Nets Pounded Cheney's Conservative Ideology, But on Edwards... --7/6/2004

1. Nets Pounded Cheney's Conservative Ideology, But on Edwards...

Nets Pounded Cheney's Conservative Ideology,
But on Edwards...

Vice President Dick Cheney Four years ago, the networks immediately pounced on the conservative ideology of George W. Bush's pick for Vice President, Dick Cheney. In the first 24 hours after Bush announced his choice, CBS alone tagged Cheney as "a bedrock conservative," "a rock-solid conservative" with a "a solidly conservative voting record" and a man whose "politics are of the hard-right variety." (See many more examples below from CBS and other networks.) But in the hours following John Kerry's announcement that he selected John Edwards as his running mate, despite the fact that National Journal rated Edwards the fourth most liberal Senator for 2003, a focus on his ideology was absent from network coverage this morning.

For a February 27 article recounting how the National Journal determined that Kerry was the most liberal Senator in 2003 and Edwards the fourth-most liberal Senator, an article tracked down by the MRC's Rich Noyes, go to:

Instead of hearing this morning about the liberalness of either Kerry or Edwards, CBS's Harry Smith characterized Kerry's announcement speech as "right down the middle." At about 9:15am EDT, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, following Kerry's speech in Pittsburgh, Smith told viewers of a CBS News Special Report:
"It's all about the swing voters. It's all about the independents. Some people theorize that the election could come down to the votes and decision of fewer than one million people. And that's where Kerry made his pitch today, was right down the middle."

Earlier, at 7:45am EDT, Byron Pitts gushed about the Edwards pick: "When you talk to Democrats 'Who would you like?' by far the name you hear most often is John Edwards. He's 51 years old, in 2000 People Magazine selected him the sexiest politician in America. He is a newcomer but he is by no means a novice to this business. He was on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he is considered one of the best debaters on the Senate floor, as you know, Harry, as a trial lawyer. The expectation is he will be a good match next to Dick Cheney in a debate.
"His 'I'm the son of a mill worker' speech resonates across America. I mean, this is a guy who can make the case, 'Look, I've pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I know the issues of working class America.' That, the Democrats will argue is a contrast to Dick Cheney. It's an argument that they need to make as they reach out to swing voters in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan. While there's no guarantee or even no expectation that John Edwards could deliver his home state of North Carolina, his southern roots, the Democrats believe, will play well in the South, a region that the Democrats would hope to do well in in November."

We haven't been able to watch every second of the cable networks, but it doesn't look like they are much more interested in Edwards' liberalness. At about 11:15am EDT, in fact, the MRC's Ken Shepherd caught CNN's Daryn Kagan crediting Edwards with "moderate populism." Kagan wondered: "Democrats say that John Edwards brings razzle dazzle, regional balance, and moderate populism to the ticket, but can he help red states turn into blue states in November?"

Now, a trip down memory lane -- how the networks focused obsessively in 2000 on Cheney's degree of conservatism:


# ABC, CBS and NBC reporters are not hesitating to apply an ideological tag to Dick Cheney as they developed quite a list of modifying terms to put before the word "conservative" in describing him. On Tuesday alone viewers heard these descriptions for Cheney, Bush's VP pick:

ABC: Linda Douglass referred to him as one of the "most conservative members" of Congress who had "a very conservative voting record." Diane Sawyer sighed that while he "doesn't look fire-breathing," he's "very conservative." George Stephanopoulos dubbed him a "very hardline conservative."

CBS: Bill Whitaker managed three different adjectives, tagging Cheney "a bedrock conservative" and "a rock-solid conservative" with a "a solidly conservative voting record." Whitaker also relayed how Democrats are "planning to paint him as too far right and wrong for the country." Plus, Bryant Gumbel put Cheney outside the mainstream: "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety."

NBC: Tom Brokaw noted Cheney's "stellar conservative credentials" before Anne Thompson stressed his "very conservative record." Lisa Myers agreed, recalling his days in Congress: "His voting record? Very conservative."

# "The Republican ticket is now exquisitely balanced: A man of the center who doesn't alienate the right has now chosen a man of the right who doesn't alienate the center." So observed John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review's e-mailed Washington Bulletin on Tuesday afternoon. But that's not how the network media saw the choice since they certainly don't see Bush as any kind of moderate.

Instead of concentrating on how the Cheney pick balances Bush the networks focused on depicting Cheney as on the "far right," illustrated by his strange votes against the ERA, funding abortion and Head Start. Tuesday night the broadcast network evening shows all passed long the Democratic spin about how Dick Cheney is out of touch, with some reporters eagerly providing evidence to back up the charge. Only NBC noted how Bush's pick was "applauded by the right."

ABC's Linda Douglass offered only one expert opinion on Cheney's days in Congress and she insisted "he was on the far right." Douglass stressed how "he was one of the few to vote against more funds for the Older Americans Act, services for the elderly." Douglass reported that Cheney grew rich running Halliburton while consumers were getting screwed: "Records show he sold some of his holdings for $5 million last June, just as oil prices were skyrocketing and consumers were paying a premium at the pump."

