Speech Never Tagged Liberal; Bemoaning Clinton's Loneliness; He's a "Martyr"?
1) A "virtuoso" speech by "a proud President, a
tireless policy wonk," gushed ABC's George Stephanopoulos. A wistful
Dan Rather recalled Clinton's last chance "to preach, to teach."
Reporters noted the spending costs; NBC dubbed his gun idea a "wedge
2) Networks refused to label Clinton's plans as liberal.
CBS's John Roberts gushed about how Clinton "really wants to improve
the social status of everyone." ABC's reporters listed reasons why the
address could be called "historic."
3) "His agenda is ambitious," crowed NBC's Claire
Shipman. If Congress gets in Clinton's way, ABC's John Cochran casually
relayed, "he will simply bypass Congress whenever he can by using his
power to issue executive orders."
4) On ABC's World News Tonight Jim Wooten examined the
"wistful acknowledgment that" Clinton "is now more alone in the
White House than he's ever been."
5) The Forbes "hard line" on abortion, CBS News
warned, may get him third place in NH but "end up hurting the Republican
Party" as Bush may be "shoved too far right on the issue like Bob
6) Katie Couric: "So are you saying that the relatives in
Miami somehow frightened this little boy before the meeting and made him too
nervous and the grandmothers too nervous to make this natural at all?"
No, the Sister who set up the meeting said, blame Cuba.
7) MSNBC's Brian Williams wondered if Clinton might someday
be considered a "martyr" for "what he was put through" in
>>> "Little or No Interest in
Gore and Marijuana: Media Leaped on Rumors of Bush Cocaine Use Without Any
Accuser, But Gore Accuser Gets Little Play." The latest Media Reality
Check fax report by the MRC's Tim Graham has been posted by Andy Szul. It
begins: "Last August, national media outlets leaped on rumors of cocaine
use by George W. Bush, even though reporters searching for people to accuse
Bush of drug use could not find an accuser. Now longtime Gore friend John
Warnecke claims Gore used marijuana regularly, right up to his 1976 run for
Congress, four years later than Gore has claimed he stopped. Warnecke also
claims Gore asked him to 'stonewall' on the issue during the 1988
campaign. But the media aren't exactly riveted." Graham runs through
how every major media outlet has handled the story. To read the report, go to:
it weren't for Bill Clinton's flub during his State of the Union address
Thursday night that Al Gore had led a "new effort to help make
communities more liberal," instead of "more livable," viewers
at home never would have heard the word "liberal." Neither before or
after the speech, or in the preview stories on the evening shows beforehand,
did any of the broadcast networks describe Clinton's litany of new spending
and regulatory program ideas as liberal.
The MRC night team of Jessica Anderson, Brad Wilmouth,
Geoffrey Dickens and Ken Shepherd stayed into the morning to track coverage,
but with Clinton blathering on so long the networks dumped out to local news
at 11:15pm ET -- as soon the Republicans finished their response. We did,
nonetheless, come across some noteworthy material. This item lists what we
found after Clinton's speech. Item #2 below recounts some pre-speech
analysis and #3 relays reporting from the evening shows.
After Clinton's speech, while no one described it as
liberal, all the broadcast networks remarked about the high price tag of all
the proposals. ABC included George Stephanopoulos among its analysts allowed
to critique it. He dubbed it a "virtuoso" performance and oozed:
"The address of a proud President, a tireless policy wonk and a very
shrewd political strategist." (Clintonistas Stephanopoulos and David
Gergen served later as the only analysts on Nightline.)
Dan Rather signed CBS off by solemnly intoning:
"Tonight Bill Clinton mounted the Bully Pulpit one last time as President
to preach, to teach, to prod the country." NBC's Tom Brokaw actually
wondered why we couldn't have a larger tax cut and Tim Russert suggested
Clinton's gun licensing idea was a "wedge issue" meant to benefit
Hillary in New York.
