In the hours before President Bush is pummeled about terrible approval ratings by the media and how nobody listens to him any more, let's rewind to how the State of the Union speeches in Clinton's second term weren't marred by scandal. Scandal vanished in the wake of his rhetorical brilliance:
2000: "Virtuoso, Peter. The address of a proud President, a tireless policy wonk and a very shrewd political strategist. He essentially handed Vice President Gore his campaign plan tonight. Lots of proposals that he suspects won’t pass – prescription drugs, gun control, Medicare reform – and he sets up Vice President Gore to run against a do-nothing Congress this fall, just like Harry Truman did in 1948." -- ABC political analyst George Stephanopoulos minutes after the State of the Union speech, January 27, 2000.
More than a decade after publisher Steve Forbes’s flat-tax platform temporarily vaulted him to the top of the pack of GOP presidential candidates, another prospective Republican presidential candidate is making tax simplification a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign. In announcing his exploratory committee, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback argued “We need a flat tax instead of the dreadful, incomprehensible tax code we now have,” today’s Wichita Eagle reported.
But unlike back in 1996, the media are now confronted with the evidence that the flat tax help boost wealth-producing economic growth. This week’s "Time" reports on the economic boom in the former Soviet republic of Estonia, which like many Eastern European countries has seen its fortunes rise since dumping socialism and instituting a flat tax. “The economy is now one of Europe’s most dynamic, racing along at an 11.3% growth clip,” Peter Gumbel writes this week in his “Letter from Estonia.”
Nearly eleven years ago, "Time" took dead aim at Forbes’s flat tax in a January 29, 1996 cover package, “Does the Flat Tax Make Any Sense,” an issue which hit mailboxes right before the New Hampshire primary.
In the 8 am hour of NBC's Today on Wednesday, they hailed old co-host Barbara Walters (then given the lesser title of "panelist") and showed old 1970s clips -- often with Walters sounding liberal notes. Viewers in 2007 saw a list of golden oldies showing Barbara's moxie, including:
"Let's get out! Just get out of Vietnam."
"This is Womanhood Day...Get your own cup of coffee!"
And touring the disastrous Cultural Revolution in communist China: "Today, the women in China speak of their total equality with men." Equally poor and oppressed. Sometimes equally murdered.
Matt Lauer said "Today came a long way, baby." Politically, maybe not so much.
"Warsaw's new archbishop, Stanislaw W. Wielgus, caught in Eastern Europe's widening witch hunt for former Communist secret police informers, admitted Friday that he had collaborated with the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, or Security Service, known as the S.B."
Prompted by the death of President Gerald Ford, Andy Rooney, in his commentary at the end of Sunday's 60 Minutes, ruminated about all the Presidents since FDR and made clear he sees more to admire in Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton than in Ronald Reagan. Rooney praised Ford: “We were lucky to have such a good, normal American to step in to do the job.” On Carter, Rooney characterized him as “smart” and contended “it was hard to dislike Jimmy Carter, even if you were a Republican.” Rooney obviously wasn't a Republican in the late 1970s. “Ronald Reagan was the only movie star ever elected President,” Rooney noted before snidely remarking: “A lot of people thought he was better in the movies than in the White House.” Bill Clinton, however, “might have gone down in history as one of the best Presidents we ever had if it hadn't been for that one unfortunate incident that I don't want to talk about in case there are children watching.”
This week, the Democrats certainly got their fair share of good press as they took control of the Congress. Looking back at the evening newscasts from the first week of January 1995, it’s interesting that the Republicans got fairly positive coverage on January 4, the day they ended 40 years of Democratic control of Congress. “This was the country at its best, making a peaceful political transition while elsewhere in the world men are killing one another in the name of freedom and unity,” ABC’s Peter Jennings optimistically intoned that night.
But the GOP honeymoon was not long-lasting. The very next night, ABC’s World News Tonight featured an interview with President Bill Clinton where Jennings suggested that the Clinton’s problem was that voters were unaware of the fantastic accomplishments of the Democratic administration. And then-ABC reporter Aaron Brown offered a lengthy report designed to rebut the very premise of the Republican platform, arguing that conservative voters don’t appreciate all the wonderful services they receive for their federal tax dollars.
