The Richard Clarke Assembly Line

As the American political system negotiated its way through Richard Clarke Week, there is one overarching political lesson: The national media monolith manufactures the “news” any way it desires, a crude daily sculpting of political Silly Putty. It can make someone a household name. It can leave someone utterly unknown in Idaho.

Richard Clarke Week was the latest widget of propaganda from the liberal-media assembly line, designed with an extremely partisan purpose — destroying whatever polling advantage George W. Bush enjoys on protecting the nation from terrorism.

Ask this question: If this previously obscure Richard Clarke had come out with a book in March of 2000 arguing that the Clinton administration was soft on terrorism, would he have received a similar parade of encomiums (and soon, honorariums)? Would his remarks have been received as a refreshingly independent voice raising serious questions that must be seriously answered by a negligent President Clinton?

Answer: No stinking way.

Why not? Because the liberal-media establishment, starting with the New York publishing houses and then trickling onward to the networks and national print kings, never had any interest in books that could prove damaging to President Clinton. Richard Clarke couldn’t count on “60 Minutes” or Simon & Schuster to make him a millionaire back then. (Simon & Schuster is well-known as the long-time publishing home of Hillary Clinton, as well as James Carville.)

Any Clinton administration insider who pondered a tell-all book knew that the probable reception at the end of the tunnel was at worst, complete obscurity with all your bridges burned. At best, you’d get a serious media beating as a disloyal snake, with all your bridges burned.

The exception to this rule was George Stephanopoulos, but he was far too famous to be relegated to obscurity when his memoir All Too Human came out in March of 1999. If his long stint as a paid liar for President Clinton hadn’t made him famous, ABC News certainly had already invested several years into making him “Objective” News Man. But he still was hammered as a disloyal fink. In her interview, Katie Couric suggested he was “creepy,” a “Linda Tripp type,” who was betraying those people who made him, which is “sorta gross.”

A better example of the serious-media-beating principle is Gary Aldrich, the former FBI agent assigned to Clinton White House security, who wrote the best-selling book Unlimited Access for the conservative Regnery house. Aldrich received one TV interview on ABC’s “This Week,” in which conservative George Will ripped him up one side and down the other. (The next segment was Clinton aide Stephanopoulos ripping the author up and down.) Intense White House pressure caused Aldrich to be dropped from scheduled bookings on ABC’s “Nightline,” NBC’s “Dateline” and CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

Showing he’s still good with a bald-faced lie, Stephanopoulos insisted on “Good Morning America” that no White House had never mobilized before Richard Clarke Week to challenge an author’s credibility with such intensity: “On a book? No, never. It’s never happened before.” Shame on ABC for putting that ridiculous notion on the air without correction.

Let’s examine a more recent example of how a disloyal Democrat is received. In mid-October 2003, former Clinton HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo performed publicity for his new book Crossroads, a compilation of liberal and conservative pieces he edited. He appeared in tepid interview sessions on Fox with Bill O’Reilly, on MSNBC with Joe Scarborough, and on NPR with Tavis Smiley.

A week later, the New York Post‘s Fred Dicker noticed that Cuomo’s introduction was a blazing attack on the Democratic establishment. Democrats lost elections in 2000 and 2002 because “we were lost in time … To voters, we seemed bloodless, soulless and clueless.” Young Cuomo was especially harsh on September 11. Democrats “fumbled the seminal moment of our lives — the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” While Bush “exemplified leadership … on the Democratic side, there was chaos. We handled 9/11 like it was a debate over a highway bill instead of a matter of people’s lives.”

The media could have made it Andrew Cuomo Week. Instead, Cuomo’s book introduction received a very supine TV silence. ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN did zilch. Chris Matthews mentioned it in passing on MSNBC, and Fox’s Sean Hannity and Brit Hume each noticed for a minute. But days later, no one could remember these passages ever being published.

This is how 2004 is unfolding with our partisan press. Every week is a Bush-bashing week. There’s Paul O’Neill Week. There’s National Guard Dental Records Week. There’s 9-11 Ad Bad Taste Week. There’s Richard Clarke Week. Won’t it be deeply funny when we get to November and the voters revolt at the transparent liberal bias, and it ends up being Bush’s Re-Election Year?