'F' For Moral Failure, 'B' For Strong Economy p.16

By: Robert Neuwirth That's how newspaper editors and publishers rate the president,
and they expect Gore vs. Bush in 2000 White House race
Even before Monica Lewinsky's immunity deal and President Bill Clinton's televised admission of an ""inappropriate"" relationship with her, America's publishers and editors flunked the president in moral leadership.
In the E&P/TIPP newspaper poll, conducted from July 13-27, editors and publishers gave the president an 'F' for moral leadership.
""I don't know if there's anything below an F, but it's gotten as bad as it can get,"" said Ralph Langer, editor and executive vice president of the Dallas Morning News.
Nonetheless, only 37% of editors and 41% of publishers said that the president's moral leadership was a crucial issue. Still, some poll participants said moral leadership might grow in importance as the president's revelation sinks in.
""More people watched that speech than watched Buzz Aldrin's walk on the moon,"" said Byron Calame, deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. ""Even if the economy is good, now that it's clear that he really lied, it raises attention to the moral issue.""
The poll also revealed that the vast majority of the nation's newspaper executives believe that the strength of the nation's economy has inoculated Clinton from public backlash. Nine out of 10 publishers and editors said public opinion on the economy was a major factor in Clinton's favorable ratings by citizens. Editors gave the president a 'B' for his handling of the economy ? his highest mark. Publishers gave him a 'B-minus' on the economy, also the highest grade they awarded.
""If the market had plunged 2,000 points and we were in the midst of a recession, I think you'd see an altogether different set of ratings,"" said Jack Whitaker, publisher of the Hannibal Courier-Post, an 8,800-circulation daily in Missouri.
By contrast, only 37% of newspaper execs said Clinton's favorable ratings stem from public reaction to independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into the president's extramarital affairs. Just one-fourth of those polled said Clinton's continued popularity reflects support for his policy initiatives. And a mere 8% said the public has been mollified by the president's protestations of innocence, since partially retracted.
In total, editors were more charitable toward Clinton than publishers. Averaging grades in 20 categories ? ranging from federal regulations to national security ? 121 editors surveyed gave him a 'C,' while 78 publishers rated him 'C-minus'.
""Businessmen have more problems with Clinton than the public at large,"" explained an editor who participated in the poll but asked not to be identified. Whitaker saw the difference in economic terms: ""Editors tend to be more idealistic and perhaps a little detached from the realities of the business world. They don't understand or want to accept the bottom line.""
The poll seemed to support the idea that editors are less focused on red ink. For instance, editors chose the economy, education and health care as the top three problems facing the country. But publishers prioritized the economy, budget deficit and government spending. Education was No. 9 for publishers. And health care, rated so highly by editors, was near the bottom of the publishers' pile.
In other results, 83% of those queried said they expect Vice President Al Gore to be the Democratic presidential nominee in the year 2000. And, in a surprising show of strength, 61% believe Texas Gov. George W. Bush will get the Republican nod. Bush far outscored such figures as Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle (7% each), Newt Gingrich (6%) and Steve Forbes (5%).
""That's amazing,"" said Whitaker. ""Perhaps this is a reflection of some polls that show that while everyone talks about the liberal press, in fact, newspapers ? publishers especially, but also editors ? are not as liberal as they're supposed to be.""
Langer, whose paper covers Bush extensively, cautioned against making any predictions. ""This far out, it's a sport, not a science,"" he said. ""At this point in the process in 1976, Jimmy Carter would not have been in the top five. And seven years ago, Bill Clinton wouldn't have gotten this much agreement.""
The E&P/TIPP poll, conducted by the Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics of Emerson, N.J., reached 199 editors and publishers and has a margin of error of 7.5 percentage points.
Grading the president
Moral leadershipFF
Overall gradeCC-
(based on 20 categories)
Source: E&P/TIPP Poll

?(Editor & Publisher Web Site:http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher August 22,1998) [Caption]


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