The Whitewater scandal seems like such a distant issue to most Americans that it takes eternal vigilance (and political incorrectness) for someone to put it in perspective. When Susan McDougal was acquitted of criminal contempt charges by a Little Rock jury April 12, somewhere between the media cheerleaders, the Landmark Legal Foundation's Mark Levin got what should be the last word.
On MSNBC'S "InterNight," Levin was double-teamed by Susan's fiancee Pat Harris and Susan's brother Bill Henley. When Henley demanded that Levin list his donations from conservative benefactor Richard Scaife, Levin deadpanned: "We don't loot S&Ls for our money. We get ours legally."
The relentless Clintonian spin too often succeeds in making everyone forget the obvious: American taxpayers were swindled out of 60 million dollars during the 1980s by the McDougals and their business partners, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Susan McDougal fraudulently applied for a $300,000 Small Business Administration loan designed for minority business and blew the wad. It was never paid back. Susan McDougal spent your money and mine on fancy clothes and high living. All that has been lost in the unrewarding search for a crucial question: did Bill Clinton know about the fradulent loan, and urge David Hale to approve it?
While most TV outlets parachuted into the latest Susan McDougal trial after the not-guilty verdict, NBC News star Geraldo Rivera had devoted by far the most TV coverage of what he called "Sweet Susan" and her war on "Starr and his bullies." None of it was the slightest bit objective. Every minute oozed his love for the Arkansas icon of the Decade of Greed.
On his CNBC show "Rivera Live" the night of the verdict, Rivera exchanged glowing words with McDougal attorney Mark Geragos: "If I was there, buddy, I'd give you a slap on the back. I'd give you a high-five and a hug." Geragos was grateful: "Geraldo, I wish you were here. I'll tell you. I want to thank you. You were kind of, as they say, early money in this case and we appreciate it more than I can tell you." Rivera replied warmly: "Well, it was really my pleasure. I really thought all along that to bring the criminal contempt after she did 18 months on the civil contempt showed a kind of viciousness that made Ken Starr a legal terrorist in my book."
Geraldo's complete obliviousness to appearances seemed to be rubbing off on NBC's Little Rock correspondent, Ron Blome. When he saw Blome was reporting from the victory party, Rivera exclaimed, "Oh man have a drink for me. I know you don't." But Geragos convivially replied: "You give Ron his credit. He's already bought me a drink tonight at the party. He's quite a man, that Ron Blome."
NBC News also brought on Geragos on the Today show the next morning, where co-host Katie Couric set up the defense lawyer's speeches. "What did you think the message of the verdict was?...During the course of this trial, you put Ken Starr on trial, didn't you?...As you know, the independent counsel law is about to expire and there will be a debate on Capitol Hill on this. Do you expect Susan McDougal to testify?" Couric ended by asking about Susan's future plans: "She was pretty funny. She doesn't know how to live except as a defendant. What is she gonna do?"
The media which demonized 1980s symbols of high finance from Michael Milken to Leona Helmsley always have projected a soft spot for this Southern-fried scam artist. She was either the fun-loving party girl in a white jumpsuit, perched on a horse selling real estate lots; or the pathetic, persecuted victim in prison orange, stumbling to court with leg-irons.
The media which take umbrage at the negative tone of Republican rhetoric, their conventions scorned as "festivals of hate and fear," have served as a willing megaphone for Susan McDougal's shameless comparison of the Starr team to the Nazis, or her blithely stated wish that she wanted the Starr team, and their families, dead.
The media which claim to love the truth let it be turned completely upside down, so that the woman who would shut her mouth and go to prison for a year and a half to save Bill Clinton's presidency was somehow telling the truth in her trial when she suddenly denied Clinton had ever urged the fraudulent SBA loan.
I don't know who's more pathetic, Susan McDougal or those so-called news reporters she so obviously snowed.