-- ABC News. After a few words from Peter Jennings ABC
went first to George Stephanopoulos for an assessment:
"Virtuoso, Peter. The address of a proud President, a
tireless policy wonk and a very shrewd political strategist. He essentially
handed Vice President Gore his campaign plan tonight. Lots of proposals that
he suspects won't pass -- prescription drugs, gun control, Medicare reform
-- and he sets up Vice President Gore to run against a do-nothing Congress
this fall, just like Harry Truman did in 1948."
Sam Donaldson picked up on the costs: "Peter,
something in there for everyone almost. Maybe $364 billion worth of new
spending. Senator Domenici, the Republican head of the Budget Committee in the
Senate, estimated that it would be about $4 billion a minute if he went an
hour and a half, and that's about what it was. I agree with George, though.
It was well delivered, a Clinton speech always is. But I suspect, Peter, that
the one soundbite you're going to hear in the next 24 hours, more than any
other, is the one where he fluffed, and said, 'Remember last year the Vice
President launched a new effort to help make communities more liberal.' He
meant livable, but I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun at that and
you saw his face redden. But overall, a successful final address by this
President on the State of the Union."
Cokie Roberts added that "the President proposed
ten, as I counted, either tax credits, tax deductions or tax incentives.
That's another form of spending." Well, maybe.
-- CBS News. Wrapping up coverage at about 11:15pm ET,
Dan Rather wistfully reminded viewers:
"For many years Presidents delivered the State of the
Union message in writing. Woodrow Wilson revived the tradition of delivering
it in person, turning a duty into an opportunity to rally support for a
President's programs. Tonight Bill Clinton mounted the Bully Pulpit one last
time as President to preach, to teach, to prod the country toward his vision
of America in the 21st century."
-- NBC News. MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught some
unusual questions and points from the right. Interviewing former Treasury
Secretary Robert Rubin, whom he'd earlier labeled the "architect"
of the economic boom, Tom Brokaw wondered:
"Are you worried at all that the President is just
over-promising with the promise of the surplus that is going on. There was a
big, big shopping list of government programs here tonight. I think at one
point the Senate Budget Committee, made up of Republicans, said it ran to
about $4 billion a minute."
Brokaw also asked: "But why shouldn't we have a
bigger tax cut. For example $500 billion instead of stopping at $350 [billion]
if there is the kind of surplus that we are talking about?"
Later, Tim Russert explained how a "top
Republican" assured him the gun licensing idea would not pass and
"will even help the Republicans keep some swing districts in the Congress
up for re-election this November because it will mobilize, energize the
NRA." Russert made clear Clinton had put politics ahead of policy:
"The President knew exactly what he was doing, he
wanted to create this as a wedge issue. One that would benefit the President
and the First Lady in New York. He certainly has succeeded in doing that
because the Republicans saw red when he proposed it."
the lengthy twenty minutes after the networks signed on at 9pm ET and Clinton
finally decided to come out, the networks filled the time with their own
In the most ironic comment of the night, referring to
Bill Clinton's role in the Hillary Clinton Senate campaign, Gloria Borger of
U.S. News and CBS News told Dan Rather: "I think behind the scenes, Dan,
he's actually running that campaign. I mean he's very involved in every
aspect of that campaign and people in her campaign say that he is her closest
adviser. He is the one she trusts."
Just like after the speech, beforehand ABC, CBS and NBC
avoided the term "liberal" to describe Clinton's spending spree.
Instead, CBS's John Roberts gushed about how "I think that this is all
part of the President's legacy, he really wants to improve the social status
of everyone in the country here." ABC's team of star correspondents
exchanged reasons for why Clinton's address could be called
"historic." Peter Jennings lamented how "the President spends
an awful lot of time alone at the White House alone now," though he
didn't explain why he assumed the absence of Hillary and Chelsea meant he
was actually alone.
At about 9:10pm ET CBS News viewers witnessed this bit
of insight as taken down by the MRC's Ken Shepherd:
"About the tax cut, seeing Henry 'Hank' Aaron up
there in the gallery seated beside the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, tonight,
tempts one to use a baseball metaphor, is it more likely will you see a
left-handed shortstop for the Yankees or the Mets than we are to see the
President's tax cut get through or is that a little too pessimistic?"
