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CBS: Clinton Got Bigger Bounce in Midst of Lewinsky Scandal --1/12/2007


1. CBS: Clinton Got Bigger Bounce in Midst of Lewinsky Scandal
Coverage all day Thursday on the cable news networks, as well as on the ABC and NBC evening newscasts, emphasized negative reaction to President Bush's plan for a "surge" of troops into Iraq. But the CBS Evening News delivered a markedly more negative presentation, even managing to raise Watergate and Monica Lewinsky. Katie Couric led: "If the early reaction to President Bush's new Iraq strategy is any indication, selling the American public on it could be a mission impossible." She soon added: "The reviews of the speech last night were largely negative from the American public and Congress." Couric went to Bob Schieffer who, citing a CBS News poll showing no move in the public attitude toward Bush on Iraq, suggested "you really have to go back to Vietnam and Watergate to find presidential speeches on television that didn't give the President at least a little bump in the polls." Schieffer recalled how "in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton went on television to give his State of the Union address. Even in the midst of that scandal, Mr. Clinton went up 16 points in the polls. Going on prime time TV and nothing changes, that is fairly extraordinary, Katie." Next, Couric characterized as "out of the ordinary" the "response the President got today from a usually receptive audience," soldiers at Fort Benning.

2. CNN Uses 5th 'Anniversary' of Guantanamo to Repeat Torture Tales
On the day after President Bush announced a troop surge in Iraq, CNN chose to commemorate an odd "anniversary." As of January 11, it has been five years since the first terrorist suspects arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The cable network's noontime EST Your World Today simulcast of the CNN International program used the date to highlight the "allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture" at the facility. Thursday's hour-long show featured two segments and a news brief on the subject, all heavily focusing on how the camp could be shut down, not whether it should be closed. After an intro piece on the history of the camp, anchor Hala Gorani interviewed Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and began her questioning with this loaded lead-in: "Well, Human Rights Watch says detaining hundreds of men without charge at Guantanamo has been a legal and political debacle of historic proportions. But what can human rights groups do to shut the facility down or put pressure on governments? Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth joins us now live from Washington. That was a quote from you, 'a legal and political debacle of historic proportions,' Ken. Did you imagine in 2001, that in 2007 Guantanamo Bay would still be operating?"

3. Walters Seeks Middle, Rosie: Troops Far Braver Than Bush-Cheney
ABC's The View cast was split over the President's surge speech. Elisabeth Hasselbeck thought "this is the last shot...this better work." Barbara Walters said she was torn, since ABC News employees "try hard not to give our political opinions" [!], and that she wanted to give the new strategy a chance, but wondered about why it mattered that Bush said he took responsibility for the war's mistakes. Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar were sharply opposed. Behar declared the troops were just "cannon fodder." O'Donnell whacked at Bush-Cheney: "The armed forces, they are the bravest and the boldest and they're much braver than the men who sent them there to fight this war."


CBS: Clinton Got Bigger Bounce in Midst
of Lewinsky Scandal

Coverage all day Thursday on the cable news networks, as well as on the ABC and NBC evening newscasts, emphasized negative reaction to President Bush's plan for a "surge" of troops into Iraq. But the CBS Evening News delivered a markedly more negative presentation, even managing to raise Watergate and Monica Lewinsky. Katie Couric led: "If the early reaction to President Bush's new Iraq strategy is any indication, selling the American public on it could be a mission impossible." She soon added: "The reviews of the speech last night were largely negative from the American public and Congress."

Gloria Borger checked in with how Bush "sparked a bipartisan rebellion on Capitol Hill" as "some of the harshest criticism came from his own party." Couric then went to Bob Schieffer who, citing a CBS News poll showing no move in the public attitude toward Bush on Iraq, suggested "you really have to go back to Vietnam and Watergate to find presidential speeches on television that didn't give the President at least a little bump in the polls." Schieffer recalled how "in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton went on television to give his State of the Union address. Even in the midst of that scandal, Mr. Clinton went up 16 points in the polls. Going on prime time TV and nothing changes, that is fairly extraordinary, Katie." Next, Couric characterized as "out of the ordinary" the "response the President got today from a usually receptive audience," soldiers at Fort Benning. Jim Axelrod offered a dour assessment of the mood of the troops: "Even rallying the troops is now a challenge. The mood here was polite but muted, more somber than usual for a President talking to soldiers."

