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“Hillary Clinton Has Only One Real Opponent”: You Guessed It, That Leaves The News Media

In a sane world, the 2016 presidential election campaign would begin about this time next year. However, the political infotainment wing of our esteemed national news media seems intent upon starting the contest ever earlier — whether voters like it or not. TV ratings and enhanced career opportunities depend upon it.

Unfortunately, Dan Merica, a CNN producer who followed Hillary Clinton to South Carolina, appears to have mislaid the script. Instead of shouting rude questions, Merica sought out an ordinary voter Clinton had chatted up in a bake shop. What had they talked about?

As it happened, they had discussed Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

A Baptist minister, Rev. Frederick Donnie Hunt had been sitting in a Columbia, South Carolina bakery reading his Bible when Clinton stopped by. “I was impressed and glad that she knew the Scripture that I was reading and studying…,” Hunt said. “It impressed me that someone running for president has that background. It is important to me that we have a president that has some belief.”

Rev. Hunt, who voted for Obama in 2008, now plans to support Clinton. “God bless you,” he told the candidate as she got up to leave.

Make of it what you will. But if you’re like me, you learned something interesting from the CNN story. Too many like it, however, and Merica’s career in Washington could be endangered.

According to a recent “political memo” by Jason Horowitz in The New York Times, Clinton’s Democratic rivals have no realistic chance. “That leaves the news media,” he opines, “as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Well, it does have the virtue of honesty.

To be fair, Horowitz’s point is that the press clique has grown so hostile that “it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them.”

He describes scenes in which reporters, bored and angered by Clinton’s strategy of traveling around and talking with nobodies like Rev. Hunt, have treated her rare press availabilities as virtual bear-baiting exercises, shouting questions of the when-did-you-stop-looting-your-foundation? kind, questions she “obfuscated…with ease,” according to Horowitz.

He provides no examples though. Readers have to take his word for it. In this carnival-like atmosphere, he adds, “it is not clear what Mrs. Clinton gains politically from playing the freak.”

Yowza!

Prompted by reader outrage, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan expressed chagrin at her newspaper’s “sometimes-fawning, sometimes-derisive tone in stories about Mrs. Clinton,” particularly that last “startling line.”

Times editors were characteristically dismissive, arguing readers had misunderstood the author’s meaning — as if it were a T.S. Eliot poem rather than a newspaper story. Believe me, I’ve been there. No matter how dead to rights you’ve got them, they’re The New York Times, and you’re not. It’s like arguing with a bishop.

A reader comment by Paul Goode of Richmond put everything in perspective: “It’s never a good strategy to patronize readers. And don’t make it worse by peddling self-interest as a profile in courage. The Horowitz piece was not only invidious; it was a not-so-veiled threat about what Ms. Clinton can expect if she doesn’t get in line.”

“Can expect”? How Clinton handles the never-ending barrage of gossip and contumely directed against her and Bill Clinton by the Washington media clique could decide the 2016 election. The Times itself, Bob Somerby notes, has all but openly declared war, and The Washington Post isn’t far behind.

Last Sunday the Times printed a 2,200-word opus by Deborah Sontag about Bill Clinton’s appearance at a fundraiser for Czech model Petra Němcová’s Happy Hearts Fund; the piece must have set a world record for fact-free insinuation.

A one-time Sports Illustrated cover girl, Němcová started her charity, which supports Third World kindergartens, after a near-death experience in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Clinton spoke at Němcová’s event in exchange for a $500,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation, which was to be spent on a joint project building schools in Haiti.

Since Němcová doubtless looks a lot better in a bathing suit than anybody in the Times’ Washington bureau, you can probably guess what the insinuations were. Sontag even found a Columbia professor who pronounced the event “distasteful,” without saying why.

Forgetting about Ronald Reagan’s $2 million speaking fees, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus (a Hillary Clinton fan, she claims) nevertheless uses the Yiddish word chazer to describe her. “It means ‘pig,’” she explains, “but has a specific connotation of piggishness and gluttony. This is a chronic affliction of the Clintons.”

