At that time, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz admitted the press blew the FBI-files story. Why? There was a "feeling that ... a political snooping operation was not the kind of thing they expected from the Clinton White House, whereas if hundreds of files had been obtained by Ed Meese in the Reagan administration on Democrats, I think this story would have rocketed to the front page."
Now we're observing that role reversal. Granted, the scope of the NSA database is much larger. But it's also less personal than FBI files, full of raw personal allegations. How's that for a double standard: The Clintons built a treasure-trove of personal data on their political adversaries, and the networks called the Republicans who objected "ugly"? But when the NSA builds a database to discover terrorists in America, it's time to impeach the dictator.
The Clintons were absorbed in database creation -- not to protect the country, but to protect and perfect their grip on power. "Secret System Computerizes Personal Data," declared a June 26, 1996, front-page article in The Washington Times. Reporter Paul Rodriguez detailed how the White House Office Data Base (WHODB) tracked personal information on those who visited the Clintons, including their Democratic National Committee donation records. Network coverage? Not a word on ABC, CBS or NBC.
Seven months later, the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine "broke" the story again, discovering the Clintonites routinely turned over personal information of supporters to the DNC, mingling White House funds and party-building activities. Then CBS and NBC aired one story. ABC did not. But again, it was a Republican allegation, not a Los Angeles Times story.
On CBS, Dan Rather found "Republicans have again attacked" on the database of 350,000 names, and "Republicans say that this was a blatant fundraising operation and that taxpayers were stuck with a $1.7 million tab to create it." That's basically what the newspapers said, too, but CBS smarmily cast as a negative partisan campaign. Reporter Rita Braver concluded by spinning for Hillary: "Now the documents we obtained showed that the First Lady personally pushed hard for this system ... she confirmed that. She also insisted she only wanted something to track who came to official White House functions."
It's only when Republicans hold the White House that the networks fear an "imperial presidency." But the problem for Americans is an imperial media, so assured of its own self-congratulatory role as defender of America's freedoms, but such an emperor with no clothes of fairness or balance.