COMMENTS: Hillary's Sniper Fire Resurfaces

The Presidential election campaign was Story of the Day for the first time this month. Former President Bill Clinton's clumsy attempts to defend his candidate wife's fibs about sniper fire in Bosnia attracted coverage from reporters at all three networks and made the lead on CBS, where Harry Smith was substitute anchor. Funnily enough, the last time the Story of the Day was generated from the campaign trail was March 25th, when Hillary Rodham Clinton admitted that those "sniper fire" comments were a mistake. ABC's lead was a follow-up on the mass child abuse investigation into that fundamentalist Mormon ranch in Texas. NBC, for the third straight day, led with the disruption to American Airlines' schedule caused by the FAA's safety directive, as Brian Williams anchored from Washington DC in preparation for MSNBC's Conversation about Race town hall meeting at Howard University.

ABC's Jake Tapper (embargoed link) demolished Bill's defense of his wife by quoting it in full: "Hillary, one time at night, when she was exhausted, misstated, and immediately apologized, for what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995." Tapper called it "a sniper fire of falsehoods" noting that the story was told "more than once" but "never late at night," that her correction was not immediate but came "days" later and that "she never apologized." Tapper could have piled on that the visit in question was in 1996 not 1995 but he let the former President off the hook on that one.

For CBS, Jim Axelrod jumped on the excuse Bill used to explain his wife's error: "Some of them when they are sixty, they will forget something when they are tired at eleven o'clock at night too." Yes, Axelrod replayed a clip from that red telephone spot: her "best known ad this campaign has been about her ability to think straight in the middle of the night." Axelrod consulted Barack Obama's campaign for a response to the former President's remarks. The answer of No Comment observes "a cardinal rule of politics: never kick your opponents when your opponents are already kicking themselves."

NBC's Andrea Mitchell noted that Rodham Clinton had sent her husband to the "woodshed" for his remarks as "her aides cringed." She saw him emerged "duly admonished but unchastened" as her launched into media criticism. He addressed the traveling campaign press corps: "I regret that people like you care more about that"--the sniper fire fibs--"than whether she served the troops and I also regret that there appears to be a double standard about misstatements." Mitchell did not elaborate as to what that double standard might be or which misstatements it concerned.

Both CBS and ABC followed up on their campaign coverage to promote their Sunday morning political talk shows. George Stephanopoulos (no link) of ABC's This Week offered a free plug to the newly opened Newseum of Journalism, which will be his show's new home. Bob Schieffer played a soundbite from his sitdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for CBS' Face the Nation in which she called Bill Clinton's comment "a late night adult moment." Schieffer reported that Pelosi's joke was a symptom of Rodham Clinton's fading clout with party leaders. "She would not have said that if Hillary Clinton were the frontrunner right now," Schieffer's unnamed source, a Democratic operative, told him.


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