Printer Friendly

Do they see that we see?

Here's some advice for the next President, based on the mainstream media's treatment of Bill Clinton to date. Do not defend the civil rights of any minority groups, especially those about whom four-star generals or right-wing talk-show hosts are phobic. Do not go out of your way to appoint women or minorities to important Cabinet positions, since this is reverse discrimination against the rightful holders of these offices, rich white men. Don't tell the American people the truth about the economy--or about anything else, for that matter. If you have a smart, accomplished wife who cares about social justice, ditch her immediately and get one who likes to spend her time in Bloomingdale's or riding to hounds. Most importantly, don't give one of the most articulate, frank, and visionary speeches heard by Congress in recent history, for this will really bring out the most myopic, puling commentary the privileged, out-of-touch, neocon Washington press corps can muster.

The big story--one I am sure will go down in history--about Clinton's early days on the job is the enormous discrepancy between the general public's willingness to follow Clinton's leadership and the media's almost pathological determination to trash his every move. When Ronald Reagan came into office, the pundits insisted, repeatedly, that the new President and his economic package deserved a chance. Apparently such indulgences are now outre, for the members of the pundit peanut gallery have given virtually everything Clinton has done a derisive raspberry. In the process, all too many of them seem as unlike regular people, and as out of date, as Howdy Doody.

It's a good thing, for example, that so many of us grew up on The Little Rascals and Looney Tune reruns; otherwise, we'd never understand the incessant yet anachronistic references to "castor oil" rolling off the lips of America's pundits as they characterize Clinton's economic package. We were supposed to think of Alfalfa's face screwed up in freckled distaste as, for example, David Gergen insisted, even before Clinton delivered his State of the Union address, what a "tough sell" and an "upward climb" Clinton had set for himself--because there was "no way," as Nina Totenberg put it, "his economic plan can be liked." Polls showing a majority of Americans well aware of the need for increased taxes and cuts in spending made no dent in the "tough sell" dirge.

According to the pundits, Clinton has blown it on everything. "In the space of a single week," noted Gordon Petersen just after the inauguration, "President Clinton has managed to anger the anti-abortion crowd, Congress, the Joint Chiefs, and, on certain issues, a huge chunk of the electorate," this final assertion being completely at odds with the facts. He was "wasting his honeymoon on sideshows" or, as David Brinkley put it, on "peripheral issues," meaning that safeguarding the constitutional rights of American citizens who happen to be gay or lesbian is a lesser issue, a waste of time.

Insisting on nominating a woman to be Attorney General was, in Charles Krauthammer's eyes, "not just un-American, it's bad politics," because you are "deliberately excluding half the population" when you choose people "according to their genes." Funny how Krauthammer never pointed this out when one-half the population was deliberately excluded from key posts in the Bush and Reagan Cabinets. Besides, if you're looking for a woman, added Krauthammer, "you can't get the best people" because there aren't women who have as much experience as men. It's true, insisting on a woman means you can't match such quality appointments of the past as Ed Meese, Ray Donovan, and James Watt.

Not one pundit so much as mentioned Clinton's pathbreaking efforts to have. every child in the nation immunized against preventable diseases.

Then there's Hillary doing such unladylike things as going to the Hill to meet with Congressional leaders about policy-which people won't tolerate, Sam Donaldson warned, because it will seem like "Hillary's running the country." George "Miss Manners" Will lectured that Hillary disrupts age-old Government protocol, since it's so "awkward for members of Congress to deal with the President through the President's spouse." Clinton's other mistake is not having a Washington "insider" in the Oval Office, someone, as Gordon Petersen put it, with "brass knuckles" who knows how to deliver "a knee in the groin" when needed. Note the deep anxiety that the Presidency is getting "feminized."

In the aftermath of Clinton's State of the Union address, the gap between the public and the press has been most striking. Whatever one thinks of the plan and its details, the speech was a watershed in recent Presidential politics because of its focus on the long term and because it sought to substitute idealism for cynicism both inside and outside Washington. While three out of four Americans approved of the speech, many of them enthusiastically, the press has attacked it on the most narrow, self-serving, and, in the end, cynical grounds.

Indignantly attacking the notion that they themselves now fall into the category of "rich," the pundits have coined a new term, the "so-called rich." David Brinkley pooh-poohed the idea of taxing the rich since "there are so few rich people in this country." The McLaughlin Group sent its two liberals, Eleanor Clift and Jack Germond, on vacation and featured instead a panel of neocon supply-siders to back McLaughlin's assertion that Clinton was "making a manageable economic problem into a full-blown crisis." Lawrence Kudlow, a voodoo-economics acolyte from The Wall Street Journal, predicted economic disaster and likened Clinton to a socialist who has "moved so fast and so far to the Left" that we are indeed in peril. This criticism is especially noteworthy since none of the talk shows gave time to liberal, let alone progressive, commentary on the package. Repeatedly, the pundits emphasized that the polls, which they're usually so eager to take at face value, may show support for Clinton but that this support is really "fragile."

Only Tom Oliphant got it right. Unlike the "sniping and carping" of the press, the public appreciates the seriousness and the vision of Clinton's initiative. "What's going on outside of this town is way ahead of what's going on inside this town."
COPYRIGHT 1993 The Progressive, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Pundit Watch - anti-Clinton media analysis
Author:Douglas, Susan
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Jenny Holzer.
Next Article:The McLaughlin Group.

Related Articles
Politics in the thunderdome.
Blame it on the baby boom.
Yokel no more.
Of cynics and the world-weary.
Hillary as diversion.
Clinton Allies Keep Poverty Off the National Agenda.
Bush the Lesser.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters