Clinton Press Secretary Spins Oberlin
By Greg Walters
isn’t what it used to be, Clinton administration Press Sec-retary
Michael McCurry declared Thursday.
McCurry traveled to Oberlin on Thursday to share his views on what’s
wrong with the government these days, and how the media fits into
Winning the Cold War ushered in a new era of partisanship, he explained.
The need to stand together against the Soviet Union gave the period
a “dynamic that at least required Democrats and Republicans
to reach across the public aisle,” he said.
“But ironically, that very victory has produced a negative
outcome in our own politics,” he continued. “American
politics have become partisan and vituperative since the end of
the Cold War.
“Example: even though we could have, we never put the president
of the United States through a sex scandal [during the Cold War].
That’s a big change in the forces affecting history,”
he said. The lack of focus has helped cause government gridlock,
“This is not a happy picture,” he said. “And the
press corps helps perpetuate this condition.”
The ’90s, he continued, also saw a revolution in media affairs.
“Clinton once told me that when he became president there
were 53 sites on what would later become known as the World Wide
Web,” McCurry said. “When he left, there were 350 million.”
But this newfound access to information has not resulted in a better
“Our ability to synthesize and process that information has
been diminished, not improved,” McCurry said.
McCurry quoted a former dean of Harvard: “We live in an era
with a plenitude of information but a paucity of understanding.
“There’s no sense at all in the press corps today that
the American people have the ability to walk and chew gum at the
same time,” he said.
Instead of offering in-depth coverage of the issues at hand, media
coverage is “about providing entertaining mud wrestling on
air,” McCurry said.
“I think we can’t afford the consequences of a nation
that was not seriously engaged in thinking about the world and not
pondering what the consequences of these kinds of policies might
But there are, McCurry thinks, ways to deal with these problems.
For starters, “I would propose a new ethic of journalism,”
he said. “We have to think in creative ways about what journalism
31 million people age 12 to 24 tuned in to MTV in the days after
Sept. 11, for example. 25 million people watched the episode of
“The West Wing” that dealt with the meaning of Islam
in contemporary society.
“I guarantee you, if you show up in disproportionate numbers
and vote, politicians are going to wake up,” he said. “You
might actually get politicians to be visionary.”