Discrediting Judge Nixon Comparison; Hyde: "Rabid" Conservative to "Statesman"
1) ABC raised the case of
Judge Walter Nixon, who was impeached for perjury, but Tim O'Brien
discredited the GOP's comparison by giving more time and arguments to
those who disagree.
2) Tim Russert pressed both
George Mitchell and John Kerry about their vote to impeach Judge Walter
Nixon for perjury.
3) Assessing the House case,
Cokie Roberts was less generous than either Sam Donaldson or even George
Stephanopoulos. And Bob Schieffer announced his opposition to removing
4) ABC couldn't agree
whether Senators "sat in rapt attention" or were
"tired," NBC refused to tag Tom Daschle as "partisan"
when he rejected a GOP overture and demanded if it's "fair of Henry
Hyde to bring in the honor of those who gave their lives" in battle.
5) To MSNBC Times Square
reflects the thinking of America. Henry Hyde used to be considered "a
rabid" conservative, but he's become more of a
"statesman" as he's "almost a moderate Republican."
6) ABC uniquely worried that
"Congressman Bill McCollum delivered the most graphic language yet
heard in the Senate." Check out the two words ABC considered so
7) Geraldo Rivera excitedly
jumped on a survey showing college students don't consider oral sex to
mean they had sex.
Judge Nixon's impeachment finally raised, but only to be undermined. The
House managers on Saturday referred to how the Senate had impeached
federal judges for perjury, including Judge Walter Nixon in 1989. The
broadcast networks all ignored the point Saturday night as did NBC Nightly
News on Sunday night as well. (NFL football pre-empted CBS in the east on
But on Sunday's World News Tonight, ABC reporter Tim O'Brien took it
up only to discredit the comparison. ABC opened on January 17 with a story
by Mike Von Fremd on Clinton preparing for the State of the Union and the
debate over calling witnesses. He began: "President left church this
morning with the First Lady on one hand and his Bible in the
started his story on the judge comparison by noting that Clinton defenders
contend that lying about sex is not sufficient for removal even if all the
charges are true. He then got to the GOP point: "But Republican House
managers pointed out this week that a number of federal judges, most
recently Walter Nixon in Mississippi, had been removed from office for
committing perjury. Republican Senators argued today the standards for
removing Presidents should be no different than for removing judges."
O'Brien played a clip of Phil Gramm on This
Week saying there's only one standard for all federal officials.
O'Brien then launched his counter-argument,
with two soundbites and two additional points made by himself: "But
former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who had voted in favor of
removing Judge Nixon, says removing a President is far different from
removing a federal judge."
Mitchell on Meet the Press said that judges are
not elected by people and elections are sacred.
O'Brien: "Article III of the Constitution
says federal judges shall 'hold their offices during good behavior.'
There is no such requirement in the Constitution for Presidents."
Lanny Davis, outside ABC News: "Judges are
appointed for life. Nobody votes for a judge. If a judge is a drunk you
want to get rid of him and he can't be gotten rid of in an election.
He's got to be gotten rid of through impeachment."
O'Brien concluded: "Presidents, on the
other hand, can be voted out of office and may not serve more than two
full terms. In a preview of what is certain to come this week, the
President's defenders were arguing today that not only does the
Constitution require different standards for removing Presidents than for
removing judges, but also that there are different levels of perjury and
that no one has ever been removed from office for lying about sex."
The Judge Nixon comparison has yet to make it onto NBC Nightly News, but
Tim Russert did raise it twice on Sunday's Meet the Press. On the
January 17 show he pressed guests from both parties with the tough
questions their opposites would want asked. To Republican Congressman Bill
McCollum, for instance, he demanded:
"As you know, many suggest that this is just
politics, that the Republicans have one standard for a Democratic
President as opposed to a Republican President. I refer you back to July
of 1987 when Oliver North had obstructed Congress and you called him an
challenged two Democrats about impeaching a judge for perjury. To former
Senator George Mitchell:
"In 1989 Judge Nixon was impeached by the
Senate. You voted to impeach for making false statements under oath. Do
you believe there should be a lower standard for the removal of a
President than there is for a federal judge?"
To Senator John
Kerry in a subsequent segment:
"Senator Kerry, you voted to remove Judge
Nixon, impeach Judge Nixon, take him from the federal bench for making
false statements under oath. Based on what you know about Bill Clinton,
and what he has testified in the Paula Jones deposition and the grand
jury. A question that has been playing in my mind all day since yesterday
when I first heard it, if Bill Clinton was a federal judge, would you vote
to remove him from the bench, based on what you know?"
