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CyberAlert -- 12/14/1998 -- Donaldson: Press Corps Wants Clinton to Fight

Donaldson: Press Corps Wants Clinton to Fight; Disgraceful, Unfair & Totalitarian

1) Sam Donaldson disclosed: "Many reporters who've covered the President all during the scandal...are almost today beseeching the White House to get out there and fight" against impeachment.

2) Eleanor Clift charged Republicans will "disgrace" themselves more than did Clinton if they impeach. Al Hunt blasted Hyde's committee for mimicking a totalitarian state. Bob Schieffer warned Hyde that blocking censure will "leave a sense of unfairness."

3) The public is overwhelmingly opposed to impeachment, ABC and NBC argued, with stories featuring "man on the street" clips.

4) Bob Schieffer highlighted how John Conyers accused the GOP of staging a coup. Peter Jennings offered an extremist tag for those favoring impeachment: "the more militant partisans in the party."


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sam1214.jpg (13203 bytes)cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The White House press corps is upset that the Clinton team isn't doing enough to fight back against impeachment. So revealed ABC's Sam Donaldson in a report from Jerusalem aired on Sunday's This Week. In describing how reporters want Clinton "to get out there and fight," Donaldson ran through three press corps recommendations resisted by Clinton's staff: Personally lobby Members of Congress, return early from Israel to fight and make a national TV address on the broadcast networks, not CNN.

At the top of the December 13 roundtable Donaldson told Cokie Roberts, Bill Kristol, George Stephanopoulos and George Will:
"Many reporters who've covered the President all during the scandal, and who may have been pretty tough on him, are almost today beseeching the White House to get out there and fight, or wondering why at least he doesn't. For instance, the President says he will talk to any of these moderates who want to talk to him, but he's not going to call them. What's wrong with calling as long as you don't threaten them or do anything improper? Why not pick up the phone and say 'sir, can I just at least give you my side of the case?'
"Then there's the question of Tuesday here. Now there's a reason why President Clinton is here. Sunday, today, with the Israelis and tomorrow as he promised in the Wye agreement, and that's one reason the agreement was reached, he's going to address the Palestinian assembly in Gaza. But Tuesday, he's sightseeing. He's going to Bethlehem. We'd all like to do that. He's going to Besheba (sp?), we'd all like to do that. But why not leave after the Gaza occasion and get back home so you can continue to fight impeachment? Well they say to us, this is very important. Is it more important than keeping your seat?
"And finally to the question of talking to the American people. Yes he's ((tried it, tried it)) and he hasn't come forward. But they say they expect and hope that the American people will rise up now in some fashion and let Henry Hyde and other members of Congress know that they want a censure motion on the floor. And you might say the President would address the nation with all of the television networks because when his people, Mr. Craig, they said, went on Larry King the other night. Well and good. I like Larry King but he's got a small audience, no offense. The President, why not go on all the television networks and reach millions of people and say 'Let me just say that I need your help.' No they say, there's no plan for that. And that's why finally, and I now yield the floor, it seems to a lot of us that he's almost given up."

I guess Clinton really is the media's guy. The fact that Donaldson thought his information is innocuous, about how the press corps is on a mission to save Clinton, shows why journalists are unable to understand complaints about liberal bias.

[((tried it, tried it)) is in the double parentheses to note that it sounded like "tried it, tried it" but I realize that doesn't really make sense. The remainder of the paragraph is as he said it though the sentence with Craig in it also doesn't express a complete thought.]

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cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) A collection of media wisdom from the weekend: Eleanor Clift and Jay Carney charged Republicans will "disgrace" themselves more than did Clinton if they impeach; Steve Roberts was in sync, saying the House will be "disgraced" by a partisan vote; Al Hunt blasted the Judiciary Committee for an un-American process better-suited to a totalitarian state; Cokie Roberts insisted that Republicans should follow the polls and by not doing so they are "compounding" the problem of a lack of trust in government; and Bob Schieffer warned Henry Hyde that preventing a censure vote will "leave a sense of unfairness."

-- The McLaughlin Group, December 12:
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift: "Frankly, if the Republicans want to go ahead and do this, I think they disgrace themselves in a more profound way than President Clinton has by abusing the machinery of impeachment, knowing full-well that the Senate will hold a sham trial and they will be in effect delivered of this ridiculous conclusion they've come to."

Jay Carney, Time reporter: "I think Eleanor is right at least for those handful of members who will turn this tide one way or the other. If he is voted out, or rather impeached next week, he will, it will be because enough Republicans who were wavering were convinced impeachment is an inconsequential act. And they will be convinced of that by Tom DeLay and other Republican leaders who want impeachment as a political bone to give the social conservatives in the party, the base voters who matter so much...."


-- CNN's Late Edition of December 13:
Steve Roberts of the New York Daily News: "I think that the Republicans are going to pay a price for this hard line attitude because Henry Hyde himself said they would never do this along partisan lines, the House would be disgraced if they did it along partisan lines, and that's exactly what they're doing."

