CBS & ABC Frame Stories Around Blaming Conservatives for Mistreatment of Miers
Over on ABC's World News Tonight, following a lead story from Terry Moran, Linda Douglass opened a piece: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her." After a clip of Senator Harry Reid scolding the “the radical right wing of the Republican Party,” Douglass picked up on how Senator Arlen Specter "said the groups drowned her and the President out." Following bites from Senator Sam Brownback and Rush Limbaugh, she returned to the anti-conservative prism from which she began, setting up a slam from Senator Ted Kennedy by relating how Democrats say "if he chooses an ideological conservative, he will appear to be the tool of outside groups," and she concluded with how “Senator [Lindsey] Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up'” -- meaning a non-conservative. Pivoting from Douglass, anchor Bob Woodruff turned to George Stephanopoulos and inquired: “Does he [Bush] have to nominate a conservative to satisfy the base of his party or a moderate who would be acceptable enough to Democrats to avoid a long and prolonged fight?” Stephanopoulos listed some potential nominees before warning: “Both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up." (Transcripts follow.)
The October 27 CBS Evening News led with a story from John Roberts on the Miers withdrawal, followed by Lee Cowan from Dallas with reaction from those in her home town. Picking up after an opening soundbite from a disappointed high school friend:
Lee Cowan: “Loyalty in the Lone Star state runs pretty deep. At a Dallas diner this morning, her withdrawal served up a lot of disappointment. It's not just that Miers didn't get to become only the second Texan to sit on the high court, it's that conservatives, even here in her home state, weren't willing to give her a chance.”
Glenn Moore, with “Dallas Republican” identifier on screen: “I don't think that the people got to hear exactly what her position was on various and sundry things and she never had a hearing, you know.”
Man on radio in cab: “We didn't believe President Bush.”
Cowan: “Cabbie Gerald Colgrove had bigger issues: The President he voted for twice has taken a lot of home town hits lately, the most recent being Texas Republican Tom DeLay's criminal indictment. But the Miers nomination stung particularly hard.”
Gerald Colgrove, taxi driver: “When you've got more yelling and screaming coming out of his supporters than coming from his detractors, I think that says a lot right there.”
Cowan, leaning into taxi window: “What happened? Why do you think it fell apart?”
Colgrove sitting in taxi with Cowan beside cab: “I think the far right, they had been itching for a big battle for years.”
Cowan: “And this was it?”
Colgrove: “I think this is what they've been waiting for.”
Mark Davis on WBAP Radio: “Well, Harriet is gone.”
Cowan: “Dallas talk show host Mark Davis though says local conservatives are actually just trying to watch out for the President's legacy.”
Davis: “A lot of people are saying, 'wow, this is an embarrassment for the President' and it is. It was a bad pick. It was a bad pick, but I'll tell you, into this void can rush an opportunity for him to name someone who defines him.”
Cowan concluded: “That she fell on her sword for the good of the country, as she says, didn't surprise any of her friends. But still, around here, there's a sense that the home team lost a big one. Lee Cowan, CBS News, Dallas.”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a transcript of two of ABC's four October 27 World News Tonight reports on Miers. The newscast began with Terry Moran, and after the Douglass piece and q and a with Stephanopoulos recited below, Barbara Walters checked in with how Justice Sandra O'Connor again urged the President to pick a woman to replace her.
Bob Woodruff: "This is a significant defeat for a President who faces a number of challenges at the moment. It has been nearly 40 years since a Supreme Court nominee has withdrawn their name from consideration by the Senate. ABC's Linda Douglass has been following this fight from Capitol Hill."
Linda Douglass: "Democrats were quick to blame Miers' collapse on conservative activists, who demanded loudly that the President dump her."
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader, on the Senate floor: "The radical right wing of the Republican Party drove this woman's nomination right out of town."
Douglass: "The Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee said the groups drowned her and the President out."
Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, on the Senate floor: "There was a decisive imbalance in the public forum with the case for Ms. Miers not heard because of the heavy decibel level against her."
Douglass: "Republican Senators who publicly criticized Miers believe the President has now gotten the message that his supporters expect him to pick an established conservative judge. Many conservatives say it is time for a confrontation over abortion, gay marriage and school prayer."
Senator Sam Brownback (R-Senate Judiciary Committee): “This is something the President campaigned on. People walked for him. And it's going to be a tough discussion and debate. But it shouldn't be one of 'Hide the Ball.' We should have the debate."
Audio of Rush Limbaugh from his show: "It's time for the President to start picking fights with his real enemies: the Democrats and the left in this country. And that's what this opportunity affords."
Douglass: "Democrats lectured the President as well, saying if he chooses an ideological conservative, he will appear to be the tool of outside groups."
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Senate Judiciary Committee), on Senate floor: "If the President were willing to stand up to the extremists in his party, a realistic compromise could easily have been found on this issue."
Douglass: "The prospect of a raging battle in the Senate makes some Republicans uneasy."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Senate Judiciary Committee): "The American public is sick of us fighting all the time about everything. I think it's bad politics. And eventually this behavior is going to destroy the judiciary."
Douglass: "Now, Senator Graham is urging the President to appoint someone who, in his words, 'won't blow this place up.' But, Bob, both sides are bracing for him to do just that."
Woodruff, the anchor: "Which raises the, Linda Douglass, on Capitol Hill, thank you. Which raises the question: What does the President do next? Does he have to nominate a conservative to satisfy the base of his party or a moderate who would be acceptable enough to Democrats to avoid a long and prolonged fight. ABC's George Stephanopoulos joins us now to talk about this political calculus. Now, the President miscalculated the first time around. Does he change his strategy completely now?"
George Stephanopoulos, at anchor desk with Woodruff: "A little bit. Last time around, the President wanted a woman who united conservatives and divided Democrats. This time, I think it is more important that he please those conservatives, a little less important that he picks a woman. That's the sense I got from the White House today. And, frankly, I don't think they care what the Democrats think right now. But bottom line, everyone I spoke to today agrees this person has to be a federal judge with a proven track record on constitutional issues."
Woodruff: "They can find something out about here. So, if, with men then on the list this time around, who are the favorites?"
Stephanopoulos: "It's a wide-open list right now. Four possibilities: Michael Luttig from the federal court of appeals in Virginia, Samuel Alito from New Jersey, Karen Williams out of South Carolina, and, finally, Priscilla Owen of Texas. But I have to say, Bob, both Priscilla Owen and Michael Luttig fall into that category that Lindsey Graham talked about. They would blow the place up."
Woodruff: "All right. They want to avoid a fight in that sense. George Stephanopoulos, thank you."