Washington — For many otherwise perfectly healthy individuals, politics becomes a peculiar kind of mental disorder. It is forever agitating into their conceptions of life. Show them a rerun of the Kentucky Derby and they will have a political insight. Mention Mother’s Day, and some otherwise dormant political enthusiasm will start roaring in the back corridors of their cerebra. The Derby is the last gasp of Ante-Bellum South and it is prejudicial to quadrupeds! Mother’s Day is a sop to the womenfolk from patriarchal America for all those years of American women in chains!
My belief that politics becomes a mental disorder for many poor souls who think about politics too long and too avidly is confirmed frequently. Just the other morning while consuming my English Muffins and tea I was reading Albert R. Hunt’s column, “Politics & People,” in the venerable Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hunt is a long-time sufferer of this particular disorder, and frankly I am at a loss as to what might be prescribed for him. He suffered through eight years of defending Bill Clinton and never saw the light. Practically every time a scandal erupted Mr. Hunt took the Boy President’s side. Practically every time it turned out that the Boy President was guilty as charged. Yet Mr. Hunt lumbered on, a loyal donkey in the Clinton Scandals that by now really ought to be known as the Clinton Exposés, for rarely did a journalist reveal some unsavory transaction by the Clintons that was later found to be a fiction.
In the end the Clintons and their most ardent apologists were left insisting that their critics were accusing them of murder and drug running. I did not make this up. Bill says it himself from time to time from a dais, and no one notices the sleight of hand. To find someone accusing the Clintons of these enormities one has to take one’s butterfly net to the farthest reaches of politics. There some glassy-eyed loon may indeed accuse Bill of killing Vince Foster or poisoning his cat. There are those zanies who insist Bill was a drug runner, possibly at Mena Airport, possibly in the White House mess. But no sensible journalist I know of ever made such charges. The Clintons and their loyal defenders would have you believe that the charges were common fare among conservatives. Show me the citations.
Whether Mr. Hunt is so easily addled as to fall into the Clinton trap of believing that poor Bill was charged with murder and drug running by the Republican National Committee I cannot recall. He does get swept into a political sermonics frequently when no politics need be mentioned. Just the other day in his column, he was writing about the New York Times’ discovery that 27-year-old reporter Jayson Blair had plagiarized and fabricated on dozens of occasions while writing for the Times. Mr. Hunt made a few sensible points. Young reporters should undergo longer training periods on the police beat — good point. Few political operators brought into television journalism have acquired “any sense of journalistic values” — an equally good point. Blair’s race has no bearing on his misbehavior — a point one would hope would not have to be made in a society that has become increasingly characterized by racial equality.
Yet after all of these sensible observations Mr. Hunt’s disorder takes hold. In his column’s reflections on journalistic practice he apparently had gone too long without suffering a political agitation. He notes that “the Times is a great newspaper whose reporting in recent years has been as distinguished as ever.” Well, perhaps, but then he pounces on a hobgoblin that is nowhere in sight. He adds, “But the Blair crisis is an unfortunate gift to those ideologically-driven critics who have unfairly attacked the paper for its war coverage and other issues.”
What does he mean by “ideologically-driven”? Does he mean people who disagree with the newspaper’s political slant? Or is he saying it does not have one? More to the point, can Mr. Hunt not write a few hundred words on a non-political point without bringing politics, his particular sense of politics into the discussion? Mr. Hunt is a perfect example of the condition I have in mind. He sees political bias and activity everywhere, and the politics he sees he does not like. I guess the condition I am talking about is a kind of paranoia, but I am not suggesting institutionalization — just a few therapeutic laughs.