“The Unrelenting Hostility Of Washington’s Courtier Press”: The Media’s Crusade Of Scandals Against Hillary Clinton
It’s always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she’d do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult. Michelle Goldberg does an excellent job defining the problem in a Slate article about why so many people say they hate her.
“There’s a reason actors do screen tests,” Goldberg writes. “Not everyone’s charm translates to film and video. For as long as Hillary Clinton has been in public life, people who’ve met in her person have marveled at how much more likable she is in the flesh than she is on television.”
As a friendly acquaintance since 1980, I’d second that. My wife, who worked with her on the board of Arkansas Children’s Hospital, will hear nothing against her. We recently read a Facebook posting from a friend in Eureka Springs. Neither a big-shot nor a political activist, Crescent was profoundly touched that after her husband died in a bicycle crash, one of her first callers was New York’s newly-elected Senator. Hillary had left Arkansas for good, but not its people.
But no, her personal warmth doesn’t always come across on TV. She’s anything but a natural actress. However, like most pundits, Goldberg glosses over the issue that’s plagued Hillary since Bill Clinton’s first term: the unrelenting hostility of Washington’s courtier press.
People say they don’t trust the media, and then they credit the imaginary scandals this cohort has peddled for 25 years. The exact causes of Clinton-hatred among the press clique remain obscure. Was it Bill Clinton’s humble Arkansas origins? Humbling the Bush family? Failing to pay homage to society hostess Sally Quinn? Nobody knows.
Todd S. Purdum has recently offered a classic in the genre: a compulsively disingenuous Politico piece entitled “Why Can’t Hillary Stop Fudging the Truth?” It begins by describing a “brief, but revelatory” exchange between Clinton and Charlie Rose.
Asked about her damn emails, Hillary tried to broaden Rose’s focus.
“Well, I would hope that you like many others would also look at what he said when he testified before Congress,” she said, “because when he did, he clarified much of what he had said in his press conference.”
If you’re like most Americans, you don’t know that when Comey testified, he was forced to walk back his assertion that the FBI found three (out of 30,000) documents marked “classified” among her emails.
Were they properly marked? Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) asked.
“No,” Comey answered.
So wouldn’t the absence of such markings “tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified?”
“That would be a reasonable inference,” Comey said.
In other words, contrary to the FBI director’s grandstanding press conference and a million Republicans chanting “Hillary lied,” there were zero documents marked classified on her server. Not one.
So was Comey dissembling during his press conference? Or had he made an honest error? Pundits like Purdum know better than to ask. He never acknowledged Comey’s walk back. No, the real issue was Hillary’s “sloppiness,” and her forgetting Comey used that exact word.
“The pattern is unmistakable,” Purdum scolded, “from the Whitewater inquiry (when she resisted disclosing documents about a failed Arkansas land deal)…to the Rose Law Firm billing records (which infamously and mysteriously turned up in the White House residence after she’d said they were missing) to the Monica Lewinsky affair and the State Department emails themselves.”
A more misleading paragraph would be hard to imagine. In fact, the Clintons voluntarily delivered Whitewater documents to the independent counsel, but not to New York Times reporters whose inept, downright deceptive reporting created the bogus “scandal.”
If there had to be an investigation, they wanted a real one.
Also no, but the famous billing records didn’t turn up in the White House residence, “mysteriously” or otherwise. An aide found them in a box under her desk in the Old Executive Office Building, where she’d misplaced them. (They were Xerox copies, incidentally. Hence no motive for hiding them existed.)
Once found, of course, they vindicated Hillary’s sworn testimony. See Joe Conason’s and my book “The Hunting of the President” for details.
As to the “Monica Lewinsky affair,” is there anybody in America that doesn’t know Bill Clinton played slap and tickle with a young thing at the office and lied about it?
How is that his wife’s fault?
Anyone who’s followed Hillary Clinton’s political career has seen this happen time and again. Ballyhooed charges of wrongdoing and/or perjury that collapse in the light of evidence, only to have newly imagined allegations follow almost at once.
Can you say Benghazi?
Some years ago, I got to ask the late televangelist Jerry Falwell on camera which of the Ten Commandments was the worse sin, adultery or false witness? Falwell had peddled the “Clinton Chronicles,” hysterical videos charging the president with drug smuggling and murder.
