- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In May 1982, the District was a one-newspaper town — a rarity in that day, when many world capitals boasted more than a half-dozen dailies.

The 129-year-old Washington Star, then owned by Time Inc., had published its last issue the previous August, and much of its property — including presses, trucks and other equipment — had been sold at auction to The Washington Post, then the only newspaper in the city.

A group of South Korean businessmen, all members of the Unification Church headed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, worried that a lack of competition would reduce accountability at the monopoly newspaper.

What’s more, they regarded the lack of serious debate in the press in the nation’s capital as a danger to the United States and the free world that relies on America’s leadership.

Bo Hi Pak, chairman of the board of News World Communications Inc., was put in charge, and the new daily published its first issue on May 17, 1982. It featured a daily Commentary section, unusual in daily newspapers, which usually print only one page of commentary, on the page opposite the editorial page.

James R. Whelan, the editor of the Sacramento Union, was first editor and publisher of The Times and served from 1982 to 1984. Executive Editor Smith Hempstone, a foreign correspondent for the old Chicago Daily News, succeeded him and later became U.S. ambassador to Kenya. Arnaud de Borchgrave, who had been a foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine, was named editor in chief in 1986 and served until 1992, when he was succeeded by Wesley Pruden.

THE REAGAN YEARS

President Reagan often expressed his appreciation of the hard-hitting, news-breaking journalism of The Times, which became a key resource for those interested in the president’s thinking.

During a National YMCA Youth Governors’ Conference in June 1984, Mr. Reagan held up The Times’ Commentary section and told his Rose Garden audience: “And if you really want to get some history on this when you leave here, get a copy of The Washington Times.”

After an editorial in The Times called for a firm response to the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, Mr. Reagan ordered U.S. jet fighters to intercept the Egyptian airliner taking the Palestinian hijackers to a presumed safe haven. Time magazine credited the editorial with stiffening the president’s resolve.

In 1986, Fortune magazine reported that The Times was one of five newspapers Mr. Reagan read daily before his first meeting at 9 a.m.

The Times broke stories about irregularities in the financial-disclosure statements of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale; a variety of congressional scandals; five senators involved in a failing savings and loan owned by Charles Keating; and the National Guard record of Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana, the running mate of Vice President George Bush, among other articles.

In 1992, Mr. Pruden, then the managing editor, took a five-man team of editors, reporters and photographers to Pyongyang for 11 days and secured an interview with Kim Il-sung, the reclusive “Great Leader” of North Korea, the first interview granted to a Western newspaper in decades. The interview was conducted by Josette Sheeran Shiner, the deputy managing editor, who soon became managing editor under Mr. Pruden as editor in chief and later became an undersecretary of state in the second Bush administration, and then, in 2007, director of the World Food Program, an agency of the United Nations.

BARNEY FRANK

The Washington Times was at the forefront in covering the congressional ethics scandals of the late 1980s and early 1990s — one of which added a new term to the Capitol Hill lexicon: “call boys.”

In June 1989, The Times reported that a male prostitution ring had been used by some high-ranking political officials and that post-midnight tours of the White House had been arranged for “call boys” and their clients. The Times also revealed how a lobbyist with ties to Washington’s power players had led a secret life with drugs and young men while entertaining and being entertained by the capital’s elites.

The newspaper’s coverage went on to encompass Congress itself, when it reported that Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, had purchased the services of a live-in lover and allowed him to operate a homosexual prostitution service from the congressman’s Washington apartment.

The Times revealed that Mr. Frank knew that his prostitute lover, Steve Gobie, was on probation in Virginia for cocaine possession, oral sodomy and sex offenses involving a juvenile — and that probation rules barred Gobie’s travel to the District. The Times reported that Mr. Frank wrote letters to Virginia probation officials on his official stationery to persuade them to relax the rules, arguing that he needed Gobie’s services as a housekeeper and chauffeur. Mr. Frank even used his office to invalidate 33 parking tickets for his lover.

The House ethics committee opened a formal investigation, resulting in the House voting 408-18 on July 26, 1990, to reprimand Mr. Frank for misuse of office in pressuring Virginia probation officials.

An exclusive interview with South African President Frederik de Klerk, conducted by Mr. de Borchgrave, first revealed his plan for abandoning the country’s apartheid system and moving toward racial equality. Six months later, the plan, based on the U.S. political model, was executed.

BUSH AND THE GULF WAR

In November 1988, Democrats increased their majorities in the House and the Senate, dominating the legislative branch of government.

On the executive side, a six-word declaration — “Read my lips: No new taxes” — helped the first President Bush win the presidential election with 54 percent of the vote, making him the first sitting vice president to advance to the White House since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

However, two years later, the Massachusetts-born Republican joined the Democrat-controlled Congress to enact one of the largest tax increases in the country’s history. Columnist Warren Brookes was among the first national writers to predict that Mr. Bush’s change of heart would ensure his re-election defeat in 1992.

