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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
 Friday December 18, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 201) 


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 House anger.

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 <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) 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."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) 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.

     ABC's John 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 impeachment.

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. Following several Iraq pieces, anchor Peter Jennings implied Clinton is the victim of unpatriotic Republicans:
     "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 everything else."
     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 again."

     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."

      A few 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 now."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) 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 enemy. Watch."
     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 impeachment."

     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 political enemies."

     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 generations."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) 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 concerns:

     -- 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 juggernaut?"

     Note how, in this question transcribed for me by MRC analyst Brian Boyd, Clinton's intentions are not categorized but impeachment is a "juggernaut."

     -- 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 that?"
     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."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) 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. Bad form?"

     -- 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?"

     Surprisingly, 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 week?"

     Other than Today, the networks Wednesday night and ABC Thursday morning certainly gave Clinton another chance to appear presidential.


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) 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."


cyberno7.gif (1643 bytes) 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.' night."
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 really exist.
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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