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STATE OF THE UNION WITH JOHN KING
Reliable Sources Segment
Aired February 1, 2009 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: This is "State of the Union." Here's what we have ahead on this Sunday, February 1st.
One sportswriter has a rather unusual perspective on tonight's Super Bowl. His son is star Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Dad swears he can still be objective. Howard Kurtz will talk it out with Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.
In the next hour, CNN's Ali Velshi will join the best political team on television to ask if pure party politics is standing in the way of a rescue plan for the troubled economy.
And then two key senators tell us whether more partisan divide or compromise will mark the urgent next chapter of the economic stimulus debate. Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican John Ensign of Nevada, that's all ahead on "State of the Union."
Time now, as we do every Sunday, to hand over to my partner, "Reliable Sources" host Howie Kurtz.
And, Howie, as I do so, let's take a quick look at some of the Sunday newspapers around the country. We have right here the San Jose Mercury News "Closing In, The Housing Crisis Reaches Wealthier Valley Communities." That, of course, a huge issue, this housing crisis part of the reason the economy is struggling so much, on the front page of newspapers across the country, including San Jose this morning.
Let's move over to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Jolt Needed Even If It's Not Perfect, Experts Say." So you see, Howie, already newspapers saying, "You know what? If you don't get it perfect, we'll still take some money to help with the economy out in California."
And I know this subject, Howie, is coming up. This is the part of your program I am most fascinated about. Sure, up in Maine in the Morning Sentinel they say, "The stimulus is welcome, but Super Sunday at area churches," a number of churches not only combining worship, but getting in on the Super Bowl party, as well.
So I should start, Howie, who's your pick?
KURTZ: Well, everybody's getting in on the Super Bowl, and I'm not going to embarrass myself on national television by saying I think the Steelers will win, but it is fascinating. You mentioned Larry Fitzgerald the sportswriter. If my daughter was going to take over the "CBS Evening News," if Katie got tired of doing it, I'd be up on this table cheering for her, but this guy says he's not going to cheer for his son, who's, of course, the star receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.
KING: I think you just said on national television who you think is going to win the Super Bowl, but we'll rewind the tape a bit later. But I'm going to let you take it away, Howie, because I'm fascinated on this one.
KING: I'll watch the Super Bowl tonight. And I'll, I guess, watch Larry Fitzgerald's report tomorrow to see how he handles his objectivity.
KURTZ: Absolutely. All right. Thanks, John.
Also ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, we'll look at the front page "New York Times" story that prompted the new president's attack on Wall Street, on the much maligned main street media helping to set the agenda for the Obama White House.
But first, if you own a television set, you've seen the Blago show this week, you've seen Rod Blagojevich rail about his innocence while ducking the questions in one television studio after another. You've seen the now-former Illinois governor compare himself to Gandhi and Mandela and Martin Luther King.
You've seen him talk about how the mean legislators back home weren't being fair to him. You've seen him talk about appointing Oprah to a Senate seat. You know, the one he's accused of selling because it's "bleeping" golden.
But what about Diane and Barbara and Larry and the rest? Should they have given the guy a platform even as he deflected or ignored their questions?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Do you feel like, weirdly, in a way, that you're sort of winning? That there's a chance you might politically survive this ordeal?
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Why aren't you in Illinois saying this to the members of your own legislature instead of here?
LARRY KING, CNN: U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald is a pretty respected guy. You think he was just making this up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You compared yourself to the character that Jimmy Stewart plays in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," where you see the good guy take on the establishment. Is that how you see yourself?
GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: You know, I totally agree with you, and I have opined that on the air. But the problem is, those tapes sound so tacky. They sound as if you're attempting to sell the office.
BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": Let me ask this one question. Did you say in context, out of context -- it's on a wire tape -- did you say those things? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are your thoughts about Reverend Wright now?
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, ABC NEWS: You've been called narcissistic, delusional, a sociopath. One state senator says that you're not playing with a full deck.
Are you playing with a full deck?
JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": On some of the tapes, you and your wife are potty mouths. I mean, not that I have anything against that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you're a potty mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Not that the media blitz did him much good. The Illinois Senate is booting Blago from office Thursday by a unanimous vote. Unless his goal with all these interviews was something other than saving his job.
Joining us now in Chicago, Phil Rosenthal, media columnist for "The Chicago Tribune." In Los Angeles, Lisa Bloom, host of "Lisa Bloom in Court" and anchor for "In Session" on truTV, part of CNN's parent company, Time Warner. And here in Washington, Dana Milbank, CNN contributor and author of "The Washington Sketch Column" for "The Washington Post."
Lisa Bloom, what should all of these anchors have done when Blago came on, proclaimed his innocence, but refused repeatedly to discuss the charges?
LISA BLOOM, HOST, "LISA BLOOM IN COURT": Well, it would have been great to ask him some hard questions about what he would have done if the law had been fair to him, because his big complaint was that it was unfair. So, for example, what evidence would you have called? What witnesses would you have called? What are you being prohibited from doing? Instead of just giving him an platform to complain about swearing and children's health care and all of the things that were completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.
KURTZ: Let's try something. You be you and I'll be Blago. Just a minute here.
KURTZ: OK. Now Lisa, these excerpts were out of context.
KURTZ: "I would love to talk to you about it," "the fix was in," "when the story comes out I'll be vindicated."
What's your question to me?
BLOOM: Yes. First of all, your hair needs to be down a little bit further.
Well, my question is, frankly, Governor, you're an attorney, you should know better. You know that you have to preserve your legal rights by making those arguments in the courtroom or, in this case, in the Senate chamber, where the hearing is taking place. Why haven't you done that? Why are you going to the media, which gives you no legal recourse? If your legal arguments are as valid as you say, why aren't you asserting them in a court of law?
KURTZ: Lisa, this was all about my trying to get health care for the poor people of Illinois. If they can kick me out, they can kick anybody out. Surely you can see that.
BLOOM: I mean, does anybody believe that? That is just preposterous.
And by the way, I think he had some valid arguments about the legal process. I think if he had asserted them personally, or through an attorney, he might have gotten some traction. But it's really that "I'm going to take my marbles and go home" approach. You know, when a child says, "Well, I really have an answer, I'm just not going to tell you." And we all know that they just really don't have an answer, and I think that's how it played out.
KURTZ: And we'll come back to that.
Dana Milbank, this mirror is here if you want to use it.
DANA MILBANK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. I appreciate it.
KURTZ: You got a great kick out of this. You wrote, "The man's entertainment skills are unimpeachable." So were the anchors kind of reduced to straight men and women for his comedy stylings?
MILBANK: I think they did a great job of it. I think Blagojevich is a national treasure. They should be on permanent exhibit over at the Smithsonian.
And look, he lost essentially the battle in the legislature, he's not looking very good for his legal one. He's now facing the battle for public opinion. And I think the ladies of "The View" were great. They said, would you please put your fingers up like this and say, "I am not a crook"?
That's exactly the way we should be treating him, like a clown. And he behaved just as you would expect, like a clown.
KURTZ: We have some videotape that will underscore that point in just a minute.
But Phil Rosenthal, of the many anchors on the many stations on the many programs that we watch, who do you think did the best job of trying to pin Blagojevich down? PHIL ROSENTHAL, MEDIA COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, nobody did it particularly well, but -- in terms of being effective, but I thought Barbara Walters, Cynthia McFadden and maybe even Rachel Maddow did a pretty good job of trying to nail him down and trying to advance this thing.
KURTZ: Lisa Bloom, let me play for you an argument that Blagojevich made again and again in these interviews and ask you a question on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. KING: Can't you present witnesses? You can't go there tomorrow and bring people to stand up for you and explain the other side? You can't do that?
GOV. ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL.: No. Not only can I not bring witnesses, they are not required to prove a case up.
These are the lawmakers in Springfield denying me the right to bring those witnesses who would help clear my name.
I can't even bring witnesses in.
I haven't been given the right by the Senate to bring witnesses in.
It's called the Sixth Amendment, the right to call witnesses to defend yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Lisa, what was wrong with the way the anchors let him make that argument about witnesses?
BLOOM: Well, apparently, nobody really looked at the Senate rules. And I read all of the Senate rules and, in fact, he does have the right to call witnesses under Rule 15, he had the right to subpoena witness.
Now, the end of the rules said that he wasn't supposed to call any witnesses that would be relevant in the criminal case, but the Articles of Impeachment were far broader than the narrow criminal charges that were brought against him. So he certainly could have called witnesses on many of the claim. He just chose not to.
I think he's right about the Sixth Amendment. I think if the man's potentially losing his job as a democratically-elected governor, he should have due process rights, he should have the right to call witnesses on all claims. But to do that, he would have had to assert the right in the Senate.
The time passed, he didn't do it. Instead, he talked to Barbara Walter and Larry King, which was a dumb legal strategy.
KURTZ: But maybe a good media strategy. Dana Milbank, you got your knuckles wrapped this week by David Broder, the dean of the Washington press corps -- or a "Washington Post" colleague writing that you "... treated Blagojevich as if he were a kind of lovable rascal, a scamp to be enjoyed for the laughs he provides."
How do you plead?
MILBANK: Guilty. I always agree with David Broder, so I immediately have to start criticizing myself for my behavior here.
But, you know, in reality, I think what David's saying is this is a serious thing, this man has done very horrible things, so we can't have fun with him. I take a slightly different view.
And yes, I agree, it appears, by all measures, this man has done horrible things. And that's precisely why we should treat him as an article of ridicule. I think that is a way you deal with a guy like this. That doesn't mean he didn't do anything bad, that we're treating him like a clown, it means he did.
KURTZ: Phil Rosenthal, he seemed to be having a good time as he went through just about every network this side of the Disney Channel. I want to play for you something that was behinds the scenes at the D.L. Hughley program. He, of course, hosts a late-night comedic program on CNN. And Blagojevich drops the "F" bomb, which we have conveniently bleeped out.
Let's roll it.
ROSENTHAL: Really? He did?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: That's going to get me in trouble.
D.L. HUGHLEY, CNN: Man, you're already in trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Have we got that tape?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: That's going get me in trouble.
HUGHLEY: Man, you're already in trouble, man.
BLAGOJEVICH: I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it up.
HUGHLEY: I'm a bad influence.
BLAGOJEVICH: Oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED). They're going throw me out anyway. Who cares? (END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: "They're going to throw me out anyway. Who cares?"
Now, to most Americans, I think Blagojevich looked like something of a laughing stock this week. But from Chicago, did it seem like, look, "Nightline" and "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America" were giving him a platform?
ROSENTHAL: Well, it was an object of curiosity. I mean, the truth is, all he really succeeded in this media tour is, you know, ensuring that more people know how to pronounce the name Blagojevich, which is no small achievement, but not what he was looking to do.
He managed to move the conversation nationally, at least, away from the actual proceedings and distract in that sense. It was not terribly effective, obviously, in the Senate. I don't know that it necessarily swayed anybody who might be in the future jury pool for our former governor.
The thing about him is, he's throwing out a lot of things. When he said "Senator Oprah," you began to think, well, what is this guy doing? Is he trying to set the precedent for the people in the jury when they hear the tapes of what he said to think, well, he says a lot of things and he probably doesn't mean all of them? I don't know. But he didn't change anyone's perception, and...
ROSENTHAL: ... you know, the interviewers, on the other hand, didn't get anywhere away from, effectively, the Obama Senate seat sale. So, that was...
KURTZ: Let me jump to Lisa...
ROSENTHAL: ... a problem for him, I thought.
KURTZ: ... Bloom -- OK.
You know, you raised the point about everybody asked about selling the Senate seat because that was the sexiest charge, auctioning off Barack Obama's seat to presumably the highest bidder. But there were all these other allegations about trying to pressure "The Chicago Tribune" into firing critical editorial writers, trying to shake down a children's hospital for contributions. And I was just surprised that more of those allegations weren't made in these various interviews.
Now, Phil Rosenthal made the point about the jury pool, so a lot of pundits came on the air and said, OK, what he's doing here is he's speaking to potential jurors in case he winds up getting indicted by a grand jury. Does that tactic work?
BLOOM: No, it doesn't work at all. And, in fact, I think it turns people against him. I don't think he's really tainting a jury pool. I mean, let's get real. I think he's a guy with a big ego, he loves going on all these shows, he loves talking, and he knew he'd have a better chance there, at least he'd have a slim chance of changing some minds there, if he actually went to the hearing and asserted his legal argument. He was probably going to lose, and so, you know, it was big bluff. He was pretending as though, oh, I have all these great arguments, if I could only assert them in the hearing, but since I can't, I'll just go on "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America."
I don't think anybody buys that.
KURTZ: Well, you said the key word, "ego."
Now, after telling all of these interviewers, Dana Milbank, that this was a kangaroo court, he wasn't going to dignify the proceedings, and he wasn't going to go to Springfield, he goes to Springfield, he addresses the Senate for 43 minutes.
Here's just a little taste of what Blagojevich said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: ... what a thrill it was for me to be able to, as a freshman congressman, be in a room with legendary U.S. senators like John Glenn and Ted Kennedy and John McCain and John Warner, the senator from Virginia who, incidentally, had once been married to Elizabeth Taylor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The Elizabeth Taylor defense. And the cable networks all took it live.
MILBANK: Sure. You know, I think we're analyzing this in the sense of, you know, his battle with the legislature, his legal battle. I think he's basically given that up. And this is a man who has got "bleeping" nothing to lose here.
And he says, well, I'm going down, I might as well become a noted historical figure. And I think that's what's behind this media blitz. That's what's behind, you know, reading Tennyson and Kipling and comparing himself from everybody from Gary Cooper to Nelson Mandela. It's just saying, I am going to be remembered. You know, I might as well go out as a character.
KURTZ: I am someone, everyone now knows who I am.
And on that point, Phil Rosenthal, after he was convicted by the Senate and booted out of office, and Pat Quinn became the new governor of Illinois, he comes out again at his house and talks to reporters, and he says the following...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAGOJEVICH: So if I, like, asked you guys to come and cover me if I want to say something, will you do it? Will you? Who gets the last hurrah?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So I would ask you, if this was the last hurrah, Lynn Sweet reporting in "The Chicago Sun-Times" that Blagojevich may go on more TV shows this week, even as the former governor, suggesting that he his kind of addicted to the talk show circuit.
ROSENTHAL: Well, clearly, he's not going anywhere. This was not exactly Dick Nixon saying, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." This is, hey, I'm here if you want to kick.
I think, you know, what he's done, he did not change public perception of him. "S&L" still came at him the same way they always have. You know, he wanted for people to think that he was doing Jimmy Stewart from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." A lot of the time it seemed line Jimmy Stewart in "Harvey" talking to an imaginary bunny.
But I don't think he's going anywhere. I think this is all part of -- you know, when he mentions name checks, Elizabeth Taylor, he's trying to cast the TV movie already.
KURTZ: All right. And WGN Radio owned by...
BLOOM: And Howie, those of us who do talk shows, he's always welcome. He's always welcome to come on. We want to encourage that.
KURTZ: Are you booking him right now?
BLOOM: "Lisa Bloom Open Court," every -- come on down!
ROSENTHAL: Are you going to get him to say something he hasn't said?
KURTZ: All right. Well, we'll have to see what he takes that invitation. I have a feeling we have not seen the last of Rod Blagojevich.
Let me get a break here.
When we come back, no laughing matter. After nearly 30 years, will "Nightline "be squeezed out by another late-night comic?
Plus, the former congressman who went low, really low, in debating a female editor.
KURTZ: This seems to be the season for television comedy. Jay Leno moving up to 10:00. Conan moving up to 11:35 to take on Letterman.
So when "The New York Times" reported this week that ABC's Jimmy Kimmel has had talks with network officials about moving his program up to 11:35, it sent off a few shock waves. That, of course, the time slot occupied for nearly three decades by "Nightline." ABC executives insist there are no changes in the works and that "Nightline" is safe. But is it?
Lisa Bloom, everyone likes comedy. It's fun, it's cheap to put on, as opposed to, what do you call it, reporting? Can a late-night program like "Nightline" survive in this era?
BLOOM: Oh, I hope it can. It's such a venerable old institution. But honestly, how many of us really watch it? And how many people want to watch hard news at 11:30? Unfortunately, most people are watching comedy at that hour, which is why the perfect combination is "The Daily Show," because it's news and comedy.
KURTZ: When "Nightline" started in 1979, there was no cable news, so it was a way to get a quick late fix.
Phil Rosenthal, when Ted Koppel left the program and Cynthia McFadden, Terry Moran and Martin Bashir took over as anchors, I was kind of skeptical about its prospects. But in recent months, "Nightline" has beaten Letterman about 40 percent of the time in its ratings, and yet it always seems to be threatened by the rumor of some new comic who's going to come in and perhaps take that coveted timeslot.
ROSENTHAL: Well, it's true. And it's because news, and particularly "Nightline," skews a little old in the audience. And the advertisers seem to covet the younger crowd.
And as a result, those comedy shows are really valuable. Plus, they're very inexpensive to produce.
I think you're always going to be under threat. You know, they make -- whatever ABC says, this is a company that's laying people off like everyone else. I think they're going to look at every dollar, and where they can make it, and where it's costing them things. And, you know, "Nightline" is like any other show now. I think it has to fight for its survival.
KURTZ: You mean it's less distinctive as a news show than it was in the Koppel era?
ROSENTHAL: Well, it certainly is less distinctive than it was in the Koppel era. I mean, the other night -- and maybe this speaks to the pressure the producers feel they're under -- you know, they did an interview with Drew Peterson, the Bollingbrook policeman whose wives...
BLOOM: Hey, nothing wrong with that.
ROSENTHAL: ... have a series of -- well, the wives have a series bad luck, shall we say?
You know, This was more "Inside Edition" than the Koppel "Nightline" of old.
KURTZ: Lisa, you like to do...
BLOOM: Don't knock those crime and justice stories. Come on. Those are important stories.
KURTZ: All right. We don't want to slight what Lisa does for a living.
Dana Milbank, the reason I'm skeptical is that ABC tried this maneuver once before back in 2002. They tried to lure Letterman away from CBS, and "Nightline" would have gone bye-bye.
MILBANK: Well, it seems like the writing has been on the wall for some time here. And everybody at ABC News, I think, is legitimately worried that their parent company is an entertainment company. And they seem to have what I think is a false dichotomy.
You have news on one hand and entertainment on the other, as if news can't be entertaining in any way. That it has to be deadly serious. And I think they've got themselves like many television outlets into that sort of a trap. So in the long run, you know, it's a dangerous spot to be in.
KURTZ: All right. Now, there was a debate the other day -- and I'm used to seeing people go at it on television and really take each other on, but on MSNBC's "Hardball," Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader, was debating Joan Walsh, the editor of Salon.com, talking about Republicans and the stimulus, and he kept telling her to give it a rest.
And then this happened...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Rush Limbaugh is making ridiculous statements, and Republicans are crawling to him and groveling. That's the state of our economy and our world right now, Representative Armey, and it's sad.
DICK ARMEY, FMR. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife, because I surely wouldn't have to listen to that babble from you every day. That is what I'm talking about.
WALSH: Well, boy, that makes two of us, sir. That was really an outstanding comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Lisa Bloom, "I sure am glad I'm not married to you"?
BLOOM: You have got to be kidding me? That is one of the more sexist remarks I've heard, and I've been debating people on the air for a long time.
I mean, do men really all think that women are just dying to be married to them? Do they all think about us as sex objects, or in the case of Dick Armey, I guess, nonsexual objects, if he's imagining being married to her? I mean, does he have no arguments on the merits and that's what he has to resort to? KURTZ: Well, you know, it was really one step above, "Joan, you ignorant slut." And it bothers me that nobody pays a penalty for this. I'm sure he'll be back on all the shows within a week or two.
All right. Lisa Bloom, Phil Rosenthal, Dana Milbank, here in Washington, thanks very much for joining us.
BLOOM: Thank you.
KURTZ: Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, "The New York Times" gets the president's attention, and Wall Street feels the heat. Is he so-called liberal press back on top in Barack Obama's Washington?
Plus, after less than two weeks and one party line vote, are the media rushing to declare an end to "bipartisanship?"
And later, we'll meet the Super Bowl sportswriter who's covering a game today that hits close to home, very close to home.
KURTZ: "The New York Times" was not exactly President Bush's favorite newspaper. In fact, he denounced it from time to time for disclosing national security secrets. But President Obama not only makes a point of perusing the morning papers, he sometimes acts on what's in there, if this week is any indication.
It was a front page "New York Times" piece on Thursday that aroused the new president's ire and prompted his first attack on a unpopular target. The Times reporting that Wall Street firms, many of which had to be rescued by the taxpayers, had paid out huge bonuses last year, saying some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions. Obama went before the cameras hours later, and his broadside led all the network newscasts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When I saw an article today indicating that Wall Street bankers had given themselves $20 billion worth of bonuses, the same amount of bonuses as they gave themselves in 2004, that is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE COURIC, CBS NEWS: In the second week of his presidency, we found out what it takes to get Barack Obama angry.
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: President Obama lashes out at the billions in bonuses paid on Wall Street.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: "Shameful." That's how President Obama labels those Wall Street types.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So are the media lining up behind this anti-Wall Street crusade and the new president's economic agenda?
Joining us now here in Washington, Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "TIME" magazine. In Chicago, Roland Martin, syndicated columnist, radio host, and CNN political analyst. And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Radio Show" on the Salem Radio Network, and author of "The New York Times" best-seller "The Ten Big Lies About America."
Michael Medved, does this mean "The New York Times" has the ability to put issues on the national agenda the way that Fox News might have in the Bush administration?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, "The New York Times" has always had the ability to put issues on the national agenda. The problem here, it seems to me, is that what President Obama is doing is, to some extent, crying wolf.
If he is going to talk about this article and use words like "shameful" and show this level of indignation, the one thing that the article didn't acknowledge that "The Wall Street Journal" pointed out is that these bonuses, this $18 billion of bonuses, included bonuses for secretaries, for janitors. The average bonus for all of these Wall Street people was $112,000, which included the significant pay that many people get who work on Wall Street who don't get paid during the year, who only get paid a bonus at the end. And the bonuses were significantly down from 2006 and 2007.
KURTZ: Right. Well, let me come back to the broader question with Roland Martin.
Do you see liberal editorial pages and liberal pundits and liberal talk radio getting more of a hearing in the Obama White House?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK. Well, first of all, you're going to have people who are going to get hearings regardless. And so, sure, a change in administration, you will have a president who is a Democrat, who will likely have more conversations and appeal to those of that particular leaning. But look, I'm just glad to have of a president who actually reads the newspapers. It might help our business out.
And so I don't see a problem with this in terms of somebody acknowledging this kind of reporting. And so, it's great that President Obama's actually doing that. But again, what is amazing about this is you have a president who wants to be -- who is a person of the people, who wants to speak to the people, and who is saying -- who is acknowledging something that we're all ticked off as well.
And so, Mike, I get secretaries and posts like that, but also, when you're coming to the federal government for money, it's a little hard to be paying bonuses when we're trying to bail you out.
KURTZ: Let me get to Karen Tumulty. This is a free shot, Karen. Everybody hates Wall Street executives, Obama gets favorable headlines, we're talking about it, but the bonuses which have already been paid out, you know, are not going to be touched.
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Yes, but I think that what the White House is doing here, I don't think that was a liberal or a conservative story. I think that was a story that taps into, as Roland suggested, a real wave of populist anger that is out there in the country. And I think Obama -- the president was just getting ahead of where most people already are. They may not know what a hedge fund does or what -- why the credit markets are seizing up, but they do know that at this time, people shouldn't be putting $80,000 rugs in their offices, and that maybe they could fly commercial instead of their corporate jets.
TUMULTY: And that's really what he was catching on to.
KURTZ: Let me play some tape about whether we are or not in Washington entering a era of bipartisanship given the fact that the House Republicans unanimously voted against the president's stimulus package.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURIC: It was a big disappointment for the president because, despite a personal visit to Capitol Hill to woo Republicans, not a single one of them voted for the bill.
GIBSON: Not one Republican voted for it, turning a cold shoulder to the president's appeal for bipartisan support.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The only bipartisanship in Washington tonight is an opposition to the president's stimulus package.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So Michael Medved, is this the media narrative, as you see it? Obama invited Republicans over to the White House for cocktails, he's having some for the Super Bowl today. He treated them with respect. He dropped a couple of liberal provisions they didn't like. And they wouldn't provide the administration with a single lousy vote.
MEDVED: I think that is part of the narrative. I mean, it also may be more intense if President Obama goes ahead and appoints Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican, as his commerce secretary, which has been widely rumored.
The point about all of this is that on the Republican side, people feel very, very encouraged by this House vote, because what it suggests, along with the selection of Michael Steele as the new RNC chair, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, it suggests that the Republicans are finding a coherent voice and taking a more clear stand against excessive government spending.
KURTZ: But Michael, is that the way it's being portrayed in the press? Or is it being portrayed in the press that they are doing this for political and partisan reasons?
MEDVED: I think you get a little bit of both, frankly. And I do think that the media have done a decent job in showing that Republican spirits are rallied on the side of their House leadership, which has opposed the size of this stimulus package...
KURTZ: Let me go to Roland.
MEDVED: ... called the porkulus package.
MARTIN: No, no. This is what happens when you have folks in a small nucleus who somehow think that, oh, we're already getting along now. Nobody in the real world thought that somehow, even with President Obama coming in, Republicans are going to say, hey, let's all get along. What Obama was doing was having the outreach to them, but outreach does not change ideological differences.
