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“Heads She Loses, Tails She Loses”: Clinton Coverage Goes Off The Rails — Again

“She shouts,” complained Washington Post editor Bob Woodward last week on MSNBC, deducting points for Clinton’s speaking style. “There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating, and I think that just jumps off the television screen.”

“Has nobody told her that the microphone works?” quipped Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough, who led a lengthy discussion about Clinton’s voice (the “tone issue”). Scarborough and his guests dissected Clinton’s “screaming,” and how she is supposedly being “feisty” and acting “not natural.”

Over on Fox, Geraldo Rivera suggested Clinton “scream[s]” because she “may be hard of hearing.” CNBC’s Larry Kudlow bemoaned her “shrieking.”

During last week’s debate, Bob Cusack, editor of The Hilltweeted, “When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.” (Cusack later deleted the tweet and apologized.) During a discussion on CNN about Clinton’s volume, David Gergen stressed, “Hillary was so angry compared to Sanders.”

The New York Times’ debate coverage pushed the same “angry” narrative, detailing “The ferocity of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks,” and how she appeared “tense and even angry at times,” “particularly sensitive,” and was “going on the offensive.” (By contrast, her opponent “largely kept his cool.”)

Media message received: Clinton is loud and cantankerous!

But it’s not just awkward gender stereotypes that are in play these days. It’s a much larger pattern of thumb-on-the-scale coverage and commentary. Just look at what seemed to be the press’ insatiable appetite to frame Clinton’s Iowa caucus win last week as an unnerving loss. Pundits also inaccurately claimed that she had to rely on a series of coin tosses to secure a victory.

As I’ve noted before, these anti-Clinton guttural roars from the press have become predictable, cyclical events, where pundits and reporters wind themselves up with righteous indignation and shift into pile-on mode regardless of the facts on the ground. (And the GOP cheers.) The angry eruptions now arrive like clockwork, but that doesn’t make them any less baffling. Nor does that make it any easier to figure out why the political press corps has decided to wage war on the Democratic frontrunner. (And publicly admit that they’re doing it.)

Sure, the usual nutty anti-Clinton stuff is tumbling off the right-wing media branches, with Fox News suggesting her campaign was nothing more than “bra burning,” while other conservatives mocked her “grating” voice.

But what’s happening inside the confines of the mainstream media is more troubling. Rush Limbaugh advertising his insecurities about powerful women isn’t exactly breaking news. Watching Beltway reporters and pundits reveal their creeping contempt for Clinton and wrapping it in condescension during a heated primary season is disturbing. And for some, it might trigger bouts of déjà vu.

It was fitting that the extended examination of Clinton’s “tone” last week unfolded on Morning Joe. As Think Progress noted, that show served as a hotbed for weird gender discussions when Clinton ran for president in 2008: “Scarborough often referenced the ‘Clinton cackle’ and another panelist cracked a joke that Clinton reminded everyone of their ‘first wife in probate court.'” (The crack about probate court got lots of laughs from Scarborough’s all-male panel at the time.)

The toxic put-downs during the heated Democratic primary in 2008 were everywhere. (i.e. Candidate Clinton was a “hellish housewife.”) At the time, Salon’s Rebecca Traister detected among male pundits “a nearly pornographic investment in Clinton’s demise.”

And that was not an understatementFrom Dr. Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University:

She was referred to as a “white bitch” on MSNBC and CNN; a blood-sucking “vampire” on Fox; the “wicked witch of the west” on CNN; and “everyone’s first wife standing outside of probate court,” a “she devil” and the castrating Lorena Bobbitt, all on MSNBC.

That Clinton was unfairly roughed up by the press in 2008 isn’t really a question for debate anymore. Even the man who campaigned against her, President Obama, recently noted that “there were times where I think the media probably was a little unfair to her” during their Democratic primary battle.

I wonder if Obama thinks the press is once again being unfair with its primary coverage.

For example, as the press continues to focus on the issue of Clinton’s speaking fees as a private citizen, the New York Times reported, “The former secretary of state has for months struggled to justify how sharing her views on global affairs could possibly fetch $225,000 a pop from banks. ”

The former secretary of state can’t justify her large speaking fee, even though former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, among others, have all pocketed large, six-figure speaking fees?

Author Carl Bernstein said at CNN, “Now, you’ve got a situation with these transcripts, a little bit like Richard Nixon and his tapes that he stonewalled on and wouldn’t release.”

Over the past week, media outlets have been trying to explain how Clinton’s hard-fought win in Iowa wasn’t really a win.

During the run-up to the vote, Iowa was often described as a state that Clinton absolutely had to win (electorally, it wasn’t). And so then when she won, what did some in the press do? They claimed she didn’t really win Iowa, and if she did it was because of lucky coin tosses.

False and false.

“Even if he doesn’t actually win, this feels like a win for @BernieSanders,” tweeted Associated Press reporter Lisa Lerer the night of the Iowa vote, echoing a widespread media talking point. The New York Times repeatedly referred to her Iowa victory as a “tie.”

Note the contrast: In 2012, when Mitt Romney claimed to have won the Iowa Republican caucus by just eight votes, The New York Times announced unequivocally that Romney had, in fact, won Iowa. (Weeks later a recount concluded Rick Santorum won the caucus by 34 votes.)

Why was Iowa dubbed a loss by so many for Clinton? Because Sanders “was nowhere a few months ago,” as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer put it the night of the vote.

Actually, if you go back to last September and October, polls showed the Iowa race was in flux and occasionally veered within the margin of error. More recently, CNN’s final Iowa poll before the caucus had Clinton trailing by eight points in that state. So the idea a close Iowa finish was “surprising,” or constituted a Clinton collapse, doesn’t add up.