-- CNN's December 12 Capital Gang:
Al Hunt, Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street Journal: "And of course, Kate, the problem with your obstruction of justice charge is if the committee had brought in the people who allegedly were involved in that like Betty Currie, why didn't they interview Betty Currie?"
Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor of National Review: "Why didn't the President call Betty Currie if he thought she'd be helpful?"
Hunt: "Because, Kate, that's the way it works in a totalitarian state."
O'Beirne: "She could have been called."
Hunt: "In a totalitarian state the innocent have to prove themselves. That's not the way it works in America. That's not the way it works in America."


-- ABC's December 13 This Week:
Cokie Roberts, after Bill Kristol lamented how Democrats have rallied to Clinton's defense despite knowing how he has stained the presidency: "But you could equally say the Republican Party has not listened to the will of the people on something that is so central to where the voters are. I agree with you completely about polling, but this is one where the voter's minds seems to me do make a difference because they voted for this guy."

George Will, a minute later: "For all that conservatives have done to preach disrespect for government, try to lower confidence in the political class, nothing the conservative movement has done over the years has matched what the President has done since January 21st."
Cokie Roberts: "But now the Congress could be compounding the problem."


-- CBS's Face the Nation for December 13:
Host Bob Schieffer to Henry Hyde: "If Republicans don't allow Democrats to at least have a vote or a debate on censure isn't it going to leave a sense of unfairness. Aren't people going to say they're just trying to cut off the Democrats and this whole thing is unfair?"

Later, co-host Gloria Borger to White House Chief-of-Staff John Podesta: "Well Chairman Hyde says he's acting out of what he calls a constitutional duty. Do you think there's something else going on here? Are they out to get the President?"

3

cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) ABC and NBC showcased stories over the weekend either reflecting bewilderment at public indifference to the GOP's impeachment march or warning that the Republicans might soon feel the public's wrath for defying opposition to impeachment.

-- A story on Friday's World News Tonight opened with this from a radio news announcer: "Debate will resume shortly on four articles of impeachment against the President."
ABC's Dean Reynolds picked up: "Dramatic words to be sure but across the country they seem to be having a less than dramatic effect....In interviews from New York to California and places in between there seem to be more impatience with the babbling pundits and the squabbling Congressmen than outrage over the President's actions."
Man on street: "I think it's a total waste of the government's time and of the taxpayer's money."
Reporter "Why?"
Man: "Well because there are a lot of other I feel things more important going on that the money needs to be spent on in my opinion, education for one."
Reynolds: "Many people say they have simply tuned out even now as the process nears the finish..."
After clips of people for and against impeachment, Reynolds concluded: "So, as the impeachment train moves along most of the public, it seems, is not on board."

Friday's show ended with this plug: "Stay with ABC News this weekend. Saturday: Is there a disconnect between what Americans want and what the Judiciary Committee is doing? Watch ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday."

Jumping ahead to Saturday, World News Tonight ended with the promoted story. Mike von Fremd began with a lengthy soundbite of Democrat Robert Trexler's "dire warning" about how a Senate trial will immobilize the country. After some clips of Americans upset by the GOP push, von Fremd noted that the cable ratings for the hearings were one-third what OJ generated. Von Fremd concluded by pointing out that 60 percent opposes impeachment, elaborating:
"The White House is counting on that 60 percent to get upset about the hearings and give their Congressmen an earful, but if television ratings are a barometer many who feel the President should stay have apparently decided to just tune out."

Over on NBC Nightly News on Saturday, December 12, Rick Davis made ABC seem perfectly balanced. From New York City he opened his piece with two pro and two anti-impeachment "man on the street" soundbites. I'll pick up with the last anti one as that's where the balance ended as Davis used it to launch his anti-impeachment case.
Man: "Granted he lied but what they're doing to the country by putting the country through this is like ridiculous."
Davis: "A thought echoed by a Republican voter in California."
Woman: "I think it's time to call a halt. I think we're the laughing stock of the world."
Davis: "A tourist in Washington, DC."
Woman: "The man did wrong. He's admitted, he's apologized. I think that the boys ought to pick up their marbles, go home, find another game to tell."
Davis: "In the shops and stores in Little Rock Arkansas many call for punishment, but not impeachment."
Man: "We should move on and censure the President and be done with it."
Davis concluded: "After long ignoring the issue of impeachment, many Americans now know the removal of a President could happen and it's no longer an issue that should be ignored."

4

cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Here's a rundown of some noteworthy aspects of Friday to Sunday night broadcast network coverage of the historic impeachment vote, including the show openings from Friday night. On Saturday ABC's Charlie Gibson asked for confirmation that pushing impeachment will hurt Republicans and on CBS Bob Schieffer highlighted how a liberal accused the GOP of staging a coup. Friday night Peter Jennings tagged those favoring impeachment as "the more militant partisans in the party."

