Skip to comments.Clinton and Dole Agree to Debate on Weekly '60 Minutes' Segment
Posted on 03/05/2003 10:36:36 PM PST by kattracks
ill Clinton and his opponent in the 1996 presidential election, Bob Dole, are teaming up to revive the commentary segment "Point-Counterpoint" on "60 Minutes."
Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole have contracted to provide 10 debate segments, beginning Sunday night. The commitment does not extend beyond the end of the television season in May, but if the format is successful CBS will try to continue it next season, CBS executives said.
Don Hewitt, the executive producer and creator of "60 Minutes," said the segment would not use the "Point-Counterpoint" title. Instead it will simply be called "Clinton/Dole" one week and "Dole/Clinton" the next week.
"When you've got a name like that, you don't waste it," Mr. Hewitt said.
Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole said yesterday that they were looking forward to the opportunity to provide the kind of thoughtful commentary that has been missing from the superheated and often shrill discourse that dominates much of television news. "I see this as an opportunity to try to have a really civil debate that enlightens people on the issues," Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Dole said the two men expected to "have some fun" but also get into the issues that are roiling the country. "We have differences," he said. "We went at each other hard in 1996."
Mr. Clinton emphasized that the two men have a great deal of respect for each other. "I think Bob's a patriot," he said. "I admire him."
"60 Minutes" has not used the "Point-Counterpoint" segment regularly since 1979, when its most famous participants, Shana Alexander and James J. Kilpatrick, ended a four-year run. But it was always among the most-talked-about segments of the program, television's most successful newsmagazine. It even inspired a famous parody, the Dan Aykroyd-Jane Curtin combination on "Saturday Night Live" which always had Mr. Aykroyd referring to Ms. Curtin as "Jane, you ignorant slut."
Mr. Hewitt said that the new plan called for the debater who delivered the first argument that week to pick a topic and write a 45-second script, which would be faxed to the opponent. The response will also be 45 seconds. The first debater will then get 15 seconds to rebut, followed by a final 15 seconds from the opponent.
The old "Point-Counterpoint" segments were a full minute longer, Mr. Hewitt said, but he said attention spans had shortened since then.
He said he would insert the Clinton-Dole segment in the middle of the program after the second reported piece, rather than at the end where the original "Point-Counterpoint" resided. Andy Rooney will still close the program with his commentary.
The addition of Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole could provide a spark for the program's ratings. After a two-decade run in the top 10, "60 Minutes" has slipped out of the top tier, and has lost about a million viewers in the last year.
Mr. Hewitt, 80, who has come under increasing pressure to find ways to attract viewers, agreed in January to step down as executive producer after next season. He will remain as a paid emeritus news division executive until he is 90.
Mr. Hewitt approached Mr. Clinton after reading accounts that he was being wooed to start a syndicated talk show.
"I knew that was baloney and he'd never do that," Mr. Hewitt said. "I also knew his positions are too established for you to put him on by himself. He couldn't be Eric Sevareid."
But he said he thought that a slot on "60 Minutes" would carry the prestige Mr. Clinton required as a former president, and that matched with a countering point of view, Mr. Clinton's appearances would be welcome by viewers.
Mr. Hewitt contacted Mr. Clinton's lawyer, Robert B. Barnett, who has been fielding numerous proposals for Mr. Clinton's services from various news media.
Mr. Clinton was indeed interested, though he said yesterday, "I thought about it for several weeks." He was concerned, he said, that he not be put in a position where he would be viewed as mounting a political challenge to the current administration. "I'm not running for anything," he said.
But he said he concluded that he had been able to give speeches to all kinds of groups that included Republicans and Democrats, addressing issues and helping "explain why people have different points of view." And he decided he might have a chance to do the same thing on "60 Minutes."
Mr. Hewitt said he suggested to Mr. Clinton that he could have a second career in television: "I said to him, `Who wants to be an ex-anything? This is your chance to be Edward R. Murrow.' "
Mr. Clinton also has longstanding ties to Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS, and that also helped conclude the deal.
Mr. Dole's name came up, Mr. Hewitt said, after some discussion about possible partners for Mr. Clinton. The two former adversaries have become friendly in recent years, and they were co-sponsors of a fund-raising effort for families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Mr. Dole has already had a taste of a television career as a spokesman for a number of products, including Pepsi and Viagra.
He said yesterday: "My reaction was a little different from the president's. I was excited about the idea right away."
Coincidentally, Mr. Dole recently hired Mr. Barnett to be his lawyer. That meant that CBS had only one party to deal with in negotiation the contracts.
No financial details of the deal were disclosed. "Salary was not a big issue," one executive involved in the negotiations said. "This is not about big money. It was not like the book."
Mr. Clinton received a $12 million advance from Knopf for his memoir, which is due out in the fall of 2004.
Beyond being former opposing candidates and former heads of their respective parties, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole share something else in common: both are married to serving United States senators.
Asked whether that might affect their television commentaries, Mr. Dole said: "It may. Wait until the first one's over Sunday night and we may find out."
Mr. Clinton said, "We may come home and find out we've both been ordered off the air."
Hey, Dole could use that line, easy! Might want to lay off the Viagra before going on camera, though . . .
Here's what will happen...
Bill will be SUCH an albatross around their neck, for months and months and months ...
But there will be NO WAY to gently get rid of him ...
Because cancelling a president -- even an ex -- from his gig will excite MASSIVE untoward coverage ...
So even if, as seems likely, things keep seeping out about the most corrupt, self-centered, indeed traitorous administration in history, even if personal scandals, as seem likely, continue to emerge, CBS is stuck with the guy.
They simply do not get it.
This should be fun.
This might be the most un-biased statement I've seen from the NY Times in decades.
Here are a few others I'd like to see Slick debate:
G. Gordon Liddy
Really? Darn, I must have missed it. As long as we're hoping old political hacks would just go away, can we add dull Dole to the list?
Toon-'It's not about the money, I'm not running for anything.' It is ALWAYS about the money and he is ALWAYS running for something (UN Secretary General, Supreme Court Justice or the VP slot under the Queen )
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