CyberAlert -- September 25, 1996 -- Dole's Campaign of Fear

Three items today:

1. On Tuesday Bob Dole called Clinton a tax and spend liberal. Covering Dole's speech, CBS asserts that the "ex-deficit hawk" must "do more than criticize." NBC says Dole's latest themes reflect a "campaign of fear."

2. A federal report concludes that Hillary Clinton deliberately "deceived" federal regulators, but the broadcast networks don't report on the report.

3. Sam Donaldson and a USA Today reporter charge that their media colleagues are going easier on Clinton than they did on Reagan and Bush.

1) Before the Economic Club of Detroit on Tuesday Bob Dole said Bill Clinton is a liberal bent on raising taxes. ABC's World News Tonight on Tuesday (September 24) didn't mention the speech.

On the CBS Evening News, Phil Jones charged that supporting a tax cut means Dole is no longer concerned about the deficit. Jones also worried that criticizing Clinton isn't the right strategy.

Jones reported: "The former Senator argued that voters have a choice between two different visions of government."
Dole: "He wants families to pinch their pennies so government can spend more money. I've got a new idea. I want the government for a change to pinch its pennies so the families will not have to pinch theirs."
Jones: "The ex-deficit hawk returned to the centerpiece of his campaign, a 15 percent tax cut."
Dole: "I know the critics say you can't do this, you can't cut taxes and balance the budget. What they're really saying is that they cannot do it."
Jones: "Campaign aides claim they have private polls showing President Clinton vulnerable on the tax issue. That's the reason for this attack. But between now and election day the Republican nominee has to do more than criticize. He's got to sell the Dole plan."

After showing some of the same tax soundbites from Dole, on NBC Nightly News David Bloom ran a clip of a new Clinton ad which criticizes Dole's Senate record, emphasizing Dole's length of service. Bloom then charged:
"So now Dole who's complained about Clinton's campaign of fear is taking a similar tack."
Dole: "Secrets, secrets. Remember the FBI files that went to the White House."
Bloom: "With the election just six weeks away, calling Bill Clinton a liberal might soon look tame. David Bloom, NBC News, Detroit."

2) "FDIC Report Says Mrs. Clinton's Work Was Used to Deceive," declared the front page Washington Post headline on Tuesday. The news was also played above the fold in The Washington Times. But neither the Monday or Tuesday night ABC, CBS or NBC evening shows mentioned the development.

Post reporter Susan Schmidt's lead: "Hillary Rodham Clinton drafted a real estate document that was used by an Arkansas S&L to 'deceive' federal regulators in 1996 and pay more than $300,000 in questioned commissions to one of her law firm's well-connected clients, a federal inspector general concluded yesterday. The strongly worded report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. inspector general found evidence that Clinton and her former law partner Webster Hubbell were involved in dealings on behalf of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan that they have told federal investigators under oath they cannot recall."

3) An expert media observer who had up close, insider access to how the media covered Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign says reporters are going a lot easier on Clinton this year. The expert: Sam Donaldson. With Brit Hume out ill last week, Donaldson returned to the campaign trail for the first time since Reagan's years. And things have changed, USA Today's Peter Johnson reported Monday (September 23):
"Have the boys on the bus lost the fire in their bellies, the one that fueled their cries of 'Mr. President! Mr. President!' during President Reagan's years in office? ABC's Sam Donaldson isn't saying, exactly, but suspects something's going on. Except for CBS' Rita Braver, 'I have heard no reporter trying to ask the President any question,' Donaldson said Friday....
"What's this, Sam? Reporters going easy on Clinton? 'You're not going to get me in a fight with these guys. They're my friends,' said Donaldson, who covered the White House from 1977 to 1989. 'But there seems to a change in attitude or a different attitude toward covering the President.'"

A USA Today reporter agrees. In his "Politics" column on Monday, Richard Benedetto wrote:
"As President Clinton's re-election campaign rolled through six states in four days last week, it did so virtually unimpeded by a White House press corps known for setting up roadblocks now and then....He was left free to make a string of feel-good speeches that won great play in the media and gave the desired impression that the Clinton campaign is on a roll....
"In 1992, a tough White House press corps rightly kept President Bush's feet to the fire on domestic issues he would rather have downplayed. But the 1996 crew appears less aggressive with Clinton."

We're bringing them to our side, one reporter at a time.

-- Brent Baker