CBS's Harry Smith Tosses Softballs at Joe Wilson, Schieffer Finds 'Christmas In February'

On CBS's The Early Show, anchor Harry Smith tossed softballs at Joe Wilson on Wednesday about how he and his wife greeted the Libby verdict, what the trial showed, whether Libby was protecting Vice President Cheney, and what the Wilsons' civil suit will accomplish. He asked no questions about Wilson lying about his wife lobbying for his Niger trip, or anything else Wilson's critics would want asked. Anchor Hannah Storm asked Bob Schieffer about how much the verdict will help Democrats, and they tied it to Hurricane Katrina and the Walter Reed scandal. "This really is sort of Christmas in February for Democrats," said Schieffer, even though the verdict arrived on March 6. The Wilson interview was soft as a baby's bottom all the way through:  

Smith: "Well, you had a chance, finally, after talking to a lot of the press yesterday, to go home and speak with your wife, I would assume in a quiet moment or two. What did you say to each other?"Wilson: "Well, by the time I got home last night, she was pretty tuckered out. I guess the good thing is she had a good night's sleep, perhaps the first good night's sleep in several months at least. There's a sense of personal relief. At the same time, I don't think anybody who has served their country, and between us we've served it for 43 years, I don't think that anybody can take delight in the idea that a senior public official would obstruct justice and commit perjury in a national security investigation."Smith: "This case doesn't show that the White House purposely outed your wife. What do you think it does show?" Wilson: "Well, the reason it doesn't show that is Mr. Fitzgerald made very clear if somebody was throwing sand in the umpire's eyes. I think the fact that Mr. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice doesn't mean that there was not an underlying crime of compromising identity of a covert CIA officer. And make no mistake about it, Valerie was a covert CIA officer. She served her country in that capacity for 20 years. But the fact that you couldn't convict on that doesn't mean that, that he didn't do it. Just as convicting Al Capone on tax evasion charges doesn't mean that he wasn't a mobster." Smith didn't even blink at the Bushies-as-mobsters comment: "In your view, was he trying to protect himself or was he trying to protect the vice president?"Wilson: "Well, I think that the vice president and the president really need to step forward and reassure the American people that they had nothing to do with this. Or explain to the American people what they had to do with it. For openers, they ought to release the transcripts of their own conversations with Mr. Fitzgerald. I think that that's important so that people understand the extent to which the vice president's office was or was not involved in this." Smith: "You and your wife are bringing a civil trial against the vice president, Karl Rove, others. What do you seek to, seek to prove in this civil trial?" Wilson: "Well, we have three objectives. One, we want to hold these public officials to account for their abuse of the public trust in the exercise of a political vendetta. Second, we want the whole story to come out. As you know, none of the principals, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove, Mr. Armitage or Mr. Libby, testified in the criminal trial. So we're hopeful to get discovery and find out what they knew and what they were thinking. And third, and perhaps most important, we'd like this trial to serve as a deterrent to future generations of public servants so that they might exercise the public trust in a legitimate way and not abuse it for personal partisan motives."

Smith never asked if Wilson had personal and partisan motives, which he clearly did, or if it was an abuse of power for the CIA to send the husband of an agent on a fact-finding junket to Niger, and then watch the husband lie about the cozy keep-it-within-the-family arrangement. MRC's Justin McCarthy also captured Hannah Storm's interview with Bob Schieffer, which sounded like an echo chamber of Democratic talking points:

Storm: "Well the reaction of Democratic leaders has been very strong as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said 'it's about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics.' How strong is this message from Democrats about accountability, and is it resonating with the American people?" Schieffer: "Well, I don't see how it can help or not. This really is sort of Christmas in February (sic) for Democrats. Because it raises questions again about the administration's credibility. And in fact it raises more questions about competence. One thing to remember here, Hannah, is the prosecutor did not uncover any crime. He didn't find out if somebody deliberately broke the law and leaked the identity of Valerie Plame. What he did find out, though is that there was a lot of skull duglarly going on. And he says the reason he couldn't get to the crime was because Scooter Libby lied. And he convinced the jury of that. You have to ask the question: Why did he lie? Well, the answer, why do people lie is because they don't want the truth to come out. And I think this leaves a lot of fingers pointed at the vice president. It raises a lot of questions about what the administration was trying to do. And I think in the end that's, that's going to hurt the administration and the vice president." Storm: "Right, so does this harm the president's standing on Capitol Hill, even further contributing to this atmosphere of mistrust? Does it make it more difficult for the administration to press its case here down the road over the next couple of years?" Schieffer: "I think there's no question but that it will because it gives the Democrats all these questions that they can pose. And, and, you know, it's, again, the administration was saying one thing and now it appears they were trying to manipulate the press, you know, at the very least. And I think every time any question comes up on the hill now, Democrats will go back to this and say, okay, how do we know you're telling the truth about this, because clearly you were trying to manipulate the truth in these other things. This, this is bound to hurt." Storm: "And in the midst of all this, we have these hearings over this deplorable conditions, lack of proper care at Walter Reed. How much political damage has been done to the Bush administration by this? What's the cumulative effect of both these stories?" Schieffer: "Well, and I think they, they do connect together. The first thing is we have to say, this was a human tragedy. This was awful what was going on behind the scenes at Walter Reed. Now we have this medicine battlefield medicine better than ever. And yet these troops, we're now finding out, once they're brought home, the battle's over and they've been treated, then it looks like the military was just trying to sweep them under the rug and, and say, okay, we're done with you, go on to someplace else. Again, as we see in the 'Scooter' Libby case, in addition to raising questions about the ethics, it raises questions about the competence. When people begin to lose confidence in the administration over the war, was after Hurricane Katrina. And these similar questions have been raised about that. Can't these guys get out of their own way? And after that, you saw the support for the administration begin to be questioned on Iraq. Again, this just adds to that picture. This was a very bad day, it seems to me, for the administration."

That Bob Schieffer, so talented at stating the obvious. All he left out is how CBS revels in creating bad news and sticking it like Post-It notes all over the White House.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis