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Transcript:

December 14, 2007

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the journal. We have a lot of ground to cover in this hour - from journalism and media merger mania to politics and race. First, despite the clutter and conglomeration in commercial broadcasting a new voice occasionally emerges that proves the exception to the rule. The rule is either echo right-wing ideology or bow your knee to the god of "objectivity," meaning you simply counter a pound of official propaganda with an ounce of counter spin. Jon Stewart broke this mold with his daily show on comedy central. And now MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has done the same for cable news. Olbermann leaves no doubt about what he sees: Here's what Olbermann says about the vice president...

KEITH OLBERMANN: The mind reels at the thought...What servant of any of the 42 previous presidents could possibly withhold information of this urgency and this gravity and wind up back at his desk the next morning instead of winding up before a congressional investigation or a criminal one?

BILL MOYERS: And for president bush...no minced words:

KEITH OLBERMANN: "I accuse you, Mr. Bush, of lying this country into war. I accuse you of fabricating in the minds of your own people a false implied link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11... BILL MOYERS Rolling Stone calls Keith Olberman "the most honest man in news." Critics accuse him of extended polemics, and national review calls him, "shameless". Olberman shrugs it off. After years of knocking around broadcasting mainly as a sportscaster. He's found his place and his voice. His nightly countdown on MSNBC is the fastest-growing news show on cable television. To find out more about what's on Keith Olbermann's mind read his new book, Truth and Consequences. Keith Olbermann, welcome to the Journal.

KEITH OLBERMANN: My pleasure, sir. Good to be here.

BILL MOYERS: One of my closest friends always watched your nightly sportscast. And he remembers to this day, just got a word from him this morning, he remembers your saying about hockey is the most boring sport he's ever seen. And you went on to say, "Nevertheless, here without further comment are the game results for whatever they're worth." But you don't do that with politics. You don't-- you don't just give the scores. You have some strong things to say about politics.

KEITH OLBERMANN: It became necessary.

BILL MOYERS: Why?

KEITH OLBERMANN: I was sitting on a plane in Los Angeles reading in August of 2006 about Don Rumsfeld talking to the veterans and talking about how every-- everyone who was in opposition to the Iraq War policy, the so-called war on terror, even to some degree the Bush administration, was the equivalent in his mind to the Nazi appeasers of the 1930s. And he went on at length about how, you know, here's the-- we're doing the Churchillian role. And I thought, you know, sir, I took history classes. Your group is not Churchill. Your group is Neville Chamberlain because Neville Chamberlain minimized and marginalized anybody who disagreed with him. Reading this ridiculous remark and waiting to see somebody respond to it. And no one did. I'm thinking, well, you know, somebody with a platform ought to be talking about this. Somebody with a-- with an avenue to respond should be-- oh, yeah, I have a platform.

BILL MOYERS: And we have the commentary you did after that incident. Let me show it to our audience.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Okay.

KEITH OLBERMANN: The man who sees absolutes where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning is either a prophet or a quack. Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet. Dissent and disagreement with government is the life's blood of human freedom and not merely because it the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as his troops still fight this very evening in Iraq.

BILL MOYERS: You were angry.

KEITH OLBERMANN: I was. I was very angry. I was angry for a period of two days. After that first commentary, when I didn't know whether it was going to be greeted, I had support from management at MSNBC for that one. They-- I didn't surprise them. I said, "Look, I want to do this." And they went, "Yeah, you should." I didn't know what their reaction was going to be. I didn't know if I was going to be gunned down as I came out of the building or put in a black car or, you know, or lauded or whatever. People, for the most part, were ecstatic about this. And our ratings went up immediately. And the reaction from management was-- "Can you do one every night?" And I said, "No, I can't do one every night. I don't want to turn into that either." I don't want to be silent here. But I don't want to turn this into a manufactured thing. And they said, "Well, how 'bout once a week?" And I said, "No, you're not following me. It has to be organic." When I get angry on the air, it's because I'm angry about that particular subject and because of the revision of this country that has been done under our noses for the last seven years against the will of the people. And when something happens that touches into that general anger combined with the specific anger for the actual event that we're talking about, it swells up and I feel like, all right, here comes another one.

BILL MOYERS: But here's the anomaly. You work for General Electric--

KEITH OLBERMANN: Of course.

BILL MOYERS: --which is one of the top defense contractors in-- in the world. And you were criticizing the Secretary of Defense. This could have meant billions of dollars to them. Did they come down on you?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Not in the least.

BILL MOYERS: Not in the least?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Not in the least. I can imagine circumstances in which they would. But remember one thing. In the '20s when the decision was made that we should have a broadcast model for television and radio at that point but essentially laying the groundwork for television even then of commercial television, sponsored television for the most part-

KEITH OLBERMANN: The one advantage to it is the people who own television, commercial television will do whatever makes them money. And I make GE money. At a time when television money is increasingly scarce, they are delighted by my money. And I don't wanna minimize the idea that there is support for the point of view or freedom of speech. But ultimately, they don't have to make those choices as much as they have to make a choice about whether or not they're making money. Fortuitously, I help them do that.

BILL MOYERS: But if you were not making a profit for GE, you would not have this free speech.

