CyberAlert -- 01/07/2000 -- Russert & Williams Easy on Dems, Tough on Bush

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Russert & Williams Easy on Dems, Tough on Bush; Condemning Elian Supporters

1) As debate moderator, Tim Russert hit Republicans from the left, but his bias really came through in comparing the agenda of his post-debate questions to Democrats Wednesday versus Republicans Thursday. Brian Williams did not tag Democrats, but wondered if the GOP "is viewed as too far to the right?"

2) When Alan Keyes noted how the Declaration of Independence proclaims "all men are created equal," the reporter from New Hampshire Public Television shouted: "And women!"

3) Of the broadcast evening shows, only CBS noted Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile's racist attack on Colin Powell. On Elian Gonzalez, Peter Jennings talked about how Cuban-Americans want to keep him "away from his father" instead of away from Castro.

4) CBS's Eric Engberg highlighted a campaign finance "reform" group's look at donors to presidential hopefuls: "Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government officials is both legal and pervasive."

5) Letterman's "Top Ten Ways the White House is Different Now That Hillary Has Moved Out."

>>> Now online, the MRC's Special Report by Geoffrey Dickens: "Outgunned: How The Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate." Key points in the study of ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1999: Evening News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 8 to 1; Morning News Shows Favored the Anti-Gun Position by 13 to 1; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Use Anti-Gun Soundbites; News Programs Are Twice as Likely to Feature Anti-Gun Guests; Pro-Gun Themes Were Barely Covered. To read the executive summary and the full report, go to: <<<


cyberno1.gifIn moderating Thursday night's debate amongst Republican presidential candidates in New Hampshire NBC's Tim Russert was more aggressive in demanding the participants respond to his points from the left than was ABC's Peter Jennings as moderator the night before in pressing the Democrats about anything, nevergwbush1.gif (15100 bytes) mind from the right.

Thursday night to George W. Bush an exasperated Russert brooded about how "even in the case of a prolonged world war with the United States involved you would not consider raising taxes?" He later told Bush that there are "fifteen million atheists in this country, five million Jews, five million Muslims, millions more Buddhists and Hindus, should they feel excluded from George W. Bush because of his allegiance to Jesus." And demanded: "Would you take an expression like 'What would Jesus do?' into the Oval Office?"

Since different people moderated each night it's not possible to assess different approaches to each party by the same moderator. Russert might have been just as tough on the Democrats had he moderated that debate, but Russert and Brian Williams certainly did display tremendous bias in the contrast in how they approached candidates for each party during MSNBC's post-debate shows.

After Wednesday night's Democratic confab Tim Russert simply stuck to asking Al Gore and Bill Bradley about style points the other had made and how they felt Pentagon officials would feel about their insistence on allowing gays to openly serve. But Thursday night he argued with Bush about the size of his tax cut, again pushed Bush, as he did during the debate, to say he'd drop the tax cut if bad times hit, and again pressed Bush about his supposed religious intolerance. Russert also insisted he's "a registered independent."

Wednesday night, after Russert interviewed Vice President Al Gore, anchor Brian Williams did not label Gore's position on gays in the military as too far left, and instead worried about how at debates Gore's title is dropped: "Does he think the office demands more respect than 'Al'?" But after Russert wrapped up his interview Thursday night with Bush, Williams ruminated about the religious talk during the debate, asking an analyst: "Do you think there are concerns that this is viewed as too far to the right?"

(Each of the debates, sponsored by New Hampshire Public Television, New England Cable News and The Union Leader, aired live nationally from 7 to 8pm ET on MSNBC and C-SPAN. Afterward each night MSNBC ran a one-hour analysis show from 8 to 9pm ET anchored by Brian Williams with Tim Russert providing live interviews from the debate venue.)

Below are some examples of Tim Russert inserting himself into Thursday's Republican debate followed by examples of contrasting types of questions posed by him afterward each night.

The January 6 Republican debate: John DiStaso of The Union Leader posed the first question and he asked George W. Bush about whether he would follow through on a tax cut if a recession hit. Not satisfied with Bush's answer that he would, Russert jumped in:
"Governor, so we're clear, even in the case of a prolonged world war with the United States involved you would not consider raising taxes?"

