They say nothing happens in Washington in August. Well, that wasn't true last year (President testifies to grand jury, then bombs Sudan and Afghanistan to nudge along the news cycle) and it wasn't true this year, either. August was the month the media opened fire on George W. Bush.
The month began with Tom Daschle, the Senate Minority Leader, suggesting to reporters the need to devote more resources to researching unsubstantiated rumors that GOP front-runner George W. Bush had snorted cocaine in his allegedly wild youth.
Suddenly, out of thin air, "questions" were "haunting" the Bush campaign. Anchors cited the "question that will not go away," which would if only they'd stop asking it. After repeatedly refusing to address the issue, in mid-August Bush presented a partial answer: not in the past seven years. Later, it was updated to 25 years. It was a foolish political maneuver because it only opened the floodgates to more media interest, as in this predictable response from NBC's Brian Williams: "It has become a rather large and nagging news story and now the question: Is his strategy of giving partial answers perhaps making it worse?"
Let's be clear. The question's lingering out there and Bush needs to fess up about any illegal drug use or issue a complete denial if he wants to be qualified to serve as chief law enforcement officer of this country. But the press double standard here is breathtaking.
As Paul Sperry noted in the September 1 Investor's Business Daily, the media have never been interested in forcing Clinton to answer questions about allegations of cocaine use, despite a collection of accusers. Now consider the "charges" against Bush. No one has alleged drug use by Bush. No media outlet has been able to substantiate the rumors, though dozens are digging everywhere.
If charges - even unsubstantiated rumors - of illegal activity raise a "legitimate question," as many reporters suddenly believe, then why have they never forced Clinton to answer whether he raped Juanita Broaddrick? It's been six months since that charge, corroborated by five people, was leveled - and still they won't touch it. Network hosts were having no part of that question. When the RNC's Cliff May tried to bring up that double standard on MSNBC last month, host David Gregory shut him up: "I'm going to stop you. I'm hosting the program. It is not a double standard. We have a clear focus today. I'm asking the questions."
Network stars didn't need any proof before they began touting Bush's completely unproven hypocrisy in passing tough drug laws as Governor of Texas. NBC's Katie Couric asked, "Is the pot calling the kettle black? "ABC's Ted Koppel lectured, " Why not accept his one-size-fits-all declaration that when I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible? Perhaps, we might say, because he has never accepted youth and irresponsibility as legitimate excuses for illegal behavior." U.S. News & World Report liked Koppel's lecture so much they placed it in their own article on Bush.
But the press is behaving hypocritically. No one has accused Bush of anything, but Daschle asked for an investigation - and got it without a word of media criticism. Imagine the media response to Republicans urging a little digging against Democrats. You don't have to imagine. Reporters have made it a quadrennial staple to attack the Republicans for nasty personal attacks.
In 1992, any Republican questioning about Bill Clinton's lying about sex, the draft, or savings-and-loan plundering was portrayed as a smear. Even four years later, in February of 1996, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Miller claimed "Clinton was being smeared as an adulterer and a draft dodger on the eve of the critical New Hampshire primary."
In September of 1996, Bob Dole asked why Bill Clinton refused to release his medical records. On ABC, Peter Jennings said: "The campaign for President took a nasty turn today."On CBS, Dan Rather echoed: "Now for his part, Bob Dole re-opened one of his favorite lines of attack today about President Clinton's health records." Reporter Phil Jones concluded: "Dan, this campaign is headed exactly where everybody expected it to go: personal." NBC's David Bloom ended: "At a Dole rally today the music blared 'get ready.' Get ready, that is, for a very nasty campaign."
Nothing of the sort was said when Democrat Daschle made his statement. These reporters just picked up dirt and started throwing it for him. The nasty campaign of 2000 has begun, and as usual, the nastiest, most arrogant players are the liberal media themselves.