CyberAlert -- 02/23/2000 -- Bush's Tactics Cost Him

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Bush's Tactics Cost Him; Avoiding Sharpton; "Ultra-Conservative" McCain

1) MSNBC's analysis of the Michigan vote: Bush lost because of his South Carolina "tactics," but there's still time for him to move from "right wing conservative" to "compassionate conservative." McCain must connect with the "far right" in the party.

2) Howard Fineman: High number of non-Republican voters shows "Democrats and independents...are looking for somebody who can take on the Democratic Party." But George Stephanopoulos asserted that the numbers proved "mischief-making" by Democrats.

3) In stories on the Democratic debate featuring Al Sharpton, CBS skipped over his role while NBC only called him "controversial." Yet NBC's Tim Russert maintained that Bush won't be able to "shake off Bob Jones University and the anti-Catholic bigotry."

4) Gore challenged from the right at the Apollo Theater debate. It may have featured Al Sharpton, but reporters for Time and CNN pressed Gore on his hypocrisy in sending his kid to private school while opposing vouchers to allow poor parents to do the same.

5) After John McCain delivered his concession speech Saturday night CNN stressed its tough tone, but MSNBC's panel focused on how he read it, how good his wife looked and how by picking Bush Republicans "screamed 'we want to stay on the far right.'"

6) Time magazine's Jack White insisted that John McCain is really "a Western ultra-conservative."

7) CBS's Bob Schieffer took on Bush for being so upset at being compared to Clinton by McCain. "How ironic," he lamented, that "invoking the name of a President who has presided over one of America's great economic booms....becomes a political insult."

8) The latest MediaNomics: "As Oil Prices Rise, Free Market Ideas Are Left Out in the Cold" by the networks and U.S. News owner Mort Zuckerman urged the GOP to drop tax cuts and embrace Clintonomics.

9) Dan Rather: "The Michigan Republican primary apparently is tighter than Willie Nelson's headband."

>>> Newsweek on Bush: "He had been forced to run far to the right -- and deep in mud." Now online: The February 22 MagazineWatch about the February 28 editions of the three news weeklies. The items detailed in the analysis compiled by the MRC's Tim Graham:
1. Newsweek displayed the most revulsion at the South Carolina election results, with anti-Bush hits from Jonathan Alter, Howard Fineman, and the team of Evan Thomas and Martha Brant. "He had been forced to run far to the right -- and deep in mud."
2. Time's Eric Pooley and the U.S. News team of Kenneth Walsh and Roger Simon concurred with the mudslinging-extremist line of analysis, with Pooley claiming Bush's "slashing tactics" were "ferocious even by South Carolina's down-and-dirty standards."
3. Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen chided those liberals who would place hope in McCain, who is "combative, caustic, and conservative" -- and gets better press than Clinton?
4. Time's Margaret Carlson trumpeted Al Gore's military service over George W. Bush. "Gore is fully grown. Unlike the breezy George W. Bush, who was on a career respirator much of his adult life, Gore has worked up a sweat getting to where he is."
To read these, and for links to the quoted magazine articles: <<<


The lessons relayed in prime time Tuesday night by MSNBC's analysts and anchor: George W. Bush lost in Michigan because of the "tactics" he employed in South Carolina, but there's still time for him to recover by moving from a "right wing conservative" back to a "compassionate conservative." McCain's challenge is to connect with the "far right" in the party.

-- At about 8:45pm ET Newsweek's Howard Fineman announced on MSNBC: "The voters in Michigan decided to stick with John McCain, in part, I think because of a backlash against the Bush tactics in South Carolina. George Bush had no choice but to win in South Carolina, evidently by whatever means necessary. Enough information about how he won there got out in Michigan to hurt him."

If true, no doubt thanks to harping by the media. But were non-Republicans who so overwhelmingly cast their ballots for McCain really motivated by wanting to punish Bush and not by a desire to promote McCain? Bush's tactics didn't upset Republicans as exit polls showed Bush captured 65 percent of the Republican vote compared to just 28 percent won by McCain.

-- About a half hour later, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth noticed, NBC's Tim Russert ran through all that Bush did in South Carolina which supposedly hurt him in Michigan:
"...He's had to say that he doesn't have a position on whether the flag should fly over the Capitol in South Carolina, which is anathema to minority voters across America. And he's associated with Bob Jones University, which has been known for its anti-Catholic bigotry. It's not the kind of thing that George Bush had wanted to deal with in this primary. He now realizes he has to retool his campaign in a general election, if he's fortunate enough to be the nominee, to try to once again be the compassionate conservative and not just the plain right wing conservative."

-- A few minutes earlier, at 9:07pm ET, anchor Brian Williams had turned to analyst Laura Ingraham and demanded: "What do you do to convince, if you are John McCain, to convince the far right 'no, really, you have to listen to my point of electability.'?"

