No DNA, No Cigars, No Berets, No Story

The networks loved Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler's floor speech against an open-ended impeachment probe, presenting all the world's problems as overlooked because "we're talking about Monica Lewinsky!" (MSNBC played a clip again Tuesday night, with Keith Olbermann praising Wexler for his eloquence.) But when The New York Times reported again on the Clinton administration's near-elimination of export controls to China, the networks yawned again.

So far, the national media have totally ignored Monday's front-page scoop in The New York Times headlined "Chinese Said to Reap Gains In U.S. Export Policy Shift." (Web browsers could not find the article on the Times home page. You had to click on "Politics" to get it.)

Reporters Jeff Gerth and Eric Schmitt announced: "An examination by The New York Times of the administration's export control policies on China, based on interviews as well as government and industry documents, shows that the looser regulations enabled Chinese companies to obtain a wide range of sophisticated technology, some of which has already been diverted for military uses."

Gerth and Schmitt tied the real-world dangers of Chinese technology acquisition to Clinton's anything-goes fundraising tactics. After hearing complaints from Silicon Valley executives, "the President delivered, personally presiding over what industry executives and government officials agree was one of the most sweeping relaxations of export restrictions in American history...In the years that followed, the new rules helped Clinton fulfill his vision of a centrist Demo- cratic Party with close ties to American business. Grateful high-technology companies showered the Democratic Party with campaign contributions, cementing a new financial base for a party that has historically struggled to raise money from corporate America."

What was going on in the world Monday that the networks had no time for Clinton aiding China's military? In the morning, ABC found Westminster Abbey is selling chairs used at Diana's funeral. CBS found a teen trying to build a nuclear reactor. NBC interviewed British CEO Richard Branson on his book Losing My Virginity.

That night, ABC showed that 100 pilot whales died after beaching themselves in Tasmania. CBS noted arson is suspected in a ski resort fire in Vail, Colorado. CNN relayed that five more victims were pulled from the wreckage of a train crash in Egypt. NBC covered the Kroger supermarket chain's latest acquisition.

The networks haven't aired a single story on Clinton's export-control repeal since June. Since the Times broke the story in April, the breakdown of evening news stories is: ABC 7, CBS 3, CNN 3, NBC 2. Even in the missile story's brief heyday in late May and early June, Monica stories outnumbered it on TV morning and evening shows 78 to 21. Is it any wonder the public believes that Clinton scandals are mostly about sex? - Tim Graham