Neither the ABC or NBC evening newscast stories on Thursday offered any such downbeat evaluation of the attitude of the troops toward Bush.

[This item was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Highlights from the January 11 CBS Evening News:

Couric's tease: "Tonight, the Commander in Chief fights his toughest battle yet. Can President Bush sell his new Iraq war strategy to the American people? Tonight, the results of a new CBS News poll. Meanwhile, in Congress, his plan is attacked, even by members of his own party."
Senator Chuck Hagel: "The most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Couric led: "Hi, everyone. If the early reaction to President Bush's new Iraq strategy is any indication, selling the American public on it could be a mission impossible. But he set out to do that today. His first stop, a friendly audience, soldiers and their families at Fort Benning, Georgia. He told them America must succeed."
President Bush, at Fort Benning: "It's a different kind of war in which failure in one part of the world could lead to disaster here at home."
Couric: "The reaction was not at all what the President has come to expect from a military audience. We'll have more about that in a moment. And the reviews of the speech last night were largely negative from the American public and Congress. Tonight, a team of correspondents on the fallout, beginning with our national political correspondent, Gloria Borger. Gloria, Congress isn't exactly giving this plan a warm reception."
Gloria Borger: "Katie, the President may have been trying to reignite support for his Iraq strategy, but instead, he sparked a bipartisan rebellion on Capitol Hill."
Senator Chuck Hagel: "I think this speech, given last night by this President, represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam if it's carried out."
Borger: "The President no doubt expected a fight with Democrats over Iraq, but after his speech, some of the harshest criticism came from his own party...."

After Borger's piece, Couric moved on to Bob Schieffer:
"It was a critically important speech the President gave last night but a CBS News poll found only one in three Americans actually watched it. Our Bob Schieffer was, of course, watching as he's watched so many presidential addresses. Bob, are you surprised the President isn't getting more support today?"
Bob Schieffer: "Well, Katie, it is a rare evening when an American President goes on prime time television and doesn't change some minds, so you have to say last night was a rare evening. Mr. Bush did no better winning support for his new Iraq policy from the public than he did trying to change the minds of people in Congress. A CBS News poll conducted after the speech showed 68 percent of the people polled are still uneasy about the President's ability to make the right decisions about Iraq. That is the same percentage as when we asked the same question during the first week in January. The poll did show some increase in public support for increasing troop levels since last week, but even so, only 30 percent, a third of those polled, believe a troop increase is a good idea. The fact that this speech seemed to change so few minds, Katie, is really unusual. I think it underlines just how unpopular this war is with the American people."
Couric: "And, Bob, are there historical precedents for this kind of public reaction or non-reaction?"
Schieffer: "Well, you really have to go back to Vietnam and Watergate to find presidential speeches on television that didn't give the President at least a little bump in the polls. Let me just give you an example here. In the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton went on television to give his State of the Union address. Even in the midst of that scandal, Mr. Clinton went up 16 points in the polls. Going on prime time TV and nothing changes, that is fairly extraordinary, Katie."

Couric then went to Jim Axelrod: "All right, Bob Schieffer in Washington, Bob, as always, thanks so much. Also out of the ordinary is the response the President got today from a usually receptive audience, those soldiers we mentioned earlier. Here's our Chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod."

