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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday July 28, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 120)

Shooting Shows Need for Gun Control; Top 10 Post-Impeachment Plans

1) CNN's Greta Van Susteren urged Clinton to defy the subpoena. Clinton wants to delay testimony, making Peter Jennings wonder how much time it takes to "prepare" the truth.

2) If we made it harder to get guns, CBS's Bob Schieffer argued, we wouldn't need so many barricades around buildings.

3) "The Republican Party leadership talks about its big tent...But is there room for diverse opinions on sensitive social issues?" asked CBS News in concentrating on the GOP's abortion rift.

4) Letterman's "Top Ten Bill Clinton Post-Impeachment Plans." Plus nine more that didn't make the cut for Monday's show.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The triple whammy to hit Clinton led every evening show Monday night followed by the latest on the Capitol shooting. ABC, CBS, CNN, FNC and NBC all ran through the same basic facts: how at a secret location in New York City Monica Lewinsky, for the first time, talked directly with Starr staffers; how a federal appeals court, citing his role as a government-paid lawyer, had rejected the attorney-client privilege claim made by Bruce Lindsey; and how though Clinton will not have to appear Tuesday before the grand jury, he has been subpoenaed so his lawyers are trying to work out an arrangement.

     Though they all agreed on those basic facts, each network offered a distinctive fact or spin. ABC's Sam Donaldson revealed that Clinton's lawyers want to delay testimony until September, a bit of information also relayed later by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Starr's team has agreed to allow Clinton to avoid the grand jury and give a videotaped deposition in the White House, FNC's David Shuster asserted. NBC's Lisa Myers concluded that Starr's office has already written much of its report which details "substantial and credible evidence of possible impeachable offenses by the President."

     Enthusiastically acting as Clinton's defense lawyer in the guise of analysis for The World Today, CNN's Greta Van Susteren urged Clinton to defy the subpoena and declared that Lewinsky "would be easy to destroy in terms of credibility. But, unfortunately, in this particular case you can't look at just from a legal standpoint. There are huge political ramifications."

     Here are some Monicagate highlights from the Monday, July 27, evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight led with Jackie Judd's run down of Lewinsky and Lindsey. From Albuquerque Sam Donaldson reported that Clinton's lawyers will argue that his testimony should be put off to September to accommodate planned trips and his vacation:  "So they will say we'd like to do it in September because we need time to prepare. This is a very important case."
     That prompted anchor Peter Jennings to wonder: "Well this may be a cynical approach Sam, but how much preparation do they think would be required to tell the truth as the President said he wanted to at the very beginning?"

     -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather began: "Good evening. Monica Lewinsky is talking -- a lot. The woman at the center of the criminal investigation of President Clinton finally met today with prosecutor Ken Starr's investigators..." Scott Pelley, in Albuquerque, asserted that Lewinsky still may get full immunity if Starr is satisfied with her answers. Amongst the questions, "Prosecutors are asking whether the President encouraged Lewinsky to deny an affair. Lewinsky has said on an FBI recording that he did..."
     Following Pelley, reporter Bill Plante back in DC ran through the court ruling on Lindsey.

     -- CNN's The World Today opened with a live North Lawn standup from Wolf Blitzer with what he dubbed "new information." Specifically, that Lewinsky said she and Clinton had a sexual relationship but she's not willing to say he urged to lie about it. Blitzer suggested that Clinton wants to delay his testimony until September so he can be the last witness and avoid a "perjury trap." Next, Bob Franken looked at Lindsey followed by analysis from Greta Van Susteren and a piece from John King on the political implications and how top Democrats say they won't support a fight over the subpoena.

     Now, back to Susteren. Here's what the CNN legal analyst told anchor Jim Moret about the threat Lewinsky posed to Clinton:
     "Well, you know, it's too bad we can't just look at it in a legal vacuum, Jim, because if this were the only evidence being hurdled in the direction of the President, the President wouldn't have any particular problem. Because, frankly, Monica Lewinsky is the dream of anyone who's ever cross examined a witness on the witness stand. Apparently, on the tape she has bragged about lying; she's made a statement under oath in a written affidavit, saying she never had a sexual relationship. She would be easy to destroy in terms of credibility. But, unfortunately, in this particular case you can't look at just from a legal standpoint. There are huge political ramifications.
     Moret: "Well, Greta, hasn't she, in essence according to Wolf's report, admitted perjury, and if so that's what your talking about as far as the credibility being injured, but what does it do as far as potentially pressuring the President to testify before the grand jury, or in some other capacity?"
     Van Susteren: "Frankly, I think it would put pressure on the President not to testify. I simply do not understand why the President would agree to testify. The grand jury apparently has subpoenaed him, but I would push it to a constitutional showdown for the simple reason: these are unchartered waters. The Supreme Court has never spoken, as to whether a sitting President can be compelled to testify before a federal grand jury. So rather than leave us in sort of a legal limb, why not take it through the court system, let the Supreme Court review all the facts, all the evidence and make a determination whether or not the Separation of Powers doctrine bars a sitting President from having to answer to the subpoena."

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET. David Shuster announced: "Fox News has learned Starr's backing away from the request that President Clinton show up at the grand jury in person. Instead, according to sources, prosecutors are willing to accept a possible videotaped deposition at the White House..." Shuster added that if Clinton and Starr cannot come to an agreement, Starr will not press the issue and will instead just include Clinton's refusal to answer questions in his report to Congress.

