CyberAlert -- 03/01/2001 -- CBS Spiked Pro-Tax Cut Poll

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CBS Spiked Pro-Tax Cut Poll; ABC Focused on Budget Cut "Pain"; Dan Rather: Bush Cut Earthquake Help; Public Radio Censorship

1) A CBS News poll found 67 percent support Bush's tax cut plan, but Wednesday night the CBS Evening News ignored its own poll. Instead, Dan Rather characterized it as "risky business" while John Roberts highlighted a woman in Omaha who "fears" Bush "is rolling the dice on eight years of success."

2) FNC's Brit Hume noted: "A CBS poll of those who saw" Bush's speech "found 88 percent agreed with the Bush proposals, which anchor Dan Rather had characterized as quote, 'a cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut plan.'"

3) ABC's Terry Moran focused on how Bush's budget will cause "pain." Moran listed the Department of Transportation as one of the "big losers," citing a $2 billion cut, but the Washington Post reported the department had done "spectacularly under the budget proposal."

4) Dan Rather: "This earthquake hit on the same day President Bush proposed a federal budget that would save about $25 million by killing a program" to help communities prepare for earthquakes.

5) Intolerant liberals. An Arkansas public radio station dropped conservative commentator Paul Greenberg, but kept his liberal counterpart, when donors complained.

6) Letterman's "Top Ten Answers to the Question, 'How Boring Was George W. Bush's Speech?'"

A CBS News poll of those who watched President Bush's Tuesday night address to Congress found 67 percent support his tax cut plan, a more than two-to-one margin over the 31 percent who oppose it, but Wednesday's CBS Evening News didn't mention their own poll. Instead, reporter John Roberts highlighted two women in Omaha who think it's too big, including one who, Roberts asserted, "fears the President is rolling the dice on eight years of success just for political gain."

CBS trusted its poll of 978 people enough to tout on Wednesday's The Early Show, as noted in the February 28 MRC Media Reality Check distributed Wednesday afternoon in a CyberAlert Special, and on its Web page. The Web site summary of the poll revealed it also discovered that tax cuts are Bush's most popular policy idea: "Given a choice of four of the proposals offered by Bush, the viewing public is most interested in his proposal to cut income taxes. Thirty-eight percent of viewers say they would like to see it happen in the coming year. Proposals on increasing Social Security/Medicare and education spending follow, chosen by 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively. Thirty percent of those who did not watch or listen to the speech chose tax cut. Overall, 35 percent of the public prefer the tax-cut proposal."

For CBS's rundown of its poll, go to:,1597,275048-412,00.shtml

But CBS Evening News viewers heard nothing about any of the poll findings. Instead, the show painted the tax cut as a risky scheme which scares the public. Dan Rather introduced the February 28 story, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"President Bush insists what the economy really needs is his major tax cut. Democrats and some independent economists believe the Bush push is risky business. CBS News White House correspondent John Roberts reports on George Bush on the road and out campaigning again."

Roberts checked in from Bush's stop in Omaha where he showed Bush arguing tax money belongs to the people in the first place. Roberts explained Bush was campaigning for his plan in states where moderate Democrats could make the difference. After a soundbite of Bush predicting his cut will pass and it will boost the economy, Roberts announced:
"Congress is almost certain this year to change course on policies that for the last eight years centered on saving money, preserving Social Security, and retiring the debt. The debate now is over which way to go -- Mr. Bush's plan or the Democrats' proposal for smaller targeted tax cuts. At the Stage Right Cafe in Omaha, where the sarcasm runs as strong as the coffee, they've heard all the talk about tax cuts."
Woman: "Some people think it's too small. Some people think it's too big. And some people think it's just right. Isn't that what it was?"
Roberts: "What do you think?"
Woman: "I think it could probably be reduced."
Roberts: "Jan Dill believes if Mr. Bush can hold the line on spending, his tax cut could work. But Sue Kilgarin fears the President is rolling the dice on eight years of success just for political gain."
Kilgarin: "I think a big tax cut is just a real feather in someone's cap."

One CBS News doesn't want Bush to get.


FNC's Brit Hume noted the CBS News poll, which the CBS Evening News skipped, as he also picked up on how Dan Rather characterized the impact of Bush's tax cut plan, a quote from Tuesday night cited in the February 28 CyberAlert.

During Special Report with Brit Hume's "Grapevine" segment, Hume observed: "Early poll results on Mr. Bush's speech were highly favorable. A CBS poll of those who saw it found 88 percent agreed with the Bush proposals, which anchor Dan Rather had characterized as quote, 'a cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut plan.'"

Hume went on to report that a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll discovered 79 percent support Bush's tax cut plan.


In the media lexicon, a tax cut is "risky" and any reduction in spending, no matter how minor, will cause "pain." That's because reporters look at government spending from the perspective of the spenders and not from the viewpoint of taxpayers.

On Wednesday night ABC's Terry Moran focused on how Bush's budget plan will cause "pain" as he outlined the "big losers," departments which would get less money. But while Moran highlighted how the Transportation Department budget would be cut by $2 billion, the Washington Post reported the department had done "spectacularly under the budget proposal." By failing to explain if his numbers were real cuts or just reductions in the rate of increase and by failing to state the percent cut each represented of an agency's total budget, Moran's "cut" numbers were meaningless.

From Omaha, Moran warned World News Tonight viewers: "The budget document that the White House released today reveals that along with the promises there will be pain."

After a clip of Bush on the road complaining about out of control budget hikes in recent years, Moran asserted:
"In a time of unprecedented surpluses Mr. Bush is calling for real cutbacks in many programs. The big losers: The Transportation Department cut by $2 billion, Agriculture cut by $1.5 billion and the Environmental Protection Agency, whose budget will shrink by $500 million. Among the specific cuts, $100 million for the New Markets Initiative to promote investment in poor communities, $1.5 billion from the Justice Department's state and local grant programs which fund such activities as crime prevention and midnight basketball for at risk youth. The President is also calling for a new round of military base closings. The administration's top budget official says these cuts are mild."

Following about a three word soundbite from OMB Director Mitch Daniels, Moran blamed the tax cut for the pain: "The President's lean budget is aimed in part at making room for his main priority: his across the board tax cut."

I've yet to find any news source which puts the budget numbers into the context of baseline budgeting or which adjusts for inflation in order to offer a more relevant perspective on the real size of any cuts, but a budget analysis posted Wednesday on the Web site destroyed Moran's claim of a cut in spending at the Department of Transportation. Reporter Don Phillips explained:
"The Transportation Department appears to have done spectacularly under the budget proposal, with full funding of authorized levels for highways ($32.3 billion), the Federal Aviation Administration ($13.3 billion), mass transit ($6.7 billion) and Amtrak ($521 million). Originally, most of these programs were to have been sliced across the board, but Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, the sole Democrat in the Cabinet, and industry and union groups successfully appealed.
"The Coast Guard, perennially underfunded, would receive a large increase of more than 10 percent to $5.1 billion, reflecting the need to buy new ships and planes to replace an aging fleet.
"On the surface, there appears to be a $2.1 billion cut in other discretionary programs to $16.3 billion. However, Transportation Department officials said that almost all the 'cut' was elimination of one-year appropriations that had already been spent and no longer needed to be included in the budget. That includes $600 million for the Woodrow Wilson bridge project, $712 million in emergency spending and $1.9 billion in special projects that were mostly added by Congress."


President Bush endangering lives by killing spending on earthquake preparation? After a series of stories on the Seattle-area earthquake, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather intoned on his February 28 broadcast:
"Ironically, this earthquake hit on the same day President Bush proposed a federal budget that would save about $25 million by killing a program to help communities prepare for natural disaster. President Bush contends it was ineffective. Seattle was one of the first cities to take advantage of that program."

CNN's Bernard Shaw also raised the same program cut with Vice President Cheney during an abbreviated Inside Politics. Other than ten minutes with Cheney, IP's 90 minutes were devoted to the earthquake, so the planned hour-long tribute to the retiring Shaw was bumped to Friday at 5:30pm ET.


Intolerant public radio liberals. Federal and state taxpayer money may support public radio, but that doesn't mean individual public radio donors think they should have to suffer through conservative opinions. So conservative Paul Greenberg learned recently in Little Rock when a local NPR affiliate dropped his conservative commentary but kept his liberal counterpart on the air.

Earlier this week Jim Romenesko's MediaNews, online at, linked to Greenberg's recitation of his suppression. Greenberg is the editorial page editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a syndicated columnist. An excerpt from his Sunday, February 25 piece in his newspaper:

Censorship is one of those subjects journalists love to fulminate against, in part because it so directly threatens what we're about, and also because it's the hallmark of societies at a safe remove -- like the old Soviet Union or the "People's Republic'' of China.

But it's a little different when opinions are stifled right here at home. Especially when you're the one being stifled....

Here's how it happened to me: A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Ron Breeding at KUAR, the public radio station that broadcasts from the UALR campus....Ron had called to ask if I'd like to do a brief commentary on the news once a week....

Actually, Ron explained, the station wasn't interested just in my dulcet tones. It was looking for a conservative counterpoint to its liberal commentary. Duty called. "Sure," I said. I proceeded to do a couple of three-minute radio essays, and enjoyed them, ham that I yam. I also enjoyed the usual responses: the raves from fans, the nasty e-mails from critics. I thought that's why I was picked: to interest listeners and get them thinking, even responding.

Then I got the phone call. My services would no longer be needed. Maybe they'd call me later, when a different format was devised that would include various viewpoints from the community. Hmmm. Would the liberal commentator continue weekly? Yes. So much for conservative counterpoint.

So much for balance.

It seems that the station had got some complaints -- not about my style or language or delivery -- but my political opinions. So it had decided to drop me, at least for now. "It wasn't my idea," said Ron Breeding. He just got to break the news to me, lucky fellow.

So I called Ben Fry, the station manager, though I already had a pretty good idea which of my commentaries had brought the politically correct out in force. Was it my discussion of ethics at this session of the Ledge, including the ethics of abortion? Yes, Ben said. And who called to complain -- contributors? "They're all contributors," said Ben. Well, were they big, rich backers? He hesitated. Would it be fair, I asked, to describe them as prominent? Yes, he said. And he'd caved. His defense: "What do you expect me to do, Paul?"

Well, Ben, I expected you to show a little courage. Because without courage, neither journalism nor freedom itself will prove a going concern for long.

I also wondered how Ben would justify this squalid little cave-in to students at UALR. I'd love to be there when he does. It'd be a kick to hear him explain how public radio promotes the free exchange of ideas, or just listen to him dilate on the importance of freedom of expression on a university campus....

On a national level, NPR -- or as we aficionados call it, National Propaganda Radio -- is well known for its ideological bias. But I had no idea the rot had spread so far down....

My first broadcast had drawn fire, too, Ben Fry told me. Which isn't surprising. In that little essay, I'd pointed out some of the problems with the hate-crime bill being debated at the Ledge. (I wonder if some of the criticism was hateful.)

Now I'd compounded that thought crime by saying something critical about abortion -- the one subject beyond respectable criticism in our enlightened times, aka the Culture of Death. That's what tore it, of course. If there's anything advocates of Choice can't tolerate, it's a choice of opinions.

It's all been enough to make me grateful, again, that I work for a publisher who has never told me what to say or what not to say in this column....

As for those whose only response to any opinion different from their own is to censor it, they don't understand. They don't understand that the surest way to protect their own freedom of opinion is to assure that others are free to express theirs.

But the defining weakness of modern, conventional "liberalism" is a fear of ideas, and rather than confront and debate conservative ideas, the instant reaction is: Suppress them. Dilute them. Get them off the air, or at least limit the people's exposure to them, lest the masses be led astray and grow restless.

As for the fearful types who yield to pressure, and let themselves be intimidated, they are the natural accomplices of our new Thought Police. Boy, it's good to get that gag out of my mouth.

END Excerpt

To read Greenberg's piece in its entirety, go to:

Maybe an Arkansas reader could inform us of what is the "Ledge"? E-mail me at:


From the February 28 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Answers to the Question, 'How Boring Was George W. Bush's Speech?'" Copyright 2001 by Worldwide Pants. Inc.

10. It was so boring, the Secret Service changed his code name to "Sominex"
9. It was so boring, at the Lincoln Memorial, the statue of Abe Lincoln got up and left
8. It was so boring, halfway through C-SPAN switched over to an XFL game
7. It was so boring, Hugh Rodham fell asleep and missed two dinners
6. It was so boring, it was like having sex with Hillary
5. It was so boring, guys on death row were lethally injecting themselves
4. It was so boring, Florida voters held their breath until the state turned blue
3. It was so boring, Bill Clinton passed out in the stolen Barc-O-Lounger
2. It was so boring, CBS is adding it to their regular Wednesday night lineup
1. It was so boring, Monica got up from under the podium and left

Bush keeps benefitting from Bill Clinton's behavior. Four of the ten were Clinton-related.

--Brent Baker

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