Free to Reek of Hypocrisy
An indicted, conservative-friendly politician gets the benefit of the doubt from Paul Weyrich. Did he cut Bill Clinton the same slack?
By Terry Krepel
It looks extremely out of place, but there it is: a conservative leader defending an accused criminal.
Yes, Paul Weyrich is defending James Traficant, the Ohio Democratic congressman recently indicted on a number of charges including bribery, in a May 11 commentary posted at his Free Congress Foundation. Weyrich thinks the charges involve "relatively minor matters" and that the indictment "may indeed be the result of a payback" for Traficant's beating the rap on other federal charges.
Why is the very conservative Weyrich defending a Democrat? The main reason is that Traficant is pretty much a Democrat in name only, having voted for Republican Dennis Hastert as House speaker. And Weyrich just likes the guy: "I have interviewed him on television several times and I have had him speak to meetings I have chaired. There is something genuine about this fellow that is quite remarkable." And in a July 2000 Free Congress commentary, Weyrich notes that "in a city filled with hypocrites and phonies and plastic people, Jim Traficant is a breath of fresh air."
Of course, it doesn't hurt either that Traficant put a couple gallons of gas in the conservatives' Clinton scandal machine by accusing former attorney general Janet Reno of being blackmailed not to investigate an alleged Clinton scandal because she's a lesbian. He made the accusation on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes," and NewsMax duly reported on it.
Weyrich, while including a CYA statement that "I don't want anybody to think that I approve of wrongdoing on the part of public officials," professes outrage that "somehow in the atmosphere in which we find ourselves, public officials, once accused, are presumed guilty no matter what the evidence and that just isn't right."
That sounded like a significant change of position for a conservative, especially considering that their attitude toward Bill Clinton was that he was "presumed guilty no matter what the evidence." After all, Clinton has never actually been charged with anything in a court of law by a prosecutor or independent counsel, only impeached -- and found not guilty -- in Congress, and of all the people who have accused him of various nefarious deeds, hardly any of them have ever been cross-examined in a court of law.
This turned out to be difficult to document. For some reason, the Free Congress Foundation's web archive is essentially devoid of articles and commentaries produced between January 1998 and October 1999, which would include the impeachment era. Among the very few articles on the site from that period is Weyrich's post-impeachment "open letter" declaring that because impeachment didn't succeed, the conservatives' "cultural war" has failed and they should to other avenues beyond politics to spread their message.
"If there really were a moral majority out there, Bill Clinton would have been driven out of office months ago," Weyrich wrote in that piece.
And an October 1999 commentary summarizes Weyrich's attitude toward Clinton clearly: "You can tell whenever Bill Clinton really gets angry that someone has done something good for the nation."
A Lexis-Nexis search, however, did uncover a Dec. 19, 1998, Newsday article about how conservatives were professing not to take delight in Clinton's then-impendng impeachment. Weyrich is quoted saying that impeachment on perjury charges are "for us, the equivalent of Al Capone getting caught on income tax charges," adding that allegations about fund-raising and missile technology transfers to China are "far more serious" than anything Clinton did with Monica Lewinsky.
Interesting that a conservative-friendly politician gets the benefit of the doubt from Weyrich, while one-sided accusations never examined in a court of law are enough to convict a politician Weyrich doesn't like. (Speaking of one-sided accusations: Unrelated to the matter at hand but no less interesting is the fact that Notra Trulock, whose allegations of nuclear secrets espionage got Wen Ho Lee indicted, then cleared as questions arose about Trulock's testimony, is currently the Free Congress Foundation's director of media relations.)
Hypocrisy at the Free Congress Foundation, though, isn't the sole province of Paul Weyrich.
Most recently, John Nowacki wrote a commentary May 3 called "Senate Democrats: Prolonging the Judicial Vacancy Crisis" despite the fact that President Bush didn't submit his first judicial nominees until May 11, meaning that there was nothing to prolong when Nowacki's article first appeared.
And in a May 9 commentary, Thomas Jipping accuses Democrats of a double standard for wanting to keep the "blue slip" policy of allowing a senator to block the nomination of a judicial candidate from his home state when past Democrats opposed the policy. Nowhere in his article does Jipping mention that this policy is the very same one Republicans have operated under for the past six years, that Democrats simply want to preserve it (albeit for political payback reasons, considering how Republicans used it to block Clinton nominees), and that perhaps it is Republicans who have the double standard by getting rid of it now that their guy's in the White House.
Then again, as they have repeatedly demonstrated above and elsewhere, conservatives are blind to their own double standards.