GOP Budget Views Shutdown; Orwellian Starr "Stained" the U.S.
Corrections: In a joke about Clinton the October 9 CyberAlert referred to his "desert." That should have read dessert, as in food not parched land. At another point that same CyberAlert quoted Peter Jennings as saying: "After all the countries been through in the last eight or nine months..." Countries should have been country's.
Monday night the broadcast networks all led with preparations for an airstrike against Serbia and the possibility an agreement might be reached to put them off. Before the holiday weekend, on Friday night, CNN and NBC began with Kosovo/Serbia, but the CBS and FNC evening shows led with pieces on White House reaction to the impeachment hearings vote and a look a what's next for the House Judiciary Committee.
ABC went first Friday with the budget showdown but in three nights of coverage while ABC provided multiple platforms for Clinton to denounce the Republicans and their conservative actions on policy and process, the network never allowed a Republican to make a policy statement or criticize Clinton on policy. NBC didn't do much better, running unanswered soundbites from Clinton on Friday and Saturday night. (Football bumped the CBS Evening News in the east on Saturday and Sunday and NBC Nightly News on Sunday.)
Below is a rundown of how ABC and then NBC didn't meet fundamental journalistic norms of balance on the budget showdown.
elaborated on Clinton's points: "Now said the President the
Congress must pass certain legislation, beginning with more money for
education, a new agriculture measure to replace the one he just vetoed as
inadequate, the $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund and of
course final funding for several government departments whose
appropriation bills have never been passed. Late today Congress moved
toward keeping the government open over the weekend in an effort to settle
Next, John Cochran
highlighted how little Congress has accomplished, with an emphasis on how
a liberal proposal failed. After explaining that it took until Friday for
the House to pass a bill making it harder to declare bankruptcy, Cochran
asserted that the House had passed half as many bills as last year.
Cochran continued: "Republicans are so worried about charges of a
do-nothing Congress that they have new ads touting what everyone agrees
are real accomplishments like tax cuts and the balanced budget."
Having failed to explore the GOP view on the budget -- whether from the Republican view of allowing localities to control education funding or pointing out how Clinton's spending exceeds his agreement or even from a conservative view critical of the Republicans for failing to fight for reduced spending -- on Monday night ABC highlighted wasteful spending advocated by Gingrich and Lott. After anchor Charlie Gibson noted Clinton and Congress had agreed to another two-day deal, he announced: "Somehow there always seems to be enough for the pet projects of powerful politicians, especially military projects."
explained: "When Congress passed the Defense budget Speaker Newt
Gingrich blamed President Clinton for failing to ask for enough money to
keep the military strong."
After Air Force
General Michael Ryan complained he's not allowed to deploy the planes
where he wants and that his budget does not include the cost of
maintenance for the planes, Martin added Trent Lott as a culprit:
"One place they are being told to put one new plane is Mississippi,
the home of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott."
Shipman moved on to the fight with no soundbite from a Republican, reporting that the White House thinks it will get funding for Head Start and child literacy while Republicans believe they will win on tax breaks for farmers "and on the controversial issue of the way the next census will be counted."
From Capitol Hill,
Gwen Ifill hit several topics but did not allow any time for a Republican
to counter Clinton. Ifill noted that "In the House lawmakers approved
a bankruptcy bill to make it tougher for consumers to erase bad debts, but
the President says it favors credit card companies and he will veto
Next, from the
White House John Palmer gave Clinton some more unanswered time,
highlighting how Clinton was "criticizing Senate Republicans for
rejecting his bill to clamp down on managed health care programs, warning
in his weekly radio broadcast the same fate should not happen to his
Time allowed for the GOP radio broadcast: Zilch.
For Saturday's NBC Nightly News Newsweek's Jonathan Alter set out to
prove that everyone wants to move on and doesn't understand why the
House voted for unlimited hearings. Alter opened his piece, interspersed
with clips from the House debate:
Wishful thinking? On Friday's Good Morning America, MRC analyst Ross
Adams noticed that co-host Lisa McRee, in Dorset, Vermont for fall
foliage, asked ABC's Cokie Roberts:
Roberts replied that's "way ahead of the game here," but then corrected an earlier item: "Keep in mind only five members of the House, you all said earlier it was ten, it was five, only five members of the House voted against any inquiry at all."
Indeed, in the first half hour of the October 9 show Kevin Newman asked Paul Begala: "But how partisan was it really I mean? All but ten members of Congress voted for some kind of investigation into the President's behavior, particularly into the Monica Lewinsky. That's significant. How do you square that?"
