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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2001 / 21 Shevat, 5761

Cal Thomas

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Consumer Reports

Press trying to get its integrity groove back --
DURING the Clinton years, most of the American media played the role of Gov. George Wallace, who famously stood in the schoolhouse door in a vain attempt to keep blacks from integrating Alabama schools. The press stood in the information doorway, refusing to adequately investigate and report on many of the Clintons' misdeeds and attacking their opponents in order to keep those hated Republicans from taking over government and put forward more conservative economic and social ideas.

Like Wallace, who in later years repented of his actions, the mainstream press is now engaged in a desperate attempt to regain its lost virtue after playing the whore to the Clintons. They now claim to see what many others saw all along, never acknowledging their original blindness, or the reason for it.

Last Sunday, the lead editorial in The New York Times, which saw, heard and spoke virtually no evil of the Clintons while in office, now says, "we sense a national need to come to grips with the wreckage, both civic and legal, left by former President Clinton.'' One might reasonably question why such a great and influential paper ignored the wreckers while they were ransacking the Constitution. A few newspapers, like The Washington Times, were not taken in and did some great reporting, which was mostly ignored or dismissed by the mainstream press or, reluctantly reported, but quickly forgotten.

For eight years, the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the networks, which regularly take their cues from these newspapers, labeled as "Clinton-haters'' anyone who questioned the integrity or virtue of America's "royal couple.'' Only now, with the Clintons' looting of the White House and growing concern that the ex-President may have "sold'' a pardon to fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, does the major media claim to have been miraculously delivered from their self-imposed blindness and to see the Clintons' serial misdeeds.

Major editorial pages now use words like "tawdry,'' "crass,'' "sleazy,'' "unethical,'' even "illegal.'' The "Clinton-haters'' have used such words for more than eight years. Do they now carry weight because The New York Times has discovered them? Why weren't they appropriately descriptive when the "Clinton-haters'' used them?

Now that Clinton is gone, the same people who defended him, even through impeachment, now think they can pile on and no one will notice their indefensible behavior during his two terms.

Remember when they told us that Clinton's conduct was "only'' about sex? When the "Clinton-haters'' noted his sexual practices were only part of a pattern of immoral and illegal conduct, they were dismissed or negatively labeled. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was trashed as a self-righteous, voyeuristic hypocrite who was consumed by the minutiae of Clinton's sexual practices like some Internet chatroom dirty talker. Now we're learning, far too late, that Starr and others were slimed so the slime on the Clintons would be less noticeable.

In the Nov. 27, 1999 issue of Editor and Publisher magazine, JWR columnist Nat Hentoff wrote about "how the press saved Clinton's presidency,'' ignoring violations of the Constitution far more serious for the future of our constitutional republic than lying under oath about Monica Lewinsky and obstructing justice in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Hentoff quotes Robyn Blumner, another JWR columnist and member of the editorial board of the St. Petersburg, (Fla.) Times, who wrote, "One would be hard pressed to find a fundamental constitutional right that Clinton has not attacked in the courts.''

Hentoff asks, "How many other members of the press know that?'' It's a good question that should continue to be asked even as much of the mainstream press works overtime in an attempt to get its integrity groove back.

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