This is what Clinton is up against. Her opponents could call for abolishing Social Security and appointing Jim Bob Duggar to the Supreme Court, and the character assassination would never end. Everybody knows the script: “Hillary’s what my sainted mother would have called a false article, insincere, untrustworthy, out for herself and nobody else. She thinks she’s better than you.”

Anyway, people always say they hate this stuff, but then they pass it on.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 3, 2014

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, News Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Unrelenting Hostility Of The Washington Media Clique”: Playing By The Old ‘Clinton Rules’ — All Innuendo, Few Facts

As a professional matter, I’ve been halfway dreading Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. The 2016 Democratic nomination appears to be hers for the asking. Democrats enjoy a strong Electoral College advantage. And yet it’s hard to imagine how she can overcome the unrelenting hostility of the Washington media clique.

Try to imagine the New York Times and Washington Post teaming up with Fox News impresario Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. on an “exposé” of any other politician in Washington. Joe Conason wasn’t exaggerating much when he called it the “Hitler-Stalin Pact” of contemporary journalism.

The two newspapers agreed to “exclusive” arrangements with one Peter Schweizer, a right-wing operative and author of Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich. The book’s publisher is HarperCollins, a News Corp subsidiary like Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, etc.

Basically, we’re in Ann Coulter country here. Schweizer’s not a journalist, but a controversialist for right-wing “think tanks.” A former consultant to Sarah Palin and ghostwriter for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Glenn Beck, he makes his living vilifying Democrats. Media Matters has posted a long list of withdrawn or retracted stories under his byline.

Reporters for the British Sunday Times evaluated an earlier Schweizer book and found that “[f]acts that are checkable do not check out. Individuals credited for supplying information do not exist or cannot be tracked down. Requests to the author for help and clarification result in further confusion and contradiction.”

The New York Times, in contrast, praised the fellow’s “meticulous” reporting. All this in service of a front-page “blockbuster” by Jo Becker and Mike McIntire insinuating that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton sold out the national interest, helping a Russian company to buy uranium mines in Wyoming from a Canadian corporation in exchange for a few million dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation, the family’s charitable enterprise.

That and a $500,000 speaking fee awarded by a Moscow bank to the Big Cheese, her husband, the former president — a guy who’s been averaging $7.5 million a year making speeches.

“Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown” the Times concedes early on.

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. The insinuation couldn’t be any clearer than if they’d hinted that Vladimir Putin was Hillary’s lover.

The diligent reader must persevere almost to the bottom of the murkily narrated 4,400-word story to learn that the uranium transaction had to be signed off on by all nine federal agencies comprising the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, that none apparently dissented, and that the State Department’s man on the committee stated, “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any CFIUS matter.”

Oh, and the Wyoming mines aren’t actually in operation, probably because the worldwide price of uranium has fallen following Japan’s Fukishima disaster. The Russians would probably sell them back, cheap.

No matter, it’s really all about what the Times calls “the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation.”

Besides Hillary and Putin, the story’s other suspicious character is Canadian mining executive and philanthropist Frank Giustra. Besides pledging half his income to good works such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative — bringing cheap HIV/AIDS drugs to 9.9 million people in Third World countries — Giustra’s other big sin was supposedly relying on Bill Clinton’s help to negotiate a multinational buyout of uranium mines in Kazakhstan.

Giustra has called the Times account arrant nonsense. He even provided a flight manifest to a Forbes reporter to prove that contrary to the newspaper, he didn’t take Bill Clinton with him to Kazakhstan at all. Moreover, as an extremely careful reader can determine, Giustra sold all of his Uranium One holdings in 2007 — two years before Hillary became Secretary of State — and so had nothing to gain from company’s 2010 transaction with the Russians.

Or from his charitable donations.