Sunday night, December 13 ABC's World News Tonight led with Sam Donaldson on Clinton in Israel again denying perjury. Karla Davis focused on Henry Hyde suggesting Clinton resign and how polls back censure but Republicans are resisting allowing such a choice. Mike von Fremd profiled Ray LaHood of Peoria who will preside over the House session starting on Thursday. NBC Nightly News began Sunday with Claire Shipman on Clinton's denial of perjury. Joe Johns reviewed the Sunday talk shows and Pat Dawson dropped in on Cedar Rapids Iowa, home of uncommitted Republican Jim Leach. (Golf meant no CBS Evening News in he east.)

Saturday, December 12 all three broadcast network evening showss, including the first World News Tonight on Saturday since college football started, opened with the passage less than an hour before of a scaled back version of article 4.

ABC anchor Charlie Gibson asked Cokie Roberts: "Cokie, are there any Republicans who are worried about what their party is doing in all of this? A lot of people feel the Republicans didn't do as well as they might have in the midterm elections because they were pushing impeachment so hard as yet they continue to push it and push it and push it?"

On Saturday's CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer highlighted how John Conyers accused Republicans or orchestrating a coup. Schieffer noted how Republicans dropped Clinton's executive privilege appeals from the last article, adding: "Democrats saw that as the only moment of mercy in another long day of tedious, often repetitive debate which to them was no more than a railroading of the President."
John Conyers: "This does sometimes to some people begin to take on the appearance of a coup."

From the White House Scott Pelley relayed that Clinton's Friday mini-speech failed: "Today reaction was decidedly negative. Mr. Clinton's refusal to acknowledge lying under oath antagonized even his supporters."


Friday night, December 11 the cable networks ended House coverage at about 3:40pm ET to preview Clinton's upcoming address which all the broadcast networks also showed. That evening the networks pronounced it unsuccessful. In the evening (6 to 9:30pm ET) CNN showed the least of the hearing, FNC the most with MSNBC in between.

Just after Clinton finished up, at about 4:17pm ET, ABC's Cokie Roberts declared that Clinton didn't go far enough to pick up support from moderates. Peter Jennings responded by applying an extremist label to those favoring impeachment:
"And do you find this to be true with many Democrats as well as Republicans, many moderate Republicans as well as some of the more militant partisans in the party?"

The networks ran multiple stories Friday night on the historic House Judiciary Committee vote (of two articles of impeachment by the time of the east coast feeds). Here's how each of the three broadcast networks opened their December 11 shows and the thumbs-down assessments of the effectiveness of Clinton's late afternoon speech:


-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight this Friday, a remarkable afternoon in Washington. First the President says again he is sorry for misleading the nation."
Clinton: "I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds."
Jennings: "But Mr. Clinton will not say that he lied and a few minutes later the House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach him. It is only the third time in the country's history."

Jennings opened the show: "Good evening. It was remarkable day in Washington, one of those where were you when days. There is no historic tone to debate in the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, but they've certainly put a marker down for historians to debate...."

Asked if Clinton's talk changed minds, Cokie Roberts replied: "I don't think so, Peter. In fact one member said to me it didn't even give people cover to vote for the President, against impeachment, if they were looking for that cover."


-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's top of the show tease: "The House Judiciary Committee recommends the impeachment of the President of the United States. The President makes a new apology as he fights to stay in office."
Clinton: "I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds."

Rather then opened the broadcast: "Good evening. History-making and fast-breaking news tonight that will determine whether the Clinton presidency survives and will determine much else about the future of country..."

CBS uniquely played the entire four-minutes or so long Clinton speech before Scott Pelley pronounced that it came up short: "He once again refused to acknowledge the allegations, such as perjury, that do carry real legal weight and the threat of impeachment. Even some of the President's Democratic supporters have said that they believe he lied under oath....the President gave them no relief today..."


-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's tease: "The committee votes. Impeachment will go to the full House. Meanwhile, a new apology from the President: He'll accept censure but he won't say he lied."

Brokaw then opened the show: "Good evening. For only the third time in history, the House Judiciary Committee has voted to send articles of impeachment against the President of the United States to the full House, which could very well send those charges on to the Senate for trial. President Clinton made a somber appearance outside the Oval Office to say he would accept censure, but it's what he didn't say that swing members of Congress are pondering tonight."

David Bloom later relayed from the White House: "They're hoping that moderate Republicans are listening. Tonight one of the President's closest advisers conceded there's an eery silence out there. He said it's unknowable whether the President will survive next week's House vote. And these advisers said, more than one of them, you may not have heard the last word from Mr. Clinton."


One last reminder: You only have a few more hours to read a collection of the most obnoxiously biased media quotes from 1998 and vote on which ones should win one of our 14 awards for a special Web edition of the "Best Notable Quotables of 1998." Just go to the MRC home page and click on the "Best of NQ" button. Voting is open until 9am ET Tuesday, December 15. -- Brent Baker


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