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Jewish World Review August 4, 2000 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5760

Cal Thomas

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Consumer Reports

Big media spins the GOP convention --
PHILADELPHIA | The Republicans spoiled the big media's party. The GOP wouldn't play the media game by showing angry faces and "mean-spiritedness.'' For younger readers, that means telling people what you really believe and why you think the other guy is wrong. Yes, there was a time when such things really defined politics, but that was before the Lifetime cable channel, Oprah and an endless parade of victims came along and "sensitized'' (i.e., castrated) our politicians.

Unable to find angry GOPers, the media said Republicans were covering up their mean-spiritedness. To make sure the public got the message, the broadcast networks carried only carefully selected portions of the convention. According to a C-SPAN survey of the amount of podium time aired by the big three networks Tuesday night (Aug. 1), ABC carried 25 minutes of the three-hour prime-time convention, CBS took 19 minutes, and NBC broadcast only 16 minutes. This led Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales to accuse the networks of looking "churlish'' and displaying "bad citizenship.''

There was running commentary about the convention from a stream of reporters, anchors, hosts and Democratic spinners. Typical was ABC's "Good Morning America,'' which featured daily appearances by liberal host Charles Gibson, former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers and former top Clinton associate, George Stephanopoulos, who the network wants us to believe is now a legitimate journalist just because it says so. The Weekly Standard's conservative Tucker Carlson completed the panel. For ABC, 3-1 odds equals balance. Don't expect three Republicans to one Democrat at the other party's convention in Los Angeles.

The networks are so afraid that Al Gore might lose that whatever cover they once used to hide their opinions ("some people say'' is a favorite) has been replaced by blatant editorializing, censorship of views they don't like and questions for Republicans that appear to have been crafted by James Carville, Lanny Davis and other Clinton-Gore spinmeisters.

Even more than the content of questions, the hostile tone of the interrogators revealed their deep biases. George W. Bush's alleged use of cocaine, of which there is no evidence and not a single witness, was dredged up by ABC's Sam Donaldson in a series of confrontational questions to Dick Cheney. Dan Rather repeatedly employed the word "harsh'' in describing the GOP platform instead of allowing that its writers might be motivated by deep-seated convictions. And he used the pro-choice rhetoric of "a woman's right to choose.'' Such words convey and shape opinion.

The commentators, analysts and questioners also betrayed their biases by their assumptions. They assumed that the standard is gay rights, abortion rights, high taxes, huge spending and big government. They asked Republicans what's wrong with them for not supporting such things and strongly implied that Democrats are right for supporting them. It's seems to be taken for granted that Democratic positions form the benchmark by which all other politicians should be measured. An equivalent question for Democrats might be, "How can you be so insensitive to the 30 million babies who have been killed in abortions, especially when there are so many compassionate alternatives?'' Or to a gay-rights supporter, "Many people have either changed their sexual orientation or become celibate. Why do you continue to deny that change is possible in view of the testimony of so many who have changed?''

Don't look for any Democrat to be asked anything similar to what CBS' Jane Clayson asked Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.): "As an African-American, (do) you have any difficulty supporting (Dick Cheney) who voted against releasing Nelson Mandela from prison?'' This line of questioning is straight from the Democrats' playbook. Many Democrats voted the way Cheney did (including former Rep. Bill Nelson of Florida, for whom President Clinton did a fund-raiser last week for his Senate campaign). Fact is, many members of Congress viewed the African National Congress as dominated by Communists, and their vote expressed that concern and not the issue of freedom for Mandela.

Being part of the big media means never having to get it right. Thank goodness for C-SPAN, where this convention and the next one are presented without commentary so you can make up your own mind.

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