'Fox News Watch,' May 29, 2010

This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Watch," May 29, 2010. This copy is may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: On "Fox News Watch," as the oil disaster worsened in the gulf, the media step up their coverage and push for more action.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Man, you got to get down here and get control of this. Put somebody in charge of this thing and get this thing moving. We're about to die down here.


SCOTT: The president finally comes face-to-face with the press.


NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How can you say that everything that can be done is being done, with all of these experts and all of these officials saying that's not true?


SCOTT: Did the press push the president to prove he's engaged?


BRET BAIR, ANCHOR, SPECIAL REPORT: Did the White House offer you a job to not get in the primary?

REP. JOE SESTAK, D-PA. & U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: And I answered that yes.


SCOTT: Felony or fib? Are the media digging for answers into Congressman Joe Sestak's White House bribe story?

The New York Times reports on the military secrets in the Mideast. Was this good journalism or an anti-American act?

From high-priced prostitutes to prime time, is this defamed politician a desperate hire to bring ratings to one of these cable channels.

And new graduates want to be new journalists. Are they ready for the challenge?

On the panel this week, writer and Fox News contributor, Judy Miller; syndicated columnist, Cal Thomas; Jim Pinkerton, fellow, New America Foundation; and Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. "Fox News Watch" is on right now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": What more can the president do here. He didn't — go ahead.

CARVILLE: George? George? The president of the United States could have come down here. He could have been involved with the families of the 11 people. He could have commandeered the things there. We could have sent the people. We could have sent the Scripps people, on research vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. He could have demanded a plan in anticipation to this.

Right, he can't exactly fill the hole up. The — last night, I was on Larry King with the CEO of the — the former CEO of Shell. They said they've got 85 percent of the stuff cleaned up in the gulf in Saudi Arabia. He could be commandeering tankers and making B.P. bring tankers in and clean this up. They could be deploying people to the coast right now. He could be, with the Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard, with the people in Plaquemines Parish, doing something about these regulations.

And these people are crying. They're begging for something down here. And it just looks likes he's not involved in this. Man, you've got to get down here and take control. Put somebody in charge this have and get this thing moving. We're about to die down here.


SCOTT: That's ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist, James Carville, sending a clear message to President Obama and his advisors earlier this week to try to take control of the Gulf oil spill disaster. Well, the message seemed to be received loud and clear. President Obama finally came face-to-face with the press in the first scheduled news conference in ten months, attempting to convince Americans he is not standing on the sidelines.


OBAMA: My job is to get this fixed. And in case any of you wonders, in any of your reporting, in case you're wondering who is responsible, I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. It doesn't mean it's going to happen right away or the way I'd like it to happen. It doesn't mean that we're not going to make mistakes. But there shouldn't be any confusion here. The federal government is fully engaged and I'm fully engaged.


SCOTT: Jim, the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is famous for saying, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." Is it curious to you that in the middle of this oil crisis, all of a sudden, the president decides to hold this first news conference in ten months?

PINKERTON: And he said very explicitly, I'm holding this news conference to let everybody know that I'm holding this news conference. I mean, it — it was right up there with Bush 41 saying, message, I care, 20 years ago. Look, this is — including calling out the daughter for the little anecdote about, "Dad, you're going to get this fixed, aren't you"? It reminded me of Jimmy Carter citing his daughter in the 1980 presidential debate about nuclear war. It didn't work out too well for Carter. We'll see how it works out for Obama.

SCOTT: Ellis, you're from the Gulf coast. You had to be right there with James Carville talking — you know, listening to the impassioned plea to his fellow Democratic, fellow Democrat president, get us some help down there.

ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Yes, and I like the fact, Jon, that there's finally someone on television who doesn't have an accent.


There's a lot of anger down there. Now, I don't know that quite as much of it is directed at Barack Obama as maybe Jim would think. What I hear from my friends and relatives down there is an awful lot of anger at B.P. and some of the other companies. But the administration has clearly failed in a symbolic and a P.R. way. And those things matter in the political media.