Russert later engaged in this personal debate with Bush:
"Governor Bush, in the last debate when you talked about Jesus being the most philosopher thinker that you respected, many people applauded you, others said what role would religion have in the Oval Office with George W. Bush. Fifteen million atheists in this country, five million Jews, five million Muslims, millions more Buddhists and Hindus. Should they feel excluded from George W. Bush because of his allegiance to Jesus."
When Bush answered that it's "my life, it's part of me," Russert came back: "Would you take an expression like 'What would Jesus do?' into the Oval Office?"
Bush joked: "I would take an expression into the Oval Office of 'Dear God help me.'"
Russert pressed ahead with his intolerance theme: "In 1993 you suggested that unless you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, you couldn't go to heaven."
Bush insisted all he said was that his religion says you must accept Christ go to heaven and God decides who goes, not him.
Russert demanded: "Even non-Christians?"

Now to the contrasting post-debate shows on MSNBC. First, Russert's questions Thursday night to John McCain and George W. Bush.

To John McCain:
-- "David Bloom was reporting earlier that it's unusual that the challenger in a Republican race, like you, is criticizing the frontrunner for having too big a tax cut. Do you believe you can win a Republican primary in New Hampshire by advocating a smaller tax cut?"
-- "You've been under the gun the last couple days, in the spotlight, because a contributor to your campaign went to the FCC, got a favorable decision, you urged the FCC to make a decision. You canceled a fundraiser with the same gentleman, Mr. Paxson, Friday. The appearance of Mr. Reformer being a pawn of special interest money, has it hurt your campaign?"
-- To Cindy McCain: "Mrs. McCain, what's it like to see your husband in the klieg lights, taking a lot of hits for a decision he made about helping out a contributor?"
-- "What would be your top priority as First Lady?"
-- Back to John McCain: "Senator McCain, the Democrats last night, as I mentioned, all said, both said they would not appoint anyone to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military unless they would support opening allowing gays to serve in the military. Will that be a lethal issue against the Democrats in the fall?"

To George W. Bush:
-- "Governor, John McCain just said that his tax cut is better than yours because it takes care of lower and middle class people and that 60 percent, 60 percent of your tax cut goes to the ten percent richest in the country."

-- Russert then engaged in this argument as he insisted on making Bush's tax cut seem as large as possible: "But if you cut taxes $800 billion dollars."
Bush: "No, $483 billion."
Russert: "$800 over ten years."
Bush: "No, no, $483 billion over five years."
Russert: "$800 billion over ten years. And we hit the tough times and there are no surpluses and Social Security and Medicare go toward bankrupt, you can't do everything. Why can't you tell people you have to make some tough choices? Plus you have a $5.7 trillion dollar debt. You can't do it all."

-- Bush answered that taxes are now the highest ever and Congress will spend the surplus, adding: "But you know as well as I, even a good Democrat like you knows, in times of a recession."
Russert shot back: "Independent. Registered independent."
Bush: "I know you are."
Russert lectured: "And the swing voters of this state are independent, so be careful. You were coasting along to this nomination to the view of many and you suddenly seemed to have hit a bump here in New Hampshire. What happened?"

-- "If John McCain beats you in New Hampshire would you be willing to debate him one on one?"
-- "Both Democrats last night on this stage said they would insist that any Joint Chiefs of Staff appointees would be for gays openly serving in the military. Is that an issue that will be used against the Democrats in the fall?"

-- To Laura Bush: "What would be your top priority as First Lady?"

-- Following a brief discussion about shielding their teenage daughters from the campaign, Russert asked anchor Brian Williams if he had a question. Williams delivered this one: "Is he concerned at all about his answer to your question Tim tonight on religion, the reliance on Christ as one figure, Christianity as one religion above all, in this nation especially."
Russert relayed the question to Bush: "Brian asked about the whole issue of Jesus Christ being introduced in the Republican Party and into the country at-large. Is it an issue that you think could hurt you in the general election where non-Christians begin to think there's something mysterious going on here?"
Bush explained that he was asked about my personal faith, not the faith of others. He asserted: "It's my foundation and if it costs me votes to have answered the question that way, so be it."
To which Russert warned: "I think people watching, some want to hear your God is Jesus Christ, they don't have a God, or they have Yahweh or they have Allah. They want to know it's okay."