     -- NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams declared: "Suddenly, and seemingly out nowhere, there are rapid and major developments to report tonight on the investigation into the President..."
     Lisa Myers relayed that "a source outside Starr's office says Lewinsky told prosecutors that she did indeed have a sexual relationship with the President. That would contradict her original affidavit denying such a relationship. It would also cast doubt on sworn statements by the President."
     Myers concluded: "Tonight Starr seems to be building toward a grand finale around Labor Day. So far no official decision on a report to Congress, but NBC News has learned that at least 300 pages of that report have already been drafted, finding substantial and credible evidence of possible impeachable offenses by the President."

     From the White House Claire Shipman offered an update on negotiations over testimony, reporting: "Sources say if no deal is reached the White House would likely try to paint Starr as an out of control prosecutor and fight the subpoena on constitutional grounds."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) In the July 27 CyberAlert I expressed pleasant surprise that the networks had refrained from using the Capitol shooting as a peg to push gun control. I spoke too soon. I saw Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press, This Week and Late Edition. But I missed Face the Nation and as a couple of CyberAlert readers and MRC news analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer used his final thoughts segment to sermonize about how the shooting demonstrates the need for more gun control.

     So, from the July 26 Face the Nation, Schieffer's commentary as transcribed by Jessica:
     "Finally today, guns don't kill people, people kill people. That little slogan from the gun lobby kept running through my mind when I heard that those Capitol policemen had died. It made me wonder what might have happened if the deranged man who shot them had walked into the Capitol with another kind of weapon, say a baseball bat, or a hammer, or even a knife. My guess is not much would have happened. When a man is wielding a baseball bat, people notice. He might strike one person, but before he could swing at another, people would scream, or duck, or run. But you don't notice a man with a gun in his pocket until it's too late, even in a building like the Capitol, where they have metal detectors, and you can't outrun a bullet. 
     "Maybe it's not guns that kill people, but in this case, it's hard to see how a deranged ne'er-do-well could have killed 2 police officers and wounded a bystander without a gun. Already there's talk, you heard it here this morning, about more security for the Capitol. But if we face up to the hard fact that there are a lot of deranged people out there, and that we need to make it harder for them to get guns, then perhaps we wouldn't need more security around our national shrines. As it is, there are so many barricades, and fences, and police around the White House now, it's beginning to look like the home of some banana republic dictator. It shouldn't be that way in a democracy."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The Republican Party leadership asked a black former Congressman to address a meeting and suggest how the party could attract black voters. Instead of the positive story they wanted the GOP move simply provided CBS with another hook for a story on the party's intolerance.

     For Saturday's CBS Evening News, reporter Jeffrey Kofman showed former U.S. Rep. Floyd Flake addressing a national RNC meeting in New York. Kofman asserted:
     "And so the Republican Party leadership talks about its big tent, meaning there's room for diversity. But is there room for diverse opinions on sensitive social issues? Some Republicans aren't so sure, like Tim Lambert, an RNC member from Texas. He led the campaign last January to cut off funding to any Republican candidate who supports late term abortions. The move was defeated, but the sentiment remains."
     After Lambert explained that anybody can be a Republican but extremists who support partial-birth abortions are not in the mainstream, Kofman continued: "New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman is one of those moderate Republicans conservatives like Lambert have attacked. As Whitman sees it Republicans should be emphasizing education and economic issues."

     Someday it would be nice to see a network story on how the GOP "moderates" show intolerance toward conservatives or whether there is room in the Democratic Party for those who stray from the feminist-left line on abortion.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) From the July 27 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Bill Clinton Post-Impeachment Plans." Copyright 1998 by Worldwide Pants Inc.

10. Spend more quality time with Chelsea and her 13 half-brothers and sisters.
9. A tour of the nation's prisons to improve conditions, visit friends.
8. Step one: appear on "Oprah." Step two: hug Oprah. Step three: all is forgiven.
7. Attend UFO conventions, show off preserved bodies of aliens he smuggled out of the Pentagon.
6. Write book: "The American Presidency: An Oral History."
5. Buy a Hooters franchise.
4. Buy a Burger King franchise.
3. Buy a Hooters franchise.
2. Come to grips with the fact that regular people just can't go around dropping their pants.
1. Trash the dump before Gore moves in.

     The Late Show page on the cbs.com Web site now features "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it into the Top Ten." Here are my favorites of the 20 or so listed, all under the category of "Top Ten Bill Clinton Post-Impeachment Plans."

-- Catch up on eight-year stack of "Penthouses."
-- Search for new outlet to best utilize well developed lying and cheating skills.
-- Continue his work counseling interns.
-- Start eating vanilla cake frosting right out of the can.
-- Stop using fake names in all those personal ads.
-- A crateful of Quarter Pounders, a keg of Bud, the wait staff from Hooters, and the greatest last-ride ever on Air Force One.
-- Writing his autobiography: "The American People Can Kiss My Fat, Pasty Ass."
-- Get to know those Gore girls better.
-- Take little Buddy out three times a day -- also walk the dog.

     To the extent that the topics of Letterman's Top Lists reflect what his staff believe a wide national audience knows enough or cares enough about to understand, Monday's list might be a sign that public interest in Monicagate is on the upswing after a couple of months when many tuned out. This is the first Monicagate-related Top Ten list from Letterman since the "Top Ten Other Executive Privileges" on June 4.  -- Brent Baker

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