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CyberAlert -- 12/20/2000 -- As "Rough" on Bush as on Clinton?

As "Rough" on Bush as on Clinton?; Rather Gullible to Clinton Whoppers; More Gore Votes; West Wing to Be "Pain in Ass" to Bush?

1) CNN's Judy Woodruff seriously wondered: "Will Bush have as rough a time" with the media as did Bill Clinton?

2) Dan Rather tossed softballs and questions matching the Democratic spin to Bill Clinton in his 60 Minutes II interview, such as "you say what" to those "convinced that the Supreme Court...voted politics not the law?" Rather didn't bat an eye when Clinton offered whoppers about Whitewater, Tom DeLay, impeachment, Ken Starr...

3) Tuesday night CBS portrayed Bush's AG pick as a measure "of how willing George Bush is to break with conservatives in his effort to govern from the center." NBC allowed a conservative to push a tax cut, highlighted a newspaper's recount which found 130 more net votes for Gore and featured a graphic showing the "Gore margin of victory" in the popular vote.

4) On Today Chris Matthews argued that Bush must give Tom Ridge and Christie Whitman prominent posts and that making Dan Coats Secretary of Defense would be "a disastrous idea. That is just pandering to the far right."

5) West Wing creator/writer Aaron Sorkin on the impact of Bush's victory on his show: "I hope we're a real pain in the ass."


>>> CyberAlert Countdown Calendar to the 1,000th edition. Today's is the 992nd numbered issue since April 1996, so 8 more to go. <<<

1

Question of the day. CNN's Judy Woodruff at 6pm ET Tuesday night plugging an interview with Howard Kurtz in the third half hour of Inside Politics:
"Plus, media coverage of the next President. Will Bush have as rough a time as his predecessor?"

Bush already has received rougher coverage. For Bush, rough coverage came automatically from the media. For Clinton, he had to behave scandalously for any reporters to turn on him and then many of them directed more fire at law enforcers for daring to impugn a President America loved.

2

Dan Rather tossed softballs and questions matching the Democratic spin to Bill Clinton in his interview aired Tuesday night on 60 Minutes II and when Rather did raise uncomfortable topics, Clinton replied with baseless charges against conservatives and historical revisionism, but Rather never cast doubt on any of it.

Instead of pressing Clinton to defend Al Gore's needless prolonging of the election, Rather assumed the Supreme Court had done wrong: "To those who are absolutely convinced that the Supreme Court had a Republican majority and wanted a Republican President and voted politics not the law. As an attorney, and as our President, you say what?"

Asked to recommend a movie for incoming President Bush to see, the outgoing President suggested "High Noon," but Rather didn't burst into laughter when Clinton explained he found it relevant to being President "because Gary Cooper does the right thing, even when people leave him."

Four whoppers asserted by Clinton which elicited no reaction from Rather: a) Impeachment "was like the second big battle of the Gingrich revolution. The first was when they shut the government down. And that was the second one." b) Whitewater: "The biggest bogus issue in modern American politics. Classic, it was a fraud from the get-go, and a lot of the people that were propagating it knew it was a fraud." c) On Tom Delay: "His whole deal about how you should treat your opponents if very different from mine. I just think he's got a total scorch and burn policy....I think he thinks that's the way you're supposed to treat your political opponents. And I just don't agree with that....I never would have sent, I wouldn't let someone from the White House go to a contested state and try to intimidate vote counters. I wouldn't do that. I just don't believe that. That's just not who I am. I don't think, I think that a great country has to have some voluntary restraint on the exercise of authority."

Tell that to the impugned and then fired Travel Office workers or the residents of Western states who keep having their land appropriated by Clinton for national monuments.

And d) Unnamed forces put Ken Starr "in there because Fiske was a fair, balanced man. And he was, the whole thing was going be over before the '96 election and they didn't want that. So they put him in there to drag it out."
Here's a rundown of the interview taped Monday as edited for Tuesday night's 60 Minutes II:

-- Rather: "The country's still in the midst of an almost eight-year boom. The country's at peace. You've had by many measurements, if not most, reasonably successful presidency. Why are we having a Republican President come in behind you?"

-- "To those who are absolutely convinced that the Supreme Court had a Republican majority and wanted a Republican President and voted politics not the law. As an attorney, and as our President, you say what?"
Clinton: "I say when I get out and start teaching constitutional law again I'll tell you exactly what I think about it. But I think [laughter] the case was, the important note there, the five to four vote, there are actually three separate opinions. But the five to four vote, was a vote to stop the vote count."
Rather: "That was the clincher."
Clinton: "Six days before, six days in advance of the Electoral College meeting. And the American people will just have to make their own decisions about it..."