Gee, where did he get the idea that ten voted no to both resolutions? On World News Tonight the night before a reporter told Peter Jennings: "It is significant that the Democrats did have their own inquiry plan too and almost all of them voted for it, so one way or the other, almost every single member of the House of Representatives today, only ten voted against proceeding with some kind of inquiry of impeachment against the President of the United States."
The name of the reporter who passed along the erroneous information on ABC's evening show? Cokie Roberts.
Like Clinton stained the dress, "Starr stained the country,"
declared Time magazine's Margaret Carlson. In an October 12 "Public
Eye" column in Time about how Starr "remains a mystery
himself," Carlson concluded with some ominous implications about the
Starr-directed grand jury appearance by Bill Clinton at the White House:
("...on the day after he had violated all norms of privacy...." I'm somewhat baffled by her reference to the day after when I assume she's referring to Starr violating Clinton's privacy that day in the Map Room testimony.)
Great media minds and Starr haters think alike. Carlson is upset by how he "violated all norms of privacy" and on Sunday's Late Edition CNN's Bruce Morton recalled the book "1984," claiming that by violating people's privacy Starr fueled the sordid scandal and created "Orwell's world."
In his end of the show essay for October 11 Morton showed Democrat Robert Wexler on the House floor complaining: "The global economy is crumbling and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky. Saddam Hussein hides weapons and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky. Genocide rakes Kosovo, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky."
Morton agreed, but
warned: "Yes, neither one can worry full time about global recession
or murderous Serbs right now. They're busy with lawyers and depositions
and so on. But we've lost maybe forever one other thing, perhaps more
valuable. We've lost privacy.
After showing Clinton in his testimony saying he knew Lewinsky would talk, Morton insisted: "Anyone of us could be investigated like this and we would be able to keep no secrets about love or sex or money -- no secrets about anything. If this reminds you of George Orwell's novel, 1984, it should. The government in that book poked and pried everywhere. Its slogan was, big brother is watching you. And with the aid of the thought police, he was."
Dramatic pause, then: "Welcome to Orwell's world."
Morton held Starr the prosecutor responsible: "Lovers, like cold war spies, may have to meet in parks in open spaces away from hidden microphones. Coded messages maybe. One time pads, all the stuff James Bond taught us how to use. Maybe the loss of privacy will make us virtuous, chaste in word and deed but probably not. The President knew he'd be found out and seems not to have cared. So welcome to the brave new world in which the letter P stands not for privacy, but for poking and peeking and prying and for prosecutor, coming soon perhaps to life near yours."
Only if you make the first move and commit perjury in a court proceeding.
An update on the woman denied an abortion by a judge's tough sentence, at least in the version portrayed by CBS News. "Locked inside this Ohio jail is a 21-year-old pregnant woman who wants to have an abortion. Sitting inside this courthouse is a judge who won't let it happen." So bemoaned reporter Diana Olick in opening an October 8 CBS Evening News story detailed in the October 9 CyberAlert.
I suggested that despite Olick's implication that a six month sentence from the judge would stretch from the woman's first to third trimester, she had been pregnant more than three months when she appeared before the judge. I was correct. The CBS story aired two days after Yuriko Kawaguchi's October 6 sentencing. An October 8 AP story, the MRC's Tim Graham alerted me to, reported that on October 6 Kawaguchi, "who is more than five months' pregnant" and had pleaded "guilty August 10 to forgery in a credit-card scam, was sentenced to six months in prison, with credit for four months already spent in jail."
In other words, she was already into her sixth month of pregnancy when she faced Judge Patricia Cleary, whom CBS portrayed as an insensitive anti-abortion crusader. Her previous four months in jail may well have prevented her from obtaining an abortion, but her subsequent six month sentence only stopped her from trying to get an abortion months outside the normal first trimester time frame.
Nonetheless, having failed to tell viewers about how the sentence was imposed days not months ago and skipping over the fact that all but two months were suspended, Olick had declared: "When Kawaguchi is released in about a month she'll be close to seven months pregnant, forced to have her child."
See the October 9 CyberAlert for more on Olick's story.
The headlines Friday, October 9, in America's two most influential dailies:
-- The Washington Post: "Impeachment Inquiry Approved; 31 House Democrats Back GOP."
-- The New York Times: "House, In a Partisan 258-176 Vote, Approves a Broad, Open-Ended Impeachment Inquiry."
As so many in the media emphasized, it was a solemn vote in the House. But not solemn enough for the New York Times to rise above inserting liberal spin. -- Brent Baker 
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