CyberAlert -- 09/08/2000 -- Gore "Surging" or a "Dead Heat"?

Gore "Surging" or a "Dead Heat"?; Swayed by The "Kiss"; CBS Blamed Reagan for Firestone; Clymer: Hillary Hero

1) NBC's Tom Brokaw: "Gore is surging, Bush is struggling." ABC's Peter Jennings: "The presidential race pretty much qualifies as a dead heat." ABC blamed Bush's stall on "the decision to launch negative ads while at the same time calling for elevating the campaign discourse."

2) NBC's Lisa Myers focused on a middle-aged women swayed to Al Gore by the "kiss" and Gore hugging his daughter. Both made him "much more human." Her reasoning: "I mean, he wouldn't be that close I think with his family if he were not a nice guy."

3) Dan Rather once again skipped pro-tax cut arguments and recited only the anti-tax cut spin. This time on the inheritance tax: "President Clinton called the measure a tax giveaway that would overwhelmingly mostly benefit the rich."

4) Add CBS News to the list of outlets blaming Reagan for bad Firestone tires. CBS's Bob Orr rued how Carter regulations "were never enacted" because "Ronald Reagan swept to power promising to help struggling U.S. auto companies by reducing regulations. NHTSA's budget was slashed." Chicago Tribune's Jim Warren agreed.

5) An "asshole" to Bush, but a great teacher to Hillary who praised Adam Clymer as "a superb, fair-minded reporter who...has taught me a lot." FNC pointed out how the Times had to correct Clymer's negative piece on Cheney's charitable giving.


ABC, CBS and NBC all focused stories Thursday night on problems in the Bush campaign and concerns expressed by Republicans, but none considered conservative critiques about how the problem may be Bush's me-too prescription plan and resistance to differentiating himself by taking on Gore's massive spending proposals. Instead, the networks saw the debate over debates as the main distraction. CBS cited his "off color" remark and ABC blamed "the decision to launch negative ads while at the same time calling for elevating the campaign discourse."

ABC and NBC delivered conflicting polling numbers on whether Gore is ahead or even with Bush. "Gore is surging, Bush is struggling," declared NBC's Tom Brokaw in citing a Zogby poll, but ABC's Peter Jennings insisted "the presidential race pretty much qualifies as a dead heat" as ABC's poll put both candidates at 47 percent.

Here's how the broadcast networks, on Thursday night September 7, assessed Bush's problems and spun the poll numbers.

-- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Peter Jennings opened the broadcast with a new poll: "It is exactly two months until election day and as of today, September 7th, the presidential race pretty much qualifies as a dead heat. The ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that among the people who say they are likely to vote in November, 47 percent prefer Mr. Bush and 47 percent Mr. Gore..."

Comparing the last poll in late July to the current one, Jennings relayed how on dealing with education both were at 44 percent but now Gore is preferred 50 percent to 38 percent. On managing the budget, the numbers went from 49 percent to 43 percent in favor of Bush to 47 percent to 42 percent in favor of Gore. Jennings added: "There is one glaring gap around which the rest of the campaign will swirl. Mr. Gore leads by 18 points among women. Mr. Bush leads by 20 points among men."

Dean Reynolds checked in from Pittsburgh, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "This is not the best time for the Bush campaign, but as Governor Bush told one of his aides this morning, this is when you find out who your real friends are. George W. Bush woke up this morning to a spate of damaging comments in the national news media, quoting leading Republicans. 'Undeniable panic gripping the party,' said a column in the Washington Post. 'There's been a loss of confidence in Bush.' Bill Bennett, a sometimes advisor to Bush, told the New York Times, 'No doubt about it there's a real worry about the general state of things.'"

After a clip of Bush, Reynolds continued: "The Bush supporters behind these stories are saying the campaign's problems are undermining the sense of inevitable victory they once shared. There's been the lukewarm reception for his running mate Dick Cheney, Bush's ineffective defense of his tax cuts, the decision to launch negative ads while at the same time calling for elevating the campaign discourse, and the perception that he is reluctant to debate Al Gore before a big audience....The Governor, who campaigned today with two wartime heroes at his side, went out of his way to belittle all the analysis."

But Bush will make some changes, Reynolds noted, such as holding town meeting-type forums.

-- CBS Evening News led with oil prices. Deep in the show, Dan Rather intoned: "In the competition for the American presidency, Republican George Bush brushed off talk today, some of it from top Republicans, that what he's doing is not working and if he doesn't change, if he doesn't turn the thing around, he could lose. Among other things, they point to various polls, for whatever they may be worth, now showing Bush anywhere from tied to six to ten points behind Al Gore."

Nice dig there at non-CBS News polls.

Bill Whitaker subsequently asserted after a clip of Bush complaining that political insiders are with him when he's up in the polls: "But it's not just the polls triggering party jitters. Some complain Bush running mate Dick Cheney hasn't added spark, that Bush's prescription drug plan hasn't caught fire. Others say his off color remark knocked him off message, the campaign is just plain arrogant."

