During a segment that looked at the Democrats' prospects in the upcoming midterm elections, CNN's Candy Crowley devoted her report to reinforcing negative stereotypes about the Democratic Party promoted by Republicans and repeated in the media.
Reporting from Asheville, North Carolina, during the October 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley presented a segment looking at the Democrats' prospects in the upcoming midterm elections that was devoted entirely to reinforcing negative stereotypes about the Democratic Party that have been promoted by Republicans and repeated in the media. For instance, Crowley asserted that Democrats have been “on the losing side of the values debate, the defense debate and, oh yes, the guns debate” ; suggested that Democrats are out of touch with mainstream Americans because "[former Democratic presidential candidates] Al Gore and John Kerry lost every Southern state and most of the mid- and interior West"; and aired only negative opinions of the Democratic Party, such as an Asheville resident who called the Democrats “losers.” At no point during the segment did Crowley say, air, or quote anything positive about Democrats.
Despite asserting, without evidence, that Democrats have been on the “losing side of the values debate, the defense debate and ... the guns debate,” Crowley did not offer any information on the parties' respective standing with the American public on these issues. In fact, multiple public opinion polls indicate that the majority of the public currently prefers Democrats to handle the issues of “moral values,” the “war on terror,” and Iraq.
On “values,” an October 5-6 Newsweek poll found that 42 percent of respondents "trust" the Democrats “to do a better job handling ... moral values” ; 36 percent favored Republicans. Similarly, an October 6-8 USA Today/Gallup poll found that respondents felt Democrats “would do a better job of dealing with ... moral standards in the country” -- 44 percent versus 37 percent. Also, an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted October 3-6 found that 56 percent of respondents felt that the Democrats were “more concerned with the needs of people like you,” as opposed to 30 percent who believe Republicans are more concerned with them.
While Crowley did not specify what she was referring to when she claimed that Democrats are “on the losing side” of “the defense debate,” recent polling shows that respondents favor Democrats over Republicans to handle both the “war on terror” and the war in Iraq. The USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of respondents felt the Democrats “would do a better job” with "[t]he situation in Iraq," giving Democrats a 17-point advantage over Republicans on the issue. Likewise, the ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of respondents indicated that they “trust[ed]” the Democrats “to do a better job handling” "[t]he situation in Iraq," compared to the 38 percent who “trust[ed]” that Republicans would.
The same two polls yielded almost identical results on the issue of terrorism -- the USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 46 percent of respondents thought Democrats “would do a better job” of dealing with terrorism, compared with 41 percent who favored Republicans; and the ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 47 percent “trust[ed]” the Democrats more than the Republicans to handle "[t]he U.S. campaign against terrorism" -- 47 percent to 41 percent. Additionally, an October 6-8 CNN poll found that 45 percent of respondents felt Democrats “would do a better job” of dealing with terrorism in contrast with the 40 percent who favored Republicans on that issue. The Newsweek poll gave Democrats a seven-point advantage -- 44 percent to 37 percent -- on the question of “which party do you trust to do a better job handling” the issue of “the war against terrorism at home and abroad.”
Polling also shows that a majority of Americans prefers stricter gun laws, a position shared by most Democrats and opposed by most Republicans, and that a majority has held this position for at least 16 years. As the Gallup poll's analysis noted (subscription required):
Gallup has asked Americans 20 times over the last 16 years whether laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, made less strict, or kept as they are now. ... In every instance, at least a majority has agreed that gun laws should be made more strict -- although the exact level of that sentiment has varied significantly. The high point for agreement with the “more strict” alternative came the first time the question was asked, in 1990, with 78% choosing that alternative. The low point was in October 2002, with only 51% agreement.
Gallup's current poll found that 56 percent of respondents indicated that they believed “gun laws should be made more strict.”
Further, regarding Crowley's suggestion that Gore's failed presidential bid in 2000 also indicated that Democrats were on the losing side of these issues, Gore won the popular vote.
