Donaldson: Press Corps Wants Clinton to Fight; Disgraceful, Unfair & Totalitarian
1) Sam Donaldson disclosed:
"Many reporters who've covered the President all during the
scandal...are almost today beseeching the White House to get out there and
fight" against impeachment.
2) Eleanor Clift charged
Republicans will "disgrace" themselves more than did Clinton if
they impeach. Al Hunt blasted Hyde's committee for mimicking a
totalitarian state. Bob Schieffer warned Hyde that blocking censure will
"leave a sense of unfairness."
3) The public is
overwhelmingly opposed to impeachment, ABC and NBC argued, with stories
featuring "man on the street" clips.
4) Bob Schieffer highlighted
how John Conyers accused the GOP of staging a coup. Peter Jennings offered
an extremist tag for those favoring impeachment: "the more militant
partisans in the party."
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The White House press corps is upset that the Clinton team isn't doing
enough to fight back against impeachment. So revealed ABC's Sam
Donaldson in a report from Jerusalem aired on Sunday's This Week. In
describing how reporters want Clinton "to get out there and
fight," Donaldson ran through three press corps recommendations
resisted by Clinton's staff: Personally lobby Members of Congress,
return early from Israel to fight and make a national TV address on the
broadcast networks, not CNN.
At the top of the
December 13 roundtable Donaldson told Cokie Roberts, Bill Kristol, George
Stephanopoulos and George Will:
"Many reporters who've covered the
President all during the scandal, and who may have been pretty tough on
him, are almost today beseeching the White House to get out there and
fight, or wondering why at least he doesn't. For instance, the President
says he will talk to any of these moderates who want to talk to him, but
he's not going to call them. What's wrong with calling as long as you
don't threaten them or do anything improper? Why not pick up the phone
and say 'sir, can I just at least give you my side of the case?'
"Then there's the question of Tuesday
here. Now there's a reason why President Clinton is here. Sunday, today,
with the Israelis and tomorrow as he promised in the Wye agreement, and
that's one reason the agreement was reached, he's going to address the
Palestinian assembly in Gaza. But Tuesday, he's sightseeing. He's
going to Bethlehem. We'd all like to do that. He's going to Besheba
(sp?), we'd all like to do that. But why not leave after the Gaza
occasion and get back home so you can continue to fight impeachment? Well
they say to us, this is very important. Is it more important than keeping
"And finally to the question of talking to
the American people. Yes he's ((tried it, tried it)) and he hasn't
come forward. But they say they expect and hope that the American people
will rise up now in some fashion and let Henry Hyde and other members of
Congress know that they want a censure motion on the floor. And you might
say the President would address the nation with all of the television
networks because when his people, Mr. Craig, they said, went on Larry King
the other night. Well and good. I like Larry King but he's got a small
audience, no offense. The President, why not go on all the television
networks and reach millions of people and say 'Let me just say that I
need your help.' No they say, there's no plan for that. And that's
why finally, and I now yield the floor, it seems to a lot of us that
he's almost given up."
I guess Clinton
really is the media's guy. The fact that Donaldson thought his
information is innocuous, about how the press corps is on a mission to
save Clinton, shows why journalists are unable to understand complaints
about liberal bias.
[((tried it, tried
it)) is in the double parentheses to note that it sounded like "tried
it, tried it" but I realize that doesn't really make sense. The
remainder of the paragraph is as he said it though the sentence with Craig
in it also doesn't express a complete thought.]
A collection of media wisdom from the weekend: Eleanor Clift and Jay
Carney charged Republicans will "disgrace" themselves more than
did Clinton if they impeach; Steve Roberts was in sync, saying the House
will be "disgraced" by a partisan vote; Al Hunt blasted the
Judiciary Committee for an un-American process better-suited to a
totalitarian state; Cokie Roberts insisted that Republicans should follow
the polls and by not doing so they are "compounding" the problem
of a lack of trust in government; and Bob Schieffer warned Henry Hyde that
preventing a censure vote will "leave a sense of unfairness."
-- The McLaughlin
Group, December 12:
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift: "Frankly, if the
Republicans want to go ahead and do this, I think they disgrace themselves
in a more profound way than President Clinton has by abusing the machinery
of impeachment, knowing full-well that the Senate will hold a sham trial
and they will be in effect delivered of this ridiculous conclusion
they've come to."
Jay Carney, Time
reporter: "I think Eleanor is right at least for those handful of
members who will turn this tide one way or the other. If he is voted out,
or rather impeached next week, he will, it will be because enough
Republicans who were wavering were convinced impeachment is an
inconsequential act. And they will be convinced of that by Tom DeLay and
other Republican leaders who want impeachment as a political bone to give
the social conservatives in the party, the base voters who matter so
-- CNN's Late Edition of December 13:
Steve Roberts of the New York Daily News: "I
think that the Republicans are going to pay a price for this hard line
attitude because Henry Hyde himself said they would never do this along
partisan lines, the House would be disgraced if they did it along partisan
lines, and that's exactly what they're doing."
