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Stahl Predicts Plame Case May "Take Off the Way Watergate Did" --10/19/2005


1. Stahl Predicts Plame Case May "Take Off the Way Watergate Did"
Recalling how Watergate "didn't take off until people started talking about higher ups" in the White House, on Tuesday night's The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, CBS's Lesley Stahl predicted that the Valerie Plame case "could possibly take off the way the Watergate one did." Stahl fondly remembered how Watergate "really took off as a big story when it went into the Senate and there were hearings held by the opposition party." That, she dejectedly noted, "isn't likely to happen in this case" given GOP control of both houses of Congress. When Stephen Colbert, a veteran of Comedy Central's Daily Show, whimsically pointed out on the second night of his new 11:30pm EDT/PDT show that "if you look at the issues, Nixon was a pinko. I mean, it was education and stopping the draft and women's rights and the environment. I mean, he was the boogie man at the time. But he's way to the left of John Kerry," Stahl disagreed and credited (or is it blamed?) Reagan for moving America to the right: "I wouldn't say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right." A resigned Stahl soon added: "The center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit."

2. ABC Passes Along Worries Saddam Hussein Won't Get Fair Trial
ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up a Tuesday World News Tonight story, about Saddam Hussein's trial set to start Wednesday, by noting how "many Iraqis are eager to see him in the docks, finally held accountable for atrocities committed by his regime." But then came the inevitable "but," as in: "But already, human rights groups are worried about the fairness of the trial." In the subsequent story, reporter Jim Sciutto in Iraq devoted most of his piece to how Iraqis are angry at Hussein and glad he's going on trial. Sciutto quoted one man who argued that "he should be tortured the same way he tortured the people." Sciutto, however, ended with the concern earlier highlighted by Vargas: "Human rights groups doubt the former dictator will get a fair trial, with five inexperienced judges unable to resist pressure for swift justice, and his legal team with little time to answer the charges."


Stahl Predicts Plame Case May "Take Off
the Way Watergate Did"

Recalling how Watergate "didn't take off until people started talking about higher ups" in the White House, on Tuesday night's The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, CBS's Lesley Stahl predicted that the Valerie Plame case "could possibly take off the way the Watergate one did." Stahl fondly remembered how Watergate "really took off as a big story when it went into the Senate and there were hearings held by the opposition party." That, she dejectedly noted, "isn't likely to happen in this case" given GOP control of both houses of Congress. When Stephen Colbert, a veteran of Comedy Central's Daily Show, whimsically pointed out on the second night of his new 11:30pm EDT/PDT show that "if you look at the issues, Nixon was a pinko. I mean, it was education and stopping the draft and women's rights and the environment. I mean, he was the boogie man at the time. But he's way to the left of John Kerry," Stahl disagreed and credited (or is it blamed?) Reagan for moving America to the right: "I wouldn't say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right." A resigned Stahl soon added: "The center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit."

[This item was posted early Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To offer your views by posting a comment, go to: newsbusters.org ]

On the October 18 edition of The Colbert Report, a parody of cable interviews shows -- especially FNC's The O'Reilly Factor -- which is hosted Stephen Colbert and airs twice nightly at 11:30pm and 1:30am EDT, Colbert interviewed Stahl, a correspondent for CBS's 60 Minutes. A transcript of a good hunk of the session during which the two sat across a round (just like O'Reilly) table:

Stephen Colbert: "You cut your teeth covering Watergate, correct?"
Lesley Stahl: "Correct."
Colbert: "Right now there is, you know, what some are calling a brewing scandal, it's been on a very low simmer about the Valerie Plame investigation of the White House [one person applauds]. That's someone applauding scandal, I think. Either that or applauding treason. Compare like this period of time leading up to sort of the head of the investigation coming out to the when Watergate was first breaking."
Stahl: "Well, there was this kind of a doldrum effect that would happen with Watergate every now and then. It would just die off in terms of getting stories on the air, getting stories in the newspapers. People were saying, 'why do I care?', 'don't all politicians do this?' It didn't take off until people started talking about higher ups. 'Is the White House itself, how high up in the White House, is the President involved?' That kind of thing. And then it really took off as a big story when it went into the Senate and there were hearings held by the opposition party. Which isn't likely to happen in this case."
Colbert: "What is the big deal about this particular case? I mean, all that they're saying is that somebody in the White House had to do what they had to do to get the war they wanted. [laughter from Stahl and audience] I mean, if my boss tells me, 'hey, go get justification for a war,' I go get justification for a war. I don't say, 'I don't think I can do that, boss.' That's loyalty." [Stahl and audience laugh] Gotchya. I should be on 60 Minutes. I just nailed you."
Stahl: "And I'm the correspondent."
Colbert: "Exactly."
Stahl: "I know, it's scary. It's scary. I think that this story is very, could possibly take off the way the Watergate one did."
Colbert: "Ah, that would be great. Not because I want to see this country taken down by another scandal, but I have just learned how hard it is to fill 22 minutes of news a night. Oh, if only Nixon were back. By the way, have you noticed, let me ask you something. I've got a '72 campaign poster up in my office. And if you look at the issues, Nixon was a pinko. I mean, it was education and stopping the draft and women's rights and the environment. I mean, he was the boogie man at the time. But he's way to the left of John Kerry."
Stahl: "I wouldn't say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right."
Colbert: "The 'Gipper.'"
Stahl: "The 'Gipper." 'Dutch.'"
Colbert: "What?"
Stahl: "'Dutch.' We also called him 'Dutch.'"
Colbert quipped: "He asked me not to call him that."
Stahl: "But the center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit."

