Rather Proposes Given Blackout, Bush Cancel Fundraiser Speech --8/15/2003
2. Koppel's "Happy Note," Gray Davis Sure Blackout No Threat to CA
3. Networks Give Hillary Time to Denounce Deregulation and Bush
4. Thanks to Outage, No HRC on
Daily Show, TV Stars Sans Blow Dryer
Is President Bush the Commander-in-Chief or the Electrician-in-Chief? A bit past 6:30pm EDT, less than three hours into the blackout in some parts of the Northeast, CBS's Dan Rather wanted to know if "any serious thought" had been given to canceling Bush's appearance a few hours later at a San Diego fundraiser, "given the fact that so many millions of people are going through this in the Northeast?" As if Bush in California could somehow fix a power grid in Ontario if only he weren't at a dinner.
Rather was also disturbed that Bush made his Chief-of-Staff, Andy Card, his "point man" in Washington to coordinate information for the traveling staff. Rather noted Card is "not an elected official" and quizzed reporter Bill Plante: "Where is Vice President Cheney and why wouldn't he be in charge since the President is not in Washington?"
Rather's comments came during the live feed of the 6:30pm EDT edition of the CBS Evening News. Plante, in San Diego, checked in to explain how Card, in DC, was the "point man" between the government agencies in Washington, DC and the President's traveling staff.
Rather wanted to know: "Bill, first of all, you said that Andrew Card, who's a White House official, but not an elected official, would be in the charge, the point man if you will, the point man for this. Where is Vice President Cheney and why wouldn't he be in charge since the President is not in Washington."
If CBS were so concerned about the blackout, maybe they could have cancelled some of their prime time line-up. ABC dropped their lame schedule, of ABC's 50th Anniversary Blooper Celebration, Extreme Makeover and PrimeTime Thursday, for three hours of ABC News coverage, anchored by Ted Koppel out of DC from late afternoon until 10pm EDT when Elizabeth Vargas took over. Like CBS, NBC also aired the regular prime time line-up, but at least made room, as did ABC, a bit before 9pm EDT to play a 7-minute or so tape of Bush's comments on the blackout.
But not CBS on which Rather earlier made such a point of demanding Bush pay attention to the blackout. While ABC, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC were playing the tape of Bush at about 8:54pm EDT, CBS continued with Amazing Race 4. Then at 9pm EDT, Rather cut in with a one-minute update that included a Bush soundbite. Afterward, it was on to CSI and Without a Trace.
(FNC was also AWOL on the Bush comments in their initial playing, though FNC ran them several times later in the night. At 8:50pm EDT, during The O'Reilly Factor, FNC jumped to an old tape of a Fox Magazine profile of American Idol's Simon Cowell. Just as suddenly as FNC went away, it popped back mid-Bush at 8:58pm EDT -- at least that's what I got on my cable system.)
Gratuitous plug of the night. At about 7:45pm EDT on ABC, Ted Koppel highlighted a "happy note," from California Governor Gray Davis, about how "the power outages on the East Coast pose no threat to the California power grid." Who thought otherwise? Will Koppel next inform us as to how the Governor of Oregon doesn't think a hurricane in Florida will impact his state?
Koppel intoned: "One other happy note from a man who hasn't had many happy notes these last few days. Governor Gray Davis of California announces that the power outages on the East Coast pose no threat to the California power grid. That's probably the best news he has had for months."
Without any balancing political guests, several of the networks gave a platform throughout the evening to former Clinton administration Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, both of whom criticized Bush administration energy policy, but Clinton was the most egregious in taking advantage of the blackout coverage to resurrect anti-Enron talking points, denounce deregulation, castigate President Bush and even defend California Governor Gray Davis.
Of course, the previous big blackouts occurred long before any Bush-inspired deregulation.
Other politicians did appear, including New York's Republican Governor, George Pataki, but they were not prodded to denounce regulation, praise deregulation or assess former President Clinton's energy policy.
Later, on MSNBC, after she made the same points as she spelled out on ABC, anchor Lester Holt drew her out: "What's different about the way the administration's approaching it and the way you believe it should be approached?" Clinton lamented how "the administration wants to continue with this failed policy of deregulation that caused so much trouble in California a few years ago."
MSNBC Editor-in-Chief Jerry Nachman endorsed Clinton's pro-federal government regulation view: "Well, given the interstate nature of what happened today, it would seem like the federal government has full jurisdiction to get into it."
In between appearing on ABC and MSNBC, Clinton popped up on CNN's Larry King Live to make the same points.
When Koppel very oddly asked her for the procedure used to re-start a nuclear power plant, as if she would know, Clinton conceded she did not know and then launched into a liberal spiel:
Koppel pointed out how with 50 million impacted it was the biggest ever blackout and asked how the problem was allowed to ripple over a wide area.
A few hours later, at approximately 10:15pm EDT, she appeared by phone on MSNBC where Lester Holt asked her to expound: "Ultimately we're all going to wake up tomorrow and we're going to be looking at people like yourself in Washington and saying how come this happened, how come this is allowed to happen? Is there a really good answer?"
Then, as quoted above, Nachman mimicked Clinton's theme.
Thanks to the blackout, no Hillary Clinton on Comedy Central and we got to see the real Diane Sawyer, Paula Zahn and Elizabeth Vargas sans benefit of blow drying their hair.
-- Because of the blackout, TV shows produced in Manhattan, including NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, couldn't tape a fresh show in the late afternoon and the networks had to go to repeats. CBS's Late Show was already in re-runs this week.
Comedy Central was unable to tape its scheduled new Daily Show with Jon Stewart with guest Hillary Rodham Clinton as part of her media tour to promote her book.
-- The Infobabes raw. With the networks saving their generator power for essential production tasks, there was no electricity to drive blow dryers and so we got to see what ABC's Diane Sawyer and Elizabeth Vargas, as well as CNN's Paula Zahn, look like in the morning -- only compounded by their heat-induced perspiration.
Diane Sawyer looked the most ragged in the evening as she showed up in ABC's West 66th St. facility wearing her husband's shirt, made damp by her trek on foot across Central Park, and sporting hair that was matted down.
# By the time this is sent at 5:30am EDT, I hope those who lost their power have regained it. Of course, if you haven't, you won't be reading this any time soon.
-- Brent Baker