Although nobody sensible would choose to do it this way, America’s political fate has become captive to the TV news media’s never-ending quest for ratings. Months before the earliest votes are cast, the 2016 presidential contest has turned into a “reality TV” melodrama.
The themes are broad and simple: Donald Trump is cast as the Nationalist Strongman and Hillary Clinton as the National Bitch. Up with the Strongman, down with the Bitch! Yes, 20 other candidates are vying for attention, and somebody else could assume a starring role should these narratives lose momentum.
Even the supposedly left-wing MSNBC broadcasts Trump’s speeches live, giving the billionaire braggart free publicity that even he might not be able to afford. Whatever you can say about Trump, he gives good TV — that is, if professional wrestling extravaganzas are your idea of family entertainment.
Also, it’s always been clear that no Democratic woman, and certainly not one named Clinton, can be elected President of the United States without being designated a brass-plated bitch. Having failed to entomb Bill Clinton and drive a wooden stake through his heart, wrecking Clinton’s candidacy has become the Washington press clique’s overriding goal.
And yet the geniuses running her campaign act as if they don’t know it. Consider reporter Amy Chozick’s remarkable piece in the September 8 issue of The New York Times: “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.” According to “extensive interviews” with “top strategists” at the campaign’s Brooklyn headquarters, Chozick wrote, Mrs. Clinton would be urged to exhibit empathy and humor on the campaign trail.
Such as when she recently joked, apropos of Trump’s insistence that he didn’t buy that orange thing on his head from Hair Club for Men, that her own “hair is real,” though “the color isn’t.”
Well, it seems here that everybody in Clinton’s Brooklyn office involved in the Times exclusive ought to walk the plank. Voluntarily or otherwise. The Daily Caller‘s sarcastic headline summed things up perfectly: “Hillary Plans To Be More Spontaneous.”
The idea of Clinton as a kind of political Stepford Wife, calculating and “inauthentic” to use the cant term, is so deeply imprinted in the press clique’s standard narrative that they reacted pretty much the way your dog does when you rattle his leash.
Let Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank speak for them all: “And now comes the latest of many warm-and-fuzzy makeovers — perhaps the most transparent phoniness since Al Gore discovered earth tones.”
Never mind that the whole “earth tones” and “invented the Internet” fiascos were malicious inventions. Caricaturing Gore as a posturing phony made it possible for make-believe rancher George W. Bush to become president.
So how is it possible that Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, one of two staffers quoted in the Times by name, couldn’t see that coming?
Another Clinton staffer confided that although the candidate would emphasize income inequality, she’d be “scrapping the phrase ‘everyday Americans,’ which wasn’t resonating with voters.” One mocked it as too much like Walmart’s “Everyday low prices.”
Presumably, the campaign will choose a more tasteful slogan from Tiffany & Co. or Bergdorf Goodman.
Esquire‘s always understated Charles P. Pierce calls Clinton staffers “a writhing ball of faithless snakes,” more concerned with advancing themselves than electing her. Do they not grasp that wrecking her candidacy is Priority One at the New York Times?
Indeed, no sooner had Clinton made a rote apology for the manufactured email “scandal” than staffers “who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations,” hurried to the same Times reporter to emphasize that they’d been urging her to kiss the news media’s collective feet for weeks.
Supposedly, Bill had resisted the idea on the grounds that she hadn’t done anything wrong. Supposedly too, he urged staffers to try harder to make that clear.
Based solely on her appearance on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program, I’d say the aforementioned Palmieri — President Obama’s former communications director — couldn’t explain how to pour sand out of a boot with the instructions printed on the heel. Her speech mannerisms make her difficult to follow, and she talks in circles.
The Clinton campaign needs to send out more spokespeople like former governors Howard Dean and Jennifer Granholm, who are capable of clarity and forcefulness. Here we are months into this pointless debacle and it’s left to the Justice Department to state that Clinton’s email arrangements were legal, proper, and presumably known to everybody in the Obama administration who sent her a message.
And, oh yeah, that business about how Clinton’s obsessive secrecy caused her computer’s server to be wiped of all data? That was false also, as Bill Clinton apparently wanted the campaign to say all along.
So spooks in places like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (seriously) now say emails sent in 2010 should be made Top Secret in 2015?
