CyberAlert -- 01/20/1999 -- Public "Loves" Clinton's Plans
Public "Loves" Clinton's Plans; CBS: Time for Ruff But Not Hyde
1) CBS and NBC focused on the lack of Republican enthusiasm for Clinton's speech. ABC's Cokie Roberts insisted Clinton delivered a "very conciliatory" address. MSNBC's John Hockenberry imagined most viewers wished Washington would "get down to business."
3) The CBS Evening News gave Charles Ruff an uninterrupted minute-plus soundbite for his emotional counter to Henry Hyde's closing argument about what Americans died for in battle -- an entreaty CBS ignored the day Hyde uttered it.
5) And on the left: Charlie Gibson. On Monday's Good Morning America he asked Bob Dole why Republicans are dragging out the trial. On Tuesday, he pressed George Mitchell about why Republicans want to "drag this out."
The length of Clinton's address limited the amount of time the networks
had for analysis, especially on CBS which aired many more ads than ABC or
NBC, including lengthy commercial blocks consuming most of the time
between Clinton and the Republican response and again from after the
Republicans spoke until nearly 11pm ET.
CBS offered the earliest poll
results, with Dan Rather announcing just before 11pm ET that 82 percent
approved of Clinton's proposals versus a mere 13 percent who disapproved.
Later, during ABC's Nightline, viewers learned that an ABC News poll
discovered 77 percent approved of what Clinton said in his speech and 60
percent oppose his removal, an option favored by 36 percent.
Here are some noteworthy
instances of bias from Tuesday night coverage of the State of the Union
address, made possible by the MRC's "Nightbeat Team" of analysts
Jessica Anderson, Mark Drake and Paul Smith, including: how CBS and NBC
blamed the lack of Republican enthusiasm, not Clinton's insistence on
speaking, for discord in the chamber; how ABC's Cokie Roberts insisted
Clinton delivered a "very conciliatory" and
"bi-partisan" speech, but it took a Clintonista, George
Stephanopoulos, to point out "This was quite a partisan speech;"
how MSNBC's John Hockenberry imagined most viewers wished Washington would
"get down to business" and forget impeachment and that Tom
Brokaw claimed the agendas of Republicans and Clinton are "pretty
much" the same.
-- Republicans scolded for
ruining the mood. Just after Clinton finished, Bob Schieffer told the CBS
audience: "It was the most divided House that I can recall in recent
years for a State of the Union message, Dan. Very odd."
Just before signing off NBC's
coverage at 11pm ET Tom Brokaw asked Gwen Ifill: "On the House side
at least tonight, Gwen, I gather there were number of vacant seats and not
a lot of enthusiasm for almost anything the President had to say."
-- Conciliatory and bipartisan? Immediately following Clinton, ABC's Cokie Roberts asserted: "You know, the President not only had his speech filled with bipartisan references, but I counted eight times that he added words of bipartisanship or words of congratulations to the Congress about their own about something. This is clearly a very conciliatory speech, trying very hard to work with these people who are trying him."
Peter Jennings agreed:
"Indeed, the President reaching out a couple of times, referring to
the 'pioneering leadership of all of you.'"
But a half hour later or so,
after the Republican response, it fell to a partisan Democrat to point out
the error of ABC's analysis. George Stephanopoulos told Jennings:
"But, Peter, I guess I disagree with those who say this was very
bipartisan and very conciliatory. All the rhetoric was, but in fact, this
was, was quite a partisan speech. The President took the Republican goals,
but he had Democratic means to get them, and you could almost see him
looking in that Republican side and hoping they wouldn't know what to do,
who would get up, who would sit down, and I think it was effective in that
way, as well."
Indeed, none of the network
stars pointed out how Clinton had proposed a series of big spending
proposals and new powers for the federal government.
-- Clinton not liberal, but
Largent conservative. Following the Republican response Peter Jennings
commented: "The Republican response to the President from two young,
upwardly-mobile, rising young Republican stars, Jennifer Dunn from
Washington, Steve Largent from Oklahoma. Particularly in the case of Steve
Largent, conservative wing of the Republican Party, as you can hear there
in what he has to say, largely about the social issues."
Funny, I heard a lot about a
broad tax cut and building a missile defense.
-- Lott and Clinton policies
the same. During NBC coverage Tom Brokaw suggested: "The Senate
Majority Leader said the Republican agenda would be Social Security
reform, education -- getting money back to the classrooms, a tax rate cut,
a defense readiness bill, that is, increasing the amount of money for the
military and then something about drug rehabilitation. Sound familiar?
