CyberAlert -- 09/03/1996 -- Totenbergs "Doctoring;" Dole v. Clinton on 60 Minutes

Totenberg's "Doctoring;" Dole v. Clinton on 60 Minutes

Two items today:

1) The reporter who publicized Anita Hill's uncorroborated charges against Clarence Thomas expresses doubts about the truth of the charges against Dick Morris, even accuses the New York Post of "doctoring" the photo.

2) Sunday night 60 Minutes gave Bob Dole a chance to respond to Bill Clinton as they had given Clinton time after the Republican convention. But did 60 Minutes give both candidates an equal going over, an equal chance to forward their spins? Compare and contrast.


In 1991 NPR's Nina Totenberg went on the air with Anita Hill's allegations against Clarence Thomas. Hill had no corroboration and no evidence. Now look at Totenberg's sudden concern about the validity of the Dick Morris story in the Star and New York Post. Her story was beyond question, but Totenberg has no problem impugning other media outlets. From this past weekend's Inside Washington TV show:

Gordon Peterson: "Is this just a Dick Morris story, something that's out there. Or will is it going to hurt the President, do you think?"
Nina Totenberg: "I really don't know. On paper it shouldn't hurt him. This is about one goofy guy. We don't even know if the story is true. The picture that I saw in the New York Post looks very much like it was doctored. But, one more time, how many people are going to say, 'no, not again. How much sleaze we can take. How many of his rotten, cruddy friends can we take?' So I don't know.
As I said, on paper it shouldn't, but who knows."


Dan Rather challenged Bill Clinton on taxes and made Clinton answer the "character question" charge once in his August 18 60 Minutes interview, but he also set him up with questions about Dole being too old, asked if Dole's been captured by extremists and sympathized with Clinton being the subject of so many GOP attacks.
Read through Rather's questions to Clinton and then compare them to how Lesley Stahl treated Bob Dole Sunday night. This is long, but I don't know how to cut it down and still convey the full sense of each interview.

From August 18:

Morley Safer's introduction: "It's been a long time since one political party jumped on, really stomped on, a sitting President the way the Republicans did last week in San Diego. This afternoon Dan Rather sat down with President Clinton in the White House and looked at the rough political week that was." [Anyone remember Ann Richards and "silver foot in his mouth"?]

Now here are Rather's questions:

-- Dan Rather: "Mr. President, again, happy birthday. How are you feeling crossing 50?"
-- Rather: "Let's talk politics. You're 50, Bob Dole is 73. Is he too old to be President?"
-- Rather: "Some of your staff members, not by name, have been saying, 'yes the President thinks Bob Dole is a nice person and has been a pretty good leader in some ways, but, say they, he's been captured by the extremists in the Republican Party, the radical part of the Republican Party, including Newt Gingrich. Is that what you think?"
-- Rather: "Now, you said you didn't see the Republican convention, here are some of the things that they were saying about you. Senator Dole said,
[Dole: "It is demeaning that to the nation, that within the Clinton administration, a core of elites who never grew up, did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, and never learned, should have power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self serving schemes."]

-- Rather: "Also at the convention, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Senator from Texas,"
[Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson: "Candidate Clinton promised to restore ethics in government, President Clinton put a former bar bouncer in charge of confidential FBI files."]
-- Rather: "You said your hope is it can be fought out on the issues, but one more thing from the convention, then I'll give you a chance to respond to it. As you must know, whether you watched the convention or not, the Republicans fired a number of shots at the First Lady. Some samples. Former President Bush, he said, quote, 'Mrs. Bush upheld the honor of the White House, and she did it with class and style and caring and love.'"
[Bush: "She did with class and style and caring and love. My wife of fifty-one years, Barbara Bush."]
-- Rather: "I don't know of anybody in the convention who didn't take that as a difference of the present First Lady and the former First Lady."
[Clinton, end of answer: ..."And yes she's been a very controversial character. When she tried to deal with the health care issue, I guess it made her more of a target as well."
-- Rather: "Don't you get mad, Mr. President, when this sort of thing happens?
-- Rather: "Let's talk about taxes. You know what the Republicans say. They're saying it almost every hour, on the hour. You can't trust Bill Clinton. If he gets a second term he is going to raise your taxes. Are you prepared here and now to say you won't raise taxes in a second term?"
-- Rather: "But are you willing to pledge you won't raise taxes?"
-- Rather: "The 15 percent tax cut is the heart of their strategy to win, but it is very closely welded to one of their other major themes, and this is basically the way they put it, 'It's his character, stupid.'"

Now, here's the interview of Dole with Lesley Stahl. Note how less time is devoted to letting Dole respond to Democratic attacks. In fact, Jesse Jackson's and Ted Kennedy's attacks aren't ever raised. There's nothing about Clinton going too far left; Dole charges unfairness and Stahl turns it on him to press him about being unfair to Hillary; and Stahl argues with him about his tax plan, contending his anti-tax stand of the 80s was correct.

