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AND I QUOTE / What Political Books Are Saying

Fools for Scandal: How the Media Invented Whitewater. By Gene Lyons and the editors of Harper's Magazine (Franklin Square: $9.95 paper, 224 pp.)

August 11, 1996|John Balzar

" 'The most sacred cow of the press,' the late George Seldes use to say, 'is the press itself.' Reporters who pore over politicians' words with the rapt attention of an IRS auditor scrutinizing a bookie's tax return . . . recoil in horror at their own work getting anything like the same treatment. Hence Whitewater. . . . Anybody who tried to pitch 'Whitewater' to a Hollywood producer would find the task impossible . . . no smoking gun, no 18 1/2-minute tape erasure merely an endlessly shifting list of accusations and rhetorical questions. . . . [H]ow very unlikely it seems that Bill and Hillary Clinton would go into the tank for such trivial amounts of money. Whatever their character flaws, nothing known about the couple indicates that they would break the law for profit . . . the Clintons are arguably the least wealthy couple to occupy the White House this century."

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Get this, Republicans: Once again it's the "liberal" press out to ruin . . . oops, a Democrat. Experts disagree whether the digging eventually will yield a mountain or mole hill from Whitewater. I know some of the reporters and editors on the story and I doubt they are as reckless and easily duped as Arkansas writer Lyons charges. But his book, which follows an earlier Harper's magazine article, adds to the growing and legitimate argument that America's mainstream press, far from being ideological, has simply gone bloodthirsty.

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