If ABC was going to provide a platform for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to express her moral outrage over the firings of the eight US Attorneys and call for AG Gonzales' resignation, didn't the network have an obligation to let viewers know that her husband's administration had itself peremptorily fired more than ten times that many US attorneys -- and that a close personal associate of Hillary's was intimately involved?
Senior national correspondent Jake Tapper scored the exclusive with Hillary. In the excerpts aired, Hillary in high dudgeon declared that "the Attorney General, who still seems to confuse his prior role as the president's personal attorney with his duty to the system of justice and to the entire country, should resign."
Continued Hillary: "There's evidence of political interference and pressure being put on them to engage in partisan political activities."
Demanded Hillary: "The president needs to be very forthcoming. What did he say, what did he know, what did he ask people to do? Karl Rove is clearly in the middle of this. I think he owes the Congress and the country an explanation."
In an immediately following interview, former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos grilled AG Gonzales, confronting him with Hillary's call for his resignation and offering his personal opinion that "it really does appear here at least that you were singling out prosecutors who weren't with the program."
But at no time during either of the segments were viewers told that when the Clinton administration took over in 1993, it fired all 93 sitting US attorneys. Tapper did raise the issue during the course of his interview with Hillary. But that portion of the interview was not aired. It was relegated instead to the ABC News website, where it would be viewed by a tiny fraction of the millions who watched Good Morning America.
Here is the exchange as appearing on the website:
When Clinton's husband took office in 1993, one of the first actions his attorney general took was to remove every U.S. attorney. Clinton was asked how this was different from the termination of eight U.S. attorneys last December.
"There is a great difference," Clinton said. "When a new president comes in, a new president gets to clean house. It's not done on a case-by-case basis where you didn't do what some senator or member of Congress told you to do in terms of investigations into your opponents. It is 'Let's start afresh' and every president has done that."
But as the Wall Street Journal had documented in an editorial this morning, The Hubbell Standard, it is simply untrue that "everybody did it" as Hillary suggests. Writes the WSJ:
As it happens, Mrs. Clinton is just the Senator to walk point on this issue of dismissing U.S. attorneys because she has direct personal experience. In any Congressional probe of the matter, we'd suggest she call herself as the first witness -- and bring along Webster Hubbell as her chief counsel.
As everyone once knew but has tried to forget, Mr. Hubbell was a former partner of Mrs. Clinton at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock who later went to jail for mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also Bill and Hillary Clinton's choice as Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department when Janet Reno, his nominal superior, simultaneously fired all 93 U.S. Attorneys in March 1993. Ms. Reno -- or Mr. Hubbell -- gave them 10 days to move out of their offices.
At the time, President Clinton presented the move as something perfectly ordinary: "All those people are routinely replaced," he told reporters, "and I have not done anything differently." In fact, the dismissals were unprecedented: Previous Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, had both retained holdovers from the previous Administration and only replaced them gradually as their tenures expired. This allowed continuity of leadership within the U.S. Attorney offices during the transition.
Equally extraordinary were the politics at play in the firings. At the time, Jay Stephens, then U.S. Attorney in Chicago, was investigating then Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, and was "within 30 days" of making a decision on an indictment. Mr. Rostenkowski, who was shepherding the Clinton's economic program through Congress, eventually went to jail on mail fraud charges and was later pardoned by Mr. Clinton.
That Hillary's hike to the moral high ground is very much a part of her presidential campaign is evidenced by the mass email she circulated within hours of the airing of her GMA interview inviting people to sign her petition calling on AG Gonzales to resign . . . and also soliciting contributions.
ABC could, and should, have given viewers the full picture.
Contact Mark at email@example.com