CNN anchor and New York Daily News columnist S.E. Cupp was cursed with bad timing this week as she launched attacks on Hillary Clinton's time as secretary of state. Pointing to current events surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Cupp wrote, "a new front is brewing that may bring Clinton's strategic judgment more directly into question: Russia." She added that if Clinton "thinks she's going to get off the hook for it, she's sadly mistaken." According to Cupp, the Russian troop movements demonstrate that Clinton's 2009 effort to reset U.S. relations with that nation were a failure that will damage any potential 2016 presidential run.
Why the bad timing?
The day before Cupp's column appeared detailing Clinton's would-be secretary of state "baggage," Pew Research published a poll showing a strong majority of Americans (67 percent) applaud Clinton's time as secretary of state. And when asked to identify the biggest positive of her long public career, the top response was Clinton's time as secretary. (Also, clear majorities of Americans peg her as being "tough," "honest," and "likable.")
So what Cupp sees as diplomatic "baggage," lots of Americans see it as part of Clinton's crowning accomplishment.
Cupp is hardly alone. Politico's Clinton beat writer, Maggie Haberman wrote that the Ukraine conflict "is another instance in which Clinton is tethered to the administration's decisions heading into 2016." Clinton is "tethered" to her time as secretary of state, Politico noted ominously, while a vast majority of Americans applaud Clinton's time as secretary of state. (And yes, the Pew poll was conducted after Russia invaded Ukraine.)
As the crisis in the Ukraine continues to play out, parts of the D.C. media's All News Is Bad News For Hillary brigade have rallied around the idea that even though Clinton is no longer secretary of state, the current conflict in Ukraine could damage her presidential aspiration because she used to be secretary of state.
More importantly, the Ukraine analysis is the exact opposite of the Beltway pundits' pronouncement last year as they praised current chief diplomat John Kerry after he reached an interim agreement with Iran to freeze its nuclear program. The media formula was simple: Good news that transpired after Clinton left the State Department was not her doing and she deserved no credit. Her efforts to build a sanctions regime that drove Iran to the bargaining table were ignored.
But apparently, the Ukraine crisis is her doing and she deserves the blame even though she left the administration last year. In other words, if Hillary runs for president all the things that didn't happen under her guidance at State will hurt her chances. And if she runs, all the things that happened while she wasn't at State will also hurt her. Under this rubric, all developments in international relations, whether good or bad for the United States, are bad news for Hillary Clinton.
Talk about a lose-lose for Hillary. And talk about trolling for bad news.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer distorted comments by Hillary Clinton to criticize her for "compar[ing]" Russian President Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler, even though Putin is not engaged in genocide. But Blitzer ignored Clinton's reported statement that while similarities to Hitler's actions are "what's gotten everybody so nervous" about Putin's recent actions, she believes Putin isn't "as irrational" as Hitler and that a diplomatic response is appropriate.
Clinton addressed Russia sending troops into Ukraine at a March 4 California fundraiser for the Long Beach Boys and Girls Club. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, whose reporter attended the event, Clinton explained that Putin has been issuing Russian passports to people with Russian ethnicity who live in other countries in the region, including in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and has claimed that he sent Russian troops to the region to protect those Russians who are supposedly in danger. Clinton reportedly explained that the similarity between this move and steps taken by Hitler in the 1930s is "what's gotten everybody so nervous":
Now if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the 30s... All the Germans that were ... the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.
Clinton went on to say that "while that makes people nervous, there is no indication that Putin is as irrational as the instigator of World War II," according to Harry Saltzgaver, the executive editor of a California newspaper chain who also attended the event and spoke to Buzzfeed.
The former secretary of state also reportedly called for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine:
"So everybody is hoping that there will be a negotiation but a negotiation that respects Ukraine and doesn't ratify a reoccupation by Russia of Crimea," she said. "So it's a real nail-biter, right now, but nobody wants to up the rhetoric. Everybody wants to cool it in order to find a diplomatic solution and that's what we should be trying to do."
