How to Boil a Frog (or Newspaper)
Jude Wanniski
January 26, 1999


Memo To: Howell Raines, NYTimes editorial-page editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Time for a Change

If you throw a frog into boiling water, Howell, it will jump right out. But if you put it in a pot of cool water and turn up the fire a few degrees at a time, the frog will not realize it is being overcome, so as the water comes to a boil, the frog sits there cooking.

I'm afraid that's what has happened to you, Howell, as you originally sought to justify William Jefferson Clinton's behavior in the Oval Office in an adulterous relationship with a young girl, an intern, a subordinate who had been brought in as a paper gofer. A year ago, we began to learn of the nature of the relationship, simultaneously learning its connection to a federal civil rights suit that our President had gotten himself into by having a state trooper bring to his hotel room a young female employee who was not interested in his proffered genitals.

We both should have decided at that moment that the President should resign if it turned out that the story were true about Monica Lewinsky. What he did was a disgrace to the Oval Office, the same place President Ronald Reagan occupied for eight years in a suit jacket, refusing to work in shirt sleeves because of his respect for the office. So, Howell, we began to make excuses, and excuses, and excuses, and excuses. When I finally noticed I was being boiled, during the Judiciary hearings, I bolted. You've chosen to remain in the pan as the water came to a boil. Please go back and read your Sunday lead editorial, where you celebrate the President for having perjured himself in his testimony before a federal grand jury and also for having obstructed justice. Okay, that's bad enough, but you now find yourself denouncing Rep. Henry Hyde and the almost unanimous Republican Party for their lack of compassion in refusing to give the kid a break. The Democratic Senators who swore an oath to impartial justice now find themselves breaking that oath en bloc, horrified with the thought that a witness might be called to expose their hypocrisy. Every silly excuse they come up with finds a parrot in your corner.

In acknowledging that our President has committed serial felonies, you honestly state what every member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives knows is true. Our whole country knows that Clinton has disgraced the office and the office must be cleansed, but it can't make a move unless the editorial page of the NYTimes throws in the towel. Look back on the Richard Nixon disgrace and you will find that it was the WSJournal editorial page that finally lanced that boil for the GOP. When you do the same, it all will be over. You know that every Democrat is now lying to himself, his family, his constituents, and his colleagues about how Henry Hyde and Ken Starr are the bad guys, and their felonious party leader is the victim of a sinister Republican plot to prove about him what you already stipulate.

You may think I'm pulling your leg when I suggest you find another job, but I am dead serious. You have inched your way into your present position to where the quicksand will get all of you. The Democratic Party has been brain dead for a generation, except for the counseling it has gotten from the NYT editorial page. Which means you. And you are boiled without realizing it. Can you imagine historians a century from now reading your editorials in support of a man you have for months been vilifying as a disgrace to his party, his nation, and the world? There ain't no way for you to shift gears, as far as I can see, unless you accept Rep. Lindsey Graham's argument that in using Sidney Blumenthal to broadcast his attack against Ms. Lewinsky, he committed an act beyond bad, beyond criminal, well into evil. Try writing an editorial for the ages justifying his continued tenure, stipulating his evil while he breaks out another bottle of champagne and summons up another intern. What the hell.