OT: Temper, Temper, Mr. President

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For entertainment purposes...

National/World News : Monday, September 27, 1999

Clinton gets angry at reporter's questions at picnic

by James V. Grimaldi Seattle Times Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - The president seemed buoyant and relaxed.

He was smiling, shaking hands and socializing with reporters Friday night during the annual picnic for members of the White House press corps when a guest asked, "When are you going to have your next formal press conference, Mr. President?"

President Clinton kept shaking hands and after a few moments said: "I don't know. I'll have one."

The reporter, Paul Sperry, Washington bureau chief of Investor's Business Daily, asked, "When?"

The president replied, "Why?"

Sperry: "The American people have a lot of questions about illegal money from China and the campaign-finance scandal."

Suddenly, the president's mood changed, his face turned red and he launched into an argument that lasted nearly 10 minutes as he defended himself and the Democratic Party against allegations of Chinese attempts to influence the 1996 U.S. presidential election.

During the extraordinary exchange, Clinton suggested that Republicans were hypocrites on the subject of campaign-finance violations. He complained about the length and cost of the investigation and suggested that the FBI would prefer that the news media report on political funding irregularities rather than questions about the April 19, 1993, federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

"We've spent $4 million and gave the (campaign-finance) task force millions of records and every shred of evidence, and they haven't found a thing," Clinton told Sperry.

Sperry replied that FBI agents who testified before Congress this month raised serious allegations of Department of Justice stonewalling on the campaign-finance matter and reminded him that FBI Director Louis Freeh thought enough evidence existed to call for an independent counsel.

At that, Clinton laughed and said, "Yeah, the FBI wants you to write about that rather than write about Waco."

President Clinton and the FBI have been at odds during the investigation of allegations that China attempted to make illegal donations to Democrats in 1996, but the comment marks one of the first times Clinton has publicly expressed this level of exasperation over the nation's chief law-enforcement agency.

`Pretty peculiar'

Brookings Institution presidential scholar Stephen Hess said he found the president's anger unusual, given that Clinton has survived a series of political storms, investigations and attacks on his presidency.

"The idea that the president is acting as if the FBI is some kind of independent operation that is outside the executive branch of government and is trying to do him in is pretty fascinating," Hess said. "It is very peculiar that this guy would have gotten under his skin in this way, that he would have answered him in this nondiplomatic manner when he could have just pushed him down the receiving line. It is not typical. He has this temper, and it flares up from time to time, but not that often."

American Enterprise Institute political scientist Norm Ornstein said that given the recent testimony of FBI agents regarding the handling of the campaign-finance probe and the earlier memo, the president's reaction could have been anticipated.

"What the FBI agents did was naturally going to get a tremendous amount of antagonism in return from the Justice Department officials and the White House," Ornstein said.

On the Waco issue, Clinton has publicly backed Attorney General Janet Reno but has remained cool toward the FBI - which is part of the Justice Department - after recent revelations that FBI officials might have misled Reno and Congress about federal agents' actions during the Branch Davidian siege.

`Ready to engage'

White House spokesman Mike Hammer, who was too far away to hear the conversation, said the president has in recent months made himself more accessible to reporters.

"We've had several press conference, and he is planning to be having another fairly soon," Hammer said yesterday. "The president is always ready to engage, as he did last night."

Clinton began his response to Sperry by saying that Republicans were as sullied as Democrats by campaign-finance allegations.

"You want to know the only person who has been linked to money from China? Haley Barbour and the RNC, that's who," he said.

He apparently was referring to allegations by former Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung, who told investigators that he was told by a Chinese contact that an aide to Barbour - who was then the chairman of the Republican National Committee - helped arrange a $2.1 million loan to Republicans with the help of the Chinese in 1994. The aide's attorney has denied the allegation.

The president suggested that reporters were bowing to an agenda set by Republicans and not following the issues the people care about.

"The GOP wants that to be the story rather than guns or their tax plan," Clinton said.

Sperry replied that the public wanted answers about the allegations of illegal contributions. But Clinton wasn't buying it.

"I've been all around this country, and you are the first person to ask me about it," Clinton said. "Not one person has brought that up."

The conversation got so heated that a White House photographer attempted to end it.

"This is so inappropriate," the photographer said, defending the president. "Mr. President, there is a nice little boy here who wants to shake your hand."

Midway through the encounter, the president tried to downplay any lingering concern he had about the campaign-finance issue, saying, "I don't have to run for re-election anymore."

At one another point, Clinton directly criticized the reporter and the tone and tenor of his questions, calling them accusatory.

Both Ornstein and Hess suggested that it was rude for the reporter to argue with the president at a party to which he was invited.

The party on the South Lawn of the White House was "Jazz on the Lawn," and featured blues, jazz and zydeco bands and Cajun food and Chicago barbecue.

Yesterday, Sperry said he regretted that the exchange got out of hand.

"I hope he didn't think I was trying to ambush him," Sperry said. "I really wasn't. I really feel bad that that happened and it was such a scene."

Sperry said he was hoping to encourage a news conference soon to answer questions raised by the FBI agents at the congressional hearing.

Near the end of the exchange Friday, the reporter again told the president that, and suggested he answer the questions.

Replied the president: "I just did."

James V. Grimaldi's phone message number is 206-464-8550.

-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), September 29, 1999


And from Drudge...




A furious President Clinton has ordered a Washington reporter banned from the White House, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned, after the reporter quizzed the president during a press picnic about illegal money from China and the campaign-finance scandal!

