.. n the late 1990s. “Perhaps we’ve reached a point where Americans really do compartmentalize to separate the president’s public actions from his personal life”, says Larry Berman, a political science professor at the University of California, Davis. “Today the voters realize they have a human being in the White House who has the same shortcomings and foibles that we all have,” Davis adds. “It’s like Melrose Place all the time.” “The establishment of the office of independent counsel in 1978 also changed views of the presidency”, says Shirley Anne Warshaw, associate professor of political science at Gettysburg College and author of “The Domestic Presidency”.
The Clinton-Lewinsky story “is all based on a series of leaks,” she notes. “Ever since Watergate, society has said ‘Let’s investigate our officials at a different level.'” The Clinton sex scandal supplies all the evidence. It is a story made in Web media heaven: Too complex for a 90-second TV report, too fast-breaking for print newspapers and too titillating for the public to ignore. People flocked to the Internet in record numbers when the story broke. At Fox News Online, the Clinton scandal generated more traffic than the death of Princess Diana.
At AP Online, the scandal outran the Super Bowl 3-to-1. At CNN Interactive, it contributed to a tenfold hike in traffic in one day. And the Washington Post’s Web site was hit so hard, it had to add extra servers. That is not to say the online news was always accurate. Plenty of people argue the coverage was reckless, at best. But everyone agrees that the Web drove the media frenzy.
Because Web news organizations exploited their five advantages: 1. Speed. News delivered when it happensnot when the paper is printed. And it doesn’t have to be videotaped, edited and airedjust posted to a server. 2. Space. Can’t squeeze in details? No problem, just link to another page.
3. Cost. No costly newsprint. No delivery trucks or newsstands. No TV studios to operate. No satellites to rent. 4. Interactivity.
Newsgroups, chat rooms and other discussion forums offer an instant soap box. And an audience. 5. Open all night. It is never too late to break a story on the Internet. For example people can post their opinions on certain issues so others can read them and reply. Like this letter posted by a woman in response to an editorial article on the Internet concerning the Clinton scandal: “Your story regarding the rush to report on the Clinton scandal pushed me to do something I never thought I would do.
That is respond to a web site. Yes I am sure the Internet showed its flying colors when it came to getting and reporting the story first. What story? I have a question for you. When did this nation start practicing Roman Greco Law (guilty until proven innocence)? I thought we practiced Common Law, but I guess in our tabloid mentality anything goes. I say shame on every type of news media that is available in this country.
Will the truth once it is known even if it is not as spectacular, be splashed all over every media vehicle available? I’m sorry but I doubt it. Do any of us other than the President and Ms. Lewinsky know what the truth is? Is it any of our business? Just asking. You have a wonderful valuable service, I visit your site at least once if not more each day. Please don’t waste my value time by selling the merit of this media via some scandal.
This media can rest quite comfortable on its own value. Thank you.” But before Web news can become world-class, it must overcome certain deficiencies: 1. Visuals. Television will win this one, hands-down, until streaming technology improves. 2. Access.
Online access must pass critical mass. 3. Credibility. The Internet has to shed its reputation as a digital rumor mill. It’s been quite an exciting few weeks for the nation. Since the alleged President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky alliance first hit the news, the public has been treated to scandal coverage of the first order.
The power of 24hour news networks, the print media, and the Internet have been at the public’s service to help them wade through the sordid morass of the Clinton sex files. From the beginning of the coverage, there has been a perception that this was the media’s big break with Clinton. Heavily criticized by many on the Right for not pursuing the Clinton Administration enough during earlier scandals, the media now seemed to lay into Clinton. Though differing explanations emerged, the prominent one was that the President’s slick maneuvering through previous scandals had irritated the press. Now, with allegations of actual presidential dishonesty, as well as revelations of previous dishonesty to the press regarding the Gennifer Flowers affair and marijuana usage, the press was not going to give the President a free ride.
The accusations of lying to the media and the American people seem like a pretty plausible claims. Clinton (and for that matter, VicePresident Gore) is sneaky, and likes to play the “literal truth” game. Especially in his explanation of his statements in the infamous 1992 60 Minutes interview. At that time, he said allegations of an elevenyear affair with Gennifer Flowers were false, but conceded that he had previously “caused pain to his marriage.” In his deposition in the Paula Jones trial, he admitted to the affair. It doesn’t take a philosophy class in logic to sense that the two statements are inconsistent. Clinton’s explanation shows his adeptness with literal truth. Apparently, the reason he denied an elevenyear affair with Flowers was that the affair wasn’t eleven years old.
Now, it would seem to you or me that this avoids the substantive issue of the question; generally, a question regarding the existence of an elevenyear affair is dealing with the existence of the affair, not the timespan. Clinton stays literally truthful, but avoids the real question .. such is the “literal truth” game. Clinton is surely not the first to do this; while you or I may not do it on a very consistent basis, I’ll bet we all have at one time or another. I am sure that we have all been caught at one time or another and when you get caught at that sort of thing, your victim’s assessment is that you are dishonest. Given this, we can see why the press might be annoyed with Clinton, for this “literal truth” game has been played consistently from the Press Briefing Room for six years.