Jim Axelrod: "To start selling his plan, President Bush picked about the friendliest audience he could find -- soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia."
President Bush: "And it's going on to require sacrifice and I appreciate the sacrifices our troops are willing to make."
Axelrod: "But even rallying the troops is now a challenge. The mood here was polite but muted, more somber than usual for a President talking to soldiers. Perhaps because a surge means some of these troops will deploy to Iraq for their fourth or fifth tours and some will go in March, months earlier than expected. In a poll published this week in the Military Times, more service members disapproved of the President's handling of the war than approved, the first time that's happened."
Bush at Fort Benning: "They're going to have a well-defined mission. I hear people say there must be a clear military mission. That's what the military people have said to me."
Axelrod: "Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers say it may take longer than usual but the troops will support the surge."
Myers: "People will get used to this and it will be -- it will be discussed among them, and then I think you'll find the enthusiasm for all this will increase."
Axelrod: "While the President thanked those most directly affected by the surge, his Secretary of Defense addressed questions about it in Washington -- addressed, not answered. How long might the surge be?"
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense: "It's viewed as a temporary surge. But I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be."
Axelrod: "The President's aides know that selling this new way forward requires more than just the right photo-op or applause line. One senior official told me today, opinions will change only when people see results."

CNN Uses 5th 'Anniversary' of Guantanamo
to Repeat Torture Tales

On the day after President Bush announced a troop surge in Iraq, CNN chose to commemorate an odd "anniversary." As of January 11, it has been five years since the first terrorist suspects arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The cable network's noontime EST Your World Today simulcast of the CNN International program used the date to highlight the "allegations of mistreatment amounting to torture" at the facility. Thursday's hour-long show featured two segments and a news brief on the subject, all heavily focusing on how the camp could be shut down, not whether it should be closed. After an intro piece on the history of the camp, anchor Hala Gorani interviewed Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and began her questioning with this loaded lead-in: "Well, Human Rights Watch says detaining hundreds of men without charge at Guantanamo has been a legal and political debacle of historic proportions. But what can human rights groups do to shut the facility down or put pressure on governments? Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth joins us now live from Washington. That was a quote from you, 'a legal and political debacle of historic proportions,' Ken. Did you imagine in 2001, that in 2007 Guantanamo Bay would still be operating?"

Ken Roth replied: "I didn't imagine it at that stage. I think that, you know, this fifth year anniversary gives us an opportunity to reassess what really has been a disaster. You know, ostensibly Guantanamo was set up in order to help fight the, the fight against terrorism. In fact, it has proven utterly counterproductive. Guantanamo has become a symbol of the Bush Administration's lawlessness when it comes to fighting terrorism. Its torture, its detention without trial, even its disappearance of people, because the 14 people who were recently moved there had disappeared for years and no one knew where they were, they basically had become basically nonentities. That has become a tool for terrorist recruiters. It has undermined the cooperation that people need to fight terrorism around the world. It has meant the United States has lost the moral high ground in the important fight against terrorism."

Gorani's questions focused solely on how Guantanamo could be closed. During the segment, which aired at 12:47pm EST, she failed to ask a single question about whether it should be shut down. Nor did the CNN anchor press Roth on what the positive effects of keeping terrorist suspects away from society might be.

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Gorani's interview: "So, what should happen now? I mean, if you had it your way and you could make recommendations directly to the President, what would you say?"
Roth: "Well, what I would say is, identify the relative handful of people who have committed serious crimes and prosecute them before a fair tribunal, not the sub-standard military commissions that the Bush administration is pushing, but a court-martial or a civilian court. Let them have a fair trial and punish them because nobody has been punished in Guantanamo. Nobody has had a fair trial. As for the rest, and the vast majority are people who were just unfortunate enough to be turned in by some bounty hunter who wanted the $10,000 that the United States was handing out for, for terrorists in Afghanistan. Let those people go. There's no evidence against them. We have looked through many of the files -- they are virtually devoid of evidence. I mean, it's time to admit that this is a mistake and send these people home."
Gorani: "And some of the concerns expressed by international human rights attorneys is that when you release some of these Guantanamo detainees to their home governments, that they might face prosecution there. There has to be some sort of interim solution -- what would you suggest that interim solution should be?"
Roth: "That is a real problem in some of the cases. For example, the Wiegers (ph), who are Muslims from China, cannot be sent back to China. They'll be tortured or worse in China. And so you need to find countries that will accept them, that will allow them to, to live safely. Theoretically, that should be the United States, because the U.S. created this problem. But so far that doesn't seem to be a possibility. So, we have been encouraging the European Union to, as a humanitarian gesture, take some of these detainees as part of a deal in which the Bush Administration admits that it will close Guantanamo. So far though, the only government to have done that is tiny, little Albania, which has taken a handful of detainees, otherwise no government has."

