Hoosier Review, February 17, 2004
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Does John Kerry have an "intern problem"?
Twelve years ago, the name "Gennifer Flowers" became known nationwide as allegations of infidelity rocked the Presidential campaign of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Clinton would go on to defeat President George H. W. Bush by a 42% to 38% margin. (The rest of the vote went to Ross Perot.) Six years later, the name "Monica Lewinsky" burst onto the national scene when Bill Clinton engaged in perjury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice to keep the affair from being used in a sexual-harassment suit against the President.
It is 2004, and the specter of a possible extramarital affair hangs over the head of John Kerry, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Kerry is alleged to have had a two-year relationship with a young woman named Alexandra Polier beginning in the spring of 2001. The Kerry story, like the Lewinsky scandal, was broken by the Drudge Report. Kerry is the likely Democratic nominee to face President George W. Bush in the fall. For the American people, this sounds like "Deja Vu all over again".
On February 12, Matt Drudge broke the story, writing that Wesley Clark told a group of reporters "off the record" that "Kerry will implode over an intern issue". Kerry then went on "Imus in the morning" and said, "Well, there is nothing to report. So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it."
World Net Daily reprinted an Insight story which reported on February 13 that some Democrats were worried about Kerry's "Clintonian" non-denial denial. According to the London Telegraph, Kerry became more assertive later, saying "I just deny it categorically. It's rumour. It's untrue. Period." Polier, 27, joined Kerry on February 16 in denying that the affair took place.
Is this a story the mainstream media (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) should have covered sooner? (The Norristown, Pennsylvania Times-Herald noted that CNN, NBC and the New York Times were waiting by Polier's parents' home hoping for a quote.) Only time will tell. It is making its way through the British tabloids and conservative media like Drudge and World Net Daily, but the mainstream media has not latched onto it yet. But while Drudge has taken some hits for publishing this story, he notes that the mainstream press grilled George Bush Sr. over an unsubstantiated allegation of an extramarital affair. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, for example, defended aggressively questioning Bush on the affair, but twelve years later calls the coverage of the Kerry story "sleazy".
Hypocrisy? You better believe it. Unless the mainstream press is willing to renounce their reporting of the allegations against Bush Sr., they cannot consistently condemn Drudge for doing the same. It is true that the mainstream media's hypocrisy does not make Drudge's pursuit of this story proper or improper. The application of objective journalistic standards to Drudge need not turn on whether or not the mainstream media follows those same standards. However, common sense indicates that the mainstream media should also follow the standards they hold others to.
What if the story is true? If so, it should cast a cloud over Kerry's presidential aspirations. We learned during the Clinton administration and his impeachment how important it is to have a President who we can trust. If Kerry broke his marriage vows, it raises doubts about whether he can be trusted as President. If the person closest to Kerry cannot trust him, the American people cannot either.
If this story turns out to be true, Kerry's defenders will say it's "just about sex". (We are already witnessing that "defense" that to some extent.) But if Kerry did have an affair, it is not "about sex". It is about character. In 1992, then-Governor Clinton said it was not the character of the President that matters, but the character of the Presidency. George H. W. Bush rightly said that the two can not be separated. After a multitude of Clinton scandals (including 900 FBI files on prominent Republicans that wound up in the White House) America now knows that Bush Sr. was right. If the rumors surrounding Kerry are true, we should heed this warning in 2004.