Sam Donaldson and George Stephanopoulos to the right of Cokie Roberts? And
Bob Schieffer announced his opposition to removing Clinton. Two more item
from the Sunday morning shows:
-- An exchange
from the roundtable segment of ABC's This Week in which not only is Sam
Donaldson more impressed with the arguments of the House managers than is
Cokie Roberts, but so is George Stephanopoulos.
talking about Judge Nixon: "The question of good behavior does make a
difference to me. The idea that the judges behavior in matters that do not
have to do with their official duties are more evidence of, or more reason
to remove than for a President. There are other ways to remove a
President. In this case he can't run again. So he's not going to be
there anyway. And I do think that that argument is an argument to be
Sam Donaldson: "What about the argument that
no man's above the law argument?"
Roberts: "That is still not a question of
saying that he should be removed from office. Prosecuted, fine."
Donaldson, referring those prosecuted for
perjury: "Then we should let all these people out of jail."
Roberts: "No, he should be prosecuted,
George Stephanopoulos: "Cokie, I agree with
you on the question of judges and I think the White House will probably
site Gerald Ford who in the impeachment of William Douglass said that
there's a big difference, but that does fall apart on obstruction.
It's much harder to argue that obstruction in the case of a President is
not an impeachable offense."
-- Bob Schieffer concluded Sunday's Face the
Nation by revealing the House managers did not convince him:
"Finally, last week the House prosecutors
laid out the case for removing the President. They made a compelling
argument. Still, their argument did not quite do it for me. As despicable
as the President's behavior was, I am not yet convinced it poses a
threat to the Constitution and to me that is the only reason we should
even consider overturning the results of an election."
proceeded to recall how Lindsey Graham "reminded us" that
whether Clinton is removed or not the country will survive and the
constitutional system will work, leading Schieffer to conclude his
remarks: "Bill Clinton set a bad example and will answer to history
for it. But it is not his survival as President that matters the most. It
is the survival of the Constitution."
Then why is
Schieffer so interested in his survival?
Saturday night two ABC reporters couldn't agree whether Senators
"sat in rapt attention" or were "tired" and
"frustrated," only NBC highlighted an uncooperative, partisan
reaction by Tom Daschle to a proposal from Trent Lott, but NBC refused to
tag Daschle as "partisan," and Brian Williams demanded to know
"was it fair of Henry Hyde to bring in the honor of those who gave
their lives" in battle.
-- On the January
16 World News Tonight Linda Douglass summarized the last day of the House
case. At one point she relayed: "Most Senators sat in rapt attention
as the managers focused for the first time on their conviction that Mr.
Clinton must be removed from office."
finished, anchor Aaron Brown asked ABC News legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin,
who spent the day in the Senate gallery, if any minds had been moved.
Toobin answered: "Not really. I was watching the Senators and they
looked like they were faithfully reflection the views of their
constituents. They were tired, they were frustrated, they wanted out. Paul
Wellstone has a bad back. Fritz Hollings was wearing Blues Brothers
sunglasses because he doesn't like the light on his eyes. They want to
get out but no one has a clear route at this point."
-- Gwen Ifill handled the summary of the day for
NBC Nightly News. Unlike ABC and CBS on Saturday night, she did mention
Tom Daschle's rejection of an overture from Trent Lott:
Ifill: "The issue of whether witnesses
should be called, up to and including the President, has split Democrats
Henry Hyde: "We've heard from some
Senators who were against witnesses who are now leaning toward
Ifill: "In an exchange of letters Democratic
leader Tom Daschle rejected Republican Leader Trent Lott's proposal to
work together on witness issues. And lawmakers predicted rough days
Note the lack of
the word "partisan" being applied to Daschle, as it surely would
if Lott had rejected a Daschle idea.
after Ifill, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams interviewed Republican
Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Max Cleland. In a question to
Cleland he suggested Hyde was out of line: "Senator Cleland, was it
fair of Henry Hyde to bring in the honor of those who gave their lives in
Vietnam for United States, in Normandy for the United States, and somehow
tangentially tie them into this Clinton case?"