KEITH OLBERMANN: I wonder about that in particular under these circumstances. I think to some degree that automatic-- money is the -- everything has been changed to money is the first thing in some circumstances. Now, I say this because in 2003 I believe ours was the first commercial newscast in the country to suggest that the raid to rescue Jessica Lynch, the injured then kidnapped private in Iraq, was not necessary. Not that it wasn't patriotic-- dangerous to the best of the knowledge of the men who effected it. But it wasn't-- didn't turn out to be necessary. There wasn't anybody defending her. It wasn't a hostage situation. Everybody they saw said, "She's over there." Simply reporting this-- reading this report out of a Toronto paper, which was the first--

BILL MOYERS: That's where I read it--

KEITH OLBERMANN: Right. The right-wing crashed down on my masters at MSNBC and NBC. And they came in and they said, "Okay, look, we don't need-- you don't need to retract. You don't need to change. If the story happens again tomorrow, do it again tomorrow. But just do me a favor. Come on and say something that emphasizes when you did this story you were not criticizing the troops who actually did the raid." And I said, "I wasn't." And they said, "Well, if you could say that again, that would probably be all we need."

BILL MOYERS: These are your bosses talking.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Right. And I said, "Well, this would then allow me to tell the story again." And my particular boss said, "Mm-hmm." And there was a kind of, "We're going to shut down this criticism. We're going to answer these people. We're going to give them what they think they want. They've made the wrong request." This will give you another opportunity to tell the same story again. And it has gradually escalated where I've had more and more license ever since.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I noticed when you a sportscaster you never took sides between the teams on the field. But a lot of people think you've taken sides now. They think you've taken sides with the progressive or liberal story.

KEITH OLBERMANN: They didn't say that a lot during the Lewinsky thing. I always find that kind of ironic as I've seen some of the criticism from the right. But, what I've done on the air in the last 4 1/2 years, and particularly in the last year and a half since the special comments began, is really journalism. It's saying here's what you're being told. Here's the identifiable objective fact to the situation. This statement from the government may be a lie. And what we all did in this country, those who had voted for this president and those who did not, was to say we're in dire trouble. We've been attacked. Let's rally around him, give him all the support we can, and we will suspend our disbelief. The moment that it began to be obvious that we were being manipulated, used-- that was when my suspicions began to take voice.

BILL MOYERS: I watched you walk off when you were at MSNBC and they were covering the Lewinsky scandal. And I believe you said, "This is ridiculous."

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: This is drip, right?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Right.

BILL MOYERS: You walked away.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Would you do it again?

KEITH OLBERMANN: I think probably it won't happen. But I would say that there were circum-- there were circumstances in this show, there was one occasion where I was prepared to go out the door an hour before one of the shows because we had one of those conflicting moments. This is very early on again. This is 2003. When we were all still in that kind of, "Gee, should we suspend our disbelief? What if he's-- what if George Bush is right and this is the kind of threat that he portrays?" He-- it's probably exaggerated because he's a politician, number one. But number two, what if he's right? I think a lot of us were saying, "Well, okay, let's just tread gently." MSNBC hired a guy named Michael Savage. And he came on and did-- not only did he do a show once a week that was basically just spattering invective on people he didn't like and these people change from week to week, but it was terribly produced. I mean, it was an awful show. And he was-- he looked like he was standing in front of a chalkboard somewhere in somebody's basement with a camera. One night I walk in, my boss is out of town. And the guy actually running the show at the point said, at countdown, said-- "We're going to run a Michael Savage commentary. I've got to go now." And he ran away. And I said, "We're not running a Michael Savage commentary. That's in the"-- and he was gone. I called my agent. Now, I'd just gotten back to MSNBC. I left, as you said, under the Lewinsky circumstances. A lot of bridges were burned. Came back. Everybody hugged. It's three or four months in. I'm enjoying it. I think I'm making a difference. I'm getting that little sort of skeptical thing back. And here we're going to have a Michael Savage commentary in the middle of it. So I finally got a hold of my agent. And I said, "I have to walk out, don't I?" She said, "Yep, you do." And I said, "Yeah, I guess so. Well, it was a nice career." I'm going to try to get a hold of my boss in Washington. And I called him and I said, "I can't"-- he said, "Can you find some reason not to run it that doesn't pertain to the politics?" I said, "Are you saying to me if I go and look at it and it doesn't meet production standards we don't have to run it?" "I might be saying that, yes. Just give me something to work with." And I went in and looked at it and the guy repeated himself nine times. So I called the guy back and said-- "It's very badly produced. He's repeating himself. I don't think you should run it." "Okay, good enough." But those things still happen, and I'm sure they'll still happen.

BILL MOYERS: You said you were getting this little skeptical thing.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: What is that?

KEITH OLBERMANN: It's what we do. It is the necessity of-- of journalism. Skepticism. Especially if you're trained in sports. Skepticism.

BILL MOYERS: Why in sports? I mean, what does sports have to do with news reporting?

KEITH OLBERMANN: In sports reporting it is almost assumed that you need to have some predictive ability. And you have to be able to discern patterns and also discern when somebody's telling you, "No, our shortstop's great," and he really isn't." And what the difference between those two things are. When the results don't match up to the hyperbole, you need to be able to see that and you need to be able to say it in some sort of informed way. When you cover a sport like baseball or football or whatever, that you're just-- you're here for this part of the story. You're-- you've joined it 75 years in progress or 100 years in progress. It should be the same way when you're covering the news and particularly in politics. And yet, as we've seen, you know, people in the political world now don't know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was.

BILL MOYERS: It seems to me that this country has become two choirs-- each side listening to-- only to its own preachers. If-- should journalists take sides when everybody else is polarized

KEITH OLBERMANN: The definition now of being on one side is to have not-- flag wavingly supported the president in anything he wanted, not handed him carte blanche after carte blanche after carte blanche.

BILL MOYERS: Not saying mission accompli--

KEITH OLBERMANN: Right.

