Have Media FALN Down on the Job?

Have the media fallen down on the job in pressing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) about her war on terrorism bona fides? If silence over the 1999 pardon of 16 FALN terrorists is any indication, yes.

A Google News search for "Clinton FALN clemency" yielded but one result, this May 24 item from Politico's Ben Adler (emphasis mine):

[Y]ou have to look back roughly a decade to find the last time Puerto Rico played a starring role in mainland politics - the summer of 1999, when President Bill Clinton drew sharp criticism by offering clemency to 16 imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists who belonged to an organization responsible for more than 100 bombings in the U.S. and Puerto Rico between 1974 and 1983.

At the time, Clinton was accused of attempting to curry favor with the large Puerto Rican community in New York, where Hillary Rodham Clinton was preparing to run for an open Senate seat. In response, the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a resolution stating, "President Clinton should not have offered or granted clemency to the FALN terrorists." The political backlash proved severe enough that Mrs. Clinton, then the first lady, ended up publicly opposing her husband's offer, saying she had nothing to do with it.

Yet for all the controversy surrounding the episode, nary a word is heard about it as Clinton and Barack Obama battle for the 63 delegates at stake in Puerto Rico's primary.

"It's a highly charged issue, but it has not been an issue in Puerto Rico [this year] because it is pretty far back and there has been a desire to get past that conflict," said Kenneth McClintock, president of the Senate in Puerto Rico and co-chairman of Clinton's campaign there.

"No one has raised it, and I don't think it will be raised," agreed Jean Vidal Font, a lawyer in Puerto Rico and chairman of the local chapter of Generation Obama, a youth volunteer movement for Obama's campaign. "A lot of people in Puerto Rico do not support what those people did, but they do believe the lengthy sentences were unjust. So they would rather just not talk about it."

Nor would the Democratic candidates, neither of whom would have much to gain by revisiting the controversy.

Of course, just because Democratic constituencies wouldn't garner much from raising the issue doesn't mean the media should remain silent. After all, shortly after President Clinton's pardon, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress expressed condemnation of the manuever:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly condemned President Bill Clinton for his offer to grant clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists, leaving the White House squarely alone in backing the reduction of sentences.

By a 95-2 vote, the Senate passed a resolution of condemnation, joining the House in publicly criticizing the president for the clemency offer. Even first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely expected to seek a Senate bid in New York, has opposed the clemency offer.

The vote came after several hours of Senate debate in which criticism of Clinton's action was nearly continuous. "There is a very real human face on this issue," Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas). He outlined a series of terrorist incidents tied to FALN in the 1970s, referring to the organization as "a group of brutal murderers calling themselves a liberation army."

The Senate began limited debate on the resolution Tuesday morning. On Monday, the Senate approved a motion clearing the way for a vote on the resolution.

Some of the jailed FALN members who accepted clemency were released late last week.

Ninety-three Democrats voted for a similar resolution in the House last week, which passed 311-41.

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