KURTZ: Well, just a minute, Roland. So you're saying...
MARTIN: If this was a Republican president...
KURTZ: Hold on, Roland. Hold on. You're saying that the media weren't really in the real world? Because I read lots and lots of articles and saw lots and lots of television segments about how Obama was going to try to govern in a post-partisan fashion. Were we detached from reality?
MARTIN: Yes. And that line is correct in terms of how he's going to try to govern. But the difference this week showed an ideological difference. That is, he was saying 40 percent of the stimulus package, tax cuts. Republicans were saying, that's our deal, we want 70, 80, 90.
And so I never thought for a second that somehow Republicans were going to be coming in droves, because ideologically, they are thinking differently than how he thinks when it comes to the package.
KURTZ: All right.
MARTIN: The difference is he's outreaching to them, something President Bush didn't even do to his own party.
KURTZ: Let me ask you, Karen Tumulty, about the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This was a woman who was a Goodyear worker who found out that men in the company were making more than women, she sued. Michelle Obama was at the ceremony.
What I didn't see in a lot of the coverage -- and I watched CNN and ABC and CBS and Fox -- is the fact -- emphasize the fact that all but three House Republicans voted against this. I mean, it's a wonderful thing. Only NBC interviewed a conservative that said, wait, this is going to lead to more lawsuits, perhaps more frivolous lawsuits, and it's not going to produce fewer (ph) jobs for women.
So it seemed like almost the coverage was one-sided that this was a great thing.
TUMULTY: Well, I think because it was something that was the first real tangible evidence we've seen of something getting through as a result of having a different president and a different Congress. And so that was the significance. And also, once again, sort of like these Wall Street bonuses, you had a really compelling story right there. It was very shrewd of the White House to make sure that Lilly Ledbetter herself was right in the middle of that picture.
KURTZ: But does that justify not mentioning the fact that there are arguments against it?
TUMULTY: Well, I think that, you know, again, this is not like this is a new piece of legislation. We heard the arguments against it last year, as they were -- you know, this has been fought over for years.
KURTZ: Let me ask you about Tom Daschle, because the front page of "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" today -- it's the lead story, in fact, at "The Washington Post" -- talking about the $140,000 in back taxes he had to pay after he didn't realize, he said, that he owed something to the IRS for having a car and driver. And "The New York Times" reporting that he knew this in June and didn't tell the Obama people until after he had been nominated.
A lot of people said the press was going to go on easy on the Obama administration. Isn't this evidence that that's not necessarily happening?
TUMULTY: Well, I think that this narrative, coming the day after the -- two days after the president denouncing Wall Street bonuses, today's stories are more about cluelessness. Yesterday's were just carelessness. I think the story line is getting worse, and I don't think that Senator Daschle has seen the end of this hole that he's dug for himself.
KURTZ: All right.
MARTIN: But Howie, we've got to add, a typical response is also based upon the opposition. When you have Republicans themselves saying, you know what? Yes, it's a bad thing, but we still support Daschle, that's what makes a difference. When you have an opposition that's really going after a person, that changes the story narrative.
KURTZ: Well, we'll see if the narrative changes.
I want to get to Rush Limbaugh, because he had been much in the news these past couple of weeks. And he's had a fine time on his radio show saying he hopes Obama fails because he doesn't agree with what President Obama wants to do.
So a Republican congressman from Georgia named Phil Gingrey tells the Politico that it's easy for people like Rush and Sean Hannity to throw bricks, but he believes in what the GOP leadership on the Hill is doing. And then he thinks better of it and goes on Rush's show.
Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), GEORGIA: I want to express to you and all of your listeners, my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. I regret those stupid comments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Michael Medved, he didn't even say anything particularly harsh about Rush. So should the media now regard Rush Limbaugh as the de facto leader of the Republican Party?
MEDVED: Well, they did that back in 1992. You remember that when Bill Clinton came in, in '93, actually, and they had Rush Limbaugh on the cover of "National Review" as leader of the opposition. Look, right now, I think Rush is speaking for a lot of conservatives.
And just to go back to what Karen was saying, I think the Lilly Ledbetter thing, the idea that people know the arguments against it, it's very different from the Wall Street bonuses. No one was defending, really, the Wall Street bonuses. But there are people who are worried about excessive lawsuits. This is a big issue for conservatives, the idea of tort reform, the idea of punishing business with all kinds of superfluous lawsuits. And the fact that this was just treated as a triumph for human rights...
KURTZ: Go ahead, Roland.
MEDVED: Michael, it would be nice if these same conservatives actually cared about women being paid the same amount as men. I mean, that's kind of like a nice thing here. And so I get the lawsuit thing. You pay them up front, the right amount of money.-
KURTZ: OK. I don't want to debate the issue. And we're running out of time. We're running out of time.
MARTIN: Just want to put that out there.
KURTZ: My point is, tell both sides and let people make up their minds whether it's a good idea.
KURTZ: I've got 20 seconds, Karen. Did the president make a tactical error by talking about Rush Limbaugh to Republican leaders, and thereby kind of elevating him to the forefront of the debate?
