Kristol: Time Mag Did Poll Hoping It Would Show "Cheney's Numbers Plummet"

After NPR's Mara Liasson relayed on Fox News Sunday how a Time magazine poll "showed 65 percent thought he [Dick Cheney] should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting," fellow panelist Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard pointed that while Time's press release highlighted that finding, they didn't stress numbers which demonstrated the public doesn't see the hunting accident revelation time line as such a big deal. Kristol cited how by 52 to 42 percent most approve "of how the Vice President handled this and when asked, "Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?," by 41 to 37 percent the plurality chose "an asset." Kristol postulated: "Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think." A Sunday NewsBusters posting by Noel Sheppard, “Time's New Cheney Poll Shows Huge Divide Between Public and Media Opinion,” also looked at the magazine's poll. (Partial transcript from Fox News Sunday follows)

This item appeared in Monday's MRC CyberAlert.

During the panel segment on the February 19 Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson of NPR asserted:
"With the exception of the late-night comedians, who had a field day with this, this is a story that was pretty easy to understand. The Vice President shoots somebody. Then there was the issue of whether he should have disclosed it sooner or handled it differently. And on that, there's a remarkable amount of consensus. There is a Time poll that showed 65 percent thought he should have taken immediate responsibility as opposed to waiting. And I guess among that number would be President Bush, whose spokesman made it pretty clear that he also thought that Cheney maybe should have come out sooner. But at the same time, the Time poll showed that 69 percent said this would have no effect at all on their opinion of the Vice President, which nationally is pretty low. I think his approval rating is 29 percent. So I think, overall, is this an important, significant story that will change something politically? No. For people who -- including members of the press, who feel this White House is too secretive and the Vice President has too much power and is unchecked, this becomes a metaphor for that."
Bill Kristol, Publisher of the Weekly Standard, read from Time magazine's press release:
"Time, of course, chose to put this on the cover in its next week's issue with this very dark, ominous subhead, 'How One Shot at a Quail Hunt Turned a Gentile Quail Hunt into a Political Crisis.' And then they highlight in their press release the first number Mara mentioned -- 'most people think Cheney should have come forward a little earlier.' What they don't highlight are some -- let me just mention a couple of additional numbers from the poll.

"'Do you approve of how the Vice President handled this?' 52-42, yes, approve. 'What's your general approval or disapproval of the Vice President?' It's the same as the President, almost identical to the President's approval rating. And this is my favorite: 'Do you think the Vice President is an asset to the President and to his administration or damaging?' 41-37, an asset. Cheney is not hurting the Bush administration. If anything, he's helping it some. I think he's a political and substantive asset to the Bush administration. This accidental shooting has done nothing at all to hurt, to change, the numbers on Cheney.

"Time obviously commissioned this poll desperately hoping 'Cheney's numbers plummet, damaging Bush administration.' They couldn't find a thing like that. So it tells you much more about the press corps than the Vice President, I think."

Also, by an overwhelming 85 to 10 percent, those polled rejected the idea Cheney should resign. And by 56 to 39 percent, the majority of those surveyed said they do not believe "Cheney was trying to hide something by waiting to disclose the accident."

For Time's poll.

The story in Time's February 27 edition is headlined, "Inside the Shooting at the Ranch: What really happened in the brushy South Texas wild that day? How one shot turned a genteel quail hunt into a political crisis."

But that's mild compared to Newsweek's cover story, "The Shot Heard Round the World: He peppered a man in the face, but didn't tell his boss. Inside Dick Cheney's dark, secretive mind-set -- and the forces that made it that way."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center