SCOTT: So was the president ill advised, I guess, to go out in front of the media, Judy, and say, I'll take responsibility, I'm going to —

JUDY MILLER, WRITER & FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, it was very bold. It was the courageous thing to do, not to say mistakes have been made, but I am wrong, I made mistakes, I'm going to accept responsibility. The problem is that cool diffident style and the fact that he shows up so far into this crisis.

Charles Blow, with the New York Times, said a very interesting thing. He said, when you see the pictures of that planning group down — the emergency planning group down there on the coast, there's not a single face that people know and recognize as being a political leader, and that's the problem. They appear to have ignored it, even if there is a limited number of things they could have gotten.

SCOTT: Let's listen to the president in that news conference, another piece of sound from him. He was responding to a question about whether or not this crisis is tantamount to his own version of Hurricane Katrina. Here is his answer.


GARRETT: Can you respond to all the Katrina comparisons people are making about this with yourself?

OBAMA: Well, I'll take your second question first. I'll leave it to you guys to make those comparisons and make — and make judgments on it because — because what I'm spending my time thinking about is, how do we solve the problem. When the problem is solved and people look back and do an assessment of all the various decisions that were made, I think that people can make a historical judgment. And I'm...


SCOTT: All right, Cal, what do you think about that, historical judgment?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, you don't have to go back that far in history. If the mess would go back and reexamine what Senator Barack Obama said for George W. Bush during the Katrina thing, he was all over him and his failure to act supposedly more quickly with Katrina.

But here is where the bloom is off the rose, Jon. If you listen to the first clip from the press conference at the introduction of the program today, you'll hear that one reporter, who got up and said to the president, how can you say that. The whole idea that Barack Obama may not be forthcoming is a new revelation to the media. And if this rose begins to wilt, as I see it, the media are going to be all over it.

PINKERTON: But it did take a long time.

THOMAS: A long time.

PINKERTON: As the Media Research Center pointed out, for the first month, we like six weeks into this thing now, but for the first month, the coverage, 95 percent of all the coverage on network news didn't mention the Obama administration. It just treated it as Ellis would like it to, only BP, BP, BP, and not mentioning the failure of the cleanup operation. Now that's changing, but only in the second month of the disaster.

HENICAN: But we're still, on the coverage, lack of separation of two things that are very different from each other. The symbolic things that a president and political leaders at all levels need to do at time of disaster.

THOMAS: That's what...


HENICAN: And — and the actual cleaning up. And I'm afraid, in some of the coverage, particularly on the conservatively slanted coverage, really has tried to merge those things unfairly together.

PINKERTON: And also missing is the technical issues of how do you clean this stuff up. All these investors and scientists have come forward and said, look, we've cleaned up something similar to this in another country. Why aren't those people front and center?

THOMAS: Well, we have pictures of the president Friday picking up tar balls on the beach. What more can you ask for?


SCOTT: That was kind of an after odd picture. If you want to show a president who is engaged and involved and really, you know, driving this train, why do you put him in such a sort of a passive activity of picking up tar balls on the beach?


MILLER: Well, what do you want him to do, don a wet suit and jump into the water and start...


Look, there may not be a lot he can do, but what about the disconnect in the press conference when he was asked about whether or not the head of the minerals agency was fired, and he says, well, I don't know about that?

And this is a guy who supposedly is in charge of this crisis and he chooses not to tell us whether or not he fired the woman who was supposedly overseeing the oil industry that, of course, is regulated by the oil industry? This is a very sorry...

HENICAN: Yes, but you can't have it both ways. You can't complain that he's doing too few symbols and not enough P.R. stunts and then object when he's bending over and picking up a tar ball. That's not going to clean up anything, but aren't those the kind of symbols that you guys have been demanding for the last month?

