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The Media and the Presidency
The Rainbow Room
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th floor
November 10, 2008


Written by Wendy R. Williams Photographed by Nick Hunt of PMC

Opposite Photo: Sir Harold Evans

The invitation read: "Sir Harold Evans request the pleasure of your company
for dinner and a conversation on The Media & The Presidency [with] panelists: Dan Rather, HDNet; Ed Rollins, Republican Political Consultant; Joe Scarborough, MSNBC; Bob Shrum, TheWeek.com; Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes; and Jacob Weisberg, The Slate Group, moderated by Sir Harold Evans, The Week. [The event was] sponsored by The Alliance for Climate Protection."

The room was filled with New York's glittery literary: Here is a list of the guests from the press release (Jonathan Marder & Associates): "...Amanda Burden, Chuck Scarborough, Shari (Mrs. Ed) Rollins, Tina Brown (Lady Evans), George Rush, Barbara Warner Howard, Nicholas Wapshott, Caroline Graham, Paula Zahn, Faye Wattleton, Heather Watts and Damian Woetzel, former Governor Bill Weld, Gigi and M Shafik Gabr, Patricia Duff, Debbie Bancroft, Elizabeth Peabody and her father Sam Peabody, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Kelvin McKenzie, Robin Duke, Mary McFadden, Mary Louise Oates (Mrs. Bob Shrum), Ernie Pomerantz, Tara Meltzer, Valentin and Yaz Hernandez, Rick Hertzberg, Marsia Holzer, Richard Johnson, Barbara and Michael Gross, Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wolfen, Tom Freston, Michael Goodwin, Catharine and David Hamilton, Richard Cohen, Cece Cord, Ana Marie Cox, Shirley Lord Rosenthal, Joni Evans and Bob Perkins, Jeff Bercovici, Jeff and Myrna Blyth, Pamela Keogh, Steve and Cynthia Brill." Be sure to scroll down for photographs of the guests and information about The Week.

Joe Scarborough, Sir Harold Evans, Leslie Stahl,
Jacob Weisberg and Ed Rollins

Over three hundred guests responded to the invitation and enjoyed a lively evening of cocktails, dinner and rousing political discourse. The panel discussion was moderated by Sir Harold Evans, Editor at Large of The Week. Perhaps taking advice from Mohammed Ali to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," Sir Harold kept the discussion on track and engaged.

Bob Shrum, Joe Scarborough and Dan Rather

Wit and insight reigned. Joe Scarborough was especially funny (not my usual opinion), quipping that: "Hilary Clinton is my girlfriend; I just don't like to talk about it," and throughout the night ribbing Bob Shrum: "Why are you so
angry? You won!"

Joe Scarborough, Dan Rather and Sir Harold Evans

Jacob Weisberg Lesley Stahl

Here are some selected quotes from the night's panel discussion:

Sir Harold Evans opened the discussion by asking what everyone thought of the Presidential campaign.

Ed Rollins: [Rollins worked on the Mike Huckabee campaign.] The Republican race was a Nascar race; the Democrats ran a marathon.... Barack Obama ran the best campaign I have ever seen.

Bob Shrum: And Obama ran against two people.

Sir Harold Evans: Could the Republicans have run a better campaign?

Dan Rather: McCain was the best candidate the Republicans had.

Ed Rollins: The Republicans tend to nominate the next guy in line.

Leslie Stahl: ...you have to give a lot of credit to McCain personally for helping Obama win.

Joe Scarborough: The Republican campaign was run by a bunch of day traders [constantly changing their strategy].

Jacob Weisberg: Obama used his skill as a writer to help him win.... Obama did not take any advice that modified his personality. McCain took too much advice.

Sir Harold Evans: But could any Republican have won after the last eight years?

Joe Scarborough: After Katrina, I saw volunteers in a church parking lot ripping the Bush bumper stickers off their cars. They saw an administration that could not manage a flood in Louisiana.

Sir Harold Evans: How can the Republicans turn things around?

Ed Rollins: We cannot walk away from the base. What do Republicans stand for? I doubt anyone in the room knows. Most Republicans wouldn't know. We have to get back to the base.

Dan Rather: They need to listen to America. Get on the web.

Sir Harold Evans: Was the media biased towards Obama?

Jacob Weisberg: The media had a bias because Obama sold newspapers.

Bob Shrum: [Regarding McCain and the press]... he was hosed in the press because he ran a bad campaign.

Dan Rather: Journalists love the new and Obama was the new. Can he climb this mountain? Obama was the best story.

Jacob Weisberg: Hillary could not win after March, but the media wanted the story, so we kept it alive.

Bob Shrum: From March on Hillary had a ten percent chance.

Ed Rollins: Hillary was a great candidate; Barack Obama was a superb candidate.

Bob Shrum: Hilary Clinton did an amazing job of helping Obama get elected from the convention on.

Dan Rather: The press has the power to persuade and the power to inspire.... Most better educated voters supported Obama and most press are better educated.

Sir Harold Evans then asked about McCain's choice of Palin.

Sir Harold Evans to Ed Rollins: Did the McCain campaign ever contact Huckabee about the Vice Presidency?

Ed Rollins: There was no conversation with Huckabee about the Vice Presidency. Nor did he ask Romney.

Bob Shrum: Palin was a disaster.

Joe Scarborough: Sarah Palin worked until the economic meltdown.

Sir Harold Evans: Was Palin destroyed by comedy? Did you feel sorry for her?

Leslie Stahl: No...I did not. [Regarding McCain's impulsivity] We always heard rumors about McCain being hot-headed, that there was another McCain, one we did not see on the first campaign trail [2000].

Ed Rollins: McCain ran his own campaign the way he runs his office and he always has a messy office.

Harold Evans: Question about the 2000 election.

Joe Scarborough: The press was much harder on Al Gore than on Bush. Bush was new. After the third debate I thought, "Doesn't anyone notice that he [Bush] doesn't speak English?"

Bob Shrum: Gore won the election, he just wasn't inaugurated.

Joe Scarborough: Both Al Gore and Hillary were treated worse than Obama.

Question from the audience about how the Republicans kept telling lies and even when they were found to be lies, they kept repeating them.

Joe Scarborough: [Regarding Joe the plumber who was not a plumber or even named Joe] That type of strategy does not work when people are jumping out of windows.

Dan Rather: The election was about generational change, more about generational change than race or gender. It was the You Tube election.


Tina Brown and Dan Rather Governor William Weld
David Patrick Columbia
and Margaret Carlson
CeCe Cord and
M Shafik and Gigi Gabr
Chuck Scarborough and Mary Alice Williams Cynthia and Steven Brill
Patricia Duff Robin Duke
Kevin McKenzie Jamee Gregory
Carlo Tunioli Michael Musto

Mary McFadden, Peter Gregory and Elizabeth Peabody

Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen

Joni Evans and Bob Perkins

Jim Hoge, Orin Kramer Shirley Lord Rosenthal

Here is a quote from the press release about The Week: "The Week is the fastest growing news and opinion magazine in America. Every week, The Week’s editors scour hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, seeking out the most intriguing stories and the most thoughtful commentary - left, right, and everything in between. The Week’s focus is broad: U.S. and international news, the best columns from here and abroad, business, health, science, and technology, plus books, film, the arts, consumer reviews, and leisure activities."


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