CyberAlert -- 01/26/2000 -- Bush Hit from Left, Dems Not Pressed

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Bush Hit from Left, Dems Not Pressed; Today Asked Gore About Marijuana

1) "New Hampshire is now a three-way race" amongst Bush, McCain and Forbes, declared NBC's David Bloom. But CBS's Phil Jones held: "If Steve Forbes is a serious factor I sure haven't seen it." In the morning, ABC and NBC stressed pressure on Bush from the right.

2) Al Gore and Bill Bradley were not asked Tuesday morning about policy issues, but ABC and CBS pressed George Bush about abortion with ABC asking if women who have one should be prosecuted. ABC's Diane Sawyer described Bill Clinton as a "winner" in Iowa.

3) Today pressed Al Gore about a new charge that he used marijuana long after he claimed he quit. The Tennessean investigated and found few colleagues ever saw him smoke dope as Time's Elaine Shannon argued: "I don't know when he would have had the time."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)NBC and CBS delivered conflicting assessments Tuesday night about whether there is now a two-man race in New Hampshire featuring just George Bush and John McCain or a three-way contest also including Steve Forbes. All three broadcast network evening shows on Tuesday night opened with the snow storm which hit he East coast Tuesday morning before getting to campaign horse race stories. ABC aired one piece while CBS carried separate brief updates on the Democrats and Republicans and NBC ran two full stories.

Tuesday morning, Tim Russert contended that Bush now "faces "Forbes and Keyes on the right, John McCain from the center." ABC's Linda Douglass maintained Bush has to battle on two fronts, with "the religious conservatives" on one side, but she failed to label the other side, referring only to how McCain has support among "independents."

On the January 25 NBC Nightly News, David Bloom included Forbes as a player, declaring: "New Hampshire is now a three-way race." But from New Hampshire on the CBS Evening News reporter Phil Jones discounted Forbes:

"This has already turned into a two-man race between Governor Bush and Senator McCain. McCain has invested everything here, spending so much time and money he desperately needs a victory if he has any chance of winning South Carolina, which is the next primary. Steve Forbes is trying to sell the idea that as a result of his strong second place showing in Iowa, with the help of the so-called religious right, that this has turned into a three-man ran, but I've been here for three weeks and if Steve Forbes is a serious factor I sure haven't seen it."

Tuesday morning on NBC's Today Tim Russert told Katie Couric:
"It's is a very strong victory for George W. Bush but it is not a knockout. Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes will continue their campaigns in New Hampshire. They'll be joined by John McCain. It's a kind of pincer movement against Governor Bush, Katie. He has Forbes and Keyes on the right, John McCain from the center. It means that the Republican primary fight is still very much alive."

That quote was picked up by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, who like most of the MRC's News Division staff made it in Tuesday and so were not, as Rush Limbaugh put it in accurately describing Washingtonians, "snow wimps."

Over on Good Morning America, in the 8am news update Linda Douglass only saw ideological pressure on Bush from one side, naturally the right side:
"Now what he's got to do is battle on two fronts. He's got the religious conservatives on the right, led by Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes and certainly to a lesser extent Gary Bauer, but they did well last night, and then he's got John McCain who's been campaigning all by himself in New Hampshire for quite a while. McCain has a lot of support from the independent voters here in New Hampshire."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's The Early show stuck to the horse race and campaign tactics in Tuesday morning interviews with Al Gore, as did CBS with Bill Bradley, and did not pose any substantive policy questions. But, both shows pressed George Bush from the left about his stand on abortion, with ABC also asking John McCain if he'd change the Republican platform language. ABC's Jack Ford demanded to know if in a Bush administration doctors and women would be "criminally prosecuted" for performing or having abortions.

Though Al Gore avoided mentioning Bill Clinton throughout his campaign and quickly moved the conversation away from Clinton when his name was raised in the Tuesday morning interviews, ABC's Diane Sawyer celebrated Clinton as a winner in Iowa: "There was another winner of some kind yesterday and that seems to be Bill Clinton."

Below is a rundown of how differently ABC and CBS treated the Democratic versus Republican candidates on January 25, the morning after Monday's Iowa caucus, followed by Sawyer's assessment of Bill Clinton's popularity.

-- ABC's Good Morning America. At the top of the show Charles Gibson in New York interviewed Al Gore live from New Hampshire. Gibson asked if he was "relieved" by his win, whether he agreed with Ted Kennedy that Bradley should drop out if he loses New Hampshire, and if he thought New Hampshire would end the race or will it be a "long haul" through at least March 7.
Gibson ended with this question: "Did you call President Clinton last night to share the good news?"
Gore responded with his shortest answer: "No, he did call me last evening and I was grateful for his congratulations."

