Pro-Impeachment "Morons"; Nets Impugn GOP Doubts About Iraq Decision
1) Tom Snyder disparaged House
Republicans as "morons" for saying they are patriots following
"the call of the Constitution."
2) Instead of scrutinizing
Clinton's decision to bomb Iraq, ABC and NBC cast disrepute upon GOP
doubts. Peter Jennings bemoaned how "there was not the traditional
rally around the leader support" as both networks focused on White
3) Geraldo Rivera:
"Republicans in Congress are engaging in conduct that during the war
in Vietnam they called giving aid and comfort to the enemy."
4) Brian Williams, Dan Rather
and Peter Jennings blamed everybody but Clinton for doubts about his
decision. Williams: "Is it the height of cynicism in the '90s that
we are discussing this at all? That anyone doubts the purity of a
President's moment when committing troops in action militarily?"
5) Good Morning America's
hosts peppered guests with questions which assumed Republican reservations
on Iraq were illegitimate.
6) Clinton "turned his
great weakness, that he's about to get impeached," into "a
strength" by creating the element of surprise to "get a jump on
Saddam Hussein." That's Jonathan Alter's spin.
7) Letterman's "Top Ten
Things That Would Get Santa Claus Impeached."
>>> "John Conyers, Jesse
Jackson, and Activist Groups Backed Impeachment for Reagan's Military
Actions: Will Liberals Waive Their War-Powers Stand?" This latest
Media Reality Check fax report is now up on the MRC home page. Introducing
some historical quotes he dug up, the MRC's Tim Graham opens the report:
"Liberal Democrats have insisted that Clinton's perjury and
obstruction is not impeachable. But what will they say today when some
prominent voices against impeachment are on record with a much looser
standard of impeachment for Ronald Reagan, particularly for his failure to
consult Congress before military action? Will they now support an article
of impeachment for Clinton's use of arms without consultation in Iraq, not
to mention Sudan? Will reporters ask about these quotes?" Go to http://www.mrc.org
or directly to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/reality/1998/fax19981217.html
Some name-calling Thursday night from CBS's Tom Snyder on his Late Late
Show. He discussed impeachment with historian Douglas Brinkley and
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift. After Clift complained about how House
Republicans are ignoring public sentiment as they insist on impeachment,
Snyder piped in:
"I love it when these guys say, you know, we
know the American people don't want us to do this but we have to answer
the call of the Constitution because we're great patriots. They're
morons, for God's sake."
ABC's Peter Jennings on Thursday night bemoaned how "there was not
the traditional rally around the leader support that usually results while
American forces are in action overseas." NBC's Gwen Ifill concluded
a story with the Democratic spin on impeachment: "With the nation at
war the question is whether it's even appropriate to act now." ABC
and NBC focused on supposed White House surprise at the
"vehemence" of Republicans who believe Bill Clinton decided to
attack Iraq in order to put off impeachment. None of the networks put the
burden on Clinton for creating the climate of distrust.
Cochran added a story looking at why Republicans don't trust Clinton.
Cochran suggested it's based on pettiness because "he had beaten
them" in the 1995 budget showdown. Both CBS and NBC highlighted poll
numbers showing most think Clinton's decision was not directed by trying
to avoid impeachment.
Minutes before the
end of the 6:30pm ET feed of World News Tonight Peter Jennings went to
Linda Douglass for the breaking news about Bob Livingston admitting
affairs. The 7pm ET editions of the CBS and NBC broadcasts also squeezed
in a mention of the sketchy information. After Douglass, ABC's Cokie
Roberts told Jennings: "I will tell you Peter that someone close to
the White House did tell me a rumor along those lines a couple of weeks
ago and I was shocked to have that person spreading that rumor."
Here are some
highlights from the Thursday, December 17, broadcast network evening shows
which all led with multiple stories on Iraq before they got to
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Following several
Iraq pieces, anchor Peter Jennings implied Clinton is the victim of
"The recent history of the U.S.-Iraqi
relationship suggests that most people in the country believe Saddam
Hussein is certainly a worthwhile target. However, here in Washington
there was not the traditional rally around the leader support that usually
results while American forces are in action overseas. And over there at
the White House tonight Mr. Clinton has to deal with this along with
Sam Donaldson began the subsequent story:
"Peter, the President was expecting criticism from Republicans who
suspect him of manipulating the timing of this military crisis but he and
his aides have been taken aback by the vehemence of some of it..."
Donaldson showed Clinton saying "no serious
person" would think politics impacted his decision and explained how
UN inspector Richard Butler "bristled at the idea" that his
report was timed to help Clinton.
Later in the show
John Cochran portrayed Republicans as sore losers. Cochran began:
"From the start it was clear Republicans were not going to give this
President the benefit of the doubt." Viewers saw several soundbites
of Republicans questioning Clinton's Iraq decision before Cochran delved
into some history to explain the GOP's distrust:
"Long before we ever heard of Monica
Lewinsky Republicans were angry with Clinton because they felt he had lied
to them and because he had beaten them. Remember the budget fight that led
to a partial shutdown of government? Republicans still believe Clinton
conned them and set a trap for them. Now they say he will never con them
Note how Cochran
failed to mention the media's role in aiding Clinton in his effort to
convince Americans the House conservatives were out to cut Medicare and
slash school lunches.
