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Quote of the Day | "Nasty Little Scandal" Prompts Some New Clinton Scrutiny. Peter Jennings annoyed by Morris story. | Ted Kennedy's Hit Speech Goes Uncriticized for Harshness | Convention Ratherisms | Sidebites
"They listened to those reports of the people turning down the dials when negative responses were made in San Diego. He did it on the high road. He said this was to be a campaign of ideas, not insults, no personal attacks. And I think a final thought, Dan. This was a convention that was well-planned and well-thought out. They had their themes and they hit the mark every day. And the President hit the mark tonight."
- CBS reporter Ed Bradley, after Clinton's speech.
"Nasty Little Scandal" Prompts Some New Clinton Scrutiny; Dick Morris Story Mars Pro-Clinton Euphoria
The networks generally praised Bill Clinton's acceptance speech last night, but earlier in the evening coverage concentrated on the resignation of Clinton campaign strategist Dick Morris after revelations of a relationship with a prostitute. The Morris news forced some networks to discuss issues suppressed the first three nights: Clinton's character and whether Morris pushed him artificially to the right.
"Two of the best and brightest of their political generation, both baby boomers," marveled Tom Brokaw of Clinton and Gore. ABC's Sam Donaldson offered: "Clinton always gives a great speech, and this was another one of them. But the record shows that the next day he may give a different speech, change his mind."
- CBS and NBC evening shows led with Morris, but ABC's Peter Jennings seemed annoyed that he had to even mention the allegations. "Here in Chicago," Jennings began World News Tonight, "the President has been fine tuning, as they say, the speech he will be giving to this convention and to the country tonight. And he has a lot to be pleased about. A very upbeat convention. A very successful train trip here with rising poll numbers to accompany it. And a very important set of statistics about the economy today, which he will certainly point to as evidence that the country should re-elect him. And then along comes a nasty little scandal to take the edge off the good news at least for one day."
- Questions about liberal influences on Clinton. Tom Brokaw, on NBC Nightly News, asked Tim Russert "Does this open the door then...to some of the President's old friends, who are more left of center than right of center?" Dan Rather to Ted Kennedy in prime time: "Bob Dole said today with Morris gone President Clinton has only around him now liberal aides, and that's going to hurt him?"
- Character issue raised on CNN and NBC, which were the only networks to detail the Morris story. On the 7pm ET Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff inquired of Vernon Jordan: "Does it say anything about the President's judgment that he would turn again and again over 20 years to a man like Dick Morris with the sort of personal problems that he allegedly has?" As prime time began, only CNN's Bernie Kalb and NBC's Lisa Myers noted the Star reported Morris used a Clinton campaign hotel room and that he allowed the woman to listen in on phone calls with Clinton.
- The rank hypocrisy of Al Gore's speech Wednesday night went unmentioned Thursday morning and evening. Gore said his sister's death from lung cancer in 1984 prompted his anti-tobacco crusade, but in 1988 he boasted of growing and selling tobacco. The only exception came on CNN's Crossfire which showed the 1988 clip of Gore.
The Orator of "Robert Bork's America" Goes Negative Again Ted Kennedy's Hit Speech Goes Uncriticized
Reporters continued to miss the hypocrisy of Clinton's proclamation of an "ideas, not insults" campaign when matched with the attack-dog rhetoric of podium speakers. Last night, Ted Kennedy used the exact same literary device that two weeks ago fueled media criticism of Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Said Kennedy of the GOP platform: "It is the radical wish list of the education-cutting, environmental-trashing, Medicare-slashing, choice-denying, tolerance-repudiating, gay-bashing, Social Security-threatening, assault-rifle-coddling, government-closing, tax loophole-granting....minimum wage-opposing Republican majority that dominated the delegations in San Diego"
- NBC's Lisa Myers asked Hutchison in San Diego: "Do you think you went too far?" On PBS, Tom Brokaw said last night: "Senator Edward M. Kennedy, still in full voice after all these years in the United States Senate. The proud champion of the liberal cause, addressing this convention hall once again as he does every four years."
- On CNN,Bernard Shaw asserted: "Sixteen years ago in New York's Madison Square Garden, Sen. Edward Kennedy rallied the Democratic Party. Tonight, he has done it again in Chicago." Ken Bode added: "You need a partisan speech, one that puts it to the other party. You get it at any convention. Ted Kennedy does it as well as anybody could do it. Elder statesman of the party. Eloquent."
- CNN's Bill Schneider found code words: "What they're trying to do is take advantage of Dole's age and portray him as sort of out of it. He's kind of irrelevant. He's kind of a dupe. That the ideas are the sinister ideas of Newt Gingrich, and even Jack Kemp with his supply-side ideas." But that attack theme drew no criticism.
- Later, CNN's Judy Woodruff interviewed Kennedy: "Do you really believe that the Republicans are as dangerous, that Bob Dole is as dangerous, as you described in your remarks?" Bernard Shaw queried: "You had a who's who of names tonight: Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, Rush Limbaugh, Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson. What were you driving at?"
- On CBS, where Bob Schieffer asked Sen. Hutchison in San Diego how she felt being "Attack Dog Hutchison," Dan Rather interviewed Kennedy last night but failed to ask him about the speech or its tone.
Special events often inspire the folksy aphorisms known as Ratherisms:
This is your classic case of two pounds of politics in a one-pound bag. This hall is only a third the size of the Houston Astrodome, where the last Republican convention was held." - Dan Rather, leading off Republican coverage, August 12.
- "She's expected to hit President Clinton rhetorically with everything short of a tire tube." - Rather on Kay Bailey Hutchison, August 13 convention coverage.
- "It looks like California's Governor Pete Wilson is out of the doghouse. You know from his view he's been put so far back in the doghouse they had to FedEx him daylight." - Rather during August 14 Republican convention coverage.
- "The Vice President of the United States, Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, age 48, is about to give an address in which he is widely expected to hit Republicans with everything short of a window weight." - During August 28 Democratic convention.
- "The consensus in the hall is that Albert Gore has scored with what Harry Caray, the famous Chicago baseball announcer, might call a home run ball." - Rather during CBS Democratic convention coverage, August 28.
Dick Morris, Family Man
Just a day before the Dick Morris prostitute story broke, USA Today ran a profile. Susan Page's front page piece Wednesday included this line: "He is a small man and a dapper dresser, openly devoted to his no-nonsense wife."
Wednesday's New York Times insisted the Democratic Party defined centrism, but the story listed some very liberal views. The Democratic "platform takes a middle ground between the unfettered capitalism and government-enforced morality es- poused by Republicans and the welfare-state economics and Aquarian values that once formed Democrats' image," reported David Rosenbaum.
Four paragraphs later Rosenbaum summarized the "middle ground" policies: "The Democrats call for government-paid abortions for poor women, full civil rights for homosexuals, a strong commitment to public schools, gun control, tobacco regulations, a continuation of affirmative action programs and a greater emphasis on environmental protection than on the development of resources."
Clinton's promise to "fix" welfare reform didn't prompt questions about his backing down on a promise. Instead, reporters pressed from the left. On CBS last night Ed Bradley cornered U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums: "I know you saw it not as welfare reform but more as a budget cut. What does he have to do to fix it?" And, "The President is expected to say tonight that he's going to propose a $3.5 billion jobs program for welfare recipients, is that enough?"
- Brent Baker with Tim Graham, Steve Kaminski, Clay Waters, Geoffrey Dickens, Jim Forbes, Gene Eliasen and Matt Turosz