The Radical Libertarian
Last January, before the scandal broke, 44% of Americans thought that the Clinton presidency was a success. Now, 70% of the people think it is a success. In the intervening year, Clinton's one accomplishment was to save himself from removal. Why did 26% of Americans change their minds? I believe that the answer is television. "Except for that, he's done a good job." When the average person hears that statement repeated 10 times a day and never refuted, he starts to believe it. Television news used Clinton's crimes as an occasion to mindwash America's undecided voters.
Many people assert that if Clinton were a Republican, he'd be out of office by now. Can there be a doubt? At the very best, the man is an embarrassment. His immorality and sloppiness in being caught disqualify him for any management position. Furthermore, he's guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. And if he's guilty in this small matter, sensible people must conclude that he's guilty in such matters as the campaign financing scandal and the abuse of the Justice Department in the travel office firings. Nevertheless, he keeps hanging on like a bad flu.
How does he do it? His greatest asset has been the liberal bias of television news. Everyone knows that about 80% to 90% of news people voted for the man, but how have they used their power to keep Clinton from facing the consequences of his actions?
If I were a student of the press, I could write a book on the subject, but I'll just make a few observations on how TV covered this scandal. Anyone who remembers Nixon's troubles knows that the press took the lead in uncovering material damaging to him. The same press has simply ignored Clinton's wrongdoing. Remember when Gore acted as Clinton's bag man at the Buddhist temple, collecting large donation from nuns who had vowed poverty? If he had been in the Nixon administration, television would have interviewed each sister for at least an hour on network TV. Or consider the case of Roger Livingstone. He was caught with more than 800 FBI files (a high ranking Nixon operative went to jail for having one ). Not only have reporters not gotten to the bottom of that story, they have not even discovered who hired Livingstone.
After some initial hesitation, the major news sources reported the facts of the Clinton scandal. At this point, the logic of news gathering dictated that reporters should reopen the other Clinton scandals and go over his record more carefully. This did not occur. Television turned all its power and influence to examining Kenneth Starr. Clinton sent out friends to slander Starr and for 7 months television news turned the spotlight on him. It would be interesting to compare the number of times Starr was mentioned on TV compared to the number of times Clinton was.
Starr worked for Clinton's Justice Department under the authority of a law that Clinton signed. He did an adequate job. As dozens of court decisions have shown, he stayed within the law. Nevertheless, television has turned him into a prototypical villain. Television news, and in particular the cable news channels, stopped reporting on Clinton and focused on Starr instead. They provided their viewers with an assortment of light weight Republicans who were so thrilled to be asked their opinions that they never questioned the premises of the shows they appeared on. [Premise 1 = Starr is on trial. Premise 2 = The best you can say about Starr is “not guilty." Premise 3 = You may not mention Clinton.]
Clinton's critics no longer criticized Clinton. They defended Kenneth Starr. Television put Starr on trial. Reporters looked into Starr's conduct as minutely as they had Nixon's. When they couldn't find anything damaging against him, television branded him as “overzealous." Meanwhile, Clinton's starstruck critics often joined his sock puppets in finding Starr “too aggressive." They chuckled with Clinton's paid and unpaid liars over Starr's “inept political skills."
Clinton's tactic of attacking anyone who questioned his conduct was a complete success because television news carried it out. During the Senate trial, Harkin of Iowa implied that Starr's involvement with the questioning of Monica Lewinsky was dangerous. Not a single reporter asked him a simple question, “Are you saying that Starr would suborn perjury or coerce untrue testimony?" To question Starr's villainy has become bad taste.
When Clinton's criminal conduct was examined by the House and then the Senate, Clinton used the same tactic and it was carried out on television in the same way. Many people say they are weary of hearing about Clinton. The fact is that Clinton's conduct is never mentioned. The whole focus of television news is on his critics and the legal process.
Let's consider some of the clichés and axioms that we've all learned on TV this year. We are told that the people “are tired of hearing about sex all the time." Does that sentiment make sense to you? Maybe the movies and TV should listen to these people and start producing G-rated shows. Of course, as I mentioned before, television does not talk about Clinton's sexual adventures; that would take time away from debating whether the process is fair.
It's interesting that Clinton's foes have never exposed anyone's sexual misconduct except his. However, Clinton's friends and detectives have exposed many of his critics' sexual wrongs. Apparently the original idea was to blackmail Republicans with the threat of exposure so that they wouldn't vote for Clinton's impeachment; but Clinton received an unexpected benefit when he started exposing people's sex lives. Television reporters and pundits told us that we were all tired of “sexual scandals," never mentioning that they were nothing but a Clinton tactic. By this omission, television created the general impression that everyone was exposing everyone else's sex life. Emboldened by their success with Starr, the pundits were able to blame Clinton's foes for acts they had never committed, acts that were part of Clinton's strategy. I suppose that's why Clinton was supposed to have sent his detectives to aid Larry Flint. Any sexual expose was seen as “part of the culture of personal destruction."
