No Leaker ID on Morning TV; Bush Failed "Smell Test"; Bush "Trust" Undercut and Couric Pushed Democrats to Exploit
-- Back to today's CyberAlert
and see the Weekend Edition
1) Drunk driving Bush led the
morning shows and while all raised questions about the agenda of the leaker,
none reported he was the Democratic candidate for Governor in 1998. The
Portland TV reporter who broke the story appeared on ABC, CBS and NBC but
proved herself deceitful or clueless as she never said his political activity
went beyond just being a Democratic convention delegate.
2) ABC's George Stephanopoulos asserted Bush's excuse that
he didn't want his daughter to know "doesn't quite pass the smell
test." Diane Sawyer contended Bush may be covering up more embarrassing
3) Katie Couric suggested the disclosure undercut Bush's
"trust" argument and urged Democrats to exploit the revelation. She
pushed Ed Rendell: "So why don't you think this is legitimate fodder for
the campaign given some of the bombshells that the Bush camp has lobbed
towards Vice President Gore?" And she propounded to Chris Matthews that
Democrats take advantage of the pleasure of the moment.
three broadcast morning shows led with the news of a George Bush drunk driving
arrest 24 years ago with CBS and NBC devoting nearly all of the 7am half hour
to it. Questions were raised about the political agenda of the source, but on
at least the ET versions of the morning shows none revealed that the lawyer
who fed the story was not only a Democratic convention delegate, but was a
1998 Democratic candidate for Governor of Maine.
The AP's Laurie Kellman reported in a 9:53am ET
dispatch this morning:
"Tom Connolly, a
Portland lawyer and Democratic activist who attended the Democratic National
Convention, confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that he was the source of
someone who was in Biddeford District Court when Bush's 1976 case came up was
alarmed that it had never been reported and alerted 'a public figure'
about the case. That person passed the word to Connolly, he said, though he
would not name the public figure.
"Connolly, who ran
unsuccessfully for Governor two years ago, said he had been talking about the
case at the courthouse Thursday. He said he had confirmed Bush's arrest by
obtaining a copy of the court docket -- which he gave to a local television
Erin Fehlau, the WPXT-TV "Fox 51" reporter in
Portland who followed through on Connolly's effort and broke the story last
night, was interviewed by all three morning shows. If her answers are honest,
she also revealed she is beyond clueless as she was unable to recognize a
major party candidate for Governor from just two years ago. (Last night on
Nightline this reporter covering a courthouse activity was unable to tell Ted
Koppel if judges in Maine are elected or appointed.)
Here's a quick rundown of how each show raised or
addressed questions of a political agenda behind the story divulged five days
before the election, mainly in their interviews with Fehlau.
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson, MRC
analyst Jessica Anderson observed, asked Fehlau via satellite from Maine:
"Now I mentioned
that last night at his news conference the Governor said five different times
it was interesting that this comes out just a few days before the election and
he said he had his suspicions. Can you tell us who the lawyer was who gave you
Gibson: "Can you
tell us who the lawyer was who gave you the story?"
Fehlau: "I'd rather
not release his name at this point. I'd like to keep that source confidential
right now, but I will tell you he is a local criminal defense attorney here in
Portland. I don't even know him that well. I just knew him from sight, and
that after he did, what he did was, he said that he did have some docket
information, a docket sheet, which indicated that he had pled guilty to this,
and brought it back to me and he also indicated to me that he was a delegate
to the Democratic convention."
Gibson: "And the question
is, a delegate to the Democratic convention, but A, was he surprised when you
asked him for this material? In other words, was he trying to get it out? And
B, do you think he had an agenda in this case?"
Fehlau: "Was he
surprised? Yes, I think he was surprised, but I also think that he may have
known that other people were overhearing his conversation and, you know, maybe
some people had passed that along. I had not talked to him about this. I
hadn't overheard him. Again, I got this information from a police officer that
had heard it and was questioning whether it was even true and whether I knew
about it. Of course, I didn't. When I ran up to him and asked him if he had
anything on it, he said yes he did. Did he look surprised? I guess he did look
a little surprised. He was leaving the courthouse. I think if he had wanted me
to have that information, maybe he would have just given it to me."
-- CBS's The Early Show. Bill Plante reported:
"The Gore campaign was quick to deny last night that it had anything to
do with the release of Bush's old police record. They said that the Vice
President learned about this for the first time last night."
After a soundbite from Chris Lehane, Gore's press
secretary and a Maine native, denying any connection, Plante cautioned:
"That of course does not mean that the Gore campaign is not interested in
every last little detail of this, they are. And you can bet that below the
radar they will be suggesting that this casts doubt on Bush's judgment,
because he concealed it."
Jane Clayson raised the Bush camp's charge up front in
her interview with Fehlau, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed: "The Bush camp
says that this is dirty tricks in the final days of this campaign. Did this in
anyway come from the Gore camp?"
Fehlau: "The only
thing I can tell you is that after I was handed this docket the man who handed
it to me, the lawyer who handed it to me had said that he actually was a, went
to the convention."
Clayson asked what the
arresting officer told her before wondering: "Did you have any
hesitation about this story, about a DUI conviction that's 25, almost 25
years old coming out this close to the election. Did you feel manipulated
in any way?"
Fehlau: "Uh, it
came to my attention and, uh, I wanted to check it out. And that's just
what I did."
-- NBC's Today. Matt Lauer quizzed Fehlau about
whether Bush has reason to be "suspicious of the timing" of the
story, if anyone from the Gore campaign or the Democratic Party fed her
the story and to confirm that her source was a delegate to the Democratic
convention. She denied any Gore/Democratic connection and confirmed he was
a delegate, but again failed to point out he had been a Democratic
candidate for Governor two years ago.
