I'm so tired of the spin this president and his aides put on so much of what comes out of the White House. For example, the other day, a Page 1 New York Times story was headlined: "Aides Say Clinton Is Angered as Gore Tries to Break Away."
And then, midway there was this paragraph in the double bylined - John M. Broder and Don Van Natta Jr. - article:
"The motives for Mr. Clinton's aides and advisers to talk about the president's feelings toward Mr. Gore are not entirely clear. They may be trying to help the vice president establish distance from the president by portraying Mr. Clinton as angry. They may be trying to demonstrate their closeness to the president. Or they may simply be honestly reporting how Mr. Clinton and his inner circle have reacted to Mr. Gore's recent statements."
What we see here are reporters so used to having to deal with the "Clinton spin" - in which information handed out or reacted to is invariably given an interpretation that will favor the president - that they simply don't know what they are dispensing.
It's a sad situation. The public never knows what to believe when this president or those around him tell us something. We know about the lies that Clinton's admitted to. But I'm talking about the twisting and reshaping of Clinton-related information by the "Clinton spin."
My sympathy is with the authors of this article. They have to report what is going on in the White House. And they have done it in a forthright way - even implicitly warning the readers that they can't depend on what the aides are saying.
But when good reporters have to go this far in reporting the news, we can see quite clearly that the Clinton inability to deal squarely with the truth is seeping throughout his White House, and perhaps further.
Oh, yes, we reporters know that all presidents "manage" the news. They always seek the best interpretation of whatever they are doing.
But they simply must stay away from the excesses of interpretation - where they cross the line into obfuscation or misdirecting or, of course, lying.
Remember when Vice President Hubert Humphrey parted with President Johnson on the carrying on of the Vietnam War? Johnson was furious. It was genuine anger. He felt his old friend and the man who he had elevated to the No. 2 spot had let him down.
No one asked if Johnson was feigning anger to help Humphrey - although Hubert's declaration of independence from Johnson on the war helped him greatly in his presidential race against Richard Nixon. Indeed, some observers have said that had Humphrey made that move earlier in the contest he would have beaten Nixon.
I was talking to some reporters at breakfast the other morning. None of them thought Clinton was really angry at Gore. They thought it was an artifice, a device to help Gore.
My own guess is that this is a James Carville operation. It has the smell of a Carville maneuver. I can see him talking to Clinton and suggesting that "you can help Gore by letting it be known that you secretly are angry with Al - even though you publicly continue to stand behind him." And then, with Clinton's tacit approval, Carville tells some aides of Clinton's anger and asks them to pass this information along to the press.
Now, nearly a week after The New York Times story, we are greeted in the pages of the Washington Post with this headline, "Top Aides Deny Clinton-Gore Rift."
Then Clinton, himself, said publically that he wasn't angry at Gore.
What should we make of this?
I'd say the other story didn't "play" well and the White House is trying another spin. This president's credibility spins down and down.