That ended the interview and so Williams turned to guest analyst Laura Ingraham:
"Laura, interesting exchange and an interesting single issue to take out of all of this. Both parties, when they go back to the locker room after these debates and they realize that the television audience isn't just limited to their faithful. Of course it's Americans of both parties are free to watch this, part of the process. The Democrats may have worries about the military topic last night, gays in the military, is this a similar issue for the Republicans. Do you think there are concerns that this is viewed as too far to the right?"

Wednesday night, however, Williams never suggested that gays in the military put the Democrats too far to the left. In fact, through several guest segments, such as with spokesmen for Gore and Bradley, Newsweek's Howard Fineman and a segment with Paul Begala and Oliver North, Williams never raised the subject and when he asked Russert what he considered the two most important highlights Russert had MSNBC play exchanges about Bradley accusing Gore of living in a "Washington bunker" and arguing over Gore's gimmick of banning campaign ads.

But after finishing with Bush Thursday night Russert wasn't done with his effort to push the GOP away from religion, later telling Gary Bauer:
"Every Republican debate seems to have discussion about abortion, gay rights, Jesus Christ. Fairly or unfairly are you concerned that many people in the country are watching that exchange and saying, 'you know, that's a little bit more about religion than it is about politics and that concerns me.'?"
Bauer's retort: "Well Tim, in all due fairness, you guys brought those issues up."

Compare the loaded approach above, in which Russert made Bush and Bauer respond to Liberal/Democratic agenda arguments, with how Russert greeted the two Democrats in the 8pm ET hour on January 5:

To Bill Bradley:
-- "How would you size up the debate? What did you try to accomplish and did you succeed?"
-- "When you talk about Vice President Gore in 'the Washington bunker,' that's a very deliberate attempt to say you're Mr. Inside, I'm Mr. Outside."
-- "After any big game, big interview, big debate your mind is swirling. What should I have said. Is there anything you wish you had said you didn't say?"
-- Brian Williams asked how long can the two candidates keep the campaign "clean."
-- Instead of suggesting Bradley turned off anyone with his extreme stand on gays in the military, Russert simply asked about Pentagon reaction: "When both of you gentlemen said that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would, in effect, have to go along with your policy on allowing gays to serve openly in the military, what do you think the reaction was at the Pentagon tonight?"
-- Russert then got as close as he ever did to suggesting Bradley's view was liberal, but he didn't actually say it: "In a general election, Democratic candidate Bradley, assuming he's the nominee, talking about gays in the military, talking about registering and licensing guns, how's that going to play in areas of the country, particularly the South?"

To Al Gore:
-- "First of all, how is Tipper Gore, your wife?"
-- "Will she be back on the campaign trail soon?"
-- "The debate tonight: Senator Bradley made a deliberate attempt to talk about Al Gore inside the Washington bunker, Al Gore stayed too long, you too much. I said to Senator Bradley was this a conscience attempt to say Al Gore's the Insider you're the Outsider, he said 'yes, of course.'"
-- "Are you concerned in a Democratic primary, as he talks about national health care, registering and licensing guns, big idealistic and noble goals, people see him as someone who's an idealist and you're a more cautious politician."
-- "What do you think the reaction in the Pentagon was tonight when both candidates for the Democratic nomination said they would insist that the Joint Chiefs of Staff support their policy of gays openly serving in the military?"
-- "Is the next step in terms of civil rights toward gays allowing gay marriage?"
-- "Do you think this campaign will get negative? Will there be negative television advertising saying 'Bradley says this, I say this, vote for me'?"
-- Brian Williams then posed this toughie: "At the conclusion of this interview you will likely call him Mr. Vice President. He gets called that all day long, except when he shows up at these debates he is called Al. Does he chalk that up to tactics, does he think the office demands more respect than 'Al'?"