That was pretty much the President's program as well. We'll hear from the
Republicans after this station break."
As Stephanopoulos said,
Clinton's getting there differently than Republicans want.
-- Get back to real issues.
MSNBC's John Hockenberry to the media's favorite historian, Doris Kearns
Goodwin, at 11:31pm ET: "Doris Kearns Goodwin, it seems to me, and as
I was watching both the President's speech and the Republican response
that Americans must look at this, if 57 million people look at this and
go, 'Where is impeachment? Why is this happening? Will these people just
get down to business and leave this impeachment thing alone?'"
-- Peter Jennings, proper
identification-challenged. Just past 9pm ET Jennings recited the names of
those walking in: "After that, Carol Moseley-Braun. Sorry, Carol
Browner who's the Director of the EPA....Sandy Berger there on the center
of the screen, the President's National Security Adviser. Just a moment
ago, a look at a couple of the Republican Senators, Senator Phil Gramm of
Texas, Olympia Snowe of Vermont."
Snowe is from Maine.
-- Koppel dared to ding the speech, shocking Paul Begala. Finally, a humorous item. On Nightline Ted Koppel recounted how Trent Lott was overheard after Clinton's speech asking "Does the man have no shame?" Koppel asked guest Paul Begala for a reaction, flustering Begala. So, Koppel stepped in: "Paul, I can't pretend to know precisely what Senator Lott was talking about, but let me suggest what might lend, you know, some credence to that kind of a reaction to the speech. The speech in some respects was a collection of applause lines."
Begala, aghast at Koppel for daring to criticize Clinton's brilliance, shot back: "Nonsense."
Just hours before Clinton's address his Social Security plan got rave
reviews from the networks. ABC's Sam Donaldson previewed what he described
as Clinton's "daring, some would say audacious, plan..." NBC's
Mike Jensen dedicated a whole story to a man who "loves"
Clinton's Universal Savings Account (USA) and Social Security ideas.
On the Tuesday, January 19
World News Tonight, Sam Donaldson began his preview piece, as transcribed
by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
But Donaldson concluded by
noting the short term benefit of Clinton's plan: "The President's
proposal, far too complex to explain in a short period of time, is almost
certainly not going to be totally enacted, but it may accomplish one of
his principal objectives tonight: to create instant commentary and divert
attention from his Senate trial. It's far preferable for the President to
have people discussing tax cuts and Social Security, Peter, than whether
to call witnesses in a trial that could remove him from office."
NBC Nightly News dedicated a
whole story to showing how popular Clinton's retirement system plans are
except that sort of conservative part about investing in the stock market.
MRC analyst Mark Drake transcribed the story which Mike Jensen began by
After explaining how the USA plan would work Jensen moved to how Clinton will save Social Security: "To help pay for future retirement benefits, more than sixty percent of the government's overall budget surplus would go into the Social Security Trust Fund. More than twenty percent of that money for the first time would be invested in the stock market. Marty Connor's not so sure about that."
Connor: "In the back of my
mind I always worried if the stock market is gonna crash, what's gonna
happen to Social Security, what's gonna happen to the money that's
How would we survive without Clinton "finally suggesting" a solution to this problem? Maybe by listening to conservatives twenty years ago who proposed allowing individuals to put their money into the stock market. Clinton will have the government control the money, a difference Jensen skipped over.
CBS Evening News gave Charles Ruff an incredibly long, unencumbered
platform for his emotional counter to Henry Hyde's closing argument in
which he had urged Senators to vote to convict in order to uphold the
values Americans died for in battles from Normandy to Desert Storm -- a
plea CBS ignored the day Hyde uttered it.
At the top of Tuesday's show
Bob Schieffer reviewed the opening defense argument from White House
counsel Charles Ruff. Here's over half the story:
Does that look like a long soundbite? It is, one minute and two seconds to be exact. That's the longest soundbite I can recall ever seeing on CBS. And how much time did the CBS Evening News allocate on Saturday night to the argument from Hyde referenced by Schieffer? Zero seconds, el zippo. In total, on Saturday night CBS reporter Eric Engberg aired three soundbites from Republicans in the Senate totaling 25 seconds: 10 seconds for Charles Canady, 11 seconds for Hyde to say Republicans are not Clinton haters but love the rule of law, and another 4 seconds of Hyde reading a letter from a kid.
