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“The National Bitch Hunt”: Only The Ballot Box Can Beat Clinton, Not Bogus ‘Scandals’

Fearless prediction: no legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton. No cigar-smoking duck like the one on the old Groucho Marx program, no Kenneth Starr-style “independent” prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her “damn emails,” no how, no way.’

Ain’t gonna happen.

Voters who can’t bear the thought of the former first lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State taking the oath of office in January 2017 are going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls.

Those impassioned Trump supporters holding “Hillary for Prison” signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And haven’t laid a glove on her yet.

Which doesn’t exactly make her Mother Theresa. But it does lend credence to former New York Times editor Jill Abramson’s somewhat surprising column in The Guardian to the effect that, when push comes to shove, “Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.”

Surprising because from 1992 onward the New York Times has been de facto World Headquarters of what I’ve always called the “National Bitch Hunt.” However, after spending years probing Clinton’s “business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage,” Abramson’s been forced to conclude that said investigations all came to naught.

And whose fault it that? Why Hillary’s, of course. “Some of it she brings on herself,” Abramson thinks “by insisting on a perimeter or ‘zone of privacy’ that she protects too fiercely. It’s a natural impulse, given the level of scrutiny she’s attracted, more than any male politician I can think of.”

Well, some might argue that the years-long scrutiny of Bill Clinton’s zipper is comparable. However, being wrongfully labeled a “congenital liar” in the Times 20 years ago certainly might teach a girl to play her cards close. If not, being accused in a dear friend’s suicide (Vince Foster), might tend to make her, oh, a tad mistrustful of the press.

But enough ancient history, although few of the 40 percent of Democrats who tell pollsters they don’t trust her know it. Abramson is also right to say that Hillary “was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor.”

Even as somebody aware that Bill and Hillary Clinton have donated roughly $18 million in speaking fees to charity, I find the sums Goldman, Sachs paid her preposterous. But payola?

As the late Molly Ivins put it: “As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.”

But back to Hillary’s emails. From the onset of the Clinton Wars, it’s been my experience that when the corrections and retractions reach critical mass and the “investigative” articles start to read like Henry James novels—i.e. diffuse and impenetrable—the end of a given “scandal” episode is near.

Last July, the New York Times got things started with an anonymously sourced exclusive claiming that federal investigators had initiated a “criminal” probe into whether Secretary Clinton had sent classified documents on her personal email server. Almost everything important about the story was false. It wasn’t a criminal investigation, nor was Clinton a target.

Rather, it was a bureaucratic exercise to settle an inter-agency dispute about which messages to release—as Clinton herself had requested. The Times was so laggard about making corrections that Public Editor Margaret Sullivan thought readers “deserve a thorough, immediate explanation from the top.”

They never got it.

Now comes the Washington Post with an interminable 5000-word narrative anchored by an “eye-popping” claim that according to “a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey,” a small army of 147 FBI agents was at work deciding if a crime had been committed.

That one fell apart overnight. Last time I checked, NBC’s sources said maybe a dozen agents are involved—an order of magnitude fewer than the Post claimed.

Meanwhile, the American Prospect turned to former Homeland Security classification expert Richard Lempert. Currently a Michigan law professor, Lempert pointed out that there are two big problems with the idea of charging Hillary.

First, we don’t have ex post facto laws. You can’t classify something tomorrow and charge somebody with leaking it yesterday. If you could, working for the State Department would be like inhabiting a cubicle in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Nobody would ever be safe.

Second, the job of Secretary of State’s entails considerable powers: “Not only was Secretary Clinton the ultimate authority within the State Department to determine whether…information should be classified, but she was also the ultimate authority in determining whether classified information should be declassified.”

Another ballyhooed scandal goes up in smoke.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Investigative Reporters, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Because Hillary Clinton Is Hillary Clinton, Running For President”: Why Nothing Can Quell The Media’s Addiction To Clinton Scandals

If there’s any constant in presidential campaigns, it’s that at the first sign of difficulty, everyone who wants one particular candidate to win has an iron-clad critique of the candidate’s decisions thus far, which goes something like, “If only they’d get their heads out of the sand and listen to what I have to tell them, they wouldn’t be having these problems.” You only have to get two or three partisans in a room (or an exchange on email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to quickly learn that the answers to what the candidate should have done before and ought to do now are as clear as a bright spring morning; it’s just that the candidate and his or her advisers can’t see the wisdom of the true path to victory.

