November 21, 2006

Hillary Clinton - The Whitewater Lies

I was just talking with a friend about the potential Democratic nominee field for 2008, as initially spurred by John Edwards' Daily Kos visit, which is an interesting thread all by itself.

Not having been around the political blogs much, my friend thinks about Hillary Clinton what most people with only establishment media exposure think about her, namely, that she got away with something in the Whitewater matter. That she lied to the investigators. Neither thing is true.

Sen. Clinton isn't my first or, for that matter, even my second pick for the 2008 Democratic nomination. I'm not her biggest fan to come to her defense, but if she's to be evaluated as a candidate, she should be evaluated fairly and on her merits. She should be evaluated without an unwarranted shadow of prejudice, without a presumption of criminal behavior where none should be.

So, here are the golden oldies from Salon, a media outlet that managed to put out the truth while others have refused to this day to apologize for their lies.

The original smoking lie about Hillary Clinton and Whitewater, courtesy of Ted Koppel and Jeff Greenfield, emphasis mine.

... Even more damning was a "Nightline" report broadcast that same evening. The segment came very close to branding Hillary Clinton a perjurer. In his introduction, host Ted Koppel spoke pointedly about "the reluctance of the Clinton White House to be as forthcoming with documents as it promised to be." He then turned to correspondent Jeff Greenfield, who posed a rhetorical question: "Hillary Clinton did some legal work for Madison Guaranty at the Rose Law Firm, at a time when her husband was governor of Arkansas. How much work? Not much at all, she has said."

Up came a video clip from Hillary's April 22, 1994, Whitewater press conference. "The young attorney, the young bank officer, did all the work," she said. "It was not an area that I practiced in. It was not an area that I know anything, to speak of, about." Next the screen filled with handwritten notes taken by White House aide Susan Thomases during the 1992 campaign. "She [Hillary] did all the billing," the notes said. Greenfield quipped that it was no wonder "the White House was so worried about what was in Vince Foster's office when he killed himself."

What the audience didn't know was that the ABC videotape had been edited so as to create an inaccurate impression. At that press conference, Mrs. Clinton had been asked not how much work she had done for Madison Guaranty, but how her signature came to be on a letter dealing with Madison Guaranty's 1985 proposal to issue preferred stock. ABC News had seamlessly omitted thirty-nine words from her actual answer, as well as the cut, by interposing a cutaway shot of reporters taking notes. The press conference transcript shows that she actually answered as follows: "The young attorney [and] the young bank officer did all the work and the letter was sent. But because I was what we called the billing attorney -- in other words, I had to send the bill to get the payment sent -- my name was put on the bottom of the letter. It was not an area that I practiced in. It was not an area that I know anything, to speak of, about."

ABC News had taken a video clip out of context, and then accused the first lady of prevaricating about the very material it had removed. Within days, the doctored quotation popped up elsewhere. ...

The final Office of Independent Council report completely vindicated the Clintons of wrongdoing, but what was the role of the first Bush administration in pushing Whitewater?

... There are many passages in the OIC report that beg the question of whether more questions would have been asked if the independent counsel were interested in scrutinizing the behavior of former Bush administration officials rather than people tied to the Clinton administration. Why did the independent counsel choose to investigate possible foot-dragging on the part of U.S. Attorney Banks (who is completely vindicated in the report), when Banks had no reason to help Bill Clinton, and ignore the possibility that inappropriate pressure tactics were employed by Attorney General Barr, when Barr had a vested interest in seeing Clinton lose in November? ...

But what do you think about Sen. Clinton personally? Any chance your impressions have been influenced by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan's book, "The Case Against Hillary Clinton", just because it filtered through to a media personality you read or listen to?

... With a title like "The Case Against Hillary Clinton," you expect the deck to be stacked (the jacket cover is a photograph of the first lady in an attentive pose, wearing what could be a Mao suit). What you don't expect from a writer of Noonan's sophistication is the complete, unbridled demonization of the Clintons. They represent what the Pope called "the culture of death," according to Noonan -- even as she denies their significance. "She does not seem as big as the emotion she engenders," writes Noonan of her prey. "She lacks historical heft, is not a person of real size and authenticity." ...

Hillary Clinton has her issues, but who doesn't? The truth is that she's law-abiding and deserves a fair hearing in the court of public opinion. The media didn't spend the same number of breathless months dissecting the final Independent Council report that absolved her of guilt that they did trumpeting the possibility that she might have done something wrong.

Media figures like Jeff Greenfield lied about her. Everyone who repeated ABC's doctored quote and his and Koppel's insinuation about it, lied about her. It isn't just that Sen. Clinton deserves better, the voters deserve better. We deserve to have our voting decisions informed by the truth, guided by accurate and honest evaluations of the people we're choosing to make our laws. If we choose to like or dislike a candidate, it should be a decision founded on fact.

The likelihood is that Sen. Clinton will run as a candidate in the Democratic primary in 2008 and that all of this dreck will surface again. I'd like to ask you, no matter whom you support for the nomination, when you hear these insinuations and slanders repeated, please push back. Write letters to the editor, call stations, make sure someone knows we're out here paying attention and holding the press accountable. Because too many journalists have proven time and again that the last thing they want to do is fact check, either their own work or that of their colleagues.

2008: Let's have a fact-based campaign debate. For once.

Posted by natasha at November 21, 2006 12:43 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

I absolutely agree that we as voters should be given the correct information about our candidates. It is a great disservice to us to vote based on false information. I'm surprised that ABC News would alter their footage of Hilary Clinton in order to accuse her of wrong doing. Even though some have found out that she was wrongly accused, Natasha is right, this will come up again if she decides to run in 2008. Even though Hilary Clinton did nothing wrong some will still suspect her of doing something wrong with the Whitewater incident. I think everyone would agree that we want the facts, not the false accusations.

Posted by: Stephanie Ngo at November 25, 2006 10:30 PM