From Flowers to Whitewater, “Zippergate” to the campaign contribution scandal, the press has been, at worst, told the literal truth only; at best, they have been used. So, the relentless media push on this current Clinton scandal is understandable. Yet if they believed that hard investigative reporting of White House shenanigans would hurt President Clinton this time, they were clearly wrong. No matter how many hour long Investigating the President specials CNN runs, it seems that the Lewinsky affair is the “Little Scandal that Couldn’t.” Yet the press, for all its highminded condemnations of Clintonian morality, certainly cannot look to anyone but itself for the public’s current lack of concern, since their focus has in some ways created the problem. The implications of the Lewinsky affair for Clinton have boiled down to two separate issues. The moral issue of Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky is quite different from potential presidential obstruction of justice and subordination of perjury.
Now, the moral / sexual issue is by far the most appealing, ratingswise. Surely, more people are interested in the sordid details of what went on between Clinton and Lewinsky during the throes of passion than what may have transpired in their later conversations. Thus one can understand why media coverage of the Lewinsky affair begins, proceeds, and ends almost totally over questions over the sexual allegations. The problem is that the issues with teeth are those of subordination of perjury and obstruction of justice. They are the ones that people actually seem to care about; polls suggest that the public does not care about the sexual charges.
If Clinton lied, the public says, then he should go, if it is just an affair, then so what? The result has been a press focus that is distinctly not persuasive to the American people. Market forces demand sex, the public hears of the sex, the public doesnt care about the sex, so Clinton isn’t seriously hurt by the sex. While people are aware of the potentially more serious charges, these issues have not received the serious focus they deserve. The distinction is crucial, since it appears more and more likely that the sexual allegations are true and provable, while the perjury and obstruction charges could well elude investigators. Clinton supporters in all this have several key facts they will need to explain away if they are to put together a coherent story in which Lewinsky and Clinton had no sexual relations. Why so long before a clear presidential denial of such relations? What explains the hours of tape of Lewinsky talking to Linda Tripp? Perhaps most crucial, what explains the 37 visits by Lewinsky to the White House, after she was transferred to the Pentagon by a White House manager concerned about Lewinsky’s zealous attempts to get close to the President? The attempts so far to exonerate the President of these sexual allegations all bear trademark similarities.
There are the ad hominem attacks on Kenneth Starr and Linda Tripp. There are the appeals to the wonderful merits of the Clinton presidency (yes, it is apparently more than simply staying out the way of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan). There are the mysterious rumors of the “rightwing conspiracy” out to get the President. What do all these have in common? While interesting questions, they are clearly not particularly relevant to the fundamental questions of what Clinton did. The fact that the President’s defenders do more attacking of Clinton’s accusers than disproving their allegations is quite telling.
But for all the press coverage the sexual charges have received, it will be helpful for Starr only so far as it provides links to the other allegations of wrongdoing. There is a real risk here that the questions involved in these matters will reduce to legal discussions to which people will not listen, or (worse) to which people will not care. This raises the question: can the press be counted on to cover these charges with as much vigilance as they have the sexual issues? There is some evidence that the press will not be reluctant to go after these issues; in fact, in some cases it appears many in the press have leapt to conclusions on the basis of flimsy evidence. The Dallas Morning News, for example, scooped the story of certain Secret Service officials being subpoenaed for their knowledge of the President’s affairs, only to find that crucial details of their story were not entirely accurate. Such errors of reporting should not occur, and the press certainly has a special responsibility in this case not to put forth scurrilous allegations, given its nature. However, these previous difficulties, Presidential disavowals and denials, mounting criticism from the Left, and potentially declining ratings could combine to create an environment where important issues will not be covered.
It happened with Whitewater, it happened with the campaign finance violations, and it could happen here. This is where conservatives (and Republicans) have an important role. Up to now, the Right has wisely stayed quiet, letting Clinton simmer in the face of criticism from his own party. Their role in the coming weeks should not be to directly attack Clinton, but to monitor the developing situation and make sure the press remains vigilant in its quest for answers. All signs indicate that the public cares more about the perjury and obstruction charges; they may watch the news for the titillation, but the titillation is not so relevant when they decide their opinion as to Clinton’s fate.
The Right should do all it can to make sure relevant information is available to the public. MR Shows like “Access Hollywood” and “Extra” base their shows on celebrities’ lives. But now the focus is on Bill Clinton and his sex scandal trial. Instead of thinking about getting high ratings, they should consider the influence they have on the American people and the potential damage that could cause. Much of the United States is uneducated and believes that the word of the media is the absolute truth, and they form their opinions and actions on what the media preaches. You cannot even turn on the TV without seeing the same images of Monica Lewinski, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers and other key players in the presidential scandal.
The media failed to turn up any new evidence and spent weeks broadcasting special reports that were nothing more than speculations. The famous image of Bill Clinton embracing Monica Lewinski was all too much a subliminal message telling the American people that it is allright to disrespect and dislike the leader of their country. Despite these allegations that are certainly should not be condoned, Bill Clinton was elected twice to run the most powerful country of the World and will continue to do so nomatter what. Now every day some new story breaks about a different woman that claims Bill Clinton agressed them sexually. Bill Clinton can only prove so much to prove his innocence and probably isn’t innocent, but nontheless it doesn’t concern the American public since it doesn’t concern his ability to perform in the Oval Office.
(No pun intended.) Even though being in the spotlight comes with being a world leader, the media don’t need to worry about the every move and the secrets from his past. The media needs to inform the public of the Presidents misgivings that could possibly put his capabilities. There are also victims, and what about their rights? It is very difficult to write a complete and current paper on this.