From the September 1 60 Minutes:

-- Lesley Stahl: "At the Democratic convention a lot of Democrats were saying that Bob Dole is a good and decent man, and even Bill Clinton made a point of saying Bob Dole loves his country. I'm wondering what you think of Bill Clinton. What kind of a man do you think he is?"
-- Stahl: "So you know there was a lot about, the President particularly, a bridge to the past."
-- Stahl: "And I think if you decode that, they're trying to say I'm Bill Clinton and I'm young and vigorous. And that Bob Dole is old and worn out. CBS has polls showing that more than a third of the people think you're too old for the job."
-- Stahl: "But do you think they will try to make something of your age as the campaign moves along?"
-- Stahl: "You made the point that they really did come after you. And I'm going to quote from some things that were said at the convention and have you respond. At the convention, Vice President Al Gore said you opposed just about every good program that's ever come along."
[Al Gore: "He voted against the creation of Medicare, against the creation of Medicaid, against the clean air act, against Head Start, against the Peace Corps in the 60s and Americorps in the 90s. He even voted against the funds to send a man to the Moon."]
-- Stahl: "That's quite a list. Did you really vote against all of those things?"
-- Stahl: "Did you vote against Medicare?"
-- Stahl: "So you feel saying you voted against all of those bills is not true, not fair?"
-- "They say that you were unfair in what you said about Hillary."
[Dole at convention: "It does not take a village to raise a child, it takes a family."]
[Hillary at Democratic convention: "It takes teachers. It takes clergy, it takes business people. It takes community leaders, Yes, it takes a village."]
-- Stahl: "It was a direct answer to you and what you had said, that it doesn't take a village it takes a family. Do you think you were unfair in what you said to her?"
-- Stahl: "You know I've seen some criticism of what you said, because when you were wounded in the war and went home, the community rallied..."
-- Stahl: "Why do you think that Bill Clinton's character is not more of a damaging issue in the campaign?"
Dole says it will be tight race by mid October
-- Stahl: "You think his character will be an issue by then? Should it be an issue"
-- Stahl: "Do you think that they will try, in this sort of subliminal way, without the direct assault, coming around the side, try to make your divorce an issue?"
[Dole: "I wouldn't think so."]
-- Stahl: "Well, let me tell you, this is what I hear from Democrats. It's not direct, but in a reporters ear. You know they say, well, they say, you may think and say what you want to about Bill Clinton, but he stuck with his marriage. Or, you may say what you want about Bill Clinton's character, but you know he's been a pretty good father and that Bob Dole, he wasn't around when his daughter was growing up."
-- Stahl: "But how do you answer that?"
-- Stahl: "What about this latest problem he's having with Dick Morris...What do you think about that? Should that be an issue, should that be something people judge him on?"
-- Stahl: Tracking polls put race at 10 percent gap still, so it "didn't make a ripple, didn't have an effect."
-- "OK, let's talk issues then. Tobacco."
-- "On tobacco, you said you didn't think it was addictive."
-- Stahl: "Then why did you argue that it wasn't addictive?"
-- Stahl: "Let's talk about your tax the convention Bill Clinton said that your tax plan will require"
[Clinton "even bigger cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment."]
-- Stahl: "Medicare, Medicaid education, and the environment. And even after you take those deep cuts, he says, you'll still explode the deficit which will mean higher interest rates and that will mean for the average family."
[Clinton video: "a higher mortgage payment, a higher car payment..."]
-- Stahl: "But he says it will explode the deficit."
-- Stahl: "If you don't do what he said, Medicare, Medicaid, where are you going to cut?"
-- Stahl: "You know what I remember, I remember in the 80s I remember you coming down to the White House to persuade President Reagan that cutting taxes was hurting the country. Because the cutting that he had already done was hurting."
[Dole: "No, what I argued was that you can't just have tax cuts, you had to have spending cuts. That's the difference."]
-- Stahl: "And he wanted to cut taxes some more and you said no, we can't afford it. You said it's going to explode the deficit. I remember this. And you were right it did explode the deficit."
-- Stahl: "Reagan never produced a budget that was balanced."
[Dole: "And I will."]
-- Stahl: "Are you going to deny that you are going to raise taxes. Let's say the deficit does explode. Would you deny that you would ever raise taxes again?"
-- Stahl: "But you know I asked you if you are going to raise taxes and you never really said no."
[Dole: "I'll say no."]
-- Stahl: "You are not going to raise taxes?"
[Dole: "I just said no."]
-- Stahl: "Not period."
-- Stahl, back on the 60 Minutes set: "That's about as close as you get to read my lips."


For those who made it this far, a special bonus: highlights of David Letterman's Monday night "Top Ten Dick Morris Excuses"

6. Misunderstood when President Clinton asked him to "poll some women."
4. For a brief moment got confused and thought he was the President.
2. Used the old formula. Marion Barry + hookers = re-election.
1. Always thought it was okay to screw a taxpayer. -- Brent Baker