Clinton "Treated Like a Rock Star"; Vignali Reported; Couric Challenged Lockhart on GOP "Attack Machine"; Bush a "Moron"
1) CBS and NBC led Tuesday night with Bill Clinton's "triumphant" visit to Harlem while congressional investigators pressed the Rich pardon probe. "He was treated like a rock star," ABC anchor Peter Jennings gushed. CBS's Byron Pitts exclaimed: "Today hard-pressed Harlem came alive, and Bill Clinton was in his element."
2) CBS and NBC informed their viewers of the controversy over the Clinton clemency for cocaine trafficker Carlos Vignali, though CBS only gave it two seconds and didn't mention his name. NBC balanced the controversial commutation with a look at a woman without any political connections whom Clinton pardoned.
5) President Bush is a "moron," actor Martin Sheen, who plays the President on NBC's The West Wing, told a British magazine. He conceded that JFK womanizing "made him more substantial and human to me." Sheen also ridiculed the U.S. as he claimed "Alcoholics Anonymous and jazz are the only original things of importance" the U.S. has exported to the world.
The dichotomy of Clinton's warm welcome by Harlem residents and further efforts by congressional investigators to probe the Marc Rich pardon topped the CBS and NBC evening newscasts with multiple stories on Tuesday night while ABC provided a full report.
"He was treated like a rock star," ABC anchor Peter Jennings gushed in trumpeting Clinton's visit to likely office space in Harlem. CBS's Byron Pitts exclaimed: "Today hard-pressed Harlem came alive, and Bill Clinton was in his element." NBC's Tom Brokaw relayed how Clinton "had a triumphant welcome to his new neighborhood in Harlem" while "in Washington more threats of a wider investigation into his pardon of fugitive Marc Rich." ABC's Jennings suggested Bill Clinton has become a victim of disloyal friends as he regretfully asked reporter Jackie Judd about Washington, DC: "There is no measure of loyalty there at the moment is there?"
-- ABC's World News Tonight led with the ongoing
investigation of the submarine accident near Hawaii. Peter Jennings introduced
the show's second story:
Following Judd's report Jennings seemed disappointed by
how Washington has turned its back on Clinton, putting the burden not on
Clinton for abusing his office but on others for not backing him:
"You're back in Washington. There is no measure of loyalty there at the
moment is there?"
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather teased at the top of the show, stressing Bush's comments: "Clinton comes to Harlem. New neighbors swamp the office-hunting former President. And the new President tells Congress: Get off Clinton, get on with life."
Rather opened the newscast, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Good evening. The Republican-controlled Congress today cranked up its investigation of President Clinton's last minute pardon of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier. This included wide ranging congressional subpoenas and letters from Republicans seeking any records on the Rich case. President Bush publicly questioned Congress's move, saying quote, 'It's time to move on.' Mr. Clinton, meanwhile, moved ahead to try to cool criticism of his one-time plan to set up shop, partly at taxpayer expense, in Manhattan New York City office space. He is now scoping out a building about seventy blocks north and much less expensive in the nation's best-known African-American community, Harlem."
Pitts began with Clinton's day of triumph: "Today
hard-pressed Harlem came alive, and Bill Clinton was in his element. Once again
surrounded by supporters and dogged by controversy."
But, Pitts soon warned, "Bill Clinton may be at home
in Harlem, but make no mistake, his political enemies will still haunt him even
here. Late today, long-time Clinton critic and New York's Republican Mayor
Rudy Giuliani pointed out city hall is currently leasing the office space
Clinton wants, and the mayor has the paper to prove it. So even on a clear day
in Harlem, politics and perceptions rained on the former President's
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened the show: "Good evening. It was a day of contrast for Bill Clinton. He had a triumphant welcome to his new neighborhood in Harlem, and in Washington, more threats of a wider investigation into his pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. All of this on a day when Hillary Clinton made her maiden speech as a U.S. Senator."
Catching up with ABC which reported it Sunday night, on Tuesday night CBS and NBC caught up and informed their viewers of the controversy over the Clinton clemency for cocaine trafficker Carlos Vignali. (See the February 13 CyberAlert for details.) CBS only gave it two sentences and didn't even mention Vignali's name while NBC balanced a lengthier exposition on Vignali with a look at a woman without any political connections whom Clinton pardoned.
Late in a CBS Evening News story on the then upcoming Senate hearing Wednesday on the Rich pardon, reporter Phil Jones added: "And the flap over Clinton's last minute pardons and commutations have even ended up embarrassing a high Catholic Church official in Los Angeles. Cardinal Roger Mahoney has issued a letter of apology for writing a letter that ended up freeing a convicted drug dealer who he did not know."
On screen viewers saw this text from Mahoney's letter: "I made a serious mistake in writing the President."