-- Rather: "As one who taught law, as an attorney, were you surprised that this Supreme Court ever took the case?"
Clinton: "Well, let me say, I think most lawyers, or a lot of them were surprised they took the case. Even those that were surprised they took the case were shocked when the vote count was stopped on the Friday."
Rather: "Were you?"
Clinton: "No. No, not after eight years in Washington, I wasn't. They had the power to do it and they did it and it's done. And we should accept it, because the country has to go on."

-- Rather: "Do you agree or disagree, that some of your failures, policy as well as personal failures, in the White House had an impact on Al Gore's losing?"
Clinton: "Yes, to the first, no, to the second. To say that people would hold him responsible for any personal mistake I made is an insult to the American people. I mean, you know, people just aren't that unfair....There are a lot of surveys along toward the end of the campaign that showed that if I could have run again, I'd have done fine...."
-- Rather: "When you look back over your eight years, what's the one thing now that you wish you had known eight years ago?"

-- Rather: "Your finest hour as President?"
Clinton: "That's very, very hard to say. I had a lot of great times, and which I'm grateful. But I think when we prevailed in both houses by one vote on the economic plan in '93, that's what really turned the economy around and made possible so much else that happened..."

-- Rather: "Your darkest hour?"
Clinton: "I had more than one of them, too. Certainly one of them was when those 18 American soldiers were killed in Somalia. It was awful...."

-- Rather: "Impeachment had to be a dark day."
Clinton: "Well, no, by the time they got around to voting, I knew what was gonna happen. And, I didn't, no my darkest day came long before that, when I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm, you know, I did, I made a terrible, personal mistake, which I tried to correct in private. Which then got dragged into public. That was dark for me. By the time they got around to voting on impeachment, I knew what it was. And it didn't have any, you know, I felt that to me, if we could defeat impeachment, it was like the second big battle of the Gingrich revolution. The first was when they shut the government down. And that was the second one. That doesn't mean that I didn't make a terrible mistake. But there were 800 people, including a lot of Republicans who were legal and constitutional scholars, who wrote a letter saying this hadn't, was not an impeachable offense. And shouldn't even be considered. And they all knew that, too. They knew this was, that was a political battle we were involved in and I didn't seek it. I didn't want to fight it. But I was only to happy to take it up because I believe the real purpose of it was to try to weaken me and our side and what we believed in and to strengthen their side, and what they believed in."
Rather: "In that, they succeeded."
Clinton: "Well, I'm not sure they did. In 1998 we won seats in the House of Representatives for the first time since 1822, in the sixth year of a President's term. So I'm not sure they did. It may be that after the fact, that what they did will acquire some historical legitimacy. But what I regret about that, was what I did wrong, not the fact that they impeached me because that was wrong, too."

-- Rather: "Do you expect to be indicted after your, after you leave the presidency by the current independent counsel, the successor to Kenneth Starr?"
Clinton: "Well, that's up to them. You know, we had a bipartisan panel of prosecutors testified in the Congress that no ordinary prosecutor would do such a thing, even think of it. They were five of them that testified to that. And the Republicans in the Congress argued that they didn't have to have an indictable offense, you could impeach somebody for something that you wouldn't indict 'em for...."

-- Rather: "Do you think President Bush will pardon you to keep, possibly prevent an indictment or in case an indictment?"
Clinton: "You know, I haven't given any thought to that. But I doubt it..."

-- Rather: "Let's talk about the economy. The incoming Bush administration is trying to position the economic picture, in the following way: The economy has started downward, maybe towards a recession. 'Whatever happens on the downside, particularly if we have a recession, don't forget, it's the Clinton, Gore administration, not this new, incoming administration.'"

-- Rather, repeating Clinton's assessment of the economy: "Quite a bit of life left in it, you say. Mr. President, with respect, you know as I know that in politics a lot of it is trying to pin the tail on somebody else. This economy goes down even a little, fairly clear, that the tail is going to at least going try to pin the tail on you."

-- Dan Rather: "Let's have some fun. If you could recommend one book that the incoming President, George Bush, read, what would it be?"
Clinton: [laughter] "That's hard. But if it were only one book, I'd probably tell him to read David Herbert Donald's biography of Abraham Lincoln."
Rather: "If you could recommend he see one movie, that you think might help him in his years here, however long they would be, what would that be?"
Clinton: "High Noon, 'cause Gary Cooper does the right thing, even when people leave him. And even though he's scared, he doesn't pretend to be macho. He's scared to death and he does the right thing anyway."

-- After asking about whether Hillary will run for President in 2004 or 2008, Rather inquired: "Now, the First Lady, going to be paid, now go to my notes here, because this figure is a whopping figure, $8 million for her memoirs. What's she going to say about you in that book?"
Clinton: [Laughs] "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know that there's $8 million worth to say, you all know it all already."
"Well, I want to say this respectfully, Mr. President, surely you don't want her writing about Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky and all those things again. Is she likely to do that?"
Clinton: "You ought to ask her. She can write about whatever she wants. I tell you, I bet it'll be a good book."

