"More Ammunition" for the VRWC; Tripp as the "Conniving Villain"
1) Time's Margaret Carlson
regrets that Monica Lewinsky didn't Bobbittize Bill Clinton.
2) "More ammunition"
for Hillary's "vast right-wing conspiracy" charge found by
ABC's Mike von Fremd. ABC's John Cochran argued that even Republicans
know they are "using the scandal as a smokescreen to hide the slow
pace of legislative action."
3) Friday night all the
networks featured the attack on Starr and Tripp by new Clinton counsel
Greg Craig. ABC's Jeffrey Toobin claimed Tripp "comes off as a
conniving and...not a likable person."
4) White House steward Bayani
Nelvis really did have to "clean up" after Clinton's trysts,
just as a withdrawn newspaper story said.
5) Remember when Sidney
Blumenthal blasted Ken Starr for asking about media contacts? Nightline
discovered Starr did no such thing.
6) Wistful memories of 1974
bipartisanship? A reality check from the Washington Post:
"Bipartisanship Eluded Hill in Watergate."
Most Cutting Comment of the Weekend, shall we say. Here's the
"Outrage of the Week" from Time magazine's Margaret Carlson on
CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night:
"Secret Service agents labeled Monica a
stalker but couldn't do anything about it except make her wait at the gate
in the Washington heat. Agent Steve Pape said that by the time she got in
one day, 'It looked like she'd gone a couple of rounds with Muhammad
Ali.' Pape said he wasn't worried about a bomb from Monica, but
something more painful. 'It would be something along the lines of Lorena
Bobbitt if she was going to hurt him,' Pape testified. 'And that I
couldn't stop.' Well, it would have solved a very big problem."
How does she know
how "big" a problem?
Sunday night ABC News highlighted a New York Times story which reporter
Mike von Fremd insisted "has given even more ammunition to the First
Lady's claims that all of this is part of 'a vast right-wing
conspiracy.'" Minutes later ABC worried about how even Republicans
are upset that the scandal has distracted from liberal agenda items, such
as campaign finance reform.
But first, what
the other networks delivered. The Sunday morning shows were fairly quiet,
interrupted only by wacky outbursts by Ross Perot who appeared on both
NBC's Meet the Press and CNN's Late Edition. Sunday night football
displaced the CBS Evening News in the East. Both ABC and NBC led with
Gerald Ford's suggestion in a New York Times op-ed that Clinton be
rebuked in the well of the House. The stories on both networks highlighted
how Republicans oppose the idea while Democrats favor it. NBC Nightly News
followed with a report previewing Monday's Judiciary Committee hearing.
Ford's idea, anchor Carole Simpson noted on ABC's World News Tonight:
"Although he is a Republican, it is the Democrats who are cheering
his suggestion." Reporter Mike von Fremd began: "With the
prospect of impeachment hearings hanging over Washington, President
Clinton's advisers today welcomed a proposal from a former Republican
President to spare the country the painful process..." Von Fremd
proceeded to read excerpts from Ford's piece and soundbites from John
Conyers and Trent Lott.
Jumping from the
op-ed page to the front page, von Fremd then asserted:
"Starr says he first asked for permission to
investigate the Lewinsky matter after learning about it from Linda Tripp.
But the New York Times today reports that one of Starr's lawyers was
actually tipped off earlier by an attorney with ties to Paula Jones's
legal team. The Times says those lawyers are all members of a conservative
legal organization called the Federalist Society that also found an
attorney for Linda Tripp. This has given even more ammunition to the First
Lady's claims that all of this is part of 'a vast right-wing
"This evening the White House released a
statement questioning whether Starr was complete and accurate in
disclosing information to the Attorney General when he sought permission
to expand the investigation into the Lewinsky matter. The White House
statement ends with a paraphrase borrowed from the Watergate era, asking
'what did the independent counsel know and when did it know it?'"
had "ammunition"? I thought it had long ago been discredited. I
guess not by reporters, especially one who would consider this kind of
guilt by association to be evidence.
O'Brien previewed the Monday hearings before John Cochran announced:
"President Clinton claims Republicans are
using the scandal as a smokescreen to hide the slow pace of legislative
action. Well he would say that, wouldn't he? But surprisingly some
Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut: "The
Starr report has effectively shut down the Congress."
Cochran's lead example, a bill promoted by
liberals: "No one seemed to notice when the Senate killed campaign
finance reform. The vote came during the three day period last month when
the Starr report was delivered to Congress and then made public."
Shays, who has regulation of campaign speech as a
pet cause, complained: "I would say that if you don't want
legislation to pass this is the year to be in Congress because you can
kill legislation and if you're voting against what the public wants the
public isn't really going to be aware that you did that."
