In a moment, everything you ever wanted to know about Charlie Gibson becoming the ABC anchor, and maybe more.
But first I want to talk about the Clintons' marriage.
Or the coverage of the Clintons' marriage.
Or, more precisely, whether the Clintons' marriage should be covered, or at least whether it should be covered in a zillion-word front-page piece in the New York Times -- complete with statistics on how many weekends they've spent together (51 of the last 73).
The bloggers, mostly liberal bloggers, are ripping this piece. Too tabloidy. Really about sex. Using Hillary's likely 2008 run as an excuse to dredge up all the old speculation about the state of the most frequently dissected marriage of the last century.
Allow me to dissent.
Of course the Clintons' marriage is news--and the story makes clear that they've both thought about how to package it for the public. There is even a joint statement from their two press secretaries, like some SALT-talks communique.
If Hillary hadn't been married to Bill, would she now be a United States senator, let alone the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination?
If Bill hadn't fooled around with Monica, leading Hillary to blame the vast right-wing conspiracy only to discover that the accusations were right, would she have sold millions of copies of her book?
Will at least some Americans worry about the role that Bill would play in a second Clinton presidency?
Will all Americans, or at least those with a pulse, continue to gossip about their marriage if she runs?
This is not to take away from Hillary Rodham Clinton's career or her abilities as an independent person. But if you are potentially running to be not just the first woman president but the first woman to follow her husband into the job, and his tenure was rocked by a sex scandal that led to his impeachment, how exactly do journalists conclude the subject is out of bounds?
First, here is the NYT piece by reporter
"Mr. Clinton is rarely without company in public, yet the company he keeps rarely includes his wife. Nights out find him zipping around Los Angeles with his bachelor buddy, Ronald W. Burkle, or hitting parties and fund-raisers in Manhattan; she is yoked to work in Washington or New York -- her Senate career and political ambitions consuming her time.
"When the subject of Bill and Hillary Clinton comes up for many prominent Democrats these days, Topic A is the state of their marriage -- and how the most dissected relationship in American life might affect Mrs. Clinton's possible bid for the presidency in 2008.
"Democrats say it is inevitable that in a campaign that could return the former president to the White House, some voters would be concerned or distracted by Mr. Clinton's political role and the episode that led the House to vote for his impeachment in 1998...
"The dynamics of a couple's marriage are hard to gauge from the outside, even for a couple as well known as the Clintons. But interviews with some 50 people and a review of their respective activities show that since leaving the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton have built largely separate lives -- partly because of the demands of their distinct career paths and partly as a result of political calculations...
"They appear in the public spotlight methodically and carefully: The goal is to position Mrs. Clinton to run for president not as a partner or a proxy, but as her own person."
"Healy could directly ask, 'Is Bill cheating?' Instead, he writes a donut around the subject. As the piece spirals out to 2,000 words, the donut grows into a 20-inch Michelin radial, and the radial becomes a NASCAR oval. The experienced reader finds himself searching the infield of this great expanse for what appear to be clues.
"Healy writes, 'Nights out find [Bill] zipping around Los Angeles with his bachelor buddy, Ronald W. Burkle, or hitting parties and fund-raisers in Manhattan.' Given the context, what literate person won't make a connection between 'zipping' and 'zipless,' especially when the person with whom Clinton is zipping is a billionaire bachelor buddy? I doubt if Burkle spends his time with Clinton driving down the Harbor Freeway to see the Watt Towers.
"Noting that Bill Clinton's past sexual indiscretions have made him a 'magnet' for 'tabloid gossip,' the piece does little to explain whether any of his behaviors justify the stickiness of the chatter. For all the words Healy spends on Bill's fidelity, neither his on--the-record sources nor his anonymous ones venture to testify to the man's faithfulness. It's both the subject of Healy's piece and the non-subject."
"State of Candidates' Marriages A Question for Republicans
"The article not running in the Times tomorrow.
"Washington, DC, May 23 - Republicans say it is inevitable that some voters would be concerned and even distracted by the numerous personal indiscretions of the various candidates likely to seek the office of president, and express concern about whether they would be likely to repeat such behavior while in the White House.
