Friday, January 18, 2008

The Lewinsky Decade

James Taranto reviewed the state of American politics on the 10-year anniversary of the most famous scoop in Internet history -- The Drudge Report's January 17, 1998 alert that Newsweek's Michael Isikoff had learned that "A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States" and Newsweek had spiked the story. Taranto analyses the state of politics, the ease with which the Clintons flipped the focus of the issue from themselves to the Republicans; the effectiveness of Pres. Clinton's strategy to lie, lie, lie; the paranoid response by HRC (accusing "this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."); and the highest level of pure partisanship to ever hit Capitol Hill from the Clinton impeachment and trial to the election of 2000 to the Daschle-led Senate.

But there's another key aspect to this -- conservative distrust of the press reached an all-time high in the immediate post-Lewinsky days and has not abated. The mainstream press spiked the story (Newsweek), and buried or ignored the story (NYT and Washington Post) until the Stained Dress exposed Pres. Clinton as a liar. Instead, the press allowed Clinton to air his misrepresentations, gave credence to the VRWC accusation and painted the Republicans as accusers from the Salem Witch Trials and Ken Starr as a new Thomas Newton. When the Stained Dress exposed Clinton as a liar and the press as his dupes, the media took a well-deserved hit to its reputation for objectivity and honesty. That only worsened with its coverage of the 2000 election, the false Bush National Guard story in 2004 and the NYT's various national security exposes that have harmed the national interest since 2004.

And it all started because a fat philanderer liked the zaftig intern in the beret.

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