All style over substance with the liberal Democrats. Russert didn't ask McCain or Bush such softballs as "Is there anything you wish you had said you didn't say?" Despite Bradley and Gore both advocating huge new and/or expanded health care entitlement programs, Russert didn't press either about whether they'd cancel their plans in the face of war or a recession. And other than the vague question to Bradley about reaction in the South, Russert did not paint their gays in the military view as something which will offend many as he did in pushing Bush to back off his comments about Jesus.

There's another GOP debate tonight, Friday January 7, on MSNBC at 8pm ET from South Carolina. Brian Williams will serve as moderator.


cyberno2.gif PBS is liberal everywhere, even in New Hampshire. In the middle of an answer at Thursday's Republican debate from Alan Keyes about how the Declaration of Independence proclaims "all men are created equal," the reporter from New Hampshire Public Television shouted: "And women!"

About twenty minutes into the January 6 debate, Jenny Attiyeh demanded of Keyes: "What does the term separation of church and state mean to you?"
When he didn't give the answer she wanted, she followed-up: "Are you for or against the separation of church and state? Are you willing to abide by it?"
Keyes replied: "You are trying to force me to speak in terms that are not relevant to American life. The Declaration of Independence states very clearly that the foundation of all our rights is what? We do remember this right? All men are created equal and endowed by their creator..."
Attiyeh jumped in, exclaiming over Keyes: "And woman!"
Keyes: "...with certain inalienable rights. Now what does that mean? It means the source of our rights is the creator God..."


cyberno3.gif The flu outbreak topped the CBS and NBC evening shows Thursday night, with ABC starting with the decline in tech stocks. The CBS Evening News provided the only mention of Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile's race-mongering attack on Colin Powell and J.C. Watts, though CBS only mentioned Powell. Only NBC Nightly News ran a full story on the McCain letter to the FCC controversy, though CBS mentioned it in a larger story about Bush-McCain jabs over tax policy. The controversy was also the focus of Wednesday night's Nightline.

Items on ABC and CBS Thursday night, and NBC Thursday morning, painted those opposed to the INS decision on Elian Gonzalez as the unreasonable ones. CBS's Byron Pitts warned "there is fear" that the Cuban-American community's interest "has become a choke hold."

-- On the January 6 CBS Evening News Dan Rather read this 44-second item about a subject not touched by ABC or NBC:
"An early and nasty dimension tonight in presidential campaign 2000. CBS News has obtained a letter, written by retired U.S. General Republican Colin Powell, to Vice President Al Gore. In it Powell accuses Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile, of quote, 'playing the polarizing race card.' This follows a Washington Times story quoting the Gore campaign manager, who is African-American, as saying among other things, and I quote [text on screen]: 'Republicans bring out Colin Powell...because they have no program , no policy...They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them.' Tonight Vice President Gore responded with praise for General Colin Powell. But Gore said the Republican Party quote 'has no agenda for African-Americans,' unquote."

The full quote from Brazile, as cited by Greg Pierce in his Washington Times "Inside Politics" column on January 5, in recounting what she told Paul Alexander of
"'We now discuss race in terms of how to give people the opportunity of all Americans,' she said. 'On the other hand, the Republicans bring out Colin Powell and J.C. Watts because they have no program, no policy. They play that game because they have no other game. They have no love and no joy. They'd rather take pictures with black children than feed them.'"

-- Elian Gonzalez. Introducing a January 6 story on protests in Miami over the INS decision to return him to Cuba, World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings said Cuban-Americans want to keep him from his father, instead of saying they want to keep him from Fidel Castro's oppression:
"In Miami today, Cuban-American street power. Limited but calculated. There are some Cuban-Americans who will not give up their fight to keep the six-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez in the United States and away from his father in Cuba."

Over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Byron Pitts concluded his story by putting the burden for harming Gonzalez on those who wish for him to stay in Florida: "Six weeks ago this community embraced a boy who had watched his mother die at sea. Tonight there is fear that embrace has become a choke hold."

Thursday morning on Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, co-host Matt Lauer countered any fears that Gonzalez would suffer in any way in Cuba. He asked Spencer Eig, lawyer for Gonzalez's Florida family: "Do you claim that if Elian returns to Cuba that he will be persecuted?"