Over on the NBC Nightly News Lisa Myers offered more details about how Clinton also commuted "the sentence of a major cocaine dealer involved in a drug ring stretching halfway across the country. The get out of prison pass for Carlos Vignali enraged the judge and both prosecutors in the case. One calls it a 'backdoor deal rotten.' So how did it happen? Some suspect the influence of campaign money. The dealer's father gave tens of thousands of dollars to local politicians and $10,000 in August to the national Democratic Party. Clinton officials again insist everything was done on the merits, but a former pardon official calls clemency for this dealer 'mind-boggling.'"
After a soundbite from former Justice Department pardon
attorney Margaret Love, Myers continued: "Today, with all this swirling
around her, Hillary Clinton gives her first speech on the Senate floor. And a
Clinton spokesman blames much of the controversy on what he calls the
'Republican attack machine.'"
Following Myers's piece Anne Thompson looked at an example of how the less powerful also got pardons from Clinton. She profiled the case of a Republican women in Illinois who made a "Dream Catcher" for First Lady Hillary Clinton, a piece of Native American art made with feathers strung together, but it included bald eagle feathers. She was convicted of violating wildlife laws and received two years probation and a $1,200 fine, plus had to pay $10,000 in legal fees. Thompson observed: "A middle class housewife who never gave a penny to the Clintons worries the furor over his other pardons might lead Congress to limit what she believes is a just power."
Tuesday morning NBC's Katie Couric actually pressed former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart repeatedly to justify his claim that all of Bill Clinton's problems are caused by "the Republican attack machine." MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens took down her challenging questions on the February 13 Today.
After Lockhart maintained Clinton was surprised by the negative reaction to his choice of a Manhattan office tower, Couric responded: "So you think he was really surprised by the reaction? Can you understand though how people felt it a bit excessive to be spending $800,000 for office space?"
Lockhart blamed "the Republican attack machine" for creating a controversy, but that was too much for even Couric: "It's interesting that you blame 'the Republican attack machine.' Do you blame it for all the President's current problems? For example the controversy surrounding the pardon of Marc Rich?"
Couric went on to wonder: "Joe, I'm just curious who are members of this Republican attack machine?" She also suggested: "But doesn't President Clinton have to take responsibility for some his actions here Joe? After all there's nobody who is defending what he did for Marc Rich?"
CBS and NBC squeezed in mentions Tuesday night about how President Bush insisted Clinton's staff did not loot Air Force One. (On Special Report with Brit Hume FNC's Hume also noted how Bush said the looting never happened.)
On the CBS Evening News John Roberts relayed on the off-camera comment made by Bush to reporters on Air Force One: "Mr. Bush today even moved today to put to bed stories that the former President's staff pilfered crystal champagne glasses off of Air Force One, saying 'the allegations simply are not true.'"
Lisa Myers concluded her NBC Nightly News piece quoted in more detail in item #2 above: "President Clinton did get some help from an unlikely source: his successor. President Bush says reports that the Clintons took items off Air Force One are simply not true and that he thinks it's time to move on."
President Bush is a "moron," actor Martin Sheen, who plays the President on NBC's The West Wing, told a British magazine. He conceded that JFK womanizing "made him more substantial and human to me." As noted by Brit Hume on Tuesday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, Sheen also ridiculed the United States as he claimed "Alcoholics Anonymous and jazz are the only original things of importance" the U.S. has exported to the world. Sheen's comments to Radio Times, a publication about BBC programming, were first brought to light in the states by the Drudge Report: http://www.drudgereport.com. 
Here's an excerpt from a story on the BBC Web site exactly as it appeared -- so with British spelling:
US actor Martin Sheen, who plays the US President in hit series The West Wing, has said he cannot bear politics and that George W Bush is a "moron."
Speaking to the Radio Times, Sheen, 60, said he could not imagine why anyone would want to become president, adding he was bewildered by last year's drawn-out election....
The actor, best known for his role in Apocalypse Now, stars in the fictional White House-based TV series, which recently swept the Emmy awards.
Sheen, a prominent Democrat Party supporter, did not mince his words about the Republican President.
"George W Bush is like a bad comic working the crowd, a moron, if you'll pardon the expression," he said....
He went on to also criticise the US, saying "Alcoholics Anonymous and jazz are the only original things of importance" it has exported to the rest of the world.
But the West Wing star did lavish praise on President John F Kennedy, whom he played in a TV drama in 1983.
"These stories of womanising that unravelled after his death made him more substantial and human to me," he said.
"We idealise our leaders, raise them up so we have the power to knock them down. The American psyche is oddball.
"As soon as a man becomes President, suddenly there's no more original sin -- as if he isn't going to have a sex life."
He also said there was a lot of hypocrisy in politics and he was proud of "fighting it and not giving in."
"I have such an enormous love and respect for him, a heroic man," he said.
"I'm afraid that's a minority view in America, but as time goes by he'll have a different image when we realise his contribution," the actor added.
To read the whole story, go to:
The West Wing airs tonight on NBC at 9pm ET/PT, 8pm CT/MT with Martin Sheen as Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet." -- Brent Baker 
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