ABC's phony 'tell all' interview

Brent Bozell

6/11/2003 12:00:00 AM - Brent Bozell

ABC and Barbara Walters ought to be investigated for false advertising. The promos that plugged that Hillary Clinton memoir-selling interview promised, again and again for two weeks, to deliver "the interview we've all been waiting for, and the book that tells all. Sunday, June 8. Nothing's off-limits."

Since when have "we all" been waiting for this? "The book that tells all"? Hillary never tells all. "Nothing's off-limits"? ABC should be glad they didn't offer this interview by pay-per-view, because everyone would be entitled to a refund. Barbara Walters left almost everything of importance off-limits -- on purpose.

In the first leaks, Hillary the author claimed she never suspected a thing about Gennifer Flowers or Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky, making Mrs. Clinton just about the only person on Earth not to suspect her womanizing husband. A tough questioner would openly display the incredulity Hillary's position demanded, and would ask Hillary if she was either a shameless liar or just amazingly airheaded. Instead, the media chose to replay the surreal soap opera of "Hillary, the Wronged Little Woman," and sold these dreary reruns as "bombshells."

Why, for any other reason than hero worship, would the news media greet a book campaign so free of news with such salesmanship? Every "bombshell" in this book so far is cobwebbed and stale, at least five years old. Yet nobody's advancing that story. The entire national debate over the Clinton presidency suffers when overflowing empathy for the Clintons smothers the hard news questions -- and any attempt to get a straight answer.

Walters only asked questions that would please the Clinton-loving Left. How could Hillary work with icky Tom DeLay and senators who voted to impeach her husband? She lamented that the poor Clintons were so hounded: "I can barely remember a week went by when one of you wasn't being criticized and investigated." Can you imagine ABC or Barbara Walters ever lining up a row of poor-dear questions for Newt Gingrich, who was also investigated routinely throughout his tenure as Speaker of the House? Or Ollie North? Or Clarence Thomas? Or anyone conservative?

Walters couldn't even ask Hillary the questions that conservatives wanted answered. In 1998, Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton about Monica Lewinsky, and she responded in part by deflecting the question into how reporters should be looking into a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get her husband. Walters flashed past the controversy: "If I ask you straight up: Was there and is there a right-wing conspiracy to destroy your husband's presidency, would you today say yes?" Clinton agreed there is a "well-financed network," but it's not a conspiracy because it's in the light of day how conservatives "perverted the Constitution."

Conservatives would have asked it very differently: "Since your husband admitted the sexual relationship, you know it happened. Shouldn't you have apologized for creating the myth of a right-wing plot out to get your husband?

That wasn't true, was it?"

But this is Hillary. From the very first Hillary Clinton interview on national TV in 1992, the news junkie fraternity has witnessed a parade of fawning interviews more fit for a monarch than the wife of a democratically elected president.

It's a sad stack of so-called journalism, a parade of panderers and patronizers, flatterers and flunkies, a stuffed thesaurus entry under S for servility. If you laid them end to end on television screens in the Museum of Broadcasting, you'd have the most boring, nauseating display ever assembled.

The vast majority of Hillary interviews over the years have been tightly controlled, taped and edited to perfection. Journalists will insist there are no ground rules in a Hillary interview, yet the range of topics covered is usually from A to Abacus. It seems essential to stress that she has a beautiful mind, and no one ever dares to ask a question that would crease a royal wrinkle.

I'm fed up with those smarmy Clintonites in the press who ask over and over, always seemingly sincere in the question, "Why does Hillary Clinton drive conservatives up the wall?" They know the answer. It's not just her Garden of Sweden socialist politics that grate. It's how the powers of the political culture treat her like she's so special nothing she says has to be truthful, and anyone who questions her has a psychological problem with this strong woman who could be president. And, of course, should be.

If this woman is so brilliant and so courageous and such a trail-blazer, when will she have the guts to act like a real candidate and sit for a live Tim Russert grilling on "Meet the Press"? She can't take the heat in the kitchen. But no one dares ask her to cook.