John Roberts: "Well, Dan, he really has a fight with
Republicans in Congress over this tax cut. Today the Republicans said that
they would like to see a broad-based tax cut for all Americans not just the
ones that the President picks out. The Republican mantra has always been put
the money back into the hands of the people to let them do with it what they,
what they will. Perhaps there's some people out there who don't have
children going to college, who don't need health care, who don't need to
save for their retirement who need to buy other things with money that they
could get from a tax cut and that's what the Republicans would like to do.
"You know, Dan, I think that this is all part of the
President's legacy, he really wants to improve the social status of everyone
in the country here. He has consistently said that in this era of
unprecedented economic prosperity and indeed as of next month America will
have gone through its longest period of uninterrupted economic growth in
history, that it's imperative upon the country to not leave anyone behind.
That's why he's launched his new markets initiative, this is all about
community and responsibility and opportunity tonight. The President really
wants to get to those areas of the country and those people in the country who
have not shared in economic prosperity to the degree that a lot of people
have. There are so many instant millionaires in this country and at the same
time there are so many people who can't even put food on the table. So I
think this really is, though his aides would deny, legacy, a really a one for
the legacy scorecard, Dan."
Opening ABC's coverage, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson
observed, Peter Jennings asked his team if "this is an unusually historic
occasion." John Cochran replied: "Well, this is a President who,
after all, survived impeachment. That's historic. The historic thing to me
is I don't think there's ever been a President who will be sorrier to
leave the White House. He just loves the job. He'd keep it until the age of
90 if they'd let him, Peter."
Cokie Roberts offered another historic angle and falsely
assumed it is now the 21st century: "Well, for Bill Clinton it's
unusually historic in that there's not some huge cloud hanging over him as
he goes into that chamber tonight, and that is different. It's also the
first State of the Union address of the 21st century, and there are two
candidates. The historic part is probably Mrs. Clinton, who's coming into
the chamber now, and having a First Lady run for the Senate is a first in
That prompted Jennings to ruminate: "Right behind
her, Chelsea of course, reminding us that the President spends an awful lot of
time alone at the White House alone now -- Chelsea at school in California,
Mrs. Clinton now living in New York State and running for the Senate, as Cokie
Sam Donaldson compiled Roberts' error: "Peter, as
Cokie says, the first one of the millennium, only the third President to have
two terms in the last 50 years, and this may not be very much, but it's
going to be historic: perhaps the longest of such addresses we have ever heard
-- 35 pages. It could go on over an hour and a half, maybe toward two
At least we were warned.
of pointing out how Clinton's proposals represent liberal activist
government with more spending, more regulation and more tax code tinkering to
alter behavior, during Thursday's evening newscasts before the speech the
networks avoided the term liberal and instead praised Clinton's
On the NBC Nightly News Claire Shipman proclaimed:
"It's the last time Bill Clinton will make this walk to outline the
State of the Union and with less than a year left his agenda is
Over on the CBS Evening News John Roberts at least
credited the "ambitious" claim to the White House: "Despite the
fact that the President has less than a year remaining in office, his final
State of the Union address tonight will be what the White House characterizes
as his most aggressive and ambitious yet. What that really means is that the
President will take record revenues and again raise government spending to
And if Republicans don't go along? No problem. John
Cochran relayed at the end of his World News Tonight piece laying out
Clinton's ideas: "The President will challenge Republicans to work with
him in this his final year, and his aides say if they refuse, he will simply
bypass Congress whenever he can by using his power to issue executive
You'd think subverting the will of Congress might
generate more media ire since it so concerned them in the 1980s.
Bill Clinton, supposedly all alone in the White House. ABC's Peter Jennings
lamented the plight of "this very young, very energetic man," though
if he's still energetic he probably isn't very alone. On Thursday's
World News Tonight Jim Wooten examined the "wistful acknowledgment that
he is now more alone in the White House than he's ever been."