Isn’t that like getting a traffic ticket in the mail from a town you drove through last month because they dropped the speed limit last week?
And if it really is as absurd as that, then shouldn’t somebody say so?
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, Featured Post, September 16, 2015
“The ‘Clinton Rules’ Of Journalism”: Why Clinton-Bashing Articles Are A Golden Goose For Her Detractors
We’re beyond corrections now.
The New York Times issued a lengthy editors’ note Tuesday regarding the paper’s tangled, bungled coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails, which, they conceded, “may have left readers with a confused picture.”
That’s a rather gentle gloss on the media tempest that made landfall Thursday night, after an article that purported to break news of a criminal investigation into Clinton, was published on the Times site and front page Friday morning, and was the subject of an email blast.
But then the Times silently amended the story, whittling the headline, and the story’s claims, down from “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account,” and then finally, “Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” where it stands as of this writing.
Of course by then, it had been copied, repeated, and aggregated all over the Web.
The New York Times originally reported that two government inspectors general had asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into Clinton’s use of her private email account
It altered its report on its website overnight without explanation to suggest she personally was not the focus of a criminal referral.
Then, the Justice Department said the inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into the emails, before backtracking and saying that there was a request for a probe but not a criminal one.
When the crux of the original story — that Clinton was under criminal investigation — was tweaked to indicate that the investigation was not criminal in nature, nor was Clinton the target, the Times editors quietly corrected it on the online edition of the paper, after it had been online for a few hours, with none of the fanfare that attended the original story’s publication: no email blast; no correction.
Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, published a long note outlining exactly how and why Times reporters fouled it up. She concluded that, in the Times’ haste to publish an earth-shattering exposé on the Democratic frontrunner, the paper of record had rushed to print an overly sensationalistic story that relied on dubious sources. She also lamented editors’ decision to discreetly revise the story without first issuing a proper correction. Her prescription: “Less speed. More transparency.”
National Memo editor Joe Conason argued Monday that:
Sullivan lets the Times editors and reporters off a bit too easily, allowing them to blame their anonymous sources and even to claim that the errors “may have been unavoidable.” What she fails to do, as usual, is to examine the deeper bias infecting Times coverage of Hillary and Bill Clinton — a problem that in various manifestations dates back well over two decades.
It seems clear that the Times article was written in accordance with the “Clinton rules” of journalism — which, as articulated by Jonathan Allen, state that “the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire” is the primary goal for journalists. Clinton rules endorse the use of tabloid-worthy headlines (“Criminal!”) and dubious sources, presume guilt, and operate under the assumption of a massive Clintonian conspiracy of widespread collusion and ill intent.
The Times finally ran two belated, garrulous corrections — the first on Saturday, the second on Sunday — which together read:
An article and a headline in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state misstated the nature of the request, using information from senior government officials. It addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.
An article in some editions on Friday about a request to the Justice Department for an investigation regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state referred incorrectly, using information from senior government officials, to the request. It was a “security referral,” pertaining to possible mishandling of classified information, officials said, not a “criminal referral.”
These are not corrections on the order of “Mr. McDougal’s name is actually MacDougal,” and it’s baffling that they would be treated as such, quietly airbrushed onto the site like fixing a typo. Which, of course, became the next phase of the story.
It didn’t help that the Times reporter who wrote the piece conceded that the corrections were “a response to complaints we received from the Clinton camp that we thought were reasonable.” This is how a Clinton-bashing story evolves from one of sloppy journalism to the way Hillary Clinton muscled a media titan into reporting what she wanted them to report.
Of course this episode is already becoming subsumed into the vast Clinton conspiracy, as when S.E. Cupp accused the Times of altering its headline “because Hillary asked them to.” A Breitbart headline similarly proclaimed: “New York Times Stealth-Edits Clinton Email Story At Her Command.”
As Sullivan said, “you can’t put stories like this back in the bottle – they ripple through the entire news system.”
Clinton-bashing articles are the gifts that keep on giving, a veritable golden goose of insinuation, innuendo, and dishonesty: Even once the initial specious recriminations have crumbled, the storm of media attention and confusion that follows creates a feedback loop that reinforces Clinton’s detractors’ view of her as a media-manipulating mastermind. And for voters — even those who support Clinton — it’s a reminder that this kind of thing is just going to happen again and again.
