Senator's Health Watch

The following is a transcription of the December 15, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.



SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER DESIGNATE: He's doing well. Barbara's doing fine. Here's a statement that was issued just a few minutes ago of what —a few minutes by Dr. Eisold. Thank you all very much.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER'S QUESTION: ...can you clarify one thing, sir, will he be able to serve?


BURNS: Will he be able to serve? That's the key question. That's Harry Reid talking about his visit to Senator Tim Johnson, who had a stroke. Will he be able to serve? Will be able to serve?

Cal, is that the media being unfeeling, or is that the media getting to the nub of the real issue here?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Oh, I suppose it's getting to the nub of the real issue. But virtually every host, every anchor, every reporter started off by talking about his medical condition for about five seconds, and then immediately it went, 'This could mean the Republicans take over the Senate, with Dick Cheney casting the major vote, and implicating' you know, implying that Republican judges would after all be on the court.

This was ghoulish. They'd say, well, of course we need to pray his family.

BURNS: Well, how are we.

THOMAS: ...on the other hand, if he dies!

BURNS: How would you get around the ghoulishness? Simply by spending more time initially on his condition, before you get to the politics?

THOMAS: No - the speculation. Virtually all the reporters, with the possible exception of ABC's Tim Johnson, the doctor, had absolutely no medical background. Even Harry Reid resisted this temptation.


THOMAS: the sound byte we didn't use, said, I'm not a doctor. That's - I saw him, he looked good to me. Was he conscious? Look, I'm not even going to go there.

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: On - on Thursday I was watching Martha McCallum interview Trent Lott in.

BURNS: On this network.

PINKERTON: On this network. And she went through the usual ghoulish question of, 'well, what do you think will happen to the Senate if something. And Lott, to his infinite credit, said, I'm not going to get into it. I don't want to answer that question. I want to take back the Republican majority, but not this way.

And so I got kind of curious. And so I went down to the hospital, that night. I figured, why not just go be part of the problem?


PINKERTON: And - and I - I got a lot of good perspective.

I mean, first of all, there's - clearly, there's a - there's a rapaciousness in the reporters there. But the hospital was treating them badly. The hospital wouldn't let him go on in to go the bathroom - the - the reporters, and the anchor. Which is kind of cool, you had to walk around...


PINKERTON: But the point is, the reporters.


PINKERTON: The reporters made a good point, and that is, look, we understand this is ghoulish; we understand this is sort of predatory. On the other hand, this is major public even that - a lot hangs in the balance here. The public has a right to know. And we ought to not get spun by the Capitol Hill doctor, as opposed to the actual physician who did the operation on Johnson.

BURNS: I was just going to say, Jane, the big story here, from a national point of view, is in fact, political, as opposed to health.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think it's a question of balance. And, you know, we have to say, If Harry Reid is holding a press conference to say that he looked good - politicians are partially driving this story.

BURNS: Well, wait a minute, — he just come out.


HALL: He came out. But I mean, if....

BURNS: Yes. It wasn't an official press conference.

HALL: OK. I'm sorry. But I mean, the politics is....

BURNS: God, I love to correct someone on this show. I'm the one who gets corrected all the time.

HALL: OK. OK. All right.

But let me make...

BURNS: Sorry.

HALL: ...two points. One is that the politicians are driving this.

But I think it's a question of balance. Friday's New York Times' headline said, "Ill Senator Is Called Responsive, Capitol Riveted." Now that to me is why people hate the media. It looks so inside the Beltway. It is extremely important to the country what happens to this man, politically.

But I think the reporters began to back and say, of course, we have — our prayers are for — practically, our prayers are for Johnson.

But I have to say another point. In the rush to go on the air, a lot of people said he wouldn't be able to serve if he was incapacitated, which shows nobody knows what was in...

BURNS: Right.

HALL: ... the constitution.

BURNS: Because a lot of incapacitated people — no joke — physically incapacitated, have served for long periods of time.


BURNS: Not eloquently. But they've served.

GABLER: They didn't give many speeches on the floor of Congress!

You know, it tells us something about the nature of the divisiveness of our current political environment that this is regarded as a "nation-altering moment." But it also tells us something about the media, that they want this to be a nation-altering moment.

The chattering classes have boosted this thing so that they can have something to chatter about. And I might also add, incidentally, that one of the most ghoulish groups was right on here FOX News, talking about how his being incapacitated might get him removed. And there's no way he can be removed.

THOMAS: The only thing missing from this story was a clip from the movie "Dave," where an incapacitated president gets a look-alike, and he gets trotted out.

PINKERTON: Or, as somebody once — I won't say who said — "Weekend at Bernie's."


BURNS: What a good time to get out of this segment!

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