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Changing the Subject

While everyone else is talking about Enron, the ConWeb would rather talk about the Clintons.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/18/2002

The ConWeb has been doing its part in downplaying the Bush administration's connections to failed energy giant Enron. They've done so mainly by obscuring it by rehashing old alleged Clinton scandals.

The ConWeb's following of GOP marching orders to varying degrees of blindness is best summed up in a line from a Jan. 12 NewsMax story: "... whatever the Bush White House may or may not have done wrong as the largest energy trading company in the world slid into bankruptcy, it pales next to the misdeeds of the former first couple, who were given a pass on almost every count." That story excuses allegations that Enron financial records were destroyed because Hillary Clinton was accused of that, too.

NewsMax, not surprisingly, has been at the front of the change-the-subject pack. It began by asserting on Jan. 4 that the scandal-in-the-making "sounds about as exciting as a session with your friendly estate planner," then goes on to insist that "a far more riveting imbroglio" exists in "the 1994 deaths of three government doctors in the crash of a plane owned by one of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's close friends who had just gotten a free pass from FAA inspectors."

In its wild spinning, NewsMax also:

  • Declared on Jan. 10 that by this time into the Clinton administration, "the Clinton scandalabra had metastasized in so many different directions, investigators would be kept busy well into the next millennium" and that "Democrats hyping Enron are going to have to hand out industrialstrength No-Doz just to keep Americans awake."
  • Featured Bush adviser Mary Matalin on Jan. 11 downplaying the connections between Bush officials and Enron, quoting her as saying that "not one - nada, zip, zero" of the recommendations in the Bush-Cheney energy plan (you know, the one the administration has refused to release the details on) "was in there for Enron or Ken Lay." Rep. Henry Waxman of California, however, found at least 17.
  • Insisted on Jan. 13 that if Bush gets charged with anything in the Enron scandal, the Clintons should be charged as well for alleged past misdeeds, including the never-proven vandalism allegations.
  • Cited on Jan. 15 one congressman's insistence that Clinton's ties to Enron be investigated.
  • Does yet another hatchet job on "Sticky Fingers Hillary" Jan. 17, this time for not returning $950 in campaign donations given by Enron employees. "Apparently Hillary didn't get this week's DNC talking points," the article concludes, demonstrating that NewsMax is following Republican National Committee talking points to the letter.
  • Demands yet again on Jan. 18 some sort of prosecution of some Clinton, upset that "the Enrongate non-scandal is still on the front pages of major newspapers across America days after most conservative opinion makers pronounced the story dead due to lack of substance."

Over in Bozell-land, didn't do a news story on the Enron collapse until Jan. 11 -- about three months after the implosion became public knowledge -- and it concluded one of two stories that day by noting that "The Justice Department says the focus of its criminal probe will be Enron's business practices. But the various congressional committees probing the company are expected to dig up whatever political dirt they can find as well." Gee, we already knew that, as the behavior of conservatives during the Clinton presidency demonstrated. A Jan. 14 story, though, offers a surprisingly balanced account of the idea of Democrats milking the Enron scandal as an issue to use against Republicans.

At Bozell's Media Research Center, where they pretty much have to follow the Republican party line, in addition to the usual whining that the TV news is making the Bushies look bad, Rich Noyes wrote a "Media Reality Check" Jan. 16 claiming that the Enron scandal is somehow not as bad as the Clinton administration's links to Tyson Foods (which, last time we checked, was still a going, thriving concern), the corollary here being, of course, that the so-called "liberal media" didn't report on said links to the MRC's satisfaction. And Bozell himself uses his Jan. 18 column to rant about how upset he still is that conservatives like him couldn't get the Clintons tossed out of office for something.

WorldNetDaily, like CNSNews, was slow on the uptake -- its first news story also wasn't until Jan. 11 -- and while there has been the requisite GOP-marching-orders story on Clinton and Democratic links to Enron and another featuring Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman calling for a special counsel (WND must be the only ConWeb component who will return Klayman's calls these days when he wants to talk about anything other the Clintons; former Klayman benefactor NewsMax has nothing on this), it has done other stories that keep much of the partisan stuff out, such as one Jan. 16 on heavy insider trading within the company.

Overall, though, ConWeb tone is one of deflecting blame. They're good at doing what they're told, aren't they?

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