Clinton as Ray's Victim; Rather Avoided What Clinton Conceded; Gumbel Scolded Ronnie White for Being Too Nice; Clinton's Chair
1) Dan Rather was impressed by how Al Gore's post-election behavior "told us much about his character." NBC's post-Inaugural ceremony coverage focused on Clinton with eight liberal/Democratic guests compared to just one guest favorable toward Bush.
3) ABC painted Clinton as a victim of an independent counsel who forced him into a deal. Charles Gibson wanted to know why "did the special prosecutor insist upon" the deal being made on Clinton's last day in office. Peter Jennings empathized: "It's been a very difficult last 24 hours for him, having to make a deal with the independent counsel..."
4) In a 106 word introduction of Friday's lead story, CBS's Dan Rather didn't mention how Clinton had conceded giving "false" answers. Instead, Rather adopted the Clinton spin as he referred to "a plea arrangement to avoid any possible prosecution or disbarment in two sex cases." FNC's Jim Angle called it "the political equivalent of a deathbed confession."
5) Three unrelated quotes of note: Cokie Roberts declared she does "not want" Jesse Jackson's "voice silenced" since "he's an important voice"; Time's Jack White adjudged "John Ashcroft came across as a major league liar"; and Barbara Walters wished "to hang around long enough to interview the first woman President."
6) Bryant Gumbel found Ronnie White too timid in taking on John Ashcroft. "You liken your appearance yesterday to when you stood up to racist bullies at the age of ten, yet you said you don't believe Senator Ashcroft is a racist, why?" And: "What do you think Senator Ashcroft's distortion of your record and tarnishing of your good name says about his character?"
7) Read this one. It's too good to miss but I don't want to give away the new revelation about Clinton's chair, a disclosure buried on Friday's 20/20. Imagine Clinton sitting in his chair as Monica did her thing. And now add this element....
-- CBS News. As Gore walked onto the Inaugural platform the CBS crew discussed how he believes he really won the election. Bob Schieffer oozed: "I think Dan he was no more gracious at any point in the campaign than the night when he conceded the election." Dan Rather agreed: "Well, he's been very gracious since then. If, as many people argue, the mark of a man, or a woman, is how well they handle adversity, then one can say that Al Gore told us much about his character in these weeks, now more than a month, since he was declared the loser."
-- NBC News. Before the ceremony began, from the platform Maria Shriver, whom NBC parachutes in for all big events, demanded of about-to-become National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: "What does he have to accomplish here today to reach out to the millions of people who felt disenfranchised by this election, who don't feel that he's their President yet?"
Before and after the ceremony liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was unavoidable on NBC News, but afterward she was joined by a coterie of liberals, the MRC's Tim Graham noticed. Immediately after Bush's speech, Andrea Mitchell talked to lawyer Ted Olson about it, but he was the last Republican to appear for the next hour.
In addition to former Clinton operative David Gergen,
between 12:30 and 1:30pm ET, when NBC's Washington, DC station cut away
for local coverage, NBC News viewers heard:
NBC was as much enthralled with Bill Clinton as Bill Clinton is enthralled with himself.
ABC political analyst George Stephanopoulos pushed Bush to add a "fifth C," compromise: "He'll be able to fulfill that central promise of unifying the country only if he's willing to compromise on some of the big issues."
On Saturday's World News Tonight Stephanopoulos argued: "You heard the four Cs there: civility, courage, character and compassion. What you didn't see was a fifth C: compromise. With a 50-50 Senate and a tiny margin in the House and a majority in the country who actually voted against President Bush he'll be able to fulfill that central promise of unifying the country only if he's willing to compromise on some of the big issues: education, health care, tax cuts. We'll see if he's willing to do that in the coming days."
Stephanopoulos repeated a similar formulation on Sunday's This Week.
Clinton as victim. Saturday morning ABC's Charles Gibson and Peter Jennings, instead of proclaiming how Bill Clinton had finally conceded that he had lied, treated Bill Clinton as a victim of the independent counsel.
As Clinton sat down on the Inaugural platform at about 11:40am ET Jennings empathized: "It's been a very difficult last 24 hours for him, having to make a deal with the independent counsel in order to have the investigation of his honesty regarding Monica Lewinsky go away, at least go away legally."
Earlier, at the start of a special Saturday Good Morning America, Charles Gibson asked outgoing White House chief of staff John Podesta: "The last day, the last full day Friday, the specter of scandal raised again because the President signed an agreement with the special prosecutor saying he knowingly gave false and misleading answers in the Lewinsky matter and accepted some punishments. I'm curious about the timing of all this, John. Why did it come on the last day? Did the special prosecutor insist upon that?"
Podesta agreed that Robert Ray pushed for the deal so "we weren't in complete control of that." Reminiscent of the standard Clinton spin, Podesta maintained that Clinton just wanted to move on to do good things for the country as an ex-President. But Gibson was only interested in discrediting Ray, as he followed up by assuming Ray had done wrong: "But doesn't the timing bother you? I mean it gives you the specter of this right at the end."
What did Bill Clinton admit that he did? You wouldn't really know if you relied Friday night on CBS's Dan Rather. In his 106 word introductory set up to the show's lead story he didn't bother mention, as did ABC's Peter Jennings and NBC's Tom Brokaw, how Clinton conceded giving "false" answers. Rather referred only to "a plea arrangement to avoid any possible prosecution or disbarment in two sex cases." The Clinton spin from Rather up to the last night.
