As this Decade of Spin crawls to a close, the "objective" media's dominant internal criticism is barely internal. Why, they ask themselves, have we been forced to acknowledge that there are other media outlets that drag us into stories we think aren't constructive? Looking down their collective nose, they disdain other media outlets - for tawdry methods or repugnant ideology, they make no distinctions - which fail to kneel before their demand for "gatekeeping" power.
Whether the troublesome alternative reporting comes in newspapers, periodicals, or books, the clubby national press's first instinct is to close and lock the gate, stay silent, act ignorant, and hope it goes away (sort of like Al Gore pretending he didn't see the Juanita Broaddrick interview, and asking which channel it was on).
Authors of books with undesirable facts in them (such as one-time conservative David Brock's "The Real Anita Hill"), were not allowed any network air time, unless, in Brock's case, NBC's "Today" allowed an Anita Hill supporter to call him a liar throughout the interview. Authors of books with the politically correct point of view, often loaded with ridiculous journalistic misstatements (such as Jane Mayer's and Jill Abramson's Clarence Thomas hatchet job "Strange Justice") appear all over the media, without rebuttal.
This pattern is happening all over again on the subject of Hillary Clinton. Last April, Joyce Milton, perhaps best known for co-authoring a book destroying left-wing myths about the supposed innocence of Soviet atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, wrote a Hillary bio titled "The First Partner." Surprisingly, NBC's "Today" revealed they were planning to put her on. Then the Columbine school shooting took place, and NBC didn't find any free air time for, it seemed, six or seven months. She never made it. Even friendly reviewers, like Andrew Ferguson in The Wall Street Journal, thought Milton's lack of access to Hillary's steel-tight inner circle hurt her chances of making a mark.
Just recently, Barbara Olson, best known as an MSNBC pundit in the Lewinsky extravaganza and for her lawyering for several House investigations of the Clintons, authored the book "Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton." Again, the big three networks have put out the "Unwelcome" mat. NBC's "Today" interviewed Olson on six occasions (always matched with a liberal) to discuss impeachment matters in the last year, but now will have nothing to do with her.
By contrast, Gail Sheehy, the psycho-babbling, fact-mangling author of the warm, fuzzy book "Hillary's Choice," was promoted all over the NBC airwaves, from "Dateline" to "Today" to "Meet the Press" to the CNBC/MSNBC show "The News with Brian Williams."
Sheehy is offering the more authorized biography, with direct access to Hillary and many of her friends and relatives. She writes embarrassing sentences like "It took a Hillary to raise a President." In August, appearing on "Meet the Press" with fellow First Lady flack Lucinda Franks over the cream-puff Talk magazine interview, Sheehy declared Hillary "sees herself, I believe, as a protector. She protects poor people. She protects women. She protects children from genital mutilation, and I think she sees Bill Clinton as an emotional child, who as an adult, she sees as the second coming of Christ as a leader, and it's her job to protect the former so that he can live out the latter."
As a journalist, Sheehy has played both mean and sloppy. It was Sheehy's Hillary profile in 1992 that underlined Hillary's demand that the media cover rumors of George Bush's infidelity with his aide Jennifer Fitzgerald. It was Sheehy in 1995 who trafficked in rumors of Newt Gingrich's sexual escapades in the 1970s. As for accuracy, Sheehy's book is so sloppy that Washington Post gossip Lloyd Grove began a daily feature to make fun of all of her errors.
But at the networks, she is welcome any time.
Writer Judith Shulevitz absolutely captured the Sheehy phenomenon at Slate.com: "Sheehy is a therapist to the stars, not a political reporter. She tells us how our leaders feel, not what they stand for or what might become of them, or even what we should think about the things they do." (Italics hers.)
Give me a break, Gail, puh-leeze. But Sheehy is a perfect match for today's TV news mindset. They, too, like to slam Republicans. They're also plenty sloppy with the facts. And they prefer to leave the nuts and bolts of political issues to others, so they can focus on more interesting personal issues like that guy's temper or the other guy's smirk. People who want anything resembling the truth about Hillary Rodham Clinton ought to go to a bookstore or a library before they turn on the boob tube.