"More Ammunition" for the VRWC; Tripp as the "Conniving Villain"
2) "More ammunition" for Hillary's "vast right-wing conspiracy" charge found by ABC's Mike von Fremd. ABC's John Cochran argued that even Republicans know they are "using the scandal as a smokescreen to hide the slow pace of legislative action."
Most Cutting Comment of the Weekend, shall we say. Here's the
"Outrage of the Week" from Time magazine's Margaret Carlson on
CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night:
How does she know how "big" a problem?
Sunday night ABC News highlighted a New York Times story which reporter Mike von Fremd insisted "has given even more ammunition to the First Lady's claims that all of this is part of 'a vast right-wing conspiracy.'" Minutes later ABC worried about how even Republicans are upset that the scandal has distracted from liberal agenda items, such as campaign finance reform.
But first, what the other networks delivered. The Sunday morning shows were fairly quiet, interrupted only by wacky outbursts by Ross Perot who appeared on both NBC's Meet the Press and CNN's Late Edition. Sunday night football displaced the CBS Evening News in the East. Both ABC and NBC led with Gerald Ford's suggestion in a New York Times op-ed that Clinton be rebuked in the well of the House. The stories on both networks highlighted how Republicans oppose the idea while Democrats favor it. NBC Nightly News followed with a report previewing Monday's Judiciary Committee hearing.
Opening with Ford's idea, anchor Carole Simpson noted on ABC's World News Tonight: "Although he is a Republican, it is the Democrats who are cheering his suggestion." Reporter Mike von Fremd began: "With the prospect of impeachment hearings hanging over Washington, President Clinton's advisers today welcomed a proposal from a former Republican President to spare the country the painful process..." Von Fremd proceeded to read excerpts from Ford's piece and soundbites from John Conyers and Trent Lott.
Jumping from the
op-ed page to the front page, von Fremd then asserted:
Hillary's claim had "ammunition"? I thought it had long ago been discredited. I guess not by reporters, especially one who would consider this kind of guilt by association to be evidence.
O'Brien previewed the Monday hearings before John Cochran announced:
While both CNN's The World Today and FNC's Fox Report led with and devoted half their hour-long shows Friday night to the document release, the broadcast networks held themselves to two reports each and led with other news. ABC went first with a rise in the unemployment rate. Clinton's plan for an emergency fund to bail out ailing nations topped CBS and NBC.
Friday night coverage illustrated the imbalanced picture viewers get because the independent counsel is restricted in what he can say and the networks don't feel any obligation to find others to counter the White House spin. CBS and CNN ran full reports on the attack on Starr and Tripp by new White House special counsel Greg Craig and the other networks all featured his allegations. On CBS Bill Plante noted that "the President's defenders...accused the independent counsel of deliberately holding back evidence favoring the President." NBC's Tom Brokaw declared: "The latest documents provide a little something for everyone, including a new claim from the White House that Ken Starr is only out to get the President."
ABC's John Cochran highlighted how the White House calls Linda Tripp a "villain," an assessment ABC's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin endorsed, charging: "The story of Linda Tripp's betrayal is really very unappealing and she comes off as a conniving and really not a likable person"
Contrary to the official Clinton staff line that nobody knew anything about the relationship, NBC Gwen Ifill reported that "the Lewinsky relationship was an open secret on the White House grounds."
Here are some highlights from the Friday night, October 2, evening shows:
-- ABC's World
News Tonight. After Betsy Stark looked at unemployment and Sam Donaldson
at Clinton's international monetary plan, anchor Peter Jennings
John Cochran went
directly to impugning Tripp, beginning his piece: "Transcripts
released today shed new light on Linda Tripp who has insisted she was a
reluctant player in all of this."
Made a villain with the help of ABC News.
Jackie Judd checked the Currie and Jordan testimony for evidence of obstruction of justice, concluding: "From the day the Starr report went to Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans have battled over the real strength of the obstruction of justice charges against the President. The testimony of Currie and Jordan released today gives each side some more points to work with."
Jennings then asked Jeffrey Toobin if he saw anything new in all the documents. ABC's legal analyst shot back: "Well there is a lot of new detail, especially as you said for people who regard this as a soap opera. The story of Linda Tripp's betrayal is really very unappealing and she comes off as a conniving and really not a likable person. But in terms of the evidence, what really matters in terms of impeachment, it seems to me we're very much where we were and I don't think partisans on either side will gain much ground here."
Next, Bill Plante
checked in from the White House where "the President's defenders
counterattacked aggressively. Today they accused the independent counsel
of deliberately holding back evidence favoring the President."
Next, from Capitol Hill Bob Franken outlined the clash between Democrats and Republicans over the scope of the hearings. Then Wolf Blitzer checked in: "The White House quickly went on the offensive again attacking Ken Starr's allegations as one-sided, salacious and not grounds for impeachment...." John King followed with a report on Clinton's fundraising in Ohio and Philadelphia.