That prediction appeared unlikely to be realized in 1991, as Mr. Bush displayed impressive leadership and diplomatic skills in assembling the largest multinational force since World War II to liberate Kuwait from the clutches of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

THE BARRY LEGACY

Marion Barry already had enjoyed a checkered career when The Times emerged on the scene in May 1982. He had earned a degree in chemical engineering, marched for civil rights, been elected to the school board and city council, survived a gunshot wound during a takeover of city buildings by militants and won election as mayor.

During his first term, the District’s budget deficit forced him to cut jobs and services. He weathered a major snowstorm and a lengthy teachers strike — and won re-election in November 1982. He rebounded in his second term by improving city finances, promoting downtown renewal and overseeing a drop in unemployment and crime.

A series of scandals — many of which were first reported by The Times — eroded his successes: An ex-wife convicted of misusing city funds. A former girlfriend convicted of drug conspiracy. Former associates convicted of malfeasance. Accusations of cronyism and mismanagement. Meanwhile, the District’s tally of unsolved homicides rose steadily to make the city the “murder capital of the world.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Barry, often mocked as “mayor for life,” easily won election to a third term in 1986.

In January 1990, the mayor was arrested in an FBI sting at the Vista International Hotel after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine with a former girlfriend. His response on being arrested: “The bitch set me up.”

He was convicted of cocaine possession, a misdemeanor, and sentenced to six months in a minimum-security federal prison. After his prison stint, Mr. Barry won the election for the D.C. Council’s Ward 8 seat; two years later, he was elected to his fourth term as mayor.

The District’s expanding deficit and debilitating inefficiencies prompted Congress to strip the mayor and other city officials of their powers, which were conferred upon a financial control board in 1995. During four years of control-board oversight, the city’s budget again was in the black — with help from the mayor’s chief financial officer, Anthony A. Williams, who succeeded Mr. Barry as mayor in 1999.

THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION

In May 1992, Wesley Pruden became The Times’ editor in chief, succeeding Mr. de Borchgrave, who became the paper’s editor at large — a title he also holds at the reconstituted United Press International, which The Times’ parent company acquired this decade.

The Times grew into a seven-day-a-week operation and added two unique features: the Culture Page, which five days a week chronicles the intersection of politics with critical aspects of the culture, and Family Times, a section devoted to the challenges facing the American family.

The Washington Times distinguished itself in its coverage of Bill Clinton even before he declared his presidential candidacy, by first reporting widespread accusations of marital infidelities by the young governor of Arkansas.

Mr. Clinton’s formative years as a collegiate war protester, draft evader, Moscow tourist and party animal at Oxford came to light in exclusive reports in The Times. Nonetheless, he won election in 1992 in a three-way contest among himself, the incumbent Mr. Bush and Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot.

Before he assumed office, The Times reported about Mr. Clinton’s plans to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military, which eventually became the Pentagon’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Voter discontent with that plan, the president’s failed attempt to reform health care and abuses of power by mostly Democratic leaders — all chronicled by The Times — spawned a Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, making Rep. Newt Gingrich speaker of the House.

A failed Arkansas land deal called Whitewater brought Mr. Clinton more disappointment. The coverage of Whitewater prompted a special-counsel investigation that netted 14 convictions, including those of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and close associates of the Clintons. In addition, the Clinton administration, which the president had promised would be the most ethical ever, gave rise to a trio of so-called “-gate” scandals:

• Filegate — the disappearance of Whitewater files from the office of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster immediately after his suicide in 1993.

• Travelgate — a Clinton scheme to fire White House Travel Office personnel and award lucrative travel contracts to a Hollywood crony.

• Troopergate — Mr. Clinton’s use of Arkansas state troopers to procure women and conceal his peccadilloes when he was governor.

“Bimbo eruptions” — as one Clinton aide described the president’s indiscretions — plagued Mr. Clinton throughout his tenure, and several women told of highly charged encounters with the president: Paula Corbin Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Kathleen Willey. Yet his presidency was almost undone by a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Miss Lewinsky’s midnight confessions, which were recorded by friend and former White House staff member Linda Tripp, prompted another special-counsel investigation, which made a household name of Kenneth Starr.

Based on Mr. Starr’s findings, the House impeached the president on two charges in December 1998 — just the second time Congress had taken such action. The Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice in January 1999. Still, Mr. Clinton was disbarred and forced to pay a $25,000 fine.

VOTE 2000

The 2000 presidential election set off the fiercest electoral controversy since Rutherford B. Hayes won in 1876 with fewer popular votes than Samuel J. Tilden.

Like the Republican Hayes, Texas Gov. George W. Bush had received the most votes in the Electoral College, and like the Democrat Tilden, Vice President Al Gore had won the majority of popular votes.

A showdown was set, and all eyes turned to Florida, where confusion over so-called “butterfly ballots” had caused some residents to vote for candidates they actually opposed. The Times quickly set up operations in Palm Beach County to cover the proceedings.

The Gore campaign filed legal challenges, and during five weeks of recriminations and round-the-clock press scrutiny, multiple recounts of paper ballots were conducted, introducing the public to the term “hanging chad.”

Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris — who had been appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush — certified the election in favor of her boss’s brother. The U.S. Supreme Court later supported her certification, and Mr. Gore dropped his challenges.

Various election reforms such as touch-screen voting machines emerged from the 2000 imbroglio.

