Public "Loves" Clinton's Plans; CBS: Time for Ruff But Not Hyde
1) CBS and NBC focused on the lack of
Republican enthusiasm for Clinton's speech. ABC's Cokie Roberts insisted
Clinton delivered a "very conciliatory" address. MSNBC's John
Hockenberry imagined most viewers wished Washington would "get down
2) Hours before Clinton's address his
retirement system plan got rave reviews. ABC's Sam Donaldson dubbed it
"daring, some would say audacious." NBC showcased a man who
"loves" his "solutions."
3) The CBS Evening News gave Charles Ruff
an uninterrupted minute-plus soundbite for his emotional counter to Henry
Hyde's closing argument about what Americans died for in battle -- an
entreaty CBS ignored the day Hyde uttered it.
4) ABC, CBS and NBC gave Charles Ruff an
hour more than they gave the House managers on day one. ABC's Cokie
Roberts described Ruff as "brilliant," CBS's Bob Schieffer oozed
he was "quite eloquent."
5) And on the left: Charlie Gibson. On
Monday's Good Morning America he asked Bob Dole why Republicans are
dragging out the trial. On Tuesday, he pressed George Mitchell about why
Republicans want to "drag this out."
6) Richard Scaife and the American
Spectator are just as destructive as Larry Flynt, Al Hunt contended.
The length of Clinton's address limited the amount of time the networks
had for analysis, especially on CBS which aired many more ads than ABC or
NBC, including lengthy commercial blocks consuming most of the time
between Clinton and the Republican response and again from after the
Republicans spoke until nearly 11pm ET.
CBS offered the earliest poll
results, with Dan Rather announcing just before 11pm ET that 82 percent
approved of Clinton's proposals versus a mere 13 percent who disapproved.
Later, during ABC's Nightline, viewers learned that an ABC News poll
discovered 77 percent approved of what Clinton said in his speech and 60
percent oppose his removal, an option favored by 36 percent.
Here are some noteworthy
instances of bias from Tuesday night coverage of the State of the Union
address, made possible by the MRC's "Nightbeat Team" of analysts
Jessica Anderson, Mark Drake and Paul Smith, including: how CBS and NBC
blamed the lack of Republican enthusiasm, not Clinton's insistence on
speaking, for discord in the chamber; how ABC's Cokie Roberts insisted
Clinton delivered a "very conciliatory" and
"bi-partisan" speech, but it took a Clintonista, George
Stephanopoulos, to point out "This was quite a partisan speech;"
how MSNBC's John Hockenberry imagined most viewers wished Washington would
"get down to business" and forget impeachment and that Tom
Brokaw claimed the agendas of Republicans and Clinton are "pretty
much" the same.
-- Republicans scolded for
ruining the mood. Just after Clinton finished, Bob Schieffer told the CBS
audience: "It was the most divided House that I can recall in recent
years for a State of the Union message, Dan. Very odd."
He soon elaborated: "While the Republicans
were polite, but nothing beyond that. I must say I was a little bit
surprised that they were not a little more enthusiastic than they were.
But some of them, Dick Armey, the number two Republican in the House, if
he applauded at all or ever stood up I never saw it. Trent Lott seldom
rose to his feet."
Just before signing off NBC's
coverage at 11pm ET Tom Brokaw asked Gwen Ifill: "On the House side
at least tonight, Gwen, I gather there were number of vacant seats and not
a lot of enthusiasm for almost anything the President had to say."
Ifill explained: "Yeah. There were obviously
at least a dozen House Republicans who decided they weren't going to come
at all and some who after the speech began, some pages sitting in the
seats so there is a lot of bad feeling but also the President always ends
up ahead in these sorts of things."
-- Conciliatory and bipartisan?
Immediately following Clinton, ABC's Cokie Roberts asserted: "You
know, the President not only had his speech filled with bipartisan
references, but I counted eight times that he added words of
bipartisanship or words of congratulations to the Congress about their own
about something. This is clearly a very conciliatory speech, trying very
hard to work with these people who are trying him."
Peter Jennings agreed:
"Indeed, the President reaching out a couple of times, referring to
the 'pioneering leadership of all of you.'"