For another short example, television tells us that “everyone wants to put this matter behind us" as though Clinton's acquittal by some body would end the discovery of his crimes. It also implies that Clinton didn't actually commit any crimes and so will not commit more crimes in the future. I guarantee you that either more crimes will come to light or many more crimes will be committed to keep his past crimes quiet and to punish his enemies. Clinton's Justice department has already begun a political reign of terror with its investigation of Kenneth Starr. Can anyone doubt that the IRS is equally busy? The matter of Clinton's corruption can never be “put behind us" until it is recognized and ended.
Consider the polls, “Clinton has a 65% (or 70%) approval rating" has become a cliché. It is also a self-fulfilling statement. Suppose that Clinton were a Republican with the same approval rating. Television would simply report a different number. “Last week, 72% of the people believed that the Republican president committed crimes; the number jumped to 81% this week." By focusing on the number of people who believed that Clinton was guilty, television could have lowered his approval rating. Needless to say, the steady increase in the number of Americans who thought he was guilty was not generally reported. His approval rating though, was reported many times a day on many different networks and repeated constantly on cable talk shows.
Another bit of common wisdom is absolutely false. It goes like this: “Republicans are doing this to satisfy their 'hard-core base.'" About a third of Americans want to see Clinton removed. Suppose that the Republican party had a hard core of 30% of the people. The Democratic party wouldn't exist. Thirty percent of the people is 50% to 60% of the electorate. I've never heard any one challenge this completely false statement. It's worth noting that the people who want Clinton removed are probably 40% to 50% of the electorate. If television news people ever studied the third of the people who want Clinton out, they might discover a truth that would be devastating to Clinton and a real scoop. They seem content with the common wisdom that these people are “hard-core Republican voters."
The Senate trial is now under way. If two or three Democratic senators turned against him and spoke out, he could be convicted. It is absolutely essential that television create the impression that such an event is impossible. Fortunately for Clinton, television has the power to declare reality before it happens. Reporters constantly say that the Republicans are looking for “an exit strategy." They tell us that “Clinton can not be convicted." When television has declared the matter settled, it would take a very brave Democrat to demur. But suppose that Clinton were a Republican. We wouldn't hear that he won't be convicted; we would a constant drone of something even more certain, “He committed the crimes he's accused of." Television would place any Republican who planned to vote against removal on the defensive.
If all this is not enough, the pundits constantly speak of the “political price" those voting to convict will have to pay. Polls show no evidence that anyone would pay a price for a vote either way; but TV's talking heads have declared this revenge a reality. They would probably try to make it an issue in the 2000 campaign if they thought it would help Democrats; but it won't. If a person votes against Clinton, he can make a very simple speech. “I agree with the 80% of American people who think he's guilty. We kick judges out of office for the crimes he committed. My conscience would not allow me to vote for acquittal."
Here are some more examples of clichés and new words we learned from TV last year:
1. Clinton is doing a good job. No one noticed this until the scandal broke and his approval rating increased by 10% or 20%. The endless, unchallenged repetition of this statement on television (including shows like Hardball that condemn the preident) convinced people of its truth. The revelation of the scandal and crimes propelled Clinton to his highest ever approval ratings.
2. Foreigners laugh at the scandal. Of course, they do because: a. They learned about it from the pro-Clinton American press. b. They learned about it from their own government paid reporters. c. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they believe that their governments have better structures than ours. d. They don't know what it's about. e. They believe that political leaders are entitled to rule them. The fact that foreigners are laughing at Clinton's prosecution is enough reason in itself to pursue it.
3. SEXLIES (one word). These are harmless lies about sex. For instance, if you used state troopers to secure a woman and then exposed yourself to her, you obviously wouldn't admit it. If, for example, you raped someone, you wouldn't want to talk about that in court either. No harm done.
4. PERJURY TRAP This is the evil practice of asking a liar a question in court.
5. SMOKING GUN This is what the house managers need to prove that Clinton is guilty. Apparently a room full of smoldering bombs is insufficient.
A year ago, Clinton's mad dog, Carville, declared war. He said that if Clinton ever admitted to an affair with Monica Lewinsky, he would no longer defend him. When Clinton did admit to the affair, reporters were too polite to mention his previous statements. About the same time, Dick Morris took a poll that showed Americans would forgive Clinton for his affair but not for perjury. Clinton replied that “We'll just have to win." Clinton has apparently won his war. It was a war against the truth that turned into a war against the consciences of the American people. The American people will now forgive perjury, perjury before a grand jury, and obstruction of justice. Clinton won. He has corrupted the morals of his supporters and trivialized the morals of his detractors; but he could never have done it without the support of television reporters and executives.
I remember hearing that when Polish children watched Communist television, their parents would tell them, “The people you see are not our friends; they are our enemies." That's what I tell my children.