Rah Rah: Media Cheer on the Clinton 'Jobs Bill.' (How the Press Is Covering Bill Clinton's Economic Proposals) (Column)

Article excerpt

Coverage of President Clinton's failed "stimulus" package served as a telling first glimpse of how the media will cover Clintonomics.

Sure, there's been debate in the press over Clinton's economic plans, but the tone has changed dramatically with this administration. National reporting continues to be enthralled with ever-growing government, now to the point of Orwellian dialogue: The president's planned $1 trillion addition to the debt is a - bingo - "deficit reduction plan."

The media's support for Clinton is coming through in the way they describe his economic programs.

Compare, for example, the coverage of George Bush's warmed-over support for a capital gains tax cut in 1989 with the Clinton emergency spending package. Both plans, intended to spur job growth, were killed in the Senate. A look at the network coverage in late 1989 found that the Bush plan was never described as a "jobs bill" or a "stimulus," but simply as a "capital gains tax cut" - intended to help the wealthy only. But in 1993, the networks have used the Democratic term "jobs bill" to describe the plan in 46 percent of all stories.

(Quick - did the media ever refer to Ronald Reagan's tax cut, which created 18 million new jobs, as a "jobs bill"?)

In the April 19 Newsweek, reporter Eleanor Clift noted the White House's pleasure with the trend: "Watching reports on CNN, a top aide noted that the network flashed |Jobs Bill' on the screen each time the impasse was discussed. |We'll take it,' he smiled, knowing a debate framed by jobs was one Clinton could win."

CBS has been most outrageous in its blatant cheerleading. While the other networks described the Clinton package as a "jobs bill" or "jobs creation bill" in 31 percent of news stories, CBS used the terms in 83 percent of its segments.

CBS repeatedly portrays the "stimulus" package's holdup as a tragedy. On April 2, anchor Connie Chung reported: "The government says the unemployment rate held at 7 percent last month. Held up in the Senate is President Clinton's $16 billion program to bring unemployment down. Opponents are blocking a final vote." On April 6, reporter Bill Plante explicitly hit the GOP: "At an unemployment office in Fairfax, Va., they don't understand why politics is getting in the way of helping people find work." On April 21, Dan Rather intoned: "Clinton's big jobs bill is still being held prisoner in Congress tonight."

Where were these same reporters in 1989 when a Democratic Senate blocked the Republican capital gains tax cut? …