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Clinton Papers Show Viguerie Was Right


Our friend Tony Lee at Breitbart has a great article about revelations in Bill Clinton’s presidential papers that Clinton's White House feared that the Internet was allowing average citizens, especially conservatives, to bypass legacy media gatekeepers and access information that had previously been denied to them by the mainstream press.

The purpose of the 1995 Clinton "conspiracy commerce memo" Lee analyzes was to demonize and discredit alternative media outlets on the right to mainstream media organizations and D.C. establishment figures.

Tony Lee notes the memo says the "Internet has become one of the major and most dynamic modes of communication" and "can link people, groups and organizations together instantly."

"Moreover, it allows an extraordinary amount of unregulated data and information to be located in one area and available to all," the memo states. "The right wing has seized upon the Internet as a means of communicating its ideas to people. Moreover, evidence exists that Republican staffers surf the Internet, interacting with extremists in order to exchange ideas and information.”

The memo also states that conservative think tanks serve as a training ground for future leaders and says conservative institutions "are to today's media age of political organizations what the Democratic big city party machines were to the New Deal era of political organization"

The part of the memo that Lee pulled out that we think is so important is the Democrats’ concept of “unregulated data and information.”

Regulated by whom we wonder; the liberals in the establishment media’s newsrooms and editorial offices, or perhaps by the government media minders recently proposed by the Obama FCC?

For those born in the Internet age or after the advent of cable TV, it may be hard to imagine how difficult the job of marketing conservatism and conservative ideas was before the advent of cable TV, talk radio and the internet.

As Richard Viguerie put it in his new book TAKEOVER, “To this day, the New York Times carries on its front page the motto “All the news that’s fit to print,” and in 1961, as it is today, liberals were largely in charge of deciding what was fit to print in the establishment press and what wasn’t.

The conservative print media was small. Human Events was an eight-to twelve-page newsletter, the National Review was just getting started, and YAF’s publication, the New Guard, first edited by Dr. Lee Edwards, now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, had just a few thousand subscribers.

It was hard, if not impossible, to find the conservative point of view on television. Walter Cronkite of CBS and his establishment media colleagues at ABC and NBC would go on air at 6:30 p.m., and by 7:00 p.m. America would have been told what to think—and it wouldn’t be that communism was evil and dangerous and that lower taxes, less government, and more freedom were good ideas.

This remained true into the 1970s and 1980s, even as Ronald Reagan rose to national prominence and won two landslide elections.

If you were a conservative on a college campus or in a suburban neighborhood reading the newspapers and watching TV, you were marooned in a world where the elite opinion makers of New York and Washington found your ideas fit to be ignored or attacked, but not printed or aired.

The one means we had to get our message out, to share ideas, and to bypass the establishment media filter, was direct mail—the first and most long-lived form of new and alternative media.”

As Viguerie describes in TAKEOVER, the Clinton White House, in losing the Hillarycare battle, learned firsthand the power of the new and alternative media to deliver “unregulated data and information” to grassroots conservative opponents of big government.

Rush Limbaugh’s program had only been on the air nationally for about five years, but Limbaugh jumped into the fray against Hillarycare with both feet.

While Rush was leading the on-air charge against Hillarycare, in Washington Bill Kristol (formerly Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff and now editor of The Weekly Standard) channeled the brewing popular revolt into legislative opposition. Part of that campaign was very public—but the most important part may have been behind the scenes.

Three or four times a week, Kristol sent a barrage of faxes to thousands of conservative leaders, providing talking points against Hillarycare as well as practical advice on defeating the measure in Congress and the court of public opinion. Each new fax would be on opinion-molders’ desks the very first thing in the morning. And thus the ubiquitous, but now outmoded, fax machine became an important part of the new and alternative media.

Direct mail also played a key role in the fight against Hillarycare. Dozens of conservative organizations—such as the American Conservative Union (ACU), under the leadership of David Keene and Don Devine, and the United Seniors Association, led by Sandra Butler and Kathleen Patten—mailed between twenty and twenty-five million letters.

As just one example of the breadth and depth of the campaign against Hillarycare, the Viguerie Company had the American Conservative Union as a client—in a period of one hundred days we mailed thirteen million letters, others were mailing as well, but we led the direct-mail charge in rallying grassroots conservatives to oppose Hillarycare and turn it into a nightmare for the Clinton administration.

The Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill was frozen by the outpouring of public opposition, and it stalled Clinton’s legislative agenda just as the scandals began multiplying to further bog him down. More importantly, through talk radio, millions of outside-the-Beltway Americans were empowered to express their opinions, understand that they were not alone, and rally like-minded people to their cause.

The Clinton White House and their allies on Capitol Hill were blindsided because the new and alternative media of direct mail, faxes, talk radio, etc., were all under the establishment’s radar.

But, as Viguerie observes in TAKEOVER, they sure understood afterward.

Hillary Clinton sat down to a series of interviews with sympathetic liberal reporter Adam Clymer of the New York Times. Clymer’s October 3, 1994, article, titled “Hillary Clinton Says Administration Was Misunderstood on Health Care,” put the blame—or credit—right where it belonged: “This battle was lost on paid media and paid direct mail,” the First Lady complained.

The left has never forgiven, or forgotten, the lesson they learned in the Hillarycare battle that “unregulated data and information” delivered through the new and alternative media empowers grassroots conservatives and other opponents of big government, and that is why they will never stop trying to reestablish their power over the means of delivering information to the American people.

To read POLITICO’s excerpts from TAKEOVER click here. 

To read Tony Lee’s article on Breitbart click here.

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