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4 December 1998

Life in this celebrity press corps: By law, the pundits spun it

Synopsis: It’s a law: pundits are required to get perturbed at everything Vile Clinton does.

Fine-Tuned Lawyering
David Broder, The Washington Post, 12/1/98

President’s Strategy
John M. Broder, The New York Times, 12/1/98

Clinton Responds to Hyde’s Queries; Yields No Ground
John M. Broder, The New York Times, 12/1/98

Yep, it really seems to be a law: pundits are required to get perturbed at everything Vile Clinton does. No bit of conduct, no matter how pointless, has to be spun into a threat to the republic. It isn’t enough to state a case on the main things that Clinton has done, and perhaps move on to something else. Every act the Vile One does must show us his slippery, vile nature.

Nothing has shown this law any better than pundit response to Silly Question #1, the “fatuous” (USA Today) first question the Judiciary Committee posed in its 81 questions. The JudeCo Gang was in high pique, and they posed this pointless query:

JUDECO: Do you admit or deny that you are the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States of America?

Semantically, it’s not clear to us how you could “admit” to that--is there some reason why Vile couldn’t be asked to “affirm” it?--but, asked a puzzling question by a blood-thirsty posse, Vile offered a careful response. In two sentences, he pointed out that there is no such language in the constitution, though the term is often applied to the prez; and he said that the constitution does make the president the head of the executive branch, which includes the government’s law enforcement powers. [Click for Bill’s full-blown response.]

Given the fact that we’re talking impeachment, we have a hard time finding fault with his answer. If there’s ever a time you don’t have to just say “Yes” or “No,” we would think that this must be it. And as we’ve said, the answer’s only two sentences long, and everything the answer says is true. But you must recall that new, strict law: pundits must be Constantly Outraged. Every word Vile Clinton says must be spun out to show his Slick Nature.

Yesterday, we reviewed Donald Lambro’s disgraceful “critique” of Clinton’s unremarkable response. Lambro quoted only the first of Clinton’s two sentences, and then he scolded him for failing to say what he’d said in his second sentence! It’s hard to believe any paper would publish such outright, howling deception and pap, especially as part of a writer’s attempt to show you can’t trust Clinton. But remember: anything goes in critiquing Bill. Please--you can spin to prove Clinton’s a spinner.

Anyway, it wasn’t just Lambro who had big complaints with Clinton’s response to query 1. Even David Broder was fighting his pique at the things that Vile Clinton had said. Broder had already scored Clinton’s “convoluted answers,” and his “use of language as camouflage:”

BRODER (two paragraphs): Any thought that he might actually help the committee narrow and clarify the truly tough questions it faces in its impeachment hearings quickly went out the window. Asked at the outset if he would simply confirm “that you are the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America,” he responded: “The president is frequently referred to as the chief law enforcement officer, although nothing in the Constitution specifically designates him as such.”

Not one of the 81 questions--not even those dealing with uncontested facts--received a direct “yes” or “no” answer.

Broder, of course, pulls the same puzzling trick that Lambro had done in the Times. He ridicules Clinton for an unresponsive answer, although he only repeats half of what Clinton has said. He does clean up the committee’s language--in Broder’s world, Clinton was politely asked to “confirm” his status. And it never enters Broder’s mind to wonder why Clinton is being asked about “uncontested facts”--never enters his head that a target being asked puzzling, pointless questions would be well advised to be careful in responding.

But a second Broder was thrown for a loop by Clinton’s two-sentence rejoinder. Visit awhile with John M. Broder, fuming in the Times:

BRODER II (12/1/98): Except for matters of incontrovertible fact--the dates of meetings, the times of telephone calls--Mr. Clinton contested every accusation and disputed every witness against him. He would not even give a simple answer to the question of whether he was the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, the committee’s very first query.

Again, Clinton’s answer to the question was two sentences long. If this answer is really too complex for Broder, might he not consider a new line of work? And it’s especially odd that Broder II does not understand why Clinton was careful; on the day the 81 answers were first released--before the PunditLine was established--this is what Broder II had to say, right on page one of the Times:

BRODER II (11/28/98): Some of the committee’s questions suggested an intent to elicit answers at variance with those in Mr. Clinton’s previous sworn testimony to help build a perjury case against him.

Really! That might suggest to any defendant a need to be careful in his responses. But by 12/1, the official PunditLine was known, and Broder II was feigning surprise that a target might utter two sentences.

(By the way, please note that Broder II contradicts Broder I’s claim that Clinton refused to give direct answers to matters of uncontested fact. Sometimes even this celebrity lynch mob can’t quite get its story down straight.)

As we’ll see tomorrow, Cal Thomas also turned to Query 1 to show us the horrors that lurk in Vile Clinton, joining USA Today, Lambro, and both the Broders in zeroing in on this troubling issue. And it really helps us see the vacuous depths that can be reached by this celebrity press corps. There are plenty of things that Vile has done that may be relevant to an impeachment proceeding. But this completely accurate, two-sentence answer to an attitude-laced and imprecise question? Writers who waste their time on this are ready for outdoor work.

No, nothing much turns on the absurd waste of time these writers devoted to this pointless matter. But when writers are willing to descend to this level--to waste their time on matters like this--we see again the New Pundit Dictum: every matter, no matter how pointless, must be spun to prove Clinton’s a spinner.

Tomorrow: Cal Thomas came up with a different complaint: Vile Bill can’t remember every word he may once have said to Miss Monica.