Hot Buttons: Talk show topics

By United Press International  |  Jan. 17, 2002 at 4:00 AM
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Historian and former presidential adviser Arthur Schlesinger thinks Osama bin Laden should be tried in public and his actions spelled out much the same as German Nazi leaders were at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

But he doubts bin Laden will ever be captured.

"More likely he will commit suicide in some spectacular way. But if we should capture him, I hope we will bring him to public trial," Schlesinger told Yomiuri Shimbun correspondent Makoto Katsuta, in an interview published Wednesday in Japan. "One of the great advantages of the Nuremberg trials after World War II was that the horror of the Nazi rule was spelled out. I think the same would be true if we tried bin Laden publicly. I dislike secret trials and do not think we will lose anything by putting these fanatics on trial in public."

About the president, Schlesinger said: "I think Sept. 11 has, in a sense, been the making of George W. Bush because before Sept. 11, he was seen as an engaging and pleasant dope, really. And now he has suddenly become presidential and people take him more seriously. And I think he has responded rather well. He has said some dumb thing. But he has not done anything wrong."

The historian, 84, dismissed suggestions that U.S. support for Israel was behind bin Laden's attacks on the United States. "He is a Muslim fundamentalist. He hates the West. He hates the materialism of the West, the pornography of the West, the greed of the West, and so on. So, even if there were no Jews at all in the Holy Land, I do not think that would have stopped Al-Qaida's attack," he said.

Schlesinger was special assistant to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson (1961-64) and won two Pulitzer Prizes for history ("The Age of Jackson," 1946; "Thousand Days," 1966).

-- Do you agree that bin Laden's trial should be public? Why or why not?


The controversy over a recent CNN promo calling attention to a news anchor's sex appeal exposed a bundle of issues that ought to concern American news consumers -- but for some reason most observers can't seem to get their minds off the sex angle.

The promo -- which ran a handful of times before being yanked off the air -- referred to CNN new morning anchor Paula Zahn as "just a little sexy." It also praised her journalistic skills and professionalism, but the use of the word "sexy" was enough to anger Zahn, embarrass the CNN brass, and give the all-news network's rivals something to hold against them.

"It was offensive," Zahn told "Access Hollywood," a syndicated TV show that reports on the entertainment industry. "I've worked in this business for more than 20 years proving my credibility, and what you want to hear promoted is the strength of your journalism."

When the matter became a news story, new CNN boss Walter Isaacson bent over backwards to explain to the public that it was a big mistake and that it would never happen again.

Meanwhile, Fox News -- where Zahn used to work -- joined talk show hosts and TV critics in a chorus of ridicule aimed at Zahn's new boss. Fox's pugnacious commentator Bill O'Reilly went so far as to accuse Zahn of being politically correct -- and, by inference, insincere -- in her objection to the "just a little sexy" ad.

"If Paula Zahn doesn't think she's there partially because she's a good-looking babe, then she's in never-never land," said O'Reilly in a meeting with TV reporters in Pasadena, Calif., last weekend. He allowed as to how Zahn is an excellent broadcaster, but added that, "Eleanor Roosevelt is not going to be anchoring your weekend news, OK?"

O'Reilly makes a point -- that cosmetic considerations are an essential ingredient for success in TV news. There's just too much money on the table for news programmers to surrender any competitive advantage in the name of outdated notions of journalistic purity.

It wasn't so long ago that TV networks regarded their news divisions as special places where the major imperative was to inform the public and serve the public interest. Those days are gone, and news divisions are now seen as profit centers.

-- What do you think?

(Thanks to UPI Hollywood Reporter Pat Nason)


A federal grand jury probing the disappearance of missing intern Chandra Levy is now considering the investigation a criminal case, The New York Post reports.

Levy's disappearance April 30 had previously been considered a missing persons case by Washington police.

The grand jury also is taking a hard look at whether Rep. Gary Condit held back information or otherwise obstructed the police investigation, the Post said, quoting unidentified sources.

Levy vanished from Washington last spring as she was preparing to return to California after her internship at the Federal Bureau of Prisons ended. Condit has said he knew Levy, who is from his district. Sources said a dozen FBI agents and Justice Department lawyers are focusing on whether Condit, a California Democrat, tried to derail the police investigation by covering up a reportedly romantic relationship with the 24-year-old Modesto college intern.

Condit -- who is married and running for re-election -- has not been named a suspect by Washington police, and the Levy disappearance has not been officially labeled a criminal case. The congressman has publicly denied any romantic involvement with Levy.

A separate District of Columbia grand jury subpoenaed bank, credit card and telephone records from Condit last November, which a source told the Post indicated that the overall investigation has not sputtered. "Everybody did a good job of playing it down at the time," the source said. "But it was the first sign that this grand-jury business is the real deal."

-- What do you think happened to Chandra Levy, and why?

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