The fact that this complaint is as predictable as the sunrise doesn’t mean it’s always wrong; candidates do screw up, and sometimes there was a better alternative to something they did, an alternative that really would have produced dramatically different results. And the ability to be an armchair strategist is part of what keeps campaigns interesting, just as the ability to second-guess coaches and players helps keep sports interesting.

Right now, Hillary Clinton is the target of lots of this advice, apparently because, 13 months before the actual voting will occur, she hasn’t yet put this election to bed. Anxiety is creeping among the legions of politicians, advisers, insiders, and in-the-knowers (anonymous and otherwise) who will happily share their opinions with journalists looking to populate their “What’s Wrong With the Clinton Campaign???” stories with the thoughts of worried Democrats, an amply populated species. And most of it revolves around the story of her State Department emails, a story that “won’t go away,” as everyone is saying.

“Clinton’s standing has been eroded both by her own shaky handling of the e-mail controversy and by the populist energy fueling the challenge of Sen. Bernie Sanders,” says The Washington Post. “Democratic leaders are increasingly frustrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s failure to put to rest questions about her State Department email practices,” says The New York Times, in an article for which they spoke to “more than 75 Democratic governors, lawmakers, candidates and party members.” I’ve heard similar things from any number of liberals and Democrats myself.

But here’s a piece of advice: If you find yourself starting a sentence on this topic with “If only she had…”, stop and take a breath.

I say that not because Clinton didn’t do anything wrong. It was plainly a mistake to set up her private email account in the first place, and if she used emails for communication that should have been confined to official cables, then we can criticize her for that. The most informative recent piece I’ve seen on this topic comes from David Ignatius, who notes that the fact that her server was private isn’t actually relevant to the question of classified information passing through it, since employees aren’t allowed to send such information through state.gov emails either. More importantly, multiple officials tell him that classified information passes through non-classified channels all the time; it shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Nevertheless, the important thing to understand about the politics of what’s happening now is this: There is nothing—nothing—that Hillary Clinton could have said or done differently since this became a public issue that could have made this go away, or that she could do now to “put it to rest.”

That’s not because it’s such a dreadfully serious issue, or because the American people care so deeply about the question of State Department email security that they’d never elect anyone to the White House who exercised anything less than the greatest of care with their communications, adhering to not just the spirit but the letter of every regulation. If you asked most voters what this is all about, they’d probably say “Um … something about emails?” No, it’s because Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton, and because she’s running for president.

That means that Republicans will never be satisfied with any answer she gives on this topic, or any other for that matter. She could read Trey Gowdy every email she ever wrote while giving him a foot massage, and it wouldn’t change their conviction that there was still something nefarious hidden somewhere in something they hadn’t seen. She could have personally delivered her server to Roger Ailes’s office on the day the story broke, and it wouldn’t change their determination to figure out what she’s hiding.

Nor will the news media ever be satisfied. Bill and Hillary Clinton have always been treated by a different set of rules than other politicians, one that says that any allegation about them, no matter how little evidence there may be for it, must be presented as the leading edge of what will surely turn out to be a devastating scandal. The New York Times, which despite its reputation as a liberal newspaper has what can only be described as an unquenchable desire to find Clinton scandals whether they actually exist or not, can be counted on to run blaring front-page articles about alleged Clinton scandals without the barest hint of skepticism, no matter how many times their reporting turns out to be based on false tips or bogus interpretations of mundane facts (the phantom “criminal referral” of a month ago was only the latest).

Then once the Times puts out its story, the rest of the media are off to the races, and conservatives just about lose their minds with glee, because this time they’ve really got her. Then inevitably, the alleged wrongdoing turns out to be either nothing at all or too little to care much about. But we only figure that out after Republicans in Congress have launched investigation after investigation, each one the engine for story after story about the scandal that won’t go away.

If you think that how Hillary Clinton responds to all this (Did she say she just “regrets” what she did, or did she actually apologize? Did she seem dismissive? Could she have used different words? Could she have framed the whole thing with this clever argument I just thought of?) would make any difference at all, then you must not have been around in the 1990s.

To repeat, I’m not defending everything Clinton did with regard to her emails, but that’s just the point: This cycle will spin whether she did anything wrong or not, and no matter how she conducts herself once the story breaks.

Eventually, all the facts do come in, and it’s at that point that we can really judge. For instance, multiple investigations of what occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, have shown that it was a terrible tragedy, but there was no “stand-down order,” there was no criminal negligence, and there was no impeachment-worthy malfeasance, no matter how fervently Republicans might wish it. Yet their investigations go on. In fact, at this point it’s impossible to see how anything other than Clinton losing the 2016 election will ever stop them. If she becomes president, they’ll go on investigating it for the length of her time in the Oval Office.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer The American Prospect, August 31, 2015

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Media, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Disturbing Events From ‘Behind The Scenes'”: “Criminal Referral Smear”; What Trey Gowdy Knew — And When He Knew It

Suspicion grows that the leaks behind the bungled New York Times “criminal referral” story came from the Republican side of the House Select Committee on Benghazi chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). First Times public editor Margaret Sullivan hinted that the original “tip” came from “Capitol Hill.” Over the weekend, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking Democrat on the select committee, revealed proof that Gowdy knew of the (utterly non-criminal) referrals by the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department to the Justice Department, in advance.

Criticizing the stumbling scramble to publish without checking what turned out to be inaccurate information, Cummings complained in an article on the Huffington Post of “a series of inaccurate, partisan leaks designed to attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Many of these attacks rely on anonymous sources to describe – and often mischaracterize – documents reporters have not seen.” The Maryland Democrat’s post ought to have received much more attention than it has received so far. It offers a disturbing perspective on events from “behind the scenes,” on the day that the Times broke its ill-fated scoop:

On Thursday morning at 10:27 am, my staff received a copy of a letter sent from Select Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy to FBI Director James Comey. To the best of my knowledge, that letter has never been made public.

Chairman Gowdy’s letter warned the FBI Director that the Chairman was aware of a “formal referral” that was made to the FBI “by impartial officials within the Executive Branch” related to “classified information.”

I had no idea then — and still have no idea today — how Chairman Gowdy knew about this referral before everyone else, and his office has refused to respond to my staff’s inquiry.

At 12:03 p.m., the office of the State Department Inspector General (IG) sent an email to staff on several committees with a copy of a memorandum describing its joint work with the Intelligence Community IG reviewing the FOIA process for Secretary Clinton’s emails. This memo did not mention any sort of referral to the Department of Justice.

At 2:30 p.m., my staff and I had a previously scheduled meeting with the State Department IG, so we asked him about Chairman Gowdy’s letter and whether he was aware of any referral.

He told me he never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage. Instead, he said officials from the Intelligence Community IG — not the State Department IG — notified the FBI and Congress that they had identified information they believed was classified in several mails that were part of the FOIA review.

Importantly, the State Department IG made clear that none of those emails had been marked as classified when Secretary Clinton received them.

At 5:44 p.m. that evening, the Intelligence Community IG’s office sent a notification to the Intelligence Committees describing — for the first time — its referral to the FBI. This notification detailed a counter-intelligence referral, not a request for a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton.

When I woke up on Friday morning and read the news, I was stunned. I immediately issued a public statement and released the congressional notification from the Intelligence Community IG.

I then got on the phone with both IGs from the State Department and the Intelligence Community. They confirmed that they never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage. Instead, they said this was a “routine” referral, and they said they had no idea why the Times story was so flawed.

But Cummings has his own ideas about that problem — and wonders why the Times reporters never checked with him or other Democrats on the committee, who could have corrected the ruinous mistake before publication. Combined with the timeline posted last week by the Clinton campaign’s Jennifer Palmieri, the Cummings post indicates just how irresponsibly this story was handled by the paper of record. Yet so far, the Times‘ editors and proprietors have offered nothing much beyond that public editor’s note — no apology for smearing Clinton, no accountability for any reporter or editor. Just an implausible excuse or two and a deflection of responsibility to those naughty sources, whose identities will of course remain protected. So why shouldn’t they perpetrate more inaccurate smears? They will.

Meanwhile, reporters covering the House might start asking some tough questions of Gowdy and the man who appointed him, Speaker John Boehner. Most likely, they never will.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, August 3, 2015

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Elijah Cummings, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Blatant Double Standard”: FLASHBACK; When Mitt Romney Avoided The Media — And The Media Didn’t Freak Out

Does anyone remember the rope line kerfuffle that broke out between reporters and Mitt Romney’s campaign team in May 2012? After the Republican nominee addressed supporters in St. Petersburg, Florida, campaign aides tried to restrict reporters from getting to the rope line where the candidate was greeting audience members.

