Bush's "Excessive" Vacation; CBS: Bush's "Disastrous Presidency"; Clinton Still "Fascinating" to Gibson; Rather Scolded by Cronkite
1) As Tom Brokaw enjoyed the seventh week of his vacation, and the day before President Bush would address the nation, Today devoted a segment to Bush's vacation. Newsweek's Howard Fineman agreed with Katie Couric it's "excessive" and warned that "people think" he "spends too much time" on "the concerns of rich people."
2) President Bush is "down on the ranch, thousands of miles from the devastating effects of his disastrous presidency," declared a British radio talk show host given air time by CBS News. He castigated Bush for his "abandonment of the Kyoto agreement that's bequeathed our children another decade of dangerous greenhouse gases" and "his obsession with the so-called Son of Star Wars."
3) The morning after Clinton's book deal, ABC's Charles Gibson oozed on Good Morning America: "Indeed people miss him, he's still a fascinating man even six months out of the White House." Gibson later asserted that "this will be a dignified book" in contrast to all the "lurid" details in the Starr Report.
4) Geraldo's "affection" for Bush? On Tuesday night Rivera said he's starting to have "real affection for him" because of his "open-minded policies toward immigration" and decision to shut down the Vieques testing range.
5) CBS's Bob Schieffer urged President Bush to fund embryonic stem cell research because, "if he reads history, he will know that history remembers those who climbed the mountain, not those who stayed home in fear of the unknown." But Schieffer fears another scientific advance. Back in July he declared: "I think anti-ballistic missile defense systems are a bad idea."
6) Despite ingratiating himself with Gary Condit by largely ignoring the scandal, Dan Rather won't be conducting any potential interview with him, 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt told USA Today, because "somebody would assume there is some kind of deal, which there isn't."
8) Humorous video of Dan Rather squirming. In 1992, in the wake 41 being asked if he'd had an affair, a local reporter turned the tables on Rather and asked if he'd ever committed adultery. Rather demanded: "You've been asking this to Tom Brokaw, have you?" Then Rather turned on his robotic anchorman persona, saying cryptically, "Well, thank you very much. Pleased to see you."
Clarification: In simplifying Mark Shield's point about the danger to Bush in making the press corps suffer in a hot Texas town, the August 7 CyberAlert used the term "re-election" in summarizing how "Shields recalled that Carter and Johnson, who forced reporters to endure 'Dixie summers,' lost re-election" while "Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan vacationed 'near the sea' and won re-election." Since Kennedy and Johnson never faced re-election, in his quote, run in full in the CyberAlert, Shields only said that Reagan, Kennedy, and Clinton "spared themselves a churlish press corps" while Carter and LBJ "were denied second terms."
UPDATE: Shields' warning confirmed. In Wednesday's Washington Post, Mike Allen wrote from Crawford: "Some journalists -- preferring the previous Presidents' vacation destinations of Kennepunkport, Maine, and Martha's Vineyard, Mass. -- have dubbed this trip 'Home to the Wasteland.'"
As NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw enjoyed the seventh week of a ten-plus week vacation, and the day before President Bush would address the nation about federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, NBC's Today show devoted a segment to how, as Katie Couric put it, he's "getting political heat from those who feel he's spending too much time away from the White House."
Couric highlighted for Howard Fineman of Newsweek how according to the Washington Post, by the end of this vacation, Bush will have spent 42 percent of his presidency "either at vacation spots or en route. Does that sound excessive compared to other Presidents in the past or not?" Fineman declared: "Well when you add it all up it sure does." Fineman stressed how "most Americans don't get a month of vacation straight. And if George Bush has one potential political weakness it's that people think he's not in touch with the reality of most American's lives. That he spends too much time about the concerns of rich people and so forth." But, Fineman, conceded, "this is a guy who is completely proud not to be seen as a workaholic. Not only is he trying to avoid his father's mistakes. He's in many ways trying to be the anti-Bill Clinton who many people felt spent entirely too much time in the office."
And with Clinton "time in the office" didn't always meaning working, at least in the traditional sense.
MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down Couric's interview with Newsweek's Fineman on the August 8 Today:
Couric: "President Bush is on Day Four of
his month long working vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. But along
with the 100 degree weather he's also getting political heat from those
who feel he's spending too much time away from the White House. Howard
Fineman is Newsweek magazine's chief political analyst.... Well I know a
recent USA Today poll shows that 55 percent believe Bush is, President
Bush's vacation is too long. And I know that administrative,
administration officials have gone out of their way to make sure people
understand that he's getting some work done as well. But how sensitive are
they at the White House to this criticism?"