"While former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani's popularity increased after the events of September 11, pushing his personal issues into the background, Republicans worry he would bring to the White House the kind of activities which marred his tenure at Gracie Mansion. Giuiliani's behavior led to a judge barring the presence of Judith Nathan, with whom he began having an affair during his last term as mayor, from the mayoral home. The judge's order also criticized Giuliani for the emotional harm he inflicted on his children.
"Twice-married Virginia Senator George Allen faces questions over claimed sadistic treatment of his siblings and his fondness for confederate memorabilia despite his having grown up in California. While divorce alone may not disqualify him from the ballot in Republican voters' eyes - they overlooked it in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became the first, and only, divorced man to be elected president - it is still expected to impact his standing with conservative religious voters. Senator McCain of Arizona is in a similar position.
"Thrice-married former Speaker of the House New Gingrich also concerns Republicans as he gears up for a potential presidential run."
I get it: He's charging a double standard!
"Frankly, I'd like to know why Healy can't just drop the silly insinuations and faux investigative methods. Both Clintons have official spokespersons, just ask them how often Bill and Hillary have sex. When they don't say, you can run a nice juicy headline like 'Clintons Stonewalling on Sex Frequency Issue,' or, to repeat a classic Monica-era format, 'Clintons Dogged By Sex Frequency Questions,' as if these things just come out of nowhere. If you're not going to ask straight-up, or even write clearly what you're talking about, then what's the point of all this?"
But Public Eye's
"Perhaps the story delves a little too much into the kind of pop-psychology questions like their emotional bond and connection. But it's hardly trivial or unexpected. You can bet the ranch the Clintons themselves understand that their marriage will be dissected many more times should she run in 2008."
All right, on to today's chapter in the anchor wars from the front page of this morning's Post:
"ABC News said yesterday that it is replacing Elizabeth Vargas as anchor of its struggling nightly newscast with Charles Gibson, a move that at once abandons a dual-anchor experiment, replaces a pregnant woman with an older, more experienced man and ratchets up the morning news wars.
"The tapping of the 63-year-old Gibson caps a period of extraordinary volatility for all of the network newscasts, and reflects an attempt by ABC to reverse a ratings plunge that briefly landed the broadcast in third place. In just 18 months, NBC has changed its anchor lineup once, ABC twice and CBS twice, with Katie Couric, who winds up her 'Today' show career next week, taking Bob Schieffer's chair in September.
"By shifting Gibson from 'Good Morning America' to 'World News Tonight,' ABC is removing a key player in its effort to overtake NBC's top-rated 'Today.' The network is also giving up the model of two younger, lesser-known, constantly traveling nightly news anchors for the more traditional model of a single, prominent man reporting mainly from behind a desk. Vargas wound up flying solo weeks into her tenure when her co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, was badly injured in January by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
" 'This is a little bit back to the future,' said Gibson, who is two decades older than Vargas, 43. Gibson, who grew up in Washington and has covered both the White House and Congress, said he would devote considerable attention to the midterm elections and 2008 campaign. 'I'm a Washington guy,' Gibson said. 'I love Washington news.'
"The announcement follows an emotionally wrenching and difficult year for ABC, which thought it had solved its anchor puzzle after the death of Peter Jennings in August. Vargas, who remains an anchor on the prime-time newsmagazine '20/20,' is expecting her second son in August -- she already has a 3-year-old -- and while she had been determined to keep the 'World News' job, she says she had a series of candid conversations with ABC News President David Westin after her doctor urged her to work fewer hours.
" 'This has been, in full candor, not the easiest pregnancy,' Vargas said. 'In fact, it's been pretty difficult. This is a show, and a staff, that deserves an anchor who can give 150 percent. I can give that any other year of my life except this one.'
"She added: 'To be fully honest, I'd have a hard time thrusting my baby at my husband or baby nurse and saying, 'I'll see you guys in two weeks, I'm going to a war zone.'
"Westin said he no longer had the right team for dual anchors after Woodruff's injury and Vargas's pregnancy. With Vargas committed to '20/20,' he said, 'Elizabeth was really taking a hard look at what it meant to anchor two major broadcasts in addition to her growing family obligations,' he said. Westin said Gibson 'has covered every major news story for the last 25 years and has an established relationship with the audience.'