As the incident unfolded, Kasie Hunt from the Associated Press tweeted, “Campaign staff and volunteers trying to physically prevent reporters from approaching the rope line to ask questions of Romney.” And from CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Romney campaign and Secret Service attempted to keep press off ropeline so no q’s to candidate on Bain.” (Bain Capital is the investment firm Romney co-founded.)

The story was definitely noted by the press and garnered some coverage, but it quickly faded from view.

Contrast that with the media wildfire that broke out over the Fourth of July weekend this summer when Hillary Clinton marched in the Gorham, New Hampshire parade. Surrounded by throngs of reporters who jumped into the parade route to cover the event, Clinton’s aides created a moving roped-off zone around Clinton to give her more space.

The maneuver produced images of journalists temporarily corralled behind a rope, which most observers agreed made for bad campaign optics.

Note that like Romney’s episode on the rope line when reporters objected to being barred from overhearing the candidate interact with voters, journalists in New Hampshire were upset they couldn’t hear Clinton greet parade spectators. But this story was hardly a minor one. It created an avalanche of coverage — nearly two weeks later journalists still reference it as a major event.

It’s interesting to note that during his 2012 campaign, Romney often distanced himself from the campaign press and provided limited access, the same allegations being made against Clinton this year. But the way the press covered the two media strategies stands in stark contrast.

That’s not to suggest Romney’s avoidance of the press wasn’t covered as news four years ago. It clearly was. But looking back, it’s impossible to miss the difference in tone, and the sheer tonnage of the coverage. Four years ago the campaign press calmly detailed Romney’s attempts to sidestep the national press (minus Fox News), versus the very emotional, often angry (“reporters are being penned off like farm animals“), and just weirdly personal dispatches regarding Hillary’s press strategy.

In a 2011 article, The Huffington Post interviewed reporters about how Romney was employing a much more closed-off press strategy compared to his 2008 campaign. The article featured quotes from Beltway journalists like The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz saying that while Romney had been more “open and available” in his 2008 campaign, during the 2012 cycle, “In general, I think they have kept him as much as possible out of the press spotlight … And I think it’s part of what has been their overall strategy, which has been to act like a frontrunner and not do a lot of interviews.”

By contrast, The New York Times, reporting on Clinton’s press relationship, recently described her as a “regal” “freak” who “seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, returning to claim what is rightfully hers.” Slate noted “the political press has turned noticeably hostile in the face of her silence.” And the Daily Beast wanted to know why Clinton was so “determined” to “infuriate the press.”

So when Clinton’s standoffish with the press, she’s deliberately trying to “infuriate” journalists. But when Romney was standoffish, he was just employing a frontrunner strategy.

Why the blatant double standard? Why the steeper grading curve for the Democrat?

Are the Romney and Clinton press scenarios identical? Probably not. But they do seem awfully similar. Note that in February 2012, ABC News reported that “Romney last held a press conference in Atlanta on Feb. 8, and has not done so again since. Wednesday is the two week mark.” Two months later, not much had changed: “Reporters yelled questions at Romney yesterday on the rope line after a speech prebutting this summer’s Democratic National Convention — to no avail. Romney has not taken questions from the press since March 16 in Puerto Rico.”

That dispatch came on April 19, which meant at the time Romney hadn’t taken a question from the national press in more than a month, and that was during the heart of the Republican primary season. But where was The Washington Post’s running clock to document the last time Romney fielded a question, and The New York Times special section to feature hypothetical questions to ask Romney if and when he next spoke to the press?

When Romney ignored the national media for more than a month in 2012 the press mostly shrugged. When Hillary did something similar this year, the press went bonkers, sparking “an existential crisis among the national press corps,” according to Slate.

For whatever reason, the Beltway press signaled a long time ago that the press was going to be a central topic during the Clinton campaign and the press was going to write a lot about how the press felt about Clinton’s relationship with the press. (Media critic Jay Rosen has dismissed some of the media’s campaign complaints as being nonsensical.)

