Washington has been abuzz over a lengthy Washington Post Style section story by establishment insider and self-anointed social arbiter, Sally Quinn, the wife of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, and herself a former CBS news anchor. The article was interesting for many reasons: its timing-one day before the November mid-term elections; its placement-in the Style section, not news-what it said and what it left out.
Sally got out her Rolodex, clearly one of the better stocked inside the Beltway, and called the who’s who of the Washington, mostly liberal, establishment. She was taking her own poll to find out what they thought of President Clinton, whose fate could have been determined by the outcome of the next day’s elections.
The surprise was that so many of these people are truly outraged and were so openly critical of Clinton, for what he had done to the institution and of the presidency, to the opportunity they felt he had wasted to promote the liberal agenda.
Here’s a sampling of what some well known members of Washington’s liberal establishment had to say about Bill Clinton. David Broder of the Washington Post: “He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.” Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman: “You are embarrassed about what Bill Clinton’s behavior says about the White House, the presidency, the government in general.” Tish Baldridge, social secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy, and permanent fixture on the social scene: ” We all feel terribly let down. When you think back to other president’s, they all had a lot of class. That’s nonexistent now.”
Chris Matthews, formerly a top aide to Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill, and now host of a nightly TV talk show, on CNBC described the president as having (quote) “broken and shattered contracts publicly and shamefully. He violates the trust at the highest level of politics.” Roger Wilkins, a history professor and icon of the civil rights movement: “For this man to say that his conduct of exploitation of this girl is private in a place we revere, a place we pay for, a place we own is not only absurd, it’s condescending and insulting.”
This all raises some troubling questions. Were these people not outraged and troubled when it was revealed by the New York Times that Bill Clinton knew long before he had acknowledged, the seriousness of the crimes committed by Webb Hubbell, and by the obvious hush money paid to him? Or by the 900 plus FBI files that were brought to the White House under the supposed direction of Craig Livingstone, which President Clinton called a bureaucratic snafu? Or when the FBI and IRS were used to go after and besmirch the reputations of all members of the White House Travel office?
How about when John Huang and others illegally funneled millions of Asian dollars to the Clinton campaign and the DNC, apparently in exchange for huge contracts and in some cases for technology whose transfer has put the U.S. in greater jeopardy? None of this offended these sensitive establishment types. Nothing was proven, they would probably say. But he lied to them, and they can’t tolerate such insolence.