Saturday, April 23, 2016

100 years ago today

The New York Times tweeted out a picture of its front page from April 23, 1994 to mark the Yahrzeit of that lovable old criminal Richard Nixon:
Our eyes fell not on the obituary of the Mad Bomber of Cambodia but on the page one story right next to it.  Apparently in those quaint pre-social media, pre-Internet days, the media used to peddle ridiculous stories about “scandals” involving the Clintons, including one Hillary Clinton, all of which vanished upon cursory examination.

How long ago it seems!  For those of you under 40, the term “Whitewater” referred to the investment by the Clintons in a busto Arkansas land deal sponsored by a friend of theirs who turned out to be a crook.  Slightly embarrassing to be sure, but a page one scandal?

The New York Times sure thought so.  We took a look at the April 23 story, to learn why it merited its placement next to the death of a disgraced President.  The perfectly reasonable piece, by Gwen Ifill, recounted Mrs. Clinton's press conference which she held to respond to various media questions about the investment, none of which reflected any conceivable illegality on the part of the Clintons.

She quoted the favorable response of the First Lady's aides, and for balance threw in a dart from then Senator Alphonse D'Amato alleging the insufficiency of her responses.  He especially noted that she did not explain why their partners in Whitewater bore more of the risk of loss.  Senator D'Amato, it will be recalled, made his money through insider trades placed by his crooked brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Perhaps the Times thought it was doing the Clintons a favor by putting her response on page one, after having run many prior Whitewater non-stories there.  But it's well to remember that as with the other Clinton scandals, there was never anything there.

That same day, Maureen Dowd, not yet a famous Times columnist, provided the “news analysis.”  Amazingly enough, she agreed with the bent Sen. D'Amato, stating that Hillary did not “ever really answer the question of why the Clintons' partners, the McDougals, wound up bearing so much more of the burden of the losses in Whitewater than the Clintons did.”

For good measure, Ms. Dowd attacked the Clintons thusly:
And she was never able to satisfactorily explain why the White House has had so many conflicting stories on so many important issues, and why their explanations have changed so many times in the past few weeks. 
Ah, conflicting explanations made in the heat of a political firestorm.  It sounds as bad as something actually illegal or unethical.  Except it isn't.

At least Ms. Dowd gave her some credit:
With a calm, unwavering gaze, she apologized over and over for whatever customs of the city she and her husband might have violated . . . .
It got us to thinking how much has changed since those long-ago days, when the media and professional or political Hillary-bashers would team up to build a “scandal” out of a bad investment, new drapes for the White House, or a private email address for private emails.

How different it all looks today.  Nowadays, when there's some non-existent “scandal” supposedly attached to Senator Clinton, there's a new made-up problem, posed by a famous Times columnist as follows: “Wouldn’t it be a relief to people if Hillary just acknowledged some mistakes?”  (The New York Times, April 16, 2016)

Who was excoriating Hillary Clinton for failing to apologize with adequate frequency?  Your guess is probably better than her memory.

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