Funny, I don't recall after the New Hampshire primary MSNBC analysts reciting Al Gore's liberal positions to show how they'll hurt him in some places, nor wondering what Gore must do to "convince the far left" to support him over Bradley.

(At midnight ET Tuesday night MSNBC delivered another in-kind contribution to the McCain effort: Another showing of the Headliners & Legends program profiling McCain's life. MSNBC played the same show the night McCain won in New Hampshire.)


Contrasting interpretations of the exit poll finding that only 47 percent of voters in the Michigan Republican primary were actually Republicans with the rest either independents or Democrats. On MSNBC Newsweek's Howard Fineman suggested that showed "Democrats and independents...are looking for somebody who can take on the Democratic Party," a vehicle to end the Clinton years. But on ABC's Nightline, George Stephanopoulos asserted that the numbers proved "mischief-making" by Democrats.

-- Fineman on MSNBC at about 8:30pm ET: "I think this is about searching for the antidote to Bill Clinton. And those Democrats and independents who are voting are looking for somebody who can take on the Democratic Party. I don't agree with those who say that Democrats and independents who are voting in this race are doing so only to mess up the George W. Bush campaign. They're looking for a vehicle and they see John McCain as a vehicle and the more George Bush says I won the Republicans, but didn't win these other people, the more he undercuts his argument that he is the guy who can take on Al Gore. This is a referendum on who is the vehicle to take on Al Gore and the Clinton years."


-- Stephanopoulos on Nightline: "Never before have you seen so many Democrats, I think, in the last ten years vote in a Republican primary. Even more interesting to me, seven percent of the electorate were liberal Democrats, six percent were African Americans. These are not voters who are going to vote for the Republican nominee in November. This was definitely a mischief-making vote in Michigan and it's going to ensure that there's mischief throughout the Republican nominating process."


Tuesday morning CBS and NBC ran stories recounting how Al Gore and Bill Bradley faced a question about racial profiling at their debate the night before, but CBS's The Early Show failed to mention who posed the question and NBC's Today referred only to the "controversial Reverend Al Sharpton." While Today failed to condemn the close alliance between the Democratic candidates and Sharpton, nor outline his race-baiting history, Tim Russert stressed how George Bush won't be able to "shake off Bob Jones University and the anti-Catholic bigotry."

For more details on Sharpton's appearance and the debate shown by CNN, including how moderator Bernard Shaw credited him for having "played an instrumental role in bringing about this dialogue," and a video clip in RealPlayer format of Sharpton being introduced, go to:

-- On CBS's The Early Show on February 22 reporter John Roberts skipped over Sharpton, observed MRC analyst Brian Boyd. Roberts relayed: "It was quite a spectacle last night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. From the word 'go,' the gloves were off with the very first question on what the candidates would do to end the practice of racial profiling and curb police brutality."
Bill Bradley: "White Americans can no longer deny the plight of black Americans."
Al Gore: "If you entrust me with the presidency, the first civil rights act of the 21st century will be a national law outlawing racial profiling."
Roberts picked up: "Racial profiling is a sensitive topic in New York following two recent high profile cases of police brutality and use of excessive force. As he did in Iowa, Bradley again challenged Gore to pressure President Clinton to action...."

-- Over on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noted, reporter Claire Shipman mentioned Sharpton but did not rebuke participants for featuring him: "The gloves were off at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem as Al Gore and Bill Bradley squared off in an angry debate on racial issues. The first question from the often controversial Reverend Al Sharpton: What the candidates would do about racial profiling. Bradley immediately said Gore should have pushed President Clinton to outlaw the practice...."

Later, co-host Katie Couric asked Tim Russert about Bush's knowledge of anti-McCain phone calls being placed which featured Pat Robertson's voice: "So his claim that he knew nothing about this you think is not plausible?"
Russert replied by once again raising Bush's visit to Bob Jones University and listing a specific sin they espouse:
"Well maybe the candidate did not technically know about these phone calls. But the fact is he does know that Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed are supporting his candidacy. The difficulty is if you become the nominee, because you just can't shake off Bob Jones University and the anti-Catholic bigotry it stays with you because these people remain visible within the country. So too with John McCain. Those ads about Catholic Voter Alert directly appealing to Catholic voters are obviously someone who is extremely sympathetic to the John McCain campaign."

Of course, Bob Jones University only remains "visible within the country" to the extent the media decide to publicize it.


In an unusual event, two reporters pressed Al Gore from the right on his hypocrisy for sending his kids to private schools while he opposes vouchers to allow poorer parents to do the same. The two questions came in the midst of Monday's joint Time/CNN production of the Gore-Bradley debate at the Apollo Theater in Harlem which featured race-baiter Al Sharpton posing the first question, the one about racial profiling by police cited in item #3 above.

