One of the more astounding spectacles of the Cheney hunting-accident brouhaha was the media's all-too-typical tolerance of tremendous Clinton chutzpah: that is, Hillary's claim, as Brian Boyd noted last week, that Dick Cheney is way too secretive. ABC aired a clip of an angry-looking Senator Hillary Clinton arguing, "The refusal of this administration to level with the American people on matters large and small is very disturbing." The Clintons? Arguing that someone else isn't forthcoming? After the seven months of sticking with "I did not have sexual relations" with "Miss Lewinsky"? And the "vast right-wing conspiracy" trying to smear Clinton with the baseless accusation of intern nookie?
ABC not only allowed, but encouraged, this bizarre attack line against Cheney when President Clinton consented to an interview with Bill Weir on Sunday's "Good Morning America." They started by talking about AIDS in the Third World, but Weir really wanted to push the Cheney thing, too:
Weir: Before I let you go and I want to get your comment on the big story of the week, the Dick Cheney hunting accident. Your wife came out and said it was another example of this Administration’s cloud of secrecy. Your friends Paul Begala and James Carville want more investigation. Do you agree?
Bill Clinton: First of all, you know I come from a culture from where we quail hunt, so I know something about it. Its not an enterprise free of danger, for all kinds of obvious reasons -- you know, that the time of the year you do it, the way the lay of the land works, fact that the quails rise up from the ground. We have people who are quite often - who are shot in quail incidents, so I didn't feel the need to get in the pile-on. I think the White House should have said something sooner, but I think it’s gotten a little more life than it would have because the administration has an enormous penchant for secrecy -- for not telling anybody anything about anything.
From there, Clinton went on to repeat, " But I feel terrible that this happened because I know what its like. I have been in - I grew up in that culture. And I know people get hurt in hunting accidents." ABC posted a fuller, unedited transcript of its Clinton interview on the website, and this was Clinton's next sentence: "And I know the Vice President feels terrible about it, and I am sure Mr. Whittington wants to get well and get on with his life." That sentence didn't air on ABC Sunday morning. It ended up on the proverbial cutting-room floor, to use an antique metaphor.
Weir ended the interview on the typical shoe-shining you're-a-rock-star note: "I was in Delhi, and ate near a plaque that said 'Bill Clinton ate here.' So I know you enjoy rock star status in that country, and I am sure they are treating you well. Enjoy the rest of your time there, we appreciate your time."
PS: Earlier in the interview, Weir and Clinton shared the usual liberal worldview on AIDS, that the behavior that often causes AIDS -- homosexual sex or IV-drug use -- is nothing to be ashamed of, that the "stigma" must be removed to save lives. It's a health problem, and not an issue of primitive moral or religious hang-ups:
Weir: Seventy-five percent of young Indians, according to a recent poll there, still believe in arranged marriage, it’s a very conservative society. Even in the cosmopolitan areas there they are loath to talk about sex and drugs so I am interested in your thoughts on stopping the tide of AIDS. Will it ever be stopped unless there is a dramatic shift in attitude?
Bill Clinton: You are correct, we still have some problems. There is still some stigma and fear attached to being HIV positive in India both in the rural areas which are more culturally conservative but in the cities too. However it is dramatically different than it was three years ago when I began here, dramatically different. And the fact that the prime minister of this country and the health minister and the director of the program and a lot of cultural figures are getting people involved in testing and in coming forward, I think it is better. We need to do more, that’s why when I announced this program for nurses today, I said we still need more help from public figures in India telling people they don't have to be ashamed of this. This is a health problem and we have got to deal with it.