CyberAlert -- 08/02/1996 -- "Devastating" Welfare Reform

"Devastating" Welfare Reform; Clinton's Temper Ignored

Two topics today:

1) The campaign of fear continues as the networks keep attacking from the left the welfare reform bill. On Nightline, Donna Shalala was pressed with six liberal agenda questions. Thursday night Tom Brokaw charged that it "could be devastating;" on CBS Paula Zahn ominously intoned: "There is already is a great deal of fear and anxiety all over the country over the impact it will have."

2) Bill Clinton's angry outburst to a reporter asking why he now opposes paying the legal bills of fired travel office director Billy Dale was covered by ABC and CNN, but ignored by CBS and NBC.


The welfare bill passed by the Senate Thursday is a far cry from the original ideas proposed by conservatives, but the media aren't quizzing guests about whether it goes far enough to do any good. Instead, the networks continue to help Bill Clinton's effort to convince voters that he's no liberal by portraying him as caving in to right wingers. Check out these questions from Chris Wallace to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala on Wednesday night's Nightline (July 31). Here's every question he asked, as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson:
"Secretary Shalala, as Chris Bury noted, a number of Democrats and some independent studies say that this bill will hurt people, that a lot of children are going to be thrown into poverty, that some people will be thrown off food stamps. Will that happen?" "Let's talk about that. The emphasis is on jobs, getting people off welfare and into work. Where are all these millions of jobs going to come from, and also the millions, billions of dollars for job training?"
"Secretary Shalala, you've made a point, as the President did, about how unfair this bill is to legal immigrants who are not citizens. If the bill is so unfair, why not veto it, refuse to sign it, at least, and demand some changes?"
"Would the President have signed this bill, without the changes that he wants, if it weren't an election year?"
"Secretary, you find yourself now in the position of being praised by Newt Gingrich, at the same time that Senator Pat Moynihan calls this the most brutal piece of social policy since the Reconstruction. Doesn't that make you the slightest bit nervous?"
"You know far better than I do that you are rewriting the social policy of this country that has stood for the last 61 years, albeit with a lot of problems. Do you worry at all about the consequences, do you worry at all that with a change this enormous, people are going to get hurt?"

Thursday a couple of Los Angeles County supervisors whined about the bill, and two networks made it a story. On the August 1 NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw declared: "So, who will be effected by all of this? There were more than 13 million, six hundred thousand people receiving assistance from the government's main welfare program last year. That included five million families, two-thirds of those families, of course, made up of children. When federal assistance for these people runs out under the new rules, states are going to have to pick up the tab. And there's another kind of immediate impact in states like California that could be devastating."
Mike Boettcher began: "Welfare reform could leave Los Angeles County as penniless as the poor who line up each day for public assistance. County officials were out early today warning that Los Angeles County itself could become a welfare case" because "California law requires its counties to pay for welfare programs not covered by the state and federal governments."

Over on the CBS Evening News, Paula Zahn announced: "The new, landmark welfare overhaul President Clinton promised to sign won't be law for awhile yet, but there is already is a great deal of fear and anxiety all over the country over the impact it will have. Correspondent Bill Whitaker has our report." Whitaker intoned: "In Los Angeles, America's dream factory, many local politicians are calling the welfare reform bill a nightmare."


The May 2 Washington Times reported that a Senator had put a private hold on a bill to pay Billy Dale's legal expenses. No network reported the news. At a Thursday press conference to announce a 4.2 percent GDP rate, Bill Clinton's temper flared as he lashed out at a reporter wanting to know why he's not backing the Dale bill. CNN aired a full story by Claire Shipman on the incident on Inside Politics and The World Today.
In a World News Tonight story on the GDP, ABC's Brit Hume noted: "The President's mood darkened when reporters pressed him about an issue that just won't go away, the firing in 1993 of the White House travel office. Specifically, he was asked about the legislation the White House has said he supports to reimburse those fired employee's legal expenses, a bill presently blocked by Senate Democrats." Hume then showed a clip of Mike McCurry in January saying Clinton would sign the bill. Hume concluded: "The President later told one reporter he was sorry for his show of anger, and no doubt he was. The last thing he needed amid today's good news about on the politically crucial issue of the economy was anything that took the spotlight away from that."

Not to worry, the CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News didn't air a thing about Dale's compensation or Clinton's outburst. -- Brent Baker