Lesley Stahl Predicts Plame Case “Could Possibly Take Off the Way Watergate Did"

<img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="/media/2005-10-18-CCCOLRPTStahl.jpg" />Recalling how Watergate “didn't take off until people started talking about higher ups” in the White House, on Tuesday night’s <a href="http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_colbert_report/index.jhtml"><i>The Colbert Report</i></a> on Comedy Central, CBS’s <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/09/60minutes/bios/main13546.shtml... Stahl</a> predicted that the Valerie Plame case “could possibly take off the way the Watergate one did.&quot; 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&quot; given GOP control of both houses of Congress. When Stephen Colbert, a veteran of Comedy Central’s <i>Daily Show</i>, 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,&quot; Stahl disagreed and credited (or is it blamed?) Reagan for moving America to the right: &quot;I wouldn't say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right.&quot; A resigned Stahl soon added: &quot;The center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit.&quot; She didn’t seem pleased about it.<br /><br />Full transcript of the exchange follows.<br /><br />
<!--break--> On the October 18 edition of <i>The Colbert Report</i>, a parody of cable interviews shows -- especially FNC’s <i>The O’Reilly Factor</i> -- which is hosted Stephen Colbert and airs twice nightly at 11:30pm and 1:30am EDT, Colbert interviewed Stahl, a correspondent for CBS’s <i>60 Minutes</i>. A transcript of a good hunk of the session during which the two sat across a round (just like O'Reilly) table: <br /><blockquote>Stephen Colbert: “You cut your teeth covering Watergate, correct?” <br /><br />Lesley Stahl: “Correct.”<br /><br />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.” <br /><br />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.” <br /><br />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.” <br /><br />Stahl: “And I’m the correspondent.”<br /><br />Colbert: “Exactly.”<br /><br />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.”<br /><br />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.”<br /><br />Stahl: “I wouldn’t say that necessarily. But the whole country shifted right ever since Reagan. Reagan really moved us off to the right.”<br /><br />Colbert: “The 'Gipper.’”<br /><br />Stahl: “The 'Gipper.” 'Dutch.’”<br /><br />Colbert: “What?”<br /><br />Stahl: “'Dutch.’ We also called him 'Dutch.’” <br /><br />Colbert quipped: “He asked me not to call him that.”<br /><br />Stahl: “But the center of the country has definitely shifted to the right. And there we sit.” </blockquote>

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center