BILL MOYERS: --mission accomplished?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Exactly. It-- it is-- I said that-- I'm on the air with Chris Matthews on that day with miss-- mission accomplished on May 1st in 2003. And I-- and he's talking about this as George Bush's moment in history and this. And I said, "Don't you think that him wearing a flight suit's going to be a little bit of a problem during the election cam-- "No. This is American history at its finest." I thought, "Gee, I'm the guy's wearing a flight suit." You talk about the emperor's new clothes. Here it is. He-- his new clothes are a flight suit when there was a controversy over whether or not he-- he fulfilled his Air National Guard service. You-- you just-- to-- to say that suddenly became subjective, just to recognize that. It was as if you were saying, "I'm only going to report," back to the sports analogies. I'm only going to report the Dodgers scores when they win.

BILL MOYERS: You-- you've started a new feature that goes beyond just skepticism.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: And I have an excerpt from it for the audience. Let's look at it. OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN`s list of the top three Bush administration scandals you may have forgotten about because of the latest Bush administration scandals. Number three, the U.S. attorneys firing scandal. Haven`t heard much about that lately. Number two, the when the hell are we going to get body armor to the troops in Iraq so they can stop protecting their vehicles using corrugated metal they found by the side of the road in Iraq scandal. And number one, ...The commutation of Scooter Libby`s sentence scandal. Today Libby dropped his appeal. So the case is closed. And finally the White House can answer questions about it, right? Right!"

BILL MOYERS: What inspired that? You're doing it every night.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah, well, I seriously, it was-- when the NIE about Iran, the National Intelligence Estimate, was this overarching story consuming almost every news organization, left, right, and middle, for two or three days. And then, bang, here comes the water-boarding tapes, or if you prefer, Water-boarding Gate, out of nowhere. And no one mentioned the NIE again. Just-- it just vanished. And it occurred to me that this had been bothering me for some time, that we had had so many scandals, so much scandal fatigue that literally people were going, "What was the name of that attorney general who was-- who was-- who was-- what was-- didn't he get fired? Did he fire somebody? What was his name? What-- I can't remember. Who was it? Was it Ashcroft? But after Ashcroft? Who was it?" I said, "Well, look, this is-- this is-- this is literally a problem." I began to ask friends and people that I work with: How many scandals have we covered in this administration?

BILL MOYERS: It all happened so fast. Amnesia sets in immediately.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: What does it mean for journalism?

KEITH OLBERMANN: It means you have to do something like that. That part of the news is not just saying, "Well, this happened in the last 24 hours," but here's something that happened six weeks. There's been a development in it. You're just not reading about it, you're not hearing about it because there's so much else to worry about. The list, Bill, of things that we could attach the word "gate" to in the Bush administration is now 50 items long.

BILL MOYERS: One of the reasons I'm glad you came is because I wanted to give the young people who work for me a chance to ask you some questions. They're all aspiring to be journalists. So I circulated the fact that you're coming and said, "Give me some questions you would ask him."

KEITH OLBERMANN: Okay.

BILL MOYERS: Quote, "I have long had mixed feelings about Keith Olbermann. While it's nice to have a cable anchor how doesn't obsequiously parrot Republican National Committee talking points, I struggle with the fear that angry histrionics on both sides create more of the ugly polarization that paralyzes our institutions and prevents Americans finding common ground. How does Mr. Olbermann differentiate his ad hominem attacks from those we see on the other side?" What do you say to Jesse?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, they're better written. The first-- no, I hate to-- I-- it's the most vulnerable point because it bothers me, too. It do-- it's the one criticism that I think is absolutely fair. We're doing the same thing. It is-- it becomes a nation of screechers. It's never a good thing. But emergency rules do apply. I would like nothing better than to go back and do maybe a sportscast every night. But I think the stuff that I'm talking about is so obvious and will be viewed in such terms of certainty by history that this era will be looked at the way we look now at the-- at the presidents and the-- the leaders of this country who rolled back reconstruction // I think it's that obvious. And I think only under those circumstances would I go this far out on a limb and be this vociferous about it.

BILL MOYERS: Another question from Gloria. "Yesterday I was scanning some of Mr. Olbermann's clips and I found one especially striking. He was calling Bush a war profiteer, more concerned about the profits of the defense industry than the lives of the soldiers. Right after he was done speaking, an ad came up for Boeing. Does Mr. Olbermann feel his credibility is at all undermined by the fact that his network is financed by some of the very industries he decries in his commentary?"

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah. If we're going to try to go corporation-free in any regard, I'm afraid everybody watching would just be prepared for that, you know that old test pattern with the Native American head appearing in the middle of it. 'Cause we're all, to some degree, involved in it. It's a nation of corporations, whether we like it or not. As I said earlier, the fortunate part about broadcasting is if I'm making them money, it doesn't make a difference to them and I'm on the air, how I'm doing it. And to be fair, many of these people on an individual basis have consciences that cannot be expressed in a corporate sense. Many of the people for whom I work-- say, "You are saying things that I cannot say." So I get support in a different way entirely from my bosses.

BILL MOYERS: Follow-up from Reniqua. And this could be to me, too. "You're a middle-aged white man who works for GE. What's so different from you sitting at the news desk than Walter Cronkite 40 years ago? Why should people listen to you?"

KEITH OLBERMANN: I can't personally do anything about my-- about my racial background. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow anything other than what I am. I just-- I'm just taken, though, by the Cronkite analogy because, of course, it was Cronkite who did exactly what we're talking about in a very focused way--

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, when he--

KEITH OLBERMANN: --on Vietnam.