But a half hour later or so,
after the Republican response, it fell to a partisan Democrat to point out
the error of ABC's analysis. George Stephanopoulos told Jennings:
"But, Peter, I guess I disagree with those who say this was very
bipartisan and very conciliatory. All the rhetoric was, but in fact, this
was, was quite a partisan speech. The President took the Republican goals,
but he had Democratic means to get them, and you could almost see him
looking in that Republican side and hoping they wouldn't know what to do,
who would get up, who would sit down, and I think it was effective in that
way, as well."
Indeed, none of the network
stars pointed out how Clinton had proposed a series of big spending
proposals and new powers for the federal government.
-- Clinton not liberal, but
Largent conservative. Following the Republican response Peter Jennings
commented: "The Republican response to the President from two young,
upwardly-mobile, rising young Republican stars, Jennifer Dunn from
Washington, Steve Largent from Oklahoma. Particularly in the case of Steve
Largent, conservative wing of the Republican Party, as you can hear there
in what he has to say, largely about the social issues."
Funny, I heard a lot about a
broad tax cut and building a missile defense.
-- Lott and Clinton policies
the same. During NBC coverage Tom Brokaw suggested: "The Senate
Majority Leader said the Republican agenda would be Social Security
reform, education -- getting money back to the classrooms, a tax rate cut,
a defense readiness bill, that is, increasing the amount of money for the
military and then something about drug rehabilitation. Sound familiar?
That was pretty much the President's program as well. We'll hear from the
Republicans after this station break."
As Stephanopoulos said,
Clinton's getting there differently than Republicans want.
-- Get back to real issues.
MSNBC's John Hockenberry to the media's favorite historian, Doris Kearns
Goodwin, at 11:31pm ET: "Doris Kearns Goodwin, it seems to me, and as
I was watching both the President's speech and the Republican response
that Americans must look at this, if 57 million people look at this and
go, 'Where is impeachment? Why is this happening? Will these people just
get down to business and leave this impeachment thing alone?'"
-- Peter Jennings, proper
identification-challenged. Just past 9pm ET Jennings recited the names of
those walking in: "After that, Carol Moseley-Braun. Sorry, Carol
Browner who's the Director of the EPA....Sandy Berger there on the center
of the screen, the President's National Security Adviser. Just a moment
ago, a look at a couple of the Republican Senators, Senator Phil Gramm of
Texas, Olympia Snowe of Vermont."
Snowe is from Maine.
-- Koppel dared to ding the
speech, shocking Paul Begala. Finally, a humorous item. On Nightline Ted
Koppel recounted how Trent Lott was overheard after Clinton's speech
asking "Does the man have no shame?" Koppel asked guest Paul
Begala for a reaction, flustering Begala. So, Koppel stepped in:
"Paul, I can't pretend to know precisely what Senator Lott was
talking about, but let me suggest what might lend, you know, some credence
to that kind of a reaction to the speech. The speech in some respects was
a collection of applause lines."
Begala, aghast at Koppel for
daring to criticize Clinton's brilliance, shot back: "Nonsense."
Just hours before Clinton's address his Social Security plan got rave
reviews from the networks. ABC's Sam Donaldson previewed what he described
as Clinton's "daring, some would say audacious, plan..." NBC's
Mike Jensen dedicated a whole story to a man who "loves"
Clinton's Universal Savings Account (USA) and Social Security ideas.
On the Tuesday, January 19
World News Tonight, Sam Donaldson began his preview piece, as transcribed
by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
"Peter, the President's centerpiece proposal
tonight is the daring, some would say audacious, plan to do two things:
save Social Security and deprive the Republicans of the ability to enact
across-the-board tax cuts for 15 years. It's sure to stir up a political
fire fight." Donaldson proceeded to explain how Clinton would propose
using all of the surpluses for Social Security, Medicare, his USA idea and
But Donaldson concluded by
noting the short term benefit of Clinton's plan: "The President's
proposal, far too complex to explain in a short period of time, is almost
certainly not going to be totally enacted, but it may accomplish one of
his principal objectives tonight: to create instant commentary and divert
attention from his Senate trial. It's far preferable for the President to
have people discussing tax cuts and Social Security, Peter, than whether
to call witnesses in a trial that could remove him from office."
NBC Nightly News dedicated a
whole story to showing how popular Clinton's retirement system plans are
except that sort of conservative part about investing in the stock market.
MRC analyst Mark Drake transcribed the story which Mike Jensen began by
"Marty Connor loves what the President will
Connor: "I think government using the
surplus money to help Social Security right now is a great idea."
