Dash "Independent"; Starr "Pulled a Clinton"; Starr: "Puritan" or a "Gorilla"
1) Instead of seeing a
possible political dirty trick behind Sam Dash's maneuver, Dan Rather
falsely anointed him "independent" as Tom Brokaw relished
"a stunning new blow to Starr's reputation."
2) Nina Totenberg: Starr
"pulled a Clinton" by not revealing in advance that Dash would
bushwhack him. Evan Thomas: Democrats should have treated Starr as if he
were Joe McCarthy. Eleanor Clift claimed that Republicans made the hearing
3) Debra Dickerson of U.S.
News labeled Sheila Jackson-Lee "Barbara Jordan-esque." To
ABC's Kevin Newman, Starr is either "overly puritan" or a
4) Starr got a half day
bounce: Friday's Today and GMA actually pressed Clinton operatives about
Hubbell's payoffs and why Kendall didn't challenge the evidence about
5) Letterman's "Top Ten
Possible First Lines For Monica Lewinsky's Book."
"The widely respected, independent Sam Dash..." Dan Rather
preposterously declared of the long-time Democrat at the top of Friday's
CBS Evening News. The sudden resignation of Starr's ethics adviser
topped every evening show Friday night and ABC and NBC managed to note his
Democratic affiliation. But not Rather, who spent much of the year tagging
Starr as the "Republican special prosecutor." Minutes after
labeling Dash "independent," Rather summarized a poll result:
"Slightly fewer now say Starr is politically motivated to get the
all the attention on Starr's political motivations and the vast
right-wing conspiracy, CBS never considered the political motivation
behind Dash's very public departure. ABC and NBC only vaguely hinted at
a possible orchestrated political hit on Starr. None of the networks on
Friday night asked why Dash would resign a day after Starr summarized his
official referral to Congress which Dash had approved. In fact, as noted
in the November 19 Washington Post, Dash pushed the misuse of executive
privilege count which became the most controversial: "Dash argued the
President's use of executive privilege was an 'unlawful' abuse of
his office because his intent was to deceive the grand jury."
While the networks
focused on the setback for Starr, "a stunning new blow to Starr's
reputation," as Tom Brokaw put it Friday night, only FNC's David
Shuster picked up on this sentence from Dash's resignation letter:
"My decision to leave has nothing to do with the many unfounded and
misinformed attacks on your conduct."
On Sunday, Charles
Bakaley, Starr's communications aide, appeared on two shows. On NBC's
Meet the Press Tim Russert made him defend Starr's answers to David
Kendall about the OIC's conduct. But on Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume
pressed Bakaley about the ethics of getting $400 an hour and then
violating attorney-client privilege by publicly announcing your
disagreement, as Dash did. Bottom line: Here's some unethical, or at
least not very classy behavior, yet the networks portrayed Dash as a model
of integrity, thus making his attack on Starr all the more damaging.
Here's how the
broadcast networks handled the Dash news on Friday night, November 20:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Peter Jennings opened:
"Good evening. We're going to begin in
Washington tonight where a single lawyer may have done the kind of damage
to the independent counsel Kenneth Starr today that 16 Democratic
Congressmen and the President's lawyer didn't quite manage to do
yesterday. Mr. Starr's ethics adviser, Sam Dash, has resigned his
position in protest. He accuses Mr. Starr of exceeding his authority when
he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday as Mr. Dash put
it, 'an aggressive advocate.' Mr. Dash has standing in the Washington
establishment and today for Democrats in the Congress he was something of
summarized the Dash letter and ran soundbites from Starr and Dash before
noting Dash's history: "Starr hired Dash shortly after being named
independent counsel four years ago. In Dash he found a Democrat with
impeccable credentials as an adviser on ethics who had made his name as
chief counsel to the Senate Watergate committee."
Three sentences from the end of her story Judd
hinted at a bigger story of political pressure: "ABC News has learned
that Dash has been under pressure for some time from Democrats supportive
of the White House to drop Starr in a very public way. The timing of
Dash's sudden resignation is a particular blow to Starr. Whatever ground
he may have gained yesterday may well have been lost today."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began by
"Good evening. A bombshell inside the Ken
Starr camp today. The prosecutor's own chief ethics adviser quit in
protest. The widely respected, independent Sam Dash said Starr quote,
'unlawfully went from fact presenter to impeachment advocate' in his
testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. Starr responded, 'it's a
gentle disagreement with Sam.'"
Scott Pelley ran
clips from Starr and Dash but never gave Dash a Democratic label or raised
the possibility Starr was the victim of a political dirty trick. Pelley
did, however, unlike ABC and NBC, show a bit of the Kendall/Starr
exchanges from Thursday night, observing: "But not once did Kendall
mention the charges against the President."
