Whacking the Waco conference
8/20/2002 12:00:00 AM - Brent Bozell
Reporters can be as two-faced as politicians. On Monday, they
say one thing. Come Tuesday, they can say the opposite without a hint of
embarrassment. Too often, the press pack floats along like a balloon tied to
the Democratic donkey's tail, and like the Democrats, they are capable of
saying anything that fits the political agenda of the moment.
First we had the story that Bush "taking a month off" would hurt
him in the polls. Then, when he tried to throw the reporters a bone by
holding an economic conference in Waco, Texas, during that "vacation," a
public-relations event that reminds everyone of the bull-session Clinton
presidency, they criticized him for that, too. For the press, this was all a
shallow, one-sided stunt.
Is there anything funnier than the liberal media disparaging
others as shallow, one-sided or addicted to stunts?
When Bill Clinton held his (endless) talkathons, media hearts
pittered and pattered over the breathtaking workish brainpower on display.
Clinton attending a town meeting or an economic conference made reporters
sound like golf junkies waiting for Tiger Woods to tee off. It didn't
matter if anything (or anyone) made sense, or that no problem was actually
solved. The mere act of talking, of "aerobic listening" and "feeling your
pain," caused reporters to swoon with delight.
When Hillary Clinton's health care effort was scorched from the
right for its secrecy, the public-relations solution was a series of
town-hall meetings, paid for by the socialism-boosting Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation, rigidly controlled and scripted. But reporters didn't lead with
the bias of the sponsors or the one-sidedness of the presentations. They
were just too impressed with Mrs. Clinton, with her note-card-free command
of arcane and her overflowing compassion for the children.
But when President Bush welcomed 240 people to Baylor University
to discuss the state of the economy and how to boost it, reporters had the
opposite reaction. The pack didn't want to let this president score points
for feeling pain or displaying his brain.
ABC's Terry Moran picked every nit, starting with the notion
that while Bush wants to look like "a man who listens to the people," he
could only take 20 minutes at each breakout session, so "he had little time
for any kind of extended give and take." Speaking of stunts, Moran then
gratuitously asserted: "Mr. Bush was hobnobbing at the forum with, among
others, Charles Schwab, who made $353 million cashing in stock options
before the price of his company shares plummeted." Needless to say, neither
the administration nor Mr. Schwab were given any time for rebuttal. In the
morning, ABC's Diane Sawyer picked at Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill about
the cost to the taxpayer for flying all these cabinet secretaries to Waco,
Texas, for publicity, as if liberal reporters were suddenly the mouthpiece
for the National Taxpayers Union.
Nearly every television and print story focused on the brief
comments the president made on the state of the economy, while ignoring all
the talk at Baylor about conservative solutions.
Participants cheered the move to make the Bush tax cuts
permanent. They urged an end to the death tax, decreasing the dramatic
amount of government regulation and paperwork, and giving shareholders more
power over CEO's by decreasing the hostility of the tax code toward paying
dividends, so that paper profits couldn't be faked. But ABC and CBS had
nothing to say in their stories about the substance of this summit. Only
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell managed a sentence about the ideas floated.
Impressive minority speakers from all walks of business life
also were largely ignored. Apparently, blacks and Latinos who have risen to
some wealth and favor conservative economic solutions are nothing but
traitors to their races and former classes.
In the final plenary session, President Bush was
uncharacteristically loud and critical of Democrats in Congress for
overspending and obstruction. He declared he would reject the congressional
request to approve $5 billion in pork-laden "emergency" spending. "A limited
and focused government is essential to a growing economy. And if the
Congress won't show spending restraint, I intend to enforce spending
restraint," he warned.
Perhaps since Democrats have complained loudly that the cable
news networks show too many presidential speeches, these remarks were not
shown live anywhere on TV except C-SPAN and CNBC. The three cable "news"
networks were all carrying a live news conference about the whereabouts of
4-year-old missing California girl Jessica Cortez, who was found within
hours. You can't accuse these networks of not knowing which story is better
for their bottom line during the daytime hours. Sensationalism sells; policy
The Bushies were pleased that underneath the media complaints,
viewers saw the president at work and concerned about the nation's
condition. But they also should have learned that attempting to copy
Clinton-style events won't work with reporters wading in hip boots through
their gooey Clinton nostalgia.