Gorani closed the segment by pitching Roth yet another softball about closing the camp: "All right. A quick last word. Five years from now, do you think Guantanamo Bay will still be open?"
Roth: "If Guantanamo Bay is there, it should only be to detain people who have been convicted after a fair trial. If it is still there to detain people without trial, that will be a disaster for America's standing in the world and a disaster for the effectiveness of the fight against terrorism."

Earlier in the program, at 12:31, Gorani read a news brief that blithly repeated Guantanamo prisoners' allegations of torture: "The fifth anniversary of the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was marked with protests around the world. Amnesty International staged a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy in London that called for the facility to be closed down . Former detainees have come forward with allegations of ill treatment amounting to torture. Other protests were expected in Japan, Italy, Spain, Israel and the U.S."

On June 7, 2007, the United States will mark the one-year anniversary of the successful elimination of terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Does anyone think that important date will receive as much attention from CNN?

Walters Seeks Middle, Rosie: Troops Far
Braver Than Bush-Cheney

ABC's The View cast was split over the President's surge speech. Elisabeth Hasselbeck thought "this is the last shot...this better work." Barbara Walters said she was torn, since ABC News employees "try hard not to give our political opinions" [!], and that she wanted to give the new strategy a chance, but wondered about why it mattered that Bush said he took responsibility for the war's mistakes. Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar were sharply opposed. Behar declared the troops were just "cannon fodder." O'Donnell whacked at Bush-Cheney: "The armed forces, they are the bravest and the boldest and they're much braver than the men who sent them there to fight this war."

The sharpest exchange came when O'Donnell complained that we lost our popularity in the world after 9/11, and Hasselbeck wondered if our "social standing" was so important. Rosie rebuffed: "So it's about that we're a beacon of light. America, we are a beacon of light in this world. We are supposed to be above this kind of behavior, of invading and occupying." Behar seconded the emotion, and Hasselbeck slapped back: "I don't really care about being liked. I care about being safe."

[This item is adopted from a posting, by Tim Graham, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

They shifted into the debate a few minutes into the January 11 show, once the program's opening pleasantries were handled. Behar contended the President looked "robotized, a little scared," but Walters made sure Hasselbeck was given the floor:

Hasselbeck: "I've been a huge supporter of President Bush. But this is the last shot. Like, you know, this is seriously the last shot I'm giving you, Mr. President, this better work, this plan. I do feel as though it's a hard decision, and I think it's, you know, I liken global terrorism, just for me, I feel as though it's like an incredible infection in the world, and like this strategy is a Z-Pac [a form of the antibiotic Zithromax]. This really needs to work. It's compact. It's going to be incredibly strong. But I feel as though it's the only option. You know, I don't want to see people killed. I don't want to see more casualties. But I fear -- so much -- that if we don't take care of this hard and fast, we're not going to pay the price, we're going to be gone, [applause] but Grace is going to pay the price. My daughter's going to pay the price. Your kids are going to pay the price. I just think this is not the most fun strategy. It's like watching my mom when she went through chemo. Did I want to see all her good cells killed with the bad? No. But I knew that that was a means to the end. And I really believe that this is the way that it has to happen."
O'Donnell: "It makes you feel safer?"
Hasselbeck: Yes, it does make me feel safer. But this is the last shot I'm giving this war."
Barbara Walters: "That's so well-put. Over the years, you've been on with me a little and, technically, my main job, it may come as news, as a member of ABC News, and we try very hard not to give political opinions. But watching him last night, I found myself saying it's going to be such chaos, we keep hearing, if this doesn't work. And I felt, oh, let's just give it a chance. But the other thing that I thought, when he said it's my responsibility, which is what I think he said about Katrina, am I wrong, Rosie? Did he say-"
O'Donnell: "He said good job, Brownie. Remember that?"
Joy Behar: "Heckuva job, Brownie, is what he said."
Walters: "But he said, at other times, I take responsibility."
O'Donnell: "Last night he said he took responsibility."
Walters: "But after you take responsibility, what does that mean? You take responsibility and -- so?"
Behar: "Has he even read the Iraq Study Group report? Has he listened to his generals?"
Hasselbeck: "Yes."
Walters: "One assumes he has."
Behar: "Some other very smart person said, in order to just occupy and take over Baghdad, you need 100,000 troops. That's just one city. They're only sending 20,000. It's only a Z-Pac, but if you have cancer, a Z-Pac isn't going to work."
Walters, motioning to Hasselbeck: "That's what she's saying, it's the last chance."
Behar: "But it's a half-hearted, it's not even a real attempt, in my opinion. It's just cannon fodder."
Hasselbeck: "Do you agree, then, to more troops?"
Behar: "No, I would not. Look. I'm not one of these people who has to come up with a solution. I didn't start this and I'm not going to finish it. But they have to come up with more creative solutions than just sending 19-year-old boys and girls over there. That's really not going to work." [Applause]
Walters: "Without going through the whole thing, there are other things that are being done, too that maybe they haven't worked yet with the Iraqis and with the Prime Minister. I mean, it was a whole list of things. But I think we all just have to pray that as few casualties as possible. And, as you say, last chance. Let it work."
O'Donnell: "The only thing, the thing that's is so disheartening, people I know whose spouses are in the Reserve and how many times they've been called. Friends of mine whose husbands have served three times and they're being recalled again." After others sounded sympathetic notes, she added: "The armed forces, they are the bravest and the boldest and they're much braver than the men who sent them there to fight this war." [Applause]
Behar: "That's a fact."
O'Donnell: "It's really sad, it really is."
Hasselbeck: "You see the strength not only in the troops that are there, but their families that are at home. My friend, whose wife is here, and he's ready to go again. You see such strength, the grace they possess in seeing their loved ones be there."
O'Donnell: "And what it does to them emotionally. They come back, you know, different people. If their bodies are whole, their souls and hearts are shattered. And to try and go on from there, as we know after Vietnam what happened to a vast majority of the Vietnam vets. So tragic."

Walters brought up injured ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff and the family suffering. O'Donnell followed up: "It should be in every situation, the very last thing that is possible to do, war. You should avoid at all costs it until there is no choice. Whether or not that happened this time-"
Behar: "They didn't do it this time."
O'Donnell: "Correct. That did not happen this time."
Behar: "Everybody agrees they did not do that-"
O'Donnell: "Very, very sad."
Hasselbeck: But everybody at that time, though, in response to what we went through in the country was also in support of being there-"
Walters, wanting to move on: "We can rehash and rehash and rehash-"
O'Donnell: "But truthfully, we'll remember, right after 9-11, everyone was scared to death. The country had never been attacked continentally on U.S. soil. It was a shock to our psyches, to our souls, to the world. We had the world sympathy and support, and now, we do not. And that's a tragedy, to lose sort of our standing, to be the leaders of peace."
Hasselbeck: "But what's more important, to be, your social standing with the world or to be doing something globally-"
O'Donnell: "So it's about that we're a beacon of light. America, we are a beacon of light in this world. We are supposed to be above this kind of behavior, of invading and occupying."
Behar, somehow forgetting Vietnam and global panic over Reagan, that other "cowboy" President: "After World War II, we were the good guys, and we maintained that for a long time, and now we're losing it, and it's scary and sad to know that you want to go to Europe, and you're not welcome in some of these countries as an American."
Hasselbeck slapped back: "I don't really care about being liked. I care about being safe." [Applause]

-- Brent Baker