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Reading Dubya's Lips

George W. Bush had constructed his campaign on puffy clouds of compassionate conservatism, love-bombing reporters with the insistence that he has no side in the bitter, partisan debate in Washington. But those clouds broke on Labor Day when mikes caught Dubya comparing New York Times reporter Adam Clymer to a, ahem, rectum. Predictably, so many in the media are now waving their hankies in near-fainting disbelief.

The hypocrisy of the press is boundless. Start with Bryant Gumbel, who declared on CBS that "Bush may have taken yet another step backwards by sticking his foot in his mouth with a vulgar comment." Yes, yes: the same Bryant Gumbel who two months ago was also inadvertently caught on video, calling his conservative guest Bob Knight a "f-ing idiot" after the interview - and then refused to apologize.

Or let's try Gumbel's colleague Dan Rather. "On one bit of campaign meanness and nastiness in particular, George Bush now says he's sorry his gutter language and personal attack was picked up by a microphone at a campaign stop yesterday," Rather solemnly reported, "but he refuses to apologize for the substance of his comment. Bush's remark was about Adam Clymer, a New York Times reporter whose coverage he doesn't like."

Rather was fresh from weeks of vacation, a vastion that began the day after hurling false on-air and off-air accusations that independent counsel Robert Ray leaked the news that he convened another Lewinsky grand jury on the eve of Al Gore's convention speech. It didn't matter that Rather was 100-percent wrong, and had slandered Mr. Ray. No retractions or apologies have been forthcoming from the man who now lectures Bush on civility.

Are you seeing why Governor Bush is justified in growing tiresome of the media's arrogance?

Adam Clymer is the kind of "objective" news reporter who openly roots for the Democrats in print. His April 11 piece on Texas health care may as well have been a paid Gore attack ad. It began: "Texas has had one of the nation's worst public health records for decades. More than a quarter of its residents have no health insurance. Its Mexican border is a hotbed of contagion. The state ranks near the top in the nation in rates of AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis and teenage pregnancy, and near the bottom in immunizations, mammograms and access to physicians. But since George W. Bush became governor in 1995, he has not made health a priority, his aides acknowledge."

What kind of aide would acknowledge something like that? As Fox's Carl Cameron uniquely reported, the Bushies insist "Adam Clymer never had serious interviews with any of the Bush camp about the subject of the article, health care."

Like Rather and Gumbel, Clymer doesn't care about journalistic integrity. He wants his side to win. On October 27, 1995, the New York Times reported that Republicans were complaining about its poll question: "If you had to choose, would you prefer balancing the budget or preventing Medicare from being significantly cut?" Like other national media outlets, the Times wrote hundreds of stories referring to cuts in Medicare's wallet-walloping spending growth as "cuts." In response, Clymer snidely wrote that Republicans "call anyone who uses the word 'cut' a liar. But it is an argument so hard to resist that even one Republican presidential candidate, Patrick J. Buchanan, is making it." It didn't matter that the accusation was 100-percent wrong. No retractions or apologies are necessary.

New York Times Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld dismissed Bush's animus as unfounded, of course. He declared Clymer is a veteran of eight presidential campaigns, which somehow makes him fair and balanced. Baloney. In Timothy Crouse's book "The Boys on the Bus," a much younger Clymer is captured talking up George McGovern's chances in 1972, drawing a colleague's comment: "He just wanted McGovern to win."

This is a man who so loved Ted Kennedy that his fawning biography claimed Kennedy is one of the greatest Senators in American history, regardless of inconvenient facts like the death at Chappaquiddick: "His achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne." That girl may have been left to drown, but Clymer clearly despises her memory as an obstacle to universal Kennedy worship.

If Clymer doesn't seem like enough of a hypocrite, then consider what Investor's Business Daily found Clymer saying at a political scientists' convention two days before Bush's lips loosened. Conservative Rep. Phil Crane, as he has so publicly declared, is getting treatment for alcoholism, to which Clymer sneered: "I've heard that Crane has finally dried out." This from the Ted Kennedy booster.

Bush said a no-no - but the sentiment is deadly accurate. Media people get up every day and dish it out. It's about time they had to took a little of their own medicine.