Giustra’s second suspect act was setting up something called the Canadian Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. That too seems to have confused the scandal-hunting reporters and their supporters on the Washington Post editorial page. See, even if there’s no evidence of a quid pro quo, the Post thundered, the Clinton Foundation had promised transparency while Hillary was in office.

“However, the Times said the contributions of some connected to the Uranium One deal were not disclosed. The newspaper unearthed them in Canadian tax records. This lapse is exactly the sleight of hand that creates suspicion… What were the Clintons hiding?”

Basically, as it turns out, the fact that Canada is a sovereign country whose laws prohibit such disclosures.

Look, there’s a reason articles like the Times’ big exposé are stultifyingly dull and require the skills of a contract lawyer to parse. Murky sentences and jumbled chronologies signify that the “Clinton rules” are back: all innuendo and guilt by association. All ominous rhetorical questions, but rarely straightforward answers.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 29, 2015

May 2, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Journalism, Media | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“A High-Falutin’ Elitist”: Jeb Bush To Continue Family Tradition Of Pretending To Be A Reg’lar Fella

It’s presidential campaign time, which means that I will have ample opportunity to fulminate against my many pet peeves of political rhetoric in the months to come. There are few higher on that list than the repeated claim politicians make that they aren’t really politicians—they don’t really think or know much about politics, and they’re both repulsed by and unfamiliar with this strange and sinister place called “Washington, D.C.” that they just happen to be so desperate to move to. Obi-Wan Kenobi may have said of Mos Eisley, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” but he didn’t follow that up with, “But I don’t really know anything about the place, which is why I’m the best person to guide you through it.” Because that would have been ridiculous. Not so our politicians, however. And here’s the latest:

Jeb Bush isn’t a New York Times reader.

The former Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate appeared on Fox News Radio on Thursday and, when asked to respond to a quote in the paper, said he doesn’t read it.

“I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you,” Bush told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade.

The quote in question came from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who was quoted in the Times saying that the Christian right should begin discussing which candidate to back as an alternative to Bush, because he didn’t represent their views….

Kilmeade later asked, “Would [Perkins] be somebody you’d approach. Would you say, Tony, you’re misunderstanding me. We need to talk. I read that column today in The New York Times?”

“Maybe I’ll give him a call today, I don’t know,” Bush said. “I don’t read The New York Times. But if you’re going to force me to do so….”

You’ll notice that Bush points out that he doesn’t read The New York Times not once, but twice. Can I say for sure that this is a lie, and Jeb Bush does in fact read The New York Times? Of course not. But the point is that instead of just saying, “I didn’t see that article,” he has to make a point of letting people know he doesn’t read the Times, as some high-falutin’ elitist would.

Nobody has to read The New York Times in particular. It does remain the most important news outlet in America, not because its audience is the largest but because it has more influence than any other. When a story appears in the Times, it can set the agenda for the entire news media (media scholars have actually documented this effect). Unless you’re Sarah Palin, if you’re a politician it’s part of your job to keep abreast of what’s going on, which means you’ll at least glance at the Times, The Washington Post, and probably The Wall Street Journal. I’m sure that one of Jeb Bush’s staffers assembles for him a collection of clips that he can look at every day so he knows what’s happening in the world.

But Bush feels the need to display his own (alleged) ignorance and disinterest, lest anyone believe that this guy—whose grandfather was a senator, whose father and brother were both president, who was a governor, and whose entire life has been wrapped up in American politics—might actually be so crass and cynical as to keep up with the news.

In this, Bush is following a family tradition of pretending to be “jus’ folks.” George H.W. did it in typically hamhanded fashion, by letting everyone know he loved pork rinds. George W. was far more adept at it; in 1999, in advance of his run for the White House, he bought a “ranch” to which he would go for vigorous brush-clearing sessions, conducted in the appropriate cowboy costume (boots, hat, belt-buckle). I believe that the sole agricultural product the ranch produced was brush, which Bush would “clear,” i.e., move from one place to another, so that he could be photographed in action.

