I Couldn't Believe My Ears
by L. Brent Bozell III
May 14, 1997
The other day, I watched Rep. Dan Burton's extraordinary "Special Privilege" address to the Congress on C-SPAN. He laid out, methodically and decisively, the incredible record of Clinton administration criminal activities, lies, obfuscation, and stonewalling that his committee had prepared, and which the mainstream press, with particular emphasis placed on the networks, has ignored.
What, I wondered, could these media mavens say now? What Burton did was to slam the book shut on mere speculation by offering a chronological accounting of facts that simply bury this administration in a seemingly endless web of deceit and corruption. So I started channel surfing, and what I heard left me, well, speechless.
On NBC, Tom Brokaw was laying it on the line. "When [Burton's rendition of] those hearings ended today we were left with an astonishing record of deceit, ignorance, naivete, good or bad intentions, failed policies, and discredited public servants."
NBC reporter Carl Stern took it a step further. "If a President believes there's no indication that a single law was broken," he said, "why does he believe that 23 individuals already have requested and received immunity from prosecution, criminal prosecution for what they testify about? [Attorney General Janet Reno's] own investigators identified violations that might have included misappropriation, conspiracy, conversion, fraud, embezzlement, certainly false statements."
Stern wasn't finished. "And to top it off, Tom, remember it was the President and the Attorney General who asked for a special prosecutor. That required a finding of reasonable, credible evidence to believe that a significant crime may have been committed."
I hit the remote and found former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, long viewed as the Nixon killer for his role uncovering the Watergate scandal, making an impassioned point on PBS. For his part, he saw parallels between that administration and the present one over the abuse of confidential files. "It is often said that, during Watergate, the system worked," he suggested. "But in dealing with its spiritual stepchild - Whitewater and the continuing constitutional criminality of the Clinton-Gore years - it is now painfully apparent that the system has failed. The escalating criminality of the Clinton-Gore era - in which the [taking, and hiding of] the 900 FBI files has become emblematic, just as the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist was a symbol of the Watergate era - refuses to go away, like some dark stain on the national conscience."
Finally. Finally these leftist reporters were putting ideology aside in pursuit of that heretofore elusive thing called ? journalism. Finally they were recognizing, and publicly acknowledging, the very sleazy nature of things at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Finally they were documenting, for the public record, truth. One of the guests on that PBS program was CBS anchor Dan Rather, who called the developments "just the first of several criminal [investigations] with their roots in concerns that a secret clique of ideological zealots may have run policies and operations outside the American constitutional system of checks and balances."
I watched until the end, when PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers came on to give a concluding commentary on the day's developments. "Now the lessons of Whitewater are also clear. We have learned this: that a President who lies to Congress and to the people will feel free to joke about it. A Vice President who lies to Congress and to the people will be elected President. White House aides who lie to Congress and to the people will be hailed as heroes until the time of reckoning comes? An administration, in short, that lies to Congress and to the people is the accepted order of things. And a Constitution designed to prevent exactly that order is a mere scrap of paper."
Pretty tough words, to be sure. And there was more, a call for a sense of shame on this country: "None of us, not even the President, can pick or choose among the laws we wish to obey. A President who is nonchalant about this contract deserves to be impeached. A people who forget it will have invited the darkness."
I know, dear reader, that you find these statements hard to believe, coming from these journalists. Well, I assure you that every quote here is accurate. The only thing is, these weren't statements made about Bill Clinton and his administration. These were all statements our objective media made a dozen years ago about a man named Ronald Reagan, and a thing called Iran-Contra.
So what did the networks and these reporters have to say about Dan Burton's devastating speech before Congress? The Fox News Channel gave the story about eight seconds' worth of attention. CNN ran a story on its 10 PM broadcast, but nothing at all during the 8 PM time slot. And what of the Big Three? ABC: Nothing. CBS: Nothing. NBC: Nothing. Nothing at all.