Paul Sperry, Washington bureau chief of INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY, was thrown off the invite list at the White House after he grilled the president for more than 10 minutes about various political scandals.

"It turned into a real shout match on the south lawn," one eyewitness told the DRUDGE REPORT.

At one point during the argument, President Clinton put his hands up to both sides of his head, wiggled them, rolled his eyes and gave Sperry a funny face.

"Make sure that guy never gets close to me again!" the president ordered one of his aides after the showdown.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, angry that Sperry transformed a family picnic into a confrontational press conference, told an associate that Sperry is a "Class A s**thead."

Lockhart personally informed Sperry during a phone conversation late Monday that he would never be invited back to the White House.

"The only regret we have is inviting you -- and we won't make that mistake again," Lockhart warned Sperry.

It began innocently enough.

"When are you going to have your next formal press conference, Mr. President?" Sperry casually asked Clinton while he was shaking hands and socializing with reporter and their families.

Clinton: "I don't know. I'll have one."

Sperry: "When?"

The president replied, "Why?"

Sperry: "The American people have a lot of unanswered questions."

Clinton: "Like what!"

Sperry: "Questions about illegal money from China and the campaign-finance scandal."

It was at that point that Clinton started to become unglued.

"Who are you with?" Clinton demanded to know.

"I don't like your accusatory tone. It sounds like you've already got the story written."

Sperry gave the president his business card and said that the public wanted answers about the allegations of illegal contributions from China.

Clinton: "I've been all around this country, and you are the first person to ask me about it. Not one person has brought that up... You want to know the only person who has been linked to money from China? Haley Barbour and the RNC, that's who!"

A red-faced Clinton began to rant about Waco, Republicans, the FBI and gun control.

Pictures taken by a newspaper photographer show Clinton wagging his finger in Sperry's face, Washington's version of THE FIGHT CLUB.

Sperry says he was stunned and "woozy" for hours after.

When asked on Tuesday if he felt intimidated during his one-on-one with the most powerful man in the world, Sperry said: "No, he's only about a half an inch taller than I am."

-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), September 29, 1999.

The jig is almost up....

gettin' a drink...

The Dog

-- Dog (Desert Dog@-sand.com), September 29, 1999.

Lucky thing Sperry didn't ask him about his medical records. He might have been plugged in the head by a body guard!

-- Will continue (farming@home.com), September 29, 1999.

Is the picture available somewhere?

-- Wilferd (WilferdW@aol.com), September 29, 1999.


Wonder if he'd get "upset" if some reporter challenged him about his lack of a public stance on Y2K? Especially since he referred to it recently in such sweeping terms...

"...when this kind of seminal event occurs it gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves what it would take to be really ready for the year 2000."

Actually, I'd like to see *some* emotion displayed from him, on this issue. Care? Compassion? Distain? Concern?

I'd welcome the candid opportunity to see his words "unparsed." Heck, I'd just love to see *some words* that the press could chew on!



-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 29, 1999.

This is great. you see Slick's true colors come out during this exchange. If you ask too tough of questions you get banned/silenced. Imagine, no one had asked those questions before.. The mainstream press has turned into little more than government's mouthpiece. If you step out of line you are immediately silenced. Free press my #@#$%@!!!!

-- kergan (debunker415@hotmail.com), September 29, 1999.


Too bad Sperry got that kind of treatment on the South Lawn.

Also, too bad Sperry zeroed in on campaign finance and the Chinese Connection. This is simply too hot politically and not easily answered.

Also, too bad Sperry did not have the foresight to zero-in on one of the more obvious Federal Century Date Rollover remediation problems. Something that could have more comfortably drawn the President out into a more useful and friendly exchange.

I would think that Investor's Business Daily would find information from the President on a business related topic or government/business interface to be much more in line with the needs of their readers.

However; the President was clearly, quickly agitated by the simple question of 'when' there would be a press conference. He might find a public purging of his soul in a 'fireside chat' series could help him communicate some of the stresses of the office and get them out of his system. And clear his head a bit.

He needs to tell the truth. And do it often.


-- no talking please (breadlines@soupkitchen.gov), September 29, 1999.

No talking,

Don't hold your breath.

-- Wilferd (WilferdW@aol.com), September 29, 1999.

What the hell does Clinnochio know about the truth. he is a pathological liar, IMHO.

-- Southside Ed (Still@home.fornow), September 29, 1999.

Yup, we have a persistent problem with his persistent lying.

Clinnochio --- ROTFLMAO and SMK

I was trying to be fair anyway.

I don't expect much improvement.

-- no talking please (breadlines@soupkitchen.gov), September 29, 1999.

Southside Ed,

With all due respect, it's not your humble opinion..It's a FACT

-- CygnusXI (noburnt@toast.net), September 29, 1999.

The good news for Clinton is that everything he had to do with Monica Lewinsky will be largely forgotten, and his apparently being bribed by Red China will likely recede to no more notoriety than Iran-Contra is remembered for Reagan. The bad news is that due solely to Americans heaping blame on him for numerous deaths and misery from Y2K (the way they blamed the Great Depression on Hoover), for decades people will spit when they say his name. Expect towns and people with Clinton in their name to have their names changed. Neville Chamberlain, Idi Amin, Khadafy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ted Kennedy will have been infinitely more loved/trusted/respected in retrospect compared to how Americans will permanently come to feel about Bill Clinton.


-- MinnesotaSmith (y2ksafeminnesota@hotmail.com), September 30, 1999.

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