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“Please, Not Again!”: Don’t Try To Breathe Life Into A Dead Scandal

This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal. The more prominent the actors and the more prurient the allegations, the better. And if any factual adjustments become necessary to keeping the narrative going, many journalists are eager to play along.

For example, how did the current spat between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over her husband’s well-known sins begin? Was it when Hillary, unwisely rising to the bait, criticized Trump’s “penchant for sexism”? Or was it earlier, when Trump described her taking a bathroom break during a TV debate as “disgusting”?

Most would say Trump’s bizarre insult jump-started things. However, if you watch Morning Joe or read accounts of Hillary’s supposedly “enabling” Bill Clinton’s transgressions, you’d learn that it’s pretty much all her fault. Always was.

Even the New York Times, in an editorial arguing that “Trump is way out of line bringing up Mr. Clinton’s philandering,” couldn’t restrain itself from scolding her for allegedly attacking Bill’s paramours.

“When Mr. Clinton ran for president in 1992,” editors chided, “Mrs. Clinton appeared on television beside him to assert that allegations involving Gennifer Flowers were false. In 1998, he admitted to that affair under oath.”

Actually, no he did not. In the famous 60 Minutes interview, Bill Clinton had acknowledged “causing pain in my marriage.” He added that most adults would understand what that meant.

Testifying in 1998, he admitted a single backseat tryst with Flowers, very far from the 12-year relationship she’d claimed. In her own deposition, she testified to earning more than $500,000 posing as Bill Clinton’s mistress. Besides claiming college degrees she’d never earned, beauty titles she’d never won, and even a twin sister who never existed, Flowers also managed to write an entire book without stipulating a single time and place where she and her famous paramour were ever together.

Fans of MSNBC’s Hardball have evidently forgotten the August 1999 episode in which Flowers was permitted to accuse Bill Clinton of having political opponents murdered, while host Chris Matthews told her how hot she was.

Bob Somerby found the transcript: “You’re a very beautiful woman,” Matthews panted. “He knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that. Hillary Clinton knows that!”

See, where Lewinsky was a starstruck amateur, Flowers was a seasoned professional.

Echoing Trump, who’s been going around describing Hillary as an “enabler,” who “totally destroyed” women that accused Bill Clinton, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd depicted her as a hypocrite for “running as a feminist icon” after smearing women who truthfully maligned him.

And who would those be?

Dowd provides exactly one example, the unfortunate Monica — the most reluctant “accuser” imaginable. And did Hillary not describe her husband’s paramour as a “narcissistic loony toon”? Apparently so, but in a private communication with her close friend Diane Blair, a University of Arkansas professor whose papers became available after her untimely death.

It’s the press that turned it into a smear.

If that’s the worst thing a middle-aged wife ever said about a young thing who threw herself at her husband, she should get the Nobel Peace Prize.

So am I so naïve that I believe Bill Clinton innocent of all charges? Certainly not. However, my suspicion is that like most public men with what the old Johnny Cash song called a “wicked wandering eye,” he waited for the woman to make the first move, and rarely had to wait very long.

Indeed, I long ago learned that the way some women act around famous, powerful men — athletes, actors, musicians, politicians — contradicts almost everything your mama (and every feminist since time began) says women behave. I have even witnessed women at writers’ conferences trying to trip novelists (and even the odd journalist) and beat them to the floor.

I’ve also noticed that some can get vengeful when they don’t get what they want. Or even if they do. That’s why Hillary Clinton in particular ought to avoid academic-accented cant about women never lying about sexual assault.

All human beings lie, and sex is one of the most common things they lie about. Again, sorry, but there it is.

Meanwhile, some reporters appear keen to return to those thrilling days of 1998 the way others yearn to experience Woodstock. I recently read a screed by a Vox reporter who was eight years old when this all went down: Linda Tripp, Kathleen Willey, Michael Isikoff, the “Elves,” Kenneth Starr, the lot.

He made a brave show of arguing that it would be “misleading and pernicious” to doubt the ever-changing tale of Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas nursing home owner (and Trump supporter) who claims that Bill Clinton raped her 40 years ago, but has also given sworn statements denying it.

