CyberAlert -- 04/01/1999 -- Dan Rather Goes Gentle on Clinton; Spared Reagan/Bush Treatment
Dan Rather Goes Gentle on Clinton; Spared Reagan/Bush Treatment
1) Dan Rather's exclusive interview with Bill Clinton avoided Chinese espionage, Broaddrick and Lewinsky, but gave Clinton plenty of time to portray himself as defender of the Constitution against partisan conservatives. Rather wondered about Clinton's "feelings" on Kosovo and what he'd do as the husband of a Senator.
>>> April 1 NQ Delayed. An unexpected bounty of biased bombast from Dan Rather led me, in the interest of getting the real bias out to everyone while avoiding confusion, to delay the CyberAlert distribution of the April Fools edition of Notable Quotables. The April 1 issue of NQ will be distributed in a separate CyberAlert later today and it will also be posted on the MRC home page by late Thursday morning. Go to: http://www.mrc.org <<<
Dan Rather plays nice with Bill Clinton. Forget Chinese espionage or Juanita Broaddrick or Monica Lewinsky's assertion that Clinton satisfied her, which undercuts his basis for his claim about not having sexual relations. No, instead in an exclusive interview CBS News landed, after some questions about the war in Kosovo, Dan Rather tossed kiss-up questions, such as light-heartedly promoting the Hillary for Senate distraction: "Could you describe for me what you believe to be the responsibilities of the husband of a United States Senator?"
And even some of his Kosovo questions were hardly tough, as he wondered about Clinton's "feelings" about the situation: "I'm told by those close to you that you have a lot of pent up feelings about what's happening in the Balkans, what we're doing there. Can you share some of that with us?"
Wednesday night, March 31, the CBS Evening News aired three sets of highlights from the interview totaling about six minutes. Later, 60 Minutes II allocated two segments, more than half the program, to a lengthier showing of the interview Rather conducted at the White House Wednesday afternoon.
There's a lot
worth taking in here from an unrepentant Clinton who used his CBS air time
to portray himself as a victim defending the Constitution against partisan
conservatives. During the interview:
Now we get to the interesting part. In asking about sending ground troops Rather insisted Clinton respond to the complaint that he "parses" his words, but Rather couldn't refrain from setting up the question by gratuitously saying "everybody acknowledges you have a brilliant mind."
Here's the exchange, with Clinton's remarkable retort that "I am very careful in the words I use" and that complaining about parsing is a trick by political enemies to divert him from helping the American people, an argument Rather bought:
all respect, but also directly, everybody acknowledges you have a
brilliant mind, you're an excellent speaker. But sometimes people, and
people who support and like you say well he parses words too closely. What
is is argument, all of that. I want to discuss ground troops in the
context of speaking as directly as you possibly can. When you say you have
no intention to commit ground troops to accomplish the mission in Kosovo,
does that mean we are not going to have ground troops in there no way, no
how, no time?"
(The miracle of editing. Here's the Clinton answer CBS showed on the Evening News in response to the same question. After the first sentence CBS plugged in an answer from somewhere else that did not appear on 60 Minutes: "It means just what it says. I have used those words carefully. I am very careful in the words I use not to mislead one way or the other. And the reason is I think I have embraced a strategy here that I believe has a reasonably good chance, a reasonably good chance of succeeding....")
Back to 60 Minutes, Rather moved on to the Pope's request that Clinton suspend the bombing for Easter. Citing Milosevic's killing spree, Clinton countered: "We can't observe Easter and honor the resurrection of Christ by allowing him another free day to kill more innocent civilians."
Rather followed up that this is the most important week in the Judeo-Christian calendar, so some say it's "obscene" to carry on the bombing. Clinton maintained he's "acting in defense of the defenseless."
Enough with tough
policy, Rather moved on to Clinton's "feelings," as if they
should have any impact on policy decisions:
Clinton let out a big sigh, took a breath, and proceeded to pontificate about how the world is "bedeviled" by people unable to get along with people who are different. Clinton insisted that's the "dominant problem" in the world today.
How profound. As if people not getting along and going to war is a new phenomenon.
Following an ad
break, Rather progressed to a more pleasant topic for Clinton: "Could
you describe for me what you believe to be the responsibilities of the
husband of a United States Senator?" Clinton, laughing, explained
that he'd be willing to be a caseworker in Hillary's New York office.
Up next, instead of demanding Clinton address what he put the country through, Rather sympathetically inquired about how "our First Family" is doing: "Mr. President, you know Americans like to know that the First Family is okay, that they're doing alright. Given the year plus what you and our First Family have been through, tell us what you can about how the three of you are doing." Clinton assured Rather they are "doing reasonably well" since "we do love each other very much," adding that Hillary's trip to Africa has been good for the country.
question: "How about yourself? We're here in a room with pictures
of Lincoln, Washington, Continental Congress. When you look back over this
year plus, what's the moral of it? Does it have a moral?"
