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Clinton's Infomercial - September 17, 1997

Richard Brian McCarty

The President and Vice-President made a joint appearance Friday before the press to announce their choice for Surgeon General. The quality of that choice will be seen as the hearings go forth. However, the quality of the Washington press corps was evident Friday. And, it is low.

When the President opened up the forum for questions, the questions seemed planted by the administration. There was one on how the President will punish the evil tobacco companies. There were several about Jesse Helms denying hearings for former Governor William Weld's confirmation as Ambassador to Mexico. Notably missing from the questions were two issues of historic consequence--the pending litigation against a sitting President by Paula Jones, and the accusations from some United States senators that the Vice-President may have broken campaign finance laws repeatedly. Both those issues, and their possible impact upon the nation, seem more important than softball questions about William Weld and tobacco. If carried out to their possible consequences, we could have a President weakened and laughed at around the world, and a Vice-President leaving office. Yet, to the Washington press corps, those issues did not exist. Instead they give us a performance that is remindful of the washed up actors who ask "probing" questions of the self-made millionaires promoting their schemes through an infomercial.

It is a stark contrast from the days of Ronald Reagan and George Bush. When Iran-Contra started, scenes of Sam Donaldson shouting questions about it to President Reagan as he walked to his helicopter were repeated again and again. George Bush found himself dogged while jogging about everything from his tax ideas to the hair- brained notion that he helped to negotiate the holding of American hostages in Iran so that he and Ronald Reagan could win in 1980. Perhaps those questions should have been asked then. However, because they were asked then, it begs the question, why are the tough questions not asked now?

Perhaps it is because those in the Washington press corps hold the same political views as the President. Perhaps it is because of excellent spin control by the White House. Perhaps it is the fear of the reporters to be cut out of the loop. Whatever the reason, it denies the American public the right, through the media, to have the tough questions asked.

There may be a silver lining to all of this, though. The infomercial may someday shed light on what was done in the fund raising scheme. The President and Vice-President have made some excellent contacts for their post-Washington lives. Late at night, Americans channel surfing will find Al Gore, with two Washington journalists. Al Gore will look into the camera and say, "That's right, I raised millions of dollars in just one year, and with my program, you can too." Perhaps then we will find out just how, when the journalists continue to play their role of softball pitchers and lead him through step by step. Of course, the President will have to have a life as well. Maybe his infomercial will be about how to "pick up babes." " Just call them on up to the hotel room, my video tape will show you how, " the former President may say. Of course, the viability of that infomercial will depend on how Ms. Jones fairs in the courts. But, at least the Washington journalists the President and Vice-President would hire would be doing what they were paid to do, and had an obligation to do. Which is what they are not doing now.

Richard Brian McCarty has worked on several political campaigns of conservatives. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina and a BS degree from Lander University. An experienced writer, McCarty's columns are written from a distinctly Southern point of view. He is sometimes Southern, sometimes conservative, sometimes humorous, and sometimes all three.


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