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Rather was a consistent opponent of President Bush's policies and strove in his reporting to blame a short recession on Bush during the 1992 campaign. In 1999, the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated the late 90s economic boom began during the second quarter of 1991, before Clinton was elected or entered office. Rather also thought Bush was heavily involved in the Iran-contra scandal, during the investigation of which he conducted his infamous live interview with the then-vice president.
See also Atack on Bush and Iran-contra.
Rather asked Bush about what he thought was his role in Iran-contra.
"You've made us hypocrites in the face of the world! How could you sign on to such a policy?"
--Dan Rather to Vice President Bush on the CBS Evening News, Jan 25, 1988.
"President Bush said last night our first obligation is to the most vulnerable:
infants, poor mothers, children living in poverty. Those sentiments clash with
the reality of a decade which has found the federal government offering school
children less food for thought."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, February 1989.
Former vice president Dan Quayle relates how Dan Rather exoriated a series of articles positive to Quayle:
"During the New Hampshire campaigning, another boost came when Bob Woodward and David Broder finally published their seven-part series on me in the Washington Post. The two journalists spent six months on the story. It was the most extensive research ever done on a Vice President. According to Newsweek, the articles showed me passing 'through a metal detector of political credibility set up by two of the paper's most formidable reporters.' Of course, a lot of Woodward and Broder's colleagues could not bear this. The Post's own media critic, Howard Kurtz, wrote that 'the series has been vigorously debated in the Post newsroom. Most members of the national staff who were interviewed said they thought it was too favorable to Quayle. Some said readers had asked them whether the paper is cozying up to the Bush administration.' Before the whole series had even run, Dan Rather trashed it in a radio commentary. Broder called him to ask why he didn't at least wait until all seven parts appeared, and Rather said he didn't need to; he could tell where it was going."
--Dan Quayle in his 1994 book, Standing Firm.
"Meanwhile, at CBS, Dan Rather was convinced that Roger Ailes, who had no formal role in this year's Bush campaign, had in some way inspired the Gennifer Flowers story. When the draft story appeared in the [Wall Street] Journal, Rather wanted to break a story on how the Bush campaign had planted that.
"Lots of people, as it happened, had been flogging the story of Clinton's efforts to avoid wartime service. Opponents in Arkansas had raised it in the past."
"As Clinton tried to spin a story about his avoiding military service while protecting his ‘political viability' into one about sneaky Bush tactics, he got help from ABC's Ted Koppel as well as Rather."
"That day's campaign story on all the networks was accordingly about an alleged Bush negative campaign and only secondarily on the revelations about Clinton's impolitic thoughts on the letter [where he claimed he "loathed" the military] itself. In CBS's first report on the draft issue, five days after it broke, Rather, who has several writers at his disposal, gave it a headline that absolutely no one else could: ‘Bill Clinton says President Bush's 1989 Willie Horton crowd is smearing him with new campaign dirty tricks.' Rather was not please by CBS's failure to scoop the world on this, or on Roger Ailes' supposed planting of the Gennifer Flowers story."
--Martin Plissner, former Executive Political Director of CBS News, in his 1999 book, The Control Room: How Television Calls the Shots in Presidential Elections.
"Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh said today that his investigation of the
Iran-contra criminal case is over." "Still unanswered, questions about the role
of then-Vice President Bush."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, September 17, 1992.
"Beginning in 1986, and for the next eighteen months, the CBS Evening
News investigated the Iran-contra debacle." "Our findings led
us to the possibility not only that George Bush knew from the start, and was
kept informed, but that the diversion actually ran through the office of the
--Dan Rather in his 1994 book, The Camera Never Blinks Twice.
"On October 3, the day of the Panama coup, Rather tried to surreptitiously broadcast his news show from the White House lawn as a way to tie President Bush to the failed coup attempt. We had always rejected any attempt by any television show to use the White House as a set. The president simply felt so strongly about the dignity of the White House that we decided early in the administration on this policy.
"Rather tried to clear twenty CBS technicians into the White House that afternoon, without giving a reason. It was obvious what he was up to. We asked a friendly CBS correspondent, who admitted it, so we denied access to Rather.
"On October 11, the day after my stormy briefing about lying, Rather referred to the White House 'cover up,' 'changed story,' and 'stonewalling' on Panama. My favorite story about Rather's ludicrous attitude relates to how he began his newscast on the riots in Detroit by saying: 'In this Reagan/Bush era of budget cuts, riots erupted in Detroit tonight.' He would hold on-air conversations with his correspondents that always began: 'Didn't the White House blow this, Lesley?' And no correspondent who wanted to keep his or her job ever disagreed with Dan Rather on the air. Robert Lichter, who measures media coverage in Washington, reported in 1992 that 87 percent of all CBS stories were critical of the administration, compared to 57 percent at NBC and 39 percent at ABC. In any case, no one in the White House ever believed CBS would be fair to the administration.
"During the Bush presidency, we offered many interviews to CBS correspondents Bob Schieffer, Charles Kuralt, Randall Pinkston, Harry Smith, and others. All we wanted was someone who would be civil. But CBS management always said, 'No, only Dan Rather interviews the president.'
"During the 1992 campaign, CBS finally changed its policy. It agreed to a Rose Garden interview with the president by the CBS Morning News team of Harry Smith and Paula Zahn. It would be a 'town meeting' format, last an hour, and be the first such production with CBS during the Bush years. Sure enough, at the last minute, Rather sent his personal producer and production crew to Washington to take over the show. As the show was about to end, I discovered Susan Zirinsky, Rather's producer, crouched behind some Rose Garden hedges, shouting into her two-way radio: 'Ask him about Iran-Contra. Iran-Contra!' That confirmed everyone's feelings about the depth of Dan Rather's hatred for the president."
