CyberAlert -- October 30, 1996 -- Republicans Do It Too

Four items today:

1. The Washington Post's front page story on the DNC's decision to not file a FEC report on early October activities, followed later Tuesday by a reversal of that decision, and all on a day when John Huang gave a videotaped deposition, prompted the three broadcast networks to lead with DNC finances Tuesday night. But the networks also relayed the Democratic spin: Republicans do it too. NBC reported that "White House officials admit that both sides are dirty."

2. CBS Tuesday night labeled a Clinton attack "one the harshest," but it was more than harsh, it was downright preposterous.

3. The New York Times charged Tuesday that Bob Dole wants to destroy 32 years of civil rights work, but the newspaper counts employer paid continuing education as a "civil right."

4. Tom Brokaw, hosting Tuesday's MSNBC InterNight, called Mikhail Gorbachev "a courageous, far-seeing prophet" and said he hopes Gorbachev returns to office.

1) Viewers of Tuesday morning's Today learned that Republicans are "doing the same thing." As transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens,

Katie Couric asked Tim Russert: "Tim, let's talk about the big news this morning. It's that the Democratic National Committee will not file its required final statement of campaign finances by November 5th. Which is really unheard of. Why are they doing this?"
Russert responded: "Because they are afraid of what's in there Katie, obviously. This has become an obscene process! It is outrageous the amount of money that is pouring into both these political parties! I do think the Democrats have probably taken it to a new level, a lower level...."
Couric then asked: "Well Tim if Republicans are doing the same thing what are people supposed to think?"
Russert: "Well I think If anything comes of this is that the American people and the media and other people of good intentions in the political process will say, Hey we embarrassed ourselves! We elevated or lowered, excuse me, this political process to levels of cynicism where the American people said, Oh you all take foreign money.' And they finally, finally do something to clean up this mess. Because it has become a sewer Katie."

On the CBS Evening News Tuesday night, Rita Braver concluded her story from the trail with Clinton: "Aides say he will probably deliver a speech on campaign finance reform later in the week, trying to paint Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich as the people who stopped tougher laws."

Tom Brokaw opened the October 29 NBC Nightly News: "If this campaign has an unofficial motto, it is this: Wake me when it's over.' But, beyond the tedium of the day to day campaigning, there's another much more alarming development this year -- money. Huge amounts of money pouring into both parties, raising very serious questions about influence and conflict of interest."

That led into story from Andrea Mitchell in which she asserted: "Of course Republicans, including Bob Dole and Jesse Helms, have also tapped into foreign fundraising. And none of these investigations will produce answers until months, or years, after election day."

Brokaw and Mitchell failed to distinguish between accepting money from foreign nationals for campaign spending, which is illegal, and getting money from Taiwan businessmen for a foundation-run museum, as Helms did, which is legal.

Later, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski offered a nice spin that had the Clinton campaign "admitting" the Republican are just a bad: "On campaign finance, White House officials admit that both sides are dirty. The best defense: Republicans do it too."

2) Earlier in Rita Braver's piece cited above, she noted that heckling from Ohio college students "provoked one of the President's harshest attacks of the whole campaign on Bob Dole."

Clinton: "I would be screaming too if I wanted a country that took Head Start and Big Bird away from five year olds, school lunches away from ten year years, summer jobs away from 15 year olds and college loans away from 20 year olds."

Harsh yes, but Braver could have noted the charge has no basis in reality.

3) "Dole Attacks 32 Years of Civil Rights Laws" declared a October 29 New York Times headline. In an October 20 New York review of Bill Clinton's civil rights record, reporter Steven Holmes began: "In his nearly four years in office, President Clinton has amassed a civil rights record rivaling that of any President in the last 30 years." Holmes insisted that George Bush and Ronald Reagan "often seemed hostile or indifferent to civil rights issues."

As pointed out to me by MRC analyst Clay Waters, The New York Times has a pretty broad definition of civil rights. In a box beside the Holmes story, the paper listed "promises in the civil rights area that President Clinton made as a candidate in 1992." Here are some:

  • "Lift caps on damage awards in sex discrimination cases."
  • "Work to pass Motor Voter bill."
  • "Support statehood for the District of Columbia."
  • "Require every employer to spend 1.5 percent of payroll for continuing education and training."
  • "Expand Earned-Income Tax Credit."

4) Mikhail's Gorbachev's book tour brought him to MSNBC's InterNight on Tuesday night, October 29. Tom Brokaw opened the show:
"It's likely that your view of Mikhail Gorbachev depends on your point of view. From the perspective of the West, the former President of the Soviet Union of course was a courageous, far-seeing prophet whose reforms set in motion the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship and the end of the Cold War."

Thirty minutes later Brokaw concluded the interview with another salute to the communist:
"We always welcome you in this country, Mikhail Gorbachev. We're especially pleased to have you tonight on InterNight. And we offer our very best, of course, to Raisa Gorbachev and we hope that you'll have a long and happy life. Perhaps one day again we'll see you in political office in Russia. We know that you've devoted your life to peace and to changing your country and those of us who have gotten to know you count ourselves among the privileged."

From the perspective of a Western journalist, maybe, ignoring both the internal collapse of communism despite Gorbachev's efforts to save it and the role of Ronald Reagan.

-- Brent Baker