-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's pre-theme music, top of the program tease: "On the defensive. George W. Bush now calls himself the underdog. New polls showing he's losing ground. Now what?"

Brokaw set up the first story by recalling how two weeks ago Bush had a healthy lead and Gore was struggling, but "now, with the election two months away, Gore is surging, Bush is struggling," according to a Zogby/Reuters poll.

David Gregory noted that Bush "shrugs off high anxiety" of Republicans but, Gregory cautioned: "Tonight, fresh evidence of Bush's backslide. The new Zogby/Reuters poll taken since Labor Day shows the Texas Governor trailing the Vice President by six points in a four-way race. Other polls are closer, but Bush says the message is clear."
Bush: "I am the underdog..."

The poll numbers as listed on screen: Gore 46 percent, Bush 40 percent, Nader 5 percent, Buchanan 2 percent.

Gregory asked: "What's gone wrong?" He suggested the debate over debates became a distraction and Bush's anti-Gore debate ad "has apparently backfired" since undecideds don't like "wrangling."


At least some women voters put emotion and gimmicks ahead of substance in deciding for whom to vote. A group of women interviewed by NBC's Lisa Myers provided the evidence. Thursday night she focused on a middle-aged California women who gave Gore her allegiance because of the "kiss" and his hugging his daughter, both of which led her to see him as "much more human" and to like him because "I mean, he wouldn't be that close I think with his family if he were not a nice guy."

Makes you question the wisdom of the 19th Amendment.

Lisa Myers began her September 7 NBC Nightly News exploration of Gore's support: "The story behind Al Gore's surge in the polls begins with voters like Lisa Forrester in California. An independent, she voted for Bill Clinton four years ago, but like these women we brought together last month before the Democratic convention [Myers around table with women], she was undecided and definitely not sold on Al Gore."
Forrester last month: "He seems to come across to me as phoney, or silly or fakey."
Myers updated viewers: "But then Forrester says she watched the convention, was struck by Gore and his daughter [video of Al and Karenna hugging on podium] and yes that big kiss for his wife [video of it]. Today Forrester is solidly for Gore."
Forrester: "How I see him differently is that he seems much more personable and he seems much more human. I mean he wouldn't be that close I think with his family if he were not a nice guy."

Myers extrapolated, citing more Zogby/Reuters numbers: "In fact, three of the four previously undecided women now support Gore, even those who once worried he was too tainted by Clinton, which helps explain why Gore, tied with Bush among women almost a month ago [at 42 percent], now leads 54 percent to 33 percent, a surprising 21 point lead. There's a huge gender gap. Gore leads by 21 among women, Bush by 11 points among men."

Myers did go on to run a clip from a lower income Hispanic woman who said Gore does not appeal to her and she has decided that "we need a change."


When it comes to tax cuts, Dan Rather doesn't bother telling viewers why conservatives back them, but he eagerly relays President Clinton's liberal spin that any tax cut will be a "giveaway" to the rich.

The latest example occurred Thursday night as Rather announced, in full: "President Clinton's veto of legislation that would have repealed the inheritance tax will stand. House Republicans failed today to get the two-thirds majority vote to override the veto. President Clinton called the measure a tax giveaway that would overwhelmingly mostly benefit the rich."

This one-sided reporting on tax cuts fits a pattern espoused by Rather. Back on July 27 he asserted: "On another tax dollar front, the Republican-controlled House voted tonight to reduce taxes for some Social Security recipients who earn more than $34,000 a year. This is the latest election year measure President Clinton says he'll veto because the President says it benefits the well-to-do the most, will cost $100 billion, and is, Mr. Clinton says, 'outside the mainstream of what Americans want.'"


More blaming the Firestone tread separation problem on what Ronald Reagan supposedly did 18 or so years ago. As detailed in the September 7 CyberAlert, ABC highlighted the liberal spin Wednesday night. CBS News and a Washington Bureau Chief have now also given publicity to the blame-shifting.

(Wednesday night ABC's John Martin recalled how tough rules were issued in the late 1970s by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but "then came the Reagan administration" and the NHTSA "budget was cut 49 percent." For more on ABC's piece, go to:

Thursday night CBS's Bob Orr rued how the Carter administration's regulations "were never enacted" because "Ronald Reagan swept to power promising to help struggling U.S. auto companies by reducing regulations. NHTSA's budget was slashed." Orr also relayed a former Clinton official's complaint that "the Republican Congress...often sides with big business until there's a problem like the current Firestone flap." But Orr never explored what the Clinton administration did or didn't do to restore whatever damage Reagan and the GOP Congress supposedly inflicted.

The night before, on CNBC/MSNBC's Hardball, Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Jim Warren contended: "Moves to tighten standards for testing tires among other things and for beefing up the regulatory agency NHTSA were ultimately undermined by the incoming Reagan administration."