TUMULTY: I'm not sure, because I think with Rush Limbaugh, he can also set up a straw man Republican so that he can go and try and deal with the actual elected officials.
KURTZ: All right. Karen Tumulty, Michael Medved, Roland Martin, thanks for joining us.
Now, before we go to break, author Bernard Goldberg was scheduled to appear on this program to talk about his new book on media bias until Friday, when he abruptly canceled without explanation, even though his people had approached us. Now, I assume Bernie respects my work. His book about the press supposedly being in the tank for Obama quotes me and my articles several times. There it is.
He's been out flogging the thing with Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, people who agree with him. Do you think maybe he doesn't want to leave his pals behind and face some skeptical questioning?
Come on, Bernie. We'll have a good debate on this issue, one-on- one, without bias. You're welcome here any time.
And still to come, doing double duty. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. will spend today covering the Super Bowl, and he says he won't be cheering for his superstar son on the Arizona Cardinals, at least during the game. That's next.
KURTZ: Hundreds of journalists, maybe thousands, will be in Tampa for tonight's Super Bowl showdown. But no one will have a more personal connection to the game than Larry Fitzgerald. When the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers face off tonight, this longtime sportswriter for the weekly "Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder" will have his eye on one player in particular, Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
OK, the elder Mr. Fitzgerald could be forgiven for jumping up and down for his son, but that's not what he had in mind. I spoke to Larry Fitzgerald Sr. earlier from Tampa.
KURTZ: Larry Fitzgerald, welcome.
FITZGERALD: Thank you. How are you?
KURTZ: Doing well.
Now, you say that, even though your son is the most exciting player on that field tonight, you're going to go to that press room, you're going to that press box. You're going to -- not going to root for him. You're going to be an objective sportswriter.
And my reaction is, "Huh? How is that possible?"
FITZGERALD: Well, it's possible, because this is not the first game I've seen Larry play. I've been basically watching all of his games, you know, for the last six years.
Obviously, I raised him, my wife and I. And we've seen him play high school, pee wee football. And I've been in the business now for 30 years as a sportswriter and talk show host and a little television, so, I've been at this for a while. I understand how it works. I've covered superstars and super teams before.
And it's unique...
KURTZ: Yes, but you haven't covered a superstar who has your name. He has your name. He's your kid.
FITZGERALD: Yes, that's true.
KURTZ: So I admire your dedication to your craft, but it's got to be kind of an awkward position to be in. I mean, you obviously would like to root for your son.
FITZGERALD: Well, it is a -- I guess you could use that word, "awkward." I'd rather not use that word. I would like to use the word "unique."
I think it's a unique American story, that a father who's a, you know, a hardworking journalist, from a career standpoint, just happened to have the fortune of having a wonderful son. Carol and I, you know, believed in raising him in a way that he would respect people, that he would go about treating people like he wanted to be treated himself. And he just happened to be a very good football player who got better and better. And here he is in the Super Bowl.
Now, let me read something you wrote just last week in the "Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder."
You wrote that, speaking of this particular Cardinal, "No bird -- or player, for that matter -- has played better in these playoffs than Fitzgerald. The remarkable 25-year-old receiver has been on fire in the playoffs. In many ways, he has literally carried his team on his back, making incredible acrobatic catches and big plays."
A little parental pride in those words?
FITZGERALD: Really. And I have to be real careful with those, because, as I mentioned, I've covered Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Muhammad Ali. I've seen great, great athletes accomplish tremendous things. And to see what he did that day and what he's done in these playoffs, I thought that those words were right on point.
KURTZ: Well, he has been getting a lot of praise from sportswriters, not just from ones related to him.
But "Slate" Magazine took issue with some of the columns that you wrote about Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. You said -- they said -- the magazine said, "This was less a work of journalism than a proud parent's scrapbook."
Does that bother you at all?
FITZGERALD: I've never -- I haven't seen it. I have never been one who goes about worrying about negatives. If I believed the negatives, Barack Obama wouldn't be president of the United States today.
I am one who believes in positives and going about doing things that way. And that's the way I've raised my sons. And that's the way my wife and I believe is the way to get it done.
And so, people have their right to their opinions. Obviously, he's trying to make headlines off of the Super Bowl, because I doubt if they're even here.
KURTZ: Now, you did write a column the other day about the unique situation that you find yourself in. But generally when you write about the exploits of this incredible, acrobatic 25-year-old receiver, you don't put in the column that this is, indeed, your son.
Why not just lay it out there?
FITZGERALD: Well, because the game is bigger than my son. Larry is in the Super Bowl. But the Super Bowl, last I heard, this is the 43rd edition. So, he's fortunate to be in the position that he's in as a terrific player who's really red hot and playing well to get his team in a position to win a world championship.
So, I like to look at it for what it is. This is a world championship, and I'm here to cover it. And I'm excited about it. I'm experienced at it. I know what I'm doing, and I'm looking forward to it.
KURTZ: Now, let me ask you this. Do you -- have you given your son any advice over the years -- since you are in the business, as he has become more prominent, as he had to deal with reporters -- about how to deal with the press and maybe not over-answer questions or go for story lines that are not going to be particularly helpful to him?