He appears unaware that a veritable army of jackleg private eyes and right-wing political operatives (many employed by Kenneth Starr) ransacked Arkansas for years without proving a thing.

Please, not again.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 13, 2016

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Journalists | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Back Here On Planet Earth”: The Clinton’s Still Aren’t Corrupt

So now I’m supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton turned the Department of State into a giant shakedown operation? According to Beltway conventional wisdom, it seems that I am compelled to believe exactly that. Because you know those Clintons.

And so we have a lot of credulous hand-waving about this new book. Conservatives sharpen their knives, liberals sweat bullets that it’s all over. But very few people stop to think: Clinton has been in our faces for 20-plus years. Where is any evidence of real corruption? I don’t mean stuff you may not have liked or that kinda looked funny. I mean actual, Rhode-Island-style, steal-a-hot-stove corruption.

Don’t say Whitewater. She endured millions of dollars’ worth of investigations by a prosecutor (Ken Starr) who quite obviously wanted to nail her to the wall, and he came up with nothing. I still remember, by the way, the hopped-up political atmosphere after Bill Safire wrote a column calling her a “congenital liar” and predicted that she was going to be indicted any day now. It was not unlike the mood this week, as we anticipate The New York Times and The Washington Post’s reducing themselves into effectively collaborating with Fox News to trumpet Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash. But Safire was wrong, as he in fact so often was about so many things, and Starr never got her.

Cattle futures, billing records—it’s all the same. Thousands of people, people who hate her and want to see her thrown in jail, have been over and over and over these things. I know the fact that she walks freely among us suggests to many people that she and Bill are so brilliantly devious that they always knew exactly how to get away with it. But just maybe Occam’s Razor applies here, and she’s never done anything illegal.

And now she is supposed to have muscled through a trade deal with Colombia to thank a donor to her husband’s foundation. Right. Look at the chronology.

The man whose business interests the Colombia deal apparently advanced was named Frank Giustra, a Bill friend who has, as we shall see, come up before in the media in this connection. Giustra gave the Clinton Foundation $131 million—$31 million in 2006, [NOTE: this initially said 2005 but has been corrected] and another $100 million pledged that same year that he made good on over the next three years, up through 2008.

Now, 2008, you will recall, was when Hillary Clinton was running for president. It would stand to reason, would it not, that if Clinton was so intent on advancing Giustra’s Colombian business interests, she would have been for the trade deal at the exact moment Giustra finished paying her husband $131 million? But she was against it as a candidate, and implacably so! “I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement,” she said on the stump in Pennsylvania that April.

That’s not exactly the position of someone shilling for a donor, but I suppose if you’re a committed enough Clintonologist, you can turn it all into a conspiracy—she was just opposing it then to throw the rest of us off the scent, but she’d support it later when it mattered. In fact, she was so intent on hiding her “real” position that she even parted ways with campaign manager Mark Penn because he was consulting for the Colombian government in behalf of the deal.

So then she became Secretary of State. And, indeed, she did start supporting it—but after that became the administration’s position. Obama had also opposed the deal, which the Bush administration had begun negotiating with Colombia back in 2006, as a candidate. But the Obama administration used the Colombia deal as a test case for whether it could get a trade partner to agree to tougher labor protections (there was, and still is, violence against trade unionists in Colombia, although the number of killings has gone down since the pact) as part of gaining access to U.S. markets. The labor provisions got in there. People debate today how much good they’ve done, but they’re in there, and so Obama and Clinton changed their position and backed the deal.

Now, for Clinton to have known in 2008 that all this would play out to Frank Giustra’s benefit, she would have had to have known that Obama was going to beat John McCain and, rather more improbably than that, that Obama was going to appoint her to be his Secretary of State. But those wily Clintons know things like that, see.

I will grant you, she and Obama did not change their positions for reasons that Frank Capra would make a movie about. They changed them, I would imagine, because business and agricultural interests wanted the deal and had more power than the labor and human rights interests that opposed it. You can decry that, too, but it’s just politics.

Think Progress got a copy of Schweizer’s book, and on their description it actually sounds like it’s going to disappoint the heavy breathers. Aviva Shen writes: “Schweizer explains he cannot prove the allegations, leaving that up to investigative journalists and possibly law enforcement.” “Possibly” law enforcement. Nice touch.