December 12 Capital Gang:
Al Hunt, Executive Washington Editor of the Wall
Street Journal: "And of course, Kate, the problem with your
obstruction of justice charge is if the committee had brought in the
people who allegedly were involved in that like Betty Currie, why didn't
they interview Betty Currie?"
Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor of National
Review: "Why didn't the President call Betty Currie if he thought
she'd be helpful?"
Hunt: "Because, Kate, that's the way it
works in a totalitarian state."
O'Beirne: "She could have been
Hunt: "In a totalitarian state the innocent
have to prove themselves. That's not the way it works in America. That's
not the way it works in America."
-- ABC's December 13 This Week:
Cokie Roberts, after Bill Kristol lamented how
Democrats have rallied to Clinton's defense despite knowing how he has
stained the presidency: "But you could equally say the Republican
Party has not listened to the will of the people on something that is so
central to where the voters are. I agree with you completely about
polling, but this is one where the voter's minds seems to me do make a
difference because they voted for this guy."
George Will, a
minute later: "For all that conservatives have done to preach
disrespect for government, try to lower confidence in the political class,
nothing the conservative movement has done over the years has matched what
the President has done since January 21st."
Cokie Roberts: "But now the Congress could
be compounding the problem."
-- CBS's Face the Nation for December 13:
Host Bob Schieffer to Henry Hyde: "If
Republicans don't allow Democrats to at least have a vote or a debate on
censure isn't it going to leave a sense of unfairness. Aren't people
going to say they're just trying to cut off the Democrats and this whole
thing is unfair?"
Gloria Borger to White House Chief-of-Staff John Podesta: "Well
Chairman Hyde says he's acting out of what he calls a constitutional
duty. Do you think there's something else going on here? Are they out to
get the President?"
ABC and NBC showcased stories over the weekend either reflecting
bewilderment at public indifference to the GOP's impeachment march or
warning that the Republicans might soon feel the public's wrath for
defying opposition to impeachment.
-- A story on
Friday's World News Tonight opened with this from a radio news
announcer: "Debate will resume shortly on four articles of
impeachment against the President."
ABC's Dean Reynolds picked up: "Dramatic
words to be sure but across the country they seem to be having a less than
dramatic effect....In interviews from New York to California and places in
between there seem to be more impatience with the babbling pundits and the
squabbling Congressmen than outrage over the President's actions."
Man on street: "I think it's a total waste
of the government's time and of the taxpayer's money."
Man: "Well because there are a lot of other
I feel things more important going on that the money needs to be spent on
in my opinion, education for one."
Reynolds: "Many people say they have simply
tuned out even now as the process nears the finish..."
After clips of people for and against
impeachment, Reynolds concluded: "So, as the impeachment train moves
along most of the public, it seems, is not on board."
ended with this plug: "Stay with ABC News this weekend. Saturday: Is
there a disconnect between what Americans want and what the Judiciary
Committee is doing? Watch ABC's World News Tonight/Saturday."
Jumping ahead to
Saturday, World News Tonight ended with the promoted story. Mike von Fremd
began with a lengthy soundbite of Democrat Robert Trexler's "dire
warning" about how a Senate trial will immobilize the country. After
some clips of Americans upset by the GOP push, von Fremd noted that the
cable ratings for the hearings were one-third what OJ generated. Von Fremd
concluded by pointing out that 60 percent opposes impeachment,
"The White House is counting on that 60
percent to get upset about the hearings and give their Congressmen an
earful, but if television ratings are a barometer many who feel the
President should stay have apparently decided to just tune out."
Over on NBC
Nightly News on Saturday, December 12, Rick Davis made ABC seem perfectly
balanced. From New York City he opened his piece with two pro and two
anti-impeachment "man on the street" soundbites. I'll pick up
with the last anti one as that's where the balance ended as Davis used
it to launch his anti-impeachment case.
Man: "Granted he lied but what they're
doing to the country by putting the country through this is like
Davis: "A thought echoed by a Republican
voter in California."
Woman: "I think it's time to call a halt.
I think we're the laughing stock of the world."
Davis: "A tourist in Washington, DC."
Woman: "The man did wrong. He's admitted,
he's apologized. I think that the boys ought to pick up their marbles,
go home, find another game to tell."
Davis: "In the shops and stores in Little
Rock Arkansas many call for punishment, but not impeachment."
Man: "We should move on and censure the
President and be done with it."
Davis concluded: "After long ignoring the
issue of impeachment, many Americans now know the removal of a President
could happen and it's no longer an issue that should be ignored."
Here's a rundown of some noteworthy aspects of Friday to Sunday night
broadcast network coverage of the historic impeachment vote, including the
show openings from Friday night. On Saturday ABC's Charlie Gibson asked
for confirmation that pushing impeachment will hurt Republicans and on CBS
Bob Schieffer highlighted how a liberal accused the GOP of staging a coup.