The passing of President Gerald Ford drew a dignified, even warm farewell from the national press. There was near-consensus that he would be remembered for his decency and the risk he took, pardoning Richard Nixon from Watergate prosecutions in an effort to heal the nation. It is proper that the press is kind today. It ought to be remembered, however, that the press was not of this opinion when Ford took office.
For example, Time magazine’s cover story on the pardon in September 1974 declared that "Ford's first major decision raised disturbing questions about his judgment and his leadership capabilities, and called into question his competence." The cover carried suggestive sub-headlines like "Squandered Trust" and "Premature and Unwise." Such was the media’s mood toward this man’s actions in office.
Retired NBC anchor Tom Brokaw spoke for eight minutes at President Ford's memorial service today in Washington, but the most memorable lines offered thanks for how Ford welcomed the media as friends, not enemies, unlike Richard Nixon. He also praised Ford for supporting his wife as she spoke out on issues that weren't "politically correct."
“As a journalist I was especially grateful for his appreciation for our role even when we challenged his policies and taxed his patience with our constant presence and persistence. We could be adversaries, but we were never his enemy, and that was a welcome change in status from his predecessor’s time."
Billy Graham may seem like an American icon to some, but not to Katie Couric, who scorned him during live Ford memorial service coverage on CBS Tuesday morning. She complained about him for writing a "remarkably partisan" letter comforting Gerald Ford after he lost to her hero Jimmy Carter in 1976. Who is Couric to judge "remarkably partisan," since she leans exactly the other way when it comes to her hero, President Carter? At about 10:40 am, Couric talked with liberal Carter-boosting historian Douglas Brinkley about Ford's religious faith, which brought out this exchange about Ford's relationship with the evangelist:
The night after Christmas, the PBS show "Tavis Smiley" reran the Smiley interview with Rather from October when he was plugging the launch of his show on HDNet. Aside from his boast that he found reporting from the field "more addictive than crack cocaine," (and, um, how would Dan know that?), the interesting part was that Rather made it sound like he didn’t seem to discover the injustice of racism until he was 31 years old, and then professed that seeing racial hatred face to face made him a different media professional.
"When I came to the civil rights movement, covering it for CBS News, when I first came to work for the network in 1962, I had no idea. I was dumb as a fence post about civil rights. I'd vaguely heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, heard some things about sit-ins. But it became my first major responsibility for CBS News was to cover Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, just as it was beginning to really take traction. They'd been trying to get it to take traction for a long while. And the education that was for me, if I hadn't been before, and you can argue that I already was, that I became addicted to field reporting. And once you get addicted, trust me, it's more addictive than crack cocaine."
That great American ambassador and lovely lady Jeane Kirkpatrick has left us, but her passing also causes us to remember her strategic sense and moral clarity. She came to national prominence in Reaganite circles in 1979 with her marvelous Commentary magazine essay on “Dictatorship and Double Standards.” It argued that traditional authoritarian autocracies were both more susceptible to liberalization and more amenable to American interests than totalitarian dictatorships of the left, which came into power with disturbing frequency in the late 1970s, with America as their stated enemy.
She easily explained how the Carter administration and the liberal press romantically saw in the revolutionary left a shared commitment to modernity over tradition, science over religion, an educated bureaucracy over private hierarchies, and futuristic and universal goals over appeals to an archaic and ordered past.
I almost did a double take when reading this editorial knowing it came from the Washington Post. Kudos to the staff of the editorial page for printing something very politically incorrect about deceased former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and acknowledging the horrible truth that Fidel Castro, the aging communist ruler of Cuba, has not been sufficiently denounced.
Castro-worship (and really Fidel is just a cipher for any leftist dictator) is an amusing thing. I once encountered a college professor who was so enamored of him, he even defended Castro's systematic murders and imprisonments of gay Cubans, despite having previously denounced the right for being anti-gay just weeks before. The further irony was, that this guy taught ancient political philosophy and history and yet was forever going on about how wonderful Fidel was.
