Read my lips: No new press conferences

Another casualty in the Marc Rich pardon debacle? Plus: Linda Chavez says campaign finance reform is dead; Alan Greenspan is dreamy.

Published March 29, 2001 5:34PM (EST)

Anger management

The Clinton pardon scandal and its capillaries continue to sprinkle across Op-Ed pages and bulletin board sites alike. In today's New York Times, William Safire continues his exploration of Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman's role in the pardon of Marc Rich.

It started with an angry phone call from Foxman to Safire. "'You never made a mistake in your life?'" an angry Abraham Foxman ... shouted over the phone. 'What about when you worked for that anti-Semite Nixon?'" Safire writes that Foxman had reason to be upset. "It had just been revealed that Foxman -- whose organization had received $250,000 over the years from Marc Rich -- had not only written to President Bill Clinton urging forgiveness for the fugitive billionaire but was present at the creation of the pardon plot."

But posters at were unimpressed with the latest developments. Chalk up another one to the vast, right-wing conspiracy. "Well, I may have been a few days off on the date ... But, it does appear that pardongate is ending with a whimper rather than a bang ... No new news, and this forum may close before the formal announcement is made that no wrong-doing has been found. Just as the Jackson forum closed before Ryan reported that the results of his investigation indicated that PUSH/Rainbow had done nothing wrong. The only smell was an olfactory hallucination, a folie a quatre, shared by Burton, Barr and a few aging Scaiffettes."

Add Andrew Sullivan to that list. Responding to today's Times column, he writes, "Safire lets his old buddy off lightly, in my opinion. Foxman should quit over this, surely."

That sentiment was echoed, in slightly different tones, by the folks at "I just read Safire's article in the NY Times. At the close he writes that Foxman came by his office and they 'made up' and are friends again. They wished each other a Happy Passover. Jeez!! Foxman, Pollard, Safire, Rich -- what a bunch of law-abiding, patriotic, straight-shooting Americans! NOT!!!"

But the consensus of the thread was clear: It was time for Foxman's head. "Foxman, as Bill Safire points out in the NY Times, has done the ADL, and Jews in general, no good with this debacle. Time to resign," writes another poster. "How about a Conservative Jew for the job?"

Weblines "Linda Chavez ... Campaign Finance Reform Is Dead"
Drudge Report: "The Picture the Media Refuses to Show"
Online Journal: "Whitewashing CIA Mind Control Atrocities"
Rich Galen's Mullings: "It's Not the Money, It's the Principle"
The Onion: "Fifth-Grader Writes 'Mrs. Alan Greenspan' All Over Her Notebook"

Big buzz

It's like déjà vu all over again. A spokesman for President Bush announced Wednesday that the president would no longer hold formal press conferences, the Associated Press reports. The move is a reprise of Bush's campaign strategy when he started losing steam.

To be sure, Bush is not at his best in a formal news conference setting. It was at one such conference that the word "subliminable" was born, for example. And witness this lead from the AP yesterday: "President Bush urged restraint by both Israel and the Palestinians on Thursday to halt the recent 'escalation of violation' in the Middle East." The guy is no Mr. Eloquent.

It's a strange thing about the media: Every partisan is convinced that the media's playing for the other team, but when a partisan's political opponent shuts the media out, it is a gross violation of the media's rights.

Witness Table Talk, where a new thread already has 156 postings since Wednesday's announcement. The thread's title: "No More Press Conferences ... Bush Afraid of Even the Pro Bush Press."

"Can you believe this?" writes one poster. "Bush is even afraid of the Press sucking up to him in an open forum. He has to be the biggest coward to ever hold the office of President ... The supposed leader of the free world is afraid to be asked questions by reporters of his own choosing."

Another Table Talker chimed in with this swipe at the president: "Just dress him up in a little hat and vest and have him run around with a little silver cup and Cheney can play the organ grinder."

The conservative sites, of course, were more forgiving and generally less interested. The thread at had all of two -- count 'em, two -- postings. "Always keep the press down wind," writes one.

The Freepers don't seem to think the world will miss much by the cancellation of formal press briefings. "Did anyone watch that press conference Bush just gave? Those pool reporters are absolute morons. The questions that they ask Dubya are absolutely ridiculous. It is a real concern of mine about the quality of reporters representing the various news outlets. I give Bush a lot of credit for keeping a positive tone there in the press room despite the absolute stupid and speculative questions they ask. There needs to be a change that alas I know will never happen," writes one.

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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