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More on the hearings' blackout

Whatever happened to the idea of broadcasting in the public interest? Why did the O.J. Simpson trial get wall-to-wall coverage while not a single major network has seen fit to televise the hearings of Sen. Fred Thompson’s Governmental Affairs Committee into campaign financing scandals? Now that Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward has weighed in with a front-page Sunday story in the Washington Post, can we expect any reconsideration by the networks of their decision to black out an investigation into how this nation’s interests were sold out to a hostile foreign nuclear power?

These are the kinds of questions I’m getting everyday via e-mail. Am I the only media person hearing such inquiries? I can’t believe I am. Yet, I see no evidence that all this second-guessing is leading to better coverage of the story — either on television or in print.

Let’s get this straight: Woodward reports Sunday that the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency cleared Thompson’s preliminary remarks about a Chinese plot to buy the American vote a day before he made them. So what was Sen. John Glenn still barking about on the Sunday talking heads? And why wasn’t he getting better challenges from the journalists? Don’t they even read the Washington Post anymore?

“U.S. intelligence has established that about $2 million was allocated by the Chinese government, of which at least $1 million was transferred to U.S. banks or to the Chinese Embassy here,” wrote Woodward. “The intelligence on the Chinese plan establishes that Beijing had the ‘intent’ to make illegal campaign contributions, one official said. … Approved at the highest levels of the Beijing government, the plan was placed under the control of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, Beijing’s equivalent of the CIA.”

Well, that’s interesting — and fairly conclusive. But is it surprising? Is it shocking that the Chinese would use their considerable economic clout to try to buy some political influence in the United States? Of course not. Knowing what we know about the totalitarian mindset and the duplicity of Communists and fascists (take your pick as to which rule in Beijing), we should expect China to take such actions.

What we ought to be investigating more thoroughly is not Chinese intent, but the intent and actions of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee — not to mention the Republicans, who hardly have clean hands in this scandal, either.

On Clinton’s approval ratings

“About Clinton’s 64 percent approval rating,” writes a reader, “it is actually pretty low, if you think about it. Imagine that George Bush had a 92 percent rating at one time. Reagan had over 90 percent at one time after his re-election. By comparison, 64 percent is Clinton’s all-time high! Yet you never hear this comparison expressed on the network news.”

Well, you hear it here, friend.

Investigative reporters, indeed

Investigative Reporters and Editors marked its 20th anniversary in Phoenix, Arizona, recently — the site of its first, and perhaps last, journalistic triumph.

The group was founded in the wake of reporter Don Bolles’ murder. IRE helped inspire 40 investigative reporters to set out on the trail of his killers. The stories that followed led to the arrests of three men.

But what’s the group done lately? If you look at the brochures and some of the articles written about IRE’s convention, it sounds like these watchdogs have become lapdogs. Nearly all the reporting projects listed are consumer-oriented. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But almost none in the last 20 years zero in on government fraud, waste, corruption and abuse. Go figure.

Conspiracy? Nahh. Just sheep playing follow the leader. What’s the antidote? You’re reading it.