Peter Jennings introduced the January 27 piece:
"Finally this evening from here, home alone may be an exaggeration of
what life is like for President Clinton these days, but it does give you an
idea that life for this very young, very energetic man is certainly in
transition. When his State of the Union is over tonight, he'll likely go back
to the White House with applause still ringing in his ears, but it's never
going to be the same."
Jim Wooten: "Unlike most kids' dreams..." [on
screen, video of Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy]
President Clinton, being sworn in in 1992: "I, William
Wooten: "-his really came true."
President Clinton: "-so help me God."
Wooten: "-that reality is down to 359 days."
President Clinton: "I finally figured out what a lame
duck is. That's when you show up for a speech and no one comes."
Wooten: "That won't happen tonight, of course, or
tomorrow or anytime soon. But there is about the President these days a
certain sense of, if not loneliness, as least a wistful acknowledgment that he
is now more alone in the White House than he's ever been. Ordinarily, for
example, Mrs. Clinton would have spent today helping him with tonight's speech
and the Vice President would have come around to offer his assistance. Instead
both have returned only briefly to the capital and will be back to their
campaigns tomorrow....Actually, there's hardly anyone around now who was there
when his presidency began. Joe Lockhart is his fourth press secretary. He
claims Mr. Clinton's now more focused than ever."
After American University presidential scholar James
Thurber remarked, "He is set in terms of his legacy now. However, those
legacies change over time when people have some perspective. Give this man
some perspective and he may look a little bit better a decade from now,"
"In the meantime, Mr. Clinton may already have learned
a lesson from Harry Truman: If you want a friend in Washington, Truman said,
get yourself a dog."
So I can maintain plausible deniability, fill in your
own Monica Lewinsky joke here.
damaging duo of Steve Forbes and Alan Keyes is making sure frontrunners George
Bush and John McCain "cannot escape" the "divisive issue"
of abortion, CBS News contended. The network reported it's a development
which concerns the party establishment because they hoped to prevent Bush
"from being shoved too far right on the issue like Bob Dole was." As
if being too conservative was Dole's problem in 1996.
It's more like the Republican candidates "cannot
escape" from CBS's one issue, abortion, agenda, an extremist test they
do not apply to Democrats who oppose any restrictions on abortion-on-demand.
Otherwise, Thursday night NBC skipped the campaign and
ABC ran a piece on Bush's challenge from McCain in New Hampshire, but did
not mention abortion.
Teasing the January 27 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather
"Abortion troubles for Republican presidential
frontrunners and there's a brand new Dollar Bill, Bill Bradley goes negative
against Al Gore, all but calling him a liar."
After the story on Bradley, Rather declared: "More
now on the five man Republican field. The latest CBS News poll indicates
Bush's win in Iowa and McCain's fifth place showing after basically bowing out
apparently have had little carry-over affect in New Hampshire. Forbes and
Keyes on their right though have each picked up several points. That may turn
out to not be good news for George W. Bush. And, they're both making sure the
front runners cannot escape a divisive issue."
CBS refused Thursday night to tag Clinton as
"liberal," but reporter Bill Whitaker wasn't so reticent about
labeling Republicans. He began: "When it comes to abortion, John McCain
would appreciate his own don't ask, don't tell policy. Hounded by abortion
questions again today he joked he'd rather tackle a safer issue like the
Confederate flag....What's got him rattled? Well, until recently both he and
George W. Bush deliberately downplayed their staunch anti-abortion records
making conciliatory statements like Bush today."
Bush: "As I said, good people can disagree on that
Whitaker warned in applying a label: "Both
frontrunners are hoping to appeal to moderate voters and the party
establishment was hoping to keep their favorite, Bush, from being shoved too
far right on the issue like Bob Dole was."
Elizabeth Sherman, Director of Center for Women in
Politics: "They had seen in the 1996 election that women voters had
really made the difference for Bill Clinton against, against Dole and they
decided that they were not going to let that happen again."
Whitaker: "But nobody told Steve Forbes and Alan
Keyes. They used the issue like a battering ram to push Bush to make strong
pro-life statements in Iowa. Now they're pressing McCain in New
Alan Keyes: "Isn't it God's choice."
