A Morally Bankrupt Press Decries Partisanship
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 8, 1998
Something amazing happened last week. Democrats in the House
cast their votes that suggest committing a felony - perjury before a federal
grand jury, not to mention perjury in a civil suit - is not an impeachable
offense. Then another amazing thing happened: these good old experts in the
press are suggesting it will be the Republicans who suffer for it.
When the House Judiciary Committee split along party lines
October 5 over whether an impeachment inquiry could proceed, ABC's Peter
Jennings expressed the media ethos best: "Only twice before have
Presidents faced such extreme action by the Congress. It was a partisan day,
to a fault." Is that all? The impeachment process boils down to
"partisanship" and "extreme action" by Congress?
For all the moaning and whining the media do about the
public's lack of respect for Washington and the trouble of attracting good
people into public service, they regularly decry that the political culture is
ruined by Democrats and Republicans disagreeing with each other. They
regularly pander to the masses by insisting the malignant sin of
"partisan bickering" is preventing a true utopia of "Kumbaya"-singing,
guitar-strumming, hand-holding harmonic convergence of governance from
floating into the Capitol.
That tendency was annoying enough when the media were
pushing their own policy goals, from the 1990 budget deal fiasco to the latest
attempt at media-empowering "campaign finance reform." It was
annoying enough when Bill Clinton came fresh from a 1996 campaign trashing
Newt Gingrich's supposed Medicare cuts, and the media presented without
question that Clinton would devote his second term to being "healer of
the breach." But now that the Republicans hold the moral high ground -
it's a "partisan mudbath" in the media's eyes.
Ever since the President admitted he'd lied about his acts
of congress with Monica Lewinsky, the media have enjoyed portraying the
aftermath as a hothouse of partisan bickering. Echoing the Democrats, sure,
they disdained the President's reckless behavior, but then equally bemoaned
the spectacle of congressional wrangling over the President's future.
The day after the party-line Judiciary Committee vote,
"Today" host Katie Couric asked Rep. Asa Hutchinson: "I'm sure,
Congressman, you are aware of the polls and most people in this country,
according to the polls, do not believe impeachment hearings should go forward.
Are you afraid of a backlash against the GOP?" Hutchinson replied:
"Well the greatest concern for a backlash would be that the American
people perceive that we're being unfair, overly partisan in this battle and
trying to be vindictive." Couric retorted: "Don't you think they
perceive that right now?" If that line of questioning doesn't serve to
plant an impression, what does?
Likewise, the same morning on ABC's "Good Morning
America," co-host/Clinton pom-pom girl Lisa McRee asked Democratic Rep.
Zoe Lofgren: "But with regard to this report that new charges will be
added. Is there any doubt in your mind that this is about inflicting political
damage, and is there anything you can do about it?"
Even after years of being lied to, some in the liberal media
still feel compelled to pass on Clintonite spin without too much - if any -
troublesome rebuttal from the other side. At CBS on the night of the Judiciary
Committee vote, White House reporter Scott Pelley declared: "One senior
White House official told CBS News in frustration today, that they were
reconciled that there would be no statesmanship, as he put it, in this process
until it reached the Senate." Pelley, who should be commended as one of
the tougher White House reporters, did explain that at the same time,
Clinton's team was urging Democrats to oppose impeachment so Thursday's vote
would look more partisan.
In his nightly online network news summary for the Media
Research Center, Brent Baker asked the right question. How can a reporter pass
on the White House line bemoaning a lack of "statesmanship"?
Wouldn't a statesman have resigned by now? And does it display statesmanship
to receive sexual favors while discussing troop deployment in Bosnia with a
Yes, you can expect that the partisan Republican will seek
to "inflict political damage" on Clinton. You can also expect the
partisan Democrat will seek to inflict the same on Republicans, talking up a
"backlash." What we shouldn't expect is a morally bankrupt media
which claim to care about truth, which claim to act as a watchdog over the
integrity of government, insisting that presidential perjury is an unserious
issue that needs to be passed over for the good of the country.
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