We’ve certainly never seen anything like this in modern campaigns. And it certainly did not happen with Romney four years ago.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, National Press Corp | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Journalists Cry Corruption, Make Them Prove It”: Clinton Foundation ‘Scandals’ Are Made Of Smoke And Innuendo

Here are a couple of things you may not know about recent topics in the news.

First, no Secretary of State prior to Hillary Clinton had ever used a government email address or preserved their messages for posterity. And why should they? The law requiring cabinet members to do so didn’t go into effect until after Clinton left office.

(Presumably to make one-stop shopping easier for Chinese and Russian hackers. But I digress.)

Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell deleted his emails. Every single one. Condoleezza Rice has said that she simply never used email, which may even be true.

Second, as of 2011 former president George W. Bush had earned at least $15 million giving speeches mainly to corporate and Republican groups. Politico has found more recent information hard to find. It’s private and confidential.

In 2011, Bush pocketed $100,000 to speak at a fundraiser for a homeless shelter in McKinney, Texas. The shelter’s director called the event a success, adding that the former president was his usual charming self. Bush’s standard practice is that reporters aren’t invited and recording devices are not allowed.

“Relative to the Clintons, though,” Politico notes “he’s attracted considerably less attention.” Maybe that’s because George W. Bush has no close relatives running for president. So that when he accepts $250,000 for speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, it’s not an issue. This event is widely known as the “Sheldon Adelson Primary,” after the billionaire casino magnate who openly auditions GOP hopefuls who oppose online gambling and support Israel.

Anyway, aren’t they all up for sale, the candidates? Clintons, Bushes, Walkers, Cruzes, Perrys, the lot.

Open for business, every single one.

Somehow, however, what would appear the least objectionable buck raking by a presidential candidate during the 2016 campaign cycle has become the most controversial. I refer, of course, to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary and Bill Clinton’s $2 billion charitable enterprise

The Clinton Foundation is credited, among other things, with providing cut-rate HIV drugs to patients throughout the Third World, hearing aids for deaf children in Botswana, and earthquake relief in Haiti; the foundation even fights elephant poaching in Africa — reportedly a passion of Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s. (And of every other decent human being on Earth.)

Interestingly, the Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold recently produced a remarkably fair, snark-free account of the Clinton Foundation and its proprietor, a veritable force of nature. Despite being a longtime acquaintance of his, like thousands of Arkansans I almost can’t comprehend the life Bill Clinton has chosen. His life of endless banquets, celebrity galas, and international jetting around would make me crazy.

But then what have I done for the destitute and afflicted? Watched a lot of Red Sox games and read a thousand novels — that’s what.

Meanwhile, the thing to understand about the swirl of innuendo and accusation concerning this remarkable enterprise is that it’s yet another “Swift Boat”-style operation. Written by a career political operative named Peter Schweizer, the book Clinton Cash amounts to little more than a conspiracy theory touted by the same newspapers that promoted the Whitewater hoax and cheered on Kenneth Starr and his leak-o-matic prosecutors.

Aptly described by Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books as an “imitation of journalism,” Clinton Cash basically assembles circumstantial evidence about various potentates and high flyers in the Clintons’ orbit. Assuming venal motives, it then leaps to conclusions unsupported by fact. In most instances, the author hasn’t even interviewed his targets.

After making a promotional deal with Schweizer, The New York Times devoted 4,400 words to a jumbled narrative involving a Canadian mining executive who’d pledged half his income to the Clinton Foundation and the subsequent sale of a Wyoming uranium mine to Russian interests.

Way down at the bottom, however, the determined reader learned that Secretary of State Clinton played no role in the deal whatsoever. At least none that the Times could find. It’s pure supposition.

The newspaper then remained silent as Schweizer appeared on conservative talk shows depicting the foundation as a giant slush fund devoting only 10 percent of its budget to charity. In fact, according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, the real number is 89 percent — an A rating.

Look, any cynic can play at this. Check out your hometown society page. That doctor’s wife at the Heart Fund gala: Is it about charity, or about people back home in Turkey Scratch seeing her socializing with a Walmart heiress? How about the architect? Does he care about sick kids, or is he about getting the contract for the new hospital wing named for the heiress?

Does Bill Clinton do all this for humanity, or does he just need more attention and admiration than us “normal” people? Does Hillary want to be president for America’s sake, or for her own?

The correct answer is all of the above.

But when journalists cry corruption, make them prove it.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Clinton Foundation, Journalism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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