Rather pressed the President about whether he ever considered resigning, leading to this retort in which Clinton portrayed himself simultaneously as a victim and a heroic defender of the Constitution: "I wouldn't do that to the Constitution. I wouldn't do that to the presidency, I wouldn't do that to the history of this country. I would never have legitimized what I believe is horribly wrong with what has occurred here over the last four or five years."
Rather posed this seemingly uncomfortable question, but did not follow it
up when Clinton deflected it by using it to denounce his opponents:
"Mr. President, I get a lot of letters, not as many as you do, but I
get a lot of letters from parents who say, some of them say 'Listen, I
like President Clinton, I like what he's doing for the country.' Some
even said 'I'd vote for him again but I don't know what to tell the
children on the worst aspects of what happened last year.' Let's try
to give these parents some help. What can they tell their children?"
Finally, but not
quite, Rather reluctantly queried:
He recalled how
most now believe President Johnson was unjustly impeached and the
proceeding now reflects well on him. The piece ended with this scolding
CBS and Dan Rather are certainly willing. They not only have moved on past Lewinsky, they won't move to the next scandal: Chinese espionage.
+++ Watch Rather and Clinton. Thursday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post about a three-minute clip, in RealPlayer format, of Rather's most felicitous questions to Clinton. Go to the MRC home page or to the MRC's video page: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html
How Rather treated Clinton is a significant departure from how major media outlets reacted to humanitarian-prompted military action by Presidents Reagan and Bush, a new fax report researched by the MRC's Tim Graham demonstrates. Prominent figures in the media characterized those Presidents as bullies launching misguided and dangerous military operations that could boomerang on the U.S.
Hawkish on Humanitarian Wars: Clinton Team Spared Quick-Trigger Negativity
of News Coverage of Grenada, Libya, Panama, Gulf War," reads the
title of the April 1 Media Reality Check fax report. You can read it below
or go to the MRC home page where a more graphically-appealing version will
be posted Thursday morning. To read this edition and previous fax reports,
Here's the text of the April 1 edition:
The NATO air strikes against Yugoslavian targets may be the subject of some confusion, but already the Clinton administration has been spared the quick-trigger media negativity that's been common in the first days of several Republican military actions:
When the Reagan administration authorized the liberation of Grenada, The Washington Post wouldn't call it liberation. It reported on October 27, 1983: "The United States, its military conquest of Grenada complete..." Two days later: "The officials said the Marines would probably depart within a week, leaving an occupation force of about 5,000 Army soldiers."
-- NBC commentator John Chancellor on Nicaragua, January 15, 1987: "The Duke of Wellington, one of England's greatest soldiers, once said 'There is no such thing as a little war for a great nation'....The Johnson administration became obsessed with Vietnam, the Kremlin became obsessed with Afghanistan and the Reagan administration became obsessed with Nicaragua. That led to bad troubles for the Reagan administration. Big countries have to pick their fights very carefully. Victory has to be certain in a fight with a small enemy. If not, things can get out of hand."
-- CBS reporter Wyatt Andrews covering the Panama invasion, December 21, 1989: "Having launched one of the largest invasion forces since the days of the Vietnam War, Mr. Bush is erasing his old image of being timid, but the new question now, almost overnight, is whether this President is exhibiting signs of being reckless."
-- Los Angeles Times reporter Barry Bearak in a December 18, 1989 news analysis on Reagan's 1986 air raids on Libya: "Democrats by and large remained uncritical of this occasional gunplay. After all, Sheriff Reagan mostly fired in the air, harmlessly busting up the bullies on a weekend drunk. And besides, in the heat of a national pep rally, any downbeat voice was easily scored as whiny and defeatist."
-- CBS reporter Bob Simon on the Gulf War, August 7, 1990: "While Americans say they're moving tonight in support of little nations, that's not how it will be perceived or described over here. From the poor people in these little nations, Americans will hear these old phrases, old accusations: gunboat diplomacy, imperialism, the arrogance of power."
-- Bryant Gumbel on the August 7, 1990 Today: "The Persian Gulf crisis is already resulting in higher gas prices at the pump, exposing the [Bush] administration's lack of an energy policy. We'll talk of just how much that figures to cost him."
-- Lisa Myers on the August 15, 1990 NBC Nightly News: "The problem is that slow but steady progress on energy conservation came to a screeching halt in the mid-1980s, which is a big reason Iraq has us over a barrel today...What derailed the conservation effort? Two things: a sharp drop in oil prices, and the Reagan administration." Myers eight days later: "Almost daily, the President is out on a gas-guzzling cigarette boat which gets one and a half miles to the gallon. Saving energy is not something he likes to talk about.... Energy analysts call the lack of action irresponsible."
-- Gumbel to a Saudi Arabian editor on August 20: "I need not elaborate on the differences between your culture and ours, but how much of a threat to the Saudi way of life do you think the presence of American forces represents?"
-- Dan Rather to Saddam Hussein on August 29, 1990: "Mr. President, do you think this is a Vietnam in the sand for the United States?"
END fax report
I'll send the April 1 Notable Quotables at about noon ET. -- Brent Baker
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