On CNN Newsroom, Blitzer criticized Clinton for comparing Putin to Hitler, while failing to note Clinton's full remarks. Blitzer said that "it is always a mistake to make these comparisons with Nazi Germany," adding that Putin "clearly he is not engaged in any activities at all along the lines of what Hitler was doing, including genocide, mass murder, and all of the occupations that he was engaged in." Neither Blitzer nor CNN's Brianna Keilar, who was featured in the segment, addressed Clinton's reported statements that Putin is not as irrational as Hitler and that she believes a diplomatic approach is appropriate.
Rand Paul seems to have cracked the code.
The Kentucky Republican senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate has found a winning formula for staying in the headlines this winter: dredging up decades-old Clinton scandals and talking about Monica Lewinsky. It seems an unlikely script for a politician who supposedly wants to address America's future.
But what Paul has figured out, and sooner than any other potential Republican presidential candidates, is that every time he (indirectly) references Lewinsky and Oval Office sex, television producers start assembling panel discussions and editors quickly assign articles. It's like sending out the Bat Signal inside the Beltway; a transmission that cannot be denied or ignored.
Paul's attacks this week were boosted by the revelation of personal, decades-old correspondences between Hillary Clinton and Diane Blair, a close friend and confidant to the former first lady. With contemporaneous notes and letters that addressed the Lewinsky scandal and other trials from Bill Clinton's two terms, the newly uncovered archives were presented as big political news. They also gave the media an excuse to wade further into Clinton tumult nostalgia.
For Clinton critics, there appears to be no downside to the strategy. Any fear Paul might have had about the press condemning him likely evaporated weeks ago. Instead of scolding Ryan for looking backwards and attacking a female politician for her husband's distant, personal indiscretions, as well as accusing him without evidence of "violence" against women in the workplace, much of the press has celebrated Paul's Lewinsky star turn. According to CNN's Candy Crowley the Kentucky senator is on a "roll lately." Why? Because he called the former president a "sexual predator." (Crowley dubbed the low-blow maneuver "smart politics.")
Points are rarely deducted for taking the low road against the Clintons. For the press, Clinton name-calling passes for political momentum.
For a candidate who enjoys historically strong polling support for her possible White House push, Hillary Clinton is sure getting heaps of bad press as supporters await her decision on whether to run for president in 2016.
According to endless Beltway commentary regarding her non-candidacy, Clinton's overseeing an ominous "shadow campaign" that features a "political hit list" to keep track of "treacherous" foes. She's linked "to a culture of payback and bare-knuckles politics." Her non-candidacy is peaking too soon and it lacks "transparency"; it's a "predestined" "train wreck." "Indecision" is becoming a trademark. She's taking a "wrong turn" and repeating her mistakes from 2008. Her presence "unsettles" Democrats, she doesn't stand for anything, and her campaign needs a better manager!
Keep in mind Clinton isn't even a candidate yet. And the general election won't be held for more than 1,000 days. But that hasn't stopped the Beltway press from obsessing over her on a daily basis and routinely detailing all the things wrong with Clinton's would-be run. Because being the dominant would-be Democratic frontrunner and leading all GOP contenders in the polls is suddenly a bad thing?
Well, it's certainly not a good thing:
Politico: Hillary's No Slam Dunk in 2016
The Atlantic: Can Anyone Stop Hillary? Absolutely
National Journal: Why You Shouldn't Pay Attention to Hillary Clinton's Massive 2016 Lead
Can you spot the trend? And can you image the negative tone of the press coverage if Clinton's poll numbers were soft?
Obviously, candidates ought to face media skepticism. And over the last 20 years, few have faced more doubts in the press than Hillary Clinton. But isn't it odd that right now it seems the widely agreed-upon Beltway narrative regarding Clinton is that her possible campaign is already in deep trouble. That's the spin despite the fact that poll after poll puts her in one of the most enviable positions of any potential candidate in modern American history.