After George Stephanopoulos provided his analysis of Iowa's results, ABC went to Jack Ford in New Hampshire who played a tape of an interview he conducted with Bush at about 3am, just after Bush arrived in the Granite State. Ford began by asking Bush if he'd talked to his father and then asked for his spin on the Iowa results and whether his comment that his win denotes the beginning of end of the Clinton era means he's moved beyond the primary battle and is focusing on the Democrats in November.

Then, Ford turned argumentative and challenged Bush on abortion: "Governor, you've talked a great deal this past week about your position on the issue of abortion. Assume for a minute, if indeed you are the President, if indeed Roe versus Wade was overturned, if indeed there was a constitutional amendment banning abortions, what would you think would be the right thing to happen for a doctor who performed an abortion? Should that doctor be criminally prosecuted?"
Bush replied that he'd lead the public to an understanding of life, but if laws are broken prosecutions should occur.
Ford followed-up: "Would we also then find ourselves in a situation where if a woman had an abortion, that she would also be criminally prosecuted?"
Bush said no before Ford finished up the interview by asking about the difference between a gubernatorial and presidential campaign and what one question he'd like to pose to McCain.

Next, Diane Sawyer talked to John McCain in New Hampshire. She asked for his reaction to Bush's win and then observed: "The combined conservative candidates tally up to about 54 percent of the vote. Is that a bigger problem for you in New Hampshire or for George W. Bush?"
Sawyer moved on to McCain's ad which says he's the one man who understands the military and the world. After McCain highlighted a Supreme Court decision which upheld a state law limiting the size of campaign contributions, Sawyer queried: "Do you think all that money that George W. Bush has raised corrupts his campaign and would corrupt his presidency?"

Finally, Sawyer pressed McCain about abortion: "We heard Governor Bush talk about abortion, Senator McCain. Just one quick question to you, you have said you're personally opposed, except for rape, incest and the life of the mother, and yet the Republican platform does not make those exceptions. Will you change the Republican platform?"

-- CBS's The Early Show. Bryant Gumbel in Iowa began the show by interviewing Gore who was in New Hampshire. Like ABC's Charles Gibson, Gumbel avoid substantive policy questions, asking if he's complacent about New Hampshire and what made the difference in Iowa. Gumbel wondered: "Do you also think your somewhat more combative and aggressive manner paid dividends for you?" After inquiring as to how Iowa's outcome will impact New Hampshire, Gumbel changed subjects with an odd segue:
"Let me make kind a right hand turn here, because of its potential impact on your campaign, how much, if at all, are you involved in what the President may say Thursday night in his State of the Union address?"
Gore said he was "deeply involved" in past years, but tried to separate himself from Clinton, maintaining that this year "I haven't even seen a draft" and "I have not been involved this year."

Gumbel wrapped up the friendly exchange by asking if Gore will go to Atlanta to see the Tennessee Titans in the Superbowl. (Answer: No)

Next, like ABC, CBS aired a taped interview with George Bush conducted at about 3am. The first question from Phil Jones: "What about this guy McCain?" Jones went on to ask about the McCain ad which says only one man who is running knows the military and the world and whether it is a two-man race or now a three-man one with Forbes. Jones then arrived at abortion:
"The issue of abortion was raised more and more at the end of Iowa. Does that come into New Hampshire, into play here?"

Jones ended by wondering what Bush meant by saying this is the beginning of the end of Clinton era.

In the 8am half hour The Early Show ran a taped interview with Bill Bradley conducted by Cynthia Bowers. She did not pose any policy questions, asking only tactical questions, such as if he needs to show passion on the stump like Gore does, what lessons he learned from Iowa and if he wants to strike back against Gore's attacks.

(CBS's Washington, DC affiliate did not air the 7:30am half hour of The Early Show on Tuesday in order to accommodate Washington area viewer's panic over a little snowstorm, so I don't know if CBS carried an interview then with McCain.)

-- Bill Clinton the winner. Despite how during the campaign in Iowa Al Gore avoided tying himself to Bill Clinton, and how as shown above he quickly separated himself from Clinton when interviewers raised Clinton's name, Diane Sawyer opened a segment with Bill Bennett and Dee Dee Myers by suggesting:
"Something that maybe is not in the headlines this morning, but should be. There was another winner of some kind yesterday and that seems to be Bill Clinton because 44 percent of the Iowa voters said they had an unfavorable impression of him but Al Gore won half of those. What does this say about Teflon?"


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Today did not ask George Bush about abortion, but unlike ABC or CBS, did raise with him and Al Gore a new charge that Gore smoked marijuana through 1976, four years after he said he stopped. The charge stems from rumors about a book by Newsweek reporter Bill Turque who quotes a former Nashville Tennessean colleague of Gore's. Last week the Drudge Report first highlighted how an anti-drug war Web site cited the Turque book's charge and, as noted in the January 24 CyberAlert, Tony Snow mentioned the charge on Fox News Sunday. The New York Post ran a story on Monday and the same day Gore was asked about it by a local reporter in Iowa.

