Hillary Meets the Press

March 15, 1994

Sort of. She gave two quickie weekend interviews to Time and Newsweek magazines. In neither case were the reporters as aggressive as they would have liked to be, judging from the Q. and A.s printed in the magazines. The ground rules did not allow it. In one case, she ruled out in advance questions that "touched" on issues before the Whitewater grand jury. In the other, she agreed to answer only questions that dealt with Whitewater's "effect on herself and her family."

So these were more or less brief encounters of the first kind. It would be in Mrs. Clinton's best interest if she would move to the second and third kinds of encounters. That is, private interviews in which the questioner is allowed to ask about all Whitewater matters; and a full-fledged press conference with numerous inquisitors. Those could help clear the air. The public has been growing suspicious of Mrs. Clinton's role in Whitewater. A Time poll last week showed almost as many respondents (34 percent) believe she has done something illegal as don't (39 percent). Slightly more think she has behaved unethically as don't (38-36 percent). A lot of this is no doubt unfair and guilt by association: She was a partner in the Rose Law Firm of Little Rock.

Many members of the public who have been following this story closely had developed a low opinion of the firm's practices even before yesterday's bombshell -- the resignation of Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell. He was a Rose partner and close friend of Mrs. Clinton, as was Vincent Foster, the White House deputy counsel who committed suicide last year.

Mr. Hubbell said his resignation involves billing disputes with Rose unrelated to Whitewater. No doubt that is true, but Rose did do Whitewater-related business and, as even Mr. Hubbell admitted, Whitewater has become a "distraction" for him at the Justice Department. Counting Mr. Foster, Mr. Hubbell is the third victim of Whitewater. White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum resigned last week. He was not a Rose partner, but he was an old friend and one-time professional associate of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Mistakes were made," Mrs. Clinton told Newsweek. "We made lots of mistakes," she told Time. The biggest mistake of all would be now to give the appearance of stonewalling inquiries into her role in Whitewater. Some defenders say she is being attacked not only for Whitewater but also for her assumption of power as the president's wife. There is some truth in that, but it is just plain old politics and journalism at work, not sexism or anti-feminism, as some suggest. Just the opposite. As reporter Lisa Myers of NBC put it, "She is using her power as first lady to try to avoid the scrutiny that goes with the power. It's the worst kind of sexism."

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