Talk about a vast disconnect between the people and the press.
Here's what's curious: Look at the sour assessments that surround the chattering class's Clinton appraisal and then compare that to the last time the Republican Party had a presidential campaign-in-waiting. As is the case with Clinton today, that featured a candidate with global name recognition, a big lead in the primary polls and a seemingly bottomless well of generous donors. That was George W. Bush prior to 2000, and the press had very few doubts about his mission.
"The national news media have built up George W. Bush like a rock star," observed one Florida newspaper columnist in 1999. And that media worship started long before Bush formally declared his candidacy in June of that year. It began in earnest when Bush won a re-election landslide as the governor of Texas in 1998.
Back then, while Bush lurked on the sidelines and gobbled up endorsement and campaign cash prior to his official candidacy, the press was amazed by his good fortune. There was no chronic hand-wringing. Instead, reporters and pundits marveled at Bush's standing and the unmatched infrastructure his team had built.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson dubiously suggested that a Senate report on the Benghazi attack would damage a potential 2016 presidential run by Hillary Clinton, even while admitting that the report barely mentioned Clinton.
On the January 16 edition of Fox's The Real Story, Carlson asked whether a newly released Senate Select Intelligence Committee report could potentially damage any 2016 political aspirations for Hillary Clinton. Carlson began her segment by claiming the report means "potential new problems for Hillary Clinton and any White House aspiration she may have." Carlson acknowledged that Clinton "is barely mentioned by name in this report," but she still went on to ask if Clinton will "escape any association" with the attack:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that released the Benghazi findings, has patently denied the report lays any blame on Clinton. In a statement released by her office, Feinstein clarified that the report does not assign "culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy":
Statements on the Senate floor this morning and some media reports about the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report on the attack against our diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, intimate that the report assigns culpability to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the tragedy.
This is patently false.
The report approved on a bipartisan basis says no such thing. As a matter of fact, Secretary Clinton is not mentioned a single time in the 58-page bipartisan section of our Benghazi report.
Carlson then went on to rehash the already debunked accusation that Clinton deliberately played a role in dismissing the attack as an act of terror and instead blamed it on protests due to an inflammatory anti-Islam video, saying "Yeah, and maybe her biggest difficulty is the fact that she did still blame it on the videotape days after" some officials allegedly told the Obama administration otherwise.
Carlson failed to note what the Senate report did say about the video's role in the attack. The report indicated that in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the intelligence community (IC) received multiple reports of protests, through media accounts, over an anti-Islam video at the diplomatic facility. The report goes on to say that it took days for U.S. personnel to determine through eyewitness statements that there were indeed no such protests. Details like this from the Senate report have been repeatedly ignored by Fox while they continued to hammer calls for a further investigation into Benghazi.
Fox News contributor Doug Schoen is the latest media figure to push the false allegation that Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State lacked accomplishments, ignoring her record of achievement.
Hoping to derail a potential Clinton presidential campaign, the GOP and its media allies have begun to attack her record. Some mainstream journalists have followed their example, producing the emerging narrative that Clinton lacked significant achievements at State. This new conventional wisdom is attractive to reporters because the old and accurate conventional wisdom that Clinton was an accomplished Secretary of State "makes for dull copy," as Slate's David Weigel explained.
Earlier this month, Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus detailed the research effort underway to aggressively define what Clinton's "done or hasn't done" in an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt. For his part, Hewitt has spent weeks quizzing political reporters on what Clinton did at State, trying to promote the canard that she was ineffective. Meanwhile, right-wing pundits have been depicting her record at State as an unalloyed detriment, citing a purported lack of successes on the one hand at the pseudoscandal of Benghazi on the other.
This conservative effort is shaping the reporting of more mainstream outlets. An agenda-setting December 8 piece in Politico Magazine drew heavily from dubious conservative sources to promote the storyline that Clinton had been an ineffective Secretary of State, while depicting sources who contradicted the storyline with facts about Clinton's record as engaged in a campaign of spin.
