Of course I blame the US media for Clinton’s state. They were too slow

For months now, I have been asked how, as his press secretary, I would advise President Clinton. My answer is based on the premise that I would have given him the standard advice to come clean when he first became embroiled in allegations. Any self-respecting adviser could only have said: ’If you don’t tell the truth, you could end up in very serious trouble indeed.’ Having thus done my duty, I would now feel obliged to resign. There would be nothing more I, or anyone else, could do to restore the president in the eyes of the responsible world.

For months now, I have been asked how, as his press secretary, I

would advise President Clinton. My answer is based on the premise that I

would have given him the standard advice to come clean when he first

became embroiled in allegations. Any self-respecting adviser could only

have said: ’If you don’t tell the truth, you could end up in very

serious trouble indeed.’ Having thus done my duty, I would now feel

obliged to resign. There would be nothing more I, or anyone else, could

do to restore the president in the eyes of the responsible world.



It is good news for the public relations industry that his current press

secretary, Mike McCurry is serving out his notice. Too little has

perhaps been made by our trade of his impending departure or of the

public criticisms of Clinton by two former press aides, George

Stephanopolous and Dee Dee Myers who understandably said: ’He’s lost

me’. They feel let down. They are not the only ones.



Yet, as the American crisis entered this crucial week, no one

underestimated the possibility that ’Slick Willy’ would somehow manage

to hang on to office, if not necessarily to power.



If he does, the cost to the United States in terms of global respect

will be incalculable. How to repair the damage to its democracy will

launch a thousand theses. These eggheads could usefully start by looking

at the American media. For me the question is not why it has come to

this, but why it has taken so long to do so.



An explanation was to be found in last week’s Daily Telegraph. Ambrose

Evans-Pritchard, who has made it his business to investigate the

Clintons, contrasted Clinton’s media treatment with President Nixon’s 25

years ago like this: ’It was a media putsch that toppled President

Nixon. This time the great metropolitan newspapers and the television

networks have been dragged kicking and screaming to the story.

Republican sin is fair game. Democratic sin is a ’private matter’.’



The partisan nature of the ’liberal’ American media has long been

accepted as a fact of life in Washington. Britons over there have felt

able to adopt a somewhat superior tone. ’With our media,’ we have said,

’Clinton would not have lasted two years.’ Certainly, that is what I,

having experienced the media’s bloodlust during the Thatcher years and

seen the venom of Major’s time, genuinely felt even six months ago.



But the Blair honeymoon has gone on and on and the longer it has

lingered the more we have had to modify our tune. We are now not so

sure. Too much of the British media seems to have double standards. Mr

Clinton’s travail carries a warning for us all.



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