A Short History of Recent U.S. Presidential Politics - Part 9: The Press v.
Bill Clinton Al Gore Hillary Clinton
[Previous parts are here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8; my 2008 Democratic Presidential primary campaign coverage is consolidated here - you can also find a link to it at the top right corner of The Left Coaster home page]
THE PRESS v. HILLARY CLINTON (paging Eric Boehlert :-))
Back on Dec 23, Howard Kurtz had this exchange on his CNN show (emphasis mine, throughout this post, unless otherwise noted):
KURTZ: ....But here's the thing, Jonah. Reporters and pundits for weeks -- we talked about it on this show -- were urging Obama, you've got to go on the attack, you've got to beat up on Hillary, you've got to get more aggressive. And they cheered when he did it.
When she attacks him or criticizes him, we get, is she getting desperate? Is she likeable enough? "Hardball" had a headline that said on the screen, "Is Hillary Clinton Trying to Destroy Barack Obama's Campaign?"
KURTZ: But exactly. Huckabee surges into the lead, and we had never noticed him before. Now every negative thing that people can find that he's ever done or said in Arkansas. And that's fine. I mean, that's fair game.
Where is anything approaching that on Obama, who is also at least tied for the Democratic presidential lead in the primaries?
COTTLE: Well, Obama took his hits early on when people were saying he wasn't tough enough. You know, these things go in cycles, and journalists have a story line in their head -- Hillary is tough, Hillary is vicious.
When she came out swinging at -- you know, her campaign came out swinging at David Geffen months ago, people went berserk because we all have the Hillary the mean campaign. And Obama's the campaign of hope and inspiration.
So what he generally gets slammed on is he's not tough enough or, you know, he's not got what it takes to stand up during these periods of time. And that's what happened to him when he was way behind. Now that he's pulling into the lead, you know, the journalists are so excited they've got a horse race on their hands, they're going to spend a little time cheering now.
KURTZ: I had the impression it was a camp reunion when I was out there in Iowa. And it is great, the retail campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. It is fun to cover and it is real, but it's -- when the votes are counted and we decide who did well -- for example, Hillary Clinton, let's say she doesn't win Iowa. Let's say she gets edged out by 1,000 votes. Is the press going to savage her as a loser?
MILBANK: The press will savage her no matter what, pretty much.
KURTZ: If she wins?
MILBANK: Well, obviously if she wins by any great margin -- the press with Hillary Clinton, it's a poisonous relationship. And I visited the various campaigns out there. It's a mutual sort of disregard. And they really have their knives out for her, there's no question about it out there. So...
KURTZ: And to what extent do you think that is affecting the coverage of Senator Clinton?
MILBANK: I think it unquestionably is. And I think Obama gets significantly better coverage than Hillary Clinton does, and given an equal performance he'll come out better for it.
KURTZ: Is this because journalists like Obama better than Hillary or...
MILBANK: It's more that they dislike Hillary Clinton. There is a long history there, her antagonism towards the press. It's returned in spades. And it is a venomous relationship that I see out there.
I've discussed this before, but kudos to Milbank for being honest enough to admit this. To his credit, Kurtz was also willing to highlight this dynamic in an article in the Washington Post earlier this month:
Clinton's senior advisers have grown convinced that the media deck is stacked against them, that their candidate is drawing far harsher scrutiny than Barack Obama. And at least some journalists agree.
"She's just held to a different standard in every respect," says Mark Halperin, Time's editor at large. "The press rooted for Obama to go negative, and when he did he was applauded. When she does it, it's treated as this huge violation of propriety." While Clinton's mistakes deserve full coverage, Halperin says, "the press's flaws -- wild swings, accentuating the negative -- are magnified 50 times when it comes to her. It's not a level playing field."
Newsweek's Howard Fineman says Obama's coverage is the buzz of the presidential campaign. "While they don't say so publicly because it's risky to complain, a lot of operatives from other campaigns say he's getting a free ride, that people aren't tough enough on Obama," Fineman says. "There may be something to that. He's the new guy, an interesting guy, a pathbreaker and trendsetter perhaps."