-- CBS Evening News, September 7. Anchor Dan Rather maintained:
"The Firestone fiasco has exposed major weaknesses in the U.S. government's watchdog agency in charge of safety on America's highways. Members of Congress accuse the agency of being asleep, but critics fired back saying it was in reality Congress that put it to sleep. Correspondent Bob Orr has a CBS Evening News 'Reality Check.'"

As transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, Orr explained: "When Firestone struggled through an earlier recall in 1978, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, was at the height of its power. It drafted tough new tire regulations, but the rules were never enacted."

Then, over video of Reagan being sworn in, Orr identified the culprit: "Ronald Reagan swept to power promising to help struggling U.S. auto companies by reducing regulations. NHTSA's budget was slashed, and now two decades later the regulator is left with little real power and few resources. Since 1980, NHTSA's staff has been cut by 30 percent, and its budget by even more. At the same time, the number of cars in America has jumped 38 percent."

Orr's authority? A disgruntled Clinton appointee: Ricardo Martinez. The former NHTSA Administrator argued: "We had a lot of problems with trying to keep the agency afloat the last six years."
Orr didn't even consider the Clinton administration role, and instead focused only on Congress: "Ricardo Martinez, who headed NHTSA until last October, says the agency is underfunded and overwhelmed. Yet the Republican Congress, he says, often sides with big business until there's a problem like the current Firestone flap."
Martinez: "It is interesting to see that some of the same people in Congress who really thought NHTSA was too hard on the car companies are now complaining that NHTSA is asleep at the wheel."

Orr, unlike ABC the night before, did allow someone to say that Reagan is being made the scapegoat: "Louisiana Representative Billy Tauzin, who chaired yesterday's hearing on the Firestone recall, says NHTSA has dropped the ball.
Tauzin: "They're trying to find a scapegoat, like everybody else in this case. So they try to blame Ronald Reagan. That's like the dog ate my homework excuse. It just doesn't fly."

It does with ABC and CBS.

Orr continued: "NHTSA insists it's doing more with less. Investigations have more than doubled since 1980, but the agency rarely orders major recalls, relying instead on companies to take voluntary actions."
Ralph Hoar, Auto Safety Consultant: "The car companies view NHTSA as an annoyance and something that they have to put up with rather than something that they need to be concerned about or fear."

Orr concluded a bigger and more powerful regulatory body is the only solution: "And the car companies are spending millions lobbying Congress to keep it that way. One former NHTSA investigator says the agency simply doesn't have the muscle needed to police auto safety, and until that changes, the industry, and not the regulators, will call most of the shots."

-- Hardball on MSNBC and CNBC, September 6. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught this from Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief Jim Warren during a segment with Lawrence Kudlow:
"Larry if you also have a long memory you go back to the Reagan administration, you so ably served and remember that there was a Firestone recall in 1978. But moves to tighten standards for testing tires among other things and for beefing up the regulatory agency NHTSA were ultimately undermined by the incoming Reagan administration. And it's interesting, Chris [Matthews] just a few minutes ago was talking to Representative Kasich and also Senator Breaux about, you know, the potential perils of less government. And the extent to which Al Gore, you know represents a potentially onerous return to big government. Well when it comes to stuff like tires, food and other matters that hit close to home I think people when they really think about it aren't so big on cutting the budgets of some of these agencies, cutting the number of inspectors Larry!"


"I like Adam Clymer. I think Adam Clymer is a superb, fair-minded reporter who, in the years I have followed him, has taught me a lot." So enthused Hillary Clinton in a quote cited by the Deborah Orin in the New York Post, Greg Pierce in the Washington Times and noted by Brit Hume on his FNC show Thursday night. Clymer is the New York Times reporter George Bush called "major league asshole."

Hume went on to inform Special Report with Brit Hume viewers: "And speaking of Clymer, the New York Times has now published a correction of misstatements in his article this past Saturday about the alleged meagerness of charitable contributions by GOP vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney..."

Indeed, in that September 2 front page story Clymer wrote:
"Mr. and Mrs. Cheney's tax returns not only showed a sharp increase in adjusted gross income from 1992 to 1999, they also showed total contributions to charities of $209,832, or just over 1 percent of their 10-year income of $20,677,742.
"Trying to put a more generous face on those figures, a statement by the Bush-Cheney campaign said $442,152 actually went to charity.
"That total was reached by adding $89,500 in honorariums, which Mr. Cheney had to decline and therefore redirected to charity, and $142,820 in grants from corporations on whose boards the two had served, which matched their contributions."

For the entire story, go to:

A Thursday correction read:
"An article on Saturday about the finances of Dick Cheney, the Republican candidate for vice president, misstated his reason for having rejected $89,500 in honorariums from 1992 to 1999 and having directed them to charity. The action was voluntary, not required.
"The article also misstated the relationship of Mr. Cheney's wife, Lynne, to the board of Union Pacific Resources. She was a board member until the company was taken over this year by the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, an independent oil and gas exploration company. She is not now a member."

Maybe Clymer taught Hillary how to put anti-conservative spin ahead of accuracy. -- Brent Baker

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