Next, Rather cited
two CBS News poll results. First, that favorable opinion of Starr had
risen from 18 to 26 percent while his unfavorable rating held at 48
percent. Second, "slightly fewer now say Starr is politically
motivated to get the Clintons" as the percent who called him
"partisan" fell from 62 to 60 percent and the number labeling
him "impartial" grew from 30 to 34 percent.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw started by making
a case for Starr and the Republicans to go away:
"Good evening. In poll after poll and in
other ways the public says it does not want President Clinton impeached.
That issue hurt the Republicans in the elections. Special prosecutor Ken
Starr offered no new smoking guns in his long appearance before the
Judiciary Committee. And then tonight a stunning new blow to Starr's
reputation: his own ethics adviser has quit in protest. That has only
accelerated the unraveling of the impeachment process."
Lisa Myers began by asserting: "It is a
tougher punch than any landed by Democrats during 12 grueling hours of
Unlike ABC and CBS, Myers portrayed Starr as a
victim, relaying how he was "stunned" and "hurt" as
well as how the White House knew in advance:
"Privately, sources say, Starr is stunned,
his prosecutors furious. Dash is just not any adviser. He has special
status because of his role in the last impeachment crisis as Democratic
counsel on the Senate Watergate committee. Dash previously had defended
Starr against what he called unfair attacks. Compounding the hurt, Starr
was caught by surprise when Dash resigned so soon and so dramatically, but
the White House apparently was not. A lawyer involved in daily White House
strategy calls began whispering to the press yesterday morning about a
coming defection on Starr's team..."
Three items I caught on the weekend talk shows from Nina Totenberg, Evan
Thomas and Eleanor Clift: Starr "pulled a Clinton" because he
didn't reveal in advance that Dash would bushwhack him the next day; the
Democrats did poorly because they didn't treat Starr as if he were Joe
McCarthy and plead "Do you have no mercy, sir?"; and
Republicans, not the uncooperative Democrats, made the hearing a circus as
the Democrats reflect the proper diversity and Maxine Waters really nailed
-- Instead of
examining Dash's ethics and timing, NPR's Nina Totenberg blamed Starr.
On Inside Washington all the panelists opened by grading Starr's
performance. Totenberg announced:
"I would give him an A-minus in the sense
that he didn't look like a hydra-headed monster and he kept his cool.
Unfortunately, by the next day, it turned out he pulled a Clinton and he
told the truth but not the whole truth."
Later, she elaborated on her theory of what he
should have done while testifying: "He had the perfect opportunity to
say well we have an honest disagreement but he did what Clinton would have
done. He didn't, he tried to, in the words of my colleague Mr.
Krauthammer, sort of cover it up."
coverups, Starr's led every newscast hours later.
-- The Democrats
were "terrible" because they didn't impugn Starr as a
McCarthyite. Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas declared on
"He looked fine. I thought the Democrats
looked terrible, I mean this was the moment that called for a Joe Welch,
like the guy in the Army McCarthy hearings who said 'have you no
decency, sir.' The Democrats didn't have anybody like that. They
sounded way too prosecutorial and I thought it looked silly."
-- Sounding quite
rational by comparison, on the McLaughlin Group Newsweek's Eleanor Clift
"What stood out to me were those 21
Republicans, with the exception of Mary Bono, all white men. The Democrats
are a diverse group of people who are more representative of America and
who represent the attitudes of most Americans looking at these
hearings. These hearings are a circus and the Republicans are going to
have to...[cut off]"
Pat Buchanan: "Maxine Waters made it a
Clift: "No she didn't. She pointed out
that Ken Starr said a number of times 'I don't recall,' 'I have to
search my memory.' And she pointed out when the President said that Ken
Starr said he was lying."
Black people are rightly proud of the black Democrats on the Judiciary
Committee, contended a U.S. News reporter on Friday's Good Morning
America. Debra Dickerson called Sheila Jackson-Lee's interruptions
"Barbara Jordan-esque." GMA co-host Kevin Newman followed up by
telling P.J. O'Rourke that Starr was either "overly puritan"
or a "ten-ton gorilla." Not a very diverse choice.
exchange from the November 20 GMA caught by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
Newman: "Well, what did they see when they
watched the hearings yesterday?"