BILL MOYERS: --when he came back from Vietnam and said-- the war has been lost. And Lyndon Johnson said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

KEITH OLBERMANN: But the point being that there was-- there were emergency circumstances that he saw, too.

BILL MOYERS: Emergency?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: You keep using that word. Are we in an emergency?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, we're being-- what-- here-- this is one thing with which I agree with George Bush. We're in an emergency. He and I could just sit there-- we just talked about what an emergency we were in and never went into details, we'd have a great time.

BILL MOYERS: What is it, as you see it?

KEITH OLBERMANN: Well, it is the question of the future of the nation. It's one of those pivotal times in our history. And I don't know that necessarily everybody sees it in those terms because it is, once again, an opportunity not merely for any external threat but for internal threat. Governments exist based on power that is taken from people. It is-- they are necessary. I'm not an anarchist. I believe in government. But there is-- there's no-- no possible interpretation other than to say that this administration and the Republican Party, to some degree the Democratic Party, have taken advantage of fear, of the unprecedented, nearly unprecedented attack that we saw in 2001, to expand their powers on the premise always of security, which is, you know, the famous Franklin, Jefferson warning about that is it's never been more applicable. So it is, yeah, it is emergency circumstances as Walter Cronkite saw it. I mean, here-- objective Uncle Walter, most trusted man in America. When I have an opinion on the most important political issue of the day, I'm gonna sink a president and maybe throw the election to the other guy right now. And he said, well, you know, the chips have to fall in this direction because people are dying and our country is, to some degree, wounded and bleeding. And our country is wounded and bleeding now if we don't know whether or not habeas corpus exists.

BILL MOYERS: Alright, last question. Name the four 20-game winners on the 1971 Baltimore Orioles.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, and Jim Palmer.

BILL MOYERS: That is amazing.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Oh, come on. I was 12 years old and a huge baseball fan.

BILL MOYERS: They're only--

KEITH OLBERMANN: I better remember that.

BILL MOYERS: --there are only two teams in the history of baseball who've ever had four 20-game winners. That wasn't a trick question. I didn't think you would know it.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Oh, sure. I can do the Yankee managers from, like, 1901 on. 1903 on. They didn't exist in 1901.

BILL MOYERS: Keith Olbermann, thank you very much for joining me on The Journal.

KEITH OLBERMANN: An honor, sir.

BILL MOYERS: Even as Keith Olbermann is emerging as a contrary voice, in the monolith of corporate broadcasting, journalism lost an island of independence this week. Rupert Murdoch officially took control of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL from the now defunct Bancroft family. With THE JOURNAL, Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News channel, and his new Fox Business Network, Murdoch now controls four of the major outlets that compete every day for the space in our heads. And when it comes to using his power for his own agenda, he's no shrinking violet. Back when THE WALL STREET JOURNAL was still a free agent - the paper itself reminded us that Rupert Murdoch "has blurred a line that exists at many other U.S. media companies ... - a line intended to keep the business and political interests of owners from influencing the presentation of news."

So it matters who owns the paper you read. That's why our next story is important and timely. The number of media corporations that dominate our lives has shrunk over the past 25 years from 50 to just a handful. Eighty percent of the country's daily papers are now owned by conglomerates. There's a restriction in place that prevents newspapers from buying radio and television stations in the same market, but the moguls, tycoons, and barons of the business have been lobbying to get the FCC- the Federal Communications Commission- to lift that restriction. They're about to get their way. And once again the heist of the public interest turns out to be an inside job. Here's our update from producer Peter Meryash and correspondent Rick Karr.

RICK KARR: Publishing conglomerates are prohibited from buying radio and T-V stations in their home towns under what's known as the "cross-ownership ban." Next week, though, the three Republicans on the F-C-C are expected to scrap the rule. That means newspapers from Seattle and San Francisco ... to Boston and Miami ... and Atlanta and Houston will be able to buy up local radio and T-V stations. As could papers pretty much everywhere else, according to critics of the proposal.

CHAIRMAN KEVIN MARTIN, FCC: The decisions that we are going to make about media ownership rules are as difficult as they are critical....

RICK KARR: The F-C-C - under Republican Chairman Kevin Martin - hit the road for a series of six public hearings, from Pennsylvania to Washington State. We reported on a few of those meetings ... which attracted hundreds of people ... who stayed for hours ... and told the five Commissioners - overwhelmingly - that they didn't want any more media consolidation.

CHICAGO FCC HEARING PARTICIPANT: So if the F-C-C is here wanting to know if Chicago's residents are being well served? The answer is no. If local talent is being covered? The answer is no. If community issues are being treated sensitively? The answer is no. If minority groups are getting the coverage and the input they need? The answer is no, the answer is no.

SEATTLE FCC HEARING PARTICIPANT: We told you a year ago when you came to Seattle that media consolidation is a patently bad idea, no ifs ands or buts about it. So with all due respect, I ask you, what part of that didn't you understand?

RICK KARR: That last hearing was last month, in Seattle. Members of the public spoke until one in the morning ... but all of those comments didn't persuade the F-C-C's Republicans that consolidation is a bad idea. In fact, no sooner had the Commissioners returned from Seattle to their Washington, D.C. offices ... than Chairman Martin announced that his mind was made up: THE NEW YORK TIMES gave him space on its Op-Ed page to argue for .... MORE media consolidation. The short span between the last public hearing and Martin's article ... landed the Chairman in the hot seat last week at a House Subcommittee hearing. Seattle-area lawmaker Jay Inslee asked the F-C-C Chairman whether he'd been paying attention to anything the public had told him.

