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“The National Bitch Hunt Is Definitely On”: Why Hillary Clinton Drives Her Enemies Crazy

Same as it ever was. Once again, according to pundits on the influential Washington, D.C. cocktail party circuit, Hillary Clinton is in deep trouble. The National Bitch Hunt is definitely on. Surely you didn’t think we could have a female presidential candidate without one?

Rolling down the highway, listening to Diane Rehm’s NPR talk show last week, I wondered if I hadn’t driven into some kind of weird political time warp.

In a sense, I had.

“Someone said the other day that Washington may now have reached the state-of-the-art point of having a cover-up without a crime,” pronounced the Washington Post. By failing to come clean, Hillary had managed “to make it appear as if the Clintons had something to hide.”

“These clumsy efforts at suppression are feckless and self-defeating,” thundered the New York Times. Hillary’s actions, the newspaper continued, “are swiftly draining away public trust in [her] integrity.”

OK, I’m teasing. Both editorials appeared over 21 years ago, in January 1994. They expressed outrage at Hillary Clinton’s decision to turn over Whitewater documents to federal investigators rather than to the press, which had conjured a make-believe scandal out of bogus reporting of a kind that’s since grown too familiar in American journalism.  (Interested readers are referred to Joe Conason’s and my e-book The Hunting of Hillary, available from The National Memo.)

However, by failing to roll over and bare her throat, Hillary Clinton only “continued to contribute to the perception that she has something to hide.”

Another joke. That last quote was actually The Atlantic’s Molly Ball on the Diane Rehm program just last Friday. It’s the same old song, except that Ball was complaining about Hillary’s turning her email server over to investigators looking into a dispute between the State Department and the CIA about which documents should have been classified, and when.

She should have turned the gadget over six months ago, Ball opined.

Ah, but to whom? There wasn’t a State Department vs. CIA dispute back then.

No cage filled with parrots could have recited the list of familiar anti-Hillary talking points more efficiently than Rehm’s guests.

The email flap, opined the Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “creates and feeds into this narrative about the Clintons and Mrs. Clinton that the rules are different for them, that she’s not one of us.”

Most Americans, she added indignantly, “don’t have access to a private email server.”

Actually, most Americans don’t know what a server is, or why the hardware is supposed to matter. Then, too, most Americans have never been Secretary of State, aren’t married to a former president, and don’t enjoy Secret Service protection at home.

Stolberg saw a perception problem too. Nobody was rude enough to ask her about the perception caused by the Times’ public editor’s conclusion that her own newspaper appeared to have an axe to grind against the Clintons after it falsely reported that the emails were the object of a criminal investigation.

They are not.

Stolberg also complained that both Clintons “play by a separate set of rules, [and] that the normal standards don’t apply.”

Which normal standards? According to, yes, the New York Times:  “When [Clinton] took office in 2009…the State Department allowed the use of home computers as long as they were secure…There appears to have been no prohibition on the exclusive use of a private server; it does not appear to be an option anyone had thought about.”

So why are we talking about this at all? No Secretary of State previous to Clinton had a government email account.

Bottom line: when they start talking about narratives and perceptions, these would-be insiders, they’re talking about themselves.

But leave it to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who’s written about little else lately, to sum it all up with classic wifebeater logic. Hillary’s emails, he told NPR’s audience, “remind [voters] of the things they don’t like, the secretiveness, the paranoia, the sort of distrust….And then I also think it just feeds the perception that she is a candidate of the past. Do you really want to go back to this? Yes, the Clintons bring many good things. But they also bring this sort of baggage, this stuff that always follows them.”

See, if Hillary would just quit fighting for herself and her issues, they could quit ganging up on the bitch. Meanwhile, this has to be at least the fourth time the same crowd has predicted her imminent demise, if not indictment and conviction. All based upon partisan leaks (this Trey Gowdy joker is nothing compared to Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic prosecutors) and upon presumed evidence in documents nobody’s yet seen.

From the Rose Law Firm billing records to Benghazi, it’s the same old story. Because when the evidence finally emerges, it turns out that Hillary has been diligently coloring inside the lines all along.

And that’s because she’s smarter and tougher than her enemies — the very qualities that drive them crazy.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Frames That Will Guide Their Coverage”: When Reporters Decide A Candidate’s Supposed Character Flaw ‘Raises Questions’, Watch Out

Which of Hillary Clinton’s character flaws do you find most troubling? If you’re a Republican, you may not have quite decided yet, since there are any number of things about her you can’t stand. But if you’re hoping to defeat her, you’d do well to home in on whatever journalists think might be her primary character flaw, because that’s what will shape much of their coverage between now and next November.

The determination of that central flaw for each of the presidential candidates will soon become one of reporters’ key tasks as they construct the frames that are going to guide their coverage of the race. And the idea that Clinton can’t be trusted is an early contender for her central defect, the one journalists will contemplate, discuss, explore, and most importantly, use to decide what is important and irrelevant when reporting on her.