Cochran offered three more examples of what the
public has lost, the first two of which are liberal causes: "Since
the Lewinsky scandal became public in January congressional initiatives
have slowed to a crawl. First tobacco legislation went no where. Then a
move to reform managed health care bogged down. Now there's a stalemate
over what to do with the budget surplus -- use some of it for tax cuts or
keep all of it in reserve to protect Social Security...."
While both CNN's The World Today and FNC's Fox Report led with and
devoted half their hour-long shows Friday night to the document release,
the broadcast networks held themselves to two reports each and led with
other news. ABC went first with a rise in the unemployment rate.
Clinton's plan for an emergency fund to bail out ailing nations topped
CBS and NBC.
coverage illustrated the imbalanced picture viewers get because the
independent counsel is restricted in what he can say and the networks
don't feel any obligation to find others to counter the White House
spin. CBS and CNN ran full reports on the attack on Starr and Tripp by new
White House special counsel Greg Craig and the other networks all featured
his allegations. On CBS Bill Plante noted that "the President's
defenders...accused the independent counsel of deliberately holding back
evidence favoring the President." NBC's Tom Brokaw declared:
"The latest documents provide a little something for everyone,
including a new claim from the White House that Ken Starr is only out to
get the President."
Cochran highlighted how the White House calls Linda Tripp a
"villain," an assessment ABC's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin
endorsed, charging: "The story of Linda Tripp's betrayal is really
very unappealing and she comes off as a conniving and really not a likable
Contrary to the
official Clinton staff line that nobody knew anything about the
relationship, NBC Gwen Ifill reported that "the Lewinsky relationship
was an open secret on the White House grounds."
Here are some
highlights from the Friday night, October 2, evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. After Betsy Stark looked at unemployment and Sam Donaldson
at Clinton's international monetary plan, anchor Peter Jennings
"In Washington today it was one part
evidence and one part soap opera. The House Judiciary Committee released
nearly 5,000 pages of documents turned over to it by the independent
counsel Kenneth Starr, most anticipated were the transcripts of the phone
conversations between Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky. It is the saga of
John Cochran went
directly to impugning Tripp, beginning his piece: "Transcripts
released today shed new light on Linda Tripp who has insisted she was a
reluctant player in all of this."
Tripp, in July: "I never, ever asked to be
placed in this position."
Cochran: "But during one of the phone
conversations Tripp taped she encourages Monica Lewinsky to insist that
the White House find her a good job. Tripp says, 'one way or another
they can get you a job.'"
Jumping ahead to the wired conversation at the
hotel, Cochran emphasized Tripp as the instigator: "During the
conversation Tripp returns time and again to Jordan, apparently trying to
elicit information about his role."
After reading some tape excerpts, Cochran
continued: "Both Lewinsky and Tripp expressed fear for their lives,
apparently from retribution by unnamed agents of the President. But today
the only action from the White House came from a lawyer accusing Tripp of
Gregory Craig: "It is Linda Tripp who in the
tape recordings she made can be head actively engaging Ms. Lewinsky in
discussions about how both could avoid testifying about Ms. Lewinsky's
relationship with the President."
Cochran concluded: "The White House is now
looking for villains to divert attention from the President's misdeeds,
and it believes it has found a villain: Linda Tripp."
Made a villain
with the help of ABC News.
checked the Currie and Jordan testimony for evidence of obstruction of
justice, concluding: "From the day the Starr report went to Capitol
Hill, Democrats and Republicans have battled over the real strength of the
obstruction of justice charges against the President. The testimony of
Currie and Jordan released today gives each side some more points to work
asked Jeffrey Toobin if he saw anything new in all the documents. ABC's
legal analyst shot back: "Well there is a lot of new detail,
especially as you said for people who regard this as a soap opera. The
story of Linda Tripp's betrayal is really very unappealing and she comes
off as a conniving and really not a likable person. But in terms of the
evidence, what really matters in terms of impeachment, it seems to me
we're very much where we were and I don't think partisans on either
side will gain much ground here."
-- CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer provided an
overview of the Tripp tapes, including how "Lewinsky, at Tripp's
urging, said she had told the President's people she wouldn't cover up
the affair unless she got something in return." Schieffer noted that
both said they feared retribution before he concluded with this
"Reading these transcripts you get the
picture of a young woman under great pressure and torn about what to do.
When she learns that Tripp may reveal the affair she urges her to keep it
secret and says that if she will she will give her her share of a
condominium that she owns in Australia. At other times the conversation
turns downright wacky. Lewinsky is worried that her phone may be tapped
and asks Tripp 'do you hear clicks on the line?' But Tripp reassures
her, 'oh that's just my gum.'"
