Public Nuisances

Posted: May 18, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Apropos of the Clinton bitter-enders' ambush of the Bush administration's nominee for solicitor general, Theodore B. Olson, let me say this. Olson told the truth to the Judiciary Committee. He was not involved in The American Spectator's investigations into the Clintons. Neither he nor his accuser, David Brock, was involved in what has come to be known as the Arkansas Project. And there is more, all of it volupt in irony. This week, The Washington Post reported that the Pew Charitable Trusts (once, I hasten to add, a donor to The American Spectator) have "committed $5.8 million to support Terrence Smith's media reporting unit at PBS." Will this act of journalistic philanthropy someday be known in infamy as the "PBS Project"? The plot thickens! According to the Post, "Tax-exempt foundations are quietly spending millions to fund journalism ... and even pay the bills for major newspaper, radio and television reporting projects." Why did the Post report this so calmly? This same week (and for the past three years), the Post has reported ominously that foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife "committed" $2.4 million to The American Spectator to "pay the bills for ... reporting projects." The projects were officially titled by the magazine the "Editorial Improvement Project." Considering the many scandals the Clintons created since 1992, its journalists reported mostly on the excesses of the Clintons here and in Arkansas, causing Spectator personnel to refer to it facetiously as the "Arkansas Project." The term has taken on grim meanings in the fevered minds of the Clinton bitter-enders and in the more serene minds of the thoughtless, both of who habitually add that "the project" "dug up dirt on the Clintons." Left unsaid is that the reportage was pioneering, accurate, and vindicated by the Clintons' behavior in and while exiting the White House. I hope the Pew-funded PBS Project is as accurate as the Scaife-funded Arkansas Project, and for the continued health of the First Amendment I hope Smith is not put through what my colleagues have been put through for the past three years. The Arkansas Project and The American Spectator have, at the behest of such morally upright public servants as Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and members of the Clinton Justice Department, undergone a full government investigation. It took place in 1998 and -- after our full cooperation, appearances before a grand jury and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees -- Michael Shaheen of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded in 1999 that we had acted legally. Moreover, he found that the allegations against us were either "unsubstantiated" or "untrue." Now I am told that for his campaign finance irregularities, Torricelli might face the same kind of grand jury inquiry he so solemnly prescribed for us. He will be fortunate if it is found that the allegations against him are "unsubstantiated" or "untrue." The more customary Clintonite judgment is that there is "insufficient evidence to prosecute." Torricelli might not even fare that well. Now, two years after the last assault on us, the Clinton bitter-enders are again demanding that The American Spectator and the Arkansas Project be investigated. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is calling for an investigation, even though in the Clinton years he demanded that America "move on" and put the Clinton scandals "behind us." The senator demands that he and his colleagues be able to probe "the (Arkansas) project's billing records, The American Spectator audit and (the Justice Department's) report." He has sent me a letter demanding to know about the discussions of our internal editorial practices. His efforts pose a threat to both the letter and spirit of the First Amendment, which guarantees a free and robust press. Such governmental interference with freedom of the press must and will be resisted. Early in 1998, when Monica Lewinsky popped into national view, revealing that Clinton was just the rogue I had said he was, I was told that I had been vindicated. As the journalists interviewed me before microphones and television cameras, they were greatly excited and eager for me to gloat. I thought that inappropriate then. Clinton had provoked a national crisis by his reckless philandering and lying under oath. However, I will gloat now. The Clinton bitter-enders have revealed themselves to be moral vacuums and the very threat to American liberties that I always suspected them to be.