Gingrich Intransigence; Scandal Just Sex; Vilifying Tripp
1) CBS and NBC painted
Gingrich and the GOP as unreasonably holding to a "hard line."
But FNC noticed that Democrats who weeks ago said the GOP were in a
"reckless rush to judgment" now "seem to think that the GOP
is moving too slowly."
2) CNN's Bill Schneider
dismissed parallels to Watergate: "Then it was about corruption. Now
it's just about sex." And he disparaged everyone from Matt Drudge to
Ken Starr to Dan Burton.
3) More Tripp attacks. ABC's
Lisa McRee wondered "was it all politically motivated?" NBC's
Dan Abrams declared it "a setup from the beginning" by a woman
who is not "just like the rest of us."
4) Overseas reaction:
Starr's methods are reminiscent of the Stasi, making him "more
successful than Stalin."
Hurricane Georges led ABC and NBC Wednesday night, CBS went first with the
stock market rebound and CNN and FNC began with the latest on the Clinton
scandal front. Every network but ABC, which provided just a 30-second
item, ran a full story on the new Democratic strategy of demanding a
resolution to the mess within 30 days. CBS and NBC painted the GOP and
Gingrich as the uncooperative ones blocking progress. "Republicans
take a hard line," declared Tom Brokaw before Gwen Ifill found
"one Senate Republican" who decided "that House Republicans
are too shrill."
Only FNC picked up
on Democratic hypocrisy, as FNC's Carl Cameron observed: "For the
last couple of weeks the Democrats have said Republicans are in a
'reckless rush to judgment.' Now they seem to think that the GOP is
moving too slowly."
ABC featured an
interview with Clinton's two new pastoral counselors and CNN's John
King reported that Clinton actually opposes any of the deals being floated
which fine him or impact his pension.
Here are some
highlights from the Wednesday, September 23 evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight dedicated the least time of all the shows to the Clinton
scandal. Anchor Peter Jennings took 31 seconds to tell viewers:
"In Washington today, whatever the
Republicans decide about President Clinton, they will decide because
they're in charge, congressional Democrats are pushing to get it over
with soon. Democratic Leader in the House Congressman Dick Gephardt says
the House should be able to decide about impeaching President Clinton
within 30 days. However the Republican Speaker of the House, Newt
Gingrich, says it will take as long as it takes. And he says there should
be no talk of a possible deal to save the President's job until the
House has completed its investigation."
Jennings then went
to religion correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer for a preview of a longer story
which appeared Wednesday night on 20/20, an exclusive talk with the two
ministers counseling President Clinton: Tony Campolo and Gordon MacDonald.
"These are the two men who've been charged with the job of
preparing the President's soul," she began. MacDonald explained how
Clinton is a "deeply broken man," how he avoids politics and
talks with Clinton about his "walk with God," and how he's
"gone to the bottom with this man." Campolo jumped in,
describing how Clinton has yelled at him and that's when the
"conversation becomes real."
Wehmeyer did force
both to consider doubts about Clinton's sincerity: "And what if the
two of you worked with the President all these hours and discover that
he's pulled the wool over your eyes, that he wasn't sincere, then
what?" Both promised they would tell the world and walk away.
-- CBS Evening News. After stories on the Dow
climbing 257 points and the hurricane, Dan Rather announced:
"In the caldron that is Washington these
days House Speaker Newt Gingrich made it clear today: no deal with
President Clinton. He said the Republican majority in the House will
proceed toward an impeachment inquiry. The Clinton camp kept pushing for a
punishment arrangement short of resignation or impeachment. This includes
a push, even a plea from the top."
explained how Clinton is personally calling members of Congress to talk
about punishment: "He's talking to Democrats and Republicans about
censure, about appearing before Congress, about any scenario that is swift
but not too severe."
Pelley noted: "Last night former President
Jimmy Carter said even he had concluded Mr. Clinton had lied under oath
but he still did not believe he would be removed from office."
Carter: "Even though he will be damaged in
his moral reputation and perhaps in his influence, with the Congress and
many of the American people, our nation will survive."
Leading into a laudatory soundbite from Nelson
Mandela, Pelley asserted: "Mr. Clinton's most constant defenders
remain foreign leaders."
Since a deal is unlikely, Pelley concluded by
saying that the White House is reconciled to fighting impeachment.
emphasized the unreasonableness of Republicans:
"On Capitol Hill not only did the
Republican-led majority reject any punishment deal, they're even talking
now of a wider, deeper, longer investigation of the President."
Bob Schieffer ran
a soundbite from Newt Gingrich saying Democrats want to "put the cart
before the horse" before he led into a clip from Tom Daschle by
suggesting that Democrats "got the impression" that Gingrich
wants to go beyond Lewinsky and open up other areas not in the Starr
report. Continuing with the Democratic complaints, Schieffer added:
"On yet another front the top House Democrat charged in a letter to
Gingrich that independent counsel Starr is unfairly holding back
information that could help the President."
