Something amazing happened last week. Democrats in the House cast their votes that suggest committing a felony - perjury before a federal grand jury, not to mention perjury in a civil suit - is not an impeachable offense. Then another amazing thing happened: these good old experts in the press are suggesting it will be the Republicans who suffer for it.
When the House Judiciary Committee split along party lines October 5 over whether an impeachment inquiry could proceed, ABC's Peter Jennings expressed the media ethos best: "Only twice before have Presidents faced such extreme action by the Congress. It was a partisan day, to a fault." Is that all? The impeachment process boils down to "partisanship" and "extreme action" by Congress?
For all the moaning and whining the media do about the public's lack of respect for Washington and the trouble of attracting good people into public service, they regularly decry that the political culture is ruined by Democrats and Republicans disagreeing with each other. They regularly pander to the masses by insisting the malignant sin of "partisan bickering" is preventing a true utopia of "Kumbaya"-singing, guitar-strumming, hand-holding harmonic convergence of governance from floating into the Capitol.
That tendency was annoying enough when the media were pushing their own policy goals, from the 1990 budget deal fiasco to the latest attempt at media-empowering "campaign finance reform." It was annoying enough when Bill Clinton came fresh from a 1996 campaign trashing Newt Gingrich's supposed Medicare cuts, and the media presented without question that Clinton would devote his second term to being "healer of the breach." But now that the Republicans hold the moral high ground - it's a "partisan mudbath" in the media's eyes.
Ever since the President admitted he'd lied about his acts of congress with Monica Lewinsky, the media have enjoyed portraying the aftermath as a hothouse of partisan bickering. Echoing the Democrats, sure, they disdained the President's reckless behavior, but then equally bemoaned the spectacle of congressional wrangling over the President's future.
The day after the party-line Judiciary Committee vote, "Today" host Katie Couric asked Rep. Asa Hutchinson: "I'm sure, Congressman, you are aware of the polls and most people in this country, according to the polls, do not believe impeachment hearings should go forward. Are you afraid of a backlash against the GOP?" Hutchinson replied: "Well the greatest concern for a backlash would be that the American people perceive that we're being unfair, overly partisan in this battle and trying to be vindictive." Couric retorted: "Don't you think they perceive that right now?" If that line of questioning doesn't serve to plant an impression, what does?
Likewise, the same morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," co-host/Clinton pom-pom girl Lisa McRee asked Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren: "But with regard to this report that new charges will be added. Is there any doubt in your mind that this is about inflicting political damage, and is there anything you can do about it?"
Even after years of being lied to, some in the liberal media still feel compelled to pass on Clintonite spin without too much - if any - troublesome rebuttal from the other side. At CBS on the night of the Judiciary Committee vote, White House reporter Scott Pelley declared: "One senior White House official told CBS News in frustration today, that they were reconciled that there would be no statesmanship, as he put it, in this process until it reached the Senate." Pelley, who should be commended as one of the tougher White House reporters, did explain that at the same time, Clinton's team was urging Democrats to oppose impeachment so Thursday's vote would look more partisan.
In his nightly online network news summary for the Media Research Center, Brent Baker asked the right question. How can a reporter pass on the White House line bemoaning a lack of "statesmanship"? Wouldn't a statesman have resigned by now? And does it display statesmanship to receive sexual favors while discussing troop deployment in Bosnia with a Congressman?
Yes, you can expect that the partisan Republican will seek to "inflict political damage" on Clinton. You can also expect the partisan Democrat will seek to inflict the same on Republicans, talking up a "backlash." What we shouldn't expect is a morally bankrupt media which claim to care about truth, which claim to act as a watchdog over the integrity of government, insisting that presidential perjury is an unserious issue that needs to be passed over for the good of the country.