Comedy Central's page for The Colbert Report: www.comedycentral.com

ABC Passes Along Worries Saddam Hussein
Won't Get Fair Trial

ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas set up a Tuesday World News Tonight story, about Saddam Hussein's trial set to start Wednesday, by noting how "many Iraqis are eager to see him in the docks, finally held accountable for atrocities committed by his regime." But then came the inevitable "but," as in: "But already, human rights groups are worried about the fairness of the trial." In the subsequent story, reporter Jim Sciutto in Iraq devoted most of his piece to how Iraqis are angry at Hussein and glad he's going on trial. Sciutto quoted one man who argued that "he should be tortured the same way he tortured the people." Sciutto, however, ended with the concern earlier highlighted by Vargas: "Human rights groups doubt the former dictator will get a fair trial, with five inexperienced judges unable to resist pressure for swift justice, and his legal team with little time to answer the charges."

Over on the CBS Evening News, Lara Logan showed the video of Dujail before, in a milder way, passing along worries about fairness: "For these people, the verdict on Saddam Hussein is already in: 'I would not control myself, I would tear him apart,' this man says. But the Americans know the credibility of Iraq's new democracy is at stake here if Saddam Hussein doesn't appear to receive a fair trial. That's already impossible, says his defense attorney, because the U.S. is dictating the rules." Abdel Haq Alani declared in a soundbite: "As we can see, it's all being controlled by the United States."

The NBC Nightly News story from Richard Engel refrained from playing the fairness card.

[This item was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Full transcript of the October 18 World News Tonight story on ABC:

Elizabeth Vargas: "Overseas, now, to Iraq. Saddam Hussein will go on trial for the first time tomorrow, 22 months after he was dragged from an underground bunker. Many Iraqis are eager to see him in the docks, finally held accountable for atrocities committed by his regime. But already, human rights groups are worried about the fairness of the trial. Here's ABC's Jim Sciutto."

Sciutto, over video of the courtroom: "Today, the first look inside the courtroom where Saddam Hussein will answer for years of brutality, the dock where he and seven co-defendants will sit. And the witness stand, with curtains to shield his accusers' identities.
"Today, many Iraqis told us that under Saddam's rule, they could not have had imagined this. 'I never dreamed we'd see Saddam in court one day,' Ali, a writer, told us, 'we have waited too long.' Saddam, whose regime has been accused of gassing hundreds of Kurds and dumping tens of thousands of others in mass graves, will stand trial tomorrow for a crime little-known outside Iraq: The 1982 execution of 143 men and boys in the town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against him there. This recently discovered video shows him confronting residents minutes later. 'Keep them separate,' he [Hussein] orders, 'and interrogate them.'
Greg Kehoe, former adviser to Iraqi Special Tribunal: "Here was a limited set of facts, a limited set of events. Nevertheless, the crimes that were inflicted on the population were horrific."
Sciutto: "The Iraqis we spoke with tonight still expressed deep anger at Saddam Hussein and often a desire that he face the most severe punishment. Kaddam al-Jafar [phonetic spelling] lost all four of his sons in the Dujail executions. [over video of al-Jafar] 'He should be tortured the same way he tortured the people.' Human rights groups doubt the former dictator will get a fair trial, with five inexperienced judges unable to resist pressure for swift justice, and his legal team with little time to answer the charges. Tomorrow, they will likely be granted a request for more time to build a defense. Jim Sciutto, ABC News, Baghdad."

-- Brent Baker