Cochran allowed Republican Congressman Porter
Goss of the intelligence committee to complain about not getting briefed
about Iraq in advance, a distrust of Clinton he contrasted with the rest
of the country: "And yet, go outside Washington and most Americans
find it inconceivable that the President would order airstrikes to gain
nothing more than a short delay in an inevitable impeachment vote."
Following a couple of "man on the
street" soundbites from those who think hitting Iraq was justified
militarily, Cochran actually concluded with a Republican argument:
"To those Americans who still trust Bill Clinton, Republicans have
this to say: We know him better than you do."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather showcased two CBS
News poll results: First, that 79 percent favored the strike on Iraq.
Second, asked "Clinton's timing has more to do with..." 61
percent replied "need to respond immediately" while only 26
percent believed "scheduled impeachment vote."
-- NBC Nightly News. Claire Shipman zeroed in on
how Clinton "forcefully denied" any political reason behind his
decision and how Richard Butler denied he timed his report to help
Clinton. She added: "And the White House can take some comfort in an
NBC News overnight poll which shows that 75 percent of Americans approve
of President Clinton's decision to order military strikes. When asked
whether the military action was timed to delay the impeachment vote, 59
percent said no, 27 percent said yes."
Shipman stressed how the White House felt
insulted: "Privately, aides are furious that Republicans would
consider impeaching the President in the middle of a military campaign,
but publicly they're avoiding that debate."
minutes later Brokaw introduced a story from Gwen Ifill on the impeachment
debate by acknowledging that Democrats want to delay because they
"are looking for any advantage in what they now know is a losing
battle." But after running battling soundbites from House members
from both parties and reporting that Republicans decided to start the
floor debate Friday morning, Ifill concluded by echoing the Democratic
spin of the day:
"Lawmakers are no longer debating whether to
vote on impeachment or even how the vote will turn out, but with the
nation at war the question is whether it's even appropriate to act
Opening Thursday's Upfront Tonight on CNBC Geraldo Rivera charged:
"As salvo after salvo of cruise missiles
continue to punish Iraq, Republicans in Congress are engaging in conduct
that during the war in Vietnam they called giving aid and comfort to the
Trent Lott: "The responsible thing for a
number of us, including me, to say when I think that the policy or the
timing is questionable and I have done that."
Rivera: "Although they have backed off from
the most inflammatory language of yesterday they are still pressing for
The night before,
on Wednesday's Rivera Live, he first trotted out this line of attack on
conservatives. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed that he suggested to
Oliver North: "During Vietnam, sir, I believe you would have called
those kinds of criticisms of the Commander-in-Chief treason."
He posed this
leading question to Richard Ben Veniste: "Do you also believe Mr. Ben
Veniste that what has been revealed today is the depth, the profound depth
of the ugly partisan hatred of the President of the United States by his
The attacks on
Clinton from Republicans turned the liberal Rivera into a pro-military
defender of soldiers. Check out this complaint from a depressed-sounding
Rivera: "It crushes me. I hate to be overly melancholy. This whole
process has been so devastating, but to hear it tonight with our troops in
harm's way, the partisan bickering that continues and lies at the very
root of this and has from day one is to me a message for the
Rivera may say it most dramatically, but he reflects the widespread
network media disgust with Republicans for daring to question the purity
of Clinton Iraq decision. Here are three examples of how the networks on
Wednesday night, December 16, distanced themselves from the Republican
-- On MSNBC's
The News with Brian Williams, instead of considering that the
President's decision may not have been pure, Williams blamed
"cynicism" of others for such thoughts in this question at
9:34pm ET to William Bennett, which was caught by MRC analyst Mark Drake:
"By the way, Larry Eagleburger went even a
step further tonight when the Secretary said that, of course, in his view,
politics played a part -- was a component -- in the President's
decision. Is it the height of cynicism in the '90s that we are
discussing this at all? That anyone doubts the purity of a President's
moment when committing troops in action militarily?"
-- At almost the same moment, over on a CBS 48
Hours special, Dan Rather was interviewing Vice President Al Gore. Instead
of pointedly demanding that Gore defend the timing, Rather simply wondered
how "worried" the Clinton team was about how their decision
would be perceived:
"How worried are you that this will be
perceived, whatever was the intention, as an effort by the President and
his administration, including you, to stop the impeachment
Note how, in this
question transcribed for me by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, Clinton's
intentions are not categorized but impeachment is a
-- Gore popped up again in the next hour during a
10pm ET special on ABC. Again, instead of considering Clinton's erratic
policy behavior toward Iraq, Peter Jennings asked Gore:
"Sir, today the President orders an attack
against Iraq, and here in this Capitol and elsewhere, there's an
unusually high degree of suspicion about the timing. What accounts for
The next question from Jennings: "The
incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives was fulsome in his praise
tonight about American forces in the region, but he studiously avoided
mentioning support for President Clinton. How do you interpret that?"