SCOTT: Well, whether this thing has been adequately covered in the press or not, it does seem to be taking a toll on the poll numbers. Americans were asked, how do they think Mr. Obama is doing compared with last month. CBS News shows his poll numbers are slightly down in a poll that they took. 47 percent approve of the job he's doing. 43 percent disapprove. Last month, he was at 51 percent approval. 39 percent disapproval.

Time for a break.

But first, you can go to our website after the show and see and hear what happens on the set after the break. Go to Foxnews.com/Foxnewswatch.

And up next, why did former President Bill Clinton make a job offer to Congressman Joe Sestak? Is it the kind of thing that happens all time in Washington? And do the media care?


BAIER: Did the White House offer you a job to not get in the primary?

SESTAK: And I answered that yes.


ANNOUNCER: Accusations of a White House bribe raises some media attention.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He never really explained what the conversation was.


ANNOUNCER: Is the press digging deeper or ready to sweep this away?

And the New York Times spills the beans on military ops in the Mideast. Has that put Americans in danger? Details next, on "News Watch."



SESTAK: I was asked a direct question yesterday and I answered it, answered it honestly. There's nothing more to go into. I'm in this race now.

BAIER: Did the White House offer you a job to not get in the primary?

SESTAK: And I answered that yes. And I answered it honestly, but to go beyond that, Bret, doesn't serve any purpose.

BAIER: Was it Navy secretary?

SESTAK: As I said, there's nothing to be gained on focusing on this politics stuff.



NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Last Tuesday, you told us — I don't have the update with me on Sestak. But things have happened since then.

GIBBS: Yes, I don't have, if any...


NEWS CORRESPONDENT: ...letters the White House Council.

GIBBS: I don't have anything additional on that.

NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are you ever going to have anything additional on that?

GIBBS: I don't have anything today.



DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Yes or no, straight-forward question, were you offered a job and what was the job?

SESTAK: I was offered a job and I answered that.

BAIER: You said, no, you wouldn't take the job. Was it secretary of the Navy?


BAIER: Was it the secretary of the Navy job?

SESTAK: Anything that goes beyond that is for others to talk about.


GIBBS: I'm not a lawyer, but lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak, and nothing — nothing inappropriate happened.


SCOTT: Well, that is some flap erupted after Democratic Senate Nominee Joe Sestak, of Pennsylvania, claimed the White House wanted him to drop out for a race for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania. That race pitted him against fellow Democrat, Arlen Specter. And the Obama White House admits it did not want to see that contest take place. Sestak says he was offered another job, in essence, to get out of the race, an offer he turned down.

And the president responded to a question raised by Fox's Major Garrett on Thursday about the job offer.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue.


SCOTT: Well, shortly is right. The next day, on Friday, the White House counsel released a report revealing former President Bill Clinton spoke to Sestak about a possible unpaid job as a White House adviser. The White House also said the Navy secretary job was not the one that was proffered.

What are the questions the media should be asking here, Jim? You worked in the White House.


Is this the kind of stuff that happens all the time or is it going over the line?

JIM PINKERTON, FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: I think this stuff does happen fairly often.

SCOTT: Shocking.


PINKERTON: Shocking, shocking, shocking.

What is rare though is that somebody who gets an offer like that goes public with it. Because it is, in fact, a felony.


SCOTT: And I don't think he intended to go public.


SCOTT: And he just happened to mention — no, he just happened to — talking to Larry Cane, a legendary Pennsylvania news man, and he asked the question and he said yes. That's all it was.

HENICAN: Jon, back when I was a reporter in Albany, New York, and Covington, Kentucky, and a few other places, I wish I knew this stuff was a crime. I would have won three or four Pulitzers by this time.


This is a standard practice in every single political jurisdiction in the world. Run for this, hang on, your time will come in four years. We'll take care of you in the county clerk's office. That's politics.