Given questions about drug use raised about George Bush, Republican partisans are probably not too interested in getting the media to pursue this angle with Gore, but Today is being more even-handed than ABC or CBS which both jumped on the charges against Bush last August, which had no source, while so far skipping the allegation against Gore.

In a taped interview with Bush on January 25 reporter David Bloom noted Bush now has two "strong conservative challengers" in Forbes and Keyes and asked Bush what he thought of Forbes' strong second place finish. Bloom next queried:
"Senator McCain is running an ad in New Hampshire now in which he essentially says you're not up to the job being commander-in-chief. You say 'I'm a proven leader,' but in truth you're a former oilman, a former baseball executive, now the Governor of Texas. Is he right when he says he's better qualified to lead the free world?"

Bloom soon asked Bush to react to the Gore drug use charge: "Al Gore, the Vice President, yesterday had to fend off new unproven allegations that he used marijuana extensively after he came back from the Vietnam War. Is that a fair subject of inquiry for reporters?"

Katie Couric handled the live interview in with Gore in New Hampshire, opening with questions about how relieved he was by the win, whether a win in New Hampshire would mean the race is over and whether he'd call for Bradley to quit in order to unite the party. She then arrived at the drug question:
"Let me ask you about new allegations that have surfaced from an old friend and colleague of yours, John Warnecke, that you tried to silence him over your alleged use of pot in the '60s and '70s. We just heard Governor Bush say you'd have to handle those allegations yourself. So let me ask you, were you a frequent marijuana user in '60s and '70s?"
When Al Gore replied, as taken down by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, that he only used marijuana infrequently and there's nothing new here, Couric came back: "But this man is saying you used it almost on a daily basis I understand. That's what he's alleging."
Gore: "That's not true."
Couric: "Did anyone from your campaign, did you or anyone from your campaign ever try to silence him or tell him not to divulge this information?"

Gore's former employer, the Nashville Tennessean newspaper, investigated the charge that Gore regularly used the illegal drug while working as a reporter for the paper in the mid 1970s, but found little support for the allegation, though several former colleagues refused to discuss what they knew. The newspaper ran three stories about the matter on January 25 and in one Time magazine reporter Elaine Shannon, who worked for the Gannett-owned paper at the same time as Gore, insisted he "was very, very driven by the issues" so "I don't know when he would have had the time."

Here are excerpts from two of the January 25 stories in The Tennessean:

Reports of Gore Pot Use Raise Complex Questions
By Jay Hamburg

New reports have surfaced that, if believed, would raise questions about the truth of Vice President Al Gore's statements on his use of marijuana 25 years ago.

The charges, which could reflect on the character of the candidate, also create a complex issue for The Tennessean. On one level they involve current and former newspaper employees and a web of friendships and relationships, going back 30 years.

For that reason, the newspaper is airing the issue publicly, even though its own investigation -- which included contacting three dozen current and former journalists who worked with Gore -- could not confirm the new allegations or definitively disprove them.

Since 1987, Gore has maintained his marijuana usage was "infrequent and rare" and ended in 1972.

However a former Tennessean reporter, who worked with Gore in 1971 and remained a good friend through 1976, now claims they smoked marijuana hundreds of times during those six years.

"More than 100. More than 200. More than I can remember. It seemed like all the time we were together we were smoking," said John C. Warnecke Jr., who worked at The Tennessean as a reporter from 1968-1971. Gore worked at the newspaper from 1971-1974 and from 1975-1976 until he announced his candidacy for Congress -- his first political race.

Warnecke also claims that he and Gore shared marijuana at least once after Gore announced his bid for Congress. And, Warnecke claims he lied to news organizations in 1987 to protect Gore, saying then he remembered "one specific time" seeing Gore smoke marijuana....

Warnecke, who later became a developer, is now living in San Francisco on disability payments for recurring depression. He said he strongly believes this country's drug laws are unfair and should be changed to decriminalize marijuana, among other things.

In response to Warnecke's new claims, The Tennessean contacted three dozen current and former staff members to see if the claims could be corroborated. Only one other person acknowledged seeing Gore smoke marijuana. None said Gore asked them to lie or shape their responses.

A handful, including the editor of The Tennessean, would not say what they did or did not see....

He [Warnecke] said his 1987 statements to The Tennessean and The New York Times weighed heavily on him, eating at his conscience. He said his therapist urged him to try to make amends.

