Monday, April 30, 2007

TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY. You have to hand it to Newsbusters. Who else would have imagined that the proper objective correlative to the current DC Madam story would be the liberal media's brutal suppression of the 1996 Dick Morris story?
ABC pounded the word "tabloid" in all of their coverage (even though Hume noted no one in the Morris or Clinton camps denied the Star story). But now ABC is the "tabloid" outlet on the Call Girl beat. Ross touted his scoop on Monday's Good Morning America about a State Department official who resigned in disgrace, even putting on a prostitute's lobbyist to denigrate him...
I and everyone I know must have been incredibly plugged-in back in the 90s, because we all knew that Morris was consorting with prostitutes and improving his status with them by letting them eavesdrop on his conversations with Bill Clinton. And all we had to do to obtain this suppressed information was occasionally pick up clandestinely-published samizdat such as the New York Times and Newsweek.

I kid. Newsbuster's angle is not that the MSM spiked the story -- who could claim that? -- but that they took a different tone about it, talking about it as if it were tabloid-sourced, which it was, and surprisingly undetrimental to Clinton's standing in the polls, which it also was.

What is Newsbusters trying to show here? One interpretation might be that Clinton suffered little from the Morris affair because the MSM had his back -- that we all heard the story, including the salacious details, but were hypnotized into ignoring it by Peter Jennings' Jedi mind tricks. Of course, Clinton had long been associated with sexual scandal by that point -- thanks to vigilant reporting of his imbroglios by the press -- and it may be that citizens were simply relieved that it was a Clinton flack, rather than the Big Dog himself, who got caught with the prostitutes. While, in the current case, the first disgraced party is a celebrated promoter of abstinence from America's Party of Moral Uplift, and his exposer claims to be sitting on a fat batch of further revelations.

That agents of the mainstream press may be manipulated by political spin doctors is a proposition accepted by people of all political philosophies. But nothing cuts family ties in that community like a nice, juicy scandal. Whether a newsreader arches his left of his right eyebrow while reporting such tawdry tales, his audience will still be focused on the savory (or unsavory, depending on your point of view) details -- the stained dress, the cigar, Leaves of Grass, and so forth.

It may be that our famously horny former President got away with much more than Randall Tobias ever will because, somewhere along the line, the Democrats were established as the sexed-up Party, while the Republicans were cast as defenders of Values, Guardrails, and Christian Revivalism. I don't think it's unfair to note that, if this assignment of roles involved mind-tricks, they did not originate with Peter Jennings. That a number of Republicans have of late been discovered with their pants down, and that many of us find this appallingly funny, may have less to do with the prejudices of reporters than it has to do with the law of unintended consequences.

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