PINKERTON: Ellis — right, it is politics, but it's also felony. And it is — what is so interesting, with the exception of a few journalists, like Byron York, Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, the mainstream media was uninterested in this felony. And I think it would have been different if it had been a Bush administration...


HENICAN: But, let's indict — let's indict every member of Congress and every state legislator and everyone else.


THOMAS: All different scandals begin with, I did not have — it was not — it was not inappropriate, and it was a third-rate burglary. They all start that way.


MILLER: You know, but this is an inside-the-beltway felony. This is the kind of thing that politicians themselves care deeply about and, yes, it's the law, but with everything going on in this country, this week...

THOMAS: Like immigration, who cares what the law is.

MILLER: Please, please, please, let's get a grip. It's not an impeachable offense.

SCOTT: And is anyone on the panel surprised that Bill Clinton is somehow involved?


I mean, here we have six degrees of separation.

PINKERTON: The original question about this, three is about a hundred million questions to come out of it. All these timelines and so on. And again, Bill Clinton is a legendary Democratic politico. He's something of a magnet for curiosity and scandal.


PINKERTON: And his credibility as to exactly what happened, shall we say, is not completely perfect.


HENICAN: But if we were genuinely outraged at this, and I don't know really, but if we were genuinely, let's broaden it and let's indict the entire political system.

THOMAS: If that's the only way we can get term limits, I'm for it.


SCOTT: But do you think that the — you think the media ought to just drop this, Ellis?

HENICAN: Pursue it, it's a fine story. Go get him. He's running for office. Everything is fair game. His opponent's hitting, he should hit back.

PINKERTON: But, Ellis, don't you think that the media would have been much more eager to pursue this if it was the Bush administration? Admit it.



THOMAS: Come on, admit it. It's just between us.


HENICAN: It ain't — it ain't — it ain't that great to start with him. Boy, I remember some county executives back in Kentucky that I could go after.

THOMAS: Oh, yes, but they're not the president.

MILLER: I think that having Bill Clinton involved gives it, if we can use the term, a little sex appeal.

THOMAS: That's good.

SCOTT: And you might hear Ellis' admission during the break, Foxnews.com/foxnewswatch.


We'll see what he has to say.

Time for another break.

Up next, a disgraced politician lost, or is caught, I should say, breaking some of the very laws he was supposed to enforce, paying prostitutes to sleep with him. Cost him his governor's job. Should that disqualify him from a new post as a cable TV host? At least one channel seems to want him.

ANNOUNCER: Defamed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer moving from his prostitution ring scandal to prime time, but who wants him?

And the New York Times reveals a U.S. military plan in the Mideast. Whose side are they on? All next, on “News Watch."


SCOTT: The New York Times published an article on Tuesday, saying the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, had signed a secret directive last September authorizing U.S. Special Operations troops to be sent to both friendly and hostile nations in the Mideast. The question, should that article have been published at all.

Judy, you worked at the New York Times. Explain to us a little bit about what happened here? That report was leaked for a reason. Somebody had an agenda? What do you think it was?

MILLER: It's always hard to figure out what the motive is. Usually, when it's an order that's leaked of this nature, it's because one intelligence agency is angry at another. And because this empowers the Pentagon to do what the CIA normally does, the normal assumption that people made was, well, the CIA is angry. But the story that Mark Mazzetti wrote said, no, actually, the CIA is not angry. They're perfectly happy with this, which raises a bunch of other questions about the impact of this on our friendly countries, like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, where we're going to be doing the spying. About whether or not the spies, what kind of punishment they can receive, if they're caught. And whether or not the CIA or anyone tried to stop this story by going to the New York Times and saying, please don't publish this, because it could jeopardize national security.

THOMAS: Now, that's what I want to know.

MILLER: We need to know the answers to those questions.