--Marlin Fitzwater, Bush White House Press Secretary, in his 1995 book, Call the Briefing.
"A vote to support President Bush's idea to cut the capital gains tax cut for
the wealthy. Sixty-four Democrats bucked their own House leaders,
abandoned them, and joined the Republicans to support the measure. Mr. Bush
says that cutting the capital gains tax for the wealthy will
boost the economy and create jobs. Opponents don't believe that and call it
simply a tax giveaway for the wealthy."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, September 28, 1989.
Note: Rather says twice that Bush's idea was a tax cut "for the wealthy," then later quotes "opponents" saying virtually the same thing.
"Just one week before the election and the Bush Administration says the U.S.
economy has turned the corner and started expanding again, but there
is some doubt about the accuracy of the figures, and even if they are
accurate, they may be too little too late to help President Bush because it
was also announced today that consumer confidence in the economy continues to
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, October 27, 1992.
Note: Months later it was proven that Bush's figures were incorrect, as Rather had stated. Instead, they were even better than predicted, at 3.9 percent for the 3rd quarter. As mentioned above, the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated the late 90s economic boom began during the second quarter of 1991 during Bush's third year in office.
Lesley Stahl of CBS asked President Bush if he would like to conduct a
televised tour of the White House. He liked the idea and suggested perhaps Barbara
could do it. John Peyronnin, one of Stahl's superiors at CBS, said the network couldn't devote
a whole hour to it, but would do it for a segment on 48 Hours. Unfortunately,
Dan Rather was the host of 48 Hours. The Bush people changed their minds
and told Stahl:
"The latest sticking point: President Bush's insistence on cutting the capital gains tax for mostly wealthy Americans."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, September 18, 1990.
President Bush gave a speech about his campaign:
"The toughest part, for me, was the debates. Some time has passed, so I want to take a moment to recognize my opponent. He was strong, tough, tenacious, a real fighter. I gained a newfound respect for Dan Rather." [laughter]
--George Bush at the Bush-Quayle Campaign Reunion, January 18, 1990.
"A squadron mate of George Bush during World War II spoke out today. He pointed out Bush has told different stories
about the time his plane was shot down. Some newspaper accounts quote him as saying that Bush could have saved the
lives of the crew members had he not decided to bail out. That's not exactly what he told CBS News."
--Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, August 12, 1988.
Note: The squadron mate's story was from the tabloid New York Post, a story that official navy records say is false. None of the other Big Three chose to bring up the unsubstantiated story, which Rather mentioned the Friday before the Republican National Convention.
Dan Rather spoke of his opinion of George Bush's role in Iran-contra:
"The fact is he lied. It is an unpleasant fact, but a fact nonetheless."
--Dan Rather in The Camera Never Blinks Twice, 1994.
"I thought about that time, 'Look he was doing he felt what he had to do as
a politician trying to position himself to get the presidency.' I was doing
what reporters do and that is asking the tough questions and keep pressing it
either until he answered or until it was clear he wasn't going to answer." "[H]e
was at the very least skirting the truth about his involvement in sending some
of America's best technology to the Ayatollah Khomeini."
--Dan Rather to Chris Mathews about why in 1988 he gave then-Vice President George Bush a hard interview. CNBC's Hardball, June 28, 1999.
The Bush camp "said they will not talk to Dan Rather."
--CBS News Vice President Joseph Peyronnin during the '92 election season. President Bush allowed all of the other networks to interview him.
"Dan Rather is the most biased reporter in the history of broadcasting," "I'd be surprised if he's not on the Dukakis campaign
payroll.... I would guess that Rather's life expectancy [at CBS] is not too long."
--Roger Ailes, senior media adviser for the Bush campaign, in the Washington Post, October 23, 1988.
"Even when George Bush the Elder trailed Democrat Michael Dukakis by double-digits
that summer, the conventional wisdom of the punditry was that, come Election
Day, Mr. Bush would prevail." "The economy seemed generally strong
in 1988, and that helped Mr. Bush overcome questions about scandals in Mr. Reagan's
second term and general uneasiness over Mr. Bush."
--Dan Rather in "Rather's Notebook" at the CBS News Web site, April 5, 2000.
"I don't want to have a big running fight with Dan Rather or anybody else,
but if you get yourself out there in the public arena, it's important that you
defend your principles. And that's what I thought I was trying to do." "I have
no hard feelings about it." "I did what I thought was right, and you have got
to do that."
--Vice President George Bush during a 1988 campaign stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, speaking of his on-air confrontation with Dan Rather.
George Bush had just won the 1988 presidential election:
"At 8:16 CBS reluctantly announced George the winner."
--Barbara Bush in her diary, May 15, 1992, included in her 1994 book, Barbara Bush: A Memoir.
George Bush gave a speech at Notre Dame:
I "heard on CBS that George had had a lukewarm reception at Notre Dame. It worried me. When he got home and I asked and then told him about the report -- he was shocked. He said it was really very warm and enthusiastic. He later got a letter from the president of Notre Dame saying that he could not believe the 'lukewarm' report. He said that they were very enthusiastic. I wish he'd told the world that."
--Barbara Bush in her diary, November 8, 1988, included in Barbara Bush: A Memoir.. print_file('footer'); ?>