Washington Prowler

Clinton on the Dole

Welcome to the CBS, the Clinton Broadcasting System. Was Rush considered? Also: Edwards snipes at Graham.

By 3.6.03

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CLINTON BROADCASTING SYSTEM
According to several CBS entertainment division and news division sources, there was internal opposition to pairing former Sen. Bob Dole with former President Bill Clinton in the new "commentary" feature on the newsmagazine show, "60 Minutes."

"It's putting a heavyweight up against a lightweight, an unfair fight," says one entertainment division employee based in New York. "It was clear they wanted Clinton and, really, only Clinton. But they knew they couldn't get away with that, so they got Dole."

According to another news source, names other than Dole were bandied about: former Rep. Newt Gingrich, outgoing Georgia Republican Party director Ralph Reed, William Bennett, even former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.

"But Clinton's people were adament about who they would let their boss appear with, and they were especially sensitive about not wanting anyone who was directly involved with the whole Monica Lewinsky/impeachment thing. That kind of emptied the swimming pool."

"The dream team would have been Clinton and Rush Limbaugh," says another CBS News staffer. "I don't know that it was talked about seriously, but we were all aware that that combination would have been an amazing ratings coup. I mean, the Nielsen numbers would just spike for that segment, you know it. And it would have been a fair fight."

But Limbaugh would have been a nonstarter with Clinton, who has been chasing down every TV opportunity that has arisen. Nothing has quite fit his schedule or his requirement that the workload be comparatively light, until now. He will appear on air for no more than 90 seconds during the segment, and be paid a six-figure salary to do it.

In the past, Clinton has turned down other media roles for stated reasons such, they would undercut the dignity of his position or concern that he not appear to be campaigning against the Bush Administration. But apparently $1 million and going up against an 80-year-old retiree was too good an opportunity to turn down.

"Dole isn't a patsy; he was a good choice to go up against Clinton," says a CBS news producer. "Limbaugh? Gingrich? This is a former president we're talking about. Next people will be saying we should have signed Ann Coulter to do it."

HEARTLESS
It wasn't just Sen. Bob Graham's staff spinning why their boss wasn't going to be in Washington to vote in the ongoing Miguel Estrada drama. The Democrat from Florida was still in his home state recuperating from heart surgery. Meanwhile, campaign aides from North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' camp were also out and about, highlighting the fact that the potential competitor to their boss's presidential aspirations was home healing a bad ticker. Graham is, to date, the only other Southerner even hinting that he will enter the Democratic primary.

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