"Under Pressure from Conservatives"." - July 12, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for July 12, 2004

"Under Pressure from Conservatives"."

The Times puts its standard stamp on the issue of gay rights in Monday's front-page story by Adam Nagourney and David Kirkpatrick, "Urged by Right, Bush Takes On Gay Marriages."

They begin: "Two weeks before the Democratic convention and under pressure from conservatives, President Bush is escalating his support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, moving the issue to the forefront of the campaign and underscoring what his aides said was a critical difference between the president and Senator John Kerry"."

In Timesland, apparently, Democrats are hardly ever "pressured by liberals" to sign on to certain policies. A quick-and-dirty Nexis search shows that the phrase used by Nagourney and Kirkpatrick, "under pressure from conservatives," has occurred 30 times in the Times over the last 10 years. In that same period, the matching phrase "under pressure from liberals" appeared twice, none since April 1997.

A related story reported solely by Kirkpatrick, "Social Conservatives Want More of Their Own to Speak at the G.O.P. Convention," overdoses on the conservative label, with 17 instances of the term "conservative" appearing as a description in an 1,110 word story, and one in the headline. Meanwhile the liberal Human Rights Campaign is called only "a gay rights group."

For more of Nagourney and Kirkpatrick on pressure from the right on gay marriage, click here.

For more of Kirkpatrick on the moderate look of the GOP convention, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Conservatives | Gay Rights | David Kirkpatrick | Labeling Bias | Adam Nagourney

"Wedge Issues" Only on the Right?

Jodi Wilgoren reports from North Carolina on the state's greeting for its favorite son, VP pick Sen. John Edwards. Wilgoren states Sunday: "At the rally here, Mr. Kerry made an oblique reference to conservatives' efforts to use gay marriage and other wedge issues to win Bible Belt states like North Carolina."

When the Times tries to warn conservatives away from a topic by implying it"s a divisive "wedge issue," one wonders if "wedge issue" means a "popular issue disliked by liberals."

For more of Wilgoren from the Democratic campaign, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Gay Rights | Labeling Bias | Jodi Wilgoren

Say It Ain't So, Joe (Wilson)

The just-released Senate report on intelligence has new insights on the controversy over what U.S. intelligence knew about Saddam Hussein's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa. The Times' only apparent mention of what the report had to say on the matter comes in Sunday's story from David Sanger, "Despite Terror Risk, Washington Is Unlikely to Press Reform of C.I.A. This Year."

Sanger notes, vaguely: "Within hours of the release of the Senate committee's report on Friday, White House officials were sending messages to one another citing specific conclusions that they read as exonerating Mr. Bush's top aides for the president's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa. For weeks last summer, C.I.A. officials argued that the White House had ignored warnings that the intelligence was suspect."

Contrast that with the Saturday story from the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt, which eviscerates the veracity of statements by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who wrote a Times op-ed on his trip to Niger and was in the forefront of attempts to discredit the notion Hussein tried to get uranium from Africa.

The Post's Schmidt begins: "Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly. Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House. Wilson's assertions-both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report. The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address."

(For those playing catch-up on the whole uranium thing, there's more on what the new findings mean here.)

The Times ran Ambassador Wilson's initial op-ed in July, fawned over the "erudite" Wilson in an October profile, and banked on Wilson's credibility to dismiss the Hussein-African uranium connection. Now that Wilson's credibility has been damaged by the Senate intelligence report (one the Times will use to cast aspersions on Bush), will the Times even acknowledge the problem?

" Iraq War | Niger | David Sanger | Uranium | Joseph Wilson

Still Ignoring the 9/11 Commissioners

Monday's story by Philip Shenon on the 9/11 commission's upcoming final report, "9/11 Report Is Said to Dismiss Iraq-Qaeda Alliance," again insists the commission is undermining White House arguments about a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Shenon begins: "The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is nearing completion of a final, probably unanimous report that will stand by the conclusions of the panel's staff and largely dismiss White House theories both about a close working relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda and about possible Iraqi involvement in Sept. 11, commission officials said."The findings were in marked contrast to statements by President Bush and, more often, Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been the administration's lead spokesman in arguing that an alliance existed between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Though Mr. Cheney insisted that he had no major differences with the commission and that the debate was being mischaracterized in news reports, the vice president responded to the staff report last month by telling a television interviewer that 'there clearly was a relationship' between President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Al Qaeda and that 'the evidence is overwhelming'"."

