego.
-- Labeling. Republican delegates, speakers, and candidates were described as conservative more than three times as often as moderate, but reporters also used more extreme labels than moderate labels. The networks employed 46 conservative labels (including 16 references to extreme conservatism) to only 13 moderate labels.
-- Agenda of Questions. Reporters posed more than seven times as many questions from the liberal agenda as they did from a conservative agenda: 51 questions from the left, compared to only six questions from the right.
-- Controversies. Reporters referred to the Republican Party's split on the abortion issue, including Gov. Pete Wilson's "disinvitation" to speak, on 55 occasions in prime time. In 1992, the Democrats' spiking of Gov. Bob Casey surfaced only six times (once on NBC, five times on CNN). ABC and CBS never acknowledged the Casey flap.
Most people think Ted Koppel was wrong to leave the Republican convention early, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found. On yesterday's Fox News Sunday, host Tony Snow reported that when asked if Koppel was "justified in leaving," 52 percent said no, 31 percent responded yes and 16 percent were undecided. On Tuesday of the GOP gathering, Koppel announced Nightline would leave because "this convention is more infomercial than a news event."
"Return to Chicago: This Time, the Democrats Embrace Moderation" declared the headline on the front of the Sunday Washington Post's convention section. Four pages later the Post headline over a story on a survey of delegates read: "Delegates Leaning More Liberal Than Their Leader or the Rank and File." Indeed, 82 percent favor affirmative action, 65 percent are against a balanced budget amendment, 72 percent oppose "reducing spending on social programs," but 65 percent want less defense spending.
Hillary the Revolutionary
Sam Donaldson identified Hillary Clinton's problem on yesterday's This Week with David Brinkley: "I think much of the opposition to Hillary Rodham Clinton is the fact that she is a strong-willed woman doing things in a man's arena, and we men don't seem to like that."
After George Will pointed out that politics is the arena of many women, from Margaret Thatcher to Indira Gandhi, Cokie Roberts retorted that she's been an "agent of change" and "it's very difficult for the world to accept people who have been revolutionaries."
-- Brent Baker in Alexandria, Va. with Associate Editor Tim Graham and media analysts Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters, Jim Forbes and Geoffrey Dickens.