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Has Washington "Seldom Been Screwier"?

Has Washington "Seldom Been Screwier"?
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 16, 1997

Evidence of Clinton administration illegalities, unethical practices, dishonesty, and coverups is mounting at a furious pace, and sending some in the media into damage control overdrive. Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Alan Murray began a recent front-page piece by suggesting Washington has "seldom been screwier. Why should people care whether the president greets his guests in the Oval Office or the Map Room? Whether the vice president makes phone calls at the office or at home? Janet Reno may be mad, but the rest of the country is just bored." How quaint. Establish, for public consumption, that the stories are boring; bore the public; and use their boredom as a justification not to cover the stories. Circle closed. Do Murray and his 89-percent pro-Clinton colleagues (like the Journal's Al Hunt, last seen back-slapping Harold Ickes in the Senate hearing room) even care about hypocrisy? Apparently, not even rank hypocrisy.

The coffee videotapes spurred a new round of network interest, even on the morning shows, but the clear message was: the tapes help exonerate the President. As usual, the media

insisted no "smoking gun" of illegality has been found (and discount the merely unethical or hypocritical).

They don't even care when this hypocrisy extends to issues near and dear to them, like campaign finance "reform." This most ethical administration in history came to power on a mantra of "change," and as a top priority in their 1992 campaign manifesto "Putting People First," Bill Clinton and Al Gore proclaimed they would tame the special interests with the big checkbooks.

In reality, this administration did nothing on campaign "reform." To the contrary, the record demonstrates they sold the integrity of their office - if not the integrity of the presidency itself - in the best good ol' boy tradition. In fact, Slick Willie and Co. have been aggressively soliciting illicit donations since 1992. So while Clinton and Gore boogied through flag-waving Fleetwood Mac moments promising that new era of honest government, the Democratic machine was already tapping John Huang and Gene and Nora Lum for donations from Indonesia and China. No wonder their theme song was "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)."

Let's be blunt: the media aren't worried about these stories being boring. They're worrying about them being interesting. We were taught in civics class that the news media is a check on dishonesty in government. That's not true. If it's liberal dishonesty and hypocrisy, it doesn't make the news.

You see it time and again. Anita Hill pledged to Sen. Howell Heflin and the American public that she, the virginal victim of sexual harassment, would never betray a personal motive in her testimony by writing a book about her unproven charges, had no intention of cashing in on her story. In NBC's two promotional segments for Hill's new book on September 29 and 30, "Dateline" host Jane Pauley again presented Hill as a victim, making almost no reference to - forget any condemnation of - Hill's post-hearing career, of dozens of speaking appearances for a fat fee of $10,000 plus, and a two-book deal with Doubleday for $1 million. At the very end of the second segment, "Dateline" actually Turned' Hill's hypocrisy on its ear in order to further glorify Hill's image. Stone Phillips announced: "Some of the profits from Hill's book are going to a scholarship fund for survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing." Pauley puffed up Hill: "Courage came slowly, didn't it?" Later, as Hill expressed surprise that Clarence Thomas denied her wild charges, Pauley cooed: "I can see the steel in your spine even as you say that."

While Hill was turning her crusade against Thomas into a million-dollar business opportunity, Paula Jones was rejecting a $700,000 settlement offer from Bill Clinton's lawyers. In the same fashion, she's turned down other lucrative cash proposals. But on the very day she filed suit, they had quickly smeared her as a trailer-park sleaze, a hussy out for a buck.

While the red carpet was being unfurled for Saint Anita, media doors were continuing to slam in the face of investigative reporter Chris Ruddy or his book "The Strange Death of Vincent Foster." It is appalling. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr issued his 114-page final report on the Foster death, and Ruddy's book - thoroughly researched, and endorsed by no less than William Sessions, former head of the FBI - blows the Starr report to bits. But Ruddy's a conservative, so none of that mattered. Such is the mindset of the media elite, which then bemoan how things in Washington have "seldom been screwier."