REP. JAY INSLEE: When you have 1,000 people staying till 1:00 at night on a Friday, on the next Tuesday morning in THE NEW YORK TIMES, we see an op-ed by the chairman saying that he's going to propose rules that would basically ignore the testimony of these hundreds of people in Seattle the Friday before. Now, that troubles me because apparently, this is an op-ed that I can't believe wasn't written before this testimony was even listened to, and my folks in Seattle believe that they were treated like a bunch of chumps out in there that they had the FCC come out, fake like you're listening to them, and the deal was already done. So my first question, Chairman Martin, is was your op-ed, at least rough draft, written before you listened to these thousand people out in Seattle?

CHAIRMAN KEVIN MARTIN, FCC: Sure, I was working on drafts of the op-ed. I'm sure I was working on it on the way out to Seattle.

REP. INSLEE: And when did you send the final draft to THE NEW YORK TIMES?

CHAIRMAN KEVIN MARTIN, FCC: I don't recall. It was some time over -- I'm sure it was some time over the weekend. I don't know. I don't know whether I submitted it on Friday or Saturday, I don't know.

REP. INSLEE: Well, knowing how THE NEW YORK TIMES works, I bet you submitted it before you heard the testimony in Seattle and I'm going to ask you to check that out and let us know.

RICK KARR: Inslee's staff says Martin hasn't responded to that request. THE NEW YORK TIMES didn't reply to our questions about when it received the F-C-C chairman's op-ed piece. Another House Democrat accused Martin of having made up his mind before he'd heard a single comment from the public: Pennsylvania's Michael Doyle said that in June of 2006 - almost eighteen months ago - Martin received this memo from F-C-C staff ... laying out how the Commission could justify allowing newspapers to buy into radio and T-V stations.

REP. MIKE DOYLE: Chairman Martin, a more cynical person than I might ask the question, did you know what you wanted to do on June 15th, 2006? I would hope that overturning cross-ownership rules wasn't a forgone conclusion, that you actually looked at studies, saw what they said, went to the field hearings, listened to the public and the stakeholders and then announced your rule.

CHAIRMAN KEVIN MARTIN, FCC: I think that it's fair that I did have an idea of what I thought the commission should end up doing in June,

RICK KARR: That's June of last year. Martin's answer seemed to confirm Democrats' suspicions that the F-C-C's hearings ... and academic studies ... were nothing more than a charade. They'd called for the subcommittee hearing because Congress may be the only body in Washington that can stop the proposal for more consolidation. House Republicans, on the other hand, were generally friendly to the idea of letting Big Media get even bigger.

REP. JOE BARTON: Well, I want you to know, Mr. Chairman -- Chairman Martin -- that some of us do support the relaxation of the cross-ownership rules so you have a few friends on that issue.

RICK KARR: But most of the Subcommittee's democrats slammed Martin's proposal - and so did Democratic F-C-C Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein:

COMM. JONATHAN ADELSTEIN, FCC: Americans from all walks of life, from all political perspectives, from the right to the left and virtually everyone in between don't want a handful of companies dominating their main sources of news and information. People are not clamoring for us to relax the media cross ownership ban. They're concerned about how responsive their local media is to local communities, what's happening in their own community.

RICK KARR: Adelstein's Democratic colleague, Michael Copps asked ... why the rush to give Big Media what it wants in defiance of what the Commission heard from the public?

COMM. MICHAEL COPPS, FCC: We are rushing in to encourage more consolidation without addressing the real damage consolidation has already caused. What we have here is an unseemly rush to judgment, a stubborn insistence to finish the proceeding by December 18th, public and Congressional opinion be damned. When overwhelming majorities of citizens oppose this, when members of Congress write to caution us every day, and when legislation to avoid a nine-car train wreck is being actively considered on Capitol Hill, I think the FCC has a responsibility to stop, look and listen. The stakes are enormous.

RICK KARR: Newspaper conglomerates argue that they have to get into broadcasting: Business is bad, an industry spokesman told the lawmakers, and profits are down, so publishers need the new revenues that radio and T-V can provide.

JOHN STURM, Newspapers Association of America: All of the vital signs of the newspaper industry now are negative. That is very difficult for me to say, but it is true.

RICK KARR: Republican F-C-C Chairman Kevin Martin echoed the industry's argument ... and even took it a step farther: Unless newspapers are allowed to expand into broadcasting, he said, they may just disappear.

CHAIRMAN MARTIN, FCC: According to almost every measure, newspapers are struggling. At least 300 daily newspapers have stopped publishing over the last 30 years. Their circulation is down, and their advertising revenue is shrinking.

RICK KARR: Except ... that's not the whole story. Newspaper profits are down, but on average, publicly-traded newspaper firms still generate profit margins that are greater than the average for the Fortune five-hundred. Pennsylvania Democrat Michael Doyle asked Martin whether he'd really done his homework.

REP. DOYLE: Are you aware that Dean Singleton, owner of the YORK DAILY RECORD and dozens of other papers of the Media Newsgroup, said that the newspaper industry is, quote, "very, very, very profitable and it will continue to be for a long time?"

CHAIRMAN MARTIN, FCC: I'm not aware that he said it, but I'm not --

REP. DOYLE: He did say that. Are you aware that Scarborough Research, a firm that works closely with the Newspaper Association of America, their report concluded that, and I quote, "They continue to find that when online readers are considered, the story of newspaper readership for many papers transforms from one of slow, steady decline to one of vibrancy and growth?"

