Whitewater / Lewinsky and related "scandals"Reuters first reports the story, which has Clinton boarding Air Force One at 4:30 PM after playing basketball with inner-city kids. Awaiting Clinton on board is celebrity hair stylist Christophe of Beverly Hills, who has on occasion cut Hillary Clinton's hair. At 4:52, the Secret Service and airport security close down two of the airport's four runways, as is customary when Air Force One takes off or lands. The delay mounts, while Christophe cuts Clinton's hair and hundreds wait impatiently; at 5:48, Air Force One takes off. The media reports that the haircut cost the taxpayers $200 for Christophe and up to $1.4 million in costs for holding up air traffic. Howls of derision cascade from all quarters, including radio show hosts, late-night television hosts (even Johnny Carson, usually riding above such frays, joins in), and, of course, the media. One Gannett headline asks the explosive question, "Clinton: Man of the People or Just Another Elitist?" The right-wing press blasts Clinton, calling him and his wife "the spoiled brats of their generation" (the American Spectator) among other things, and giving Rush Limbaugh an excuse to go completely off the beam, accusing Clinton of never completing his Rhodes Scholarship degree and ranting, "[D]o you know who teaches Rhodes scholars? Marxists!" Even moderate political commentator Al Hunt calls the Clinton White House "the most inept...I have ever seen" and predicting that Clinton will soon be the "subject of such ridicule it'll be too late," and mainstream liberal Mark Shields says Clinton is like "Icarus getting awful clost to the sun with the wings of wax." Within days mainstream media pundits like Margaret Warner and Joel Achenbach are calling it "a failed presidency." Clinton even apologizes for the incident on CBS, calling it "a boner," and shortly thereafter the administration hires right-wing political spinmeister David Gergen to fluff Clinton's public relations. Gergen's tenure is ultimately a failure, and Clinton will be forever tarred as a self-indulgent, phony liberal; the incident helps open him up for tremendous derision and criticism even from those who might have otherwise supported him.
"Travelgate"The former head of the travel office is later tried for embezzlement in charges related to his tenure in the office; independent audits find that two separate sets of books are being kept, $18,000 cannot be accounted for, and the office's records are in a "shambles." The media plays the firings up as an opportunity for Clinton to staff the office with cronies and relatives, and labels the firings "Travelgate." Deputy White House counsel Vince Foster is singled out for personal attacks by the media over the incident. The Washington press corps, piling one accusation after another, fails to mention the charges of mismanagement and malfeasance by director Billy Dale, and refuses to mention his criminal trial until his acquittal. The prosecution's case, proving that over $50,000 in travel office funds found their way into Dale's own bank account, is not reported. This is partially because many in the Washington press corps have, in years past, received personal favors from Dale; ABC's Sam Donaldson goes so far as to appear as a character witness for Dale. (It is true that the firings were handled badly, with little regard for the privacy of the fired employees, as part of Clinton's vaunted efforts at "government reform;" the public annoucement of the FBI investigation's findings is particularly unacceptable.) Seven separate investigations of the firings are later mounted, including one by Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr; all conclude that the firings were warranted and handled in a proper manner. Tragically, the vicious, relentless media press drives the already-depressive Foster to commit suicide shortly thereafter (see related items).