In between questions from the audience about reparations and ending the death penalty, Tamala Edwards and Karen Tumulty of Time and Jeff Greenfield of CNN were able to pose two questions each.

Edwards told Gore at the February 21 event:
"A majority of the African-American community supports vouchers, 60 percent. However, one thing that you're proud of is you like to say you always have opposed vouchers. And you've criticized Senator Bradley for even wanting to experiment with them. However, you, yourself, are the product of private institutions, as are all your children. In fact, your, the only child you still have at home, your son, Albert, is a junior at Sidwell Friends, a very expensive Washington, D.C., private school. Is there not a public or charter school in D.C. good enough for your child? And, if not why should the parents here have to keep their kids in public schools because they don't have the financial resources that you do?"

A while later Jeff Greenfield followed up, zooming in on the influence of teacher unions:
"You and Mrs. Gore, Senator Bradley and his wife, me, any parent of means has the choice. You can send your child to public or private school, but when the public schools fail our children we don't wait for new legislation. We protect our kids' future by pulling them out of those public schools. There are tens of thousands of parents, disproportionately black and brown, who do not have that choice. And I would put on the table one of the staunchest opponents of choice are the two major teachers unions that happen to supply one in nine of the delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The question is, after 35 years and a $100 billion in Title I money, with SAT scores that gap no narrower, why shouldn't these parents conclude that the Democratic Party's opposition to choice is an example of supporting a special interest rather than their interest?"

Not the kind of questions Gore, or Bradley for that matter, faced at earlier Democratic debates.


Saturday night after John McCain delivered his combative concession speech CNN's team remarked on its toughness, but MSNBC's panel instead focused on style and image. One MSNBC analyst raised how he stumbled as he read the address, another panelist countered that "the look of him with his wife there is going to overcome any...notice of the fact he read his script" and a third analyst jumped on how McCain's loss showed the Republican Party is "not ready for a moderate" as they supposedly "screamed 'we want to stay on the far right.'"

In his comments McCain declared: "I am a uniter, not a divider. I don't just say it, I live it. I'm a real reformer. I'm a real reformer. I don't just say it, I live it. And I'm a fighter for this country. And I don't just say it, I live it. As this campaign moves forward, a clear choice will be offered: a choice between my optimistic and welcoming conservatism and the negative message of fear, between Ronald Reagan's vision of exclusion and the defeatist tactics of exclusion so cherished by those who would shut the doors to our party and surrender America's future to Speaker Gephardt and President Al Gore, a choice between a record of reform and an empty slogan of reform, a choice between -- a choice between experience and pretense."

Afterward, CNN's Judy Woodruff decided: "Well, if anybody thought that John McCain was going to go out of South Carolina with his tail between his legs, he has just fired a cannon to the states of Michigan and Arizona, and the rest of the country. This is some of the toughest language we have heard from John McCain: 'I want the presidency in the best way, not the worst way. I'll never dishonor the nation I love and myself by letting ambition overcome principle.' Jeff, this is very tough talk."

Jeff Greenfield agreed: "You know, I'm a little stunned, because it is some of the toughest language that a defeated candidate has used. Now, we all remember Bob Dole in 1988 snapping at Governor Bush's father 'to stop lying about my record.' He certainly didn't go that far, but the implicit message of this concession speech is, George Bush won dirty."

But MSNBC viewers at the same time didn't hear these kinds of assessments. Instead, they heard goofy comments about style, plus a blast at Republicans for being "far right."

At 8:17pm ET anchor Brian Williams turned to GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who offered: "I'm the only individual up here who's going to make this comment, but here's a guy who is one of the most articulate individuals in politics today and he read his speech -- and in fact he stumbled over it. I know you're all going to talk about the words, about the fighting and America and all of that, but people watching, whether they see it tonight live, or tomorrow or Monday repeated, they'll notice that he read it, they'll notice that he stumbled over it. John McCain wins when he speaks from the heart. When he reads a text he fails. And if you're talking about style, which we know matters, this was not a successful speech."

Williams then moved along: "Paul Begala, valid point?"
The liberal Clintonista agreed: "Valid point, but more fundamentally he used those words fight and country and he wants to run as a patriot, but I think he's got the wrong audience. The Republican Party, at least in South Carolina tonight, told me they're not ready for a moderate. The Democrats in '92 were ready for Bill Clinton to the part move back to the center, here Republicans tonight screamed 'we want to stay on the far right.'"

