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Clinton's Finger-Wagging Moment

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The press may well have overplayed the macaca gaffe -- there was no comparable frenzy over Webb saying three decades ago that the U.S. Naval Academy was "a horny woman's dream" -- but it was a self-inflicted wound that was captured on video and downloaded thousands of times on YouTube.com.

The Post last week quoted Allen's mother as saying she didn't tell her son she was Jewish until he asked about the "rumor" late last month. Why the senator didn't inquire earlier, since he's talked about his grandfather having been imprisoned by the Nazis, is an interesting question.

While politicians understandably resent journalists turning into genealogical detectives, they are rarely shy when it comes to scoring ethnic points. Allen has spoken on the campaign trail about having his "grandfather's bloodlines," namely "French Italian" and "one-sixteenth Spanish." Nor are they above trading on family connections or showcasing their spouses and children. Allen, of course, is the son of the famed football coach whose name he bears.

The list of prominent public figures who acknowledge their Jewish ancestry only after seeking or attaining public office -- John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright -- is growing longer. Some appear to have made the cold calculation that it would not be a political asset.

And this goes beyond questions of Jewish heritage. When the Massachusetts senator, gearing up to run for president in 2003, said he had never claimed to be Irish, the Boston Globe reported that he had claimed Irish ancestry in a St. Patrick's Day message nearly two decades earlier.

Peggy Fox insists she is not the story. But journalists who appear on television and ask questions at televised debates -- particularly personal questions -- often become part of the story. By leaving out part of his biography for years, Allen gave her a big, fat opening. But for all the media furor, most Virginia voters probably care more about the Iraq war and the economy than the details of the senator's family tree.

Liberal Media?

The "mainstream media presents itself as unbiased, when in fact there are built into it many biases, and they are overwhelmingly to the left."

The man who made that comment is not some rabid right-wing critic but Thomas Edsall, a Washington Post political reporter for a quarter-century who recently accepted an early retirement offer.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Edsall said he is pro-choice on abortion and does not think he has ever voted for a Republican presidential candidate. He said he believes that reporters vote Democratic by somewhere between 15 to 1 and 25 to 1.

Edsall, who now writes for the New Republic and has just finished a book called "Building Red America," also said that journalists have an inherent "suspicion" of the military, and he agreed "to a certain degree" with the argument that Fox News and conservative radio became popular because many people, in Hewitt's words, "got sick and tired of being spoon-fed liberal dross" by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

In an interview, Edsall says the main problem is "an inability to empathize with the way many people in red states think and feel" but that it is "possible" for journalists to set aside their views and report fairly.

Or 'Right-wing'?

Back to Clinton's Fox interview: Lots of reaction online, starting with Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse , who says Clinton "wants to be the mellow, above-the-fray ex-president, but he really can't control the presentation. And now that he's shown how raw and angry he is about the criticisms, it's not going to get any easier. Actually, I don't mind seeing him angry. He should be angry about this. I'd like to think that when he was in office he had this kind of edge and was not good-natured and relaxed. Of course, he's [ticked] at his critics, and it's fine for him to be the kind of guy who gets [ticked]. That doesn't mean his critics aren't right about a lot of things, but there's nothing really wrong with him getting angry like this. I assume a good part of it is that he's angry at himself for the opportunities he can now see he missed."


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