The Illinois senator's fundraising receives far less press attention than Clinton's. When The Washington Post reported last month that Obama used a political action committee to hand more than $180,000 to Democratic groups and candidates in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the suggestion that he might be buying support received no attention on the network newscasts. The Clinton team is convinced that would have been a bigger story had it involved the former first lady.
There was also a lack of media pickup when the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported that an Obama aide had sat down next to him and "wanted to know when reporters would begin to look into Bill Clinton's post-presidential sex life."
Journalists repeatedly described Obama as a "rock star" when he jumped into the race in January. His missteps -- such as when his staff mocked Clinton's position on the outsourcing of jobs overseas by referring to the Democrat not as representing a state but as "D-Punjab" -- generated modest coverage, but rarely at the level surrounding Clinton's mistakes. Some reporters told Clinton aides when she enjoyed a double-digit lead that she is held to a higher standard as the front-runner.
Obama did undergo something of a media audit earlier this year, with stories focusing on his record in the Illinois Senate and his ties to indicted fundraiser Tony Rezko. But his recent rise in the polls hasn't brought the kind of full-time frisking being visited on the hottest Republican, Mike Huckabee. In fact, much of the coverage of Oprah Winfrey stumping for Obama bordered on gushing.
In an online posting Monday, ABC reported that an Obama volunteer wearing a press pass asked the candidate a friendly question about tax policy at an Iowa event. But several of the assembled reporters huddled and concluded that it was not a story, one of them said. Clinton faced a storm of media criticism over a similar planted question.
Some reporters confess that they are enjoying Clinton's slippage, if only because it enlivens what had become a predictable narrative of her cruising to victory. The prospect of a newcomer knocking off a former first lady is one heck of a story.
Halperin, who surveys political news at Time.com's the Page, says: "Your typical reporter has a thinly disguised preference that Barack Obama be the nominee. The narrative of him beating her is better than her beating him, in part because she's a Clinton and in part because he's a young African American. . . . There's no one rooting for her to come back."
Her campaign faces lingering resentment among many reporters over the lack of access to the candidate and the aggressive style of some of her operatives, who push back hard against stories they dislike. CNN correspondent Candy Crowley received a blistering e-mail merely for asking questions about reports that the former president was unhappy with the campaign's direction.
When Obama was languishing in the polls for months, the media tended to fault him for not being aggressive enough against Clinton, rather than for specific positions or comments.
"The problem here may be that Obama remains reluctant to really go after Hillary's character -- to portray her as unethical and dishonest on some fundamental level," the New Republic's Michael Crowley wrote. Fineman suggested that Obama "attack more in sorrow than in anger" and "argue that Clinton is too polarizing, that she cannot win a general election."
Taylor Marsh has additional commentary and links to some recent studies highlighting the kind of biased and negative coverage Hillary Clinton has gotten. The deja vu is interesting as I highlight below using some examples.
THE PRESS v. AL GORE
WHY GOOD GUYS SLEPT (PART 2): On June 25, 1999, Howard Kurtz wrote a lengthy piece about the "harsh coverage and punditry" being directed at Candidate Gore. And, according to Josh Marshall's later assessment, the press corps' "disdain and contempt" for Gore were clear by this time (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/17/02). Indeed, by the time Kurtz wrote, it was QUITE clear that Gore was receiving odd coverage. Four months later, the press corps would display its "disdain and contempt" in a truly remarkable way.
On October 27, 1999, Gore and Bradley staged their first debate in a small venue at Dartmouth College. The session was broadcast live on CNN. The 300 journalists in attendance watched on large-screen TVs, penned up in a separate pressroom.
And in that room, the Washington press corps - your bulwark of democracy - displayed its astonishing lack of professionalism. What happened as Gore and Bradley debated? Howard Mortman, then of the Hotline, appeared on that publication's cable show one week later. Mortman described the remarkable scene inside that Hanover hall.
How had the press corps acted during the debate? "The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something," Mortman reported. "What happened with Bradley?" a panelist asked. "Stone silence. Really," Mortman said. And Mortman - a staffer in the original Bush White House - was not alone in his report. Eric Pooley described a similar scene in the November 8 Time:
POOLEY: [Gore's attempt to connect with the audience] was unmistakable - and even touching - but the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.
Seven weeks after the Dartmouth debate, Salon's Jake Tapper described the same conduct. Appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, he replied to a question about "liberal bias:"
TAPPER: Well, I can tell you that the only media bias I have detected in terms of a group media bias was, at the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore, and that's the only time I've ever heard the press room boo or hiss any candidate of any party at any event.
To state the obvious, the press had engaged in stunning misconduct. Given the way Gore would be trashed by the press for the rest of the election, every Democrat should be deeply disturbed to read about this remarkable event. (For our real-time treatment of this matter, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/14/99, with links to earlier reports.)
Clearly, the Dartmouth debate showed the startling growth of the press corps' "disdain and contempt" for Gore. It also showed the "contempt" the corps has simple standards of professional conduct. But something else was on display in the aftermath of this event. Also displayed was the press corps' reflexive secrecy about its own attitudes and conduct.
Dozens of major, well-known reporters were present in that jeering crowd. And Pooley was the only such scribe who described the press corps' remarkable conduct. (He, alas, showed no real sign of knowing that the conduct was inappropriate.) By any normal standard, the press corps' behavior this evening was news. But hundreds of journalists knew the rules. They knew they shouldn't say a word about their own cohort's strange conduct.
Take the first Bush-Gore debate, the event which decided the election. Six different networks took instant polls. Gore won every single poll - and then your press corps got busy. They decided that Gore's very-troubling sighs were the evening's extremely important Top Story. For the next several days, they played loops of Gore sighing (with the volume cranked), and the polls, they were quickly a-changin'. Meanwhile, the corps focused on trivial errors by Gore - and ignored a string of major Bush howlers. Bush misstated his own drug plan; misstated his own budget plan; and crazily said that Gore had outspent him. But forget about Candidate Bush's budget plan. The press flogged that school desk in Florida.
The press corps' performance was so astounding that several pundits actually said so. Tucker Carlson and Margaret Carlson appeared on Inside Politics the next day. "I was there, so I didn't hear [the commentary] last night," Margaret Carlson said, "and I was amazed to find out that our colleagues all said that it was a draw." Tucker Carlson, a conservative, was surprised by that too. His comments were truly remarkable:
TUCKER CARLSON (10/4/00): I mean, you know, and it's interesting - I mean, there is this sense in which Bush is benefiting from something, and I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the low expectations of the people covering him. You know, he didn't drool or pass out on stage or anything, so he's getting credit for that. But there is this kind of interesting reluctance on the part of the press to pass judgment on it. I think a lot of people - they don't, necessarily, break down along ideological lines - believe that, you know, maybe Bush didn't do as good a job as he might have. And yet, the coverage does not reflect that at all. It's interesting.
According to Carlson, a major insider, your press corps wasn't saying what it thought. On Hardball, Chris Matthews and Christopher Hitchens made the same observation. Hitchens - long a virulent Clinton-Gore critic - said the press corps was "determined to avoid" charges of "liberal bias." Matthews - who had trashed and slandered Gore since March 1999 - also said that pundits just weren't being truthful:
MATTHEWS (10/4/00): I couldn't believe the number of people who chickened out last night. It was clear to me - and I'm no fan of either of these guys entirely, and I can certainly say that about the one who I thought won last night, that's Al Gore - I thought he cleaned the other guy's clock, and I said so last night. All four national polls agreed with that...I don't understand why people are afraid to say so.
Comments like these - so rare in the press corps - disappeared quickly, of course. Don't expect to see them today, as the press tidies up its strange conduct. When press corps insiders tell the story today, "people just never warmed to Gore," and by contrast, those "people" liked Bush. When press corps insiders discuss this today, there's no word on how it all happened.
WHERE WAS FRANK? Did Frank Bruni's coverage reflect what he thought? In his book, Ambling Into History, he recalls his thoughts as he watched Debate I:
BRUNI (page 187): The skills that led to great debating were not ones that Bush naturally possessed, and his three subsequent debate performances made this clear. By any objective analysis, Bush was at best mediocre in the first debate, in Boston...In all of [the debates], he was vague. A stutter sometimes crept into his voice. An eerie blankness occasionally spread across his features. He made a few ridiculous statements...I remember watching the first debate from one of the seats inside the auditorium and thinking that Bush was in the process of losing the presidency.
