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CyberAlert -- 01/22/2001 -- Clinton as Ray's Victim

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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.

2) ABC's George Stephanopoulos pushed Bush left: "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."

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....


1
Some observations from live Inaugural coverage: Dan Rather was impressed by how Al Gore's post-election behavior "told us much about his character," NBC's Maria Shriver wanted to know what Bush would do "to reach out to the millions of people who felt disenfranchised by this election, who don't feel that he's their President yet?" And it was hard to tell by NBC's coverage that a Republican had become President since the network's coverage focused on Clinton with eight liberal/Democratic guests after Bush's speech compared to just one guest favorable toward Bush.

-- 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:
> Maria Shriver interview Democratic Senators John Kerry and Bob Graham.
> Tom Brokaw interview Hugh Price of the Urban League, who he claimed is "known as a moderate leader in the African-American community," and Eugene Rivers of the Ten Point Foundation.
> Brokaw with Paul Begala.
> David Bloom at Andrews Air Force Base covering Clinton talk with Terry McAuliffe.
> Brokaw bring aboard Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey to assess Clinton.
> Brokaw interview, inside NBC's Capital Hill studio, Clinton biographer David Maraniss and Clinton team lawyer Greg Craig.

NBC was as much enthralled with Bill Clinton as Bill Clinton is enthralled with himself.

2

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.

3

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."

4

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:
"Good evening. This would have been a big day in Washington under any circumstances. The last night in the White House for President Clinton and his family, the eve of another Bush era. The first son to follow a father into the White House since the 1820s. And yet this day will surely be remembered because Bill Clinton finally admitted that he didn't tell the truth under oath about Monica Lewinsky. The scandal pursues him to the end. Mr. Clinton and the independent counsel Bob Ray have finally made a deal. Mr. Clinton owns up and he doesn't get indicted, though there are consequences."

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."

5

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.

6

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?"
-- "Do you feel vindicated for what you were denied two years ago?"
-- "Did it feel funny to sit there before Senators like Strom Thurmond, Orrin Hatch, who had been a part of voting you down in the full Senate two years ago?"
-- "To the surprise of many you never explicitly or directly objected to Senator Ashcroft's nomination for Attorney General, why not?"

-- "What do you think Senator Ashcroft's distortion of your record and tarnishing of your good name says about his character?"
White: "See that gets very close to my saying that he should either be fit or unfit for U. S. Attorney General. But I do think I could give information about how he labeled me as pro-criminal, having a criminal bent, having a criminal slant, and also talking about how I was soft on crime when the numbers surely didn't show that."
Gumbel: "So he falsely labeled?"
White: "Right."
Gumbel: "It was a distortion?"
White: "It was a distortion."
Gumbel: "Was it a lie?"
White: "I think it was less than truthful. [Gumbel laughs] Part of the problem that Senator Ashcroft and I had is the name calling and I've resisted the temptation to engage in that, Bryant."

-- "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, why?"
-- "How do you think or hope Senator Ashcroft heard your testimony yesterday?"
-- "If as seems likely, Senator Ashcroft is confirmed, again we're getting close to that line you don't want to cross, I understand that, what do you think he will do from his position as Attorney General?"

-- "You could still, and correct me if I'm wrong here, you could still be re-nominated for the federal bench couldn't you?"
White: "I could be re-nominated by President Clinton up until tomorrow afternoon, or which is probably unlikely, I could be nominated by President-elect Bush."
Gumbel: "You think unlikely, you think in light of your testimony yesterday and in light of past errors that Senator Ashcroft may now be aware of that it's unlikely?"
White: "I really don't know, Bryant. That would cause me to speculate on something that I just don't know."

-- Gumbel: "Final note, not that he will or would but if former Senator Ashcroft offered his apology to you would you accept it?"
White: "Sure, I think that would go a long way to ending this rift between us. Here in Missouri we all know each other and even though we're on opposite sides of issues it's sort of like a small family and that would help."
Gumbel: "Your Show Me State, you showed them something yesterday."

Nice of Gumbel to cheer on the anti-conservative team.

7

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."
Over a shot of the chair, White House photographer Pete Souza disclosed: "It's a vibrating chair."
Jarriel: "Clinton has a vibrating chair?"
Souza: "Well he did when he first came into office. I don't know if it, if it stayed throughout his presidency or not."

Jarriel then moved on.

I sure hope George W. Bush got a new chair. -- Brent Baker


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