Debra Dickerson, U.S. News & World Report
Senior Editor: "I think African-Americans saw two things: They saw
Representative Conyers, Mel Watts, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Representative
Waters, especially Sheila Jackson Lee came off very magisterial and very,
kind of, Barbara Jordan-esque yesterday, and so African-Americans are
really very proud of the way we're conducting ourselves, and we're feeling
very, kind of, heady, the way we came out of the elections, having played
such a pivotal role in Democratic successes. So on the margins of the
national scandal, we see good things. And the other thing we saw yesterday
was, kind of, the latest turn in what they call around the way 'the
c-o-n-spiracy,' you know, the President's exoneration on Filegate and
Travelgate that didn't get mentioned before, so that's the only new thing
and the only real thing that's getting talked about."
Newman: "All right, P.J. [O'Rourke], when
you watched Kenneth Starr, I mean, he's, we didn't know much about him, I
guess. Some people thought he was a person who was, sort of, overly
Puritan. Other people thought he was like a ten-ton gorilla. What did you
think of his performance and the public's impression of him?"
With the notable exception above from GMA, Starr's Thursday testimony
prompted the morning show hosts on Friday to raise topics and press
Democratic guests in a way not done in months in that timeslot.
-- From the
November 20 Today, some inquiries noticed by MRC analyst Mark Drake.
Matt Lauer to White House special counsel Greg
"Mr. Craig, in one hour of cross
examination, David Kendall, the President's lawyer, did not once attack
any of the allegations brought forth by Ken Starr. Why?"
"So is what you are saying that there is no
evidence that Mr. Kendall has that would contradict any of the findings of
Ken Starr's report?"
"Two weeks ago, Henry Hyde, the Chairman of
the Judiciary Committee, sent President Clinton eighty one questions that
he would like answered in relation to the impeachment hearings. The
president has not answered those questions. Why? What's taking so
Lauer to James
"James, let's talk about time and
questions, all right. Henry Hyde has offered President Clinton all the
time he wants to come before this committee and tell his side of the
story. He's also asked him to answer eighty one questions to help the
impeachment hearings along. The President has declined...[Carville
"Why shouldn't the President, James, take
advantage of the invitation to appear before the Judiciary
"Well, wait a second. When you say no one
cares about the evidence -- when you say no one cares about the evidence
-- in that hour that you criticize as being too short, David Kendall had
an opportunity to directly confront the evidence and choose not to. He
confronted Ken Starr instead."
-- Over on ABC's Good Morning America MRC
analyst Jessica Anderson took down these queries about rarely discussed
Kevin Newman to Rep. Martin Meehan
(D-Massachusetts): "But isn't it the President's conduct that is
being questioned here? The President's conduct?...So then why wasn't there
a single question from the Democrats on that issue yesterday?"
Lisa McRee to
former Clinton adviser Rahm Emanuel: "Starr also took the
opportunity, Rahm, to bring up other issues that may not seem like the
centerpiece of his investigation, for example the Webster Hubbell $550,000
paid for what, and he, of course, suggested it was hush money to keep him
quiet about the real estate deal. Is that right?"
"Rahm, can I ask you one question, though,
'cause there's this nagging question about Webb Hubbell. You worked for
the President, can you answer that? Why was Webb Hubbell paid $550,000?
How did he earn that money?"
Well at least Ken
Starr generated half a good news cycle out of his testimony with the
morning shows on one day raising the substantive issues for a change --
before Dash's departure shifted the networks off topic again hours
From the November 20 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Possible First Lines For Monica Lewinsky's Book." Copyright 1998 by
Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. "Even as a baby, my parents
noticed I had an unusual attachment to my pacifier."
9. "'Give me all your hot, intern love,' said the big creep."
8. "It was a dark and windowless corridor."
7. "Dear Penthouse: I never thought I would be writing one of these
6. "I knew someday I'd go down in history."
5. "Like, I hate hate hate hate hate hate Linda Tripp."
4. "Does this font make me look fat?"
3. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times -- na, it was
2. "By the time you read this, I'll be on to my next
1. "Me and my big mouth!"
And, from the Late
Show Web page, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it
into the Top Ten."
-- "I guess it's true. More and more
women ARE enjoying cigars...."
-- "Like, I totally can't believe I have 199 more pages to
-- "'Oh, Bubba,' I moaned."
-- "I hope this book will have a lot of pictures, because I don't
feel like typing all day."
-- "The President was sending me on a top secret mission underneath
-- "His office smelled like KFC."
Another sign that,
much more than Lewinsky, Linda Tripp has became an ogre in popular
culture: The "Late Show Daily Poll"(http://marketing.cbs.com/lateshow/ )
over the weekend: "What was the most surprising element of the new
Star Wars trailer?" The options:
-- "Seeing a two-sided light
-- "The appearance of a young Darth Vader"
-- "Linda Tripp playing the role of Jabba the Hut."
As of Sunday
afternoon, 81 percent picked the last option.
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