To his credit, Falwell said they were equally bad.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 27, 2016
“Donald Trump Declares War On The Press”: Trump Thinks He Literally Deserves A Constant Stream Of Praise And Kudos
This morning, Donald Trump held a press conference to answer questions about a fundraiser he held four months ago on behalf of veterans’ groups, and perhaps more so than ever before, he made explicit his contempt for the media that have given him so much attention over the past year. Not only that, he promised to continue to attack them whenever they fail to give him the kind of coverage Russian state-owned media give Vladimir Putin.
It was little short of a declaration of war.
The ostensible purpose of the event was to address that fundraiser, particularly the shifting stories and outright falsehoods about it that have come from Trump and his staffers. In recent weeks there have been questions about whether Trump had raised what he claimed, how much of it had actually been distributed, and perhaps most troublingly, the fact that on that night in January Trump said he had given $1 million to veterans’ groups, which was false. When the Post’s David Fahrenthold and other reporters began investigating where the money had gone, they found no evidence that Trump had given $1 million to any veterans’ group. Then last Monday — four months after he claimed to have given his donation and only after reporters’ questions had become more frequent and pressing — Trump finally called the head of a veterans’ group to tell him the group would be getting a $1 million donation from him.
When Fahrenthold asked Trump whether he had given the money only because he was getting questions from reporters about it — a perfectly reasonable question to ask — Trump replied, “You know, you’re a nasty guy. You’re a really nasty guy.” That was a preview of what happened today.
In this press conference, Trump was as ridiculous as ever — he must have claimed “I didn’t want the credit” for raising money for veterans at least a dozen times, which is sort of like Kim Kardashian saying “I really don’t want to be famous.” But he spent most of his time attacking the media.
We should understand that Trump is hardly alone among politicians in disliking the media or thinking that his coverage isn’t what it should be. Where he differs is in the other things he believes. Trump thinks he literally deserves a constant stream of praise and kudos from reporters. He thinks that any challenging question from a reporter is not just inappropriate and unfair but evidence that the reporter is a terrible person. He thinks that it’s reasonable for a presidential nominee to look a reporter in the face, point at him, and say “You’re a sleaze,” for no reason other than that the reporter asked a question premised on something other than the idea that Donald Trump is a spectacular human being everyone should constantly be applauding.
“The press should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. Reporters “are not good people,” he said. “The political press is among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met,” he said. “The press is so dishonest and so unfair,” he said, without identifying a single thing anyone in the media said on this topic that wasn’t true. When ABC News reporter Tom Llamas asked Trump about his well-known penchant for exaggeration, Trump said, “What I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC. He’s a sleaze in my book.” When Llamas asked why, Trump responded, “You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.” And this may have been the most revealing part:
“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone’s saying ‘Who got it, who got it, who got it,’ and you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
He actually believes that it’s the job of political reporters covering a presidential candidate to write “Thank you very much, Mr. Trump.” It’s not the press’ job to discover the truth or ask questions or hold the powerful accountable; their job is to promote him and compliment him. And when he doesn’t get the glowing coverage he wants, he attacks.
I’m trying not to get tired of saying this, but just try to imagine what the reaction would be if Hillary Clinton came out to defend herself against some perfectly reasonable questions, and said “The press should be ashamed of themselves” or pointed to a reporter and said, “You’re a sleaze.” She wouldn’t be criticized or questioned, she’d be crucified. Reporters would ask if she had lost her mind and was having a nervous breakdown. There would be demands for her to pull out of the race immediately, since she had shown herself to be so unstable.
It’s going to be a real challenge for reporters covering Trump to continue to ask the questions they ask of every candidate, to demand answers and to point out falsehoods — which is already a herculean task when it comes to Trump, since he delivers so many of them. That’s not easy to do when you know your subject is going to assault you over it. And it’s not likely to change.
“Is this what it’s going to be like covering you if you’re president?” one reporter asked near the end of the press conference.
Trump’s reply: “Yeah, it is. I’m going to continue to attack the press.”
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 31, 2016
The system failed. That’s what they say about the establishment Republican party, such as it is. For me, there is a logical progression from Newt Gingrich’s harsh revolution to the present moment. The tea party brought Donald Trump to the 2016 dance with its angry outsider rhetoric. Six years ago, the tea party whipped up a frenzy that Trump has furthered with every passing day as the Republican primary front-runner.
Count me out of mourning for the Republican party. This is the party that produced Richard Nixon, a vicious spirit, schemer and liar. Please don’t tell me about China, or I’ll bring up Vietnam and Cambodia. This is the party that gave us George W. Bush by one Supreme Court vote over the popular vote. The Iraq War was the longest, and for what? It has tied the Middle East up into knots and power vacuums. This is the war nobody won. Bush left messes for his successor, Barack Obama, to clean up for eight years, not to mention junking good will from our allies and military morale.
