Hillary's Press Conference

April 27, 1994

Hillary Rodham Clinton handled her first full-scale White House press conference with remarkable aplomb. When her husband spent nearly 40 minutes answering mostly Whitewater-related questions last month, we said he displayed "a master's touch." In her 66 minutes of a similar grilling and response last Friday, she was at least as good. She was responsive, showed little or no bitterness or resentfulness at the press' skepticism and answered most of the questions as fully as could be expected.

Did the performance put the story to rest? We doubt it. In the first place, many of the questions that go to the heart of the Clintons' critics' accusations have to be addressed not to the Clintons but to other people. That means the Arkansans they had financial dealings with in the period beginning on the eve of Mr. Clinton's election to the governorship the first time in 1978. It also means people on the White House payroll who dealt with the aftermath of the death of Vincent Foster.

In the second place, journalists do not have the ability to compel detailed, sworn testimony or to confront their targets with such testimony of others or with otherwise confidential material that is evidence of wrongdoing. At the bottom of the suspicions and accusations of the Clintons' worst critics is the implication that they knowingly broke some laws and abused his official powers for their own and others' financial benefit. Only a prosecutor operating with a grand jury can get to the truth of accusations like that.

The press plays an important role in these dramas, however. Journalists have to ask impertinent questions, be skeptical. Sometimes we go too far. But how are citizens of a democracy supposed to make up their minds about government officials if those officials are not subjected to public scrutiny by the press? Mrs. Clinton acknowledged this by her manner Friday. She wasn't mad at anybody in the room, her tone and words implied.

She also acknowledged it in another way. She was asked about the propriety of Jay Stephens, an aggressive Republican prosecutor, being named to investigate some aspects of Whitewater. She said she could accept it "if he abides by the code of professional ethics . . . and you all keep an eye on him." He should, and we will.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.