But it's not just Cheney who was saying that. Shenon fails to mention that the cochairs of the commission, Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, agreed with Cheney when he said there were "no major differences with the commission."

As Democrat Hamilton said at a June 17 press conference: "I have trouble understanding the flap over this. The Vice President is saying, I think, that there were connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein"s government. We don"t disagree with that....It seems to me that the sharp differences that the press has drawn, the media has drawn, are not that apparent to me."

For the rest of Shenon on the upcoming final 9/11 report, click here.

" Al Qaeda | Dick Cheney | Iraq War | Philip Shenon | Terrorism

NYT to WFB: "You Seem Indifferent to Suffering""

Reporter Deborah Solomon interviews National Review founder William F. Buckley upon his announced retirement from the magazine he started nearly 50 years ago. The Times files a gracious interview to mark the retirement of the man who revitalized the American conservative movement, right?

Not even close. Here are some of Solomon's questions:

"You have made so many offensive comments over the years. Do you regret any of them?

"It's not fair to blame the press. Some of your most inflammatory comments have been made in your essays and columns. In the 50's, you famously claimed that whites were culturally superior to African-Americans."

"You seem indifferent to suffering. Have you ever suffered yourself?"

As if giving the "devil" his due, Solomon's last question offers up a specific tribute: "Why are conservative writers generally wittier than liberal writers?

For the rest of Solomon with Buckley, click here.

" Conservatives | William F. Buckley | Deborah Solomon

No Hypocrisy Among Wealthy "Populist" Democrats?

Michael Moss and Kate Zernike dip their toes lightly Saturday into the matter of the hypocrisy of the populism of the wealthy Democratic ticket-and quickly draw back from the current and into the warm platitudes of the family's friends, who describe the Edwards as just plain folks.

In the vaguely headlined, "Campaign Releases Edwards's Earnings, Moss and Zernike report: "Mr. Edwards paid $9,353,448 in federal taxes on his income of $26,869,496, but the shelter allowed him to avoid paying $591,112 in Medicare tax, the figures provided by the campaign show."

They touch on the hypocrisy factor: "In campaigning for the presidential nomination, Mr. Edwards attacked President Bush as favoring the wealthy with his tax policies and blamed tax shelters as undermining the Medicare program. Asked how Mr. Edwards's use of the tax shelter squared with his campaign positions, David Ginsberg, a Kerry campaign spokesman, said: 'Senator Edwards believes that no individual should pay more than they owe in taxes, but he also believes that we should make sure our tax code reflects our values. The law should make sure everybody is paying their share-not one penny more and not one penny less.'"

Then Moss and Zernike call several of Edwards' friends to the trial lawyers' defense: "But even those whose business it is to collect taxes said they could find no fault with what Mr. Edwards did. Friends and neighbors say Mr. Edwards does not flaunt his wealth and generally avoids its trappings. The biggest extravagances seem to be homes. The Edwardses own three houses: one in Raleigh, N.C.; a beach house on Figure Eight Island, near Wrightsville Beach, N.C.; and a town house in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, bought last year for $3.8 million. They do not eat out often, and friends say that when they do they choose restaurants where they can order chicken fingers for their children. The Edwardses recently vacationed at Walt Disney World, but for the most part, vacations are to Raleigh or to the beach house. 'You're not talking people who are in love with money for its own sake,' said Glenn Bergenfield, a friend of the couple's since law school, and godparent to their two sons. They have a live-in nanny. Mr. Edwards drives a Buick and Mrs. Edwards a Chrysler minivan. Aides say Mr. Edwards could no more say the brand of shoes or suit he is wearing than he could the exact distance to the moon. 'He just doesn't care,' one said."

Even the story's teaser line raises the issue of the shelter only to dismiss it: "Critics raise questions about a tax shelter, but experts defend it."

Then there's the story's placement. As Post media reporter Howard Kurtz said on the CNN show Reliable Sources Sunday: "There was a story, [reporter] Jill Zuckman, in yesterday's 'New York Times,' at the bottom of page 15 here, that talked about Edwards using a tax shelter to avoid paying $600,000 in Medicare taxes. A perfectly good story. I'm wondering why it wasn't on the front page saying John Edwards, who casts himself as a man who fights for the average guy and who made $27 million in the four years before he joined the Senate and who criticized tax shelters during the campaign, used one to avoid paying more than half a million dollars to the Medicare program."

For the rest of Moss and Zernike on Edwards' tax shelter, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Sen. Jonathan Edwards | Michael Moss | Taxes | Kate Zernike