CHAIRMAN MARTIN, FCC: I'm sorry, what was the -- was the question have I seen that report?

REP. DOYLE: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MARTIN, FCC: I haven't seen that report, no.

RICK KARR: This week on Thursday all five Commissioners were BACK on Capitol Hill ... testifying before a Senate committee. This time, Martin didn't hear any words of support: Even his fellow Republicans - including Alaska's Ted Stevens - called on him to slow down.

SEN. TED STEVENS: I do hope you'll listen to us. It's my feeling that the December 18th date ought to be postponed until we have a better understanding of where we're going on this.

RICK KARR: The Committee recently unanimously approved a bill that would delay the F-C-C vote by ninety days ... and require the Commission to do more research to justify any changes. But the full Senate isn't likely to vote on the bill before the F-C-C makes its decision on Tuesday. Florida Democrat Ben Nelson was one of several Senators who asked Martin point blank whether he'd yield to bipartisan criticism and postpone the F-C-C vote.

SEN. BILL NELSON: Mr. Chairman with all these questions raised by a committee of the United States Senate, do you intend to continue with this proceeding on December 18th?

CHAIRMAN MARTIN, FCC: Yes. At this point I think it is important for us to proceed.

RICK KARR: Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry blasted Martin for his defiance.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: It is really clear from the evidence that if the Commission intends to promote ownership diversity, you can't accomplish that goal while simultaneously increasing market concentration. It just doesn't -- it's just a complete contradiction. It just seems extraordinary to me that we're not able to have your agreement to wait a few days. Listen to American people. Listen to the Congress.

RICK KARR: So the F-C-C vote stays on the schedule for next Tuesday...

BILL MOYERS: You've been talking all week, you and just about everyone else, about Oprah and Obama and the impact on the presidential race. That's our subject now with a man who's been there, done that. Ron Walters was a key figure in the two campaigns Jesse Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination back in the 1980s. He's a scholar as well as an activist. And he's written eight books including these: Black Presidential Politics in America and Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates, and American Presidential Politics. Right now he directs the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland, where, as a distinguished scholar himself, he teaches government and politics. Good to have you.

RONALD WALTERS: Good to be with you.

BILL MOYERS: Here we are with the first campaign ever between a woman and a black man who has a chance of victory. Did you ever imagine that?

RONALD WALTERS: No. As a matter of fact I had that question a lot since the Jackson campaign. Would we ever have a black person for the president of United States? And I didn't quite see how, almost-- when Colin Powell in the 1990s, you remember that was widely touted to be a person that-- of color who could be president of the United States. But it's hard for a black person, I think, really to get there.

BILL MOYERS: Obama's running, you know, ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa and neck and neck in New Hampshire. Did you ever imagine that when the first black man did get a real shot at it, he'd be up against the first woman?

RONALD WALTERS: No. And I think he's really gone beyond the public opinion polls because he's built a very significant presidential infrastructure. So when you begin to make evaluations about whether or not a person can go all the way, go beyond the polls and see what's on the ground, he has a lot on the ground in terms of money, organizations, and so forth and so on. And yet he's running against a woman, which is also very improbable. You never thought that you would have both of these improbabilities on the scene at the same time.

BILL MOYERS: You know, there's an old saying in politics that if you want to know how an administration will look, you look at the people who-- with whom the candidate has surrounded himself or herself in the campaign. And what's interesting to me is that Hillary Clinton has, by far, the most racial diversity on her staff. About 20 percent African American, 15 percent Latino, and about 25 percent Asian. Bill Richardson is second. Obama is third with about 58 percent white, 35 percent black, and seven percent Latino. What do you make of those numbers?

RONALD WALTERS: Well, I think Hillary Clinton really benefits from her relationship with the people who came out of the Jackson campaign. One of the things the Jackson campaign did was to provide training at the presidential level, experience, for a whole generation of young people who went on into the Clinton administration who became active in his second campaign and then his second White House. And Hillary, therefore, inherits some of those people.

RONALD WALTERS: But I think what Obama wanted to do was to build a new team. He's been talking a lot about generation, generational issues. And he does have a very close relationship with Jesse Jackson, Jr. So to that extent, I think in some ways he has severed his ties with the old politicians. But in another way, I think what he's trying to do is to neutralize the issues of race.

BILL MOYERS: Neutralize? How do you neutralize race in America?

RONALD WALTERS: Well, I think he has tried to not draw attention to it. Maybe that's a better way of putting it. Because when you look at where his campaign came from-- in the middle of the electorate-- predominantly white in terms of his base. Jesse Jackson, his campaign came middle of the black community, at the margins of the electorate. So Jesse Jackson starts out with a very different politic than Barack Obama. Barack Obama has to maintain that middle. And, therefore, he has to marginalize, to a great extent, very hot button racial issues.

BILL MOYERS: How so? Give me some examples.

RONALD WALTERS: Well-- when we first had the Katrina explosion, Barack Obama said that, well, this is not really a question of the president not responding because of race. It's incompetence. The response of his to the question of the Jena Six in Louisiana was that this is not a question of race. You know, this is a question of the criminal justice system gone awry. And when he announced-- he did not ask his own minister to come to the announcement. This is one of the most powerful black ministers and churches in the country.

BILL MOYERS: Dr. Wright?

RONALD WALTERS: That's right. Reverand Jeremiah Wright.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

RONALD WALTERS: So-

BILL MOYERS: Why?