(While on the subject of the number of
Bush's vacation days, on Monday's NBC Nightly News, David Gregory
reported from Crawford, Texas, as quoted in the August 7 CyberAlert:
"The Washington Post has actually crunched some of the numbers on
their Web site today, calculating that in fact the President has spent
enough days between vacation or traveling to vacation spots, including his
folks' place up in Kennepunkport, to account for 42 percent of his young
presidency so far."
President Bush is "down on the ranch, thousands of miles from the devastating effects of his disastrous presidency," declared a British radio talk show host given air time on a CBS News show.
U.S. journalists regularly complain about how radio talk show hosts in America are all conservatives, which might explain why the overnight CBS News program, Up to the Minute, went overseas to find a decidedly left-of-center British radio talk show host to use Bush's vacation as an opening to bash his conservative policies. From a park bench in London, Simon Bates rued "four weeks to forget the mess he's left behind right 'round the world."
Bates listed Bush's "abandonment of the Kyoto agreement that's bequeathed our children another decade of dangerous greenhouse gases....His obsession with the so-called Son of Star Wars, despite the fact that his untested proposals break a raft of international agreements and threaten to launch a new arms race in space."
Bates provides a weekly commentary for Up to the Minute, carried by most CBS affiliates for at least an hour or so between 2 and 4:30am Monday through Friday. On Monday night/Tuesday morning, August 7, Bates condemned Bush's vacation and his policies:
"Okay, I admit it, I'm confused. Now, if
I'm right, you Americans are only entitled to two full weeks' annual
vacation. If that's the case, where's the man you so nearly elected as
leader of the western world? Yep, we read that good old George W., for it
is he, has just bunked off for a full four-week holiday at his Texas
Ranch. Four weeks, as he put it, to 'talk to his cows' and keep his
hands firmly off the reins of government. Four weeks to forget the mess
he's left behind right 'round the world.
Excuse me, but what's mediaspeak for "mind your own business?" If U.S. officials have no business commenting about German policy what business does a British talk show host have to assess U.S. policies?
The morning after Bill Clinton's book deal was announced ABC's Charles Gibson still glowed in awe of it on Tuesday's Good Morning America: "I remember the great thing on Saturday Night Live where the fellow who does President Clinton said, 'You're going to miss me.' And indeed people miss him, he's still a fascinating man even six months out of the White House."
In a subsequent exclusive morning show interview with the lawyer who made the deal, Gibson noted how a "publishing source" assured him "this will be a dignified book" that will not be "lurid." He contrasted it with Ken Starr: "As one other publishing source said to me, look, all the details are in the Starr Report, the President can write about his state of mind."
The night before, as anchor of World News
Tonight, Gibson decided "Bill Clinton is just as fascinating as
ever." For more on Monday night coverage, refer back to the August 7
Gibson opened the August 7 GMA, as observed by MRC intern Lindsay Welter "Bill Clinton's memoirs set a record at a whopping 12 million dollars. We'll talk to the man who made the deal for the former President." Diane Sawyer soon chimed in: "And I'm Diane Sawyer and it's Tuesday, August 7th, 2001. And he is up there with Stephen King and we know the ending. It's amazing."
Gibson's soft ball questions to lawyer Robert Barnett, who is better known in Washington media circles as the husband of CBS News reporter Rita Braver:
-- "I talked to several people in publishing yesterday, and they said this is actually a good deal for everybody all around. First, they said, you wanted this publisher, this editor. You could avoid a sort of unseemly auction for the book."
-- "Bob, how specific are the conversations of what the President has to write about and what he will say?"
-- "One, one of the publishing sources that I talked to yesterday said to me, this will be a dignified book. It will be modeled, as Jackie reported, on the Katharine Graham uh, autobiography in which she was able to convey specifics of difficult times without being lurid. And as one other publishing source said to me, look, all the details are in the Starr Report, the President can write about his state of mind."
-- "So when he writes about the Lewinsky episode and impeachment during his presidency, he writes about what? What does he say?"
Bush winning over Geraldo? He's still a big admirer of Bill Clinton, but while many journalists are scolding President Bush for his lengthy vacation time, on Tuesday night, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed, Geraldo Rivera said he's starting to have "real affection for him" because of his "open-minded policies toward immigration" and decision to shut down the Vieques testing range.
On the August 7 Rivera Live on CNBC, Rivera
But minutes later Geraldo was back to his usual form, proclaiming of Bill Clinton: "A great President, c'mon! He was an a adulterer but he was a great President."