In the 2004 election, Mr. Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, by winning the majority of the electoral and popular votes.

TERRORISM AND WAR

The events of September 11, 2001, gave rise to a new world vision among many Americans, which The Washington Times has documented with award-winning coverage.

The al Qaeda terrorist network, headed by Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks, in which radical Islamic terrorists hijacked four U.S. jetliners and flew them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Passengers of one jetliner overpowered the hijackers and crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 persons were killed in the attacks.

Afghanistan, ruled by the Islamic totalitarian Taliban regime, had been sheltering al Qaeda and bin Laden and refused to deliver the group’s leader to Western authorities. The U.S. assembled a multinational force and in October 2001 began bombing raids and eventually invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban was toppled quickly, but its leaders and bin Laden escaped. In the wake of Operation Enduring Freedom, a democratic government was established in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the U.S. response to the terrorist threat included the enactment of the USA Patriot Act and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Bush then turned toward Iraq. Citing intelligence reports, he and other administration leaders said Saddam had acquired weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, the Senate authorized the president to use force against Iraq, and in March 2003, U.S. forces launched strikes against Saddam’s regime. Within weeks, Baghdad fell, Saddam was deposed, and Mr. Bush declared “mission accomplished” on board an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

However, insurgents from nearby countries and Saddam loyalists began thwarting efforts to establish a democratic government in Iraq. Shi’ites began seeking revenge against the Sunni minority that had oppressed them under Saddam. Al Qaeda set up operations in the country. Sectarian violence has threatened to escalate into all-out civil war.

Throughout the conflicts, The Times has provided exclusive reports on policies, plans and programs, covering the Pentagon, the White House and Capitol Hill as well as events in Afghanistan and Iraq.

IMMIGRATION

From the moment President Bush proposed a series of immigration reforms in January 2004, The Washington Times has focused attention on illegal immigration and the national debate on how to deal with it, leading coverage of the issue and influencing policy-makers.

An estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens live in the United States, and the president’s initial reform ideas included improving border enforcement and allowing entry to new and existing aliens as guest workers.

Mexican President Vicente Fox endorsed Mr. Bush’s proposals, which received mixed reviews on Capitol Hill. In fact, many members of the president’s party criticized his reform ideas while various Democrats supported them.

Meanwhile, a group of private citizens in the Southwest formed the Minuteman Project to monitor the U.S.-Mexican border for illegal aliens. The Times provided firsthand reporting of their efforts at the border.

In December 2005, Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, introduced his version of immigration reform on the floor of the House. Known as the Sensenbrenner Bill, it called for building a 700-mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border and requiring employers to verify their workers’ legal status.

The bill — which also would make it a felony to be in the country illegally or to aid an illegal alien — was denounced by immigrant advocacy groups and churches. The bill’s passage in the House in December 2005 sparked widespread protests, numerous boycotts and massive marches over the next several months aimed at influencing the Senate’s version of immigration reform.

In May 2006, the Senate passed its immigration reform bill, which would create a grant program for local police forces dealing with illegal aliens, provide services for longtime illegals and stiffen penalties against employers of illegal aliens. Though the bill would create a 370-mile, triple-layered fence on the border, it also would provide a way for longtime aliens to stay in the country and become citizens.

THE NEW MAJORITY

Volatility defined the run-up to the 2006 elections, and The Washington Times was prominent in covering the changing times.

A series of Republican congressional scandals and national discontent over the Iraq war helped propel Democrats into the majority of the House and the Senate in November.

In January, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California took the gavel as the first woman speaker of the House, while Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada assumed the powerful majority leader’s slot in the Senate.

House and Senate Democrats ran a well-coordinated and -financed national campaign that played on voters’ fatigue with Mr. Bush and the slow progress in rebuilding Iraq, as well as corruption charges leveled against Republicans in the White House and in Congress.

Meanwhile, Republicans had failed to reform Social Security or the tax code. The botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left many voters convinced that Republicans under Mr. Bush’s direction had lost their ability to govern.

Strong economic news was not enough to save Republicans, and a series of gaffes was more than enough to sink some of them, with the chief example being Sen. George Allen of Virginia.

When Mr. Allen used the word “macaca” in public to describe an American of Indian-descent who supported his opponent, Democrat James H. Webb Jr., it was captured on video and viewed hundreds of thousands of times on www.youtube.com.

All told, Democrats won 233 House seats, up from 202 at the end of the last Congress.

When combined with two Democratic-leaning senators, they netted six seats in the Senate and control 51 seats.

Mr. Bush labeled the defeat “a thumpin,’ ” and the architect of the war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, resigned.

However, the president said the new Democratic Congress also offered a chance to work on immigration, where he was closer to Democrats than many in his own party, and on energy legislation and spending controls.

Since then, The Times has followed a “surge” of troops in Iraq and Democrats’ attempt to set a timetable for their withdrawal, candidates’ campaigns for hearts and dimes in the 2008 presidential race, and a widening schism between the Episcopal and Anglican churches, among other stories.

In an increasingly competitive field, The Times continues to deliver the news quickly and accurately — and it looks forward to the next 25 years of distinction and dedication.

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