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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Media Play

I had no interest in purchasing Bill Clinton's new book. I tend to avoid memoirs by still active politicians, since, even if they were written by the person, they tend to be boring affairs that don't produce much in the way of genuine revelations. Words are calculated, carefully chosen so as to preserve the political viability of the author.

However, via Atrios comes this intriguing passage:

I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater...One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan. I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. 'Of course not,' he said. 'That's not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you didn't.' Simpson laughed at how willing the 'elitist' press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: 'You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that's much more important.' When I asked him to explain, he said, 'Democrats like you and Sullivan get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don't think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they like power. So does the press. And since you're President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you.' I appreciated Simpson's candor and I thought about what he said for months. For a long time, whenever I was angry about the Whitewater press coverage I would tell people about Simpson's analysis. When I finally just accepted his insight as accurate, it was liberating, and it cleared my head for the fight.

Did Alan Simpson really say this? I don't know, and, from my perspective, I'm not sure how much I care if Alan Simpson really said this. It's as good an explanation of why the allegedly liberal media doesn't act liberal - even before you consider their corporate ownership and the biases inherent in such ownership - and why reporters were so nasty to Clinton even though most of them probably voted for him.


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