Meanwhile, did you notice that when the Clinton campaign accurately predicted that it had the votes to win the caucus, members of the press were quick to mock the move. Even after Iowa officials declared her the winner, the Clinton campaign was attacked as being “disingenuous” for saying she was the winner.

And then there was the weird embrace of the coin toss story, which was fitting, since so much of the Clinton campaign coverage these days seems to revolve around a very simple premise: Heads she loses, tails she loses.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 8, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Mainstream Media, Political Reporters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Authentic Candidates Suck”: What’s Really Behind This Peculiar And Counterproductive Media Obsession With ‘Authenticity’

We’re hearing a lot this week about authenticity, as in Joe Biden has it and Hillary Clinton does not (Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, maybe a little too much of it). Except that in fact, the reason that authenticity is in the news is that these long-held and superficial media assumptions about Biden and Clinton have been challenged this week by the revelation in Politico that the vice president leaked a story about son Beau’s deathbed wish himself. The Biden camp did not deny that a conversation may have taken place but did deny that any such theoretical conversation that might have happened was intended as a trial balloon that used paternal grief as a launching pad to a candidacy.

Here’s the quick catch-up, if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Back in August Maureen Dowd of the Times wrote this column about how Biden might run for president because it was Beau Biden’s dying wish that his father challenge Hillary Clinton. Dowd, appearing to paraphrase her source, wrote that Beau argued to his father that “the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.” She revealed nothing at the time about her sourcing. Everyone assumed it came from somewhere inside Biden world, but quite possibly without his knowledge, from someone who wanted to see him run.

But from Biden himself? To America’s most prominent Hillary-hating columnist? It has not seemed, to a number of observers of the situation, like a very “authentic” thing to do, for this man who gets so many points from the media for his authenticity.

I raise the episode not to assess Biden on the authenticity scale, but to argue that authenticity is overrated in the first place. I hate authenticity. Authenticity sucks. It’s a substitute for critical thought and actual argument, and the political media harp far too much on it.

Here is my theory about why they do. Political reporters (not columnists) feel the need to be objective, and of course properly so. They’re not supposed to be seen as taking sides. As such, they have to refrain from passing judgments on candidates’ ideological positions. To do that—to decide that Bernie Sanders’s stance on monetary policy is better than Marco Rubio’s—would constitute bias. And that’s the biggest no-no you can commit in the straight-news reporter game.

Yet, reporters are human beings (mostly!), and human beings have a natural need and urge to pass judgments—to make some kind of moral order out of the chaos that swirls around us. And since they can’t do it on the basis of ideology, then they have to do it on the basis of something else. And that something else is sincerity. So for the political reporter it doesn’t matter so much what so-and-so believes. What matters is that he believes it, and conveys that he believes it, with sincerity.

I can’t tell you the number of straight-news reporters who’ve said to me over the years something like: Yes, OK, Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham or whoever may be a little out there, but you know what? At least he really means it. What you see with him is what you get. To which I would rejoin, well, that’s fine, but so what; all that means to me is that when he starts World War III or resegregates our school system via his court appointments or gives the 1 percent another whopping-big tax cut, he’ll be doing so sincerely. But this (as I knew going in) was always a loser of an argument to an objective reporter, because they divorce themselves emotionally from the whole idea of outcomes.

And this is how political journalists end up assessing politicians with such a preponderant emphasis on their authenticity. They aren’t allowed to make subjective ideological judgments, so they make them on the basis of personality. It’s why they dwell excessively on matters like explaining to you which candidate you’d rather have a beer with. That was one great scam, by the way, back in 2000—persuading the American public that they’d all rather have a beer with the candidate (Dubya) who didn’t drink beer!

So. Back to Biden and Clinton. I have eyes and ears and I can readily see why Biden comes across as more authentic. Of course a lot of this has to do with gender, because the gestures and habits that create the impression of authenticity—the glad-hand, the backslap, the knowing wink—are gestures that code male. But not all of it has to do with gender. There is no doubt that Clinton is a bit stiff in public and is stand-off-ish with journalists, and of course we did just see an example of her reversing field on a major issue (the TPP).

She also completely and utterly lacks the Defuse Gene—the ability to make a budding scandal melt away with a quip that carries just the right balance of self-deprecation (i.e., acceptance of some responsibility for the mess) and needed perspective-keeping (i.e., what I’m accused of here isn’t so awful in the grand scheme of things). Instead she seems always to have had the Detonate Gene—her handling of these things has almost always made them worse.

But I don’t care whether she’s authentic. In fact, I don’t care whether any of them is authentic. I just care what they do. I’d much rather have a president who inauthentically raises the minimum wage and passes paid family leave than one who authentically eliminates the federal minimum wage and does what the Chamber of Commerce tells him to do on all such matters.

Now I recognize that I’m an extreme case. But I do think—and let’s end on this quasi-hopeful note—that the American people are somewhere in between the two extremes of me on the one hand and objective reporters on the other. Americans care about authenticity, but not as much as reporters do, and not nearly as much as reporters think they do. And they do care about positions.

They care a lot about positions, actually. No, they’re not sitting there combing through issue books and thinking about what the optimal payroll tax formula might be. But the voting public—the nonvoting portion of the public is another matter—has a pretty decent sense of what parties and candidates stand for. And these things still matter to most people, and it’s my job—and yours if you’re with me—to make them matter more. The cult of authenticity must be smashed.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 10, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Authenticity, Political Media, Political Reporters | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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