Finishing out the three man panel, CNBC host and former Tip O'Neill aide Chris Matthew argued: "He mentioned as I said I thought he might do tomorrow, but he hasn't waited for Tim Russert, he said he's running against 'the defeated tactics of exclusion.' He's accusing, I'm sure Tim will ask him to go further on it, he's accused his opponent of joining an anti-Catholic cause. I have to say something very cosmetic: The look of him with his wife there is going to overcome any looking or notice of the fact he read his script. There's a beautiful person next to him . She loves him. It's a great picture. I think most people seeing that picture in tomorrow morning's paper are going to like what they see."

Not exactly penetrating analysis, but it happened on a network which really isn't quite up to the efforts of CNN and FNC. While those two stayed live until 11pm ET, after just two hours of coverage and before George Bush's victory speech, at 9pm ET MSNBC went to Weekend Magazine, a show made up of repeats of Dateline stories, followed by Special Edition and Time & Again, another clip show. The Time & Again subject: Leonardo DiCaprio. And unlike FNC, which runs news updates on the hour, everybody at MSNBC went home at 9pm so anyone tuning in after 8:58pm ET would not have had a clue a primary even occurred.


John McCain's voting record may not support the charge of Bush backers that he's a liberal, but is he really an "ultra-conservative"? Yes, maintained Time magazine national correspondent Jack White on Inside Washington over the weekend.

White asserted, as transcribed by the MRC's Jessica Anderson:
"What's really amazing here to me is that this is one of the great acts of political alchemy we've seen in a long time. They've taken a Western, ultra-conservative like John McCain, and they've turned him into, in the eyes of some voters at least, sort of a liberal centrist."

I bet that's a preview of what we'll be hearing soon from many in the media. If it looks McCain might actually beat Bush, liberals in the media not enamored of McCain will make sure their readers and viewers are scared about his conservative voting record.


Another installment of utterances from Clueless Bob Schieffer (CBS). Now he doesn't understand why George W. Bush was so upset at being compared to Bill Clinton by John McCain. "In Republican circles anyway, calling someone 'Clinton' turns out to be this year's version of 'your mama wears combat boots,'" Schiefffer bemoaned before pointing out how "ironic" it is to be upset by a comparison to a man who "has presided over one of America's great economic booms."

Ending Sunday's Face the Nation on CBS, Schieffer delivered this commentary:
"Finally today, nobody expected a game of beanbag, but when John McCain compared George W. Bush to President Clinton, Bush exploded, called it over the line, an assault on his integrity, even took out an ad on television to complain about it. McCain shot back that Bush's people had been trying to compare him to Clinton, too, but when McCain's charge seemed to backfire, he took his ad off television and said he'd go back to the high road. In Republican circles anyway, calling someone 'Clinton' turns out to be this year's version of 'your mama wears combat boots.' Exit polls also suggest that voters did hold it against McCain when he made that charge.
"Well, sure it's a campaign and sure they're Republicans, but how ironic, when invoking the name of a President who has presided over one of America's great economic booms at a time when the nation was at peace, becomes a political insult. It's only a footnote, perhaps, but for Bill Clinton, who is said to worry these days about his legacy, it is one more reminder of the price he paid for that 'personal mistake,' as he called it."


Another edition of MediaNomics, the bi-weekly report from the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP), is now up on the MRC Web site. Here are summaries of the two pieces written last week by FMP Director Rich Noyes:

-- As Oil Prices Rise, Free Market Ideas Are Left Out in the Cold:
For a while this week, the nightly news could have been "That '70s Show," as consumers griped about skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices, and TV journalists wondered what the Democrat in the White House would do to fix the situation. But unmentioned by any network was the fact that the Clinton administration had welcomed OPEC's decision to slash production last spring, the move which led to depleted inventories and higher prices this winter. )

-- The 1980s, According to Mort:
In this week's issue, U.S. News owner and editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman advises Republicans to drop their advocacy of tax cuts and embrace Clintonomics. That's not an argument likely to persuade GOP tax-cutters to change their minds, nor is Zuckerman's assertion that the Republican Party "is still hooked on nostalgia for Ronald Reagan and the sense that he won in 1980 by promising tax cuts."

To read these stories, which were posted February 18, go to:


Live television always brings out Dan Rather's wacky side and his rhymes, better known as Ratherisms. Here are two of the latest:

-- Rather opening a February 19 special report on South Carolina at 7pm ET: "This is a Campaign 2000 special report. Dan Rather reporting from Charleston, South Carolina. Southern comfort for Bush. The McCain surge going south in South Carolina."

-- Rather opening the February 22 CBS Evening News, at least the version seen in the ET and CT time zones before the polls closed in Michigan:
"Good evening. The Michigan Republican primary apparently is tighter than Willie Nelson's headband. George Bush and John McCain locked tonight in the political equivalent of sudden death overtime...."

An analogy no one else could possibly have thought of. -- Brent Baker

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