This is a rush transcript from "FOX News Watch," January 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JON SCOTT, FOX HOST: This week on FOX "News Watch," President-elect Obama pushes Congress on the economy, as the press asks questions about the people he's picked to join his administration.
Plus, Roland Burris takes Capitol Hill by storm. Did coverage of his quest to be seated in the Senate help his cause?
Also, is press coverage hurting Caroline Kennedy in her bid for a Senate seat?
A surprise bid by The New York Times as it struggles to stay afloat. Will newspapers be bailed out next?
And the press and President Bush. A look at his legacy.
On the panel this week, Jane Hall, of the American University; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, columnist and fellow, New America Foundation; and Marisa Guthrie, programming editor for Broadcasting and Cable magazine.
I'm Jon Scott. FOX "News Watch" is on right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: Well, that's President-elect Obama speaking out on Thursday about the economy, urging Congress to act quickly to pass his stimulus plan.
The arguing, Jim, is already going on. Even liberal Paul Krugman in The New York Times says he doesn't like this plan. Is the honeymoon over even before he takes office?
JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW & COLUMNIST, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, I think that the consensus in the middle of the press, the center left press, is, yes, we need a big stimulus package. And Paul Krugman and, for that matter, Nancy Pelosi ought to get out of the way and let this get enacted. Now, that's the argument, in January. Come February, when this thing gets voted on, we'll see.
SCOTT: You talked about center left advocating for it, Cal. A lot of conservatives say we're buying into the idea government has to do something and maybe you ought to just let this thing take its course.
CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Let it go through. The conservatives are in the minority. They lost the election. The media are like Bernie Madoff. They've got an awful lot invested in Barack Obama. Let them hang themselves. It's their plan. Why should the conservatives in the media or in the Congress be complicit in this? They can make their little speech. Let him have it and see what happens.
SCOTT: What about the idea, Jane? We bailed out G.M., all these financial services companies and banks and so forth. And it doesn't seem like a whole lot has happened.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, you can't really fault Barack Obama for what has happened to the economy until January 21st. Then, you can fault him a lot.
I think the media are so much giving him still the benefit of the doubt. The country feels we're in dire straits. We do need to move beyond. But everything he's doing, he's picking a wide range of ideas. He's got tax cuts. Nobody's really saying, except for Paul Krugman, is this going to work, you know.
SCOTT: But should there, Marisa, be more media skepticism of these plans?
MARISA GUTHRIE, PROGRAMMING EDITOR, BROADCASTING AND CABLE MAGAZINE: I think we're going to see more as more details of the plan come out. I mean, certainly David Brooks today took the counterpoint to Paul Krugman in The New York Times, and said this is not going to work. Stimulus packages have not worked. Come next year, he, Obama, will either be considered a great president or a broken one.
SCOTT: Well, another strike against him happened early in the week, actually over the weekend, when Bill Richardson had to withdraw his nomination. Another sign of the strike against him, I guess?
PINKERTON: Look, New Mexico is one of those states, like my dear home state of Illinois, that's full of crooks. And —
SCOTT: But you're not one?
PINKERTON: No, not me. And yet, you have to ask yourself — the political culture is so dominate there, government spending so on — then what do they think they're getting with Richardson. which leads to the question, which I'm not really seeing asked yet, OK, what deal did Richardson and Obama strike with each other a year ago or nine months ago that now needs to be revealed, explaining how Richardson got this. When there's a grand jury going on, they appointed him anyway.
SCOTT: Jane, there's been a lot of questions in the press about how could the Obama team have missed this. Were the vetters not doing their job? What about the media? I mean, it was public knowledge that this investigation was underway. And outside of the New Mexico papers, you didn't read a lot about it.
HALL: It does seem — it comes under the category of what were they thinking. If there's a grand jury investigation of a sitting — that comes anywhere close to a sitting governor, you would think that Richardson — Richardson would have — Richardson apparently still thinks and, of course, still maintains he did nothing wrong. But it is striking. You think, did anybody not read the local media? How come this hasn't been reported on?
THOMAS: Let me tell you what's going to happen here. The media feels safe because Democrats control all branches of government. Possibly some pretty important openings coming up. So there's going to be some little, gentle pushing and criticism of Obama, because they can afford it. There's no Republican power in there. All they can do maybe, if they can hold their coalition together in the Senate, they might be able to stop some votes. You'll see a little now pushing against Obama, but mostly pushing him more to the left.