Bruni thought that Bush was so bad that he "was in the process of losing the presidency!" But did Bruni?s report in the Times reflect that? Sorry. The next day, Bruni started with a four-paragraph passage about what a big *sshole Gore had been. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/18/02.
In Anybody Can Grow Up, Carlson explains the lousy coverage aimed at Gore in Campaign 2000. Bush had better food on his plane, and besides that, scribes liked him better. "It's a failure of some in the press," Carlson writes, "that we are susceptible to a politician directing the high beams of his charm at us. [eRiposte emphasis] That Al Gore couldn't catch a break had something to do with how he was when his hair was down." Needless to say, that is an astounding confession of press corps dysfunction. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/14/03.
For the record, Carlson had explained Gore's lousy coverage in real time, in a way that was even more revealing. On Tuesday, October 10, 2000, Carlson appeared on Imus in the Morning to discuss press coverage of Bush and Gore's first debate. As she noted, Gore was being slammed as a liar because of a few trivial misstatements. Much larger howlers were being ignored - misstatements by Bush about policy matters. Speaking with Imus, Carlson explained the press corps' apparent double standard:CARLSON (10/10/00): Gore's fabrications may be inconsequential - I mean, they're about his life. Bush's fabrications are about our life, and what he's going to do. Bush's should matter more but they don't, because Gore's we can disprove right here and now. We can't disprove that there's going to be a chicken in every pot.
According to Carlson, the press had focused on what was easy. She explained in a bit more detail:CARLSON: You can actually disprove some of what Bush is saying if you really get in the weeds and get out your calculator or you look at his record in Texas. But it's really easy, and it's fun, to disprove Gore.
It was "fun" to disprove Gore's errors! Carlson took her presentation through one more startling iteration:CARLSON: I actually happen to know people who need government, and so they would care more about the programs, and more about the things we kind of make fun of...But as sport, and as our enterprise, Gore coming up with another whopper is greatly entertaining to us. And we can disprove it in a way we can't disprove these other things.What an astonishing presentation! According to Carlson, the press was pursuing Gore's trivial errors because it was "greatly entertaining" to do so. And why had they ignored Bush's errors, which she found more significant? Because they weren't as easy to disprove! According to Carlson, the press agenda had been set by what was "easy" - and "entertaining" and "fun." It was "sport."
Part of what Carlson said this day was, of course, simply inaccurate. In fact, there was nothing hard about “disproving” some of Bush’s Debate I errors; the press corps simply preferred not to do so. But part of what Carlson said to Imus is clearer now because of her book. What did Carlson mean when she said, “I actually happen to know people who need government, and so they would care more about the programs, and more about the things we kind of make fun of?” To all appearances, she was talking about her brother Jimmy, who was born with severe brain damage. In her book, Carlson notes that her brother found “a fulfilling career” because he was given “a set-aside job” at a navy depot. “The American with Disabilities Act is a godsend,” she says. To all appearances, it was this powerful personal tie that helped Carlson understand why people might care about those “government programs”—“the things we kind of make fun of.” But there she was, telling Imus that it was “more fun,” “greatly entertaining” and “sport” to trash Gore for trivial errors.
Given her life experience, it must have taken a powerful force to make Carlson take part in this kind of "sport." Her book suggests what that force may have been. We finish our profile tomorrow.
In June, Howard Kurtz suggested the Gore coverage was odd; this month, E.J. Dionne just plain said it. And Fred Barnes, in a recent Weekly Standard, paints a truly remarkable picture of press corps incompetence and immaturity:BARNES: Gathered in a pack they can be cruel and unfeeling, but not when they're on their own. They're softies, easily schmoozed, ever susceptible to being fooled by appearances...At the moment, the likability award is shared by George W. Bush and John McCain, rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. Bush is fun to be around, gives everyone, including reporters, a nickname, and is something of a wise guy, which gets him in trouble from time to time but appeals to journalists. [eRiposte emphasis]
One's cheeks rouge for the press corps to hear this account, of people "cruel and unfeeling in a pack" but willing to pander if given a nickname. Barnes offers this portrait as an amusing aside. But if his remarkable portrait of the press corps is accurate, it is a disturbing account of a massive fault line in our debased public discourse.
