Dan Rather fawned over former President Bill Clinton, and giddily promoted Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, in a new story for the New Year’s day 60 Minutes ostensibly focused on Clinton’s effort to get low-priced AIDS medicines into China. Rather pointed out how Clinton couldn’t take Air Force One on a trip to China, and wondered: “Do you miss it?" Clinton said he misses the workplace on it. Rather, looking bemused, followed up: "Do you, in some quiet moment, look forward to the time when maybe you fly on it in a different capacity, as First Husband?" Rather then trumpeted Geena Davis’ character on ABC's Commander-in-Chief: "We now have on television, we have a woman President of the United States. Is the country ready for a woman President, a real woman President as opposed to one on television?" CBSNews.com has posted a semi-transcript of the story, but by providing summaries of Rather’s inquiries, instead of a word-for-word transcript, the sycophantic nature of Rather’s exchange is obscured. (Transcript follows.)
Earlier in the story, Rather hit Clinton from the left on the prices charged by pharmaceutical companies: “Too strong, or not strong enough, to say there’s price-gouging on these AIDS medicines?” Clinton pointed out: "Their view is they're protecting their intellectual property." Rather wasn’t convinced: "Can you argue with anybody who says, 'well I think it’s price gouging’?” Clinton came around: “Well, in my mind, I think they could sell them for a lot less without losing money. I do think that."
Rather’s piece was the second story aired on the January 1 60 Minutes. A transcript I did, picking up after the first two-thirds of the story in which Rather followed Clinton around in China. This exchange, however, took place at Clinton’s Harlem office:
Dan Rather: “Mr President, when we traveled with you in China, you weren’t aboard Air Force One. Do you miss it?”
Bill Clinton: “Well, I don’t miss the trappings so much, but I loved the plane because it’s a great place to work.”
Rather, looking bemused: “Do you, in some quiet moment, look forward to the time maybe when you fly on it in a different capacity, as First Husband?”
Clinton chuckled, then responded: “Well, the answer to that is no, I don’t. I don’t think about that and I have urged all of Hillary’s supporters not to think about that, because she’s got to run for re-election. And it’s a big hazard for anybody who’s up for re-election to think about anything but re-election."
Rather, trumpeting Geena Davis on ABC’s Commander-in-Chief: “Well, as you know, we now have on television, we have a woman President of the United States.”
Clinton: “Yeah, Geena Davis.”
Rather: “Is the country ready for a woman President, a real woman President as opposed to one on television?”
Clinton: “I don’t know. My gut is, yes, that if a woman came across as strong and seasoned and well prepared, if you said the right things in the right way and you had a good record to back it up, my gut is, yes. But the hard truth is we won’t know until it happens."
Rather, narrating over video of Clinton with AIDS patients in China: “For now, Mr. Clinton says he’s concentrating his efforts on AIDS. But globe-trotting can take its toll. In China, the President seemed grayer and thinner than the last time we had seen him.”
Clinton: “I did five cities in China, seven cities in eight days, halfway across the world, and I was truly exhausted. But I want to work hard. I don’t know how much time I’ve got to live, and I want to make as much difference as I can.”
Rather: “But why not try to make a difference, we wondered, on problems closer to home?”
Clinton: "This is our problem. Eight thousand people die of AIDS in the world every single day. It’s our problem. It’s a big problem. I’m working hard on trying to help the victims of Katrina. I’m working hard on trying to help the victims of the tsunami. But we have a tsunami-like death toll once a month with AIDS."