You’re familiar, of course, with the Wall Street Journal. A friend of sweatshop labor, evangelical zealotry and as few options for poor people as can be got away with, the Journal does not like Bill Clinton. In fact, the Wall Street Journal has spent six years writing about Bill Clinton as if he were a cross between Eugene Debs and Charles Manson.
And you’re familiar, needless to say, with the New York Times. The Times is a liberal newspaper, enemy of all the above and friend to, if not, these days, all manifestations of, the downtrodden, at least the uninsured, the family-planning reliant and seekers of liberty everywhere. It endorsed Bill Clinton twice and has supported, for good and ill, the lion’s share of the incumbent’s initiatives.
So if I asked you which newspaper’s editorial column produced a sentence like “Until it was measured by Kenneth Starr, no citizen–indeed, perhaps no member of his own family–could have grasped the completeness of President Clinton’s mendacity or the magnitude of his recklessness” (September 12), you’d lean toward the Journal. No, it’s not that poor modifier, dangling out there in un-Times-ian fashion; I mean, this is pretty tough stuff for an establishment sheet–“mendacity” and “President” right there in the same sentence, a juxtaposition that probably never appeared in that newspaper during Ronald Reagan’s entire tenure. The clincher, then; it had to be the Journal. Friends, meet Howell Raines.
We can say with confidence that Clinton has more severe critics than the Times‘s editorial-page editor; unlike some hard-shelled members of the God Caucus, Raines has never tried to suggest, for example, that Vince Foster was murdered (although the adored William Safire, who, it should be noted, has now spent the better part of three years being wrong about virtually everything, has devoted his Times acreage to playing with that notion in a column or two). And as readers of this magazine know, Clinton cannot automatically count on allies on the left in the matter of the Brentwood Pasionaria. Fair enough; there are good reasons people on the left should refuse to hold the man in high esteem. But for a straight-up-the-middle, mainstream liberal newspaperman, Raines has been savage: fulminating full throttle from January straight through to September; in the weeks since, opposed to impeachment but still in high finger-wag, arguing for a censure resolution that would give the lie under oath the life and recognition it deserves, the chance “to be written into the history of his Administration” (December 11) so that future generations would always remember how Clinton dishonored the office and house the American people so (c’mon, you can guess the mandatory verb that belongs here) revere.