That ended part one, after an ad break Rather noted how Clinton is "subdued," aware his time in office is almost over. Then the interview resumed with Rather asking Clinton for "first impressions" of names he announced:

-- Rather: "George Bush."
Clinton: "President-elect."
Rather: "Like him?"
Clinton: "I don't know him very well. I like his father very much..."

-- Rather: "Al Gore."
Clinton: "Best Vice President this country ever had, and a partner without whom I could not have been successful as President."

-- Rather: "Newt Gingrich."
Clinton: "A brilliant adversary and a complicated man."

-- Rather: "The National Rifle Association."
Clinton: "An effective adversary, but I think on balance, a negative force. because they're trying to convince their people that what we're trying, that we're trying to do something we're not trying to do: Take everybody's guns away."

-- Rather: "Going on down the list. Janet Reno."
Clinton: "Good woman. Tried really hard to do a good job. She's a good person."

-- Rather: "Your mother."
Clinton: "First thing that comes into my mind? I still miss her every day."

-- Rather: "Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Clinton: "I love her, and I'm really proud of her."

-- Rather: "Chelsea Clinton."
Clinton: "I love her, and I'm really proud of her."
Rather: "You expect her to run for something someday? Run for a public office?"
Clinton: "Oh, Lord. I kind of doubt it. Although, you know, I'm proud of her..."

-- Rather: "Whitewater."
Clinton: "The biggest bogus issue in modern American politics. Classic, it was a fraud from the get-go, and a lot of the people that were propagating it knew it was a fraud. It, and I, you know, in that sense, people will look at this years from now and be amazed that it, that anybody rode it as hard as they did for as long as they did."

-- Rather: "Special prosecutor Ken Starr. Independent counsel."
Clinton: "First title is better than the second. But I don't have any, you know, I don't, he just did what he was supposed to do. I don't have any particularly bad feelings about him."
Rather: "He did what he was supposed to do? What was he supposed to do?"
Clinton: "They put him in there because Fiske was a fair, balanced man. And he was, the whole thing was going be over before the '96 election and they didn't want that. So they put him in there to drag it out and, you know, get a bigger body count. And that's, he just did what he was supposed to do. But I don't really have any, you know, that group, that faction of the Republican Party control those independent counsels, and that's what they did. But I don't have any personal animosity toward him...."

-- Rather: "The Republican leadership on Capitol Hill."
Clinton: "We got a lot done together. And could have gotten more done if they hadn't given their right-wingers veto power from time to time....We had a majority for a patient's bill of rights. We had a majority for an increase in minimum wage. I believe we had a majority for closing the gun show loophole..."

-- Rather: "Tom Delay."
Clinton: "His whole deal about how you should treat your opponents if very different from mine. I just think he's got a total scorch and burn policy, you know. Take 'em out, whatever the cost, whatever you have to do. And he's real nice about it, he smiles, you can have a very cordial conversation with him. I think he really believes that. I think he thinks that's the way you're supposed to treat your political opponents. And I just don't agree with that. And, you know if, for example, I never would have sent, I wouldn't let someone from the White House go to a contested state and try to intimidate vote counters. I wouldn't do that. I just don't believe that. That's just not who I am. I don't think, I think that a great country has to have some voluntary restraint on the exercise of authority. But he's a very able guy. And if you don't stand up to him, he'll run right over you. And so he's a worthy adversary."

-- Rather: "At the end of my list, and you expected it, Monica Lewinsky."
Clinton: "Sad chapter in my life that I wish were not public. But it's in the past, and for her I wish her well. I hope she has a good life."
Rather: "Do you take the responsibility, personal responsibility, full responsibility?"
Clinton: "Absolutely. I did, I did and I do."

Rather wrapped up by asking if Clinton might run for Mayor of New York City or Governor of Arkansas and whether he's been offered a TV job? "No."

For a transcript of the entire interview, go to:
http://cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,258208-412,00.shtml

The transcript has no relation to the order of topics raised in the edited version shown on TV and it contains quite a few errors, but I did catch a gem from Rather which did not make TV. Following up on his question about whether Bush might pardon Clinton, Rather opined: "I mean, there are those who say, 'It'd be a great, unifying thing for the country,' quote, unquote, for him to do that."

3

Noteworthy stuff in Tuesday night broadcast network coverage of Bush meeting separately with Clinton and Gore: CBS's John Roberts proposed that whether Bush picks Marc Racicot or Frank Keating for Attorney General "may be an indication of how willing George Bush is to break with conservatives in his effort to govern from the center" and NBC's David Gregory actually allowed a conservative to suggest the argument for a tax cut is boosted if there's any economic downturn.