Schoen -- who was a strategist for Bill Clinton in the 1990s but in recent years has largely been known for attacking progressives and promoting corporate interests -- is the latest to push this false narrative. In a December 13 Wall Street Journal column he writes:
Another major obstacle is Mrs. Clinton's foreign-policy record: She can point to no significant accomplishments as secretary of state. Now that her successor, John Kerry, has forged an interim agreement with Iran, good or bad, to limit its nuclear program, questions will inevitably be asked about why Mrs. Clinton failed to achieve anything on that front--or to strike a similar bargain with North Korea or make any progress with the Palestinians and Israelis.
Mrs. Clinton also still faces serious questions about the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. During the 2008 primary campaign, Mrs. Clinton said she was the candidate best equipped to answer the 3 a.m. emergency phone call. Americans will want to know how she answered that call in Libya.
Schoen's reference to Benghazi points to the dishonesty of his argument. While conservatives have spent the last year exploiting the terrorist attacks to smear Clinton, no evidence has emerged to suggest that the Secretary of State was at fault. Contrary to Schoen's suggestion, Clinton has extensively detailed her activities on the night of the attack, including communications with the White House, Pentagon, CIA, Foreign Service officials in Libya, and the president of Libya's National Congress.
With Secretary John Kerry winning plaudits for his diplomacy with regard to Iran, his recent success has had the unfortunate side effect of making journalists and pundits like Schoen bury Clinton's own successes.
On a seemingly never-ending hunt for bad news about Hillary Clinton and her political prospects, the New York Times recently published a front-page article about how the former first lady is busy trying to mend fences between herself and African-Americans, "the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency."
Under the headline, "Eye on 2016, Clintons Rebuild Bond With Blacks," the Times claimed the turbulent Democratic primary from 2008 left deep wounds and assumed Hillary Clinton's appearances before black audience this year represented a pointed effort to fix that.
Usually when trying to assess a voting community's perception of a politician or public figure, reporters consult polling data. In this case the Times did not. Certain that Hillary needed to "rebuild" a "bond" with black voters, the Times chose to ignore all the polling data that indicates she currently enjoys extraordinary support among black voters. Indeed, including polling results in the article would have completely undercut the premise. (Why would you "rebuild" a bond that's amazingly strong?)
Instead, the Times omitted any reference to a Quinnipiac poll from this summer that found 88 percent of black voters view her favorably. The Times also ignored the recent NBC/WSJ poll that found in a hypothetical match-up against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Clinton would receive 83 percent of the black vote, versus Christie's four percent. As Political scientist John Sides noted, "Among black voters, any negative feelings about Hillary Clinton were erased long ago."
As for Bill Clinton, a Fox News poll from this year revealed that 90 percent of "non-whites" view the former president favorably.
The Times piece seemed to be little more than an attempt to pick at a five-year old political wound, while glossing over the fact that the abrasion's been healed for years. It was the Times trolling around in search of a conflict and justifying the creation of a dedicated beat devoted to the former secretary of state when, in this case, no conflict exists. (What's next for the daily, a look at how Clinton has to "rebuild" her bond with middle aged women?)
The baffling Times article was just the latest, and perhaps the most egregious, example of a new school of commentary that's cropped up around the Clintons, and specifically around speculation regarding Hillary's presidential plans in 2016. Not content with what-if columns, articles and panel discussions, the press increasingly spends significant time and energy conjuring up what could go wrong if Clinton ran.
Despite Clinton's enviable position with regards to her sky-high name recognition, a proven ability to fundraise, and her strong favorable ratings, the starting point for much of the Clinton coverage lately is She Might Be Doomed. (The New Yorker's Amy Davidson has already declared Clinton's 2016 campaign to be a "predestined" "train wreck.") Does anyone remember two years worth of He Might Be Doomed coverage for George W. Bush when he emerged as the clear Republican front runner well before the 2000 campaign?
