Are Clinton stories part of a sinister plot?

Published February 26, 2001 2:35PM (EST)

Singing the blues

OK, so I happen to like Bill Clinton. But seriously, I'm struggling to understand what the media hysteria and public dismay are really all about. The available facts seem far too incredibly thin to support the monumental structure of outrage. First we had the White House and Air Force One vandalism stories, for which no hard evidence but plenty of inflammatory allegations were reported. Finally, after weeks of scandal mongering, the current White House resident dismisses them as "a prank or two" and "completely untrue," respectively. Then came the reports of excessive gift taking, which when finally compared to other past presidents did not seem excessive after all, and this scandal simply runs out of steam. Now, lastly, we are engaged in the pardon abuse scandal. Just when this story was beginning to lose steam after it had been widely reported that A) the money had been paid back with fines, B) the law had changed and Rich would not now be charged criminally and C) many Jewish organizations and Israeli officials had lobbied on Rich's behalf, we were left with the final fact that the pardon was controversial because some did not think a fugitive merited a pardon.

Well, OK, but could any of us muster a lot of heat with that tiny log to fuel our fires? (Besides, who outside the Jewish community or New York had ever heard of Marc Rich before, anyway?) Then one of the most highly respected news organizations, whose headlines I enjoy reading while waiting in the grocery store checkout line ("Cockroaches Eat Hair of Sleeping Victims" is one of my past favorites), breaks the inflammatory story that Hillary's brother accepted a fee for lobbying on Rich's behalf. Once again we are presented with conclusive proof of the old adage "You can pick your nose, but not your relatives." Now that Bill and Hillary have made Hugh give the money back, what fuel will we need to continue to stoke our fires? OK, OK, let's see a show of hands now: Who has enjoyed a little guilty gossip fun? Who thinks there are still plenty of people who have entirely too much fun hating the Clintons? Who thinks that great gossip sells newspapers and magazines and gets the evening news ratings up? If this continues much longer, then I'm going to give serious credence to the idea that there is a sinister and serious bait-and-switch tactic being perpetuated on the American public. Is someone trying to distract our attention from examining in detail the tax cut proposal, the upcoming budget and legislative proposals that will alter reproductive rights, environmental policy and the separation between church and state? Or perhaps keep us from discussing the ugly election and making necessary electoral reforms? A last call for a show of hands: Who thinks we ought to get back to discussing and reading about the serious (albeit boring) problems that face our nation, and leave the gossip and scandal mongering in the grocery store checkout line?

-- Peggy Chowning

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Anger management

Late media recount is bad news for Gore
USA Today reports Gore would have gained only 49 votes in Florida's Miami-Dade County if the undervotes had been counted, according to results from a joint venture by USA Today, the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder. "The results are a blow to Democratic claims that Gore would have won the election if a hand recount had occurred. Democrats had expected to net about 600 additional votes in Miami-Dade," according to USA Today. (But it's worth noting that the decision to count only undervotes has been heavily derided.)

This is only one blip of information from the different media outlets doing recounts in Florida, which carefully parse out their data when they can make a headline. Among conservatives, the latest news is being met with annoyance; in Free Republic's discussion of the story ("Bush Wins Florida Recount (Again ... Still)"), a poster asks: "So what will Carville & McAuliffe & Streisand & Clinton & Gephardt & Lieberman & Gore & & all the rest do and say now, after viciously promising for months that they would 'prove Gore won' & is the rightful President?" So we went over to and, sure enough, that site claims that the 49 votes for Gore have now "increased his statewide lead to 1,017" -- according to its accounting of all recounts, whether or not accepted by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris or the Supreme Court. And the partisans here wonder why the papers that did this recount are "spinning the story as proof that Gore LOST Florida," saying, "This pro-Bush spin looks like the handiwork of propagandist-in-chief Karl Rove."

Among witches, anti-Bush is sentiment brewing [Alternative Religions Educational Network]
According to a "Pagan Press Release on Faith Based Initiative," Bush could face opposition to his faith-based charities initiative of mystical proportions. "The Pagan community, which includes Wiccans, Druids and a wide variety of earth religious faith groups, feels that it has a lot more to fear [by faith-based programs]. The Wiccan community has often been brought up by government officials and the media as a challenge to the program. Many deem Wicca as a substandard religion without giving clarifying reasons for why it would not qualify in the program. Like many other faith groups, earth religious traditions have food pantries, prison ministries, and substance abuse programs in their communities. They are also committed to service in the area of social action in current secular and faith based organizations." The pagans have set up a petition on the AREN Web site, which already boasts "earth religion" luminaries such as "Rev. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Church of All Worlds; Rev. Wren Walker, Rev. Fritz Jung, The Witches' Voice, Inc.; M. Macha NightMare, Ritualist, Author, Pagan Organizer; Ellen Evert Hopman, Order of the Whiteoak (Ord Na Darach Gile)."

By Salon Staff

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