Bob Schieffer's "fear of the unknown." After reading in Monday's CyberAlert how on Sunday's Face the Nation CBS's Bob Schieffer urged President Bush to fund embryonic stem cell research because, "if he reads history, he will know that history remembers those who climbed the mountain, not those who stayed home in fear of the unknown," the MRC's Rich Noyes reminded me how Schieffer himself expressed reservations about moving forward scientifically in another area: missile defense.
"I think anti-ballistic missile defense systems are a bad idea," he declared during a July 17 appearance on radio's Imus in the Morning.
But on the August 5 Face the Nation he ridiculed those against embryonic stem cell research, contending they are just afraid of learning something: "History's longest argument has been over what to do about the mountain. One group has always wanted to cross the mountain, to explore and see what is on the other side. The other group, no less sincere, has always been willing to let well enough alone. That group worries there might be things on the other side of the mountain we didn't want to know. They were the ones who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. They already knew all they needed to know about the moon and the sun and the stars."
For the diatribe in full, go to:
For his assessment of missile defense, go to:
Dan Rather won't be conducting any potential interview with California Democratic Congressman Gary Condit, 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt told USA Today's Peter Johnson, because "somebody would assume there is some kind of deal, which there isn't."
As Johnson noted in the August 7 USA Today: "Because Rather has decried the media's tabloid fascination with the disappearance of Chandra Levy, who has been romantically linked to Condit, and because Rather's CBS Evening News has aired only one story on the case while others have aired dozens, the Congressman will return the favor by granting an interview."
In an August 8 New York Post story, Hewitt insisted: "Everybody who thinks -- incorrectly -- that Dan was doing anything other than taking the high-road in not reporting that story daily on his newscast would assume that there was a hidden agenda if he were to land the Condit interview."
The Post's Don Kaplan relayed, however, that Hewitt is pursuing Condit for 60 Minutes or 60 Minutes II: "The 60 Minutes boss said he has been lobbying to land a no-holds barred Condit interview....'I am waiting for his attorney to call me back. My understanding is he's on vacation and will contact me when he comes back and if he doesn't already know that 60 Minutes has never pulled its punches, he'll know it when we talk.'"
Even Walter Cronkite thinks Dan Rather "went overboard" in avoiding the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit story. His scolding occurred during an interview on Martha's Vineyard with NBC's Jamie Gangel which aired on today's Today.
Asked by Gangel for his assessment of the modern media, Cronkite replied on the August 9 Today, as transcribed by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, that "it's skewed toward the more sensational" and that "the profession of journalism ought to be about telling people about what they need to know, not what they want to know."
But Rather's near-blackout is beyond
Cronkite's tolerance. When Gangel raised how "Dan Rather decided
for a long time" that the CBS Evening News was "not going to
cover" the Levy/Condit story, Cronkite gently rebuked Rather:
If only we could get "just that facts" from CBS News on any topic.
Some fun Dan Rather video from our archive for the slow news days of summer. Besides, what's more fun than piling on Rather? Back in 1992, in the wake of President George H.W. Bush being asked whether he'd committed adultery, when a local TV reporter turned the tables on Rather and asked if he ever had, Dan Rather offered a humorous reaction.
During the 1992 Republican convention in Houston, a squirming Rather tried to evade the question from Tom Sherwood of NBC-owned WRC-TV in Washington, DC, by bravely throwing a colleague to the wolves: "You've been asking this to Tom Brokaw, have you?" Then he asked Sherwood if he'd ever had an affair. Sherwood assured him "I'm going to answer the question at the end of my story." As he walked away, Rather turned on his robotic anchorman persona, saying cryptically, "Well, thank you very much. Pleased to see you."
To learn how Tim Graham, formerly with the MRC
and now White House correspondent for World magazine, connected Rather's
Levy non-coverage to this episode, check out his National Review Online
piece posted on Monday:
I'm writing about it since the video clip needs context and it's a fun one to show on our Web site when I haven't come across any current video clips that are very interesting. It seems so quaint now given Clinton's history which reporters knew more about in 1992 than they told and what Clinton did in office, but for a Dateline NBC interview aired just before the 1992 GOP convention, Stone Phillips asked President Bush: "Have you ever had an affair?" Turning the tables on journalists, for the August 19, 1992 "News 4" at either 5 or 6pm, WRC-TV's Sherwood posed the same question to a number of reporters at the Houston Astrodome.
Humorously, in retrospect, one of them was the late Charles Kuralt who we now know was at the time carrying on a multi-decade live-in relationship with a woman at his Montana ranch. He told Sherwood: "I take the Barbara Bush position on this thing. I don't think it's, I don't think it's relevant."
But his family, who sued the woman over his will which left her his ranch, sure found it "relevant."
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