SCOTT: I think I saw a smirk across Marisa' face there.
SCOTT: You don't agree with his analysis?
GUTHRIE: Well, I do not give the media pass on this one at all. But when this grand jury investigation came to light in New Mexico, it was — we were in the throes of Sarah Palin mania. I think — and the Obama administration has been deft at spinning the media. Richardson withdraws quietly. They announce Panetta. It's an expertly played game of hide the ball.
SCOTT: And the administration has chosen a TV doctor, Sanjay Gupta, from CNN, to be the next surgeon general. Good pick?
HALL: Well, you know, the surgeon general is the chief health educator. And he obviously has medical credentials as well as communication skills. But I have to say, you know, I saw a few funny pieces saying Martha Stewart for secretary of the interior; John Madden, the sportscaster, for the Department of Defense. I think the media — this is one where the media haven't really asked any questions about his credentials because he's one of us. So obviously, he's a great person.
THOMAS: He's like a Senator testifying before his former colleagues.
SCOTT: What about Leon Panetta to run CIA? Has that been...
SCOTT: Jim's laughing already.
PINKERTON: Well, I mean, it's cronyism of a kind. And, again, nobody really says he's qualified to do this. But they appointed him anyway. I'll be waiting for the investigations as to why they appointed him other than to prod Richardson off the front page.
SCOTT: The questions in the press, have they been appropriate?
HALL: Again, I think the media are focusing on how Dianne Feinstein was upset, who is head of the Intelligence Committee. One thing is to say the guy has no experience, and then Obama has picked people beneath him who are associated or at least where they are doing some of these questionable techniques, I think Obama's getting a free pass that isn't to his benefit.
SCOTT: All right, it's time for a break. We're going to be back in two minutes to talk about coverage of the Minnesota Senate race, the U.S. Senate race and this.
ANNOUNCER: From perfect pick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROLAND BURRIS, (D), APPOINTED U.S. SENATOR FROM ILLINOIS: I am the magic man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: To tainted pick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURRIS: My credentials were not in order, I would not be accepted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Mr. Burris tries to take his Senate seat and creates a media frenzy. What next? Details ahead, on "News Watch."
(FOX NEWS BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURRIS: My whole interest in this experience has been to be prepared, Roland, to represent my great state. And that is my love. That is my desire. And very shortly, I will have the opportunity to do that as a junior Senator from the fifth largest state in this great country of ours. Isn't it great?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: That's Roland Burris, the man chosen by the embattled governor of Illinois to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, speaking in Washington on Wednesday.
Jim, we saw those pictures of him being turned away from the capitol. Did that change things when the Senate wouldn't let him in? And the media coverage was right there?
PINKERTON: I think that what changed things was the realization after a while that they didn't really have a reason to keep him out. They could huff and puff, and Obama and Reid — I think both made themselves look foolish by saying, oh, absolutely, he can't come in. And then they realized they don't have a legal argument for doing that. The media had to reflect the creeping realization that, in fact, Burris is going to wind up sitting in the U.S. Senate.
SCOTT: And, Jane, I thought he looked a little beleaguered. When you see a sort of diminutive 71-year-old black man being pushed and shoved around when he's supposed to be a U.S. Senator, you feel sorry for the guy.
HALL: Well, except I doubt he expected to be seated. It was a media ploy. If you pull back from the coverage of him, you see a hundred media reporters around him. Obviously, it was a play. I think it succeeded. A black man being excluded, with no black Senators, it calls up a lot of imagery from the civil rights movement. I think the Democrats are going to seat him.
SCOTT: You think it was almost scripted?
THOMAS: Well, it could have been. But I agree. The shots that we've just been seeing here, they reminded me of a scene from Forrest Gump. He's been running and running. He's got the beard. And the media around him say, why are you running, for world peace, for women's rights, for the environment? No, just because I like to run. I think Roland Burris just likes to run.
SCOTT: Yes, well, he's gets another line on his mausoleum, I guess.
THOMAS: He's going to be an asterisk though.
SCOTT: He's been very calm in the face of this onslaught, media and otherwise. Did that help him win supporters?