That's not to suggest that Clinton is off limits from tough, skeptical coverage and commentary. She's not. But pretending she has to rebuild a relationship that's not broken? That's not skepticism, that's just spin.
The latest Washington Post poll released this week surveying the race for governor in Virginia found what virtually every poll has this season: Democrat Terry McAuliffe has amassed surprisingly large lead in a "purple" state and in a race that was supposed to have been a toss-up between the two parties.
McAuliffe's impressive campaign run represents what appears to be a certain Democratic victory and may be a bellwether for the 2014 midterm elections. But as a longtime confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe's imminent win can also be seen as yet another political triumph for the former president and first lady.
Yet that's not how the October 24 issue of The New Republic played the unfolding campaign. In a cover story that stressed McAuliffe's ties to the former president (he's "the consummate Washington insider, Clinton vintage"), the Beltway magazine presented an amazingly snide and insulting portrait of the Democratic candidate.
Depicted as shallow, dishonest rube who fit right in with his Clinton pals, the derogatory language used to describe McAuliffe was startling: He represents "so much of what some people find gross about the subspecies" of the Washington insider; the "shamelessness," and the fact he's "so ardent in his lack of earnestness." He's a man who "managed to sell a used car - himself - to the voters of Virginia."
Imagine the tone of the coverage if the Clinton intimate were losing the Virginia race?
The New Republic's nasty piling-on of McAuliffe is just more evidence that the press, once again, may be starting to declare something of an open season on the Clintons, and those who inhabit their political universe. As Hillary Clinton segues from Secretary of State to possible presidential candidate, the Beltway media, after focusing on the rise of Barack Obama and his administration for the last six years, is also transitioning.
Unfortunately, instead of new insights and fresh perspectives, we're seeing a new generation of writers adopt the same tired, cynical tropes that the Clintons, and news consumers, have been subjected to for two decades running: Bill and Hillary are phonies who keep fooling the American public. They're relentlessly selfish people, obsessed with lining their own pockets and the source of non-stop "personal dramas."
Of course, the "drama" surrounding the Clintons often springs from the media's endless obsession with the couple, married with today's click-bait business model for news.
CNN Films will not be going forward with a controversial planned documentary about Hillary Clinton timed to precede the 2016 presidential race, its director announced earlier today.
Documentarian Charles Ferguson wrote at Huffington Post that he was terminating the project, citing the near-unanimous refusal of persons connected to the Clintons to participate in on-camera interviews.
The documentary had drawn criticism from progressives, conservatives, and CNN employees since its July announcement.
In August, Media Matters founder David Brock called on CNN to cancel the documentary and on NBC to cancel a planned Clinton-based miniseries. In letters to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt and CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, Brock wrote that since the projects "could coincide with a potential Clinton presidential campaign, the timing raises too many questions about fairness and conflicts of interest ahead of the 2016 election."
Responding to the news of the project's cancellation, Brock said:
We're gratified that Charles Ferguson did the right thing by backing out of pursuing a project that posed a serious conflict of interest for CNN. His distorted and self-serving account, in which he reveals his anti-Clinton animus, only confirms that our assessment of this film was correct. The threat of misinformation was too high.
The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden launched a sexist attack against Hillary Clinton, claiming that while a man her age is "not particularly old," a woman in public life like Clinton "is getting past her sell-by date."
Discussing speculation that Clinton might run for president in 2016, Washington Times' editor emeritus Wesley Pruden, began his September 24 column by noting that Clinton's interview with New York magazine had revived speculation on her political plans, adding, "the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing." Pruden concluded by saying that Clinton's age is "not particularly old for a man" but "a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date":
Will she or won't she? Not even her hairdresser, who is only called in occasionally, knows for sure. But the lady knows how to keep everyone guessing. Only her roots are showing.