CBS's Dan Rather stressed how Democrats "blast Cheney's voting record in Congress as again quote 'outside the American mainstream' because of Cheney's votes against the Equal Rights for Women Amendment, against a woman's right to choose abortion..." CBS also featured a soundbite from Democratic Senator Tom Daschle putting Cheney on "the far right."

For more:

# You knew you could count on Bryant Gumbel to go beyond the "very conservative" and "solidly conservative" labeling of Dick Cheney. Tuesday morning Gumbel came through, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, as he delivered a pejorative tag to paint Cheney as some kind of extremist: "Cheney's politics are of the hard-right variety."

The same morning on ABC George Stephanopoulos labeled Cheney as a "hardline conservative." The ABC analyst, who appeared without a balancing conservative, also suggested, as did reporter Dean Reynolds, that Cheney's opposition to the Department of Education somehow conflicts with Bush's commitment to education. And Diane Sawyer was baffled that anyone could oppose the Head Start boondoggle.

For more:


# The ideological labeling of Dick Cheney continued unabated on Wednesday with ABC's Terry Moran relaying how Gore's team is trying to hurt Bush "by painting Cheney as an extremist." Dan Rather called Cheney a "hardline conservative" and though Cheney has a "very conservative" record, Phil Jones threatened it's not a problem now "but this could change as voters learn more about his record." NBC's David Gregory tagged Cheney "an unabashed conservative," before listing some supposedly out of touch views, but a new Zogby poll picked up by FNC and MSNBC showed Bush-Cheney in tune with independents on guns and abortion.

And Wednesday morning Today co-host Matt Lauer saw a contradiction between Cheney's views, including supposedly being "anti-equal rights," and being a "compassionate conservative."

For more:

# The networks can't tire of adding adjectives to describe how conservative Dick Cheney really is, but back in 1992 they not only avoided labeling Clinton's VP pick, Al Gore, as a liberal, they described him as "moderate" or even "conservative" despite his liberal voting record. NBC's Tom Brokaw dubbed Gore a "moderate Southerner" and CBS's Susan Spencer actually referred to Clinton and Gore as "a conservative pair."

For details:


# For the fourth straight weeknight the CBS Evening News on Thursday night dedicated a story to rebuking Dick Cheney's House votes, this time referred to as his "rock solid conservative record" and "rigid conservative votes." After Dan Rather questioned whether Cheney is "too outside the American mainstream," reporter Bill Whitaker raised the usual litany of votes against abortion and the ERA, but added a fresh citation of how he "opposed funding for the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts."

Rather opened the July 27 broadcast: "Good evening. Sharp turns and even sharper questions today for the George Bush-Dick Cheney Republican ticket. They faced more questions about their ties to big oil in Texas and Cheney's voting record on key issues during his time in Congress."

Though CBS has been citing them all week, Dan Rather bizarrely introduced the subsequent hit piece by claiming Cheney's votes are "prompting new questions." Rather's intro in full: "Past votes in Congress are prompting new questions about Dick Cheney and whether, as some say, they show he's too outside the American mainstream for voters in the year 2000. CBS's Bill Whitaker has the latest on Bush-Cheney playing offense and defense."

Whitaker gave a lot more time to the Democratic offense against Bush-Cheney than to their defense. Whitaker began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The Bush campaign expected the new team to be hailed as rock solid and competent. Instead they're dodging a hail of criticism over Dick Cheney's rock solid conservative record."

For more:

# Dick Cheney appeared simultaneously at about 7:10am Thursday on all three morning shows, though only Today had him live, and he was simultaneously grilled about his conservative record and how he will turn off voters. "People are talking about your conservative record while a Congressman from Wyoming and saying that perhaps that conservative record will not help to attract swing voters like minorities and women," Today's Matt Lauer told Cheney before going down a list of votes which upset liberals and demanding Cheney explain each, as if there was something wrong with holding such conservative views.

Similarly, CBS's Jane Clayson hit Cheney from the left on The Early Show: "When you were in Congress you had a very conservative voting record, how will you and Governor Bush appeal to the more moderate Republicans and perhaps more importantly independents? "She tagged him "a hardline conservative."

"There are a number of people within the Republican Party, even supporters of Governor Bush," ABC's Jack Ford preposterously claimed in confusing the DNC-Gore spin operation with actual Republicans, who supposedly say Cheney is "way too conservative. "Ford saw a contradiction between Bush's interest in education and how Cheney "had voted twice against the creation of the Department of Education" and opposed increased funding for Head Start.

For more:

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# Tonight, at 7:30 and 11:30pm EDT/PDT, Comedy Central debuts a limited-run series, "Crossballs."'s description of the combination of Crossfire and Hardball: "Crossballs pits real experts against comedians pretending to be experts! Heated arguments, name-calling and threats ensue as the comedians push the limits, infuriating both the experts and the unsuspecting audience." Show page:

-- Brent Baker