Finally, Jennings tossed this softball which cast
the Clinton team as the victim of unfair political opponents: "So the
partisanship in Washington here tonight must clearly disappoint you."
Good Morning America's hosts peppered guests Thursday morning with
questions which assumed Republican reservations, about the purity of
Clinton's decision-making, were illegitimate. MRC news analyst Jessica
Anderson caught and transcribed a few from the December 17 show:
-- Co-host Lisa
McRee to Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristol: "Bill Kristol,
Trent Lott very publicly skeptical of the timing and the attack itself.
-- McRee to
ABC's Cokie Roberts: "There is a new poll, Cokie, 30 percent feel
he was trying to delay the impeachment vote, but 62 percent of the
Americans believe he felt that what he was doing was right. That
skepticism the Republicans have had, don't they have to keep it under
their hat, or face a backlash?"
-- McRee to
Senator John McCain: "Trent Lott was very publicly skeptical of the
motive and the timing. Is that harmful to your party for him not to be
completely in support of a military operation at this time?"
-- Co-host Kevin
Newman also got into the act, lecturing former Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger: "This is, as I said, such an extraordinary time for a
military campaign. I mean, on the very day that it looked like the
President was about to face impeachment by the House of Representatives,
this military campaign went on. It was also an extraordinarily personal
day in the reaction of some of the Republicans on the Hill. Did you have
to conduct foreign policy in that kind of milieu, when so much, when
there's so much bitterness and so much personal animosity, it seemed,
against the President?"
-- Newman to
Secretary of Defense William Cohen: "You're a former Republican
Senator, sir, and you know that usually when this happens, politics ends
at the water. But yesterday there were several very senior Republicans who
suggested that this was, or questioned the motives of this particular
attack. I'd like to know what your thoughts are about that. Does it
trouble you that there is not the usual support?"
NBC's Today did not follow the same pattern. In fact, Today took the
Republican reaction seriously. Check out these questions from Katie Couric
to Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton:
"Obviously, I know Congressman that you
support this latest military move but are you satisfied it was time for
military efficiency and not political expediency?"
"But Congressman, to play devil's advocate
for a moment. I mean Iraq has been intransigent before. I mean they have
made these moves that have angered the world community before. So why now?
Why not, why didn't we give Saddam Hussein yet another chance this
Other than Today,
the networks Wednesday night and ABC Thursday morning certainly gave
Clinton another chance to appear presidential.
Clinton used impeachment to out-fox Hussein? Thursday's Today offered
the most novel spin of the day, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed in
watching an interview with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.
Co-host Matt Lauer
inquired about Clinton's ability to excel despite adversity: "We've
been talking a lot this morning about questions of the President's
leadership and ability to lead based on the fact that so many are doubting
his motives here. But Jonathan let's flip the coin over and say what does
it say about the President's ability to lead that he can balance these two
major crises at the same time?"
Alter: "Well actually Matt he had three
crises that he was balancing on his trip to the Middle East. He had the
peace process falling apart in the Middle East, he had looming
impeachment, and he the plans for this military attack. So he is very
good, as we know, at compartmentalizing. Not only that Matt but he
actually turned his great weakness, that he's about to get impeached as
President, into a strength. He used that to create the element of surprise
and get a jump on Saddam Hussein who only had less than 24 hours notice
that he was going to get pummeled."
From the December 16 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten
Things That Would Get Santa Claus Impeached." Copyright 1998 by
Worldwide Pants, Inc.
10. Posting naked pictures of his lap on
the world wide web.
9. Skipping his Christmas Eve duties "because it's 'E.R.'
8. The swing he took at his arresting officer on "Cops."
7. Dodging the I.R.S. for decades by spreading rumor that he doesn't
6. Having "improper relationship" with a Furby.
5. During off-season, renting his sleigh to heroin smugglers.
4. Letting Asian businessmen buy their way onto the "nice" list.
3. I could make a joke about candy canes and cigars, but for God's sake,
let's just put this whole sordid mess behind us.
2. His idea of "elves" is just Santa's way of getting around
child labor laws.
1. Turns out he's a Scientologist.
And from the Late
Show Web site, some of "the extra jokes that didn't quite make it
into the Top Ten."
-- The day after Christmas, TVs and VCRs
suspiciously missing at every single house in the world.
-- Illegal betting on "reindeer games."
-- Abuse of power to "see when you are sleeping."
-- Improper relationship with Blitzen.
-- Pressuring Betty Currie to retrieve the gifts he left for Monica.
-- Instead of an old sled, begins traveling around in a new Lexus
purchased by tobacco lobbyists.
-- Feeding subpoenaed documents to Blitzen.
In a few hours I'll be sending a special e-mail
alert to notify you when the Best Notable Quotables of 1998: The Eleventh
Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting is up on our home page.
That should occur at about 12pm ET. -- Brent Baker
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