And now to the excerpt:
It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves
behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15
years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its
poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world,
where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant
democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president,
Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, who passed away Friday morning, adapted a 1983 speech on the influence of the news media, into the forward for the Media Research Center's 1990 book, And That's the Way It Isn't: A Reference Guide to Media Bias. She proposed: “Some people believe, and I am among them, that the power of the media today constitutes the most significant exercise of unaccountable power in our society. It is unaccountable to anyone, except for those who exercise the power. I believe that the domain of culture is as important as the domain of government or the economy.”
More than two decades ago, she warned: “It is very important to realize that the electronic media, which provide mass audiences, have made our culture much more manipulable than it ever was in the past. Typically, historically, cultures have been slow to change. Ideas about what's real, what's important, and what causes what, change very slowly in history. They are grounded in the experience of peoples, and respond only to additional, cumulative experiences of peoples. With the rise of electronic media, the possibility of deliberate manipulation of culture has been magnified ten zillion fold.” (Full text follows)
Fellow NBers, let’s please have a moment of silence for Jeane Kirkpatrick who has died at the age of 80. As reported by Reuters:
Jeane Kirkpatrick, a key player in former President Ronald Reagan's conservative foreign policy as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has died, the American Enterprise Institute, where she was a senior fellow, said on Friday.
She was 80 years old.
Initially the only Democrat in Reagan's cabinet-level team and for a time the only woman, Kirkpatrick later became a Republican who adopted an activist stance at the United Nations, hitting back whenever the United States was attacked.
Kirkpatrick was a major architect of U.S. policy in Central America.
This morning, NBC’s Today led the broadcast by highlighting Fox’s decision not to air their smarmy interview with O. J. Simpson about how he “would” have killed his wife “if” he had committed the crime, which, of course, most Americans believe he did, only to escape a double-murder conviction in a circus of a trial. But while NBC seemed to be enjoying Fox’s pain today, back in the ’90s, their Today show was perhaps O.J.’s most sympathetic venue on TV.
This morning, co-host Matt Lauer talked to the late Nicole Brown’s sister Denise in both the 7am and 7:30am half-hours about the awfulness of Fox’s deal with O.J., which News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch scuttled on Monday, saying it was an “ill-considered project” — perhaps the understatement of the decade.
President Bush traveling to Vietnam was guaranteed to bring out the Iraq-Vietnam comparisons, especially on National Public Radio. On Wednesday's "Morning Edition," co-host Steve Inskeep interviewed liberal author David Halberstam, who reported on Vietnam for the New York Times. Halberstam warned that we needed to withdraw from Iraq because it wasn't worth the death of "some kid in the Ohio National Guard" for an "undoable" goal.
A quick glance back at the first post-election Notable Quotables newsletter in 1994 carries a pile of quotes that bear no resemblance to the new-day-dawning tone of 2006. There was a lot of bitterness, and some wistful looks forward:
"1994 Isn't Forever: Despite Sweeping Gains for Republicans, History Suggests the Power is Temporary" -- New York Times headline over story by Washington Bureau Chief R.W. Apple, November 10.
A classic liberal-media reaction came very late on Election Night as CNN's Mary Tillotson predicted that 1994's results could be seen as a dreadful disaster for the Republicans in 1996:
So this week’s Time magazine has declared an end to Ronald Reagan’s conservative revolution? It wouldn’t be the first time — the fortune tellers at Time also saw the end of the “bankrupt” Reagan era back in 1993, after novice President Bill Clinton pleased Time’s writing staff by passing a budget that raised personal income tax rates and increased the tax on gasoline. Too bad the “return to the economic orthodoxy of balanced budgets” Time promised wasn’t achieved until voters put budget-cutting Republicans in charge of the House and Senate the following year 1994.