There are reasons one might vote for Jeb Bush, and reasons one might vote against him. But nobody is going to be convinced that he’s an outsider who will come to Washington, shake up the system, and bring his real-world common sense to bear on all those politicians and bureaucrats. So let’s drop the Unfrozen Caveman Politician bit, shall we?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 27, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Complaining About Obama’s Golfing”: It’s Not About Optics, It’s About Doing Your Job

Of course, Obama is hardly the first president to vacation – President John Adams took an amazing eight months off in one year in office, and President John F. Kennedy went away almost every single weekend of his presidency. And Obama’s not the first president to get criticized for it either. President Ronald Reagan, who was on vacation for more than 300 days of his presidency, took an incredible amount of heat for not coming rushing back to the White House after the death of two Marines in Lebanon, an attack that would lead to the 1984 bombing of the Marine barracks there. But he blew off the criticism and even campaigned for two days before returning to Washington.

We don’t let our son watch the news anymore. Growing up with parents who are big consumers of news, my boy—at the ripe old age of three—already knows something is amiss if Diane Sawyer is taking a night off. If David Muir is at the anchor desk he has been known to ask, “Is Diane sick?” (We haven’t started explaining the more permanent transition going on at ABC just yet because we don’t know how he will take it.)

But between Ferguson, ISIS, Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola and every other tragic news story happening, there are too many questions that newscasts raise now that a three-year old shouldn’t have to wonder about. Too many sad faces on the screen, and it’s too soon to explain why.

Being president of the United States means engaging on all of those issues every day, often multiple times – whether you’re on vacation or you’re not. And regardless of the location, this president – like every occupant of the Oval Office before him – is making decisions based on the welfare of the nation, far ahead of what his vacation schedule is.

Something unspeakable happened to James Foley, and his grieving family lives with the tragedy created by the ruthless monsters who took him from them. I can’t say how I’d react if someone took my son from me in the same way. No one can know who hasn’t gone through such a horrible thing. But I can guess. My guess is that I’d want the entire world to stop. That I’d want a moment of silence that never ended. I would want people to stop laughing and businesses to close. I have no judgment for the impulse of any American who feels any hint of that sadness at Foley’s loss.

But I have little patience, and our country has little need for, the people who play politics with his life. One mindless commentator tweeted that people who share my view support golfing while Americans are being beheaded. The New York Times wrote that the president was “seemingly able to put the savagery out of his mind,” as he went on to continue his vacation with his family and his friends after addressing the incredible tragedy.

I’m not sure why the New York Times thinks it can read minds, but knowing this president, I know one thing with great clarity: The savagery of those who attack Americans is never far from his mind. This notion that he can detach is mostly wrong. For the man who gave the green light to take out Osama bin Laden and is often first to hear the reports of American servicemen and women who die in missions that he ordered, the savagery of this world is not far from the forefront of his mind at every moment of the day.

I don’t remember, but I assume that I was one of the many Democrats who gleefully took shots at President George W. Bush for the time he spent at Crawford—and if so I regret it. Presidents are better for having time out of Washington, even better for time away with their families.

Whether you’re a partisan or a cynical reporter who has been making the same critique about presidential vacations for decades, I assume you probably agree that human beings function better when they get a little time away. I wouldn’t want my surgeon to be some woman who hasn’t had a break in 4 years. I wouldn’t want to share the road with a truck driver who hasn’t had enough sleep. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is; you will do your job better if you recharge your batteries. And even though the president is never really on vacation, giving him at least a little downtime is good for all of us.

In the end, it’s not about the optics. It’s about doing your job. And if the president is doing his – which he is – we should all be able to appreciate the fact that he is taking the opportunity to be a dad, a husband and even a leader of the free world who can clear his head on the golf course.

 

By: Bill Burton, Executive Vice President at Global Strategy Group; Politico, August 25, 2014

 

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Media, Presidential Vacations, Press | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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