The Feeding Frenzy, Remembered

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WASHINGTON: To those of you still reading -- and especially to those of you who aren't anymore -- the much-maligned media isn't sorry about these past 13 months of frenzy. But we understand why you are. "It has not been an edifying spectacle," TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan says of the national talkathon that, for political journalists, was still a heck of a ride -- most of the time. "The problem was that the basic outlines were known in the first couple of weeks," he says. "And even when the sex scandal turned into impeachment and took on some constitutional gravity, the story felt just the same -- like a sex scandal."

Special Report So the scandal was more Monkey Business than Watergate, Clinton more Gary Hart than Nixon. But he was still the President, and impeachment was still impeachment. And TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson says of his chance to cover the story, "I wouldn't have traded it for anything." But he can see why so much of America, by the end, just wanted the circus to leave town. "Everyone kept cycling back to the same old arguments -- for senators, it was 'It's all been said before, just not by me.' And to a certain extent, the media was guilty of that too." Relief, disgust, sustained guffawing -- all appropriate reactions to the end of this dirty, spectacular political train wreck. Especially that first one. "Relief, absolute relief," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty, who next week returns to the business of Al Gore's trip to South Africa. "As is any trip with Gore, it's an immersion in the minutiae of policy," she says. "I can't believe I'm looking forward to it."

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