And let's not forget these quotes as well.
Joe Scarborough (former Republican Congressman and MSNBC talk show host)
"...I think, in the 2000 election, I think [the media] were fairly brutal to Al Gore. I think they hit him hard on a lot of things like inventing the Internet and some of those other things, and I think there was a generalization they bought into that, if they had done that to a Republican candidate, I'd be going on your show saying, you know, that they were being biased..." [Hardball, MSNBC, Nov 2002]
- Tucker Carlson (conservative commentator on CNN - then)
"I remember being with someone I know who works at a major metropolitan daily. We were at this little forum in New Hampshire—like eight reporters there, it was one in the morning—Gore says something about his sister received, smoked dope for cancer treatment, and this reporter went after him in the most disrespectful way—it was shocking. I was embarrassed, and I wasn’t a Gore man. And I remember talking to her afterwards, you know, “Boy, you know that was pretty rough, what you did to the vice president,” and she said, “I just don’t like him. He’s a phony.” And that right there said it all to me. A lot of reporters didn’t like him on a personal level. I believe most of them voted for him anyway, but they just didn’t like him and they were mean to him as a result. [Carlson’s emphasis]" [Jan 2004]
THE PRESS v. BILL CLINTON
Again, I provided a few examples of this in my analysis on media bias and malpractice - but note one interesting quote below from Andrew Sullivan because I will come back to Sullivan at the end of this post:
Very little needs to be said on this considering that most reasonable people have acknowledged that the media was not just brutal on the Clintons, but routinely fabricated stories about them during the 1990s, unambiguously proving that the media was not "liberally biased" during the Clinton years. Sean Wilentz captured some of the media admissions in his 2003 Salon.com piece (extract below, bold text is my emphasis). He also pointed out how the media got no punishment and no retribution for their wide-ranging anti-Clinton malpractice in those years and some of the fraudsters on the Right actually got promoted and got cushy jobs in the Bush administration, instead:
Five years ago, I testified before Congress that history would harshly judge the unconstitutional impeachment drive against President Clinton. My position was fairly mainstream among American historians. By the time I testified, nearly 500 had signed a letter I helped to write with the distinguished scholars Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and C. Vann Woodward, deploring the impeachment on historical and constitutional grounds. Soon thereafter, a group of more than 400 leading legal scholars, including Cass Sunstein and Laurence Tribe, issued a similar statement.
Not surprisingly, Republicans lambasted both the historians' letter and my testimony, as did journalists and pundits playing amateur historians inside the right-wing media echo chamber. A group of 90 writers -- only three of them historians, but with a heavy contingent from the right-wing think tanks plus partisan ideologues from the Reagan and first Bush administrations, such as C. Boyden Gray -- composed a counter-statement attacking the historians. But a wide range of editorial writers and columnists in the so-called "liberal media" also denounced the historians for being "gratuitous" "condescending" and "partisan."
The historians' verdict was clear: The impeachment drive against President Clinton lacked constitutional and political legitimacy. The journalists' opinion was equally clear: The impeachment was legitimate, and the historians were really a fusty collection of liberal elitists who had no business sticking their noses into public affairs.
Now an extraordinary thing has happened. Journalists from across the political spectrum are finally acknowledging that impeachment was mostly a partisan crusade on trumped-up charges to bring down a popular president. "From the viewpoint of history," the conservative Andrew Sullivan wrote recently in the New York Observer, "it's going to seem deranged." They have conceded that numerous allegations noisily leveled against Clinton and repeated endlessly in the news media of which they are a part have turned out to be bogus.
The occasion for this sea change in conventional wisdom is the publication of Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars" and the response to it.