By: Sam Reisman, The National Memo, July 29, 2015
“Jeb Bush Raises Tons Of Money, Loses Credibility”: He’s Just “Actively Exploring”, A Phrase More Suitable To A Prostate Exam
The following words were actually spoken last week by Jeb Bush’s non-campaign spokesperson: “Gov. Bush is actively exploring a run. He has not made a final decision.”
Every grownup in America knows this is a lie.
The voters know Jeb has already decided to run for the White House in 2016. Campaign donors know he’s running. And the entire busload of other Republican presidential candidates knows he’s running.
Two campaign-finance watchdog organizations, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, want the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the “charade” of Bush’s non-campaign. They say it’s merely a weasel move that allows him to rake in unlimited, and mostly unregulated, donations.That’s absolutely true. It’s an epic weasel move, though probably legal.
By pretending he hasn’t made up his mind, Jeb can personally go out and raise many millions of dollars for his super political action committee, loftily named “Right to Rise.”
The funds taken will eventually be used for his TV and digital advertising, once the fake non-campaign becomes an acknowledged one.
Fittingly, the logo of the Right to Rise SuperPAC features an open hand reaching upward. This might as well be Jeb’s hand, waiting to be stuffed with money.
Right to Rise was on pace to raise $100 million by the end of May, an obscene sum that dwarfs what the SuperPACs of other GOP hopefuls have collected.
Several of the contenders have formally announced their candidacies, and others will soon.
The Politico website reports that Jeb is holding off until mid-June before making it official. Meanwhile, he has a campaign manager, press aides and a vast network of experienced fund raisers.
Think of the stressful jobs they’ve got, running a non-campaign at full speed.
Part of your time is spent telling the media that Jeb really truly hasn’t made a decision. Imagine trying to keep a straight face while you say that.
Then the rest of your day is spent reassuring billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson that Jeb is totally, deeply, profoundly committed to winning the presidency — so please don’t write any more checks to Marco Rubio.
The reason for maintaining the public lie about Jeb’s non-decision can be traced to federal campaign laws, which were written as a template for high-stakes political weaseling and then expanded into a free-for-all by the current Supreme Court.
As long as Jeb doesn’t declare himself a candidate for federal office, he can jet all over the country soliciting unlimited riches for Right to Rise.
Once he officially throws his golf cap in the ring, however, the donations he requests for the SuperPAC would be capped. He and his staff would also be banned (on paper) from strategizing with his pals who run Right to Rise, because SuperPACs are supposed to operate independently of individual campaign committees.
So, the longer Jeb postpones his announcement, the larger the war chest he can accumulate and the more control he can exert over the organization that will bankroll his inevitable candidacy.
Meanwhile, he’s free to behave like a legitimate candidate. He can swoop into primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, shake hands, pose for pictures, smooch babies, bash Obama, suck up to Fox News, and even pull a Romney-style flip-flop when asked about the Iraq war.
All this while insisting he’s not running for the White House — he’s just “actively exploring,” a phrase more suitable to a prostate exam.
Sometimes Jeb hasn’t made it easy for his non-campaign staff to keep up the act.
During a recent non-campaign stop in Nevada, he actually let slip the forbidden words: “I am running for president in 2016.”
Then, in a rather unsmooth way, he scrambled to say, “If I run….”
The fundraising benefits of perpetuating this farce will at some fast-approaching time be outweighed by the risks. Voters who aren’t yet sold on Jeb might start to feel that he’s insulting their intelligence.
Another danger is that he appears at ease in the role of wry deceiver. People prefer straight-talking candidates, or at least candidates who do a good impression of straight talking.
After stumbling so badly on the subject of Iraq, Jeb can’t afford to look either indecisive or evasive.
Nobody believed Hillary Clinton for all those months while she denied that she’d made up her mind to run. Nobody believes Jeb now.
He’s probably raised more money than all the other GOP candidates put together, but he might need every penny to buy back some credibility.
By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 2, 2015
“I’m Not An ‘Official’ Candidate”: Will Jeb Bush Get Away With His ‘Scheme’ To Skirt Campaign Finance Rules?
