When Nancy Pelosi rose to be the House Democrats’ leader in 2002, Katie Couric said to NBC colleague Ann Curry: "Is it okay to say, ‘You go girl!’?" That cheerleading spirit continued in her Monday "Katie Couric’s Notebook" commentary (featured at her blog Couric & Co.) lauding the new Democratic Congress: "this new crop worked much harder than the last. A big accomplishment was in challenging executive power with oversight hearings on Iraq, Medicare, the Department of Justice, and global warming." She concluded: "Promises, promises. Sometimes they are kept – even in Washington."
That was certainly not the tone of CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather took toward Speaker Gingrich and the new Republican Congress in 1995: "The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor." Their attempts at oversight were part of a "political carpet-bombing attack."
MRC’s Michael Lanza transcribed the commentary, in which Couric consulted congressional scholar Thomas Mann from the liberal-to-moderate Brookings Institution for help in grading the liberals:
Promises, promises. In January a new Congress swept into Washington promising ethics reform, fiscal responsibility, and a change in direction for the war in Iraq. Now they’re on August recess so how did they do? We called Thomas Mann, coauthor of a book on Congress called The Broken Branch. The mood he said, continues to be ugly on Capitol Hill but this new crop worked much harder than the last. A big accomplishment was in challenging executive power with oversight hearings on Iraq, Medicare, the Department of Justice, and global warming. Stem cell legislation and immigration reform were stymied, but Congress did raise the minimum wage and pass an ethics and lobbying reform bill, designed to inject a healthy dose of transparency into the lobbying process. And funds for homeland security should now go to the cities where the threat is the greatest. Promises, promises. Sometimes they are kept even in Washington. That’s a page from my notebook. I’m Katie Couric, CBS News.
If oversight of the Bush administration on scandals like the squabble over U.S. attorney firings was "a big accomplishment," it's not hard to dig up Dan Rather's incredibly hostile characterizations of the Republican Congress in 1995. In Rather's world, President Clinton was the hero of the tale, and the Republicans were invading Huns, ripping the federal government to shreds:
"This is just for starters on a tough week ahead for President Clinton and his agenda. From another offensive wave on Whitewater to a sweeping rollback of federal regulations on health, safety, and the environment, it's a political carpet-bombing attack, wall to wall, House to Senate."
-- Dan Rather, July 17, 1995 Evening News.
Rather sounded a bit like a presidential press secretary in forwarding the idea that Clinton had reasonable ideas for improving Washington, and his enemies were radicals and extremists out to hurt people:
"President Clinton will outline his version of a plan he says will balance the federal budget in ten years without what Mr. Clinton sees as a radical and extremist Republican plan to gut programs that help the old, the young, and the poor in order to bankroll tax giveaways to the rich. Republicans, of course, see it a different way."
-- Dan Rather before CBS News coverage of President Clinton's budget address, June 13, 1995.
With the tone of Dan's copy, it's quite surprising that CBS didn't feature some Grinch cartoon shots next to Rather's head to underline the evil Republican agenda:
"The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor." -- Dan Rather on the March 16, 1995 Evening News.