The show ended
with an Eye on America piece on reaction in Park Ridge, Illinois, home to
Hillary Clinton and part of Henry Hyde's district. Elizabeth Kaledin ran
soundbites from those for and against Clinton, concluding: "At least
in this corner of the country Republicans aren't waiting for Congress to
make up its mind about the President, they've already decided for
-- CNN's The World Report at 8pm ET. Bob
Franken summarized Dick Gephardt's demand to put the inquiry on a time
table and complaint that Starr has withheld exculpatory evidence, but
added that Starr has offered to let them look at what's left.
From the White
House, John King put a damper on one "censure-plus" idea:
"CNN has learned that President Clinton is raising concerns about
paying a big financial price as part of any plea bargain..."
Complaining about the legal fees he already owes, King reported he objects
to docking his pension. King moved on to lay out the New White House
strategy of singling out Gingrich for playing partisan games, hoping to
force Republicans to agree to deal.
For the third
story, CNN went to Bill Schneider for a comparison with Watergate. See #2
-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. Wednesday was
one of those days when FNC demonstrated how it offers a fresh perspective
missed by the other networks. While CBS and NBC stressed Republican
unreasonableness, FNC noticed a lack of Democratic consistency. The show
opened with a live report from Carl Cameron on Capitol Hill, who observed:
"Republicans have argued that the minority
has been doing all it possibly can to throw monkey wrenches into the
works. For the last couple of weeks the Democrats have said Republicans
are in a 'reckless rush to judgment.' Now they seem to think that the
GOP is moving too slowly."
Noting that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt
claims Republicans want to humiliate Clinton, Cameron played this
soundbite from Gephardt: "The bottom line is if the Republicans
don't want to drag this out we can do it fairly and judiciously and
justly in the next 30 days or so."
Cameron continued by illustrating the Democratic
change of ploys: "Quite a contrast to recent Democratic complaints
that Republicans have moved too fast. The ranking Judiciary Democrat just
nine days ago."
John Conyers, September 14: "What is it that
we're rushing for? What are we trying to find? What deadline have we
self-imposed on each other?"
Leading into a clip from Republican Lamar Smith,
Cameron noted: "Republicans accuse the minority of trying to pick
fights and cause distractions."
Cameron proceeded to uniquely play a soundbite
from Gingrich explaining that the speed of the investigation will depend
on the level of White House cooperation and how Senator Tom Daschle
acknowledged that talk of a deal is premature.
Next, from the
White House Jim Angle explained how Democrats want to rescue Clinton with
a deal but the White House is attacking Gingrich, with McCurry criticizing
the "Jihad Caucus" among Republicans led by Gingrich. Senator
John Kerry, Angle warned, "was even more threatening" as he
predicted the public will turn on the GOP for prolonging the mess as they
did with the government shutdown.
After Angle, David
Shuster observed that for the second day McCurry lashed out at the Starr
report for not highlighting Lewinsky's assertion that no one asked her
to lie. Shuster explained that Starr did explain that Lewinsky said
Clinton reminded her of cover stories, to say she was coming to see Betty
Cosby picked up on Lewinsky's views displayed in the documents released
Monday, such as how she "felt trapped and frightened" when
approached by Starr's team at the hotel. Cosby allowed former U.S.
Attorney Henry Hudson to explain that 12 hour session with FBI agents is
routine, but after relaying how Lewinsky says she was threatened with 27
years in prison if she didn't cooperate, ran a soundbite from a defense
lawyer who declared that Starr employed "mafia tactics."
-- NBC Nightly News. In the top of the show tease
Tom Brokaw declared: "The White House crisis: the President looks for
a way out. Republicans take a hard line."
Later in the show
David Bloom told viewers the White House will accept anything "short
of impeachment. But the White House also reverted to an old strategy:
blame House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in this case for Republicans' refusal
to cut a deal."
Bloom highlighted former President Carter's
comments, and uniquely added a comment from George Bush: "And two
former Presidents have now weighed in. Jimmy Carter predicting the House
will vote to impeach Mr. Clinton for lying to the grand jury."
Carter: "My own opinion is the President has
not been truthful."
Bloom: "On the Today show this morning Bush
was asked about the impact of he Lewinsky scandal on the presidency."
Bush: "I'm afraid for now it's been
Bloom concluded by outlining, in rhyme, the
"Make no mistake the White House is trying
to engineer a public backlash tonight, hoping that moderate Republicans
break ranks with their more ideological colleagues if the American people
can be convinced the President is humbled and willing to go to the dog
house as long as he can stay here at the White House."
As if on cue, Gwen
Ifill then delivered a story which matched the White House effort to paint
Republicans as unreasonable. After running Gingrich's "cart before
the horse" soundbite, Ifill asserted: "It was as if it were a
call to arms. After weeks of pained silence Democrats suddenly came to
life today, attacking independent counsel Kenneth Starr for concealing
evidence they say, and demanding a speedy end to congressional impeachment
Following a clip of Gephardt denouncing the GOP
for a partisan probe, Ifill picked up: "Senate Democrat John Kerry
says Republican leaders are dangerously off course."
Kerry: "They need to remember this is a
democracy where the people elect the President, not the Congress."
