CyberAlert -- 07/02/1998 -- Starr No Man of Justice

Starr No Man of Justice;
Conservatives Yearn for an Enemy

1) The Hubbell decision "further weakens Starr's image as a man of justice," relayed ABC in picking up the White House line. In China Clinton can escape scandal, NBC trumpeted. ABC's Brian Ross discovered the PLA buys guns by delivering Victor Kiam's razors.

2) Conservative strategists attack Clinton's China policy only because they are "looking for a post Cold War enemy to replace the Soviet Union," CNN's Mike Chinoy viciously charged.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The judge's dismissal of the tax charges against Hubbell and his associates topped all but the FNC newscast Wednesday night. FNC went first with the opening of the Diana museum in England. The decision came late in the day, at about 4pm ET, forcing the networks to scramble as evidenced by how all the stories were read by a reporter sitting in the studio instead of from the field.

All the Hubbell stories ran through the judge's arguments about how Starr had exceeded his jurisdiction, had violated Hubbell's right against self-incrimination by using documents he had voluntarily turned over and had gone on a "fishing expedition" in making Hubbell comply with an overly broad subpoena. ABC's Jackie Judd relayed a Clinton ally claim that "this further weakens Starr's image as a man of justice." CNN's John King examined how the decision raised "new questions about the independent counsel and his hardball tactics."

But other than a quick references on CNN to how Starr was asking "did a friend give him lucrative jobs to keep him quiet?" None of the stories told viewers anything about how the charges stemmed from allegations Hubbell failed to pay tax on hundreds of thousands of dollars he received from Clinton associates at the time the independent counsel wished him to talk about his Whitewater knowledge.

On China, ABC's Brian Ross provided an exclusive on how the PLA makes money by selling clothing in the U.S. and delivering razors for Victor Kiam. CBS explored the spread of capitalism to rural areas, CNN looked at China's economic problems, FNC went through Clinton's day at the stock exchange and in a cyber café, and NBC highlighted trade barriers. Tom Brokaw was pleased Clinton could concentrate on economic matters instead of Whitewater and David Bloom suggested Clinton was gratified that Chinese reporters are "not like those pesky American journalists always asking about the Monica Lewinsky investigation."

Here are some highlights from the Wednesday, July 1 evening shows:

-- ABC's World News Tonight. The last words of Jackie Judd's opening story:
"A definite political blow for Starr tonight. What the judge said, Peter, plays directly into what the White House's allies have been saying, that this is an over-zealous prosecutor over-reaching in a bid to bring down the President. One of the President's allies told us tonight this further weakens Starr's image as a man of justice."

Next, after Peter Jennings showed Clinton touring the Shanghai stock exchange, intrepid ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross highlighted how China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) sells clothing in the West to make money. Ross explained:
"The same army that crushed the dissidents at Tiananmen Square has also been carrying out an aggressive program to maintain and modernize its forces with profits made from consumer goods sold in the West....The Clinton administration has encouraged such trade. It breaks no American law and low-priced PLA products can be found all over the country."
Ross showed a raincoat on sale at K-Mart. Noting that the PLA controls more than a dozen businesses, Ross illustrated how one delivers products inside China for Victor Kiam's Remington company which utilizes PLA "army trucks and warehouses to distribute his razors across China."

Finally, Jennings narrated a brief video clip showing Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and Madeleine Albright visiting a restored synagogue: "Mrs. Clinton said the project symbolizes respect for religious differences."

-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather opened the broadcast:
"Ken Starr's efforts to send a longtime friend of President Clinton back to prison failed today. A federal judge dismissed new tax evasion charges against Webster Hubbell. And the judge sharpy criticized the tactics Starr used against Hubbell in the special prosecutor's efforts to get incriminating information about the President and Mrs. Clinton."

Phil Jones handled the report and was followed by Kristin Jeannette-Myers who characterized the decision as good news for Monica Lewinsky since it shows there are limits on how far Starr can go.

From China, Scott Pelley showed Clinton at the stock exchange and then rolled tape on a pre-packaged story about how capitalism has also spread to rural areas. The Chinese, Pelley concluded, can work wherever they want and sell whatever they want so long as they don't challenge the political authority. He dubbed it "freedom within a cage." After Pelley reporter Anthony Mason focused on how China has become a key U.S. ally in countering the Asian economic collapse.

