International Papers

Flytrap Fatigue

Flytrap Fatigue


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Flytrap fatigue has been spreading like wildfire across Europe. The German daily Hamburger Morgenpost lighted the flame last week by leaving two of its pages blank under the headline “Clinton’s Porn Interrogation: We Have Had Enough.” Since then, 14 media organizations in Portugal–three TV companies, four radio stations, six daily newspapers, and one newsmagazine–have signed a statement saying, “It is our profound conviction that the intimate life of a human being, even if he is the president of the United States, does not justify this obscene official inquiry. We therefore declare that the media for which we are responsible will not, as from today, continue to focus on aspects of the intimate life of Bill Clinton that are not of obvious interest to the public.”

In Britain, the press has generally failed to catch up with the idea that impeachment is becoming increasingly unlikely. The satirical magazine Private Eye, in this week’s edition, says that “President Clinton, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.” It takes two British commentators on Flytrap–the liberal Guardian’s Washington correspondent Martin Kettle and the conservative Daily Telegraph’s “resident Bill-baiter”Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–and points out that “what both papers have in common is that their reporting simply reflects their prejudices–thus leaving the poor readers hopelessly confused and surprised by every new turn of events.” It takes quotations from both journalists’ articles over several months to show, convincingly, the repeated inaccuracy of their predictions.

After its final quotation from Evans-Pritchard, who wrote Sept. 22 that “those who say that this scandal does not rise to the level of Watergate may have to eat their words,” Private Eye says, “Perhaps they could be joined on this verbal banquet by Evans-Pritchard.” And to Kettle’s warning, issued the same day, that the Clinton presidency may be seen by future historians “as a huge historic disappointment consisting mainly of strategic retreats in a right-wing era and as a catastrophic personal let-down for a generation of American liberals,” the magazine adds, “And for a certain British liberal hack, too?”

The crisis in Kosovo figures prominently in most European newspapers. The Times of London led its front page Thursday with “Nato Ready for Strikes on Serbia.” But an editorial seemed skeptical about whether NATO will actually do anything. It recalled that six years ago George Bush, in his “Christmas warning,” said that if Belgrade used force against Kosovo’s Albanian majority, the United States would intervene: “Then Mr. Milosevic listened. But now, although he is politically weaker, neither Nato nor Washington has given him cause to believe that the West means business.”

The visit to Paris Wednesday by Germany’s new Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schröder was also the subject of much comment. The Süddeutche Zeitung of Munich ran an editorial Thursday pointing out that Schröder presented the French with “a new Germany,” one in which the Roman Catholic Rhinelander Helmut Kohl has been replaced by a northern Protestant less likely to be sympathetic to the French. But President Jacques Chirac was reported in the French press to be reassured by Schröder’s assurances that Germany will continue to pursue the same European policies while extending the Franco-German relationship to take more account of Britain.