By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
“Liberal media bias”: It is one of the most frequently used expressions of our time. Conservatives maintain it is real and a frequent occurrence, a fact of life. Liberals deny its existence, insisting that journalists are professional and dedicated to the pursuit of the truth, wherever it leads them.
Recent weeks have given us an example of why the conservatives are right on this one, an example of how liberals in the media can shape the public’s view of an issue without actually lying. I have in mind the media’s reaction to Monica Lewinsky’s June Vanity Fair article about what happened with President Clinton and her between 1995 and 1997. The media are circling the wagons, lining up against Americans with traditional values for the sake of the agenda of the secular left.
Mike Lupica’s May 8 New York Daily News column about the Lewinsky scandal is a case in point, a textbook example of the phenomenon. Lupica is best known as a sports columnist, but he is a quintessential New York City liberal as well. His reactions to the issues of the day are indistinguishable from what you would hear in an Upper West Side or Greenwich Village coffee shop.
It is hard not to get the impression that the focus of his life is to convince the trendy leftists in the media and government that he is a “serious thinker” and not just a “sports guy.” Which, in that world, means a secular leftist who rejects the pieties of Middle America.
His reaction to Monica Lewinsky’s article in Vanity Fair is what you would expect. He is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that Lewinsky’s article does no harm to Hillary Clinton’s likely run for the presidency — short of outright lying. What Lupica does is more effective than an outright lie.
A lie would be spotted. Lupica’s tactic is to trot out a straw man, to build up a case that he can tear apart with great ease, and then posture as if he has carried the day against anyone who harbors doubts about the character of Mrs. Clinton. Specifically, he goes to great lengths to dismiss the elements of Lewinsky’s article that no one contests — while ignoring the charges that are the most potentially damaging to Hillary. His goal is to divert the public’s attention from whatever Lewinsky says that may reveal troubling, even sinister, aspects to Hillary’s character.
Lupica writes as if the issue facing us today is Bill Clinton’s shameful behavior. He concedes that Clinton acted “shamefully” and “inexcusably” — and then asserts emphatically “that the Republicans and whoever their candidate is in 2016” will have to come at Hillary “with more than her husband acting like some reckless, entitled frat boy when he was president.” He assures us that the public has already factored in this irresponsible side of the ex-president’s character, and decided to view him as an admirable humanitarian and world leader.
There’s the straw man. Everyone agrees that it would be unfair, and that it would be politically unwise, to blame Hillary for being married to a lowlife. It may be true — I have no firsthand knowledge — that there are women who discuss among themselves whether Hillary should be criticized or praised for staying in her marriage. But I have never heard a public debate over that question. For good reason. No one thinks that is why she should not be president.
The charge that matters is not that Hillary was willing to accept her husband’s behavior, but that she set out to defame, to ruin the lives of the many women who charged her husband with sexual improprieties — everything from inappropriate advances to rape. And she did precisely that.
From her days in Arkansas, she was actively involved in the scheme to contain the so-called bimbo eruptions. No one knows, except Hillary and Bill, what she said to Bill in private about his shameful behavior. Perhaps she was thoroughgoing in her denunciations. But that did not prevent her from organizing efforts to protect her husband — and her own political prospects — by casting aspersions on the moral character of the women who were his victims.
She was willing to launch these attacks even though she knew her husband was guilty of the charges. We have no proof that Hillary knew in advance that James Carville would react to Paula Jones’ accusations against her husband by quipping, “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” But she never denounced Carville for this defamation of Jones’ character as an example of a “blame the victim” tactic. No one defends Hillary by making the case that she was so naive as to believe Bill was an innocent man besieged by star-struck women. That defense cannot be made by people who insist she is one of the “smartest women in the world.”
It should be noted that Hillary has never apologized to Monica Lewinsky for describing her as a “narcissistic looney tune” when the stories surfaced about what happened with her and Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. The fact that Lewinsky was a young intern didn’t matter. Her husband’s behavior did not matter. Hillary’s reaction was to organize an all-out drive to ridicule and demean Lewinsky.
This hypocrisy is what led Kathleen Willey — one of the women who charged Clinton with sexual assault — to state flatly during an interview on WABC radio in New York that “Hillary Clinton is the war on women, and that’s what needs to be exposed here. The point is what this woman is capable of doing to other women while she’s running a campaign basically on women’s issues. It just doesn’t make any sense. She single-handedly orchestrated every one of the investigations of all these women” who accused her husband of sexual crimes.
Lupica ignores this pattern of Hillary’s making excuses for her husband’s sexual escapades, at the expense of the victims, as if it is irrelevant to her presidential aspirations. It is not. We expect such tub-thumping from political spinmeisters; someone like James Carville, for example. That is what they are paid to do. Serious journalists are supposed to be above such duplicity. Lupica has shown us he is not such a person.
Hillary Clinton’s apologists are fond of calling her “tough” and “determined,” “tenacious” and “resolute.” These are admirable character traits in those who are devoted to righteous causes. They are not honorable attributes if we are describing an individual who puts his or her self-interests above all else. In that case, they describe the kind of person we would want to have no power over our lives.