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Daily Howler: The bias Bob Schieffer chokes down tonight may not be the liberal variety
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WHO IS BOB SCHIEFFER (PART 2)! The bias Bob Schieffer chokes down tonight may not be the liberal variety: // link // print //

WHO IS BOB SCHIEFFER (PART 2): On CNN, Wolf Blitzer was chatting with Bob Schieffer, tonight’s debate moderator—and Wolf’s “liberal bias” was starting to show. First, Blitzer discussed a troubling aspect of last Friday’s Bush-Kerry Debate II:
BLITZER (10/12/04): Talk a little bit of how you're going to discipline these two presidential candidates. We saw Charlie Gibson, at least on one, maybe two occasions, have a little trouble making sure they kept within their time-lines and simply didn't want to respond when they weren't allowed to respond.
Huh? We don’t know what Blitzer meant either. But after Schieffer’s nondescript answer, he referred to one widely-noted incident from Friday’s debate—the incident where Bush, in a follow-up on Question 6, interrupted and talked over moderator Gibson. Yes, the incident has been widely discussed. But check out how Blitzer described it:
BLITZER (10/12/04): Well, what happens, though, what do you do if—if what happened the other night in St. Louis happens, that John Kerry says something really, really nasty at [sic] the president and it's time for you to move on to another subject, but the president is obviously anxious to respond and he just starts talking? How do you—he's the president of the United States!


Amazing, isn’t it? Kerry had said something “really, really nasty at the president,” and Bush was “obviously anxious to respond.” Want to see the depth of Blitzer’s decline? Here’s the “really, really nasty” thing Kerry had said at the time:
KERRY (10/8/04): Let me tell you where the president's policies have put us. The president—and this is one of the reasons why I am very proud in this race to have the support of General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Tony McPeak, who ran the air war for the president's father and did a brilliant job, supporting me; General Wes Clark, who won the war in Kosovo, supporting me; because they all—and General Baca, who was the head of the National Guard, supporting me.

Why? Because they understand that our military is overextended under the president.

Our Guard and reserves have been turned into almost active duty. You've got people doing two and three rotations. You've got stop-loss policies, so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a back-door draft right now.

And a lot of our military are underpaid. These are families that get hurt. It hurts the middle class. It hurts communities, because these are our first responders. And they're called up. And they're over there, not over here.

Now, I'm going to add 40,000 active duty forces to the military, and I'm going to make people feel good about being safe in our military, and not overextended, because I'm going to run a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan did, President Eisenhower did, and others.

We're going to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're not going to go alone like this president did. [END OF STATEMENT]

That’s what Kerry had just finished saying when Bush interrupted and talked over Gibson. But how did Blitzer present it to Schieffer? First, he pretended that there had been “maybe two occasions,” involving both candidates, when Gibson had trouble with the unruly hopefuls. Then, describing this actual incident, he scolded Kerry, essentially for daring to criticize. Kerry had been “really, really nasty,” he said. No wonder Bush wanted to respond!

Yes, Blitzer’s liberal bias was showing when he made this presentation to Schieffer. Well—his liberal bias was showing if you believe in such bias as a matter of faith—as a matter of high theology. And many people—Jim Pinkerton is one—do believe in such pleasing dogma. For roughly the past forty years, “liberal bias” has been the most potent propaganda point in all of American politics. Conservatives shout the pleasing claim, explaining away every negative story. On Saturday’s Fox News Watch, for example, Pinkerton even said that ABC showed its liberal bias after Friday’s debate when it allowed George Will on the air! See THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/12/04, to revisit Big Pink’s puzzling comments.

Before we take another look at the man who will host this evening’s crucial debate, let’s see how foolish Pinkerton’s claims about ABC’s “liberal bias” really were.

How did ABC spin last Friday’s debate? The next day, “Big Pink” (he’s 6-foot-9) accused the net of liberal bias. But what really happened on ABC’s air? When the debate concluded, Peter Jennings made the following statement. Can you spot the rank liberal bias?

JENNINGS (10/8/04): Okay, now you can shake hands. We're all sitting here wondering what Senator Kerry said to President Bush at the beginning and what they said to each other at the end. We're not likely ever to find out. But here is a very substantial, animated, energetic, even, aggressive debate between the two, as Charlie Gibson, our colleague, said, the second of three. Both of them certainly looking more at home on the stage than they looked in the more rigid first debate where they were required to stay on their stools. And both of them, maybe some debate about who looked more comfortable with the audience. Early on, President Bush didn't altogether like the idea of having a moderator, I think, in his way. But there was a moment or two when Senator Kerry also decided that he would—he'd cut right through Charlie Gibson. Very difficult moment for a moderator. Very interesting. Got different, I think, many people will believe, when they shifted from foreign policy to domestic policy. And we'll talk about the facts and whether there have been any outrageous misrepresentations as we go along. Senator Kerry talking directly to the president, more often than the president talking to him. The president has not referred to Senator Kerry by name hardly at all in either of these debates. But for 90 minutes, pretty good stuff. ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
Can you spot the liberal bias in that? And can you spot the liberal bias in the ensuing exchange between Jennings and Stephanopoulos?
STEPHANOPOULOS (continuing directly): Underline "pretty good stuff," Peter. I mean, if you take these three debates we've had over the last week, I think more Americans have learned more about where Senator Kerry stands on issues, where President Bush stands on issues, and the differences between them than the whole past six months combined. But you also saw tonight, I think, that Senator Kerry's been studying debate, I think, since high school and he's had more than 70 town meetings this year and you saw him putting those skills to work here tonight, addressing the audience members by their first name, working in Missouri in several answers, of course, this is in St. Louis, as you said, confronting President Bush, and also laying out his plans. Where I think President Bush was most effective is when he brought people into the Oval Office, talked about meeting with the Iraqi finance minister, talking about going to the situation room and talking to General Tommy Franks. And then, finally, also, bringing up Senator Kerry's senate record. But you did see, I think, a lot of skill out there tonight.

