Washington Post Spreads Clinton's Angry Dose of 'Hey Diddle Diddle'

Washington Post reporter Peter Baker penned a story on Bill Clinton for Friday’s front page. The Post website summarized: "Former president promotes wife’s candidacy while trying to set the record straight on his own tenure." Set the record straight? That’s what Baker wrote in his article: "As Clinton travels the country campaigning for his wife with characteristic intensity, he is fighting not only to promote Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy but also set the record straight on the two terms he spent in the White House." Does Clinton have the credibility to "set the record straight" when he has a long record of public lying, even lying in court?

Baker’s front-pager promoted Clinton’s long-standing pique with independent counsel Ken Starr:

"Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon," he told the students last week, his eyes narrowing and his finger jabbing the air.

At another point, he complained that the investigations during his White House days virtually bankrupted him: "The Republicans were so mean to me when I was president that I was poorer when I left than when I got there."

Baker’s story is far too polite to correct Clinton's angry dose of "Hey Diddle Diddle." He couldn't note Clinton quickly left office and scored a $12 million book advance and began making tens of millions of dollars from making speeches around the world. Baker’s story is also too polite to recall for readers that Ken Starr indicted – and convicted of multiple felonies – Jim and Susan McDougal, who were business partners with Bill and Hillary Clinton in the failed Whitewater Development real-estate venture. (Overall, Starr’s team convicted or drew guilty pleas from 14 people in the Clinton scandals.) This Post story did noting to "set the record straight." It merely let Clinton characterize it in the way most to his liking.

Baker’s story reported Clinton is trying to "win the referendum" on how people see the Clinton years. But the Post isn’t about to report the other side of that historical battle – that Starr had important investigations to conduct, and President Clinton tried to lie his way out of them. Perhaps Peter Baker should reacquaint himself with some of the earlier history of the Clinton years, from someone he trusts. How about Peter Baker, in his book on the Clinton impeachment titled The Breach, page 264?

The largely unspoken secret among his lawyers was that even they believed Clinton had lied under oath in the Paula Jones deposition. As attorneys, they could make the case that his testimony about Monica Lewinsky was not material to the lawsuit and therefore did not constitute perjury as defined by federal statute. But they knew as well as anyone that the president did not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Greg Craig, for one, could understand how Clinton might not have understood the definition of sexual relations used at the deposition because even the judge appeared confused. However, Craig believed the president’s assertion that he had no specific recollection of being alone with Lewinsky was a bald-faced lie. There was no getting around that.

But now, Peter Baker and the Washington Post find it very easy to get around that. Baker’s story underlines how the Post and other liberal outlets have almost no desire to spend a minute or a paragraph recounting the 1990s and the hard facts of the Clinton scandals: convictions, guilty pleas, prison terms, and so on. Inside they skid, slide, and maneuver around those facts. Instead, Baker fills his story with the same old fiercely loyal Clinton friends who consistently spew the Clinton hard line, whining about the injustice meted out by the radical Republicans:

Collectively, his recent comments echo the feeling of victimization he often expressed when he was president. "I don't think he spends a lot of time thinking about the Whitewater investigation and the special prosecutor and all that. I don't think that crosses his mind much at all," said [high school girlfriend Carolyn] Staley, who sees Clinton regularly when he visits Little Rock. "But I think he now thinks he understands injustice because he was treated so unfairly. When you're singled out for persecuting, trumped up -- as he would view it and many would agree -- and politically motivated set of events, you never forget that."

Another old Arkansas friend, David Leopoulos, said Clinton is able to put his experiences in perspective. "Yeah, he was hurt," Leopoulos said. "But you know what? How hurt was he? They impeached him, and his approval rating was 67 percent when he was impeached. The American people aren't stupid."

Leopoulos recalled talking with Clinton in the White House solarium two weeks before he left office in January 2001 and asking how he felt. "David, I don't hate anybody," he recalled Clinton answering. "I knew it would be tough when I got in. I didn't know it would be as radical as it's been, but I knew it would be tough. And I love this place and I wouldn't do it any differently. I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Baker just lets that statement lie there on the page. If Bill could do it all over again, he would have sex with the intern all over again? Lie in court about it all over again? How is that supposed to please the liberal reporters and the Democratic Clinton-excusers? Apparently, that’s unnecessary. They don’t need to be pleased. They keep doing his bidding regardless of whether he shows regret or changes his ways.

By the way, Peter Baker’s story is nothing like Patrick Healy’s in the New York Times, who suggested the issue wasn’t the Clinton legacy, but Clinton’s long-festering temper (not just his "characteristic intensity") erupting:

Mr. Clinton’s temper has been an issue for him as long as he has been in public life. But it has played an unusual role during the current campaign, his face turning red in public nearly every week, often making headlines as he defends his wife and injects himself, whether or not intentionally, into her race in sometimes distracting ways.

Some Clinton advisers say the campaign is trying to rein him in somewhat, so that his outbursts become less of a factor to reporters, but his flashes of anger only seem to be growing. Last week, for instance, a clearly agitated Mr. Clinton told Dartmouth students that it was a "fairy tale" for Mr. Obama to contend that he had been consistently against the war in Iraq. And in December he said that voters supporting Mr. Obama were willing to "roll the dice" on the presidency.

"The bottom line is, his outbursts don’t help the campaign," said James A. Thurber of American University, an analyst of the presidency and Congress. "They become an issue, and it can grow into a real problem. I think the campaign is worried about him right now."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis