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From the April 1999 MediaWatch

Dan Rather Searches Clinton's "Feelings"

Page One

Therapist-Style Interview Nothing Like 1988 Assault on Bush

More than ten years ago, on the January 25, 1988 CBS Evening News, Dan Rather yelled at Vice President George Bush about selling arms for hostages to Iran: "You’ve made us hypocrites in the face of the world! How could you sign on to such a policy?"

But Rather was an entirely different man in the first exclusive post-impeachment TV interview with Bill Clinton, aired on the March 31 edition of 60 Minutes II. Rather delicately suggested Clinton’s no-ground-troops pledge in Kosovo might not stick: "With all respect, but also directly, everybody acknowledges you have a brilliant mind, you’re an excellent speaker. But sometimes people, and people who support and like you say, well, he parses words too closely." When Clinton said he meant it, Rather backed off: "Fair enough."

Rather then turned therapist, wondering about Clinton’s "feelings" about the situation: "I’m told by those close to you that you have a lot of pent -up feelings about what’s happening in the Balkans, what we’re doing there. Can you share some of that with us?"

After an ad break, Rather went softer, promoting Hillary for the Senate: "Could you describe for me what you believe to be the responsibilities of the husband of a United States Senator?" Clinton giggled and said he’d do whatever it took.

When it came time to talk impeachment, Rather made it sound like the Clintons had lost a family member, not lied under oath and obstructed justice. "Americans like to know that the First Family is okay, that they’re doing alright. Given the year, plus what you and our First Family have been through, tell us what you can about how the three of you are doing." Rather stuck to the therapeutic tone: "How about yourself? We’re here in a room with pictures of Lincoln, Washington, Continental Congress. When you look back over this year plus, what’s the moral of it? Does it have a moral?"

He did ask how people will explain Monicagate to their children, but closed by suggesting, "whatever else you do, in the first paragraph of your obituary is going to be a reference to what you consider among the worst things that’s ever happened to you. Only President in the 20th century to be impeached, one of only two Presidents to be impeached. Give me some sense of how you feel about that within yourself." After Clinton defiantly declared he was honored "to defend the Constitution," Rather suggested, "You’ve got to be bitter about it." He certainly can’t be bitter about Dan Rather.



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