A bit later, MRC analyst Paul Smith noted, Tim
Russert raised questions about the motives of the lawyer. Matt Lauer
asked: "Keep in mind this campaign's been going on for more than a
year know. We know these candidates. Every investigator, every reporter
has been looking into their past. How come no one finds this until this
local reporter in Portland, Maine uncovers this?"
Russert speculated: "Well apparently it had
been expunged from his record which is a common practice when people do
something 24 years ago as been mentioned. Why it came forward? Who is this
lawyer? What was his motivation? We don't know. The Gore campaign says
they had absolutely nothing to do with this. At the national level
certainly there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. It could have been
just a matter of happenstance as the reporter says or it could've been a
cold calculated attempt by a local lawyer. I don't know if we'll ever
I think we know now, now that we know who the lawyer
whose identity Fehlau covered up really is.
Morning America Diane Sawyer wondered: "Four days to go, is this
going to have any effect?"
George Stephanopoulos replied: "Well, this is the final chapter of
the campaign. This is everything now. The question is, is the title 'Dirty
Tricks' or 'Secrets and Lies'? We just don't know yet. I mean, as this
unfolds over the next few days, will people look at this and say, 'Wait a
second. This came from a delegate to the Democratic National Committee and
it comes out four days before the election? George W. Bush is a victim.'
On the other hand, people can fairly ask, 'Why didn't we know about this
before? Why didn't he disclose it?'"
Sawyer followed up: "This is my question to
you. Why not get this out long ago? Twenty-four years ago this happened.
Why not just put it out there early on?"
"I don't know the answer to that. That was the first question I posed
to the Bush campaign when I found out about this story last night. The
person I talked to said that several people in the campaign knew about
this, but that Governor Bush, as he said later in public, didn't want his
daughters to know it. The problem with that explanation is that it doesn't
quite pass the smell test. I mean, you were more worried about your
daughters than the voters? If this was no big deal, why not just disclose
it earlier? And I think that was probably a tactical error."
Sawyer moved on to Cheney: "And his running
mate, Dick Cheney, when he was up for confirmation, in hearings disclosed
that, in fact, when he was in his 20s, had two of these incidents."
"He had been arrested when he was at Yale for DWI, two incidences. I
don't know if they were arrests or not. My only other theory here is that
maybe they feared that if this came out too early in the campaign, it
would be one of the first things that people learned about George W. Bush
and he would be forever branded with it, but that's taking a big risk. You
know in a presidential campaign that sooner or later everything comes
In the next segment, MRC analyst Jessica Anderson
noticed, David Gergen wasn't so excited by the disclosure: "Well,
first of all, Diane, the incident itself seems to be wholly irrelevant to
his capacity to govern as President of the United States....He doesn't hit
anyone or anything, he's picked up for driving under the influence and it
happened 24 years ago, and 14 years ago, this fellow gave up drinking all
together. This has nothing to do with how a great republic should choose
"But let me ask you, Dave, what about this whole issue of not having
disclosed it? Does it just raise the possibility there are other things
that were also not disclosed?"
suppose if we in the press want to, you know, keep, you know, moving into
this area, inquiring into everybody's past and trying to shake out every
little skeleton, perhaps it has some bearing, but I don't think so. Diane,
he had made quite clear in the beginning of this campaign that he'd taken
a tour on the wild side, a very extended tour during his life, and he made
it quite clear that he regretted that, but he's moved since then, and it
seems to me this is the most powerful nation since Rome, and for us to be
sort of, you know, focusing on something which is so irrelevant, I just
find very, very surprising. I can't believe we're going to vote on this
basis. I can't believe this won't disappear very shortly. On the question
of whether he should have disclosed, yeah, there's an argument he should
have disclosed way back then, but think about it this way. Let's suppose
there were a 20-year-old girl who was single, made a mistake, got
pregnant, had an abortion. Twenty-four years later she's running for the
United States Senate, she has two children and her campaign manager comes
to her and says, 'You know, you ought to disclose that.' And she said,
'You know, I just as soon not have my children know that.' I think she'd
make the right decision."
Democratic/Gore reticence to exploit the Bush disclosure upset Katie
Couric. She used her interview segments on Friday's Today, MRC analyst
Paul Smith informed me, to prod Democrats and suggest Bush is a hypocrite
after having made trust an issue.
Couric queried Bill Bennett just past 7:30am about
how the disclosure undercuts Bush's "trust" argument:
"And yet Mr. Bennett, George Bush his mantra throughout this campaign
has been that he trusts the American people. If that in fact is the case
why didn't he trust them enough to disclose this information and allow
them to put it in the proper context?"
She followed up: "And yet Mr. Bennett, he is
not running for father of the year, he is running for President of the
United States and when people apply for jobs in the government it is
incumbent upon them to disclose this kind of information."
She quizzed DNC Chairman Ed Rendell on why the Gore
campaign won't use the arrest to fight back:
"And yet the
Bush campaign has continuously labeled Vice President Bush, Vice President
Gore rather in the past as deceptive so why don't you think this is
legitimate fodder for the campaign given some of the bombshells that the
Bush camp has lobbed towards Vice President Gore?"
During the 8:30am half hour she demanded of Paul
"What about for
the Democrats, Paul? I mean obviously they are going to be very careful at
least, that is what Chairman Rendell said earlier on this program, but
they really don't want to talk about this. But is it appropriate fodder
for the campaign and are they making a mistake by not bringing it up or
not, you know, taking the ball and running with it just a bit?"
She then turned to Chris Matthews and inquired:
"Do you think the Democrats need to carpe diem when it comes to this
drunk driving business?"
Webster's defines "carpe diem" as:
"The enjoyment of the pleasure of the moment without concern for the
Be back with more later this afternoon. -- Brent Baker
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