JENNINGS: And I think you saw a lot of skill from Mr. Kerry, but I do think the president looked very much more comfortable than he did in the first debate.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Much improved over the last debate.

In fact, when Stephanopoulos slightly favored Kerry, Jennings jumped in to even things up. And can you spot the liberal bias when Jennings threw next to Mark Halperin?
HALPERIN (10/8/04): Well, the president certainly put the baggage behind him of a, of a flawed, overall flawed performance. I'll filter the spin again for you, having talked to aides, top aides to both candidates. Both sides say they won the debate. We'll see what the results are in the polls and in other ways we look at who won. But President Bush and Senator Kerry, very intense, as you said, very competitive. I don't think either buried any of their problems. I don't think either man really fully exploited the other's problems. But very engaging. Look, coming in here tonight, both these guys knew this debate could decide who the next president was and they acted like that the entire 90 minutes.

JENNINGS: I think there was some feeling before the debate tonight, as you have just put it, that this debate was infinitely more important than the first one. But now, tell us where you think neither took real complete advantage of the other.

HALPERIN: Well look, you want to be playing offense in the campaign and in the debates. I think it moved to domestic policy. Senator Kerry has been waiting to talk about domestic policy because the first debate was only about international matters. I think he made some points on the environment in particular, perhaps where he was very aggressive. But he didn't really, I think, change the debate. President Bush is very good on domestic policy, underrated, and feeling passionately, explaining his view. So I just don't think either man changed the trajectory of what the debate will be about going forward.

ABC’s remarks were defiantly balanced. And remember—over on Fox, conservative pundits were going on about how brilliant Kerry had been. But so what? Pinkerton watched ABC’s defiantly balanced presentations. And one thing came to mind: Liberal bias. Why, he even said it was liberal bias when ABC put George Will on the air!

Yes, the “Democrat Party” has work to do confronting this theological point. Over the course of past forty years, this dogma has been drummed deep into the public’s head, and “Big Pink” was drumming away again Saturday. (We have no doubt that he believed what he said.) And guess what? Somewhere tonight, we’re going to hear about Bob Schieffer’s rank bias too. He comes from CBS, after all, and all of you know what that means!

But just remember who Bob Schieffer is when you hear these prophets chant their mantra. Bob Schieffer comes from Texas, and he tends to root for pols from that part of the country. And, according to what he told Larry King, he isn’t too high on those “northeastern” swells. More remarkably, he’s a long-time personal friend of George Bush—and Bush will be one of the evening’s two candidates! Indeed, Schieffer used to play golf with Bush. He used to go to ball games with Bush. The two men even went to spring training together, according to Howard Kurtz’s well-ignored profile! And Schieffer’s brother, Tom Schieffer, is a long-time, close business associate of Bush. Indeed, after Bush found his way to to the White House, Tom Schieffer slept in the Lincoln Bedroom! Today he serves as U.S. ambassador to Australia. Family friend Bush sent him there.

We’ll be surprised if Bob Schieffer, who is generally professional, betrays a real bias at tonight’s debate. But if Bob Schieffer betrays a bias, do you really think it will be of the liberal variety? But let this evening’s slightly odd event instruct you about our odd, crackpot discourse. The moderator of tonight’s debate is a long-time, close friend of one of the candidates. But guess what? Press and pundits aren’t telling you that. But somewhere, some pundit will watch the session, and he’ll run and proclaim it: Liberal bias!! If George Will provided the liberal bias last week, why can’t Bush’s friend do so too?

FAVORABLE TREATMENT: Let’s remember what Schieffer told Kurtz about his close personal friendship with Bush:

KURTZ (1/13/03): During the ’90s, Schieffer also struck up a friendship with George W. Bush when his brother Tom—now the U.S. ambassador to Australia—became partners with the future president in the Texas Rangers. Bob and W. went to ball games together, played golf, attended spring training. “He’s a great guy—that doesn’t mean I agree with him,” says Schieffer, adding that the situation became “a little awkward” when Bush ran for the White House but that he’s never gotten favorable treatment.
That last claim is baldly inaccurate, and screams for a bit of correction. During Campaign 2000, Schieffer did, on several occasions, make notably odd remarks about Bush and Gore. We wouldn’t suggest that this was deliberate. But the record is hard to ignore.

