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The Right-Wing Washington Press

by Molly Ivins

George W. Bush And The Right Wing Media Machine
Just to point out the obvious, the people now defending the FBI for its "innocent mistake" in not having turned over all its files on the Oklahoma bombing case are the same people who used to go berserker ballistic whenever anyone in the Clinton administration belatedly discovered some old documents connected to one of the 79 congressional investigations that were always going on. These discoveries were seized upon as evidence of pernicious stonewalling, the Clintons' perfidious nature, their violations of the law, etc.

One recalls the ungodly hoo-ha when Mrs. Clinton's long-sought billing records from the Rose law firm mysteriously appeared from some closet: This claim was greeted by the Clinton -haters as the most improbable tale since, "The dog ate my homework," and used endlessly to ridicule and vilify Clinton. The FBI seems to have lost its documents in the computer. Doubtlessly, as the FBI claims, they are not material to the McVeigh case. You may recall that Clinton's billing records in the end proved exactly what she had been claiming all along.

But it's the disproportion that's so striking. For those given to conspiracy theories, as lord knows Tim McVeigh is, the FBI's repetitive record of losing documents crucial to controversial cases -- including Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Wen Ho Lee case, and the Birmingham bombing case -- is enough to set off someone who's not paranoid. That or this agency is inept to the point of Inspector Clouseau.

The "establishment press" behaved quite well, I thought, over the tiny but public matter of one of the Bush girls getting cited for underage drinking. Believe me, the percentage of freshmen at the University of Texas who are guilty of that charge is overwhelming.

On the other hand, try to imagine what would have happened had Chelsea Clinton ever been arrested for anything. Do we think the story would have been buried, as the Bush story quite properly was?

Believe me, I am not urging that Democrats go and do likewise now that Republicans are in the White House. The eight-year effort to destroy Bill Clinton was wrong, and doing it in reverse would be just as wrong. It is the phenomenon itself that needs examination.

Does it prove the right is given to paranoid conspiracy theories and the left is not? That Bill Clinton was a lightning-rod for resentment, or a polarizing figure, or even a hopeless slimeball? In all the fury vented over the Marc Rich pardon, the last blast aimed at the departing Clinton by his chorus of his enemies, how many times did you find it mentioned that Bush the Elder had also granted a pardon to a generous political donor?

The disproportion in the coverage is not the only problem: As Geneva Overholser, the noted media critic, points out, Clinton got a rough ride in his first 100 days because people expected a lot of him: He was supposed to be brilliant. With Bush, there's still some doubt about his ability to multitask, if it involves moving feet and chewing gum. To a certain extent, all of us forgive flaws and sins in our friends (not to mention ourselves) that we would fall on with wrath in opponents or enemies.

But what we're seeing and hearing in the media now is sort of a Soviet-style reworking of history. In the parallel universe inhabited by The Wall Street Journal's strange editorial writers, there is now a vast left-wing conspiracy to smear Ted Olsen, Bush's nominee for solicitor general, because he may have been involved with the Arkansas Project.

According to the Journal, "The 'Arkansas Project' was an exercise of the American Spectator's First Amendment rights." That's one way to describe it. I thought it was a multiyear, multimillion dollar effort featuring a number of dubious characters funded by a reclusive right-wing billionaire in order to destroy Bill Clinton. The book "Hunting the President," by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, which was ignored by most of the establishment media, contains some interesting detail on the project.

Overholser observes: "Conservatives have built up a well-funded, well-targeted set of organizations aimed at shaping pubic opinion. And the press obliges. The left has nothing comparable. One result is that, with a conservative now in office, there's simply less coverage."

Anyone who has ever been on the right-wing's e-mail and fax list knows how much of what comes out of the mouths of national commentators is actually straight from attack releases put out by right-wing organizations funded by corporate special interests. The single most ominous words heard in the media today are on the Fox News network: "fair and balanced, as always." If you believe that, let's talk seafront property in West Texas.

We look forward to this week's media emphasis on the Bush administration's great concern for energy conservation. Since it was Veep Dick Cheney who announced conservation may be a personal virtue, but it is no basis for a sound energy policy, it was especially entertaining to watch Cheney himself -- such a soothing, anodyne, avuncular presence -- come on TV to urge us "not to get hysterical" and "come down off the ceiling."

As Jack Carter, who was with the Energy Department during Clinton, observes: "There is no conservation from the conservatives and no planning in the plan."

The Bushies ran that flag up the pole and no one saluted, so now we will get extensive lip-service for conservation. And the media will of course cooperate, like nice little boys and girls.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor May 15, 2001 (

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