With candidates and outside groups already raking in money for the 2016 presidential contest and the Federal Election Commission abdicating its duty to enforce campaign finance laws, watchdog groups are pushing the Department of Justice to fill the void. To start, groups are asking the DOJ to investigate one of the most blatant exploiters of lax enforcement: Jeb Bush.
For months now the former Florida governor has kept up the elaborate charade that he is not quite sure if he will run for the Republican presidential nomination. “No, no. I’m not an official candidate,” he said during an exchange with reporters a few weeks ago—never mind that he’s been crisscrossing the country raising amounts cash unprecedented for an undeclared candidate. Bush himself has struggled to maintain the farce, as he demonstrated minutes later when he accidentally declared, “I’m running for president in 2016.”
The implications of Bush’s protracted non-candidacy are serious. By waiting to announce his bid for the White House, Bush has skirted one of the last remaining campaign finance rules: the ban on coordination between candidates and super PACs. (To be sure, that supposed firewall already looks more like a shower curtain.) Once Bush officially declares his intention to run, his campaign will be bound by that rule and by limits on donations directly to candidates ($2,700 in the primaries). But until then, absent action by regulators, Bush is apparently free to raise money and direct strategy for Right to Rise, the super PAC that is expected to eventually take on many operations normally undertaken by a campaign committee—not just television and online advertising but also direct mail, data collection, and phone banking. And unlike a campaign committee, the Super PAC’s ability to raise money for these activities won’t be hampered by contribution limits.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 allege that Bush and Right to Rise are “engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.” The groups asked the DOJ to appoint a special counsel from outside the department to investigate the allegation, noting that it would look suspicious were a Democrat-appointed Attorney General to go after a Republican candidate.
The letter argues that Bush should be considered a candidate despite his disavowals, because he’s been acting like one “in all pertinent respects.” He’s hired strategists and buttered up local Republican leaders in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa. He’s headlined dozens of events for Right to Rise, many of them fundraisers with a $100,000 ticket price. His advisers are overseeing the super PACs operations. Reportedly Bush has even set the timing of his official campaign announcement—expected mid-June—to leave room for a “cross-country fundraising tour” for Right to Rise before the non-coordination rule kicks in.
Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said that Bush’s association with Right to Rise is “the most blatant example to date” of how super PACs dedicated to a single candidate are being used to circumvent contribution limits. But Wertheimer’s group and the Campaign Legal Center are preparing to ask the DOJ to probe other potential violations by presidential candidates and individual-candidate super PACs.
While the FEC has jurisdiction over civil enforcement of campaign finance laws, the Justice Department can pursue criminal, or “knowing and willful,” violations. The DOJ’s first prosecution involving coordination between a super PAC and a campaign committee was announced in February, in a case involving a campaign manager for a Virginia congressional candidate who coordinated with a super PAC to leverage $325,000 in advertising against a rival. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at the time that the department “is fully committed to addressing the threat posed to the integrity of federal primary and general elections by coordinated campaign contributions, and will aggressively pursue coordination offenses at every appropriate opportunity.”
“The Justice Department is the only place where we have a chance of getting the laws enforced,” Wertheimer said. “The FEC is useless.” The chairwoman of the commission, which is hamstrung by a three to three split among the commissioners, acknowledged as much recently when she told the New York Times that “the likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim… People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.” If neither enforcer steps up, then according to Wertheimer “We’re going to see the most massive campaign finance violations in the history of the country, done by various presidential candidates.” (A DOJ spokesperson told The Nation that the department would review the letter, but declined to comment further.)
Daniel Weiner, counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former FEC staffer, shares Wertheimer’s critique of the commission. “It beggars belief that there hasn’t been a single case worth bringing in the last six years,” he said, noting that the FEC hasn’t pursued any cases related to the coordination rule since the Supreme Court unfettered super PAC spending in Citizens United.
But Weiner doesn’t believe that the DOJ can “substitute for competent and active civil enforcement,” because not all violations that warrant a response from regulators rise to a criminal level. “Sooner or later we need to do something about the FEC. It’s nice to talk about the Justice Department, and I support efforts to get disclosure through other avenues, but as long as we have a completely dysfunctional civil regulator there’s going to be an elephant in the room,” he said.
And if that doesn’t happen before the 2016 contests truly heat up? “We’re going to have the Wild West,” Weiner concluded.
By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 27, 2015