CNN then delivered
a series of reports on what the documents showed: Brooks Jackson on the
Tripp tapes, Candy Crowley on how the tapes reveal much "girl
talk" about hair, shopping, clothes and sex, Eileen O'Connor
reviewed Betty Currie's testimony and Charles Bierbauer summarized the
testimony from Vernon Jordan. Finally, co-anchor Joie Chen introduced a
series of soundbites from women tired of the whole matter:
After David Bloom dealt with Clinton's proposal of an emergency line of credit to poor nations, Brokaw intoned: "And as we'll hear in these two reports, the latest documents provide a little something for everyone, including a new claim from the White House that Ken Starr is only out to get the President."
Lisa Myers began
by focusing on how Lewinsky and her mother feared White House retaliation.
In a taped talk Lewinsky, Myers reported, urges Tripp to lie and
"warns she could lose her government job is she crosses the
President, even coaches her on the fine art of lying under oath, quote
'I might have but I don't remember. That's the phrase my lawyer told
Up next, Gwen Ifill uniquely stressed: "The new evidence reveals a President intent on keeping secrets, from his wife, his White House advisers, his closest friends. But the details also show the Lewinsky relationship was an open secret on the White House grounds, where one Secret Service agent testified he bet another officer on how fast the President would beat a path to the Oval Office to see the woman he described as quote, 'the President's mistress.' But the President's closest advisers purposely looked the other way. In his grand jury testimony, Washington super-lawyer Vernon Jordan says he quote 'didn't want Monica Lewinsky to tell me anything about her relationship with the President,' but he said he agrees with the President that sexual relations means sexual intercourse only...."
Earlier this year Clintonites and media purists complained about how the
Internet had allowed some newspapers to post unsupported allegations they
had to withdraw hours later. Well, it turns out that one of those stories
was really accurate. Here's a paragraph I came across in an October 3
Washington Post story by Robert Suro about what Secret Service agents told
the grand jury:
Remember when Sidney Blumenthal stepped outside the courthouse and blasted Ken Starr for improperly focusing on Blumenthal's contacts with reporters and what he said about Starr's staff? It quickly became a common point of attack for Starr haters. Well, by reading the grand jury transcripts Nightline discovered Blumenthal's statement outside does not quite match what happened inside.
Blumenthal's lack of cooperation, on the October 2 Nightline David
Marash asserted that Blumenthal "visited with his lawyer outside the
grand jury room more often than a classroom of first graders going to the
bathroom. And after his first day's testimony was done, Blumenthal and
his lawyer William McDaniel said this to the news media and the
Marash then read
from the transcript: "A look at the grand jury transcript shows
prosecutors pressing Blumenthal not about his contacts with the media, but
with the President, the First Lady and other top White House politicos and
about the messages that they wanted Blumenthal to spin into the
Marash bluntly concluded: "So if Blumenthal was telling the truth on the courthouse steps, he is indeed a remarkable man, capable of quote, 'writing down,' notes on his own testimony even as he gave it."
Great media institutions think alike: me and the Washington Post. In the October 1 CyberAlert I observed that in watching the History Channel replay of the House Watergate hearings, "So far I haven't seen the often recalled 'bipartisanship' of the era. The majority party wins and the minority party loses every vote. Just like now, but the parties are reversed."
Friday's Washington Post backed me up, carrying a piece by reporters Guy Gugliotta and George Lardner Jr. headlined "Bipartisanship Eluded Hill in Watergate." Here's an excerpt:
It was different during Watergate. House members used to get along. And when it came time in 1974 to decide whether to throw President Richard M. Nixon out of office, they resolved their differences in a spirit of lofty bipartisanship.
It is a nice story, and both Republicans and Democrats are constantly retelling it as they prepare to open an impeachment inquiry into President Clinton's activities. But it is revisionist history, as any glance backward quickly shows. It turns out that the current and past impeachment proceedings are not so different when it comes to unseemly grappling between a greedy majority trying to seem generous and a wheedling minority demanding its "rights."
The difference is that the majority and the minority have switched places, so when both sides make the same arguments that their opponents made in 1974, it begins to sound more like situational ethics than high-minded statesmanship.
Thus the Judiciary Committee's ranking minority member, John Conyers Jr.(D-Mich.), complained yesterday that the Republicans were planning an impeachment inquiry that had no time limit and an unlimited scope. "This cannot be a never-ending fishing expedition," he said, that commits the country "to a process that could last months or years -- who knows?"
Rep. Robert McClory (R-Ill.) made the same plea at a Jan. 31, 1974, meeting, offering an amendment requiring the Judiciary Committee to finish in three months. "Uppermost in the minds of the American people, [is] to get this subject resolved one way or another," he said. Conyers, already a subcommittee chairman at the time, voted with the Democratic majority to kill the amendment....
Remember this when today's Judiciary Committee hearing evokes wistful memories from reporters about the bipartisanship of the Watergate days. -- Brent Baker 
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