The network news anchors usually stay away from controversy. So last night [Thursday, November 18] when Peter Jennings (search) questioned Bill Clinton (search) about how historians have ranked his moral authority, eyebrows went up. Here's some of what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "PRIMETIME LIVE")
PETER JENNINGS, "PRIMETIME LIVE": They gave you a 41st on moral authority.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT: They're wrong about that.
JENNINGS: After Nixon.
CLINTON: They're wrong about that. Do you know why they're wrong about it? They're wrong about it.
JENNINGS: Why, sir?
CLINTON: Because we had $100 million spent against us and all of these inspections. And in spite of it all, you don't have any example where I ever lied to the American people about my job, whether I ever let the American people down. And I had more support from the world and world leaders and people around the world when I quit than when I started. And I will go to my grave being at peace about it. And I don't really care what they think.
JENNINGS: Oh yes, you do.
CLINTON: They have no...
JENNINGS: Oh, excuse me, Mr. President, you can — I can feel it across the room.
CLINTON: No, no, I care...
JENNINGS: You care very deeply.
CLINTON: I care — you don't want to go there, Peter. You don't want to go there, not after what you people did and the way you, your network, what you did with Kenneth Starr, the way your people repeated every little sleazy thing he leaked. No one has any idea what that's like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Wow. Now let's analyze the situation without emotion. First, President Clinton sincerely believes that a cabal of conservatives launched a witch-hunt against him and that the media picked up every sleazy charge and ran with it.
Mr. Clinton is partially right. The media did slime him with allegations. And some right wingers did not afford him the presumption of innocence.
But there were so many ethical problems during the Clinton administration, it is ludicrous to say that the controversies were manufactured. Campaign finance violations, the Marc Rich (search) pardon, the Travelgate fiasco, Jim Guy Tucker going to jail over Whitewater, "depends what is, is," the suspension of Mr. Clinton's law license. I mean, you don't even have to mention Lewinsky and Paula Jones (search) to have a plateful of questionable activities.
So I'm not buying the witch-hunt deal. And remember, the worst attorney general in history, Janet Reno (search), killed most of the investigations into these problems.
Now Bill Clinton prefers to look at his accomplishments and uses those to rationalize the other stuff. That's a human trait—most of us rationalize in that way. So he's never going admit that his lack of personal discipline and his ruthless desire to win brought many of his ethical problems on himself.
Mr. Clinton should take comfort in knowing that millions of Americans still think he did a good job despite all the controversy. But the president's ego overrides that solace. He wants us to think he's a victim. Are you buying it?
And that's "The Memo."
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day
Time now for the "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day: an update on the Wounded Warrior Project (search).
So far, our campaign to help this charity has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars which will be used to help U.S. military people wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan adjust to life back in America. As you know, some of our military have lost limbs, are paralyzed, some have emotional trauma. The Wounded Warriors deal with all that.
Now you can get information on billoreilly.com, and, while there, you can also pick up some Factor gear or my books, "Who's Looking Out For You?" and "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids," and much of the money you spend will go to children's charities and Habitat for Humanity, things like that. We list them on billoreilly.com.
So we're obviously trying to help the Wounded Warriors, the kids, everybody else. Go to billoreilly.com. We appreciate everybody who's helped out so far, and there's nothing ridiculous about this, OK. This is our campaign until Christmas.