Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Clintons' Foes In Lying Big Media Should Wrap Their Lying Opinions In Toily-Paper

Here’s the beef
Gene Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Now and then, something happens that causes our esteemed Washington press corps to exhibit its collective posterior to a wondering nation.

Such an event was the publication of Bill Clinton’s biographical memoir, "My Life." Following the extended funeral rites for former President Ronald Reagan, Clinton’s humongous Bildungsroman left pundits scrambling madly to master a new collective script. "Bildungsroman" is professor-speak for "10 pounds of ego in a 5-pound sack." Nobody writes an autobiography without a big ego. Not even St. Augustine.

But what was Clinton’s real motive? Speaking on "NBC Nightly News," Andrea Mitchell (Mrs. Alan Greenspan) thought she new. "All Clinton may want to do," she opined, "is outsell his wife’s book, which sold almost three million copies worldwide." Time’s Margaret Carlson echoed her on CNN’s "Capital Gang." Where do they find them? Write a 972-page book to show up your wife? In my experience, when people pontificate about the motives of people they scarcely know, it’s their own motives they display.

Apart from horses and high school guidance counselors, it’d be hard to find an equivalent group as consumed with status anxiety as the Washington punditocracy.

Every news article and TV feature I saw regarding Clinton’s book featured the quote from Michiko Kakutani’s frontpage New York Times review, "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull." Positive reviews by "Lonesome Dove" author Larry McMurtry and Ben Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson got little play.

Interestingly, the Times’ review neglected to mention that Clinton spent many pages deconstructing its own dreadfully bad Whitewater reporting. Reading it, he wrote, "felt like an outof-body experience." Regarding the Times’ The Washington Post’s and everybody else’s failure to disclose the contents of the Pillsbury Report, the eight-volume study by a Republican law firm that exonerated the Clintons of Whitewater wrongdoing in December 1995—years before independent counsel Kenneth Starr—Clinton quoted my friend Lars-Erik Nelson, the late New York Daily News columnist. Nelson spent years in Moscow covering the Soviet Union. "The secret verdict is in," he wrote. "There was nothing for the Clintons to hide.... [I] n a bizarre reversal of those Stalin-era trials in which innocent people were convicted in secret, the President and the First Lady have been publicly charged and secretly found innocent."

Yet Kakutani charges Clinton with "lies" about "real estate." Challenged by Salon’s Eric Boehlert to stipulate any, he says she never called back. Times editor Bill Keller alibied that the Independent counsel’s Whitewater report mentioned "inaccurate statements."

But if inaccurate statements are lies, the Times printed even more lies about Whitewater than "weapons of mass destruction." Indeed, had editors heeded problems with its "investigative" reporting during Clinton’s first term when some of us started calling attention to them, they might have spared themselves a lot of trouble. Judith Miller’s bad reporting about Iraq and Jeff Gerth’s about Arkansas had certain basic similarities: Both reporters went to places they knew little about, put themselves into the hands of con men with axes to grind and suppressed dissenting voices eventually proved correct.

As George Seldes observed, however, "the most sacred cow of the press is the press itself." Hence, The Washington Post, too, editorialized that Clinton’s memoir "veers from the nonfiction category" regarding Whitewater, adding: "The tangled real estate investments... merited investigation, and the inquiry produced numerous convictions."

But in fact the Clintons made exactly one real estate investment
involving roughly $200,000, repaid the loans in full and lost about $50,000. None of the convictions Starr obtained involved transactions to which they were a party.

Most had no relationship to their investment whatsoever.

Starr himself, apparently one of the unreliable sources from whom reporters took dictation, blandly assured a PBS interviewer that "very few individuals who are caught up in the process of criminal justice...walk out saying how much I love the prosecutor." Cute, but Clinton’s beef is more pointed. He produces a list of persons, such as Kathleen Willey, whom he says Starr rewarded for lying, and a list of others like Susan Mc-Dougal who he says got indicted for refusing to lie.

Self-serving? Maybe. But a Little Rock jury acquitted McDougal, and a Virginia jury failed to convict Julie Hiatt Steele on Willey’s say-so. Unfortunately, Clinton’s book overlooks one of Starr’s most stunning transgressions: convicting Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker on the basis of a repealed statute. Yes, you read correctly. Starr destroyed the career of Tucker (a Clinton rival, incidentally, to whom he says he apologized for not having pardoned him) by using an expired tax law. It took Tucker five years of costly appeals to prove it, and it opens to further appeal a second conviction of Tucker that Starr obtained through the testimony of convicted embezzler David Hale. But the courtiers of the Washington press have no time for such trivialities.

Speculating about the Clintons’ marriage makes better entertainment.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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