FITZGERALD: Well, one thing that Larry learned, and also my younger son, Marcus, is that I've taken them to hundreds of radio shows that I have hosted and produced. And they've seen how I work and how I interview individuals. And then after it, I would talk to them about what I did, what they liked, what they didn't like, and then I would advise them on what I thought was important. And that is, you have to respect what we do.
We're conduits between the fans and the team, and we have a job to do. And some of those questions might be pointed. Some of them might not be what you want to hear. But you have the ability as a person answering those questions to respond to what you choose to.
And so, that's what I've advised them to do. And Larry I think has done a terrific job in doing that.
KURTZ: Good advice for any athlete or anyone in the public eye.
All right. Larry Fitzgerald, have a super game. Thanks very much for joining us.
FITZGERALD: Thanks for having me.
KURTZ: Hmm. I wonder what he'll do if Larry Fitzgerald Jr. drops the game-winning catch.
After the break, heat-seeking headline, how "The New York Post" needed just two words to take down a $50 million jet.
KURTZ: Millions of words have been published in broadcast about Wall Street excess and massive zillion-dollar loans and bank bailouts, and it can get very abstract. But sometimes all it takes is a single headline to get people really ticked off.
KURTZ (voice-over): "The New York Post" put this story into orbit with two words: "Plane Crazy!" The people who run Citigroup, the banking giant that fell so far, it needed a $45 billion rescue from the taxpayers, apparently still think it's business as usual. They thought nothing of buying a $50 million corporate jet, a 12-seat French plane, to fly its exclusives around in splendor. When New York's feisty tabloid called that "Just Plane Despicable," the rest of the media followed suit.
COURIC: Citigroup reportedly plans to offer top executives a pricey perk. The company, which got a $45 billion taxpayer bailout, is set to be moving ahead with plans to buy a $50 million corporate jet.
GIBSON: The economically troubled Citigroup said today it intends to go ahead with plans to buy a $50 million jet, despite objections from the White House and Congress.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN: At a time with tens of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs, and when those same Americans are having to bail out huge corporations for the good of the whole, what have we learned today?
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC: When you fire employees and take government bailout money, acquiring an expensive brand new corporate jet is hypocrisy and it's wrong.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: This will make you furious. The bank Citigroup that received $45 billion of your money for a financial bailout is now reportedly buying $50 million private corporate jet.
KURTZ: It turns out not even Citigroup's airheads, as The Post called them, could stand up to that kind of media mockery, not with federal authorities helping to keep their company afloat. Especially when an aide to Barack Obama called Citigroup and said, as ABC news reported, "Fix it." LOU DOBBS, CNN: Well, an example tonight of what we on this broadcast call a gut check. Citigroup having a change of heart on its new $50 million corporate jet.
KURTZ: There are other examples.
John Thain, who ran Merrill Lynch into the ground before it was swallowed by Bank of America, thought it was crucial to redecorate his office with, among other things, an $87,000 rug and a $1,400 trash can. The press discovered this as the company was forcing him out.
KURTZ: There was sort of a gloating "New York Post" headline after the Citigroup plane fiasco -- "Grounded." Sometimes a newspaper just strikes a nerve, and the most arrogant high flyers can be brought down to Earth.
Up next, a great TV story about the new president just happened to be in the morning paper.
And John King rejoins us in a moment.
KURTZ: "The New York Times" reported the other day that President Obama starts his day with a workout, has breakfast with his family, reads several newspapers, has turned up the thermostat in the Oval Office, and loosened the dress code. Short sleeves are now allowed.
And on that night's network newscasts -- what do you know?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS (voice-over): The president is joined by his kids for a healthier breakfast in the residence. He reads the newspapers. America's first Hawaiian-born president keeps the Oval Office warm.
WILLIAMS: Will it mean a less formal White House than it was under 43?
The new president, we're told, took off his jacket for those early photos in the Oval Office because it was shot in there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Not a huge scoop, though Brian Williams credited The Times. But I've always wondered, what would television news do if there were no newspapers?
John King rejoins us now.
John, you're a former AP reporter. I'm sure you had a few occasions when some of your exclusives wound up on TV without an iota of credit.
KING: That did happen sometimes back in the day, Howie, as you know. But I want to say for the record, the first place Americans saw the picture of Barack Obama on television in those short sleeves was in "THE SITUATION ROOM," right here, because I had covered the Bush White House, and when they released that White House photo, I e-mailed Wolf, and Wolf said, "Come on the show," and we had it on "THE SITUATION ROOM."
So, in this case, TV was a little ahead of the newspapers. But it is a striking change.
He's got young kids. His intelligence briefing is a little later every day than George W. Bush's for just that reason. And he has short sleeves in the White House. Bush would not tolerate that. You wore a suit and jacket, even sitting in the Oval Office.
If you were in the Oval Office, Bush didn't even take his jacket off. Always at the desk. A little bit of change and what you might say a cultural change, as well as a philosophical change.
KURTZ: Television news does move fast. Newspapers still do some good digging though.
KING: Amen. They do. And that's why we need them.
There's trouble in the newspaper business right now. When you travel the country, you see it. And it is a bad, bad thing. We need to find a way, Howie. It's your job. Bring it back.
KURTZ: All right. Thanks very much.
KING: And thanks, Howie.
We'll see you next Sunday for your critical look at the media, "Reliable Sources."