During the segment, Crowley also engaged Asheville citizens in a "[f]ree association" exercise, in which she asked participants to say what they first thought of when she said “Democrats.” Crowley aired only two responses -- one in which the respondent asserted, “I don't know if it stands for anything now,” and the other in which the respondent called Democrats "[l]osers." Crowley asserted that after questioning Asheville residents on “what is wrong with these people [Democrats],” the respondents answered, "[n]umber one -- no backbone" and "[t]wo -- all policy, no pulse." As evidence in support of these assertions, Crowley pointed to several Democratic strategists who agreed with the participants. Crowley concluded her report by saying: “If Democrats do sweep into power this year ... it will be through no fault their own. This time, the fault ... lies with Republicans.”
From the 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET hours of the October 19 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: But here's the question. Are you going to tell our viewers, Jack, how you really feel, how Jack Cafferty really feels about these issues?
CAFFERTY: I try to keep it right in the middle of the road, Wolf, just be objective.
BLITZER: That's what they want to hear, Jack. We're going to be watching. Jack has a special on broken government that will air in one hour right here on CNN. You're going to want to see this.
CAFFERTY: All right. Joe Johns. Republicans bogged down by scandal, bloody war leading up to these midterm elections. We'll have more on that as we move through the hour. First, the Democrats. History suggests they're perfectly capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Republicans are doing everything they can to hand the Democrats the election. The question is, will they take it?
Candy Crowley is in Asheville, North Carolina, for us tonight. Candy, you could get rich selling tickets to people to watch the Democrats try to get their stuff organized.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. Listen, Jack, before we start this piece, I want to ask you a question, ask you to do something I think is difficult for you. I want, like, a one-word answer here. I'm going say something, you respond with one word -- Democrats.
CROWLEY: Well, OK, that's not exactly the answer we got, but pretty close.
[begin video clip]
CROWLEY (voiceover): Free association. I say Democrat, you say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if it stands for anything now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Losers. No, I don't mean that like, you know, they are losers. I mean it in a form of they're not standing up.
CROWLEY: One may have something to do with the other. Democrats have been the minority in Congress for 12 years. When George Bush leaves the White House, Democrats will have occupied the Oval Office for 12 of the last 40 years, which brings us to the next question -- what is wrong with these people? Number one -- no backbone.
DAVID “MUDCAT” SAUNDERS (Democratic strategist): We do not fight back. This wuss factor in the Democratic Party is real.
CROWLEY: Two -- all policy, no pulse.
GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D-MT): They keep talking about these issues in a very complicated way where all of the money's coming from, where it's all going to go, how long this program's going to last. And people are looking at their watch wondering, “How do I get out of here?”
DOUG HATTAWAY (former adviser to ex-Vice President Al Gore): Democrats need to stop trying to sell people policy papers and start talking people's heart, as well as their head.
CROWLEY: Every since the tumultuous early '70s when the Democrats got tagged as the party of acid, amnesty, and abortion, they have been on the losing side of the values debate, the defense debate, and, oh yes, the guns debate. Al Gore and John Kerry lost every Southern state and most of the mid- and interior West.
BRUCE REED (president of the Democratic Leadership Council): Our biggest problem is that of late we've been losing elections.
CROWLEY: Maybe this is the year that proves the exception and Democrats will sweep into power. So when I say 2008 Democrats running for president, you say --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, right now, they seem to stand for opposing George Bush, so I think they need to figure something else out.
[end video clip]
CROWLEY: If Democrats do sweep into power this year, Jack, it will be through no fault their own. This time, the fault, dear Jack, lies with Republicans.
CAFFERTY: Candy, let me ask you something. You've been covering these weasels for a good long while. Do you get the sense that Congress is aware that most of the people in this country simply cannot stand them, and does it bother them at all?
CROWLEY: Usually -- let me tell you something. When you say to someone, you know, “This is a wrong policy,” or “Why are you doing this, or why are you doing that?” generally a congressman or a senator will say to you, “Well, we just haven't been able to shape our message.” They generally sort of lay it off on, “Well, we haven't communicated it correctly.”
CAFFERTY: Yeah. Well, they're not doing a very good job. But you are, and the next time you're in New York, I want a writing lesson. I think you might be the best writer in television.
CROWLEY: Bless you. Thanks.