“Overturning the Reagan Era” screamed Time’s cover, which showed an upside-down image of President Reagan. The cover story, by Nancy Gibbs, showed Time’s obvious infatuation with liberals' concept of “fiscal responsibility,” namely, punish the private sector with tax rates high enough to pay for all of the fat government programs that Democrats can dream up (although Gibbs wished for even higher taxes, saying the ones Clinton and the last Democratic Congress pushed through "weren't very brave.").
A few weeks ago, Amy Ridenour decried the Washington Post obituary writers for writing a bitter obituary for ex-Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth, a "militia-friendly" and "extremist" conservative from Idaho who arrived in Washington with Newt Gingrich's new majority in 1994. She noted a communist spy from Vietnam drew a kinder obituary. That happened again Friday with the death of "charming" and "avuncular" East German spymaster Markus Wolf.
Markus Wolf, 83, who helped to oversee the growth of East Germany's espionage network and once wrote that he wanted to be remembered for "perfecting the use of sex in spying," died of undisclosed causes Nov. 9 at his apartment in Berlin.
The MRC's Rich Noyes this afternoon reminded me of how the CBS Evening News smeared Robert Gates, nominated Wednesday by President George W. Bush to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, when President George H.W. Bush nominated him to become CIA Director in 1991. A short item in the June, 1991 MediaWatch, a monthly newsletter the MRC published at the time, recounted:
SPOOKING CBS. President Bush's May 14 selection of Robert Gates to head the CIA was well received by leaders of both parties, but you'd never know that from watching CBS reporter Eric Engberg. Instead, he linked Gates to the Iran-Contra affair through tabloid-style innuendo: "During the time when William Casey was secretly overseeing the sale of arms to the Iranians and aid to the Contras, as laws were broken and money flowed, his loyal number two at the CIA was Robert Gates." Engberg put on Tom Blanton of the (unlabeled) leftist National Security Archive (NSA) to proclaim: "The worst case is that Bob Gates participated in a coverup. The best case is that Bob Gates is a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil bureaucrat who watched all this information come through his office and looked the other way."
Today's Wall Street Journal online edition features an important essay by sociologist James Q. Wilson examining how the American press has turned into an unpatriotic and anti-war entity. He also explains why this matters: because educated people are likely to be swayed by the media's coverage of events, whether that coverage is accurate or not.
A few excerpts:
We are told by careful
pollsters that half of the American people believe that American troops
should be brought home from Iraq immediately. This news discourages
supporters of our efforts there. Not me, though: I am relieved. Given
press coverage of our efforts in Iraq, I am surprised that 90% of the
public do not want us out right now.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2005,
nearly 1,400 stories appeared on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news.
More than half focused on the costs and problems of the war, four times
as many as those that discussed the successes. About 40% of the stories
reported terrorist attacks; scarcely any reported the triumphs of
American soldiers and Marines. The few positive stories about progress
in Iraq were just a small fraction of all the broadcasts.
While the national media made the books of Bob Woodward and David Kuo big anti-Bush sensations, are there any books from conservatives that could make a wave in the campaign? On Monday's talk shows, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin both promoted a story from our colleagues at CNSNews.com on a new book by Grove City College professor Paul Kengor called "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism." Its startling revelation: Ted Kennedy was asking Soviet dictators to help assist in defeating Reagan in 1984:
Back in 1994, the last time Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate, the broadcast networks tried to suffocate the Republican challenge with negative spin. NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw scoffed at the GOP's Contract with America: "It is long on promises, but short on sound premises."
No Republican got worse press that year than the man who would be Speaker, Newt Gingrich. ABC's Jim Wooten slammed Gingrich as "the national poster boy for the politics of resentment and rage." CBS's Eric Engberg skewered Gingrich as "bombastic and ruthless....the family values candidate who divorced his ailing first wife."
Fast forward 12 years, and now Republicans are defending their House and Senate majorities in a tough election. But the broadcast networks have so far refused to scrutinize the Democrats who wish to lead the next Congress.
GREENSBORO, N.C., Oct. 18 -- President Bush said Wednesday that the current surge of violence in Iraq "could be" comparable to the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, a succession of battles that became a milestone because it helped turn the American public against the conflict and its political leadership.
