The following is a transcription of the May 6, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch", that has been edited for clarity:
ERIC BURNS, HOST:
Almost exactly six months from today, the very important and perhaps very revealing midterm elections will be behind us, and things might look a lot different on Capitol Hill. But have the media already cast their votes? Take a look at these headlines from just the past week:
• The New York Times: "Democrats Push Fight for House in Northeast, GOP Seen as Vulnerable, Needing 15 More Seats, Strategists Seek To Link Incumbents to Bush."
• "Time" magazine: "Who Wins and Loses When Gas Prices Skyrocket? The GOP Faces Voter Wrath, Consumers Suffer and Big Oil Hits a Gusher."
• The Washington Post: "Pain at the Pumps May Be Felt at Polls: As Gas Prices Soar, Voters Want To Send a Message to Lawmakers."
You could say, Cal, that those are anti-Republican headlines. But isn't there a fairness because there is an anti-Republican sentiment? The Republicans are running the country, and we have a problem with gas prices.
BURNS: I say the headlines are fair.
THOMAS: Well, they are. And I wrote a piece this week -- I had a column called, "Republicans Have Run Out of Gas." And the party of ideas has basically collapsed. They're outspending Democrats; they are now talking about - quickly pulled from the table, made headlines all over the country - a $100 rebate to everybody that sounds very similar to the welfare programs they used to criticize when Democrats were doing them. But I think that, you know, Karl Rove is - manipulating behind the scenes now. And one of his - one of his objectives will be to change the perception of the Republican Party. I think he's got a huge, huge task ahead of him.
PINKERTON: It's not that often I disagree with Cal, but, I mean, the Gross Domestic Product grew at 4.8 percent.
GABLER: And real wages grew how much, Jim? Real wages that 80 percent of the American people earn.
PINKERTON: The stock market is going up. The point is.
GABLER: Real wages.
PINKERTON: Remember, income consists of more than wages. It also consists of...
BURNS: Could we let Jim finish the thought first!
PINKERTON: Sixty-percent of the American people belong in what's called the investor class. They have assets that - that benefit from stock market - the stock market going up, from the interest rates being low. I mean, there's lots.
GABLER: That's deceitful.
PINKERTON: .good news in the economy.
GABLER: That's very deceitful.
PINKERTON: But I certainly agree that CBS News, when they have a nationwide tour on gas prices -- they never want to talk about taxes; they never want to talk about, like, malpractice insurance costs. All they want to talk about is gas prices, which are small percentage of anybody's income.
GABLER: Let me disagree with both of them. I mean, Cal - I mean, your job on the economy is so far off base. Real wages up over the last four years - if 80 percent of the American people (INAUDIBLE) their money have gone down.
BURNS: We are talking about the headlines and the press coverage.
GABLER: I know. I know. Headlines, I agree with - with Cal to the extent that I think they're fair. Obviously, you know, the Republican Party right now is in a bad way. But elections are ultimately determined by the scripts that the media sign on to.
THOMAS: That's right.
GABLER: And right now, the script is, Republican Party's in trouble. And the other side of that script is, Democrats are clueless.
THOMAS: That's right. That's exactly right.
GABLER: We haven't talk about that. Yes, what's the script going to be three months from now? Is it going to be Karl Rove is a genius, or Karl Rove is indicted?
THOMAS: That's right.
GABLER: Is it going to be tax prices - gas prices are going down, or gas prices are going up? We can only determine the midterm elections - how they're going to - how they're going to turn out when we find out what scripts the media sign on to.
BURNS: Which means what Neal is saying, Jane, is that the voters are pretty much completely swayed by what the media decide to tell them.
HALL: I think that the media are - usually are behind the - the American people. And I think that when you have the right track, wrong track polling, and when you have disapproval ratings, and when you gas prices, it's natural to write these headlines. And they're fair. I think very few reporters are going beyond. Dan Balz in "The Washington Post"; Charlie Cook talking about, OK, where is the Democrats' Newt Gingrich? Who's going to lead the charge? Who are they running? What are their ideas? I don't think that shows that you're biased against Democrats. I agree the story is this now, and there's not attention to what next.
GABLER: And the Democrats are clueless. So that's right, too.
BURNS: Jim, it's - it's - it's interesting talking about how - how - how people are reacting to the electoral system. This poll that we - we mentioned very briefly earlier, that people have more faith in the "American Idol" results than they do in these results. No, and the reason is - the reason is that the Electoral College is seen as an impediment in - you know, in voting for our - our legislative representatives.
PINKERTON: But of course, the Electoral College isn't relevant..
PINKERTON: The Electoral College isn't relevant in 2006. We have a civics duty here to keep from misinforming people, Eric. But let me - let me - let me take issue with Neal on this. I think it's great for a media-critique show to say that headlines control everything, and scripts control everything. I don't agree. I think the voters get to decide themselves. I think...
PINKERTON: In spite of all the scripts that we're talking about now, Bush is a - President Bush has a higher approval rating, according to the FOX News poll, than either the - either house in Congress does. So in other words, somehow, people are getting through the media scripts.
GABLER: We choose, you decide.
BURNS: That's not the motto.
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