To MSNBC Times Square reflects the thinking of America and Henry Hyde used
to be considered "as a rabid a conservative you could find" but
he's become more of a "statesman" as he's now considered by
many to be "almost a moderate Republican." Here are two items I
caught during MSNBC's Saturday, January 16 coverage.
-- At 1:43pm ET
during the lunch break, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams announced: "We
are going to fit a break in here and when we come back we're going to
take up the question, once again, do Americans really care about this?
What better place to ask about that than the crossroads of America, Times
Square in New York."
After the break,
from Times Square Lisa Kim checked in: "We've been out here pretty
much all morning and will be this afternoon. People are not really paying
attention to the trial. A lot of people are telling me that they're just
sick and tired of this coverage, that they want this whole deal to end
Kim turned to
"Bill and Robin" supposedly in from Atlanta. Bill offered:
"I think it's been a Republican witch hunt from the
beginning..." Robin agreed.
-- At 2:53pm ET,
immediately after Hyde finished, Williams allowed that Hyde might be an
okay guy now that he's considered relatively moderate:
"You just heard a very emotional summation,
a wrap-up of the arguments, by Henry Hyde, the Chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, the man who is a former Democrat, the legislator from
the state of Illinois, who was once believed, before the current political
climate changed in the country, to be as a rabid a conservative you could
find on Capitol Hill, rapidly being referred to more and more in
statesman-like terms as a, almost a moderate Republican, although his
views certainly are on the right side of center."
All the networks led Friday night with multiple stories on the second day
of the case presented by the House managers. ABC uniquely and strangely
led by claiming Republicans delved into "the most graphic language
yet heard on the Senate floor."
Jackie Judd began
her January 15 World News Tonight report:
"Republicans got off the high road that they
took yesterday, at least for a few moments. Congressman Bill McCollum
delivered the most graphic language yet heard in the Senate when he said
even accepting Mr. Clinton's narrow definition of sex the President
still committed perjury by denying he had sexual relations with Monica
Bill McCollum on the Senate floor: "But they
asked him about touching certain parts of the body that are defined in the
definition that you've had repeated many times public and otherwise, and
two of those body parts he acknowledges, the breasts and genitalia, were
in fact part of the definition."
"Breasts" and "genitalia." Cover your eyes! How
"graphic." I'm sure far more graphic language has been uttered
many times by Senators in the chamber. But the true measure of Judd's
over-sensitivity: neither CBS or NBC mentioned anything about Republicans
The American Medical Association's decision to fire the editor of its
journal for running a politically timely survey on how most college
students don't believe oral sex means you've had sex, was picked up by
every network Friday night. Geraldo Rivera, naturally, jumped on it as
proof that Monica Lewinsky's affidavit and Bill Clinton's statements
On ABC's World
News Tonight Peter Jennings told viewers the survey "found that 60
percent agreed with Mr. Clinton that oral sex is not really sex." NBC
gave the news half a story while the CBS Evening News devoted a whole
piece to it. Elizabeth Kaledin explained that the 1991 poll of 599 college
students determined that 59 percent did not consider oral sex to mean they
had sex. Kaledin emphasized that the study author, Dr. June Reinisch,
"maintains it's good science." Concluded Kaledin: "While
some see the firing of Dr. [George] Lundberg [the editor] as a threat to
editorial freedom, others are more concerned that it means the
far-reaching implications of an impeachment trial are now touching the
Rivera Live opened with Geraldo talking with the study author, Dr. June
Reinisch, Director Emerita of the Kinsey Institute. Reinisch insisted:
"These students were in vast majority moderate to conservative in
their political views. We asked them, 78.5 percent said they were moderate
to conservative and of those who were registered to vote, and the majority
were registered to vote, the majority two-to-one were Republicans."
An excited Rivera
asked Marcia Clark, his usual Friday fill-in who was on as a guest as
Rivera decided events warranted an unusual five day work week for him:
"Marcia, it does have legal significance does it not, at least in so
far as the encouraging, the filing of Monica Lewinsky's allegedly false
affidavit, if she didn't believe they had sex then the affidavit
As to the accuracy
and relevance of what a bunch of college students thought eight years ago,
Washington Times reporter Joyce Howard Price noted on Friday and Saturday
that an October ABC News poll found 81 percent of Americans considered
oral sex to constitute sexual relations.
Indeed, a fifth of
these college students have a pretty narrow definition of sex. Reinisch
told Rivera that 19 percent did not believe "penile-anal
intercourse" represented sex.
graphic. -- Brent Baker
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