Friday night Peter Jennings tagged those favoring impeachment as "the
more militant partisans in the party."
December 13 ABC's World News Tonight led with Sam Donaldson on Clinton
in Israel again denying perjury. Karla Davis focused on Henry Hyde
suggesting Clinton resign and how polls back censure but Republicans are
resisting allowing such a choice. Mike von Fremd profiled Ray LaHood of
Peoria who will preside over the House session starting on Thursday. NBC
Nightly News began Sunday with Claire Shipman on Clinton's denial of
perjury. Joe Johns reviewed the Sunday talk shows and Pat Dawson dropped
in on Cedar Rapids Iowa, home of uncommitted Republican Jim Leach. (Golf
meant no CBS Evening News in he east.)
12 all three broadcast network evening showss, including the first World
News Tonight on Saturday since college football started, opened with the
passage less than an hour before of a scaled back version of article 4.
ABC anchor Charlie Gibson asked Cokie
Roberts: "Cokie, are there any Republicans who are worried about what
their party is doing in all of this? A lot of people feel the Republicans
didn't do as well as they might have in the midterm elections because
they were pushing impeachment so hard as yet they continue to push it and
push it and push it?"
CBS Evening News Bob Schieffer highlighted how John Conyers accused
Republicans or orchestrating a coup. Schieffer noted how Republicans
dropped Clinton's executive privilege appeals from the last article,
adding: "Democrats saw that as the only moment of mercy in another
long day of tedious, often repetitive debate which to them was no more
than a railroading of the President."
John Conyers: "This does sometimes to some
people begin to take on the appearance of a coup."
From the White
House Scott Pelley relayed that Clinton's Friday mini-speech failed:
"Today reaction was decidedly negative. Mr. Clinton's refusal to
acknowledge lying under oath antagonized even his supporters."
Friday night, December 11 the cable networks
ended House coverage at about 3:40pm ET to preview Clinton's upcoming
address which all the broadcast networks also showed. That evening the
networks pronounced it unsuccessful. In the evening (6 to 9:30pm ET) CNN
showed the least of the hearing, FNC the most with MSNBC in between.
Just after Clinton
finished up, at about 4:17pm ET, ABC's Cokie Roberts declared that
Clinton didn't go far enough to pick up support from moderates. Peter
Jennings responded by applying an extremist label to those favoring
"And do you find this to be true with many
Democrats as well as Republicans, many moderate Republicans as well as
some of the more militant partisans in the party?"
The networks ran
multiple stories Friday night on the historic House Judiciary Committee
vote (of two articles of impeachment by the time of the east coast feeds).
Here's how each of the three broadcast networks opened their December 11
shows and the thumbs-down assessments of the effectiveness of Clinton's
late afternoon speech:
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
teased: "On World News Tonight this Friday, a remarkable afternoon in
Washington. First the President says again he is sorry for misleading the
Clinton: "I am profoundly sorry for all I
have done wrong in words and deeds."
Jennings: "But Mr. Clinton will not say that
he lied and a few minutes later the House Judiciary Committee votes to
impeach him. It is only the third time in the country's history."
the show: "Good evening. It was remarkable day in Washington, one of
those where were you when days. There is no historic tone to debate in the
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, but they've certainly put
a marker down for historians to debate...."
Clinton's talk changed minds, Cokie Roberts replied: "I don't
think so, Peter. In fact one member said to me it didn't even give
people cover to vote for the President, against impeachment, if they were
looking for that cover."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather's top of the
show tease: "The House Judiciary Committee recommends the impeachment
of the President of the United States. The President makes a new apology
as he fights to stay in office."
Clinton: "I am profoundly sorry for all I
have done wrong in words and deeds."
Rather then opened
the broadcast: "Good evening. History-making and fast-breaking news
tonight that will determine whether the Clinton presidency survives and
will determine much else about the future of country..."
played the entire four-minutes or so long Clinton speech before Scott
Pelley pronounced that it came up short: "He once again refused to
acknowledge the allegations, such as perjury, that do carry real legal
weight and the threat of impeachment. Even some of the President's
Democratic supporters have said that they believe he lied under
oath....the President gave them no relief today..."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw's tease:
"The committee votes. Impeachment will go to the full House.
Meanwhile, a new apology from the President: He'll accept censure but he
won't say he lied."
Brokaw then opened
the show: "Good evening. For only the third time in history, the
House Judiciary Committee has voted to send articles of impeachment
against the President of the United States to the full House, which could
very well send those charges on to the Senate for trial. President Clinton
made a somber appearance outside the Oval Office to say he would accept
censure, but it's what he didn't say that swing members of Congress
are pondering tonight."
David Bloom later
relayed from the White House: "They're hoping that moderate
Republicans are listening. Tonight one of the President's closest
advisers conceded there's an eery silence out there. He said it's
unknowable whether the President will survive next week's House vote.
And these advisers said, more than one of them, you may not have heard the
last word from Mr. Clinton."
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