'Early Show' Notes 'Religious Conservatives'; Labels Anything Liberal 'Moderate'
The May 11 edition of "The Early Show" ran a relatively fair piece on Rudy Giuliani and his stance on abortion. However, there were clear issues of a labeling double standards. In the set up story Jeff Greenfield noted Giuliani’s stance on social issues "moderate to liberal" despite the former mayor’s support of partial birth abortions.
During the course of Harry Smith’s interview with CBS News political analyst Nicolle Wallace, Smith used the term "religious conservatives" to describe the voters who express concern over Giuliani’s abortion rights support. Smith then described California, a state that Kerry defeated Bush by nine percent, as "more moderate" than Iowa and New Hampshire, two states that were decided by about one percent of the vote.
This is standard practice among the elite media. As previously documented by the Media Research Center, the media applies the conservative label to peope or organizations right of center much more frequently than their left of center counterparts. On the issue of abortion specifically, pro-life groups are frequently labeled conservative, where abortion rights supporters are rarely labeled liberal.
Interestingly, there was no mention Giuliani’s past support of Planned Parenthood, that Politico, CBS’s partner in political coverage, reported. The transcript is below.
HARRY SMITH: In politics these days, the lines are pretty clearly drawn between Democrats and Republicans. But now one leading Republican presidential candidate is blurring the line in one issue. CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports.
FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI: My position today is the same as it was yesterday --
JEFF GREENFIELD: The issue in question, abortion. The candidate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. His pro abortion rights views haven't changed. In fact, the campaign has let it be known, through the megaphone of the New York Times, that Giuliani will reaffirm his views in upcoming interviews and appearances. If that seems an odd stand to take in a Republican party whose base is strongly anti-abortion rights, well, Giuliani himself is at an odd position. Giuliani stands a top the polls not because of his moderate to liberal social views but in spite of them. For many Republicans, his views on abortion and gun control and gay rights are trumped by his record as New York's mayor and by his presence on the streets of New York on September 11th, 2001. But during last week's MSNBC sponsored debate in California, the trouble began when he seemed almost uncertain about legal abortion. For instance, about the court overturning a landmark Roe versus Wade decision.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mayor...
GIULIANI: It will be okay.
MATTHEWS: Okay to repeal?
GIULIANI: It would be okay to repeal. It would be okay also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent and I think a judge has to make that decision.
MATTHEWS: Would it be okay if they didn't repeal it?
GIULIANI: I think that, I think the court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it.
GREENFIELD: The Giuliani camps knows it's going to lose some votes to those who strongly support abortion rights. What concerns them, thought, is if voters in general no longer see Giuliani as a straight-shooting, tell it like it is leader. Making his abortion position clear, one aide told me, is likely to lessen that danger. Jeff Greenfield, CBS News, New York.
HARRY SMITH: Nicolle Wallace is a former communications director for the Bush White House and now is CBS News political analyst. And she joins us this morning. Good morning. It's so interesting. Watching that debate last night you saw-- last week, we saw Rudy trying to sort of straddle the fence. Now he's off the fence. He says this is where I am. I am pro-choice. There is no ambiguity. Is that folly or is that a brilliant political strategy?
NICOLLE WALLACE: You know, I think it is the smartest path for him. I think he is on much firmer ground, saying, you may not agree with me, but you know where I stand. And it is also a rather subtle contrast that I think he's making with Mitt Romney who has come to a pro-life position rather recently. You talked to people who are involved in his campaigns in Massachusetts on the Democratic side and they say you couldn't be more pro-choice than Mitt Romney --
WALLACE: Than he was. Obviously, has made what looks like a thoughtful argument to some conservatives who believe him that he has changed his mind. But I think that what Rudy is doing is going to stand in contrast to that, and we'll see. We'll see which is preferable to Republican voters.
SMITH: Because to be pro-life was -- I mean, that was -- you just had to have that stamp to get through the early primaries, to get through the caucuses. That early, you know, sort of base vote of religious conservatives. If you didn't have it, you weren't going to get any place, and Rudy has basically said "I'm going without it."
WALLACE: Well, I think what he is banking on is that no issue animates and unites the Republican base like the War on Terror. So I think the hope and the gamble is that his credentials are so rock solid on that issue that he'll be able to say, let's agree to disagree on this one. He makes his promises about the kind of judges which he'll appoint and they make sure in the same breath that they always say while he supports abortion rights, he's going to appoint the kind of judges in the vein of Chief Justice Roberts and Alito that will -- that, that's code to Republican voters and makes them more comfortable.
SMITH: That, that you can quote/unquote "trust me." Here's the other thing though. Because, because the primary landscape has changed so much. California's moved up. All these other big more moderate states are closer to the front end of the primary season. Is that also -- I can get through Iowa, maybe I can get through New Hampshire, if I can get to these bigger, more moderate states and maybe it won't matter that much?
WALLACE: The most interesting development of the week is that Rudy's campaign seems to be signaling that they're really on the fence about whether they're going to play in these early primary states. Which are really the decide- they make--
SMITH: Right, used to be the momentum makers.
WALLACE: -- The decision is usually made in that group of early states.
WALLACE: But he's now looking at California and looking at Florida, saying, I can really make a case that I'm the most electable guy if I can win big in those states. So they're taking a big gamble. But I think in politics sometimes those pay.
SMITH: Talking to you Republican friends. Are people still waiting for Fred Thompson? Are they waiting for Newt Gingrich? Are they waiting for somebody else? Are they looking over this crowd of a dozen or so, saying, who's out there yet?
WALLACE: You know, they look at the top three and some of them are still wondering if these are -- if any one of them is going to be able to really get to the heart of the Republican party. And what they say about McCain is really interesting. They say here's a guy who has the record. But for some reason we can't get all the way there on him. And I think some of this will depend on how the debate in Iraq shapes up. If Republicans have the best contrast that will unite the party behind them.