Next, Bill Plante
checked in from the White House where "the President's defenders
counterattacked aggressively. Today they accused the independent counsel
of deliberately holding back evidence favoring the President."
Following a clip of Greg Craig, Plante gave even
more time to Clinton's spin: "The President's lawyers sent the
Judiciary Committee a 30-page brief arguing that the committee must define
what an impeachable offense is before it votes to authorize an inquiry,
that the conduct described in the Starr report does not constitute an
impeachable offense and that impeachment is justified only for offenses
against the state and not private wrongs."
-- CNN's The World Today opened with an
overview from David Ensor on how the release "contains evidence both
the President's critics and his defenders will be using in the coming
days, though much of it is hardly definitive."
Next, from Capitol
Hill Bob Franken outlined the clash between Democrats and Republicans over
the scope of the hearings. Then Wolf Blitzer checked in: "The White
House quickly went on the offensive again attacking Ken Starr's
allegations as one-sided, salacious and not grounds for
impeachment...." John King followed with a report on Clinton's
fundraising in Ohio and Philadelphia.
CNN then delivered
a series of reports on what the documents showed: Brooks Jackson on the
Tripp tapes, Candy Crowley on how the tapes reveal much "girl
talk" about hair, shopping, clothes and sex, Eileen O'Connor
reviewed Betty Currie's testimony and Charles Bierbauer summarized the
testimony from Vernon Jordan. Finally, co-anchor Joie Chen introduced a
series of soundbites from women tired of the whole matter:
"For some the first response to the latest
release can be summed up in just two words: enough already. A Seattle
radio station, for example, has declared itself a Monica-free zone. And at
a nail salon in Dallas, the reaction is much the same."
-- FNC's Fox Report. Co-anchor Jane Skinner,
referring to the documents, declared: "Included are transcripts of
Linda Tripp's taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky and they don't
put the President in a very favorable light."
David Shuster, as part of his overall review of
the latest evidence, explained Clinton's efforts to frustrate the
investigation. Carl Cameron previewed what will happen at Monday's
committee hearing before Jim Angle focused on the anti-Starr and
anti-Tripp comments from Greg Craig at the White House. FNC finished off
the first half hour with a roundtable of Juan Williams, Dick Morris,
Heather Nauert and Arianna Huffington.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw opened:
"Good evening. Tonight the two major concerns at the Bill Clinton
White House, the contrasting concerns of his presidency. Today the
President and his Treasury Secretary disclosed a major effort to provide
emergency relief for failing economies in Asia and elsewhere. At the same
time his political and legal teams were dealing with the latest load of
documents from the Ken Starr investigation. We'll begin tonight with the
high anxieties in the world of high finance..."
After David Bloom
dealt with Clinton's proposal of an emergency line of credit to poor
nations, Brokaw intoned: "And as we'll hear in these two reports,
the latest documents provide a little something for everyone, including a
new claim from the White House that Ken Starr is only out to get the
Lisa Myers began
by focusing on how Lewinsky and her mother feared White House retaliation.
In a taped talk Lewinsky, Myers reported, urges Tripp to lie and
"warns she could lose her government job is she crosses the
President, even coaches her on the fine art of lying under oath, quote
'I might have but I don't remember. That's the phrase my lawyer told
Myers led into a Craig soundbite by observing
that "the White House charged that Starr's report failed to include
critical facts about Tripp." Myers, unlike ABC's Cochran, concluded
by trying to give the other side: "Still, even without Tripp's
prompting Lewinsky often refers to the President as 'the creep,' calls
him quote, 'the biggest little liar I ever met,' but says she can't
get him out of her heart."
Up next, Gwen
Ifill uniquely stressed: "The new evidence reveals a President intent
on keeping secrets, from his wife, his White House advisers, his closest
friends. But the details also show the Lewinsky relationship was an open
secret on the White House grounds, where one Secret Service agent
testified he bet another officer on how fast the President would beat a
path to the Oval Office to see the woman he described as quote, 'the
President's mistress.' But the President's closest advisers
purposely looked the other way. In his grand jury testimony, Washington
super-lawyer Vernon Jordan says he quote 'didn't want Monica Lewinsky
to tell me anything about her relationship with the President,' but he
said he agrees with the President that sexual relations means sexual
Earlier this year Clintonites and media purists complained about how the
Internet had allowed some newspapers to post unsupported allegations they
had to withdraw hours later. Well, it turns out that one of those stories
was really accurate. Here's a paragraph I came across in an October 3
Washington Post story by Robert Suro about what Secret Service agents told
the grand jury:
"In other Secret Service testimony released
yesterday, two officers said that Bayani Nelvis, a White House steward,
told them of his unhappiness at having to 'clean up' after Clinton's
trysts with Lewinsky, picking up tissues and towels soiled with lipstick
and other substances. The Wall Street Journal, in a story that was widely
discredited by the White House and quickly withdrawn by the newspaper,
reported early this year Nelvis himself had testified about the
Remember when Sidney Blumenthal stepped outside the courthouse and blasted
Ken Starr for improperly focusing on Blumenthal's contacts with
reporters and what he said about Starr's staff? It quickly became a
common point of attack for Starr haters. Well, by reading the grand jury
transcripts Nightline discovered Blumenthal's statement outside does not
quite match what happened inside.
