Longtime CBS and CNN political reporter Bruce Morton is retiring, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer announced after Morton filed his last piece (on the changing significance of the vice presidency) shortly before 5pm EST on Thursday’s The Situation Room.
“Beyond his years of solid, hard news reporting, Bruce brings something very special to television journalism, a truly unique voice, smart and wry, with a perspective you could only get by covering politics for five decades,” Blitzer enthused. “When we need a certain kind of piece we immediately know is Bruce material, ‘Morton-esque,’ as many of us like to say right here.”
In most instances, “Morton-esque” was a synonym for reliably liberal. Morton was of the vintage of political reporter who came of age when liberals were ascendant in the 1960s, and could barely restrain their hostility as Ronald Reagan and conservatives began to push back the liberal tide beginning in 1980. In his pieces for CNN, Morton often reached back to the 1960s and 1970s for inspiration.
Back in May 2004, for example, when the media became inflamed over the Abu Ghraib prison abuse story, Morton reminded viewers of the 1968 My Lai massacre in which hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed; he failed to say that the awful My Lai killings were an aberration in American military history, not at all indicative of the morality of American soldiers.
Morton’s liberal slant has been recognized numerous times by MRC’s annual year-end awards, in which a panel of media observers choose the quotes most typifying the media elite’s liberal bias. A few examples from our archives:
"Jesse Jackson toured Chicago and brought tears and excitement wherever he went. Watch him as he walks to the Robert Taylor project, home of some of this city's poorest people. They gave him what they had, they gave him love. This week Jackson has been king. Greeted like a rock star, in a campaign more emotional, perhaps, than Robert Kennedy's in 1968." -- Reporter Bruce Morton, CBS Evening News, March 15, 1988.
"[Liberal Supreme Court Justice William Brennan] loved the flag clearly, and the Constitution, too...Maybe the way to remember Brennan's years on the Court is with some words he spoke to another Georgetown University event back in 1979. 'The quest for freedom, dignity, and the rights of man will never end,' he said. The quest, though always old, is never old, like the poor old woman in Yeats' play. 'Did you see an old woman going down the path?' asked Bridget. 'I did not,' replied Patrick, who had come into the house just after the old woman had left it. 'But I saw a young girl and she had the walk of a queen.' William Brennan loved and served two young girls who walked like queens -- his country, and its highest court." -- Conclusion to story by reporter Bruce Morton on the July 21, 1990 CBS Evening News.
"Anyone of us could be investigated like this and we would be able to keep no secrets about love or sex or money — no secrets about anything. If this reminds you of George Orwell’s novel, 1984, it should. The government in that book poked and pried everywhere. Its slogan was ‘Big Brother Is Watching You.’ And with the aid of the thought police, he was. Welcome to Orwell’s world." -- CNN’s Bruce Morton, discussing Ken Starr's investigatin of Bill Clinton on Late Edition, October 11, 1998.
"His presidency ended more than a decade ago, but politicians, Democrat and Republican, still talk about Ronald Reagan. Al Gore has an ad noting that in Congress he opposed the Reagan budget cuts. He says that because Bill Bradley was one of 36 Democratic Senators who voted for the cuts. Gore doesn’t point out that Bradley also voted against the popular Reagan tax cuts and that it was the tax cuts that piled up those enormous deficits, a snowballing national debt." -- Bruce Morton on CNN’s Late Edition, February 6, 2000.
“‘Send me,’ it says on the Statue of Liberty, ‘your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.’ Well, some of them maybe. If they have visas and are from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria, they now pose national security concerns and must be fingerprinted and photographed. This registration system, Attorney General Ashcroft said, would eventually be expanded to other visitors who posed a security concern. What would the standards for that be? Well, they’d be secret, that’s what. It’s a little like the search for communists in the government after World War II. There were some, of course. But a lot of innocent people had their names blackened and their careers damaged during the hunt.” -- Bruce Morton in his “Last Word” commentary on CNN’s Late Edition, June 9, 2002.
“A friend of mine here at CNN has a theory about the Bush administration. They’re convinced that everything Bill Clinton ever did was wicked, bad and awful, and so they want to do the opposite....Clinton wanted to save all that wilderness area in Alaska; and Mr. Bush wants to drill for oil there. Clinton fussed about clean air; this President wants to ease new restrictions on coal-burning power plants.... Clinton, my friend noted, had surpluses. Obviously, the Bush administration thinks those are evil, because what they want is deficits – big ones, maybe the biggest ever.” -- CNN’s Bruce Morton on Late Edition, February 9, 2003.
“Veterans haven’t been a big force in past campaigns... but the Vietnam vets may feel bound together more strongly....It may be too early to know how influential they’ll be in Kerry’s campaign, but they’ve already done one thing: If the Republicans had any hope of casting Kerry as some Michael Dukakis-style effete Eastern liberal, that’s over. The band of brothers stands in his way.” -- CNN’s Bruce Morton on Inside Politics, January 30, 2004.
Next week, ex-CBSer John Roberts starts at CNN. He'll fill Morton's liberal loafers nicely.