Collectively called Whitewater, the loosely connected set of allegations of financial impropriety against President and Mrs. Clinton during their years in Arkansas politics may prove to be the first truly postmodern scandal. Who knows or can even imagine knowing the truth behind it all? But certainly it is an unparalleled illustration of the contemporary truism that a story which appears with any degree of frequency in the news media eventually becomes a story about the news media. Where Watergate took more than a year and a presidential resignation to metamorphose from a tale of political wrongdoing into one of journalistic heroism, the flow of Whitewater slowed and diffused into the stagnant swamps of journalistic partisanship and self-doubt in less than three months.

Even as the press was peering most intently into the Clintons’ behavior in the past, it had one eye trained on its own in the present. There was, of course,...


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