As I suggested and suspected in this space, the Danny Williams story did not pan out. The President did not have an illegitimate child with a black prostitute, as first hinted at in a report by Matt Drudge. But, wasn’t it instructive that not even the president’s closest allies dared refute the story categorically?
I do not think Matt Drudge should have reported the story. It was a judgment call and he probably went the wrong way. Journalists, even tabloid journalists, should be able to investigate rumors without the allegation being reported as news before they can even find out if the rumor is unfounded. Matt Drudge, who is a friend of the family, is the subject of an unbelievable amount of sanctimony from the rest of the media. The bulk of this can probably be attributed to the fact that he scoops a lot of people and he does it with an attitude. The handwringers bemoan that Drudge doesn’t have an editor. But editors don’t exactly have the greatest track record in the wake of Ruth Shalit, Steven Glass, Mike Barnicle, “Operation Tailwind” etc. Besides, the Washington press corps is selective with its standards. I.F. Stone, a socialist who misreported much of the Cold War and took money from communists to do it, had no editor for his personal newsletter. There is a statue of Stone at the National Press Club — a tribute to the man’s enduring contribution to journalism.
Drudge does not apologize for how he does things and he admits it prominently when his stories don’t pan out — unlike the New York Times. The source of news is as often as important as the news itself. If the New York Times is reporting a campaign-finance story, that’s news in itself, even if the content of the story is unremarkable.
Nevertheless, there is a fine line here. When Drudge reports that the Times is working on a story there is a far greater likelihood that the story has merit than if the Star is on the case. The Star and the Enquirer by virtue of their nature, must investigate a great number of sleazy stories that do not pan out. Even in this case, where the Star was spending a lot of money to get to the bottom of the story, Drudge should have waited for something more. But please, spare me the tut-tutting from the old guard.
CHANGING WITH THE EONS
“One hundred years from now, people will look at the film of the president and the film of the other people. . . and people don’t change. . .In the year 2099, it’s going to be 72 percent believe that it was just trumped-up charges, 28 percent are going to believe the guy was a crook and should have been ousted with a stake in his heart. It’s frozen in time for eons.”
This is what someone “close to the president” told the Washington Post’s Peter Baker. This is like one of those coffee-shop place mats that invite you to guess how many things are wrong with the picture.
First, seventy-two percent of Americans don’t actually believe the charges against Clinton are “trumped up.” With the obvious exception of the loony and/or hardcore fringes, pretty much everyone thinks Clinton did the things he’s accused of. The argument is over whether what he did amounts to impeachable/removable offenses. Then there’s this idea that Clinton’s poll numbers are so enduring they will not only last through the impeachment trial, but they will last through the innumerable books by former administration officials, investigative journalists like Mike Isikoff and Jeffrey Toobin, the de-classification of Administration documents, millennia of social upheaval and renewal. Indeed when a race of super-intelligent cockroaches rules this planet, they will pick through the remains and ruins of the previous naked-ape society and say, “hmm this chief-ape was set-up” (this is actually a rough translation, as ants speak through chemicals in their antennae thus making exact spelling very difficult). Herb Stein, the former chair of Nixon’s Council of Economic Adviser’s made an observation once which many now call, “Stein’s Law.” It says, all trends which are not permanent must eventually stop. Clinton’s advisor’s might keep Stein’s law in mind.
Opinions change. France is no longer split about Dreyfus. America is finally coming around to the fact that Whittaker Chambers was almost 100 percent right and Alger Hiss was close to 100 per cent wrong. George Bush had 90 percent approval during the Gulf War, which didn’t do him a lot of good a year later. This anonymous hero of the Clinton administration is displaying two mental states. The first is simple wishful thinking with healthy splash of arrogance. The people in the White House need to believe they are on the right side of history for all time and that the rightness of what they are doing is written into the American genetic code. My guess is that even if Clinton stays in office, which now seems likely, the polls will turn viciously on the man long before the millennium is out, let alone the “eon.” The other tendency reflected by sentiments like this is rather horrifying. It is a belief that not only solace but salvation can always be found in public opinion polls.
GOOD FOR LAMAR
Lamar Alexander accused both George W. Bush, a.k.a G-Dub, and Al Gore, a.k.a. [insert cliched joke of your choice about Gore's stiffness here], of using “weasel words” in their campaign slogans. Both “compassionate conservatism,” and “practical idealism” have been ridiculed in this space. But I had no idea I was practicing the “politics of personal destruction.” G-dub shrugged off the attack, as is the prerogative of the front-runner. But Gore spokesperson Chris Lehane said that it is “unfortunate that [Lamar Alexander] has joined the Republican-attack pack by engaging in the politics of personal destruction.”
Now, Gore is probably the most arrogant politician of his generation. He cannot take criticism and he is particularly mean when the criticism sticks. Anyone remember his incredibly ungracious victory speech in 1992? “It’s time for them to go!” he bellowed about the opponents he just beat. Still, the idea that attacking a ridiculous phrase like “practical idealism” is a vicious personal attack is just plain nuts. If Alexander attacked Gore’s math on global warming would that be akin to insulting his mother?
NOTICE TO READERS
Ever since Linda Tripp announced last week that she needs money for her legal-defense fund I have been getting a great number of inquiries about how to send cash. I have no connection to, or knowledge of, those efforts. All inquiries should be made to her lawyers at ESQ2CW@AOL.