GUTHRIE: Absolutely. The scenes of, again, yes, him being shoved around elicited a little sympathy. Also, Jim's right, there is no legal argument for keeping him out. So everyone, the media included, is doing some backpedaling here.
SCOTT: Let's talk about that Minnesota Senate race, the other unfilled Senate seat right now. Have the media been fair to both Norm Coleman, who just lost — well, just — I want to say just ended his term in the Senate, because he's no longer a Senator. Have they been fair to Norm Coleman and Al Franken, his Democrat challenger?
HALL: I think they've been reasonably fair. But I have to say, you know — I mean, Sonny Bono was a member of Congress. You can have a lot of lives before you get there. But I didn't see much questioning that Al Franken — Rush was a big fat idiot. How are you going to fit into the Obama bipartisanship? I didn't see much questioning of this guy. He may be a great Senator if he's seated, but I think the media liked him.
SCOTT: I think Jim thinks he'll be a great Senator.
PINKERTON: I think the Democrats will regret having him because, for all these just obnoxious reasons of his personality. I will say, in the meantime, where was the media — I realize they've all been laid off, so that's the answer — when Coleman went from being 200 votes ahead to being 200 votes behind. Where were the media when Ramsey County, which is St. Paul, counted 177 more votes than were actually cast, total, on Election Day? How does that stuff happen without the kind of fire storm that occurs when some Republican says some gaff word?
THOMAS: There was a story, I think in The Washington Post, this week that said — somebody took a poll and found Minnesotans were tired of the rancor and basically they wanted Coleman to give up. I think that was probably taken by a Democratic pollster.
SCOTT: All right, time for another break. Caroline Kennedy sits down with the press. Did she get more than she bargained for?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: That includes, you know, you know, being mother. You know, I understand some of those choices that women make. It includes, you know, I'm a lawyer and written seven best-selling books. You know, I'm on the Constitution. You know, I've written anthologies about American histories and values, political courage. You know, I've really tried to encourage people to go into public service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: You know, I think really this is sort of a unique moment, both in our — you know, in our country's history and in, you know, in my own life. And, you know, we are facing, you know, unbelievable challenges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: An excerpt there from just one of the interviews Caroline Kennedy has done recently with members of the New York media.
Jane, when she started out, it was called a quiet campaign to win the Senate seat. Then she went very public with it, said, yes, I'd like the job and started doing interviews, but they weren't very well-received. Did she hurt herself by going to the media?
HALL: I think she did. You know, she has to only convince the...
PINKERTON: What was that you said?
SCOTT: You know.
HALL: Yes — the governor. She only has to convince the governor of New York this time around. I think, obviously, someone should have said get some media training and also make the case. She has not made the case for why she wants it.
But, let me just say, I think there's some sexism here. A male, young Kennedy with no experience I think would not have...
PINKERTON: Hold on. Hold on. Stop right there.
Teddy Kennedy, 30 years ago, on "60 Minutes," gave an equally idiotic interview to Roger Mudd.
HALL: He has...
PINKERTON: And he got slaughtered for it.
THOMAS: Now, wait a minute.
PINKERTON: Look, the secret here is the Kennedy family — they're not that smart. Only when the media actually tape records them — and the New York Daily News counted 200 "you-knows" in the course of a 30-minute interview. When you actually get them on the tape, as opposed to be getting puffed up by some admiring reporter, then you realize they're stupid.
HALL: She can't have the education she has and be a dummy.
PINKERTON: Yes, you can. You absolutely can. If you're a Kennedy, you can actually fail through Harvard.
HALL: Let's do an I.Q. test.
PINKERTON: she won't take it.
THOMAS: Sarah Palin said this in an interview for a documentary — and I think there's right — there's some class warfare going on. The approach to Sarah Palin was totally different by the media to the approach of Caroline Kennedy. They're pained when Caroline Kennedy says "you know" — what was the count — 300-some times. Sounds like a sports figure in the locker room. They don't treat her the same as they do Caroline Kennedy.
SCOTT: Marisa is shaking her head.
GUTHRIE: I disagree.
GUTHRIE: I think Caroline has been excoriated for her incomprehensible performance. And Jane's right, the bottom line is she has not talked about anything. Everyone is picking out, counting you-knows. I think that Sarah Palin was running for a much-higher office, a national office. I mean, does anyone in Iowa or North Dakota care if New York sends Caroline Kennedy to the Senate? Sarah Palin may be the only person in Alaska who cares.