-- CNN's The World Today at 8pm ET dedicated its first 11 minutes to Hubbell.
First, Bob Franken delivered the overall story. Second, Pierre Thomas profiled Hubbell and how he became part of he Whitewater case. Starr was trying to get him to tell what he knew, and he had agreed to cooperate in Whitewater, but did not to Starr's satisfaction. One of Starr's questions: "Did a friend give him lucrative jobs to keep him quiet?"
Third, White House correspondent John King began his story: "Another setback for Ken Starr and new questions about the independent counsel and his hardball tactics..." King emphasized how it's the third defeat in a week for Starr after the release of Susan McDougal and his loss on getting notes from Vince Foster's lawyer, but King did acknowledge that he has earned 15 convictions. Fourth, Roger Cossack appeared to explain the judge's reasoning and its implications.

-- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET held Hubbell to a brief item read by the anchor. From China Jim Angle took viewers through Clinton's tour of the Shanghai stock exchange, visit to an Internet café, speech about trade barriers and evening boat ride.

FNC's Gary Matsumoto checked in with another exclusive about one more source in the CNN/Time tale about nerve gas who insists he never said what CNN's Peter Arnett reported. More on this in the next CyberAlert.

-- NBC Nightly News. Lisa Myers made a vague reference to Hubbell's outside income. The judge Wednesday dismissed the counts which was leveled in an April indictment "charging the Hubbell's had failed to report certain income and now owed taxes of more than $840,000." NBC twice highlighted how Clinton is doing good works and is able to escape his scandals in China. Introducing David Bloom's story, Tom Brokaw hailed Clinton's efforts:
"And in China tonight it's early Thursday morning where the President is continuing his trip. He's been concentrating on trade and economic matters in Shanghai, thousands of miles away from the Whitewater mess."
Bloom used video of Clinton at the stock exchange as a segue to a story on how trade barriers still hurt Western businesses. Specifically, how GM cannot import cars but must build them inside China, though they are full of U.S. parts. Jumping back to Clinton's day, Bloom reported:
"And he taped an interview for Chinese TV, his third unedited appearance in six days."
Clinton: "I did not anticipate being able to have that sort of open, sweeping communication with the Chinese people."
Bloom elaborated, though it's unclear which portion of this is really quoting Clinton and which part just reflects Bloom's suggestive mind-reading: "The President thanked the Chinese reporters. Good questions, he said, not like those pesky American journalists always asking about the Monica Lewinsky investigation."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) China is really a lot more democratic and open than Americans, more interested in their domestic political battles, are willing to realize. So argued CNN's Mike Chinoy last Friday in a June 26 The World Today story caught by MRC news analyst Eric Darbe. Amongst those missing the big picture: "conservative strategists looking for a post Cold War enemy to replace the Soviet Union." That's right, conservatives are "looking for an enemy," we don't really care about human rights. And neither does anyone on the left or right upset about China's repression.

Chinoy contended that "even now the crackdown in Tiananmen Square remains the defining moment in shaping American perceptions of China. What happened here, in 1989, witnessed by a huge American TV audience, produced a fundamental change in the way the public, politicians and the media in the United States looked at China. Overnight, a country once viewed as a pragmatic reforming partner was turned into a brutal international pariah."

An illusion shattered.

Chinoy complained: "Ever since 1989 China has been a target of constant criticism and China policy a source of bitter debate across the American political spectrum."

Following a clip of Clinton, Chinoy launched into a diatribe about all those frustrating Clinton from doing what is correct:
"Bill Clinton, himself, ran for President in 1992 by bashing China. Even after recognizing the geopolitical need to deal with Beijing his administration remains worried about the domestic political cost, and with some reason: from the religious right denouncing alleged persecution of Chinese Christians, to the anti-abortion lobby opposed to China's family planning program, to human rights activists angered over Beijing's treatment of dissidents, to trade protectionists and labor unions worried about the U.S. trade deficit with China, to conservative strategists looking for a post Cold War enemy to replace the Soviet Union, China tainted by Tiananmen has become a powerful political weapon for advancing domestic political agendas in the United States..."

Imagine that. Persecuting Christians, forcing abortions and imprisoning dissidents, yet not everyone wants to overlook it all. If only we could be a bit more open-minded and understand the big picture. -- Brent Baker

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