Politics & Policy

The Press & Clinton: Kissing & Making Up; Considering The Source; Poll Vaulting


I had the parents in all weekend doing the white glove test on everything. I got no credit for the hours of cleaning I put in before they even saw the place. All they could do was harp on the remaining dusty enclaves which resisted my apartment cleaning. Pick, pick, pick. “Jonah, is this thing dead?” “Jonah, if it starts to make sounds, you should really throw it away…or you could just go by the expiration date.” “Jonah, I know the suits at National Review pay you in day-old bread and puddle water, but I don’t think you should rent the place out to crack whores – at least not these crack whores.”

Ugh. This is why I moved away from home in the first place.

The ‘rents were down here for the White House Correspondents Dinner — Washington’s attempt to have a cool kid’s party like the cliques in New York and LA. I didn’t go this year (this is a bit misleading since I’ve only been once). There’s not much to report about the dinner. Between what I saw on C-SPAN and the first hand accounts, Brian Williams will never go by the moniker “Shecky.” Instead of a comedian, they had him riff on various topics. At one point he made some strange allusion to the vice-president finding a cure for the mumps — or something like that. Whatever the joke was supposed to be didn’t matter, because it conjured some unpleasantness.

Remember? Clinton allegedly told Juanita Broaddrick that he had the mumps and therefore she couldn’t get pregnant from his misdeeds. That seems about as close as the Washington Press Corps is willing to get to the credible assertion that the President of the United States is an un-indicted rapist. Instead, as the Correspondents Dinner demonstrated, the press really wants to make up with Clinton. That old story line is over — hence the ennui over the Julie Hyatt Steele trial — and we need the president to be Commander-in-Chief and post-Columbine therapist.

Still, the New York Times boycotted this year’s Correspondents dinner calling it an “antic opera bouffe of media, celebrity and politics” and a “glittery scrum.” Now, I don’t know what an “opera bouffe” is, but I’m pretty sure one of the crack whores here can provide the editors of the Times with a glittery scrum. Still, I get the gist of what the Times is talking about. The Correspondents dinner has become fiesta of publicity seeking. It started last year with the awkward decision of Insight Magazine to invite Paula Jones. What Insight should have known is that if the contest is over media-whoring they just can’t compete with the likes of George magazine.

As some readers might recall, George’s current issue has a piece on the top 10 publicity hounds in D.C. I make the list.

And I didn’t even have to ask the nation’s biggest scumbag pornographer to break bread with me. George invited accused pedophile and renowned pornographer Larry Flynt to the Dinner. They also invited Richard Mellon Scaife, who had the good sense not to go. The logic of inviting Flynt and Scaife is obvious. They are celebrities. By pairing “opposing” celebrities together, George gets to be clever about how politics is just show business. Newly hired George columnists Paul Begala and Alfonse D’Amato do their little Tickle Me Elmo schtick’s — showing that none of those silly arguments really matter. Indeed, that is the philosophy, for want of a better word, of George — Epicurean political celebrity, which is the essence of what the Times is offended by.

The Times takes itself so seriously, they thought the Cold War wasn’t over until they said so. I’m not kidding. But George takes itself so unseriously that it believes we should care what Madonna “thinks” about arms control. If forced to choose between the two, I guess I’d go with the Times. To paraphrase one of the seven things that comes out of Al Gore’s mouth when you pull that string in his back, we should not be paralyzed by these “false choices.” There has got to be a middle ground between a media culture which thinks Barbra Streisand is a latter day Bagehot and one which thinks that something’s not a problem until Harvard’s Kennedy school says so.


Richard Mellon Scaife — the reclusive millionaire who has helped fund the forces of truth and light for the last thirty years — probably declined to attend the party because he didn’t want to be pestered by a bunch of people who think Geraldo Rivera knows what he’s talking about. Alas, such good judgement couldn’t spare him from a two-part profile in today’s and yesterday’s Washington Post. He refused to be interviewed, which was convenient for the Post: with him out of the way, they could deliver the hit without any interference.

I’ve never met Scaife. I probably know some people who’ve met the guy, but I’ve never talked to them about their impressions of the man. I simply have to assume that he’s gotten a bad deal. To be sure, it is not a truism that every person the hard left targets as a villain is necessarily wrongly accused, but it’s surely the way to bet. For instance, I bet you’d get a computer crash of Y2K intensity if you tried a Nexis search on how many times the White House said Ken Starr and Scaife had tea parties together. And yet the men never met, never spoke on the phone, never hung out in a gray Buick snapping nudie pics of Bill Clinton at the White House intern pool.

The Post’s profile depicts Scaife as a mean, drunk weirdo with a dysfunctional family. It is impossible to determine the veracity of these allegations. But, having seen what the Post’s profiles have done to people (like my mother), I would certainly suspend judgement. Still, has anyone ever seen a profile of Ted Kennedy in the Post which calls him a mean, drunk weirdo with a dysfunctional family? Here’s a guy who killed and perhaps murdered a young girl because of his boozing. When is the last time we saw a profile of the bigoted media mogul Ted Turner, who is certainly at the top of any loopy list and who throws around a hell of a lot more money than Scaife. (There goes my last glimmer of a chance at the Crossfire job).

The vast majority of what Scaife pays for is related to the dissemination of ideas. Why is that so terrible? The people writing these profiles are in the First Amendment business aren’t they? Why are Scaife’s critics so terrified by arguments they don’t agree with? These guys will defend to their last breaths the right of a hemophiliac HIV positive “artist” to turn himself into a sprinkler system of bodily fluids, and yet they think “something must be done” about all of these Right Wingers writing policy backgrounders.

It really is a pretty shocking development; the Left has managed to say that right-wing speech is somehow suspect. Aides to Al Gore dismiss Bob Zelnick’s new book on Al Gore not because of its content but because it was published by Regnery Publishing. This is an old strategy. The White House regularly dismisses legitimate charges by saying they come from “illegitimate sources.” It doesn’t matter what the facts are if they come from The Wall Street Journal, Regnery Publishing, The American Spectator, The Drudge Report, The Weekly Standard, and yes, good ol’ NR, just to name a few.

Imagine a Republican Administration saying, “We will not respond to stories appearing in The New Republic, The Nation or any other far left bastions of Fabian Socialism.”

Scaife’s crime, it seems to me, is that he has been too successful in making public arguments publicly. And that is really unforgivable.


Well, the polls close today at 5:00 PM and it looks like it will be a race down to the wire. I’ve been following the results all weekend. The race is now between the spammers. The non-spammers, candidates too tepid for such chicanery, are down to fractions of a percent. I guess George Bush and Liddy Dole supporters just don’t have the fire in the belly that the Buchanan Brigades and the Fighters for Forbes do. Results will be released tomorrow.

THE JONAH POLL: Who would you most like to see get the Republican nomination and become President of the United States? (link defunct)

To view the results, please click here. (link defunct)


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