But what do they actually know? Hillary would be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017, not particularly old for a man not out of sight of his prime, but a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date at 69. John F. Kennedy, who never had to grow old, got it right when he famously remarked that "life is unfair." A second failed race for president would not be much of a capstone for a distinguished career in politics, and life at the hearth with Bubba and the dogs would be more rewarding than indulging the parasites of another campaign.
Pruden has a lengthy history of sexist attacks on Clinton, including in a column earlier this year in which he compared her to an "emotionally abused wife" and attempted to push discredited rumors about her alleged behavior as first lady in order to depict her as "angry and combative" during her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
The New York Times coverage of the 2008 presidential race was "decidedly stereotypical," according to a new study, whose author fears a similar "gendered agenda" may occur in the 2016 race.
"At the aggregate level, what I found was that Clinton's gender was mentioned much more so than her male competitors and that she also received less issue coverage than her male competitors," said Lindsey Meeks, whose study appears in the September 2013 issue of the Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly.
Meeks is a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington's Department of Communications whose area of specialty includes how the news media covers the gender of political candidates.
For the peer-reviewed study, Meeks performed a content analysis of a random sampling of New York Times coverage of Hillary Clinton from her official candidate announcement in January 2007 to her formal withdrawal in June 2008, as well as a random sampling of the Times' coverage of Sarah Palin from the announcement of her nomination for the vice presidency through Election Day.
Articles were coded for whether they used gender labels like "husband" or "mother" to describe Clinton, Palin, or their male opponents; whether the articles mentioned their positions on so-called "feminine" issues such as health care, education, women's rights, reproductive rights, and social welfare and "masculine" issues that included military/defense, crime, economy, and foreign policy; and whether the Times applied to each candidate character traits that are seen as "feminine," such as compassion, emotionality, honesty, altruism, and congeniality, or "masculine," such as strength, independence, aggressiveness, and confidence.
The University of Washington study discovered that the Times applied gender labels 6.5 percent more often to Clinton than to male candidates. It also said Clinton received significantly more gender label coverage than Barack Obama and John McCain. "Notably, the Times provided similar volumes of gender coverage for Clinton and Palin, 17.5% and 18.8%, respectively," the report said. "Thus, despite running for different offices, their gender was emphasized similarly."
Meeks concluded from the data that the Times was "upholding the news norm of focusing on how women are deviant in politics" and that while the emphasis "could be interpreted positively... news coverage of women's gender often sets a more negative tone and communicates to readers that women simply do not fit."
The report noted that the Times emphasized "masculine" issue coverage anywhere from two-and-a-half to five times more than "feminine" issue coverage. It added that "the most dramatic shift was for masculine issue coverage: from the first month to the rest of the election, Times masculine issue coverage of Clinton dropped in half, from approximately 58% to 28%."
Meeks writes that the focus on "masculine" issue coverage overall may have disadvantaged Clinton, stating that "the lower coverage of feminine content could have detrimental effects on women politicians' chances." She also points out that "skewing toward masculinity in news, coupled with the gender stereotypes found in society, can create a stereotyping cycle" that strengthens gender barriers for women.
The study also found that while Clinton and Palinreceived often contrasting tonal coverage, they received similar amounts of "masculine" and "feminine" trait coverage:
Clinton and Palin were very different. Clinton was seen as cold, calculating, and overly ambitious, whereas Palin was perceived as a concerned "hockey mom," known for her down-home, folksy mannerisms. Yet the Times gave these women virtually the same amount of feminine and masculine trait coverage. This suggests that no matter how different two women may be or how hard they try to portray themselves as distinctive, the press will most likely cast them in a similar mold.
Carolyn Ryan, political editor for The New York Times made the case for assigning a reporter to cover Hillary Clinton full-time more than three years before the next presidential election by claiming "[w]ith the Clintons ... there is a certain opacity and stagecraft." Ryan's caricature of the Clintons alongside the Times' recent reporting raises significant questions about how they will be covered by the paper.
