1) Drunk driving Bush led the morning shows and while all raised questions about the agenda of the leaker, none reported he was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 1998. The Portland TV reporter who broke the story appeared on ABC, CBS and NBC but proved herself deceitful or clueless as she never said his political activity went beyond just being a Democratic convention delegate.
2) ABC's George Stephanopoulos asserted Bush's excuse that he didn't want his daughter to know "doesn't quite pass the smell test." Diane Sawyer contended Bush may be covering up more embarrassing stuff.
3) Katie Couric suggested the disclosure undercut Bush's "trust" argument and urged Democrats to exploit the revelation. She pushed Ed Rendell: "So why don't you think this is legitimate fodder for the campaign given some of the bombshells that the Bush camp has lobbed towards Vice President Gore?" And she propounded to Chris Matthews that Democrats take advantage of the pleasure of the moment.
All three broadcast morning shows led with the news of a George Bush drunk driving arrest 24 years ago with CBS and NBC devoting nearly all of the 7am half hour to it. Questions were raised about the political agenda of the source, but on at least the ET versions of the morning shows none revealed that the lawyer who fed the story was not only a Democratic convention delegate, but was a 1998 Democratic candidate for Governor of Maine.
The AP's Laurie Kellman reported in a 9:53am ET
dispatch this morning:
Erin Fehlau, the WPXT-TV "Fox 51" reporter in Portland who followed through on Connolly's effort and broke the story last night, was interviewed by all three morning shows. If her answers are honest, she also revealed she is beyond clueless as she was unable to recognize a major party candidate for Governor from just two years ago. (Last night on Nightline this reporter covering a courthouse activity was unable to tell Ted Koppel if judges in Maine are elected or appointed.)
Here's a quick rundown of how each show raised or addressed questions of a political agenda behind the story divulged five days before the election, mainly in their interviews with Fehlau.
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson, MRC
analyst Jessica Anderson observed, asked Fehlau via satellite from Maine:
-- CBS's The Early Show. Bill Plante reported: "The Gore campaign was quick to deny last night that it had anything to do with the release of Bush's old police record. They said that the Vice President learned about this for the first time last night."
After a soundbite from Chris Lehane, Gore's press secretary and a Maine native, denying any connection, Plante cautioned: "That of course does not mean that the Gore campaign is not interested in every last little detail of this, they are. And you can bet that below the radar they will be suggesting that this casts doubt on Bush's judgment, because he concealed it."
Jane Clayson raised the Bush camp's charge up front in
her interview with Fehlau, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed: "The Bush camp
says that this is dirty tricks in the final days of this campaign. Did this in
anyway come from the Gore camp?"
Clayson asked what the
arresting officer told her before wondering: "Did you have any
hesitation about this story, about a DUI conviction that's 25, almost 25
years old coming out this close to the election. Did you feel manipulated
in any way?"
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer quizzed Fehlau about whether Bush has reason to be "suspicious of the timing" of the story, if anyone from the Gore campaign or the Democratic Party fed her the story and to confirm that her source was a delegate to the Democratic convention. She denied any Gore/Democratic connection and confirmed he was a delegate, but again failed to point out he had been a Democratic candidate for Governor two years ago.
A bit later, MRC analyst Paul Smith noted, Tim Russert raised questions about the motives of the lawyer. Matt Lauer asked: "Keep in mind this campaign's been going on for more than a year know. We know these candidates. Every investigator, every reporter has been looking into their past. How come no one finds this until this local reporter in Portland, Maine uncovers this?"
Russert speculated: "Well apparently it had been expunged from his record which is a common practice when people do something 24 years ago as been mentioned. Why it came forward? Who is this lawyer? What was his motivation? We don't know. The Gore campaign says they had absolutely nothing to do with this. At the national level certainly there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. It could have been just a matter of happenstance as the reporter says or it could've been a cold calculated attempt by a local lawyer. I don't know if we'll ever know."
I think we know now, now that we know who the lawyer whose identity Fehlau covered up really is.
On Good Morning America Diane Sawyer wondered: "Four days to go, is this going to have any effect?"
George Stephanopoulos replied: "Well, this is the final chapter of the campaign. This is everything now. The question is, is the title 'Dirty Tricks' or 'Secrets and Lies'? We just don't know yet. I mean, as this unfolds over the next few days, will people look at this and say, 'Wait a second. This came from a delegate to the Democratic National Committee and it comes out four days before the election? George W. Bush is a victim.' On the other hand, people can fairly ask, 'Why didn't we know about this before? Why didn't he disclose it?'"
Sawyer followed up: "This is my question to
you. Why not get this out long ago? Twenty-four years ago this happened.
Why not just put it out there early on?"
Sawyer moved on to Cheney: "And his running
mate, Dick Cheney, when he was up for confirmation, in hearings disclosed
that, in fact, when he was in his 20s, had two of these incidents."
In the next segment, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson
noticed, David Gergen wasn't so excited by the disclosure: "Well,
first of all, Diane, the incident itself seems to be wholly irrelevant to
his capacity to govern as President of the United States....He doesn't hit
anyone or anything, he's picked up for driving under the influence and it
happened 24 years ago, and 14 years ago, this fellow gave up drinking all
together. This has nothing to do with how a great republic should choose
The Democratic/Gore reticence to exploit the Bush disclosure upset Katie Couric. She used her interview segments on Friday's Today, MRC analyst Paul Smith informed me, to prod Democrats and suggest Bush is a hypocrite after having made trust an issue.
Couric queried Bill Bennett just past 7:30am about how the disclosure undercuts Bush's "trust" argument: "And yet Mr. Bennett, George Bush his mantra throughout this campaign has been that he trusts the American people. If that in fact is the case why didn't he trust them enough to disclose this information and allow them to put it in the proper context?"
She followed up: "And yet Mr. Bennett, he is not running for father of the year, he is running for President of the United States and when people apply for jobs in the government it is incumbent upon them to disclose this kind of information."
She quizzed DNC Chairman Ed Rendell on why the Gore
campaign won't use the arrest to fight back:
During the 8:30am half hour she demanded of Paul
She then turned to Chris Matthews and inquired: "Do you think the Democrats need to carpe diem when it comes to this drunk driving business?"
Webster's defines "carpe diem" as: "The enjoyment of the pleasure of the moment without concern for the future."
Be back with more later this afternoon. -- Brent Baker
Support the MRC, an educational foundation dependent upon contributions
which make CyberAlert possible, by providing a tax-deductible
donation. Use the secure donations page set up for CyberAlert
readers and subscribers:
>>>To subscribe to CyberAlert, send a
blank e-mail to:
>>>You can learn what has been posted each day on the MRC's Web site by subscribing to the "MRC Web Site News" distributed every weekday afternoon. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, go to: http://www.mrc.org/newsletters.