NBC & ABC Highlight Gore Blast at Bush's Lawbreaking, Olbermann Mulls GOP Collapse

NBC and ABC on Monday night gave time to short items on Al Gore's charge, leveled during a morning speech, that President Bush's “domestic surveillance” means he “has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently." And MSNBC's Countdown led with it as host Keith Olbermann showcased a clip of Gore with his allegation before Olbermann insisted: "Just more old-fashioned partisanship? Not when it's Bob Barr joining Gore in the same complaint about NSA spying. Not when it's Arlen Specter calling for a full investigation." Seeing great import in the Gore-Barr alliance, Olbermann ruminated about how “the creations of the last two serious third political parties in this country define the cliche politics makes strange bedfellows.” Seemingly suggesting a potential repeat scenario, Olbermann recalled how in 1854 Republicans “started as a third party with disaffected Democrats abandoning their own sitting President and the Whigs, who had been in office until a year earlier, deserting en masse, putting aside their personal hatreds to create a one-issue party against slavery.”

NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “Gore made some of the toughest charges yet from a prominent Democrat. He called for an independent investigation of the NSA spy program which he called a threat to the very structure of our government." After a clip of Gore's declaration, “What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law [rising applause] repeatedly and insistently," Williams offered no contrary view and then passed along how "Al Gore noted that he gave the speech on Martin Luther King Day because Dr. King himself had been a victim of illegal domestic spying by the FBI." But in holding the FBI accountable for the “spying,” Williams obscured who was behind it: Liberal heroes Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas at least pointed out that while “Gore called for an independent counsel to investigate the program,” it's a policy “which the administration has said is, in fact, legal." (Transcripts follow.)

The American Constitution Society and Liberty Coalition, with heavily promotion from MoveOn.org were behind the Monday morning address by Gore at the DAR's Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.

Transcripts of the January 16 coverage cited above:

NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams:
“Former presidential candidate Al Gore has come out hard against President Bush on the subject of domestic spying. Gore made some of the toughest charges yet from a prominent Democrat. He called for an independent investigation of the NSA spy program which he called a threat to the very structure of our government.”

Al Gore: “At present we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law [rising applause] repeatedly and insistently.”

Williams: “Al Gore noted that he gave the speech on Martin Luther King Day because Dr. King himself had been a victim of illegal domestic spying by the FBI.”

ABC's World News Tonight, Elizabeth Vargas:
“Former Vice President Al Gore made an unusually strong attack today on the man he challenged for the presidency in the year 2000. Gore told a Washington audience that President Bush has been breaking the law by authorizing wiretapping without court approval. He called the anti-terrorism eavesdropping program a quote, 'threat to the structure of our government.' And Gore called for an independent counsel to investigate the program, which the administration has said is, in fact, legal.”

MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbemann's opening tease:
Olbermann: “Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Gore v. Bush, again.”

Al Gore: “The President of the United States has been breaking the law -- repeatedly and insistently.”

Olbermann: “Just more old-fashioned partisanship? Not when it's Bob Barr joining Gore in the same complaint about NSA spying. Not when it's Arlen Specter calling for a full investigation.”

Olbermann then led his show by ruminating: “Good evening, Bob Barr and Al Gore, together again for the first time. We don't tend to think of it this way, but the creations of the last two serious third political parties in this country define the cliche politics makes strange bedfellows. 1912 saw Theodore Roosevelt split with the Republicans, and his hand-picked successor William Howard Taft. Roosevelt and the Progressive Party actually finished second in the vote that year. And in 1854 the Republicans themselves started as a third party with disaffected Democrats abandoning their own sitting President and the Whigs, who had been in office until a year earlier, deserting en masse, putting aside their personal hatreds to create a one-issue party against slavery.

“Our fifth story on the Countdown, this is not to say we're going to see another major third party brought into being this week, but here is the fact, once and again: Bob Barr and Al Gore together again for the first time, at least in theory. Former Congressman, now working to defend the Bill of Rights, all set to introduce the former Vice President at a bipartisan event in Washington this afternoon at which Mr. Gore would deliver a speech challenging the Bush administration's expansion of executive of power. That was the plan, anyway. Former Congressman Barr scheduled to appear from a remote location. The reality: Experiencing technical difficulties, Mr. Barr's satellite feed failing to work, leaving the man who won the 2000 presidential popular vote by 500,000 to wait on stage for several awkward minutes before someone else made the introduction. As for what followed, while no one would say Mr. Gore has become a great speaker, he has definitely become a more forceful one, ripping into the President on a host of constitutional issues, charging him with quote, 'breaking the law repeatedly and persistently' and calling on Congress to launch an investigation into NSA wiretapping, since the legislative body can't be trusted to do any investigating itself.

Al Gore: “A special counsel should be immediately appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that present him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We've had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzpatrick has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the executive branch has violated other laws. [edit jump] It should be a political issue in any race, regardless of party, section of the country, house of congress, for anyone who opposes the appointment of special counsel under these dangerous circumstances, when our Constitution is at risk.”

Olbermann: “For more on what to make of the Gore speech and the Bob Barr introduction that was only symbolic, time now to call in Newsweek magazine's White House correspondent Richard Wolfe....”
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