The Clintons and their legions of supporters spent eight years sharing an exaggerated sense of self-pity over the allegedly harsh media coverage of their corrupt behavior. It was only a matter of time before they started complaining that the Bush administration is getting it so much easier when it comes to ethical scrapes. The mission: keep pushing the absurd notion that all administrations are equally corrupt. Everybody Does It.
Take the case of top Bush aide Karl Rove. While he was waiting for the go-ahead from the White House counsel's office to sell his shares of Intel, he had a meeting with Intel officials. No one has even alleged that something improper was said. After a brief flurry of media attention, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle announced the upper body would not investigate. But Rep. Henry Waxman, a man who never found a Clinton scandal worth his effort, is clanging the pots and pans for a probe, and he has found a willing foil in CBS News.
Dan Rather lectured about how "before, during, and after the campaign, candidate and now President Bush promised zero tolerance for even the appearance of impropriety by any of the people around him." Given that no one has even alleged anything improper happened, where's the "appearance?"
Using Rather's strict interpretation of that phrase, we should then conclude that Rather himself should have been shown the door at CBS long ago. How many stories has he reported dealing with companies in which he has held stock over the years? An "appearance of impropriety?" Certainly, if you want to be ludicrous about it.
White House correspondent John Roberts noted the holdup at the counsel's office, but quickly put on Waxman and carried his line: "Republicans in Congress, who spent eight years investigating President Clinton, today refused to look into Rove's dealings." What a ridiculous sentence. What, Republicans did nothing for eight years but investigate Clinton?
As is becoming typical, viewers would have been better informed watching Fox News, which reported House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton's statement that the committee had not pursued questions of stock ownership conflicts involving several Clinton administration officials. In a letter to Waxman, the ranking member of his committee, Burton pointed out that their committee had never investigated stock holdings of Clinton officials.
On his list were National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who agreed to pay $23,000 in civil penalties for failing to sell immediately $90,000 in stock in the Amoco Corporation; Richard Holbrooke, former Ambassador to the United Nations, who paid a $5,000 fine for a South Korean investment deal involving a firm paying Holbrooke a million dollars a year; and former Defense Secretary William Perry, who reportedly held defense company investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while he worked at the Pentagon.
CBS aired none of this - either now or at the time these officials were paying fines.
In his letter, Burton accused Waxman of going after Rove the same week the committee learned that FBI documents suggest that Clinton White House aide Mark Middleton received $20,000 in cash from China-connected Clinton pal Charlie Trie. With a pinch of balance, Roberts vaguely tossed out that Burton had released an FBI document that "quotes a Democratic donor as saying he once paid $20,000 to guarantee access to the Clinton White House." But that was it.
Roberts concluded: "Democrats in the Senate say there's no reason for investigations at this point, but tell us tonight they haven't closed that door." Translation: the Democrats don't want to be seen as President-hating zealots, as they've caricatured Dan Burton for years, but they want the Rove story kept alive by the press.
If these drum-pounders cared about "zero tolerance" for the appearance of impropriety, where were they when Clinton pal Webster Hubbell was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of hush money from the Lippo Group? Where was the outrage of Waxman and CBS as the Clintonites took satchels of cash from Chinese and Indonesian donors? And well, if a couple of missile secrets fell out of a file folder along the way, who's connecting the dots? Even if we succumbed to all the financial phobias of Common Cause, isn't handing our defense secrets to potential enemies a tad bit worse than meeting with a domestic computer chip maker? Clinton's China scandals are a monster in our closet compared to Rove's holdings, which are as scary as a dust bunny under the couch.
The Democrats are playing political "payback" with the GOP. It's what one expects from them. Sadly, it's also expected that their media allies willfully will participate - and call it "news."