"Executive producer Jon Banner said it was 'disappointing' that they didn't have a chance to make the pairing work, but said 'Elizabeth has done a fabulous job and we are in her debt.'
"Some critics say ABC mishandled the situation involving Vargas, who not only effectively became the first woman to be a solo network news anchor but was the first Hispanic to serve at that level. 'No one asks to be taken off the anchor job of "World News Tonight," ' said Emily Rooney, a former ABC executive producer. 'It's wimpy, putting the onus on her. Elizabeth just didn't have the strength to be anchor of 'World News Tonight.' She just didn't have the charisma the job requires.'
"Television analyst Andrew Tyndall said the move was insulting to female viewers of childbearing age: 'You have on your hands the most famous pregnant working woman in the country. ABC had to find a way to make it absolutely obvious she wasn't demoted.' Vargas, however, insisted the network has treated her well.
"Woodruff praised Gibson in a statement, saying 'I look forward to contributing to his broadcast as soon as I'm able.'
" 'World News Tonight' has lost 930,000 viewers this season and forfeited its second-place status for a week this month to Schieffer's resurgent 'CBS Evening News.' At a time when the networks are trying to revitalize the evening franchise after two decades of audience erosion, both Gibson and Couric will be chasing Brian Williams, whose 'NBC Nightly News' has remained No. 1 since he succeeded Tom Brokaw.
"Gibson, a frequent past substitute for Jennings, came close to being named 'World News' anchor last fall. Westin offered him a spot on the newscast for two years, Gibson insisted on a third, and talks broke down over the length of his tenure. Gibson's new deal will last through 2008 and could easily continue beyond that. Gibson's reassignment will have a major impact on the morning show competition, where the networks make far more in advertising revenue than at 6:30 p.m. ABC does not plan to replace Gibson on 'Good Morning America' in the near future, instead going with the all-female duo of Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, who was elevated a year ago from newsreader to a third anchor spot, in part to prepare for this contingency. Top-rated 'Today,' meanwhile, will be making the transition from Couric to Meredith Vieira sitting alongside Matt Lauer.
"This is the second time that Gibson has come off the bench to help rescue a troubled ABC program. After co-hosting 'Good Morning America' from 1987 to 1998, he was called back to morning duty the following year in what was expected to be a temporary stint with Sawyer.
"That assignment has now lasted more than seven years.
"In moving Gibson to the evening newscast, 'I guess they played the Schieffer card -- a guy who is well-known, well-liked, incredibly capable and also comfortable in his own skin,' said former CBS producer Jim Murphy.
"The negotiations began three weeks ago and 'the imperative was Elizabeth's pregnancy,' Gibson said. As speculation mounted about her future, 'I began to think that maybe Elizabeth didn't want to come back.' As for a co-anchoring arrangement, he said: 'Do you need two people sitting on a set together, 6:30 at night? No, you don't.'
"Gibson said he is acutely aware that the nightly newscasts have been losing audience share for two decades and that no one has found the 'magic formula' to reverse the tide. But he said the combined audience of 25 million remains impressive, along with the unique role the anchors play on breaking-news events.
" 'I love live television,' he said. 'When something happens, you get to be the guy who tells people about it.' Gibson also said he plans to push for more resources to cover foreign news.
"Gibson has interviewed the past seven presidents, as well as world leaders from Tony Blair to Nelson Mandela, and has reported from such countries as Israel, Egypt and Macedonia. While he will continue ABC's afternoon webcast, the network will not resume broadcasting live editions of the newscast for the West Coast.
" 'Charlie is beloved at ABC,' said correspondent Claire Shipman. 'The crews, the engineers and the reporters all love him. Charlie has a remarkable range -- he can do the serious, he can do the emotional, and does it all with such aplomb.'
"Gibson, who worked at Washington's WJLA in the early 1970s, will do double duty in the morning and evening next month and shift full time to 'World News' in July."
As for the impact on the morning show competition--Diane and Robin versus Matt and Meredith--just check out the sidebar
Finally, a public figure who doesn't blame the press when he gets into trouble. Fed chief Ben Bernanke calls his market-moving dinner comments to Maria Bartiromo "