The most important think tank for the media on the Persian Gulf Crisis was the Brookings Institution. In August 1990 alone, the group’s representatives spoke 14 times on network evening newscasts, not counting appearances on Nightline, the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour or network news specials. A database search of citations in six national newspapers found 440 citations for Brookings, almost as many as the next seven top think tanks combined.
Although network analysts imply that the Brookings Institution is a think tank of the left by balancing it against conservative institutes like the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the American Enterprise Institute, it has been an institution of the center-right for more than a decade. During the 1960s and early ’70s, Brookings developed a left-of-center reputation because its president, Kermit Gordon, was a supporter of the Great Society and critic of the Vietnam War. However, Brookings moved steadily to the right after Gordon’s departure. Fortune magazine (7/23/84) applauded the change, in an article titled “Brookings Tilts Right”.
Since 1977, Brookings’ president has been Bruce MacLaury, a deputy undersecretary of the treasury during the Nixon administration. In 1981, MacLaury hired Roger Semerad as Brookings’ executive vice president for external affairs. Semerad’s credentials for the job were that he served as a White House assistant following the Watergate scandal. Semerad became Reagan’s assistant secretary of labor in 1985. Brookings’ most visible domestic political analyst is Stephen Hess, a former staff assistant to President Eisenhower, deputy assistant for urban affairs to President Nixon and editor of the 1976 Republican National Platform. Brookings’ director of economic programs is Charles L. Schultz, a long-time government economist, whose federal career began when President Eisenhower appointed him to the Council of Economic Advisers. Schultz worked on and off in government until 1981.
With leaders like these, it’s easy to understand why 160 corporate donors gave Brookings $2.2 million in 1989. The gifts came from General Dynamics, Hughes Aircraft, TRW and other defense contractors, along with oil companies, banks and brokerage firms. Topping the list of contributors were media corporations, which drew heavily on Brookings for “liberal” opinions and soundbites: the parent companies of the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, ABC and NBC.
With corporate funding, the Brookings Institution was able to hire such analysts as William Quandt, Lawrence Korb and Judith Kipper, who each made several network news appearances on the Gulf Crisis during August 1990. The media invariably describe Quandt as a “former National Security adviser in the Carter administration,” forgetting to mention that Quandt was also a National Security Council staffer in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Quandt left the Rand Corporation, a California-based think tank with ties to the military, to join the Nixon administration in 1972.
Lawrence Korb worked at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) during 1980-81. In 1981, Korb joined the Reagan administration as an assistant secretary of defense. Judith Kipper also worked at AEI before joining Brookings. Her credentials as a Middle East “expert” apparently come from her AEI work, for she has never authored a book or monograph on Iraq, Kuwait or any other Mideast country.
The media treatment of the Brookings Institution contrasts sharply with the treatment of an authentic progressive think tank like the Institute for Policy Studies. In seven months of the conflict, IPS was cited 26 times by six major papers (6 percent of Brookings’ citations); in the first month, not one IPS representative appeared on a nightly newscast.
Too Many Conservative Columnists, Says Conservative
EXTRA! May/June ’89, Best of EXTRA!
“Journalism today is very different from what it was 10 to 20 years ago. Today, op-ed pages are dominated by conservatives…. We have a tremendous amount of conservative opinion, but this creates a problem for those who are interested in a career in journalism after college…. If Bill Buckley were to come out of Yale today, nobody would pay much attention to him. He would not be that unusual…because there are probably hundreds of people with those ideas [and] they have already got syndicated columns.”
— Adam Myerson, editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review (Newslink, 11/88)
Get Me Rewrite
EXTRA! June ’92, Best of EXTRA!
In an early edition of the New York Times (3/12/92), an R.W. Apple article speculated about Pat Buchanan’s presidential chances in Michigan: “He might also find support in Macomb County, north of Detroit, to which many white workers fled when their neighborhoods were taken over by blacks.” By the late edition, the race-baiting terminology had been removed: Macomb was now where “many white workers moved when blacks began to settle in their neighborhoods.”