Plus, NBC Nightly News highlighted as newsworthy how the Orlando Sentinel did a recount "in conservative Lake County and the net gain for Gore there was 130 votes." NBC also featured a graphic of showing the "Gore margin of victory" in the popular vote.

-- CBS Evening News. John Roberts previewed how Bush was expected to soon name Don Evans as Commerce Secretary, Al Martinez for HUD, Paul O'Neill for Treasury and Tommy Thompson for HHS. Roberts added:
"Sources also tell CBS News that the President-elect may tomorrow name Montana Governor Marc Racicot as Attorney General, a move that would put him at odds with conservatives in the party who are pushing Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating. His final choice may be an indication of how willing George Bush is to break with conservatives in his effort to govern from the center."

-- NBC Nightly News. David Gregory on the Clinton-Bush meeting in the Oval Office: "Behind the smiles and hearty handshake, Bush appears hesitant sitting beside the man he'll succeed, especially when asked whether he'll inherent a recession from Mr. Clinton."
Bush: "I really don't have any comment."
Gregory: "But it's clear he is worried, repeating his concerns in recent days that the economy is slowing down. The President dismisses the idea of a recession, but predicts Bush won't have an easy road."
Clinton: "I think they'll be things to manage, he'll have an economic challenges and you ought to give him a chance to meet them and not try to figure it all out in advance."
Gregory: "In fact, some Bush advisers believe, this may be the best time yet to push his huge $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal."
Daniel Mitchell, Heritage Foundation: "If, and it's a big if, but if we're heading into an economic downturn then this would be a very serendipitous time to reduce marginal tax rates."

Anchor Tom Brokaw set up the next story by noting how the news media and a "conservative advocacy group," Judicial Watch, are doing recounts in Florida. Kerry Sanders concluded the subsequent report: "For those still questioning Florida's official result there is this: The Orlando Sentinel newspaper has already finished its count in conservative Lake County. And the net gain for Gore there was 130 votes, with 66 more counties still be reviewed in this the latest unofficial vote recount."

Going into the first ad break, NBC Nightly News put some numbers of the screen. First, the percent of the vote won:
Gore: 48.4%
Bush: 47.9%

Then, below that, NBC added a graphic headlined "Gore margin of victory" with this line below:
"539,897 (Popular vote)"

4

No matter how anti-Clinton or anti-Gore Chris Matthews may be, it's good to remember that at heart he's a liberal who once toiled for Speaker Tip O'Neil. That sentiment came through clearly in a Monday appearance on Today caught by MRC analyst Paul Smith as Matthews argued that Bush must put Northeastern liberal Republicans into high posts and that making Dan Coats Secretary of Defense would be "a disastrous idea. That is just pandering to the far right."

On the December 18 Today, Katie Couric asked the CNBC/MSNBC Hardball host: "It was interesting to hear Trent Lott on Meet the Press kind of demur when it came to people like Christie Todd Whitman and Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. They're both pro-choice Republicans and he basically said I don't want to see them in certain positions. I sort of assumed he meant secretary, you know, Health and Human Services, things like that where their abortion views might come into play, correct?"
Matthews: "Yeah, smart thinking Trent. The problem is with that thinking and all the guys with the white shoes and the white belts down on Main Street, Jackson is they don't understand that as long as they keep thinking Sun Belt, they're gonna lose Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, every single election. They lost Michigan, they lost Illinois with that kind of thinking. You gotta put pro-choice people in your cotillion or you're gonna have an awful small club down there on Capitol Hill and I think he has gotta put in Christie Todd Whitman somewhere. He's gotta give Tom Ridge Secretary of Defense, some heavy lifting job so that we'll be convinced up north that the Republican Party is interested in carrying the northern suburbs which they got blown away in this past election. They ran behind Dole this last time with that kind of thinking a lot."
Couric: "But Chris, it looks like Dan Coats is going to be the Secretary of Defense."
Matthews: "Well, that's a disastrous idea. That is just pandering to the far right. That is the kind of thing that got the Republican Party the Bible Belt and nothing else."

5

NBC's The West Wing returns tonight with the new episode that was bumped last week to make room for the Gore and Bush speeches. (For those scoring at home, contrary to television guides, Law & Order and Ed are new too tonight.)

And how does the creator/writer of The West Wing feel about Bush's win? A bit angry it sounds like. CyberAlert reader Steve Allen alerted me to what Aaron Sorkin told the syndicated TV show Extra! last week. When asked about the impact of Bush's victory on his show, Sorkin shot back: "I hope we're a real pain in the ass."

I'm sure they will be if Martin Sheen has anything to say about it. -- Brent Baker


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