Sep
01
1995

Hast Seen the Whitewater Whale?

The Journal's Quest for Conspiracy

"Above all it is about hypocrisy," the Wall Street Journal editorial page explained (3/21/94) in one of its dozens of commentaries on the Whitewater scandal. Robert Bartley and his conservative editorial crew meant the "hypocrisy" of President Clinton who denounced the 1980s as "a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness" while himself trying to get a piece of the action. Without doubt, the Journal is right that Bill and Hillary Clinton deserve a margin calls' worth of grief for profiting--or even trying to profit--from their political connections and insider commodities advice. But Bartley and his writers are living in a […]

Nov
01
1994

Wines' World: The Tie-Dyed Clinton

The front page of the New York Times Week in Review section is a platform that both reflects and helps set the conventional wisdom. Michael Wines, one of the Times' top political reporters, used that space on September 11 to amplify the claims by "Mr. Clinton's loyal critics in Congress and Democratic research circles...that only a basic change of direction will revive his political fortunes." Wines' unnamed sources call on Clinton to "govern from the center." "They fear that his handling of many major issues has enabled Republicans to persuade the public he is the sort of tie-dyed, union-label liberal […]

Jul
01
1994

Paula Jones and Sex Harassment:

From the Women's Desk:

It seemed like May madness had hit--at least as far as sexual harassment was concerned. Hoards of previously unreconstructed misogynists supported a working-class female who charged a powerful man with grimy sexual misconduct. New Republic editor and PBS pundit Fred Barnes, who once derided Anita Hill as"delusional," claimed that Arkansas state employee Paula Jones' accusations against Bill Clinton were "credible." (McLaughlin Group, 5/8/94) Rush Limbaugh, who'd previously boasted of a sign on his office door that read,"Sexual harassment at this work station will not be reported.... It will be graded," evinced sympathy for a woman who said she'd been harassed. […]

May
01
1994

Whitewater Under the Bridge

How the Press Missed the Story

Supporters of the Clintons suggest that Whitewater, a failed real estate venture from Bill and Hillary's Little Rock days, is old news. The election campaign is over, the argument goes, and the voters chose Clinton. But Whitewater never really became a campaign issue in 1992. Most media gave a great deal of space to allegations of Clinton's sexual affairs and accounts of his draft maneuverings, but shied away from a story about corporate collusion with politicians--perhaps because the story wasn't pushed by an establishment party or politician. Today, leading Republicans seem to want to talk about nothing but Whitewater and […]

Mar
01
1993

Media Litmus Test on Clinton's Cabinet

The Washington Post (12/11/92) reported on Clinton's economic team in an article headlined "Clinton Appointees Form a Collage of Varying Economic Views." The piece claimed that Clinton's administration would be a "tent big enough to accomodate a wide variety of viewpoints." How wide are the viewpoints represented? The article cites Lloyd Bentsen, an "old-time wheeler-dealer" who supports "tax incentives" for business; Rep. Leon Panetta and the Brookings Institution's Alice Rivlin, who are described as "deficit hawks"; and investment bankers Robert Rubin and Roger Altman, who are said to provide "real world imput." "If you're in favor of any of these […]

Oct
01
1992

The Media Factor Behind the 'Hillary Factor'

Hillary Clinton has become one of the most hotly debated subjects in this year's presidential campaign. The media have eagerly focused on the battle of insults, images and "values" that she symbolizes, often characterizing her as a "lightning rod" of criticism. At the Democratic National Convention, a "new" Hillary Clinton was unveiled to much media fanfare. At the Republican National Convention, attacks on the would-be First Lady reached a fever pitch when she was derided as a "radical feminist," as "anti-family" and as unduly influential in her husband's career. She has become one of the most charged issues in the […]

Sep
01
1992

Clinton's Willie Horton?

Bill Clinton's remarks about rapper Sister Souljah were part of a clear, if some what peculiar, political strategy: identify those voting blocs most likely to support you, and alienate them. This strategy was outlined in a David Broder/Thomas Edsall Washington Post piece (6/12/92) just before the Rainbow Coalition conference: “Some top advisers to Clinton argue that...he must become involved in highly publicized confrontations with one or more Democratic constituencies.” According to the Post, key aides wanted Clinton to “confront [Jackson] and his followers." Regardless of what one thinks of Sister Souljah, Clinton's focus on her was clearly one of those […]

Jun
01
1992

Sex, Polls and Campaign Strategy

How the Press Misses the Issues of the '92 Election

This sort of thing was not supposed to happen in 1992," the New York Times' John Tierney wrote. After the 1988 presidential campaign, the press had been accused, not least by itself, of "obsessive coverage of supposed character issues, [and] endless analysis of strategies and polls instead of who stood for what." Voters wanted substance, it was said, and reporters pledged to do better. But, Tierney says of his fellow journalists in this election season, "It didn't take them long to be distracted by questions of sex, polls and campaign strategy." Self-conscious articles like Tierney's ("Now, Journalists Renege on Election […]