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Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins
28 Jan 2009
What Would Molly Think?

JANUARY 31, 2009, IS THE TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MOLLY IVINS' DEATH. THE FOLLOWING COLUMN WAS WRITTEN BY … Read More.

31 Jan 2007
Molly Ivins Tribute

MOLLY IVINS BEGAN WRITING HER SYNDICATED COLUMN FOR CREATORS SYNDICATE IN 1992. ANTHONY ZURCHER IS A CREATORS … Read More.

11 Jan 2007
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The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like … Read More.

Molly Ivins April 15

Comment

AUSTIN — It has almost become a truism of our trade that the net effect of new technologies of communication is not that a new one replaces an old one (TV, for example, didn't cause radio to vanish) but that we all take one step back along the food chain, as it were.

For instance, newspapers rarely break news any more. We now fill the role (more successfully in some cases than in others) that used to be played by the newsmagazines, which is to put the news in context — to give you some idea what it means in your life. And where does that leave the newsmagazines? They now fill the niche that used to be occupied by periodicals like Harper's and The Atlantic Monthly: They can take a step back from the news and examine what is going on in society — why something works, or doesn't work, or how it works.

Harper's and The Atlantic, in turn, take another step back and examine developments in the society so broad that most of us don't even recognize them as news — for example, Lewis Lapham's lapidary recent essays in Harper's on what the media are doing to our minds.

Interestingly enough, it seems to me that the first newsmagazine to "get it" is Time, which used to seem such a prisoner of its own traditions. Recent issues of Time have been far less focused on the "news o' the week," which we all already heard last week, than on longer takeouts about how it all works.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, Time printed a superb, if depressing, piece of reportage on how we came to be selling advanced-technology fighter jets to Latin America. Just what Latin America needs — they have millions of desperately poor people so we decide to help out by profiting from an arms race, which they need like a kneecapping.

Time's report on how this gross deformation of policy came to pass revealed a classic example of what is wrong with American government. Naturally, it involves campaign contributions, influence, access, public relations campaigns, the military-industrial complex and media spin.

It's well worth a visit to the library or rooting through the stack at your dentist's office to find it. My only criticism of this splendid piece is that it seemed to have been written with the assumption that there is nothing anyone can do about any of this. Nonsense. Just reporting on it is an improvement.

Evidence that the rest of the press has not yet figured out what it's supposed to be doing rests in, among other stories, a recent gasp-du-jour that made front pages around the nation. Thousands of pages of White House documents concerning fund-raising for the 1996 campaign showed that ... folks in the White House worried about raising money for the 1996 campaign and worked hard to do it. After the nation had recovered from that blow (gee, we all thought the '96 campaign was all high-minded debate over the issues), the press hotfooted it back to Web Hubbell, who now bears a singular distinction.

It has been the habit of the full-time Clinton critics (such a growth industry that I can't imagine what the country will do when it goes belly-up in three years) to deplore the Clintons' supposed habit of deserting their old friends. Surely you recall the allegations about how they dropped Lani Guinier and other unsuccessful nominees like so many hot rocks, with never an invite to the Lincoln Bedroom? In the case of Mr. Hubbell, several people close to the Clintons went out of their way to find work for the fellow when he was down and out, and this in turn has caused the Clinton conspiracy theorists to go into overdrive. Better they should have dropped him like a hot rock, I suppose.

Suppose — just for the sake of that old American tradition, the presumption of innocence — we assume for a moment that the Clintons are in fact innocent, that there was never anything illegal about Travelgate, that the worst thing about Filegate was its stupidity, that Whitewater was a bad real estate investment, and that several years later, James McDougal went on to run a crooked S&L, which had nothing to do with the Clintons. It is always difficult to assume you have been wrong about something, especially if you have invested a lot of time, effort and ink in it. But it's a worthy exercise.

Unfortunately, it still doesn't make Clinton a decent president.

***

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

COPYRIGHT 1997 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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