Even as journalists admit that Blumenthal has the goods to prove what a right-wing circus impeachment really was, they dismiss his revelations as score-settling, and worse -- as "history." The spectacle of the media, having gotten the story wrong in the first place, dismissing the book that gets it right is stunning, even to someone who lived through the actual impeachment.
Meanwhile, the most respectful reviews have come from historians -- Robert Dallek in the New York Times Book Review and David Greenberg in the Washington Monthly. Though not uncritical, both warmly praised the book's reconstruction of the historical record and called it the place to start in order to understand the Clinton presidency. Once again, the historians get the story right.
Journalists have attacked Blumenthal, a controversial figure in Washington press circles, for writing a memoir they deem a courtier's brief -- too one-sided, partisan and uncritical of Clinton. History is of less interest to these journalists than Blumenthal's personality, his devotion to the Clintons, and various trivial matters of great import to the news media, like whether "Hardball" host and Clinton-hater Chris Matthews really did lobby for the job as Clinton's press secretary.
Yet in working up their ad hominem cases against Blumenthal, even his journalist critics concede that the book's exposure of the partisan campaign against Clinton that culminated in the impeachment is accurate and persuasive.
Andrew Sullivan in the New York Observer: "The real value of this book is in its portrait of Mr. Clinton's foes ... .[T]he account Mr. Blumenthal gives of the haplessness and priggishness of Kenneth Starr is riveting stuff. The testimony of Sam Dash, Mr. Starr's ethics advisor, is particularly damning. The insane attempt to actually bring down a President over perjury in a civil suit has not yet been more vividly evoked."
Janet Maslin in the New York Times: "Certainly "The Clinton Wars" can point to baseless, breathless news coverage as a catalyst to the Kafkaesque."
Lev Grossman in Time: "Blumenthal's abiding theme is that Clinton's presidency was the victim of a right-wing political cabal that manipulated the media and the legal system to make mountains out of dunghills, and he makes a surprisingly convincing case by doggedly following countless news stories and allegations to their origins in tainted, planted, unfounded, retracted, distorted, misleading and plain nonexistent evidence."
Bill Bell in the New York Daily News: "No question, the Clintons were dogged by some extremely malignant, ignorant and hypocritical extremists, funded by a few rich conservatives ... .Beyond the settling of grudges and slights, though, is a bigger, dramatic story -- of the impeachment itself -- and Blumenthal's riveting account is sharp, spare and focused. It pulses with the energy of clashing ideologies and strategies and is propelled by the force of the legal, political and reputational stakes involved. It sets the standard for subsequent reports, including the one his Oval Office boss is writing."
Joseph Lelyveld in the New York Review of Books: "Blumenthal holds your attention when he pieces together the various components of what Mrs. Clinton called a "vast right-wing conspiracy," from Little Rock enemies and haters to the lawyers of the Federalist Society who worked their connections to the Office of the Independent Counsel to shift its focus from real estate to sex ... .Disgraceful things did happen. On more than one occasion, an Internet gossip columnist did set the agenda for mainstream news organizations. Stories without sources did gain instant currency. Some were fabricated."
But the more disturbing point is this: Impeachment isn't just "history." Some of the key "right-wing fanatics" who peddled "tainted, planted, unfounded, retracted, distorted, misleading and plain nonexistent evidence" that led to a "Kafkaesque" political "show trial" have more power than ever in politics and the media -- and have, it seems, actually benefited, personally and politically, from their attacks on the Constitution. The current corrected revised accounts by journalists leave the misimpression that only a few marginal right-wing zanies of passing importance were involved in the illegitimate effort to bring Clinton down. As the now uncontested facts around impeachment show, that is hardly the case.
One of the chief members of the "cabal of right-wing fanatics" was Theodore Olson, who, as counsel to the rabidly right-wing American Spectator, oversaw the notorious Arkansas Project that spread some of the most vicious lies about Clinton. (Olson was also one of the supposedly impartial "experts" who signed the petition attacking the historians in 1998.) In testimony before the Senate, Olson denied any involvement in the Project -- but that testimony was later fully documented as false. Yet Olson is now solicitor general of the United States, appointed by President Bush and approved by the Senate during the confusion that accompanied Sen. Jim Jeffords' defection to the Democrats in 2001. Among Olson's current tasks is selecting hard-right nominees for the federal judiciary, with whom the Bush administration is now trying to pack the courts. Many of those nominees are, like Olson, closely connected with the radical activist circles within the Federalist Society, the right-wing lawyers' group that also produced several of the so-called "elves" who plotted Clinton's downfall.
Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas did more than any House Republican to coerce his colleagues into supporting impeachment. DeLay privately threatened moderate Republicans who would not go along, using right-wing fundraisers and 60 designated whips to do his dirty work for him. "Coming out of the election," Republican congressman Peter King later said, "I didn't hear anyone discuss impeachment. It was over. Then DeLay took over." One by one, the moderates caved in to what DeLay and his minions were calling "the Campaign." At the time, DeLay was the House majority whip. Since then he has been promoted for his "deranged" attack on the Constitution by being named House majority leader.
In 1998, Bret Kavanaugh was a conservative lawyer on the staff of Kenneth W. Starr's Office of Independent Counsel. He coauthored the salacious so-called Starr Report that became the basis for the illegitimate articles of impeachment -- and the basis for Starr's aggressive testimony to Congress, in violation of the Constitution, that led the office's chief ethics advisor, Samuel Dash, to quit in protest. Today, Bret Kavanaugh is deputy legal counsel at the Bush White House.
In 1995, Michael Chertoff was chief counsel for Sen. Alphonse D'Amato's Senate Whitewater Committee that churned endless baseless allegations against the Clintons. Since then, he has served as Attorney General John Ashcroft's assistant atop the Department of Justice's criminal division (and a leading force behind the authorship of the so-called PATRIOT Act) and been nominated by George W. Bush to the federal bench.
Those who unprofessionally suppressed crucial pieces of evidence -- including the independent Resolution Trust Corporation report that exonerated the Clintons over Whitewater as early as 1995 -- will bear a heavy burden.
Near the top of the list for condemnation will be the multinational media conglomerate run by Rupert Murdoch, including the Weekly Standard, the New York Post, and (in conjunction with Roger Ailes) Fox News. Even before the Lewinsky story broke, Murdoch's outlets remorselessly hyped malevolent stories about the Clintons -- from Whitewater to Travelgate -- even after they were proven to be false. In 1998 and 1999, their slanted coverage of the impeachment drama performed a singular disservice to the truth. They have never corrected their numerous false reports, let alone apologized for them. Yet the Murdoch empire is now flourishing. Thanks to Bush administration rulings, its control over an increasingly concentrated and centralized media is likely to grow.
Let us not forget how the New York Times (and the Washington Post as well), participated in the extensive fraud against the Clintons - and never apologized for it.
As I said at the start of this extract, I want to add a note about Andew Sullivan. Sullivan conveniently painted [Bill] Clinton critics as deranged in the extract noted above even though he was one of them, but this is also pretty cute for someone who still has acute [Hillary] Clinton Derangement Syndrome. The latest example is this email he published on his blog from a reader - see Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left:
Clinton Derangement Syndrome. Exhibit A - Andrew Sullivan. Kevin Drum explains:
Andrew Sullivan [writes:]
Yes, Obama would beat us, bad. . . . But that is not what Democrats want....Hillary knows that her base voters are more filled with anger at Bush than they are with hope for the future and change for all the American people.
Whatever else you think about the Clinton vs. Obama question, this is almost certainly wrong. Among the activist liberal base — the people who are the loudest and angriest about what George Bush has done over the past seven years — support is way stronger for both Obama and John Edwards than for Hillary Clinton.
. . . Conservatives tend to be so blinded by their hatred for Hillary that they're convinced that her liberal supporters are also motivated by hatred. But they aren't. Among activist liberals, Hillary is mostly viewed as as smart and hardworking, but also triangulating and mainstream. She's the candidate of caution and moderation, not the candidate of the haters. The anti-Clinton fever swamp protests too much.
Sully Deranged. Nothing new there.
Anyway, the purpose of this post is to just point out how history is repeating itself - and do so while the 2008 campaign is going on rather than wait until it is over.