While I’m at it with the irony quotes, I might as well drape some around that adjective “investigative” too. The Times, it seems, has decided to debase itself by following the breadcrumbs dropped by this former adviser to Sarah Palin because Schweizer devotes a chapter to Giustra and Kazakhstan, which the Times reported on back in 2008, and the Times plans to follow up on that.

I remember reading that Times story at the time and going, “Wow, that does look bad.” But then I also remember reading this Forbes (yes, Forbes!) debunking of the Times story, which was headlined “Clinton Commits No Foul in Kazakhstan Uranium Deal.” By the time I finished reading that piece (and please, click through and read it so that you are forearmed for the coming Times hit job), I was marveling to myself: Golly, that Times piece looked so awful at the time. But it turns out they just left out some facts, obscured some others, and without being technically inaccurate, managed to convey or imply that something skuzzy happened where it in fact hadn’t. How can a great newspaper do such a thing?

We’re about to find out again.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 22, 2015

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Recycling For Fun And Profit”: The Imminent Return Of The ‘Clinton Scandals’

Hillary Clinton may well run for president in 2016. Or she may not. But while the nation awaits her decision, both jittery Republican politicians and titillated political journalists – often in concert – will seize upon any excuse to recycle those old “Clinton scandals.”

The latest trip around this endless loop began when Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican of extremist pedigree and nebulous appeal, deflected a question about his party’s “war on women” by yapping about Monica Lewinsky, former “inappropriate” playmate of Bill Clinton. Then the Free Beacon, a right-wing Washington tabloid, published some old papers about the “ruthless” Hillary and the “loony-toon Monica” from the archives of the late Diane Blair, a longtime and intimate Arkansas friend of the Clintons.

Suddenly the media frenzy of the Nineties resumed, as if there had never even been a pause.

What was truly bizarre in Senator Paul’s outburst was his suggestion that somehow Hillary Clinton is implicated in the Lewinsky affair (which he and others have wrongly characterized as “harassment” or victimization of the young White House intern). Most voters will consider that kind of insinuation more repulsive than persuasive.

Still, there were other long-running pseudo-scandals that featured Hillary. Are we doomed to revisit every crackpot allegation and conspiracy theory? Very likely so, if only because that brand of moonshine brought in wads and wads of money from the same credulous wingnuts who follow Fox News. Last week many of them surely sent money to Senator Paul or clicked on the Free Beacon.

The Clintons are still big box office in the mainstream media as well. Our historical amnesia will make the old charges against them sound new again. And if there’s a sucker born every minute, a lot of minutes have passed since they left the White House.

To prepare for the coming tsunami of bullbleep, a brief guide to past scandals may prove useful. Then when another lightweight politician or television personality starts spouting about Whitewater or Filegate or Travelgate – about which he or she actually knows approximately nothing – pertinent facts will be available. (For the longer version, with colorful narrative, consult The Hunting of the President.)

Whitewater: Kenneth Starr spent roughly millions of dollars trying to find evidence of chicanery in a land deal that lost money for the Clintons – and his probe ended up demonstrating their innocence, like several earlier investigations. Having whispered to gullible journalists that he was about to indict Hillary in December 1996, Starr instead abruptly resigned  as independent counsel in February 1997, knowing he had no case against her.

Indeed, the Clintons have undergone more thorough and invasive financial vetting than any couple in American history, from the exhaustive Starr investigation through Hillary’s Senate financial disclosures to the Clinton Foundation donors disclosed before her nomination as Secretary of State.

Travelgate:  Feverish coverage of Hillary Clinton’s firing of several White House employees who handled press travel arrangements neglected some salient facts –such as the suspicious absence of accounting records for millions of dollars expended by the White House Travel Office, the Travel Office director’s offer to plead guilty to embezzlement, and evidence that he had accepted lavish gifts from an air charter company. The First Lady and her staff didn’t handle the controversy skillfully, but she had plenty of reason to suspect chicanery. And again, exhaustive investigation found no intentional wrongdoing by her.

