Middle East Summit Motives Skipped; Nickelodeon: Lying Legally OK
1) ABC, CBS and CNN focused on
the Middle East peace talks at the White House, but ignored Clinton's
ulterior motives. FNC and NBC explored how Clinton trumped up a summit so
he'd look presidential.
2) "Enough Already"
declares the headline over the Newsweek cover story. The subhead: "In
the real world," outside Washington, "people want the Monica
Madness to end." So does Newsweek's Evan Thomas.
3) For Nickelodeon's Clinton
special Linda Ellerbee joined up with a Team Clinton lawyer to tell the
kids that Clinton did not commit perjury, the Starr probe was propelled by
Clinton's enemies and it violates his "zone of privacy." Some
kids had better sense.
Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News, decked out in full rain gear with
hood, from Pascagoula, Mississippi. The other networks anchors stayed
home, but they too opened with a hurricane update. On the political front,
Monday Henry Hyde held a press conference and Clinton met with Benjamin
Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat at the White House. All but ABC, which skipped
Hyde, mentioned both.
NBC and FNC
emphasized questions about whether events really warranted such a
high-profile Middle East summit and if it was really little more than a
staged event to show Clinton being presidential. ABC and CBS noted that
the summit shifted attention from Monicagate, but neither raised doubts
about the legitimacy of the meeting. CNN's Wolf Blitzer didn't even
consider any ulterior motives, delivering a full report just on the
details of the Middle East peace process.
Here are some
highlights from the Monday, September 28 evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. Introducing a piece from Sam Donaldson at the White House
Peter Jennings treated the summit as a straight news story and did not
raise any doubts about Clinton's motivations:
"At the White House today President Clinton
met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Israeli leader Benjamin
Netanyahu. Once again the United States is trying to break a deadlock in
the negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis over land for
"Another of those dramatic scenes in high
diplomacy," Donaldson announced over video of Arafat and Donaldson
walking into the Oval Office "to announce progress toward
Donaldson explained Netanyahu's willingness to
give up more land before letting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
answer a question about why the meeting with the President? The peace
process needs a President's imprimatur, she replied.
Donaldson acknowledged Clinton's political benefit: "You know some
people, Peter, may think that the Middle East peace process is a dull
issue, but it is important. Certainly for the President just now it
provides a welcome change of subject."
-- CBS Evening News. A dry Bob Schieffer anchored
from New York, after Rather handled the hurricane news, and noted that
Hyde said hearings begin Monday on whether to start an impeachment
inquiry. Viewers then saw a clip of Hyde explaining that the only question
is do the allegations merit further investigation.
introduced a report from Scott Pelley: "At the White House today
officials were happy to keep the focus on other matters as the President
met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat. They are trying to get Middle East peace talks going again
and in the White House view it didn't go badly today."
-- CNN's The World Today. Wolf Blitzer ran
through the details of the summit meeting and the four key issues both
sides are working to resolve. After not even hinting at any political
motivations by Clinton, Blitzer concluded by painting Clinton as quite
earnest in propelling another summit in a few weeks: "U.S. officials
say Albright is expected to chair most of the meetings in mid-October, but
President Clinton is setting aside time to participate in many of them.
They say he's determined not to let the Israelis and Palestinians leave
without a deal."
checked in from Capitol Hill, running a clip of Hyde and explaining that
documents, including testimony from Currie and Jordan and transcripts of
the Tripp tapes, will be released Thursday. To satisfy Democrats Hyde,
Franken added, will have a subcommittee hold a hearing to examine what is
an impeachable offense. From the White House John King explained that the
new Clinton public face is back to business, as demonstrated by the
summit, while operatives lobby Democrats to oppose impeachment hearings.
-- FNC Fox Report. Carl Cameron began with
Hyde's denial of partisanship: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman
Henry Hyde lashed out at Democratic critics who accuse him of marching
toward impeachment unfairly." Cameron uniquely noted that Hyde will
give subpoena power to John Conyers before mentioning the special
subcommittee look at what offenses are impeachable. Cameron concluded:
"Senior Democratic leadership sources say now the one thing the
President and congressional Democrats do not want to talk about is the
checked in on the Paula Jones talks and found the attorneys have not
discussed settlement since last week.
Later in the show
Jim Angle provided story on the summit and raised the diversionary aspect:
"....But the talks did not appear to have reached a critical turning
point, which is usually the prerequisite for the President to step in.
That prompted some diplomats to quietly wonder whether Mr. Clinton's
interest was motivated in part by a desire to be seen as a statesman
instead of a President facing impeachment. Asked what required the
President's involvement now, Secretary of State Albright struggled to
find a reason."
Albright: "It was very important I think for
both the leaders to understand the extent to which we are all, and the
President particularly, wants to see a resolution to this."
-- NBC Nightly News. Leading into David Bloom's
summit story Tom Brokaw, unlike the ABC and CBS anchors, stressed the
theatrics: "There is progress to report, and a good bit of stagecraft
Bloom explained that the meeting was
"significant, but it's also clear the White House was only too
happy today to see the President talking about something other than Monica
Bloom later added: "But Mr. Clinton's
direct involvement in today's talks was unusual, given that no
breakthrough is imminent. This afternoon Secretary of State Albright was
pressed to explain the President's role."
Following a soundbite of Albright Bloom uniquely
offered the GOP take: "But some Republicans are skeptical, saying Mr.