Is Bob Schieffer driven by liberal bias? In July 2000, he and his Face the Nation co-host, Gloria Borger, appeared together on the cable show, Russert. Their discussion of Bush’s visit to Bob Jones University was one of the oddest of the campaign. Sorry—no one could seriously think that these remarks were made in good faith—unless the pair were gripped by a pro-Bush bias so deep that it somehow surpassed all understanding.

Meanwhile, Schieffer’s hostility toward Gore became plain in a remarkable radio session last year. Yes, the Texas-lovin’ buddy-of-Bush had offered odd remarks about Candidate Gore as early as June 1999 (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/99). But in December 2003, his remarks about Gore on a DC radio program went about as far afield as any we have ever heard a network anchor make. His statements were nasty and absurdly gratuitous—and they were blatantly, baldly inaccurate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/03). Let’s say it again—we can’t think of another time when a broadcaster of Schieffer’s stature made so absurd, inaccurate and nasty a statement. Go ahead and reread those remarks. See if you are able to spot the Texan’s rank liberal bias.

We assume that Schieffer will do a good job tonight. But Schieffer is a long-time friend of Bush—and yes, he has played dumb for Bush in the past. Press and pundits all know not to tell you about the gentleman’s close ties to Bush. But don’t worry! Somewhere, some scribes will watch Schieffer tonight and he’ll recite holy words—Liberal bias!

WHO IS TOM SCHIEFFER: We’re sure that Tom Schieffer is a decent guy. But make no mistake—Tom Schieffer was a major player in the Texas Rangers, and he’s a major friend of Bush’s. During the 2000 primaries, David Brooks provided some background in the Weekly Standard:

BROOKS (12/13/99): Tom Schieffer was given broad authority in the Rangers organization. Schieffer, the brother of Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, was a Democratic state representative in Texas who was swept out of office in 1978. He went into law, specializing in the oil and gas business, and prospered. In 1989, when Bush, Rusty Rose, and others were organizing the group to buy the Rangers, they were told they would have to include more Texans. Schieffer was invited to join the partnership and did, investing $1.4 million for a 4.2 percent interest in the club (actually a greater share than Bush owned).

Schieffer was not an obvious choice to be team president, having rubbed a lot of people the wrong way during his political career. But in 1989 Schieffer attended almost as many games as Bush, and the two became close friends.

For the record, Tom Schieffer is Texas Big Bucks. Meanwhile, Brooks makes it sound like Bush and Schieffer played good cop-bad cop in running the Rangers. When they fired manager Bobby Valentine, “Valentine left the room enthusiastic about Bush, but he went out to the media and blasted team president Tom Schieffer. ‘I didn't get that kind of human touch from Schieffer,’ Valentine says.” It was even worse when the Rangers dumped Rafael Palmeiro:
BROOKS (12/13/99): While the Rangers were negotiating to re-sign first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, they signed first baseman Will Clark. Palmeiro was outraged, calling Tom Schieffer a “backstabbing liar,” and went on to have productive years with the Orioles before returning to Texas last year.
Ouch! We’ll throw to Wonkette for a quip about Palmeiro being “on the rag” at the time due to lack of Viagra. At any rate, it seems that Tom Schieffer knows how to play rough. As Rangers president, he was “a target of criticism for raising ticket prices and at times being arrogant toward fans and lower-level employees,” Jim Reeves reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In a separate profile, Reeves let us see how friendly Bush and Tom Schieffer are. Why in the world would the Rangers president skip Nolan Ryan Day?
REEVES (7/31/99): [Bush and Tom Schieffer] became close friends, co-workers and confidants, enough so that Schieffer, surprisingly, will not be at The Ballpark this weekend for the Nolan Ryan festivities. He and wife, Suzanne, left Cooperstown, N.Y., on Tuesday to join Bush at his family's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
It isn’t just the Lincoln Bedroom. Even as Bush was running for president, Tom Schieffer was dissing Ryan in favor of face time in Maine.

But don’t let us spin you. Tom Schieffer is surely a decent guy, just like his older brother. In 1998, Kelly Patterson profiled “Schieff” for the Dallas Morning News. We found a good deal to appreciate:

PATTERSON (3/29/98): From the Dr Pepper Youth Ballpark to including the names of all the workers who constructed the facility, Mr. Schieffer's goal was to ensure the ballpark stood apart from anything else in the country.

But don't ask him which aspect of the ballpark is his favorite.

"That's like asking a parent which child they like the best," he said.

What he does enjoy is going to the ballpark early, particularly before a Sunday afternoon game, and watching the families enjoy their surroundings.

"I love watching the kids playing catch on the grass here," he said as he pointed to the section of Vandergriff Plaza just below his fourth-floor office. "Watching people becoming attached to the ballpark is something that's very gratifying. We need a place where people can have positive things occur with their families.”

Good for him! We’re sure the Schieffers are both decent guys. But when Brother Bob sits down tonight, the bias he finds himself choking back may not be of the liberal variety.