Shrill and Shill Rhetoric

Cal Thomas | Syndicated columnist | Monday, November 25, 2002

Shrill and Shill Rhetoric

War broke out last week, not between the United States and Iraq, but among four other combatants: The New York Times and Fox News Channel President Roger Ailes; and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The Times said Ailes should resign because, according to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes wrote White House political advisor Karl Rove, urging the president not to "go wobbly " after 9/11 (full disclosure: I frequently appear on Fox News Channel, but would hold the same view if I didn't).

However, The Times ignored much closer relationships between liberal media people and the Clinton administration. According to the Los Angeles Times' Tom Rosenstiel, Rick Kaplan, while he was executive producer for such ABC shows as "Nightline, " "World News Tonight " and "PrimeTime Live, " advised Bill Clinton on how to overcome reports in 1992 of his affair with Gennifer Flowers. "Clinton called Kaplan for advice, " writes Rosenstiel in his book "Strange Bedfellows. " Rosenstiel quotes Kaplan as telling Clinton, "Do the toughest interview you can, " advising him not to appear on the morning news programs but to do a show with a larger audience. Clinton took the advice, appearing on "60 Minutes. "

Two months later when Clinton's campaign was floundering in New York, aides suggested he appear on the Don Imus radio show. CNN producer Matthew Saal recalled in the January, 1993, Washington Monthly magazine that the interview was clinched "when Rick Kaplan . called the radio show host to see if he could get the pair together. The answer was yes. " When he left ABC to become president of CNN, USA Today reported that Kaplan "sees no conflict between being a friend of the President's and running the country's top-rated cable news operation. "

Is this a double standard? I report, you decide.

In the rhetorical war's other front, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blamed the "shrill rhetoric " of conservative talk radio for an upsurge in death threats against him and his family. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said he was unaware of any increase in death threats.

Daschle compared Limbaugh's show to violent Middle East rhetoric, which led to the 9/11 hijackings and mass American deaths. Has Daschle forgotten the target Democrats and the media made of Newt Gingrich?

Typical of the "shrill rhetoric " practiced by many liberal Democrats was a comment by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, who was reminded of it by the "Today " show's Bryant Gumbel during a Jan. 4, 1995, interview: "You called Gingrich and his ilk, your words,'trickle-down terrorists who base their agenda on division, exclusion and fear.' Do you think middle-class Americans are in need of protection from that group? "

NPR's Sunni Khalid said on C-SPAN's Journalists Roundtable on Oct. 14, 1994, that Gingrich "is looking at a more scientific, a more civil way of lynching people. " New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote in a Feb. 25, 1995, column of a "Republican jihad against the poor. " The left did not condemn the "shrill rhetoric " of newspaper columnist Julianne Malveaux, who said on the Nov. 4, 1994, PBS program, "To the Contrary ": "I hope (Clarence Thomas') wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease .. He is an absolutely reprehensible person. "

Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was a target of "shrill rhetoric " by much of the media and Democratic operatives during the Clinton years. Typical was that of Clinton advisor James Carville. In his book, "And the Horse He Rode in On: The People v. Kenneth Starr, " Carville wrote, "I don't like Ken Starr. I don't like one damn thing about him. I don't like his politics. I don't like his sanctimony. I don't like his self-piety. I don't like the people he runs with. I don't like his suck-up, spit-down view of the world, how he kisses up to the powerful and abuses the life out of regular people. "

Starr tells me he received a large number of death threats following such remarks. He refused to publicly whine about them, but neither the media nor Democratic politicians condemned them.

Taking potshots at Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes may make liberal Democrats feel better, but it is no substitute for policies and a vision.


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Shrill and Shill Rhetoric