Clinton, facing possible impeachment proceedings, is merely trying to look
"Enough Already" declares the headline over the cover story in
the latest Newsweek. The subhead for the October 5 piece by Howard Fineman
pleads: "In the real world, people want the Monica Madness to end. In
Washington, the terrain is trickier. Democrats wish it would all go away;
Republicans want to get Clinton but worry about coming off as sexual witch
hunters. Is there any way out of this mess?"
world" beyond the Beltway to which Newsweek attributes the disgust
with Monicagate may just be a bit closer to home, like inside the
magazine's Washington bureau. On Inside Washington over the weekend, MRC
analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, Washington-based Newsweek Assistant
Managing Editor Evan Thomas displayed his disappointment with Starr's
"Again, I don't think it's so much what
Clinton did as the overkill aspect of this. My, when I was watching the
tape, in the first couple of minutes, you could just see the prosecutors
were going to go overboard on what is a sad, tawdry little thing, that
just doesn't deserve the massive machinery of the Constitution to
Nickelodeon managed to squeeze plenty of Clinton defending and liberal
preaching into its half-hour "Nick News Special Edition: The Clinton
Crisis" aired at 9pm ET Monday night. Produced by Linda Ellerbee's
Lucky Duck Productions, the network veteran co-hosted it with NBC's
Katie Couric who didn't really say too much. CyberAlert normally does
not deal with kids shows, but given the publicity generated by Couric's
involvement and the scandal subject matter I think it's worth reviewing
what the Viacom-owned cable network told kids and parents about the
The guest expert:
lawyer Reid Weingarten, whom Ellerbee simply described as "a
well-respected Washington lawyer who at different times has both
prosecuted and defended public officials accused of crimes."
Democrats affiliated with Clinton that is, but Ellerbee didn't say that.
Weingarten represented former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and I know is
currently serving a prominent donor in the fundraising scandal, though
I'm not sure which one. His allegiances soon became clear.
For these Nick
News shows about ten kids sit around on big pink furniture and share their
feelings with Ellerbee. In this edition the kids often showed more
commonsense than the three adults.
question: "Do you think the media has overplayed this story?"
After asking if
they talked about the scandal in school and with their parents, Ellerbee
inquired: "Do you think this should have been put on the Internet,
the entire Starr report?" The response: a chorus of no's.
suggested that if the President lies in court that may go beyond the
personal to the public's interest, prompting Ellerbee to ask if anyone
knows what perjury is? Thereupon, the impressionable children of America
were treated to this exchange:
Boy Kid: "Perjury is when you lie under
Girl Kid: "Bill Clinton did do
Weingarten: "Well that's not yet been
determined. Clinton's explanation is 'when I testified in my mind I
believed I was telling the truth.' And if that's true, if you believe
that or if a jury one day believes it or if Congress believes it, that he
believed that he was attempting to tell the truth, even if the information
turns out to be incorrect, he's not committed perjury. You need two
things. You need a deliberate lie under oath and what you're lying about
has to be directly connected to what's being investigated."
to tell the truth, even if the information turns out to be incorrect"
and your lie doesn't count if it does not have legal relevance. What a
high standard to set for the next generation.
A bit later
Ellerbee asked Weingarten to explain how and why an independent counsel is
named. She then forwarded another liberal argument: "While all of
this has to do with the law, it also has to do with politics. And there
are some people who will tell you that what's been going on here is the
President's political enemies have been looking for ways to embarrass
The kids responded by saying Clinton probably did
do all he's accused of doing.
if it's hard to trust someone after they've lied. One kid demanded:
"If he can lie, why can't we?" And another asserted that
Clinton's a role model to kids so he should not lie.
condemnation of Clinton was too much for Weingarten, who tried to dissuade
the youths of their moral certainty of how lying is wrong by basically
saying it's okay if it's in your "zone of privacy."
Weingarten insisted: "I think one thing we can't lose sight of is
that one of the principle things about this country that's special, is
that we are everybody, including the President, has the right to privacy.
I think the question here is whether or not anything Bill Clinton did
within the zone of privacy affected his ability to lead this
One step ahead of
the Clintonista, the kids countered that if his personal problems worry
him too much then he won't be able to properly handle his job duties.
Asked if they
might follow Clinton's lead and lie, several kids said they would not
and wouldn't want to get in trouble. Thinking like Clinton, Ellerbee
jumped in: "What if you weren't going to be caught, though?" A
girl replied that lying will "haunt you forever."
pleased Weingarten, who found the high ideals of the kids quite promising.
But the kids
wouldn't make Bob Barr proud. Ellerbee wondered:
"Is there anybody sitting here who thinks that Bill Clinton ought to
be thrown out of office by the process of impeachment? Raise your
hand." None went up.
Couric finally got
a chance to expound a bit as the show ended. What will be Clinton's
legacy in 30 years, asked Ellerbee.
Couric answered by reiterating Weingarten's
insistence that the personal and public be separated:
"Bill Clinton will be considered to be a
decent President who accomplished some things but that he committed
reckless indiscretion that showed that like many of us he's a flawed
individual, who made a mistake. And then I think you'll see that there
are two distinct sides of Bill Clinton: the public and the private and
once again people can debate about whether one really has to do with the
Nickelodeon's lesson to America's kids: Clinton's just like
everybody else and it's wrong to condemn his lies because they occurred
in his "private zone." I wonder how many kids can get away with
that reasoning with their parents when they are caught lying. Gee, mom,
I'm just a flawed kid who lies like everybody else and my room is
protected by a "zone of privacy." -- Brent Baker
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