With all the scandals in the news, liberals are turning on President Clinton. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reckons that the “center left” is “overdue for a real reckoning” with Mr. Clinton. The Times’ Michelle Goldberg says, “I believe Juanita,” a reference to Mrs. Broaddrick, who in the late 1990s alleged that in 1978, Mr. Clinton, then Arkansas’ attorney-general, raped her at a hotel. Mr. Clinton has long denied the charge. Chelsea Handler tweets an apology to Mrs. Broaddrick. Ross Douthat, referring to the special prosecutor who turned Mr. Clinton over to Congress for impeachment for perjury and obstruction, asks, “What if Ken Starr was right?”
We wonder when one of these columnists is going to apologize to Robert L. Bartley. He was the editor of the Wall Street Journal who pursued President Clinton over Whitewater, Travelgate, the sex scandals, and the alleged rape of Ms. Broaddrick. In the 1990s, the Wall Street Journal published six volumes of editorials on these matters. It brought Bartley and the Journal nothing but opprobrium from the left. So far, we’ve detected not one note of apology to the Journal or Bartley. The silence is deafening.
Bartley himself is, sadly, gone, having died of cancer in 2003 after editing the Wall Street Journal for more than 30 years. He won his Pulitzer prize when Mr. Clinton was in political knee pants, and as Bartley lay dying, America bestowed on him the Medal of Freedom. He had helped figure out the formula — known as supply-side economics — that ignited the Reagan boom. He had helped rethink America’s nuclear strategy, abandoning mutually assured destruction and advancing the Strategic Defense Initiative known as Star Wars.
The great editor was a champion of civil rights and religious freedom. He campaigned not only for the free movement of trade and capital but also of labor. He favored sound money. In person he was a cheerful, mild-mannered, taciturn man. When he picked up a pen, how the thunder rolled. Bartley’s editorials helped embolden the House to impeach President Clinton. It was after the President’s acquittal in the Senate that Bartley sent Dorothy Rabinowitz to interview Juanita Broaddrick.
Other major news organizations had been circling her story but had shrunk from running it. Bartley explained the Journal’s thinking in a famous editorial called “Juanita’s News.” It included the prophetic sentences about Mrs. Broaddrick: “Unlike the line of women who preceded her — Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Kathleen Willey — there doesn't seem to be much interest in nit-picking her veracity. It appears her story will stand as a stark coda to the Clinton saga; let the world conclude what it will.”
The editorial made a broader point, as the Journal’s often do, in this case about the press itself. “Too many people in our business are by now spending too much time wringing their hands over the quality of their ‘judgment’ and too little over the basic job of bringing out the news,” he wrote. “It's no surprise they're getting scooped by Internet start-ups, or for that matter, editorial pages.” That was a reference to the Drudge Report, which broke the Monica Lewinsky story when Newsweek wouldn’t, and to the Journal itself.
And no doubt to the American Spectator, whose editor, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., was admired by Bartley for the courage and elan with which he went after the Clinton scandals and for the way the Spectator, a monthly, scooped the dailies. With all the second thoughts in the news, no one (save for Ben Smith of BuzzFeed) has mentioned the Spectator or Mr. Tyrrell. How odd. It wouldn’t have surprised the Great Bartley, though. “They will forgive you for being wrong,” he liked to warn his staff, “but they’ll never forgive you for being right.”