RONALD WALTERS: Well, I think his campaign has said that we have to continue to develop our base in the white community. We have, therefore, to continue to make them comfortable with the idea of your candidacy. We can't do that if we're going to bring up these hot button racial issues. And that's one of the reasons why you have not seen him in any of the Jena demonstrations. You didn't see him in the one that Reverend Sharpton had at the Justice Department. You've not seen him at any of these venues where African Americans have been raising these tremendous questions about treatment in the middle of this campaign season.

BILL MOYERS: But that's the burden, isn't it? I mean, if he wants to move beyond and get a large middle-class vote, he also has to bring the black vote with him because no Democrat can win without a heavy turnout among the black community. So he's sort of caught, isn't he, between the whiplash of new politics and old constituency politics.

RONALD WALTERS: You have described it exactly. He has this dance, I call it-- between, on the one hand his powerful constituency with whites in this country, and on the other blacks that he has to have-- he has to be credible in both communities. He even has to be credible with blacks for some whites to think that he is an appropriate candidate.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

RONALD WALTERS: Because we have a lot of liberal whites in this country who would be suspicious of a black person who didn't have any credibility in his own community.

BILL MOYERS: Well, I noticed that a lot of progressives are unhappy that Oprah's endorsement has taken the spotlight off of Edwards, who has been the white candidate speaking the most consistently to issues that concern the inner city and other black issues, right?

RONALD WALTERS: And that's interesting because John Edwards has really posed a very stark contrast. Because you would think that the African American candidate ought to be raising these issues. And yet the person who's raising them is John Edwards.

BILL MOYERS: Help me to understand this. Hillary Clinton has had a strong traditional support in the black constituency. Just recently, a number of black ministers in South Carolina have endorsed her. And the surprising thing to me is, that given Obama's in the race, that the Black Congressional Caucus recently divided 15 to 12 in support of Hillary Clinton. What's going on there?

RONALD WALTERS: Well, what's going on really is the fact that it's kind of-- we're going to dance with the devil we know. And-- and-- and-

BILL MOYERS: I'm not sure she would appreciate that.

RONALD WALTERS: Well, this devil's been on the scene for 15 years. The Clintons have been in the lives of African Americans. And here is the first black president, of course, you know, who has maintained ties. That's ridiculous proposition but I cite it anyway to make the point that there is a confidence in the kind of administration that the Clintons will run. Because there is-- blacks have benefited from that before. You can't sort of throw that experience out. So blacks are challenged with either going with something that they think they know or going with something that's totally new that they're not quite sure about yet. And they're not quite sure about it because they're not quite sure about Barack Obama. And they don't hear sort of a call of their issues frequently enough in his campaign.

BILL MOYERS: WhatÕs he not talking about that concerns them?

RONALD WALTERS: Some of the very hot button issues. For example, he has issued statements on the Jena Six, but he's not been there. Housing foreclosures going on all across the country-- hitting blacks the hardest, we don't hear that in this campaign. We don't hear a lot of things about the fact that what we've got now is half of everybody who is locked up in America is black. We ought to hear something about the fact that a million blacks are in jail right now.

BILL MOYERS: In fact, I read this the other day, Dr. Walters, that in Iowa, which is we think of as an essentially white state, blacks are arrested about13 1/2 times more frequently than whites.

RONALD WALTERS: And you don't hear that.

BILL MOYERS: He's not talking about that out there?

RONALD WALTERS: No, he's not talking about that. That's what I meant by sort of- --marginalizing and neutralizing racial issues.

BILL MOYERS: You know, I saw an NPR Pew poll that said the black community's really more fractured than it's ever been. That only 53 percent, that's just a slim majority, only 53 percent of blacks identify themselves as members of a single race. Thirty-seven percent said they were not members of a single race. And ten percent were confused about it. In other words, blacks are saying we are not a homogenous community, not in values, not in politics, not in anything else.

RONALD WALTERS: We have never been homogenous. I stand here as somebody who looks black but has an Irish great-great-grandmother. And that's in the-- I would imagine the life of most African Americans. So this is simply a way of being honest about sort of the biological makeup of most people. It doesn't say very much about values. I disagree with that. Because when you look at how people behave and you ask questions about what they believe in, a recent Joint Center poll indicated very high consensus among black community on major issues. And so black people not only think in terms of their perspective on many of these issues very much alike, but when it comes to how they mobilize themselves politically. Look at the period between 1960 and 2004. And 85 percent of them voted for one party. How much more consensus could you have than that?

BILL MOYERS: And yet before that, you know, I grew up in the South where most of the blacks I knew, they leaned toward the Republicans because the Republicans had historically been on the right side of-

RONALD WALTERS: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: --of racial issues in the South. And the Democrats had been the party of segregation. And then all of a sudden, with Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement suddenly the whole field transformed. Are we going through another period of transformation like that now with, say, Oprah's endorsement of Barack Obama, which some people say is transforming the metaphor?

RONALD WALTERS: It's hard to know because lurking in the background of all of this is a very emotional issue of the war. The war-

BILL MOYERS: The war?

RONALD WALTERS: Yeah. We don't know what will happen when that war goes away because you could argue that the war really has fueled a great deal of the emergence of Barack Obama. His story was compelling. You look at his first book, The Audacity of Hope. And his second one equally compelling. But what-- really I think thrusts him into the glare of politics was his anti-war position and the mood of Americans which says, "We want it over and we don't have a candidate." And when you look at the Democrats who have presented themselves, they were relatively moderate on that issue. He stood out because he says it never should have happened in the first place-- "And I've got a way to bring it to a close." That galvanized not only whites but blacks around him. And I think that it-- we might make a mistake to read too much into the fact that he is black and forget about these very highly-charged, emotional issues which we are dealing with right now, which is this war.