But none labeled Clinton a liar, nor were they as blunt as FNC's Jim Angle, who on Friday's Special Report with Brit Hume laid out the reality, calling the deal "the political equivalent of a deathbed confession. Mr. Clinton only made this deal with Ray when he learned from the independent counsel that he was facing certain indictment and, very likely, disbarment in Arkansas. Faced with that, he finally decided to strike a deal. He was given until his last day in office. He took it right up until the last full day in office."
Rather opened the January 19 CBS Evening News: "Good evening. Once again there has never been anything like this in American history. A dramatic close today to the Clinton presidency: a plea arrangement to avoid any possible prosecution or disbarment in two sex cases. And it shook up this capital city just as it's preparing for the inauguration of a new President, George W. Bush, making one final round of appearances today before he takes office at noon tomorrow. We'll have much more about the inauguration in a moment. But first, CBS News correspondent John Roberts at the White House has details of the Clinton deal with the independent counsel and what it means."
Only well into the report by Roberts did viewers finally learn that three years after the "deposition in the Paula Jones case, President Clinton for the first time today admitted that testimony he gave regarding his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was knowingly evasive and misleading....Mr. Clinton today offered this finely parsed public contrition: 'I tried to walk a line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely,' he said. 'But I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal, and that certain of my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false.'"
ABC's Peter Jennings delayed the lead a bit but he
did stress how Clinton "finally admitted that he didn't tell the
truth under oath." Jennings opened World News Tonight:
NBC's Tom Brokaw opened the NBC Nightly News: "President Clinton, who became a one-man legal, moral and ethical melodrama during his final term, will not be indicted once he leaves office but he will pay a price. In an agreement worked out by his lawyer with the special prosecutor, the President will lose his law license for five years, pay a fine, and he had to issue a statement acknowledging that he knowingly gave false answers. All of this on the eve of the inauguration of George W. Bush who was eager to have this matter finished before he took office."
Three unrelated quotes of note from the weekend: ABC's Cokie Roberts declared she does "not want" Jesse Jackson's "voice silenced" since "he's an important voice in public debate"; Time's Jack White adjudged "John Ashcroft came across as a major league liar"; and Barbara Walters wished "to hang around long enough to interview the first woman President."
-- ABC's Cokie Roberts, during the This Week roundtable, on Jesse Jackson conceding he has a "love child": "Obviously this is something he is feeling shame about and should, but I do not want to have his voice silenced in public debate. I think he's an important voice in public debate and I think that having it now lose some authority is too bad."
I guess she was sorry there weren't more anti-Bush demonstrators on Saturday.
-- Time magazine national correspondent Jack White on Saturday's post-Inaugural taped Inside Washington: "John Ashcroft came across as a major league liar. He lied about the Missouri school desegregation case that he was involved in, he lied about not knowing about the policies, the racial policies of Bob Jones University, he has lied about not knowing what kind of magazine Southern Partisan is, that he gave a terrible interview to. And he's lied about any number of other things. If people were concerned about a lack of honesty in the previous administration, why are they perpetrating it in this administration?"
-- Barbara Walters wrapped up Friday's 20/20, which featured her interviews with George and Laura Bush: "Well that's our program tonight, except for this parting thought. I realize that George W. Bush is the seventh President I have interviewed, starting with Richard Nixon. And I hope to hang around long enough to interview the first woman President, whoever she may be."
2005 is less just four years away for President Rodham.
Missouri state Supreme Court judge Ronnie White was not sufficiently aggressive for Bryant Gumbel in denouncing John Ashcroft. On Friday's The Early Show, the morning after White testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gumbel pressed him about why he did not call for the Senate to reject Ashcroft. Gumbel assumed Ashcroft was guilty of bad behavior: "What do you think Senator Ashcroft's distortion of your record and tarnishing of your good name says about his character?"
The same question could be posed many mornings to Gumbel.
Gumbel seemed bewildered: "You liken your appearance yesterday to when you stood up to racist bullies at the age of ten, yet you said you don't believe Senator Ashcroft is a racist, why?"
MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down part of the January 19 exchange. Here are Gumbel's questions and some of White's answers when needed to put Gumbel's retorts in context:
-- "On this morning after how do you feel about
your appearance before the Judiciary Committee?"
-- "What do you think Senator Ashcroft's
distortion of your record and tarnishing of your good name says about his
-- "You certainly have. You liken your
appearance yesterday to when you stood up to racist bullies at the age of
ten, yet you said you don't believe Senator Ashcroft is a racist,
-- "You could still, and correct me if I'm
wrong here, you could still be re-nominated for the federal bench couldn't
-- Gumbel: "Final note, not that he will or
would but if former Senator Ashcroft offered his apology to you would you
Nice of Gumbel to cheer on the anti-conservative team.
Now an exchange that came without warning during a seemingly innocuous feature story on Friday's 20/20 which recounted anecdotes from White House photographers about how previous Presidents spent their last day in the White House. (The report was from ABC's Tom Jarriel, though I can't recall if it's spelled Jarriel or Jariel.)
We pick up his story as he described how the Oval Office was transformed for Clinton on the afternoon of January 20, 1993.
Jarriel: "The desk Clinton has selected is put
in place. New drapes are hung. The new President's chair arrives,
transported from Arkansas with Clinton's own comfort features."
Jarriel then moved on.
I sure hope George W. Bush got a new chair. -- Brent Baker
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