Jensen: "He's forty two, manages a sports
store outside Boston. He and his wife have three sons, three college
educations to pay for before they can even think about retiring. So when
Marty heard about the new personal retirement account the President's
proposing, he said he'd start one in a heartbeat...."
After explaining how the USA
plan would work Jensen moved to how Clinton will save Social Security:
"To help pay for future retirement benefits, more than sixty percent
of the government's overall budget surplus would go into the Social
Security Trust Fund. More than twenty percent of that money for the first
time would be invested in the stock market. Marty Connor's not so sure
Connor: "In the back of my
mind I always worried if the stock market is gonna crash, what's gonna
happen to Social Security, what's gonna happen to the money that's
Jensen: "Still, he's pleased that the
government is finally suggesting solutions to one of his generation's
biggest worries, finding enough money to retire."
How would we survive without
Clinton "finally suggesting" a solution to this problem? Maybe
by listening to conservatives twenty years ago who proposed allowing
individuals to put their money into the stock market. Clinton will have
the government control the money, a difference Jensen skipped over.
CBS Evening News gave Charles Ruff an incredibly long, unencumbered
platform for his emotional counter to Henry Hyde's closing argument in
which he had urged Senators to vote to convict in order to uphold the
values Americans died for in battles from Normandy to Desert Storm -- a
plea CBS ignored the day Hyde uttered it.
At the top of Tuesday's show
Bob Schieffer reviewed the opening defense argument from White House
counsel Charles Ruff. Here's over half the story:
Bob Schieffer: "Last week lead prosecutor
Henry Hyde told Senators they could not be true to those who had died
defending freedom if they left a President in office who had lied under
oath. Ruff took exception."
Ruff in the Senate: "I have no personal
experience with war. I've only visited Normandy as a tourist. But I do
know this: My father was on Omaha Beach 55 years ago [starting to cry] and
I know how he would feel if he were here today. He didn't fight, no one
fought for one side of this case or the other. He fought as all those did
for our country, for our Constitution. And as long as each of us, manager,
President's counsel, Senator, does his or her constitutional duty those
who fought for their country will be proud."
Does that look like a long
soundbite? It is, one minute and two seconds to be exact. That's the
longest soundbite I can recall ever seeing on CBS. And how much time did
the CBS Evening News allocate on Saturday night to the argument from Hyde
referenced by Schieffer? Zero seconds, el zippo. In total, on Saturday
night CBS reporter Eric Engberg aired three soundbites from Republicans in
the Senate totaling 25 seconds: 10 seconds for Charles Canady, 11 seconds
for Hyde to say Republicans are not Clinton haters but love the rule of
law, and another 4 seconds of Hyde reading a letter from a kid.
Ruff wowed ABC's Cokie Roberts and CBS's Bob Schieffer.
The three broadcast networks
stayed with Ruff's presentation from when he began a bit after 1pm ET
until he finished at just past 3:30pm ET. Taking out the 15 minute break
in the middle of Ruff's appearance, ABC, CBS and NBC gave the opening
defense almost exactly an hour more time than they provided the opening
from the House managers. Last Thursday, January 14, the three networks
carried Henry Hyde and James Sensenbrenner from 1 to 2:15pm ET, then
ducking out just as Ed Bryant began. All offered analysis until 2:30pm.
(CBS ended coverage then while ABC and NBC then let affiliates return to
normal shows but did continue feeding coverage to any affiliate which
chose to pick it up.)
Just after Ruff wrapped up, ABC's Cokie Roberts gushed:
"I think that doing that imaginary cross-examination of Vernon Jordan
on the Senate floor was brilliant because it got to the point where
Senators could suddenly see that this would probably not work very well
for them. He really hit all the places that people were nervous, Democrats
Over on CBS Bob Schieffer was
just as impressed, admiring Ruff for how he countered Hyde's employing of
Normandy and, like Roberts, how he demonstrated the futility of gaining
insights from witnesses:
"Even if they think the President committed
these offenses, do they constitute a threat to the Constitution and if
they do, should he be removed from office. I thought that Mr. Ruff was
quite eloquent in the way he wound that up. Just prior to that, a very
clever pre-emptive strike...."
Dan Rather also chimed in with
his approval of how Ruff used his father's memory to counter Hyde's call
to do right by those who died to protect America's values: "This is
under the heading of this is a constitutional process but it's also
theater, his curtain line was pretty emotional, packed a wallop."