"I owe this amend to them. And I owe it to my paper. I owe it to my readers. I owe this to apologize to them that I lied while Al was their representative. And this was not right. I was really wrong. And I should really take my lumps for this."

Warnecke said he regrets the timing of his statements coinciding with the presidential primaries. He expected the story to come out earlier in a biography written by a Newsweek reporter.

Warnecke said the story was to be included last week in excerpts from the book in Newsweek. He said when the magazine delayed the publication, he felt he should speak publicly. Neither Newsweek nor the writer, Bill Turque, would comment about the matter....

Warnecke said in 1987 he argued with Gore, who was then a U.S. Senator campaigning for President. He said Gore called him and asked him to "stonewall the press."

"There was no physical threat. But if you've ever talked with Al, he's very emphatic. And he's very forceful. He really laid it on me." Warnecke said he made up the story of infrequent use. The two have not talked since 1987, although Warnecke has tried to contact Gore....

Frank Sutherland, editor of The Tennessean and a longtime friend of the Gores, said he has not changed his comments since 1987 when he was first asked about them. "If Al Gore wants to talk about his private life, that's fine," Sutherland said. "But I'm not going to talk about my private life. That's nobody's business."

Sutherland said he, Gore and Warnecke were good friends during the time that all three worked at the newspaper. But Sutherland would not characterize the truthfulness of Warnecke's statements. "I can't answer that without hurting John....I don't want to hurt him. He's a friend."

Sutherland said he was never pressured by Gore or asked to shape his answers in any way. He said he has not spoken with Gore in about six months.

Another former journalism colleague, who would not comment on whether he saw Gore smoke marijuana, did vouch for Warnecke's honesty. "I think he's gone through a lot. I think he may be an emotional guy....I think he's honest and an idealist," said Andrew Schlesinger, who was a reporter at The Tennessean in 1970-71.

Schlesinger, who later worked as a documentary maker for ABC News, said he has kept in touch with Warnecke over the decades, but has not seen him for several years.

He would not comment on any of the details of Warnecke's claims. But he answered "no" when asked if Warnecke had a history of exaggerating or if he found any of the claims to be outrageous....

Warnecke said that before he quit, he was hooked on marijuana, alcohol and cocaine. He also admits to taking hallucinogenics in the 1960s when he says he helped manage the famous rock group The Grateful Dead.....

END Excerpt

To read the full story, go to:

One Other Journalist Recalls Gore's Drug Use, But Says Use Was 'Not Regularly'

By Laura Frank and Sheila Wissner

If Al Gore used marijuana routinely while a Tennessean reporter in the 1970s, it was not known to almost three dozen staff members who worked closely or socialized with him, they say.

Only two of the 36 journalists who worked at the newspaper with Gore and were interviewed for this story said they had ever seen him smoke marijuana. Three others would not say what they did or did not see.

None, except former reporter John Warnecke, said he or she was pressured by Gore to give a false account of Gore's drug use.

In 1987, Gore admitted using marijuana on "infrequent and rare occasions" while serving in the Army in Vietnam and later while living in Nashville, where he worked as a Tennessean reporter and editorial writer and attended classes at Vanderbilt University.

The two Tennessean staffers who said they witnessed Gore using marijuana -- Warnecke and Ken Jost, another former reporter -- disagreed on the extent of Gore's drug use.

Warnecke said Gore used marijuana "hundreds and hundreds of times" and quit only after announcing he would run for Congress in 1976. Jost said the Gore marijuana use he witnessed was much less frequent. "In the times I was around him socially, he used it occasionally," said Jost, now a staff writer with the Congressional Quarterly. "Can I swear to the number of times? No. It was a long time ago. It was more than once. It certainly wasn't every time I saw him and not regularly."

After leaving The Tennessean, Jost worked for Gore during his tenure in Congress and during his 1988 presidential campaign.

The three staffers who would not say what they did or did not see are Tennessean editor Frank Sutherland; Andrew Schlesinger, a former reporter; and Nancy Rhoda, a Tennessean photo editor formerly married to Warnecke.

Several current or former Tennessean staffers described Gore as a hard-working, intense and passionate reporter who, they believe, could not have kept up the pace if he were a routine drug user.

"He was very, very driven by the issues. Very serious," said Elaine Shannon, a Time magazine reporter who worked in the Tennessean's Washington bureau during Gore's tenure at the newspaper. "I don't know when he would have had the time. You could tell he was going places and that he wanted to go places. He made no secret about that."....

END Excerpt

To read this entire story, go to:

More debates tonight on CNN. The Republicans face-off from 7 to 8:30pm ET followed by the Democrats from 9 to 10pm ET. Many PBS stations will carry the debates at some point in the evening Wednesday/early morning Thursday and C-SPAN will run them on Thursday -- Brent Baker

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