The conduct of the press has been one of the most disgraceful chapters of this whole spectacle. Whitewater stories have been weekly items in the major national papers, but they've willfully and categorically ignored the insidious machinations of the Clinton haters (esp. Richard Scaife), Starr's dictatorial abuses and links to right wingers, David Hale's reasons to lie, Congress's criminal violation of Mr. Clinton's rights and privacy, even abetted it (even PBS rushed to release every bit of trash testimony so "the people could judge for themselves").
Plotting by groups of people, funded by millions of dollars, totally dedicated to destroying one person is, by definition, a conspiracy. Yet Newsweek and most papers have ridiculed Hillary's allegations, even as they've never done one serious story* on Richard Mellon Scaife, the right-wing Pittsburgh Carnegie heir who has probably spent $10-30 million trying to destroy Clinton: in the Arkansas Project ($2.4 mil), funding the virulently anti-Clinton American Spectator, the Rutherford Institute, Landmark Foundation, (who found, encouraged, and funded Paula Jones and other suits), + Judicial Watch. Even $5 million dollars buys alot of detectives, and on virtually anyone rich and famous, alot of dirt. The idea of a rich extremist private citizen spending millions of dollars + years to wage war against an elected leader is reprehensible, but the press never touched it. Instead, pursuing, persecuting and prosecuting Clinton became a sport: a major continuing story they could exploit, like the Stock Market- was Clinton up or down?
I've always loved Newsweek: they were the single best magazine to read to stay informed about the world, and they wrote with a panache and a liberal sensibility that implied, "We were all in this together, and it should be fun". But with Clinton, they've dropped the ball so low, they may never retrieve it. Michael Isikoff, with a mirthless slanted prosecutorial style, has been given free reign to chase this trash Lewinsky story to the ends of the earth, and then present it as if it were an earth-shattering important scandal. Again and again, his writing reveals his bent. The story is presented as a fair contest, with Mr. Clinton's understandable moves to defend himself called "the White House moving into it's customary attack mode" and every reaction to events "cranking up the White House spin machine". The reality, of course, is that Mr. Clinton has been savagely, relentlessly, and unfairly pummeled; and the questions he has raised about Starr's conduct are ones that the press should have. Like Starr's many connections to hate-Clinton groups, Scaife's shadowy hand behind virtually every major development, Starr's McCarthyesque indictment + persecution of an entire state, or the lure of big money on witnesses against Mr. Clinton. Meanwhile the Wash. Post's grand doyen, Meg Greenfield, airily speculates on the fashion of scandals, lying, and meaning- as if Newsweek hasn't been a major player in bringing all this about, or their power to break a President so understood that it be self-evident. As David Brooks, late vicious hatchet man of the American Spectator (who broke the Paula Jones allegations and did a brutal book on Anita Hill), now "reformed" and doing commentaries for NPR, said, "Now, Newsweek is the American Spectator".
Dismissing the White House's allegations so casually and carelessly allowed reporters to not have to do any work. And that's the big story about Clinton "scandal" reporting. Lazy, arrogant, slanted coverage. As long as it sells papers and ratings, pump it for all it's worth, but don't find anything that isn't fed to you by one partisan or another. Because the White House is so powerful, give them a big handicap: they are heretofore guilty until proven innocent. It's better if the sides of a sports contest are sort of even. But a permanent special prosecutor, with his own army of lawyers, FBI agents, investigators, and constant Grand Juries, is something new, powerful, terrifying, and quite un-American. Not one story- not one, of Starr's reign of terror- of any of the employees and friends of the President, dragged into court, treated like criminals, and forced to spend hundreds of thousands to keep them from being victimized.
But the press's greatest failing was in ignoring the criminal and privacy violations of the release and publishing of Clinton's grand jury testimony, and Monica's tapes. "The public has a right to know", they intoned as they fell over each other to publish the most private human acts (inc. even PBS). But these were Grand Jury testimony's, strictly secret by law; only to see if there was reason for a trial. The public had no right, and no need to know. A Grand Jury is totally a prosecutor's show- without any lawyer for anyone present, testimony can't be questioned or challenged, witnesses can't be cross-examined, nothing presented is actually evidence- it can be completely distorted. In the hands of a bad or vindictive prosecutor, there is spectacular potential for abuse (no Grand Juries have lasted years!). That's why it's supposed to be secret, because you can force exposure of embarrassing info (not about alleged crimes) and then use it to destroy anyone. Congress is somehow immune from this law, but they've never flouted it before. And it was a legal body that did it. These facts (the outrageousness, the unprecedentedness) were never made clear by Newsweek, or virtually anyone else, because of their complicity in running it. Listen to every waking second of a human's life and vote in a national Truman Show plebiscite- should he live or die, go or stay. It was sick, and disgraceful, and chilling. And what comes next? Who do we throw to the lions now?
Then there is the almost monstrous hypocrisy of the Judicial Committee and Congress voting to conduct an impeachment hearing over a lousy little affair, which 80% of Congress is also guilty of. No one exposed the rank, smarmy, stinking absurdity and unfairness of the situation, except a lowly Internet magazine- Salon, which outed Henry Hyde's 4 year affair with a married woman with 3 kids (who he installed in an apartment as his mistress). The Republicans screeched like a stuck pig: "The White House did it", "The FBI should investigate", "Efforts to intimidate this panel..." Incredibly, responsible papers, rallied to Hyde's defense. He was courtly, gracious, respected, admired. He had also just rammed through a recommendation of impeachment on scant evidence on Newt's orders, bowdlerizing and ignoring Democrats on the Committee. Absolutely, obviously, his sexual history was a relevant vital issue. If you don't like the heat, stop turning up all the burners in the kitchen and trying to burn the game.
* In searching Infotrack I found only one real story on Scaife in the last 5 years.