Charles Ruff wowed ABC's Cokie Roberts and CBS's Bob Schieffer.
The three broadcast networks stayed with Ruff's presentation from when he began a bit after 1pm ET until he finished at just past 3:30pm ET. Taking out the 15 minute break in the middle of Ruff's appearance, ABC, CBS and NBC gave the opening defense almost exactly an hour more time than they provided the opening from the House managers. Last Thursday, January 14, the three networks carried Henry Hyde and James Sensenbrenner from 1 to 2:15pm ET, then ducking out just as Ed Bryant began. All offered analysis until 2:30pm. (CBS ended coverage then while ABC and NBC then let affiliates return to normal shows but did continue feeding coverage to any affiliate which chose to pick it up.)
Just after Ruff wrapped up, ABC's Cokie Roberts gushed:
"I think that doing that imaginary cross-examination of Vernon Jordan
on the Senate floor was brilliant because it got to the point where
Senators could suddenly see that this would probably not work very well
for them. He really hit all the places that people were nervous, Democrats
Over on CBS Bob Schieffer was
just as impressed, admiring Ruff for how he countered Hyde's employing of
Normandy and, like Roberts, how he demonstrated the futility of gaining
insights from witnesses:
Dan Rather also chimed in with
his approval of how Ruff used his father's memory to counter Hyde's call
to do right by those who died to protect America's values: "This is
under the heading of this is a constitutional process but it's also
theater, his curtain line was pretty emotional, packed a wallop."
Schieffer's and Rather's praise is quite a flip from five days earlier. Here's Schieffer's January 14 verdict on Hyde and Sensenbrenner: "Thus far, Dan, we have not heard either Clarence Darrow or William Jennings Bryan, this has been fairly tedious."
Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson is consistent in consistently
advocating the liberal view. On Monday he hit Republican Bob Dole from the
left on why his party insisted on dragging out the trial process. On
Tuesday, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, he hit Democrat George
Mitchell from the left, wondering why Republicans want to "drag this
out." Later, he regretted how the 1998 Lewinsky scandal derailed many
of Clinton's proposals made in last year's State of the Union address.
(Amongst his January 18 questions to Dole: "But Senator, if there's no way that this is going to turn around, if the votes aren't there, why is your party dragging this thing out?" To read his other questions to Dole, see the January 19 CyberAlert or check it out on the MRC Web site:
Now to Tuesday morning. Gibson introduced the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader with this heaping of admiration:
"You live a strange
life these days. You worked on the Northern Ireland settlement. You're
working now on baseball's problems. You're on the Olympic oversight
situation with these allegations of bribes. You've become sort of the
Judge Judy and Judge Wapner of our day."
Instead of playing devil's
advocate to Mitchell by quizzing him about why liberals want to subvert a
legal process or whether Democrats have become the party of witness
tampering and perjury, he tossed softballs right out of the White House
-- "Do we have a
government in paralysis because of impeachment?"
Gibson and co-host Diane Sawyer
later lamented how the scandals sidetracked Clinton's policies last year,
suggesting the partisan battles were what stood between the public and
Gibson: "We've been
talking about whether the government is paralyzed by the impeachment
process, and what chances the President has at getting the proposals that
he will make tonight in his State of the Union enacted. USA Today went
back and looked at last year's speech. The President made 27 major
proposals. Only 10 of them got enacted, and even those, only in part. We
have a scorecard on some of those....He asked for IRS reform, he got that.
He asked for campaign finance reform, didn't get that, Republicans
filibustered. Tobacco regulations, those ads killed that and the Senate
did too. Family leave expansion, didn't get it. Child care credits, didn't
get it. We have five more, there they are. Hiring more teachers, he got
some money for that, but no school construction, didn't get the five-year
plan enacted. Juvenile crime, minimum wage increase, Medicare expansion,
patients bill of rights, didn't get 'em, didn't get 'em."
Richard Mellon Scaife and American Spectator Editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, pornographers? To Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt those two conservatives are just as evil as Larry Flynt in how they've improperly intruded into Bill Clinton's life. On the January 16 Capital Gang Hunt told the CNN audience:
"It's obscene that Larry
Flynt gets any kind of attention. You're right. He is sleazy. I would
point out I didn't hear the same objection from conservatives when the
American Spectator, funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the right-winger,
launched an inquisition into Bill Clinton's private life."
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