BILL MOYERS: You know, Oprah had come-- had said some strong things last weekend about the war. RON WALTERS: The American people are sick of this war. And they're trying to look for a politician that has the guts actually to try to bring it to a close. So that I-- that's why I was saying we have to be careful about how we look at this. Because once that goes away, I think that we might just go back to looking at issues of race and politics as we have in the past.

BILL MOYERS: Conservative pundits are saying this week that Oprah is a woman who doesn't constantly put her race ahead of her gender. She's, in fact, an icon, I think you would say, to women of all races. What message does it send that this very powerful woman is not endorsing the first woman running for president?

RONALD WALTERS: I think it's very significant because Oprah really emerged as someone who could talk to white women and deal with the issues that face them in terms of their pain and their family problems and other kinds of issues. You go to her website and it's very clear, you know, what she has been able to do.

BILL MOYERS: And she's an icon to white women as well as others.

RONALD WALTERS: No question. It's really marvelous. More so than I think anybody else. But in this case what she's saying is that "I have an opportunity here because this guys sort of lines up with me in many ways. His constituency is the same as mine."

BILL MOYERS: How so?

RONALD WALTERS: I looked at this spectacle the other day of Michelle and Oprah and Barack-- three black people in front of this sea of white faces in Iowa. I said, "That's amazing." But when you look at who they are they don't, for example, take very strong issues having to do with race. They have made part of the professional and their political life dealing with the problems of whites. They are trusted in those communities. And, therefore, they have a right to be there. That's historically important.

BILL MOYERS: You know, I was struck by something. I haven't seen much comment on this. But I was struck-- I heard Oprah tell that very audience, a mostly white audience, as you say, that, quote, "I voted for as many Republicans as I have Democrats."

RONALD WALTERS: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: What do you make of that?

RONALD WALTERS: She is a businesswoman at the end of the day. And in that culture I'm not surprised at all that she has voted for a number of Republicans. I think that like many people who are in that culture, she has had to be politically conservative in order to do what she's done.

BILL MOYERS: There's a black progressive site. It's called BlackAgendaReport.com. And I went to it this morning. And the editor of that site took both Obama and Oprah to task and I'm quoting for a three-state weekend extravaganza of vapid, substance-devoid entertaining posing as presidential politics. I mean, he goes on to say political theater has devolved to theater without politics. Do you agree with that?

RONALD WALTERS: Yes. I agree with that.

BILL MOYERS: You do?

RONALD WALTERS: I do because the presidential election is seen as an opportunity-- for African Americans to insert other issues into the political system. And there is this pain of not being able to do so directly. And that's one of the reasons why black presidential candidates have arisen, to talk to the American people directly. But when you don't have one-- that does that-- then what people are asking you to do is to take what they're giving you on faith, that they will then insert your issues into public policy. That is the dance of black politics this time, to try to turn the candidates around so that they can pay attention to the pain, the suffering, the desires of the black community. And to the extent that they're able to do so, they're-- effective. But they have not been able, I think in this election season, to do it yet.

BILL MOYERS: If you were poor and living in the inner city, what message would you have taken away from the Obama-Oprah weekend?

RONALD WALTERS: Not very much. Because you-- again, you don't hear much discussion about poverty. John Edwards-

BILL MOYERS: He's the only one.

RONALD WALTERS: The only one who's called-

BILL MOYERS: Well, Kucinich and-

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

RONALD WALTERS: Yeah, but of the major candidates, he's the only one who's talking about alleviating poverty. He's the only one, even though Barack Obama has issued an urban policy, he doesn't really talk about it. And that's what I mean by inserting those issues into the political dialogue so that you're educating the American people about what's happening at the same time. So, yes, if I were in that situation and looked at what people were saying, I would come away disappointed.

BILL MOYERS: What's behind the question is Obama black enough? And before you answer, let me say that I haven't heard white people ask that. I've heard black people ask it but not white people. What's behind that question?

RONALD WALTERS: Well, black people I think have the authority to ask that question because blackness is very important in terms of their evaluation of this person. When you look at the cues that blacks have heard about him-- Kenyan father, Caucasian mother, Indonesia, Hawaii, everything but Alabama, Mississippi, ghetto, grits. You know, things that people actually understand if you're trying to define blackness. Blackness is the route to trust.

BILL MOYERS: Blackness is?

RONALD WALTERS: Is the route to trust. If you trust a candidate, then you will give them your political support. That's not just for blacks. It's true for evangelicals. It's true for any culturally coherent group. What they do is they size up a candidate according to their culture. And if that person passes muster, then that builds trust. And if they can trust them, then they will give them their political support.

BILL MOYERS: Can Obama win?

RONALD WALTERS: I think that that's a tremendous question. And I think that there's a possibility that he can win. There are many people who think that he can't because of their experience with American racism. There could be a storm here, coming out of the first four or so primaries. Because the way the polls are going now, it looks as though he has a really very competitive chance in nearly all of them. He could build the political momentum to come out of those-- into some of the larger states. And unless Hillary stops him in Florida, he might just go all the way. So mathematically and analytically there's the chance, yes, that he could win. When you look at the history of this country and the history of racism and race in particular there is a huge, huge doubt that he will eventually become president of the United States.

BILL MOYERS: Will you come back and let's take stock of it two or three months from now?

RONALD WALTERS: I will. BILL MOYERS Okay. Dr. Ron Walters, thank you for joining me on the Journal. That's it for this week. WeÕll be back next week. IÕm Bill Moyers.

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