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Klein: No 9-11 If Only Clinton "Had Been Free to Fire Freeh"? --6/21/2004


1. Klein: No 9-11 If Only Clinton "Had Been Free to Fire Freeh"?
9-11 Ken Starr's fault? On NBC's Meet the Press, after endorsing Bill Clinton's disgust for Ken Starr ("He makes a very strong case for Starr's abuse of power") and agreeing with Clinton's view of himself more as victim than perpetrator ("My feeling is, that in the end on all this stuff he's more sinned against than sinner"), Time magazine's Joe Klein gave credibility to Clinton's claim that but for the Lewinsky scandal Clinton would have fired FBI Director Louis Freeh, who had supposedly proven incompetent in the battle against terrorism. Klein suggested "we might have had a better shot at rolling up those al-Qaeda cells if Bill Clinton had been free to fire Freeh."

2. Margaret Carlson Rails Against Outrages and Abuses by Ken Starr
Joe Klein's Time colleague, Margaret Carlson, also used the release of Bill Clinton's book as an opportunity to denounce Ken Starr. For her "Outrage of the Week" on CNN's Capital Gang, Carlson urged viewers to go see new pro-Clinton movie, The Hunting of the President, "and be outraged again at Ken Starr, who abused his power."

3. Rather Touting Clinton Book as Best Since Grant Too Much for NYT
Dan Rather too favorable to Bill Clinton even for the New York Times. In a front page review on Sunday of Clinton's book, My Life, Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani dismissed Clinton's tome as "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull -- the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history." Kakutani took aim at Rather's evaluation, pointing out how while Dan Rather "has already compared the book to the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, arguably the most richly satisfying autobiography by an American president, My Life has little of that classic's unsparing candor or historical perspective."

4. Totenberg Uses 9-11 Report as Hook to Denounce "Star Wars"
NPR's Nina Totenberg used the 9-11 Commission report about the ineffectiveness on 9-11 of America's air defenses as an excuse to denounce expenditures on missile defense.


Klein: No 9-11 If Only Clinton "Had Been
Free to Fire Freeh"?

Joe Klein 9-11 Ken Starr's fault? On NBC's Meet the Press, after endorsing Bill Clinton's disgust for Ken Starr ("He makes a very strong case for Starr's abuse of power") and agreeing with Clinton's view of himself more as victim than perpetrator ("My feeling is, that in the end on all this stuff he's more sinned against than sinner"), Time magazine's Joe Klein gave credibility to Clinton's claim that but for the Lewinsky scandal Clinton would have fired FBI Director Louis Freeh, who had proven incompetent in the battle against terrorism. Klein suggested "we might have had a better shot at rolling up those al-Qaeda cells if Bill Clinton had been free to fire Freeh."

In Time itself, Klein called Clinton's case against Starr "powerful."

On Meet the Press, recalling Time's interview conducted last week with Clinton, upon the release of his lengthy tome, My Life, Klein picked up on a finding of the 9-11 Commission about Freeh's supposed poor job on counter-terrorism and expounded, during a roundtable segment:
"One of the other things that Clinton told us was that he would have fired Louis Freeh as FBI Director if it hadn't been for the media and for the fact that we would have associated that firing with the investigation of the Lewinsky scandal. Now, that is incredibly damning because from what I can understand, the FBI was entirely incompetent, not doing anything in terms of counter-terrorism over those years. And so in some ways, you could say that we might have had a better shot at rolling up those al-Qaeda cells if Bill Clinton had been free to fire Freeh."

Of course, there would have been no need to fire Freeh if Clinton hadn't hired him. Clinton nominated Freeh in 1993. And what evidence is there that Clinton had any knowledge of Freeh's supposedly bad management on counter-terrorism?

In fact, though Clinton did make the claim that Klein conveyed, his comment to Time magazine was in the "if I had known" form, so he didn't know and therefore would have had no reason to replace Freeh on counter-terrorism grounds. From the Time magazine interview in the June 28 edition:

On why he never fired FBI Director Louis Freeh

If I had known that when we tripled the counterterrorism funds none of it was put into improving the data processing and interconnecting with the CIA and other intelligence agencies, if I had known that the Executive Order I signed fairly early in my Administration ordering the CIA and the FBI to exchange high-level people and cooperate more hadn't been done, I might have done so.