Blumenthal's lack of cooperation, on the October 2 Nightline David
Marash asserted that Blumenthal "visited with his lawyer outside the
grand jury room more often than a classroom of first graders going to the
bathroom. And after his first day's testimony was done, Blumenthal and
his lawyer William McDaniel said this to the news media and the
McDaniel outside courthouse: "Mr. Blumenthal
was hauled down here today in a blatant attempt to intimidate him from
searching out and speaking the truth about Mr. Starr and his
Blumenthal: "Today, I was forced to answer
questions about my conversations, as part of my job, with, and I wrote
this down, the New York Times, CNN, CBS, Time magazine, U.S. News, the New
York Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Observer and there may
have been a few others, I don't remember right now. Ken Starr's
prosecutors demanded to know what I had told reporters and what reporters
had told me about Ken Starr's prosecutors."
Marash then read
from the transcript: "A look at the grand jury transcript shows
prosecutors pressing Blumenthal not about his contacts with the media, but
with the President, the First Lady and other top White House politicos and
about the messages that they wanted Blumenthal to spin into the
Prosecutor: "Has the White House produced
any document like a talking points document relating or referring to the
Monica Lewinsky matter?"
Blumenthal: "I've seen talking points from
the Democratic National Committee."
Prosecutor: "And you received this from the
Prosecutor: "Did you distribute it to anyone
outside the White House?"
Blumenthal: "If reporters called me or I
spoke with reporters I would tell them to call the DNC to get those
talking points, and those included news organizations ranging from CNN,
CBS, ABC, New York Times, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, New York
Observer, Los Angeles Times."
concluded: "So if Blumenthal was telling the truth on the courthouse
steps, he is indeed a remarkable man, capable of quote, 'writing
down,' notes on his own testimony even as he gave it."
Great media institutions think alike: me and the Washington Post. In the
October 1 CyberAlert I observed that in watching the History Channel
replay of the House Watergate hearings, "So far I haven't seen the
often recalled 'bipartisanship' of the era. The majority party wins
and the minority party loses every vote. Just like now, but the parties
Washington Post backed me up, carrying a piece by reporters Guy Gugliotta
and George Lardner Jr. headlined "Bipartisanship Eluded Hill in
Watergate." Here's an excerpt:
It was different during Watergate. House
members used to get along. And when it came time in 1974 to decide whether
to throw President Richard M. Nixon out of office, they resolved their
differences in a spirit of lofty bipartisanship.
It is a nice story, and both Republicans
and Democrats are constantly retelling it as they prepare to open an
impeachment inquiry into President Clinton's activities. But it is
revisionist history, as any glance backward quickly shows. It turns out
that the current and past impeachment proceedings are not so different
when it comes to unseemly grappling between a greedy majority trying to
seem generous and a wheedling minority demanding its "rights."
The difference is that the majority and the
minority have switched places, so when both sides make the same arguments
that their opponents made in 1974, it begins to sound more like
situational ethics than high-minded statesmanship.
Thus the Judiciary Committee's ranking
minority member, John Conyers Jr.(D-Mich.), complained yesterday that the
Republicans were planning an impeachment inquiry that had no time limit
and an unlimited scope. "This cannot be a never-ending fishing
expedition," he said, that commits the country "to a process
that could last months or years -- who knows?"
Rep. Robert McClory (R-Ill.) made the same
plea at a Jan. 31, 1974, meeting, offering an amendment requiring the
Judiciary Committee to finish in three months. "Uppermost in the
minds of the American people, [is] to get this subject resolved one way or
another," he said. Conyers, already a subcommittee chairman at the
time, voted with the Democratic majority to kill the amendment....
Remember this when
today's Judiciary Committee hearing evokes wistful memories from
reporters about the bipartisanship of the Watergate days. -- Brent Baker
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