- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Dear Bill Keller: As a journalist of 42 years who has written some 800 articles, essays and book and film reviews — including an even dozen for the New York Sunday Times Magazine and Book Review — I was distressed by your story on John McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist eight years ago. I’m no fan of the senator as a presidential candidate, but from where I sit the New York Times’ selective investigation process bespeaks an unprofessional bias.

The newspaper endorsed Mr. McCain as the best Republican candidate even as four of your reporters were digging into his personal history focusing on the mere possibility of a tawdry romance. That seems odd to me even on the face of it; odder still when we consider your paper’s persistent denial regarding the troubled past of your endorsed Democratic nominee, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

I’m referring specifically to the findings in the Barrett Report, released two years ago minus 120 pages of allegedly damning evidence against both Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. David Barrett, you will recall, was a D.C. lawyer appointed by the D.C. Court of Appeals in 1995 to investigate allegations of misconduct against Henry Cisneros, President Clinton’s first appointee as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Barrett spent nine frustrating years witnessing his investigation being blocked at every turn by the IRS, the Justice Department and Clinton attorneys.

The detours, however, led him into a wilderness of evident Clinton crimes and misdemeanors largely revolving around their abuse of power in misusing the IRS and Justice Department to punish their enemies. Before Mr. Barrett released his 684-page report in 2006, however, Sens. John Kerry, Dick Durbin and Byron Dorgan sponsored a rider to an unrelated appropriations bill redacting the potentially damaging pages. Furious, Mr. Barrett issued a statement saying, “An accurate title for the report would be, ‘What We Were Prevented from Investigating.’ ” The New York Times, as the nation’s newspaper of record, should have been equally furious. Instead, the paper gave the report short shrift and nimbly sidestepped the nagging issue of the redacted pages.

I wrote twice for this newspaper about what I saw as an unconscionable coverup. Then, on March 19, 2007, I wrote to Mrs. Clinton about this disturbing matter — and cc.-d you a copy, assuming the Times would surely follow up if Mrs. Clinton failed to respond. Here is the letter’s significant excerpt: “I’m writing to you now as a journalist, a concerned voter and a registered Democrat — calling on you either to produce the 120 pages of the Barrett Report redacted by your Democratic senatorial colleagues or withdraw from the race for the presidency. As a member of Congress you have the legal right to unseal the document. I suggest that you also have a serious obligation to do so — an obligation to your rivals for the Democratic nomination, to your party and to the American voters.

It’s telling enough about the pages that Messrs. Kerry, Durbin and Dorgan took the desperate step to have them redacted. Why do so if they are not as damning as advertised? In any case, the truth inevitably will out. Not because truth is a treasured commodity in the national currency these days but simply because of party politics. The curious fact that no GOP congressman has demanded copies of the buried pages can only mean that the Republicans are holding their guns in reserve for the moment they think it will do the most damage to Democratic presidential hopes. I put it to you, Senator Clinton: Could the Republicans possibly conceive of a more propitious moment than your potential nomination next year to yank the canvas from their starboard cannons?”

Mrs. Clinton did not respond. Neither did you, Mr. Keller. Essentially, the New York Times issued Mrs. Clinton a free pass.

Let’s put the matter in perspective by comparison. On the one hand, the Times has expended an enormous amount of time and reportorial energy investigating and publishing a decidedly thin account of the possibility of an old McCain affair. On the other, the paper neglected a 120-page document of potentially incriminating evidence against his Democratic rival which it could have pried from the congressional vault with a flick of its editorial page finger.

So, here’s the basic journalist’s question: Why? Who declared Clinton crimes off-limits? Your readers and the American voters deserve a forthright answer, Mr. Keller. They have the right to know why the New York Times has carefully chosen not to publish all the news that’s fit to print.

Mark Goodman is a veteran journalist and author of the novel “Hurrah for the Next Man Who Dies.”


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