Steve Forbes: "Dancing around on Roe v. Wade, people
don't want that, they want to know where you stand."
Whitaker: "That hard line may secure Forbes a third
place finish here and end up hurting the Republican Party. Why? According to a
CBS News poll out today, for every woman in New Hampshire who says this:
Woman: "I am definitely pro-life."
Whitaker: "Two or more disagree."
Second woman: "I'm very pro-choice."
Whitaker concluded: "The most pro-choice segment of the
voting population, independent voters, and most of those are and you can't win
here without winning them over and right now, most of them are moving toward
McCain. No wonder he'd like this abortion issue just to go away."
CBS News certainly isn't letting it.
And while ABC didn't explore abortion Thursday night,
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed they did Thursday morning. On Good
Morning America Dean Reynolds asserted:
"However much Senator McCain and George Bush would
like to talk about something else, the abortion issue keeps dogging at them
here. McCain now says that he made a mistake yesterday when he said that were
his 15-year-old daughter to have an unwanted pregnancy, it would be up to her
whether to have an abortion. He later amended that to say it would be a family
decision, but last night that wasn't good enough for Alan Keyes, who pressed
him on the issue, and got a scalding response from the former prisoner of
Jeanne O'Laughlin "was asked by Attorney General Janet Reno, described
as an old friend, to provide a neutral setting" for a get-together
between Elian Gonzalez and his two grandmothers, the January 27 Washington
Post reported. So naturally when she appeared on Thursday's Today to recount
the meeting she hosted in Miami, Katie Couric assumed she saw the Florida
family as the bad guys. Not so Couric learned, to her surprise.
Couric asked: "Whose fears were dispelled Sister
Jeanne, in your view?"
O'Laughlin replied: "I think the child was tremoring
when he entered as were his grandmother and the family. When they left I still
felt the grandmothers were trembling. I don't feel the child was. I think he
had images of being whisked away or being taken away. And I don't think the
family left in fear. And it saddens me that these grandmothers could be so sad
after what should've been a joyful meeting. But the suspicions, the fears, the
images were just not real Katie. And it comes from a source other than the
heart of grandmothers."
Couric pounced on the evil Florida-side of the family:
"So are you saying that the relatives in Miami somehow frightened this
little boy before the meeting and made him too nervous and the grandmothers
too nervous to make this natural at all?"
O'Laughlin corrected her: "No, I don't believe the
families did that. I believe that there are people with other agenda,
political agenda that take the child as a pawn and perhaps the grandmothers
also. I think there have been ways of instilling fear in the family and the
grandmothers and therefore a natural loving environment was difficult to
Couric: "Who are these people with the agendas in your
O'Laughlin: "I really am fearful Katie, that the Cuban
government who I understand have even said that we were not nice to the
grandmothers. This is just not true. That we had spies, this is not true. We
truly acted in good faith with a loving concern for the child and the
grandmothers and yet there was not a freedom and I think I'm a wiser woman
today and I understand how blessed we are to understand what it is to be free
and not full of fear."
Both ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News
briefly mentioned O'Laughlin's assessment and NBC Nightly News featured an
"In Their Own Words" segment in which O'Laughlin explained why she
changed her mind and decided the boy should stay:
"I feel that something in the environment was fearful
and feared. These were two loving grandmothers but they were not free. From
the moment the car door opened it was urgency for cover and urgency not to
trust. I question the ability with anyone involved with that side to eliminate
the fear in the environment in which that child will have to grow."
maybe America will be "progressive" enough to see Bill Clinton as a
"martyr" for how he was abused over his sexual activities.
MRC analyst Mark Drake caught this exchange during a
January 26 News with Brian Williams interview by MSNBC's Williams with
Clinton biographer David Maraniss:
Williams: "Has timing again helped him in that he's a
President with a sex scandal but he is also a President with a sex scandal in
what is now incrementally a more progressive America? Could you paint a
scenario where he is someday martyred by you know, the American Compendium of
Maraniss: "For, well his own behavior?"
Williams: "Yeah, for what he was put through."
The American people should be considered martyrs for
having to put up with this kind of media thinking. --
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