SCOTT: All right. Another topic making headline this is week, The New York Times began selling ads on its front page, something done at other major dailies, but never the Times. On Monday, the paper ran a color banner ad across the bottom of the page for CBS TV that carried the slowing, Front Page News.
Jim, is this the end of newspapers as we knew them?
PINKERTON: I think it's one more example of them circling the drain as they go down the tube. Robert McMillan, at Reuters, has been on this story for a while now. And he's made a lot of examples of where the politicians now are starting to smell the opportunity that they'll get good press if they bail out the press. And so Connecticut and other places are doing this. I think that will be one of the big stories of 2009, is politicians rushing in, why discriminate against the media by not bailing them out, too.
SCOTT: Should we bail out newspapers, Jane?
HALL: I think newspapers are going to have to figure out — and it's going to be tough — how to make money with serious news on the Internet. None of my students read the hard copy newspaper. They read these newspapers online.
But I will say that I think — people — there's a lot that's going to be lost in terms of reporting if newspapers go down. Politicians may be crying crocodile tears. They're going to be glad nobody's looking at city hall.
THOMAS: I'm for a bailout only of those newspapers that carry my column. No conflict of interest there.
But, no, I think it would be a terrible mistake to have the government involved in the press. We've got a First Amendment. It operates best when the press is independent. The real problems with newspapers are the publishers who have turned a blind eye, especially to conservative and religious values for years, haven't even tried to catch up, and haven't gone out and tried to market themselves to a new generation. That's what the problem is.
SCOTT: It's the same information whether you deliver it on news print or deliver it via the Internet. Isn't the problem that people are used to getting stuff off the Internet for free and they don't want to pay for it?
GUTHRIE: Right. And as Eric Smith, of Google, says, information wants to be free, like information has a conscious or something.
GUTHRIE: But, yes, that is the problem.
SCOTT: We have to take one more break. When we come back, we will talk about legacies.
ANNOUNCER: President Bush gives his last interview to Brit Hume. And Brit passes the torch here at FOX News. All next, on "News Watch."
SCOTT: Take a look at a preview of a special interview tomorrow on "FOX News Sunday." Our own Brit Hume talks with both Presidents' Bush in their first ever interview together. You can watch their discussion of the Obama transition and the legacy of President George W. Bush on your local FOX broadcasting station.
And Brit Hume is easing into retirement, reducing his workload in our FOX Washington Bureau. And we wish him all the best as he begins that transition.
So let's take a moment to discuss the Bush legacy with the media.
Jane, let's start with you.
HALL: I think the coverage of him, of Bush, in 2000 gives the lie to the liberal media because they really liked him. They bought his message of compassionate conservatism. They thought Al Gore was a stiff. But as time went on and the Iraq war happened, when the media turned after a long time, I don't think there was any going back.
SCOTT: What about it, Cal?
THOMAS: A lot depends on whether we are attacked again during the Obama administration. If we are, Bush's stock will rise tremendously because his greatest claim will be, he kept us safe.
SCOTT: And a lot of people have forgotten what it felt like, I guess, when the attacks happened.
PINKERTON: They have. They absolutely have. Cal wrote a column making that point about being safe.
I would agree with Jane that Bush got a good press in 2000. Then I would say buyer's remorse in the press set in quickly, way before 9/11 even, in terms of saying Bush is not qualified. And they've been making up for their penance for being nice to him in 2000 ever since.
GUTHRIE: Now that he has come out from behind the podium, he's no longer up there smirking, they are treating him like a human being with feelings again. So time will tell what his legacy will be.
SCOTT: It seems like that he's not even being recognized as president these days. He's got a few days left in the office and everybody is looking to Barack Obama.
GUTHRIE: Exactly. And he's talking and sometimes not talking. Bush is a lame duck. And...
HALL: I think he's being more reflective. I mean, it's very interesting. I thought an interview he did — American Enterprise Institute, Charlie Gibson — he has been more willing to be introspective. And so he's been more interesting, rather than, everything I did was right and I have no regrets, which has been his stance.
SCOTT: All right. That's all the time we have left this week.
Thanks to Jane Hall, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Marisa Guthrie.
I'm Jon Scott. Thanks for watching.
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