Eig replied: "Absolutely. He'll be horrifyingly persecuted. He'll be told that his mother, who gave her life so he could find freedom, was a traitor to the homeland and a criminal. And he'll be paraded around the country as a trophy by Fidel Castro, of Fidel's victory over the United States. What horrifying psychological torture that is to be used as a symbol by the very dictator who drove his own mother to her death."
Lauer rebutted: "But it appears from everything we've seen in the tapes coming from Cuba, and again we don't know how much has been orchestrated by the government, that he will be received with open arms, that he will be returned as a hero."

Lauer later argued that the family was spoiling and misleading the kid with trips to Disney World: "You know we've talked a lot about the life he would have here versus the life he could have in Cuba. Has he really been living any kind of a normal life in this country? After all he's been to parties, he's been showered with gifts, he's been to Disney World. How normal a life is that?"

A lot more "normal" for someone living in the United States than for someone living

in Cuba.


cyberno4.gif Wednesday night the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News ran full stories on Hillary Clinton moving into her house in the Chappaqua area of the town of New Castle, New York. The CBS Evening News picked up on a report by a pro-finance reform group about ties between corporate donations and actions of candidates.

Eric Engberg portrayed the top four candidates as all equally guilty of something bad. As transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, Engberg began: "Whatever they say now, all four frontrunners for the presidency got this far the old fashioned way: Squeezing big money from rich special interest groups. The financial histories of Gore, Bradley, Bush, and McCain, as researched by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, show how big money interests invest in politicians' whole careers. Unlike outright bribery this cozying up to government officials is both legal and pervasive."

Engberg ran through the ties of each candidate:
"Gore's fundraising exploits make him Mr. Insider. Over his career, lobbyists and insiders have financed his campaigns, led by Ernst & Young, accountant to corporate giants. And when Gore pushes for computers in every school and no taxes on Internet business, it makes his Silicon Valley pals happy. They've given $88,000 to him in just two years. Bradley's history shows him to be Mr. Wall Street. He's gotten more than a million dollars from investment companies. In the Senate he backed many investor friendly tax measures, always claiming contributions had no affect on him.
"On the Republican side, Bush could be called, with a Texas twang, 'The Bidness Guv.' His top career backers have included oil and gas companies like Enron and Sanchez and law firms like Vinson & Elkins with many big business clients. Policies friendly to these interests like making compliance with the clean air standards voluntary and not mandatory have had Bush's support. Only one of the frontrunners, McCain, admits he's ever been influenced by contributors."

Engberg concluded: "And the new book [by the group's Charles Lewis] shows his money history is typical of a chairman of a powerful Senate committee. It's loaded with phone companies like U.S. West and BellSouth and entertainment giants like Viacom. All with important business pending before McCain's Commerce Committee. What comes through for all these frontrunners is that politics is a world where despite past reforms money talks as loudly as ever."


cyberno5.gif From the January 5 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways the White House is Different Now That Hillary Has Moved Out." Copyright 2000 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. President no longer sleeping alone
9. Faucets in master bedroom now dispense scented massage oil and gravy.
8. Forget dress down Friday -- now all-nude Friday and pantsless Monday through Thursday.
7. Volumes of Hillary fan mail redirected to new house.
6. Hillary no longer writing volumes of fan mail to herself.
5. No Pressure to cuddle.
4. Token male intern transferred out.
3. Oval office covered with "Vote Giuliani" posters.
2. Women's soccer team no longer has to win World Cup to spend night at White House.
1. Menorah taken off living room mantle.

And, from the Late Show Web site, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten."

-- Bill has to get used to not sleeping alone.
-- Overdue Copy of "Carpetbagger's Guide to New York" returned to library.
-- For first time in years, there's sexual activity in the Clintons' bed.
-- Chelsea's "Aunt Ginger" has started sleeping over again.

To read the latest Top Ten list and see a comedy clip from the previous night's show, go to:

For the Top Ten list archive going back to 1993, go to: -- Brent Baker

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