MediaWatch: September 1996

Vol. Ten No. 9

Poor Hillary, Is it Worth It?

During the week of the Democratic convention the three networks got a chance to interview First Lady Hillary Clinton, but their favorite topic was the First Lady's role as the beleaguered martyr of unfortunate Republican attacks.

On Monday, CNN's Judy Woodruff went first: "Let me take you back to San Diego. Bob Dole said it doesn't take a village, a collective, the state, which he said has made mistakes in raising children, it takes a family. Is this something that is going to become a major issue in this fall campaign?"

Woodruff inquired: "Also in San Diego, former President George Bush told the delegates he `worked hard,' I'm quoting here, `to uphold the dignity and the honor of the presidency, to treat it with respect. And then he added, quote, `it breaks his heart, when the White House is demeaned, the presidency diminished.' Does that hurt coming from your immediate predecessor?"

Woodruff kept going: "He then went on, Mrs. Clinton, he made a point of saying that his wife, Mrs. Bush, quote, `unquestionably upheld the honor of the White House.' Is that an insult to you?" When Mrs. Clinton failed to answer sharply enough, Woodruff insisted: "But he was clearly drawing a contrast're not hurt?"

Stories of Mrs. Clinton's rough-house approach to politics, such as her reported role in firing and lodging criminal accusations against seven workers of the White House Travel Office, did not prevent CBS This Morning co-host Jose Diaz-Balart from asking on August 26: "In the San Diego Republican convention, you were the subject of much conversation, and I think the target, I think many would say, of some very serious attacks....Do you ever, seriously, in the White House, when all the doors are closed, do you ever say `Is this worth it'?"

Just after she left the podium, NBC's Maria Shriver asked her: "This has been a difficult couple of years for you. Did that applause, the way you've been treated here, the way people have been reacting to you, kind of make it all go away?" And: "You are credited with really redefining the role of First Lady and for doing that, you've taken a lot of heat, a lot of criticism. As you look back, do you wished you'd redefined it a little less?"

On CBS, Bob Schieffer inquired of her: "Weren't you a little offended when he [Bob Dole] made the reference he did [to your book]?" CNN's Wolf Blitzer echoed: "What goes through your mind when you hear some of these bitter attacks against you?"