Take a look at the lead of this article by Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, titled “For Hillary Clinton, a trust deficit to dismount“:

Is Hillary Clinton honest enough to be president?

That question—phrased in a thousand different ways but always with the same doubts in mind—sits at the heart of a campaign that will span the next 18 months and on which billions upon billions of dollars will be spent.

If Cillizza was trying to write a campaign-defining piece that will be cited in histories of 2016 as representative of the press’s perspective on Clinton, he couldn’t have done much better. This happens in every presidential race: Each candidate is reduced to one or two flaws, the things about them that are supposed to “raise questions” and make us all wonder whether we’d be comfortable with them in the Oval Office. Republicans are surely hoping that reporters will lock in a frame in which Clinton is presumed to be dishonest, because once that happens, they will pay far more attention to the veracity of everything she says and highlight every point of divergence from the truth, no matter how trivial. This is how character frames operate, and the process works the same for Republicans and Democrats.

It’s a double-edged sword for candidates, because it means that an absurd amount of attention will be given to some things they do and say, while others that might get a different candidate in trouble will be ignored or downplayed. Look back at almost any recent election and you can see it in action. For instance, in 2012, Mitt Romney was defined as an uncaring plutocrat (who was also stiff and awkward), so when he said something that seemed to highlight this flaw—like “Corporations are people, my friends”—it would be replayed and repeated over and over in news reports. But Romney was also a spectacularly dishonest candidate, and despite the efforts of some on the left, dishonesty never came to define him. He might have claimed he was being unfairly treated on the first count, but on the second he got something of a pass.

Let’s take another example to show why this selection of frames matters. In no election in my lifetime was there more discussion about honesty than the one in 2000, which reporters essentially presented as a contest between a well-meaning and forthright simpleton on one side, and a stiff and dishonest self-aggrandizer on the other. Once those frames were settled (and it happened early on), reporters sifted everything Al Gore said about his record like prospectors panning for gold, trying to find anything that would suggest an exaggeration. They even went so far as to make some up; Gore never said he “invented the Internet,” nor did he say many of the other things he was accused of having said.

Gore did mangle his words from time to time, but when he did, reporters didn’t bother to write a story about it. Likewise, George W. Bush said many things that weren’t true, but because he was supposed to be the dumb one, not the liar, reporters didn’t give them much attention. Even when they did, it would be in the form of a simple correction: The candidate said this, while the actual truth is that. What reporters didn’t do was say that a false statement from Bush or a bit of linguistic confusion from Gore “raised questions” about either’s fitness for the presidency; those “questions” (almost always left unspecified, both in who’s asking them and what they’re asking) are only raised around the central character flaw that reporters have settled on.

Bush’s lies during the 2000 campaign actually turned out to be quite revealing, which demonstrates that the problem isn’t simply the way the media focuses on one or two character flaws, but how shaky their judgment is of what matters. While Gore did occasionally exaggerate his importance in events of the past, Bush lied mostly about policy: what precisely he did as governor of Texas, what was in the plans he was presenting, and what he wanted to do. It turned out that as president, he deceived the public on policy as well, not only on the Iraq War, but also on a whole host of issues.

This demonstrates an important principle that seldom gets noticed. When a candidate gets caught in a lie, people often say, “If he’ll lie about about this, what else will he lie about?” The most useful answer is that a candidate is likely to lie about things that resemble what you just caught him lying about. Bill Clinton, for instance, wasn’t particularly forthcoming in 1992 about whose bed he had or hadn’t shared, and when he was president, that’s exactly what he lied to the country about. Bush, on the other hand, spun an absurd tale about how his tax-cut plan was centered on struggling workers, and when he got into office, sold his upper-income tax cuts with the same misleading rationale.

One of the reasons reporters gravitate to discussions of “character” is that such examinations allow for all kinds of unsupported speculation and offering of opinions, served up with the thinnest veneer of objectivity. A supposedly objective reporter won’t go on a Sunday-show roundtable and say, “Clinton’s tax plan is a bad idea,” but he will say, “Clinton has a truth problem.” Both are statements of opinion but, for reporters, statements of opinion about a candidate’s character are permissible, while statements of opinion about policy aren’t.

So is Hillary Clinton less trustworthy than Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or any other politician? Maybe, but maybe not. The problem is that reporters often answer the question just by choosing to ask it for one candidate, but not for another.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Journalists, Media | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Syria Converted To A Political Story”: And The All Knowing Washington Media Breathe A Sigh Of Relief

So last night I was watching NBC News, and a report on Syria came on, in which Andrea Mitchell spent five minutes talking about whether going to Congress for affirmation of his decision to attack the Syrian government makes Barack Obama “look weak.” Mitchell is the network’s “Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent,” which is what you call someone who stays in nice hotels and gets talking points from top officials when she travels with the secretary of State to foreign countries. The news is full of this kind of discussion, about whether Obama is weak, whether he “bungled” the decision-making process, how this might affect the 2014 elections, and pretty much anything except whether a strike on Syria is genuinely a good idea or not. Here’s The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza talking up the “massive gamble” Obama is taking—not a gamble on what will happen in Syria, mind you, but a political gamble. Here’s Chuck Todd and the rest of the NBC politics crew gushing that this is “a great political story.” Don’t even ask what’s going on over at Politico.

