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Caveat lector

10 September 1998

Smile-a-while: Someone said that someone said it... let’s just say Bill Clintondid!

Synopsis: Peter Ferrara, in the Washington Times, has a whole new approach to quotation.

Clinton ploy for a federal shutdown?
Peter Ferrara, The Washington Times,9/9/98

Readers will recall our amusement at the GOP line about the possibility of a government shutdown; we’ve been amused by feigned fear that the ol’ debbil, Bill Clinton, will shut ’er down “to change the subject” this fall. As we’ve said: in the current climate, the notion that Bill Clinton could veto a reasonable CR, and somehow arrange to pin the blame on the Congress--well, it’s about as likely as Senator Phil Gramm deciding to finance more X-rated movies!

That’s why this piece by Peter Ferrara caught our eye in the Times this week--because Ferrara had a quote where Clinton flat-out said he was planning to shut down the government! Maybe the Republicans had been right all along! Here’s how Ferrara’s piece limned it:

FERRARA: Republicans are already rightly sounding the alarm to alert the public to Mr. Clinton’s cynical strategy...Moreover, the Republicans are already planning to pass a continuing resolution that will keep the government funded while Congress and Mr. Clinton work out the details of next year’s budget. Mr. Clinton has said he would veto such a resolution as “a bare bones budget.” [Our emphasis]

It was that last sentence that caught our eye, and made us think we’d been totally wrong. By gum! The GOP doesn’t fearthat he’ll kill their CRs; Clinton’s already saidthat he’ll do it! It did seem strange that he was planning that “bare bones” defense, since he didn’t know yet how hefty the CRs would be. But there it was, in black and white--that ol’ debbil Bill Clinton had already announcedhe was planning to shut down the government!

We were frankly amazed that other newspapers had failed to report this important development. Truth is, we hadn’t seen a word about Clinton’s statement--anywhere except in the Times! So we got on the phone and we called up Ferrara to find out where Clinton had made his rash statement. We were already picturing the next day’s DAILY HOWLER--you know, the one in which we’d simply assailthe press corps for failing to report Clinton’s threat.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, when Ferrara came on the phone, the story wasn’t quite what we’d pictured. We asked where Clinton had made his statement; hemming and hawing came back over the line! According to Ferrara, Clinton might well have said this in some speech or other, but Ferrara was unable to call one to mind. It turned out that some aide of Clinton’s had said this to someone in some sort of budget meeting or other. You know, some sort of a meeting where someone had said this to someone else, at some point in time?

We’ll admit that, just for a moment or two, we were surprised at the approach to attribution. Someone had said this to someone, in some meeting; so Ferrarawent ahead, and he put it in quotes, and he said that Bill Clintonhad said it! And the Washington Times had gone right ahead, and they’d published it right there in their op-ed pages! You know--right in the paper where you’re constantly reading how you can’t believe a word Clintonsays?

We thought again of all the times we’ve told you how this press corps lies-to-prove-Clinton’s-a-liar. We thought of the ways this press corps displays all the traits it so piously claims to hate in Big Bill. And so, although we could have gotten all mad or something, and called someone up and complained or whatever, instead we decided to call this to yournotice. And we thought we’d remind you, whoever you are, of the thing that we’ve said so many times in the past--how it’s all just a part of what we dolove to call: “Life in this celebrity press corps.”

And go ahead, y'all--you can quote us.