President Bush probably wouldn't appreciate a historical comparison to Warren Harding, but "Back to Normalcy" is definitely an underappreciated theme and consequence of his election. After eight years of constant Clinton administration lying and corruption, the Bush administration has definitely restored a sense of integrity to the political process.
But to watch the press corps at work is to see reality turned on its head. The national so-called "news" media, which spent eight years ignoring or dismissing one Clinton scandal after another, just can't get enough of GOP scandals, no matter how unscandalous they are.
On the national level, we've seen the case of White House strategist Karl Rove, with Henry "What Clinton Scandal?" Waxman claiming that Mr. Rove's failure to sell Intel stocks before meeting with Intel staffers in the White House is somehow worse than everything the Clintons did combined. But if Waxman and his media lapdogs really cared about ethics, they would have cared about the largely unexamined 1993 controversy over First Lady Hillary Clinton's investments in a Value Partners fund, which sold health stocks short while she maligned the health care industry and sold her socialist takeover scheme. The Clintons did not put their financial holdings in a blind trust until six months after taking office.
On the state level, there's New Jersey's new GOP gubernatorial nominee, Bret Schundler. There isn't even a hint of unethical behavior, but this doesn't make him any less controversial. Schundler, you see, is an unrequited Reaganite, Reaganism being the political equivalent of leprosy for the Washington establishment. Schundler, who couldn't possibly mean what he says about compassionate conservatism, including that gassy compassion about the survival of unborn children, is the "issue" in that race.
There are even local examples of this anti-GOP jihad. Newsday, the liberal paper that, along with NPR, holds the dubious distinction of foisting Anita Hill's fractured fairy tales on Clarence Thomas's Supreme Court nomination, also enjoys trashing conservatives in its Long Island backyard. Days after Newsday's editorial page gnashed its teeth under the headline "Nassau GOP Succumbs to Conservatives," the paper charged that Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Mondello was part of a sleazy back room deal to cut his own property taxes. Over a picture of his new home on its front page, Newsday ran the headline "Chosen Few," alleging Mondello received a favorable tax assessment because of his party position.
At the heart of this stop-the-presses front-page bombshell was a suggestion -- not even an allegation, mind you, since no one has found a scintilla of evidence. It suggested a property tax reduction Mr. Mondello received which
at most will save him $1,353 in property taxes. That's it.
Well, Mr. Mondello doesn't think that's it at all. He's now suing Newsday for $60 million, saying the photo and story "unquestionably left the impression that I had participated in unethical, if not illegal behavior."
If Mr. Mondello were a moderate Republican, he'd have no ethical worries. Reporters make jokes about Sen. Lincoln Chafee's admission of drug use as a young man, while they all spent weeks chasing down unsubstantiated charges of cocaine use by candidate Bush, and put on long faces when Democrats uncovered Bush's 1976 DUI arrest. If Mr. Schundler were a moderate Republican, his views would never be challenged. He'd get the John McCain treatment, ably demonstrated by CBS "Early Show" sharpie Jane Clayson, who asked McCain: "You've worked so hard on campaign finance reform. If it doesn't go your way, how disappointed will you be?"
The rules are definitely different if you're a Democrat. When you get in trouble, it's likely the media will drop that troublesome party label in case people get the wrong idea that party affiliation is relevant. Last year, when legendary Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards finally went to prison for a long spell on 17 counts of racketeering, CBS and NBC couldn't locate a party label, and on ABC, Peter Jennings discovered late in the story that he appealed to "old-line white Democrats, blacks and Cajuns."
Now there's the case of Rep. Gary Condit, who has admitted lying about an affair with missing intern Chandra Levy, and now is the eye of the hurricane, with one bizarre tidbit after another emerging about him. Did I say "Democrat?" If I did, I gave you more details than the networks want released. In 67 stories since May 1, ABC has used the "Democrat" label a total of three times. CBS has filed 38 stories, two "Democrat" labels. For NBC, it's 74 reports, nine party labels.
That's 174 stories. In only 14 of them -- 8 percent -- was the "Democratic" label applied.