STARR GORED, WALSH IGNORED
by L. Brent Bozell III
February 12, 1998
Spurred on by their most macho political gut-puncher -
Hillary Clinton - the White House sprung into attack mode in Phase Two of
Monicagate, declaring "war" on independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Put aside the oddity of a draft evader's administration declaring
metaphorical "wars" and assembling "war rooms" to fight
scandals. Why doesn't this strategy beg the question from the media: Isn't
this an inappropriate attack on the judicial process, a spin-control Saturday
Perhaps because intimidating this special
prosecutor doesn't outrage the major media - it inspires them. What a
difference from just a decade ago, when their attitude toward Lawrence Walsh,
who was prosecuting the Reagan administration, enjoyed every benefit of the
doubt from this very same press corps. Consider:
1. The media never described the Iran-Contra prosecution as
a "war." They did refer to, and constantly condemned, the
"dirty little war," but that was the Contra resistance in Nicaragua,
see. "War" between Walsh and the Reaganites? I challenge you to find
a single major media reference to that.
The Clintonites' rhetorical excesses are also politically
calculated. In wars, the public often gets demoralized into opposing the war
instead of the aggressor. The war metaphor takes away the moral high ground of
an independent counsel, as the disinterested prosecutor investigating criminal
targets degenerates into a partisan political aggressor. Even the Clintonites
wouldn't dare strive for moral superiority these days, so they settle for
moral equivalence and confusion.
And media outlets have fallen for the White House attack
line. Time's cover read "Starr at War." Newsweek's cover promised
the latest on "The Secret Sex Wars." Newsweek's Howard Fineman cooed
"the president strikes back - shrewdly and smartly." On
February 6, Tom Brokaw began NBC's newscast: "Tonight, the war between
the White House and Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr went to a new
level." The examples are endless.
2. Polls and partisanship. The Clintonites announce a
"war," accuse Starr of partisan political persecution. Obediently,
and quite predictably, the national press filed report after report. Now come
the media polls confirming that a majority of Americans believe there is a war
being waged by a politically partisan prosecutor. Imagine that. NBC reported
that 64 percent said the Starr probe is "partisan and
political" while only 22 percent characterized it as "fair and
impartial." After years of James Carville and Co. attacks and Dan
Rather's constant references to Starr as a "Republican prosecutor,"
how could the results be otherwise?
Let's be honest. Do the American people really know enough
about Starr's investigation to be able to judge whether it's fair? Does the
press? In fact, none of us knows where Starr is heading. It's just speculation
based on rumors created by leaks emanating from who knows where. Memo to the
media: How about a media "rush to judgment" mea culpa on that one?
When Lawrence Walsh re-indicted Caspar Weinberger and leak
documents sullying George Bush a quaint four days before the 1992 election,
where were the stories about partisanship, and where were the subsequent polls
confirming the public's annoyance? (In contrast to Walsh, Starr sat back and
let it be known he would indict no one on the eve of the 1996 elections,
rendering all sorts of issues from the FBI files to Travelgate officially
non-news for the press.) The only mention of Walsh and partisanship in the
magazines was an April 27, 1992 Time dispatch - decrying the end of
Walsh's investigation: "The special prosecutor favors closing out the
inquiry before it becomes a partisan issue in the presidential campaign."
The Time headline: "A Mystery Without an Ending." That same headline
could have been used a dozen times in 1996 to focus on a dozen separate
unsolved Clinton scandals. No headline of that sort ever materialized.
3. Investigating the special prosecutor. CNN
President/Clinton buddy Rick Kaplan followed his January 28 roundtable seminar
on "media madness" against Clinton with another beaut the next week:
"Investigating the Investigator," where reporters announced Starr's
"conservative connections - his links with the President's political
opponents - have made him suspect." Another reporter suggested:
"Even if Starr's critics overlooked his connections to the right, they'd
probably still find ammunition by focusing in on his tactics."
But CNN and other outlets did nothing to investigate the
Walsh team's election-eve reindictment of Weinberger. CNN never investigated
the post-election question raised by the Washington Times: Why was the Clinton
campaign's detailed press release on the reindictment dated the day before?
Obviously, the Walsh team had leaked this political explosive to the Clinton
campaign, yet nobody cared.
Now, Walsh is back in the news. He's been invited on one
talk show after another to run down Starr's probe. There's a reason we don't
have trial by media. These journalistic judges make a one-sided kangaroo court
look like a pleasant alternative.
Voice Your Opinion!
Write to Brent Bozell
Home | News Division
| Bozell Columns | CyberAlerts
Media Reality Check | Notable Quotables | Contact
the MRC | Subscribe