Filegate: Sensational accusations that Hillary Clinton had ordered up FBI background files to target political opponents soon became a Republican and media obsession, with respectable figures warning that Filegate would be the Clintons’ Watergate. “Where’s the outrage?” cried Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee. Starr investigated the matter and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Finally, in 2010, a Reagan-appointed federal judge mockingly dismissed a civil lawsuit based on the allegations, saying “there’s no there there.”

In truth, there never was.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, February 14, 2014

February 16, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blinded By Hate”: Hillary Clinton’s Enemies Can’t See Straight

Rand Paul, who is weirdly a potentially serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, got asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday about a comment his wife had made about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. His answer was revealing, I think, of a mindset Republicans are going to struggle with mightily should Hillary Clinton run for president. I bring this up not because I think Paul’s comments are all that important in and of themselves, and not because Republicans are likely to spend a good deal of time talking about Monica Lewinsky come 2016. But there’s an impulse when it comes to Hillary Clinton that presents a real danger for Republicans. There are so many things they hate about her and her husband that they barely know where to start. And that hatred could well be their undoing.

If you heard “Rand Paul attacked Hillary Clinton over Monica Lewinsky,” you’ve been slightly misled. First of all, it was David Gregory who brought it up (here’s the transcript), and second, you can see in Paul’s answer the conflict between his rational brain, which says, “This is not what we should be talking about,” and his lizard brain, which says, “Grrr! Clinton!” A couple of times he tries to say that the issue is one for Bill Clinton’s “place in history,” but he can’t stop himself from trying to make the case that Democrats are hypocrites because they criticize Republicans for waging a “war on women,” when Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern fifteen years ago.

Even after all this time, and after the Clinton impeachment turned out to be such a disaster for them, so many conservatives still can’t wrap their heads around the idea that other Americans don’t think about that episode in the same way they do. For them, it’s a tale of crime and injustice, the injustice being the fact that Bill Clinton got away with it. It goes right to the heart of what they hated so much about him. It wasn’t that they had policy differences with him, though they did. What angered them so much about Bill Clinton was that he was better at politics than they were. He beat them again and again for so many years, and nothing embodies their frustration over those defeats more than the Lewinsky scandal. For god’s sake, they cry, the guy was caught diddling a twenty-something intern in the White House, and he still managed to wiggle his way out of it!

So when Rand Paul or any other conservative hears the name Lewinsky, the immediate emotional reaction he has is one of anger, frustration, and contempt for the Clintons. But most Americans don’t have the same reaction. First of all, they aren’t that angry about it anymore. It was a decade and a half ago. And second, their memories of the whole sordid affair are as much about Republicans going too far—an impeachment that never should have happened, Ken Starr’s salacious and obsessive pursuit of Clinton, an opposition party that grew more desperate and deranged the clearer it became that they’d never take down their white whale—as they are about the President’s misdeeds.

As for Hillary, well as far as they’re concerned she’s complicit in everything Bill did, and then you can add to that the contempt they have for her as a powerful woman. You just cannot overestimate the degree to which Hillary Clinton brings out the ugliest misogynistic feelings and sexual insecurities in so many people (not all of them conservatives, I would add). This is something I’ve written about before, and I’m sure I’ll be writing about it again, because it’s going to be a central part of any campaign in which she’s involved.

There are few things more fundamental to smart political strategy than the understanding that other people may not share your beliefs, and may not have the same emotional reactions you do to certain people and events. That understanding is what allows you to make thoughtful decisions about how to persuade the number of people you need to achieve your political goals, whether it’s passing a piece of legislation or winning an election. This is something Republicans often struggle with, but when it comes to the Clintons, they’re absolutely blinded by hate. To take just one example, if Hillary runs, we’re going to be hearing a lot about Benghazi, because Republicans are not only sure she did something scandalous, they’re also sure that if they just hammer away at it long enough, everybody else will become convinced, too. But just like with Bill’s impeachment, exactly the opposite is likely to happen: the more they talk about it, the more voters will become convinced that they’ve taken leave of their senses.

And that, more than anything else, may be what gives Hillary Clinton such a good chance of winning in 2016. When they’re looking at her, her opponents just can’t see straight.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 28, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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