But since the FBI chief gets a presumptive 10-year term, I didn't feel what I thought was outrageous treatment of us, particularly by him personally, was worth replacing him, because all of you [in the media] would have said, Well, he's doing it because he's got something to hide, and I didn't have anything to hide. I knew there was nothing to Whitewater, I knew there was nothing to the Paula Jones case -- Ken Starr could have as many FBI agents as he wanted doing whatever they wanted to do.

END of Excerpt

For the Time interview in full, available only to subscribers: www.time.com

For a bio and picture of Freeh: www.fbi.gov

In Time magazine, Klein, the MRC's Tim Graham noticed, endorsed Clinton take on independent counsel Starr and the media fecklessness. An excerpt:

The case he builds against Starr in My Life is a lawyer's case, careful and powerful. In retrospect, it is clear that there was no substance to the Whitewater allegations and the other White House scandalettes -- the travel-office firings, the FBI files, the death of Vince Foster -- except, of course, Lewinsky. It seems clear that Starr conducted an unseemly and irresponsible investigation filled with "abuses of power," as Clinton contends, illegal leaks to the press and barely legal coercive tactics against prospective witnesses. And it also seems clear that the press was way too credulous about Starr's allegations and didn't pay nearly enough attention to his methods.

But Clinton takes the Starr assault well beyond the facts of the case and fits it into a witting effort by radical conservatives to keep power -- the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a formulation he clearly supports but is careful not to use. For years Clinton has professed that fighting against impeachment was one of the triumphs of his administration. He seems to have a dual purpose now: not just to discredit Starr but also to make the war against the ultraconservatives a significant part of his presidential legacy. He wants to be remembered for the Starr investigation. And so one of the more remarkable moments in our interview was when Clinton brought up his affair with Monica Lewinsky without our having to ask about it. Clearly he had fitted Lewinsky into his unified field theory of his life. "I think," he told us, "if people have unresolved anger, it makes them do nonrational, destructive things." The President insisted that was not an excuse, just an explanation. "I think a lot of it was that I was back to living my parallel lives with a vengeance, dealing with the Ken Starr thing."

END of Excerpt

For Klein's article in full, "Citizen Clinton: With his memoirs and media tour, the former President launches his latest campaign. This time it really is one for the history books, and Ken Starr is a major chapter," see: www.time.com

Margaret Carlson Rails Against Outrages
and Abuses by Ken Starr

Joe Klein's Time colleague, Margaret Carlson, also used the release of Bill Clinton's book as an opportunity to denounce Ken Starr. For her "Outrage of the Week" on CNN's Capital Gang, Carlson urged viewers to go see new pro-Clinton movie, The Hunting of the President, "and be outraged again at Ken Starr, who abused his power."

Carlson's "Outrage of the Week" on the June 19 Capital Gang, in which she played off of Bill Clinton's Sunday night appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes: "In about 60 minutes, we'll all be sick of the former President, but you should still see The Hunting of the President and be outraged again at Ken Starr, who abused his power not just against the President -- who deserved some of what he got -- but against Susan MacDougal, who deserved none of it. Starr demanded that she swear false testimony against the Clintons. She refused, and Starr locked her up for two years. She got no Senate seat, no money, no thanks. 60 Minutes should give her 60 minutes."

The Web site for The Hunting of the President, a film produced by Harry Thomason, showcases this subhead: "The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill Clinton."

The movie, "based on the best-selling book by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason," is narrated by Morgan Freeman.

The Web site for the movie: www.thehuntingofthepresident.com

Rather Touting Clinton Book as Best Since
Grant Too Much for NYT

Dan Rather too favorable to Bill Clinton even for the New York Times. In a front page review on Sunday of Clinton's book, My Life, Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani dismissed Clinton's tome as "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull -- the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history." Kakutani took aim at Rather's evaluation, pointing out how while Dan Rather "has already compared the book to the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, arguably the most richly satisfying autobiography by an American president, My Life has little of that classic's unsparing candor or historical perspective."

Indeed, Friday night on CNN's Larry King Live, Rather trumpeted: "I read the book completely. And I think it compares very favorably with Ulysses S. Grant's gold standard of presidential autobiographies. You know, Grant's, which was written, of course, in the 19th century, is over 1,300 pages, well over that. A long time ago, I actually read it. I don't claim to be the best anchorman around, but I do claim to be the only one who's actually read both Ulysses S. Grant's and Bill Clinton's autobiographies."

An excerpt from "The Pastiche of a Presidency, Imitating a Life, in 957 Pages," the review in the June 20 New York Times:

As his celebrated 1993 speech in Memphis to the Church of God in Christ demonstrated, former President Bill Clinton is capable of soaring eloquence and visionary thinking. But as those who heard his deadening speech nominating Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta well know, he is also capable of numbing, self-conscious garrulity.

Unfortunately for the reader, Mr. Clinton's much awaited new autobiography "My Life" more closely resembles the Atlanta speech, which was so long-winded and tedious that the crowd cheered when he finally reached the words "In closing..."

The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull -- the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.

In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr. Clinton's presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration. This memoir underscores many strengths of Mr. Clinton's eight years in the White House and his understanding that he was governing during a transitional and highly polarized period. But the very lack of focus and order that mars these pages also prevented him from summoning his energies in a sustained manner to bring his insights about the growing terror threat and an Israeli-Palestinian settlement to fruition.

Certainly it's easy enough to understand the huge advance sales for the book. Mr. Clinton would seem to have all the gifts for writing a gripping memoir: gifts of language, erudition and charm, combined with a policy wonk's perception of a complex world at a hinge moment in time, teetering on the pivot between Cold War assumptions and a new era of global interdependence. Add to that his improbable life story -- a harrowing roller-coaster ride of precocious achievements, self-inflicted slip-ups and even more startling comebacks -- and you have all the ingredients for a compelling book.

But while Dan Rather, who interviewed Mr. Clinton for "60 Minutes," has already compared the book to the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, arguably the most richly satisfying autobiography by an American president, "My Life" has little of that classic's unsparing candor or historical perspective. Instead, it devolves into a hodgepodge of jottings: part policy primer, part 12-step confessional, part stump speech and part presidential archive, all, it seems, hurriedly written and even more hurriedly edited.

In fact, "My Life" reads like a messy pastiche of everything that Mr. Clinton ever remembered and wanted to set down in print; he even describes the time he got up at 4 a.m. to watch the inaugural ceremonies for Nigeria's new president on TV. There are endless litanies of meals eaten, speeches delivered, voters greeted and turkeys pardoned. There are some fascinating sections about Mr. Clinton's efforts to negotiate a Middle East peace agreement (at one point, he suggests that Yasir Arafat seemed confused, not fully in command of the facts and possibly no longer at the top of his game), but there are also tedious descriptions of long-ago political debates in Arkansas over utility regulation and car license fees . There are some revealing complaints about missteps at the FBI under Louis Freeh's watch , but there are also dozens of pointless digressions about matters like zombies in Haiti and ruins in Pompeii....

END of Excerpt

For the review in full: www.nytimes.com

Dan Rather's 45-plus minutes of air time Sunday night with Bill Clinton is too much for me to analyze this morning, but he certainly let Bill Clinton convey his sometimes ridiculous recitations of what happened, such as matching Hillary's tale that she didn't realize the truth about Lewinsky until August when he told her, and then how because of that he slept "on the couch" for a month even though the White House has about 12 bedrooms.

For CBSNews.com's rundown of the June 20 60 Minutes interview: www.cbsnews.com

Totenberg Uses 9-11 Report as Hook to
Denounce "Star Wars"

NPR's Nina Totenberg used the 9-11 Commission report about the ineffectiveness on 9-11 of America's air defenses as an excuse to denounce expenditures on missile defense. She opined at the top of Inside Washington over the weekend:
"We should have been spending money and attention on our own national defense internally instead of spending quite zillions of dollars on a Star Wars defense. That was the wrong place to be putting the bucks."

As if we couldn't put money into more than one area.

# Stephen Hayes will be the guest tonight on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's the author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America. For an excerpt, see the June 17 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

-- Brent Baker