This is the party that has given us hundreds of members of Congress that, to a man, oppose reproductive rights for girls and women. There’s only one Republican woman defined as a pro-choice moderate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. One. This is the party that gave us Clarence Thomas. Need I say more?
But there are tears that another system failed, a system just as central to democracy. Despite great debate coverage, the press has failed and fallen down on the job of covering Trump, and I’ll tell you how. First they – we – snidely covered him as head of the “clown car,” assuring readers and viewers that he could never win the nomination despite his strong poll numbers from the start. That was a strong chorus from friends and foes alike. Don’t worry, nobody could take him seriously as a standard-bearer.
I belong to this tribe, some of my best friends are journos, but I did not share this complacency. I had actually watched Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice,” with a reluctant respect for his deal-making and character judgment. Like him or not, he is a formidable player. And, clearly, the climate was just right for him. Now the confessions and apologies are coming up for air, from white male pundits who never saw Trump’s swath coming. Like a lifeguard who misses a tidal wave coming to shore. I won’t name names, but I will say the reason for this short-sightedness is that the media viewed Trump through the spectacles of our own class privilege.
For my part, I wrote that Trump might be a “textbook demagogue” fully ahead of the wave. And I give him credit for vociferously criticizing the Iraq War, which may be part of his populist appeal. He is the only candidate to decry that foreign policy folly, except for his fellow populist, Sen. Bernie Sanders. To me, the scary thing is that he wasn’t even the worst in the Republican line-up. I’d take him over Jeb Bush any day, or the other Floridian, Sen. Marco Rubio, the pretty darling of the pundits.
Winds of white working-class anger were blowing out there, at Trump’s rallies, but not taken seriously enough as a force. Now that we people in the press have sobered up, I fear that pendulum is swinging the other way, and the press is taking Trump too seriously. Conservative pundit Kathleen Parker wrote this in Sunday’s Post: “Trump is still terrible for the country, and therefore the world.” In Monday’s Post, Fred Hiatt tore into Trump as a narcissist, a bigot and yes, a demagogue. So now the clown is being demonized.
Here in the world’s oldest democracy, let’s let the party decide without undue hysterics from the establishment media. Yes, the press is compensating for reading the winds so wrong when the stakes are so high. But it happens all the time.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016
“Meekly Accepting GOP’s Extreme Premise”: As Obama Moves To Replace Scalia, The Press Enables Radical GOP Obstruction
In the wake of Antonin Scalia’s sudden death, the Beltway press almost immediately began to seamlessly frame the unfolding debate about the Supreme Court justice’s replacement along the contours of Republican talking points. To do so, the press continued its habit of looking away from the GOP’s stunning record of institutional obstructionism since 2009.
Immediately after the news broke of Scalia’s passing, Republican Senate leaders, GOP presidential candidates, and conservative commentators declared that the job of picking Scalia’s replacement should be performed not by President Obama, but by his successor.
Quickly suggesting that Obama was picking a “fight” with Republicans by signaling he plans to fulfill his constitutional duty by nominating Scalia’s successor, the press aided Republicans by presenting this radical plan to obstruct the president as being an unsurprising move that Democrats would likely copy if put in the same position during an election year. (Given the rarity of the situation precedents aren’t perfect, but it’s worth mentioning that during the election year of 1988, Democrats actually did the opposite, confirming Justice Anthony Kennedy unanimously.)
The framework for much of the coverage regarding the GOP’s radical demand that Scalia’s seat sit empty for a year is this: It’s Obama’s behavior that’s setting off a showdown, and of course Republicans would categorically oppose anyone Obama nominates. But journalists often don’t explain why: Why is it obvious Obama would have zero chance of getting a Supreme Court nominee confirmed when every president in the past has been able to fill vacancies?
Is it unusual for a president to face a Supreme Court vacancy his final year in office? It is. But there’s nothing in the Constitution to suggest the rules change under the current circumstances. (Obama still has 50 weeks left in office.) It’s Republicans who have declared that all new rules must apply. And it’s the press that has rather meekly accepted the extreme premise.
Note that Republicans and their conservative fans in the media aren’t telling Obama that a particular nominee he selects to become the next justice is flawed and will likely be rejected after hearings are held. Republicans are telling Obama that there’s no point in even bothering to make a selection because the Senate will reject anyone the president names. Period. The seat will remain vacant for an entire year. That is the definition of radical. But the press still looks away.