What the WaPo won't come right out and say is that it wasn't the Tet Offensive itself that had such a devastating effect upon civilian morale, it was the abjectly incompetent reporting of the event by American journalists.
Today's starter: Is it just me or does it seem to anyone else that the
media's political memory doesn't go much further back than a month? For
those with longer attention spans, the Weekly Standard provides a welcome dose of history in its latest issue.
On another front, NB contributing blogger Bob Owens is having a fund-raising drive to help replace his almost-dead computer. If you like Bob's posts, consider contributing.
Also, if you haven't contributed your two cents to the NewsBusters FAQ (frequently asked questions), here's the link. Ask questions you want answered by NB staff or answer ones you think new readers might have.
Both Time and Newsweek are out with another set of “bad news for Republicans” covers this week, as Tim Graham pointed out earlier this morning. In her magazine’s cover story, Time’s Karen Tumulty suggests that Republican are about to lose control of Congress. “It took 40 years for the House Democrats to exhaust their goodwill. It may take only 12 years for the Republicans to get there.”
For millions who will only notice Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News & World Report as they’re waiting to check out at the grocery store, the picture and headline on the cover will convey the news magazine’s editorial summary of the week’s important news. This week, Time showcases a huge shot of an elephant’s rump, symbolizing the end of the GOP’s control of Congress. Newsweek has a huge close-up of the disgraced Mark Foley’s face, an image that dwarfs a picture of President Bush.
In Foley Case Upsets Tough Balance by Capitol Hill’s Gay Republicans, the New York Times describes the plight of gay Republican staffers in DC. According to the Times, things are so tough for them that a group gets together every week to "commiserate." The longish article makes an interesting read, but I was particularly struck by these two items. First, the article's author, Mark Leibovich, writes:
"Even though the G.O.P. fashions itself as 'the party of Lincoln' and a promoter of tolerance, it is perceived as hostile by many gay men and lesbians."
Congressman Barney Frank’s scandalous tolerance of a gay prostitution business operating out of his house, uncovered by the Washington Times in 1989, drew from ABC nowhere near the dramatic amount of attention ABC gave Mark Foley. On the August 25, 1989 World News Tonight, Sam Donaldson noted it just once in passing, a mere 67 words:
"Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, an acknowledged homosexual, today confirmed that his Washington apartment had been used as a callboy headquarters by a male prostitute for a year and a half until late 1987. Responding to a story in today's Washington Times, Frank said he had hired the prostitute out of his own funds as a personal aide and fired him when he found out what was going on."
When the story broke in July of 1983 on the sexual affairs with House pages by Reps. Daniel Crane and Gerry Studds, ABC did not fuel days of speculation about whether Speaker Tip O’Neill would resign. (Fun fact: when Studds was censured, Speaker O’Neill did not cast a vote. Three Democrats voted against Studds being censured.) By the time Studds ran in a primary re-election campaign in September 1984, ABC aired a report telling the nation that Studds faced only "a strong sense of loyalty" and forgiveness from the voters in Massachusetts.
On July 14, 1983, ABC reporter Charles Gibson reported:
"In both cases, the relationships were voluntary, there was no favoritism granted to the pages. Thus it was the recommendation of the committee's special counsel, Joseph Califano, that the Congressmen not be expelled or censured, simply reprimanded and by an eleven to one vote, the Ethics Committee agreed."
David Brooks' New York Times column of this morning on the Foley matter, "A Tear in Our Fabric," is so important that I'd normally be inclined to simply reproduce it in its entirety and let it speak for itself. But as a subscription-required item, I cannot. I do offer an extended-but-redacted excerpt for our readers' consideration:
This is a tale of two predators. The first is a congressman who befriended teenage pages. He sent them cajoling instant messages asking them to describe their sexual habits, so he could get his jollies.
The second is a secretary, who invited a 13-year-old girl from her neighborhood into her car and kissed her. Then she invited the girl up to her apartment, gave her some vodka, took off her underwear and gave her a satin teddy to wear.