An August 17 New York Times article from public editor Margaret Sullivan described the "potential benefits and the possible pitfalls" of assigning a reporter to a full-time beat of Hillary Clinton -- someone who "holds no political office and has not said she's running for one" -- more than three years removed from the next presidential election.
From Sullivan's conversation with Times' political editor Carolyn Ryan:
Carolyn Ryan, The Times's political editor, made the case to me for the assignment. Mrs. Clinton, she said, "is the closest thing we have to an incumbent, when we look at 2016." And getting in early allows The Times to develop sources and get behind the well-honed facade.
"With the Clintons," she said, "there is a certain opacity and stagecraft and silly coverage elsewhere. Amy can penetrate a lot of that." She praised Ms. Chozick as a relentless reporter who is "very savvy about power and has a great eye for story."
Ryan's description of "a certain opacity and stagecraft" surrounding the Clintons, as well as the decision to assign a full-time reporter to Hillary Clinton, raises questions about the publication's coverage of the family. Indeed, the same article addresses this concern when Brendan Nyhan, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, said, "a dedicated beat creates the incentive to make news."
Evidence of Nyhan's concerns can be seen in a flawed report the Times published on August 13 which speculated that The Clinton Foundation was experiencing financial and management issues, questioned the capabilities of senior Foundation employees, and asserted that the Foundation "ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years." This prompted a letter from former President Bill Clinton where he corrected the record by pointing out several key flaws in the Times' story. Furthermore, Mr. Clinton released an executive summary of a 2011 review of the Foundation by the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett which refutes the Times' assertion of mismanagement. The review states that "[i]nterviewees uniformly praised the effectiveness of the Foundation and its affiliates, noting the enormous amount they have accomplished over a ten-year period."
Times readers are already experiencing the "pitfalls" of the paper's approach to this subject without the "benefits", as the drive to make news outstrips verifiable facts and misinforms the public in the process.
For the fifth time, Maureen Dowd recycled an inapt literary analogy comparing Bill and Hillary Clinton to the characters Tom and Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in her July 31 New York Times column.
The comparison has its origins in the phony Whitewater scandal in the mid-1990s, a period when much of the Washington press corps, including the Times, fell prey to an anti-Clinton fever that began with the Clintons' political enemies in the right-wing. Numerous independent investigations, several helmed by Republicans, found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons related to the decades-old land deal, yet the faulty characterization, which originated with columnist Joe Klein, author of a fictional anti-Clinton book, lives on at the Times 18 years later.
Klein's August 6, 1995, column for Newsweek focused on the Senate's Whitewater hearings, which he described as a "scavenger hunt through a sewer" that exposed "the perverse ways of this administration." He concluded with a description of "the most disturbing Whitewater 'revelation'":
It is about the character of the Clintons. They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. The Buchanans, you may recall, were E Scott Fitzgerald's brilliant crystallization of flapper fecklessness in "The Great Gatsby." They were "careless" people. They smashed up lives and didn't notice. After two years, it's become difficult to avoid a distinguishing characteristic of this administration: the body count. Too many lives and reputations have been ruined by carelessness, too many decent people have been forced to walk the plank for trivialities, appearances, changes of mind. Whitewater has been the worst of it.
Four days later, Dowd would pick up the analogy in her Times column:
As with Presidents Nixon and Reagan, the landscape is littered with aides taking the fall. As Joe Klein wrote of the Clintons in Newsweek: "They are the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of the Baby Boom Political Elite. . . . They smashed up lives and didn't notice. . . . How could the First Lady allow her chief of staff to spend $140,000 on legal fees? Why hasn't she come forward and said . . . 'I'll testify.' "
Reacting this week to the news that NBC had announced it's going to produce a four-hour, primetime miniseries dramatizing the political life of Hillary Clinton, Rush Limbaugh dismissed the simmering controversy surrounding the programming decision. Announcing that he was bored of talking about the Clintons, Limbaugh then spent a good chunk of his first hour on Monday's show discussing the Clintons.