Schieffer's and Rather's praise
is quite a flip from five days earlier. Here's Schieffer's January 14
verdict on Hyde and Sensenbrenner: "Thus far, Dan, we have not heard
either Clarence Darrow or William Jennings Bryan, this has been fairly
Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson is consistent in consistently
advocating the liberal view. On Monday he hit Republican Bob Dole from the
left on why his party insisted on dragging out the trial process. On
Tuesday, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, he hit Democrat George
Mitchell from the left, wondering why Republicans want to "drag this
out." Later, he regretted how the 1998 Lewinsky scandal derailed many
of Clinton's proposals made in last year's State of the Union address.
(Amongst his January 18
questions to Dole: "But Senator, if there's no way that this is going
to turn around, if the votes aren't there, why is your party dragging this
thing out?" To read his other questions to Dole, see the January 19
CyberAlert or check it out on the MRC Web site:
Now to Tuesday morning. Gibson
introduced the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader with this heaping
"You live a strange
life these days. You worked on the Northern Ireland settlement. You're
working now on baseball's problems. You're on the Olympic oversight
situation with these allegations of bribes. You've become sort of the
Judge Judy and Judge Wapner of our day."
Instead of playing devil's
advocate to Mitchell by quizzing him about why liberals want to subvert a
legal process or whether Democrats have become the party of witness
tampering and perjury, he tossed softballs right out of the White House
-- "Do we have a
government in paralysis because of impeachment?"
-- "But in some respects, isn't that
happening in spite of the government, not because of it? You have a State
of the Union address tonight where people are going to be listening for
something the President isn't going to say. You have people in the chamber
who've just impeached that man a month ago and the Senate has him on
trial, and the government's not going to do anything until this is
-- "But everything looks like witnesses, then the
White House will call witnesses, we'll have depositions, we may have live
testimony. Do you see us getting out of this without months and months
-- "Bob Dole was here yesterday, a
Republican, who said, look, the 67 votes aren't there and aren't going to
be there to convict the President. So why, why drag this out when the
public, so obviously, doesn't want it dragged out?"
-- "Republicans, do you think they're
walking off a cliff?"
-- "Is this a nadir for American government?
Can you think of any period in our history where we've had this kind
of gridlock in government and strange actions by people who aren't in
-- "How do we get out of it? How do you get
this over with, 'cause they are going to call witnesses, Senator, you know
what's going to happen."
Gibson and co-host Diane Sawyer
later lamented how the scandals sidetracked Clinton's policies last year,
suggesting the partisan battles were what stood between the public and
Gibson: "We've been
talking about whether the government is paralyzed by the impeachment
process, and what chances the President has at getting the proposals that
he will make tonight in his State of the Union enacted. USA Today went
back and looked at last year's speech. The President made 27 major
proposals. Only 10 of them got enacted, and even those, only in part. We
have a scorecard on some of those....He asked for IRS reform, he got that.
He asked for campaign finance reform, didn't get that, Republicans
filibustered. Tobacco regulations, those ads killed that and the Senate
did too. Family leave expansion, didn't get it. Child care credits, didn't
get it. We have five more, there they are. Hiring more teachers, he got
some money for that, but no school construction, didn't get the five-year
plan enacted. Juvenile crime, minimum wage increase, Medicare expansion,
patients bill of rights, didn't get 'em, didn't get 'em."
Sawyer observed: "Very low score of success,
very low score. In fact, we're told that it was the lowest for that year
of any two-year presidency since the Eisenhower administration."
Gibson attributed the shortcomings to scandals,
not that Clinton's proposals were too liberal for a Republican Congress:
"So it shows that impeachment, really having an effect, it's a very
partisan division on Capitol Hill right now, and in Washington."
Mellon Scaife and American Spectator Editor R. Emmett Tyrrell,
pornographers? To Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt
those two conservatives are just as evil as Larry Flynt in how they've
improperly intruded into Bill Clinton's life. On the January 16 Capital
Gang Hunt told the CNN audience:
"It's obscene that Larry
Flynt gets any kind of attention. You're right. He is sleazy. I would
point out I didn't hear the same objection from conservatives when the
American Spectator, funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the right-winger,
launched an inquisition into Bill Clinton's private life."
It's amazing how liberals are unable to
distinguish between what is truly personal and the misuse of state
employees to procure personal pleasure. -- Brent Baker
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