Look, I get it. These folks are political reporters, so they report on politics. You don’t go into a restaurant and ask the sommelier to make your entree and the pastry chef to pick you a wine. I’m not sure you’d even want Chris Cillizza trying to explain the actual substance of a potential military action in Syria. Heck, I too spend most of my time writing about politics, and there are legitimate political issues to discuss. But it does seem that Obama’s request for a congressional authorization has almost been greeted in the Washington media with a sigh of relief: At last, we get to frame this issue in terms of the political stuff we feel comfortable with, and can stop worrying about the serious and deadly substance of it all. We can treat it just like we treat everything else, as a game with winners and losers and a point spread to be debated.

And I suspect that that relief is made all the more overwhelming by the fact that anyone who is even a little thoughtful about this question can’t help but feel profoundly ambivalent about it. That’s certainly how I feel. I’m paid to have opinions, and I can’t figure out what my opinion is. On one hand, Bashar Assad is a mass murderer who, it seems plain, would be happy to kill half the population of his country if it would keep him in power. On the other hand, if he was taken out in a strike tomorrow the result would probably be a whole new civil war, this time not between the government and rebels but among competing rebel groups. On one hand, there’s value in enforcing international norms against certain kinds of despicable war crimes; on the other hand, Assad killed 100,000 Syrians quite adequately with guns and bombs before everybody got really mad about the 1,400 he killed with poison gas. On one hand, a round of missile strikes isn’t going to have much beyond a symbolic effect without changing the outcome of the civil war; on the other hand, the last thing we want is to get into another protracted engagement like Iraq.

In short, we’re confronted with nothing but bad options, and anyone who thinks there’s an unambiguously right course of action is a fool. So it’s a lot easier to talk about the politics. But just one final point: Can we please stop caring whether Obama “looks weak”? You know who spent a lot of time worrying about whether he looked weak, and made sure he never did? George W. Bush. Everybody lauded his “moral clarity,” his ability to see things in black and white, good guys and bad guys, smoke ’em out, dead or alive. And look where that got us.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 3, 2013

September 4, 2013 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Questions About Michele Bachmann’s Migraines Aren’t Sexist

Questions about whether Michele Bachmann’s headaches should disqualify her for office may be of dubious validity, but are they sexist? I don’t think so.

In case you’ve missed the media storm du jour, the Daily Caller reported Monday night that Bachmann suffers from incapacitating migraines, and engages in “heavy pill use” to combat them. This has spurred, among other things, cries of sexism.

Fox News Channel host Martha MacCallum, for example, said that “it does feel sexist … Has anyone asked this of the male candidates out there? Do you have any medical issues that you think we should know about?” (As a side note, asking candidates such questions about medical issues is, I think, fairly routine and legitimate.)

Monica Crowley, a conservative talk show host appearing with MacCallum, chimed in, “This does smack of that old school ‘Woman As Hysteric’ kind of thing.”

Well not so fast. Here’s what the Caller reported:

The Minnesota Republican frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes that she has characterized as severe headaches. These episodes, say witnesses, occur once a week on average and can “incapacitate” her for days at time.’

Here’s a simple sexism test. Replace reference to Bachmann with references to, say, Mitt Romney. Would a story saying that Romney “frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes” that “incapacitate” him for “days at a time” get the same attention? I should think so.

Now, does that mean that the Caller story has merit? That’s trickier. It’s legitimate … if it’s legitimate. In other words if she really is “frequently … incapacitated” for days at a time then, yes, that’s a legitimate line of inquiry. But if it’s a case of occasional migraines getting blown out of proportion by anonymous, embittered former staffers, that’s something else entirely.

Then there are the pills. “The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills,” a source tells the Caller. “Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes.”

Well. “Pills” could be anything from aspirins to greenies. Lots of people take pills on a regular basis—taking pills is not in and of itself disqualifying or even troubling. If there were any evidence to suggest that these pills could affect her judgment that would be a different question, but the Caller story doesn’t have it.

One final issue here that the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza notes, that this isn’t the first time former Bachmann aides have badmouthed her to the press:

A cavalcade of disgruntled former aides (are there ever “gruntled” former aides?) willing to go public with questions and criticisms of Bachmann is decidedly problematic for her presidential candidacy.

After all, if those who know (or knew) her best lack faith in her ability to do the job effectively, it will almost certainly force voters to re-examine their first, generally positive impressions of her.

Indeed, with friends like that, who needs migraines?

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, July 20, 2011

July 21, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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