Future for Clinton-Dole on CBS dims

Times Staff Writer

The “point-counterpoint” face-off between former President Bill Clinton and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” was announced as a 10-week deal, and it’s looking like the deal may end there.

The two-minute segments, which are unusual in bringing a former U.S. president to a regular slot on television, launched to great media attention March 9. Executive producer Don Hewitt expressed hopes then that the feature could become a regular presence on the program, reviving a format made famous by Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick in the 1970s.

After an almost genteel start, Clinton and Dole have gotten edgier in the seven exchanges that have aired so far, and seem more comfortable with their debating roles. Nonetheless, there is a feeling among some CBS News insiders that the segments aren’t working out as hoped, with perhaps too civilized a tone. They have covered tax cuts, the U.N., criticism of the military’s Iraqi war plan and, last Sunday, reality TV.

The war in Iraq knocked the exchange off one week; no “Clinton/Dole” debate aired the week of April 27, either. With a “60 Minutes” 35th anniversary special also coming up May 18, it’s likely two of the initial 10 segments will be pushed into late May or early June, when the show traditionally starts to transition to summer repeats.


Hewitt declined to comment on the future of the segments. CBS News President Andrew Heyward said “there has been no discussion about anything beyond the 10 we committed to, and I guess when we’ve done the 10 we’ll certainly take a look.”