For instance, Politico reported the president “was facing the choice between setting off a nasty brawl with Congress by seizing the best chance in a generation to flip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, or simply punting.” The Politico headline claimed Obama had chosen to “fight” Republicans.
But Obama faces no real “choice,” and he isn’t the one who decided to pick a “fight.” As president of the United States he’s obligated to fill Supreme Court vacancies.
The New York Times stressed Scalia’s death had sparked “an immediate partisan battle,” suggesting the warfare ran both ways. But how, by doing what he’s supposed to do as president, is Obama sparking a “partisan battle”?
If Obama eventually decided to nominate an extremely liberal justice to replace the extremely conservative Scalia, then yes, that could accurately be described as sparking a “partisan battle.” But what could be “partisan” about the president simply doing what the Constitution instructs him to do?
Meanwhile, the Associated Press framed the unfolding story as Obama’s announcement being “a direct rebuttal to Senate Republicans,” without noting the Republican demand that a Supreme Court justice’s seat sit empty for at least a year is without recent precedent.
And BuzzFeed suggested Scalia’s vacancy is different because the justice was, “as one Republican put it, ‘a rock solid conservative seat,’ and given the divisions on the court conservatives will be adamant that one of their own replace him.”
But that’s not how Supreme Court nominations work. Obviously, while the Senate has the responsibility to advise and consent on nominees, the party out of power doesn’t get to make the selection. So why the media suggestion that Republicans deserve a say in this case, or else?
Again and again, the press has depicted Obama’s expected action in the wake of Scalia’s death as being highly controversial or partisan, when in fact it’s Republicans who are acting in erratic ways by categorically announcing they’ll refuse to even consider Obama’s next Supreme Court pick.
The sad part is this type of media acquiescence has become a hallmark of the Obama era. Republicans have routinely obliterated Beltway precedents when it comes to granting Obama the leeway that previous presidents were given by their partisan foes in Congress.
Yet each step along the way, journalists have pulled back, refusing to detail the seismic shift taking place. Instead, journalists have portrayed the obstruction as routine, and often blamed Obama for not being able to avoid the showdowns.
Today’s Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. We saw it with the GOP’s gun law obstructionism, the sequester obstructionism, the government shutdown obstructionism, the Chuck Hagel confirmation obstructionism, the Susan Rice secretary of state obstructionism, the Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstructionism, and the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees.
For years under Obama, Republicans have systematically destroyed Beltway norms and protocols, denying the president his traditional latitude to govern and make appointments. It’s sad that in Obama’s final year in office, the press is still turning a blind eye to the GOP’s radical nature.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 15, 2016
“It Never Pays To Give Bullies What They Want”: Will The Press Recognize The Existential Threat And Fight Back, Or Buckle Under?
It should astonish even the jaded that Republicans are calling CNBC, that stodgy home of supply-side Wall Street cheerleading, an agent of the left.
Still apoplectic at being asked some basic questions at the debate, Republican candidates are doubling down on their freakout.
Ted Cruz is flat-out calling CNBC debate moderators “left-wing operatives” and demanding that right-wing radio hosts moderate their debates, instead.
Donald Trump, who openly lied during the debate about what is on his own website, called debate moderator John Harwood a “dope” and a “fool.”
All of this after Republican candidates spewed forth one of the most embarrassing explosion of lies ever witnessed during a television presidential debate.
The press is facing an existential threat. With Republicans increasingly unashamed to tell grandiose lies and respond to any press criticism with derogatory insults and whines about media bias as well as blackmail threats to cancel appearances if the questions are too tough, the press must decide how to respond on two fronts. First, it must decide how to present an objective face while acknowledging that both sides do not, in fact, behave equally badly. Second, it must determine whether it will continue to ask the tough questions that need answers regardless of the threats made by the GOP, or whether it will meekly submit to the demands for kid-glove treatment.
If the press chooses to assuage and give comfort to the GOP, it will lose what little credibility it has left. The Republican base will never accept mainstream journalists as fair arbiters–but the rest of us will lose what little respect we still have for them. If the press stands up to the bullies and calls out GOP tactics and untruths for what they are, they will gain in respect what they lose from conservative hatemongers in the perceived objectivity department.
The choice is clear: stand strong and call out the lies as they are, or fall further into the abyss as the Republican Party ramps up its threats and insults. It never pays to give a bully what they want, unless the bully has absolute power over you. The GOP does not hold that sort of power over the press. Indeed, the GOP has far more to fear from the press than the other way around.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 1.2015