Wall Street Journal speaks into the ears of senators

Paper excerpts editorials critical of Clinton in Post

January 29, 1999|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Readers who opened the pages of the Washington Post yesterday may have been surprised to find a full-page collection of editorials from the Wall Street Journal criticizing the character of President Clinton.

It was an advertisement, as the small letters at the top of the page said. But the Wall Street Journal, based in New York, was not looking to sell more subscriptions.

Instead, it was selling a message: For six years, the editorials said, Clinton has been a slippery president with no credibility, no character and no conscience.

"What we are saying is that the national embarrassment that we are living through has its origins in the president's personality," said Robert L. Bartley, the Journal's opinion editor. "We were kind of prescient about what was going to happen. We thought readers would be interested in that."

It is rare, but not unheard of, for the Journal to place ads reprinting its editorials or its top news articles in other national newspapers. But, said Ben H. Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, the paper has never been so eager to be heard. This time, the Journal ran the ad only in Washington, where the president is on trial in the Senate.

"They are trying to reach political Washington with a message that [politicians] should do something with what [Journal editors] see as an evil man," Bagdikian said.

The ad, a selection of opinions published from March 1992 to Jan. 14, also appeared on the Journal's opinion page yesterday. The editorials included subjects such as "Who is Bill Clinton," "William Milhous Clinton," "Even Dems Wonder Who We Elected," "The Outrage Arrives" and "It Turns Out Character Does Matter."

Bartley and officials of Dow Jones & Co., the Journal's parent company, brushed off the timing of the advertisement.

"The goal was to get people to think and perhaps reflect," said Dow Jones executive Richard Tofel.

Linda Erdos, public relations officer for the Post, said that the paper saw nothing wrong with the content and that readers are savvy enough to figure out it was an ad.

Pub Date: 1/29/99

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