Ifill noted Starr's offer to give Congress any
more documents it wants before concluding with a hit on the House
conservatives for being too extreme:
"Congressional leaders plan to vote in about
two weeks to begin a formal impeachment inquiry, but one Senate Republican
told NBC News today that House Republicans are too shrill and even if they
vote to recommend an impeachment inquiry the Senate will never go
There's just no comparison between this scandal and Watergate,
determined CNN's Bill Schneider on Wednesday's The World Today.
"Then it was about corruption. Now it's just about sex." CNN's
senior political analyst insisted that while "Watergate gave us real
heroes...the heroes of the current White House scandal just don't look
very heroic" and though "Watergate gave us real villains,"
the "villains of the current White House scandal just don't look very
Anchor Joie Chen
introduced the September 23 story: "Some students of scandal compare
the current presidential controversy to Watergate, and found it wanting in
terms of people involved and the principles being contested."
(In the interest
of space I've dropped all the soundbites, which appeared wherever you
"Then there was Archibald Cox, a martyr, and Leon Jaworski, a pro.
They did so much to increase respect for the Office of Independent
Counsel, it got written into law. Now there's Ken Starr whose excesses
make the Office of Independent Counsel look dangerous.
"Then there was Judge John Sirica sending
down legal thunderbolts in a showdown with the White House. Now there's
Judge Norma Holloway Johnson. Competent certainly, but heroic no.
"Then there was Woodward and Bernstein. They
made the press look heroic and inspired a generation of journalists. Now
there's Matt Drudge? And as for the press looking heroic in all this,
forget about it.
"Then there was Senator Howard Baker who
clarified the situation with a simple question....Now there's Senator Joe
Lieberman who complicated the situation with wordy distinctions...
"Then there was Senator Sam Ervin who stood
for the Constitution, not for his party....Now there's Senator Orrin Hatch
whose effort to play the Ervin role has ticked off his party....
"Well, maybe Henry Hyde can bring it off.
Then there was Martha Mitchell, truth teller. Now there's Dick Morris,
"Then there was Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
whose oratory stirred the nation. Now there's Congressman Dan Burton whose
antics embarrass even his GOP colleagues.
"Then there was John Dean whose betrayal of
his boss looked courageous....Now there's Linda Tripp whose betrayal of
her friend looks contemptible....
"Get the point? Watergate gave us real
heroes, but the heroes of the current White House scandal just don't look
What about the villains? Well, let's see. G.
Gordon Liddy was the shadowy villain of Watergate, complete with mustache.
Who's the shadowy villain of Clinton White House? Bruce Lindsey? Nah, too
preppy. Then there was Donald Segretti, the dirty trickster. Now there's
James Carville, the wild warrior....
"Then there was Haldeman and Ehrlichman, the
President's henchmen. Now there's Vernon Jordan, the President's fixer.
Back then, Rosemary Woods did away with the evidence of Watergate. This
time, Betty Currie went to the Watergate to get all of the evidence back.
"Then the country heard audiotapes and was
shocked by the President's language. Now the country sees videotapes and
is impressed by the President's endurance.
"Then the figure at the center of it all was
the unindicted co-conspirator, a scheming and malicious figure who got
caught subverting the Constitution. Now the figure at the center of it all
is the naughty baby boomer, a reckless and irresponsible figure who got
caught with his pants down. Then it was about corruption. Now it's just
"Get the point? Watergate gave us real
villains, but the villains of the current White House scandal just don't
look very villainous. 'History always repeats itself,' a philosopher
once said, and Karl Marx added, 'The first time is tragedy, the second
is farce.' This story will have to be written as a farce. 'All the
President's Women' perhaps or maybe 'There Is Something About
Good Morning America and Today zoomed in on Linda Tripp Wednesday morning
and didn't like what they saw.
After a piece by
ABC's Jackie Judd on how some of Tripp's tapes may not be originals,
co-host Lisa McRee talked with ABC News legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about
Tripp, whom she dubbed "America's worst friend." MRC analyst
Clay Waters caught this diatribe from McRee in the form of a question:
"Well it raises legitimate questions too. If
in fact, these prove to be duplicates of the tapes and the originals are
somewhere else, what was her purpose in making them in the first place.
Was she trying to entrap the President, was it all politically motivated,
which the Democrats would love to prove?"
Over on NBC's
Today, Dan Abrams of Court TV challenged Lucianne Goldberg about Tripp's
taping. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down these leading questions:
"This was a setup from the beginning wasn't
"How can it not be a set up if you're
recording conversations, you're taking notes?"
"Linda Tripp said in a press conference that
she's really just like the rest of us, in essence, but is she
No matter how bad the liberal bias of the news media is in the United
States, American reporters can't compete with Europeans. The MRC's Tim
Graham pointed out to me this passage about the foreign press from a
September 23 Washington Post story by Charles Trueheart on overseas
daily NRC Handelsblad compared independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's
methods to those of the Stasi, the former East Germany's ruthless security
force. And the German daily Berliner Zeitung headlined its story: 'Starr
more successful than Stalin.'"
Ken Starr should
consider canceling any plans he has for a European vacation. -- Brent Baker
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