Limbaugh insisted the former First Couple amuse him and he mocked the premise of the NBC miniseries; that there's widespread interest in Hillary's life story. The talker insisted that outside of Democratic circles the Clintons are viewed as "jokes."
Indeed, the NBC press release unleashed all kinds of bitter right-wing commentary about Hillary Clinton and the alleged biases that will be in play in the production. (How dare NBC cast a beautiful actress, Diane Lane, to portray Hillary??) The attacks were laced with angry demands that as part of the miniseries, NBC devote all kinds of time exploring the numerous "scandals" that have allegedly plagued Hillary's career, and especially the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi.
Based on 11 months worth of robotic and increasingly fantastic allegations about Benghazi, the Fox crew seems to actually believe that Clinton was part of a nefarious White House plot to let Americans die last September in an effort to secure President's Obama's re-election.
There are any number of ethical questions raised by NBC Entertainment producing a miniseries while NBC News continues to cover the production's topic. None of those questions have to do with whether the final product fails to cover "Cattle Futures-gate."
The indignant denunciations of NBC illustrate just how detached from reality the conservative press has become in terms of how it views Hillary Clinton, and the assumptions conservatives make about her image in America and around the world. (i.e. She's a joke.) Lashing out at NBC, one right-wing blogger claimed the network was "delusional" to think anyone cares about Hillary's life story.
The right-wing media have invested years (decades?) trying to define Hillary Clinton in the most ugly and mean-spirited way possible, and don't seem to understand the futility of their ways.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others really have dedicated incalculable hours trying to permanently brand the former First Lady as an angry, power-hungry hag whose political career has been a colossal failure. And with the allegation of a Benghazi "cover-up," they've tried to portray the former Secretary of State as having American blood on her hands.
That's the caricature of Hillary that the right wing holds near and dear and tries desperately to pretend that everyone else does, too. But the announcement from NBC suggests that portrait of Hillary as a political monster is not widely shared.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is mischaracterizing the aftermath of the September attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an effort to promote her claim that Hillary Clinton's aides engaged in "obfuscation."
In her May 12 column, Dowd writes that Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Libya during the attacks and testified before Congress May 8, "believes he was demoted because he spoke up" about the Obama administration's characterization of the attacks in a meeting with Beth Jones, an undersecretary of state.
In fact, Hicks' change of position came after he voluntarily decided not to return to Libya; he subsequently testified that the "overriding factor" in that decision was that his family didn't want him to go back. According to the State Department, that decision took him out of the regular cycle in which Foreign Service officers are assigned, resulting in him being placed in a temporary position as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs. According to State, Hicks retains the same rank and pay, and has submitted a preference list and is under consideration for his next assignment.
Dowd further claimed:
Hillary's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, also called Hicks to angrily ask why a State Department lawyer had not been allowed to monitor every meeting in Libya with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who visited in October. (The lawyer did not have the proper security clearance for one meeting.) Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, has been a rabid Hillary critic on Fox News since the attack. Hicks said he had never before been scolded for talking to a lawmaker.
But Hicks himself never described Mills as angry. In his testimony, Hicks acknowledged that Mills had offered no "direct criticism" of his actions, but cited the "tone and nuance" of Mills' voice during their conversation as indicating she was "unhappy" (Hicks later repeated a congressional Republican's description of Hicks as "upset.")
In painting this as part of a pattern of obfuscation, Dowd also ignored the administration's explanation for why Mills would have wanted a State Department lawyer present for Hicks' meeting with Chaffetz - a State Department official told Dowd's paperthat department policy requires one to be present during interviews for Congressional investigations.
Dowd's commentary follows that of Fox News hosts who have baselessly described Hicks as being "excoriated," "reprimanded," or "punished" by Mills - a characterization promoted by the false frame that Congressional Republicans pushed in their questioning of Hicks.