THOMAS: Yes, that's what I want to know. Who does it benefit? It can only benefit the terrorists. I mean, this is just — this is unbelievable in the middle of a war. And not just the New York Times. The Washington Post, according to News Busters, is guilty of this. This Yemeni cleric, who was an influence of the Times Square bomber, the underwear bomber, the Ft. Hood shooter has said that a Washington Post story, revealing how he was being tracked, caused him to change his behavior. At some point, you've got to ask, who side is the media on.

SCOTT: So, should the Times have published this thing if they got the memo dropped in their lap?

PINKERTON: Well, I think the granddaddy of all the stories was the 2005 revelation that the Bush administration was using surveillance on telephones. Which was quite a scandal. And Gabriel Schoenfeld, of commentary, wrote a whole book in which he said the New York Times had violated the Espionage Act of 1917.

This thing, the incident seems more perhaps, perhaps, benign to me. It could be that probably, you know, Petraeus leaked it himself.


HENICAN: And let's give Mazzetti credit. I mean, the story turns out to be right, so far, at least. Nobody is raising — outside of this table, nobody is raising objections to it. And you know what, we do have a right to know what's being done in our name in hostile and friendly foreign countries.

MILLER: I'm not raising objections. I'm simply saying it raises questions that the media need to address.

HENICAN: They're complex issues that need to be addressed.

MILLER: And they're complex issues.

HENICAN: But I don't think we have any indications that this is causing any particular damage.


THOMAS: This didn't happen during World War II. We didn't print our strategies against Hitler and Japan.

HENICAN: It's a more open world today, a more open world.


MILLER: Only The Nation magazine has called for congressional investigations immediately into this, "power grab by Petraeus." nobody else is outraged or seems to be.

SCOTT: All right, let's move on to the next big cable news star, or maybe not.


Ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 in complete disgrace after being caught in a prostitution scandal, well, he's been rethinking his career. Spitzer has been making guest appearances on some cable networks. Is he host material for CNN?

Would people watch that, Jim?


PINKERTON: I don't think — you know, like the cliche about certain hosts is they're train wrecks waiting to happen. You can't wait to see what they do next in terms of meltdown or blow up or, in Spitzer's case, who knows what? It's desperation, but maybe they're in that situation now.

HENICAN: That is a terrible idea. Ashley Dupre should be getting her own show on CNN.


THOMAS: Have her be the co-host.

HENICAN: Do you know who she is, Cal?

THOMAS: Absolutely. Yes, thank you.

SCOTT: Well, she actually is a columnist for the New York Post, and her 15 minutes have been extended at least by an hour.

THOMAS: Clearly, CNN is going after the adultery demographic.

MILLER: Now that they've lost Lou Dobbs, they need something, someone.

HENICAN: Some more sexy people?


MILLER: Someone who is going to get people to watch, because they've lost half their audience in the past two years. If I were CNN, I'd be worried, too.

SCOTT: Eliot Spitzer, cable host.

We have to take one more break.

When we come back, are new graduates ready for a career as journalists in this new media era?

ANNOUNCER: Want to be a modern journalist? Got what it takes? Find out next, on "News Watch."


SCOTT: It is graduation time. Thousands of fresh, young faces looking to break into this coveted field of journalism, full of glamour and reward.

Right, Cal?

THOMAS: Absolutely.

SCOTT: So what skills should the new journalism graduate possess to beat out the competition? In 1969, English writer, Nicholas Tomalin wrote, "The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability."

In this era of new media, a few more qualities might be useful — good camera skills; knowledge of Quark, Excel, World, Photoshop and Final Cut Pro; ability to work between a MAC and PC; copies of Rosetta Stone; know what CMS means. That's content management system. Be grammatically correct without using an AP stylebook, dictionary or thesaurus; and willing to work 24/7, including holidays; also, the ability to operate a copy maker. Of course, good news judgment doesn't hurt either.

That is a wrap on "News Watch" for this week.

Thanks Judy Miller, Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas and Ellis Henican.

I'm Jon Scott. See you next week.

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