Will the last pundit in Washington who believes there may be a scintilla of a chance that President Clinton did not have an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky please turn out the lights?
This pundit recognizes those chances are slim. She even harbors feelings of her own not incompatible with those of the wailing chorus of media types. But what is troubling is the media's absolute disregard for the basic rules of American jurisprudence (i.e., innocent until proven guilty).Consider the following comments made on last Sunday's news-talk programs. Courtesy of the Internet's Slate magazine, we learn that the media are offering the president two possible strategies as he prepares for his grand jury testimony next week. The first is dubbed the "mea minima culpa" strategy, and was, according to Slate, endorsed by ABC's Cokie Roberts and ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos (no loyal former employee, he) and by Republican Joe Di Genova appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press." This strategy is for the president to tell the grand jurors he had an affair with Lewinsky but to refuse to say anything else.
The other strategy is for him to renege on the offer to testify at all. Several pundits, including that most unbiased Pat Buchanan, say this would be unthinkable. Nowhere mentioned in the Slate article, on television or in the newspapers is the unthinkable scenario that perhaps he did not do "it."
Not yet persuaded? Here's more. On what is perhaps the most venerated op-ed page in America, The New York Times' Sunday page, columnist Maureen Dowd, the queen of cynicism, wrote the following: "If Mr. Clinton had not brought the Furies down on himself, through his reckless, selfish behavior, if he had not betrayed family and aides and allies with his vast carelessness, think of all he could have accomplished in his second term."
Whatever happened to the prospect of waiting for a jury's decision before convicting someone in the press?
Let me be the first to say I'm reserving judgment until the grand jury acts to indict (or declines to do so), and a court of law convicts (or similarly declines). Journalists routinely offer the same publicity protections to the most common of criminals. Even such alleged murderers as Russell Weston Jr., the man accused in the shootings of two U.S. Capitol policemen, and alleged school shooter Kipland Kinkel of Oregon notoriety are given the courtesy of being identified as "alleged" perpetrators, until a jury finds them otherwise.
Why do the media not accord the same courtesies to the president? The driving need to be first (which buries the need to be accurate)? The hyper-cynicism that pervades not only the media, but our age? The pack mentality in journalism that shuns, even condemns, individual thinking?
I'm not sure of the correct answer. But these points I offer for consideration:
First, the American public's not buying what the pundits are selling. Last week's Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed 68 percent approval ratings for Clinton.
The media are supposed to lead the way, but obviously the people are smarter than the pundits they watch. Otherwise, President Clinton would be former President Clinton by now.
Second, all future conservative claims of a liberally biased media should be referred to the quotes noted above. If the media are controlled by liberals, why are they bringing down the only progressive president we are likely to have in the next few decades?
Finally, why not wait for the DNA results? At least that would be some scientific evidence on which to base such claims. But as Carrie Fisher wrote in "Postcards From the Edge": "Instant gratification takes too long."